Archive for February, 2012

29th February
2012
written by amber

Georgie’s Desk

Georgie’s desk is a monument to order. Every item is in its place. Every item, that is, other than the sticky tape dispenser, a heavy retro behemoth of sturdy painted metal, olive green, with a tear bar that could take your finger off. Where that item once sat is a neon blue toy mouse, poised to run crazily across her desk the minute she reaches for her tape but encounters it instead.

Naturally, this does not happen. Georgie notices the substitution the minute she enters the office. She spies it from across the room. She’s very observant of details, and she’s primed to be vigilant for practical jokes, ever since Collins was hired and was given the desk next to hers. Each day brings a new trial for her.

She strides across the room and sweeps the offending artificial rodent onto the floor. With a mechanical squawk, it scoots under Collins’ desk. Grinning, he picks it up and stuffs it into his pocket.

He doesn’t laugh, but across the room Annabelle and Richard do, ducking down behind their monitors, unwilling to risk her ire by being openly derisive.

“Serves her right, the way she’s been so stuck up all these years,” Annabelle whispers.

“Wait – it’s not over yet. This was just the distraction. He was here when I arrived. He’s set something elaborate up this time.”

Georgie must think so too. She bends over to peer beneath her desk before sitting down. Richard scrunches down in his chair to get a better view of her legs as her skirt rides up.

“Cut that out,” hisses Annabelle. She and Richard are supposed to be an item.

“Can’t help it. My god, those legs! What a waste, to give legs like that to such a frigid witch.”

“Richard! Don’t use the ‘f’ word, it’s mean. You don’t know what her personal life is like.”

He tilts his head sideways and gives her a goofy look. “Get real, Annie.”

She smiles. “You’re right. She is a frigid witch. Anyone with an ounce of emotion would have reacted to Collins’ pranks by now. Scream at him, or report him, or get him back. Something. It’s sad, really.”

“But funny. It’s funny.”

Georgie sits down cautiously, testing her chair before trusting her weight to it. More than once, Collins has primed it to descend like an out-of-control elevator the minute she sits. She scans the desk again, looks up at the ceiling, then unlocks the middle drawer where she keeps her keyboard and important notes.

The explosion brings a small frightened ‘ah!’ from Georgie, the loudest reaction anyone in the office has ever heard from her.

Annabelle screams outright. Even Richard is surprised. Wide-eyed, he mouths, “S**t!”

The explosion is bright and loud, but the flame-coloured gush emerging from the desk isn’t fire, it’s metallic confetti. Her hair festooned with shiny circles and stars, her eyeglasses awry, Georgie staggers back from her desk, looks wildly around the room, then rushes out into the corridor.

After a few futile attempts to sweep the bright litter from her desk, Collins follows her.

“That was pretty brutal,” Annabelle declares.

Richard agrees. “Scared the s**t out of me. But it was funny as hell.”

“Do you know that he asked her out?”comments Wanda, the office gossip and unsurpassed eavesdropper. “Remember when he first came here, they always were talking?”

“He talks to everybody. He’s a friendly guy,” Annabelle says, earning a brief speculative glance from Richard.

“He talked to her more. They both like poetry and power walking. Plus he helped her with a computer upgrade, something to do with organizing her files better.”

“That would appeal to her.”

“Anyway, they were in the photocopier room and he asked her if she wanted to go to a poetry thing with him, I think he called it a ‘slam.’ And she said no. That’s when he began teasing her, playing jokes, acting like a stupid high school kid with a crush.”

“Wow. I never saw it that way.” Richard shakes his head.

“You wouldn’t. You’re a guy – insensitive, unobservant, shallow.”

“Not to mention juvenile,” Wanda adds, causing Richard to fling himself to the floor and suck his thumb.

Collins doesn’t find Georgie in the hallway or the coffee room or the photocopier room. He finds her in the supply closet. She’s crying.

“I’m sorry,” he says, looking amazed and shaken. “I was just trying to break through to you, make you notice me.”

Turning her back to him and pressing her face against a box of white paper, she mutters, “I noticed how immature you’ve been acting. That’s really attractive. That’s really appealing to me.”

He holds out his arms to her, his grin returning uncertainly to his face. “Not even a little bit?”

“No!” she growls, turning toward him and poking a finger into the middle of his chest. “I used to like my job. Now you’re ruined it. Everyone’s lost their respect for me.”

He moves her finger from his chest, but doesn’t let go of it. “They didn’t respect you, Georgie. They just tolerated you. You’re different, you’re better, but they don’t get you. Not a one of them knows you.”

She tugs at her finger, but he won’t release it. Her voice is cold. Swiping at her wet cheeks with her free hand, she says, “And you think you do?”

“Not yet, but I’d like to.”

He tries to pull her toward him, but she plants her feet. “And you think that’s possible after all of this … harassment?”

“You know what they say is the good thing about hitting your head against a wall?”

She gives him a quizzical look. “What?”

“That it feels so good when you stop. I’ll stop the practical jokes if you want me to.”

Looking away, she pronounces haughtily, “Well, I don’t think that’s good enough for me.”

“I can think of one thing that might help,” he says in a low voice, dropping her hand and hunching his shoulders as he stares at the floor.

“What is it and how is it going to help?”

“I’ll show you.” He reaches quickly to seize her hand and pull her toward him, enfolding her in his arms and moving in for the kiss. She resists at first, then melts into his embrace.

Outside the stockroom door, Wanda turns toward Richard and Annabelle, smiling and giving them a thumbs up.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This story was written with suggestions for a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre supplied by Heather Porrill. I’m practicing for the script I’ll be writing for the 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge in Calgary on March 30. Heather gave me: 1. sticky tape dispenser 2. “How is it going to help?” 3. Romantic comedy. Thanks, Heather!

28th February
2012
written by amber

Last Cat Off the Fence

Edgar picks up an apple. His students watch, mesmerized, as he turns it over and over, then pares the peel from it with one fluid cut. For this demonstration, he uses one real-looking prosthetic hand and one multi-tooled hand, sharp knife deployed. Edgar lost both hands when he was four, but he doesn’t let this hold him back. Some call him ‘the bionic teacher,’ others “Edgar Scissorhands.”

Edgar calls himself lucky.

His parents say that even before the accident, he was something of a natural engineer. Lots of little boys take things apart, but not many put them back together working better – and sometimes differently – than they were ever meant to.

You may be saying to yourself that this isn’t a new story, that modern science has brought many advances in prosthetics and robotics and medicine, that clever disabled people are always coming up with ways to improve their lot. But Edgar’s story is undeniably different. You see, Edgar grew up in Nicaragua. He lost his hands to a black panther. And the first artificial hands he wore had been carved out of wood.

His father carved the hands, larger ones each year as his son grew. But by the age of nine, Edgar had lost patience with the blocky barely-useful hand-shapes tied to his stumps. He directed his father to make new hands from an old bicycle rusting behind the local mission. With metal ‘fingers’ that he could bend into required configurations with his mouth, he embarked on a career of building ever more functional hands. Hands with leather straps built hands with tiny motors and elastic bands which in turn built hands with sockets for various scavenged tools.

His genius was noticed and he was given the opportunity to attend a conference for young inventors in New York. After that, he received the training and funding to continue to transform his dreams into reality.

When asked about his amazing success, this young teacher who now lives in Seattle, repeats a Nicaraguan saying, “The black cat is always the last one off the fence.” He says that it means stubbornness is a virtue.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This is the first story written working with three elements – a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre – to practice for the 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge that I’ll be participating in at the end of March in Calgary. If you’d like to give me elements, just click on the Comments section.

27th February
2012
written by amber

The River Sleeps

The river sleeps beneath the snow-shrouded ice, but not too deeply. As the walkers step away from the shore they feel it, thrumming through their booted feet, they hear it murmur. Freedom beckons on the distant shore, black trees rearing above snow glowing pearl-like in moonlight, but the ice groans as it takes their weight, it wails and cries like a theremin.

Near the middle of their crossing, they see that in places the wind has removed the snow and polished the ice. Through the inky transparency criss-crossed with fissures, they see the river move like coal-dark smoke, bubbles fly past beneath them like submerged stars.

The dozen walkers have linked arms for reassurance and support. In their ragged coats, carrying their meagre possessions, they feel too exposed to discovery, their dark shapes distinct on the moonlit snow, but they are too frightened to separate.

A sharp crack, like a gunshot, startles them to scatter.

Then the screaming starts and only those near the victim understand what has happened. The ice has broken, two people have fallen in. No one helps them. Instead they run, sliding and falling, toward the forest’s shadowed maw.

Toward the safety of Canada.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

26th February
2012
written by amber

Sports Car

Last night I dreamed I was driving a sports car. It was red, convertible and it had that new car smell. It seemed so real. I even knew how much it had cost and how many years I’d had to save to afford it.

When I woke, I felt bereft. I knew what was parked in the garage – the same old Ford sedan I’ve been driving for the past 12 years. Faded green with too much rust. The upholstery ripped from the time I took Rusty to the vet after he tangled with the Doberman from up the street. The windshield pitted but not quite badly enough to justify replacing it.

In my dream, I felt fantastic, my back didn’t hurt, my legs didn’t ache. A woman was in the passenger seat – she reminded me of my ex-wife when I first met her. The empty pillow next to me this morning mocked me as it hasn’t done for years.

Sandy and I never drove anywhere together in a sports car, but we always wanted to. On our honeymoon in Vegas, I tried to rent one, but it cost too much so we settled for an SUV. We drove out into the desert and explored some sketchy back roads, but I would rather have been cruising with the top down on some winding mountain road, like in the car ads.

There was champagne in the dream. I remembered it when I was drinking my breakfast protein shake. Champagne in a silver ice bucket between the seats, fluted crystal glasses on the dash. Young Sandy had been asking me if she should pop the cork – just before I woke up.

God, I wish I could go back to sleep and finish that dream.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Thank you to Norma Anne Power for suggesting this first line.

25th February
2012
written by amber

Childhood Friends

Having spent a lot of time together growing up in Canada, when Danielle and Flora ran into each other in San Miguel de Allende, they had a great deal to talk about. After the initial scripted exchange, “What have you been doing all these years?” and “What brought you to Mexico?” they immediately fell back into the exclusive companionship they’d enjoyed during their school days, two outsiders on the edge of small town hierarchies who had each other’s backs and shared a disdain for every goal and achievement of their classmates.

“Did you hear what happened to that stuck-up Missie Templeton? She married three times, each husband wealthier than the one before, then she ended up afraid to come out of her house. She’d turned into one of those hoarders.”

“Gross!”

“Whatever became of Mr. Dole, that funny guy who taught us math? I heard he left town after we graduated. Were we too hard on him or something?”

“He was in university at the same time that I was. He’d chucked teaching and was taking set design for theatre. Can you imagine it – he didn’t have a creative bone in his body!”

Standing in the blazing sun, they dissected and ridiculed school mates and community members from their shared past, until they got too hot to continue. It wasn’t until they’d made a date for lunch the next day and turned toward their respective homes that they discovered they’d bought houses on the same street.

“I can’t believe I’ve been here for six months and I haven’t once seen you!”

“I’ve only had the place for three years, but most of the time it’s rented out. My husband and I plan to retire here in a couple years and then I can enjoy it year-round.”

“Are you sure you’ll like it?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll like it more when my Spanish gets better. I feel kind of weird around my cook and gardeners, and in the shops and restaurants too. The people here are muttering away all the time and it really seems as if they’re talking about me. I hate that!”

“Oh, I do too! But the Mexican people are so polite and kind, I’m sure you’re just imagining it. They’re not rude like that.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Thank you to Celeste for another first line.

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