Thank you for your email, I will get back to you if I return to the office. I shouldn’t say if, but I’m going to say if, because really we could be hit by a bus tomorrow, right? So, yeah, if I get back to the office I’ll get back to you. But really what I mean is, I have no idea how long I’ll be out of the office, because my PTO is only for two weeks, but if I’m going to fly all the way to Europe then you better believe I’m going to get my jetlag’s worth.

Plus, I’m really hoping I’m gonna meet someone, it happens in books and films all the time, so why not me? And sure a little fling, a little ex-pat romance would be fantastic, but I’d be happy with a little somethin’-somethin’ at a hostel, because I will most definitely be staying in hostels. Did you know they have those there? It’s like a giant dorm room for a quarter of the cost of a hotel, for like a few dollars a day. Sign me up! And really, what better way to have a little fling far far from home than to hook up with someone else in the hostel? But how would that even work, really, cause it’s a bunch of people in one room with a bunch of bunks…how would you, you know, without waking everybody up? So I haven’t quite got that part figured out yet, but it could happen.

And really, what I’d love more than anything, is to find someone who’s from there, Europe I mean, who wants to stay there and who wants to get married and then I could just stay there too. I wouldn’t ever have to come back to this job with lousy PTO accumulation and an office mate that snort-cough-hacks all day and that one person, I think it’s Sabrina but she won’t admit it, that keeps bringing fish for lunch and then the whole office, not just the lunch room which would be bad enough but the whole freaking office, reeks of fish for the rest of the day. And then I’d never get your email and I’d never reply to it, although I’m sure there’s some kind of SOP in place for that sort of thing.

There’s gotta be, right? They wouldn’t just leave you hanging? Someone’s gotta be getting cc’ed on my incoming emails while I’m gone, right? I mean, it’s two weeks, which isn’t much in going-to-Europe terms but in where-is-the-person-I-need-to-help-me terms, those are your terms, in those terms two weeks is a long time. I wonder if I should check on that before I leave? I probably should, but you know what, everyone’s gone for the day, or at least the three people I can think to ask are gone, and I’m trying to get out of here too, lotta packing to do and only a few hours before I gotta catch that flight, so, how bout this, when you get this email, if I haven’t gotten back to you in two weeks and one day, please contact one of my many bosses, or hell, just call the main line and tell the receptionist what’s up, and I’m sure someone will take care of you.

Also though, before you wait the two weeks and one day and bug the receptionist, it is almost certain, like 99% likely, that your problem can be solved by logging out and logging back in. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell you, I don’t work in IT, but those d-bags always ask me if I’ve asked the customer to log out and log back in, and damned if it doesn’t fix the issue nine times out of ten.

So anyway, that was all a very long way of saying, I’m out of the office. Catch you on the flip-flop. Maybe.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

Literary Roadshow

Literary Roadshow

There were only so many conversations she could have about football, a topic she knew next to nothing about and had no intention of studying. Yes, she’d occasionally go to the bar and watch a game with him, but that was for the chance to have a few good draft beers, and yes, she loved a fantasy football league, but that was for the gambling and opportunity to win some cash. As for the game itself, the players and teams, the rules and the cheerleaders…she couldn’t really care any less.

“Let’s not talk about football,” she said. Jim looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him. Shit, she thought, should have continued to nod and smile. “It’s just that I’ve got a bit of a headache now and was thinking we could snuggle on the couch and you could watch it and I’ll read my book, see if that gives it a chance to go away.” She wasn’t lying, she did have a headache, but more than that she was desperate for a few moments to herself.

It was laughable really, a few moments to herself. She had entire days to herself, how could she possibly need more alone time? It was greedy, gluttonous, selfish. Lovely.

Jim’s job kept him out of the house for at least ten hours a day, her job for at least eight, but because of their differing hours she’d often be up and gone long before he awoke, and back long before he’d return. It was perhaps what had kept them together so long, the not being together.

So while she figured she could gain his happiness back with reference to his being able to sit on the couch watching the game while also getting her time to herself by suggesting her book, it was a bit of a gamble. He might throw the whole, “we need to spend time together, and sitting on the couch doing different things isn’t ‘together,'” and then what would she say? I mean clearly they were “together” on the couch, but she couldn’t very well argue that, could she? And besides, that would be the stereotypical male argument, so no, she wouldn’t do that to him. She knew better.

She took a deep breath and tried not to let it out in a sigh. He caught her, caught the deep breath, seemed to understand exactly what she was thinking, feeling, avoiding. And there was that moment. That moment where he could call her out on it all or let it go. They were both very aware of this moment that stretched for an hour when it was nothing more than a fraction of a second.

“Yeah, alright. You want a beer?” he asked.

This time her smile was genuine, “yes. Yes, please.” She retreated to the couch, grabbing a blanket off the back and her book from the coffee table. She sat with her lower back against the arm rest, her feet towards the middle seat, tossing the blanket over her legs, with some extra at the end in case he wanted some too. She leaned towards the table, balancing her weight with her left arm as the fingertips of her right searched for purchase on the remote. Gratified that she was able to both get the remote and remain on the couch, her smile became even broader, and by the time Jim returned with two open bottles of beer she was ready to make nice, sliding her feet back a bit as he plopped down on the other side of the couch, handing the remote to him and taking the proffered bottle.

The day that had only moments ago threatened to become a disaster was now cozy and quaint and something she could mention to co-workers the next day and have it sound enviable. She was able to pretend that all was well for another week, to lose herself in a book for another day, maintain the facade for a bit longer. And it was exactly what she needed, even if it wasn’t at all.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

If You Could Be Someone Else

If You Could Be Someone Else

The easiest thing to do with today’s prompt is turn it into fiction: “If you could morph into anyone (alive, dead, fictional, etc.), who would it be and why?” But I can’t stop thinking about Elizabeth Strout, one of my favorite authors, and how I haven’t ever cyberstalked her to know anything about her real life, but how I’m so in love with her books/characters/writing style that I want to be her.

It wouldn’t make any sense, of course, precisely because I know nothing about her, and also because I don’t want to be anyone else. I love my life, my family, everything, I wouldn’t give up what I have for anything or to be anyone. It’s funny though, that I’m so enamored by her talent and style that I’d like to be her without being her. Does that even make sense?

So it’s not that I want to be her it’s that I want, in no particular order:

  • her talent
  • to have this amazing town created in my mind that I’m able to then describe in vivid detail to my readers
  • to have these fantastic characters with their idiosyncrasies that come to life on every page
  • to have already published multiple books
  • to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize
  • to be a #1 New York Times Bestselling author
  • to be a Pulitzer Prize winner

No big deal, right?

What I hear myself voicing is that I want to be an established prize winning author today, without doing all the grunt work that would get me there. Ha! But, yeah, I mean, essentially.

Another way of looking at this, perhaps a more constructive way of looking at this, is to say that Elizabeth Strout is at a place in her writing career, where I too would like to be someday. It’s not that I want to be her, but that I look up to her. She’s my professional heroine. She has done the work I want to do but haven’t yet done myself and she’s done it extremely well.

I suppose that means I haven’t actually succeeded in completing today’s writing prompt, but such is life. And now, to go cyberstalk…

If you don’t know who Elizabeth Strout is, you can learn more here (something I will also be doing shortly, because I am now in active cyberstalk mode. My mission: find out everything I can about her and indulge in a little “if we were BFF’s” fantasy).
This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

Breaking Down

Breaking Down

He still doesn’t understand how it came to this. He still doesn’t quite get what happened. They’d been driving down the road, a longer trip this time, a state or two over to see the leaves change. A state or two he wasn’t sure because all these east coast states are the size of a dime and you could easily drive through three in a couple hours, but that’s irrelevant, still, he noticed they’d driven a long way to get to the changing leaves and now they were having to go back through it all only this time was different.

The way out had been full of romance and hope. Good music thanks to a new album he’d created on his music app pulling in playlists for road trips and love. He was sure this trip would be the thing to cement them, the thing he’d been looking for to get her to really lean in, to get to that place where she’d accept his proposal, the one he’d been planning for several months knowing the timing wasn’t quite right, waiting.

The trip itself had been fantastic, better even than he’d dared to hope. The leaves were in full color and they saw everything from some light greenish-yellows to deep burgundy red, deeper than bricks, the old ones with character. So many colors, she’d been awed, having never seen this sort of display having grown up on the west coast. She’d been delighted, frisky, something about their first major trip together in two years, just them, alone. Perfect.

But it was on the way back, that he noticed the change. She was no longer smiling, no longer laying her hand on his thigh on occasion, an endearing ownership and connection he’d come to notice and wait for. If anything she’d begun to fold in upon herself, shrinking. He’d asked if her stomach was upset, if her head hurt, if she was hungry: no, no, no. He’d begun to give up hope of ever understanding what had gone wrong when she suddenly began to cry and by the time her words started coming out he’d been stunned.

“I was so sure,” she’d said, or at least what he thought he could understand, “so sure you’d propose this weekend. I don’t know why I thought that, you’ve not once intimated you were even considering it, but I just…I guess I thought, there was so much planning in this weekend and you’ve been so odd lately, so quiet or suddenly watchful and I just thought, ‘this is it! He’s going to propose!’ and then…nothing. And I was so ready for it, but now, sitting here and realizing it’s not coming, and knowing we’ll be back home in a couple hours and then, I have to just…keep going like this, after what I’d thought and,” she heaved an enormous breath in, her first since the tirade as he now thought of it began, and he attempted to say something when the car suddenly bucked and veered to the left.

He heard her scream, the scream of fright, of lack of control, of complete surprise. He felt the car pulling into the oncoming lane as he was desperately pulling it to the side of the road. Finally it all clicked, the vehicle went where he wanted and he was able to stop, turn it off. His hands were stuck to the wheel, his fingers perhaps permanently clawed, but he noticed his head turning to look at her.

She was straight-armed, straight-legged, every joint locked, eyes and mouth open wide, held up out of her seat by her muscles and yet locked in place by her belt. He took a deep breath before two things came out of his mouth, almost without his knowing, of their own volition. The first, made sense, “I think the tire blew.” The second, seemed to come from another lifetime, “I was waiting til we got home.”

They looked at each other, away, back again. He could see that she had no idea what he’d just said, and he could hear it in his own head, perhaps it sounded as though he expected the tire to blow when they’d arrived at home, and then the words all beginning to make sense, two separate unrelated sentences, one applying to the here and now, the other to moments before. As though life had suddenly been divided between now and then.


It took him a moment to figure out what she meant. To internalize that she meant she would not marry him, and now he was sure it was all a misunderstanding. Perhaps she still meant he thought the tire would blow when they arrived home and she was stating the obvious, no, it hadn’t waited but had blown now. It took him another moment to realize that’s not what she meant, that she was firmly sitting in the here and now, that her mind had in fact flown into the future the moment he turned off the car and had already returned to the present and knew thing she couldn’t possibly know or understand.

“No,” she said again, “I meant, I was so sure you were going to propose, and then you didn’t and in the last few hours I’ve realized it would be a mistake. An enormous mistake. We aren’t meant to be together, we’re not forever. We’re perfect for the odd trip with friends or even together alone, but that in the long run we simply aren’t right. There’s a reason we’ve been together so long and not gotten married, there’s a reason we’ve come to see all the change happening in the world, and it’s to throw into greater relief the fact that we haven’t changed at all.”

He knew she’d just said something that should make sense, something that he was meant to agree with or refute but he was still stuck. Hadn’t she just been having a breakdown over his not proposing, and hadn’t he just admitted that he had every intention of proposing, what had happened, what had he missed, how could he so thoroughly have misunderstood the situation?

He thought to argue, he thought to persuade, he thought to soothe, and instead realized, he needed air. He opened the car door and attempted to step out, realized the belt was still firmly in place, released it, stepped out, closed the car door. He took a deep breath, raked his clawed hands down his face, saw that the tire had indeed blown out, proceeded to walk towards it. And then, he was running. He hadn’t done anything more active than a day hike in years, but he was running, running down the side of the road.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

Back in Time

Back in Time

“The question for this month was, ‘if you could go back in time, would you? Where would you go and would you change anything?’ So, who wants to share?”

She stared at the moderator, a bit dumbstruck. Why had she chosen to join this group again, she wondered to herself. This was definitely not the place for her. Yes, she was lonely and bored and forcing herself to try new things, but a monthly group that holds in depth discusses of random questions…how did the group even get started…she couldn’t fathom.

“I’ll start,” said a younger man, roughly mid twenties and sporting a beard that was very meticulously maintained to appear to be unmaintained, what was his name, she couldn’t remember, Mac or something nick-namey and false sounding, irrelevant, she thought as he continued, “Originally I’d thought I’d be too afraid to go back in time. Who wants to relive their worst moment, right?” he looked about with a half-smile. He’s definitely practiced this in front of a mirror, she thought. “But then I began wondering, what if I could have made a major difference?” Oh, no, he’s going to say something about Hitler, ugh, she thought. “I mean, what if I could go back and stop Hitler?”

This is ridiculous, she thought, and decided to plaster a smile on her face while surreptitiously looking about. She was pretty sure the redhead to her right had joined to meet men, she always came dressed to the nines, her makeup applied thick and perfect, maybe women? No, definitely men, she thought as the redhead nodded and beamed at possibly-Mac as he droned on. Who am I to judge, she thought, I joined to meet people too, even if I wasn’t thinking about dating, meeting is meeting.

Who would I even want to date here though, she wondered, continuing her perusal of the room. Certainly not possibly-Mac, too bougie, or was he hipster? What was the difference? She shook her head and realized, possibly-Mac thought she was shaking her head at him, his stream of speech began to slow and concern showed in his eyes, she flapped her hand around her as though the head shake had been to dislodge a fly, and his smile returned, his speech picking back up to speed, relief evident in his eyes, he still owned the room.

Taking a deep breath, and trying to be as inaudible as possible she sighed. This was crazy. If she could go back in time she’d decide not to sign up for this meetup. A real smile came to her face and she did her best not to turn it on possibly-Mac directly, so as not to give him the wrong idea. He was way too young for her, not that she’d come here to date, she reminded herself.

The man next to her accidentally brushed her leg as he crossed his. She tried to see him from the corner of her eye. His name was John, she was sure of that, or maybe Jim? What was the point of meeting people if you aren’t going to take a few minutes to remember their names, she admonished herself. At any rate, John-Jim was definitely closer to her age, thirty-ish with a good smell to him, something like vanilla, like cookies. Oh no, wait, those were the actual cookies she was smelling. The cookies that other gal, Joyce? maybe, had brought.

What was Joyce-maybe’s deal, she wondered. Definitely here to drink, always the first one to order and the last one. Whiskey, it looked like. Which was surprising, not a common drink among women. She didn’t appear to like it much, grimacing with nearly every sip, yet always ordered another. Interesting. She would definitely say she’d go back in time. She clearly had regrets.

Wait, what was happening, everyone was looking at her. Shit! Clearly she was expected to say something about possibly-Mac’s monologue.

“Yes, uh, it really made me think about Stephen King’s book 11/22/63,” she stammered.

The moderator, Amy, she remembered that name anyway, had a confused look on her face, “Mac,” oh thank goodness it is Mac, “mentioned that too.”

“Yes, er, right, I just meant, I agree. I agree with Mac, and I also was thinking of that book.” She could see the people around her appeared a bit puzzled, but were also smiling, wanting her to feel welcome with her first bit of sharing, Joyce-maybe was nodding and raising her glass in a cheers-y fashion. “Excellent Mac, really, everything I was thinking,” she added, earning a sheepish but broad grin from the man himself.

Thank god that’s over, she thought, too soon it turned out as Amy spoke, “what else? Why don’t you share?” she said, staring directly at her.


This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here



As an early riser is had been years since she’d seen a sunset. How many years, she couldn’t be sure, who remembers the last sunset they see? You’d have to know ahead of time it was your last sunset, or be one of those annoyingly mindful people that she secretly wished she was. Mindful, that is, not annoying. In the moment, wasn’t that what it was all about? You have only today, only the now, only right this second. Sigh.

At any rate, as far as sunsets went this was pretty spectacular. It wasn’t just that she was on her first vacation in twenty years, or that she was in Hawaii, a place she’d never been to before despite having multiple opportunities, it was that the colors themselves were so vivid. Maybe it was the humidity? Stop wondering why, she scolded herself, and just enjoy it.

It was then she realized no one else was enjoying it. In fact, everything had become eerily quiet. She noticed that everyone was staring not at the dramatic pinks and tangerines in the sky, but at him, the man in the tux who was supposed to be marrying her cousin but didn’t appear to be doing so. Was he flustered? Was he having a heart attack? What the hell was happening? And then she understood, just as he dropped her cousins hands, the tears streaming down his face, her mouth held in a perfect O of surprise, like something out of a movie.

He didn’t love her, and it was killing him.

How could I possibly know that, she wondered, but she did. She knew it in her gut, you weren’t supposed to know things in your gut, but in your heart, but she knew this in her gut. Her cousin and that man had grown up together, like cousins themselves, which is why the whole wedding had felt so wrong from the beginning, cousins shouldn’t marry! But they weren’t really, were they, related that was. Just grew up close like family, which was why everyone else thought the marriage was so natural, so expected even.

But he didn’t love her that way. He loved her, clearly he loved her, they’d grown up together and knew each other more intimately than anyone else knew them, he’d asked her to marry him. He loved her. But he couldn’t marry her.

She wondered when he realized it. It had to have been just this moment, he wouldn’t have put either of them through this otherwise, wouldn’t have put their familied through it. He was a good man, she knew that, they all knew that. There was no time to sit there trying to figure it all out, chaos had erupted. The bride was crying now, not just crying really, sobbing. It was loud and snotty with makeup running everywhere despite the shellacing the makeup artist had given her to withstand the humidity. People were literally running, some to the bride others after the groom who’d apparently disappeared, no, no there he was almost back to the hotel already. Chairs were overturned on the sand, women were cooing and coddling and crying with the bride, men were standing about hands in and out of pockets and running through hair, a lot of murmuring with no real understandable language.

She knew she should go to her cousin or her aunt and attempt consolation but she was simply stunned. No, that wasn’t quite right. Stunned would imply she hadn’t seen this coming, and somehow, she had. She realized she wasn’t stunned so much as disappointed. She’d known this was coming, if she was honest, and she’d had plenty of time to figure out how to behave and yet, here she was just sitting. Watching the damn sunset. Enjoying the sunset, how was that possible, but she was. It was gorgeous. When she’d last seen a sunset became irrelevant and she began to wonder if she’d ever seen a sunset this spectacular, and realized she hadn’t. And she’d certainly remember it, whether it was her last or not.

She felt the warm and rough texture of the sand against her feet, realizing she’d slipped off her shoes sometime between sitting down after the bride walked up the aisle and standing up when all hell broke loose. She realized she was sitting again, however, her hands gentle in her lap. She was breathing deeply, breathing in the colors, the humidity, the scent of something, plumeria maybe, in the air. Heavenly.

She felt like that mouse from the childrens story. The one who didn’t work stockpiling food for the winter and who the other mice began to resent a bit until winter. What was the mouse’s name, she wondered. It didn’t much matter, she was like the mouse. She was stockpiling the colors and scents and sensations, the pinks and tangerines, the plumeria and ocean, the gritty warmth of the sand.

Fredrick. That was his name. The mouse.

She was Fredrick now, so that her cousin could make it through the winter of her wedding day, a winter that would extend far longer than an actual season.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

My Family on Facebook

My Family on Facebook

It wasn’t normal for her to be in one of these internet cafes, sure they were popping up everywhere, a thing from Europe apparently, but they weren’t her style. She was more a library kind of girl, or a from home kind of girl, if she was being completely honest. But the power was out at home, and it being a Monday the library was closed, so here she was, paying for the use of a computer with internet access. And why? That was the kicker, because she was bored.

She’d been in her apartment reading, a favorite pastime, knowing the power would be out at some point that day, and having already opened all the windows to keep the place from getting too hot, when there was suddenly a very loud and very unignorable sound which turned out to be a generator followed by an even worse noise, the cacophony of a jackhammer. At least they’re fixing that pothole, she thought as she put a slip of paper in the book to mark her spot.

Now what?

The options were limitless, really, living in a city as she did, but the power wouldn’t just be going out for her, it would affect much of her neighborhood. She could grab her book and head over the city park, that’d be far enough away from the jackhammer and the power situation would be irrelevant, it was a beautiful day after all, and she could use bit more vitamin D. But something about being interrupted had made her restless. Something about not being able to use her computer or the internet made her suddenly desperate to do so.

First things first, she thought, she had to get away from that noise. She grabbed a bag and shoved her book in, just in case. She also grabbed her water and keys, wallet and sunglasses. Slipping her sandals on at the door, out she went. A walk would help her settle her nerves and she’d be all ready for a good read by the time she got to the park.

It was only as she passed the coffee shop that she realized she was hungry. A coffee and a pastry for lunch would be just what she needed to get herself back on track and enjoying her day off. She debated briefly between a croissant and an eclaire but went with the croissant as she was feeling a bit touristy and thought dunking it in a large cup of coffee with milk would feel inspired. Taking her purchases outside to a bistro table and setting her book off to the side really completed the feeling, and she began dunking, nibbling, sipping. Fabulous.

It was about the time she was finishing her snack that she noticed the book store was gone, replaced by something that appeared to be a travel agency, a giant globe decal on the front window. She wiped a few crumbs from her lap, put her book back in her bag, and walked across the street. How disappointing, another book store gone. It was then she realized it wasn’t a travel agency at all but an internet cafe. She hadn’t seen one of these in ages, not since she went backpacking through Italy and they were all the rage.

On a whim, she went inside, paid her few dollars, and found the work station she’d been assigned. She had ten minutes. Whatever would she do for ten minutes on a computer that she couldn’t do on her smart phone? Unable to think of anything novel she logged in to Facebook. Scrolling through the many memes, pictures of lunches, and complaints about work she stumbled upon a face that looked terribly familiar.

There in the “people you may know” Facebook was trying to get her to befriend her grandmother, which would have been fine, nice really, except that her grandmother had died a few years ago and wouldn’t know the first thing about how to operate Facebook even if she wasn’t sitting on her mothers mantle, dust in a vase. What the hell, she thought to herself.

The picture was a bit grainy, as though it had been blown up too large, and it had, in fact, she recognized the picture as one that her mother had used as a profile pic once, but her mother was no longer in it. My mother has been hacked! she thought, before realizing the name associated with the photo was very much her grandmother’s.

Grabbing her phone from the desk she called her mom, she’d know what to do, mom always knew what to do, even though she probably wouldn’t know what to do here, I mean, what did her mom even know about Facebook aside from how to login and comment on people’s pictures. Even that was sometimes not so cut and dried as her mother would occasionally say things that were meant for a private message, but she clearly didn’t realize the difference or didn’t understand how to create one over the other. At any rate, the phone was ringing and then it wasn’t, only instead of a “hello” she was greeted with the familiar voice and spiel about leaving a message.

“Hey mom, so…just call me back…I think Grandma’s on Facebook.”

She hung up, instantly regretting having left a message at all.

What to do?

Unsure of herself, but knowing she had to do something, she clicked the little box, electronically sending a friend request to her dead grandmother.

Well, she thought, the day has certainly turned around.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

Cellular Apologies

Cellular Apologies

I’d assumed she apologized for using my phone to make an international call or something, like there’d be a charge coming my way, but that thought was quickly dispelled when I realized the phone was still connected to whoever she’d called. I considered disconnecting the call, simple to do, not my business, problem solved. But I let curiosity get the better of me, the cat with only the one life, risking it for no valid reason.


I don’t know what I expected…someone shouting perhaps, their anger at the crying apologetic woman so intense she’d fled. Maybe something in another language and I’d have to beg my apologies for being so American that I only speak the one hoping they’d understand me, begging forgiveness as I hung up. What other hackneyed response had cinema set me up to expect, and that’s why I was so very shocked to be met by silence.

I double checked the screen which verified that I was still connected to whoever I was in fact connected to and listened again, repeating, “hello?” rather hollowly this time. The line was connected, my phone wasn’t lying, I could hear the tunnel sound of a connected line.

It was only as I began to consider that cinema had also assured me I could be tracked by my phone that I became anxious. Were they tracking my phone right now? If I disconnected now would they be able to find me? Was it too late? My finger hovered over the red dot as the sound of crunching tires and an engine approached behind me. My heart racing, I disconnected the call, thumbed my phone into lock, and slid it in my back pocket. Keeping my head down, my hands now in my front pockets, I began to walk.

“Hey!” came the shout behind me.

Just keep walking, I thought, pretend you can’t hear them, what I wouldn’t give for some ear pods right now. My heart and mind raced as I concentrated on walking, not running, walk, walk, walk pounded through my brain.

A weight landed on my shoulder seconds before I was spun round to face a half-naked, heavily sweating man with chains around his neck and a cigar in his other hand. “Oy, didn’ ya hear me?” I shook my head almost imperceptibly, sure my eyes were impossibly wide, confident he’d never believe me, unable to bring a single word of defense to my lips. “You know where’s there a laundry place here?”

“Wha-what?” I stammered, reflexively looking up and down the street, trying to make this question make sense, trying to make the situation make sense.

“You know, a place to whash clothes? It’s apposed to be heyah,” he too was perusing the street up and down, his hands gesticulating wildly, his arms and hands now bouncing up and down by his waist.

“Um, right, no. I, uh, don’t normally come this way,” I managed to say, all the while my brain thrumming with warnings, this is a trick! Don’t fall for it! all while simultaneously entreating me not to be rude.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

New Career

New Career

No one expected her to get the job, as a cook she was the worst and as a boss not much better. Her niche in business, if there was such a thing, was to sit alone and compile data and solve problems and never interact with another living soul until quitting time at which point she’d rush home to her dog and a bottle of beer. Dogs would actually have been her ideal job. But there are no jobs with dogs that don’t also involve people and so.

But really, a baker and a manager? No, these were not the things she was good at thus it was with true and breathless surprise that she answered, “really?” when the owner told her the news. She would start the next day. At 4am.

It was then she questioned whether or not she ought to have applied for the job to begin with.

At any rate, 2am arrived and after hitting snooze more times than she cared to admit, she was forced to get up, splash cold water on her face, step into the outfit she’d laid out the night before, black trousers and a white button-down shirt, and head out the door, a cup of coffee in one hand and her keys in the other.

Upon arriving at the bakery with less than two minutes to spare, she thought this may work out after all, there was no traffic, no honking horns, no pedestrians. It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend ones morning, peaceful, and if she’d tried that same trick at 4pm she’d never have arrived even two minutes early. So.

The first tasks were simple enough, turning on lights and ovens, making sure doors were locked, and starting coffee. She followed the owner around taking notes in her phone between asking questions or noticing the lock stuck if you didn’t pull the door or that the coffee maker would sometimes stop after the first two minutes and had to be restarted. Little things. She was a good noticer, however, and she thought to add that to her resume somehow. “Noticer” not being a word.

She’d expected to knead dough and wear an apron and all sorts of romantic notions, but it turned out there were machines for everything. She didn’t even measure, everything was prepackaged. Dump one bag of this in and one box of this water mixture and hit the button, when the machine stops take the contents and dump them into this machine that will piece it all out into perfect little rounds, enormous and anemic o’s to then be placed on sheets and thrown unceremoniously into the ovens. Hit the timer and you’re off to the next task.

And there were many tasks.

That first day was about “baking,” a term she would forever put in quotes as there was nothing to it really, she wasn’t baking, she was moving ingredients from one location to another, it was the magic of technology making it all poof into edibles. Edibles, now there was another thing she was good with. How to add that to the resume without sounding like a druggie?

“Baking” was the crown jewel. Everything was “baked from scratch” and “made by hand” exclaimed the signs. She was told in no uncertain terms that should a customer ask for the manager or the baker, she was to don the starched and extremely clean apron behind the door before entering the front of the building, that she was to always come out with just-washed hands, and that under no circumstances were employees to serve anything more than four hours old.

It was all very simple really. The tasks were nothing an automaton couldn’t handle, a high school kid, someone into edibles. The checklist was simple and much of her day would begin alone which was lovely, all the more reason to follow the checklist ensuring doors were locked. If she could just get through this first week of training with the owner and all his blah-blah-blah, she’d be all set and get her mornings all to herself and get paid for nothing more than smashing buttons.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here

Plenty of Fish in the Digital Sea

Plenty of Fish in the Digital Sea

Part II

(You can read Part I here.)

It was there in that ending of the second month and the beginning of her real and true fear that perhaps she should listen to her friends rather than herself, that she was scrolling through the app, her heart not really in it, sipping her coffee and sitting on the toilet, a thing she’d list under “Worst Habit” on the app if she didn’t have a plethora of other less private habits to list, that she saw him.

Her coffee mug slipped from her left hand, she’d entirely forgotten she was holding it, her left hand now at her lips, coffee and ceramic painted across her bathroom floor, a slight stinging across the tops of her feet where drops of coffee and a shrapnel of ceramic landed. It was him, there was no question. He’d lost a good thirty pounds, maybe more, and he’d gone blonde, a look she didn’t quite dislike on him as much as she’d have thought.

She instantly regretted everything about her profile, from the very practical and real photo she’d chosen rather than the Glamour Shots style of photo her girlfriends encouraged her to use, to that stupid tagline that made her sound like the world’s most uptight bitch ever, even if it wasn’t intended that way at all…she was spiraling through memories of him refusing to go with her to the gym because he was too embarrassed, even though she insisted everyone started somewhere and how he looked to anyone else didn’t matter because she loved him and he was there for his health not his looks, memories of him saying he would go blonde when he no longer loathed himself and her insisting that his brown hair was a perfect complement to his brown eyes that blonde would look all wrong and besides didn’t he love her brown hair, and the memory that she’d been avoiding for years as she picked herself up and her put herself back together and created the creature that was now happily single rather than lonely and broken and desperate for anyone with a pulse to show her some spark of attraction.

It had been five years ago, she was in her prime, or at least that’s what she’d thought at the time. She had everything she’d always said she’d have by that point in her life: an excellent career, a long-term relationship with the man she was going to marry even if he hadn’t proposed yet, and she’d just gone into escrow on a home she’d driven by every day for ten years and always wanted. At the time she didn’t notice that her excellent career caused her migraines, that the man who hadn’t proposed yet was never going to and was in fact suffering from a massive depression, and the home she’d gone into escrow on she’d purchased alone. She had an excuse, or several, for not seeing these things, for not allowing the truth to ruin her perfect vision.

It was the day her escrow closed, no less. She came home to “their” apartment and noticed everything dramatically amiss. Her first thought was that they’d been robbed, and it was only upon closer inspection that she realized her things were all still there. Not only still there, as in right where she’d left them upon her hasty exit this morning, running late to work, her morning cup of coffee on the toilet having gone overlong as she scrolled through her social media discovering another of her friends’ engagement pictures and forcing herself back into the vision she had of her reality rather than facing the glaring truth. It was so odd to see her things so perfectly untouched, as though she’d been living alone this morning, while all of his things had simply vanished.

Obviously his things hadn’t vanished, they’d been removed. He’d removed them. But how? He spent days on the couch now, there were even nights where he didn’t come to bed, “I just can’t sleep, I don’t want to keep you up.” So fine, they’d weather this storm, she’d thought. Incorrectly, it turns out.

Her first move was to scour the apartment for a note. Finding none, she picked up her phone and was moments from pressing his name in her contacts when a text came through: “Thank you for loving me, for believing in me, but this isn’t working.”

She read it twice.

She looked to see the familiar ellipses that would indicate he was typing, but there were none.

She realized she was standing in her living room with her mouth open, her phone in front of her face, a comic character from a television program.

And then there they were, the ellipses. Followed by a text the thoughts of which still brought fury to her every cell: “congratulations on the house.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?!?!” she screamed.

This #writethirtyminutes session was prompted very loosely from “A Year of Writing Prompts” by Writer’s Digest, available here