Friday Fictioneers: Snowbody’s Business

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

Jack. Yes, this time I shall call myself Jack.

The cold night air has rejuvinated me. The Warmbloods have failed, temporarily, in their attempt to prevent my return.

My time is short, and I shall make it my business this evening to sink my icy fangs into Warmblood hearts. Soon I’ll leave, as I have in the past, and some day this world will be uninhabitable for me. But when the Warmbloods bar that door, I will know they have sealed themselves in their own tomb.

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt.

Friday Fictioneers: Cheers

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

By the time Lester had emptied the beer bottle, he’d wandered into a large field, no trash can or any other receptacle in sight. With a dismissive shrug and an unspoken apology to nature, he tossed the bottle aside. An unexpected thunk stopped him, and he walked over to the sound’s source.

The bottle deflected off the decapitated head of a mannequin. A tree branch lay across the mannequin’s shattered face; without understanding why, Lester picked up the bottle and rested it on the face, adjusting the branch to secure the placement.

Lester stood, belched, and laughed. “Cheers, mate.”

Every week, Rochelle Wisof-Fields hosts Friday Fictinoneers, where the objective is to write a complete story in 100 words or less in response to a photograph. I encourage you to learn more about Friday Fictioneers and view other responses to this week’s prompt.

Flashing into the Unknown 

Loise Jensen tells us today how responding to flash fiction prompts helped improve her writing. I’ve been using prompt responses to create background material for Gray Metal Faces, tangential vignettes to the novel’s main story. Been happy with most of those projects, but lately I’ve been feeling the urge to broaden my perspective, step outside my comfort zone. Head down an unknown path, and see where it leads. Writing self-contained stories in a 100 words or less, and engaging with other authors on our work — there is value to be found in this challenge.

Price

[A response to the latest prompt from The Daily Post: Privacy]

Leonard did not have the patience for cooking, yet also abhorred restaurants. He knew that having food delivered to him was costly, but justified the expense as the price for maintaining his privacy.

Shame On

Kenton Lewis just posted a neat little yarn about a clever lad who turns the tables on a co-worker’s attempted practical joke.

Kendrik could only laugh at his super’s order. Tube steak sandwich? “Yeah, it ain’t on the menu no more, but they still make it, you just gotta ask. And tell ’em I want extra sauce, too?” The intern nodded a smile in response, then laughed again — not at the ridiculous sandwich moniker, but rather at how poorly his super had framed the practical joke that Kendrik was expected to fall for.

Haven already recorded the rest of the staff’s orders on his phone and the necessary cash, Kendrik burst into the stairwell (third floor office, no thank you for the elevator) and descended the stairs, his response to his super’s joke at the forefront of his thoughts. Neither of the two obvious choices — either a dismissive get out of town that could give the impression he wasn’t a team player, or a disingenuous  aw shucks man you done got me good that would belie the coolly confident persona he was so eager to project — seemed acceptable to him. Shame on you, or shame on me? Fortunately, by the time he had entered the deli, an acceptable alternative came to him.

Kendrik pulled out his phone, selected his super’s number, typed — Sorry boss, they’re out of tube steaks today. But they’re running a special on weiner dogs. You want cheese on yours?

Real

Damyanti is putting her blog on hiatus for a few weeks as she finishes drafting her novel for a competition. The anxiety she’s feeling reminds me of an interesting conversation I had during a job interview, which serves as the inspiration for the following.

“No. Doesn’t bother me at all.” Herb Jovich punctuated the sentiment by locking hands behind his head and leaning back in his chair, which squeaked under his considerable weight.

“But how?” Fen’s tone was exasperated, disbelieving. “Getting calls in the middle of the day, telling you to drop everything and deal with the latest crisis? Cleaning up after other people’s messes, working to impossible deadlines?”

The back of Herb’s head sank into the pillow of his hands. “That’s what they say. But their words, those aren’t what they really mean.” He sniffed, took his right hand from behind his head and waved it in the direction of his desk phone, his body still reclined. “A little after two today, Mesnick’s gonna call about his monthly report. He’ll be screaming about something, some new field he requested that’s not there, a graph with outdated data. Something, I don’t know. And he’ll need it done by end of day, which means the CR will need to be submitted by three, giving me about oh, thirty minutes to push through a process that’s designed to take two days. But it will have to get done, just like it does every other month.”

Herb’s computer screen chimed with a new message notification; he glanced at the screen, smirked, then stared back at Fen. “And you know what Mesnick will really be saying to me, with every curse and threat?”

Fen shook her head, not so much to acknowledge her ignorance as to indicate she wasn’t sure she was even supposed to know the answer.

Herb’s right arm swiveled forward, pointed at Fen. “I need you. That’s what Mesnick’s saying. And it’ll be one of the few times today that he, or anyone else here will mean it. Seventy, eighty percent of the time we’re here, we’re just talking, about what needs to be done and when we’ll do it, or what we did and why it didn’t work out like we’d talked about. We really don’t do that much, and most of that is pure bullshit — change requests, approvals, creating documents nobody’s ever going to read. And when we’re doing all that, everyone’s nice and polite. No need to rattle anyone’s cage.”

The large man with the receding hairline shifted his weight forward, forearms landing on the beige desktop. “But when you get that call, hear that anger coming from the other end of the line — that’s when you know you’re dealing with something important, that what you need to do really matters. And you know they wouldn’t be dumping this all in your lap, if they didn’t trust you to do what’s necessary. Annoying? Sure. But I’d rather be annoyed and considered important, than be comfortably ignored.”

Fen left Herb’s cubicle a few minutes later, wondering if she had just had an epiphany or needed a shower.

DNS

She couldn’t remember names, a problem she experienced neurologically, a synapse defiantly refusing to perform its assigned duty.

Use a mnemonic device, her father had recommended after she confessed her problem in her early twenties, when her inability to remember her coworker’s names threatened, she feared, to reveal her contempt for her job. When you’re introduced to someone, think of a famous person who has the same name. And she had employed the strategy with success at work, associating Bill from HR with POTUS 42, Jennifer from IT with “If You Had My Love,” Sal from Accounting with melting clocks. The flaw in the strategy didn’t reveal itself until she began working with the project manager for the SAS integration.

“Hello Leia,” her voice confident at the start of the second status meeting.

“Carrie,” the responding face souring like curdled milk.  The actress’s name had come to her immediately at their first meeting, and for the duration of the six-month project, her struggling synapse continually linked the PM’s name with the character.

The experience put an end to that mnemonic device, but it wasn’t long before she happened on another. A Saturday evening party, Walt and Jamie’s apartment, a large man with long curtains of brown hair cascading down to his elbows. He extended his hand toward her — “Hey. I’m Brady.”

Twelve. The number came to her instantly, years of football games playing in the background of her parents’ home racing to her mind. And every time she saw him that evening,she thought of 12, his name then coming instantly to her mind again.

When she realized that she still remembered his name the next day, she felt inspired to explore this technique further. Clara, her friend from yoga — last name Lewis (she had to check her contacts for that). Five letters in both first and last names. Fifty-five, that Tuesday before class the number came to her and she called Clara’s name with an excitement that surprised her friend.

Further exploration provided equally positive results, pleasing her greatly. It’s like being a DNS server, she mused. But it worked for her.

Sighting

Today’s inspiration is a brief but important scene of anonymous observation in a recent story from Not Quite A Cougar.

The third afternoon, that was when I knew for sure. Across the tracks, she on the outbound train as I sat on the inbound. That first time hers was a face in a crowd — a distinctive one for sure, a rose bush in a field of dandelions, but I’ve seen plenty of roses in my day. Perhaps my eyes were inspired the next day, hoping to find that bush again, and when they found her face again I’d instictively looked away, embarassed for no particular reason; yet I caught a smile blooming on her countenance, both trains shuffling in opposite directions before  I could confirm.

Yesterday, the third day. Tell my boss I can’t stay late today, would coming in early tomorrow to finish that report by OK? Sure. Middle car of seven, one of three vacant window seats on the interior side. Train pulls into the station at the usual time, the outbound stationary across the oily brown tracks. Doors open,  passengers shuffle out, others come in. Potential weakness to my strategy, can’t see all the way to the front, but the train’s packed, have to make do, start scanning halfway up the front car. No, no, no — second car, no no no no no no — third of four cars directly across from mine — no no —

And then she’s looking right at me. Smiling. And then she, just as the other train begins to move and I hear the doors in my car close, in a move that cannot be mistaken for anything else, waves. At me, who remains motionless as our trains continue their journeys in opposite directions.   

Ancestry

Corngoblin just posted an elegy to his laptop, and has invoked the ghost of a story idea from many years ago.

Knew going in that the few hundred in obsolete computer parts and hours of online research, could have easily proved fruitless. Zeroes and ones, stored on thin magnetic circles enclosed in flimsy plastic sleeves, ancestors of today’s USB drives like a horse-drawn carriage is to a Ferrari. How long can this technology store data reliably — a year? Two? Five?

Twenty-nine seemed a stretch, I knew that going in. But the moment I found that box of floppies — instinct had compelled me to sort through the carton I had lugged around unopened through I can’t recall how many moves, their data created on a computer with a proprietary OS, both long abandoned — there was no choice for me but to explore whether their data could be restored on a modern system (Yes!) and if my PC maintenance skills were still sharp (Of course!). A journey that’s lead to this moment, reclining back into my home office chair as the first floppy (labeled 1987) spun noisily in its drive, the sound like a small animal squeaking with exertion, followed by the names of forgotten files dancing on the flat screen:

BUDGET.87

CHRCTRS (my abbreviation for Characters, working within the 8.3 naming restriction)

CHRCTRS2

CHRCTRS.OLD

DARNOLD (Darn Old? D Arnold?)

Thirty-four files on this floppy, the first of seventeen. Digital artifacts from a younger version of myself, a me I can barely remember. Someone less secure, yet more confident than the person I imagine myself to be now. Less afraid to take chances, make mistakes, of which he made many. Less inhibited, especially when writing.

Am I ready to confront that person who used to be me?

A rhetorical question at this point, for sure. But one worth asking, as I right-click my budget file for 1987 and select Open.