Monthly Archives: February 2014

Coffee Neurotics Seem To Find Each Other and The Daily Prompt

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Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone

Ever have an experience that felt surreal, as though you’d been suddenly transported into the twilight zone, where time seemed to warp, perhaps slowing down or speeding up? Tell us all about it. If you haven’t had an experience in real life that you can draw from, write a fictional account of a surreal experience.

This or a variation has appeared in several prompts in the past. They make a good plot or background for imaginative and clever writing. Indeed, I have used it in the past to comply with the Daily Prompt. Such writings make the character the center of the universe; as if time, space, events, etc change for him or the convenience and contrivance of the writer. I don’t think we enter special places where time is bent or manipulated. It is only our perception and that is at best faulty. It is a gimmick for the writer to intensify his plot and we mortals use it to make our experiences more intriguing, distinctive, and memorable .

That’s my view and here is my story du jour:

 Coffee Neurotics Seem To Find Each Other

Nick had been seeing psychologist Dr. Mitchell Rolston once a week for a year. Except being an obsessive-compulsive disorder he functioned highly with the exception of stressful situations and interpersonal relationships.

The fact Nick was not noticing any measurable improvement was causing him concern. He brought it to the attention of Mitchell. He did what he could to alley any concerns Nick might be experiencing.

“I don’t want to see you for at least another month, but I want you to work on something for that month and at the end of that month I want you to return,” Mitchell said. “And what I think will emerge is a pattern. Likely after a couple of weeks you will see it yourself, but I’m going to have to look at it in view of the other psychological and clinical studies I’ve done on you. So how does that sound?”

“What is it you want me to do?” Nick said.

“Keep a tablet or notebook beside your bed and when you awaken each morning jot down the first thing you think about,” Mitchell said.

“Nothing complicated about that,” Nick said.

“We will be on the very edge of recovery,” Mitchell said. “You will know things about yourself that will begin to help you deal with the things in your past that effect you now.”

“I really feel good about this,” Nick said. “For the first time in a long time I think this is all moving in the right direction.”

“Good,” Mitchell said, “Just see the lady at the desk and tell her you want an appointment in a month. Here‘s something to think about; I use this on about 25% of my patients with 100% success. You can be confident. I am.”

A month late Nick returned.

“Did you do what I told you to do?” Mitchell said.

“Yes,” Nick said and handed the notebook to him.

Mitchell scanned it and looked curiously at Nick.

“I don’t get it,” Mitchell said. “You wrote ‘coffee” down for each day.”

“Bummer, right?” Nick said. “That’s the first thing that pops into my head. Can that be helped? Is that normal?”

“Not really,” Mitchell said. “I think you’re the most sane man I’ve ever met.”

Mitchell looked at his watch. “Wow, 10:00 o’clock already. I’m ready for a coffee. How about you? If you buy it comes of the your bill.”

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Tip and The Daily Prompt: Mom Taught Me The Chaleston

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Daily Prompt: Let’s Dance

In my earliest memories of dancing, I’m under my auntie Nancy’s dining room table, (which had been pushed off to the side of the room), watching my mom, dad, aunties, and uncles all dancing on the hardwood floor to a never-ending stack of 45 records, dropping one after the other. I remember foot-high stacks of 45s all around the record player. The song that I remember playing most? Twistin’ the Night Away by Sam Cooke. Every time I hear that song, I remember auntie’s spontaneous dance parties. What are your earliest and fondest memories of dance?

Thanks for sharing, Krista. I also remember many of Sam Cooke’s songs.

Two days ago my Mom turned 100 years old and I still remember her trying to teach me the Charleston. Nobody on earth can top that!

Mom had no rhythm, but she made up for it with enthusiasm.  As a result I learned it all wrong. I called it ‘the flapper crapper.’ Mom didn’t appreciate me making fun of her earnest efforts at the performing arts. Every now and then I’d say, “Hey, Mom. Watch this!” And mimic her awkward movements. I guess that explains the starch in my underwear.

Here’s my short story du jour:

Tip

Joe was hungry enough to eat the mat from the floor of his car. He pulled into an all-night diner in the middle of nowhere. He was willing to eat whatever they served – whatever.

The diner was straight out of a movie noir scene. The only sign of life was the slow swirl of an overhead fan. A waitress sat at the end of the counter listening to country radio and working a crossword puzzle from the newspaper. She barely looked up.

Joe swiveled into the counter.

The gum-snapping waitress with a bouffant hairdo pushed the pencil into her hair and lazily strolled to Joe’s seat.

“What can we getcha, sugar?” she said with one hand on her hip.

“Start me out with a coffee,” Joe said looking over the menue.

“The urn’s broken,” she said snapping her gum. “I can serve ya water.”

“Sure,” Joe said. “And I’ll have the special to go along with that.”

“We’re out of the special,” she said.

“Hamburger and fries will do,” Joe said.

“The meat man didn’t come today,” she rolled her eyes and said. “No hamburger till tomorrow.”

“I’ll just have a double order of fries,” Joe said.

“We shut down the fryers when we ran out of hamburger,” she said with in monotone. Then she registered only a slight degree of enthusiasm to add, “I mean who eats fries without burgers… I don’t.”

“How ’bout a piece of apple pie,” Joe said.

“We had to throw all the pie out,” she said. “They had a recall on it.”

“Have you got anything to eat?” Joe said.

“No, but if ya go next door to the gas station they got about everything you wanted, butcha hafta nuke it.”

“Thanks a lot,” Joe said. He got up and headed to the door.

“Hey, pal!” she said. “What kinda guy don’t leave a tip. I could have left you drive away starved.”

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Back In Bug and The Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

What is the best dream you’ve ever had? Recount it for us in all its ethereal glory. If no dream stands out in your memory, recount your worst nightmare. Leave no frightening detail out.

Marty dreamed of going to Hollywood and someday becoming a star. We all wake up from dreams and return to reality only to find that reality is better than the dream. This is the conclusion to yesterday’s story of Marty’s dream. Hope you enjoy.

(Continued from yesterday.)

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The Man From Bug – Part 2

Marty was safely on the bus. His mental state was nothing like he thought it might be. He planned if he failed at acting he would never return to Oregon. He thought he’d rather work at a car wash.

As the bus weaved along the curved highway that cut through the gaps and valleys of mountains leading to Bug he longed to see at last the flat plains of home. He wanted to smell the rich odor of cow manure, hay, straw, combined with diesel fuel, grease, and oil. He wanted to smell a wet horse and saddle leather. He wanted to ride into the mountains and pretend to look for strays only to rest his head on a rock and look up at the clouds.

“Bug, Oregon in five minutes,” the driver announced over the muffled intercom. “It’s a fifteen minute stop. Diner and a grocery.”

Marty smiled and mumbled, “And a whole lot more.”

The range dotted with cattle and antelope passed by like the reel of a movie. “Every man has a roll,” he thought. “And this must be mine.” He thought of the Glen Campbell song Rhinestone Cowboy and the lyric, ‘There will be a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon.’ “There can be no compromise for happiness.”

The bus pulled into the parking lot. All 12 passenger got off and stretched. Some headed for the diner others to the grocery.

The driver pulled Marty’s two bags from the baggage area beneath the bus. “This home?” he said.

“Yeah,” Marty said. “Be it ever so humble.”

“There’s no place like it, is there,” the driver said.

“Yep,” Marty said.

Marty tossed his bags on a bench next to the grocery‘s entrance. He hesitated for a moment and remembered that’s where Henry talked to him a year earlier. Marty dug in his pocket for change to call Henry and ask to pick him up.

He only had a dime and a nickel. He pulled out his billfold and got a dollar.

As he placed his hand on the door he heard a familiar voice. “Need some change, cowboy?” It was Henry.

“What a coincidence,” Marty smiled.

“Not really,” Henry said. “I’ve been coming to the diner every day for the past six months. I was kinda waiting for ya.”

“You knew all along didn’t you?” Marty said.

“No one knows anything for sure,” Henry said. “But I had a hunch.”

“Can ya buy me dinner,” Marty said. “I appear to be short of funds.”

“Sure,” Henry said and they walked towards the diner. “Tell me about Hollywood.”

“Well,” Marty said. “I was reading for a roll and doing really good and this director, Torrance something or other takes me aside…”

Henry stopped. “Walton.”

“Yeah,” Marty said. “Torrance Walton.”

“Wow,” Henry said. “He’s the reason I’m back in Bug. It’s a small world. Imagine two guys from Bug knowing a famous director.”

“Well, let me tell you about Torrance,” Marty said.

“No,” Henry said. “Me first.” Henry slapped Marty on the back and nodded toward the entrance to the diner. “Come on, boy. Let’s swap some stories, but I got the feeling we going to tell the same story about ole Torrance.”

 

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The Man From Bug and The Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: We Got the Beat

Have you ever played in a band? Tell us all about that experience of making music with friends. If you’ve never been in a band, imagine you’re forming a band with some good friends. What instrument do you play in the band and why? What sort of music will you play?

Many years ago I sat in with some friends and played drums. A guy came by and listened to us. He ask me how long I had been playing drums. I looked at the clock and said, “About five minutes.” He said, “Your’re not bad, I thought at least 15.” I handed him the sticks and let him go to town.

Love to play piano (jazz). I have no sense of music and soon be kicked aside as I was years ago.

But here is a story about a guy who took a Greyhound bus to Hollywood:

The Man From Bug – Part 1

thU9VR8SSU“You only pass this way once in life,” Henry said. “Do you get what I mean?”

Marty sat speechless and motionless.

“What I’m trying to say, son, is that right here and now is all you’ll ever need,” Henry began to plead, something he was uncomfortable doing.

“But if I don’t leave I’ll never know what I could have been,” Marty said.

“An actor!” Henry said. “An actor; until the last century they used the back door in decent hotels and homes. They are nothing. How can one claim they are doing any good by being and actor. They do nothing to contribute to the well being of others. There entire life is built on lies. The appear altruistic to cover up their debauched thinking and lives. If you go you’ll become everything you hate and it will happen one roll at a time. And one day you’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring at you.”

“That’s pretty high-minded of a guy who has done nothing but shovel cow shit,” Marty said. “You ain’t been no where or done anything all your life. Look at you, you’re a nobody.”

Marty turned away without shaking Henry’s hand. He got on the bus and it drove away.

Marty glanced back at the small stop in the road where the bus came once a day and newspapers were dropped in a bundle daily. The town was nothing but a general store with three gas pumps, a small motel, diner, volunteer fire department, and a half dozen houses. The only thing that happened there was something told about what happened elsewhere.

Marty was nearly gleeful as the town faded into the dessert plain.

Six months later Marty auditioned for his first part. It called for a handsome young man who could ride a horse, perfect for Marty.

It was a reading. Marty quickly memorized his lines. The other two actors read from the script. After the brief reading, director Torrance Walton, called Marty for a private conversation at his chair.

“You memorized your lines after looking over the script a couple of times,” Torrance said.

“Yeah,” Marty said. “It’s a gift. That’s sort of why I wanted to be and actor. I still know my lined from my sixth grade class play.”

“Another thing,” Torrance said. “Thos people you read with are seasoned actors.”

“Yeah,” Marty said. “I’ve seen them before.”

“Son,” Torrance said. “If we were shooting the scene today you couldn’t have done it more perfect. I see a future for you.”

“Thank you sir,” Marty said. “I sure hope so.”

“Where are you from anyway?” Torrance said.

“Promise not to laugh. It’s someplace you’ve never heard of,” Mary said shyly. “Bug, Oregon.”

“Bug, Oregon,” Torrance said. “Bug, Oregon.” He rubbed his jaw and thought. “Incredible, I knew another actor from there. Henry Michaels. Made a movie or two. Reminds me of you. I was only an assistant then. He had talent. You have to know him, I mean how big is Bug anyway.”

“Henry’s my uncle,” Marty said.

“So he probably told you all about the acting business and you got the urge got give it a try,” As Torrance said those words he looked at Marty seductively abd gently stroked his forearm.

Marty chuckled nervously. “Not really he never told me about coming to Hollywood, but I think in his own way he was telling me about acting and what it required. I guess you could say I got the acting bug.”

Torrance’s hand slipped into Marty’s. “You doing anything for dinner around seven?”

Marty pulled his hand away. “Actually, I have a bus to catch. I guess you could say I‘m bugging out.”

(Continued tomorrow.)

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Brent’s Ten Dollar Idea And The Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: Shake it Up

You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory. GO.

This is going to be hard to fit in, but here’s the best I can do. This happened to me about 12 years ago and the entire episode took about ten minutes. Enjoy my story.

Brent’s Ten Dollar Idea

Brent waited for the plant manager, Warren Wells, to make his daily rounds.

thCR2YMDMIBrent looked over the top of his toolbox and saw Warren make his way down the aisle of machines smiling and nodding at employees as he took large hurried strides. It was Warren’s way of staying visible and to appear as if in touch of the employees, but his pace made it clear he had no time to be anything other than be noticed.

They smiled at each other as soon as their eyes met, but Warren’s smile was a bit forced and why not? Business had been slow, orders dropped off, productivity was lagging, and it was two months away from contract negotiations.

Brent wiped his hands with a shop rag and stuffed it in his back pocket. He turned off the power to his press and picked up a bound note book that laid on top of his toolbox. He met Warren in the aisle next to Brent’s work area.

“Warren,” Brent said. “Ya look a little worse for wear. How’s it goin’?”

“Good,” Warren said. “Things are good.”

“Warren, how long have we known each other?” Brent said.

“27 years,” Warren said.

“27 years and two months,” Brent said. “I remember breaking you in on the lathes. You were ready to quit the first week.”

“That was a long time ago,” Warren said.

“Now look at you,” Brent said. “Ya run the whole show.”

“Well,” Warren said. “You taught me well.” Warren started to walk away.

“Hold on,” Brent said. “I got something important to talk about.”

“What’s it about?” Warren said.

“First of all, have I ever steered you wrong?” Brent said.

“No,” Warren said. “You’ve been an asset to me and the company. Your ideas and suggestions have saved the company a lot of money.”

“And in two particular instances was the difference between profit or loss for the year,” Brent said. “Do you remember them?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Warren said as if interested in moving on. “We’re grateful and always will be.”

“That’s why I wanted to talk to you today,” Brent said. “I got an idea that will really help this place.”

“Can you write it down and put it in a suggestion box?” Warren said.

“You know how that goes,” Brent said. “It’s reviewed by a committee and if it’s not one of their ideas it never sees your desk. You know that. And besides that isn’t the way you and I deal with each other. We never have done things that way.”

Warren breathed heavily through his nostrils.

“That’s good,” Brent said. “I want to see you relax.”

Brent smiled and Warren tried to smile.

“What is costing this factory right now the most money?” Brent said.

“Scrap, bad parts we have to throw away,” Warren said. “Last month over $250,000 dollars was lost because of scrap. If not for scrap we’d be in the black.”

“Who makes the scrap?” Warren said.

“New employees in just about every instance,” Warren said. “25 % of our workforce has a year or less service and they produce 98 % of the bad parts.”

“Here’s my idea,” Brent said. “They aren’t bad people. They don’t manufacture bad material on purpose. They don’t know anything about machining.”

“That’s all there is to hire,” Warren said. “We can’t get people with experience. So how do you overcome that?”

Brent handed him the bound note book.

Warren looked at it passively.

“This is something I’ve worked on for nearly year. It’s a curriculum. It’s designed for 30 one hour classes. It teaches the basics on gauging, changing tooling, machine maintenance, use of hand tools, setup, time saving techniques and much more. You could have every employee who has been hired in the last year take a class for an hour a day and in six weeks he will gain two or three years experience without the mistakes.”

“We can’t afford to take an hour a day for each new employee,” Warren said as if Brent’s idea was childish.

“And you can afford to waste $250,000 a month in scrap?” Brent said.

“Speaking of loosing money,” Warren said sarcastically. “Do you know how much you’ve cost the company by standing here and doing nothing, but talking?”

“Well,” Bent said. “Since you have the meter running, how much?”

“About $10 dollars,” Warren said.

Brent pulled a twenty from his billfold and stashed it in Warren’s shirt pocket. “Here’s the $10 I cost you and another 10 because I’m ain’t done talkin‘.”

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A Rainy Day At Home (short story) and The Daily Prompt

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Daily Prompt: Walking on the Moon

What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break?

Sometimes you look at things a decide not to take a step. And in reality that is you step. It’s not forward nor backwards, it’s just a step aside. There are days like that; the step you choose to step aside allows you to be contemplative and reflective.

That’s my thought and here’s a short story that is about taking the time to just step aside. I hope you enjoy it and relate to it.

A Rainy Day At Home

Vince sat and listened to the sounds of the house on a rainy day and stared out the window at the neighborhood. He held a steaming cup of tea and sipped contentedly.

The rain patted the roof softly. It struck the metal chimney as if an angel’s irregular beat of a cymbal; a light tinkle. Water gushed from the downspouts like a chorus of strings. The clock above the fireplace ticked a second by second steady beat as if tapping a snare drum.

He watched people soaked as they hurried to the bus stop. A car splashed a man checking his mail. Children drenched like dogs skipped home from school on the sidewalks making sure to spatter every puddle. The man across the street held his briefcase over his head to avoid getting wet as he runs to his house. A woman in heels ran across a yard only to lose it to the mud’s soggy grip.

“Rain was meant to hear,” Vince said. “Certainly not to be walking around in.”

Another sip of tea warmed his chest.

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A Meal With Millie (short fiction) and The Daily Prompt

Daily Prompt: Tainted Love

Ever been dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend? Was it a total surprise, or something you saw coming? Tell us your best worst breakup story. Never been the dumpee, always the dumper? Relate the story of a friend who got unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Change the names to protect the innocent if you must.

My short story for the day is closely aligned with this subject. Sometimes being dumped is a blessing. It sure beats being carried around for who knows how long while somebody looks for a convenient time or place to dump you.

th02YFJCSFA Meal With Millie 

Millie accounted for every penny. Food and ingredients were stretched to take advantage of everything. She once remarked, “I thought of pizza sauce on cardboard so the cardboard wouldn’t be wasted.”

Chuck, her husband was shiftless although a talented man. He could build a house from top to bottom. The problem was when he got a job something happened on the way to the work site; the call of the wild, the smell of the hunt, the freedom of the open country – call it what you like, but often Chuck would take off and go hunting or fishing. And not necessarily those things; anything that brought him pleasure and entertainment.

The family lived near poverty and he seemed to care little as long as he had ammunition for his vast collection of rifles.

It was a Friday when he left the house early. He planned to spend an hour in the dessert shooting jackrabbits before heading to a job site. But wouldn’t you know, he was having so much fun he lost track of time and before he knew it, it was near noon and he was hungry.

At a little past noon he pulled into the driveway and climbed down from his four-wheel drive truck.

He burst through the door like a hungry farm hand.

“Ya got somethin’ for me to eat?” Chuck said.

Millie was in the kitchen and mouthed his first words; “Ya got somethin’ for me to eat?” Because she knew them so well.

“I’m hungry,” Chuck added crudely. “I spent the morning shooting jackrabbits. It helps the ranchers.”

“I think we could used the help around here,” Millie said. “And what about the job?”

“Too late to start today,” Chuck said. “I started something out on the range. I’m going to finish it up. What did you fix me?”

“A ham sandwich and potato soup,” Millie said.

Chuck grabbed the paper and quickly looked through it. “You missed some coupons. I told you we got to tighten our belts around here. You better go through the paper again.”

Chuck sat at the kitchen table. “Where’s your sandwich?”

“There wasn’t enough for two,” Mille said.

Chuck lifted the bread. “Where’s the meat? There’s hardly any meat. Ya gotta have more meat than that. A man’s gotta have meat.”

She pressed her lips. “Start bringing home some money and maybe you can afford more meat,” Millie said.

She waited a long time to say that.

Chuck chomped into his sandwich. Millie sipped her soup. That was her most satisfying meal ever.

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