A Forty-Minute Story

Thanks, everyone, for the comments and suggestions on yesterday’s post about how I’ve fallen out of love with writing (at least temporarily). A lot of the comments revolved around a common theme: don’t worry so much, and get back to what you really love about writing!

Jo Eberhardt put it like this:

But stop being so hard on yourself; stop trying to create something great. Sit down and write a poem about a buzzard waiting for a cowboy to die, or an ode to toilet paper, or a plan to take over the world using only a radish, a jar of pickles, and a paintbrush.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to write a story – right now, in the forty minutes I have before work, with minimal time to worry or revise.

And, go!

* * *

Rain slashed the concrete, soaking me under my windbreaker, rattling everywhere like the end of the world. The street was deserted – almost. I could just see him through the storm, electric eyes shining blue.

“Mark!” I called.

An old joke: ‘Mark’ was short for ‘Automaton Mark VII,’ an absurdly retro name for the highest-tech gadget in the world. He had laughed at that joke before, a human-sounding noise I could never quite unravel.

But he didn’t laugh now. He just watched me, long arms at his sides. Waiting.

“Mark!” I advanced, one slow step at a time, shivering as the water seeped through my tennis shoes. “Come home, buddy. This thing with Sharon, I’m sorry, it isn’t going to work. She doesn’t love you, Mark, she loves the spotlight. Loves having her face on magazine covers with headlines about the first interspecies romance. You have to let it go. I really am sorry.”

Too direct. I swallowed. I was terrible at this kind of thing: delicate words, broken feelings. Six years at BU had taught me to pick apart themes in medieval Asian poetry, but not to do anything useful in particular – except spend my dad’s money, on the highest-tech gadgets in the world.

Even so, I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned Sharon. Not yet.

Mark’s answer was clear in spite of the rain. His mouth moved, but the sound came from somewhere in his chest. His voice didn’t sound robotic at all – whatever that means – it just had an unplaceable accent, like he was from some nonexistent country between Sweden and Iran.

“I’ve already broken it off with Sharon.”

I blinked. “Then why…”

“I never said I loved her.”

He crossed the distance between us in long, swift strides. His plastic white face was neutral as always, a mask hiding God knows what, but he put his hand on my shoulder.

That was new.

“Yes, you did. You said – ”

“I said I was in love.” The blue lamps dimmed in his eyes, a deliberate but mystifying gesture. “I didn’t say it was with her.”

The hand fell away. He was gone before I could answer.

I swore and ran under the awning of a nearby tavern, trying to get warm.

* * *

Well, that was fun. Obviously it’s not very polished due to the time crunch, but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll try this again sometime.

6 responses to “A Forty-Minute Story

  1. That was fun. I liked it. And congratulations — you’ve now written something new this year. I bet it feels good. 🙂

  2. (Smiley face the incompetent boy doesn’t know how to make)! That was good! You should post writing on the blog more, so I could get more reading material. (Whenever I get some, it goes away awfully fast. I got fourteen books for christmas, and I ran out last week. While writing, and with school and sleep already accounting for 22 hours of my time. Wow, that seems a bit ridiculous). but seriously, please post more writing!

    • Thanks, Alex! That really does mean a lot. I probably will do this again sometime.

      It’s funny that you say you run through your books too fast, because I’ve had the opposite problem for just about as long as I can remember: too many books, never enough time. They’re both good problems to have, though.

      By the way, to make a smiley in a WordPress comment, just type out the standard characters for a smiley and it’ll convert it to an icon automagically.
      : – )
      …without the spaces.

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