Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Keeping Promises-A work of fiction

Author's Note: At times I sit at my computer screen with a slightly less than half baked idea and can't get anything written because the opening line sounds seriously lame. Another issue that short circuits my tiny brain while trying to write is my son and his friends playing "Rock Band" which is a form of torture for me but that is a whole other story that even now is going on. My son and his friend are playing that hell spawned game right now. But Utah Savage, Ubermilf, and Randal introduced me to a writing group exercise that gives a beginning sentence that you have to write a story around. I had till yesterday and because Monday was bad day I was unable to make the deadline. But with the time I put into this I sure as hell wasn't about to let it sit on my hard drive. Oh yeah, the opening line was "She was suddenly gripped by..."

Keeping Promises
A work of fiction

She was suddenly gripped by the need to check her wallet for the lotto ticket. Almost in a panic she ran out of the tiny bedroom wearing only her panties into the equally tiny living room of her apartment. She grabbed her purse that had tipped over on the couch as she had come in minutes before spilling much of the detritus that anyone living in the modern world easily collected. Her panic only receded some after seeing the wallet still inside. Trembling fingers searched through compartments until she saw a sliver of the zip-lock sandwich bag she had stored the ticket in after not so casually looking up the winning lotto numbers during lunch. Still not quite believing the ticket was real she broke apart the seam and as deftly as a surgeon removing a heart pulled the ticket out to look at the numbers. Also in her wallet was the printout of the state lottery web page that she had covertly as possible printed out trying not to draw attention to herself. She matched the numbers from the printout to the ticket one by one staring at each trying to convince herself it was real.

It was on an utter whim that she had bought the thing to begin with a couple of days before, a quick stop at a convenience store to buy oil for the car. Standing in line at the checkout the flashing LED screen above the cash register displayed a standard list of lottery promotional messages that she knew by heart just because the things were above every cash register in every convenience store in the state. She looked up to see one message flash on the screen that said: “It’s your time.” Like some flash of unexpected lightening she only sees it briefly not really thinking much of it except that it was not part of the norm. But when the cashier handed her back a dollar saying she had overpaid for the oil she felt strongly drawn to buy one quick instant number pick. As she walked back to her car she felt foolish for wasting the dollar. Today as she sat in the break room eating lunch the local afternoon newscast reported the numbers and that one winning ticket had been sold. The bologna sandwich she had been eating almost was sprayed all over the back of one of her co-worker’s head as the numbers displayed on the screen had a strong resemblance to the ones on her ticket. After a very illegal personal use of the law firm’s internet access back at her cubicle she sat in stunned disbelief. Her numbers matched the ones on the lottery web site. Feeling like a spy she made sure that Alexandria, her work group’s snitch was no where around as she printed out the web page and stored the ticket in her sandwich bag to keep it safe.

Minutes slipped by in the apartment as she kept checking the numbers time and time again until she noticed how she was getting cold which was the result of the air conditioning being turned up so high. Her one luxury she allowed herself in an otherwise austere life which was dedicated to her two boys. The other thing she soon noticed was the shadow hovering over her; she turned her head to see eight year old Jimmy Thompson staring inside with his mouth open in shock. The world came back into focus as she stared back at the little boy who was best friends with her oldest son, Brian. Quickly she ran back into the bedroom, grabbed her worn and ragged robe and went back opening the door.

“Hey Mrs. Mitchell, is Brian home yet?” Jimmy asked still clearly aghast at what he accidently saw from the window.

“No Jimmy,” Donna Mitchell replied tiredly and slightly irritated, “Brian and Joe are still at their grandpa’s and will be back tomorrow.” She watched Jimmy turn and walk back down the second floor walkway to his apartment feeling upset with herself given how she must have sounded to the boy. It wasn’t his fault that his friend’s crazy mother had decided to perch herself on the couch naked checking a lotto ticket with the window open. Donna shivered to herself thinking it could have been worse.

She closed the door, locking all three of the big latches, closed the window curtains, and went back to her bedroom. She passed the boy’s room trying not to see the huge Disneyworld poster on the wall signifying the unfulfilled wish of both her boys. Donna gritted her teeth thinking how they were only days away from going to see Mickey when Thomas Mitchell, the boy’s father, up and disappeared taking the money, good car, and destroying the childhood of their oldest son Brian. In the years that have followed Brian’s childhood had quickly passed and when Donna looked into his eyes she saw the soul of a much older person. Brian had taken upon himself to be both a brother and father to his younger brother, Joe, trying to preserve his innocence. One time as she lay with her boys on the couch watching a Disney movie, she saw tears silently roll down Brian’s face. It was then she made an equally silent promise to Brian that one day she would get them to the Magic Kingdom.

Lying on her bed was the work clothes she had worn to the law office that day. Her usual habit upon returning home before her dad brought the boys back to the apartment was to strip off the expensive and slightly trendy business attire her job made her buy and wear so they could “keep appearance up with the clients.” At the end of the day she felt dirty and used having to smile and be polite to the multitude of high priced pigs and bottom feeding sharks she worked around.

Donna knew a little history and literature having finished three years of college before she screwed up her life by hooking up with the boy’s father who left her with nothing after the birth of Joe to run off so he could find himself. Her work place combined the worse traits of a ninetieth century sweatshop and Orwell’s Oceania. Everyone was to work their asses off with far from comparable pay for their efforts along with towing the party line to make the upper-end clients feel good thinking that the partners gave a damn about them. With scores of young and attractive staff running around all dressed as if they walked out of a respectable fashion magazine the partners that ran the firm seem to be able to get away with outrageous billing practices. Poor attitude, dissent, or what the partners felt was disloyalty was quickly squashed with the offender escorted out the building. Each day after she returned home she had to spend huge amounts of time taking care of her work clothes, time she would have rather spent with her boys. Making matters worse in the morning before her dad came to pick up the boys for school her heart sank seeing her children having to wear third hand castoffs. While their dad had been a disaster they were the light in her life. Even though they went without they none the less kept her from sinking into despair and hopelessness.

Since the boys were with her dad for a couple of days of “guy time” she knew she had plenty of time to get things organized but out of habit she inspected what she had worn that day, No spots, stains, or tears, and it actually still looked ironed. Feeling good she hung the outfit back up with the dozen other outfits neatly hanging in the closet and went to have a long shower. Her mind was a blissful blank as she dropped the robe and removed her underwear and stepped into the hot water. As her mind and body concentrated on the water flowing over and down her skin a sudden and jolting thought struck her. It was Wednesday and the pigs and sharks at the firm liked to have a mid-week golf tournament closing everything down early letting the staff leave early as well. The state lottery office was still open and would be open for at least two hours she figured. She almost slipped on the wet bathroom floor running to both dry off and get some clothes on.

The old Civic farted and belched as Donna drove to the local state lottery office. She could feel time slipping by, that it would have her arrive just a little late with the people gone and doors locked. But as she pulled up to the nondescript office park she looked at her watch and saw she still had a good hour and a half before they would have closed up for the day.

“Hello,” the receptionist said lazily clearly not expecting much in the way of excitement as Donna walked in. “How can I help you today?”

Water was still dripping down Donna’s hair which she had barely brushed in her rush to get out the apartment. She could feel how damp her skin was and strangely felt the need to be embarrassed that she had forgotten to put on a bra. The receptionist was looking at her strangely now and Donna struggled to get the words she was about to speak straight in her head.

“I’m Donna Mitchell,” she began, taking time to swallow, “and I have the winning lotto ticket for this week’s drawing.” As she made her statement watching the eyes of the receptionist begin to swell in surprise Donna fished the lotto ticket out of her purse still inside the used sandwich bag. Even though she had understood in a basic sense she had the winning ticket since lunch the final aspect in all this finally hit her. All her struggles were over, as soon as the money was deposited in her usually empty checking account the kids, her dad’s, and her life would change forever. She could tell the firm to go to hell, buy a house far in the country, buy her kids some decent clothes, and school be damned they would all see Disneyworld. Swarms of people came out of every office to greet her causing her head to spin. One gentleman made his way to her saying he was the manager of this office and saying something about an ungodly amount of money.

“How much was that again sir?” Donna asked knowing that winning the lottery meant millions but that number had to be wrong. Before her strange urge at the convenience store she had never paid much attention to the lottery. A caring and comforting smile crossed his face and he pointed to a board hanging on the wall showing the amount she had won. The cash jackpot for her drawing was one-hundred, seventy million dollars. Luckily, enough people had gathered around that when she fainted she was easily laid on the floor. Her last thought before her mind shut down briefly was that after the Disney trip she would look into going back to school.


Mike said...

Okay Beach, this is some seriously interesting and seriously good stuff. I may have to check out that writing exercise.

Vigilante said...

Beach, I'm taking this to work with me tomorrow. I'm sure it's going to get me through my siesta hour!

•♥•♥[V]♥•♥• said...

wow..it was beautiful bro.
loved it ..170 million..If i won what would i do with that ..lol

Utah Savage said...

Really Beach, I though my little contribution to this exercise had a bit of gravitas, as Randal so snarkily said, this is a real short story. This is some seriously good writing. And none of it is you autobiography. You have just become a writer of REAL FICTION. Go post it at Writers United. It's the new fiction writers site that isn't murdering women only--like Dcup's and mine is. You can get a bit of help finding the little details of copy editing I so hate to work on in my own stuff, but can often see in other's. Vig knows what I'm talking about. He has laughed at me often enough about my little spelling problems.

Randal Graves said...

Dude, this is an unexpected and excellent take on it. Very cool! And definitely submit stuff to that writing site if you wish.

And utah, that was one of the few times my commentary wasn't snark.

Vigilante said...

Yeah, I know what you mean, Utah. I need you to proof my sruff more than you need me to proof your stuff.

But you know, I really gotta a say that Beach's writing has really tightened up more than any one else's has while I've been reading blogs. The first time I landed on the Parrothead's beach, I said to myself, "This is SOME bird tracking! Must have - in fact - been written by some parrot." That's what I said to meself. Now? Now his stuff reads tight, polished and publishable, if you know what I mean. This last piece lit up my day at work. But I didn't like the ending. I think Beach turned it over to a focus group or something to get a PC outcome. I know how he woulda ended it without the focus group but I'm not tellin'. You'd have to beat it out of me!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I LOVE happy endings! :)

And I've heard of that writing exercise before. Back when I was a "Writer's Digest" member, they'd have contests that would start that way....they'd give you the beginning sentence and you had to take it from there.

My last one was "She couldn't believe she woke up...."

I morphed it into a vampire story...but I didn't win. it was fun anyway though.

Beach Bum said...

Mike: Thanks, and I did find it fun. I just wish like hell some element of this story was true with me related to my character.

Vigil: Are you saying this story puts you to sleep?

V: The stuff that Randal and Utah Savage wrote was actually a little better. As far as the amount of the lottery winnings I just pulled it out of the air. I do buy a lottery ticket every now and then and after finishing this story I went and got one hoping (foolishly) that my story might me prophetic. Didn't work, after the latest drawing I didn't get one number right.
If I did win, at some point, I've written before that there is an old beach house down around Pawleys Island that was built in the 60's in which the two sister's that own it rent it out as vacation home. Its actually located on the mainland side and on the marsh but its close enough to the shore that you can easily hear the surf. Its has a huge screened in porch that faces the marsh and its about as close to heaven as I will ever get. If I did ever win I would buy that house and start writing full time.

Utah: Sentence structure and typing so fast I leave out words drives me crazy. Due to the conditions I've named before I barely have time to write at all. So when I do finish something I usually reread real quick then post it. Then the next morning after several people have read it I then find all sorts of mistakes. Of course with my son beating on that damn game right next to me I'm sort of doing good just to get anything halfway decent done. I do have a laptop now and this story was done on it in a relatively quiet place away from "Rock Band" so it didn't have as many issues.

Randal: I'm already thinking of a rewrite to put more detail in it.

Vigil: I actually had an idea that the whole lottery winning thing was a dream my character had one night but that would sound too much like the final episode of Roseann series years ago. My next idea was to have the ticket end up lost and Donna standing in the lottery office crying but when its all told I'm just a sucker for a happy ending.

Stacy: I've dropped by the Writer's Digest website a couple of times and saw their writing prompts but never did one until Utah hit me with this one. Is your vampire story posted anywhere? Would love to read it.

lime said...

wouldn't it be nice...

France Blog said...

Hey Beach! I like that work of fiction... didn't put me to sleep at all, but not at all (said with Irish 'inflection')

MadMike said...

I once had a girlfriend named Donna. This story. in some ways, reminds me of her. Keep up the writing Beach and think about investing in Stephen King's "On Writing." It has nothing to do with writing horror stories but everything to do with the basics. It is well worth the investment.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: Oh Lord, yes it would. I've read several stories about how lottery winner's life went all to hell when that money came into their lives. Would love to test that affect on me.

France: Glad you liked it, please feel free to come back anytime.

MadMike: Somewhere I wrote that I started blogging because of th elong and mostly boring nights I worked on third shift at my last job. Needless to say I've been surprised on how strongly the reaction to my ramblings have been from you, Vigil, Utah, and many others. But until recently I've held back on taking the next step and submitting some of my works. While my little work of fiction was just a writing exercise admittedly needing a great deal of polishing but without getting much deeper into explaining I am taking that next step.

LittleBill said...

Great stuff, Beach, and I found myself racing along with you right to the very end. AND, I didn't know until the last word what the end would be.

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff.....
Great post...
Thanks for sharing......

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