Sunday, July 19. 2009
Benoni (Final Section) Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 14:20
I tried to relax and enjoy the movie. I really did. I kept telling myself to relish the fact that for once I wasn't at work, school, or home. I just kept thinking how angry it made me that Ben wouldn't just tell me what was going on. His evasions all day had finally worn down my patience. On the bright side, the movie was an enjoyable adaptation of the book. When the credits rolled, I made a mental note to rent it sometime when I could focus on the actors instead of thinking of every possible meaning behind every word Ben had said today.
He didn't say anything, just turned to me and signaled that we should go out the aisle on my side. We silently walked out of the theater into the parking lot and I couldn't take the waiting anymore. "So are you going to tell me why you had to leave your friends and parents behind to come here or what?"
He didn't seem at all surprised, maybe a little hurt though. "Reese. I just thought two friends could go to the movies together, but I guess all I am is a mystery that you feel obligated to solve. I mean, you seem like you don't get out much, so I thought catching a movie would be fun. If the mystery means more than our friendship, why don't you just go search the news archives. It was front page news back home. I'm sure they covered it here. I really don't want to talk about it." Continue reading "Benoni (Final Section)"
Friday, July 17. 2009
Benoni (Section 6) Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 05:02
I had to admit to a certain level of anticipation and excitement at this point. I already thought Ben was a pretty great kid after just briefly chatting with him a few times after that first shift, but he'd totally managed to get Erica interested in him. He had a bit of a sordid past judging by Kim's hints, and he seemed to have completely won Dave over. I was dying to find out what made him tick. That's probably why things went down the way they did.
I got there a little earlier than was normal for opening the store up. I quickly got the cash drawers in order and made sure the store was straightened and ready to go. As soon as I opened up the front of the store for customers, he walked in with a rakish grin and laughingly declared with a really horrible attempt at an Irish accent, "Top of the mornin' to yeh, Lass."
"Fresh off the boat from Ireland?" I gave him my best smile.
"Ah, Lass. The Emerald Isle is but one of my many homes, yet the closest to my heart. The gateway to dreams, it is."
"Is that so? Did you start reading one of the novels from that author I told you about? He has a thing for Ireland too."
He dramatically placed his hand over his heart and lamented, "You wound me to the core. To suggest I'd borrow from a mystery author? Nay, Lass. I did borrow it from this memoir Dave suggested." He started laughing and I couldn't help grinning at his infectious good humor, even if the joke wasn't that funny. He still hadn't quite recovered when our first customer of the day hesitantly approached the registers with a paperback from our bestsellers display. Continue reading "Benoni (Section 6)"
Tuesday, July 14. 2009
Benoni (Section 5) Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 20:54
As it happened, I didn't have to wait long because I opened the store with Erica the next day.
She grunted at me with a surly "I need coffee" expression on her face as I walked in. Not the most auspicious start to an eight-hour work day, I thought to myself.
I didn't have to wait long for the usual complaints to begin. "Who the Hades closed last night? Did they manage to pull their head out before driving home? Moon and stars! There aren't any fives in this cash drawer. Did Kim close last night? I wouldn't put it past that vapid slut."
"Erm, no. She opened with me yesterday. I think Dave closed last night."
"Yeah. So. I'm guessing you need to run to the bank?"
"No. There's some to spare in the other."
"I. . .see. So, no harm done, then."
An atypically pleasant response. I didn't think she liked Dave. Either I had completely misjudged Erica over the past couple of years or she was acting very much out of character. I tried to think of a reasonable explanation. Was it possible Ben had figured out a soft spot and passed it on to Dave? Maybe. I definitely needed to find out. At the very least it would make working with her much easier. I decided to see if she'd give me any clues.
Continue reading "Benoni (Section 5)"
Monday, June 29. 2009
Benoni (Section 4) Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 08:32
I had a short morning shift Tuesday morning with Kim. It took me a while to ask her if anything catastrophic had happened the night before as Ben and Erica shared their first shift. I didn't want to seem nosy. I finally decided to just work to it from a sideways direction. "So. Ben seems to be working out pretty well here. Dave seems to have really bonded with him."
"I told you he was a good kid. My biggest worry at this point is not showing favoritism," she beamed.
Right, I thought. "Guess I'll have to redouble my efforts to be your favorite, then," I sort of half-joked.
"Oh, Rhys. It's not about who's my favorite. We're all just supposed to really enjoy selling books."
"And getting paid in them too, I suppose."
She laughed. "Good thing my husband pays all the bills. Otherwise I couldn't afford to work here." Continue reading "Benoni (Section 4)"
Thursday, June 25. 2009
Benoni (Section 3) Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 16:39
I had the closing shift two days later with Dave. He was a college student so he had weird hours, but he was the one person in the store who loved reading non-fiction, especially biographies and history books. I was pretty sure that was the main reason he still had employment with us. He wasn't much of a self-starter and he often conveniently forgot to finish everything you gave him to work on if you weren't constantly checking up on him. But he was genial enough and customers shopping for non-fiction loved him, because he could almost always find them exactly what they were looking for. Kim had worked the morning shift with Ben, so I chattered with them as their shift ended.
Ben seemed even more confident and I watched him help a shopper find her husband the latest military thriller; he even talked her into buying a Book Club selection. It was one of those romance books that was kept in the fiction/literature section because the author was famous. When he finished helping her and she left the store, he asked me about the book he noticed me carrying into the store.
"Oh, it's a mystery book. One of those by-the-numbers serials where the protaganist has a supernaturally helpful dog that always points him in the right direction at just the right time. It won't win a Nobel prize, but it's pretty entertaining." Continue reading "Benoni (Section 3)"
Monday, June 22. 2009
Benoni (Section 2) Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 09:38
It was inevitable that I'd still be giggling at those two chuckleheads a while later when a customer approached me to ask where the Young Adult fiction section was located. He seemed a little miffed that I laughed at his question, but I didn't really think he'd be happier if I explained so I led him back and helped him find a book about a fictional baseball player for his son. I guided him back up to the registers after unsuccessfully trying to get him to bite on a few related titles. Kim had Ben ring him up and I was impressed by how quickly he'd picked up on the system. I mean, it wasn't brain surgery or anything, but it had taken me several shifts to get as comfortable as he seemed to be after just a half hour or so on the training machine.
By the end of the shift, I was so impressed I asked him if he'd ever worked for this bookstore chain before.
He smiled and replied, "No. Computers and books have always come naturally to me and Kim is a really good teacher. Besides there haven't been that many customers and I'm sure you'd have handled them better."
"Uh. Sure. But let me tell you, I sure didn't pick up on the store system that fast." I was serious. Guy was a whiz. Maybe Kim hadn't been exaggerating about how smart he was.
She apparently believed what she'd been saying, as she stepped in, "Rhys, you're embarrassing him." He blushed as if on queue. "But as you can see he's picked up on things quite well, so if you want to take off a little early, we'll take care of things. It won't take much to close things up."
I shrugged. A half hour off my shift wouldn't make much difference on my next paycheck and there was a movie I'd been hoping to catch tonight anyway. "Sure. It was really nice to meet you, Ben. If half of what Kim said about you is true, it'll be great working with you."
"Thanks, Reese! That's really nice! It was really nice to meet you; you're much more funny than Kim said."
I wasn't sure what to make of that. I'd already been half-turning to go pick up my stuff from the break room so I just continued on my way and mumbled, "Thanks." I tried not to think too much about what Kim might or might not have said about me as I took off my bookseller apron and grabbed my purse. Continue reading "Benoni (Section 2)"
Thursday, June 18. 2009
Benoni Posted by The Mad Giggler in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 16:11
Author's Note: I started this during the writing game from a couple months back. Since things have slowed down at work, I'm thinking I might get to finish it. No promises.
I knew this must be Ben from the little squeal Kim unleashed on him. He had dark, curly hair cut close to his head, no doubt to prevent it from poofing out like he was Ronald McDonald. It seriously looked capable of going all clown on him. The slight upturn to his nose didn't help, but he had dark brown eyes and the kind of pale skin you get from living in a place with almost constant cloud cover. He had an average build, definitely not an athlete, and was about average height. He certainly wouldn't stand out in a crowd. He walked through the door with a vacant expression on his face and I didn't think he'd last the shift, let alone stick around long enough to have a lasting impact on my life.
They briefly hugged and Kim brought him over for introductions.
"This is Benoni, Rhys. Benoni, this is Rhys," she pronounced with a big grin on her face.
"It's nice to meet you Reese. Please call me Ben." He extended a hand, and seeing no other option, I shook it.
"Nice to meet you too, Ben. I understand we'll be working together now." I was beginning to feel a little awkward. She was smiling so much I was afraid it might break her face. Continue reading "Benoni"
Friday, March 20. 2009
James (Part 3 of 3) Posted by Daboo in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 18:07
The next morning Linda woke to her father's ranting shouts from the front yard. She hurried down the white spiral staircase to the front door, which was standing wide open. A steaming coffee mug was sitting next to the newspaper on the front step, where her father had abandoned it. He was in the driveway, circling the yellow porsche, screaming.
Linda opened her mouth to ask what he was doing, when she saw: all four of the tires were slashed, the car sunk low down on them as if exhausted. She took a few steps and then stopped, her eyes following the deep gouges in the car's body, made by something strong and heavy. “A crowbar!” screamed her father, pointing to the offending object, which was lying on the grass a few feet away from the car.
Aghast, she crept closer. The headlights were smashed, the upholstery ripped to shreds. Unconsciously, Linda began mouthing a prayer. She walked down the steps and circled the car, then stopped as she came in sight of the garage. There, in violently red spray paint, were scrawled the words, “I LOVE YOU.” Continue reading "James (Part 3 of 3)"
Friday, March 20. 2009
According to How Others Defined Him Posted by Ancient of Days in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 02:01
[Ed: I know, you're not supposed to apologize for your material before you present it, but I REALLY wish I'd had more time to clean this up. There are a lot of concepts crammed into very little space - concepts I'd have loved to explore more, but time and format did not allow. I'd like to thank Johnny for his constructive input on the first (very) rough drafts of this, and my wife for making it possible for me to even conceive of this story. I hope you can all look past the many flaws to find a story you can enjoy buried underneath.]
Agency Log: Agent #848, Kevin Plume, "Mouth" 1982, Dec 12
They always send 4 of us on these missions: the Eyes - a clairvoyant who is trained to seek the Rogues; the Ears - a precognitive who listens to the future to make sure no surprises lurk beyond our knowledge; the Fist, a Powerless brute who is usually given charge of the mission; and someone like myself - the Mouth - a telepath and scribe, to relay intel, keep an accurate log, and make sure everyone is in playing their role. Hal, our current Fist, is the worst I've ever worked with - every time he looks at me, I can feel him calculating how to "put me down", as he likes to say. He looks at all of us as if we were just one wrong twitch away from being declared Rogue and forcing him to kill us where we stand. Continue reading "According to How Others Defined Him"
Wednesday, March 18. 2009
James (Part 2 of 3) Posted by Daboo in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 09:08
When they brought him to the new house, he was relieved to see that there weren't any children's toys in the front yard. Maybe there wouldn't be any younger siblings to babysit at this house. He walked in and was met with a rushing hug from a tall, ginger-haired woman who smelled like rosemary. “James,” she said, “It's so nice to have you here. It's just you and me right now, no other emergency placements—for now,” she raised an eyebrow at the caseworker, who shrugged and laughed. “You're welcome, welcome, welcome,” said the ginger-haired woman to James.
“I can't predict 'em, Wendy,” the caseworker said. “We had a sibling group of seven on the list last week, but their mom's sister took them in last minute.”
“Well, for now we'll be cozy just the two of us. I'm single,” she explained to James' quizzical expression, “and my last couple of placements were allowed to go home to their parents about three weeks ago.”
“Oh,” said James.
“You'll like it here, you'll see,” said Wendy. “I've heard good things about you and I know that we can be a happy little family.”
“Oh,” said James.
He did like it at this new, pretty house. All the wood was a red-golden color, and matched Linda's hair. She was always cooking, delicious smells meeting him when he came home from school. She was busy most of the time; she ran an editing business part time from her home computer, and was always running out to the copy store. “I'm gonna buy a new ink cartridge any day now,” she said every time she hurried out the door. “Remind me tonight.”
The days blurred together into a comforting routine. School, homework, dinner, video games or TV. James found himself actually moving his clothes from the black garbage bags to the drawers in his new bedroom. This lasted for several months, until one Monday he came home and Wendy was more cheerful than usual. Too cheerful. Fake cheerful, thought James.
“Got a call from your caseworker today,” she said breezily as she unpacked groceries. “They've got a placement for you that they think could be permanent. Isn't that great?” He didn't respond, so she went on, “the dad is a really good guy, works construction. You could pick up some great skills if he'll take you on some jobs, huh?”
When he still didn't respond, she put down the carton of eggs she was unpacking and locked her warm hazel eyes onto him. “It's gonna be okay, James,” she said sincerely. “You're a good, sweet kid, and you deserve to find a place where they appreciate that.”
“Why can't I stay here with you?” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. She sighed. “I'm a temporary stop for you, kiddo,” she said. “I care about you a lot, and I want you to be in a home with a mom and a dad. It was great having you here, and I am truly going to miss you.”
“You care about me?” His voice was soft.
She came around the counter and put her hands on his shoulders. “I care about you,” she said. “I want you to go to the best possible home. I know you'll be great.”
He shook his head, unable to speak.
“You're a good kid, James,” she said sincerely, locking her eyes onto his. “Don't forget that, okay?”
He nodded solemnly, unblinking. “Okay,” he said.
When he got to his new foster home, they showed him a back bedroom with no carpet, just cracked cement. The stained mattress was old and saggy, and nobody had bothered to put sheets onto it yet. He tossed his garbage bags onto the bed and looked around, a cold sensation prickling around the back of his neck.
“Hey, kid,” said his new foster father gruffly. “Sheets are in the hall closet. Chore chart's on the fridge. Dinner's at six. You okay?”
“Yeah,” said James dully. “I'm good.” Continue reading "James (Part 2 of 3)"
Wednesday, March 18. 2009
A Magic Teapot to Call Your Own Posted by Johnny Elbows in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 08:33
"Darjeeling? Where's that?" Those were Damon's first two questions. His third question was the one that really mattered to him, though. "Why now?"
"It's the opportunity of a lifetime," answered his father. "Have you ever heard of the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park?"
"No, and neither have most normal people. Dad, this is my senior year. San Diego was supposed to be the opportunity of a lifetime, too, remember? I don't care if Noah called and wants you to cure all of the animals on the ark. I don't want to leave." Damon could tell from the deep breaths that his father was counting to ten. Knowing that it was the only way he could win, Damon spoke again before his father reached ten. "You know what? I don't care. You go ahead and do whatever you think you should. I'm just your son. My opinion's not really that important." With that, he turned and stalked out of the room, ignoring his father's attempts to call him back.
Darjeeling surprised Damon; for the most part, he liked it. His father had to call in a lot of favors to make it work, but he managed to get Damon enrolled in St. Joseph's School. As the only American in the school, he was a bit of an anomaly. After the initial novelty wore off, most everyone just left him alone. It wasn't anything like home, and sometimes Damon was lonely, but he had to admit that it was far better than the two years they had spent in St. Louis. Before long, he found himself wandering in the foothills of the Himalayas almost every day after school.
Continue reading "A Magic Teapot to Call Your Own"
Monday, March 16. 2009
James Posted by Daboo in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 11:03
Author's note: My story will be published in three installments. This is part 1 of 3.
His earliest memory was not being taken away from his parents, although he had been five years old at the time. He heard all about it later, from the casual conversations that the caseworkers had with his foster parents, but he had no memory of it himself. They described the ropes his mother had used to tie the door shut, the bucket she had left for him to urinate into. But he didn't care. He didn't remember any of that.
No, the first memory he had was when they took him away from Steve.
Steve was a round, soft, balding man who had once been blonde but was now mostly gray.
“James,” Steve had said, gently but firmly holding James' shoulders in his big meaty hands. “Your mom and I love you very much, and we care about you very much. But you are going to live with a new family now, okay?”
Steve's watery blue eyes had skipped upward toward the caseworker, standing somewhere behind James. James heard a baby cry, and knew that Marjorie was trying to feed both the twins at the same time. He remembered the day before, when he had used all the baby bottles to catch grasshoppers in the backyard. Marjorie had cried. “It just goes to show you,” she had sobbed into Steve's shoulder, “I can't watch all of them at once! I can't!”
He had been proud of his grasshopper menagerie, but nobody was proud of him. Both Marjorie and Steve hadn't spoken to him for the rest of the night. He had heard Steve's soft voice from behind their bedroom door. “Maybe it is for the best then,” he had sighed heavily, the sound of air escaping a balloon.
And now this. The caseworker was here, and Marjorie had used this morning while James was at school to pack all of his clothes into two black plastic garbage bags. His toys and stuffed animals and books she had left in his room. “We'll use them for the boys when they get older,” she had explained to Steve.
Those garbage bags full of clothes were now in the caseworker's car, and James was here, looking into Steve's blue eyes and struggling to understand. “I'm sorry about the grasshoppers,” he offered.
Steve smiled briefly, more a wince than anything else. “You're not in trouble, James. It's just time for you to go to a family that has time for you,” he said. Behind him, the caseworker sighed and shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
“We love you and care about you,” said Steve. “And you need to always remember that you are a sweet little guy and you deserve a good life.”
“I'm a sweet little guy,” echoed James, making the caseworker chuckle under her breath.
“Yes you are,” said Steve, attempting joviality. “And you'll be fine.” Continue reading "James"
Monday, March 16. 2009
Playing a meta-game with the same theme Posted by Johnny Elbows in Playing a meta-game with the same theme at 08:57
Several years ago, I took a class on narrative styles. In that class, we discussed the effects that the narrator's point of view has on the actual story. We read several books and short stories, each narrated from a different point of view, and examined how the point of view affected the story. That class fascinated me, and as a result, I have enjoyed playing with the narrators' points-of-view in my writing.
In all of my experimentation, however, I had never gotten around to experimenting with a point of view that was very popular in the late 1800's and early 1900's. This point of view consists of a narrator who talks about another person, who, in turn, tells the story. When I decided to write "In the Eye of the Beholder," I thought that this story would be an interesting way to experiment with that narrative style.
In my experiment, I found the narrative style extremely limiting. Not only was the plot different from many of my plots, but the narrative style forced me to use a very different voice than I am used to. AoD and I discussed that change.
AoD: I hope I'm not giving you the wrong impression; I really liked it. It was just, as you had warned me, a significant departure from what I usually think of as your "voice".
From there, things snowballed. AoD and I recruited Daboo, and we all wrote a story that followed that theme. During the next week, we will be posting our stories. We hope that you will enjoy them, and that you will think about the subject yourself: What if there was a person who had no identity but the identity that other people gave him?
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