Writer's Digest is holding a short-story contest for short stories in any genre so long as they are under 1,500 words. I will try to write a few, but this is the first idea I had for one, and I wrote it today. The deadline for this contest is December 1, so I would like to settle on my decision the weekend before Thanksgiving and mail it in with the $12 entry fee that Monday before the holiday. The grand prize is $3,000. They don't announce winners until the end of February. This would be a great birthday present to myself if I could win. It would also be a great boost for my writing resume and a huge confidence booster for my law school ambitions. If I made top 25 I would be pleased enough as it were for a writing credential. It goes without saying that I would DEFINITELY like comments on these 1,500 word stories. Maybe I will hold a poll in early-to-mid November about which of the stories is the best (if I'm not so lazy that I don't try writing any more of them). Enjoy!
By Christopher J. Knorps
It took a lot of sobering realizations to bring me home. I didn’t have any money left. I couldn’t get a job unless someone else was pimping me to their inside contact. I couldn’t think about being with anyone while the rest of my life was in such disorder. My apartment was tiny. It only had a mini-fridge with a little freezer shelf. I could have survived if I had tried. I could have stayed on my own. But it was much easier to move home. It was an available option.
Now my bedroom is the size of my old studio. I don’t have to worry about providing for myself. I’ve gone a month without getting a job, but I am not sweating it. I’m trying my best. I’ve always tried my best. I won’t ever be with anyone though. Not while I’m living here. That’s for certain.
Last night before I went to bed I heard an owl. Maybe it wasn’t an owl—it was a difficult sound to place—but it sounded feral. I prayed for something extraordinary. I opened my window wider. I crawled beneath the sheets.
I sleep on my side, alternating when I start to feel sore on one of them. I had been trying to sleep for about fifteen minutes. I looked in front of my bed and an attractive young man was standing there. He wore black pants and a white oxford and converse sneakers. He looked professional, nonchalant, poised.
“Are you so surprised to see me?” he asked.
“Are you who I think you are?”
“I answered your call.”
“Thank you for that. I didn’t think that happened.”
“It happens. I have a busy schedule and it takes me a while to personally respond to everyone. But I always get around to it, eventually, unless the person in question is unattractive. There are those I’m forced to keep and there are those I want to keep.”
“You want to keep me?”
“You pass the test.”
“Even though I’ve done terrible things?” “I’m not one to judge. You are a nice one to have in a pinch.”
“That’s quite a compliment,” I said, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. So what will it be? Instantaneous, or do you want the tease?”
“I want the tease. Give me the tease.”
“Okay. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure, totally sure, positive.”
“Nobody ever wants the instantaneous!” he moped, “I make so much effort to show that nothing matters, and nobody ever believes me.”
“You prove that things do matter. When you appear, no one in their right mind should go along with you.”
“They’re not in their right mind to begin with, so what do you expect?” he says.
“I’m saying it could be working under the reverse-psychology principle.”
“Enough conversation. All your dreams will come true. Good-bye. See you in a little while.”
This morning I got a phone call at 8:00 AM. It was from the local newspaper telling me they wanted to interview me for a reporting job. I had sent my resume three weeks before and just assumed they wanted nothing to do with me. I set up an interview for 2:00 in the afternoon and dozed for a while in bed, thinking about all the ways I could prove that I would be good for the job. Around noontime I rode my bike over to the train station and my phone rang again. It was a girl I had known in high school that I had liked but never asked out. She said she had just moved into the city and wanted to know if I wanted to hang out today and I told her about my interview and asked her if she wanted to meet afterwards and she said sure.
The interview went great and the editor told me I could come in for my first day tomorrow. I met up with the girl after the interview, at 3:00. I should probably say her name, which is Victoria. We went to a bar for happy hour, and we stayed until dinner time. We had too many drinks. We decided to go somewhere different for dinner. We went to a cheap counter service place. She asked me if I wanted to see her apartment since we were close by. I said sure, and I went in, and I met her roommate, and Victoria asked me if I wanted to see her room, and I said sure. We went in there together and she shut the door. We were in there for about an hour and I said I had to go back. I said I would love to stay the night but I had to make the last train. She told me she had a great time and couldn’t wait to see me again and I said I know, I felt really dumb but I had to get home and get a good night’s sleep and shower and change in the morning to a fresh set of clothes for my first day of my new newspaper job. I got back to the train in time, read some of a book I had brought in my knapsack with me, arrived back in my home town, got on my bike, rode home, and crawled into bed around 1:30 AM. I had to get up around 7:30. Six hours would be enough.
I heard that same owl-like sound and my window was still open and I was too lazy and tired to get up to shut it. I looked in front of me and saw the same attractive young man as the night before.
“Did you like the tease?” he asked.
“That’s the tease?”
“Duration is an illusion,” he said, “Would you like to stay at your new job for the next forty years and win a Pulitzer Prize? Would you like to date Victoria for a year or two and then get engaged and then be married and have several children and raise them to be perfect, successful grown-ups and save hundreds of thousands of dollars for their college tuition and wait until they themselves became married and had children, your grandchildren, and wait longer until you could retire, and then die?”
“Yes, I would like to do that,” I said.
“You’re so boring!” the attractive young man said, “You want to be just like everyone else!”
“I don’t care. I thought that’s what I was getting into when you called it the tease.”
“Did I show you a contract? Did I make any promises? Did I say anything verbatim?”
“It’s just naturally understood that there should be a period of prosperity, a period of happiness.”
“And what matters if it’s not a prolonged period? Surely in longer periods, there have to be down moments, no?”
“Yes, but they’re so much more fulfilling. It’s not just the anticipation of the good life, it’s the experience of living the good life, and all the emotions that come with it.”
“As I said before, did I make you any promises?” the attractive young man asked as he took a couple of coins from the top of my dresser.
“No, but you’re not being fair.”
“Who said anything about being fair? I’m sorry. I have to make a confession. I’m jealous of Victoria. I can’t wait any longer for you to join me. Don’t worry, I promise you’ll be given special treatment. You can be part of my administrative staff. If you think about it, it’s a little more important and exciting than some dumb newspaper job. And I promise there will be plenty of girls just like Victoria, except you won’t have to act all good and noble like the customs here require. And one other added benefit. This won’t hurt a bit.”
As he leaned over me, I tried to stop him but my muscles wouldn’t give. He placed a quarter over each of my eyes. I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up on a boat. The ferryman looked at me and laughed.
“You got the tease, didn’t you?” he asked.
Across the wide expanse of water, I could see an island in the distance with flames shooting upwards into the sky every few seconds.
“I should have asked for more information,” I said.
“I can take you back, you know,” he said, “But that usually causes more problems than it resolves.”
“He said something about an administrative staff.”
“I’ll be the first to admit, there are more benefits than you might think.”
I leaned back in the boat and took a deep breath. I should have been smarter, I thought. Whatever, I thought.