Since everyone seemed to enjoy my other creative writing posts so much, I’m going to post some of my short stories over the next few days.
This one is my favorite of the bunch (though you might like another one better). It’s humorous and hopeful, and heavily inspired by the (farcical) work of Douglas Adams (whose Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency I’d recently read). I wrote it when I was 17, in Junior-grade English class. Initially, we’d been given a pretty dull assignment, so I decided to cheekily recycle some other assignment that I’d done years before. As it so happens (and as it rarely did, when I set out to be mischievous with my classwork), the teacher caught on and made me re-do the assignment, forcing me to actually put effort into it. This resulted in the story below. (Yes, she was right, for a change.) 😉
Unexpectedly, the teacher then suggested that I submit this to the youth writing competition that was being held by the local Rotary Club at the time. I’ve never really been interested in competitions of any sort, but since I had a bit of a crush on a very “preppy” girl who was rather used to winning things–and who was entering that competition (of course)–I decided to enter the competition, and win (if possible)–mostly to annoy her. This story did, in fact, win, and I got to read it in Barnes and Nobles, plus I got a $50 gift card to the same. (I don’t think girl ever got the joke, but she did look properly sullen at the award ceremony where I read my story.)
This version has very little alteration from the one submitted, with the exception of minor punctuation tweaks and a correction related the the life-cycle of a flea (don’t worry, the original joke is basically intact).
He sat in his office building going through paper work. He did this every day; the same old numbers, the same old requests. He was tired of it. He leaned back in his chair and looked out the window, down 34 stories onto the large green field on which the whole building stood.
“Nothing ever happens around here,” he thought.
A bird flew by his window. It was a pigeon from the city not 20 miles from here, and with it was its mate. They banked steadily away from the window and glided smoothly down, flapping their wings in unison, and watching the grass gain detail as they approached it. They pumped their tails and came up slightly so that they could see the whole countryside. It truly was a beautiful countryside. They went left on the pleasant airy plain and flew boldly over a gray sleeping cat. They fluttered off towards the ville.
The cat heard its name. Everyday, somebody called it, not because it had a master, for it was a stray who enjoyed basking in the mid-afternoon sun, but because for some reason—perhaps its coy yet nonchalant scruffiness—people were drawn to it.
“Kitty, kitty!” cried the young girl exuberantly as she began running toward the nestling feline. “Kitty!” The cat looked up indifferently as the young girl plummeted toward it. It was still deciding if it should worry. No, not this time.
“Mommy! Aaaaa…aaa…” A woman in her thirties with dark hair trotted over.
“I told you not to run on rough ground like this! Now look what you’ve done to your knee! Oh, let me see…” she peered fumblingly into her purse, “Is there any Kleenex in here? Here’s a band-aide.”
“It hurts! Mommy, it hurts! Owwwmmm-mmm-mmmm…” She was now lying on her right side, clutching at her left knee, which was only mildly scratched, but looked a bit awful with all the mud on it. Her new blue dress was going to have to be washed.
“We’ll have to get that cleaned off; you don’t want to get any germs in it, do you?” But for the germs, it was a different matter.
One particular bacterium was panic-stricken over its sudden displacement. It was no longer contently wading through an abundance of newly decomposed grass, but was now caked in some manner of iron-rich gel, and things weren’t getting any better. It had been squirming to break free of this plasmatic goo with only minimal success. Its food supply looked like it would hold out, but something was eating through its cell wall, and this made things very uncomfortable, indeed. It was beginning to worry about whether or not it was going to complete all of its biological imperatives or if it was simply going to end up on some foreign surface as no more than a small pile of denatured protein particles. Things didn’t look good at all.
Just then, it was enveloped in water and sent tumbling down in a thick stream of muddy liquid. It landed with a splash in a vast ocean and began to slowly bob back up to the surface. By now, many of its organelles had stopped functioning, but it probably would have recovered if it wasn’t at that moment lapped up by some larger creature and digested in acid.
The dog wagged its tail. It was in a good mood today because it was finally being allowed to go for a walk. It wagged its tail some more and began to pull at the collar, signaling that it was time to get moving again. Its master, however had other ideas. He was sitting, looking quite relaxed on the park bench, with a clump of old newspapers held close to his face. He pulled firmly on the leash with his age-spotted hand.
“Settle-down, Peaches.” The dog whined a bit and plopped down on the ground. Suddenly it felt an itch near its shoulder and scratched it with its hind leg. It yelped because it had scratched too hard, and proceeded to try and lick the spot, which only served to make the itch worse. The dog wanted to go home.
As the flea bit, she didn’t consume much because she was sad. She had spent a lot of time lately contemplating her purpose in life, and today had come to the conclusion that it was simply to reproduce and bite whatever it was that she was standing on. What made it even more depressed was the fact that she didn’t have a mate. Mind you, she didn’t need a mate just yet, and would surely survive waiting an hour or two to get one; but the flea found it awkward to be alone, and even more awkward to be with other fleas, being that some of them already had mates. She rubbed her head sorrowfully on the base of a nearby stalk of fuzzy white hair, and in frustration bit deep into the dog.
Under the flea, under the dog, a groundhog burrowed diligently. He had no idea about why he was burrowing, but thought it to be a good idea anyway, and if he was going to be doing something, he figured that he had best do it diligently. So he scratched feverishly at the wet soil, making a long trail of uprooted roots and shredded worms. He made extra sure every few minutes or so to trek all the way back to the surface and deposit the castaway dirt so as not to bury himself without knowing it. His tunnel was growing quite big. Every now and then, he would pluck out a large root and taste it. Some were quite bitter, but others tasted nicely and he made a habit of devouring those completely.
He was starting to get tired, but still wanted to finish his tunnel. Every day he made a new tunnel so that he wouldn’t have to go back and repair an old one, and this day was no different. But now he was starting to feel the pull on his eyelids, and thought that after this one was done, he would have to go to sleep. He had no real idea of when a tunnel was done, just that at that point it was time to go to sleep. But as he was pondering over these things, something odd struck him… It was metal and it got him right in the head. He wasn’t sure what to do about it, so he stopped and thought a bit. The act of thinking made him very tired and he fell asleep.
This particular metal object just happened to be a ground post for the office building, and this particular ground post just happened to lead directly to the office block on the 34th floor. It ran up through the brick and drywall and stucco and branched out into many wires at various points in the elevator shaft. One of these wires served as a surge protector, which unfortunately wasn’t doing its job because it had been severed last week by a nail driven into the wall to support a picture frame containing an indiscernible scribble of modern art. The man stared at this, hoping finally to figure out what it was, and perhaps remember why he had spent thirty dollars on it. He scratched his head with the worn down eraser-side of a dull yellow pencil.
“Nothing ever happens around here,” he thought to himself.
By Dane Mutters 1999