Thursday, July 28, 2016

Story 145: You Don’t Get What You Want, You Get What You Need

            “I can’t believe I got passed over for promotion again!  I mean, I know I’m always late to work and I underproduce, but I’ve been there long enough, by golly, I deserve advancement!”
            “Yeah, I think you’re better off where you are now.”
            “And where is that, not promoted?!”
            “Not fired.”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “Yet another losing lotto ticket, why am I always surprised?  Why can’t I ever win the $100 million jackpot – I’ve got bills to pay and yachts to buy!”
            “Don’t you also have those cousins who keep asking you for money, and the only way you get them to go away each time is because you’re legitimately almost-broke?  What about greedy relatives you don’t even know you have right now, or con artists, or outright thieves – what’re they going to do to you when they find out you have $100 million?  Minus taxes?”
            “Maybe I can just win the $5,000 jackpot, then.  Minus taxes.”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “So close!  I was so close to buying my dream house, and some nameless shadow swoops in with a ridiculously higher offer!  That was my house, man!  If it felt so right, how could the universe have snatched it away from me at the last minute like that?!”
            “You’re still going on about this?  It was over a year ago!”
            “I will always be bitter.”
          “You do realize that house was in the development that was just demolished for the new bypass, don’t you?  If you had bought it then, you would’ve had to find a new dream house all over again anyway.”
            “I don’t care, it’s the principle of the thing!  It was mine and that guy nabbed it!”
            “Joke’s on him then, I guess.”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

          “I was supposed to spend the summer relaxing by the shore, and instead I’m spending it trekking to doctor’s offices and hospitals getting treatments for inconvenient growths!  What a pain in the neck!”
            “You want to see next summer?”
            “…Point taken.”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “Aw, rain all day right when we’re having our big party!  Why can’t it be nice and dry all summer long?”
            “We’ve had a drought for a month – the reservoir’ll finally be filled and the crops will stop dying.”
             “Yeah yeah, but couldn’t all that have happened tomorrow?”

            *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

            “I was all set to adopt that cute little kitten in the store, and then my friend up and moves and gives me her extremely old cat to take in!  I can’t get the cute little kitten now that I’ve got this old dude, it’s so unfair!”
            “I bet that old cat really needed you, though – he had to leave his mom and go to a new home at his age, so at least he’s not in a shelter.”
            “I guess, and he’s not as raucous as I was prepared for with the kitten, and he’s clean and quiet and pretty cuddly and stop making me notice the benefits of the extremely old cat!”
            “You sure do complain a lot.”

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Story 144: You Are Cordially Invited to Join a Pity Party

            The Last Guest arrived at the clandestine club and was greeted at the door by a bouncer.
            “Password?”  The bouncer asked her.
            “My life is a failure and everything I do is wrong.”
            “It was just ‘Failure,’ but whatever.”  He opened the door and let her in.
           As she entered the main area, she saw that the Pity Party was in full swing: lots of people moping about the place, slumping in chairs, leaning against the bar, holding an obligatory drink despondently without ever drinking it, and picking at uneaten finger foods while the D.J. played dirges.  He tried to get everyone line dancing, but the resemblance to a zombie crawl made him kick them off the dance floor.  Last Guest felt that, at last, this was where she truly belonged.
            She spotted a few of her almost-friends standing in a clump next to a weak-looking lava lamp, so she headed over to them.
            “Hi!  Didn’t think any of you would actually show up!”
            “Nor we you,” Almost-Friend 1 said.  “I thought you had it all together.”
          “Blazes no, I’m an absolute wreck.  The day when all my bills are paid off and the debt collectors stop calling me?  Never gonna happen.  And I realized this morning that I’m probably going to have to sell The House just to stay afloat.”
           “Not The House!”  Almost-Friend 2 said.  “I think I remember you saying you grew up there!”
           “I did, and I probably won’t get much for it since it got to be such a pig-sty, but it was mine.  I would have said ‘ours’ if mom and dad hadn’t gotten sick and that was that, you know, same old story, I won’t bore you with the details.  So what are you guys partying it up for?”
            “Finally acknowledging my complete failure as an artist,” Almost-Friend 1 replied.
            “No!”  Last Guest said.  “I love your stuff!  And you were making at least some money from it, weren’t you?”
            “Fifty cents technically is money, so yes, you are correct.”
            Almost-Friend 1 took a swig of tonic.  “I never did manage to have any of my work shown in a back alley, let alone a gallery.  I know one must be patient, don’t expect too much out of life, these things take time, and all that, but you must admit that 23 years is a bit long for nothing to happen.”
            “And I know that, when one fails, one must always try and try again, else how will one ever succeed?  Yet I found myself asking myself, at what point does continual, constant, unremitting lack of success cease to be inspirational and instead become pathetic?  I wish someone had told me when I had reached it, because I went far, far beyond it.  One wonders when one should just admit defeat and pursue a less frustrating obsession.”
            “Hm.”  Last Guest turned to Almost-Friend 2.  “So, what about you?”
            Almost-Friend 2 looked at her morosely.  “Still out of work, and my unemployment ran out the other day.  I’d be homeless if my parents hated me.”
            “Well, that’s great that you have your family with you!  Most people wish they had that kind of support.”
            “Yeah, I’ve suspected for some time now that they feel my failure in life means that they too have failed, both genetically and in their child-rearing.”
            “I doubt that!”
           “I’d sure feel that way if I was them.”  His phone rang.  “Excuse me – hello?... Really?!  That’s, that’s wonderful news… Yes, I can start on Monday.  See you then!  Bye!”  He disconnected the call.  “I don’t believe it – the 217th interview I went on actually called back to say they want to hire me!  Me!  Listen, I’d better go before the disillusionment sets in – bye!  I love you all!”  As he left the club he addressed the rest of the attendees, who barely raised their heads to look at him.  “I’m really sorry guys, but I have to say this while I still can: I’m outta here, losers!  Ahahahahaha!  I’m so, so sorry.”  The attendees slowly lowered their heads as he fled the scene.
            “So,” Last Guest turned to Almost-Friend 3.  “What’s your story?”
            “Resentful of life partner and kids, all of whom are brats.”
            “That’s a bummer.  Ever try professional help?”
           “They won’t tell me anything I don’t already know: I’m an a-hole, I married an a-hole, our children logically are a-holes.  Nothing to be done for it, so might as well not spend the money.”
            “Have you ever tried not being an a-hole?”
            “Tiger can’t change its stripes.  Just wish I was born a better person, but that ship has sailed.”
            “Not necessarily, if you really want to be better.  Also, good things happen to good people.”
           “We all like to think that, but nobody’s really that good.  Well, there are a few who are that good, and they’re the ones who garbage happens to, so what does that tell you?”
            “To give up?”
            “Pretty much.  Less aggravation that way – acceptance truly is the path to bliss.”
            “Last call!”  The bartender shouted.
            “But I just got here!”  Last Guest whined.
            “That’s the rules,” the bartender said as she pointed to a sign above the bar that read “All Pity Parties Must Be Brief in Duration for Maximum Effect.”
           “Aw shucks,” Last Guest said as her fellow Pity Partygoers shuffled out the door under the now-bright lights and to the sound of the abruptly cut-off music.  “I wanted to wallow a bit longer.”
            Almost-Friend 1 downed the rest of her drink.  “Is our failure compounded if we can’t even Pity Party properly?”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Story 143: Day of Days

            “I’m so tired and I want to give up,” she said to her co-worker during a brief pause in their assembly line – the gears had gotten stuck again.
            “Give up on what?”  He asked.
            “My life!  I mean, what’s the point of all this?  I literally do the same exact thing, minute by minute, hour by hour, all day long, up until the moment the whistle blows and I get to go to the diner and serve grumpy customers all night long!  That’s it for me, practically every day!  No rest, no advancement, no savings, no extra space in my apartment to maybe squeeze in a chair, no car to drive myself anywhere, no food that’s actually good for me, and no health insurance to help with my rising blood pressure and possible cancer!  Why bother making a living when it’s the thing that’s killing me?!”
            “That sure sounds pretty bleak when you put it like that.”
            “Yeah, well I’m done!  I’m done working myself straight into my grave just to make money for everybody else – I want my day!”
            “Which one, Saturday?”
            “No, you fool, my day!  The one day where I can do whatever I want, when I want it, money’s no object, time and distance mean nothing, the works!  I want the freedom of being a kid again with the economic and legal mobility of an adult!”
            He thought about this.  “Sure, OK.”
            “OK what?”
            “You can have your day.”
            “Yeah all right, says who, my personal genie?”
            “I guess you can call me that.”
            “You know, you’ve never asked me for anything before.”
            “You never told me that I’ve been working next to a real live genie for the past seven years!”
            “Guess it never came up.  That one’s on me, then.”
            She sputtered a bit then said, “All right, I want to start off with at least $150 billion – ”
            “I also forgot to mention that you only get the one wish.”
            “That’s not fair!”
            “It is what it is, you want it or not?”
            “Yes, I want it!  Please.”
          “All right: you get one day to do whatever you want, kid freedom with adult mobility, no monetary or temporal limits.  Want to go to Vegas?”
            “No, everyone goes to Vegas, that’s boring!”
            “Suit yourself.”
            She woke up, extremely relaxed, in a luxurious hotel room – when she opened the curtains, the sun was rising over a warm tropical ocean.
            “Sighhhhhhhhh…..”  She basked in that glow for half an hour.
         After lounging over a satisfactory and heart-healthy breakfast on the beach, she flew a time-suspending plane to her favorite amusement park that she would visit often when she was a kid: there were no lines, so she was able to ride all the rides before 10:00 a.m.  She then took several other time-suspending flights for a quick cruise down the Nile, popped in for lunch at a Parisian cafĂ©, rode a slide off of the Great Wall of China, and checked in on the penguins in Antarctica to see how they were doing.  She made her way back to her hometown in the USA to take in a mindless blockbuster at the local cinema (restored to its former glory), then paused to fall on her knees, raise her arms in the air, and scream “Arrrrrggggghhhhh!!!” at the setting sun before she hiked the Alps and had a sumptuous dinner at a Peruvian restaurant actually in Peru.  She spent the day’s final’s hours in the North Pole watching the Aurora Borealis shimmer across the infinite stars in the cosmos, then lay down next to Santa’s Workshop to make one last snow angel before closing her eyes to drift off to sleep.
            Her eyes snapped open instead and she hopped a time-suspending plane at 11:59 p.m. in her current time zone: why should her day ever end if all she had to return to was suffering and futility?  She rode that plane to infinity, constantly crossing the International Date Line to the previous day and ensuring that her day never ended as her adventures continued onward.
            Her co-worker shook his head to himself as he resumed his work on the assembly line: “It’s so rare that they find a loophole – she's earned it.”