Dec. 30th, 2014

Free Music

Dec. 30th, 2014 03:52 am
joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from [livejournal.com profile] museteasers prompt 2433, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Laura Lynn Walsh.

He hated his job. Not, he supposed, that that made him all that different from the bulk of people, but he really didn’t care about them. Guarding valuables was something he was used to. He’d been a guard for most of his adult life, after all. But the various posts he had held before had been different in a bunch of ways, chief among them that he knew what he was guarding for them! Yeah, the pay was much higher and the hours were both steadier and more reasonable – no guard ever worked longer than a 4 hour shift in a day and no more than 4 days a week or 2 days in a row. But despite that, he felt far more anxious – the bosses ran security drills almost daily to make sure that everybody was on their toes.

And for what? Damned if he knew, but when they hired him they explained that the country depended on his work. The country! Hah! As if the oligarchs had anything to fear.

It was a building, but a building without doors or windows. No way in, no way out. He was assigned one side, walking back and forth along the path, turning at irregular intervals to look back the other way – they weren’t allowed to walk with a rhythm, ever. There were guards on each of the other 3 walls, plus one guard stationed at each corner, so his back was always covered. There were 4 more guards on the roof.
Days passed. Weeks. Months. Years. The monotony was intolerable, but there was no way to break it. All the talk on the radio and television was just as monotonous as work. The people he met were all the same, too. He tried, briefly, to imagine how else it might be, but tossed the notion off as ‘above his pay grade.’

There is only so much that drills can do to relieve the drone of daily edge-of-the-seat anxiety combined with stultifying consistency. To say that the attack caught him off guard would not do the shock justice. There was just no concept that an attack could happen or would happen.

But it happened. Fast.

A loud noise behind him. The corner guard was down. There was a big hole in the wall. A sharp pain in his head. Nothing but pain for a while.

He opened his eyes to see four people fleeing through the hole, each carrying an oddly shaped box of varying size. He tried to bring his gun up, but it wasn’t there, so he tried to stand to go after them, only to stagger and fall dizzy. And they were gone.

Things did not change initially, at least not from his viewpoint. He wasn’t fired, much to his surprise. The building was repaired and the guard increased, but the drills lost some of their urgency. Over the next few weeks though, he began to hear rumors, rumors that made no sense. There were stories of distraction, stories of unplanned sleep, and stories of people just sitting and nodding and smiling.

He’d gone to bed; tomorrow was a work day. He was vaguely aware, as he lay there, that he was having an odd dream prompted by something he was hearing outside his apartment. He sat up with a smile on his face. He started tapping his foot to the rhythm he was hearing.

A rhythm? A rhythm, but not like anything he’d ever heard before. Shrill and metallic, almost hurting his ears, but not quite. And it made him smile, which hurt a bit all by itself.

The next day at work, he found himself trying to recreate the rhythm as he walked. And he smiled to himself.
joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Andy Cowan.

State of Affairs

“The law of unintended consequences is just one of those truths that we ought to hold to be self-evident, but about which we are in serious denial.”

This was the thought Frank had as he stared across the hotel lobby and considered the situation.
**********************************************

About 5 months ago, Frank had made the trip over to Philadelphia to watch the Bruins and Flyers. For all that he lived in New Jersey, he was a big fan of the Boston team and this was the closest they got to him each year. It was an indulgence, but not too expensive. He’d arranged to stay with a friend the night before the game, before heading back in the evening. It looked likely to be a good game as both teams had had pretty good seasons so far, and especially good since the Bruins had won the first game they'd played that season, in Boston.

His seat was pretty good, an aisle seat a few rows up behind the penalty box, and he got there in plenty of time to get settled before the game started. Just before the puck dropped, somebody slid past him and into the next chair. He was surprised to notice it was another Bruins fan and even more surprised to discover it was a woman. Not a lot of women went solo to hockey games, to his experience, let alone fans of the visitors.

They exchanged names and had the usual sort of casual conversation one has with a random stranger. Her name was Pam. No, she’s not from around here – she’s from Everett, Mass, just a bit north of Boston. He was an electrician from Sea Bright, NJ, on the shore. She taught junior high English. Just chit chat as they watched what felt to them like a pretty sluggish game. He got the first round of beer between periods, she the next half way through the second period, and he the third during the next intermission.

They shared their love of the Bruins and of hockey, itself. She’d been a frustrated wanna-be hockey player, excluded because she was a girl. He’d played in high school until he’d hurt a knee. Bobby Orr and Espo. Rules that annoyed them – particularly pertinent because as the clock ticked away, it looked increasingly like it was going to be a tie at the end of regulation and that’s all there was in the regular season. Sure enough, the game came to the end with a 3-3 score, leaving Pam and Frank feeling moderately annoyed – the Bruins had not managed to beat the Broad Street Bullies.

They wandered over to Doobie’s – a bit further from the Spectrum and so a bit quieter. While Frank had enjoyed talking with her, he had not realized how attractive she was until she had shed her coat and bulky sweater. Not that it mattered – Frank was married, even if Pam was not. After a light meal, they wandered over to the train station and after an exchange of phone numbers, she headed back to Boston. He smiled as he retrieved his car and reflected on the game and his afternoon on his drive back to the Shore.

They talked a few times over the next couple months. Neither of them could make the next game, in late March, and that was the last time the two teams were scheduled to meet for the season. Unless...

Plans were a bit rushed, because the Rangers took the Flyers to a game 7 in the semi-finals, only two days before the start of the Stanley Cup. Until then they didn’t know if there would be a chance to get together. Optimistically, Frank had picked up a pair of conditional tickets for game 3 of the Cup, which would be a Sunday afternoon game in Philly. When the game finished, Pam made her hotel reservation and bought train tickets. His wife had plans, as well; the Friends of the Museum were having the opening of their 10th anniversary exhibit that afternoon.

As before, Frank went into the city the night before the game, this time for a late dinner with Pam. During dinner, they complained anew about the refusal of the NHL to have overtime in the regular season. During after dinner drinks and desserts, the theme shifted to federal and state laws. Pam oh so casually mentioned that Pennsylvania had repealed its adultery laws the previous year.

They retired to her room at the Ritz-Carlton.
**********************************************

The next morning they had breakfast delivered by room service, but time passed quickly and Pam had to check out before they could make their way over to the Spectrum for lunch and the game. Frank grabbed a chair in the lobby to wait, looking around at the opulence of the hotel.

There, across the lobby from him, was his wife, also waiting for somebody to check out.

Looking at him.
joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Melissa Bilash.

School of Thought

He sat in the waiting room, running through both his responses to likely questions and his own questions for the interviewer or interviewers. The key, he was sure, was his understanding the school’s philosophy. That was the problem. He had read the school philosophy and mission statement and found himself with more questions than answers.

What is the philosophy of this school?

That was what the school’s philosophy page said. The mission statement was ever so much more helpful: “To help us to develop an answer to the question posed in our philosophy section.
It was almost enough to make him wonder why he’d come for the interview, but he found it intriguing in ways that schools had not been for him in many years, if ever. Hence his presence and his thoughts. Sample lesson? Maybe. Personal philosophy of education? Almost certainly. Preferred subjects? Perhaps, but that was covered on his resume. Why was he looking to change jobs? Seemed likely.

Determining the right questions to ask felt harder. Payroll and benefits questions were out, even if he wanted to ask them, which he generally didn’t. How much prep time per classroom hour seemed fair. Chances for collaboration with other teachers seemed both fair and desirable. Bringing the inside out and the outside in! One of his strengths and a good thing to raise if they don’t. And something about their philosophy and mission seemed called for, but damned if he could figure out how to phrase it.

A woman opened the door. “Hi Michael, I’m Thea. Thank you for coming. Let me introduce you to the others.” She went around the table, giving their names, but each of them also had a tented paper in front with their name on it. She handed Michael another of the tented papers and a few colored markers and invited him to do the same. “Granted, we are likelier to remember your name, since we each have a copy of your resume in front of us, but fair is fair! And we figured to not make this a contest to see how many names you can remember after an initial introduction. Though I did know a school psychologist once who thought that was a valid way of gaining information about the intelligence of candidates.” That last was said with a broad, welcoming smile.

Petra spoke up. “This is not going to be a standard interview, Michael. I’m not even sure most folks would call it an interview at all. We’d like to have a conversation with you, rather than just a Q & A session.” She paused for a moment to let that sink in. “In your cover letter, you introduced the concept of bringing the outside in and taking the inside out. We banged on that a bit in our applicant review process and decided we really needed your input to make sure we understood what you meant by it, as we presumed you were going beyond guest speakers and field trips, but we knew that a cover letter would not really give you the space you needed to present the idea thoroughly.”

Even as Michael engaged the topic and shared some of his ideas, he thought to himself, “Oh. I think I’m beginning to get it.”
joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Sherene Raisbeck.


Maternity Ward

The King paced back and forth. And forth and back. The Queen, for all that she was ostensibly otherwise occupied cried out “Would you stop that incessant motion from one side to the other? It’s driving me right up the turret!”

Out of consideration for his wife, the King left the room to find somebody else to bother. The wizard seemed like a good choice. “What are you doing to protect my child?! I’ve heard those terrible stories about wicked witches and cranky fairies who cast spells and curses upon the new born, dooming them to an early death or at least far more difficulty in life than any little one should have to face. What are you doing?!”

The wizard cowered a bit at the King’s vehemence, though she was not normally a coward. She raised a somewhat uneven finger and shared her thoughts. “The good fey and I have been concerned about this ever since the Queen’s pregnancy became known to us. We searched the world over for how best to protect her. Surprisingly enough, it was in the realms that think of themselves as without magic that we found the answer to our mystery. Wander with me over to the nursery.”

As they went up the stairs to the chamber adjoining the royal suite, the King continued to fret at the Wizard, but she was very patient with him – she knew the histories even better than he and she could not deny that he had cause for concern. Hundreds of proto-princesses and proto-princes had been the victims of malicious magical mayhem. Still, she was quite proud of their discovery and pleased with their implementation of it.

She opened the door to the nursery and handed the King a rock. “Go ahead, throw it in.” He did, but no sooner had it gotten to the doorway but it rebounded and hit the King.

“Sorry, your Highness – I forgot about that aspect. Anybody who tries to assault this room, your wife, or your child will have that effort rebound upon them immediately! That applies to physical harm or magical or even emotional! We’ve put the same safeguard on the royal carriage and the royal pram.

“We set it on the Queen as soon as we had it figured out, then on the room. It’s designed to extend immediately to the infant upon birth.” (She carefully did not give away the gender of the child, as the King and Queen had given strict orders that they were not to be told!)
As the two of them wandered back downstairs where the Queen was in labor, the King asked out of idle curiosity, “Do you have a name for this amazing spell?”

“Yes, your Highness. We call it the Maternity Ward.”

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