A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 30 – SCHOOL by Melissa Goodrich

Sundance Square, Fort Worth, Texas

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 30 – SCHOOL by Melissa Goodrich
Read it online here:
SCHOOL by Melissa Goodrich

They eat spicy Cheetos and Ramen noodles, have the kind of beautiful faces that crack rearview mirrors.
—-Melissa Goodrich, SCHOOL

We were talking today, like we often do, about Game of Thrones, gratuitous nudity, and little person sex. I said, as I often do, “The problem with the world that Game of Thrones is set in, is that everybody’s life is miserable. From the most destitue peasant to the kings of the world, nobody is happy and life is so difficult and, despite the gratuitous nudity and little person sex, so joyless… If I lived there, I’d just kill myself, and anyone else would too.”

Someone else said, as they often do, “It’s like the life we live today.”

I replied, “No, we don’t live in miserable times… we live in the crazy times.”

Interview with Melissa Goodrich:

Is writing more of a blessing or a curse?
God. Both. I usually think I’m not writing enough. I’m haunted by those people who write every day, and run ten miles, and read new books and journals, and eat organically nurtured produce…I’m still a cereal-eater, a sleeper-inner, a person who writes slowly and then binge-watches TV.

But the blessing is I trust my voice now. And I trust that writing should be joyous and surprising, and that none of it is wasteful.
—-from Cultured Vultures

Kyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

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The First Time

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Two, Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One snippet of what I wrote that day.

The first time Jambalaya Joe cooked for us he made – of course – jambalaya. A great black cast iron kettle, suspended over a ring of roaring blue gas jets fed by a rusty steel bottle mounted on his trailer, bubbled furiously and steamed like a witch’s cauldron into the humid Louisiana air.

Rice, mysterious lumps of meat, and bags of vegetables went in – to roil and cook.

Then Jambalaya Joe looked around as if to make sure nobody was watching (though we all were – ravenous after a long, hard working day) extracted a large tin box from a stained canvas bag, lifted it over the boiling pot, and opened the lid with the creak of old hinges.

A cloud of red spice tumbled out to disappear into the boil below. It changed the color of the stew from a flat brown to a fiery red.

“That’s his famous secret spice mix,” said some random stranger next to me, complete with a wink and a subtle elbow to the ribs.

Jambalaya Joe cooked the evening meal for us every night, hired by The Company to feed the work crew until the job was finished.

He made something different each night. Jambalaya became gumbo, then red beans and rice, Irish stew, chili, then spaghetti and meatballs… on and on – visiting every cuisine of the world. I never imagined a cast-iron kettle could be so versatile.

But every meal he dumped the exact same tin box filled with the same secret spice mix into the pot.

Looks Through A Closed Window

“Looking from outside into an open window one never sees as much as when one looks through a closed window. There is nothing more profound, more mysterious, more pregnant, more insidious, more dazzling than a window lighted by a single candle. What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what goes on behind a windowpane. In that black or luminous square life lives, life dreams, life suffers.”
― Charles Baudelaire

Window washing job I couldn't do Downtown Dallas, Texas

Window washing job I couldn’t do
Downtown Dallas, Texas

I Don’t Like Work — No Man Does

“I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself. Your own reality–for yourself not for others–what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Downtown Dallas, Texas

Downtown Dallas, Texas

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day ten – Hollow

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day ten – Hollow, by Breece D’J Pancake

Read it online here:

Hollow

So again today we have a story about work – about work under desperate conditions. Like yesterday‘s The Zero Meter Diving Team we have young men working in the energy industry. It is costing them their lives.

Hollow is the story of a West Virginia coal miner, Buddy. Things aren’t going very well for Buddy, he drinks too much, his lungs are shot, and his girl is looking to leave him and go back to life as a prostitute. The only thing he has going good is that the coal seam is unexpectedly thickening, promising some extra cash.

The author of the story, Breece D’J Pancake, grew up in the doom of the Appalachian coal mines. He shot himself at the age of twenty-six, at the time his first stories were being published.

At the end of Hollow – Buddy tries for a mental escape from his inescapable troubles by going on a hunt. He kills and skins his prey in an expert, methodical fashion. But there is something watching him that he is unaware of.

Something deadly… something waiting.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 4 – Orientation

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day Four – Orientation, by Daniel Orozco.

Read it online, here:

Orientation: A Short Story by Daniel Orozco

I remember when my kids were little I told them to watch a certain movie – because it had great wisdom to pass on to their growing and impressionable brains. The movie was Office Space – and I was proud of my fatherly wisdom in getting them educated in the ways of the world.

When the movie was over my son said to me, “Jeez Dad, you are so lucky that you don’t have a job like that.”

“Of course I do,” I said to him, “as a matter of fact, everybody has a job like that.”

There is truly great truth and wisdom in Office Space. I’m not talking about the romance where the nerdy guy ends up with Jennifer Aniston – that never happens. And I’m not talking about the part of the plot where they put in a virus and steal tiny bits of pennies on every transaction – that never…. well, actually it did happen – but that’s not important.

I’m talking about the TPS reports. Life is all about how you deal with the TPS reports and the humiliation that comes with having to fill them out.

As a matter of fact, in real life the TPS reports aren’t important – they are sort of a workplace MacGuffin – it’s really about the humiliation, pure and simple. Being humiliated in front of your “superiors” is the only profitable activity in the workforce that can’t be automated or outsourced.

Once you get to the point where your self-respect is a forgotten ghost of the past, your dreams have been ground to dust, and you are willing to do whatever degrading abasement is required to get through the day… you discover there is good money in that.

And that brings us to today’s story, Orientation. In it a new employee, you, is getting the introduction to a new job with your workspace, and most importantly, your cow-orkers.

The office is, of course, a horribly dehumanizing place. But the cow-orkers are all all too human. Everybody has a passionate crush on everybody else – though never reciprocally – so the place becomes a vicious circle of unrequited desire and lust.

Everybody has their quirks – from hiding in the ladies room now and then to an actual serial killer. These are open secrets, though nobody ever talks about them. Except during orientation.

It’s ultimately an uplifting story. Flawed humanity oozes up through the sea of cubicles like a flawed template through a Powerpoint Presentation.

Those are the offices and these are the cubicles. That’s my cubicle there, and this is your cubicle. This is your phone. Never answer your phone. Let the Voicemail System answer it. This is your Voicemail System Manual. There are no personal phone calls allowed. We do, however, allow for emergencies. If you must make an emergency phone call, ask your supervisor first. If you can’t find your supervisor, ask Phillip Spiers, who sits over there. He’ll check with Clarissa Nicks, who sits over there. If you make an emergency phone call without asking, you may be let go.These are your in- and out-boxes. All the forms in your inbox must be logged in by the date shown in the upper- left- hand corner, initialed by you in the upper-right-hand corner, and distributed to the Processing Analyst whose name is numerically coded in the lower-left-hand corner. The lower-right-hand corner is left blank. Here’s your Processing Analyst Numerical Code Index. And here’s your Forms Processing Procedures Manual.