The Wrong Printer

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Sent  to  the  Wrong  Printer 

You’re at work and you print something personal (and sensitive). Unfortunately, you’ve sent it to the wrong printer  and, by the time  you realize  it,  somebody else has already  scooped it up.

There was nothing in the output tray. I stood in front of the printer with my mouth hanging open and hands on my head. I had sent it to the printer on the other side of the office instead of the one right next to me, but had thought I jumped up fast enough to catch it. 

I turned my back to the printer and looked at the sea of cubes. My hands dropped limp against my sides. How could I possibly figure out who had it? Also, why would they take it if they knew it wasn’t theirs? It would be on top of theirs​ once they flipped over the stack of things that printed. They could have easily put it back on the printer.

My stomach clenched and I felt like I might throw up. Maybe they wouldn’t even know what it meant. No, that’s impossible. It may say “HCG, Total, Quantative” at the top (which most people wouldn’t understand), but it clearly states “pregnancy (HCG) interpretation” in the description which then proceeds to detail exactly what the values mean, then confirming that, yes, I am indeed pregnant. 

It was a one night thing. I hadn’t planned on it. He hadn’t planned on it. We had only known each other since that night and hadn’t seen each other since the following morning. I had talked to him on the phone a couple times but that was it. Everyone here knew I didn’t have a steady boyfriend. Everyone here knew my long-time boyfriend had split several months ago. Now they also would know that I’m pregnant.

“What’s wrong with you?” Lisa asked as she walked up to copy something.

“My life is ruined and I’m going to need a new job.” I state blandly.

“What?” She asked, but I had already started walking away. I found the nearest bathroom and threw up every drop of my lunch. I heard a tap on the door at one point.

“You okay in there?” Came a soft voice.

“I’m fine. Leave me alone.” I responded before wretching again. After there was nothing left to throw up I put the seat down and sat pondering what I would do with myself.

“Taneka, are you in here?” I tried to be as quiet as possible. “Taneka, I saw you heading this way earlier. You need to get back on the phones.” My supervisor was not exactly the kindest person in the world.

“I’m going through something right now, Malcolm. Can I get the rest of the day off?” 

“No. You’re already on warning number 2 about your schedule. Get back on the phone in 5 minutes or we’ll be having a different sort of conversation.” I heard the door fall shut and groaned. 

Working in tele-customer service is, by the way, one of the worst jobs ever. You are just a number to the managers, someone to yell at to the customers, and an easily replaceable voice to the company. I cleaned myself up and walked out of the bathroom.

Malcolm stood in the middle of the cubes and locked eyes with me immediately. The guy had to have been watching the bathroom door the entire time. He pointed to my desk with a hard straight finger. I rolled my eyes and mouthed “I’m going.”

I sat back down, put my headset on, and let the calls distract me from my current dilemma. I took call after call, not taking any breaks in between. When my shift ended, I transfered my last call to a supervisor (it was that kind of call), and punched out. I stood, stretched, and saw a couple girls talking by the door of the cafeteria. They saw me and one covered her mouth as she spoke in the ear of the other. The other laughed and then said something back in the same manner. I didn’t even know their names, how would they know me?

I picked up my stuff and headed toward them. They quickly dispersed. I walked into the cafeteria and went straight to the bulletin board. Another note about working in a customer service call center, it’s like being in highschool. Everyone is immature and rude. I found my test results pinned to the board with a photo of a pregnant woman with my face photoshopped onto it. Why would someone even take the time to do that? How did they even get my picture?

I took it down and carefully peeled the tape, removing the photoshopped image from the test results. The only reason I printed it was to show the one night stand guy proof that I wasn’t lying. I should have just said screw it and not tried to tell him anything. But I had wanted my kid to grow up with a dad since mine died while my mom was pregnant and had never remarried. No, it was better for a child to have a father.

“They shouldn’t have done that.” I turned to find Jerome looking at me across his food.

“Well they did, so it is what it is.” I sat down next to him. We weren’t exactly friends, but we did talk every now and then. “Have you heard what anyone is saying about it?”

“You don’t want to know.” I folded my arms on the table and dropped my head on them.

“Why did this happen?” I said though it was muffled by my arms.

“My guess is you didn’t use a condom.” Jerome liked being matter of fact. I looked up to glare at him.

“Duh! I was drunk, he was drunk. I meant why does this whole building have to know? Why does it feel like I’m still in highschool? How does everyone find out about my personal life so easily?” I sat up a little straighter. “The guy doesn’t even want it. I printed this as proof because he claims that I’m not really pregnant and that, if I am, it’s not his.”

“So don’t worry about him. Just worry about you and the baby.” I dropped my head again.

“This place doesn’t pay me enough to have a baby.”

“You’ll figure it out. And there’s always plan B.” He said in between bites of salad.

“I think it’s a little too late for a pill to do anything.” I looked at him. He raised his eyebrows at me and I understood. “Oh, that plan B.” I thought about it for a second then shook my head. “No. This was my mistake. I got myself into this, I was willing even though I knew the risk. Ugh! I’m such an idiot!” I said as I threw my head back to look at the ceiling.

I sat like that for a minute of silence and then pushed my chair back.

“Thanks for the pep talk Jerome.” I stuck my tongue out at him and he flashed a big smile at me.

“Anytime sweetheart.” I left feeling hopelessly lost and alone, but I had test results so maybe that would push baby daddy to man up.

A Cookie A Day

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Mystery Cookie 

One Day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find another cookie. This continues for months until one Day a different  object  is left—and  this time  there’s a note.

It sat there in it’s perfect little box silently waiting. My favorite kind of cookie from my favorite bakery. I looked around to see if anyone was watching me. I don’t think I had ever told anyone about the bakery, at least not anyone at work. I didn’t see any heads poking around corners or out of cubes so I shrugged and sat down.

I picked up the box and turned it over looking for a note, but there was none. I wasn’t exactly early today so the office was already full making it even harder to guess who would have left it. I opened the box and ate the soft cookie one slow bite at a time. Whoever did this had turned a Monday into less of a drag.

This happened the next day and the next and the day after that. Every day I came into work to find my favorite cookie, but no note and no other clues as to who would be giving me this.

I asked around the office to see if anyone had left it for me, but no one would own up to it. Patricia and I sat on the bench in front of the elevator eating our lunches and deciding which people entering or exiting would be the likely bestower of cookies.

“He looks too uptight.” We’d agree about Josh from the third floor who always had a scowl on his face.

“Oh she definitely doesn’t give out cookies.” I said about Marley from HR who didn’t exactly seem human enough for human resources.

“Did you see the way he looked at you? I bet it’s him.” Patty said, nudging me with her elbow when the doors had closed on Sam. He was definitely handsome and had always shown an interest in me, but I had never seen him outside of work so I shook my head and disagreed.

“Hey Natasha!” Then there was Jackson. He was winning the “mostly likely” contest.

“Hi Jackson.” I focused on my food.

“What are you guys up to?” Before I could answer Patty was running her mouth.

“Trying to figure out who Nat’s secret admirer is.” Jackson’s eyes saddened.

“Oh. You…you have a secret admirer.” I shrugged and smiled at him.

“No one willing to admit to it. Remember me asking you about that cookie a few weeks ago?” He nodded. “Well I still can’t get anyone to own up to it.”

“Oh.” He said. He knew we could never work, but it obviously still made him sad. He had asked me out multiple times and I had always said no because our personalities clashed so much…or maybe they were too similar. Whatever it was I knew we wouldn’t work. He wasn’t a bad guy, just not right for me. “Well enjoy your lunch.” He said and then walked away again.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who this person was. I even made a chart, a list of people with access to my desk, a list of those whose cubes were directly connected to my desk, and finally a wish list of who I hoped it was. It didn’t do any good, I still had no idea.

One day finally shed all the light I needed. I came into the office, expecting to find my cookie (I had grown quite accustomed to my morning snack), but instead found a different box. I slowly stepped into my cube, hesitant for the first time. Then I realized if someone was going to kill me, I was probably going to die from poison they put in the cookies that I had eaten without a second thought.

I sat down and slowly opened the box. It was a gold necklace with a cookie pendant. The back of the pendant read “A Cookie A Day”. In the bottom of the box was the first note. It brought tears to my eyes.

Miss Natasha,

Thank you for never passing by. Every day you gave me a little hope that one day I could do better. Because of your help, I was able to purchase new clothes, get my haircut, and get a job again. I was surprised to find I work in the same building as the most giving person I’ve ever known. This is not as much as you’ve given me over the years, but I’ve been saving from each paycheck and hopefully you will understand how much you mean to me and what part you had in my ability to get off the streets.

Sincerely,

Josh

I didn’t understand it. I had only given him a few dollars every day. I had sat with him a couple times to learn his story and share a cookie, but never anything that big.

After work I went straight to the bakery, but he wasn’t there. Every day after work I had stopped at this bakery and every day after he had been sitting at the entrance to the alley next to it. I had thought about his absence briefly the first day I noticed he was missing. I had hoped he wasn’t dead, but figured it was more likely he just picked a different place to panhandle.

He wasn’t in his usual spot so I went inside to get my cookie.

“Hey! She’s back.” The owner of the shop said to no one in particular. I laughed and told him why I hadn’t been there in so long. When I asked for my usual, he pointed toward a table and said it was waiting for me. When I turned around I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Josh, but not Josh. He looked years younger without the scraggly beard and mustache, without the extra layers of clothing and dirt. He was wearing a dress shirt and slacks with a fresh haircut and a giant smile on his face holding my cookie of the day.

New Categories!

As I’ve been paying more attention to my tags, I also realized that most of my blog posts were “uncategorized”. I’ve now resolved that issue! I’ve updated the categories on each of my posts so that you can view the same types of posts in one place. If you only want to read my short stories, click here. If you only want to check out my poetic prose, click away! Everyday life has the most posts by far (I guess I like talking about life in general). I also have each of the following categories so far:

Hope you enjoy an easier way of navigating my blog!

(And hopefully more creative updates will be coming in the near future.)

Freezer Meals on Valentine’s Day

Today’s Boot Camp Prompt:

The One That Got Away

You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day—the one whom you often call “The One That Got Away.” What happens?

When I saw him I felt like the universe was playing a joke on me…and on Valentine’s day of all days. I had just left work and decided to stop at the store to pick up a meal for one. It had only been a week since Mark had broken up with me so I didn’t really feel like going out and knew there wasn’t time to find a date anyway. I had thought he might be “the one”, Mark, and then he decided for me that he wasn’t. We had been together for three years and he had suddenly decided I wasn’t enough.

I’ve never been big on Valentine’s day, but Mark was. He would do something elaborate every year. A dozen roses sent to work, an expensive dinner at an oceanside restaurant, a gorgeous piece of jewelry, that’s the kind of stuff he did. This year he would be doing it for the other woman.

When I had shut the door to the frozen meal section of the giant freezers, I looked up and that’s when I saw him. It had been fifteen years since we’d seen each other. We had met at a friend’s party and it had blossomed into something beautiful. Until his mom got sick and he had to fly across the country to take care of her. We had tried to do the long distance thing, but in the end, he just had too much going on to keep a girlfriend.

While I stood holding my frozen meal, I stared at him. I thought about all the times he had made me laugh. Mark had never made me laugh like that. I thought about the chills that went down my spine when we kissed. Another thing that had never really happened with Mark. I thought about the deep conversations we would have for hours about anything and everything. I watched movies with Mark. I didn’t fully realize what I was doing until he looked up and did a double-take. Trying to save my dignity, I spun around and walked away.

I made it all the way to the line at the register before I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and to my relief it was an elderly woman asking if I was in line. I responded politely even though I wanted to be snarky and say “Obviously. Don’t you see I’m right behind that person who’s behind that person who is checking out?”. I focused with eyes front. I had made up my mind to take my freezer meal, go home, sit on the couch, feel sorry for myself, and watched a funny movie.

“Tiffany? Tiffany Takowski?” My heart had lept into my throat as my gut plummeted to the floor. I turned to find him standing a few feet away. I gave a moment’s pause to pretend I was figuring out who he was. I even furrowed my brow in concentration.

“Brian?” He hugged me without hesitation. I was immediately engulfed in his familiar scent. It was oddly comforting to know he still used the same soap.

“How have you been?” He asked after breaking the hug.

“Good.” I lied. “How about you?” He shrugged.

“Good. Just moved back on Sunday and I’ll be starting a new job next week. Things are a little hectic right now.”

“So your mom is doing good then?” It was a dumb question and I realized it as the words were leaving my mouth. His head dropped a little as his eyes went to the floor and I wanted to smack myself in the face.

“She passed away about a year ago. It was a long struggle so I just feel better knowing she isn’t in pain anymore.” I instinctively touched his arm.

“I’m so sorry Brian. I had no idea.” He smiled and we started talking about what we’ve been doing over the years since we grew apart. I conveniently left out my recently failed three year relationship. We had talked through the entire checkout process, much to the elderly woman’s dismay, and were now standing outside the door of the supermarket when the conversation died in that usual awkward way it does.

“No date tonight?” Brian asked pointing at the freezer meal in my plastic bag. I shrugged.

“Nope. Unless you count Netflix as a date.” He laughed and I inwardly died. He hadn’t mentioned a girlfriend, but I had no doubt Miss Perfect was probably waiting for him.

“It was good catching up.” I told him and leaned in for another clumsy hug. I held it a moment longer than I should have, but I missed feeling his arms around me. I had planned on marrying him and I wanted two extra seconds of closeness before I let him slip away again.

“Yeah, it was.” He said next to my head and to my surprise he held me just a little tighter before letting go. I smiled. He smiled. We turned to go our separate ways. I wish I could say I heard him call out my name. I wish I could say that we spent that night watching the funny movie and eating freezer meals together. If this were a perfect world, I would be sitting next to him right now. But it’s not and I’m not.

After seeing him, I decided maybe it was a good time to join the rest of the world and start a social media account. I found his profile and confirmed my suspicions. He did have someone, a wife actually. She was beautiful as I expected and always had a huge smile on her face, even when she didn’t know a picture was being taken. He looked really happy with her.

It’s been two years and I’m still eating freezer meals on Valentine’s Day.

Dear Writer’s Block

Today’s boot camp prompt is:

Breaking up with Writer’s Block

It’s time  for you and  Writer’s  Block  to  part  ways. Write  a  letter  breaking  up with  Writer’s Block, starting  out with, “Dear Writer’s Block, it’s not you, it’s me …”

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you. It’s me. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. You are the product of my own mind. You don’t have a choice on when you will show up, you just do. Even you don’t understand why you’re here, but I do now. After much thought and consideration, I now understand why you came into my life and also why you must leave. 

I get distracted easily. A single word will set off a chain reaction and cause me to stray from the text at hand. This is when you show up to completely block my way. You take advantage of those few seconds of my train lifting from the tracks and completely derail it. I know that you don’t mean to. I know you don’t mean to cause me to stare blankly at the screen. I watch the cursor blink, waiting for my next words which you have so carefully taken from me.

It’s time we put an end to this cycle. It’s time for us to part ways. We may see each other from time to time still and that’s ok, but I think we should try to keep our distance. You’ve unknowingly prevented my progress and it’s just healthier for me to leave this situation. Life is all about progression and I need to cut out those things that prevent my own.

Sincerely,

R.W. Franklin
P.S. I must also request that you do not visit my friends. My fellow writers may not have told you this yet, but they do not wish to see you either. Please keep this breakup amicable and don’t go barging into their lives to take it out on them.

The Writing Prompt Boot Camp

I recently signed up for Writer’s Digest and as part of the sign-up I got a two-week writing prompt boot camp download. My goal is to use this boot camp to write a post every day for the next two weeks. 

Feel free to join me! I’ll start each post with an introduction of exactly what the prompt is. If you decide to follow along, comment on each day’s post with a link to your own story and I’ll be sure to stop by and read it.

Let’s see if we can hone our skills and become better writers!

An Offer… If You’re Interested

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed tonight, for the fifth night on a row I am completely uninterested. There isn’t much substance to my Facebook feed. It is mostly made up of my family and a few friends/acquaintances/people I went to school with. I would say 1 out of 100 posts isn’t complete, meaningless clutter (not to say I don’t occasionally contribute to the clutter, but that’s not the point. 😉)

I keep wanting more. I want to do more. I want to help authors and other bloggers. My offer is simple; if you would like promotion and help getting the word out about your upcoming book, latest release, or your most recent blog post, let me know. The only catch: I have to be able to endorse you with a clear conscience. If I’m not feeling the vibe, I won’t support it. 

I will reblog your posts. I’ll share them on social media. If you have a book, I’ll promote it as well. If you have a Facebook page, I’ll like/follow it and share it. I don’t do Twitter (I know, I know… Get with the times) so I won’t be able to help on that platform. If you have a webpage, I will promote that as well.

I have a small audience so I know it’s not all that much to offer, but it’s what I have. I am still trying to figure out a “contact” section so for now just comment on this post and we’ll take it from there. Share this post with other bloggers or authors. I’m not asking for money or for anything in return. I just want to help in any way possible. 

Substance is what I’m after. Substance and a purpose.

I Hate Myself

I hate myself

She whispers against her pillow

I hate myself

She buries the tears in the soft cotton

I hate myself

She rehashes the day over and over

I hate myself

The conversation repeats itself

I hate myself

The record skips and starts over

I hate myself

Why am I such a freak?

I hate myself

Her knees pulled tight against her chest

I hate myself

In the dark of the night, when no one can see

I hate myself

Why can’t I be free?

I hate myself

She longs to be more like those other girls

I hate myself

She wishes for his attention and affection

I hate myself

Why did I say the words in that order?

I hate myself

She repeats the words anew

I hate myself

In the black of what once was light

I hate myself

She’s said it so many times it’s become a part of who she is

I hate myself

She falls asleep, the words still echoing in her mind

I hate myself

I hate myself

I hate myself

Fear Cuts Deaper Than Swords

“Fear cuts deaper than swords…Calm as still water…Strong as a bear…The man who fears losing has already lost.” That’s what Syrio Forel told Ayra during her dancing lessons in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.


On the cusp of a new chapter

On the edge of the cliff

About to take the plunge

The plunge will either kill me or free me

I’m terrified

A montra sounds in my head

Fictious in its origin

Palpable in its truth

I can either attempt to soar

Or fall without spreading my arms

I think that today I would like to learn how to fly

A Father’s Love

He walks through the silent house. The sputter and dripping of the coffee maker the only sound. He’s learned to walk lightly so even his socked feet don’t make a sound or cause the hardwood floor to creak. It’s dark outside, barely 3:30 in the morning. He looks out the large dining room window at his running truck. He sits down and reads his morning magazine. Overdrive, the magazine that covers everything about owning and operating your own truck. 

He sips his coffee as he turns the pages. He doesn’t own this truck, but he’s a researcher. He soaks up information better than a two year old learning the ABC’s. Maybe one day he will own his own truck and his own company. Maybe one day he won’t have to work 14 hour days. The money is much better than what he was making stacking lumber, but he always liked the idea of owning his own company.

He had only attended school until the 8th grade, a long-standing custom among his community. Everything he had learned after that had been up to him. He had drawn information in like a journalist searching for the truth. He wouldn’t say it because he was too humble, but he was incredibly smart. Anyone who talked to him for even a short time could see that.

After his cup is dry, he fills it one more time and caps the mug. He fills a second and a thermos. He goes back into his bedroom and kisses his wife. His lovely, beautiful, supportive wife. The mother of his children. His best friend. She wakes and kisses him back. He kneels beside the bed and they pray together.

They pray for his safety during his drive that day. They pray for her and the kids’ safety as she spends the day homeschooling them and they play outside. They pray for guidance and wisdom. They thank God for all he’s done for them. After the prayer, they kiss again and say I love you.

He makes his way down the hallway to check on the children. They have 4. His son has outgrown the tucking in stage, but he still tells him good night and he loves him every night before bed. His oldest daughters are probably getting close to that age, but they still like it when Daddy tucks them in. He probably has quite a bit of time with the youngest before she grows out of it. He had tucked all 3 of them in the night before and had kissed them on the forehead before saying good night and he loves them.

He peeks into his son’s room to find him sleeping safe and sound. He opens the door to his daughters’ room and chuckles, shaking his head. His two oldest are asleep in their beds, but the youngest is where he’s found her many times before. Her tiny body laying on the floor next to her bed, tangled in her blanket.

He gently picks her up and puts her back in bed. He can’t believe she never wakes up after falling out. She never wakes up as he’s putting her back in bed either. She has no idea how many times he’s done it and she won’t know until she is grown and he’ll never have the chance to do it again.

He packs his lunch into his lunchbox, grabs his obsurd, but necessary, amount of coffee and heads out to the running truck. He breathes in the smell of diesel in the morning and, after placing his items in the cab, begins his morning checklist. He’ll be gone by 4. He’ll watch the sun come up and, during the winter, watch it start to go down again. They are long hours, but his family is worth it.