Last night, as Day 6 of NaBloWriMo was coming to a speedy end, I was getting desperate. My muse had taken a long walk off a short pier. So I decided to crowd source my writing woes, and begged my Facebook friends to share some writing prompts on my Timeline. Several of them came through, all of them amusing or creative or fun, or all of the above. After much laughter and frivolity on that thread, I decided to use all of the prompts in one short story. It’s probably pretty awful. And it might not amuse anyone who didn’t participate in that FB thread. And I’ve “cheated” to create two days worth of posts by splitting up the story. But here it is, my Day 6 entry.
The prompts were the following:
-the government is shut down but all I can think about is fitting into my skinny jeans.
-She had pink braided pigtails
-It was a dark and stormy night….. (haha)
-But why did she have so much potential?
-She won a backstage pass
-The secret was buried deep in the salt mines of Chile….
-I was swept away by friends this afternoon
-She had never really liked that hat anyway
-For the first time in a longtime he paused and carefully considered the condition of his toenails…
-He awoke to find a red-assed baboon perched on his dresser, smoking one of his cigars and eating peanuts. Right away he knew this was not going to be an ordinary day
I am a non-essential government worker. One of those you keep hearing about in the news. No paycheck. It’s not like I make a ton of money to begin with – I’m an assistant to an assistant to a guy who isn’t really as important as he pretends to be. Our office is in a non-descript building in the middle of a nondescript town, just outside of an almost closed military base. Actually, that’s what we are here to do, close down this base.
For the past week, of course, we haven’t gone to work. The United States government has been shut down by a congress that can’t get over itself. The shutdown began on a dark and stormy night. (Not really, but I wrote it because so many good stories begin on a dark and stormy night, right? Maybe not so much).
We were all waiting in Ed’s office (Ed’s the guy I mentioned before, the one who isn’t as important as he thinks he is). We sat around, with the TV quietly tuned to CSPAN. Ed was playing Candy Crush, while Celia (his assistant, the woman I assist) was cleaning up Ed’s desk and her own, preparing to leave the office for who knows how long. I was trolling Twitter, looking for shutdown news from DC. Like it was going to be any big surprise. What would solve burning questions like the debt ceiling and the Affordable Care Act? No one knew, the secret might as well have been buried deep in the salt mines of Chile. We know there would be no agreement that night, nor any night or day soon. What would we do if we didn’t have to go to work?
The plan was, as soon as the shutdown was announced, we’d head out for drinks. Might as well get good and drunk, since no one would have to show up for work the next day. There are two bars in our little, nondescript town. Willy’s Pub is exactly what you think it would be – predictable draught beers, mediocre burgers, buffalo wings, and cocktails poured with a generous hand. It’s suitably grungy, and dimly lit. There is an old jukebox, whose songs don’t date past 1988, but go back way before that. The other bar is called Daffy’s. Daffy’s has a bar, a dance floor, and a tiny “stage” for local bands who play two weeknights in addition to Fridays and Saturdays. In it’s day, Daffy’s must have been a neon-bright, turquoise and hot pink walls and disco balls designed for dancing and hooking up with military types from the base. It’s a little tamer now, the turquoise walls faded to a paler blue. What with the base closing and all, the hook ups are tamer and faded as well. We headed to Willy’s Pub.
I’m at the bar, getting another pitcher for the three of us to share. I look over at my furloughed co-workers. Ed and Celia are playing footsie under the table. Ed suddenly pulls his Birkenstocked feet out from under the table, and stares at them. For the first time in a long time, he pauses and carefully considers the condition of his toenails. He’s rightly thinking footsie might be detrimental to the health and well-being of Celia’s feet. Ed’s been trying to land Celia for a while, and it’s obvious that Celia has had a thing for Ed for just as long. They aren’t entirely overt, so the situation isn’t unbearable to work around. I’m sort of cheering for them, because together, they are kind of sweet. In a non-essential government worker in a tiny nondescript town near a closing military base sort of way.
Dana’s up at the bar, getting us another pitcher. She’s a great girl, and one heck of an assistant. Whoops, she’d have my head for calling her a girl. Woman, she’s a woman. Who am I kidding? She’s so young! She’s a girl. Celia is a woman. Celia is all woman -groan- and I wish I had the nerve to finally tell her how I feel. She’s been rubbing her feet against mine as the night’s progressed, (luckily she hasn’t been gauged by my toenails!) and as her beer intake has progressed. Do I make a move? What’s the protocol here? She’s my immediate subordinate. Maybe I should ask Dana what she thinks. She may be young, but she’s the smartest among us. It’s unspoken, but my assistant’s assistant really runs the show in our little bureaucratic fiefdom. She has pink, braided ponytails. She told me she dyed them pink for Breast Cancer, but I think she likes her hair this way – Dana’s a bit of a rebel. Maybe too much so, to be working in a little East Podunk government office. Especially one that has been shut down. Dana could find herself running for office, or working in in the Federal Building in the city, or even in DC. This is a girl – excuse me, a woman – who could really go places. But why did she have so much potential? Well, there’s that intelligence. She’s meticulously organized, and can be very persuasive. It’s rare to meet someone who is truly that knowledgeable, perceptive, that and personable at the same time. She’s a real people person, our Dana.
Oh my god, Celia is looking at me again with those eyes – those dark, get lost in them and never find my way out, smoky, heavily lidded eyes. I think I need fortification. Could all these years of unresolved tension be coming to a head tonight? This shutdown is really unravelling my world. Where is Dana with that pitcher?
I think I’m a little tipsy. I’ve been making eyes at Ed since we got to Willy’s. I think I was rubbing my foot against his, although it could have been the table leg. I’ve loved him for so long. Sometimes I think he feels the same way, other times he seems to purposefully back off. Men, hmmph. When is Dana getting back here with that beer?
By the end of the night, it is clear that Ed and Celia are finally going home together. I pile them into my car, and drive them to Celia’s. Her place is nicer, and cleaner, I figure it’ll be a better place for them to finally live out their long awaited romantic fantasies. Then I head home, and check my messages. One from my mother, of course. One from the local radio station. Seems I’ve won back a backstage pass to a to a Wiggles show. Seriously? I guess I’ll call my nieces tomorrow. I’ll be the best aunt ever. There’s one call I’m waiting for, but mom and the radio station are the only messages. Boo.
Then I flip my TV on, turn to CNN, CSPAN, and check my Twitter again. I poured myself a scotch, cringing at the burn from the cheaper blended liquor. Government salary and all that. And now, not even that! This damned shutdown better not last too long, because a nice single malt won’t be the only thing I’ll have to forgo. Try groceries. Although I suppose if I am eating less, I’ll lose a few pounds. I guess I’ve had enough to drink when the government is shut down, but all I can think about is fitting into my skinny jeans! I’m headed to bed.
Continued in Part Two