The Test

The lecture diverged to the subject of taking personal responsibility for your actions and making decisions that considered others. The art of thoughtful action.

A hand rose in the back of the classroom. “Mr. Peabody, will we be tested on  this?”

“Every single day for the rest of your lives.”

Question (by Clarkston SCAMP)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Fifty

For this week’s challenge, you must write a fifty-word story. Not five thousand, not five hundred, but precisely fifty words.

Mars One

Everybody was excited. Everybody had either been recruited or volunteered. I personally had responded to the ad on Craigslist. It seemed like a great opportunity, and lets face it, I didn’t have much of anything going on at home. My wife left in a huff one day and took the kids and the dog, but she of course left the cat that I hated. The cat hated me back, and had avoided my every attempt at capturing it. But even though I hated the damned cat and wanted it gone, I still fed the animal and changed the litter box, just because the cat felt like the only piece of family that I had left. When I sold the house I told the new tenants the cat was included.

When I first saw the ad it seemed like a perfect method to leave my past behind. The Mars One Mining Co was looking for employees to make the 7 month trip to Mars, to help establish the mining colony there and start new lives on the red planet. The salary wasn’t great, but all housing and food was included, and employees would be provided with a plentitude of leisure time to enjoy other pursuits, such as surfing the interwebs, exploring the Martian dunes in their patented Mars Buggies, playing golf beneath one of the numerous dome-covered courses, or just relaxing at the resort-like pool and spa built by the company.

I assumed that most of the other volunteers and recruits were trying to escape their lives on Earth for one reason or another. We had all been allowed one suitcase of belongings and no personal electronic devices. The company would provide us devices upon arrival, and any other supplies we needed would be appropriated if possible using the requisition request forms. The shuttle was buzzing with excitement of terminal losers and fallen heroes looking forward to their chances to start anew, to rebuild their lives and happiness from the ashes of broken and mistake ridden histories. Nothing more exciting than the prospect of a clean slate.

We were given instructions how to wear the mask apparatus before takeoff, which would put us into a suspended stasis during the majority of the flight. We were told that by the time we awakened we would already be on Mars, and our new lives would begin. The entire shuttle vibrated with the excited possibilities and the promises of adventure. I took one last look at Earth out of the porthole, and then carefully applied the mask and nostril tubes as instructed. I had visions of scaling the summit of Olympus Mons and standing at the precarious edge of Valles Marineris as the mask apparatus began working its magic and I faded into a dreamless unconsciousness.

It wasn’t until I awoke shackled in a cold cell constructed of red Martian rock that I realized the laws of Earthly decency apparently didn’t apply anywhere past the third planet’s gravitational influence. Needless to say, they weren’t exactly the accommodations I’d had in mind.

Mars planet 2 (Nasa image enhanced) (by J.Gabás Esteban)

Pretending to be a Grown Up

I feel like I’m always pretending to be something I’m not. I won a Teacher of the Year award a couple years ago and I still worry that they’ll eventually  discover I’m some sort of fraud and cart me away, just another impostor pretending to be teacher. Apparently pretending is one of my strongest skills. Sometimes I wonder what I’ll really be when I grow up, if I ever do.

Here’s my list of things I’ve at one time or another wanted to be when I grow up.

  • Comic Book Artist
  • Dinosaur Expert*
  • Stephen King
  • Professional Baseball Player
  • Circus Clown*
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Fireman
  • Pizza Artist*
  • Hobo
  • Herpetologist*
  • Matt Groening*
  • Zookeeper
  • Graphic Designer*
  • Photo Journalist
  • Mountain Climber
  • Bank Robber*
  • Entomologist
  • Radio Announcer*
  • Screenwriter
  • Science Teacher*
  • Marine Biologist
  • Professional Skateboarder*
  • Cowboy*
  • Fabulously Wealthy
  • Stunt Man*
  • Retired
  • John Carter of Mars*
  • Professional Surf Bum*
  • Organic Farmer
  • Microbiologist
  • Landscape Architect*

When I was younger I used to think that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up.

I wonder when this idea of endless possibility became some silly childhood fantasy?

Hopefully it’s never too late to grow up and become anything you want.

( * indicates things I have actually been and/or pretended to be)

when i grow up i wanna (by globochem3x1minus1)

Posted for the DP Daily Prompt: The Great Pretender

Shooting Star

Shooting Star? (by deltaMike)

Jones never believed in wishing wells or fountains, but shooting stars were a different matter. He looked into the night sky, clear of clouds and lightly frosted by stars, and thought of what he would wish for if he saw a shooting star. Someone else to baby-sit for one thing. Sure he owed his sister some money, but working it off via indentured childcare? It rankled him, all but destroying the tiny bit of integrity remaining in his spine. Maybe he would wish for Stacy to come back to him, that bitch. Jones realized having her back would not bring him happiness, but he felt like a dysfunctional relationship was better than the nothing she had left him with. He could wish for his mother to come back from wherever she’d gone to. It seemed like everything had really started to spin out of control after she finally passed. He could wish for his father to walk again, if for no other reason than to knock him back down. How feeble his father had grown in his older years, an atrophied shadow of the man that had terrorized Jones’ entire life. His father consistently claimed that Jones was far less than a man, that Jones was pathetic and would never amount to more than a pile of cigarette butts. Maybe Jones could wish to be a man, in the eyes of his father and the eyes of the world, whatever being a man entailed. Jones wasn’t sure what he would get with a wish like that, but it was a wish that would probably be worth the gamble. He’d mulled it over a million times. What was the one thing that could change his entire life around, the one wish that would make all his other wishes come true? He hoped for a meteor shower, so that all his wishes might be accounted for. Then, from the corner of his eye, Jones saw a streak of light sliding toward the horizon, and for a brief instant it seemed like everything might actually be coming together for once.

He took the pack of smokes out of the breast pocket of his red and black flannel, much lighter than he remembered it. He probed inside with a finger, grabbing hold of the last one carefully. He placed it between his lips and then double-checked the empty pack again, hopeful of some oversight on his part.  Finding no more cigarettes he silently wished for another pack, and then cursed himself for wasting his wish.

Shit, how stupid to waste a wish on cigarettes. I should have wished for two more wishes with my one, but what good would that be? Left with nothing but unfulfilled wishes. The people who want one thing more than anything else, they are the lucky ones. They always know what to wish for. What about the people who don’t know what they want or the people who want too much? Wishing for cigarettes, how stupid are you Jones?

Jones realized he had been talking to himself out loud again. He hated when he did it, although he was never sure unless there were others around. Usually, by the time he found out about it, it was already an embarrassment. He should have wished that he’d never do that anymore. He couldn’t even make a wish without fucking it up.

Lucky Strike (by Axolot)

Written for the Daily Prompt: Three Coins in a Fountain

Fearless Youth

We had been sitting there watching the waves for a while. The swell was enormous, way too big to be surfing Willow Creek in my opinion, which was why we were in the van drinking coffee. Each set of waves seemed bigger than the next, and watching the waves unleash their fury on the shore helped us realize how large and powerful the ocean really was, and how tenuous our position on the land. The van shook in the parking lot.

We saw a group of twenty-somethings drive up and get ready to paddle out without looking at the surf for more than a minute, and we got to watch their attempt at taming the angry ocean. They made it out to the lineup okay, and actually caught a couple, but then one of the giant ten wave close-out sets came through, and it basically swept them all down the coast and into the sketchy rocks on the shoreline. One guy’s leash broke and his surfboard (what looked like a brand new Al Merrick –the expensive sports car of surfboards) was battered painfully on the mossy stones. They all made it back to shore safe but shaken, and hobbled back to their car through the cobbles at the water’s edge, carrying their surfboards along with whatever was left of their pride. They then loaded up their stuff and drove back to wherever they had come from, defeated but still alive. One can only hope the experience taught them something.

Then these two old timers rolled up in an classic ragtop sedan. They saw a wave come through and immediately decided to suit up and paddle out without watching it for more than a couple minutes. But by the time they got down to the waterline to launch in the frothing sea, they had witnessed one of those enormous close out sets come through, and wisely decided against paddling out. I thought for sure we would be observing a repeat of the previous beat down, but these wise old carps knew enough to stay out of the water.

So was it wisdom or fear, and are those really the same thing? Maybe it just takes us many trips around the sun to figure out what we should be afraid of. Despite the physical weathering of the body, apparently there are some advantages to aging after all.

And, of course, let us not mention the rushed, nearsighted, and brazen shortcomings of youth.

Willow Creek, Big Sur – old photo, old car, old timer suiting up (by flora-file)

Willow Creek from Highway 1 (by flora-file)

Willow Creek Picnic Ground (by Frank Kehren)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

Walking Meditation

Doobie read somewhere about these crazy monks in ancient China, or was it Japan, that used to walk for miles and miles everyday as a practice in meditation and to better appreciate the moment.  For them the act of walking was like a form of prayer, a beautiful, holy and one hundred percent human act. Doobie really thinks they were onto something.

For Doobie, walking helps him think and concentrate on the issues at hand, and forget the issues that are out of hand, but no matter what it helps him get grounded. It’s the rhythm of the footsteps, the frequency of the gait and the coordination of the arm swings, everything about it helps reconnect him. Sometimes Doobie needs to walk for miles before he starts to feel normal again, ten thousand two hundred and seven steps to be exact (and still counting) in a sort of suspended Zen-like stupor, all brought about by a joint of the One Hit Wonder to the head.

He can’t even remember the start of the walk, although he knows it had to have started somewhere, most likely at his house. All of a sudden Doobie found himself enclosed in a soundproof glass museum case, and the whole world seemed so far away. It was right there in front of him but was still about a million miles away. He knew he had to just start walking with blinders on and without a thought about where he might be going. Just walk and walk, trying not to look too lost or too stoned, and hopefully nobody would try to talk to him. But Doobie doesn’t remember any part of the walk except for the ten thousand two hundred and twenty-six steps, and it’s three hours later and he’s on the other side of town.

He decides he must have been following the train tracks because he’s walking along them now, or hopping from tie to tie, counting each footfall. Ten two twenty-nine, ten two thirty. He wonders how long he’s been following the tracks. It’s like he lost consciousness for the past three hours, like he’s been sleepwalking and woke up all the way across town. It was just three hours ago and suddenly it’s now.

But now is as good a place to be in as any.

Ten thousand two hundred and forty.

Ten thousand two hundred and forty-one.

Monks walking in line (by Wagner T. Cassimiro “Aranha”)

Daily Prompt: Time After Time