Category Archives: Writing Events

Company Claus -#‎IADTS2015‬

It’s been a while since anything made it to here.  There was a little bit of November in the way.  In case you aren’t familiar, that is National Novel Writing Month, better known as “don’t disturb the writers month unless you  have caffeine”.

Breaking out of that shell, though, there’s another flash fiction contest from the ladies at Ink After Dark.   This time the theme involves the icons of Winter Celebrations combined with too much celebrating.

Here’s my submission, but first a pause.  As the nights lengthen in the northern half of this world, many cultures have midwinter festivals.  No matter how it’s called wherever you happen to be, I truly hope it’s a good one for you, and that the next year treats you well, wherever you might be.


Company Claus

“…And the profits of the 3rd quarter barely covered the downturn from the global market in the 4th…” droned the middle manager tasked with giving the state of the company address. No doubt, some transparent excuse for a lack of bonuses for the staff again this year. I stopped listening and made my way to the table festooned with tacky decorations and pot-luck dishes.

In through the conference room door came a late arrival in a red sweater. His white beard immediately ruled him out of the sales team, and as he stepped into the room, he blinked at the faces turned his way, and let out a bellowing belch that seemed to vibrate the air. Unashamed, he drew a flask from behind his back and raised it in a salute to the astonished crowd before raising it to his lips. His upturned face turned crestfallen when it turned out to be empty, and he shook it over his mouth in the vain hope for more.

“I seem to be out of sugar plum brandy. How’s the punch?” he staggered toward the feasting table, and to my horror, closer to me.

The manager whose speech had been so memorably interrupted bellowed over the crowd, anger turning his face crimson and making him shake so hard that his jowls seemed made of jelly. “Of all the impropriety! You’re fired!”

“Impropriety, Nathaniel? You of all people? Shove it, or I’ll tell all these nice people or your wife about how your secretary takes your…” he hiccupped loudly before finishing “…dictation. Hmm, I suppose I just did. Oh well, now what have we here?”

The onlookers froze in shock and horror, before a wave of angry amusement swept through the room. Furtive glances darted back and forth between a pair of people who looked like they wished they could melt away. The executive assistant was the first to react, and left the room without looking anyone in the eye. Due to the speech, the discount holiday music had been turned off, so there was no noise to cover up the different reactions to the internal scandal of the year.

One ambitious man started to approach the sloshed snacker, arms extended in supplication. One twinkling eye turned his way, and he stopped cold. The bearded man started filling a pair of cups with punch. “I wouldn’t, little Francis Walter. After all, you wouldn’t want your bogus expense reports or your tattling to make the Vice Presidents look bad coming to light.” Frank paled and stepped back, but not fast enough to save his path up the corporate ladder.

After taking a drink, he frowned mightily. “Bah, this is kid’s stuff. I’m out of here. But you all, I’m watching you. Not at all in the spirit of the season, let me tell you.”

He leaned closer to me and gave me a wink. Whispering conspiratorially, he nudged me with his elbow. “You, though, should definitely go talk to Natalie. She’s on the right kind of naughty list, if you know what I mean.”

With that, he staggered back out the door the way he had come, leaving a scene of frigid shock and memorable chaos in his wake.

There seemed no saving the company party after his departure. Though some tried, there was no drawing attention back to any speeches or team building activities. I left shortly after, but not before looking at Natalie in a new light. As I was leaving, I heard one voice cut through the din that I don’t believe was quite right. “I guess those IT guys really do know everything that happens on the network.”

 

Mortician’s Ball – Monster Mash #IADMM2015

As Halloween approaches, I was fortunate enough to find out about a flash fiction contest put on by some really fun people.  The site is new to me, but I’ve been lucky enough to be acquainted with the people who run it for some time now.  It looks as though there will be frequent contests and prompts there, so it is certain that Ink After Dark is one keep an eye on.

For Halloween, they are doing a Monster Mash contest.  Here is the main page, and they have it split between lighter and darker stories.  There are definitely some good ones up there, so it is certainly worth some reading time.

Here’s the short story that I posted up there for their Light section.


Mortician’s Ball

“No, I’m sorry; we don’t have any openings on that day.  Our technicians are always booked months ahead of time.” The receptionist on the other end of the phone went through the practiced delivery with the boredom of the repeated underpaid delivery.

Steven was desperate.  He couldn’t have known months ahead.  It had only been three weeks since the funeral, and only this morning that anyone had mentioned the Mortician’s Ball.  “Please, anything you can do.”  His voice broke as he explained.  “This is all so recent, none of it has really sunk in, and then this…whole event.”

“Oh, is this Mr. Davis?”  The tone shifted from boredom to sympathy at his acknowledgement.  “My condolences about your wife.  We were expecting you, the funeral director already has a reservation set for 5:30 on the 31st.”

“Thank you.  See you then.”  After the connection broke, he stood for several minutes, just staring.

Halloween evening came shortly, and Steven went to get his appointment, wanting to look his best.  It was a new and overwhelming experience immediately as he entered.  More than a simple haircut, the store was packed with carts of clothing and people bustling about here and there.  Glowing holiday decorations reflected off of shimmering dresses darting by, sending dizzying patterns of color through the store.  He was almost back out the door, when a young stylist caught his arm in one of his tanned hands.  “Just in time, but we can’t have you wearing that.  Oh, we have so much work to do, and again, our condolences.”

“I don’t understand.  I just thought a haircut would be nice.  This is all just, just no.”  He pulled his arm back and turned to walk out the door.

“Hold on.  You don’t understand.  You don’t want her to see you looking like crap, do you, Steve?  How do you think she will feel?”

Too unsure to resist, Steven was led into the middle of the frenzy.  Clothing colors were picked, and sizes given to runners who leapt into action.  Brushes and trimmers and hands and faces whirled about.  Every bit of skin and hair was meticulously buffed or trimmed to precise detail.  Once, through a gap in the action, he caught a reflection of a near stranger in the mirror.  Other customers came and went, undergoing similar transformations, and threads of conversation drifted past him.

“Blue was always Joe’s favorite color, can we work that in somehow?”

“Her eyes were as green as the lawn; I don’t want to clash with that.”

“No, we can’t do yellow.  Her sister’s bridesmaid dresses were yellow, and she hated it since.”

As the clocks chimed eight times, Steven’s transformation was finishing.  “Your ride is here, right on time.  And, oh my, your wife will be pleased.”  He stepped out into the darkened street, and a driver held the door to one of the waiting cars.  He slipped in and attempted to contain his anxiety.  He had wished he could have more time together, but it was quite an adjustment from never thinking that he would see her again.  As arrived at the graveyard, Steven noticed that it had been transformed as well.  Areas were secluded by tents and connected by carpeted paths.  He went in, past extremely polite staff eager to meet his needs, to a central area loosely filled with other people from the town.

As he waited nervously, looking around the crowd without really seeing, a hand lightly touched his shoulder.  He turned, and nearly dropped his drink when he saw his wife standing there, vibrant and beautiful.  He couldn’t speak, so he just grabbed her in his arms, and held her tightly.  The crowd around them may as well have vanished, as they just touched each other, making sure that they were real.  Familiar fingers brushed happy tears away, and arms twined together.  She was warm and tan, just as she was before the illness.

His wish had come true:  one more night together.  Somehow, it would again every year.  They were so utterly lost in each other, making each moment stretch as long as possible, that they paid no attention to the Mayor on the microphone.

“Welcome to this year’s Mortician’s Ball and Happy Halloween to everyone!”

Writers Bloc July Event

I had a lovely opportunity last night. It was a strange and fun blend of a good old fashioned writer’s group mixed with the marvels of modern technology. And yes, every industry has business meetings, even a hermit writing by themselves, it seems.

Thanks to a writer that I met some months ago now, I heard about a monthly Writer’s Bloc event. The short version is that we all get together on a live video chat and talked about “writer stuff”. The accurate version is that it’s great to learn from and get perspectives of different writers from all over the world, on subjects ranging through a variety of serious topics punctuated by giggles and general support and welcoming friendliness.

One often hears about “time that I won’t get back”, but this brief hour is destined to be one that will benefit me greatly for a long time. Even better, we get to do it again next month!

If you’re curious, you should jump in the water, too. Follow this link to Angie’s site to get in on invites. Writers Bloc Signup

For the new writers that I spent the evening with, thank you, and hope to see you and your work very soon.

Romancing the Books in Bedford, TX

This weekend is an event that sounds very interesting. On top of that, it sounds like an excellent chance at honing your writing craft, or just stalking some really wonderful writers.

It’s called Romancing the Books, and is being held on Saturday, March 23. Here’s a link to the Bedford Library Friends site, and I’ll have to watch their page. Not only do they have events like this, but there’s at least a short story contest as well. I just found their site, so haven’t made it through everything yet.

This weekend’s event is, to blatantly paraphrase: a daylong celebration of authors and their books, with readings, workshops, signings and giveaways.

The list of authors is what really caught my attention. Several of the people on the list have been warm and friendly to me, even without knowing the shy guy trying to find words that don’t sound stupid. The rest, I just haven’t met yet, but hope to this weekend.

You should definitely go. Whether it’s to support local authors, or become a better author yourself, or just go spend the day in the library.