Sometimes, I have a ton of projects and no sense of what the people want, so I press on. I write a little here. I write a little there. I work and think and continue to fill my notepad with new story ideas. For that reason, I am creating this page; the one where you vote. Every now and then, I will post two or more competing story lines on this page and encourage you to tell me which is most intriguing to you. All titles presented are working titles and all content is subject to change. So now, without any further ado, I present the competition.
“Trapped” V.S. “Ouroboros”
The television sounded with clarity and comfort, alongside the crackling fire, in the small basement of the aging bachelor. He sat there in that recliner night after night, eyes glued to the screen, going numb. The room was dark, save the flickering light from the television screen that cast shadows across the walls. A chill hung in the air, even as flames beneath the mantel fought to banish it. Every breath was enchanted by the inviting aroma of slow-burning wood.
Paul was alone, his mind racing as he looked at the picture on the screen. He often wondered how he’d fallen into his current situation. He played back every scene and act and image, day by day, with a bottle in his hand and his feet up. There was so much he would change if he ever got the chance.
Another swig took him away from his thoughts, the cool, crisp taste shocking his lips into a smile. Paul took pleasure in the little things; the simple things. In a world where so much was wrong, it was his only option.
A door slammed shut. Heavy breathing accompanied the sound. The lock ticked closed. “Stay still and stay quiet, you understand?” a man said as he approached Paul from the right.
Paul looked over. The tall, well-built man wore a blue jumpsuit with a number. A tattoo climbed its way up the left side of his neck. A face was hidden beneath scars, scruff and shaggy hair.
“You got a cellphone?” the man asked.
Sirens sounded through the city streets, their call echoing through the chilly night air.
“I, uh…” Paul began, too stunned to react.
“Answer the question!”
“Here, here,” he said, handing the man his iPhone and leaning forward.
A crunch and snap ended the life of the phone under the sturdy boot of the stranger. “The remote,” the man demanded, pointing to the controller on the end table.
“Shut up!” the man interrupted.
The screen went black, then fuzzy and then black again.
“What channel’s the news?” the man asked.
“I don’t have cable,” Paul replied.
“Hold on,” Paul said, getting up from his chair.
The stranger grabbed him by the arm. “I’m coming with. Try anything, and they’ll have a reason to put me back in there.”
And Now, The Competition
My smoking jacket is an old parka my father left me before he ran off to bigger and better things. I wasn’t young like a lot of people when he disappeared. I’m not young now. It seems as though things are a bit different for me than they are for other people.
“I could’ve been happy.” That was the last thing Clooney said to me. We were at a bar on a Wednesday, drinking more than we should have. I stepped outside to have a smoke. Clooney doesn’t smoke usually, but he stepped out to join me and borrowed a clove to keep me company. We all smoke a little when we drink too much.
I asked him how he liked having me around. You see, Clooney has always been a bit of a wanderer and he’d finally come home, so I asked him how it was. I asked him if he’d stay, what brought him back, those sorts of questions.
All Clooney could talk about was the bitch that cheated on him and the way everyone looked at him. Sure, he’d found a good job doing whatever it is he did, but he didn’t like it. Then, there was the overdramatic conversation about the one who got away. Clooney’s a romantic like that, always talking about some fantasy that never was. I suppose that’s why when he took his last drag of the clove, he held the butt in his hand, shook his head and said, “I could’ve been happy,” before walking off. He left me standing there in my parka like some asshole with an ironic sense of fashion. I just like the thing because it’s warm.
So then, I was stuck with the decision of whether or not to go back into the bar. I was a bit buzzed, but I was feeling good. I felt like I could fly a plane, or operate heavy machinery, and have another long island iced tea while doing it. Plus, the bar’s not nearly as much fun when you’re alone, like I had been for the past however long. I don’t keep track.
I drove home just fine and nobody hassled me at all. In fact, I was a little surprised at how little people seemed to care. There was a drunken man flying down the highway to get home and not one peep came from the local Camden P.D. Perhaps it was just because we were drinking on a Wednesday. Of course, I don’t show my buzz much either.
When the door closed in my small country cabin, I got to thinking about Clooney again. He just lived across the street. I could see his car parked out front when I peeped through my little window. In my mind, he was downing a fifth of tequila and watching some mind numbing Netflix film in his underwear in the dark.
“Forget ‘im,” I muttered. My dog came to greet me with as much enthusiasm as he could, given his advanced age. Jerry the dog had been around since I first got my own place, the same cabin I lived in then. He was part husky, part mutt and was healthy, but unenergetic. Jerry the dog was my favorite geriatric.
I remember being young. I remember the passion of youth; the exuberance and magic beheld at every sunset. I hadn’t had that feeling in a long time. Clooney brought a bit of it back, but was too miserable to see it himself. He’d grown into a somber, cynical bastard. It hadn’t always been that way. Once upon a time, we were happy.
And Finally, The Poll