The Best Kinds of Stories Right Themselves

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: December 23, 2016

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Submitted: December 23, 2016

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This was it for me, I thought to myself. Today was going to be the day when I’d sit down at my desk and write the story the world would want to read. Yes. There wasn’t a question about it in my mind.

For years I'd struggled with getting the right thoughts and story to connect an emotion in the reader’s mind. I’d spent a small fortune on publishing books that were only graded as ‘interesting’ or ‘good’, which is about the worst feedback a writer could receive. I’d been to all those ‘prestigious’ writing seminars, where they teach you how to connect with your audience. But none of it was working for me.

I was stuck, in a jam. I thought I’d plateaued, and now my only existence would be to write about stories that had no concrete meaning or emotional ties.

And this was truly terrifying to me.

So I thought to change my writing strategy, to one that became more focused on the work I was putting out there. I’d decided to take the entire week to make sure that there was to be zero distractions on this sunny Sunday afternoon day outside, where I'd sit down and get lost in my own thoughts for hours on end.

I was pumped about it. I was wired. And I was motivated. Today was going to be my day to write something amazing.

I pulled out my laptop, ready to get to work.

And then a notification immediately popped up on my screen. Restart required for software updates.

Great.

I sighed loud, but I thought it better to get this over with now, rather than leave it and face the repercussions and viruses that would surely come my way.

It was only a restart.

So I flipped the restart button, got up to get myself a cup of coffee (third one!). I was still in the ‘writing zone’, getting my thoughts together, readying myself for a killer afternoon of amazing creativity and all that nonsense.

I took the first sip of the warm brew in my kitchen before my cell phone buzzed from my pants pocket.

It was my amazing girlfriend, Amanda.

“Patrick,” she said.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“How’s the writing going?”

“Just starting now.”

“Oh,” she said.

“Uh-oh,” I said. I already knew from her tone that she was about to ask me for a favor.

“Listen,” she said, “I know that you etched out the entire day for writing, but I need you to do something for me.”

“Amanda.”

“I know, I know.”

I sighed. “What is it? Is it important?”

“Kind of, yea.” She sounded kind of desperate. Pleading almost. And she also knew that I owed her a favor for what she did for me just last week (that’s basically what relationships have amounted to these days - it’s just a constant battle between how much more the other person is invested in the relationship).

“Well can it wait?” I tried.

“Well. Um. No. No, it can’t.”

I glanced over at my laptop. The screen had popped up to the login screen, letting me know that it was ready and waiting for my fingers to produce some sort of magic on paper.

“How long will this take?”

“Not that long,” she said.

I huffed. “Okay. Fine. What is it?”

“Awesome,” she giddied. “Okay, so do you remember when I promised my mother that we’d try and get a refund for that dinner last Saturday night?”

“Yea?”

“Well she was asking me about it this morning, and I told her that we’d get the refund by today.”

“What? Why?”

“Because that’s what I said.”

“Oh, geez.” My hand reached for my forehead. “Why would you tell her that?”

“Because - if you remember - you said that you were confident that you could get us a refund for the ‘shitty’ dinner experience.”

“I said that?”

“Yup.”

“Shit.”

“Yup. So are you going to do it?”

I hesitated. This wasn’t going to be a problem that I could solved with the hour. I’d need to exit my ‘writing zone’ mentality, and then I’d need to enter my ‘customer is always right’ zone when speaking to some manager at this restaurant.

“Please, Patrick?” Amanda pried. “I’ve basically already told her that it’s taken care of. She thinks that you’ve already pulled some strings to make this happen.”

“She thinks that?”

“Yup.”

“Shit.”

“Yup.”

I tried to talk myself through it. This was just a speed-bump in the day. I’d get this whole situation done with, get the clapping and excited reaction from Amanda’s parents, and then it was back to doing what I thought I would do best. Easy enough.

--------

It was the hour that’d passed when I realized that I was so wrong in my assumption. I’d been placed on hold several times by the restaurant staff (reducing me to memorizing the lyrics of some Billy Joel lyrics through the phone). And there was a constant stream of YouTube videos to take my mind off of the frustration in the moment.

After an hour and a half, I’d finally been transferred over to the corporate offices of this restaurant, where I complained intently to a guy who I imagined had been wearing a tie to work every day since he was seventeen years old.

He apologized for my ‘improper’ experience at the ‘establishment’, and offered me a new reservation and a complimentary bottle of wine as a token of his appreciation for my feedback.

“So you want me to come back to this restaurant and spend more money?” I thought he was out of his mind.

“We’d be delighted to have you return as a customer,” he triumphantly said to me.

The balls on this guy.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Well I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“Are you?”

“Yes.” He tried his best to sound as nice and sincere as possible. “And if there’s anything else I can assist you with, please feel free to leave a comment on our website, and we’ll be happy to read it.”

“You’re too kind.”

“Thank you.”

I hung up enraged at the level of service these people were offering me. And I’m sure that if this wasn’t a situation that involved my girlfriend and her parents, I’d probably let it slide, and get on with my life. But it festered with me for another thirty minutes. I just sat at my desk, swiveling my body around, thinking thoughts that I’m sure would have ended up on the six o’clock news if I didn’t start calming myself down eventually.

Over two hours had passed since my girlfriend called me, and there was zero productive work to be had on my writing.

I tried, once again, to talk my way through the situation.

I’d call my girlfriend, explain the lunacy of the restaurant management, offer to fork over my own money to cover the portion of the check that her parents’ insisted they pick up.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Amanda said over the phone. “You had me worried there for a second. It’s been over two hours.”

“Yea.” Thanks for reminding me.

“Were you on the phone with them this entire time?”

“Basically, yea.”

“And?”

I didn’t sugarcoat it. “We’re not getting the refund,” I said.

“What?”

“Yea. Listen.” I really, desperately just wanted this entire situation to just disappear. “Here’s what we’ll do. I’ll just give you the money that your parents spent on the check, and you can give it to them. Tell them that it’s the refund from the restaurant.”

“What? I’m not going to do that.”

“What?” My eyes reached for the ceiling. “Why not?”

“Because then I’d be lying.” Duh.

“Technically, they’re being refunded the amount. The only difference is that I’m the one refunding the meal for the restaurant.”

There was a silence over the phone. “I’m not going to do that, Patrick.”

“Amanda.”

“Patrick.”

Amanda and I had hit a few rocky patches in our relationship in the past. Our fights would normally only entail our different views in politics and which bands had sounded the best ‘live’. But ethics and lying seemed to be a new frontier of fighting that we were venturing into.

I just didn’t need this today. Not today.

“Can we just keep this conversation on the shelf until tomorrow?” I pleaded. “It’s the afternoon and I have yet to write a single brilliant word on my laptop.”

“Well who’s fault is that?”

I said nothing in response. I just clenched my teeth.

“Patrick,” Amanda continued, “Just call my parents and tell them what happened. They’ll understand.”

“You want me to call them right now?”

“Yes, Patrick. It’ll take, like, five minutes. Just do it. Get it over with. They’re my parents.”

“Ugh.”

“Patrick.”

“Fine, fine.”

Five minutes. That’s all it would take. If I glanced down at my watch, I could still make up for my lost time today. I could still dive deep into the tangles of genius creativity, right?

I took a stroll back into my kitchen after I hung up with Amanda, poured myself another cup of coffee (I’d need all the energy I could get in order to survive a painful conversation with a mother who didn’t approve of my dating her daughter).

I picked up the phone, read the number posted. Cruella de Vil.

“Well hello, Patty,” she oozed to me over the phone. And I cringed at how she thought it was cute to nickname a full-grown man by the name of Patty.

“Hi, Mrs. Pompers,” I clenched.

“How are you? I must say, we weren’t expecting a call from you today.”

 

“Yea, sorry about the abruptness of me. But I just wanted to let you know that Amanda… I tried to get the refund from the restaurant, and it didn’t work out.”

“Oh?”

“Yea.”

There was a smirk she released through the line, I could just feel it in my bones.

“Well I’m very disappointed to hear this. You know we were thrilled when you told us that you could get us our hard-earned money back into our pockets.”

“Yea.” I wanted to punch the wall. “Sorry about that. How about next time we all go out, I’ll pick up the entire check. Sound good?”

“Next time,” she said. But I knew she meant it as a question - like she was already hoping that Amanda would break up with me before that occasion could ever happen again.

“Yes,” I stated. “Next time.”

“Well alright then,” she mumbled.

“Good talking with you, Mrs. Pompous -- Pompers. Pompers.”

“Wait. Wait. Wait. My dear. Hold the phone.”

Uh-Oh. “What is it?”

“You can’t just expect me to hear that you are not able to grant us our money back, and then not allow us to ask a favor in return.”

“I can’t?”

“Patty.”

I clench my jaw. I dreaded the thought of seeing this woman at Amanda’s and my wedding eventually.

“You see, now isn’t really the best time, actually," I said.

“Oh?”

“Yea, I’ve actually already segregated the entire day to writing, and I haven’t written a single word yet.”

“And who’s fault is that, Patty?”

Like mother like daughter, I guess.

“No one’s fault.” I bit my lip. “It’s just really important that I get this work done today. I don’t know when I’ll get another chance-”

“You know, I’ve read some of your work.”

“You have?” I was shocked.

“Yes, and I can assure you that your time will be better spent assisting me in my needs and paying us back for what you lack in negotiation skills with restaurants managers.”

This time, I put the phone on mute. And there’s a fresh new hole in the wall of my kitchen.  

I picked back up the phone. “Oh?”

“Yes, and I hope you don’t take my critique of your hobby personally.” Oh, why would I think that? “It’s just that I want you to be able to focus your efforts on making my daughter the happiest clam she can be.”

“Wasn’t there a favor you wanted from me, Mrs. Pee?”

“Oh, yes. Can you pick up my husband at his tennis lesson in an hour?”

“Mrs. P.”

“I know, I know.”

“Why didn’t he just drive himself?”

“Because, my dear, the porsche is in the shop. And he did not want to be seen parking a loaner car at the club. I’m sure you can understand.”

I couldn’t. The fanciest car I’d ever driven was when I was sixteen. And that same rusted sedan still sits in my driveway.

“And you can’t do it?” I mumbled.

“If I could, I wouldn’t be asking you, Darling.” I’m not so sure this is true. “Do you know where it is?”

“Yes,” I groaned.

“Beautiful. And we shall forget all about the money you didn’t put back into our pockets, Patty. Sound fair?”

“Sounds fair, Mrs. Pompous -- Pompers.”

“Very well," she hung up.

And I began to think. It would take over thirty minutes to pick the man up from the club. That meant that I could still eek out a shower (that I hadn’t taken yet), get dressed, and pick him up in time. I could drop him off at his house in less than twenty minutes, and hightail it back to my place. The whole ‘favor’ would drain about another two hours from my schedule, but at least there’d still be daylight outside by the time I returned home.

No more distractions. Brilliance was only hours away.

--------

When I pulled up to the tennis club, Mr. Pompous was already waiting, talking to some other white-sock millionaire who was a member. He noticed me right away, but he decided to duck back into his conversation with his friend instead of excusing himself and getting in the freaking car.

The arrogance of these people.

It wasn’t until five minutes later that he eventually strolled his way to the passenger side door.

“Hello, Jeffery,” he grinned.

“It’s Patrick,” I said.

“Oh, right. Listen, you don’t mind if I sit in the back seat, do you?”

“What?” I thought he was joking.

“Yes, you see, if I am to be seen riding inside this car, I’d prefer that people assume that you are my driver.”

“Can you please just get inside the car, Mr. P?”

“So you don’t mind?”

I narrowed on him heavily. The absolute arrogance of this man. I couldn’t even believe how there people like in the world, and that they were wildly successful at what they did. I thought to fight him back, it’s what any other sane human being would have done.

“Fine,” I said. My eyes were pierced at all the time I’d lost in the day. “Just get in.”

“Splendid, Jeffery. To the estate, then.”

He tossed his this things beside him in the back seat, buckling up faster than he could find a seat.

“The Mrs. told me about your little screw up with the refund,” Mr. P said as I drove away.

“Yea?” I clenched.

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it, though. It’s alright.”

“Yea?” I thought he was finally being sincere.

“Yes. And I must say that I should have known better than to believe Amanda sometimes. She can be very persuasive. Even when she tries convincing us that you could actually get us our money back. Ha!”

There’s a ditch up ahead, and I would have liked nothing more than to find out just how good these seat belts have lasted over the years.

“Well your daughter is one of many talents,” I told him instead.

“Yes, she is quite special.”

Mr. P. then ducked into his smart-phone, pretending to be involved in something more interesting than wasting my time.

We sat in silence for the rest of the ride, my eyes only shifting from the dashboard clock and the road. There's still time left in the day, I thought to myself. There’s still time left in the day.

I pulled up to his ‘estate’ in record timing.

“Well, it was a pleasure driving you, Mr. P.”

And I watched, in complete shock, as Mr. Pompous reached into his front pocket to pull out his wallet.

“Here you go.” He leaned forward, giving me a crisp five dollar bill. “This is for your services. We just won’t tell the Mrs.”

Gee, a whole five dollars. And I watched him smirk through the rearview mirror - he knew that it was more of an insult than if he didn’t pay me anything.

“Well have a good one, then.” Now get the hell out of my car.

“Oh, you’re not coming in?”

“What?” I turned.

“Yes. Surely you must come inside and say hello to the Mrs.”

“No, I can’t.” For so many reasons, I couldn’t. “I need to go back home. I have work to do.” 

“Work? But it’s the end of the day.”

Oh my god. Thanks for reminding me.

“I haven’t been able to write all day. I had blocked off my entire schedule in order for there to be zero distractions, and now I have written zero material.”

“Well who’s fault is that?”

“Can you please just get out of the car?”

“Patty.” Mr. P. leaned back inside the car, putting his hand on my shoulder. “If you think that you can date my daughter, take her out, treat her like a princess, and then tell me that you have better things to do than say a quick hello to my wife…”

“Mr. P. it’s not like that.”

“Inside.” Mr. Pompous left the car. “We’ll be waiting for you inside.”

This family. This family. This family. And suddenly, I realized why a girl like Amanda had been single at the age of twenty-nine, back when I’d first met her.

A quick hello, I told myself. Get in. Say hello to the Mrs. And get the hell out, before Mrs. P. insists that I prove my worth for dating her daughter.

I pressed the doorbell, fixed the collar on my shirt.

“Well, hello!” Mrs. P. answered.

“Hi,” I said, “I just wanted to say a quick hello.”

“Well, hello!” She seemed drunk. Go figure.

“Right,” I nodded. “Well it was nice to see you.”

“Come in! You must come in.”

“Mrs. P. I can’t. I really can’t. I have to write.”

“Patty,” she sterned. “You come inside for two minutes. I’ve made an extra martini, and I want you to try it.”

“Drinks?” Oh, god. No. “Mrs. P.”

“Just one taste.”

“Mrs. P.”

“It’s the least you could do, Patty. After all, we did waste over a hundred dollars on that ghastly restaurant you made us go to last weekend. One taste. And then you’re gone!”

It never ends with these people.

She grabbed my arm before I could make one last ditching effort, leading me into her posh kitchen area.

“Surprise!” I heard from every angle.

Oh my freaking god.

The kitchen was filled with the bodies of two dozen people, some of whom I knew so well. What the hell is this?

“Happy Birthday!” Amanda was the first to jump out from the crowd, wrapping her delicate arms around my neck.

And I wanted to cry.

“What the hell?” I whispered.

“Are you surprised?”

“Surprised?” I clenched. “Shocked. Babe. What the hell is this? It’s not even close to being my birthday.”

“I know!” she laughed. “But this was the only day that I knew you wouldn’t be busy.”

“Are you kidding me right now?”

“What?”

“What?” I wanted to throw something. But only because I knew that there wasn’t a soft spot inside the kitchen that would allow me to put a hole through it. “Babe. Today was supposed to be my day,” I whispered in her ear.

“Speech!” someone yelled.

“This is amazing.” I put on my happy face. “I’m totally surprised. And I love you all. Especially you, Carl. I’ve totally forgotten about how you screwed me over in poker last month. Amanda and I just going through the logistics right now. You’re all amazing.”

“Drinks, anyone?” Mrs. P. asked, trying to save a tender, awkward moment from ruining her buzz.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” I led Amanda to the adjacent room.

“What’s up?” she asked. “You look like the same way you did when I surprised you on your half-birthday.”

“Amanda,” I sterned. “Why did you do this?”

“Do what?”

“You knew that I blocked off my schedule to allow myself time for writing. You knew that this was so important to me.”

“What are you talking about?”

“My writing!”

“Hey.”

“Sorry.” I rubbed both my eyes.

“What’s so wrong with taking a break from writing? You’re supposed to take a break every now and then, you know.”

“Yes, I know. But I first need to actually write something in order to take a break from it. And I have had written zero words today.”

“Well, who’s fault-”

“Don’t. Don’t you say it.” My finger pointed right at her.

“Say what? You’re acting like a crazy person right now.”

“I just wanted this one day, Amanda. Just one day to prove that I could actually sit down and write something that was considered more than just ‘good’ by the rest of the world.”

“So you can just do it tomorrow. Or the next day.”

“Today, Amanda. I was supposed to do it today. That’s what I’d planned for. That’s what I wanted. And I know, deep down, with all of what’s left of my freaking heart, that there’s going to be distractions from you, from your family, from life. I wanted this day. I wanted this day. I’m sorry.”

Amanda’s face looked confused by the time I sniffled and breathed in panting fashion. “Geez,” she said, “I didn’t know you were so keen on today being the only day you could write something meaningful. If it really means that much to you, and if my family and I are that much of a distraction for you, then maybe we should rethink-”

“No. Nope. No. That’s not at all what I’m saying.”

“Do you know how long it took for me organize this whole day?”

I sighed. “Yes.”

“Do you? Because apparently ‘my distractions’ are being mis-perceived between the two of us.”

“Listen,” I softened. “I’m sorry.”

“Damn right, you’re sorry. Do you even know how long it took for me to get that reservation at that shitty restaurant?”

“What?” I slanted.

“Yea, and then talking my parents into not letting you pay for their portion of the check.”

“What?”

“And then getting them to ask you for a refund.”

“What? What? What?” I moved her against the wall. “What on earth are you talking about? Are you seriously saying that this whole day was planned?”

“Of course it was planned.”

“What?”

“How do you not realize this yet?”

“What?” 

Now she was the one sighing in frustration. “How else was I supposed to get you to come here?” 

“Uh.” By asking me?

“It all needed to fit together, so that way you wouldn’t have any suspicions. It’s a freaking surprise party, Patrick.”

“So…” I couldn’t even comprehend it all at the time. “You planned the whole restaurant experience, the refund, your Mom asking me to pick up your Dad, your Dad getting me to come inside his house, all because you wanted a clever way to get me to show up to my own surprise party?”

Amanda’s head was still ducked and lowered, but she nodded, still upset over my reaction. “Yea.”

“You went through all that trouble?”

“Trouble?” Amanda sniffled. “What trouble? I wanted to do it.”

“That’s…” I was shocked about it all. I mean, here I was, so concerned about getting back home and becoming a hermit writer, while my girlfriend had meticulously and brilliantly tricked me into the biggest surprise I’d ever experienced with her.

She was about as evil in the way she orchestrated this whole party, as she was amazingly thoughtful about it.

What kind of a girlfriend goes through this much trouble for her neglectful boyfriend?

I couldn’t find the words to say to her at first. But I knew that they would eventually be put down on paper.

I lifted her chin up with my finger, kissing her and hugging her and thanking her a bunch of times.

“What’s that for?” she teared.

“Because,” I started, “I think you’ve just given me the story that I’ve been wanting to write.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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