30-Day Flash Challenge, Day 2
‘I hate bugs,’ the man thinks as he feels its carcass smoosh inside the napkin. He loathes the crunch it makes and worries about the guts bleeding through the napkin.
She closes the trash can after he deposits the wadded napkin bug ball.
A second later, she returns, reopens the can, “Oh, I guess that one was pregnant,” she says.
Something in her tone causes him to turn towards her and the trash.
Impossibly, it is now overflowing with bugs. The bug he had killed wasn’t big, but there was now half a trash can full of bugs sitting on top of half a trash bag full of trash, paper plates, plastic bags, eggshells, and coffee grounds.
This one is flowing nicely. It’s a typical ‘Shawn-story‘ with my trademark bizarre touches.
That asks a question. Where the hell did the baby bugs come from, huh? Is the trash can some protected time bubble? And the extra ants are simply a result of time looping for centuries inside the can, while external to the can, only a few seconds have elapsed?
When I turn my attention back to the story, my characters are staring at each other.
“Dude, take a picture. It’ll last longer. Seriously you’re creeping us out here,” she says.
I have no idea what’s going on, but occasionally characters will demand to do their ‘own thing.’ It’s usually best to give them some latitude.
“How very benevolent of you,” she says.
Did I miss something? There were just the two of them, right?
I reread my entire story thus far. Yep! Just two of them, one man and one woman, both unnamed at this point. So to whom is she talking?
“I’m talking to you, you pervert,” she says.
WTF. Is my character talking to me? Does she see me? That’s impossible. These people live only in my head.
She shakes her head at me as if I were some bit of refuse stuck to her shoe. Then, she picks up the trash can. Holding the lid shut with a grimace, the woman exits the apartment – I assume to dump the bugs outside, in the dumpster.
She returns in a few minutes.
“Is he still here?” she says to the man.
“Yep. Right there,” the man says, as he jerks a thumb over his shoulder, pointing in a geometrically impossible direction.
Her eyes flow to where he points.
“Oh, go away, you pervy old man; please respect our privacy.
Wait, I’m the writer, the creator of these people. That isn’t how these things are supposed to go. I don’t expect them to herald me as a loving creator, but I would appreciate a bit of mindless obedience.
“Yeah, you wish,” she says.
Her face appears on the screen; she looks like a young Marisa Tomei.
“Seriously, leave us alone. We aren’t going to worship you.”
“But I’m the writer. I’m like your God or something,”
I’m sure that sounds as lame to them as it does to me.
“Yeah, typical god complex. He probably expects us to jump in bed and start fucking like rabbits,” she says.
I want to protest that that isn’t necessarily true, that I had only held in the back of my mind as a possibility.
“Yeah, remember how prominently he displayed the bed in his opening sequence? Pathetic old man can’t get a woman of his own, so he wants us to walk and talk and fuck so he can get his jollies,” he says.
My jollies? Excuse me. Meanwhile, the bed sits unmade at the far end of the studio apartment.
“Right there, RIGHT THERE! Did you see that he mentioned the bed again? Apropos of nothing. No one was near the bed. Neither of us was looking at it, yet he brings up the bed again,” she says.
“Well, we could do that,” he says slyly. “If I weren’t gay, that might be fun.”
My characters are evolving out of my control now, making their own choices; how do I stop this?
“And, if you had done any preliminary character sketches at all, you’d realize I’m taking some time to focus on my growth,” she says.
My face burns hot with shame. I want to disappear, shut my Chromebook off, anything, but I can’t do anything but watch the weirdness unfold, frozen in an unhealthy fascination and dread.
“Look, you got what you came for, old man, ” she says. “Go away now, please?”
I hate when people call me that.
“Melanie is right. Your little story reached its climax with that,” the man says, waving vaguely towards the now empty trash can.
No one knows rejection quite like the artist rejected by his creations.
“Oh, damn,” Melanie says, her breasts…,
“DO NOT say ‘heaving,’ you pervert,” Melanie says.
“I wasn’t. It was a typo; I meant to type ‘breath,'” I say
I no longer want to turn the computer off now; I want to smash it; Run it over with my car.
“Look, it was a good story. Short, but good. The man, his name is Baker, by the way, drops the napkin bug ball into the trash. The next second it’s overflowing with bugs? It scared both of us, and you should publish it online, okay?”
“You’re just saying that, so I’ll go away,” I say.
“Yes. I am saying that so you will go away, but don’t feel bad,” Melanie says. “Just go away.”
They turn away from me without even looking at the unmade bed.
I do what I can to honor their request for privacy by typing the only two words I can.
Originally published on MEDIUM.com on August 2, 2021.