“Ooh, ooh–you ready to go Christmas shopping?!”
“Wha? I thought we were still gearing up for the big Thanksgiving meal.”
“No, silly. Thanksgiving was earlier this week. Now we’re almost into December, and people are thinking about their holiday lists, and everyone is so excited, and–“
“Whoa, there. How in the world did I miss the Thanksgiving holiday? Kind of a big deal.”
“Well, since you ate that much on the big day, somehow I’m guessing you were there.”
“Whoops. Must be the post-food coma striking again. Happens to the best of us, right?”
“Maybe you. Me? Never!”
Delia’s job was to create enticing copy – copy which compelled people to spend.
Twenty-four hours only, she began typing, 50% discounts on all stock. Get it before it goes, a brand new sofa for Christmas…
She added in an emotionally-charged statement about the importance of seating your family all together at this time of year.
50% off? Sure, buy a sofa when you have bills to pay, your boiler’s broken and your old sofa is fine. You’re too smart to fall for this surely…?
Delia was preparing her own Black Friday for the 5,000+ email list in front of her.
They’d met on the internet. Their first date really couldn’t have gone any better; glorious food in a wonderful restaurant. He paid, and they made to leave.
“Your place or mine?” he asked at the door.
“Not tonight, not yet,” she breathed softly. “Next time, I promise. Let’s part here tonight.”
He sighed, then smiled. “Spoilsport,” and hailed a cab for her.
“Kiss me,” she said. “Kiss me like we’re making love. Now.” The taxi driver waited.
Later, alone in the taxi, she reflected on her evening: a wallet, credit cards, a Rolex watch and four pounds twenty-six in change.
The newspaper editor fretted. Friday’s story deadline had passed; only three journalists had submitted copy. “Where are they?” he wondered aloud.
“Sack them all,” said Fred, a gnarled veteran who’d submitted punctually.
“I’ll consider it,” said the editor.
But on Saturday and Sunday, stories arrived; late perhaps, but excellent. The editor was thrilled. “Crack open the cava! Send out for pizza! Spliffs for everyone!”
“But they were late!” raged Fred.
“Yes, but we should rejoice that stories that were lost are now found,” said the editor, who happened to have a divinity degree. “They are prodigal stories!”
“Hrrmph,” Fred grumbled.
(I may take advantage of the longer option and re-write this one, though the 100-word limit nicely precludes having to explain the mechanics of the main conceit.)
Track Changes by Ruth Feiertag
“You’re an editor for *Life*?”
“Not quite: I’m an editor *of* life. Most editors fix errors and omissions in texts; I do the same with lives.”
“People write their lives and I edit them. Their lives change to reflect my edits. Clients can accept or reject changes just as in a textual edit.”
“Incredible. What’s that cost?”
“Depends. ‘Proofreading’ work like getting rid of blemishes are inexpensive; developmental revisions such as rewriting a spouse or adding a career can get pricey.”
“YOUR own life must be perfect!”
“HA! Editors, like all authors, rarely find their own mistakes.”
“I don’t understand why you’re leaving.”
She straightened from her packing, socks in her hand. Her eyes gazed out the window; her mind stared at him, mouth a-gape. She thought about the erosion of yelling, of failed therapy, of constant, sour disagreements over the now-grown kids; of the nightly rehearsals of co-workers’ inadequacies, his own essential cleverness, of his genuine accomplishments; of the sacrifices she’d made that he should never have accepted without reciprocation. She remembered how this evening, again, he asked her merely, “Anything here I need to know?”
She dropped the socks and responded, “I know you don’t.”
“Whoa–looks like the time travel process has started!” Fred cried.
“No joke,” Cindy answered. “Good thing we’re wearing helmets and safety equipment.”
“Oof!” the two travelers gasped. They looked through the windows of the machine, trying to place where, or when, they were.
Suddenly, a pedestrian pointed at them and exclaimed, “Intruders!” Fred and Cindy looked at each other, frightened, as a crowd formed around them.
“What time are you from?” the woman demanded.
Cindy gulped. “The year 2014,” she said carefully.
“So, before disco took over and people kept boogey-ing everywhere they went. Take me with you!”
Dale and Sandra looked at the line of cars ahead.
“Border agents are always crazy busy Friday evenings,” Sandra observed.
“I’m anxious to get home,” said Dale, a popular mathematics professor at the local college. As usual, he and Sandra were entertaining students in their home on Friday night.
As they finally reached the border, Sandra pointed ahead. “Shit! A dog!”
Neighbors were shocked to read that Sandra and Dale had been arrested when a drug-sniffing dog found 15 pounds of methamphetamine in the couple’s sedan.
“No wonder Dale and Sandra were so popular with young people,” a neighbor observed.
Daisy’s daughter had insisted on ballet lessons from a young age.
Evie’s interest was always sparked by the colour pink. She regarded haircuts with horror, living in fear of a trigger-happy hairdresser intent on cropping her locks.
Dolls, Disney and dazzling sequins were her daughter’s passions. Daisy attempted to stimulate interest in gender-neutral activities – reading, for instance – to no avail.
Life could surprise you, though. The teenage Evie revealed that she had been born in the wrong body. Several years and a lot of surgery later, Eddie stood in front of Daisy.
Dressed in pink trousers, of course.
OK everyone, gather round one last time.
We break down the door and waste all four of them plus the dinosaur, it’s not a guard dog, OK?
The little boy barely speaks. He won’t be much of a witness but can be noisy when he panics. The parents are just slow. Take them out later.
The real brains of the operation is the little girl. She’s a know-all pig who remembers everything. Take her out first, don’t miss. OK?
Success! Got them all!
* * *
“Good story, Grandpa,” says the little boy, “Again? Pleeease?”