idol prize fight | week 15 | 1000 words
Marty Bartlett wanted to be a writer. In other words, he had ideas he wanted to foist off on the general public.
He was not alone—many people shared the same dream. In fact, the Internet was full of books and online courses with titles like, "Novel-Writing By Numbers," "Financial Backing: Fleecing Your Friends And Family," and "Oh, So You Really Think You're All That?"
Marty, who had tried many of those books and courses himself, was convinced he had what it took to achieve greatness! There was just a small problem in that… well, he hadn't managed to pull it off yet.
He had the time to devote to writing, and he had all sorts of ideas, he was sure of it. But no matter what he did, none of them ever seemed to add up to an actual story.
Marty tried creativity exercises, mindful dreaming, and long walks along the river. He made a nice welcoming space in his house just for writing, and when that didn't work he took his laptop to a coffee shop, a car wash, and a duck pond to see if that helped. The results were underwhelming.
He used a recording app on his cellphone to capture his thoughts on the go. Many of those thoughts seemed to be grocery-related, but the concept had merit. Besides, it was so easy to get distracted.
One day, Marty was busy mashing words together to form some kind of plot for a book. He took a short break to get something from the car, and as soon as he stepped off the porch, a bright blue thing with wings and a tiny little face flew right at him and nearly hit him in the head.
"Gah!" Marty yelled, ducking out of its path as it bombarded him with an explosion of glittering dust.
"Sorry!" he thought he heard it shriek, which was ridiculous.
"Note to self," he gasped into his phone, "check the shed for bats! And take the pants in for dry-cleaning on Monday."
Ugh. At least it hadn't gotten in his hair.
Marty was so focused on bat-cooties that he forgot why he'd gone outside in the first place, and didn't remember until the following day. That was the shape of life in general for Marty, as far as writing went.
His real job took up a lot of time, of course, so he tried to make the most of his opportunities at home. Nights and weekends, Marty scribbled on notepads, drew cryptic diagrams on a whiteboard, and hammered away at his computer keyboard. It was like trying to bleed genius, if genius was a turnip rotting in a root cellar from two years earlier.
Most Saturdays, Marty holed up in his home office and worked for hours. Kids and lawnmowers made a racket outside, and the phone or doorbell interrupted him all too often.
The first Saturday in April was typical, with two robo-calls on the phone before lunch and someone knocking on the front door that afternoon at two.
Marty opened the door to some cat in a business suit.
"Good afternoon, sir!" the cat said.
"No thanks!" Marty said, slamming the door shut. Geez. The door-to-door salesmen in his neighborhood were always so aggressive.
He tried putting the dog outside to keep people away from the yard, but the dog barked at everything, which was worse.
Maybe a change of scene for a bit? It was hard to write a spy novel about manly men battling cryogenically-frozen Nazis when you were surrounded by the ordinariness of your daily life. Marty decided to drive over to the beach and find a nice bench on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
It was dark when he drove back, tired and discouraged by his low word count and the sense that his novel was either totally unworkable or had already been done.
He soon found himself behind a gigantic orange blob on wheels being pulled by a team of fine white horses.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Marty said. The drivers in this part of the state were such a pain.
He veered to the left, looking for an opening. Minutes later, he finally sped around the thing, honking his horn as he went.
"Road hog!" he yelled out the window.
By the time he made it home, Marty was exhausted. He went straight to bed.
The next day he was back at it, trying to think of something else to write now that his spy novel was no longer destined-to-be. But what? Marty thought. There had to be something. Fighter-planes on Proxima Centauri B, mutant wombats, zombie robots, anything, so long as it had legs.
He wandered around the house, he did jumping jacks, and he ate M&M's until his stomach felt like sludge.
Finally, he decided it was hopeless.
He needed something much more drastic to help him find new ideas, something that would take him outside of himself.
What Marty really needed was a vacation.
He called a travel agent and laid it out for her, along with his budget, which was regrettably small.
"I don't have much in that price range," she said. "We'd be looking at something domestic, and not very popular."
"Did I mention I was desperate?" Marty said, standing in his kitchen and feeling as if fate had no mercy on him at all.
"Yes, sir, I'll keep looking."
The dog came in from the living room and pushed past him on its way to the fridge for beer. "What a crap fest. The Cavs are playing like garbage," it said. "They've got no outside game…"
"Do you mind?" Marty said. "I'm on the phone."
"Sir? I could send you to Toledo," the agent said.
"Toledo, fine. I'll take it."
The dog rolled its eyes and left the room.
"Lady, I'm serious," Marty said. "I've got to get out of here and find some inspiration. Nothing ever happens in this town!"
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