You Have 48 Hours

Author’s Note: Over the past few months I have had a few requests that, although slightly different, suggested various forms of reader participation so this week I thought I would give it a try. The following is the beginning of a story. I will leave the ending up to you. You can share your thoughts and ideas for what happens next by commenting and I will take one or more of them to finish the story. Let the fun begin.

“Maybe it’s just brown. Everything seems like it’s brown nowadays…”

Zane’s eyes wandered around the interior of the coffee shop as his mind searched for the best answer. “Love” was the first thought that popped up but was immediately followed by the image of his cat Whiskers. It was a noble idea, but hardly accurate if a cat was the primary source of love in his life. He pondered the word “Boring” for a minute, but rejected it knowing it would leave him melancholy for the next few days.

The article that had sent him on this thought adventure still filled the screen of his laptop. Bold letters along the top asked “Is Life That Simple?” The author believed that if a person could find a core idea around which their life rotated, they could find happiness. It highlighted a recent poll that had asked people describe their life in a single word. “Exciting”, “Love”, and “Fun” were the top three answers.

He finally settled on the word “routine”. For a moment he had considered “predictable”, but then remembered the nail that assassinated his front tire while driving to work last month and decided that even a mundane life has its occasional surprises.

Zane lifted his coffee to his lips and let the bittersweet flavor of his favorite blend caress his tongue. “Routine is not so bad,” he thought as he took another sip.

Motion pulled his eyes away from the drink in his hand. He looked up just as a small mountain in a black t-shirt and khaki shorts shuffled past his table towards the counter. Everyone in the small cafe studied the man in sideways glances of awe. The top of his shaved head rested somewhere over seven feet from the floor. Muscles that Zane never knew existed strained against the tight pull of his tan skin. And if that were not enough to scare all the children of the world and most of the men, a colorful snake tattoo wrapped around his left leg and disappeared into the darkness beneath his shorts.

Zane alternated his attention between his computer and the giant who stood waiting for his latte. When the man turned to scan the flyers that filled the local community board Zane had to stifle a laugh. Swimming joyfully in the ocean of the man’s right bicep, was a small pink dolphin tattoo. A thousand embarrassing stories played through Zane’s mind to fill in the “why” and “how”.

Hearing that his drink was ready, the man turned again and retrieved his coffee from the bar. He took a sip and began to leave, but stopped in front of the table where Zane sat. After shifting his drink to the opposite hand he reached into his pocket. This simple gesture sent Zane’s heart racing. He could not see what he pulled out because he quickly trapped it beneath the hand he placed on the table next to Zane’s computer.

Fear is not rational and as it took hold of Zane he became convinced that this man somehow knew every joke that he had just finished making about his little dolphin. Leaning down, as if addressing a child, the man locked eyes with Zane.

“You have 48 hours.”

Shock paralyzed Zane. He could not have spoken even if he had words to say. Quickly straightening back up as if nothing happened, the man returned his coffee to right hand. He took another sip and strolled out of the cafe.

The giant held Zane’s attention long after his departure and he stared blankly at the doors through which he had just left. Curiosity slowly began to break through the fear that had frozen him. He looked around hoping that someone would acknowledge what had just happened with a nod or curious eyebrow lift, but the other patrons gave no clues that anything had strayed from normal as they read their books and conversed with one another.

Questions fought for Zane’s attention inside his head. In an attempt to quiet them, he closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. When he finally opened his eyes again he saw it for the first time. Sitting there, next to his computer, was a white business card.

Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake

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10 comments

  1. A few minor mistakes I spotted:

    –Zane’s eyes wondered around
    (wandered?)

    — Everyone in the small cafe looked studied the man
    (looked or studied, not looked studied!)

    –Quickly straitening back up
    (straightening?)

    As for what happens next… I find it difficult to think of anything interesting, so I will write a bad idea and just hope it doesn’t get chosen:

    Zane finds his own name written on the business card, with the byline stating he is the owner of a nationwide pet store specialising in snakes. He sees the man’s words as a challenge that he has 48 hours to make this a reality.

    (lame I know..)

  2. Lovely Post!

    Zane picks up the card and turn it around. On it is the the number of someone (a relative, family member, girl he used to know in high school, etc.) who will help him find his word.

    Adieu, scribbler

  3. This is a cute idea. After Twenty-Seven, I would feel weird if I submitted something and you picked it. Maybe I will anyway.

  4. Ha, okay I have an illness, I admit it. It’s like a plate of cookies sitting out with six other kids to blame it on.

    The business card is blank. Zane leaves the cafe confused. Walking along the sidewalk he follows a girl with tight pants. Her top shows a little skin and a small tramp stamp catches his eye… a pink dolphin. He stops her and after an embarrassing conversation, he gets only a lie about what the tattoo means. He arrives wherever he was going and pulls out the business card and tosses it on the table to contemplate it. Fumbling with it, he drops it in surprise. A small logo has appeared on one side… a pink dolphin. He realizes he now has 47 hours and no way to reach either person who could have helped. Suddenly panicked, Zane sets out in search of the next dolphin.

  5. The card had “6°S” stamped on it in black ink, and circled. Zane assumed this was the logo of whatever group the man belonged to. He tried not to immediately jump to “mob”, but the thought lingered.
    Turning it over revealed instructions telling him to, “Find four people with this tattoo. That does not include the messenger.” A frighteningly familiar pink mammal followed the message.

    I tried 🙂 I wonder…is it obvious or cryptic, what I mean by “6°S” and where I’m going with this?

  6. The card read, “Your greatest adventure awaits” with a toll-free number in the lower right corner. Zane’s eyebrows shot upward as he sat contemplating the meaning of this encounter. After a great deal of consideration, he picked up his cell phone to call the number. What could it hurt, right?

    His call was immediately answered by an electronic voice that intoned, “Thank you for calling Dolphin Enterprises. Your appointment is scheduled for 1400 hours at 1248 Elm Road.”

    Zane had the distinct feeling that he had just fallen through a rabbit hole, but given his earlier frustrating assessment of his routine life, he left and hailed the next available taxi. When he arrived at the address, he hesitated outside the double glass doors as he questioned his own sanity once again.

    Once again, his earlier melancholy nudged him forward. As he stepped into the building, he was greeted by a pretty, young blonde receptionist sitting behind a large wood and chrome work station. “Good afternoon, sir. Your assignment is already on your desk.”

    Zane’s eyebrows elevated again, but he remained speechless. He hesitated briefly before moving toward the wide green hallway behind her desk. After only a few steps, he was shocked to find his name on a closed door. He entered slowly to find a very pleasant office in shades of blue and green with a large mahogany desk in the center of the room. There were some impressive paintings on the walls as well as a small conference table and chairs that appeared both stylish and comfortable.

    As he was staring at the new surroundings and questioning again how this had happened, a dark-haired woman stuck her head in the door to announce, “Sir, your wife called to say that your son’s baseball game has been cancelled due to bad weather. Also, the chief is anxious for you to review your new assignment. The packet is already there on your desk.”

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