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