“So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy.”
Madeleine L'Engle

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Notes from the author:

Among the word prompts for this piece were “Happy birthday to you!” and “ghastliest preacher.” I’m no longer sure how I got from there to here. But I would like it to be known that I had a much better birthday this year than Bob did. (I spent it on a ropes course with my roller derby team. It was a team bonding event. It was the best way to spend one’s fortieth birthday ever.)

I should probably remind anyone who is concerned that for every grim, dark, or depressing fictionette, there are potentially six other daily freewriting exercises that turned out whimsical and upbeat. I just happened to pick this one for developing into a fictionette. Things are fine; I just write horror sometimes. It happens.

Bob was having the shittiest birthday ever, and it was all Lenny’s fault.

Lenny was his co-worker and also Bob’s ride home. They carpooled every day. One of the chief pleasures of Bob’s day was stepping out of Lenny’s car, out of Lenny’s relentlessly fun presence. Lenny was fun. But he was such exhausting fun that Bob preferred at least a week’s notice to prepare. Lenny had not given him a week. He’d informed him fifteen minutes before the end of the work day that Mandatory Birthday Fun was imminent.

Bob had tried to demur. He had plans for the night. Could we possibly reschedule?

“Don’t be ridiculous, Bob, it’s your birthday. You don’t get to schedule surprise birthday parties. Then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it? Besides, what kind of plans could you possibly have? You never have plans!”

Bob had planned on a quiet evening alone at home, testing out a few recipes and maybe watching reruns on TV. He’d been looking forward to tonight all week. Reserving tonight for his cookbook project and utter self-indulgence sounded like the best possible birthday present he could give himself.

Lenny did not approve. “Oh, no no no, Bob, that’s not on. We’re your friends, Bob, and friends don’t let friends work for their birthdays.”

Bob tried to protest that yes, it was work, but it was his work, and he’d really like to go home and get to it.

But Lenny, of course, knew best. “You know what you need, Bob? A better work-life balance.” Their co-workers guffawed heartily at this corporate witticism and exchanged high-fives over Bob’s head. “Come on, gang, let’s show Bob a good time tonight.”

Briefly Bob had entertained the notion of excusing himself to the rest room and, like the hapless hero of a late ‘80s rom com, escape out the little ventilation window in the back, even if it meant a messy landing in a Dumpster in the alley. (It always did, in the movies.) But the building layout wasn’t compatible with this idea. Besides, Bob had no experience successfully resisting Lenny’s schemes. He didn’t think he could pull it off now.

So they’d dragged him out to a restaurant, then a pub, then a series of seedy bars, then finally to the Hotel St. Mark. “Tonight ONLY,” according to the posters proliferating downtown, it would be the scene of “Brother Zealous and His Midnight Epiphany. (Admission: FREE!)” Lenny rolled his posse in at about ten to twelve and ushered them into the center of the second row.

They began speculating in whispers....

This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for June 17, 2016. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1509 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.

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