Unusual Pair

Inspired by an exercise from The Write PracticeDialogue is super important, yet it’s tricky. This is a little cheesy, but it was fun to write.It helped me take a break from writing Elements and practice something that I’ve definitely struggled with before.  Enjoy!

“Dude, are you sure about this?” I asked.
Sal shrugged. “Yeah, I checked the map. It’s the trail to the north.”
“Alrighty then,” I said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Please. I’ve been hiking way longer than you. Iknow how to read a map.” She started to hike, saying “Oh, and don’t call me ‘dude’. I’m not one of your bros.”
“Yeah, sure.” I pulled out a Clif Bar and opened the wrapper. “You get out here often?”
“Not this park, no, but my Dad got me involved in Scouts when I was pretty young. I’ve hiked a lot.”
“I thought Girl Scouts just sold cookies.” I bit into the Clif Bar, peanut butter and chocolate saturating my taste buds.
“Not Girl Scouts, Venturing.”
I swallowed and asked, “What’s that?”
“It’s a part of Boy Scouts. They’re co-ed and they do more high adventure stuff. Backpacking, rafting, that sort of thing.”
“Hah! What kind of girl joins Boy Scouts?” I took another bite.
She stopped at the first switchback. “The kind that can whoop your butt on these trails.”
I shook my head. “Please.”
She punched my arm. “You wanna bet? First one to the peak decides what we do for dinner.”
I smiled. “I didn’t realize we were doing dinner. I’ll take that bet.”
Sal opened her water bottle and took a sip. “You want any before we start? I know you’re out.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Hey, I’ve got a question for you.” She said, taking a sip of water.
“Shoot.”
“You’re the biggest bro I’ve ever met. You party almost every chance you get, I see you at the gym whenever I’m there, and don’t forget about those polos and Sperrys.”
“So?”
“So why’d you ask me out? I’m totally not your type.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, I…why’d you say yes? I’m definitely not your type either.”
Sal shrugged. “I don’t know. Let’s talk about it at Freddie’s tonight. Best barbecue in town.”

“Freddie’s? No way, I’ll make way better barbecue.”
“You can
not be a good cook. Now I’ve gotta win.” She sprinted up the trail.
“I’ll make the best damn ribs you’ve ever had!” I shouted, hot on her heels.

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Bonito Valley

A breeze gently caresses my boiling face. The New Mexico sun beats down on me through the aspens and ponderosas, and my mouth aches with thirst. My feet are burning in certain spots; a strenuous six mile day will do that to a man. Nevertheless, I hike on. Our destination is only a mile away.

We climb over a rise, and a smile creeps onto my face. We had been hiking through dense alpine forest all day, when all of a sudden the land opens up before my eyes. Lush, green grass shimmers in the sunlight. The relaxing breeze draws waves over the turf, and the air smells better, more fresh. I feel the rest of my crew light up around me; they are clearly as awestruck as I was. This was only day two of our adventure, and already I could taste the excitement, the thirst for more adventure, welling up inside me.

Ending the day on such a gorgeous scene, Bonito Valley had snuck up on me and stolen my heart. I’ve seen plenty of gorgeous places and people in my life thus far, but nothing has quite captivated me like this. Yet.

The Crazies

This is a short descriptive piece as part of a writing exercise. Enjoy!

They were the crazy ones, the animals. The snow was starting to melt, and that meant the short shorts could come out and soon the shirts would come off.

That’s what happened at the end of the indoor season. For distance guys, at least. The community trails would be slippery and wet with puddles galore. The smart ones would stick to the roads when given the chance. The adventurous ones would take that chance to find the less beaten path through the forest preserve and tromp through the woods and brush, coming back caked in mud and brambles up to their knees.

For the most part, each week went about the same way. Hard workouts happened three days a week, recovery runs twice, a JV meet for those below, and a weekend meet for the stars. By the end of the day, long after the rest of the athletes had gone home, they would start their cooldown and core routines. Then it was homework (or not) and bed. School days started early, and student athletes needed rest.

Don’t think Spring Break was a vacation. Coach would hand out a schedule the week before Break started, and anyone serious about it would be there at 8 AM, bright and early. These workouts were even more intense, since we had the whole day to recover before the next workout. Naps were frequent, and homework was rushed the Sunday before school started again.

Their other friends never understood. How could they? To them, it was punishment. To those insane few it was a way of life, etched in their bones even if they weren’t the most devout practitioners.

Out of Place

It’s been a while since last I published anything. I started a new job a month ago and until recently didn’t have access to WordPress, not to mention being incredibly busy with training. Now that everything’s settled I’ve figured out how to get on WordPress again and I entered another writing contest (but more on that later). Here’s a story from when I first started taking writing a bit more seriously. I may turn it into a series, who knows?

The noise in the room was unbearable, and the air reeked of booze. My feet stuck to the floor, and the concrete walls of the windowless room reminded me of a prison.

During orientation week my freshman year of college, I didn’t go out every night partying like a lot of the kids. I was perfectly content to take it easy and make the adjustment to college without throwing in new things like booze and drugs. Besides, social skills weren’t my strong suit.

Partway through watching a crappy movie-I think it was Robin Hood or something-a couple people I knew from high school invited me to go out, and I thought “why not?” What’s the worst that could happen?

John thought we had to take Park Street a ways, but the rest of the group thought the house was in a different direction. I was just along for the ride; there was no point in chipping in to the conversation. After a couple wrong turns we began following the pounding bass. That had to be the right direction.

Butterflies started dancing in my stomach. I had lived a rather sheltered life, and everything I knew about college parties I learned from my friends and the media.

Finally, we stumbled upon the source of the pounding bass: a frat house.

It didn’t truly resemble a house when we got inside, more like a stylized dorm. One half looked nearly identical to my floor: a narrow, carpeted hallway with easily a dozen doors on either side. Some dude in a t-shirt and backwards hat let us in and mentioned something about the basement. I can only assume he did, since that’s where my group started meandering. That’s how I found myself in a sticky, noisy basement.

Three tables were set up with red cups on either side. It wasn’t terribly crowded- more dudes in backwards hats flirted with attractive girls while they played pong. Some people were sipping on beer, some were throwing their drinks back. Me, I just stood to the side with my friends. I couldn’t say anything to anyone, it was so loud, nor would I have known what to say. That’s when I started to regret coming.

A big guy with light brown hair and jeans walked over and started talking to us. The rest of the group engaged him with no problem. I continued to awkwardly stand there, answering questions when he asked me directly. My awkwardness wasn’t entirely my fault- more often than not the music drowned out everyone’s voices. Since joining a fraternity, I realize he was probably rushing us and asking us the basic questions such as “Where are you from?” or “What are you majoring in?” It also explained why he offered us all shots.

My heart raced. The only time I ever tried alcohol was when I was twelve. It was a sip of beer, and my uncle joked that the sheriff would arrest me that night.

However, it was college. I might as well try it, right?

I followed the group upstairs to the guy’s room. Several shot glasses lined the top of the dresser, each being filled with Southern Comfort by the guy who generously offered the shots (another rush tactic). A glass was passed to me, and I took it with my right hand. Everyone else had accepted their glass.

As we raised our glasses in a forgotten toast, I couldn’t help but wonder: is this really such a good idea?

Panic

The phone kept ringing. “Come on, pick up.” Tyler fumbled with his apartment keys, but his Dad wasn’t picking up. It was a pretty unreasonable hour to make a call to Berlin, but Tyler had to know.

Tyler had heard the news during class, shocking him out of the afternoon stupor. His professor started the lesson with a discussion about reports pouring in about a German plane that had crashed into the Alps. Planes don’t crash themselves, people said. The class began to speculate, and speculation is never good for a person’s brain when family is concerned.

A prerecorded message played in Tyler’s ear as the door clicked open: “Hi, this is Mike Stillwell. I’m unable-” Tyler hung up, tossing his phone on the couch and reached into the fridge for a Miller Lite. They hadn’t talked in a couple weeks. Tyler had meant to call him, but between presentations, tests, and clubs it just hadn’t happened. The aluminum can popped open, and he downed half of it in three gulps.

He picked up his phone, trolling Facebook and Twitter for the newest stories. He put his shaking hand in his pocket. CNN and the Associated Press both claimed they had evidence the copilot had crashed the plane. Who would do something like that? Why?

The last thing Tyler remembered saying to his Dad was something about a birthday present for his sister. That was how most of those calls went. Never too significant, just catching up sort of stuff. Tyler hadn’t told him about the guy he had been talking about marriage with or the summer internship he had landed with Deloitte in New York. What if he never could?

His phone buzzed. An email from his Dad popped up at the top of the screen: Caught in traffic, missed my flight. Stuck here one more day.

Tyler let out a sigh, then started laughing to himself. He took another sip of his beer and simply responded: Glad to hear it. Let’s talk tomorrow, there’s been a lot going on.

Their Story Part 2: Her Story

The coffee burned as it splashed all over her chest and face. Maybe if she hadn’t stayed up so late the night before talking with Keisha about putting herself out there soon she might have been more alert and avoided him. She could hear his clear voice apologizing again and again despite her insistence that everything was okay. It was only when she met his familiar hazel eyes that she recognized him.

Even though she knew he was always destined to work in a place like this, wearing freshly ironed slacks and a crisp shirt under his dark wool coat, it was still a surprise to see him here. To see him now. She had to tell him. It had been long enough. Instead, she looked down at the spreading puddle of coffee, smiled a little, said “Sorry about that” and turned toward the elevators.

Seconds later she heard him shout “Wait!” as he grabbed her arm.

She turned back and looked at him, remembering the last time he had grabbed her arm so fiercely, two years ago. His nut brown hair had grown out since last she saw him. It wasn’t that long, truly, but he had definitely stopped taking clippers to himself liked he did in school. He was offering her the napkins in his hands from the coffee he’d spilt; some of them were even dry. “Hey” she said with an air of courtesy as she took the napkins to clean herself up. She was so focused on getting away from him that she hadn’t even noticed how much coffee had stained her blouse, and she tried to clean up the mess on her shirt. She had another one upstairs, it’s okay. “Can you let go of me, please?”

He released her arm, apologizing again. For over a year now she had to tell him: My therapist thought that it might be better to tell you in person, that’s why I never responded to the letter from after that night. You hurt me. It may not have been fair of me to hide my problems from you, but what you did was completely unacceptable. It broke my heart- you broke my heart. Standing before her covered in coffee, however, she could tell she didn’t have to say anything. His guilt was as palpable as that night two years ago.

At first she was about as shocked by their chance encounter as when she saw the naked girl straddling him. It had worn off quickly in the lobby today, though, and she turned away quickly. The elevator opened with a chime, and she strode in without a backwards glance. Someone next to her said “Oh my god, the look on that poor guy’s face. Out in the lobby, with the spilled coffee. You’d think he’d seen a ghost.” In a way, he had just seen a ghost. She wasn’t the emotionally distraught, confused girl she had been two years ago.

She pressed the button for floor seventeen just as the doors started to close. Her phone buzzed in her purse, and she pulled it out to answer the call from Kiesha. “Hey…I’m good, thanks. Listen, about last night…no, no, it was exactly what I needed. Actually, I feel pretty good about tonight. I know, a blind date can be pretty scary, especially today of all days, but I’ve gotta get back out there sometime. Thanks for setting it up.” The elevator opened on her floor, and the moment she walked out her boss waved for her. “I’m sorry, my boss is calling me. I’ll let you know how tonight goes!”

She put her phone back in her purse and set it down in her cubicle before walking across the floor to her boss’ office. Two years ago today she’d had her heart broken. If she hadn’t been so wrapped up in her own problems, if she had just talked to him- no, she wouldn’t think about it. It happened. There was no point thinking about it anymore.

She stopped near the window to look at her reflection. There were red burns from the coffee, almost like a sunburn, on her nose and cheeks. It wasn’t the best look. She smiled, knowing she’d have to do something about this before tonight. A blind date on Valentine’s Day. Hopefully this one would yield better memories.

Their Story Part 1: His Story

The coffee in his hands splashed all over both of them and fell to the floor as he ran into her. This would cost him; if there was one thing Mr. Bradford despised, it was the failure of having his afternoon coffee presented precisely at 12:45. That was why he fired his last PA. As he was cleaning up the mess he’d made and stammering apologies, he looked up…and froze. After two years of grief and brooding and “figuring it out”, this was the last place he expected to see her.

Even with coffee dripping from her nose and coat, she still managed to look as graceful as the day he had first met her. It didn’t matter that she had cut her auburn hair to below her shoulders, or that she was wearing heels (she never used to wear heels, even when the occasion demanded). There was no mistaking her crooked, endearing smile or her gorgeous brown eyes. As recognition kindled behind those eyes, she gave a sheepish smile, apologized, and walked off towards the queue forming up near the elevators.

He knew he wouldn’t get another chance, knew he was finally ready for the opportunity presented before him. He abandoned the coffees spreading across the floor and rushed over to her. “Wait!” he cried, grabbing her arm before she could get on the elevator.

She turned back and looked at him. He offered her the napkins in his hands from the coffee he’d spilt. “Hey” she said with an air of courtesy as she took the napkins to clean herself up. “Can you let go of me, please?”

Her words shocked him out of his trance, and he quickly relinquished his grip. He wasn’t nearly that quick two years ago as she stormed out of his apartment, clinging much more desperately as he realized the gravity of his mistake that night. “Sorry” he said. The next words caught in his throat: “I’m sorry. I needed to talk to you over and over, but you weren’t there. That’s when she came in. She listened to me, seemed to want me in a way you hadn’t in weeks. Nothing can make up for my mistake, and I’m sorry I hurt you. I don’t want your forgiveness, I just need to tell you this.” Two months ago he had finally figured out how to say what he couldn’t say two years ago, and yet now that the moment was upon him it seemed to drag on as he remembered that unfortunate night.

The moment seemed to linger for him, but not for her. At first she was as visibly shocked by the chance encounter as when she saw the naked girl straddling him. It had worn off quickly in the lobby today, though, and she turned towards the elevator. If he looked carefully he could just make out the emotionally distraught, confused girl hiding within the stained blouse and black pencil skirt.

His phone started buzzing. Mr. Bradford was on the other end, inquiring politely- not shouting, he would never shout- about his coffee. “The line was longer than I expected, sir. It’ll be just a few more minutes. Yes sir, I can make sure to get it sooner next time. It won’t happen again.” He walked into the cold streets, and remembered that it was exactly two years ago that he had prepared an incredible night for her, his attempt to make her feel better and get her to open up. She didn’t show up, but the other girl did when he asked. It would have been perfect if she had come over…

The biting February winds forced him to turn up the collar on his jacket, and he knew it would be another quiet Valentine’s Day for him. Quiet was better than the last time he’d had someone to share this day with.

.