Below you will find the results of my having challenged myself for a number of days to write a short story with a beginning and middle and an end inside of 30 minutes. Here is what I came up with. I hope you like it.
“Where the hell is Johnston Atoll?”
“I don’t know. Look at the map.”
“I’m looking at the map, and I don’t see Johnston Atoll, which is why I’m asking.”
The men extinguished their cigarettes and, again, loosened their neckties.
“I’m looking at this map, and I can’t find Johnston Atoll. I can find Fiji and I can find Sri Lanka…”
“…but I can’t find Johnston Atoll. What gives?”
One man, the man often pressed to settle arguments, a laconic man who had seen a great deal in his life, jabbed his finger at the map. The thin paper reverberated at the gesture.
“There’s Johnston Atoll!”
“That’s not Johnston Atoll. That’s Canada!”
Their respect for him lessened, slightly.
“How much did we pay for this map?”
“Wasn’t too expensive.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that! They neglected to include Johnston Atoll on the thing, so I hope we got a discount.”
“Is that Johnston Atoll?”
“No. Those are the Hebrides.”
“Are you sure?”
“It says so on the map.”
“Well, the cartographers forgot Johnston Atoll, so it’s not like they have a sterling record.”
“Well, those are the Hebrides. I can assure you.”
One man pointed his pipe, stem first, towards the ceiling.
“Maybe Johnston Atoll is gone?”
“Yes. Perhaps it sank, or was wiped off the face of the Earth by a foreign power?”
“Johnston Atoll is an unincoporated territory of The United States. If the damned thing sank or was shelled into vapor, we damned well would have heard about it.”
“We’ve been in this bomb shelter for quite a while.”
“I am aware that. I’ve been here the whole time, myself, and I feel confident that if Johnston Atoll were incinerated we would have heard about it, even in our reduced circumstances. I don’t think it’s a case of Johnston Atoll, the physical location, vanishing…”
“…in which case the map would be accurate…”
“…so much as we’ve got ourselves a second rate map, here…”
“Maybe we should call Johnston Atoll?”
Eyebrows were raised. A moment of silence.
“Do they even have phones in Johnston Atoll? I thought they were just running around in woods with blow darts.”
“Sounds bloody expensive, if you ask me.”
“Seems worth it, no matter how outlandish the cost.”
“Rather than calling Johnston Atoll, we could call someone with a very trustworthy map and ask them.”
At that moment, a knock was heard at the door of the bomb shelter. A muffled voice followed in short order.
“You guys gotta move your cars, we’re plowing the parking lot.”