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.
He hadn’t dressed appropriately for the first day of work. He’d worn new khakis and a linen oxford. Turns out, his boss at the zoo was starting him out in the penguin enclosure.
He stood on the artificial iceberg, surrounded by clear blue water and several dozen suspicious penguins. They surveyed him with their beady, expressionless eyes and they honked with dissatisfaction.
After standing there for close to half an hour, he saw his boss emerge from behind a steel door at the other end of the vast environment. His boss wore a winter parka and clutched a steaming cup of what was presumably coffee.
“You must be cold,” exclaimed the boss, by way of greeting.
“Yeah, I didn’t know.”
”Bring a bigger jacket, tomorrow.”
The penguins, moving as a giant flat blot, oozed aside to let his boss come through.
“You got a clipboard,” the boss asked.
”You got a magic marker?”
”Great. Let’s get started. Did the temp agency tell you anything?”
”OK, you’re here to write down what color the bottoms of the penguins are.”
”See, the way penguins are constructed, their bottoms are always flat on the ice, which makes it impossible for us to tell what color their bottoms are…”
The boss continued, “So what you do is you pick up a penguin with both hands; turn the penguin completely upside-down; determine what color the bottom of the penguin is, likely black or white; then you write the results down on that clipboard.”
”I see. Has anyone ever done this before?”
”Not in about a year. Now, obviously the first problem you’re going to encounter is that all penguins are virtually identical. There are some minor superficial distinctions, but they mostly look like small black and white birds that waddle around and are chubby.”
”So, to avoid checking the same penguin twice, or even three or four times, you’re going to draw a checkmark on their soft white tummies with that magic marker. That way you’ll know which ones have been inspected.”
”Do the penguins know that I’ll be doing this?”
”I don’t know what the penguins are thinking.”
He rephrased the question…
”I mean, are they going to get upset when I start turning them upside down and drawing on them?”
”They have in the past, yes, but they get used to it very quickly. Did you bring work gloves?”
”Oh, I’m sure you will.”
The penguins quacked softy amongst each other.
The boss blew on his coffee before speaking.
“What did you do before you signed up at the temp agency?”
”I worked in an occult bookstore.”
The boss thought for a moment.
“I wonder which demon or spirit you offended.”