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.
Starbucks opened at 530 in the morning. That’s about when he’d show up. Playfully give the staff some guff about how’d he been waiting outside for them to open.
“Can I have a wittle wack?” he’d ask. The kids behind the counter probably didn’t even know who Red Skelton was, so the impersonation was lost on them. He’d explain it to them, one day. Maybe if he found a youngster who might appreciate it.
He’d sit down at the long table in the middle of the place and wait for his tall black to cool off. Those kids made good coffee, but it was hot like lava.
He bought pencils by the dozens, in small boxes, from an office supply store. No. 2 pencils like they had taught him to use. Brooklyn Technical High School. Valedictorian. Class of 1956.
Then he went into The Air Force. Then he went to Berkeley. After that, Harvard Divinity. Then working for Bobby Kennedy, briefly. The kids at Starbucks didn’t care about Bobby Kennedy, if they even knew who he was.
He’d open up his notebook and start working on the next day’s sermon. Around 7:30 or so, the mainstream would start showing up with their laptops. Moving chairs around like it was a game, looking for electrical outlets.
He’d stay until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, nursing that bottomless cup of coffee and doing his best to keep his flock alert.
He’d carefully scratch away at his homily, retiring pencils at the rate of one an hour. He’d asked the manager if he could use their pencil sharpener, the one in the office. After a few times, he simply asked if he could write in their office. They declined. Kids could be selfish.
On Thursday afternoon, he’d written 9 pages, longhand.
A youngish woman, an attorney, probably, was trying to untangle the power cord that wrapped around her computer.
She puffed like she was running a marathon.
“I think the jack is broken,” she whined.
He held up his pencil, like it was a beacon.
“My computer never breaks,” he said, eyeing the yellow writing implement he held between his fingers.
She smiled a tight little smile and walked to a different section of the shop. Maybe she’ll remember this, he hoped.
He finished off his homily, about the bravery of Martin Luther, at 3:45.
He lifted himself out of the chair; his hipbones crackled and clicked. He remembered all the push-up and sit-up contests he’d challenged his sons to in the 1970s. He always won.
He wafted over to the girl at the counter. He pointed at the mug.
“Can I have a wittle wack? Refill.” The girl was struggling with the register. He wasn’t sure she’d heard him, but he had to use the restroom. He’d straighten it all out when he returned.
After a satisfactory emptying of his bladder, he returned to the table.
The coffee mug was there.
The notebook wasn’t.
Gone. Nine pages. Handwritten. Gone.
He felt his heart expand in his chest, like it was filling with cold water.
On the table, in place of the notebook, was a single No. 2 pencil, broken in half.