Wednesday, April 2, 2008

OMG fickshuns!

So, I attended the first class of a creative writing workshop today, and we did a writing assignment in class. I'm proud enough of it to share it here, with as few changes from the original as possible as I may eventually do a real second draft. So here you go (I'll post the prompt after the story).

In retrospect, I feel like there should have been some kind of application process. At the time, I was just amused by the experience, but now I think perhaps they should have been more selective. After all, the entire future is at stake.

The ad stood out from its fellows in the classifieds section of the newspaper with its bold, capitalized type that drew attention to its unusual choice of words which were--to me--impossible to ignore:


An address followed, a street name I recognized but couldn't place.

I chuckled to myself and continued reading the page, but my eyes kept straying back up to the peculiar notice. The first part sounded corny, like something you'd read on a motivational poster, or inscribed on a paperweight. Maybe it was some generic self-help seminar or something like that.

But that last line, "First come first serve..." That didn't sound like a registration policy for an empowerment group.

My interest was by then fully piqued, and since I was taking some time off work--okay, so not exactly by choice--my afternoon was free to pursue this mystery.

It was a simple transaction. I approached the clerk's window, said I had seen the ad.

And are you interested? they asked.

Sure, I said. How much?

Seventy-five dollars, came the reply.

Did they take checks? They did.

A few minutes later, a certificate was handed to me which read: "The FUTURE belongs to" with my name written after in nice-looking calligraphy. It was dated at the bottom and signed in an illegible hand. I thanked them and left with my purchase.

I now feel like they undercharged--seventy-five dollars is a steal, not much of an investment, considering what I was investing in.

At the time, though, I felt like I had just dropped a whole lot of money--no job, remember?--on a cute little joke. To make myself feel better, I decided to make the best of things: I'd pretend the certificate was legitimate. My future was in my hands, and the possibilities were endless. This frame of mind cheered me, and I returned home with my prize.

You wouldn't believe the changes that occured over the next couple of weeks. I got a new job, much better than my old one, with a lot of responsibility and a chance for upward mobility. One of the local papers--the one that had printed that ad, actually--picked up my comic strip for a two-year contract. I found a boyfriend with a maturity level actually resembling that of an adult; he owned the bookstore where I browse. We moved in together a month later. Everything was looking up, and I became content. I stopped worrying about the future.

And so did everyone else, apparently. I first noticed something was wrong when the grocery store began to run out of things all the time, the empty shelves drawing my gaze as I pushed my cart down the isles. Then the kinds of stories appearing in the news changed--fewer and fewer accounts of progress and more of wastefulness, thoughtless accidents, worsening political climates. Despite these tragedies, the people I passed in the street and in bars, restaurants and shops seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, utterly carefree, skipping work to buy things they didn't really need, romancing whoever caught their eyes, no thought to the future at all.

It took me a little longer to remember the certificate of purchase I had received months before. I managed to dig it out from under the growing pile of invoices and backorders in the office of Doug's bookstore.

"The FUTURE," it read. "The FUTURE belongs to Justine Coral."

Why hadn't it been obvious? Had I been so selfish as not to notice what it really said? And why was the price so small when the cost could be so large? Why hadn't there been a screening process, a single question to gauge responsibility, to judge character?

And what was I supposed to do now?

I don't go to work anymore; I had to quit my regular job. I stay home a lot of the time, just willing cogs to keep on turning. If I'm in a particularly good mood, I'll wander through the park, urging buds to sprout, and something new and exciting has a good chance of happening that day. Most days, though, I just have to make sure life is still moving forward, that someone is thinking about what is still to come.

Because it isn't fair, but the future belongs to me; I am its caretaker. If you think you can do a better job, it's yours. But there's an application to fill out this time, and I don't take checks.

(We were presented with a selection of objects purchased at the dollar store, one of which was a ceramic plaque decorated with flowers which read "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.")

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