Pet Peeves

“The difference is, I lie for a reason.”

No way. No. Flipping. Way. Did she just say that? She really did. I thought we were friends. Best friends, even. I’m so angry I don’t even know what to say. I guess some people have no concept of honesty, loyalty, respect, that sort of thing. All I can do is just stare at her, speechless.

I can’t even believe we’re having this argument. It started over something so unbelievably stupid it hardly bears repeating. She came home unexpectedly. She’s usually pretty predictable; that’s one of the things I like about her. I had decided to take a nap while she was out and I was crashed pretty hard when all of a sudden I heard a key in the lock. I snapped awake in an instant. “Oh, crap!” I thought, leaping to my feet just as the door opened. See, I learned a long time ago that my roommate will absolutely flip out if she finds me in her chair. Of all the stupid things, right? Now me, I could sit anywhere: couch, chair, floor, park bench, who cares? You’re tired, you sit. Well, to her, it’s important.

I’m standing there nonchalantly stretching out the kinks when she walks around the corner. She takes one glance at me and somehow she knows I’ve been sitting in her stupid chair. You’ll never believe this, but she actually walked across the room, without a word, and put her hand on the seat to see if it was warm. What a crazy bitch. Now, I love her like family, but who does that?

You can understand that I wasn’t at my best, having just woken up. At least I had the presence of mind not to say anything right then, just let her vent. I wandered into the kitchen to get a drink as the yelling started. “Don’t pretend you weren’t in my chair! There’s no point in lying about it!” It’s true, there wasn’t. And I was guilty. And I did know better. I was still fuming about her reaction, though.

It wasn’t like she was perfect, you know? For example, she knows I like to sit near the window and watch the birds. Sometimes she’ll just up and close the curtains in the middle of the day for no reason. It’s like she’s trying to piss me off.

And there was that time we ran out of food, which was totally her fault! Now hear me out; yes, I could feed myself if I had to. I’m not completely useless. However, grocery shopping is her responsibility. She knows it, I know it, that’s how it’s been since I moved in 7 years ago. I’d say that running out of food is a little bit more important than who sits down where, but that’s just me.

She lies, too. All the time. At least once a week she’ll come home late, reeking of grease and alcohol, but acting like it was just another day at work. I know she’s been partying, though.

I’m just a regular guy, brown hair, brown eyes, average build, pretty easy going, still on the right side of middle age. I like to go out, too. Has she ever invited me? Not once. It’s like she’s hiding me from her friends or something. We almost never go out together. Well, there was that one time, but I was so sick I didn’t really know what was going on. She told me we were just going down to the park to get a little fresh air, and the next thing I know I’m at the doctor’s office. Another lie! Did I mention how much I hate doctors?

So despite my best efforts, I’m getting a little worked up at this point just remembering each little slight. Meanwhile, she’s “Blah, blah, blah,” on and on about trust or something. That’s when she said that she lies for a reason. What a load of crap.

Speaking of which, I’m feeling the call of nature after that drink. I wonder if she can get over herself long enough to grab my leash and take me out for a walk now.

Author’s Note:

Having decided to see if I could write on demand as well as just for fun, I flipped through the November/December 2015 Writer’s Digest and found a free contest (Your Story #70). They provided the opening sentence, above, and the contestants would complete the story within 700 words.
I was stumped for a couple of minutes, not particularly inspired by the opening sentence. I had just begun listing out some ideas for fiction plots when my dog started barking. He had spotted something moving outside and I closed the curtain to quiet him (never works, but I always try).
Suddenly I had a nonfiction idea. The story above describes a typical interaction between us. I had to write it from his perspective so that I could use the opening line that was provided.
I don’t think this is the best example of my work, but I was thrilled to discover that I could indeed write on demand. If this entry wins the contest I’ll put it in the Published page.

Tragedy in White Center

I didn’t mean to kill him.

I first saw him standing there by the side of the road. Young, but thin, hairy, and unwashed, it was clear he had seen better days. I could tell he was going to jaywalk before he took the first step into the road. I probably would have too. It was a clear, sunny morning, full of promise. Traffic was light this early; in fact I was the only car on this stretch of road.

I usually would have been home watching the news over breakfast at that hour, but I had gone to yoga class that morning and was on my way home. I was feeling peaceful and calm from the class and from the music I was listening to on the radio. I was in no hurry to get home so I was moving at a conservative speed.

I saw him begin to cross; he didn’t even look. He suddenly paused when he reached the center-line, apparently racked with indecision. I slowed to a crawl, wondering what his next move would be. He seemed oblivious to my presence. As I drew up alongside him, he turned toward me as if to return in the direction he had come from. Suddenly seeing me, he backed up, startled, into the oncoming lane. There was a car approaching from behind me, but the oncoming lane was still clear of traffic.

Just as I accelerated to continue on my way, he either decided he could make it back if he hurried or else realized that this could be his opportunity to end it all. His life on the streets, scrounging for food, couldn’t have been an easy one. I’ll never know the reason for that tragic choice because the next thing I felt was my tire thumping over the body and what I imagined to be the snapping of bones.

I immediately hit the brakes as I checked the side mirror. Horrified, I watched as his scrawny body writhed in agony in the middle of the road. His slow, tortured circles continuing until he faded from sight in my mirror. A hard death preceded by a hard life. Poor squirrel. Rest in peace, little guy.

Author’s Note:

This is the story that began it all. The event happened just as I’ve described it. I got home and went to work as usual, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about that last image. I decided to write about it as therapy.
I submitted it to Writer’s Digest on 11/14/15 for a Short Short Story Contest, under the title Bloodshed. If it wins, you can find it on the Published page of this site. If not, I’ll try it again with a different contest.
I think it turned out pretty well. What do you think?

2/1/16 Update – I also submitted this for the 12th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest from Geist. Winners from the Writer’s Digest contest are to be announced at the end of February. The Geist contest winners will be announced in the Summer issue.