Be careful what you wish for.
(word count 300)
There was a time when nobody asked for your opinion. Why would they? Who would think you had anything to say? You lived quietly. Peacefully. You would sit in White Castle, enjoy a fresh coffee, and sketch the bus stop or jot a few lines of verse. Surrounded by blinding white porcelain, you were alone with your thoughts. Battling the alone part.
It's not that you went completely unnoticed. The bums noticed you were a soft touch. The counter girls always smiled giving you a large cup for your medium coffee. The cops who came in flirting loudly with the girls; they noticed you. They made a point of noticing you. One would always turn, rest his palms on his pistol belt, and stare at you for a full two minutes. You ignored them all; eventually they went away.
But, that was before. Before the State Dept of Education decided to "inspire our youth" with poetry. Before you sent in a piece you didn't even like. Before they loved it. One month later you are the focus of the campaign. Three months after that you're short-listed for poet laureate of New Jersey, University Press publishes a collection of your short stories, Simon-Schuster offers a three book deal, and then you're on Jimmy Kimmel trying to say something clever about art.
Now, four years later, it's two a.m. and you're sitting in White Castle. The coffee is excellent. You're wearing a red hoodie and sunglasses. You look like the unabomber. You just need to get your head together before the movie premieres. To sort things out. To collect your thoughts.
"Aren't you Wendell Payne? The writer?" The girl asking slides herself across from you.
"Knew it! So, tell me, honestly, what do you think of Dean Koontz?"