There are two similar stories with different endings, A small world after all.
| Leave Them Guessing
The assignment for the class was to write about our greatest fear. I had picked up a writing class at the local college during the winter months to keep my mind busy. As a newly hatched empty nester, it seemed important to pursue my own interests for a time. With it having been more years than I could count since my last classroom experience, I cleared my mind of the dust particles and attempted to embrace the newness of the opportunities available. Armed with my newfangled laptop, an I-phone, and state of the art ear-buds, I hoped to fit in with the younger set or at least keep up with them. I tossed away any misconceptions of what was and steeled myself to accept the new without allowing myself to be overwhelmed. This was meant to be a fun class and my housing and parent approval were not contingent on the outcome. Since payment for the class was coming from my own hoarded funds, defeat was not an option.
I had entered the classroom to find an unexpected group of individuals. There were no jean-clad, dandruff shaking, eye-rolling teenagers present. I was the only person wearing blue-jeans and my daughter had surely learned her perfected eye-roll from her mama. The group consisted of middle-aged housewives, retired look-alike-accountants, and bored granny knitting former care-taker types. I assured myself that I was none of the above mentioned, because I was a child of the 60's eager to learn and grow. They sat in refurbished desks, once considered oversized in their youth, and now bowed by the extra weight of girth and middle-aged blubber, timid in their expectations of the classroom experience. The quiet of the room was deafening with each of them casting their own solitary cell of unapproachable, self-absorbed shadow of fear. Without meaning to, I could feel my eyes circling in their orbits.
The professor entered the room and all eyes came to rest on the three-piece suited man before us. His suit was plaid and his tie was striped. His belly poked out slightly below the pointing of his vest. The receding hair on his head had been replaced by the furry muskrat on top of his lip. The finger-painted smudges of his glasses made it hard to distinguish eye color, but the bushy wisps of his eyebrows above the frames resembled the muskrat in their grey and unruly nature. My internal guestimation of his portly stature was five-foot-seven. When he spoke, a nasal-monotone trill ensued, bringing a wallaby in heat to mind. I determined quickly that getting past the voice and focusing on his message would be my difficulty. I chastised myself as my eyes began to spin wildly in my head.
"Writing," he said "is what we came to do."
As he traipsed across the front of the room, we heard the distinct sound of music resonating from the ceiling tiles of the room. It was the easily recognizable tolling of doom played on the organ of every low budget story ever told. Dun-dun-dun-duuuun, the famous tune of notoriety, peeled from the rafters above our heads. The music stirred us to the edge of our seats in expectation of things to come. We eyed the man warily as he walked towards the door pinching his thumb and forefinger together while waving them in the air to gain our attention. He brought the fingers down slowly and turned the lock on the door in dramatic fashion. He pushed at the door to emphasize our entrapment.
"Did anyone hear music? Were you frightened when I locked the door?" asked the man.
The nervous twitter of hesitant laughter was our group's response.
"The story should never let the readers in on the surprise, until the very end!" he cried out in an ear-piercing shriek. We jumped in our seats from the unexpected assault of noise thrown at us. Suddenly, his voice had conjured a vision of my greatest fear, that of a psychotic professor.
He snapped his fingers and the room grew dark. The only hint of light came from a partially open window in the corner, causing the shadows to cast an eerie hue on the man wearing plaid. The muskrat on his lip now resembled the haunting picture of earth worms crawling in and out of the corpses in the infamous song of my youth. I shivered at the thought of worms playing pinochle near the vicinity of his snout. .
"Always, keep them guessing," he shouted.
And before our very eyes, lush and velvety vines began to sprout from the man's bald scalp. The greenery grew at an accelerated rate, touching the floor in the blink of an eye.
The room was hushed by the events.
"See, catching the reader off guard, is always the way to go!"
He snapped his fingers once again and the room returned to its previous state. The lights flickered on, the music ceased, and the door stood open. The illusion of worms disintegrated and the vines shriveled to dust. The fat plaid man appeared uninteresting once more.
"That is what a good writer does well. He captures the attention of the reader and involves them in the story. An author puts on a show and invites the magic into our hearts. And I would be remiss in not telling you that you can catch my magic act in the campus auditorium every Friday at seven o'clock."
We were all too stunned to react at first, but slowly and one by one we began to clap, until it became a thunderous applause for his performance. He took a bow and smiled a dimpled cheek grin that made the muskrat dance again. The portly man stood proud and I was somewhat irritated. I hadn't signed up for magic lessons. I wanted to be a writer.
He moved about the room shaking hands extended by the students. He seemed to gloat in his glory and it angered me.
"Man, this guy's great. Maybe it won't be a boring class after all," whispered the man in the desk beside me.
I glanced in the man's direction trying to size him up. He appeared to be a skinnier and better dressed version of the teacher. His male patterned baldness and bushy eyebrows matched, but he sported a neatly trimmed beard instead of the muskrat mustache. His khaki's were a dull colored tan and his checkered shirt carried random paisley spermatozoa markings within the checkers. His round wireframe glasses seemed free of smudges and his eyes were ocean blue. There was a steady calm in his gaze but a restless tone in his mannerisms. I pegged him as a weekday accountant and week-end musician. I knew that I wasn't a fan of his taste if he was a fan of the Professor.
The Professor cleared his throat and the room fell silent. It made me angry that they were so easily enamored by his theatrics.
"Alright, let's all get comfortable. We have much more work to do today," he said.
He approached a woman seated at the front of class. It was a woman in her mid-fifties with bleached out hair and tawny wrinkled skin. She wore an expensive looking flowered dress on her plump figure and pearls with little diamonds at her throat that seemed to choke the blood flow of the arteries in her neck. The resulting tint of color on her face from the necklace advertized the blue shade of her blood. Fake eyelashes, weighted by length, made it difficult for her to fully open her eyes. She whimsically batted them at the Professor as he neared. It irked me that she wore more rings on her fingers than I owned. The portrait of Maleficent flashed through my head as I deemed the woman an unsavory and unlikable character to my story.
"Do you have a story to tell?" the plaid-clad man asked.
She giggled and then hemmed and hawed before regaling us with her tale.
"My husband owns Omni Motors on the south side. I like to put my feelings down on paper in my spare moments. I thought it would be fun to write a book. Oh yes, my name is Audrey."
"Well, I suppose that is a start, the desire to write."
He found it hard to hide the disdain for the woman. His facial expression oozed with displeasure. He moved on, inviting others to speak. He yawned with his boredom of the student's weary recital of facts. He cleared his throat again and like magic they were stifled.
"Now, is there anyone in this room that can captivate us with their tale?"
I raised my hand and so did the blue-eyed accountant type. The professor first chose the man to tell his story.
'May I come to the front of the room?' he asked.
His tactic garnered the Professor's interest.
"Yes, please do," he said, as he waved a welcoming invite.
He started talking while he walked. "My name is Fred. I look like a simple and ordinary man. There is nothing extraordinary about me at first glance. I am a man of few words. My story is told by the actions I take."
He steadied himself once he reached the center of the room. I could visualize the slight tremble of his hands as he spoke. He was a man unused to speaking in front of people and his nervousness showed. The voice was vibrant but controlled. He strolled to the door and slammed it shut with a threatening force. The lock turned freely in his hand. He had commanded their attention and I was a bit jealous. He called to the professor to join him on his stage. The muskrat man obliged, eager to be part of the story.
"There is no mystery written in the pages of my life," he continued.
"I am a man destined to write the great American novel. I shall write it from the viewpoint of a slayer of dragons."
He paused for dramatic effect and hoped for the audience's clarity of his statement It was obvious that more explanation was needed.
"I like blood and the spilling of it intrigues me. The scent of it is invigorating!"
He pulled from the pocket of his checkered shirt a very large knife and he pounded it into the chest of the nearby Professor for explanation of his saga. Magic would be needed to stall the spurting of blood from the man's cavity. The red goo splattered onto the tiled floor obliterating the lines of color. The Professor fell with a surprised look of death stamped on his face. The accountant eviscerated the man while bending over him, making the plaid suit seem less loud and obnoxious. I couldn't help but be captivated by his story.
The others screamed in their terror.
"My story is that of a mass murderer. Did I manage to enthrall you? 'he asked as he swiped at the tawny-skinned woman in the front seat with his knife.
"Wait," I screamed into the air.
With my loud but quivering voice, I had managed to get his attention. I pulled from my purse the blade that I often carried. I raised my hand like a good student should with questions or concerns. I sliced at the throat of the woman beside me causing her carotid to burst. I sniffed at the air to enjoy the aroma.
"I want to be part of the story too." I muttered.
"Always leave them guessing!" the accountant slash musician said.
Word Count 1923