College Covid

Number ## in 30 in 30, a series of writing challenges. Over the course of 30 days (sometimes even in a row!), I will draft a post within 30 minutes. This 30-day theme is: News Stories. Today’s writing was inspired by XXX.

Welcome, freshmen and returning students, to the best years of your life, filled with new freedoms, adventures, and – of course – knowledge. Your very first time living away from your parents, out from under their thumbs, their rules. We are so glad you have elected to come to campus even though we are offering significantly safer courses online.

As you explore this new world, please keep the following rule in mind: do not come within six feet of anyone, ever.

Please maintain this distance even in your dorm rooms. We have provided six foot wooden sticks in every room to help you ensure proper distance. Each of you hold one end of the stick at all times when in the room together. Easy! Think of it as your own little danse macabre. How fun!

Oh, and while sleeping, please ensure that you are facing away from each other. And wear a mask.

In fact, just wear a mask at all times. Including – even especially – in the dorm showers. Those things gave up a long time ago on preventing anything: athlete’s foot, herpes, and now Covid.

Outside of the dorm, all activities and parties – formal and informal – have been cancelled and are prohibited. All that new found freedom has to be used for solo undertakings only.

Which brings me us to sex. Masturbation only, please. As I said: solo activities. This is an immensely reasonable rule, and we are confident that you will all comply.

That’s it! So in summary: stay from everyone, stay alone, fuck yourself, and wear those masks!

Have a great year!

Oh! One quick announcement: Campus will be closing today at 5PM due to a coronavirus outbreak among on-campus faculty. Please pack up your things and leave immediately.

Thank you!

The Kitchen

The kitchen should have looked different after she left. There was no teenage daughter grating the cheese, sitting on the counter, even though she knew her dad hated it. The off-white counters imperceptibly scratched by her jeans. Mom ran her fingers over the marks only she could see before wiping them down before bed. Eighteen years in this kitchen with Julie at her feet, at her hip, at the stove, and on the counters. The kitchen wasn’t changed without her, it would wait patiently for Thanksgiving when new stories would fill it.

The air in the kitchen was bubbly. Mom wondered if Julie was remembering to breathe as she talked through the first semester. The phone calls hadn’t been enough to really capture it. The friends, the seasons, the air, the classes. Julie rolled out the pie crust over her scratches, grinding the dusted flour in. Mom shared her stories at the stove, making the filling, but left a few key details out.

She scrubbed at the counter-top. Grimed of some form had settled into the seams and scratches. They couldn’t afford to replace it while Julie finished college. Elbow grease and stubbornness would get it looking like new. Julie han’t come home for the summer, like Mom had hoped. Her internship was in a different city, a different state. Thanksgiving was out as well. She was heading to a professor’s house or doing a dorm meal. Something. College was supposed to be exciting and new experiences, but Mom wanted her little girl home. Just for a few days. Mom ran her right nail into Julie’s scratches, coaxing out whatever green gunk had gotten in there.

Julie sat on the counter over her scratches, kicking the cabinets, eyes glued to her phone. Mom’s attempts to get a story or some help were met with mild acknowledgment of her existence. The vegan sausages, carefully separated from the others, started to smoke, asking to be turned. “Julie! Please put the phone down and make a salad for dinner!” Julie’s parents-are-so-whatever sigh harmonized with scraping across the counter as she slid off. “Watch the counters!” “Why? Their gross, Mom. That looks like mold.” Julie’s scratches had turned black.

Mom hadn’t been able to stop sliding her hands across the new granite counter-tops. They were unbelievable smooth. She ran her fingers over it mindlessly as she watched her daughter, trying not to stare. Julie sat at the kitchen table, phone down, looking out the window. No sitting in jeans on the counters this time. “That’s okay, Mom, I can just sit here.” She’d been home for a month, not talking more than yes and no and I don’t want to talk about that right now. Mom ached to fix whatever had happened. She’d somehow thought just getting her baby home would do it.

The nicks in the counter were from wear and tear but had ended up on the same piece of counter-top real estate where Julie’s had been. She was home from her new job in the city. Close enough to visit but far enough to be separate. Mom sat at the table, as Julie made dinner. Still quiet in the kitchen, but the job was there to ground her, to give her something safe to discuss. She was doing well, getting back on her feet, planning for what was next. Mom listened.

Julie wiped down the kitchen counters and looked around at the boxes. Mom finished labeling them and surveyed the space. Julie’s partner and son were out in the yard, staying mostly out of the way and out of trouble. Mom opened the fridge and pulled out last thing left. She tossed the wine cork into the trash bag, hopped up on the counter, scratching her jeans along it. After taking a long swig, she patted the space next to her, and Julie jumped up. Julie leaned into her mom and rested her head on her shoulder. “I’m gonna miss this place.” Mom handed her the wine bottle. “Yeah, me too.”

 

Story inspired by this prompt.

Transition: (Final) Day 31 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today, the final day of the challenge, the prompt is to write a story of transition.


The hood of the car dipped under the weight. They leaned back and let the car hold them as they search for shooting stars. Tomorrow she would leave. Tomorrow was a new life, a new person she got to become. She’d miss the creative writing classes and contests. They were part of her childhood, and it was time to put childish things away. She could still write on her own or something if she wanted to.
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215: Day 30 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt is the number 215. This story is a start, and it is on my list to keep writing into a full story.


Everyone gets 215, then they die. We know that. What we don’t know is: 215 of what? Some people’s 215 seem obvious: car crashes, black-out drunk nights, heartbeats. People that’ve figured it out tattoo their visible skin: hands, feet, necks, heads. People whose loved ones’ 215 happened too fast tattoo their hidden skin. The most tragic stories push out into daylight.

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Non-linear: Day 21 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt is to write a non-linear story. I went with the internal monologue style.


I have an apartment. Movers. Well, Craigslisters to move me. Because – ha! – I have no money. And no friends. Why didn’t I make him pay rent? Or pay for something. ANYTHING. He was getting unemployment. It’s not like he had nothing.

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Dialogue: Day 12 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt is to write a scene entirely or mostly in dialogue. I am revisiting characters from Day 6 and taking them out to dinner.


JACKIE:     So this place is cheap but really good. I –

CILLA:     Yeah?

JACKIE:     – probably come here too much. Yeah. Are you a vegetarian or anything?

CILLA:     Was, but not since college. You?

JACKIE:     Yeah, since college.

CILLA:     Well, I don’t eat that much meat, you know, since I went back. Just –

JACKIE:     It’s really okay. Just wanted to –

CILLA:     – a couple ‘a days a week.

JACKIE:     – tell you they have this great veggie burger, in case that was your thing.

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Passions and Obsessions: Day 4 of the Story A Day Challenge

Today’s prompt by Heidi Durrow is passions and obsessions. I decided to write a story about being the object of such feelings. Content warning: stalking.


 

 

“CAN I GET YOU A BEER?” The pictures on the walls pulsed to the beat. He looked automatically to his hands and then back at her. Bright eyes, kind smile, full lips. Something in him stirred. No, shifted. No, lurched. This girl was hot.

“SURE! THEN MAYBE YOU CAN GET ME A DATE?” He winked at her. She laughed and turned to get the beer out of the fridge. As she cracked it one handed in his direction, he slid his fingers around her wrist and leaned into her ear. “I’m not kidding. Wanna go out sometime?”

“Oh, honey. You are not my type, and anyway, I never commit to dates when I’m drunk. Hell, I never commit to anything when I’m drunk. I want good times with the fewest regrets possible.” She winked at him.

“OKAY.” He leaned back and let go of her wrist. “HOW ABOUT A DANCE THEN?”

“THAT I CAN DO. BOTTOMS UP!” She cracked her beer and started chugging, eyebrowing him to join. He raced the best he could, but she was done like there was nothing between the lip of the beer and her stomach. He watched her lick her lips, and they were off to the living room as some pop punk 90s song faded in.

#

The caffeine headache was just now subsiding, two strong cups of coffee in. She really needed to work on moderating this addiction. Her index finger pushed her glasses back to the bridge of her nose. This paper was taking way longer than she anticipated.

“What are you working on?” Someone slid into the seat next hers.

She jumped. “Oh my god.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you; I just, you know, saw you here and wanted to say hi.”

“Sorry, who are you?”

“Dan. We met at the party last week? You gave me a beer and a dance, but no date.”

“Oh. Right. You come here?”

“Um. Yeah. Sometimes.”

“Right. I come here when I need to do work, because no one from campus comes here ever. Well, I guess not ever.” She turned back to her computer.

“Can I buy you lunch?” She stared at him. “It’s almost noon.”

“No, actually I’m fine. I just need to finish this.” As an afterthought, “Thank you though.”

He didn’t move. She typed out a painful paragraph.

“Look. Dan?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry to be a bitch, but you need to sit somewhere else. I have to work now.”

“Oh yeah, sure. What are you writing on? Maybe I can help you? We-”

“Just let me work, please. You’re a nice guy and all, but I have to be alone to do work.”

“Yeah, okay” He got up and internally kicked himself for missing a class for this.

#

The two women sat down with their martinis, celebrating the end of midterms. They caught up on stresses and dates and plans and all those little things the friends had missed for the past two weeks.

“Angie is going out of town the weekend of April 15th. Wanna come over and have a good ole fashioned slumber party? I’ll provide the cookie dough and liquor. You bring the crappy movies and down pillows.”

“The 15th?” Her friend unlocked her phone and checked her calendar. “Ugh. I’m going to have to be a maybe. I’ll have a draft of my final paper due the week after, so if I’m good and get it done ahead of time, like I always plan, I’m there. Refill?” She pointed to her empty glass.

“Definitely. Tell ’em to make it filthy.”

The women just finished checking their phones when the drinks arrived and were met with approval.

“Do you know that guy, Dan?”

“Yeah, he was in freshman lit with me, I think. Seems sweet, but not your cup of tea, I’d imagine.”

“Yeah, not exactly. I met him at that Pike party at the start of the semester, and now he’s like everywhere. It’s weird.”

“You know how it is. You never notice someone until you meet them, and then suddenly you notice them and it seems like they are everywhere.”

“Yeah, I guess. He just creeps me out. Like sits next to me rather than across from me when he sees me. And he’s always asking me out. I don’t even know how many times I’ve said no. He like brought me flowers before my last midterm. I don’t know. It’s just … it’s weird.”

“He’s harmless. I’m sure he’ll get the picture soon.”

“I know. I just wish it would be now. Anyway.”

They sipped at their drinks.

#

Her first thought when the phone went off was “who the fuck took that off vibrate?” She groaned, rolled over in the bed, and put her pillow over head. She was being very Hollywood right now. The ringing stopped. And almost immediately started again.

Angie banged on the wall. The clock, after she found her glasses and was able to focus on it, said 2:43 AM. The ringing stopped. And started again. Angie banged again. “Answer the phone or throw it in the toilet! I have class in 5 hours!”

Caller ID said “Unknown.” Now she was pissed. “YOU HAVE THE WRONG NUMBER, ASSHOLE!”

“Wow. Way to talk to a friend. Even better that my grandma died today.”

She inhaled sharply. Her grandmother died last semester; tears threatened at the corner of her eyes.

“Dan. It is 2:40 in the morning.” She hissed through gritted teeth.

“I just need someone to talk to.”

“How did you get my number?”

“You gave it to me.”

“No. I didn’t. Dan. I am really sorry about your grandma, but I’m not that friend. You should call someone else.”

“I just need someone to talk to. Please! My grandma just died! There is no one else I want to talk to but you.”

“Dan, you have to call someone else. We are not really friends, and I can’t do this right now.”

“Why are you being such a bitch? I just want to talk to you” She bristled at the word.

“Calling me a bitch is the exact opposite way to get what you want. Call. Someone. Else. And delete my number. You can have it back when you learn to treat me with respect.”

She hung up the phone, saved the number to “Do Not Answer” and put a to-do to block it in her app. It started to ring again, flashing the new name. She denied the call and set it on silent.

She got to sleep again after an hour or so after she finally convinced herself to stop being angry and upset. When she woke up there were 27 missed calls, as many voice messages, and 15 text messages. Every single one from “Do Not Answer.”

#

The public safety office was not the most welcoming place. The woman at the desk looked up from her book and slowly shut the hardback.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah. I am not sure what … I think some guy is stalking me.”

“Has he threatened you?”

“No. No no. Um, he just shows up wherever I am and then last night he called and texted me from around 2:40 until about 5:00 AM. I just … I’ve asked him to stop, and he won’t, so I need you to do something.”

The officer shifted in her seat and pulled up something on the computer. “Is he a student?”

“Yes.”

“And you are too?”

“Yes.”

“The best I can do is make a report. Nothing he’s doing is really … Look, it’s annoying and he’s an asshole, but I mean, honey, when you look like you do, you’re going to attract some assholes.” Her jaw clenched; she was sick of people saying that. The woman took the details of what had been going on, henpecking them into the computer. Now she was too late to get to class.

“If he does anything new, let us know. Here is my card. Are you on campus?”

“No.”

“Okay. Well, if you have a door person…”

“I don’t.”

“That’s my number on the card. If I am not at the desk, it will ring someone else. But off campus, just call the police first. He’s probably harmless. These boys don’t know how to deal with their feelings and with women that tell them no. He’ll be an asshole for a week or so more, it’ll suck for you, but it’ll go away, honey.”

“Yeah.”

“Just call us if anything changes.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

She slammed the door behind her and ripped up the card. This was total bullshit.

#

The nightmare grew foggy as she pulled awake. She blinked and breathed and told herself to relax. Listening, it was just the same noises as usual: crickets and the sobbing drunk four doors down. No late night phones calls for the last two weeks.

The room was cooler than when she went to bed, and she pulled her comforter up and tucked it around her neck. She still wasn’t relaxed. Her eyes were adjusting to the street light filtering through her window.

She rolled on her back, wishing she could tap Angie awake, even though she would be so pissed. She reached for her cat, but she was not on the pillow next to her or at her feet. She started to sit up to see if she was in the room.

“Hello, Jenny. Now you have to talk to me.”