Since I’m in brainstorming mode and not producing much of anything besides (I was hit square in the noggin with a new idea the other night–it’s already turning itself into a manuscript without encouragement or consent), I decided to post some of the typewriter micro-stories I’ve been putting together and snail-mailing out to friends. If you’re not familiar with the typewriter micro-stories, read about it here.
First up, a typewriter story requested by my pal Austen:
The Upper-Left Drawer
There once was a little boy named Austen.
Austen had a secret. In the left-most, upper-most drawer of his dresser, something very small was breathing. In and out, and in and out, regular-like, with a shuddering sound at the end that would make you think that perhaps it had a cold.
Austen wouldn’t tell anyone what it was, or even that it was there. But every morning he went to the drawer and pulled it out. It made a creak each time; it was an old dresser. Then, dangling some particle of his breakfast (pinky-sized pieces of crisp bacon and chunks of apple fritter were favorites), Austen waited.
This particular morning he waited for the creature in the drawer to raise its head and take a big, long whiff. To extend its neck forward, testing the air with a forked tongue. To expel the tiniest puff of smoke. Then, once it had decided Austen’s offering was indeed worth eating, it slipped one tiny, ridged head out of the drawer and—snap!—ate it all up.
In one go, the bit of breakfast slid down the creature’s gullet; and with a grateful flap of tiny, wet wings, it sank back into the darkness.
Austen shut the drawer again. He put on his backpack, checked his pocket for his three trusty pens (red, blue and black), and left for school.
But every moment that Austen was away from the tiny creature in the drawer, he thought about it. Worried about it. Wondered if his mother might find it when she cleaned his room, or if it would make a sound (it hadn’t yet, but he didn’t doubt it would eventually) and lure her in.
He didn’t think it would hurt anyone, but it was already starting to grow, and fast. He couldn’t hide it in his drawer forever. But Austen liked the sound of “forever.” He had grown fond of the little guy, and his little horns, and his even littler claws.
In History, Austen jumped at the sound of his name over the intercom. His heart leapt into his throat and stuck there, so he had to choke it back down before he could get up out of his chair.
His mom must have found it, the creature. The little baby that had emerged from the egg he picked up, the egg he’d thought belonged to a bird.
He felt tears well up in his eyes. He’d never named it. He couldn’t decide on a name. Was it an Ernest or a Steve? A Sally or a Spot? Austen wiped his eyes with one wrist.
Surely they would make him give up his pet. Surely they would take it away, study it, try to determine where it had come from. And the tiny, sweet creature would never again live in his upper-left drawer.
When he arrived at the office, the woman at the front desk waved him in. Then she saw red tear tracks down Austen’s face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“My mom,” he hiccuped. “She’s going to take him away.”
“What?” The woman looked puzzled.
“Isn’t that why you called me in?”
“Oh, no,” she said, giving a little chuckle. “Not at all. The principal just wanted to let you know that your project was accepted to the regional science fair.”
Austen exhaled the longest, deepest breath of his life. The creature was safe.
Austen also requested a story for his wife, Chrissy, so she got a sci-fi tale to match Austen’s:
There once was a little girl named Chrissy.
Chrissy was the loneliest little girl there ever was. Her parents worked all hours of the day and night to give her clothes to wear and food to eat. And she was grateful for that, of course; but she was still lonely.
One day the doorbell rang, drawing her out of her bedroom. A box had arrived. It wasn’t a very large box, but neither was it very small. It only had a shipping label stuck to the top; besides, it was plain, brown cardboard.
The box was addressed to Chrissy.
Curious, she brought it into the house and opened the top. Inside there was another box, this one silver and shiny and smooth to the touch. She gasped as she read the words stamped across the lid: COMPANION BOT.
Taped to this new box was a note that read, “Dear Chrissy: We feel so bad for leaving you home alone all the time. Perhaps this Companion Bot will keep you company. Love, Mom & Dad.”
Shaking with unshed tears of joy, Chrissy opened the silver box. She was surprised when all she found inside was a single unmarked, steel cylinder. This wasn’t a robot. This was a trick! A gag! A cruel joke!
Tears of joy became tears of disappointment as she pulled out the cylinder and set it on the floor. It just sat there, unmoving, uninteresting. Chrissy hit the top, and nothing happened. She jumped to her feet and kicked it. She shouted, “Why, Mom and Dad? Am I supposed to make-believe? Why did you even wake me up for this?”
At her words, the cylinder suddenly started to shake. It trembled and shuddered and whirred, like a fan had come on inside it, and it nearly fell over. Then the top of the cylinder opened, soundless, and from it sprouted two long, spindly arms. The arms found the ground and lifted themselves up, so the bottom of the cylinder could open, too. From there sprouted two legs, and then the robot rose up, tall as a person—taller than Chrissy!—and a panel on the front of the cylinder slid open.
A face. It was a face! Chrissy shrank back as the eyes opened, two little yellow lights, and blinked. There was a mouth, but it wasn’t a real mouth; just a colored display that flickered when it began to speak.
“Good morning,” said the robot. It leaned down towards her and Chrissy, not used to robots, leaned away. “Thank you for waking me. I am your Companion Bot. What is your name?”
“Ch-chrissy,” she stuttered.
“Chrissy,” said the robot, sitting down on the floor so it was shorter than she was. “It’s nice to meet you, Chrissy. Will you be my friend?”
Friend. The word struck her like a lightning bolt straight through her heart. She had a friend.
She stepped closer to the robot. “Of course,” she said, sitting down in front of it. “Of course I’ll be your friend.”
“I’m good at cards,” said the robot. And Chrissy smiled.