Summer of the Bumper Car (under 500 word story)
“There’s pink and blue fairy-floss in Melbourne, Lonnie.”
“So what? I don’t care.” I felt a burning envy sink into my chest. Keith got everything. His sister May, small and brown haired, said quickly, “Don’t worry ’bout it, Lonnie, wasn’t that good.”
“I got it in a bucket for a prize,” he ignored her.
“Made my tongue sting,” she insisted, giving me a shy smile. Keith turned back to me. “Just like a girl,” he muttered. “Anyway, there’s bumper cars, too.”
I could hardly resist asking what bumper cars were. “So what?” I repeated.
“Reckon you dunno what I’m talking about.”
“What’re they, then?”
“Cars with bumpers, ’course.”
Keith laughed and laughed. They’re something you only see in the city, if you’re lucky enough to go there, he said airily. Then he laughed a bit more. May shrugged and said I didn’t miss anything; she was trying to soften the blow, and I admitted to myself girls weren’t always bad.
“C’n I have a bumper car, Dad?” I asked at dinner. Mother and Dad looked at me and I wriggled. “Keith Allen rode one in Melbourne. I thought if we got just one it wouldn’t cost much. We could even rent it out.”
“I bet it’ll be too expensive,” said my sister wisely. I could tell she didn’t know what a bumper car was.
“My impossible boy,” Mother smiled fondly. “You can’t just buy one, love.”
I stopped and swallowed. “Didn’t ax you, Julie,” I said to my sister, giving Mother a sideways glance to indicate that I didn’t ask her, either. “I axed Dad.”
Dad yawned. “Alright,” he said.
“Thanks, Dad,” I said, giving the females a spiteful look.
“You know what a bumper car is?” asked Mother sceptically.
“Well enough,” answered Dad.
Dad and I built our bumper car out in the shed when school got out. I’d never seen one but I trusted Dad. It was a comfortable wooden platform with rope to pull and pedals to push, big solid wheels and a black horn, and on the back and front it had bumpers to prevent accidents. Mother and Julie disapproved, but Julie made me blue and pink sugar mice because Keith wouldn’t stop going on about fairy-floss. I didn’t believe in spun sugar anyway.
“That ain’t a bumper car, you idiot,” laughed Keith, when he saw it. He liked to laugh that way. It’d come from deep in his belly and when he let it out he’d slap his knee to accompany it - he’d seen men do that. “It’s a go-kart with bumpers and gizmos.”
“Maybe,” I shrugged. “But it’s mine.”
I milked the money out of Keith and the neighbourhood with my car that year. They all laughed until they saw me speeding down the hill with the wind in my hair. May just smiled. She said she’d marry me if I let her ride it ten times. I said okay.
And that was the summer of the bumper car.
Chapter 1: The Questionable Protagonists
Am I a good person, or am I trying to be? Is there any difference between the two? Or am I, after all, a bad person?
At the end of every chapter, it is for you to judge. Forget everything you think you know about me. I need your judgement to be objective and free of any bias from the assumptions you might hold. I want you to discover who I truly am. And thus, I want to try and understand myself and what I'm hiding from. Let's begin.
The experiences I will reveal throughout these chapters are mostly specific to my life and is not, in any manner, generalized. But I hope I can leave enough ambiguity to these posts so that you can meanwhile judge yourself to some extent. Why judge? Because we are fundamentally judgmental creatures. Because no matter how perceiving we believe we have turned over the years, our judging mindset rarely fades into inexistence; so does every stigmatic belief we are born with.
For the first chapter, I assumed it would be best to provide you, the reader, with details you can cross-check from my profile. Because at the end of the day, every little thing we do, every little thought we bare-- it all invariably points to who we truly are. (Also, good liars always build their version of the truth on a foundation of lies.) I had enough reason to suspect my protagonists over the years did the same. I discovered that I hid within their hearts a piece of my soul. A fine quality in a writer would be to lose all consciousness of self when creating a character, but one of my fatal flaws was always being a self-absorbed narcissist, no matter how many steps I took to alter myself.
The Dark Alley featured an unnamed protagonist who upheld his newfound love for a girl he had befriended above all his friends, who he considered muppets to his threads. From being alone with no connections, he finds friends who, he believes, are tolerable. The teenage protagonist adds and subtracts these muppets according to his will to find a suitable social circle. In addition, he values himself for having something special from the so-called nerds who lacked the social skills he comparatively had in abundance. And even so, when I narrated the story from his perspective, a part of myself rooted for this unbearable egomaniac, which led me to convince the readers to do the same.
The Constrained Journey featured an irritable toddler gathering her courage to leave her loving parents, all because they neglected her compulsion to be bought a bicycle. And yet again, I narrated the story from her perspective, almost justifying her actions, only to leave the readers with a conclusion with barely any change in her personality but only in her immediate needs. In the Needs & Wants Theory of Character Design, I deprived every protagonist of mine of meeting their actual need. In fact, I left them devoid of even realizing a transformation is essential to their character arcs-- as any person who neglects to confront their necessary evils would.
And in A Day in the Life of a Kleptomaniac, yet another unnamed young protagonist with recurrent stealing tendencies gets away with their acts of mischief. And subconsciously, I rooted for him to be safe, and I inflicted the same evil will on the ones who read the tale.
In The Mysterious Lady, Susan, an obnoxious and overly curious teenager, is gifted with the power of invisibility, and she uses it solely for her personal desires, including beating up a fellow student she hates and stealing from a roadside store. Only towards the end, when she is faced with an individual, much more in the lack of self-control, does she finally have an opportunity to learn what she could have done with her powers. But instead, she regrets being at the wrong place at the wrong time and is only affected by her fear of death.
In Out of Love, we meet Harry, an ageing widower and retired advocate, in the last proceedings of adopting a child. Towards the end, he realizes the child he was about to adopt was his granddaughter. But no details whatsoever were revealed on how the adorable grandfather loses touch with his daughter, so much so that he is unaware that he even has a granddaughter. And the fact that he is in no condition to raise a child is emphasized countless times in the story, and even being aware of it, Harry decides to proceed with the adoption. He places his want to cure his loneliness over the need for his granddaughter to be raised by someone capable of handling the pressure.
David McKenzie was an outright criminal and a brutal assassin, fuelled only by the instructions he received from the higher-ups and his perfectionistic love for his field of work, and later vengeance. 'Vampires are Made' featured a protagonist who never recovered from a regret so early on in his life and thus drowned himself in the ocean of his fears and regrets. Andromeda featured a protagonist who never returned to her normalcy after her parents died in an accident, only to be solaced at the magical return of her deceased mother.
'Has Anyone Seen Jo?' featured an arrogant guardian angel who boasts of his superiority and devoted purpose and regards any mortal being as inconsequential and worthless in the grand scheme of God. Sabrina was narrated as a helpless woman in the clutches of a carnal society when nothing, in reality, substantiated that there was nothing to incriminate her with.
Something Wrong featured a bold female law enforcement officer who is unable to put her mind at ease after receiving a call which she was unsure whether a prank or not, only to leap into action regardless of the consequences when massive protests challenge the very State because she was selfishly unwilling to live with more regrets after the death of her supportive mother. And Blaue Augen attempted to humanize the actions of the most notorious, wretched dictator of all time, only to end with a malicious sneer, once again denoting nothing has changed throughout the story.
There, a myriad of flawed characters shying away from their actual needs only to meet their immediate wants-- or even worse, gain zero insight from the tainted events that held enough power to transform their lives. There, individuals with unique strengths and sometimes a strong awareness about themselves neglect the need to confront the necessary evils in the voyage of life.
There is no objective good or bad. But when a character realizes their flaws and attempts to act on them, it forms a positive arc. And when a character doesn't even realise their needs or refuses to redeem themselves, it leads to a negative arc. Is it not possible for us to choose the journey we would traverse in our lives?
But it is far easier to identify the needs and wants of a character built within the bounds of a story scape. On the contrary, our lives are multi-dimensional, and our personalities multi-faceted-- a tapestry of intertwining elements forming intricate yet delicate patterns, hard to untangle.
So what is that you want? What is it that you need? Are you like one of my questionable protagonists, shying away from the life you're meant to explore? It sure would be impossible to comprehend every last thread woven into the fabric of our personality, but does that mean we should never attempt to understand what makes us who we are? In a life bounded within the chains of time, finite, isn't it one of the best explorations we could go on? To go on an adventure exclusive to ourselves which might even answer the much larger-in-scale questions of free will, fate, purpose and belief?
At the end of every chapter, it is for you to judge. Forget everything you think you know about yourself. I need your judgement to be objective and free of any bias from the assumptions you might hold. I want you to discover who you truly are. And thus, I want to try and understand myself and what I'm hiding from.
So are you a good person, or are you trying to be? Is there any difference between the two? Or are you, after all, a bad person?
1400 words, exact (: Hey everyone, um, lemme know what you think about the post! I know this one feels a bit distorted. I was unable to convert the post to exactly what I had in mind, so... And also, with the upcoming chapters, I'll try to be more general instead of being this specific, and try and present the underlying ideas in a better manner too (:
Also, check out Controlling Madness by @booklover_2020! It has this almost-dystopian world featuring a bunch of very intriguing characters with their own agendas, and everyone seems to hold so much depth! Action, mystery, family ties, secret agencies, military control, prison systems, insiders-- it has everything required for the making of a good thriller! Do check that out! Love y'all <3 <3
To Another Day
Sunday morn, skies that mourned,
wrinkled blankets, undone laundry,
notes that piled, lectures paused,
plates and bowls, last night meals.
Seasons changes, fall and rains,
falling apart, piece by piece.
Save me, please, screamed to the skies,
begged and hurt, lone in a crowd.
Deep inside, something changed,
life felt different, so did I.
What once was, what now is,
what would be, all blurred in one.
Barely human, days all same,
can't be machine, feelings clawed.
Bewitched in a maze, no way out,
dark that stayed, lights that frayed.
Would I leave, this game of hurt,
or would I stay, forever and frail?
Shall I try, when all things fail,
or just let go, as fate may plead?
But I will wake, to another day,
for dawn may break, and the sun may rise,
birds may sing, and the rains may pour,
nights may fall, and the cold may creep.
I will wake to another day.
Hug on a plate
“I’m sorry… I messed up. Again.”
He glared at me through the food portal and said something rapid in his native tongue that made the younger cook laugh and shake his head. Some sentiments need no translation to be understood.
I hadn’t been working at the restaurant for very long. The old cook was irritated with me and my wrong orders. My face at the food portal was the harbinger of extra work. Months passed. I got the hang of my job as a server, eventually. I also learned some colorful words in a new language.
One afternoon there was a rare lull. As I waited for customers, the cook gruffly motioned me to the kitchen. I immediately felt defensive, given our past. As I rounded the corner, he greeted me with a plate of pancakes. There was a fork stabbed right in the middle. I was confused.
“Eat.” He demanded, pushing the plate toward me.
I shook my head.
“No good,” he motioned my thin frame up and down. In a more gentle tone, he repeated, “Eat.”
I took the plate from him but looked around. Occasionally, an order was made in error or a pancake was too misshapen to plate. Food that was considered unsuitable to serve was thrown out. Company rules forbade employees from partaking in any.
He saw my gears turning and gestured to himself, using my old line, “I messed up.” With a wink and a shrug, he walked back to the grill.
I sat at a small table in the makeshift break room. Beneath a bulletin board plastered with safety data sheets, I pondered life of late. School almost completed, I was now in the midst of my internship at the hospital. Long hours there, followed by work here, I was on my feet for most of the day. I tend to lose my appetite when I’m stressed or busy, and I knew it was starting to show.
That first bite was a soft, pillowy piece of heaven. The pancakes were soaked in whipped butter and enveloped in thick maple syrup. I wasn’t quite sure pancakes had ever tasted this good. Perhaps I had just forgotten how good food could taste.
I fought back tears as I savored the entire short stack. The kindness of the old cook had taken me by surprise. He saw my need and met it the best way he knew how. The food was warm and sweet and tasted like a hug felt: wonderful.
From that day on, I made the effort to eat more regularly and to eat better quality foods. No more skipped meals. No more junk food swallowed hastily in my car as I was driving from one commitment to the next. My health and well-being became a priority again.
And at work, the old cook would tilt his head and shake his spatula at me with faux sternness, as to query if I was eating. However, this was always done with kindness in his eyes. I would smile and give him a thumbs-up. I was good.
My initials are AJ, and I also developed a habit as a 8-year-old of speaking in third person, referring to myself as "The Girl" (something that annoyed my parents and siblings, haha). One day I needed a username for some random website, those facts popped into my head, and since "The Girl AJ" sounded weird, I went with "That Girl AJ". Remove the spaces for aesthetic reasons, and you get "ThatGirlAJ". I've used it for many, many things since then, and it's my go to username now.
When Alice wept
Her tears threatened to drown the whole world
Was it from her giant size
Or the size of her grief?
I weep and feel puddles form beneath my feet
But my world won't wash away
The flotsam floats upward
Easier to see
How long can I tread water
Did Noah recognize the rain as rain
Or as tears
Sadness or anger
Brings peace in the end
It was winter when I ran away. The jonquils in Mrs Black’s garden next door were beginning to go brown at the tips and her daffodils were coming out like fresh yellow trumpets, ready to herald the springtime. I reckon it was the first Monday in August I left, when there was frost on the ground and I could see my breath in misty clouds before my face.
Our house was old, and ugly most of the time, except on rare occasions like Christmas time or when anyone came to visit; then Dora would scrub away the black dust in the corners and wash the carpets and tidy all the rooms, even the ones she knew no one would go in, and the whole place would smell of cleaning spray and lavender for a week. She was never very good with the cleaning. The doors were too high and draughts came in under them, and my bedroom was the coldest place because the window was jammed and would never quite shut. Just before I left Dora sewed clumsy little curtains and hung them up there for me.
Our backyard was just a pile of old junk that Dad had collected and never gotten rid of. He said he had too much on his mind to bother much about it. Once, Dora planted pansies in a little open patch in an attempt to make something pretty, less dreary, but Dad forgot they were there and crushed them somehow, by accident. I remember that time because I found Dora crying in the kitchen afterwards, and I watched her from the doorway until she looked up and saw me, and pretended that nothing was wrong. Funny, the things Dora cried about. She didn’t flinch when Dad shouted at her, didn’t even get teary eyed when her precious kitten ran away and disappeared or when the grandfather clock fell over in the hallway and broke her china cups, and got that awful scratch down the front; she just kind of pursed her lips and swallowed all the tears and words before they had a chance to come out, I suppose. But then, she cried when I fell off my bicycle and scraped my knee, or sometimes when dinner didn’t turn out right, or when she dropped a stitch in her knitting - just a soft, gentle sort of crying that made me stop whatever I was doing and go and wrap my arms around her and say, “Please, Dora! Don’t cry, Dora! Don’t cry!” even when I was too old for it, and she would stop at once, and smile, and wipe the tears away with her apron.
I never called her anything but Dora, because that was what Dad called her. I only knew that she was a sort of aunt, Dad’s younger sister - at least, half one, anyway. Two years after Mum died, when I was still too small to reach the water tap and tie my shoelaces, Dora came to live with us. I don’t know why. She should never have come. I suppose she didn’t have anywhere else to go, no other family or work. Dad never wanted her, but he needed someone at home to look after me every day when he went away, to cook the meals and wash the clothes … maybe he even needed someone to shout at, someone grownup and not a little boy. Maybe he hoped she would shout back, but she never did. Not Dora.
I wish I was a different kind of dog
On a strange impulse,
I wave a knife near my dog's face.
He doesn't flinch or even
acknowledge the knife. He only looks at me
with horrible, trusting eyes.
His tail wags and I am disgusted.
I am ashamed of myself
for being capable of great violence.
More so, I am ashamed
of this human capability
to even consider harming him.
Put a stone in my shoe,
walk a mile or two
and let the cold air brace me,
take me far from nothing
to something else entirely.
And the sun shines in uncovered eyes
my breath takes on it's own life
burning muscles tear against the ground
somehow I'm running and chasing the clouds.
Wind up bleeding, breathing hard
and the feet are in pain, there's a dagger in my heart
and somehow I'm suffering all over again
found through the pain, and grounded again.
Clinging on to life, precious blood and movement
even in routine there can be sanctification
somehow all roads lead to home
and the fire in the sky guides my walk by night
as I hold on to that which rends me and
lends me a perspective that I hope to understand.
When you're living still there is no loss that can take you
until the time comes to go over that final hill
and be acquainted with the maker.
Oh, the faith it takes to live that way,
and the trust that comes with answers
undeniable guideposts and bring purpose to pain
so we only suffer shortly.
We will only suffer shortly.
Chores (MAYBE TW but I’m not sure)
The following events are the retelling of a true story
My mom opened the door and looked down at me. This was 4 years ago. She welcomed me in, and I talked and chatted with my mom and sister for the rest of the night. The next morning, my mom gave me a list of chores to do while she and my sister went to get groceries. She also told me not to play on my PS2 until my chores were done, but I didn’t really mind. As I’m folding my clothes, I’m watching TV
Just learning some new stuff when I finally get bored and switch to the News channel. A breaking news story reads, ‘Local woman and daughter killed in car accident.’ At that moment, I realized that my mom and sister had died.
4 years later, still feeling full of sadness from their deaths, I feel that I want a taste of nostalgia, so I go to my mom’s house. It feels very empty without her. I went to my dusty PS2 and opened it. In the disc compartment was a note. It read, ‘Oh son, I told you not to play your PS2 before chores are done. Well, son, I love you to death and want to cut you some slack. You can play your game station until I come back with hugs and kisses :) xoxo -Love, Mom.’ I slowly began to cry as I set down the note, for she had never come back and... I never got my hugs and kisses...
“Take time to be thankful for everything that you have. You can always have more, but you could also have less.”