Tag Archives: human

100 Days

Yesterday, I capped my 100-day writing experiment/exercise.

The goal was to write something new every day for 100 days without missing. I had no length requirement, but I found that as I got more into it, the greater effort was in keeping the piece short and interesting than writing something daily.

I learned a lot about my writing style, the mistakes I’m prone to making and I discovered some good things about my imagination. I think there are other lessons there that I’m still working on.

My secondary goal in this exercise was to develop a field of ideas from which to build on. I feel a longer work coming on. Initially, I thought a play, some longer short stories or a book. But to do that well enough, I wanted to get my skills up to par.

Many people have been very kind and supportive in their comments and notes. It is a great compliment for people to ask for more. I really appreciate the time everybody took to check out the stories, or story bits, and provide feedback. That is just the best.

So I ask myself, what now?

I was hoping to get a bit more feedback from the people prone to reading my posts on what they might like to see. Since you are reading it, it seems contrary to produce something you might have little interest in. Some questions come to mind:

  • Is there any interest in a longer work?
  • If so, was there something you saw over the last 100 days you might like to see more of? Something I can flesh out?
  • Is that something you might be interested in reading along the way or would you want to wait until it’s complete?
  • What would you be interested in? A play? A book length piece? An array of dazzling advertising slogans?
  • Any other thoughts?

I can find all 100 posts here on my blog. Please share the link if you can: https://thejeffworks.wordpress.com

It would be great if you could take a moment to comment, or drop me a private message or email and let me know what you think.

I can’t see putting the brakes on now as I feel I’ve hit some sort of stride, so I’m thinking I will continue my posts, unless writing a longer piece takes up all my writing energy, but I’m thinking I might take the weekends off.

Thanks again for all your support. Now…let me have it.

Fourth Date

Corvis suspected the date could have gone better.

It was their fourth official date overall. They had done things with groups of people and there were several events where they both showed up and did the “hanging out” thing, so his association with Melody had some time behind it. Up until now, he felt there might even be some roots here from which they could grow a strong relationship.

That thought made him pause. He wondered why, when he thought of relationships, his analogies always involved farming. Being a middle manager at Allus-Smith made him pretty much the farthest thing from a farmer, and the very pathetic looking “lucky bamboo” on his desk sealed the notion should there be any lingering doubt.

Mulling over the evening, he was hard pressed to put a finger on where things took a turn. Dates one through three went nicely. They built on each other as one might prep a field for planting. (There it was again.)

The fourth date seemed polluted with missteps and awkward moments. Maybe they were both off their game a little bit. The conversation seemed forced, the jokes – stale. They ate a quiet dinner and the evening capped with his grand statement about the suffering souls in third world countries and how things wouldn’t be so bad for them if…

He couldn’t recall the exact remark now, but once it left his lips he knew it was bad. Like stepping in something unfortunate, he knew it was not where he wanted to be, but his foot was right in it.

Her recoil to the remark, which he was sure he meant as a joke, was contained, yet her face let slip a certain amount of hurt or discomfort, he couldn’t say which, as if he said something pointed and hurtful at her directly. He learned in date two that she was born and raised, like her entire family, in Muncie and lived there until almost recently. This stint in Chicago was the farthest she had ever been away from home, much less a third-world country.

Dates one through three ended with shy smiles, and “let’s do this again…soon,” sort of phrases. This date ended with thank you, I’m tired, drive safe.

As he pulled away from her building, making a mental note that third-world country jokes were straight off the table, he feared he was being immortalized in her diary as another example of what she did not want her future mister to be. That her impressions of him, certainly unfair at this point, would be added to however many men she made notes about, that when considered collectively would guide how she moved forward into future relationships. That’s what women do right?

If date five happens, if by some miracle he figures out what triggered the chill and she is able to resolve his callous thoughts in her own mind, he resolved to step more carefully. If he can figure out what the error was, he will apologize. Unless bringing it up re-stirs the pot, then he would let it go. Then of course, he runs the risk of not acknowledging the error, cementing the notion that he is an uncaring clod and being definitively and officially marked in her diary as Mr. Wrong.

Storm clouds seemed to come from nowhere and while the promise of rain is good for the seeds of a new relationship, a torrent, a flood will only destroy them.

A scowl crossed his face. What was with the farming thing?

The List

Percy Collins had a list a mile and a half long filled with things he had to do. He wasn’t sure how many items actually fit on a list a mile and a half long. Of course, it was theoretical. If there were an actual list, the font size used to create it would be critical in determining the number. It was easier to just say, a million.

Of that million, missing amongst the stare at the moons, the climb the mountains, the take exotic trips to Canada, was ‘become a successful businessman.’  

He didn’t care much about becoming a successful businessman, and by much he meant, not at all. That said, he seemed to spend most of his time working toward just that. He joined his father’s business shortly after college. After his father got sick, he took on the whole of the business full-time. He worked hard. He worked long hours. He was good with people, and he supposed to some degree, he was good at business.

Still, when he rolled out of bed in the morning he was about as excited to get to work as one might be excited to go to the doctor, a doctor who kept trying to find the elusive cause to a dull and nagging pain or a spreading rash. There never seemed to be a cure or resolution. It never ended. It just led to another series of appointments, pokes, prods and tests.

A younger Percy fancied himself an artisan. He was good with his hands. He liked the notion of looking back and seeing something stand for a day’s work. He liked tile. He liked baking. They were simple concepts and honest trades, but often seen by some, mostly in the business world, as ‘less than” because they rarely garnered the potential of huge deals, huge payoffs, and a businessperson’s warped sense of professionalism.

He went to work. He did his job. He was honest, and dedicated and worked to improve himself. Then he would go home, eat dinner, have a nightcap and nod off in front of the evening news thinking of his list. Canada…

Into the sea

Candice Wingmare stood before the collected group of 20 second graders, her kids.

Until this moment, they had never met. She knew little about them and she suspected that looking back on this moment years from now, she might realize she knew very little about herself. Still, here they were together in room 110 of the Tannis Valley Elementary School, and from this moment until June 12th at 2:25 pm, these were her kids.

The fresh faces hovered over crisp and clean, first day of school outfits. Some smiled. Some sat expressionless, but their eyes offered a touch of apprehension at the newness of if all. All were quiet. All of them were…waiting.

This was Candice Wingmare’s first day. She was launching a career. She envisioned herself smashing a bottle of champagne on the door of her classroom, like they might do before releasing a new ship into the sea. She was like a ship. The classroom was like the sea. There were maps and charts and plans on how to get across it. There ways to tell when trouble might be brewing, or when one could expect smooth sailing.  She should be fine.

Tricks and tips.

However, like the sea, the classroom held within it mysteries untold and lurking dangers. Like the sea, all the maps and charts and instruments in the world become useless when the forces that lie within decide to assert themselves. Like the sea, we can only prepare for what we know and hope that what we know is enough, and that we are clear enough in thought, and determined enough in spirit to weather any storm the sea may produce.

These 20 strange faces looked at Candice Wingmare with hope, expectation, fear, and anticipation. They silently threw down a challenge.

Teach us.

She drew a deep calming breath and placed her hands on the top of her desk for support.

“Good morning, cla…class,” she said softly. He voice dropped a bit near the end forcing her to say class twice, almost like she forgot what she was going to say. Not at all like she had practiced.

The silence of the room seemed to expand as the sound of her voice stifled the last few shuffling feet and bits of paper.

The heat that worked its way up into her face brought a sort of light-headedness with it that made her clench the edge of the desk a bit harder. She drew another deep breath hoping against hope that she would not pass out.

“My name is Miss Wingmare and I’ll be your teacher this year. I’m so happy to see you all, because I think we have a great year planned and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun. We have a lot of special things you’ll get to do this year. We have two new computers in our class. I understand there are a few of you who are new to our school like I am. This is my first year, and I’m so very excited to get to know you and have you get to know me better. Is there anyone who would like to lead us in the pledge?”

By the time she got to pledge, Candice’s head was swimming. She said all that on one breath. She swallowed a deep breath as if she just rose up from a long swim underwater. Her head cleared and she tried to replay the last moments over in her head to try and remember what she said.

The class sat quietly for a second and whatever blurriness that came to her vision during her brief opening rant started to fade. Then, 20 hands shot into the air.

Right, the pledge.

She smiled, she relaxed and as she raised her hand to select the smallish girl in the middle of the third row, the ship of Candice Wingmare’s teaching career headed out to sea.

Access Denied

Dink entered the passcode multiple times daily, for over a year now. He had probably entered the code over a million times if he took the time to count them. It was automatic. His fingers knew it better than he did. The password box popped up, his fingers did the walking and boom – he was in. So when the words, “Access Denied” popped onto his screen, he froze…confused.

He thought for a second as he looked down at the keyboard. He brought his hand up and typed in his passcode again, a little slower than the last time – just in case.

Access Denied.

Dink looked at his hand and moved his fingers quickly in a rippling motion as if to wake them up. He punched the passcode in again with deliberate intent and recited the change of letters and numbers in his head as he went. As right as it all was in his mind, it felt off.  He was doing it wrong.

He went over the code in his head. Everything was right, but it wasn’t. Somewhere his finger drifted or he transposed something. He had all the elements, but he popped them in wrong. Of course, he knew the passcode. It was silly to think he didn’t, but it was so automatic, so habitual that he barely paid attention. And now…

He stared at the keyboard. His thoughts grew cloudy. Did he really just forget his passcode? A tiny wave of panic rippled over him, not because he couldn’t access his system, but more because of the utter ridiculousness of the situation. He used to have the passcode written down, when he first got, but that was a long time ago and that sticky note was long gone.

He took out a pad of paper and wrote the code down. That was it. No, it wasn’t. Something was wrong with it. He pecked at the keyboard again, slowly just in case his fingers were so fat and clumsy that he really didn’t type the characters in correctly the first several times.

Access Denied.

Ridiculous! He just typed the very same stupid code into the very same machine not an hour ago, and with great success! He crumpled up the small page and tossed it into the bin.

He tried again. Access Denied. Unbelievable.

He squelched the desire to punch the keyboard. It wasn’t its fault, but this was silly and frustrating and stupid.

He rubbed his hands together and closed his eyes, part trying to clear his mind of the near endless combinations of numbers that swirled with in and part just to calm down and focus. He thought back to an hour ago. He had just come back from the bathroom. He set his energy drink to his left. He sat down.  He cracked his knuckles as he pulled up to his keyboard, moved his cursor into the passcode box and typed in…

Dink held his breath for a moment as he let his hand move to the keys. He hoped the muscle memory would help cool his frustrations. His fingers tapped the keys before him and while not minutes ago the movements seemed foreign and out of place, this time the flow seemed right. Not wanting to jinx it, he let the fingers finish. He opened his eyes, breathed and pushed enter.

“Welcome back, Dink!”

Duh! Of course!

Not pausing to savor the sigh of relief escaping from him, Dink reached for a sticky note. He scribbled down the passcode and locked in his front desk drawer, just in case.

Getting Some

At the ripe old age of nine, Karen Whignett was convinced she had adults all figured out.

Karen lived in an apartment in a high-rise building in New York City. Because of her lifestyle, and more the lifestyle of her parents, her access to other children was limited outside of school. She considered Paisley Barnes, a classmate who lived six floors below to be her best friend. It was mostly a ceremonial title for when Karen’s mom thought the girl needed someone to play with, she called Paisley’s mom. If Paisley was available, and she was always very busy herself, the girls sat around Karen’s room drawing or playing with dolls as Paisley talked about how she was going to be famous. Karen mostly listened.

Karen was a good listener. It was one of the reasons adults didn’t mind having her around. She never said much and because she was quiet, the adults normally forgot about her. They would talk, she would listen, she would learn.

Based on what she heard, three basic things drove all adult problems, money, time and whether or not anyone was “getting any.” The last of the three was the most confusing. Karen understood money and how there was no such thing as having enough. She understood time and how, like money, it was a valuable and rare commodity. But the concept of getting any was vague and seemed to be not only the source of consternation, but also an odd way to forget about problems for a while.

She recalled several conversations between her mom and Aunt Petrina where the vagueness of “getting any” came to light. At first she thought it as a redundant reference to the notions of time and money, but it quickly became clear that it was something more unto itself.

“Ugh,” Aunt Petrina would say, “On top of all that, I’m not even getting any.” To which Karen’s mom might nod or agree or say nothing.

On the other hand Petrina has also said, “Things are in the dumps as usual, but at least I’m getting some.”

Karen could only guess that in the pursuit of all things, the better answer to the problem of getting any was that it was to be getting some.

She pondered the question a good long time.

Karen spent the early evenings after school and school days off with her Grandma Bets, who lived two floors up. They talked and laughed and had snacks. Grandma Bets was an adult, but not as much like an adult as the others she had access to. When Karen finally decided to ask Bets about the concept of getting any, Bets didn’t bat an eye. She just kept on doing what she was doing, in this case crocheting, and explained it as only she could.

“Honey,” which is what Bets called her. “It’s a lot like cookies. If you have a bad day and things seem to go off base here and there, a simple thing like a cookie can make all that feel like a little less of a burden. Understand?”


“And if you have a bunch of bad days and you don’t have time for a cookie, or there aren’t any around, you don’t have anything to distract you from your troubles. So you just focus on them more and they just seem to get worse. Do you understand that?”


“Well there you go then. It’s better to have cookies when you need them than none.”

“Can you ever have too much?” which to Karen, seemed like the next best question.

“Well, can you recall a time when you ate too many cookies?”

“Not really.”

“That’s right! I’ve heard people complain about not having any, and people are usually happy having some, but I have yet to hear too many people complain about having too much…of anything… but troubles.”


Evan Caulder started writing about unsolved crimes when he was young. His boyhood dreams of becoming a police officer where initially dashed by his poor eyesight and profound asthma. After “life” happened a few times, his hopes of his becoming any kind of investigator faded into the background, waiting for a chance to shine like the odd man out at a high school prom.

The writing stuck though, it was a good solid habit, like smoking he supposed. He could give it up, but why? He trolled through magazines, newspapers and endless Internet pages seeking out and cataloguing the various details of various crimes. He’d developed quite a collection of well documented cold case files that some small part of him still hoped he might have a hand in solving one day. His records were meticulous, in his mind.

He probably had what the police had overall, but what set his information apart, he felt, was the way he organized his documentation. Every page was built off a basic three column template. Dates and titled evidence to the left, details and descriptions in the middle and his unique ‘patented’ brand of insight and supposition related to the details, in his special form of short hand, on the left.

He had no special education, or measured mental agility that would help him solve these crimes. He wasn’t Sherlock Holmes or anything. He didn’t pretend to be. He did have a good brain and was convinced that his way of looking at, and interpreting case facts and circumstances would make him competitive and an asset to any crime team. When he matched his information against that of many closed cases he followed, his interpretations and predictions led him to the primary suspect about 92 percent faster than the authorities.

Few people knew of his ‘hobby.’ He kept mostly to himself in a small apartment in Kensington. He had yet to share any of his information with authorities because he felt if he ever did, he would have one shot at it, and it had to be a good one. It would be way too easy to brush him off and keep him at bay. He never even really considered the possibility until he started following the A case.

The A Case, as the media called it, was unique in that it was happening in his own backyard. Kensington was a medium-sized city emerging from the deeper woods of Western Virginia. Someone was killing people in and around town at about one every one or two weeks. Tensions were high and the tasty morsel the media decided release as a possible motive is that the killer wrote a letter A on the forehead of each victim. It was an odd clue to leave behind, until someone surmised that the victims, six in total so far, were mostly unsavory characters. They surmised that the A stood for absolved and that the murders where the work of some vigilante.

The A Case killer was a hero to those wronged by the victims and a menace to the rest who found the theory weak. Evan followed the case closely from the moment it broke. There was some validity to the vigilante theory, but there was something missing. A bigger piece of the puzzle yet to be realized was out there. He felt it tugging at him a bit, gut it was still too far for him to fully embrace.


Mert smelled smoke. Not a strong smell as much as a hint, a whiff. And not the acrid smell of something that shouldn’t be burning, something amiss. Rather, it was a transporting scent that triggered a mental postcard of people camping and laughing, of cooking s’mores and perhaps a few singing around the burning centerpiece of a communal gathering.

Someone somewhere was sitting down to an ice-cold beer, ready to dig into something his doctor told him he probably should cut back on, but figured he deserved after the day he had.

Someone somewhere was holding a hand and saying nothing while watching the wind play in the leaves.

Someone somewhere was laughing so hard they were finding it hard to breathe.

He seemed to hate the notion that someone somewhere might be having more fun than him…any fun in fact while he was stuck doing this. Still, he let the images and thoughts linger.

He pulled the truck to a stop and slid the door open. Even with the sun dropping, it was hotter than he liked it and the gush of heat slapped him like a big wet towel. The weatherman on WFRX labeled the day a “scorcher.” All Mert knew was that it was hot and if it was a hundred degrees it might as well be 200 degrees for all he could do about it.

He grabbed his tools from the back, slid the back door shut and headed to the door, wiping the droplet of sweat that was forming on the tip of his nose away with his sleeve.

Another hint of smoke, made him pause. This time it carried with it the image of grilled cheeseburgers and icy blender drinks.

Once at the front step, he rang the doorbell causing a whir of commotion inside; dogs barking, kids running and yelling, and a mom trying to hold the chaos at bay. Tracing the barely audible footsteps, he counted the seconds off until the deadbolt clicked and the door swung open.

“Mom” stood there before him, hair up and sweating, and waving a paper plate before her face with a ferocity that said if she didn’t get some relief quickly, she was probably going to kill someone. Not literally of course, but she meant business.

“Finally,” she said in a tone which was part relief and part pent up frustration. “Let’s get to it! Do you have any idea how horrible it is to have your air-conditioning crap out on one of the hottest days of the year?”

The images of camping, and cheeseburgers, and beer evaporated in a puff.


As he passed the cafeteria on his way to his next morning meeting, Miller caught a whiff of tomato soup and was instantly transported back to the days of his youth.

Tomato soup was at the top of the menu the day he ended up in principal Murphey’s office for the epic explosion that resulted from a single bad idea, an ill-timed execution of that idea, vast over-reactions everyone and then some and the unfortunate, and untimely demise of Mrs. Krenner’s 5th grade class mascots, the hamsters Jenny and Crouton. May they rest in peace.

He worked to block a lot of that day from his memory and after all this time some of the details were starting to get hazy, but the smell of that tomato soup brought it all crashing back.

He remembered the way he was escorted to Mrs. Murphey’s office surrounded by four of Kirkdale Elementary’s larger teachers as if he were enemy number one. He seems to recall they were all armed with yardsticks.

They had to pass the kitchen on the way, and he recalls time slowing up for a moment as they walked by the door. His brief sideways glance allowed him to catch a glimpse of the secret inner workings of the school lunchroom.

Two women were emptying large cans of tomato soup into what seemed like an enormous vat. The woman directing the activity, whom he will forever remember as Olga – even if that was not her name – stirred the cauldron with a gigantic spoon, slowly and deliberately. He remembered her catching his gaze between the orders she barked out to her minions and it was a stare he felt deep in his chest as if a cold hand was squeezing his heart.

An open letter to Mark Burnett

Java typed with determination and focus, as she was prone to do in these situations:

An open letter to Mark Burnett –

Dear mark Burnett:

I don’t know you. Chances are I never will.  I understand you are the reason the show ‘Survivor’ exists. Good for you. I enjoyed watching the first season, but after that, it just got all “same old, same old,” me.

Last night, I had a dream where I was climbing a mountain. At the top of the mountain, you sat in a giant golden chair with bright light all around you making it appear as if you were glowing in regal splendor. There was a line of people waiting to see you. It was Free Idea Thursday. One day of every week, you allowed the little people of the planet a chance to have an audience with you to share their ideas and thoughts about your programs.

You had all the people whose ideas you like carried away on chariots, while the ones you didn’t found themselves mysteriously flung from the mountain by an invisible force.  Screaming.

As with all dreams, the moment it was my turn and I began to speak, while shielding my eyes from your glory…I woke up.

So, because I believe I was destined for your magical chariot ride, here is my idea.

Scandalous Survivor.

Taste that for a moment before you fling me from the mountain.

You gather up all the people who are currently embroiled in scandal and controversy and let them fight for their survival in the very harshest of conditions. These people seem to be skilled liars, keen manipulators, deeply motivated by self-preservation, self-promotion, ego, cash and power. I’d be shocked if their hubris would allow them to decline.

I can sense your interest. Ponder the wonder of possibility as I share with you some thoughts about the cast.

  • Anthony Weiner – too obvious?
  • Eliot Spitzer
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Bob Filner
  • Dick Cheney
  • David Rivera
  • Laura Richardson
  • Tom Delay
  • Maybe that guy who was leading BP at the time of that giant oil spill just to mix it up

The list is virtually endless.

I’ll leave you now and I’ll let you stew on that one for a bit. I’m sure it won’t take long for you to imagine the possibilities. Your skill at bringing the wondrously dysfunctional to our TV screens will certainly help you mold this nugget of inspiration into ratings gold.

Be well. Eat lots of fruit. Oh, and I do enjoy Shark Tank.

– Java


Chester sat still, enjoying the quiet. Everything was good, for the moment.

He tried to absorb as much of the calm as he could, for once the chaos ensued he would ramp right back up to where the doctor said he should work real hard to avoid. The doctor called it the ‘Red Zone’. Who does that?

For Chester, life was a precarious house of cards – at least in his mind. The reality was his life was probably not as precarious as he imagined. Work was solid. Things with Alice were solid, he thought. Nothing had broken in the last 20 minutes…all good.

Still his mind seemed to live under the perpetual notion that he was always, constantly and forever, one misstep away from unrecoverable disaster. That everything he had, worked for, supported, built, repaired or maintained was all capable of being stripped away from him and he would be defenseless to stop it. He tamped all that down pretty good on the day to day, but there was an ever present, very subtle buzz in the back of his mind that seemed to constantly whisper, “Watch out!” as if he was undeserving, as if he was living someone else’s life fraudulently and he needed to be careful or the jig as they say, would be up. He feared the moment someone discovered the truth, whatever his world was would be destroyed.