2022 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 26

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Flash Fiction Challenge

For today’s prompt, structure your story as a list.

Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)

Here’s my attempt at writing a list:

Things You Do While Waiting for Your Life to Change

1. Online Shop

It starts small. Yoga mats and free weights that you’ll use a handful of times and never again. Maybe a pasta maker that you saw on TikTok. A weirdly flamboyant and wonderful coat that you’re not sure you’ll ever have the courage to wear in public.

Then, your shopping changes. You start Pinterest boards for things you’ll never be able to afford. You stalk Carvana listings for cars you’d never entertain the idea of buying for real. And what starts out as a passive interest in local Zillow listings becomes late-night deep dives into house market trends, mansions with the weirdest and most hideous décor you’ve ever seen, and an eye-opening exploration into the behind-the-scenes stuff that comes with buying and selling a house.

If nothing else, it keeps you fairly occupied.

2. Watch Every TV Show Ever

Sometimes, your phone isn’t enough to keep your mind busy. So, you start popping on a Netflix show while you indulge your online shopping habit.

For a while, it’s all “Tiger King” and “The Circle” and whatever other inane garbage you can find. It’s less about emotion and more about distraction. But then your friends convince you to give “The Haunting of Bly Manor” a try, and it’s all over. You spend less time on your phone and more time obsessing about mysteries and jump scares and crying about people who don’t even exist. But their lives feel real, feel like they’re right under your skin. And focusing on what’s happening to them is so much better than focusing on you.

And the good thing is that once you’re done with Netflix, there’s Apple TV+ and Hulu and Disney+ and Paramount + and…

3. Get a Dog

This one is kind of unexpected.

One minute, you’re scrolling your FaceBook feed on your lunch break, and the next, you’re heading to the local pet shelter. You show the front desk girl the picture you saw online, smiling nervously even though she can’t see it through your face mask. She nods, takes you back through the rows and rows of cages of dogs of every size, shape, and color.

One of the last cages holds a medium-size mix breed with big brown eyes and a crooked tail. He kind of grins at you when you crouch in front of the door.

“One of our longest residents,” the volunteer says, “been here almost 600 days.”

How can you leave without him after that?

He settles in pretty easily. Wants to be walked and played with and cuddled. Not really interested in people food, unless it’s chicken or, weirdly, Skittles. He gets you out of bed earlier than you’re used to, gets you outside and moving, starts filling in the little holes in your heart you never really knew were there before. You start to feel…better. About stuff.

Sure, his farts make your eyes water and sometimes the zoomies hit him at the worst times (like right before you want to stick him in the bathtub or at 3 a.m.), but his funny little snores and his perpetually wet chew toy make you feel settled. You find yourself googling dog parks in your area, wondering how he’d be off-leash. Maybe there’s a local dog-oriented group on FaceBook you can join.

4. Dream

If asked, you’ll say this is something you left behind with the rest of your childhood. No, you didn’t grow up to be a fireman or astronaut or marine biologist. No, you still haven’t found The One. No, you don’t love your job or your apartment or your car. Welcome to your early 30s; you feel too old to go clubbing on the weekends but too young to even entertain the idea of something like parenthood.

But, funny enough, you’re still watering that garden every day. One day, you’re walking the dog and you get this weird idea for a story about a realtor who gets hired by the local wealthy shut-in’s children to sell the property after the owner’s passing. What should be a straightforward home sale becomes a mystery that gets more complicated the deeper the realtor goes into it. And, you think later on while washing the dishes, maybe there’s a complicated love plot between the local sheriff and the realtor. Or maybe the love interest isn’t a sheriff; maybe the realtor’s ex is one of the wealthy guy’s kids.

And then it goes from something you think about while trying to find something new to watch to something in your phone’s note app that you add to every once in a while. And then that grows into a Word document on your laptop that you’re maximizing between the dog’s morning walk and when you have to clock into work.

Slowly and all at once, this thing you’re messing around with becomes something that you’re really invested in. Possibilities are springing up in front of you, things you never even thought to think about before. And while you were waiting for your life to change, you were taking small steps to change it all along. 

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