Inspiration, Part 2 (Garage Fiction #24)

This is Part 2 of a Series. Click here for Part 1 


Morgan Henry stepped out of the car backwards. He figured if he blocked the door with his body, he could restrain Otis from making a break for it.

Given the slobber up and down the passenger window after Otis saw the cat at the entrance to the Hemingway Estate, he knew there was going to be a fight.

“Sit! Sit!”

Using his best alpha dog voice. Morgan tried to keep Otis pinned to the passenger seat.  With one quick motion he backed out the car door and slammed it shut as Otis jammed a lugubrious face into the window, painting it from corner to corner as he barked and yelped for freedom.

Cursing the fact he forgot Otis’ leash, Morgan circled back to the trunk in the hope of finding a spare. Rummaging through a box of used books, some spare bike parts, and a  handful of sandy towels from their last trip to the beach.  The trunk came up empty.

Without a leash, the entire trip was on the verge of disaster. At last count there were around forty cats on the Hemingway estate.  Some were even direct decedents of the six-toed felines that graced the grounds while Hemingway was alive.

Pet store. Morgan thought of the only logical solution.  But when he reached for his phone and grabbed nothing more than the lining of his short’s pocket, the dread to set in.


Closing the trunk he walked toward the driver’s door to find Otis perched in the seat, tongue out in full pant,paws posted on the door ready for action.

Morgan fired off his alpha dog voice, “Get Back.”  The last thing Otis needed to see was weakness.  It would only fuel his ambition the moment he saw daylight.

“Get Down! Back off!”

Morgan got Otis to retreat.  Now he was straddling the console where Morgan left the phone. Reaching a hand inside the door he was able to push Otis into the passenger seat.

“Listen buddy.  You gotta work with me or we’re going home.”

Otis watched and waited. Using his body to block as much of the open door as possible, Morgan leaned in to grab the phone.  With his feet planted outside the car, the bend at his waist made perfect table top.  And that’s when Otis saw it. Daylight!

In one thrust Otis was airborne threading himself perfectly between the roof of the car and  Morgan’s back.  In the fraction of a second his legs gained purchase on the table top, and he was gone, darting around the back side of the car barreling down the sidewalk with the chest high brick wall.

By the time Morgan got out of the car, Otis was halfway to the cat at the entrance of the estate.  With forty pounds of fur closing in at mach two, the old tabby jumped a good four feet in the air before disappearing onto the grounds behind the wall .

The chase was on.

Morgan hadn’t even reached a full sprint by the time Otis hit the entrance.  With a mix of anger and embarrassment Morgan darted onto the grounds nearly ten seconds down.  And as he made his was past a through of visitors making their way to the main house his worst fears were realized.

No Otis.

Desperate. He looked for a face in the crowd that told him they knew he was the idiot who let a dog run loose in a fenced in property with forty cats.


With furrowed brow and a scolding look an otherwise nice looking couple pointed toward the side of the house. Morgan barreled around the corner of the house where staff were setting up for a wedding at the arbor.

Morgan sped past the rows of white chairs and took a turn down a gravelly trail that went through dense vegetation and palm trees only to stop dead in his tracks when he saw Otis sitting calmly next to a wrought iron bench as a cute girl with blonde hair and a flowy, floral print halter dress rubbed his head


Sitting, tail wagging, Otis turned his head as Morgan approached. Then turned back to the girl.

“I’m sorry miss, he got away from me in the parking lot and…”

“It’s no problem.”

Without the alpha dog tone in his voice, Morgan pleaded for Otis to leave her alone.

“Come here buddy, lets go.”  But Otis didn’t budge.

Embarrassed Morgan kept his gaze on Otis than the girl.  He didn’t want yet another scornful face turning the fiasco into a walk of shame.

But as he snuck a look at her face, he could see she was smiling at Otis as she continued to pet his head. Clearly Otis was more interested in the girl than sweaty, breathless Morgan.

“How did you get him to stop?”

“I didn’t.  When he came around the corner he seemed shocked by so many cats laying around and when the cats made a run for it, I don’t think he could figure out which ones to grab first.  So he just ran in circles.  And after they left, he just came over here and sat down.”

Morgan didn’t know what to think.  Forty cat’s would seem like a dream for a chase-loving dog.  But in the face of too much of a good thing, he must have shut down.

Looking from Otis back to the girl, Morgan felt an urge to keep the discussion going. “I think they call that flooding.”


“It’s a type of therapy when you expose the subject an excessive amount of something in order to change their behavior.”

You sound like an idiot, Morgan thought. “My Mom was a therapist.”


Morgan thought it odd that she picked up on the passed tense.  But her disarming smile made him feel like it didn’t matter.  Not only was she beautiful, her extraordinary mix of confidence and calm made him want to sit down and talk.  And it didn’t matter what about.

“She passed away.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Now you look like a needy idiot, Change the subject.

“I’m Morgan and it looks like you’ve already met Otis.”

She turned to Otis, petting his neck then cradling her hands around his jowls and rubbed his ears with her fingers.  “Well hello Otis.  Nice to formally make your acquaintance. I’m Sigrid.”

Otis entered a state of suspended animation.

“I think you’ve made a new friend Otis.  May I sit down?”


Morgan sat silently as she continued to pet Otis.

Breaking the silence he asked, “Are you from the area?  From the Keys, I mean?”

“No, I’m from Seattle.”

“Wow. That’s a haul. I don’t think you can get further away from Seattle and still be in the United States.

“That’s why I picked it.”

“For vacation?”

“Not really.  I just needed to get out of Seattle and this seemed like as good a place as any to start a year’s journey?”

“A year’s journey?”

“Yup.  That’s about how long I have.”

“For a sabbatical or something?”

“No.  That’s how long I have to live.”

Morgan caught himself before his facial expression or demeanor changed.

“You sure about that?”

“That’s what They said.”

“Well maybe you need to find another They.”

Segrid looked at Morgan and smiled a calm, confident smile. He caught her gaze and returned the the same, noting the nearly imperceptible crack in her secure veneer.  He continued.

“Anything can happen over a year’s time.”

Turning to look at Otis, who still hadn’t moved from his spot at her feet, she said, “You may be right.”

This is Part 2 of a Series. Click Here for Part 3

This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Nicholas Brack…

Ubble (or UK Longevity Explorer): A website that predicts the risk of dying within five years men and women living in the UK.

Scientific research carried out by Andrea Ganna (Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University) and Erik Ingelsson (Uppsala University)

These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Diffraction
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Session #1

Inspiration (Garage Fiction #23)

This is Part 1 of a series.  Click here for Part 2


It was eight a.m. and Morgan had already wasted two hours staring at the same uninspiring sentence.

Closing his laptop he looked down at the floor.

“Otis, we need a road trip.”

Springing onto all fours, Otis raised his ears  and cocked his head to the side in an effort to confirm the proposition.

He was a big fan of road trips, car rides, long walks or any other activity that would help him fulfill his destiny of giving a proper chase.

Truth is, it was always about the chase.  Otis was never interested in actually catching a cat.

A truth he learned the hard way when that nasty calico nearly gauged out his left eye. It took four stitches and ten days in cone confinement to make the world right again.

The vet told Morgan he could lower Otis’ aggression toward cats if he neutered him. It wasn’t a cure-all, but it might make life a little easier the next time Otis came in contact with a feline.

But Morgan couldn’t do it.  There was something inhumane about removing maleness in the name of convenience.   

Of course Genevieve was all for it.  And she nearly had Morgan convinced to follow through.

But when he backed out at the last minute, Genevieve packed up and left, taking her calico with her.

Morgan knew the dog wasn’t the real reason she left.

She’d been patient when he first left the advertising agency to make a go of it as full-time writer.  But after six months of watching Morgan’s “process” unfold, she’d warned him he was off track.

Even though he’d saved a years salary before making the leap, they agreed that he needed to have something published long before the year was up.

It could be anything. A short story, an article, something to show progress toward a goal.  If not, the year would come and go and the money would be gone.

And Genevieve made it eminently clear she wasn’t interested in supporting a starving artist on a fools errand.

But even under the threat of losing her, Morgan couldn’t seem to get a story finished. His “process” had him pining away as he searched for an elusive muse that could help him cross the creative finish line.

The sort of inspiration that would melt his doubts and fears and thereby magically erase his the time wasting habits he’d come to love and hate all at the same time.

Habits that helped him cope with the dread of finding something meaningful to write about.  Or worse yet, wondering  if anything he wrote would be worth reading.

Unconsciously arguing with himself over what to write, when to write, or even how to approach writing, Morgan found himself following the same rituals week after week as he sat down with his good intentions.

He’d reorganize his desk to make sure there was nothing to distract him.  He’d hand wash the dishes or knock out some other household chore to make sure he didn’t have nagging thoughts of a to-do list that could keep him from his craft.

Then just to make certain he wouldn’t have to break his concentration, he would walk Otis one last time.  This way he knew he had about three uninterrupted hours where he could write.

Precious writing time that he would invariably use to look for inspiration on writing from websites filled with famous quotes from great books like Stephen King’s On Writing, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, and Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing among others.

And if this didn’t kick start the writing flow, Morgan would carve out some time to switch up his writing software to better manage creative ideas.

Over the past six months, he’d gained some decent proficiency with Scrivener, Storyist, Ulysses III, and other programs in an effort to distance himself from less-artistic programs like Word.  His thinking was if one program didn’t meet the need at a given time, he could always switch it up and re-focus his effort.

And in though times when this creative “process” broke down as the the blank page stared at him with a vile hatred of every creative bone in his body, Morgan would strike back with a pen, legal pad, and a road trip.

Today was one of those times.

Without hesitating, Morgan threw his legal pad and a pen into his back pack, along with a towel and some swim trunks. Otis ran a tight circle at the door, bouncing off the bottom third on each rotation.  Road trips were his thing and the hunt was on.

Grabbing his sunglasses and some food for Otis the two jumped in the car and headed to Key West.  In a little over three hours the pair would be sitting outside The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum soaking up the inspiration.

For Morgan it would come from Hemingway’s ghost but for Otis it would come from the forty cats.

“Crap Otis. I forgot your leash!”

(This is Part 1 of a series.  Click here for Part 2)

This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…

The Hemingway Home on 907 Whitehead Street located in Old Town Key West, Florida where Dogwood paid a visit to this past week.

His words: The home of Hemingway at the edge of the nation. Looks like a villa.

His picture:

Photo Credit: Dogwood Daniels



These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  Old Finds Bight
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Scar, P3

Look Right (Garage Fiction #22)

In a little over two hours, Bill Frederik would be dead.

A death by character flaw.

You see Bill was a team player. He would ruthlessly sacrifice himself to make sure others around him were taken care of, no matter the cost.

Work, church, a neighbor, a friend, wherever a need he’d go out of his way to meet it.

It was just part of who he was.  A learned response from younger days.

Days when he’d come home from school, to find his mother passed out from all the drinking. And as the oldest child he quickly made it his job to take care of his brother and sister.  Then in the morning, he’d check to make sure his mother was still breathing, then nurse her back from the dead, only to start the whole process all over again when he got home from school.

Selfless sacrifice was the only life Bill knew.  A way for him to hear his mother tell him he was a good boy for helping out. An affirmation that just drove him to work harder to  please her and make life easier for everyone else.

That’s why he could never say no.  When someone in authority asked for help, the compulsion to dive in took over.  Only this time, the cost would be higher than he’d want to pay.

You see it all came to a head when Bill’s firm asked him to move to the London office. And while the thought of uprooting the family from Atlanta to London was unfathomable.  He felt compelled to do it.  He needed to hear the powers that be tell him he was a “good boy”.

That of course would come after Sabine hit the roof and told him to pound sand after she found out they had to move again.

“What? You’ve got to be kidding!”  Bill thought back on the night he first told her about the move.

“It’s not going to be for forever.  Maybe two years,”

“Two years!” He could see she was about to explode.

“Look, I don’t want to move either.  But they need me in London. I have to do it.”  Bill needed to hear those words.

Who’s going to help me with the twins while your working twelve to fourteen hours a day? Sabine’s face was bathed in panic.

Bill knew how hard it was to chase two toddlers around on the nights he made it home before bed time. He couldn’t imagine how Sabine made it through the day.  But with her mom close by, they seemed to have made it work.

“I’m sure I can get them to cover the cost of a nanny.  They know the boys are young.”

Sabine rolled her eyes. Once again he was putting the needs of others before her and the family. But he never saw it that way.  They were just an extension of himself.  Another sacrificial lamb he would have to use to hear those words.


Bill snapped to as Eliot hit the office window next to the desk.

Standing outside in the London drizzle, Eliot tipped back his hand with the little finger and and thumb splayed out wide as he chugged a pint.

“C’mon to the pub laddie.” Eliot’s voice was muffled by the window. “All work and no play makes Billie a dull boy.”

Looking up at Eliot, Bill motioned to his desk.

Raising his voice though the glass he yelled, “I have to finish this for Monday.”

Smiling Bill waived him on.

Eliot gave a shrug as he turned and headed to the cub.  After looking right and letting the Black Cab pass, he bounded across the rain soaked street to the pub on the opposite corner to the left.

Bill could see him shake off his umbrella and make his way inside.  He thought about calling it day, but just another hour or so and he would be at a clear stopping point, which would make it easier to pick back up tomorrow and finish things up over the weekend.

Two more solid days of work and he could take a few days off when Sabine and the boys got in next week.

By eight o’clock, Bill was able to pack it in. Another thirteen hour day was behind him and that pint was sounding better by the minute.

Grabbing his umbrella he headed out the door.  He turned up the collar on his jacket as the cold wet weather sent a chill across his neck.

Texting Eliot Bill asked, “You still there?”

“Yes. It’s about time you called it a day. You’re going to kill yourself with hours like that.”

Bill smiled.  He knew if Eliot had noticed his sacrifice, it was only a matter of time before he’d hear those coveted words from the powers that be.

Wearing his eighty hour work weeks as a badge of honor Bill shot back, “Been working like this all my life. I’ll be fine”

Rubbing his tired eyes he stuffed his cell phone in his pocket.  Looking up and to the left he could see the pub and that the coast was clear.

But unfortunately, as he stepped into the street, he never saw the big letters under his feet that said “Look Right.”

CC License Garry Knight (Flickr)

CC License Garry Knight (Flickr)

This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…

The Japanese word: Karōshi (過労死)

From the Wikipedia entry:

Karōshi (過労死), which can be translated literally as “death from overwork” in Japanese, is occupational sudden death. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet.

These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  The Vermillion Mage
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Scar, P2

I’ve Seen the Future And It’s a Cardboard Box (Garage Fiction #21)

Martine finally made it home.  It was eleven-thirty at night and Miguel and Abigail would already be asleep.   She hated that she’d done it again.  Put work before family.  But this was going to be the last time. 

The recent launch of Occulox was a huge success.  Twenty million units were sold in the first three hours. 

CC License othree (Flickr)

CC License othree (Flickr)

A brilliantly simple cardboard box with two bifurcated lenses and a magnet. And at $4 a pop, anyone with a smartphone could now immerse themselves in over thirty thousand virtual reality apps that played on the Occulox headset.

Making her way through the kitchen door she tried not to wake anyone.  She set her cell phone and briefcase on the table but held on to the copy of New York Times.

The front page headline gleamed with the Occulox launch.

We’ve Seen The Future and It’s a Cardboard Box.

Pouring a glass of 1997 Silver Oak Cabernet, Martine grabbed her laptop and took the paper into the living room.  Just a few quick emails to a manufacturer in China before the day gets away and she could call it quits.

Opening up the laptop she set the paper down on the table by the keyboard. She couldn’t stop staring at the headline.  It’s as if she’d been training her whole life for the olympics and had finally gotten the gold.

Sacrifice? Of Course.  She’d calculated every move until now.  When kids were playing in High School, she was studying.  Her life had been perfectly measured.  From undergrad to grad school she knew exactly where she wanted to be and how to get there.

She had waited until her career was established before ever thinking about getting pregnant.

But when Abigail came it changed everything.  All the things Martine detested like a lack of order and unfollowed routines were replaced by laughter and life.  Replaced by little feet, dirty noses, and crayons on the walls.

None of these things added up in her ordered world.  Which is why she kept working.  Even after Miguel quit Occulox right before the IPO. Martine stayed at it. Doing everything she could to avoid uncertainty.

Martine opened up her email on the laptop.

Looking at the blank screen She thought back on the fight last night.

“It’s always the same Martine.” Miguel yelled in a whisper so as not to wake Abigail. “Nothing changes unless we choose to change it . . . until you choose to change it.”

Late again.  Miguel had already put Abigail down for bed.  The crayons and building blocks still strewn across the living room.

Miguel had left Occulox a year ago to be at home with Abigail.  And after the Occulox IPO, there was really no need for him to work.

But Martine couldn’t let go.

“I get it Miguel.  But this launch is what I have worked my whole career for.  This is my baby.”

“And Abigail isn’t?”

Martine sat speechless.  There was no retort.  There was no answer.  Her eyes started to glaze over.  What had she done.  Three years and she barely knew Abigail.  Her bouncy curls had been brushed by the nanny, and now Miguel.

Heading back into the kitchen for a small splash of Silver Oak, Martine glanced over at the sideboard table near the kitchen.  A small cardboard box dancing with scribbles and colors from Abigail’s crayons.

She stopped and read the front where Abigail and Miguel had scribbled, “NO PHONE ZONE.”

It was Abigail’s idea that phones go in the box at night. Once she’d realized how much time Martine and Miguel were on the phone she’d begged over and over again, “get off the phone mommy” … “play with me”.

Martine walked back to the coffee table to grab her phone and put it in the box.  As she did, se saw the newspaper headline again, We’ve Seen The Future and It’s a Cardboard Box.  That’s when it hit her. All the calculations and she missed the most important.  Virtual worlds weren’t going to connect more people, they were going to isolate them even more. Occulox wasn’t bring people together it was going to drive them deeper into their own made up worlds.

Glancing again at the headline, Martine no longer felt like she’d grabbed the olympic gold.  If anything, she’d traded truth for a lie.

Sacrifices? Of course.  But at what cost.  What has she who gains the whole world but loses her own soul.

Martine took a photo of Abigail’s “NO PHONE ZONE” box with her cell phone as well as a photo of the New York Times headline. Attaching them on an email to the Occulox CEO, she wrote the simple words…

“I too have seen the future and it’s a cardboard box.”

This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me…

A New York Times article titled:
Google Intensifies Focus on Its Cardboard Virtual Reality Device by Conor Dougherty

Here’s an excerpt:

Google has seen the future, and it is littered with cardboard boxes.

At its Google I/O developer conference here on Thursday, the search giant announced several programs that aim to put its virtual reality viewer, called Cardboard, at the center of a growing online world in which people can use their smartphone and YouTube to watch videos rendered in 3-D.

Google introduced its virtual reality viewer — a cardboard box, with some lenses and a magnet, that looks a lot like a plastic View-Master toy — as a gift at last year’s I/O conference.

The idea was to create an inexpensive virtual reality device that allowed anyone with a smartphone to do things like fly through a Google Earth map of Chicago or view personal pictures in three dimensions.

It is a comically simple contraption: A smartphone slips into the front so it sits just inches from a user’s eyes. Peering through a pair of cheap, plastic lenses renders the images on the phone’s screen in 3-D. It costs around $4.

These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here:  Fey Eyes
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Scar, P1