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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Brian Sloan on September 8, 2011

Team Effort

Last year, during the school year, I lived with three other guys--we were pretty good friends. Me, Mark, Chris, and Reese, and often times his girlfriend, Sarah as well. This was my first time in an apartment-style house, so I didn't really know what to expect.
The first quarter went quite smoothly--we all pitched in and helped out with everything that needed to be accomplished. We shared dish duty. We kept the common areas clean. We all helped with cooking and made sure everyone was on task.
The second quarter, things started slowing down. I ended up cooking alone most nights. People would come and go, and bring unexpected guests, making planning dinner next to impossible. Dishes started piling up in the sink, and I was forced to do a lot more of the washing. The common area started getting dirty, and Chris would have to spend a full hour every week just picking up after Mark, Reese, and Sarah. I started getting frustrated.
Chris and I decided that we had to talk to Mark and Reese about it, and we did. And for that week, they'd help with the dishes one night and they'd spend five minutes picking stuff up. But they always lapsed back into slothfulness, leaving Chris and I with the lion's share of the work.
Our final quarter was the last straw. Chris started getting really busy and was unable to help out with a lot of the dishes. I was also busy, and didn't have time to do the dishes seven nights a week, or even cook for everyone all the time. I started getting a little bitter, and withdrew and cut off a lot of my efforts. I decided that it was every man for himself and started cleaning up after only myself, cooking for one, and ignoring the rapidly growing pile of dishes in the sink every night. It got to be too much, eventually, and Chris and I spent an hour doing dishes and killed even more time cleaning up the place.
I realize now that, while Mark and Reese were easy to get along with and fun to hang out with, and even diligent in their schoolwork, they were bad roommate choices. Reese is too impulsive and not very attentive to the current state of things, and Mark always says he'll do something and never does it. I'll make sure to screen future pre-arranged roommates for those qualities, which ended up really frustrating me.
Living with others is always a challenge--it's the traditional teamwork dilemma in a new setting: if one person fails to pull their weight, they can cause the whole structure to collapse. Mark and Reese ended up being our weakest links, and the whole group suffered. I now see that if one person doesn't commit to a community goal, it's really hard to accomplish that goal. Everyone needs to shoulder an equal burden, and everyone needs to be committed for the duration. Chris and I did what we could to maintain a good household feel, but in the end the two of us just didn't have enough time or desire to clean up after what essentially was five people, three of whom did nothing to assist.
This year, with five all-new roommates, I'm a bit frightened of how the house will look. I'm not sure who will help clean up, who will help cook, and who will help shop--another problem we encountered. I don't know who will be reliable and trustworthy, and I don't know who will be hard to get along with. What I do know is that if we don't all commit to the team effort of looking after ourselves, nobody will succeed. As Ben Franklin said, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

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