Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
GregoryGregory is a rock. I don't mean he's a pillar of support in times of trouble, or any such metaphorical nonsense. No, I mean it literally. He's a rock.
I was out walking on Hill Street when I saw him. I'd like to say there was something special about him that attracted my eye - some luminescenece, some pattern of coloring or shading of dark and light. But there was nothing about Gregory that made him leap out from among his peers, except this one thing: he was smooth and flat on the bottom, and nicely rounded on the top.
The perfect paperweight, I thought as I picked him up and jammed him into my jeans pocket.
Why I named him Gregory, that's anyone's guess. I don't even remember if I had a childhood friend named Gregory - a couple Gregs, and I suppose Greg was short for Gregory, but I never thought of them as Gregory.
But this rock - he was definitely a Gregory.
For three weeks I kept him on my desk, between the computer and the printer. Every morning I would say to him: "Good morning, Gregory, it's a beautiful day today," or "Hey Gregory, can you believe how hard it's raining out there? Good thing you're in here where it's dry, huh?"
To each of my inquiries, Gregory would, with the arrogant indifference that only a rock can express, remain silent and still.
When I needed a paper that Gregory was holding down, I would say, "Pass the electric bill, please," or "Hey, Gregory, have you got my paycheck?"
And still, Gregory would remain strangely mute.
On the bright side, Gregory would never complain when I left for the day - no whining and complaining "You never spend enough time with me," or "Is your work more important than me?"
For three weeks he sat there on my desk, between the computer and the printer, saying nothing. And then, at the beginning of the fourth week, I think something snapped. It was right after, for the four hundredth time, I called him Gregory.
"My name," he announced with more irritation than I have ever heard from a rock, "is Willis."
The Phone BillIt's been two weeks now since I found out that my rock's name was not Gregory, but Willis. To be honest, I don't think he really looks like a "Willis". In my mind, Willis is a name for someone who could play in a DieHard movie.
And although Willis would certainly induce a great deal of pain if he was hurled suddenly at someone's head, he is neither photogenic nor athletic enough to star in an action-thriller movie.
Ever since I found out his name is really Willis, I've been careful to stop calling him Gregory. The change has been extraordinary. Now my rock is eager to chat - in fact, I would say he's downright talkative.
"Hey Willis, have you got my phone bill?" I asked him yesterday.
After a pause he said, "Hey, what's this phone call to East Timbuctu?"
"Just visiting with my cousin Ethel."
"For forty-five minutes? Do you have any idea how much that phone call cost?" He sounded a bit aggrieved.
"So, I'm also sitting on your 2007 budget figures, and I guarantee we don't have money enough to be throwing around like that."
I glared at him. He seemed impervious to my stare. "We?" I demanded.
He didn't shrug, but I'm sure if rocks had the ability to shrug, he would have. "I live here too, you know," he said.
"I don't see you doing much to increase our net worth," I replied. "You want to start talking about our money, I suggest you get a job."
"I already have a job."
"Really? What are you? A brain surgeon?"
Sarcasm is lost on rocks - even intelligent ones like Willis.
"No, stupid. I'm a paperweight."
I hadn't exactly thought about it like that. I suppose, technically, he was working for me.
"You know the book of Leviticus, in the Bible, says not to withhold your neighbor's wages," he continued piously.
Leave it to Willis to bring in the heavy guns. The book of Leviticus. Considering carefully my options, I realized there was only one solution to my unfortunate dilemma.
I'm going back to calling him Gregory.
First Name, Middle Name"How many names do you have?"
Startled, I looked up from my work and stared, trying to find the voice that seemed to come out of nowhere. It was Willis. He had stopped talking to me when I went back to calling him Gregory, which - by the way - is not his real name. Willis remained in a silent sulk for nearly a month, and toward the end of it I had almost forgotten he was there. Almost.
"Wh-what?" I said.
"How many names do you have?"
"Three," I said.
"First name, middle name, last name?" he continued.
"And the first name comes before the last name, and the middle name is between the other two?"
"Yes." I wondered where he was going with this questioning.
"I only have one name," Willis said.
"Sorry to hear that," I said, although I couldn't really imagine why it would matter to anyone, let alone a rock whether they had a middle name. I never used mine.
"I've decided that it's only fair for me to give myself a middle name," Willis announced.
"My middle name is...Gregory." He said it proudly, like he was announcing that he is now the Prince of Wales.
"Really?" I didn't know what else to say.
"That's right. So now when you call me Gregory, I can answer you."
"Ha!" I said, "You missed talking to me, didn't you?" I was happy that he broke down before I did. Every few days I had to resist anew the temptation to go back to calling him Willis, just so I could hear his voice again.
"Well, don't get all teary eyed on me," Willis Gregory scolded, "it's not like this is a grand male-bonding moment, or anything like that."
"This is all well and good," I said, picking my words carefully, "and I'm glad that you're talking again, but there are times when I just like to have my peace and quiet."
"Stick cotton in your ears," he suggested unhelpfully.
"How about this," I said. "When I want to talk to you, I'll call you Willis, and when I don't want to talk to you, I'll call you Gregory."
"Let me think about that for a moment," he said.
I waited patiently while Willis sat in silence on my desk for several minutes. I was surprised to discover that his answer - one way or the other - actually mattered to me more than I would have supposed.
Finally he spoke up. "Agreed. On one condition."
"Well, Douglas, when I get sick of hearing you ramble on interminably about nothing, I'm going to call you Gertrude."
Willis Takes A VacationThere are days I wish I'd just walked on by Willis when I saw him lying on the ground, up there on Hill Street. I mean, sure, he's friendly (most of the time) and helpful (occasionally), but sometimes the hassle of having a pet rock outweighs the benefits.
Take last week, for instance. I was puttering away on one of my websites when Willis - who hadn't spoken to me for about a week and a half - announced out of the blue: "I think we should take a vacation."
I considered this. Actually, it had been quite a long while since I'd taken a vacation. Maybe it was time for a change of pace, and a little relaxation. "Did you have anything particular in mind?" I asked.
Willis nodded. Well, he would have nodded if he wasn't an inanimate chunk of mineral. Instead of nodding he said, "Yes. I thought we should go to New York City."
"And do what?" I said, thinking of how little I wanted to drive to and in and through New York City. I hate city driving.
"We could stand on a street corner and watch the people."
"Watch the people?" I said, disbelieving.
"Sure! Just think what fun that would be! All those interesting, beautiful, magnificent people all together in one place for us to look at and admire! It'll be WONDERFUL!"
I said, "That s0unds like the worst vacation idea I've ever heard of. What are you, some sort of twisted stalker?"
"And you have a better idea?" Willis said.
"Well, to be honest, I've always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon."
"The Grand Canyon?"
"And what, pray tell, would you do there?" Willis said.
"Are you kidding? There's so much to do there!"
"Well, just think: you and me, standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking out over all those magnificent, beautiful, rocky precipices!"
Willis glared - or, at least, I think he glared. His tone of voice was glaring, anyway. "You want to just stand in one place and stare at a bunch of rocks? How is that any less twisted than me wanting to stand on a street corner and watch people? What kind of sick, twisted person are you? A rock stalker?"
"Better than being a people-stalker," I replied.
"Maybe we should compromise," he suggested.
I hate compromise. Particularly compromise with a chunk of rock like Willis. But sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the thing you don't want to do. So now you know why, even though neither of us were particularly happy about it, we ended up vacationing at Mount Rushmore.
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