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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Michael K on October 12, 2007
"so much for fifteen minutes - this one took me almost an hour to write!"

Star Light, Star Bright, First Star I See Tonight

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have this wish I wish tonight.

I don't believe in wishing on stars. Okay? There. I said it. And I feel much better now for getting that off my chest.

For starters, who would be foolish enough to say that when they glance out at the heavens and that vast array of bright lights, they can actually pick out one star that they saw before all the others?

Unless, of course, it's a cloudy night, and most of the stars are obscured by fog. Then, maybe, you could do it.

Last night was a night like that. I had gone in to check on the kids after they went to bed, and since it was starting to get chilly, I closed their window. And in the process I caught a glimpse of one single star that shone through the clouds and brought a tiny bit of illumination to the nightscape.

"It must have been a star such as this," I thought, "that guided the magi to baby Jesus so long ago. Bright, steadfast, and beautiful."

And then I thought about that old poem about the first star. I'm not sure exactly why it came to mind, but before I could think it through, I blurted out: "I wish we could have peace on earth, good will toward men."

Perhaps it was because I was thinking of magi and shepherds and choirs of angels. Perhaps it was because the children had been fighting over the new x-box game. Perhaps it was because my boss had yelled at me that day, and threatened to fire me.

For whatever reason, I made the wish. And for just a few hours, I believed.

This morning I awoke to the sight of sunlight streaming in through my bedroom window, and when I looked outside I saw blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Everything felt right with the world this morning, and I couldn't help myself; I thought: it actually worked!

The children were cheerful. They packed up their homework and lunches for school without a word of complaint, they ate their breakfast without whining that this was the third time this week they had oatmeal, and they actually got to the school bus on time.

And my wife! She spoke softly and gently to the children, fixed breakfast without complaint, and never so much as hinted that I should help her clean up the dishes afterward.

Yes, I thought, it really did work!

The morning was going so well I decided I would take the day off from work and enjoy it. I needed to buy some new home entertainment equipment. I hadn't upgraded our system for several years, and everyone else in the neighborhood had more expensive, more sophisticated, more high definition equipment than we did. It wasn't right. After all, am I not the man who gave us peace on earth, good will toward man? Don't I deserve the best?

This week's Radio City sales flyer advertised a fantastic deal on a home theater system that - they promised - would make the neighbors drool and pant with jealousy.

So I went to Radio City. It was there that I began to realize: there is no such thing as peace on earth. There is no such thing as good will toward man. The parking lot at Radio City is huge; on a busy day you have to walk what seems like miles to get from one end of the lot to the store. But not today. Today was a special day; I wasn't going to walk the length of the parking lot when there were a handful of spaces right next to the store that no one uses. It's ridiculous. Ten handicapped spaces? There aren't that many handicapped people in the whole town!

When I got out of the car a man, walking by on his way into the store, noticed my lack of handicapped plates, and started yelling at me about his brother who had just returned from Iraq, having left both of his legs behind in a hospital.

I tried to explain to the man about peace on earth, good will toward men, but as I talked he looked more and more as though he wanted to punch me in the face. I realized that here was a man for whom there was not - and never would be - peace. So I walked away.

I had the sales flyer with me, and knew exactly where in the store I needed to go to get my new home entertainment system. As I approached the right aisle, I heard two things that made me realize I needed to hurry. First, I heard a sales rep saying, "I can't believe how quickly the Q-754 system has sold out. All we've got left is the display model, and I have a feeling that's going to go soon." Second, there was an old man carrying the same sales flyer I had, and I heard him say to his wife: "It's going to be so nice to have a nice new TV in the living room."

I was appalled. The old man was half blind, half deaf, and the difference between high definition, low definition and no definition at all would be completely lost on him. So I picked up my pace, and managed to get to the clerk just before they did. I explained that I wanted to buy the last Q-754, but the jerk wasn't even listening to me.

"Sir," he said, sounding annoyed, "you just knocked over that old lady."

I looked behind me and saw the old man helping his feeble wife up off the floor. He glared at me, and then said to the clerk, "That man cut in front of us."

Unbelievable. This man had to be going through his second childhood, because I hadn't heard "he cut in front" since I was in second grade. I tried to explain to the selfish and childish old man about peace on earth, good will toward man, but the truth is, he was more interested in home theater equipment than peace and good will. Selfish old geezer.

And the clerk wasn't any better; he wouldn't even wait on me, but stood by doing nothing until the old woman was back on her feet and had caught her breath. Then he sold the last Q-754 to her. How can you have peace on earth when people do things like that?

When I left the store it was raining, and my car was gone.

At the tow service (why do they call towing a service?), I tried to tell the man there about good will, but for all he understood I could have been talking about the place where you can buy cheap clothes.

Two hundred dollars and two hours later, I was back home. And there was no peace here, either. My wife greeted me at the door not with a kiss, but with a scowl. The sweet, even tempered woman of this morning was gone. Apparently while I was gone, my boss had called to inform me that he needed people he could count on, and it was clear I wasn't such a person.

I spent the rest of the day locked in the den watching reruns on my old TV, while my wife - who would never understand peace on earth - stood in the doorway and screamed at me.

It started out to be such a great day, but how can we ever have peace on earth when everyone is so selfish, arrogant, vindictive and unforgiving? How can we have good will toward men, when no one is as bright, as steadfast and as beautiful as that Christmas star?

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