I beat my head irritably against the headrest of my recliner. I need to finish reading this book, but only three hours remain. I take a deep breath. Hopefully that will be enough time to read the final chapter.
I log in to my computer and as I wait for the loading circle, I ponder my current dilemma. Where did it all go wrong? I was ahead of schedule every step of the way, but here I sit, three hours remaining and I must watch my hard work spiral down the drain.
My goal for twenty-twenty was to read thirty books. Not too difficult. And if I was serious about this goal, I would have finished in early December and rode out the remainder of the year feeling good about myself. But I have waited until the last minute to complete my goal. Ridiculous though it may be, all I need to do is read is one final chapter. However, until I can summon the want-to, that single chapter had might as be written in Braille.
But... I can't give up without a fight.
The computer prompts me to enable a software update, during which my laptop will reboot. Ugh! I delay the update until later. I am notified that the system will update outside 'active hours.' Fine, do that! That out of the way, it is finally time to read.
I reach toward my nightstand, grasping for my drink, but my hand finds nothing but air. I take another deep breath, again in irritation. I've left my Red Bull in the fridge. There is only one thing that can be done. I sit my laptop aside, as I am unequipped for this undertaking.
It is an hour later before I open the Kindle app. I'm running behind, but it was unavoidable. Red Bulls necessitate a Youtube binge. Plus, I was giving the caffeine and taurine time to kick in.
Finally I read a few paragraphs. Then I stop to count the number of pages remaining. Not many. I can wrap this up in only a few minutes.
Therefore, I open the Word document where I record all of my 'read' books for the year and consider logging this current book as completed. I decide against it. But, since I have goals on the brain, I open a new Word document and begin planning out my goals for next year. I set my book reading goal at forty—thirty is too easy. I also take the time to add my other goals, which seem to roll over from year to year without much change: get into shape, decide what I want to do with my life, master the bottle flip—among other pivotal determinants for a happy life.
I switch back to reading, and skim several pages. I yawn, losing interest. I am reading this final chapter cold after all, having finished the first eighteen chapters a week ago. When I love a story, the only way to let it go is to give myself time to forget. This only applies to initial readings though. With re-readings the last chapter of a good story always loops me back to chapter one.
Re-readings! I look at my goals. Technically!... Technically, I have already read fifty books this year if I include favorites that I re-read in audio format. The discovery of Audible was the highlight of my year, and my binge was only cut short due to funding.
I face a dilemma: do I count re-readings or don't I? Normally I don't... but it hasn't been a normal year. I ponder this argument as it seems to have merit. Jim Dale does sound completely different than my inner narrator, but... Harry still defeats Voldemort in the end. Ugh, I decide that re-readings don't count. I will finish reading the final chapter.
However, there is time to spare, and I'm still needing motivation. I pull up the live stream in Times Square, where the camera pans revealing nearly vacant streets due to social distancing. I connect just in time; the ball begins to drop. In one minute it will reach the bottom and twenty-twenty will be gone. Like a guillotine, it will finish off twenty-twenty for good. And, while the year doesn't deserve a quick and painless end, the sooner it is gone the better.
As I watch the ball drop, I think of all the goals that I've failed this year. I got off to a hot start like always but ran out of gas at the end. The most frustrating thing is that this year seems to have lasted a decade, not a mere three-hundred sixty-six days. It has crawled along like a tortoise. Yet, somehow, with all that time, there is only a single goal on my list that I am close to accomplishing.
The ball reaches the bottom and confetti explodes everywhere. It is now twenty-twenty-one.
I shut off the live stream and can feel my heart racing. I can still do it! I will definitely accomplish one goal this year!
It is sad that I'm often forced to motivate myself in such ways, but this is my go-to. I am a junkie addicted to the rush. My drugs of choice are: caffeine, and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. I look at my clock; it reads eleven, as I live in the Central time zone. Enough procrastination, it's time to knock out this goal.
I get up and go quickly to the bathroom. I want to complete this goal with time to spare, but the Red Bull from earlier has run its course necessitating a more immediate goal.
When I get back, I crack my knuckles then plop back into my recliner. I will knock this out in ten minu—
Before me is a blue screen—my computer is updating. I suddenly remember that my 'active hours' end at eleven o'clock! How could I have forgotten?
I rock back and forth, trying to wait patiently, but I know that it is pointless. My computer is trash, and updates take forever, always getting hung at ninety-nine percent. I've seen it stuck at that percentage for hours at a time. It's infuriating! How can this piece of junk update ninety-nine percent in three minutes, but spend the next three hours on the last step?
I'm out of time, only a handful of minutes remain.
I decide to use my phone to read the final chapter. One problem, I don't have the Kindle app on my phone. Damn! I open the app store to download it. I am prompted to enter my Apple ID. Damn! All my account passwords are saved in a file on my PC. I frantically begin to guess at possible passwords. IronMan99. Wrong! IronMan999. Wrong! I know that it went something like this, but I rapidly fail several more times, then am locked out for one minute before being allowed to guess again. I look at the clock; it reads eleven forty-five.
I guess my password on the first try of my second round. Shawarma!999. Sweet, I'm in! I quickly download the Kindle app. I know that this is going to be a close one, but I open the app with ten minutes to go. I can skim read if I need to.
I am prompted to enter my Amazon password, to sync with my PC. Shit! I hesitate for a moment, then fist-pump. Sometimes carelessness pays off. Shawarma!999. Yes, I'm in!
I quickly download the book, and begin reading. Ten pages...nine pages...eight pages…
Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm goes off telling me that twenty-twenty has come to an end, and three pages still remain. I curse myself for playing fair, and actually reading the pages instead of skimming them. I have failed.
I lean hard against the headrest of my recliner and stare blankly at the page. What was the point of all this? I know that I should be happy. I read twenty-nine books and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I grind my teeth. But failure is failure. I was complacent and this damn year beat me to the finish line.
I ponder cheating in various ways, after all who is going to know—or care. This was a personal goal after all. I could give myself ten extra minutes. Or, why not simply say that I live in the Mountain time zone? Would it really make a difference? Ugh! It would. It would be cheating, and it wouldn't feel like a win.
I laugh at my own misery, then move the cursor to exit the Kindle app. I suddenly notice something and feel my heart clench. The Table of Contents tool bar on the left side of the page says that I am currently reading the 'Epilogue!'
I am struck dumb, hardly able to believe it. I've done it! I've read thirty books in twenty-twenty and accomplished my goal. The real story actually ended with chapter eighteen. Everyone knows that an Epilogue isn't a real chapter, and doesn't count!
"Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" I burst into a fit of manic laughter.
I open the Word document where I log my 'read' books and record my work in progress as completed. The elation is overwhelming. So much so that I open my goals for twenty-twenty-one and decide that I will read fifty books this year!