Contest #171 shortlist ⭐️

A World of Opinion

Submitted into Contest #171 in response to: Write a story where someone decides to take the long way home.... view prompt

53 comments

Fiction Speculative

Pundits predicted the death of the news industry back in 2028 when Trump and Biden were both moved to assisted care homes and were taken away from their microphones. The ex-presidents had the option of separate rooms at the home but neither could afford to stay alone for long. As a Pulitzer Prize winning human interest writer, my editor had me invited to hear their side of the story of what it is like to share a room because of the government budget cuts, but from behind their oxygen masks, I couldn’t make out much of what they were saying about each other, so instead I wrote an article on the paucity of care they were receiving. This article generated more sympathy for those two than they had received in years.


It isn’t just ex-presidents having to cut corners these days. For this week’s assignment, I spent the weekend talking to desperate people online about the impact of raging inflation. Exhausted, I hope it will be a rare morning that my building superintendent doesn't stop and ask me a million questions on my way out. But I’m wrong. 


“Boss! I found all your wife’s things next to the garbage chute. Would you like me to take them over to the Salvation Army?”


“No, don’t do that,” I say firmly. I really can’t imagine anyone else wearing them after she’s gone.

 

“Ok got it Boss,” he backs off shrugging, then smiles super friendly like. “You’re a smart news guy, what else is going on today that I should know about?”


“Prices are up.” Patrick is too dumb to talk economics with.


“Inflation? I’m lucky they give me a free apartment in this building, bro.” 


“Good for you,” I say and go out the door before he pulls me into talking about anything else. I need to get to the office, Life Tree Media’s CEO now makes us show up at the office in person on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Mondays are the worst. I wipe the food residue off of the desk from whoever was sitting in my spot all weekend. To save money, our company began hot desking our seats when we are not in the office.


I hurry to the company canteen and order one skinny oat decaf latte at a subsidized price of $17. It’s for Paul, our Chief Editor. Even after being around for so long, it’s still important to show I’m part of the team. I will skip lunch today to make up for it.


During our “Make the world a better place” meeting, now renamed “Positive Action”, I think over my plans for Christmas during everyones dull presentations about whats wrong with the world and how to fix it. It’s already December but the prices for flights to Minneapolis have not fallen yet. I decide to definitely buy a ticket this week for the cheaper $499 Chinatown bus that swings through the Nashville transfer hub before heading north to Minneapolis. One has to balance the question of time versus money.



After wrapping up the daily meeting nuts and bolts, Paul looks more serious. “Corporate has announced a 15% salary cut to balance the budget. I know things are tough but remember, we together are creating a positive impact,” he says, “Now get back to work everyone. And thank you to whoever bought this coffee.” He nods at the group and rushes off to places and management floors unknown.


When I return to my apartment, Patrick opens the door and gets in my face to ask, “watching the Nets game tonight?”


“Of course,” I say and nod my head. A white lie. I’ll be too busy posting opinions on Twitter to watch the two-hour basketball game. On my mobile, I add a reminder to check the score before I go to sleep.


I remember something else.


“Patrick, do you think you can fix a toilet? Mine keeps running,” 


“Sure, I can do that.”


“The three plumbers in Bushwick have not answered my calls all day, I’ll give you $50?”


“Deal.” He looks down the street toward the darkened shops. ”Looks like I’m the only one still working here, and you too, boss.”


**


When I wake up, Everything is a blur. I don’t mean it was all a blur like I got drunk or stoned last night. It's a blur because I have been wearing my daily-wear contacts for 3 days at a time. After I put in eye drops, my vision clears and the first thing I see is Winston pointed like a torpedo on four legs toward the door waiting for the tiniest possibility of escape. Winston is the most hyperactive border collie in Brooklyn.


As I walk past Usagi Coffee I notice the white board in the window has been redrawn again. It reads “Coffees from $21” in stylish handwriting with little coffee beans inside the circles in the letters and butterflies bursting out from the serifs. Below, in plainer handwriting, “Closed until further notice.”


Reading this I feel lighter. I will no longer watch the successful hipsters of Brooklyn drinking craft lattes and have a debate with myself if it's worth paying $21 to be part of the club. 


I do receive a lot of angry looks while I walk Winston around Bushwick. Due to the price of pet food, most people in Brooklyn have given up their Mini Poodles, Corgis and Shibas a long ago. Maybe Winston brings back bad memories. The students at the local art school have been painting murals on abandoned buildings all over Brooklyn. “Feed people, not pets.” 


Full disclosure, this might sound like a product placement, but I’ve been able to afford pet food because I was lucky enough to sign up early for the IAmAGoodListener app. Everyone needs a side hustle these days.


Even as prices for everything else rose last year, hourly booking as an Accredited Listener took off as all the real psychologists and therapists began canceling appointments to focus on the online debate about the future of psychology. After my wife's passing, it has been helpful for me personally to hear other people cry.


Last month my profitable second job took a hit when Life Tree Media installed TrackYourEmployeesSideHustle and I had to stop listening to clients while I work. Now I can only fit in five hours of listening while I’m watching Netflix at night. 


When I get back to my building with Winston in tow, still worrying about how I'm going to buy his pet food next month, Patrick stops me and says, “a letter from management” and hands me an envelope.


Pulling out a sheet of recycled A4 paper, I see the landlord’s printed WhatsApp history with his mistress on one side , and flipping it over, on the other, “A 30% rent increase will be effective from Dec 1st.”


“What the f*k!” I shout at Patrick, who right now represents all the evil of the landlord. 


“Sorry bro.”


I think of how I’m important enough to work for the nation’s leading life hacks media company, and shape the fate of Azerbaijan’s invasion of Tajikistan on Twitter, but I can’t even afford to pay rent for my apartment.


Out the window I watch a cow chewing on the grass growing out of the cracks of Bushwick avenue. This would be a puzzling sight like a near-future apocalyptic SciFi show if I hadn’t read the organic farms of Long Island have been releasing their livestock to free graze since last month. Or is it ‘urban graze’?  


I see a Twitter priority notification.


* Nobby Networks is in final negotiations of a $720 billion buyout of Summit Media.


This would be the third time we have been digested by a larger company, so I don’t put much thought into it and go to sleep.


**


Wednesday, I need to take the whole afternoon off to go way out to Scarsdale in Westchester County, to the only dentist I find still accepting appointments. While he is drilling my root canal, every few minutes he takes his gloves off checks his twitter account, and then puts the gloves back on. The dental hygienist needs to prepare another shot of Novocaine two hours later when the first one wears off. 


After paying the dentist bill, I check my digital wallet. $553 dollars left. Budgeting for my trip home next week gives $499 for the ticket and $54 for food.


 I receive a notification.


* The Chinatown Manhattan-Minneapolis ticket price has been increased from $499 to $649.


I read that three times. Then check the other bus companies, they have also increased fares. I can think of a dozen people at work who could explain the causes of inflation, but I can’t think of one who would lend me money. When I arrive home, I see Patrick, the only person outside of work that I talk to regularly. 


“Patrick? I'm really hard up and we’ve known each other a long time, can I borrow $100 dollars to go back home for Christmas?”


“No, problem.”


He goes back to his little office and comes back with an actual paper hundred dollar bill.


I realize I have no way to return here, or to pay my rent if I make it back. Winston can come with me, but Patrick will need to clean up everything else I leave behind. Tears well up in my eyes. I realize it doesn’t matter if Patrick is for or against my political party or understands economics or anything else I go on about, and I give him a hug.


“Are you ok?’ Patrick looks at me with real concern.


“I’ll be fine,” I say, and then think about what I can fit into my suitcase to carry home. On the journey home, I think I'll write a human interest story about a 46-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning journalist that needs to go back home to live with his parents.


November 10, 2022 20:25

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53 comments

Graham Kinross
12:30 Nov 12, 2022

This is funny but also sadly accurate. I feel like my generation and those that follow have been priced out of every privilege the previous generations enjoyed. Everything is getting more expensive and surprise surprise there are more millionaires than ever draining the life from the rest of us so they can compete to be richer than the pharaohs of Egypt.

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20:08 Nov 12, 2022

I really like that last line, that's exactly true, they want to be richer than the pharaohs of Egypt. and build spaceships that don't go anywhere and just pile up money they can never spend. I had a rant at the end of the story that I took out because it was lecturing a bit too much along the same line. "I want to scream at this city that draws us in from the American hinterland, bedazzles us with sparkles of its glory, the beads the Metoac tribe yearned for, now a glimmer of riches seen through the mist of careers and social ladders. It k...

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Graham Kinross
21:39 Nov 12, 2022

You could rant forever about how unfair the world is. People running these companies always like to portray themselves as having come from nowhere and then it always turns out they went to an Ivy League school and had a small fortune to begin with.

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06:33 Nov 12, 2022

The best satire is so close to truth, it's painful. I really felt it here. Reminded me of the movie "in time". Some very similar themes. A few minor things to edit, but you will catch them. I breezed through this and loved it.

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10:02 Nov 12, 2022

Thanks for reading! Happy you enjoyed it. Was a balancing act keeps it real and also making it enough over the top to be satire.

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Lily Finch
19:47 Nov 11, 2022

I enjoyed the story and the satire immensely. You can add so many things to this everyday lifestyle that cost small fortunes. If you live North of the US border, you might think that prices are outrageously high. Not just young people are being affected. It is a price crisis that is out of control. Just some sentences that may need clarification or not? I do see readers more interested in what's happening around them than ever before. - Shibas a long ago. It has also been helpful to hear other people cry, when I can’t as a human interest...

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21:32 Nov 11, 2022

Thanks! that's very helpful, I smoothed out those rough patches you pointed out. Yes, things are becoming outrageous, I haven't been able to return home to the US to visit because of the cost of rentals right now.

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Lily Finch
23:54 Nov 11, 2022

Oh, man. I feel for you. I lived far from my home too.

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Tommy Goround
14:26 Nov 11, 2022

Cool. I read a Reedsy story and learn something... Or two.

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21:36 Nov 11, 2022

Thanks! Popular economics in a reedsy short story, how do I name drop Milton Friedman into this.

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Delbert Griffith
23:13 Nov 10, 2022

This is simultaneously hilarious, sad, disturbing, and horrific. This is such a great satire on American (maybe global) social media and news outlets. I love the extreme extrapolations, which practically all information media seem to indulge in. Why not go even further with the satire and add a news story about iphone prices plummeting from $7500 to $2500 because inside sources report that all phone components are now made in America. Anyway...your story is a hoot and a half. I love it!

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14:20 Nov 11, 2022

Thanks Delbert! Yeah prices are going wild, I don't know who can afford some things these days. A 2 bedroom airbnb in LA costs 20k , a month?? have to make a comedy out of how riduculous this is getting. Your take on iphones is genius. Missed the chance to have some jokes on utility bills, electronics, mobile charges.. will keep thinking how I can fit this in.

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Kevin Broccoli
19:15 Nov 23, 2022

It's always interesting reading these kinds of stories watching as the absurd becomes reality. Usually the execution is where it lives or dies, and you executed it perfectly. Glad to see it recognized.

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21:25 Nov 23, 2022

Thanks Kevin, that's great to hear coming from a successful writer like you. I'm still working on improving my prose but happy the story worked;)

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Philip Ebuluofor
18:24 Nov 21, 2022

Congrats first. Want to know why westerners when hardships strike, they go back home to live with their parents? Is it because parents don't pay house rent or what?

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18:33 Nov 21, 2022

Yeah, they usually live with the parents for free, because their parents own the house... these days usually about 25 years old is about the limit though. This story was more of a joke if inflation keeps going higher and higher even people with good jobs need to go home.

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Philip Ebuluofor
16:08 Nov 22, 2022

Yeah, I can feel that. But, why not come down that high horse and share a flat with one or two other persons.

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18:10 Nov 22, 2022

yeah the MC has a big ego. the irony is the doorman is doing better than he is.

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Sophia Gardenia
22:57 Nov 18, 2022

Man, this was funny and extremely sad at the same time. I love how you weave in the inflation/economic problems into the story instead of flat-out stating it; a stunning example of show don't tell.

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23:29 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much! one of the nicest comments I've received. And yes, I've watched so many show don't tell reedsy videos, and keep working on that. thx again for reading and commenting;)

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Aeris Walker
22:44 Nov 18, 2022

Oo this was really good, Scott. It felt totally believable, and the matter-of-fact tone you deliver it in only adds to the depressing reality that this very likely could be where our future is heading, and that many people are already feeling the financial tightness of inflation. I like how you made your point with the simple example of purchasing a latte—something that is a normal exchange in many people’s lives, but in hard times it realistically would fall into the “luxary” category. Congratulations on the shortlist!! You did a great job.

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22:57 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting Aeris. It began as a satire of self important people in big cities, who are actually sometimes doing less well than the working class, but the topic of inflation and how it affecting everyone became the overall theme. Anyways, so happy one of my satires got on the shortlist, thx again!

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Delbert Griffith
21:46 Nov 18, 2022

Congrats on being shortlisted. Great story, Scott.

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21:55 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks! happy to get another satirical story listed;)

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Anne Marie Miles
17:06 Nov 18, 2022

Congratulations on the shortlist Scott! Well-deserved! 🎉

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17:20 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much for your previous comment and encouragement! It always such a relief to have something get acknowledged. i think i need to figure out where next I can go with my writing as ive only done reedsy so far😅

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Anne Marie Miles
22:35 Nov 18, 2022

It does feel good when your work is acknowledged! I recommend looking at the website Submittable.com. You can find literary journals looking for short stories and other creations. There is a submission fee for most, but that's where I've found homes for a lot of my poetry. I have yet to publish a short story through there, but I am new to short stories. I love the accessibility on that website though, so it is worth a gander!

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10:55 Nov 21, 2022

I'm going to get started on that. and maybe trying to also figure out how to slowly fill out 50K words for a scifi novel (that seems more challenging to stay motivted with)

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Susan Catucci
14:50 Nov 18, 2022

You tackle some heady and super relevant topics, Scott, and I admire your skill at presenting tough material (for me, at least) with truth at its core and then apply humor to shine a light on just how absurd and misguided homo sapiens can be in creating their imperfect world. I was taught to believe life can be viewed in one of two ways: a comedy or a tragedy. I think you probably already know what I chose. This is so well done, seriously!

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17:00 Nov 18, 2022

Thanks so much for your nice comment. Was trying to make light irony of a few things on my mind lately, and the irony I've seen in big cities of some people taking themselves too seriously, while the doorman might actually doing better. And throw in the pain of inflation which is out there for everyone these days.

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Susan Catucci
17:08 Nov 18, 2022

I agree. Human error is like an equal opportunity game show without a channel changer.

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Michał Przywara
21:45 Nov 16, 2022

Hilarious opening, and then we dip between funny and sad. Like others have mentioned, great, terrifying, satire :) It's not just the prices going up, it's the attitudes around them, like management's expectation of the free coffee. Hopefully this bleak prediction is proven wrong, and we all look back on it from a more sane and prosperous 2028 and laugh - but either way, forcing former world leaders to room together should be a real thing. We can lump them all in the same house, set up a bunch of cameras, and at least have some laughs and...

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12:47 Nov 17, 2022

Thanks for reading and the insightful comment as usual. Part of this was more directed at big cities. I'm surprised at how cheap things can be out of the big cities and wonder sometimes why we torture ourselves living in these place in the era of remote work. And in politics the one thing that's guaranteed is whatever people are fired up about today, will be old news and forgotten in ten years. Its amazing to think technical differences between the catholic and protestant religions was the reason for people in europe to be in 100 years of d...

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Michał Przywara
22:08 Nov 18, 2022

Congratulations on the shortlist!

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Anne Marie Miles
14:59 Nov 16, 2022

You had me at Biden and Trump sharing a room! Our economy is in an ludicrous state right now and you managed to capture that through this funny story. I'm impressed by how creatively you used this prompt, too!

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Helen Smith
08:50 Nov 16, 2022

I’m not American but I identified with your story. Seems to be the way everything is going. The only consolation is he can write about it.

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13:56 Nov 16, 2022

Yes, when I don't have a specific story idea for the week, sometimes I think about whats been on my mind lately..

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Daniel Allen
13:49 Nov 15, 2022

This sounds scarily like the situation in the UK right now... A funny and poignant take on the global economy. Excellent work.

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13:55 Nov 16, 2022

Thanks for the read Dan!

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Marty B
05:12 Nov 15, 2022

Too close to reality and satire turns into horror. Those $20 lattes are closer than you think- This future is already here- just unevenly distributed.

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13:54 Nov 16, 2022

I can imagine. I paid $7 for a small bag of almonds three years ago in san francisco, and that was before the pandemic and inflation spike.

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Suma Jayachandar
10:08 Nov 14, 2022

Hi Scott, Read this earlier, commenting now. This is one of the best satire pieces I have read on this site. It would have been damn hilarious if it weren't so scarily accurate. Thanks for sharing.

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15:35 Nov 14, 2022

Thanks so much for reading Suma. happy to hear some of the jokes about inflation in brooklyn landed;)

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04:21 Nov 13, 2022

Your last line was a great way to end the story and it didn't sound preachy at all. It had the same tone as Don't Look Up, which was another satire where I found myself thinking, "I'm not crying, I'm laughing on the wrong side of my face". I'm hoping it stays fiction, but you've only given us 6 years to turn it around! Anyway, well done on the story. Thank you for sharing!

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07:44 Nov 13, 2022

Thanks for reading! So good to hear you found this funny. I had a starting idea that everyone will be so busy announcing their big opinions on social media (or doing tiktok videos,etc) that no one wants to work anymore.. so no matter how important you are in the world of opinion it doesn't work unless people like Patrick are getting something done. But then it was fun imaging just how crazy the inflation could get (the cows grazing in brooklyn,etc)

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Tommy Goround
03:18 Nov 13, 2022

Love the segue from the presidents. ::;;;Congrats on rec list::::

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07:51 Nov 13, 2022

Thanks for all the suggestions to get my jumble of random inflation thoughts connected together into something readable. I think I hit the quota of weird shit that can happen in Brooklyn through inflation. Even had to change the urban alpacas into cows to keep it real.

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Tommy Goround
00:02 Nov 14, 2022

Lol

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