Contest #208 shortlist ⭐️

19 comments

Contemporary Fiction Speculative

 You'll find more tracks outside the bodega than any subway terminal, but I couldn't ignore my crazy for those new kelp chips. I'd gotten used to scooting by bodies and bottles on the street. It's San Diego, baby! Sunshine, seaside and sipping were worth the unavoidable. What're ya gonna do? Homelessness happens. At least we had awareness.

A couple beeps and taps later, I'm tossing pink-tinted shades back on, crunching sea-kale and salt before hopping back on my bike. The unhoused didn't bother asking me for money anymore. Who carried cash nowadays anyways? If I pretended they were sluggish seagulls or cats, it was easier. They weren't that different after all. We're all just animals anyways.

I restart my fitness tracker and take off. A mile and change wound between me and the office. Cars are convenient, but the gas station added another digit before the decimal point last month. I grin at the calorie counter. Making a healthier choice was a great excuse to save some engine emissions.

We're all supposed to be a part of saving the planet, right? Sometimes that means taking responsibility and making sacrifices. Jet trails through a clear blue East Coast sky remind me to prep a client's flight itinerary. I'd have to book a private charter if they wanted to avoid layovers. But that's the benefit of being successful: they get to decide meetings are in person at Myrtle beach last minute and someone else gets to figure out the logistics.

Another tent-lined street later and I zip into the fenced garden-way entrance of the office building. Landscapers were planting new rose bushes with specialized irrigation bottles in tangled roots. It's pricey to maintain thirsty roses in California, but the latest online polls said they were great for morale. They were a nice status symbol to relate to after the twelve and fourteen hour shifts. Rent isn't cheap, but Adderall was. And it was easier to get now that Theresa-in-maintenance had another son diagnosed with ADHD too.

I secured the bike in the arboretum entrance lined with purple and red Japanese maples, Should I take the tire in with me? While I contemplated the odds of another bike theft after Dale's lock was cut last week, Denise's blush three-thousand dollar model rolls up and I stop worrying. Glass doors closing behind me silence an argument over bread outside the gate. The stone waterfall fountain next to the bagel rack sends cooling mist washing over sun-tinged shoulders. Cinnamon raisin or jalapeno cheddar? I settle for honey-wheat and cinnamon cream cheese as stock-jocks from the fifth floor take bets on the fight outside. Philistines, I mutter with a bite of bagel. It's not their fault they're hungry.

Rose quartz crystals on the windowsill splatter sparkling kaleidoscopes of pink across stuffy professional-white walls. They're supposed to promote love and happy-vibes, but I just thought they were pretty. No one said work can't be fun or cutesy. The Himalayan salt lamp on my desk ionizes my deep sigh as I open a rose gold Mac-book demanding I embrace the day. The first e-mail is a new client demanding I find a nanny who won't use the house bathrooms on the clock. They're supposed to clean smells, not make them, she says.

News flashes update me on stories about economic woes and wars overseas. I scribble on a heart shaped post-it note to make a thoughts-and-prayers status on social media. It helps to have clients know I was spreading awareness and staying relevant. My handwriting practice with a new fude nib makes the cherry-ink swirls pop.

The lunch daiquiri in my hand humbles the green-juice smoothies and cucumber waters left at the pickup-counter. They might be healthier, but life's too short to skip an excuse for whipped cream. We could be gone tomorrow, so we oughta enjoy what little things we can while they're around. Someone will figure out rising sea levels before the coconuts get washed away along with any hope of tiki drinks on Hawaiian beaches. Everyone just needs to stay positive and do their part.

I'm not upset when work ends and I can't see the hazy moon everyone is posting on Instagram, but I see the rosy lace under Candy's mini-skirt as she bends over into the window of another car. I pedal by as she moons the street negotiating her evening shift. Two blocks down is a pink tube top and flamingo feather boa waiting at the corner with her face in a phone. I don't judge sex workers. Their body, their choice. They're kinda the perfect girl-boss. A female-led body-autonomy industry modernized by people like my tech clients and their well-managed capital liberated women from pimp-culture. Right?

A full mailbox spills across my counter-top in a splay of white envelops containing pink late-payment notices. I wonder how many trees were chopped down to make all their paper waste. Why don't they have a paperless option if they're an online-only bank? It's been a week since they froze my account. Data breeches happen. I'm sure I'll have access to my online checking soon. The automated phone service swore they're working on it as fast as possible. They could probably afford extra technicians with no physical branches to handle. Or maybe it was all AI fixing it now. I probably trust my life savings with AI more than people anyways. People steal. AI doesn't care.

I crack a cherry wheat ale and flop between strawberry throw-pillows. All I've wanted to do after sitting in an office chair all day is binge Netflix until I pass out. My eyes were already bloodshot from staring at screens all day, but there a cute pair of glasses I've been eyeing if the optometrist says I need a prescription next week. I don't know how much they'll cost without health insurance though. Work doesn't provide benefits, but they do holiday parties and the complimentary bagel and juice bar are nice. My fridge is almost always empty anyways. The Teamsters union is on strike again, so none of the grocery stores have stock to buy even if I could afford it.

But it's gonna be fine. Those new glasses come in pink too.

July 28, 2023 19:49

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19 comments

Jay Long
16:47 Apr 05, 2024

Wow. This was awful.

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R W Mack
18:14 Apr 05, 2024

I agree. If you want proof reedsy is run by absolute idiots, remember this hot garbage got shortlisted

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Tommy Goround
03:48 Sep 21, 2023

Clapping. Takeaway: pretend that you are happy when indifference is the norm..works.

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R W Mack
16:11 Sep 24, 2023

Honestly, I just wanted to rip on Cali for being Cali. Apparently, that resonates with people.

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Tommy Goround
21:53 Sep 24, 2023

Yes. It should be a new genre. (except the Cali people will say it proves they are the center of the universe).

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R W Mack
16:28 Sep 30, 2023

I mean, the center of every galaxy is a black hole, so maybe it's not the ideal they really ought aspire for.

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Amanda Lieser
18:09 Sep 12, 2023

Hi RW! Oh, what a fantastic take on the prompt! And very fitting with the Barbie movie undertones. I thought that you did a great job of addressing tragedy – with the unhoused, with wars overseas, with economic woes, and yet you stuck true to the rose colored glasses. This person felt quintessentially LA to me, and I would’ve loved to see a sequel or a prequel where we get to understand how this character got to LA and how they bought into that version of the American dream. Nice work!!

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Steve Uppendahl
17:37 Aug 13, 2023

Excellent word choice throughout this piece. Writing this in the first person was definitely the right move, in my opinion. It (sadly) makes things more real. I love how many ways you brought in (so!) many shades of pink throughout your story. This was very well done.

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Marty B
01:42 Aug 11, 2023

I get a bit of a Charles Bukowski vibe in this, the meandering view of the underside of San Diego. The insanity of the problems of the superrich, contrasted with those just trying to get to their next meal. We all need those pink-tinted shades to not lose out minds. Congrats!

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Tommy Goround
12:15 Aug 09, 2023

:)

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Philip Ebuluofor
06:51 Aug 07, 2023

Congrats.

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Kevin Marlow
00:38 Aug 07, 2023

'Rose quartz crystals on the windowsill splatter sparkling kaleidoscopes of pink across stuffy professional-white walls.' - my fave line. I think the fact that the MC is blissfully unaware of where things are headed makes it memorable like Nero fiddling as Rome burns...

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R W Mack
15:10 Aug 06, 2023

Out of all the stuff I've submitted, I'm amazed THIS is the one that got shortlisted. I had zero confidence in it, but I suppose I never have confidence in my submissions haha.

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03:15 Aug 05, 2023

Congrats on your story! The narrative is introspective. Doom lurks just beneath the surface. I’d love to read more. -H.M.Pierce

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Kevin Logue
16:50 Aug 04, 2023

Such beautiful prose to describe such horrible things, yet it has a feeling of indifference, or maybe worn down might be better. Congrats on the shortlist, well deserved.

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15:45 Aug 03, 2023

This is all too uncomfortably relatable!!! 😬 Great voice.

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Ken Cartisano
03:34 Aug 03, 2023

Hey Mack, Nice, colorful. An artistic display of skillful writing. So entertaining, I barely noticed you were depressing me.

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R W Mack
15:09 Aug 06, 2023

Ha! That what I was aiming for!

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Mary Bendickson
21:06 Jul 28, 2023

Rose colored glasses still shade it all away. Congrats on the shortlist 🥳🥳🥳

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