58 comments

Drama

The CEO of a multinational corporation owned not one, not two, but three cell phones. They buzzed, chimed, trilled and blared at all hours of the day and night. She also had two tablets, four laptops, 12 offices and 30,000 employees all over the world.


The CEO arrived at the office before dawn each morning and left late at night. In between, she fixed unfixable crises, negotiated unnegotiable deals and ran un-runnable meetings.


When she wasn’t fixing crises, negotiating deals and running meetings, she traveled to the corporation’s other offices. She flew from New York to London, London to Doha, Doha to Beijing, Beijing to Tokyo and on and on. All the while, answering her buzzing, chiming, blaring phones and answering an unrelenting string of emails. 


And so went the days and nights, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second. Over time, the hours, minutes and seconds took a toll on the CEO. Under layers of concealer and pearl-formulated brightening serum, shadows beneath her eyes darkened and hollows above her eyes deepened. A groove between her eyebrows penetrated tri-monthly Botox injections. Twinges flickered across her chest. She spoke sharply and shouted often, allowing no room for delays, errors or laughter.


One day, the CEO was in the elevator, heading to a Board meeting on the 52nd floor. She was alone, scrolling through messages, reviewing her speech and setting the agenda for another meeting when a great clang sounded and a sharp jerk almost sent her tumbling to the floor. The elevator groaned and dropped, shuddering to a halt with a thud and clank. The lights went out, plunging the space into almost total blackness.


She steadied herself and punched the “Door Open” button. No response. She hit the button for 52. No response. She let forth a frenzied pounding of all the buttons, convinced that one would suddenly set her on her way. But…no response. She hit the “Alarm” button.


“Yes?” crackled a voice.


“I am stuck on the elevator!” she shouted into the intercom.


“Yes, ma’am. We are aware of the problem and we are working on it.”


“How long?”


There was a crackle and whine from the intercom.


“Ma’am? I can’t quite hear you.”


“HOW LONG UNTIL IT IS FIXED?” she bellowed.


“I’m sorry, ma’am - there’s been a power outage. We don’t know how long yet. We are diagnosing the problem. We’ll keep you updated.”


The CEO roared her name into intercom, expecting it to work the magic it usually did, but no one responded. 


She checked her phone, alarmed to see “No Service” in the corner of her screen.


She dug her fingers into the crack between the door and pulled with all her might, convinced she could do the impossible – because she usually could. But the door did not budge. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she scanned the ceiling hoping to see an opening she could hoist herself through like in the movies, but the surface was smooth and flat.


“Damn Hollywood,” she said.


Finally, the CEO did something she’d never done before. 


She gave up.


She slid down against the wall and folded her legs under her. She drew in one deep breath and then another. She removed her heels and rubbed her feet. She unpinned her hair and let it fall around her shoulders.


She closed her eyes, senses alert to the ding of her phone. When she remembered the “No signal”, she smiled.


The CEO luxuriated in the silence, interrupted only by the distant voices of the workers repairing the elevator. She felt her breath move through her nostrils, her sinuses, down her throat, through her shoulders, lungs, and abdomen, clear down to her feet. That breath recalled one long ago afternoon when friend had tried to guide her through a meditation exercise – an exercise she had then waved off as a woo-woo-New-Agey-nonsense waste of time. 

She breathed again, feeling energy flood her face and spread into her chest as her jaw, cast in iron over many years, suddenly released and opened. She reached for another breath, savoring every molecule, allowing this one to loosen her shoulders and her back. Then another and another, each one longer, deeper, more sumptuous than the one before.


The Board meeting, the chatter, the dings and pings drifted far away as deeper memories from long ago enveloped her. She was on the beach, watching the waves crash and recede, creating magical patterns in the sand. She felt the breeze caressing her face, the ancient smell of sea seeping into every pore…


She was on a mountaintop, the home of the family cabin. Running through golden grasses taller than she, chubby childhood hands grabbing fistfuls of leaves, drinking hot chocolate around a crackling campfire in the crisp air….


Galloping her pony across an open field, wind drawing tears from her eyes, hooves thundering as she urged him to go faster and faster….


“Ma’am? Ma’am?” the elevator intercom crackled, snapping the CEO out of her reverie. She shook her head and looked around, feeling jolted from a dream. The lights had come on and she squinted, adjusting to the glare.


“Um…yes?” She cleared her throat, her voice sounding fuzzy and unfamiliar to her ears.


“Ma’am, we’ve fixed the problem and you should be moving in a few minutes.”


“Oh. Yes – um, thank you,” she said, checking her watch. Over an hour had passed since the elevator had stopped.


She put her shoes back on, straightened her jacket, smoothed her skirt and pinned her hair back into its French twist, moving slowly, feeling as though she were underwater.


The elevator clunked once and began rising. Within moments, it dinged at the 52nd floor and the CEO stepped off. Her assistant was standing at the door waiting for her with a stack of papers.


“Are you ok? We figured out right away you were stuck in there. The man down at the desk said you were pretty quiet.”


“I’m fine. These things happen,” the CEO said. 


The assistant gave her an extra look. That was not the reaction she’d been expecting.


“Well, the Board rescheduled the meeting for next week,” she said.


“Very good,” the CEO said. “Clear my schedule for the rest of the day. I’m going home.”


“You are?” the assistant asked. “Are you sure you’re feeling ok?”


The CEO smiled a smile the assistant had never seen before.


“Yes,” she said. “This is the best I’ve felt in years. You should go home too.”


From that day forth, the CEO set aside time each day for what she privately thought of as her “elevator time”. The dark shadows under her eyes faded, her complexion shone, a new energy pulsed through the staff and the corporation thrived.


Some days, the CEO would shut her office door, turn off her phones, close her laptop and tell her assistant to hold all calls. Other days, she would spend time in the park, sitting in the sun and watching the squirrels. And every time she stepped onto the elevator, a secret she never told anyone – she always, always hoped the elevator would get stuck.


Moral: What is without periods of rest will not endure. - Ovid 

September 11, 2020 12:47

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58 comments

Kristin Neubauer
12:51 Sep 11, 2020

Author's note: So I tried something new on this one....I had intended it to sound like an Aesop's fable. But the fables are very short. My original version was only about 400 words, and I had to stretch it out to meet the minimum word count. At Reuters, in addition to working as a journalist, I also run our Peer Support Network. We are constantly reminding our colleagues to take breaks, get rest ....and we see what happens when people push themselves too long and too hard. I was stuck in the elevator myself a few years ago. It was w...

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Rebecca Lee
19:59 Sep 11, 2020

I like it .. The advice you give and what you are doing with the PSN. I think alot of writers today, and several in this community, should listen. We all get so rushed in writing, and out of sorts and tense. Good show!

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Kristin Neubauer
13:25 Sep 12, 2020

Thanks! I used to be very anxiety-prone and put a ton of pressure on myself. But when I remembered to stop, reflect and remember the purpose behind doing what I was doing (whether it was work, writing, art, or horses), I relaxed and everything started going better - like magic!

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Rebecca Lee
13:30 Sep 12, 2020

I have to remind myself everyday.

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Thom With An H
15:12 Sep 16, 2020

I loved this story but that doesn't surprise me, I am a fan. It's ironic how being so isolated and alone in a way took away her loneliness. Most people aren't as busy as she is but we think we are and I like that you taught that lesson to me and probably to anyone else who reads this. It was perfect for the prompt. A brilliant premise and perfectly executed. 10 out of 10 from me.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:48 Sep 16, 2020

Wow! Thank you so much, Tom....I'm going to be walking around with my head in the clouds for the rest of the day now. Everyone I know is really busy (the CEO was a bit of hyperbole - like a caricature), so many demands placed on their time....and so many seem to feel so guilty about taking some down time. I totally think there are many people out there who would relish the down time of a stuck elevator!

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Anastasia Foxx
14:49 Sep 18, 2020

Hello! I come from the magical world of the critique circle. I loved both your story and the way that your character needed to isolate herself in order to solve her loneliness and stress. It really reminded me of the importance of alone time and the need to reflect and meditate on yourself and what you are doing. Even though I’m terrified of elevators, especially getting stuck in them (an irrational fear, I know), your story inspired my to try some “elevator therapy” of my own!

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Kristin Neubauer
18:34 Sep 18, 2020

Hah! Thanks so much, Anastasia! I had fun writing this story. So many people I know - myself included - run around like nuts all the time. And then so many people feel so guilty about taking some time for themselves....when it really can be so rejuvenating and switch up the energy flow. Anyway, thank you so much for reading and commenting - I really appreciate it. And I absolutely loved your story about Elodie!

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Bianka Nova
15:54 Sep 13, 2020

After reading a number of stories under this prompt (and contributing one myself), I've reached the conclusion that the elevator is a key player in mental health education and in the right circumstances - a great tool for enlightenment and finding the meaning of life. 😉 I might try to patent a special "elevator therapy" method one day 😂

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Kristin Neubauer
16:49 Sep 13, 2020

Hahaha! The start of "elevator therapy" could be a whole other story! Thanks so much for your comments - I just read yours....loved it!

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Corey Melin
21:45 Sep 12, 2020

I enjoyed the story. Relate to it in many ways. Working in a high pace environment where others are waiting for you so they can perform their jobs can be stressful. Have to take walks. Well done.

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Kristin Neubauer
11:12 Sep 13, 2020

Thanks Corey! Walks are good - I didn't take enough yesterday at work and was grumpy all day!

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Corey Melin
16:31 Sep 13, 2020

I wish I could take a walk. I live in the Pacific Northwest where all the fires are happening. Very poor air quality.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:34 Sep 13, 2020

Wow! How awful - we are pulling in feeds of these fires everyday and speaking to our crews who are covering them. It is horrific....I just did a story this morning on the smoke that is settling over Vancouver due to the U.S. fires. Are you and your home/family safe? I'm so sorry - I hope they are brought under control soon.

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Corey Melin
17:04 Sep 13, 2020

I live in Olympia WA. Very smoky out there. Everything was golden yesterday due to smoke and sun trying to get through. Suppose to be last of the terrible days. Looks like we have rain coming our way. Until then staying inside.

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Skyler Woods
19:22 Sep 12, 2020

A great narrative on meditation! I loved this one. I felt like I was decompressing with the CEO. ❤

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Kristin Neubauer
19:25 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you! It's like the other end of the spectrum to "Lucid"....I am still thinking about that. So vivid! 😊

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Skyler Woods
19:53 Sep 12, 2020

I tried to make it fun to read, even though it's a little dark. I hope you were able leave your office. 💟😄

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Kristin Neubauer
20:09 Sep 12, 2020

It WAS fun - it was a great story. Delightfully terrifying! I think I'll make it out of here unscathed 😉

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Julie Ward
18:47 Sep 12, 2020

I really enjoyed your story, Kristin. You paint such a vivid picture of the CEO's world and how one little moment can change everything...if you let it.

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Kristin Neubauer
19:08 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you, Julie! There is something I like about the impact of a moment. Have you read Thom Brodkin's story, "Choices"? It's brilliant - also about the power of a moment, but more poignant than "The CEO and the Elevator."

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Julie Ward
20:59 Sep 13, 2020

Wowza. Incredible writing. You're so right, it's brilliant. I loved it. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

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I kept hoping that the CEO was going to be attacked by Vikings or Peruvian nihilists, but other than letting the cash chucker live, it was very well written and balanced between narrative and dialogue. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
16:05 Sep 12, 2020

See??? I WISH I had that kind of subversiveness or that it could be taught. I love it! But mind never goes there on its own. I have my own little structured box that I can't seem to kick my way out of.

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I don't believe you. We all have a subversive prankster inside. You just have to let yours speak louder. Take risks. Write what seems too ridiculous like its the most reasonable perspective in the world.

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Kristin Neubauer
16:30 Sep 12, 2020

Sage advice, but putting George Washington into a therapists office and ghosts into a newsroom are about the biggest writing risks I've ever taken. Baby steps - I'll keep working on it. I went to your dungherder site - oh my god, I love it! I started with the BotLit Manifesto and then headed over to the greatest hits...it's great how your ideas start off sounding kind of crazy but actually make sense as you go along. And your art is cool! There is A LOT to explore on that site. I have to tell my partner, Brad, about it because this ...

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Thank you for checking that out! Glad you like it. Does Brad write, too, or have other crearive endeavors? Maybe you should write some nonfiction to help you work out messages to weave into fiction?

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Kristin Neubauer
17:17 Sep 12, 2020

Brad likes to play the guitar, but he's pretty ADD and it's hard for him to focus. He has a lot of really interesting ideas, but follow-through is difficult. In fact, that story I wrote - A Ping in Time - about the Secret Society of Auditory Control - that actually started as his idea. He came up with the nugget and then I ran with it....but I don't think my brain would have ever gone there on its own. That's a good idea about nonfiction - maybe I will try at some point. Right now - between work, school and the horses - it's about all I ...

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Anshika Goyal
12:02 Sep 12, 2020

I loved your story, Kristen!! It was a whole new concept and I liked the way you used a third-person point of view instead of first. It covers real life, which is why it is relatable. I also liked the way you made your story come alive with the dialogues. Overall, it is well written and I hope you can explain the moral to me because I didn't get it. P.s- I would love it if you check out two of my recent stories.

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Kristin Neubauer
15:00 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you so much, Anshika! I really appreciate your feedback. So, the moral was essentially "Make sure to take a break and get some rest from time to time because otherwise, you'll burn out." It's just that Ovid said it so much more poetically, which is why I quoted him. For this story, I tried to follow the model of Aesop's fables, which always ends with an eloquent moral - more eloquent than my abilities! I will head over to your page right now to read.

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Anshika Goyal
17:17 Sep 12, 2020

Haha okay, thank you for explaining it, Kristen!

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Laiba Noor
10:04 Sep 12, 2020

It was really a beautiful story with a message too.. I liked it.. everybody should take a rest.. Would you like to read my story too.. it's ' A hollow night in an elevator'

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Kristin Neubauer
14:43 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you, Laiba! I appreciate you reading it....and yes...I will head over to "A hollow night in an elevator" right now....I am intrigued by the title!

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Jonathan Blaauw
05:45 Sep 12, 2020

I always look forward to Saturday mornings because I know there’ll be a new story by you. I know I’ve said this before, but for me, as a writer still finding my way, I really enjoy the insights you give in your author's notes. I’m curious – how long does it take you to write a story? Because this clearly wasn’t something you hammered out in an hour with the deadline fast approaching. It’s got the feel of professional polish and careful thought, like all your stories. Again, I’m sure that’s something you bring to everything you do. Maybe you ...

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Kristin Neubauer
14:40 Sep 12, 2020

Thanks, Jonathan! It's so interesting to read your thoughts because you almost always see something in my writing that I hadn't realized was there. I hadn't really thought about why I didn't want to name the CEO...aside from following the fable model. When I realized I had to draw out the story to meet the word minimum, I tried to name her....I also tried making her a man....but none of that felt right. In the end, it just felt right to call her the CEO. But I really love your insight because it grounds a mere instinct into a concrete r...

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Jonathan Blaauw
06:55 Sep 13, 2020

I think a big part of what makes you a good writer is that you’ve got such a structured, logical way of thinking but you’re still able to get out of your own way, so to speak, when writing and allow the creative process to take its course. The former I can deduce from your comment, the latter from the natural flow and feel of your stories. Speaking of deductions, I can infer from this story that you have a pet horse. I know, my Sherlockian powers of observation are quite remarkable!

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Kristin Neubauer
11:29 Sep 13, 2020

Thanks, Jonathan - structured and logical is good for many things.....but not for everything. It is really hard for me to break out of my structured and logical box - with writing, with art, with life. Putting George Washington into a therapist's office and ghosts in the newsroom is walking the ragged edge of creativity for me. I dabble in painting and drawing and always try to push myself toward looser, more impressionistic stuff, but everything I do winds up being pretty tight and realistic. I would love to have a little more wackiness i...

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Jonathan Blaauw
16:34 Sep 13, 2020

I think it's more a style thing than content. You could write about dragons and fairies next and it'd still be structured in your usual way. It's like your literary fingerprint, you can't change it easily and shouldn't. Ghosts and George W. showed you don't lack creativity. I recognise it because I'm similar. I can be spontaneous, as long as it's carefully planned in advance 🤣 I can't believe you read SMART Goals without saying in your comment you have your own Brad! I have to ask (and you know what's coming...) is he a life coach?🤣 I re...

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Kristin Neubauer
16:58 Sep 13, 2020

Hahahaha! Horses are whatever their person wants them to be - best friend, pet, family, money-sucker, carrot-devouring machine....Because I'm a horse person, I feel entitled to say this - horse people can be a little strange sometimes (myself included). And yes, I so noticed that your life coach was named Brad - it made me smile. My Brad was a news cameraman/producer for APTN and for Reuters. He left the profession several years ago and now resells art and other vintage items on eBay and is much happier. I am glad to hear that you...

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Jade Young
00:11 Sep 12, 2020

I love how you used this prompt to teach a lesson about the importance of resting, and giving yourself time to just slow down. Brilliant ;)

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Kristin Neubauer
14:18 Sep 12, 2020

Thanks so much, Jade! It's amazing to me how hard it is for any of us to slow down these days unless we are forced to....and even then it seems to cause anxiety until we surrender. I appreciate your comments!

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Yolanda Wu
23:23 Sep 11, 2020

Wow, Kristin, I loved reading this story. How you characterised the CEO and the beginning few paragraph describing her life were brilliant. The language you use is witty, sharp and extremely effective. I liked how you used the whole stuck-in-the-elevator situation to convey a moral. I love the assistant's shock at her announcement to go home. My uncle is a CEO, so I see the non-stop working and emailing and calling, and dear god it looks so exhausting. Another wonderful story, Kristin. By the way, part three of 'Dancing With a Winged Ghost'...

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Kristin Neubauer
14:04 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you so much! I was really torn between making the CEO a man or a woman. I tried both and thought and thought and thought until I realized I was in an overthinking spiral. So I just went with my gut in the end. This idea of using the elevator as a sanctuary has been in my mind for awhile and I'm glad I got to scratch that itch. I just read your latest in the adventure of Rhyvadr and Fenndon....LOVED IT!!!

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Yolanda Wu
00:22 Sep 13, 2020

Yeah, sometimes it's best to just not think too hard about it. Thank you for reading my story, Kristin!

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Rebecca Lee
19:58 Sep 11, 2020

Hey. I liked the story, and could get how the CEO felt. Everything is so routine, so scheduled in her life, and for her to be her ideal persona, she followed it all to the letter, and then BOOM - hello, stuck in the elevator. I like the concept. You are talented as I have said. And you know what, writing is an experiment, and why not, when you are among friends - other writers - go out on a limb sometimes, and see what happens. And what happened. I did see a few things though. The first two paragraphs - you started them with The CE...

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Kristin Neubauer
13:22 Sep 12, 2020

Thanks so much for reading and for your comments, Becky! I experimented with naming the CEO, but it didn't work for me. It felt more in line with the story to just keep calling her the CEO. I'll take a look at the repetition in the first two grafs....I was actually aiming for repetition when I wrote it, but now that it's had a couple of days to sit, I may feel differently. Those are such valuable suggestions - I appreciate you taking the time!

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Rebecca Lee
13:29 Sep 12, 2020

As I always say though - write for you even if you get a lot of suggestions from other writers. We offer suggestions - unless blaring errors, spelling - you know what it is you wanted to write! And you did well.

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13:17 Sep 11, 2020

I believe trying something new at times can be scary. The CEO liked being in control at all times so being stuck in an elevator must have felt awful. I like how the passing minutes brought her relief plus those memories that came through. Everything was beautiful. When she stepped out of the elevator, her secretary(assistant) was waiting for her. I caught 'anand' and I don't quite get it. Is it a typo or was it deliberate?

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Kristin Neubauer
13:49 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you so much, Abigail! That's a typo - I will fix it right away. Thanks for catching it. And I appreciate your encouragement. I was a little like "What am I doing?" as I played around with it. But I see folks on Reedsy trying a lot of different things so I figured "what the heck?" If I'm going to experiment, it might as well be here among friends 😊

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Daniel R. Hayes
06:07 Mar 23, 2021

Hi Kristin, this was a fantastic story. I'm glad the CEO found time for herself. I think in our everyday worlds we've become so busy that we forget the little things in life. We are always hooked to our phones and devices that we forget to take time for ourselves, and just breath. I've really enjoyed reading your stories over the past couple of weeks, and they never disappoint. Great job on this one!

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Kristin Neubauer
22:30 Mar 23, 2021

Thanks so much, Daniel. I had to go back and look at that story because I forgot about it! I remember wanting to write that one in kind of a fable style - it was experimental for sure!

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Daniel R. Hayes
01:04 Mar 24, 2021

Hi Kristin, I thought this story was excellent! I'm surprised that you forgot about it, because it was really good, and it looks like a lot of people liked it ;) Talking about experimental, I wrote a fairy tale story with animals that I thought you might like. There's no hurry to read it - just when you have time.

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The Cold Ice
03:01 Sep 15, 2020

Good story.Great job keep it up. Would you mind to read my story “The dragon warrior part 2?”

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Kristin Neubauer
16:27 Sep 16, 2020

Thanks so much, Sahitthian - I just read "The Dragon Warrior Part 2"...loved it!

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The Cold Ice
03:33 Sep 17, 2020

You are welcome.I am glad you loved it.

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