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When Rene went to pay his tab, a slip of paper fell out of his wallet, caught a breeze from the night air coming in, and flew behind the bar. Jeff handed it back to him, taking note of what it was, which was a lottery ticket, folded and faded.

“That looks like it’s been in there forever. I assume it’s not a winner,” Jeff said.

“Actually I don’t know. I prefer not to know. It’s like Schrödinger’s lottery ticket. As long as I don’t look, it could be a winner.” Rene said with a practiced cadence. “I play for entertainment value. This is the entertainment part, the part I can savor.”

Gathering his jacket, he walked towards home. But when he passed by the parking lot next to the mechanic’s shop two blocks away, Rene noticed a thin, shambling question mark man kicking up dust, talking loudly at the ground. Rene angled closer to the street, keeping his eyes straight ahead. Don’t make eye contact, just keep walking.

“Rene old buddy how have you been” the man said with a sharp nasal tone and bright friendly tone.

Rene kept walking and did not look towards the man.

“I bet you heard the news but maybe Danny gets to got to tell you” Danny said, shuffling closer and closer.

But when he brushed up against Rene and leaned his face in, breath smelling of mint and beer, Rene jumped two feet away. “Get the fucking Hell out of my space!” Rene hissed, and Danny’s white haired head snapped back. Rene composed himself and kept walking, unsettled, but the old man in dirty clothes just chuckled and did not follow.

He just wanted to get a rise out of me, Rene thought. Well, it worked. He kept his stride long but tried to maintain an even steady pace towards home.

Unlocking the front door of his small bungalow he felt something was off, but it wasn’t until he stepped inside that the awareness reached his conscious mind. A breeze and a sound from the back of the house in the dark living room first; then he snapped the light on and discovered his couch cushions in a mess, and a screaming void where his giant television and sound system had been. In a panic, he ran from room to room, where at least one thing was out of place and tossed. Drawers open, closet contents flung around. He’d been robbed.

He called the police, and then he called his girlfriend, who was working but promised to come as soon as she could, and then he called his friend Brice, who showed up before the police. He filled out paperwork, and left a message for his insurance agent, and tried to calm down, and he couldn’t stand to be there even though it was his home. The police were professional, and calm, and pessimistic, and the night was a blur, and Rene fell asleep, eventually, on Dawn’s bed, on top of the covers, with a grocery bag of clean clothes, waiting for her to come home.

She made him breakfast and accepted it when he insisted on going to work even though he was late. His boss, Tara, came to see him at his desk and took him into her office to find out what was going on. Rene explained about the break-in, and Tara’s response was, “You have my sympathy but I need to tell you that if you’re late again before the end of the year I’m going to have to let you go.”

Rene bit back on the first response that came to mind, and he finished out his day.

On autopilot, Rene only remembered that his home no longer felt safe when he was within a few blocks of it. He stood and took deep breaths on the front stoop for a minute before finally digging out his keys. Stepping inside, however, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up again, and his stomach acid felt like it was boiling over.

There were noises inside the house. Strange noises. Someone else was in here.

He grabbed a table lamp and yanked the cord out of the wall, hoisting it like a club. He sprinted towards the back of the house, the kitchen, skidding on the parquet floor in his dress shoes. In a flash, he took in the following: the back door was open, the kitchen smelled of sour milk, there was a beer can pyramid in the middle of the floor, and Danny was sitting on the back door sill, facing out into the backyard.

“What the fuck are you doing in here?”

“Your refrigerator is broken I threw out your milk don’t worry those are my cans I didn’t drink none of yours,” Danny mumbled. Danny didn’t even look back over his shoulder, hadn’t startled at all when Rene had run screaming in waving his lamp club. Danny flinched, now, just a bit, when the sudden silence began.

“Get out of my fucking house now,” Rene said, cold, his fists clenched but down at his side for now.

Danny nodded his head and smacked his lips, and he turned around and, one by one, disassembled the beer can pyramid, holding each can in his arms. “I get ya I get ya I’ll get out of the way I just livin’ here once.” He tried to stand and lost one of the cans and started to pick it up and another one fell down. Rene rubbed his face and went into his pantry and got a paper bag, and he handed it to Danny, and when two more beer cans clattered to the floor Rene picked them up and put them into the bag.

“Wait. What did you say?”

“I use to live here long time ago can’t don’t like to see it like this I saw the door open” Danny said just a bit more coherently. Rene’s hand was holding a beer can over the paper bag, and Danny looked, really looked, at Danny’s face. His face was covered in dirt and nearly the color of the bag, and his beard was wild and stained several shades of brown and yellow, and the whites of Danny’s eyes were jaundiced and bloodshot, but the irises were a pale blue.

“You remind me of. Of my son. I miss him.” Danny said. “We lived here.”

Rene said, “That can’t possibly be true. I bought this house from the original owner.”

Danny held Rene’s gaze for a second, then another. Then a sly smile spilled across his face. “I grew up in Indiana. Bloomington. Actually.” Rough, hacking laughter emerged from somewhere in his beard.

“You crazy motherfucker. You goddamned crazy motherfucker.” Rene went to his fridge and pulled out two bottles of beer. “Sit down. No, on second thought, you reek. Let’s go sit outside. Tell me about your son.”

“I don’t have a son. Two daughters. They live on the East coast now.”

“Here,” Rene said, “this is for watching my house while I was at work. But if I ever catch you in here again I’m calling the cops.”

They sat outside on the patio, and Danny told Rene some stories, and some of them were even true.

After the final line of customers, attendees and registrants alike, were handled, the registration booth saw a lull. Sharon was the first to break the silence.

“What are you doing when you’re not volunteering for events?” she asked of her younger co-worker, Peter.

“Well, mostly I work. I’m clerking for a small local law office. Part time. Taking a break before attempting the Bar. You?”

“I’m unemployed. I mean, I’m self-employed,” she laughed and shook her curly dark hair. “So I have plenty of time. Plus I have a friend who’s speaking here. I’m going to catch the end of her presentation when my shift is done.”

“That’s cool.” Peter turned around and pulled a program out of the box. “There’s a lot of folks I’d love to hear. It’s packed.” Peter looked up as a man hesitated in front of the booth. “Can I help you?”

“I’m volunteering today and I have to report to registration?” the brown haired man said. His hands vaguely waved towards the booth Sharon and Peter stood in. “And I need a badge I guess?”

Sharon efficiently got a badge from one of the many cardboard boxes stowed under the folding table and handed it to the man. “White is for volunteers. Green is for attendees, gray is for speakers, and black is staff. Don’t worry, it’s easy.” The man accepted it from her, hung it around his neck, and thanked her. “You. You look familiar,” Sharon offered. “I’ve seen your face before. I think I follow you on Twiter.”

The man peered at her, then broke into a smile. “You’re FoPoFemale! Yes! I’m so glad to meet you finally!”

“Yes, even though I moved. But Moreland doesn’t have a cool short nickname. My name is Sharon,” and they shook hands over the counter. “And you’re NeedsCoffeeNow. Of course.” She pointed at Peter. “That’s Peter.”

“Hello. You can call me Gerry. My Twitter handle is a mouthful. Uh, I’m a bit early. Assuming this is where I report to, I’m going to go get something from the taco cart across the street. Do either of you want anything? It’s totally my treat. I insist.”

Sharon shook her head no and thanked him, but Peter had been hungry all day and humbly accepted after a weak, but honest, attempt to pay. As Gerry went to order, Sharon said, “That’s funny. You’re getting tacos because I volunteered here. He saw me tweet about the orientation meeting last week and asked if there was still room for more volunteers. And here he is.”

“Well thank you very much! That’s really kind of him. And he’s kind of cute, too.” Peter pulled his phone out of his pocket. “Is it weird that I want to look up his Twitter now?”

“No, I think you’re fine. And I think he’s single if that’s why you’re asking.” Sharon’s chuckles trailed off.

Another volunteer showed up after a bit and soon after, Sharon was free to wander the conference. She made her way to the secondary conference room where her friend was in the middle of her presentation, talking about innovation and technology and social media. The crowd was small but attentive and enthusiastic, and they gave the woman a standing ovation, which the woman blushed to accept. She stood at the side of the stage afterward and received a line of well-wishers and inquisitors, one of whom was Sharon, who beamed as she saw how successful her friend had been. She hung back until the crowd dispersed.

“I just have one question, Ms. Conley,” Sharon said when she was the only one left. “What kind of connections does someone need to speak at a big event like this?”

“I owe you so many thanks for telling me about this and putting me in touch with the Davids,” Laurie Conley said to her friend. “I’d split the speaker’s fee with you, at least, if you’d let me.” The two women hugged.

“Nah, I’m just happy to see you doing so well. You know I don’t need the money, and this is your job, making connections. Well, sometimes connections make you.” Sharon paused. “I don’t know what that meant but it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?”

“It does, and yes, they do.” Laurie looked conspiratorially and lowered her voice an octave. “In fact, at the kickoff party last night, I met someone. She’s in town for the weekend, and we had some drinks, and one thing led to another, and another thing led to her hotel room, and, well…”

“You are giggling like a teenager! That’s scandalous! Girl, I am so proud of you. I like seeing you happy. So that’s why you were extra fired up for today!” The two women laughed and hugged, but when Laurie offered to bring Sharon along to get drinks with her new lover, Sharon declined. “It’s a bit soon, don’t you think? I’d just be a fifth wheel.” Over protestations, Laurie finally accepted, and the friends parted.

Sharon wandered out onto the main floor of the conference, and drifted with the crowd for a while, but she felt tired from working her shift and the press of people and finally left the event. She got on a city bus as the day turned to evening, and she took a seat in the middle, not near the back or the front. She put her headphones on over her big bushy hair and listened to music and she may have danced in her seat a bit.

So she was startled when a man leaned into her space and waved. She glared at him until she recognized him, and then she relaxed and smiled and removed her headphones. “Hello, Rene. That freaked me out.”

“I am sorry I am sorry I didn’t mean to scare you,” Rene said. His tall thin frame was curved down towards her but now, carefully, respectfully, out of her immediate space. “Can I sit down? I haven’t seen you since your going away party!” She patted the seat next to her.

“Yes, don’t worry. I was lost in thought. How have you been? Please tell me the place fell to pieces when I left.”

“That sounds like sarcasm but it’s kind of true. Things have not been the same in the office since you left. They still haven’t filled your position and Kim can’t handle the paperwork.”

“It’s been 4 months. They… you know what? I don’t really want to talk about the office. I think, after what you said at my going away party that you’d have left by now, too, though.”

“Oh, wow, that party…” Rene’s head snapped back in remembrance. “Right, right. I never got to thank you for that! If you hadn’t suggested that place, I never would have met, well, the woman I’m dating now.”

“You did disappear before the night was over. After drinks, we went to another place for pool, and another place after that for food. I’d wondered where you’d vanished to. You met someone?”

“The bouncer there, remember her? She was as tall as me but super fit. Dawn, I think her name was. She kept talking to me and after my third drink I finally confronted her about it. She liked that I wasn’t intimidated by her and gave me her number. It was strange, but it was also good. We’re still seeing each other.”

“The connections we make, huh? That’s terrific. I’m super happy for you.” Sharon smiled but it never reached her eyes. And then she noticed where the bus was, and rang the bell, and gathered her bag into her lap.

“How about you, though? What have you been up to since you left?” Rene asked, not seeing her communicate how done she was with the conversation.

“It was great seeing you again, Rene, and tell everyone in the office that I’m doing well. At least the ones I liked.” The bus pulled to a stop, and she stood up, and Rene took her hint and stood up, and he offered her a hug before she left, and she accepted it. Putting up her headphones again, she left the bus.

Sharon walked the three blocks from the stop to her apartment in a triplex, and went inside, and set down her bag. She hummed along with the music, and she made a simple sandwich for dinner, and she got on her computer and posted on Facebook about the amazing conference and all the people she met and saw and how well Laurie had done. The post was a public one, that could be seen by anyone who looked at her page, not just her friends and family.

In fact, out of all the people on Facebook, on the internet as a whole, there was only one person who could not see the post at all, because that person had deleted their relationship status, and had unfriended Sharon, and had blocked her.

The one and only person who mattered.

This weekend I was a volunteer at XOXO Festival, a conference put on by the two Andys, MacMillan and Baio, where there were tracks for Story, Social, Games, Film/Animation, and Tabletop. It was wonderful being even a small part of it, and by volunteering I was also able to partake.

I could write so much about the awesome people I met and the presentations I watched, and the creative energy that suffused the entire event start to finish, but that’s for another time. I want to mention one particular speaker, a man who has already been an inspiration for me and whose presentation cemented my admiration for what he’s done.

I’m talking about Jonathan Mann, the Song A Day man. I’ve got several of his songs in my music collection, and I’ve known about him for several years at least, but it took seeing him in person to drive home the point that what he’s doing is the musical equivalent of Neil Gaiman’s writing advice:

This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.

Jonathan Mann has written and posted a video of a new song, every day, for 2084 days in a row as of this writing.

When the video of his presentation gets posted I will make sure to share it, but essentially his epiphany boiled down to: he’s happiest when he’s making something, and whether he’s inspired or worn out, he can do this one thing every day. He wrote a song on the day his grandmother passed away, and he wrote a song on the day his son was born, and every other day. Hearing him tell the tale was moving, and beautiful, and I do it a great disservice by my thin description.

But a more fitting tribute, I think, is the idea I had while listening to him. I can do that. Well, I’m not a musician, but I am a writer. I could write a story every day, and post it. How long could I do that? Could I reach 10 in a row? 100? 1000? More?

Jonathan Mann shares his pie chart of creativity.

He suggested that, in his experience, the total output of a creative person would be approximately 70% stuff that’s just OK, 20% that’s bad, and 10% that’s actually good. So the way to increase the amount of good stuff, you have to create more stuff in total.

Sitting there in that converted factory space, along with 800+ other creative people, listening to someone I’ve known and admired convert himself with his words into one of my heroes, I resolved to start my Daily Story Project. And it starts today. Here’s the rules, simple though they may be:

  • I post one story, here, every day.
  • That story can be of any length.
  • It can be fictional or not.
  • It might be bad, good, or somewhere in between.
  • Each story might, or might not, connect with any other stories. Who knows, man?
  • I see how many in a row I can do until I can’t do any more.

That’s it. Longer stories may be broken up over several days, or I may just hide it under a break. As much as I want to aim for at least one story written a day, I may find myself inspired enough to write several, and I’ll schedule them ahead. But, honestly, I really hope I can write one a day.

These won’t be diary entries, or “just type for 20 minutes and call it good,” though. These will be stories, with a beginning, middle, and an end. Maybe vignettes or scenes, but hopefully ones that stand alone and make a point.

Check back here tomorrow for the first Daily Story.

I’m arriving at a house, expected. By appointment. I’m there to retrieve some things, or perhaps to relieve someone. I walk upstairs to a fluorescent lit kitchen. There’s a book on the counter, tattered paperback. I pick it up, leaf through its pages, see her handwriting in notes in the margins. I hope this book is part of the package I’m here to get, but I don’t know if he will allow me to take it. I walk into the living room and she sits on the floor in front of the TV, in a bathrobe, small and young and weak and strong and held in reserve. We exchange awkward hellos. She waves towards the back of the room and I turn towards him. He’s also hunched on the floor, going through a box of books. I ask about the one in my hand; may I? His face sours. His eyes flick towards her and back at me. I await his answer.

It’s Friday! Have a funny cat video. You deserve it!

How did I do on my writing goals yesterday?

  • I did find another two sites I can query or pitch to.
  • I did not look for any content farm sites.
  • I did search Mechanical Turk for writing HITs; found none.
  • I didn’t work on my novel.
  • I didn’t keep track of interesting articles.

I did apply for a non-writing job I found on Craigslist. Also made another $10 doing surveys on MTurk. And I found three technical writer positions late in the day; I’ll apply for those, after doing some research. The descriptions for the technical writer jobs all mention UML, and DMD; I have no idea what those are.

Must make some time to work on the novel today. Also, I’d like to post something here that isn’t just a daily check-in. And it’s time to hustle and submit stories to the sites I’ve found.

“Hustle” is such a great word. I thank my friend Tristan J. Tarwater for that word.

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