A State Of Af-Fairs: Major Awards

Well, I suppose I can call myself an award-winning writer now!

About a month ago, I decided to enter a couple of photographs in some Arkansas State Fair competitions. Almost by accident, I discovered that they also have a short story category. After spending time and money having the photographs printed and matted, I decided to print off one of my short stories to add to my pile of entries.

The entries almost didn’t make it to Little Rock.

I was exhausted. Completely and totally exhausted. My brother’s wedding had taken place the weekend before, I felt like I was working 25 hours a day to catch back up with everything, and the last thing I wanted to do was drive to Little Rock on a Saturday that I could have used for rest.

Let’s face it…it was a level of exhaustion that can best be portrayed through interpretive sleep.

However, I figured I’d regret not trying, so I promised myself a reward in the form of a stop at the Bulldog Cafe in Bald Knob in order to justify the trip. (Good stuff, folks. Worth the drive.)

The photos received their own special place in the passenger’s side of the car, away from any potentially disfiguring objects. I angled the air vents towards them using a combination of mathematical calculations ranging from the Pythagorean theorem to Avogadro’s number…or something like that.

I almost left the short story in the living room as I walked out the door. I had placed it in an unmarked manila file folder. I ran back in the house and grabbed the folder, cramming it under the sun visor in the car.

The photos didn’t place.

The short story won a blue ribbon and BEST IN SHOW honors!

I never thought I'd win anything with the word "livestock" in the title. Never say never.
Best in Show! Short Story Category! I never thought I’d win a ribbon with the word “livestock” in the title.

I wanted to wait until I had collected my ribbons–and my Bulldog Cafe meal–before I posted the story online. I haven’t cashed in my prize money yet either, but that thirteen dollars will sure come in handy for…something.

And…here’s the story.

 

Dangerous and Armed

The copier jammed for the third time in five minutes. Office equipment is my kryptonite. I could have done the sensible thing…call the front office and put in a work request.

Stubborn won this one-sided argument.

I reached over from my desk chair to remove Tray 1. Tray 1 is infamous. Tray 1 has the ability to jam the copier even while it’s empty. If strategically placed, Tray 1 could jam traffic.

The space vacated by Tray 1 was only three inches wide, but my arms are thin. I knew I could reach in as far as my shoulder to clear the jam. I started to roll up my right sleeve, stood up from my chair, and got down on my knees to take a closer look inside the belly of the beast. Tray 1 was banished to the floor, where I just know it started thinking about double-knotting my shoelaces.

I could see the piece of paper…crumpled into a contemptuous wad, its edges knotted into fan-like folds, reminding me that I have no influence over office equipment whatsoever.

Teacher face won’t work here.

I’d been suffering from a nasty head cold all week and the last thing I wanted was to pick a fight with the copier. However, I didn’t start the fight. I only asked the machine to do its job. I wouldn’t tolerate insubordination from anyone or anything in my classroom.

I looked back at the piece of paper. Its brow was wrinkled in a permanent state of defiance.

The copier was just as indignant.

“Yeah, look at me,” the copier thought. “What are YOU gonna do about this? You’re the one who asked for fifty copies of a letter at 9:15 in the morning. And you were whistling.”

No, sir, copier. Not today. This teacher is going to teach you a lesson.

As the piece of paper continued to taunt me from deep within the copier, I reached for it.

All the way to my shoulder.

For the longest second in existence, my thin little arm was stuck.

For the longest second in existence, an elaborate scenario began to play out in my head.

I’m on the floor, on my knees, and too far away from the phone to reach around with my free arm to call the office for help. The next class doesn’t come in for another thirty minutes. I could hang out here for thirty minutes, except…

…the outside doors locked behind me. Curiosity probably won’t get the best of this group, either. The weather’s too nice. They’ll stand outside. I could yell at the top of my lungs, but my office is in the back of the building. They’ll be talking. They’ll never hear me. My car is in front of the building, but they’ll just decide it’s Friday instead of Thursday. They don’t have band on Friday.

“Ms. G. is here. There’s her car. Wait…isn’t today Friday?”

“I thought it was Thursday.”

“No, it’s Friday. We’re supposed to be in the gym.”

“Are you sure? It was Wednesday yesterday.”

“She would have opened the door by now.”

“Yeah. Okay, it’s Friday.”

This thing does have wheels, though. I can just unplug it, roll over to the phone, and call the office for help…

…but I’ve just remembered this nasty head cold has resulted in the complete and total loss of my voice.

Now that I think about it…why did I even come to work today?

Stop it. That doesn’t help anything right now.

Wheels. Go with that.

Unplug and roll out into the band room…to the security camera. Wave like crazy. Someone will definitely see that on the security camera…

…the security camera that’s down for repairs right now.

This really is the longest second in existence.

I guess the sidewalk’s the limit.

I pulled my arm out of the copier, without the piece of paper.

I looked at my shoes. Tray 1 hadn’t had enough time to make its move.

I decided it was time to take complete control of the situation.

I sat down at my computer to email my letter.