Saturday, September 16, 2006

Creative Carnival: That Was a Mistake

(This was my contribution to Write Stuff's Creative Carnival. The writing prompt was: Making a mistake. But I think I posted too late to participate. Oh well. I still wanted to send you on over to check out the other contributions.)

That Was a Mistake
by Joy Renee
Jan began to wonder if waking up was a mistake the minute she put her foot on the floor that morning and it landed in a squishy pile of cat barf. Her consternation was reinforced when she pulled an ice-cube tray out of the microwave instead of the bowl of oatmeal she thought she had put in there. She found the uncooked oatmeal in the freezer. And again when she sat down in front of the hot bowl of cereal with her mug of coffee only to find it was the jug of cream and she had put her freshly poured coffee in the fridge.

Things continued to happen to set off the warning alarms that it would be a mistake to leave the house that morning. But she had a couple of dozen library books and DVDs due that day and failure to return them would result in loss of library privileges until the fine was paid. Now that would be the worst mistake of all. So she plunged ahead, getting ready to go, maintaining her determination to stick to her plan even in the face of finding her hair lathered with shaving gel and her loufa lathered with shampoo.

Even when she forgot to zip up the backpack before she picked it up off the bed and all of the books and DVDs fell out and scattered all over the floor, she just methodically repacked them and grabbed up her sunglasses and sun visor and headed for the door. Out on the sidewalk she turned left and walked at a good pace for three blocks before she realized she was headed to the park where she liked to watch the ducks and swans while she read or wrote instead of to the library. Keeping her mind on what she was doing in the moment was one of Jan’s biggest challenges. She would always rather be thinking about the story she had been reading or the one she was writing than about the curb that was coming up or even her next meal.

That is why she was hardly surprised to find herself sprawled on the ground having just fallen over a tyke on a small trike. Luckily she had not landed on the toddler and his mother was full of concern over her skinned knee and embarrassment with her son’s gleeful laughter.

“Oh, let him laugh.” Jan said as the woman tried to shush her child. “He knows funny when he sees it.”

Her knee cleaned up with the damp paper towels the woman had brought to her, Jan continued on her way. At the library things went surprisingly smoothly and she thought maybe she had been jolted into good sense by that tumble. But apparently it had just been that being in the library, handling the books and movies--the stories--was just one of those things that could manage to keep her in the moment where mistakes were more easily caught before they were committed.

One of the books had been so captivating she had to pull it back out of her rolling backpack as soon as she was out the door and sit on the bench under the cottonwood tree to read until it was brought to her attention by a series of combustible sneezes that she had made another mistake in not noticing that the cottonwood was shedding its fluff. When she discovered that she had forgotten to pack her allergy meds and eye drops, not to mention tissues, she knew she had no choice but to head home and hurriedly packed the book and her reading glasses into the front pouch of the backpack instead of in the roomier interior where the glasses could ride safely atop the pile of books. With visions of the books spilling out as they had done that morning, she thought it would be safer to not open the main compartment.

When she decided to hoist the pack onto her shoulders rather than pull it along behind her on its wheels, she thought she was insuring a safer return trip home for herself, the books and the glasses. But that was a mistake of monumental import she realized as she found herself laying in the crosswalk ten minutes later, having had to throw herself backwards to avoid being hit by a red pickup that had just run the red light. Of course it was a mistake not to have looked both ways before stepping off the curb the moment she saw the walk signal. But all she could think about, even as the bicyclist who had slammed on his brakes just behind her as she fell back and was now somersaulting over the top of her, was her reading glasses in the front pouch of the backpack which were now undoubtedly crushed. Even the realization that she could not move her legs was not as alarming as the thought of not being able to finish that story.

1 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  9/16/2006 1:01 PM  

HAHAHA! First let me say, Jan is you, isn't she. Or perhaps a klutz-ier version of you? *grin*

Even though this was a plot-driven story, I loved this character. I loved her absent-mindedness and the fact she's capable of only focusing on books and writing. A girl after my own heart!

Her misadventures were very funny and I quite enjoyed her antics. It was almost cartoon-ish in nature and I would have loved to seen how she interacted with other humans (for longer periods of time).

And I must say, the beginning, with her stepping in cat barf, was definitely an attention-grabbing introduction.

In fact, this whole piece would be a good beginning to something longer. Why was she so absent-minded? Was she trying to avoid life in general, or something specific? What did her family/friends think of her clumsiness? What did SHE think of her misadventures?

Thanks for the chuckles, Joy.

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