One of my favorite writer friends and I challenged each other to a duel! We provided each other with a person’s name and one adjective. The mission? To write a short story (very short) using just those tools. My friend, Simon Larter, is one you will want to get to know. His blog, “Constant Revisions” has been on my blog roll for a long time. Simon is very funny and a wonderful writer. I gave him the name ALDRICH JONES, and the adjective FECKLESS. If you would like to see the name he gave to me and the story I wrote, click on Simon’s blog listed at the left on my blog roll (http://constantrevisions.blogspot.com) Here is Simon’s story about a feckless young man named Aldrich Jones:
Aldrich Jones, for a very long time, thought that feckless meant something similar to reckless, and took it as a great compliment when his wife or coworkers used the adjective to describe him. It made him feel edgy, perhaps a little dangerous, although the context in which the word was used confused him. Still, it put a certain spring in his step whenever someone muttered it within his hearing.
One Thursday afternoon, following a rather uncomfortable performance review in which the lone bright spot was a feckless, Aldrich decided to soothe the pain of the tongue-lashing by taking a coffee break at the local Starbucks. The late spring air was crisp with sunshine, with that lovely undercurrent of coolness that only happens on certain days in April, and Aldrich, breathing deeply, made a solid effort to ignore the uncomplimentary comments of his boss and embrace his inner bad boy.
He called the girl at the register “sweetheart” when he ordered. She offered a slight smile before turning to assist the next customer.
Buoyed by the results of his flirtation, he decided to repeat the performance with the barista. “Good afternoon, sweetheart,” he said, brightly. She glanced up from the sputtering espresso machine and blinked at him. “Afternoon?” she said.
Kids these days, Aldrich thought. Everything seemed to turn into a question.
The girl brushed a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and turned back to her work. Aldrich decided to try again. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”
Another question. Aldrich sighed and soldiered on. “I really shouldn’t have left the office, you know. We’re only supposed to take 15 minutes for coffee in the morning and a half hour at lunch.”
With an air of great concentration, the blonde poured milk into a stainless steel container and let steam bubble in the bottom of it. Aldrich had foregone his usual skim milk in favor of full-fat. He was, after all, feeling somewhat wild.
“Yes,” he continued, “I’m not supposed to leave until 5:30, but”—he leaned forward and winked—“I’m feeling feckless today.”
The girl did look at him, then. “Excuse me?”
“You know, a bit daring.” Aldrich gave her his best grin, the one that made his mustache hairs curl over his upper lip.
“You said feckless.”
“I did, didn’t I?” He allowed his grin to widen. His mustache hairs curled more aggressively over his upper lip.
“You don’t know what that means, do you?”
The grin faltered. “Of course I do!”
“Incompetent? Ineffectual? Inept?”
His grin disappeared altogether. He scratched at his lip where his mustache hairs had tickled him. “Pardon me?”
“That’s what it means. Feckless.”
She set his drink on the counter. She appeared to be biting her tongue.“Er . . . thank you.”
Aldrich retrieved his full-fat, double-shot latte from the counter and turned to go. A hastily-stifled giggle wafted over the counter toward him from the barista’s general direction.
The seats by the window were vacant. Aldrich sank into one like a deflated balloon. So . . . feckless was an insult after all?
Suddenly he was no longer confused by the context in which he’d been called that in the past. Hot resentment began to glow in his chest. Inept? Me? They’ve been calling me incompetent all these years?
He took a large gulp of his latte and promptly sputtered as the too-hot liquid scalded his throat. “Gosh…darnit!” For some reason, cursing made him feel better. “Crap!” he said. He hazarded a small “Damn?” That felt good too. Aldrich stood and strode for the door. Feckless. We’ll see about that, he thought. He would march right back into his boss’s office and give him a piece of his mind, that’s what he’d do.
The door careened open under his forceful hand. Another small giggle escaped from behind the counter. Aldrich stopped, turned to glare back at the barista, and promptly caught the return swing of the door on his elbow. Hot, full-fat, double shot latte spurted from the cup as his fist clenched around the cardboard.
A full-blown gale of laughter followed Aldrich out the door and down the street as he danced a small jig of pain. He glared at the offensive tan smear on his white dress shirt.
“Shucks!” he exclaimed vehemently. “Shoot!” How could he confront his boss now, burned tongue, coffee stain and all? No, better to take it up with him tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep on the couch. Because he certainly wasn’t going to share the bed with a woman who would call him feckless to his face. No, sir.
Sitting back at his desk, disgruntlement fizzing in his stomach, Aldrich thought that maybe he would do something reckless on the way home. He’d show them.
After all, there was that motorcycle dealership just a mile from his house.