I wanted to be a writer.
I still do.
The assignment as I wrote it was no more than 500 words of fiction containing a man in a black suit, a fishbowl and a train. When Stu did the assignment he wrote a different version every day for a week. It took me two days to write this because I had to keep walking away from it. I turned it in on the third day after stripping it.
The result is I'm an astronaut.
Alyssa had left in a rush and forgotten her scarf. Another bit of evidence in the ongoing case of not having her shit together, she thought. At least she made the train. Punctual, I am that, she considered while tossing her purse in the seat to her right. It was Saturday. The normal business class, cell phone, briefcase crowd was absent replaced by only a few going to the city out of want rather than need.
Excuse me. I think this is my seat.
Alyssa glanced up to see a man looking down at her and pointing at her purse. Oh. I’m sorry, she stuttered, startled by his sudden appearance. He smiled and she grabbed her purse as its contents spilled.
Would you like for me to find another seat? He asked.
Secretly she did but instead she said, Oh no. I’m sorry. Again with the apologies, she thought. It’ll take me just a minute. She quickly began picking up what amounted to junk. How many times had she told herself she needed to clean out her purse?
The man laughed.
The train whistle blew.
Alyssa brushed off the seat.
There was a jerk, a chug.
The man sat down.
The train left the platform.
Alyssa hugged the bag in her lap and turned to look at the man. He seemed diminutive now. Before, standing above her, he appeared so tall. He had on a thin brimmed hat. A small trimmed patch of silver hair peeked from underneath.
His wrinkles so deep. His eyes a pale blue. He was looking at her now, she realized. Alyssa blushed, looked away.
I’m sorry, she said.
For what? He asked.
Darling, if you make it to my age you will learn to treasure attention.
Alyssa looked back at the man. He had not moved. Again she blushed, Nice suit. It looked like the one Ben had bought for fifteen dollars in the second hand store. Vintage, he had called it.
Silver hair. Blue eyes. Black suit. Something in his lap, Alyssa noticed.
Is that a fishbowl? She asked out loud which surprised even her.
The man chuckled, said, Yes.
What’s in there? Alyssa asked after noticing three small folded pieces of paper.
A game, the man replied.
What kind of game?
Just a fun little game I like to play.
Again Alyssa looked into his blue eyes.
Do you want to play? He asked. His grin grew. He obviously wanted her to.
What do I do?
You stick your hand in this fishbowl and pull out one piece of paper. He tilted the bowl toward her.
You unfold the piece of paper and read what is written.
Why not humor an old man? Alyssa thought.
It was Sunday morning when the little boy picked up a piece of paper from the train floor. He handed it to his Mother. She looked at it, read aloud the two words scribbled in red.
New goal. New piece of fiction every week until all my hair falls out and I am a writer.
Today I am grateful for the challenges.