My good friend Arthur died recently, in what is accepted as an unfortunate climbing accident. But it’s a real coincidence that he’s the only person my age I know who had made a will, and it just so happened to be finalized a week before his untimely passing, and I never heard him mention even once that he had any interest in mountaineering and now that I think about it I’m not even sure they found his body.
He and I connected primarily through literature as well as our own writing. We had very similar taste and sensibilities, and we would always share good finds and bounce story ideas off each other. We shared the belief that all it takes to create something truly special is a nugget of a thought, to go along with a chunk of silence, some dedicated focus and a few snifters of a fine single malt.
Lately we’d begun writing together, after realizing that our styles and creative processes complemented each other perfectly. He was the ideas man, always coming up with great titles and descriptions, and I could build on that to follow through with the narration and dialogue and whatnot.
Now he’s always known that I suffer from conception block, and so it was with true friendship and understanding that he bequeathed to me his only notebook, containing all of his story premises that he’d never managed to elaborate into fruition. I want to make him proud, and I’d love nothing more than to posthumously see his name in print as a co-writer on a piece published by anything more revered than Highlights Magazine, his current writing summit. Below is a selection of his most promising kernels, and I vow to turn them each into a complete story worth writing, worth reading, and worth publishing.
Flag Earther – It’s remarkable that almost all countries in the world agreed on the same format for how a national flag should look, or even that they should all have national flags. This is in no small part due to the laborious work of a Laosian polyglot who has held the non-partisan role of “International Flag Guy” for over seven decades. He is in charge of all flag decisions, including design pivots, content approval and duplication avoidance. He’s only taken one vacation over his career, and Nepal took full advantage.
Hurried Obit – Helen works at the only newspaper in her small town, handling all classified ads but best known as the sole writer of obituaries for the local residents. Her notices are always thoughtful, intimate and unique, perfectly capturing the deceased’s life and personality. While retrieving an old paper for a customer in the basement, she finds herself inescapably locked in the archive room as it begins filling up with carbon monoxide. She recognizes the smell instantly and knows she has only ten minutes before certain death, with madness and delirium setting in after five. Accepting her fate, she sits down at the table and, amidst her fatal ordeal, pens her most impressive work yet, her own obituary.
Hot Spot – Told through various news articles, this details the rise and fall of the first person to become a free public Wi-Fi hot spot. He’s implanted by the sponsor Verizon, and while it starts off as a cool technovancement that gets him a taste of fame and a little extra cash, it leads to his ruin, as he is constantly surrounded by the data-obsessed masses. The final article is a notice of his death after his corpse is found in the middle of a treacherous mountain that he scaled in order to avoid his unreasonable popularity.
Tribute – Strongly Worded Letter, a cult band started in the early oughts, dissolved a few years ago after the songwriter’s head got too big. A few years later, a tribute band called Schubladenbrief is formed and becomes huge, much more popular than the original group ever was. They even enlist the original drummer, who’d always felt under-appreciated by Ron, the songwriter with the big head. Ron still plays some poorly-attended solo shows around his town, but he’s mostly a drunk now and his life is half in shambles. Schubladenbrief is on tour and is coming to Ron’s town to play a show. The drummer, who mostly pities him at this point, puts him on the guest list, and most of the story is Ron navigating the situation.
Johatsu – This is based on the Japanese phenomenon where due to mounting and unending failure in their life, a person abandons everything and walk away from it all, disappearing to live simply and anonymously off the grid. It starts off with Ellen discussing her options with a johatsu advisor, continues with her moving to and existing in a seemingly content situation, then ends with her returning to her original life but with gained perspective.
LSDay – July 15th, 2045 is the first annual event in celebration of new President of Earth Danielle Rhys. It is a global holiday, for which everyone in the world is encouraged to partake. Now that the medicinal and recreational properties of psychoactive substances are accepted by the scientific community and governing party, it is time to publicly promote these values to the global citizenry. Longstanding stigma cannot be erased overnight, and so Rhys instituted this day to demonstrate to the traditionalists the positive effects that lysergic acid diethylamide can have on a person as well as a collective. All jobs are on put on hold for 24 hours and we follow a few people navigating this day in their altered state.
Bus-iness – An unhappy businessman gets transferred to a new city where he doesn’t know anyone. On his first day of work, his car breaks down and he ends up taking the bus to work. Over the week he has a couple of fun interactions with the other bus people, who are mostly the same every day. Even after his car is fixed, he continues to take the bus instead. He continues to strengthen his relationships with all the weird bus people, until his commute feels like a community. The ride to work is the best part of his day. Eventually, he gets transferred again for his job. He’s dreading saying goodbye to all his new friends, but as he’s about to do so, the regular bus driver has a fatal heart attack in front of everyone. It’s a tragedy for sure, but it does spark the businessman’s brain. The next time we see him he’s driving the bus along his regular route, and all the passengers and a few extras can’t be any happier with their new bus driver.
Win Some, Lose Some – In 1958, a man names his son Winner. Three years later, he has another son and calls him Loser. Winner becomes a hardened criminal, while Loser becomes a detective. Winner is a sinner, and loser is a boozer. Eventually their lives intersect and in the end they understand each other a bit better.
MacArthur’s Genius – A perennial underachiever is mistakenly awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, a $625,000, no-strings-attached endowment given to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential. He considers buying a modest Caribbean island and taking drugs “artistically” until the money runs out, but instead he pulls himself up by his boot’s straps and vows to create something incredible. He searches everywhere in his brain and his notes for the right undertaking, finally settling on what he knows in his heart he was always meant to do. He will at last finish a collection of unfinished stories previously conceived by his friend who faked his own death so that the underachiever could use the event as sufficient motivation to complete a fucking project for once.