*Went over the word limit but as I think those are for chumps here it is anyway - and here's the original Challenge: https://theprose.com/challenge/13412
The town was perfect.
White picket fences as far as the four-legged companion could run. Property values rising exponentially over the years. Manicured, drought-resistant landscaping. Great school scores. Impeccable walkability - but not at the expense of ample parking - and a clean, zero-emission transit system. Organic farmer's markets year round with chic boutique-style food trucks offering gourmet samplings for discerning tastes.
Microbreweries and wine tastings. Socially conscious city council members with credentials for days. Carefully crafted zoning laws and planned greenery in strategic locations including public parks at every other corner.
Then the Shiftless came.
It was a trickle at first. Just a handful of vagrants who got too tired passing through. Probably mentally addled and obviously not educated. Dirty skin of many colors, hoarded junk and tents, hiding in unused corners and corporate parking lots.
The Civilized decried these incursions. They were a blight on their otherwise perfect city. How dare they encroach!
Then dissent ran its course, like an ugly wrinkle on the brow of calm repose. Some called for the guards to run them out of town - ship them to another area, throw away their makeshift domiciles, protect their precious property values which continued to climb higher and higher despite the growing piles of human throwaway. Others begged mercy, setting up temporary shelters inviting the Shiftless to programs, classes, medications, all the things the Civilized knew would help the hidden gems of society buried inside these poor souls. Yet neither approach worked and the Shiftless grew in number, year by year and season by season.
Yet the property values continued to rise, despite a few hiccups here and there. The value of the town maintained.
As the attacks on the Shiftless grew so did a strange disease. People started to disappear. Signs saying "For Hire" popped up in window after window, as the boutiques and breweries struggled to keep up with servicing the Civilized. The busboys bussed out of town. The waitresses quit waiting for a second shift. The cashiers cashed out.
"Why are the Shiftless not taking these positions?" demanded the Civilized. Dissent again reared its ugly head. Education was floated as one solution, but yet others argued the Shiftless were incapable of hard work otherwise they'd not have fallen to their current state. Medication and interventions might fix their mental state, make them more amenable to work.
For the Civilized had need of a working class to maintain their amenities. And surely the Shiftless had need of work to feel whole.
The property values hit new heights never seen before in history. Rents, barely constrained, peaked higher and higher. The housing market continued to thrive despite the lack of housed around it.
Then the Fire came.
There had been other fires but not here - not in such a perfect town. A town that had done everything right. That had emphasized sustainability and clean living. Neither stopped the fire. It consumed those homes - millions upon millions of dollars of homes - like just another cheap pile of sticks on a fire. The Civilized mourned the loss of their equity, their community, their livelihoods, and began the necessary steps to rebuild.
However...there was nobody around to build. The carpenters had gone into the woodwork. The plumbers had drained away. The electricians had zapped out of town. Not one landscaper remained to turn the blackened earth into designer stone and locally-sourced plant life.
The Civilized howled and threw more and more money at the problem...but their money had been linked to their precious homes. And like them it had gone up in smoke.
Some of the Civilized moved in with family, trying to get back on their feet. Others had no family left to help and ended up moving from one motel to the next, working out of suitcases and spending hours on the phone trying to find another rental as the rents drove up again with surging demand. Jobs dried up. Vacancy signs went dark. And as if under a dark spell, one-by-one, the Civilized turned...changed...shifted.
Now, this town was perfect.
You Can Leave The Country
Been fifteen long years
Since I bid it goodbye
Never shed any tears
Had no reason to cry
Met a cute city boy
Settled down for awhile
Found myself some real joy
And a reason to smile
But like a god-damn farm hand down on my luck
All I got now's my dog and a new pickup truck
Didn't count on leavin'
Thought I'd stay here for life
Had no causes for grievin'
Was a happy young wife
Till our plans hit a wall
That I just couldn't break
Now he's keeping it all
'Cept this heart he won't take
And like a god-damn farm hand down on my luck
All I got now's my dog and a new pickup truck
So I bought a guitar
Found a new place to rent
That'll get me as far
As I wish he'd get bent
And one day I may play
This sad little song
You can move miles away
But the country ain't gone
'Cause like a god-damn farm hand down on my luck
All I need is my dog and a new pickup truck <3
End of a Ridiculous Endeavor
I am finally publishing the last of my NSFW erotic comedy series - it's done! I can now check off "self-published dime store smut" from my life bucket list.
Honestly speaking, that's basically the only thing I'm proud of with this series. It's not the best series - not even my best writing, it's cringeworthy at times - BUT I finished it and put it out there. For me this is important because typically my crippling perfectionism kills any attempts I make at trying new things. In this case though I managed it specifically BECAUSE I told myself this was worthless garbage meant to fail - and my brain bought the trick.
I can perfectly fail this!
In the spirit of owning my silliness and recognizing my true reasoning I'm adjusting all my books down to $.99/each. This means I will make a paltry $.35/each on the evil Amazon and I'm not even sure what everywhere else - but I've also only sold like 8 books, so meh. Not like I'm quitting my day job. This was a side quest.
*Note: Amazon will take up to 72 hours to register the pricing change, so stay tuned!
Here are links to all three books in series order if anyone cares to peruse:
Alpha, Beta, Omega: The Green & The Gold
Alpha, Beta, Omega: The Gold & The Blue
Alpha, Beta, Omega: The Blue & The Green (releasing 5/5/22!)
Thanks Proser community for supporting my re-engagement of writing as a pastime, even if a silly one that will not fund my living expenses :)
Harper Daily (my ridiculous smut pen name, hereforwith retired)
trying to listen
trying to look
trying to wait
*When it takes so much to be someone
that others can stand
It is exhausting to struggle and know
you can't lean
because the real you
Point the First:
I would expand this question to "Can one ever really be friends with someone they find attractive?" because in this modern day and age it seems silly to leave out all possible combinations - can gay men be friends with each other? Can lesbians? It sounds as if the query is posed to suggest we are nothing but slaves to our hormones. If you want to be, go for it. Me? #!@% that shit.
Point the Second:
Growing up I struggled to keep many friends at all. I got sorted with the misfits mostly; and our gang was comprised of all types and sizes as there was always safety in numbers. I had many close friends who were girls. Many who were boys. When I played with girls I often played "girl" things - dolls, boy band fangirling, blah blah - and when I played with boys I often played "boy" things - Ghostbusters, TMNT, bam bam - without much difficulty making the shift. People who freak out when you suggest that gender is a result of social programming rather than a genetic imperative should probably have played more as kids.
Point the Third:
At any given point in a friendship I would argue there are reasons it never goes past a line. It stays in the friendzone - nobody puts you there, you choose it - because it takes two parties to complete a pass. If one side is unrequited, then it's your choice, settle or quit. If neither side feels it then no worries. Yet I wouldn't trade any of my friends for the thrill of a perhaps temporary flame. Same as I wouldn't avoid them if I suspected they might wish for more. You can set boundaries - after all, clarity is kindness - and leave it up to them. Again, it's a choice.
Conclusion: Of course men and women can be friends. The battle of the sexes is already too harsh at times to risk otherwise. If there can be no common or neutral ground, no recognition of the commonality between us and the stupidity of the lines drawn, then what hope do we have but to live in an endlessly divided society? What hope do our children have of ever hoping to achieve more than Dick & Jane?
Everything isn't always about sex, horndogs.
Grow up already :P
'Tis better to quit
and let hopes die
than to regret always
what one never tried
Velma & Ed
You're not a girl.
The bowl cut worked for a busy mom who didn't have time to groom a rambunctious kid, but for said rambunctious kid it grew tiring.
The boy on the playground was the only one with the problem - the other kids took her at her word, but apparently he had too much doubt to trust anything other than his own eyes.
After staring in the mirror the solution seemed simple - longer hair. Nobody would mistake a girl for a boy no matter how rowdy if she looked the part, right?
It lasted until school photos in second grade, long enough to log the evidence, and that was it. Her mother, still busy with new little ones, had explained if she wanted long hair she'd have to take care of it. This included not only washing it but brushing out the ever growing tangles and cleaning up loose ends left in the bathroom.
After that experiment a compromise was formed - shoulder length hair. Long enough to make the cut, yet short enough to manage easily on a rowdy tomboy's late morning schedule.
Growing up the hair style didn't waver much. Experimentation when you work a nine to five wasn't as easy, and the old shoulder length bob stuck. Once on a whim for Halloween she decided to dress up as Velma from Scooby Doo, shrugging a thick orange turtleneck and a brown skirt.
Sadly, nobody at her office noticed she'd even worn a costume.
Why did you get a lesbian haircut?
Her friends had supported her trying something new, so she'd excitedly gone to her favorite stylist and requested a red faux hawk. It felt fun and different, no more Velma just a bright red crop of messy bangs. She'd even bought some forming cream to help it stick up a bit, the easy styling not too much harder than her usual comb through in the morning.
The disparaging comment didn't really matter in the end. Sure she'd married him twelve years ago and given him her heart, but sadly after all that time he'd turned out to be just another little boy full of doubt and opinions.
Now her heart was her own again. She could chase her dreams, not the reality that others continually pushed her towards. The analytical, mousy nerd who'd quietly accepted things and solved problems in the past had fallen to the floor of the Super Cuts along with her curls. In her place a new being had entered. Someone more punky and confident, like the rowdy little girl she used to be.
And when she looked in the mirror the solution surprised her.
Passing The Buck
"It's these damn service technicians," Larry said, barely able to contain his ire. "See, all the companies laid off their senior techs during COVID, and then they hired back these young bucks who don't know jack on the cheap afterwards. Now I have to deal with all these extra service tickets because some idiot didn't do their job right."
TW listened attentively. "I understand that frustration, Larry. Let me make sure I've got all the info I can for your technician before you send them out to site. I'll follow up."
"It's these damn appliance makers," Joe said, blowing out after each breath. "See, nobody makes anything worth shit anymore. Everything's got so much 'smart tech' crap uploaded to it you need to be some kind of magician to run a simple oven nowadays. Don't even get me started on the coffee makers! Now the chef is screaming at me along with the building owner!"
TW listened attentively. "I understand you're under pressure, Joe. Let me pass this site info on to the technician so we can get this unit up and running. I'll follow up."
"It's these damn contractors," Patty said, her voice sounding like a tin can over her Bluetooth connection. "They don't pay us to properly install the units, then they screw up the install and turn around and blame us! Now I've got angry clients blowing up my phone all day and this isn't even my job! I'm a vice president! They just pawn all these folks onto me! UGH! I hate being a female manager in this industry!"
TW listened attentively. "I understand your pain, boss. I've got a technician coming out to fix the unit. I'll coordinate with the contractor afterwards to make sure it's running smoothly before we close out the ticket. We'll get these guys off your back."
"It's these damn bosses," Mr. Fixit said, collapsing into his computer chair after a long commute back from the office. "They just expect us to work to the bone, more and more hours each day, and then when we burn out they refuse to pay us what we're worth or listen to us when we need more staff on hand! I totally blame this company for our marriage falling apart!"
TW listened attentively. "I understand you've had a rough year. We've got a meeting scheduled with the divorce attorney you picked. They'll get the paperwork filed for us and we'll sort out the details slowly over the next few months. You're already signed up for dating sites. I'm sure you'll find somebody who has similar goals and work ethics in no time, you're still young."
TW laid in bed alone, eyes closed, moonlight beaming through the window.
"One day, self, it'll just be us," she whispered quietly. "We'll take care of ourselves instead of everyone else. We won't have to listen to everyone whine and complain. We won't have to fix everything for the Fixits. People won't even notice we're gone and we'll take that vacation we've always dreamed of to Peru. Just wait, self. Just wait."
With a smile and a dream of beautiful ancient ruins, TW rolled over and gradually fell asleep.
When you realize the electricians you just met three days ago are more cognizant of your needs than the man you've spent 12 years of your life supporting, it's probably time to move on.
"You should do this - I'm telling you 'cause you're too close to see."
Thanks, but honest - I swear - I know how to do me.
"You're being too nice! Shove it, get mad!"
Thanks again, really, but I'd rather be sad.
"You'll be fine, given time, don't sit and brood."
Thanks and you're right, I'm just stuck in a mood.
"You're still sticking it out? Hurry up! Make a change!"
Thanks but it's my process, even if it seems strange.
"You're too good for this but you're not listening, so there."
Thanks always, but really - I'm just glad that you care.