The Gift of Short Story for Quintessential Editor

Let there be Humor 

I swirled in front of my mirror before heading downstairs.

My long hair was perfect as usual, hidden inside a bun. My brown eyes looked tired under the glasses and my outfit had no creases or smudges. Nothing out of place, as usual. A girl can get bored from all of the perfection staring back.

“Where you going after your internship?” my mother asked after I made it downstairs and started getting ready to leave.

“To Riley’s to watch TV,” I replied. “A couple of remakes of twenty-first drama TV shows.”

“I need you to be home tonight to babysit your brother,” my mother said in her usual monotone voice.

“You always need me to be home,” I replied. “I want to watch TV with Riley.”

“And you want to get closer to him,” she said bitterly, as she picked up some books and returned them back onto the bookshelf.

“I never understand why you don’t like him,” I replied.

“He wants more than just kissing,” she said with her dangerous tone.

“What hot blooded male at the age of twenty-four doesn’t want more than just kissing?” I asked her, tilting my neck and rolling my eyes.

“And will you oblige him?” she returned, suddenly looking very pale. One would think that our society would not have worried mothers over their daughters, guess it’s in our DNA. One can always add chips to our brains, one can always give us perfect vision, but one can’t make a mother not worry.

“Yes,” I replied and left through the front door.

I started walking to the bus stop.

“You’re grounded,” my mother warned me, “young lady.”

“You can’t ground me for two reasons,” I answered back, turning around. “I’m no longer seventeen and nothing happened yet.”

“Well, you will be grounded when you get home,” she yelled, “you still live with me and you will follow my rules!”

That’s one big problem of our society. Children live with their parents until the age of twenty-six or until they get a masters degree. There’s no reason why someone doesn’t get a degree in our society. I’m twenty-four years of age so two more years of mother… and two more years of following her rules.

Damn it! I’m twenty-four!

I walked up to the bus stop and eyed two flat busses.

Now, you may be wondering where I lost my marbles because I called the busses flat. Here’s the thing, our society has gone through major changes since the 25th century. Nowadays, busses are flat, with one door. Next to the door, there is a phone scanner that scans your bus pass. After the buss pass gets scanned, the name of the stop changes to show the stop of your choice. One walks through the door and gets teleported to the stop of your choice.

No one drives anymore. Every neighborhood has two busses and no one is ever late and if one is late, they can’t lie about busses being broken (unless they are in fact broken) because of another technology – the truth chip. Everyone has one, everyone likes them or hates them, and no one can lie about anything. The government law is law and we just deal with it. Hence, the problems with parents and sex. They always know when one gets it on.

Another annoyance is that we don’t know how to create new movies or shows because it’s hard to act out lies. We’re stuck watching shows and movies from the olden times, sometimes the remakes are fun to watch, but only if they are animated.

Closing the door behind me, I walked over to my building and ignored the blazing heat.

For the rest of the morning, I worked at the lab until it was time to head out to lunch with a co-worker, Nancy. It was during lunch time of when the solar flare happened.

Now, how did I know that there was a solar flare? Simple.

The sun was brighter than usual. My phone went blank. The music stopped flowing from the street’s radio. It were merely seconds before music drifted over us again and I managed to turn my phone back on.

Nancy and I rushed back to the lab and found that all of our computers were off. We lost a day’s work.

For the rest of my internship hours were spent redoing everything from the morning and we weren’t silent about it. Curses kept flying left and right over the whole mess. We can control anything in our society, except when solar flares happen.

After one hell of an afternoon, I was thankful to be at Riley’s house watching TV and making out. I didn’t stop him from exploring me and I even explored him. We ended up between the sheets in no time and when I got home, my mom asked me about my day. I told her everything… well mostly everything. I didn’t tell her about my time with Riley other than watching TV. Somehow, I was able to stop myself from saying, “yes, we had sex. Ground me for all I care.” She hugged me with such pride that it hurt and I almost did tell her, but I didn’t want to.

Why didn’t I admit to my evening’s events?

The next day, it was a repeat with my mother, except, when she asked me about sleeping with Riley, I told her, “I’m not ready yet and he understands.” To my surprise, she believed me.

It was weird when I got to work. Nancy was biting her nails and looking at one of the computers.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, putting on my lab coat and noticing that our professor was not in yet.

“I. It,” she said, looking like a scaredy cat.

“What?” I asked and typed in a couple of lines of code. Nothing happened. “What happened?”

“I. The computer had a malfunction,” she said. “Or maybe it was my fault. No. It was malfunction. No. No. I did it.” She started crying.

I clicked a button on my glasses, to see the damage closely on our product. The disk was burned and this time we needed to start from scratch.

Good thing that I was meticulous with my documentation and we weren’t completely screwed.

Our professor walked in, raised his greying eyebrows at Nancy and folded his arms over his lump stomach, waiting for an explanation.

“The computer had a malfunction,” I said in my best even tone.

Nancy cried harder.

“It did?” he asked.

“Looks like it,” I replied. “Will take about a week to fix.”

He rubbed his chin. “Solar flare did more damage than we thought.”

“Yeah,” I agreed for Nancy’s sake. I understood right away that it was really her mistake, but no one will call her on it.

“Then get the parts ordered and go home,” he returned and walked away.

Nancy looked back and forth between me, the computer, and the disappearing professor.

I shrugged, not knowing what to tell her about what just occurred. We were able to lie. But, telling her that outloud may not be smart because it was just a coincidence, right?

I got to Riley’s in time to see him drinking coffee with an absent minded look.

“Something’s weird is happening,” he muttered quietly, “and everyone are afraid of saying it out loud.”

I sat down next to him and finished his coffee.

“I think that I lied yesterday to mother,” I started, “and Nancy lied at work about a computer malfunction.”

He glanced at me with shock. “Yeah, I lied to brother about last night. It was just so…”

“Natural?” I asked.

“Yeah.” he looked embarrassed.

“So what happens, now?” I asked, eyeing him seriously.

“Don’t know,” he acknowledged. “Though, the government’s probably on it.”

“Like they would admit that all of our chips fried,” I snickered.

“Think that’s what happened?” he asked curiously.

I shrugged. “My best guess, really. I do say that to change chips for everyone would be an impossible task.”

“Think the ones in storage got fried?”

“Your guess is good as mine,” I replied.

“Think that umm there will be riots and stuff?”

I lowered my head on the table and closed my eyes.

Too many questions. Too little time to figure out what will happen.

“My head hurts.”

I ignored his comment and tried to think while he took out his tablet and I heard him clicking away.

“No one reported anything weird.”

“Good,” I muttered and raised my head.

“Why you looking at me like that?”

I laughed, hysterically.

“Hun,” he whispered, “you’re scaring me.”

“I have an idea.”

“What is it?”

“Our television sucks balls. Seriously. Everything is always about truth. We haven’t created new jokes since like last century or more because truth is not funny.”

“What’s your point?”

“We can start a video channel with updated jokes. We can take the old jokes and make them work for our time!” my voice rose from excitement. “We can bring humor back into our lives and not just rewatch again and again the olden times when people could do anything!”

“One problem,” he said, “we’re not jokers.”

“We can be,” I challenged. “If I can lie to my mother about us not having sex then I can be a joker and I know which joke to start with!”

Riley was looking at me like I was an alien.

“Okay,” he agreed after we fell into an uncomfortable silence. “I give in.”

After of hours of writing the script, charging camera to make the clip, and acting it out, we were finally ready to do it live. Yes, to do this live was crazy and probably stupid but this was a chance for our civilization to become fun again and I had to take it.

I imagined others doing similar skits. Families sitting down and watching plays, movies of our time with our ideas. It felt amazing.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I started.

The camera light was green and I was nervous. Riley was hidden from view, looking worse for wear, but I knew that this would turn out alright.

“My name is Jessica.”

First lie in the skit.

“And,” I smiled, “I’m selling my boyfriend named Tom.”

2nd lie.

“As you can see,” I pointed around myself, “we’re at a market. A perfect place to make my selling pitch.”

3rd lie.

The room around me had signs on furniture. Furniture represented food carts, clothing racks, and technology tables.

“Tom,” I called, “get out here and show how pretty you are.”

Riley walked over to me in jeans and a ripped t-shirt.

“Everyone,” I started again, “this is Tom. He’s wearing a nice suit. Has a PHd. Amazing in the sack and is rich.”

Three more lies.

I put up my hand to ear and listened in to a fake shout out.

“Of course he has temperament,” I yelled to the invisible and fake person. “He’s a man after all!”

Riley looked down at his feet.

“Prove it?” I yelled, shocked. “How does one prove that a man has temperament?”

Now, Riley was looking just as shocked as I was acting to be.

“Fine!” I yelled, “your old brod. I’ll show you.”

“Should I be scared?” Riley as Tom asked.

“Tom, sit,” I ordered.

He did.

“Tom, stand,” I ordered again. “Sit, stand, sit.”

He did as he was told.

I nodded and yelled, “See, brod. He has temperament. A real man!”

Riley puffed out his chest proudly.

“Fine!” I yelled to the invisible and fake customer. “You’re not worthy of Tom!”

Riley started crying.

“Aww,” I said, “You okay, Tom?”

He shook his head.

“Why?” I asked. “Everything will be okay.”

“I…,” he said, “I don’t want to be sold.”

“Okay, okay.” I petted his shoulder. “I do not need a man with temperament. Let’s go home, boyfriend.”

Riley picked me up, making me squeal and ran out of the room.

I yelled, “mom!”

Behind the wall, we started laughing and then returned to be in front of the camera.

“Okay so that was fun,” I said to the camera. “Our real names are Riley and Alice. This was our attempt at a joke for our time. Someone did that joke in 1980 and we made some small changes. All of us right now are starting to figure out that something changed within us and I think by bringing back humor into our lives will make us all better.”

“Looking forward to your skits,”Riley added.

“See you soon!” we said in unison and the camera turned off.

18 thoughts on “The Gift of Short Story for Quintessential Editor

  1. I loved it, Angelina! It’s so neat seeing the tiny kernel of an idea turn into an actual story. The rebirth of humor was an interesting direction to take. I definitely wouldn’t have thought of this angle. It does make sense that people who can’t lie wouldn’t be able to joke around at all.

    The concept of adults living with their parents reminded me of Japan. It seemed to be common for many Japanese families to stay together until the child was married. I’ve read the people of Okinawa, Japan have one of the longest lifespans of any people on Earth. While many people attribute this to their diets, I often wondered if it was more due to their togetherness as a community. Families, friends, and communities stay together. I remember travelling there and seeing people of all ages in groups, hanging out, and doing events together (farming, eating, walking, etc.).

    Thank you so much for this gift. I’m going to save this story and give it another read. I imagine Alice and Riley will get a warm reception in their world…or be hunted down by the government! Maybe both 🙂 Humor can be dangerous thing! Thanks again for writing this — you rock!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting. Your story reminds me of something I read yesterday; it was written by Kurt Vonnegut. “This is the secret of good storytelling: to lie, but to keep the arithmetic sound. A storyteller, like any other sort of enthusiastic liar, is on an unpredictable adventure.”

    Liked by 1 person

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