Weekly Challenge #508 – The Line

Welcome to the 100 Word Stories podcast at oneadayuntilthedayidie.com.

This is the Weekly Challenge, where I post a topic and then challenge you to come up with a 100 word story based on that topic.

We’ve got stories by:

Sleepy

MUNSI

My New Program

By Christopher Munroe

Here’s my pitch:

Our contestants, wild, sexy twentysomethings all, arrive at the house on the first day and are told to wait for the host to come and let them in.

The host, obviously, never comes, and the series is filmed in front of the house as, over the course of several days, without provisions beyond whatever they might have brought with them, they give up on ever being on TV and walk away…

The last, half starved, exhausted contestant still waiting, once the others have left, will be declared the winner.

“The Line” will premier this autumn, on NBC.

CHARLIE

Aaron crossed the line at every opportunity. He made it a point to shock, offend and irritate a dozen or more people every day. He wore t-shirts or hoodies with insulting and profane phrases, and adorned his jacket or fleece with even more offensive patches and buttons. His ability to rouse people’s ire was astonishing. The t-shirt he wore to his monthly Kiwanis meeting this morning was emblazoned with the words: “Nobody knows I’m a Lesbian.” Aaron got laughs from folks that were hip to sarcasm and black humor, but he only got grimaces and stink eye from the rest.

#2

Little Leo was a terrible student. He couldn’t draw a straight line if he didn’t have a straight edge to set his chalk against. However, he would practice for hours. He would draw the figure, common faces in the street, and copy sculpture in the church. Leo drew a lot of penises and many of his male figures were very feminine. The contemporaries of Leo accused him of being a Sodomite, either out of jealousy or rumors circulated at the time. Leo went on to create many famous works, including The Mona Lisa and the earliest drawing of the helicopter.

#3

Living below the “poverty line” and taking advantage of various public charities, exemptions, and subsidies was an art form. Bob even used the food bank. He had accumulated a couple of hundred thousand dollars, so he put all the money in his cousin’s name, and claimed several big, gambling losses over a period of five years. He drove an old car, dressed shabbily and let his yard go to weed. He kept to himself, and walked as often as the weather allowed. The utility companies and the tax assessor believed him when he reported a very low income. It worked.

#4

Lois delivered her line. She left the set and went to the parking lot to sit in her car. She had another small part after lunch. She ate and returned to the set. Her training at UCLA was demanding, and summer stock parts were helpful to polish her craft. The director called the actors back, and they shot the new film for the next couple of hours. Lois was more nervous than usual as her line was coming up. She lay there with her ankles locked behind her ears. “Sock it to me, Boatswain Mate, Murphy. Sock it to me!”

LIZZIE

The blue line on the floor was in sight. Damien waited eagerly. Stardom, they said. He stepped out of the vehicle and stood on his side of the line. He had thought about taking some food and some clothes with him. But he knew he’d have to wear a special suit anyway. They’d provide food too. Beaming, Damien stepped over the line. The portal sucked him in and minced him into little portions, wrapping him in some sort of plastic. He didn’t look bad in it. However, it had never crossed his mind that he would become the damn food.

ANA

Where would we be without the line?

We’d be stuck standing in line instead of walking the line.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line.

My line is never straight. My line ends up looking like scribbles.

Is anybody’s line ever straight?

Time to cross the road but there is a long line of traffic.

I might never cross the road. The line lasts forever.

Oh finally the end of the line. Time to cross the road.

I get to stand in the lunch line.

I certainly end up in line often.

I need a book.

JEFFREY

Getting the Point

Smith picked up the closest pen, a fine marker, and drew a line a third of the way across the page. He considered for a moment, then selected a medium-nib fountain pen with which to draw a second, wider line below the first. Finally, he chose a pen with a double-broad nib, the widest and wettest pen he owned, which he used primarily for signing documents. He made two more underlines, digging into the paper – the second time so hard the nib flexed.

“I’m not sure how much clearer I can be,” he told Jones, standing in front of Smith’s desk looking perplexed. Bold, all capitals, and now with four underlines. “YOU’RE FIRED!”

Useful Skills
by Jeffrey Fischer

In high school, I worked on the school newspaper, called the Brandywine *Line*. I’m not sure where the name came from – perhaps the founders liked the pleasing rhyme. We all wrote articles, made up headlines, and helped typeset the paper on ancient equipment, gluing articles and illustrations in place on the page and pasting corrections over the errata.

Although only one of us made a career in journalism, I think we learned some valuable skills during our late nights. Oh, not in typesetting: those machines were outdated even in the 70s. Not in composing headlines, either: creating mildly risque puns on school nicknames is a skill, to be sure, but less valuable than one might think. The real value was in having nerdy boys and nerdy girls learn to interact with the opposite sex. Just don’t tell our parents.

AMI

I found it, a beautiful crystal ball as clear as that perfect ice cube in a refreshing drink commercial. Boxed carefully for shipping in white tissue nestled in air-filled plastic pillows and addressed to my dear sister, the stock broker. She’ll laugh; she needs a laugh.

I quick-step up the building entrance calculating the line likely formed from the number of cars parked in front of the red brick icon. I’ll be out of here in noooooooo, how can this be? I pay my dues for being a good sister and head home to find a crystal ball for me.

AUBREY

Johnny Cash plays on the radio as we drive. The windows are down and warm summer air weaves through my hair as I lean out the passenger window. I get the feeling I’ll never experience something quite like this again, as we leave the funeral.

It’s strange how death can make you feel so alive. How songs become memories.

Because you’re mine, I walk the line. The words echo in my head as I look over at him, his eyes are on the road, on what is ahead of us. I can’t spend too much time looking behind, looking back.

RICHARD

#1 – That’s Life

Bombed, shot at, crawling through muddy trenches under fire… Rescuing people from fires and the brink of death… Infiltrating foreign regimes… Giving humanitarian aid in disaster zones.

Incredible challenges faced by remarkable people daily, and when you try to give them their due, their unassuming response? “It’s all in the line of duty”.

I understand that completely. After all, every day I battle with the stress and uncertainty of public transport, wrestle with packed city streets, suffer the trials of dealing with idiots in meetings and pointless telephone calls.

But, you know what?

It’s all in the line of duty.

#2 – Checkout

I joined the line at the checkout with the usual feeling of inevitability.

I knew every other line would move forward at a sprint, whilst mine crawled. I knew the person in front would have a million coupons. Chances are, someone would break a box of eggs, have their card declined and spend ages packing and repacking bags.

With a sigh, I resigned myself to fate.

“Excuse me, sir – everyone’s waiting!”

Damn! My turn. I fumbled for my bags, wallet and change, dropping my box of eggs in the process.

The exasperated sigh behind me told a familiar story!

#3 – The Gospel according to Norman: The Parable of the Unpaid Dues

It so happened a gambler fell upon hard times, losing all his wealth, and becoming a beggar in the marketplace.

“Woe is me,” he exclaimed, “I am sorely afflicted, what can I do?”

“You can bugger off from here for a start”, replied a more accomplished beggar: “this is my patch!”

The gambler took to the road, where he was set upon and beaten by robbers.

A kindly Samaritan saw the man, stopped, and gave him a helpline number to telephone.

However, the gambler hadn’t paid the phone bill – the line was dead, and shortly thereafter, so was he.

SERENDIPITY

There’s a line you just don’t cross – where any reasonable person turns their back and walks away.

It’s a line commonsense tells you must remain a hard limit – there’s a right side and a wrong side of that line; you cross it at your peril: only the foolish, the mad, the deluded, choose the wrong side.

But I’m none of them – I’m rational, calculating and entirely sane, and I’ve crossed every line there is – deep into the territory beyond.

I am you, as you really are, when you cross that line dividing waking and your dreams.

ZACKMANN

Oh my, I feel like I have been standing in this line for days. After serving a term in the military and shopping on Black Friday twice, some of us are slow learners, I promised myself to never stand in a line more than twenty people long again. Except for that one day I went to an anime convention, I did pretty well with that. Standing in long lines is my own personal hell. I see a guy who likes like Joe Hill’s father so I must have been wrong about this line being hell. He usually ends with purgatory.

TURA

Pound

———

After ten years of arduous travelling through the remotest places on Earth, at last I found the Hidden Master, seated outside a ten foot square hut. I put my questions.

—What is the teaching of the Buddha?

—Ten pounds of flax.

—Er, I mean, what did he tell people?

—Not a single grain of rice.

—Do you know where he is?

—The outhouse behind this hut.

—How can I get to speak to him?

—If you see that idiot on the road, kill him.

I can’t decide if those were koans, or if he was just deaf as a post.

———

Line

———

I remember “PDAs”, Personal Digital Assistants. That just meant a calendar app and an address book. Then recommender systems to tell you films you’d like. Now, Smartglass. It reads your heartbeat, brainwaves, eyegaze, everything. It knows what you want before you do and smooths the path.

It gamifies eating and exercise, so you’ll be fitter and healthier with Smartglass.

In some jobs it will do the job for you, continually whispering in your ear to tell you what to do.

Somewhere a line was crossed. We wanted paradise and all we got was machines to live our lives for us.

NORVAL JOE

Henry sat on the edge of the rain gutter and surveyed the line of pigeons at the top of the roof. He must forget these dull and unimaginative creatures were once his family. Not brothers and sisters–they were cousins or something like that.

“Forget that, now,” Henry told himself. “I’m a hawk and these pigeons are my dinner. But which one?”

Jenny was the fattest and probably the easiest to catch. He couldn’t drop from the sky like the rest of the hawks. Henry would have to sneak up and attack her from behind.

He’d have to wait until dark.

JUSTIN

The creature advanced. Feline form with aquatic features. The most feared, mysterious enemy of the United Empire of Earth, the Vanduul. He cowered from its cold gaze, weakly jabbing the knife towards the alien. It leapt, tearing the knife from his grasp. Its teeth glinted as it spoke.

“You killed my brother, and tore our ship apart and sold it for scrap, as is your right, but you stole this knife from me. That is not your right, it is a death sentence!”

The knife glinted as it flicked out, and a red, quickly growing line appeared across his stomach.

PLANET Z

Theodore was an expert in cell phone bombs.

He liked to watch his targets from the hills as he made the fatal calls.

These days, Central Command preferred drone strikes, but some targets dug deep enough to thwart the best bunker-busters.

Which also made it difficult for Theodore, too.

If the bomb can’t get signal, you can’t set it off.

Central Command tried to text Theodore with changed orders.

“Poison the air intake vents.”

But they called the wrong phone number.

It was for Theodore’s backup bomb. Which he’d mistakenly left on.

The target watched the explosion on the hill.

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