Of the Essence

I hope that I’ve managed to stick to the prompt more this week than I did last week. Last week’s flash fiction, ‘in hiding‘, was so much fun to write that I didn’t bother too much with coloring inside the lines. Normally, following the prompt is part of the fun for me, but I got started and it just flowed…and, well, I’m a writer. What fun is it being a writer if you always follow the rules?

That said, I’ve made a genuine effort this week, scout’s honor, to fulfill the prompt. (I was never a boy scout, but really, I tried.) And it was no easy thing, either, because SC Green over at The Parking Lot Confessional broke out the big guns when he came up with the prompts for this week. Here’s the one I went with:

Word Choice: Write 500 words conveying one emotion: Confusion. This is trickier than the first prompt. The same rule applies about not using the word “confused” or a derivative thereof (do it without using the word “confused” or any other related words/synonyms), but you also need to get the emotion across without confusing your reader on what they’re reading.

Granted, you, the reader, will likely be a good 350-400 words into this short story before you know what is going on, but by the end you will not be confused, though clearly the same cannot be said of one of the two main characters. It was a challenge, but it made for what I feel is an interesting story. Please share your thoughts on it, good or bad, in the comments.

of the essence

The odd man smiled at Kelly in a way that suggested profound pride. It was a genuine smile, a simple, enthusiastic thing that blossomed across his face ear-to-ear as though the heavens had parted so that angels could sing directly over him. In stereo. And they were taking requests.

Kelly was a receptionist. She was, more to the point, Mr. Harvey Campbell’s receptionist. Mr. Campbell did not take well to surprises, and the odd man standing before her certainly represented an unexpected mid-morning occurrence.

“I’m sorry,” Kelly said, the thick sheen of professional indifference she normally cloaked herself in having melted away. “Could you say that again?”

The odd man was staring off into the middle distance, nodding to himself. It took a moment for Kelly’s question to register, but when it did she became the center of his odd little universe.

This did not make Kelly any more comfortable.

“I beg your forgiveness,” he began. “Where are my manners? First, my name is Theodore Cantor, though Harvey knows me as Theo. Or, he will. No matter. Theo. You can think of me now and always as Theo.”

He smiled and then continued.

“As for what I was saying, I have vital information for Harvey. Mr. Campbell. He’ll know me as Theo. Eventually. In any case, the temporal displacement experiment seems to have been a success. Today is Friday, correct?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Friday, June 22?”



Kelly nodded desperately.

“Very good. I need to speak with Harvey right away. Time is of the essence!” He chuckled to himself, muttering something about puns and word plays while Kelly struggled to process the situation. Finally, her professional instincts won out.

“I am sorry, Mr. Cantor. Theo. Whatever.” Granted, she was not on her A game. “Mr. Campbell is quite busy today. I’m afraid he won’t have time to discuss your…experiment…with you.”

“No time?” Theo asked. “No time for temporal displacement!” He burst into laughter.

Kelly then remembered that she was, after all, in an office building. Office buildings have amenities. Like, for example, security. She reached for the phone to ring security right that moment, but Theo walked round the reception desk and casually pulled the phone cord from the wall.

“Again, my apologies,” he said. “For the cord and for my behavior. Temporal displacement is an industry term. Technical jargon. I believe you might call it ‘time travel’. You see, I am from the future. Mr. Campbell’s future. And if I don’t discuss his lunch plans with him before he leaves, I’m afraid his future will be quite short.”

Kelly held the phone receiver before her like a weapon.

“Please,” Theo said. “Just let Harvey know I’m here.”

Kelly nodded and, giving Theo a wide berth, made her way round the room to Mr. Campbell’s office door, thereby interrupting his morning with a surprise, which he most certainly did not like.

Of course, she also helped to save his life. He was considerably more amiable about that.