Monday Creativity Wake-Up Call: Cynic!

Hey writers,

In a Monday Kentucky State Fair hangover of nachos and cheese, midway games (I won a stuffed banana, which I claimed, perplexed), blue grass poultry, blue and white cows, Pineapple Whips, super-sugar-enhanced lemonade, a roomful of prize rabbits, a flea market with miracle products galore, a Bald Eagle, tater tots, a 1,000-pound pumpkin and death-defying rides held up by wooden blocks, I forgot to put a photo prompt from the fair on my flash drive this morning.

Thus, I’ll offer up a Literary Roadshow prompt today, and I’ll be back Wednesday with the photo—and the swag recipient for our favorite story from the last month.

Yours in writing,

Zachary

PROMPT: Cynic!

In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring, write a story inspired by or including the following (from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle):

“What a cynic!” I gasped. I looked up from the note and gazed around … “Is he here somewhere?”
“I do not see him,” said Mona mildly. She wasn’t depressed or angry. In fact, she seemed to verge on laughter. “He always said he would never take his own advice, because he knew it was worthless.”

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8 thoughts on “Monday Creativity Wake-Up Call: Cynic!

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  2. Barbara_Y

    Cleveland swore he never took his own worthless advice. Not that it stopped him from handing out his pearls of wisdom to all and sundry. He was an old fool when I met him twenty years ago, and he never changed a bit in all that time. That old truck you found the note in, he was driving that thing in the movie Harlan made about him back in the seventies, and the thing was falling apart then.
    You’re sure that was a suicide note? I wouldn’t believe it until I saw the body. Maybe not then. He’s been known to be dramatic. If you know what I mean. Filed a legal petition once to be divorced from the human race due to irreconcilible differences. And that was just because he didn’t like some election returns.
    Mona saying she’d had enough and was leaving might set him off, but it wouldn’t send him round the bend. For one thing, he wouldn’t believe it. She’s been putting up with him: why stop now? He tells that woman to get out and go to hell ten times a month. And two times in ten she’ll start packing.
    Just look around. You’ll find him down as Springwater, laughing at the joke he’s pulled, telling the other drunks how he foxed the old woman this time. Doesn’t matter what he said he’d do.

  3. Megan Hyman

    She was a stranger. And so was he-at least he was now. “Mona” I could feel the name burning the back of my throat. I remembered the first time her name had crossed his lips- it hurt for me to say it let alone think it. But it’s been so long.

    And now he wanted us both here, in one place. Together. Why? I was uncertain. But I came. I was here. Scanning the crowd of an empty room like a loaded shotgun waiting to pull the trigger. “I do not see him,” said Mona mildly. I didn’t understand why I was there. Well I did. But why didn’t Mona seem depressed or angry? I was. I was furious, but I was there. Waiting with her. “I don’t see him,” she repeated.

    “How long should we wait?”

    “I don’t know…let me see the note,” and before she could protest I ripped the note from her hand.

    “Ouch!” Mona winced from the paper cut I had just inflicted. But still, she sat there waiting patiently for a man who had disappeared, hurt her, and claimed to love and care about her, and she did it with such poise as I sat with her fuming, worried, scared, and confused. And he had done the same to me. Her paper cut had now transformed itself into a speckle of blood.

    “I don’t see him either. “

    Still. I wanted to see him…couldn’t wait to see him. Looking up from the note I scanned the room looking for him although I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for—or looking at. He had become like a stranger -distant and withdrawn. I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t be able to recognize him, but perhaps he looked just the same and for that I was ashamed …for him.

    “I do not see him,” said Mona mildly reverting her eyes back to the note that I now held in my hands. “I do not see him, “ she repeated again and I still couldn’t ignore that she wasn’t depressed or angry-or at least she didn’t seem to be.

    “What a cynic” I gasped, my attention now back to the note and away from the presence of Mona-at least for a moment. And yet, I wasn’t really sure of who it was I was talking about. I looked over at Mona who for a moment looked different, like she knew. She knew all along that he was never going to show. In fact, she seemed to verge on laughter. “You know…” Mona began, as though she was reflecting on something as deep as the paper cut she was now rubbing, “He always said he would never take his own advice, because he knew it was worthless.” I nodded my head for a brief moment unsure if it even made sense. If any of it made sense. Ever. Him. Me. Her.

    I could feel the weight of the paper fold in the palm of my hands.

    Megan Hyman

  4. Loveskidlit

    “Is he here somewhere?”
    “He’s waiting in the car. Don’t get on his case.”
    I pictured my father deciding not to come in. First, he was smug. “Show her,” he nodded to himself. Then Mona scowled at me, and I softened the image. It was easy to age him, let him slump a little in the passenger seat, and thank his stars he didn’t have to walk the length of the terminal.
    “How was the trip?”
    “You know,” I told her. “When I was a kid I thought flying was the coolest thing.”
    She nodded. We both remembered the trip to Michigan to visit Aunt Betsy. The giddy sense of flight and vacation, late nights and sticky popcorn. The grownups all too busy to see that we ate right, and that we didn’t hear things we weren’t supposed to hear.
    “Someone just sucked all the fun out of it,” I added.
    “What a cynic!” Mona scoffed.
    The warm, dusty air outside the terminal grated at my skin. I snuck a sidelong glance at Mona. She looked a little worn around the edges. Too pinched around the mouth. But when she spoke, she wasn’t depressed or angry.
    “You know,” she began. “I don’t think he’s told you everything.”
    “Watch out.” Mona stepped out of the path of a commando traveler. I added with careful nonchalance: “What is there to tell?”
    “I think he might be sicker than he’s let on.”
    “Not like him to keep a stiff upper lip, is it?” I asked cattily. Mona immediately stiffened, and I felt the familiar pull. Guilt. Sister out of town. We both knew I screened my calls. Dad’s cunning voice leaving plaintive messages. “Maureen,” he says, “are you alright? You know we worry.”
    “That’s not fair. He always said there was no point in waving your fist at the sky.”
    “He always said he would never take his own advice, because he knew it was worthless.”
    We paused on a median and let the heavy diesel bus haul past. I held my breath from the fumes, and felt my shoulders rise. I could already see the whole visit. Mona performing the intricate stages of martyrdom for my benefit and hers. Dad shifting shapes faster than I can clutch onto. Me, hating both of them because I’m counting the minutes until Mona will drive me, in pained silence, back to the airport.
    What I didn’t see was the scrap of yellow paper on the carseat where Dad should have been slumped.
    “Gone to watch the runway,” it said.
    What kind of a time was this to revert to an eight year old? I looked up from the note and gazed around. He was nowhere to be seen.
    “Well, what the hell?” I muttered.
    Mona didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seemed to verge on laughter.
    “Where is he?” I stormed, furious at this escape trick.
    “I do not see him,” said Mona mildly.
    “What do you mean sick?” I gasped.

  5. J. Alvey

    To borrow from a writer whose name I do not know, the guy at the bar had wrinkles in his wrinkles. He was that old. His hairdo made you think that whenever he needed to liven up the perm he merely stuck his finger into a live light socket. And his mustache, to borrow from my grandfather, a man of great intelligence if common vocabulary, was such that you thought he’d eaten a rabbit and forgotten to swallow the asshole.

    Since he was the last guy in the bar, Mona and I took seats next to him, grateful that the band had left and that we had a little down time without all of the screaming and screeching.

    The guy looked at me, but for just a moment, long enough for me to see the twinkle in his eyes, which I immediately attributed to too much booze, even if he was drinking spritzer water, and then he seeemed to dismiss me altogether, looking past me to Mona.

    That happens a lot.

    "What’s your name?" he asked. "Mona," she said.

    "Is she a moaner?" he asked, looking to me.

    "What?" I shouted. "Are you serious? Did you really ask that?"

    "Ask what?" he asked.

    "If she was a moaner!" I exclaimed.

    "I asked if she was a Mona," he responded.

    "And what exactly do you mean by that?" I asked.

    "Do you even know?"

    "Do I know what?"

    "If she is a moaner?" he asked.

    "I am a moaner," she said calmly. "Do you like moaners?"

    "I do!" he said, "But only in certain situations."

    "Hey, look," I sputtered, trying to change the subject, "you look a lot like Mark Twain."

    "We have a few things in common," he replied, "but I don’t think he liked moaners. That is just a supposition on my part, based on the Becky Thatcher thing, although she might have been a moaner too. Personally, I favor the aunt. I suspect she was a secret moaner."

    "He looks like Vonnegut, too," Mona commented.

    "Vonnegut’s dead," I reminded her.

    "So is Twain," he said while taking another sip from his drink. "I’m going to play some pinball. Of all the games you might play, especially in a bar, pinball is still the most random. And that’s the way the world is: a completely random set of events set into motion by the way you pull the lever for the first ball, sort of what God does, if there is a God."

    "Here, this is for you," he said, slipping me a note as he walked away. It read: "She may not moan for you as she would moan for me, but she may sing. Like a pinball machine."

    I was completely stunned. Mona was a moaner? Just for starters? I turned, looking for him, but I couldn’t find him.

    “Is he here somewhere?"

    “I do not see him,” said Mona mildly. She wasn’t depressed or angry. In fact, she seemed to verge on laughter.

    “He always said he would never take his own advice, because he knew it was worthless.”

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