Whatever of the Year

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Today (Dec. 26) in 1982—upon the release of its January 1983 issue—TIME magazine dubbed the personal computer the “Machine of the Year.” TIME‘s Person of the Year tradition began in 1927 with Charles Lindbergh for completing the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic earlier that year. Until 1999, the Person of the Year was usually specifically called “Man of the Year” or “Woman of the Year,” though 2017 isn’t the first year in which a group of people was chosen, and in one other case it wasn’t a person at all (“The Endangered Earth” as the 1988 Planet of the Year).

The Prompt: Write a story or a scene that involves someone or a group of people—or even something, given that personal computers were once awarded the title—doing something so historically or culturally significant that they could be named Person of the Year. Your honoree(s) could be entirely fictional, or an actual figure or group who has been awarded the title in the past. The full list of past winners can be found here.


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47 thoughts on “Whatever of the Year

  1. lordybelle36

    Here’s my “Whatever of the Year”:

    Fake Mom of the Year:
    She cursed at her kids
    She beat them with anything she could get her hands on- baseball bats, designer belts, wooden clubs, what have you, until they were covered with blood.
    She berated and yelled at her sixteen year-old daughter and called her ‘stupid’ for not getting straight A+’s on her report card, even if she did her best and studied every day.
    She locked her seven-year old son in the closet for ACCIDENTALLY spilling orange juice on the carpeted floor.
    She refused to get her younger daughter a photo cake for her 12th birthday.
    She compared her kids with their best friends, saying that they are doing better in school and are more well-rounded than them.
    She forbade them from going to parties, sleepovers, concerts, and school trips.
    She drank and smoked non-stop.
    She chose work over attending her kids’ recitals, games, talent shows, and plays.

    Therefore, 2017’s Fake Mom of the Year Title goes to Cassandra Pent. Who will 2018’s Fake Mom be? (We’re scared to find out).

  2. snuzcook

    Log in loo issues–anyone else have this? today, and from time to time in the past I run into this:
    I log in, then go to Writers Prompt. But WP page says I need to log into post. So I log in again from this page–it takes me to my profile and the top right says ‘log out’ so I know I am logged in. I go to the WP page. It says I must log in to reply. I exit the site altogether. I go back in. It doesn’t seem to matter what order I do it, each time I change pages it wants me log in.

    1. Jess Zafarris Post author

      Hi there, I too am encountering this problem on some posts. I’m looking into this issue and will keep everyone posted. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. snuzcook

    The Sum of Us

    A tall, distinguished man in formal attire strode across the wide stage to the podium to an orchestral introduction. The music concluded. Silence fell like a curtain upon the audience in the grand hall.

    “There is a mathematics to emotion. Just as mathematics and patterns and incrementation dictate the arts from music to cooking, and dictate the phenomenae of the universe, so there is are equations to describe the workings of the human psyche.

    “Thanks to the efforts of the winner of the 2018 Woman of the Year, we can now define and quantify the chemical and bio-electrical variables that dictate mental health and dysfunction, not just theoretically or subjectively, but empirically to the last detail.

    “Dr. Andri Surynda Smith has catalogued the formulae in her recent book, “Sum of Us.” In the short months since its release, sale of prescription psychotropic drugs has declined sharply, statistics on self-inflicted violence and domestic violence nationwide have improved 30% and worldwide numbers indicate an even greater reduction in reported incidents.

    “In her new book, “It All Adds Up”, scheduled to be released later this coming year, Dr. Smith describes the ideal components for mental health, and the steps we as a society can take to eliminate human relationship dysfunction, aberrant behavior and self-destructive thought patterns by eliminating harmful environmental influences.

    “As Dr. Smith is often heard to say, “We are all the sum of choices we make. Together, we can balance our Society for the greater good.”

    “Please join me in honoring the 2018 Woman of the Year Award recipient, and Acting Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Andri Surynda Smith.”

    The hall filled with applause. A petite woman dressed meticulously in professional attire, approached the podium from the wings. She modestly accepted the ornate ribbon and medallion that the man draped around her neck, the plaque that went with it, and a bouquet of roses. She laid the roses upon the podium in front of her and addressed the microphone.

    “Thank you all for this incredible honor. We are indeed the sum of the choices we make. By making the best possible choices we can have the community, the nation and the world that we truly want.

    “It will take experts who know how to calculate those choices to allocate our resources in the most beneficial way. With the right guidance, we can, all of us together, bring about a world of peace and prosperity.”

    Appreciative applause.

    “For that reason, I want to share with you some news. As many of you may have heard or suspected, my appointment to the vacant position of Surgeon General of the United States has been a temporary one. I have for many months now been invited to consider running for an elected office and stay on in Washington DC. Tonight I can share with you that I have been asked to run for the office of President of the United States in 2020.”

    Enthusiastic applause.

    “Tonight, at this podium, I am making my announcement…”

    Applause increased.

    “…that I accept that invitation.”

    Applause and whistles were deafening.

    “Will you join me in finally engineering a society that works?” The orchestra broke out in an energetic rendering of All Hail to the Chief and the audience could not contain its excitement.

    The small woman at the podium bowed her head modestly and smiled. She had calculated this moment and her calculations were correct.

  4. Kerry Charlton

    Hello Jess,

    I need some help. I’m not able to post my story this week. There’s nothing in it to stop it unless your filter doesn’t recognize pooka. I tried it without using pooka, it still didn’t work. I’ve had no problem for almost a year.

    Thanks a lot, Kerry Charlton.

  5. Jennifer Park

    32. The Reassignment

    [This follows “The Embassy”, which I just posted under “Spiced Architecture”. I just posted “The Bully” under “A Not-so-Christmas Story” as well. I’ve been behind, but catching up!]

    “And the Planet of the Cycle is… Kryzlak!”

    A great cheer and standing ovation spread out through the Assembly Hall. This announcement was a surprise to no one. Barbara’s close-to-the-people approach had won the Kryzlamei over completely, save for a few conservative minor tribes, and the planet had gone all in. Rapid adaptation of technology. Political reforms. Civil society adaptations. Economic integration. Even wholesale religious reforms to adapt to galactic citizenship.

    Even literature and art were flourishing, and some of the old and new Kryzlamei writings and sculptures were all the rage across the galaxy.

    As the three emperors of Kryzlak approached the podium, the cheer and pounding of the floor intensified. The reverberating chants of “Kryzlak! Kryzlak!” was so loud that some of the Representatives collapsed from overstimulation. Even the species who could not say the consonants did their best with the vowels. A few of the guards looked around nervously, as was their duty, for these kinds of situations were perfect opportunities for terrorists and assassins.

    Soon enough, the long and boring speech-making began, and Barbara sat down before everyone else did. This was not her honor—although it was her achievement—and she needed to strike a balance between enthusiasm and humility. Keeping a low profile was not her strength, but low profile was what had helped her achieve this.

    ==========

    “Reassigned?”

    “Yes.”

    “Reassigned…” Barbara almost teared up. The Kryzlamei had become her people. Her family.

    But it was necessary. “You know it is necessary.”

    Barbara nodded agreeingly.

    “Ambassador Barbarella,” smiled the Archambassador, “you have achieved something quite remarkable here. You have restored the prestige of the entire Galactic Union… You have made it trendy again to belong and…”—she refrained from saying “obey”—“to… collaborate.”

    Barbara nodded gratefully.

    “But, you cannot be the face of the Union. The Kryzlamei need be the face of the Union. They will be our ambassadors.”

    Barbara nodded proudly.

    Barbara wanted to point out that, actually, the Kryzlamei did not like to be called that. Kryzlak was not their name for the planet, but meant something like “dirt”, as in “ground”, in a minor dialect, a mistranslation of the word “Earth”. The words “Kryzlam” and “Kryzlamei” followed the grammatical rules of one of the major languages, but were considered something of a diminutive by all three kingdoms. They did not have a name for the planet, and preferred to think of it as having three separate sacred domains, each dominated by a kingdom, and…

    Barbara nodded again, instead.

    “In recognition of your achievement, nevertheless, the council is giving you a choice of your next assignment. You can choose another planet: any planet in a different octant. You may teach at the Holly; you are needed there.”

    Barbara nodded surprisedly.

    “And… something a lot less prestigious… you can serve on the… Council.”

    Barbara blinked. The Council? The secret cabal that controlled the galaxy?

    At age 35?

    Unheard of!

    Well, mostly because it was a secret cabal.

    “Think about it.”

  6. editme2

    Hi, everyone! I’m new to the board, and this is my first post and first attempt at one of the writing prompts. I’d welcome any feedback. Thanks so much!

    ———–

    An excerpt from a speech given at the annual celebration of Time magazine’s Person of the Year ceremony….

    I’m sure many of you here today remember the year without babies.

    It was 2025 when all the leaders of the world got together and made the announcement that for the next year no woman anywhere in the world was allowed to get pregnant, or if she did, to carry a baby to term. The future of the world depended on it, said our president. The planet could no longer sustain so much life. Soon, the president said, there wouldn’t be enough food to feed our families. Cities were getting too crowded. The blue of the sky was barely visible because of the pollution in the air. Diseases were harder to treat. Poverty was destroying cities and towns everywhere. It was time to take action. Drastic circumstances required drastic steps. Forbidding pregnancies would over time reduce the world’s population by hundreds of millions. That’s what they said.

    But one woman defied the order. I’d like to tell you about her.

    Her name was Emma Jean Howland. She was a 23-year-old woman from a small town just outside Boston, Massachusetts. As she has said herself, there was nothing particularly special about her when the baby ban was put into place.

    Emma was a dancer with the Boston Ballet. She lived quietly with her husband in a small two-bedroom condo on Dartmouth Street in the city. She spent her professional life dancing across stages of the world. She had never been arrested. She didn’t consider herself politically active, nor did she have any desire to be an activist or anyone’s hero.

    But something in her changed once the baby ban was instituted. The day she watched the president make her announcement was the day Ellen Jean Howland found out she was pregnant with her first child. The president had said that any woman within her first trimester must get an abortion. Ellen thought to herself, No, that was not an option. It was decided long ago that the government did not have the right to tell me what to do with my body.

    At first, Ellen simply kept her pregnancy hidden. She left the ballet company. She stayed close to home, being careful not to draw too much attention to herself or her growing belly. Back then, you’ll remember, the government used to run random pregnancy checks, going door to door and requiring women to submit to regular pregnancy tests under the watchful eyes of government-hired doctors.

    When they came knocking on Ellen’s door three months into her own pregnancy, she did nothing to hide her condition. They told her she had three days to report to her doctor and have the situation taken care of. They reminded her that she was a criminal now and that if she refused to do what was required, she would be imprisoned for life and her pregnancy would be terminated without her consent.

    Ellen stood her ground. She went into hiding, using a network of other women to keep her safe, staying at their homes for short periods of time and then moving on to the next one. It takes a village, they would say.

    Then, on June 13, 2026, I was born.

    This amazing woman, Emma Jean Howland, was my mother. And I stand here today to honor her. Though I am proud and humbled to be named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, I cannot fully accept this distinction. Had my mother made a different decision, I wouldn’t be here. And the drugs I developed—the drugs I am being honored for—drugs that have ended so much suffering on our planet, that have cured some of our most formidable diseases, would not exist.

    My mother’s bravery, her courage, her conviction and willingness to risk her own life to save mine led to something much larger than she—or anyone else—could have imagined. Today, we are a world free of major disease. For the first time in our history, nobody will die of cancer. AIDS is a long memory.

    We owe this not to me, but to my mother. This distinction should have been hers long ago. Please join me in welcoming Emma Jean Howland—Time’s Person of the Year.

    I love you, Mom!

    1. Turkey Girl

      This is a great story. You’ve done a good job creating a character who’s tough and won’t back down from what they believe in. You chose the best speaker for the part, too: a daughter who really respects her mother. Just one thing: did you mean to change the mom’s name from Emma to Ellen, and then back to Emma again? 🙂 Loved this story!!!

  7. JoAnne Graham Fletcher

    As I looked at my grandchildren’s notes they had hand written, I was asking why were their notes written in printed form? They were not in first grade, they were in high school. Then the shock of time hit. I was informed, they were never taught in school, how to write. Everything was print.
    Why? I asked. The kids only shroud their shoulder and said, “I guess it wasn’t important.”
    As I look back to when I was taught penmanship, I remember how the teacher took her time in teaching each of us the correctness or putting our letters together in a neat way so each letter was connected correctly. Now first grade teachers no longer teach penmanship.
    I asked my grandchildren, if they could write a letter without printing it? They told me they didn’t think so.
    What has happened in our time today, that our children can not write. Didn’t it use to be if you couldn’t read nor write, you were considered illiterate?
    Not today because all our kids have to do is know how to type on their phones, iPad or computers to communicate. Heaven help them, if internet goes down.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      As I commented below, each of my husband’s dozen or so grandkids, even the two year old, has some sort of device constantly at hand. I did not realize what you shared. Good final sentence.

  8. Russ

    “Henry, ma boy!” Clarence said as Henry approached. Henry had just climbed up three flights of steps, determined.

    “Can I speak with him now?” Henry asked quietly.

    “Can you speak with him?” Clarence asked chuckling nervously. “Well, why would you want to do that?”

    “I have an appointment with him.”

    “An appointment?” Clarence asked. “With him?” He added, gesturing toward the closed, large, wooden double-doors.

    “Yes,” Henry said in all seriousness. “He thinks it is about some matter in particular, but I have different things to speak about.”

    “Now, are you sure, Henry?” Clarence asked. “It is rather early in the afternoon.”

    “Yes, I am sure. Now move aside,” Henry said with finality. Clarence didn’t say anything, but watched with interest and awe as Henry knocked on the double doors. Clarence heard an invitation for entry from inside, and Henry went through; the door shut behind him.

    Clarence waited with interest. Ten minutes passed. Clarence could make out voices, but barely, from inside the room. Ten more minutes passed. There were now long pauses. They were still speaking in a normal tone. After half an hour, Clarence was very interested. What could Henry be talking about for thirty minutes? With this man?

    After about an hour, Henry, looking rather tired, opened a door and walked out into the wide hallway where Clarence was still standing. Behind Henry walked out Hitler, shoulders back, head held high.

    “The war is over!” Hitler announced. “I am withdrawing troops from Russia immediately. This is all wrong, all wrong.” Hitler quickly walked away through another hallway. Clarence looked over at Henry, mouth agape.

    Henry shrugged. “Well how about that?” he said.

  9. GrahamLewis

    The Gift of Time: A True Story

    In the late 1960s a baby boy named David was born in Houston, Texas. He immediately got very sick, very often. Doctors ultimately determined he had Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which meant his body had almost no resistance to any sort of infection. The only cure was a bone marrow transplant that could jumpstart his immune system, but because he was so sick they could not do one. The boy died.

    In 1971 the same parents had a second baby boy, also named David. Because of the first baby, he was immediately tested for SCID, and found to have it. They put him into isolation, but could not find a suitable donor. David spent the next dozen years living in a huge plastic bubble. Finally doctors decided to risk a bone marrow transplant from his sister, but he developed an infection from a dormant disease hidden in her bone marrow. He died after 12 years of life.

    Sad as David’s story was, he did better than than most kids of his era born with SCID. His brother’s death had put doctors on alert. Other babies born with SCID were not tested until they got sick, until it was almost always too late. David’s brother sacrificed his own life to give David a chance at life.

    He gave his brother the gift of time.

    In 2010 a baby was born in Wisconsin and immediately placed in isolation until a transplant could be performed. He is now doing fine. The difference between this baby and David was that a genetic researcher in Wisconsin had developed a test for SCID, one incorporated into routine newborn screening, that heel stick administered to nearly every newborn baby born in that state (and now in many others). No older sibling needed to die to put doctors on alert. No baby had to get sick to be tested for SCID. Precious time was saved, and new technology meant that bone marrow transplants were done immediately. Lives were saved.

    The test gives every SCID baby a real chance at life.

    Gives them the gift of time.

    If I had my way, that researcher would be on the cover of Time.

          1. GrahamLewis

            Yep. I remember when the baby was born, very tense times to confirm it and take steps. But I’ve met the kid, a rambunctious guy now.

  10. Denise

    She was petite and frail. Her skin smooth, her bones brittle and her joints gnarled. Her head held a permanent tilt from a broken neck long before. Her small face bore the scars of battle. What was left of her jaw remained twisted, skin taught with scarring. Permanently residing at the base of her neck was a small plastic tube. She despised that tube. She cringed at the sound it made as air entered and exited. She always had tissues in her hand, prepared to cover it up should any fluid dare to make its way out. The volume of her voice was a notch above a whisper caused by the vast amount of scar tissue surrounding her vocal chords. Lack of a bottom jaw posed extreme difficulty in eating.

    Yet every morning she rose and tenderly washed her disjointed face. She would apply her wrinkle cream and moisturizer. She would carefully apply her make-up. She would curl her thin, fine hair angled to her neck in an attempt to cover up the hollow area where her jaw once protruded. She would carefully dress, prepared to start her day.

    Despite her imperfections, she carried out her day with whatever vigor her body allowed her. In her home, she walked in confidence, whispered as loud as she could all the things she wanted you to know. She went about her daily chores. She became a different person if she had to go out. She became child-like, clinging to whoever walked with her. She would attempt to talk to those she met, only frustration would overtake her when she saw their questioning faces. She knew others starred at her. She would gaze at other women envying their beauty, their completeness. She longed to look how she once did. When she was out, she felt like a freak. She wasn’t a freak, she was my mother.

    She valiantly withstood every misfortune that came her way. She fought even when the odds were against her. She was courageous, a warrior. She was a woman who wanted to live no matter what the cost. Most would have given up, but not her. That’s why I nominated her for Woman of the Year.

    She shuttered when I told what I did. “Look at me.” She touched her face. She carefully brought the tissue to her neck.
    “I am looking at you and I don’t see what you see.”
    “Oh, please, everyone sees this,” she said flailing her arms in front of her face. “Why would you do such a thing? I’m so far from beautiful.”
    “It’s not a beauty contest, Ma, it’s Woman of the Year.” She wiggled herself out of her chair and locked herself in her bedroom. I went to her closed door and twisted the locked doorknob. “It’s just a contest and there are other people nominated–and you may not win. We’ll go to the lunch next week and they’ll announce the winner, it may not be you.”
    “Lunch? I have to be in a room surrounded by other women? I have to eat in front of them? I can’t even talk to them? Why did you do this? Go home,” she yelled in her hoarse whisper.
    “I didn’t do it to embarrass you–I’m proud of you.”
    “Enough. Be quiet. There’s nothing to be proud of.”

    She couldn’t get past the appearance. She thought so much of who she was, was based on her looks. I diligently thought about how she thought and it saddened me. What caused us to stop looking inside ourselves and only concentrate on what we saw in the mirror? Did my mother believe this so deeply that she couldn’t see her true self, the strong and courageous woman she really was?

    I heard her door open. I prepared myself for an argument, lined up the comebacks in my head. She steadied her stance with her hand on the counter. The other hand firmly on her tiny hip. She cleared her throat and slightly thrust her chest in my direction.
    “Why would you do that to me? I don’t like being around people–they’ll stare, they’ll be disgusted just like the rest of you.”
    I wasn’t answering that one. For years I tried to convince her that her family didn’t find her repulsive, we didn’t even notice anymore.
    “Look, Ma, if you want, we just won’t go.”
    “Good.” The argument was over.

    The lunch for Woman of the Year came and went. She didn’t win. I found out a woman who did social work won. About a month later, when the whole family was together, I told her we were having our own personal Woman of the Year. I presented her with my letter and small Precious Moments statue as her award. She was touched by my words and extremely happy that lunch was in her kitchen surrounded by her family.

    There were many battles after that day. The last one took its toll. She waned, she didn’t want to fight anymore. She had nothing left. If she survived it, it wouldn’t be an easy road for her. Her daily life would be filled with great struggles and hardship. Her tank was empty. And on Easter Sunday morning, she took her last raspy breath.

    She’s no longer imperfect in appearance. She’s no longer frail and brittle. She breathes and eats with ease. She’s in a place where there is no shame or sorrow. Her reflection glows from her inner beauty. Her courage has been recognized, her fight has been rewarded.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, Denise, what a beautiful story. If it is true, what an amazing woman your mother must have been. Thank you. If it’s not, you’ve created an amazing character.

  11. typewriter

    There was that same flock at every scene at the newsstands. Bookstores across America were full of rambunctious consumers. I was baffled when I saw so many eager people standing at a magazine kiosk down Main, after the Pancake Day at the (train-car) diner died down. Everybody went home to their normal routines. The crowd grew with more bystanders for that irresistible reason. I had wondered what was with so many people converging around downtown for. I was unaware what was going on.

    Emboldened, I walked towards them to get a glimpse at the craze.
    People loitering, some on a bench, others leaning on walls of buildings with a TIME magazine held up to their faces, eyes adhered to the pages, looking at it anyways. Everybody was in their own universe and not in reality; not looking away from the magazine. Like they were implanted with an impassive mechanism in their subconscious.

    There are stacks of TIME in superfluous heaps. The cover shown a spherical pearl with a peculiar face, or what looked like one. It was The Moon. Celestial Object of the Year. Of course. The Moon is Earth’s only permanent natural satellite. Is believed to have formed 4.51 billion years ago. The Moon formed from the debris left over after a giant impact. A Mars-sized call Theia crashed into Earth. The blasted material went into orbit and accreted into the formation of the Earth-Moon system.

    Without the Moon, everything on this green world would deflect; theoretically, oceans would flood us. The Moon is like a magnetized stabilizer. It keeps Earth from wobbling violently as it spins.
    I had my own copy and skimmed through it. I closed it. I scanned the illustration and something in the imagery change. The Moon was smiling at me. I rolled it up and put it in my back pocket.
    I went home, turned on the television. All the channels just talked about the Moon: Celestial Object of the Year; calling it the Epidemic Moon Bath.

    The next day, I showered and dressed, and went back to the diner for a second day of pancakes. I’d eaten a platter of pancakes that were in the formation of the Moon. I became irksome. This wasn’t right. It was provocative. I was growing furious—this all played tremendously with my head. I cooked eggs that turned out to be Moons. I cut tomatoes and pulled away the halves, and each half had a Moon appearing at me. I couldn’t even look at people who worn pajamas that had thousands and thousands of smiling Moons on them. This was a perennial problem; the one I’ve been sucked deliberately into. I couldn’t sleep, eat.

    Not without thinking about Moons day in and day out.

    I got weaker every day.

    Only word I was able to speak was, Moon. That my vocabulary was limited. I knew intellectual words. I looked up words up in dictionary, read voraciously a lot in bed and at my writing desk. The word obligated, to only me, was the word I’d feared for a whole year was, Moon.

  12. JRSimmang

    GREENS

    Sitting there, slowly soaking up the beef au jus, my broccoli looks more like a metaphor for the news media than the reality of healthy eating.

    I’ve never liked broccoli, and my apparent disgust is readable across the table.

    “You don’t have to eat it,” my wife Karen says.

    I look up at her after pushing a piece from one side of the plate to the other. “I know.”

    “Then I’m not going to eat it,” my daughter Sissy huffs.

    “No,” I turn to face her. “No, rules don’t apply to adults. You have to eat your broccoli.”

    She turns her nose up at me, casts a sidelong glance at her mom, and jabs the broccoli. “Fine. I like it anyway.”

    We don’t change much as we age. My mom tried pureeing greens, mixing them with apples, making little tots out of them and carrots, and there was nothing that worked. I just don’t like broccoli.

    The doorbell jars me out from my ruminations.

    “Who could that be?” Karen inhales sharply. “The house is a wreck.” When the doorbell rings or when there’s a knock at the door Karen turns on autopilot and starts shuffling piles, reorganizing hand towels, and dusting the already immaculately manicured furniture. “Oh dear.”

    I stand up and go to the door.

    “Dr Stilson,” she asks, or comments, I can’t tell.

    “Yes.” I don’t recognize her. “Who may I ask is calling?”

    “You don’t know me, but I think you know my father, Peter Knowlson.”

    Knowlson. Residency at La Gloria. Muscular dystrophy, severe scoliosis, mostly liquid diet fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and DHEA with fish oils. Left overnight into the care of family members.

    “Yes, yes, of course. Come in,” I offer.

    “No, thank you. I just wanted to hand deliver this.” She holds out a manila envelope to me. The handwriting on the front is beautiful, flowing, intangible like smoke rings. “He died yesterday. Heart complications.”

    “I was worried about that,” I say.

    “He wanted to let you know you meant a lot to him.”

    “Won’t you please come in?” I offer again. I hear Karen mutter ‘not yet, not yet.’ The house is never ready for guests.

    “No, thank you.” She looks up into my eyes, and smiles slightly, momentarily. There is something else hidden behind her politeness. “I have a car waiting.”

    She motions to the running sedan parked on the street. There’s someone in the driver’s seat.

    I nod.

    “But, um, thank you,” she says, then quickly puts her arms around my waist, releases, and hurries back to her car.

    I lean on the doorway, staring, holding the manila envelop in my hand, until Karen comes over to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Do you wish you hadn’t retired?” she asks.

    “Sometimes,” I admitted. “Did you hear it all?”

    “Of course,” she says.

    “So did I,” my daughter shouts from the dining room.

    “Well? What’s in the envelope?” Karen grabs at it and walks it to the table. I follow. She gently lifts the tab and pulls out the white papers within before scanning them.

    She squints, blinks several times, then locks eyes with me before handing the documents to me. “Uh, you have to read it.”

    “What?” Sissy says, the excitement edging in her voice. “What does it say?”

    I grab the papers, pull my reading glasses from my pocket, and skim over the first page.

    It’s a letter from Knowlson.

    The next page is a copy of his Last Will and Testament.

    After I left your care, I traveled to the mountains.

    I came to the conclusion that people are made exactly the way they are supposed to be made. That when we are created, we are born into a thin shell, a malleable shell, but one that cannot be broken or torn, cannot be shattered or folded. We are what we are supposed to be.

    My life was spent behind unopened jars and devices that hold my toothbrush for me. But, you, your optimism, inspired me and transformed me. As I lay there on the hospital bed, the stiff tube of plastic down my throat, it was your unending endurance that showed me the caps of the mountains. I am a hopeless cause. I am dead.

    Yet, you treated me as if I am a marathon runner, that I have swum with the kraken, that tomorrow I would find the treasures of the universe.

    At first, I thought it a fool’s errand, but now, I am overlooking the Sound, crawling toward the sunrise, and I want you to know that, should I be the reason you leave medicine, I should also be the reason you return.

    Signed,
    Peter Knowlson

    I look up from the letters at Karen’s and Sissy’s faces. “He’s left an endowment.”

    Suddenly, I feel an urge to try broccoli again, and tomorrow, I will get back to work.

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, once again you’ve used your skills as a poet in this story. The details in the beginning, and in the letter, are stunning. I also admire the use of broccoli. So well done.

  13. jhowe

    Superman sulked. Since 1938 he’d waited. Now, after all this time he was finally named Person of the Year by Time Magazine.

    And no one cared.

    Always distinctive, always iconic – until recently. He’d been overdone. Too many media adaptations, too many actors portraying him, just too much hype. Even he had to admit he was sick of it.

    His name was called. A smattering of applause sounded and he walked to the podium and fought the urge to fly away. A few faces turned his way then looked elsewhere, continuing conversations with neighboring attendees. And then he saw her; in the third row, beside Aquaman’s wife. Aquaman couldn’t be there for obvious reasons. But Lois sat, beaming from ear to ear, her radiant smile so welcome. For a moment, Superman forgot what he was going to say. He stumbled over his opening lines and scanned the crowd, visualized them all in their underwear, remembered his x-ray vision and saw them all in their underwear. When he got to Kim Kardashian, he shuddered and deactivated his x-ray vision. Never had he seen such a collection of Spanx.

    In the 43rd row Superman saw a suspicious figure. The trembling woman stood, her slight frame laced with a bulging vest. She shouted something in a strange tongue and raised her arm. Superman was on her in a split second, covering her with his body as the muffled explosion roared. He got up and dusted himself off. The stunned crowd was silent, but soon turned away and started to socialize once again.

    Superman walked to the stage, collected his award and took Lois by the hand. They left the building and were ignored by the paparazzi milling about, probably waiting for Kim Kardashian. He took Lois into his arms and flew above the city. She put her arms around his neck and whispered something in his ear. When they landed on her terrace, Lois said goodbye and Superman flew off, shaking his head once again at her elusiveness.

    When he saw the DC-9 speeding toward the skyscraper, he considered ignoring it and showing the world what would happen if he wasn’t around. Superman waited until the last second to veer the plane’s course and guide it safely to the airport. He let the passengers handle the now helpless terrorists and he flew to the Justice League headquarters. He nodded at Batman and tossed him the award. Batman glanced at it and set it on a shelf.

    “I hope I don’t get one of those,” Batman said.

    1. rlk67

      I was waiting for the punchline…that the award was made of Kryptonite. Or that Robin had a tantrum because he didn’t win. How did Aquaman marry someone who lives from air?
      This must have been fun to write, because it was fun to read.

  14. Pete

    My father’s success can be measured by test results. It is confirmed many times over on the plaques adorning the walls of his study. It is studied by students and colleagues all over the world. My father is beloved by those in his field. His greatness is worshipped by the lab coat gods. His name will be repeated for lifetimes, long after he has passed and his name is etched in the stone over the science complex at the school.

    He is a horrible father.

    It isn’t that he can’t show affection. He can. He is a man clutching lab partners, beaming in photographs. He is the tall, dashing figure fixed in a tuxedo, his wide smile spreading to fill the frame. He is lauded for his sacrifice, his time and efforts to heal those who have no hope.

    And yet…

    His words to me are short and direct, thawed on occasion by holidays or ceremony. He might hug me tonight. Under the influence of power, he may throw one arm around my shoulder, lean in for a quick kiss to my head. But our silence will creep back tomorrow. It will live in the shudder of appliances, in the turn of a page in his study, the thump of a cork as my mother finds her refuge.

    Most days, my father regards me as though he’s forgotten just how or why I came to fruition. Just before he turns away.

    I am a problem that needs further research.

    Since I was young I’ve known he is special, but he’s never known much about me. Since I could read I’ve followed him through the papers and notes, piecing together a man bigger than humanity. When rumors of the big awards came in, the door to his study closed. I listen through the door, how since this award his voice has taken on a new octave. At first I thought he had company in the room.

    I’ve never done anything—remarkable or otherwise—worth the effort of raising his voice.

    I am not worth researching.

    I used to find ways to touch him, in the kitchen or in passing, just to reach for him, to touch the man who is healing the world. He is after all, about to be named Person of the Year. That means he is a person.

    His speech has him concerned. He’s crossed through and revised several times. Most of the early drafts listed his team who had discovered the cure. The later drafts are more self-serving, bolder, with side notes about the meaning of life and overcoming failures. How he’s answered the call.

    I think about all sitting at home as he answered that call. I think about all the other children in those photographs, in his arms, under his gaze, how his eyes are warm and understanding. How science is his family and yet biology is a riddle to him. It is always about the children, never about the child.

    I sit alone, only the whir in my brain as I read through his belongings. A hint of aftershave between pages, the rungs of morning’s past lining his coffee mug, the scrawled notes. I know he’s chosen his work over me, but I helpless in my selfish desires.

    Someone else could figure it out. And if not, they can have the awards, they can keep their disease. I would rather those children die if it means I get him to myself.

    I know, it’s’ horrible. My mother makes excuses. That his life’s work is one of sacrifices. That we should be grateful for all he’s accomplished. Although she doesn’t fully believe this, the things she says between sips of merlot, between blinks of eyeliner. She is living a double life anyway, she’s lost hope and found her own ways to handle abandonment.

    So we get dressed, to meet the Person at the banquet hall. We ride alone, beneath the cold shadows of the sky scrapers to attend the ceremony. To sit next to the Person of the Year. Because that’s all they are, people. People who will die and be buried under stones. Mother has her boyfriend. My father has his work and awards.

    I have this whir in my brain that won’t let me go.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pete, week after week you write things that captivate and move. I especially like the first sentence and third paragraph. And, that portrait of the mother is amazing in just a few words.

  15. rlk67

    It is with great pleasure that we present Time’s 2025 Man of The Year…Dr. Alan Ziggelhoff. Dr. Ziggelhoff had returned humanity and sanity to the only place in the universe capable of having both…our Earth.

    Born in 1966 to Kate and Arnold in Lewistown, Vermont, Alan Ziggelhoff grew up as an average child and student with interests in pop music, ice hockey, and trains. Eventually, Alan graduated from Penn with a Ph.D in engineering and literature. He married Jill Garf, a fellow graduate.

    Dr. Ziggelhoff’s famous breakthrough invention, the Virtual Social Blocker, came in November 2023 after a tense meeting with his son’s principal at school. Alan recounted, “It was a rough day. Wyatt had taken his iphone73 to class, and called his teacher for the assignment. She was standing at the front of the room. The principal was quite upset. He said phones should only be used at home to contact your wife or kids in other rooms.”

    Alan says he didn’t recognize his daughter later that week when she showed him a math test. “‘Who are you?’ I said to her. ‘Your daughter, Daddy. Here’s a test.’ She had the audacity to come to me in person. ‘You’re still in school?’ ‘Yes, Daddy.'”

    “I couldn’t sleep. My wife texted me ‘Gdnght’ from the same bed! What was happening?” And so I went to work.

    Dr. Ziggelhoff spent nine months perfecting his invention. It blocks all Social Media devices and websites. “And Twitter just twittered away!” he says with a huge grin. I got my family back. We got to know each other again. I sort of hated them, but the love came back!”

    And so that fateful night in June 2024 when Dr. Alan Ziggelhoff let loose his powerful bomb and social media was no more, the world woke in a trance. Everyone said, there are other people alive except me?
    It wasn’t an easy adjustment, but it was a return to a simpler life. People cried. Some had nervous breakdowns. For many, getting to know and talk to a real person was like having a life sentence commuted after half a century in prison! And others were finally able to use their texting fingers for something else…but what?

    When Alan saw its awesome effect, he sprang into action even further. Social Media Rehabs sprung up in every town. “Admitting addiction is always the first step, says Alan, “and my 112 Steps to Recovery Program became viral! Oh, did I say’ viral’? I meant…popular.”

    Technology has changed the world… backward. Thanks to Dr. Alan Ziggelhoff. And that’s why we named him Man of The Year.
    ______________
    Not available online–Robin Travers reports on a massive sale on rotary phones, in our next issue! Don’t miss it!

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Great, and clever, way to start. I really liked the line about not knowing there are others without machines. My husband has a dozen or so grandkids, each of whom, even the two year old, has some sort of device constantly at hand.

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