- Prompt: Write a short story, of 700 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “You don’t have enough points, sir.” You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.
Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #75 (either by entering, reading or voting).
Out of more than 400 entries, readers helped us pick “Love by the Numbers” by Jenny Maattala as the winner. For winning, Maattala’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.
“Love by the Numbers”
by Jenny Maattala
You don’t have enough points, sir. She spit the words out, jagged and spiteful, through clenched teeth.
They’d decided early on in their relationship, back when chills rolled down their limbs with every touch and the excitement of love was tangible, that they were too urbane for run-of-the-mill fighting tactics. Instead, rather than yelling at him for leaving his wet towels on the floor and staying out too late, or berating her when she locked the keys in the car or refused to delete exes’ numbers from her phone, they simply added or subtracted points to stay accountable.
To their friends this seemed like a futile way to resolve issues, but to them it was an easy glance at who was ahead and who needed to straighten up their act.
Forgot to take out the trash? Minus one point, sir.
Left clumps of hair in the drain? I’m subtracting two, my doll.
Well, one for neglecting to remove your debris from the drain. And another for leaving me to do the task.
A moment to consider, then, Fair enough.
Over the years the points ebbed for various reasons, but the best part for each of them was seeing the numbers climb again and the validation they felt when their accomplishments were recognized.
We haven’t had dinner together in a week… that’s three off for neglecting your spouse and another three for poor time management.
Why can’t you understand the pressures I’m under at work and the time it takes to get to a senior position? Minus seven points for lack of sympathy and support.
But then pink tulips would be waiting on her desk after a stressful meeting the next day, a cream-colored card resting against the vase: Ten points, doll, for being the most beautiful and dedicated woman I know.
And ten points to you for being considerate, and loving.
Making up, they agreed, was the most satisfying way to help the points ascend. Twenty points for that new maneuver, sir! She could feel his chest swell and recede with each heavy breath, and with a wearied, silent nod she knew she had gained a few points too.
They continued on this way for quite some time, and even when the numbers dipped well below the norm they insisted that their innovative system still helped them have a stronger, healthier relationship.
Take three points for missing dinner with my family.
Add twelve points for my surprise birthday party.
They insisted that as long as the additions exceeded the subtractions they were still on the right side of love.
Add fifteen points for making partner and, heck, another five for giving our savings account a nice boost!
Add ten for the fun weekend away, but subtract one for throwing a fit when I had to take a work call.
Minus five points for forgetting our anniversary.
Minus seven for acting like a petulant jerk and giving me the silent treatment for the last three days.
Minus twenty points for refilling your birth control when last month was supposed to be the last.
Minus twenty for buying a new boat with my money.
Minus eight for missing our counseling session.
Still, they tried to be considerate. And loving. And dedicated.
That’s my favorite dessert! Eight points for you.
Thank you for the hug. Here’s five points.
I love you. Ten points.
I love you, too. Ten points.
The numbers didn’t lie, couldn’t lie, and their arrangement truly kept them accountable for how they treated each other… until it didn’t.
Another work trip? Six points.
Give or take?
Does it matter?
You’re acting selfish. Minus seven.
Who’s calling you this late? Minus five.
What time did you get home? Minus ten.
You never touch me anymore! Minus fifteen.
My points haven’t changed in months. I don’t understand what you want right now! Minus 20.
She talked, she pleaded, she yelled, she bargained, she added and subtracted.
And finally, on the day she walked in on them in her bedroom, she was grateful she had kept such an exhaustive tally.
You don’t have enough points, sir. Then she closed the door and walked away.