I found this writing prompt (when googling writing prompts) from Brian A. Klems: Write a story that starts with the line “You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are,” and ends with the line, “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.” Be as creative as you can.
Here’s what came of it:
You’ll never get me to tell you where the jewels are. God, I actually said those words to a beautiful woman last night in a bar. Drunk as I was, I’m still ashamed, or maybe my pride is hurt. Shaking my head at the thought cracks my skull down the middle with pain. The computer screen in front of me makes it worse. I lean back in my desk chair and rub my eyes under my glasses. I’m not a young, party animal, anymore. That’s for sure.
“It’s only 9:30, Rick. You going to make it?”
Swiveling, I turn to see Tom standing in the opening of my cube with two steaming cups of coffee. He wears his usual white collared shirt and black slacks. The uniform of a corporate slave.
“Heh, maybe,” I say. “Maybe not. I’m not as nocturnal as I used to be.”
“Long night, huh?” Tom offers me one of the cups.
I nod, accept the drink and lift it to him slightly, “Thanks,” I say.
“Anything you want to talk about?” Tom asks.
I consider this, while taking a long swig of my coffee. It singes everything it touches, but it’s nice to feel something, so I don’t stop until it’s halfway gone.
The burns this beverage gives me are like home, different than the ones from the night before. Those drinks burned like the wild. Drinking them down, one by one, I knew I was in familiar territory, but a place that had become foreign to me. Even slowly becoming prey, I enjoyed myself.
Then I think, What the hell, why not talk to Tom? It’s not like I’m getting anything done until the coffee kicks my hangover’s ass, anyway.
“You know, trouble with the wife,” I say, even though Tom knows about my situation, he wouldn’t know personally. He and his wife have a peaceful, boring marriage, like mine used to be.
He still nods like he understands, “You still staying at the hotel?”
I’m already here, might as well jump. “Last night she told me not to come back.”
God, that phone call. She didn’t even have the guts to face me, like an adult, and tell me she wanted a divorce. We’re in our late thirties, when is it time to start acting mature?
Tom’s got this pitiful look on his face, “Oh.”
I rub my eyes, again. I will not cry at work.
“Lisa and I still have a spare bedroom. That offer stands, if you want it,” Tom says, quickly.
Yeah, right. Come live with you and you’re pregnant, happy wife. See you both being so great that I want to puke.
I barely remember after getting drunk last night, but I do remember throwing up while walking. The stuff got all down my front. The woman I said the jewels comment to earlier had abandoned me, and I didn’t blame her. I was pathetic. So, alone, I made my way, somewhere. I had a place in mind, and I got there because I remember getting sick again in a house that looked like mine. In the bathroom with the stupid pirate decorations my wife wanted. “Just in case we ever adopted.”
I wave Tom’s offer off with my free hand and take a sip of the coffee. It’s already cooled to lukewarm, like my marriage.
My wife never cheated on me with someone else, but her growing indifference toward me, makes me wish that she had. That way, at least I would’ve had a reason to leave her with a little bit of dignity. I’m not sure “she doesn’t like me anymore” is a good enough reason.
“I’ll figure something out,” I say. “Thanks, though.”
Surprisingly, my boss comes to stand next to Tom, nearly pushing him out of the way to get to me. He’s escorting someone in a suit to my cube, but trying to beat him to it, too.
“Rick, this man has a message for you, I’m sorry. I have tried to tell him he can’t come in here during your work hours, but he knew where your cube was, I’m assuming because your wife told hi-”
“Mr. Morris,” The guy wearing a suit says, pushing passed my boss. “These are for you. Have a nice day.” He drops two envelopes into my lap, turns on his heel and walks away.
My boss, Tom and I stand there in silence. I feel like they want me to open the letters in front of them for kicks, but I don’t.
“Why don’t you take the rest of the day, Rick? You look like shit,” my boss finally says to me and, almost just like the suited guy, turns and leaves. I know he means well, but still, I don’t feel bad about thinking: Thanks a lot, bastard.
I finish my coffee and throw the cup into the trash bin. I grab my coat and head for the door.
“Bye, Rick,” I hear behind me.
Oh right, miserably happy Tom. I throw my hand over my head in a quick gesture to say bye.
When I get to the elevator, I pound the down button. Something is coming back to me from the night before.
I was standing in my house. Slurring curses at my wife. Throwing fragile items, breaking them on purpose so she couldn’t have them in the divorce. Telling her that if she didn’t need me, she didn’t need these nice things.
Then, I’d started to throw up again, right there in the living room.
She tossed me into the pirate bathroom and slammed the door. I finished getting sick into the toilet, but I wasn’t done tearing things apart. I started breaking those decorations that reminded me of my incompetence. She knew that’s how they made me feel. That’s why she hung them. I yelled that over the crashing noises I was making.
The door flew open, and she slapped me in the face.
I stopped. I had never in my life acted this way before. Every day, I woke up, went to work, did what I was told. On the weekend, I would golf with acquaintances and go to church on Sunday morning.
This wasn’t me, but then she said something that made me wish it was.
“Where was all this fight before things became so dead that I couldn’t take it anymore? Why didn’t you show some kind of emotion then? Now, it’s too late. I called you a cab. Please, Richard, don’t come back.”
She wasn’t crying, because I hadn’t given her anything to miss. Nothing had been between us for a long time. “Nothing” was enough to end us.
I step into the elevator and decide to open the envelopes. One of them is divorce papers for me to sign and the other is a restraining order.
I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming.