Author’s Note: this 500-word piece is the result of a writing prompt, thanks to a terrific prompt recommended by The Parking Lot Confessional, as part of their 500 Club series. The prompt I’m following is the “Back to School” prompt, and I chose to play with the structure of the prompt itself. I wrote about a teacher and his contempt for his students. And, yes, there’s a twist.
500 words, on the button. Go.
The professor sat with his feet up on his desk, staring blankly at the ceiling. He thought of ways to avoid listening to bad prose. Next time, he reminded himself, bring a handful of pencils, preferably some Dixon-Ticonderoga #2s, and start flicking them onto the ceiling tile during the next class.
Janet finished reading her piece aloud. There were no more imaginary pencils to toss onto the ceiling. He took in a deep, mildly irritated breath, and addressed the class. “Comments on Janet’s piece? Anyone?”
The students of his Creative Writing Workshop 101 gushed over Janet’s piece. He wanted to scream. Another semester filled with grading poor prose.
The bell rung, signaling class was up for the day. “Alright, Katie will be reading her piece next time. Please be sure to read her short story and provide commentary. Thanks.”
I can do better, he sighed, watching his students leave, proud of themselves.
Later that night, after his wife and children were long in bed, he sat alone in his home office. Janet’s short fiction piece, along with several others, waited his grading, but instead he eyed that stack with contempt, mixed with the beer flowing in his veins. His laptop taunted him; a blank page flickered before his eyes, daring him to write something, anything.
The diploma from where he earned his MFA hung crooked. It too seemed to mock him. He took a giant swig from the beer bottle on his desk. I can do better, he said, nearly choking on the burp he tried to suppress. He recalled a very stupid idea he bounced off a friend a few years back…
ZOMBIES VERSUS DINOSAURS!
The plucky young scientist, Mallory James, sat alone in her makeshift library, crunching numbers, wondering where she’d gone wrong. She cussed herself for not seeing which numerical combinations would open that anomaly once again, and rid the remains of this Earth with the scourges that were laying waste.
She rubbed her temples, first softly, then, unknowingly, faster, causing her even more pressure. Where did she go wrong? It was her idea: rid the zombie menace by opening a time portal into the past and tunneling the hordes millions of years back, to when the dinosaurs roamed the land. But when the dinosaurs instead came out of the time portal, rather than the zombies go in, her intentions created instead a hell she struggled mightily to correct.
All Mallory wanted to do was sleep. A few sleeping pills could do the trick. Maybe she’d never wake up again. Maybe, somehow, either the zombies or a Stegosaurus would find their way inside her bunker and…
“Plucky young scientist?” he laughed, reading what just appeared on his screen. He rose from his chair, and scratched his head. He laughed a bit louder now, that “stupid idea” not seeming so stupid to him after all.
“Yeah, I can do better.”
He belched, and dropped his head. There was writing to be done. He was going to do better.