This year, I've decided to challenge my writing skills by creating a weekly short story based on suggestions from my readers posted here or on Facebook. Suggest any three of a character, location, object, or genre, and I will craft a story.
This week was inspired by a random thought of what it makes to be responsible. It can be defined in so many different ways. And, as you can see, I am still playing with my new drawing app.
Damon had been called irresponsible since as far back as he could remember. His parents, his teachers, his friends…they all accused him of not taking responsibility for himself. He’d lose his homework. He’d arrive late to baseball practice. He’d forget his keys. His mother said it over and over, shaking her head, “Damon, you’re a smart kid, but sometimes, I don’t know where your head is. You have to take responsibility for yourself.”
So he promised to try harder, but that promise was broken almost as soon as it was made. He neglected to feed the cat. He left his bicycle out in the rain. He never cleaned his room. It was a pervasive problem.
Still, he tried. He graduated high school and went on to college where he slept through alarms and left his laundry until had worn the same pair of underwear for three days in a row.
Upon his graduation from college, Damon decided he was going to get help. He went to see a therapist who helped in the beginning, but then he forgot about the sessions and started missing them. He tried another therapist. He tried a hypnotist. Finally, he found a girl on Craigslist who offered her services as a personal organizer.
Heidy was a dream. She started by organizing his room and quickly moved on to organizing his life completely. She helped him learn strategies to take responsibility and, for the first time, Damon felt successful. With Heidy, he could do anything. Slowly, his feelings of appreciation for Heidy grew and before they knew it, the relationship had turned much more personal. They moved in together.
Damon quickly found a job and was proud to be bringing home some money. Heidy set up a budget. He put money away for the future and other money went into specific envelopes to be kept in a safe place. Life seemed easier with Heidy, but underneath it all, Damon knew that he was just following instructions. He was terrified that his old habits would return when she wasn’t there, like at work.
Sure enough, within a week, he was called into his boss’ office. She explained that he needed to focus his energies more on work and not act so “unprofessional.” Nervous, he asked for clarification and she said that his desk was a mess, he neglected to write down important information, and he didn’t know how to prioritize projects to best assist the company. She urged him, in a strong tone, to get his act together or his first days would be his last.
Damon asked Heidy for help the moment he got home. He was nervous and sweating. It took her a few minutes to calm him down enough to take him through some exercises that would help him. He paid close attention and used the practices at work. For a few weeks, things ran smoothly and he no longer felt like his job was in danger.
Then the company hired Erik. Erik was conniving and power-hungry, but he never showed this side to the bosses. He smiled and said all the right things, aggrandizing his accomplishments and covering up his failures. He rocketed through the ranks and within months, he was Damon’s direct supervisor. He was abusive to his subordinates, who never felt that they could say anything lest they appear to be nothing but jealous, petty coworkers. Instead, Damon complained to Heidy, who listened with a sympathetic ear and offered minor pieces of consolation.
Then one of the higher supervisors retired. The bosses let it be known that any supervisor who proved his or her worth, would be considered for the position. This was the highest one could rise in the company without becoming a boss themselves. Erik was practically salivating at the thought. He took on one of the company’s biggest clients, working around the clock and demanding his subordinates do the same. Damon had no interest in supporting Erik’s ambitions, but realized that if he were promoted, he would no longer be Damon’s direct supervisor. That was enough for him. He worked just as tirelessly as Erik, if not more so. Erik shouted and screamed at his subordinates, always demanding more and telling them that their jobs were on the line. Damon heard the others grumbling under their breaths, but no one raised an objection.
It ended in disaster. Erik, exhausted from staying up all hours, neglected to provide the most recent data on a client’s account, resulting in misplaced merchandise, missing money, and an upset client. He was incensed, but the whole thing had been his fault and though he was sour, he wasn’t about to admit that with so much on the line.
That afternoon, just before the end of the workday, Damon was called in to a meeting with his immediate boss. She stared at him with the same expression she had worn at their first meeting. His heart began hammering in his chest. She accused him, in a hard voice, of irresponsibility. Damon tried to explain that it had been Erik’s irresponsibility and not his own that had ruined the project, but, as suspected, she saw it as nothing more than a petty attempt to shift blame.
Red-faced with shame and righteous indignation, Damon cleared his cubicle out and left the building, escorted by security. He was fairly crackling with ire, but there was nothing he could do. The bosses were convinced that he was the culprit, thanks to Erik’s machinations. He slammed the door as he got into his car. The one time he had done everything right, he was called on the carpet for someone else’s mistake. He kept replaying the scene in his head as he drove him and his anger grew into a blind fury. He knew that he could find another job, but the unfairness of it all just drove him mad.
Damon never even saw the girl until it was too late. His anger vanished in a wave of cold horror as he heard the sickening sound of her body against the car. He was out of his car almost before she hit the ground, blood pooling around her head. She was staring up at the sky, but as he approached, her eyes managed to focus on him.
And there it was: the accusation and disappointment. It was there, just as it had been all his life, but there was something horrible and new this time.
This time, he was responsible.