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's story is a reflection on the "sense of entitlement" people say today's youth have.
The city looked completely different in the hour just beyond midnight. Houses that were homes to friends she had known all her life were suddenly dark and menacing. Her own school stared at her with many eyes, silently judging her progress across the playground. As she left the city limits, she was actually relieved to find the buildings thin out, giving way to grass and trees. The paved roads turned to dirt and mud beneath her feet. It was hard to gain purchase, but she pulled her feet from the suckling mud, fighting the urge to lie down and close her eyes. The rain turned thin and fell harder, needling her. The wind picked up. After an hour of no change, Jane’s mind began to wander.
She dreamt of the life she was going to have; the success she would enjoy. Jane knew she was smart. She knew she was smarter than everyone around her. She only had a C-average because she didn’t apply herself. At least, that was what she heard every year from her teachers and every day from her parents. She tried to explain to them that everything was just too easy and that she was bored. There was nothing they could teach her. Nothing useful, anyway. “Who uses pre-algebra nowadays anyway?” Jane asked aloud. The wind offered a wail in response.
At least she was smart enough not to take a bus from her own city. Her plan was to go to the next town over and get a bus from there, where no one knew her and no one could report her to the authorities. She had looked up the distance on her computer. It was only eleven miles. She was certain that she could cover that distance and be on the first bus before anyone had any idea that she was gone. She’d tried to nap that afternoon to stave off exhaustion, but her restless mind wouldn’t let her sleep.
By three in the morning, Jane’s body was barely putting one foot in front of the other. She cursed the rain, the wind, her family, her friends, and her whole stupid city. Still, she wasn’t going to give up. She looked toward the sky, but there was no hint that anything would lighten. As another half hour drifted by, her knees buckled and she fell to the ground, her hands catching her before she fell face-first. Even so, her bag lurched forward over her shoulder, spilling half of its contents into the sludge. A wad of cash. A pair of shoes. A phone with a cracked screen. She watched her possessions and dreams turning sodden and muddled and a memory slashed through her mind.
“I just want a new phone!” she shrieked at her father.
“What’s wrong with your old phone?” her mother asked her.
“It’s old! That’s just the point! Everyone else has a new phone,” she pointed out.
“Jane, your phone is perfectly fine for your needs,” her father said, his mouth a firm line.
“I do everything right and I never get anything!” Jane raged.
“Jane, honey, there’s no need to spend money when you have a perfectly good phone,” her mother tried to reason with her.
“It is not good!” Jane stomped her feet. “It’s old and horrible and I hate it!” She threw her phone across the room. It hit the wall and clattered to the ground, its screen cracked. “There. Now you have no choice but to get me a new phone.” She folded her arms across her chest.
“If you can’t treat your old phone with care, there is no chance that you will get a new one,” her father said, his face stormy.
“I can’t live without a phone!” Jane hollered.
“Well, then you better pray that phone still works,” said her father.
“The screen is cracked!” She appealed to her mother. “Mom, I can’t use a broken phone!”
“Maybe we can fix the screen,” her mother offered.
“No, Arianne,” said Jane’s father. “She cracked the phone, she lives with the consequences.”
“I hate you!” Jane screamed. “You don’t even take care of your own daughter!”
“Honey, we’re doing what’s best for you,” said her mother.
“You always take his side!” Jane shouted and ran up the stairs. It was in that moment that she decided to leave. If they were going to treat her like some servant with no privileges, she wasn’t going to stick around.
Now, lying in the mud, wet and shivering, she felt a twinge of remorse. She was sorry…sorry that her plan was not working out as she wanted. Still, as she succumbed to the inevitability of sleep, it was a small comfort to know how upset her parents would be upon learning that they had lost the best thing they ever had in their lives. Her lips curled into a smile.