Mid Month Short Story Challenge #13

Welcome to August — objectively the worst month of the year for anyone who likes holidays, cold weather, or nighttime1In the northern hemisphere, at least.. August is always the month of the year that I like the least and that feels (to me) like the hardest to get through. I don’t like to do much of anything in August2I say this despite having a ton of posts written for this month., not to mention it always seems like the month where I’m the most creatively stagnant3Which is in no way convenient to the fact that this is the first month I have Patreon rewards going out..

I’ve been told that some of you out there feel the same way, so I figured, why not build off of last month’s music based theme? However, instead of you having to pick your own song and coming up with a post based off of that, I’ve given you three song options to choose from directly in this post. Two of the songs are peppy, upbeat, new songs, while the third is a song I was saving for last month’s prompt for myself…only to forget that I wanted to use it after the fact.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on September 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

Five Short Graybles From a Bachelor Party (and Other Times)

The following post contains a series of true short stories, also known as graybles in the Adventure Time universe, that occurred over the past twelve years. All of these stories, either in part or in full, were discussed or happened during a bachelor party I attended back in June. Congrats to my best friend, Mike. I hope you enjoy marriage.

I have to begin with a story that happened rather recently — at your bachelor party, in fact. You, our fishy friend who I’ll talk about more in a coming story, and I were sitting at the bar at a local establishment that you (and Fish) had frequented numerous times in college. It was, however, my first time being there, as my college experience was largely devoted to trying to graduate early while working multiple jobs. The three of us were chatting about whatever happened to come up, be that the fact that Johnny Manziel’s CFL team was on TV, the fact that everyone thought the bartender looked suspiciously like one of my ex-girlfriends1It wasn’t. Had it just been me, I would have blamed it on my face blindness and a faulty memory., or where else we needed to go that evening before turning in for the night.

This was until an older man walked up to the bar and sat down beside me. His flannel overshirt covered a tattered Mark Martin t-shirt from his Valvoline sponsorship days, though the overshirt seemed out-of-place on a 90 degree day. He flagged down both bartenders and ordered a piece of pizza. The male bartender ran off to grab the pizza while the female bartender attempted to collect payment.

“That’ll be $2,” she said.

“One dollar?” the bar patron asked in a confused tone.

The female bartender shook her head at him as the male bartender sat the pizza down and ran off to help other customers.

“Nope,” she replied, “that’s just on Thursdays. It’s two dollars.”

It was at this point that I notice that the man was fiddling with three quarters in his hand, running them through his fingers. How he was planning to pay for $1 worth of food with $0.75 is beyond me, but I didn’t have much time to think about it, as he put the quarters in his pocket, removed his wallet, and pulled out a credit card.

“Just put it on my tab,” he said.

The bartender took his card at this point, but nearly instantly after she took his card, the man reached out his hand to stop her.

“Wait! No!” he pleaded. “Can I run to the bank?”

“Sure,” she responded. “I’ll keep your pizza warm.”

The older man started digging through his pockets looking for something. He was struggling to stay on his bar stool in the process, leading the bartender to shoot our group some judgmental looks. After 10-15 seconds of searching, the man sat up rigidly straight.

“Actually, put it on my tab and get me a Coors Light. Draft.”

The bartender turned and walked to the register with his card. Meanwhile, the man powerwalked to the back of the bar, presumably to the restroom. We stayed another 15-20 minutes, but we didn’t see him again.

I was only in town for a little less than 24 hours. Yet, despite the short amount of time there, we saw that strange interaction. It’s not like seeing weird things from people who had been drinking was a recurring theme of the time we spent together in college or anything.

Our first year at college was interesting, if for no other reason than the first semester at college was not particularly indicative of what we would end up being either at the end of college or later in life. While I was mostly a shut-in, wallowing in self-pity over the ending of a five year relationship2We’ll come back to this a bit later, as it was the impetus for another story., you were off making friends and (briefly) trying to join a fraternity. Yet, despite those differences from our future trajectories, that first semester produced a handful of entertaining stories, including this one.

One of the things that our RA during our first year was very vocal about encouraging was the act of keeping your dorm room door propped open if you weren’t sleeping/studying/changing/etc. He had this grand idea of being an entire floor community between his residents and those of the other two RAs on the floor. It worked for all of half of a semester. During that half semester though, we had people floating in and out of our room at all hours of the day and night. One of these people was a guy who we’ll call Ricky. If Ricky was in our room, Ricky was drunk. Usually significantly so. Ricky also liked to ask us for our food or drinks when he came in the room empty-handed, which was more common in retrospect than I think we realized at the time.

There was an evening when the two of us had decided to play either Rock Band or Guitar Hero prior to you going out drinking and me needing to go to bed to go to work3I tended to work from either midnight or 4am until 8am 3-4 days a week. I’d pick up the occasional shift at other times of the day, but it usually meant I slept through the day when I wasn’t in class. If I was fortunate enough to have a 4am shift, I’d sleep 11pm-350am or something obnoxious like that since we lived in the same building that I worked in.. We had ordered wings from our favorite chicken wing place in Bowling Green, Mister Spots. After being back in town recently and going there, I’m reminded how well their food holds up. They’re damn good wings4Please sponsor me.. My favorite kind of their wings to get is a wing sauce known as the wiseguy wings. I adore spicy food — the spicier, the better — and these wings make me sweat profusely every time I eat them. They’re not just hot, as they really do taste amazing. But they’re a kick in the face, even when you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Ricky didn’t know what he was getting himself into.

Around 10pm, Ricky stumbled into our room, reeking of cheap beer and vodka. He was stumbling everywhere, slurring his words as he repeatedly asked us for food. He was very intent on wanting one of my chicken wings specifically. I kept telling him that it was a bad idea and that he didn’t want to do that. Ricky was persistent though, so I gave in and handed him a wing. Ricky took a big bite, chewed for five or ten seconds, and produced a thousand yard stare that I’ve never seen before or since. The chicken wing dropped to the ground. In a perfectly understandable, non-slurring voice, Ricky spoke.

“I have made a mistake.”

Ricky shambled off to the bathroom where (we’re told) he had his head under the faucet of the sink for the next 20 to 30 minutes. Ricky never asked us for food again.

For all the weirdness that happened throughout college — and I assure you there was a lot of it, in spite of the fact that I was only there two and a half years — one of the most enduring memories of college was running a radio show with you and Fish. If memory serves, you didn’t join our “staff” until midway through our first semester on air. Even then you were our “researcher” as you weren’t allowed on air unless you became part of the radio organization we were in. You eventually became our third talking head in the spring of that first year, though your primary gimmick was hating Penn State and playing World of Warcraft instead of actually fact checking for us.  In spite of that gimmick, you were an integral part of our show, as you helped us to come up with some of the show’s weirdest ideas, including the live wing tasting contest we held on air5I know that sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it surprisingly did really well..

You also put up with a lot of bullshit from me and (and occasionally Fish) just to go on air with us once a week. There was the time I thought it would be a good idea to trudge across campus during a snowstorm that dropped nearly two feet of snow and closed campus for two days. On the plus side, the closure announcement went out while we were on air, so we got to share the news. There was also a time where you had to run a show by yourself for half of its run time because I was busy taking Fish to the emergency room. Such was life. As a reminder, fish can swim, but they don’t do well on ice.

I was really proud of the work we did with our show. It won our radio organization’s show of the year award in its first year on the air. I’d like to think it was partly because we were funny, partly because we were entertaining, and partly because we weren’t afraid to discuss hard issues. We talked about the Virginia Tech shootings on air just days after they occurred. We called out (and then subsequently got a sternly worded email from the then-President of) the University of Delaware for their repeated ducking of in-state institution (and historically black college) Delaware State. We brought to light concerns with concussions and brain health.

The show had its flaws for sure. We got pulled off air for a week for not clearing our interviews. We had a terribly sexist and cringeworthy hottest college athlete bracket that we managed to drag a then-Sports Illustrated writer onto air to talk with us about6In the event I ever meet Mallory Rubin in person, I feel like I’m just going to spend the entire time apologizing to her for putting her through that.. But ultimately, the show was a ton of fun. It’s not like there’s a reason we sort of revived it for a podcast or anything7Following your wedding, I find it important to point out that not only did your grandma listen to your show, but that the main thing she remembers from our show was a throwaway ad we created where one of our friends made fun of people eating Cheetos naked. This ad was read in a super sultry voice. Because reasons..

For the next to last story, I want to recount to my readers the single most memorable story to come out of our time together in college. I use the word memorable loosely, as this story has been pieced together from my memory, fragments that other folks on campus shared with us, and the few bits and pieces I was able to pull from your mind the morning after.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I worked a lot of weird hours during college and you drank just a bit in an effort to join a fraternity. One early October day was the crown jewel of those two scenarios coming together. You went out to a party on Friday evening, while I worked at the dorm from around 7pm until midnight. You swung by the front desk and chatted for a few minutes when you left for your party at around 930, while my evening went largely quietly at work. After someone unexpectedly called off, I stayed at the front desk until around 2am to help them out before going back up to our room to head to bed. It didn’t take me long to get ready to sleep and with the few weeks I was having, I desperately just wanted to sleep.

I had just finished curling up under my blanket when I heard keys fumbling outside of our door. I leaned up to look and make sure it was you coming in, as after a few failed attempts to stick a key in the lock, I was starting to grow a bit concerned. But after a few tries, you succeeded, only to notice me sitting up in my bunked bed, wide awake.

“Shit,” you said. “Did I wake you, man?”

“No,” I replied. “I just got to bed.”

“That’s good.”

It was at this point, you took a step forward. Said step was subsequently followed by you crashing to the ground face first. You did your best to lift yourself up off the ground, however our university’s insistence of using rocking chairs for the in-dorm desk chairs was not aiding your battle with gravity at this juncture. After a few, struggled filled attempts, you managed to climb into your chair and sit quietly.

The next few minutes brought little excitement. We were still relative strangers at this point, so you asked to borrow a cup so you could get water from the fountain down the hall. How you managed to get the cup, fill it, and make it back without spilling it on the tile hallway was beyond me, particularly considering your fall moments prior. That said, you managed to avoid harming yourself in the process. You drank some of the water and then asked if you could play Guitar Hero, as you weren’t tired.

For those reading who weren’t there themselves, I want to take a moment to explain the layout of the dorm room that Mike and I shared. The room was small — maybe 10 foot deep by 8 foot wide — with a window on the opposite side of a centered door. If you stood in the doorway, my closet and desk would be immediately to your right and Mike’s to the left. Beyond those desks were our beds, both bunked four and a half feet or so in the air, mine again on the right and his on the left. A futon ran perpendicularly below the head of both beds, while a TV was under the foot of my bed and a mini fridge and pantry were under the foot of Mike’s bed. I give this description to help the next two sequences of the story make sense.

Anyway…so after you (Mike) decided you wanted to play Guitar Hero, I rolled over and faced the wall in an effort to not be bothered by the light of the TV. I heard the game go through its loading screens, but before it even got to the start menu, I heard you get up and shut off both your Xbox and the television.

“I’m going to bed!” you announced triumphantly. “Good night.”

You changed clothes and climbed into bed. Within minutes, you were asleep. I curled up more under my blankets and tried to fall asleep, though I couldn’t sleep. I kept feeling like I was forgetting to do something. I had no idea what it could be for a few minutes, but then it hit me. I owed someone — though I have no idea who anymore8I’m 90% sure it was someone I was working on a group project with. That’s the version of the story we’ve always retold. It’s just been so long that I’m not completely sure. — an email. So I got out of bed, opened my laptop and began writing an email.

The funny thing about mid-2000s laptop computers is that when you booted them up, their screens were so bright that several small planets could conceivably consider them to be suns. I should have saved my email for the next morning. I really should have. But when my Dell White Dwarf 2005 came on, you groggily rubbed your eyes and mumbled at me.

“What time is it?” you asked.

“2:25. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“What time is it?” you asked again, confused.

“2:25. You’re late for class.”

Several years after this event, we both know full well that the other is sarcastic more often than not. We also know that I enjoy messing with my friends. I’m unsure if this was an understood fact at this point in time or if you were just too drunk to realize what was going on. But what happened next set off a chain of events that perplex both of us to this day.

“Oh shit!” you yelled.

With a deftness and agility I’ve not seen you move with at any other point in your life, you bounded out of bed and dove to the floor, landing as you did a half-tuck roll towards your closet. You threw on pants and a shirt, slipped on your shoes, and grabbed your backpack, all before I could realize what was going on. You threw open the door and sprinted out into the hallway, running headfirst into the cinder block wall across from our door. Not stopping your momentum, you barrel rolled hard to the right, taking off down the hallway toward the stairs.

It was at that moment I realized what was going on. Not even bothering to pause and put on my own shoes, I ran down the hall after you, but you were long gone. I made my way down to the front desk and asked one of my co-workers if they had seen you. They had, but you had taken off outside at a dead sprint. I looked out the front door, but you were no where to be seen. So I did the only thing I thought was rational at that point in time — I went upstairs and went to bed. Surely you were fucking with me and would be back in a few minutes.

I went back upstairs and laid down. I expected to see you in a few minutes, but instead, I fell asleep. Around 4:30 in the morning, the door flew open. You were standing in the middle of the door way, water POURING off of your clothes. You stared up toward my bed and spoke with deadpanned seriousness.

“I fucking hate you.”

You crawled into bed — wet clothes, shoes, and backpack all still on — and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up relatively early and went to take a shower. When I came back in the room, you were wide awake, your backpack sitting on the futon, but you fully dressed otherwise. I expected you to be furious with me, but instead, you asked me to help you retrace your steps from the night before.

Between me recounting the above story, as well as the eyewitness accounts of a handful of drunken students from the night before, we were able to determine that you did, in fact, run off to one of your afternoon classes. Reports differ as to whether or not you got in the building, however you were for sure sighted near the Thinker statue (below) on campus trying to open a nearby door, presumably for sake of attending class.

As to why you were wet, we’re not 100% sure whatever happened there. The university did have a habit of running the sprinkler system during the wee hours of the morning. There’s no way you would have had water running off of you solely from that though. There is also a lake on campus near the music building. Considering its proximity to our dorm, this makes the most sense, however most other reports of your whereabouts had you on the opposite end of campus. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

Despite diving into the deepest, darkest reaches of your mind, you’ve never been able to reconstruct any of that night for yourself. It’s a shame, as it was definitely one of the funniest experiences of my entire time knowing you. So why not end with it? There’s a more important grayble to tell.

The final story I want to tell isn’t a particularly funny or long story, but it is a critical one to helping to understand why I’ve devoted a 4100+ word blog post that nearly no one will read the whole way through to the fact that you’re getting married.

My first semester of college was rough to say the least. A lot of that was self-inflicted. It was during that semester that I decided I was going to try to graduate a four-year program in two and a half years. I picked up the aforementioned job with odd hours and started the aforementioned radio show from scratch that semester. It was also the semester that my high school girlfriend and I finally broke up for good.

We’d been in a relationship on life support for the better part of six months when we got to college, but being at college ended up doing us in. We weren’t in the same place in life, as evidenced by the fact that I was a far less mature person than she was at the time. In early October of that year (just one week before the previous story), she and I split up. I spent the better part of that windy afternoon wandering around campus. A friend of mine from high school came up and stayed with us for the weekend because she was concerned for my mental health9She was right to be at that point.. That weekend was the second drunkest I’d seen you, as said friend changed clothes in front of you and you were too inebriated to notice. That’s not the point of this story, but it does amuse me, so I thought I’d bring it up.

My relationship with my high school girlfriend was off at that point, but we stayed lukewarm towards each other over the course of the next few weeks. On a Friday night in mid-November, she called me and we spent the evening sitting in chairs in her dorm’s common area talking. By midnight, we had decided that we were going to get back together. I fell asleep on the futon beneath her dorm bed (as I was sick and didn’t want to get her sick) incredibly happy about how things had changed for the positive — on the day before my birthday no less.

The next morning, she woke me up at six in the morning. She told me that our discussion from the night before was a mistake and that we should stay split up. I was devastated all over again. Beyond that, a bunch of our friends from high school were coming down to visit from Eastern Michigan University. We decided in that moment that it was better that I not be there so that things wouldn’t be awkward and that my cold would be the excuse.

Had the day’s disappointments stopped there, it would have been a shitty birthday, but not the worst imaginable10Or even the worst I’d had to that point…hooray having to choose which parent to live with at age 8.. The notable thing about this birthday was that it happened to coincide with the Ohio State-Michigan football game. While I detest Ohio State and generally don’t care about Michigan, the Ohio State-Michigan game made the rivalry unavoidable, as all of my friends and family took sides for the game, most of them VERY vocally.

During this specific year, Ohio State and Michigan were the top two teams in the country, meaning their game got moved to prime time for television audiences. This led to everyone I came in contact with all day talking about the game and nothing else. I didn’t hear from a single friend or family member the entire day about anything other than OSU-Michigan. The only birthday wish I got from anyone was from my now-ex-girlfriend, just as I was walking out the door from us breaking up.

You were off somewhere that Friday and didn’t get back until late Saturday evening, so I didn’t see you all day. Just before kickoff, you came back to our dorm room where I was working on a group project for one of my classes with two people who also didn’t care about football. Neither of said people knew it was my birthday, but you did. It was at that point you made the group of four of us11Me, you, and the two girls from my class. get up and we walked to the student union and got dinner from Wendy’s for my birthday. We sat at these tall tables over the entrance to the building and marveled at the fact that on any other Saturday night, people would be migrating across campus to go to parties, but that tonight they were too distracted by a sports matchup involving two colleges that they didn’t go to for this to be a thing.

After dinner, we left the union, all walked to the combination Tim Horton’s and Cold Stone to get coffee and ice cream. You left and went off somewhere — I think a party — while I finished the group project. That moment stuck with me. It was the moment I realized that I had found my new best friend. I’ve always been grateful to you for that moment. Thank you.

This story, of course, has a pair of happy endings. You’ve found your new best friend. My hope is that she gives you the happiness you deserve. The other happy ending? Ohio State got humiliated in the national title game that year.

WIP Update #2

Inner monologue: La dee dah. I should really write another update for where I am on my work in progress. I said I’d give updates with some level of frequency. There were even people in the comments who wanted them. It has to have been three months or so since I did an update, right?

*Checks blog post dates*. February 12th.

Inner monologue: Well fuck.

So uh…time kind of got away from me over the last few months. Combine the fact that I’ve had a ton going on (I started a new job, I launched a Patreon, I started a podcast, plus other things I haven’t talked about on this blog yet) with the fact that I didn’t realize I had written that post so early in the year, and that’s how I go six months between giving updates on the new book I’m working on. Weird how that works.

At the time of the first update being published, I had just cracked the 24,000 word mark, having written around eight chapters of the book1I think I was midway through the eighth chapter, though it’s been long enough that I don’t remember exactly where I was at that point in time.. That accounted for somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of the chapters I had planned out in the story, though only about one-fifth to one-quarter of the word count2I’m thinking the story will be around 90,000 words when I’m done, pre-edits..

I gave what I had done at that point to my very thorough, very patient alpha reader. And she tore the first three chapters apart. Which is awesome. There’s a reason I trust her to be the first person to read my story. That said, I also realize it was a bit of a mistake to send the file over when I hadn’t even finished the book yet. All of the comments, recommendations, and tweaks she suggested were wonderful advice, but they also (unintentionally) sapped my motivation to write on in the story at that time. That’s 100% my own fault for not taking into account how I have to structure my writing and editing process in order to be as productive as possible. That said, it also meant that I didn’t write anything new in the book from early March through mid-May.

Between mid-May and mid-July, I think I wrote a total of 1,500 words across eight weeks. Considering how busy this time in my life was3As this time period includes everything I mentioned above except the new podcast launch., the fact that I even got this much done was impressive in its own right. Nevertheless, I was disappointed in my own productivity.

So why write about this now? If nothing else, this post can serve as a reminder to myself about the struggles I had over the past five to six months4I’m not sure when I’m going to post this. I’m leaning towards mid-August at the time of writing this post, but we’ll see if that’s what actually happens., as well as the fact that I still got a little bit done in the book during one of the busiest times I’ve ever experienced. There’s a positive side to this tale as well though.

As of writing this post, the work in progress is now up to around 35,500 words, with 12 of the 26 planned chapters completed5Along with one scene later in the book that accounts for nearly all of the 1,500 words that I wrote between mid-May and mid-July.. Although I’m not at the halfway point of the book in terms of word count or chapters that I’m estimating, I have finished what is essentially the story of the first half of the book. I’m relatively happy with the way the story is progressing and I really like the way some of the main characters are developing.

I’ve also realized that I want this to become a series, though I’m unsure at this point exactly how I want to go about that. There is character that won’t appear until at least the second book of this series that I have in very vivid detail in my mind. While this is great for the long-term prospects for a series, it’s frustrating as the new character doesn’t fit in this first book at all. In fact, she needs the events of the first book to transpire for her to even have a need to exist — but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself by saying that.

I do want to take a moment to thank a few people — in particular Laidig, Eve, Tabitha, Mike, Stephanie, Erin, Dem, and my wife6As well as others I’ve surely, though accidentally, forgotten. — for their support as I’ve worked on this. I know my Patreon has been a big thing over the last few months. I know that I’ve written more than my fair share of video game posts, garbage posts, and random short stories while not talking about this project at all. But this project is one I care a ton about, not to mention one I want to do really well. There’s a ton of work that’s going to need to go into this project. I’m both thinking and hoping that in the end, the story that’s told7Both this book by itself and whatever series comes out of it, if I go that route. will be worth it.


This post is a response to July 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.

For reference, here is the song that was picked to use as inspiration for this month’s story1I ran a poll on Twitter in mid-July between four songs that had been stuck in my head recently. This song won after round robin coin flips following a three way tie.

The register of Grant’s cries burned at his own ears, stabbing harder at his ossicles than any noise he’d heard before. It wasn’t as though the sounds were any louder or more percussive than jet engines or fireworks, yet his own wails pained him far more. As tears trickled down his face and onto the steering wheel of his car, their landing slowly changed from a splatting to a splashing as the vinyl exterior covering his airbag was wetted.

It’s one thousand, nine hundred and fifty-nine minutes — more or less — to drive from Woonsocket, Rhode Island to Laramie, Wyoming. During his nearly thirty hour marathon drive, Grant could only feel that it was more than worth his time. The lack of sleep, the copious amounts of caffeine and fast food, the never ending white lights charging towards him on the interstate, the cramped car without air conditioning; all of them would be worth it. On the west side of Laramie, there was a hotel room for two waiting.

Nine years is a long time to wait for something to change. It’s even longer to wait on a person to change. Grant knew that. Yet he was committed to the wait, whether it be for two years or twenty. Candice would get over her fear in time. She had promised him that much.

On a Thursday evening nine years prior, Grant was settling into his seat on a tiny aircraft that would take him from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Chicago. He’d then board a plane bound for Boston, from where he’d get his car out of the Logan Airport parking garage and make the dark drive back home to Rhode Island. Even though it was in his best interest to get some sleep on one of the two flights, too many people on the plane would have their window shades open. As they should, Grant reasoned. It was still early evening, which coupled with a time zone difference meant a plane full of people who didn’t want to sleep.

Grant pulled his hooded sweatshirt off of his torso, rolled it into a ball, and placed it between his head and the wall of the plane. He closed his eyes and began to focus on his own breath, hoping his meditation would cause the sounds of others boarding the plane to fade away. For a few moments, it worked. But then Grant felt a hand forcefully lean against him. He opened his eyes to find a young brunette woman in a University of Wyoming hoodie struggling to hold herself up as she placed her bag in the overhead bin above them.

“You need a hand with that?” Grant asked.

“As long as you don’t plan on moving in the next five second, I should be fine,” she replied.

“Don’t worry,” answered Grant. “In a previous life I was a support column for a building.”

The woman chuckled as she finished stowing her bag and took the seat beside Grant. For the hour long flight from Cedar Rapids to Chicago, Grant spent time getting to know this woman who gravity had assisted him in meeting. Candice was a graduate student and tennis player at the University of Wyoming. She was back in Cedar Rapids to visit her family. Grant was amused to learn that Candice’s cousin was the receptionist at the Cedar Rapids branch of his company, while Candice found it funny that Grant attended the graduated from the same university during the same year as her current roommate (though they didn’t know each other). It was a small world, particularly considering Grant had never been to Iowa before that trip.

When they parted ways in the airport, Grant and Candice exchanged phone numbers and went on their way. They kept in touch via text over the next few months. As Grant’s next trip to the company’s Iowa branch loomed closer, he was overjoyed to learn that Candice would be back in town too.

They met up on a Tuesday night, spending the evening drinking at a bar with narrow chairs and overpriced cocktails. As the night progressed, both Candice and Grant began flirting with each other more aggressively, eventually leading to a night of passionate romance in Grant’s hotel room. The next morning, Grant woke up with a pulsing headache to find Candice gone. The only trace left of her was a hastily scribbled note written on hotel stationary.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please don’t hate me.”

Grant texted and called Candice, trying to get to the bottom of her early morning disappearance and her note. Days and weeks passed with no word back from Candice. Initially it was upsetting, but after a few weeks, Grant slowly began to feel better. It was a good night they spent together. Everything was consensual. He just go ghosted. It wasn’t the first time it had happened. It likely wouldn’t be the last.

About three months later, Grant woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of his phone buzzing, rattling against the glass of water on his nightstand.

“Hello?” he mumbled groggily.

“I didn’t want to just leave like that, you know.”


“I’m engaged, Grant,” Candice replied, “and I made a mistake.”

Grant sat up in his bed, leaning against the headboard and wall behind him.

“Look,” Grant began,  “had I known that you were with someone, I wo…”

Candice cut him off. “No. I made a mistake getting engaged.”

“Then leave him?”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Why not?” asked Grant.

“When will you be in Cedar Rapids again?”

“Not for six weeks or so. Why?”

“How’s Rhode Island this time of year?”

Ten days later, Candice showed up at Grant’s door, a backpack full of clothes clutched close to her. She spent the weekend mostly in Grant’s arms, talking about how she desperately wanted out of her engagement, but how she didn’t want to hurt anyone. Her parents — who already weren’t doing well financially — would be out thousands of dollars they insisted on putting into her wedding. Her fiancee, AJ, had already been left at the altar once before and she didn’t want to make him hurt again. Grant largely listened, not knowing what to say in response to most of Candice’s concerns. He had begun to care for Candice, but knew it wasn’t right of him to try to convince her to call off her wedding. Emotions got the best of both of them, leading Candice and Grant to sleep together again. While Candice called AJ and continued her lie that she’d need to spend more time with her family in Iowa instead of with him in Wyoming, Grant defiantly told himself that she’d end up coming clean with AJ and ending their relationship.

Eight years and sixteen days ago, Candice and AJ married in a church just off of the campus of the University of Wyoming. In that time, Candice had met up with Grant hundreds of times by Grant’s count. Sometimes she flew to meet him in Rhode Island. Sometimes it was on one of Grant’s business trips to Iowa where Candice would conveniently also be in town to see her family. There was even a time where Candice flew to Las Vegas to meet up with Grant while he was at a conference for a weekend — just because she wanted to feel like they got to take a vacation together.

For Grant’s part, the initial mental struggle and concerns about his part in Candice’s infidelity soon gave way to apathy and acceptance. Grant loved Candice completely and irreversibly. If Candice had to borrow time from her life with AJ to be with him, Grant was willing to accept that. But with each passing visit, Grant wanted nothing more than for Candice to surprise him by saying that her marriage with AJ was finally over. Every time the thought of asking Candice to leave AJ crossed Grant’s mind, he got a little more courage towards asking her. Yet each and every one of those times, Grant chose not to say anything. For eight years and sixteen days since the wedding, and in nine years since Grant had met her, Candice was someone else’s — even if she was a very intricate part of his life.

This drive would change that. It had to. There’s no way that Grant could drive across nearly the entire United States in an effort to convince Candice to leave AJ, only for Candice to reject the plan completely. Candice loved him. She made a point to make sure to tell Grant that every single day, be it via text, via phone, or in person. Grant had told Candice he was going to be in Laramie. He told her where he’d be staying. All he had to do was to tell her that he was coming to take her away from her life with AJ so that they could be together. After all this time, it’d be a great relief to both of them. It had to work that way.

When Grant looked out his hotel room window and saw Candice’s baby blue sedan pull into the hotel parking lot, parking beside his own car, he sprinted out onto the second floor walkway. He met Candice at the foot of the staircase leading from the ground floor up to his hotel room, embracing her tightly. Candice didn’t hug him back though. Her face was tear streaked and somber, her eyes red and puffy.

“What’s wrong?” Grant asked.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Candice replied.

“That’s why I’m here! You don’t have to. We can leave and go back to Rhode Island.”


“I’m not married to Rhode Island. I’m at the point where I can freely transfer wherever. There’s Cedar Rapids if you want to be near your family.”


“There’s San Diego if you want to be somewhere warm.”

“No. Grant.”

“Hell, if you really want to get far away from here, I’m sure we could go to Amsterdam or Auckland.”

“Grant!” Candice screamed. “Stop. Please.”

“I’m just trying to give you options,” Grant retorted.

“I don’t have options!”

Candice reached into her purse and grabbed a plastic baggy from in it. She handed it to Grant, being sure to have the readable side of the pregnancy test inside face up.

“You’re pregnant?” Grant said, stunned.

“Yeah,” sighed Candice.

“Is it ours?”

“It might be. It might not be.”

“We can raise him. Or her. I’m guessing it’s too early to know?”

“No,” replied Candice. “We can’t. I can’t do this anymore.”

“What if the child is mine?” Grant asked.

Candice wiped tears away from her face, though she struggled to keep her face dry as they formed quicker than her hands could move. She leaned in and kissed Grant on the cheek.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry. Please don’t hate me.”

Candice pulled away from Grant and sprinted through the hotel parking lot and into a field that separated the hotel from the highway that ran behind it.

“Candice!” Grant yelled as he started to give chase. “Where are you going?”

Grant initially gained ground on Candice, but his lack of physical activity meant that Candice quickly pulled away from him. Candice continued her charge toward the highway, seemingly picking up speed the closer she got. Grant slowed to a fast walk, panting and huffing as he did so. As Candice neared the highway, Grant let out a strained shout.

“Candice!” he yelled. “Come…come back!”

Candice ran onto the highway at a point where an on ramp merged into the interstate, doing so at the same grade as the land beside the road. A car coming down the ramp saw her and swerved onto the shoulder, avoiding her before darting back into its lane. A second truck — a large moving van towing a small hatchback — wasn’t as quick to react. The vehicle struck Candice at full speed, launching her into the air before skidding to a stop on the side of the road. As Candice came crashing to the ground, Grant collapsed in the field, sobbing into the grass beneath him.

The chime of his car signaling that it was low on gas brought Grant’s head up from the steering wheel. It had been hours since he had talked to the police and paramedics about why Candice had run into oncoming traffic on the interstate. Since he wasn’t family, they couldn’t tell her anything more about her condition — merely the hospital she was taken to. Despite wanting to go and to be there for Candice, he couldn’t bring himself to leave the hotel parking lot. In between bouts of crying at the top of his lungs, Grant had dozed off, exhaustion both mentally and physically getting the best of him.

Grant put the car in reverse and drove along side streets from the hotel to the gas station on the other side of the highway. As he parked his car and got out to pump gas, a white pickup truck pulled into the station, parking at the pump across from him. Grant began to fill his gas tank as a tall man in a white cowboy hat exited the truck. The man began to fill his own tank while talking on his cell phone, leaving Grant to hear a one-sided conversation.

“That’s what they told me,” said the man to whomever he was on the phone with. “The cops were saying it was lover’s quarrel gone wrong.”

He paused.

“I figured it was bound to happen sooner or later. Her running off, that is.”

He paused again.

“Yeah, it’s morbid, but what in the fuck else is there to say?”

The pump clicked on Grant’s car, indicating it was full. He returned the nozzle to its latch, shut the gas tank door, and got in his car. Grant drove to the hospital, hoping that somehow, someway, Candice would still be alive when he got there.

Grant walked up to the front desk at the hospital, only to find it unstaffed. After a few seconds, an elderly nurse in pink scrubs walked around the corner and behind the desk.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Um, yeah,” Grant stammered, “I’m here to see Candice Hopewell-Ravinia.”

“Are you family?”

“Not exactly.”

“Are you on her allowed guest list?”

“I’m not sure?”

“What’s your name, hun?” asked the nurse.

“Grant Lazar.”

The nurse typed Grant’s name into the computer, slowly reading over the results on the screen.

“Room 2904,” she said. “Though visiting hours end in 35 minutes, so you can’t be up there long.”

“Thank you,” replied Grant.

Grant ran off to the elevator, frantically pushing the button to get the car to come down to him. Though the hospital was nearly empty as midnight neared, Grant stared down the hall towards the building’s full emergency room. A screaming child from the other end of the hall masked the sound of the elevator’s arrival, causing Grant to have to quickly throw his arm in the door opening before it closed and left without him.

Upon arriving on the second floor, Grant followed the meandering hallway to a room where he found Candice in several casts, her left leg in traction hovering above the bed. A young doctor was looking over Candice when Grant entered.

“Hi,” Grant stammered.

“Hi, I’m Doctor Thomas. You must be AJ.”

“No, Grant.”

“Ah, okay,” replied the doctor, “Candice’s mother said you might show up.”

“How’s she doing?”

“I can’t share any specifics with you, but we’re keeping a close eye on her. If her family decides to share more info with you when they arrive, they can.”

“I understand,” said Grant. “Do you care if I stay here with her for a little bit?”

“Not at all. There’s a chair in the corner that you can wheel over if you want.”

Dr. Thomas left the room as Grant brought the chair over to the side of Candice’s bed. Grant carefully placed his hand on her partially exposed fingers, holding them lightly. He began to sob, tears trickling down onto the bed beside his hand.

“I love you,” said Grant. “I’m so sorry this happened. If you never want to see me again, I’d understand.”

Grant felt Candice close her index and middle finger around his hand, clutching them as tightly as her cast allowed. As he tried to move away, Candice close the grip tighter, pinching his fingers against the cast. Grant moved back to his original spot, kissing Candice’s exposed fingers to let her know he was staying. The cast cut into his fingers, blood trickling down onto the sheet below. Yet Grant didn’t move. In this moment, perhaps for the first time, Grant felt like he could see Candice for who she truly was. He wasn’t leaving that moment.

Your Job Rejection Emails Suck

(or But At Least You Told Me That I Didn’t Get The Job)

I recently went through a very lengthy job hunt. This is the same job hunt that prompted this mental head clearing rant I posted a few months ago (though I wrote the post back in February…I didn’t want to talk about the search while it was going on though), as well as the epitaph to my job from a couple of weeks back. Truth be told, it’s something I have no intention of going through again at any point in the near future. Even though I learned a lot during the job search process — some things good, some not — that would help me in future job searches, those things weren’t the thing that stuck with me once the search was finally done.

Of the 392+1As I mentioned in an earlier post, I received emails confirming my application submission for 392 jobs. There are at least 2 — likely quite a few more — jobs that I applied for that never sent a confirmation email. jobs I applied for between finding out our office was closing and when I was offered my new job, I received rejection emails for 108 positions. These rejection emails came at various points in the interviewing process2Most came before even a phone screening, but I had some phone screenings and a handful of interviews in there too., though all of them told me I wasn’t, for whatever reason, getting the job.

Just because I got 108 rejection emails out of 392+ jobs applied for doesn’t mean that I got offered 284 jobs. That would be ridiculous. What it does mean, however, is that 72.4% of jobs I applied for didn’t even bother to send any sort of communication letting me know that I didn’t get the job. Some of the companies that didn’t reply back didn’t mean much to me. They were just jobs I found on job boards that sounded interesting, so I applied. There were three companies that I applied for that were dream companies that I would have considered leaving a great job for. Of those three companies, only WordPress took the time to send me a rejection email3Nothing against the other two companies, hence not sharing who the other two companies are. But it was incredibly disappointing, particularly considering how both companies present themselves to their client base..

That said, there were still 108 rejection emails that I got. Most of those emails were form emails that looked something like this.

Dear Timothy,

Thank you for your interest in 55555EX – Business Worker at The Business Company and for the time you took to submit your interest in this position. We carefully review hundreds of resumes daily, and while your skills and accomplishments caught our eye, we have decided to pursue other candidates.

However, this isn’t goodbye! Just as we value our customers, we also value you and appreciate that you considered The Business Company during your job search. We invite you to keep checking our careers website, as new opportunities are added daily.

We wish you much success as you continue your job search.

Best wishes,

The Business Company Talent Acquisition Team

I understand that large organizations receive countless resumes on a daily basis. If that organization is telling me no without even giving a phone screening for the position, as the email above was for, I find this to be an acceptable email. Sure, it’s impersonal. And after you’ve received 12 of these emails from the same company4The company who wrote this particular form email employs a ton of people in Northern Ohio. As such, they have numerous job postings year round., it does come off as disingenuous. But that said, it’s not a bad email, per say.

On the other hand, there’s emails like this.

Dear Timothy,

Thank you for submitting your application for the Business Worker position. We appreciate your interest in The Business Company.

We received numerous applications for this position and were not able to consider them all. Unfortunately, your application was not reviewed for this position.

We look forward to speaking with you in the future as new opportunities become available.

Thank you again for your interest and good luck in your job search!

The Business Company Talent Acquisition Team

While this wasn’t the worst rejection email I received5It wasn’t even the worst form email I got., it is representative of some of the most frustrating ones I got. To tell a candidate that the time they took to apply for your job was so wasted that you didn’t even look at their application is an embarrassing way to represent your company. Not only does that deter someone from applying to work for your company in the future, it also deters them from being one of your customers.

I recognize that not ever employer can take the time to give a personalized response to each and every applicant that applies for a job with a company. I also recognize that not every applicant to a position will meet the basic qualifications for the position they’re applying for6Oddly enough, I was better qualified for the job in the second email than the first one., hence complicating individualized candidate review processes. So how does a company make a rejection email better? Oddly enough, I think another form rejection email I received can point us in the right direction.

Dear Tim,

Thank you for your interest in the Business Worker position at The Business Company. Although you were not selected, we wish to thank you for presenting yourself for candidacy and encourage you to continue to review our employment opportunities at [website redacted] and apply for any position that meets your qualifications as they become available.

We sincerely thank you for your interest in becoming a member of the Business Company family and look forward to you presenting your candidacy again.

The Business Company Human Resources Group

When I got the email above the first time, I didn’t think much of it. I had applied for a position that was a massive reach for my qualifications and experience. I applied for three more roles with this company at various points in early 2018, only to get the same form email back each time. That said, this one never got on my nerves. If anything, I felt a bit uplifted when I read it. I think the main reason for this is one small section of a giant run-on sentence.

“Apply for any position that meets your qualifications as they become available.”

To me, this specific sentence reads as “hey…you didn’t get this role…but you should apply to the roles you feel you’d succeed in as you continue your job search”. After reading repeated form emails where I was told my qualifications didn’t exactly fit the role’s requirements7If I had a dollar for every “entry level” job where the job poster wanted 3-5 years or more of experience, I wouldn’t have needed a new job., seeing this sentence was a welcome light in the sea of frustration that was my job search. If you can’t, as a company, find a way to review every application8You should. or give a personalized rejection email to every candidate who isn’t considered, at least give them some encouragement to continue their job search on their terms.

Oh. And if you’re one of the companies that can’t be bothered to send rejection emails to people you’re not considering for a job, get your shit together. People don’t spend two hours filling out an application that has five essay questions to be ignored.

Update: Since writing this post in May, I received an email from a company I applied for back in February that was apparently just getting through their resume review process. It holds a special place in my heart because of this post, as you’ll see once you read it.

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your interest in the Business Worker position at The Business Company. We have reviewed your application. I must regretfully inform you that the position has been filled. However, we will maintain your resume on file for a one-year period. We will contact you should there be an opening that matches your profile during that time.

We wish to thank you for your interest in our company and wish you great success in your future endeavors.

via email only