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TheWriteStuff
February 9th, 2014, 10:11 AM
Hope everyone enjoys this story. General comments are welcome and I'd like to hear thoughts on how to tighten up the ending. The current end doesn't feel quite right. Enjoy!


Trust Me, I'm an Idiot

Most of my life Iíve been considered smart. Growing up I breezed through school, made it into a prestigious university, and am now working in the strategy department of a large corporation. My hobbies include crossword puzzles, reading, and learning. Youíre probably imagining right now what I look like and youíre correct in thinking I wear glasses. Yes, Iím the poster child of overachieving former honors students from across America. Understand though that this is all a massive shield for my true self. I am, without a doubt, a complete, and utter, idiot.

A bit harsh you might say, so let me tell you a story. This is a true story, it happened, well, just yesterday. Letís start a little earlier than that though. For context, we need to go back to January 1st, New Years.

I had the day off work and so did a few of my friends, so we met up for lunch. What we ate, who they are, and where we were doesnít really matter for this story, but since Iím sure youíre curious anyways: burritos, Neha and Gregory (friends from school), Manuelís Tacqueria in Palo Alto, CA. The important part is our discussion of New Yearís resolutions. Iím typically against them and havenít set any for myself in years. Why give up something I enjoy doing just so I can feel guilty once I inevitably pick it up again? But the both of them were convinced of the value of making a resolution, whether it is kept or not, saying that it forces you to address parts of your person that youíd like to change and bring those out into the open. They asked me what I was dissatisfied with in my life. The truth is not much. Iím in relatively good shape, eat well, and enjoy work, but, I told them, I could possibly be less tight with my money and get some fun things once in a while. This beget my New Yearís resolution: to set aside $50 every month, money which could only be spent on frivolous items or activities.
At work the next day I set up an automatic deposit to a new checking account to fulfill my resolution. A month later and the account had $50 in it. I thought about what I wanted to spend it on, what had I wanted for a long time but never had the justification to buy? I decided on a Zippo lighter.

No, I donít smoke. But Iíve wanted one of these lighters ever since I went to camp the summer before freshman year of high school. One of my friends, Cole, had a Zippo and was able to do tricks with it like The Thumb Squeeze and Twilight Zone (he also used to light peopleís socks on fire, which eventually got the lighter taken away by a counselor, but I digress). It made him the envy of the camp.

That was ten years ago and it was exactly the kind of purchase perfect for my ďpay yourself firstĒ fund. I ordered it and lighter fluid online.

Two days later I came home to my studio apartment after a fairly long day of work and, sitting at the base of my door, was a small brown box. I grabbed the box, unlocked the door, and walked into the main room, tossing down keys, laptop bag, and jacket on my way to my bed, the unfortunate centerpiece of the room.

Resting against the headboard I pulled off my shoes and tossed them aside and then ripped at the tape on the box. Inside was a larger than expected tin can of lighter fluid and a small black box bearing the name ďZippoĒ on the outside. I opened the box and there it was, a gleaming brass objet díart. I picked it up, immediately smearing greasy fingerprints over the previously mirrored finish. It was a solid piece; the heft of it was clearly felt in my hand. This was the armor version of the classic Zippo, with slightly more robust casing walls and sturdy hinge and it felt like the embodiment of luxury. Sitting in the shipping box was the invoice: $16.45. Well worth the price. I was glad my friends had talked me into my rewarding resolution.

Earlier that week I had watched a video on how to fill the lighter and began the process by pulling out the insert and placing it upside down in the case. There is a thick piece of felt on the bottom of the insert with a small hole in it. The idea is that you use a needle, pen, or similar object to lift up the felt flap which in turn exposes the cotton to be soaked with lighter fluid. I used the pen I keep in my pocket to lift the flap and then held the felt flap open with one hand while reaching for the lighter fluid tin with the other. The nozzle on the top of the tin was recessed within a plastic groove and my fingernails werenít long enough to pull it out, so what did I do? Well I used my teeth, of course. The little nozzle popped out and as it did, the tin slipped from my hand and fell, open, onto my bed. I grabbed it immediately and it didnít appear that any of the flammable liquid had spilled, so I proceeded with squirting five second bursts of fluid into the lighterís reservoir.

The process was much messier than I had imagined. There was extra fluid on my hands and on the outside of the lighter. It felt odd on my hands, moist, yet drying at the same time. I closed the tin and pushed the felt flap back into place. My next move was to put the insert back into the case and then give it a test light.
With a forceful flick of my thumb I gave the flint wheel a mighty spin and watched the spark turn into flame, a flame which, as I watched with ever more terrified eyes, began on the wick, then spread to the case, and then to my hand.
Calm under pressure as always, I dropped the lighter while simultaneously flinging my arm backwards and emitting the most masculine of shrieks. I jumped up, blowing on my thumb like it had been replaced with one of those inane trick candles. No effect.

I ran to the sink (this is a studio apartment, so it was only a few steps away) and threw open the tap, dousing my finger in the cooling stream. Disaster averted.
Or at least that was the thought until the fire alarm went off. I pivoted and saw the bed was covered in flames. I grabbed a half full glass of water next to the sink and threw its contents towards the bed. It had the exact effect you might have guessed, namely none.

Next, I reached for two kitchen towels, and ran (again, just a few steps) to the bed, swinging both arms in haymakers, like Alex and his droogs, trying to beat the fire out of existence.
A loud knocking came from the door. I looked at the towels in my hands, both on fire, and threw them onto the bed and ran to the door (still only a few steps). I swung the door open. It was Ayumi, the old Japanese woman who lived next door. She was holding a large red fire extinguisher, exactly what I needed. I reached for it but she swatted my hand away and strode towards the fire, releasing the white foam towards the flames. Sweat billowed from her brow as she battled the blaze. It was hot, I wish I hadnít thrown that glass of water away. Eventually, the bed was extinguished.

Ayumi glared at me as she walked out. I thanked her, of course, but she didnít seem to care. The apartment was in ruins. The bed was black, and the ceiling was ashy gray. That extra $50 each month would have to go towards replacing most of my apartment and cleaning the smoke damage, so it appeared the resolution was over after just one month. But this was probably a good thing. Next month I was planning on getting a bb gun and if month one had any takeaways it is that I probably would have shot my eye out.

Gaurav
February 24th, 2014, 06:55 PM
Most of my life I’ve been considered smart. Growing up I breezed through school, made it into a prestigious university, and am now working in the strategy department of a large corporation. My hobbies include crossword puzzles, reading, and learning. You’re probably imagining right now what I look like and you’re correct in thinking I wear glasses. Yes, I’m the poster child of overachieving former honors students from across America. [/QUOTE]

The main problem here is the the start seems pretty dull. The detailed descriptive start is acceptable in every genre except humour. Here the description is given excess importance while the story seems dragged due to it.

Also, the story has absolutely no dialogues. Try to add at least few of them that would be helpful. Overall the story is fine though. Keep writing! That will improve you!

Gaurav
February 24th, 2014, 06:55 PM
Most of my life Iíve been considered smart. Growing up I breezed through school, made it into a prestigious university, and am now working in the strategy department of a large corporation. My hobbies include crossword puzzles, reading, and learning. Youíre probably imagining right now what I look like and youíre correct in thinking I wear glasses. Yes, Iím the poster child of overachieving former honors students from across America. [/QUOTE]

The main problem here is the the start seems pretty dull. The detailed descriptive start is acceptable in every genre except humour. Here the description is given excess importance while the story seems dragged due to it.

Also, the story has absolutely no dialogues. Try to add at least few of them that would be helpful. Overall the story is fine though. Keep writing! That will improve you!

Yfig
March 18th, 2014, 03:44 PM
I agee with Gaurav, dialogues are missing.
The story is a little .... previsible ...
Can't you try to make a second version with another narration .... for example, try "style exercise" ... you relate the same story but view by your japoneese neighbor ... than may be she will have another opinion than yours ????? :) :) :)

A_Jones
March 18th, 2014, 06:57 PM
Ok, I think these critiques are just as important as critiques from people who made it through the whole thing so here goes.

I couldnt make it through it. I liked the beginning sentences so I makes me sad that I couldnt, but after you said it was newyears I really started having to push myself. Maybe a reason why:



I had the day off work and so did a few of my friends, so we met up for lunch. What we ate, who they are, and where we were doesnít really matter for this story, but since Iím sure youíre curious anyways: burritos, Neha and Gregory (friends from school), Manuelís Tacqueria in Palo Alto, CA. The important part is our discussion of New Yearís resolutions.

If you tell me, the reader, its not important, that I have to take that as truth. Conversational writing only goes so far, the character who is telling the story is still what we know as the perfect truth. The reader believes everything they have to say (depending on the genre). So he says its unimportant, then I have no interest, but he went ahead and told me anyway. I wasnt 'curious' because he told me it wasnt important and I wasnt supposed to be?

Understand?

playerslayer666
April 25th, 2014, 12:54 AM
i agree with A_Jones..... and i may have done the very same thing at one point or another in my story.... i guess i learned something today.

jenthepen
April 26th, 2014, 12:04 PM
I enjoyed the laid-back, self-deprecating style of this piece. I think it would work well as spoken humour, reminds me a lot of greats like Bob Newhart. The humour was gentle rather than lol but enjoyable nontheless.


As for the ending, here's my suggestion for what it's worth. I'd omit the words in red and add the words in blue. See what you think...

Ayumi glared at me as she walked out. I thanked her, of course, but she didn’t seem to care. The apartment was in ruins. The bed was black, and the ceiling was ashy gray. Well, I guess That extra $50 each month would will have to go towards replacing most of my apartment and cleaning the smoke damage, so it appeared the resolution was over after just one month. but this was probably that might be a good thing. Next month I was (had been) planning on getting a bb gun and if month one had any takeaways it is that I probably would have shot my eye out.

Mudgeon Ramblings
June 15th, 2014, 05:00 PM
At the end just replace last sentence with somethng along the lines of-Good thing perhaps as next month i had planned on getting a bb gun, machete whatever.

Also FOR overachieving...in place of 'of' and lose 'beget'

jmho

Courtjester
November 13th, 2014, 03:03 PM
Hello, TheWriteStuff. I found your tale most amusing - shame on me for such Schadenfreude. Among other things, it reminded me of a recent experience when I bought what was described as a 'turbolighter' for my pipe. It behaved more like a flamethrower and I ditched it after a few days, glad to escape with a (nearly) whole skin. I look forward to more from you.
Courtjester

EBKMSC
December 18th, 2014, 12:29 PM
I think you should do a series. The chronicles of a dumb smart guy or something to that affect.

mw1406
January 30th, 2015, 06:39 AM
I enjoyed the self-deprecating humor as well. It's a simple story about a dumb guy doing something dumb, but it didn't kill him or cause mass devastation. Lucky for dumb guy the danger element quickly tapered to a survivable level thanks to Ayumi.

I could see this continuing with Ayumi making an appearance in every story. She is the danger-tapering savior who bursts into every story at the moment dumb guy is on the verge of complete catastrophic disaster.

I can't help but envision another story where dumb guy's curiosity leaves him with his tongue stuck to the inside of the freezer while on his tippi toes leaning inside. Ayumi makes a dramatic entry while he's side glancing at her coming at him with chop sticks.

Good job! I obviously enjoyed it.

mw1406
January 30th, 2015, 07:06 AM
I forgot to mention this. I found myself losing interest in the first few paragraphs.

I didn't feel as though all of the lead up information was relevant to the crux of the story's humor which I found so entertaining towards the end. I almost felt as though the story could have started at the point he receives the package at his door when arriving home.

Those first several paragraphs seemed very difficult to trudge through which could cause the reader to abandon the story prior to reaching the humorous payoff. Maybe lose, or at least trim, the first several paragraphs and go with the meat of the story, which I really enjoyed.

T. R. Slone
February 22nd, 2015, 04:05 AM
I enjoyed this story and even chuckled a time or two, but I feel as though I would have enjoyed it even more if the story carried actual dialog in it. Keep working and post a rewrite, I would be very interested in reading it.

Noth
February 23rd, 2015, 06:23 AM
Fire < Glasses. Got it. This story was fun by the end, I enjoyed the sarcasm implied in its dialogue but its true that the start was dull.

randyveach
February 24th, 2015, 12:06 AM
Different writing style. Even though I read and agreed with most of the critiques, I thought it showed promise. I think you are on to something, don't quit on this story.
Randy

O.A Mantle
February 28th, 2015, 06:35 AM
I enjoyed reading the misadventures of a bumbling, overachieving, well-meaning young adult.

At first he seemed like a Mary-sue because of his introduction and lack of a problem that could hurt him. But those complaints flew out the window for me when you turned a modest New Years' resolution into a disaster without going overboard in the outrageousness, it was calm and believable it read like it could happen to anyone of us.

I do wish there was dialog scattered through the a scene or two where it was appropriate, perhaps Manuel's while lunch? Give our main character and his friends some dialog about what they plan on doing for the new year?

The story (despite lacking characters speaking) describes what occures greatly without a hitch in rhythm, only at the beginning did I feel it drag but set-ups are usually the most difficult when writing.

This could be a promising series if short stories chronicling this mans misadventures, it's really clever and sharp.

Hope this review helped.

MHarding53
March 4th, 2015, 04:13 PM
This story is interesting for me since I have also been there with Zippo in hand, lighter fluid blazing away and towels a-flapping. I chuckled remembering my own experience, so the main job of entertaining has been completed successfully. When I read a story, I look for Stoppers. By that I mean places where the reader needs to stop and re-read a passage to see if he or she really got the meaning you were trying to convey. So without rehashing previous comments which I feel are the areas to look at, I will say this, each one of the points made to improve the story are valid. Great advice was given here and if these tiny areas are worked on, this will be a top notch and truly funny story. O can't wait to read the final draft!

joecabello
March 31st, 2015, 12:23 AM
With this style of piece I think a great way to keep it from being a straight story, and get it to be a lively comedic piece, is adding more opinion to it. I like to add a piece of detail of what happened, followed by my opinion or an aside, if that makes sense. I think you'll find a stronger flow and sense of purpose with the piece if you do that. David Sedaris is really good with that. If you haven't, read some of his stuff especially from Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls.
I don't think I'm articulating myself quite correctly, but here's an example from a piece I wrote (which is from a heightened persona, not my own, and by no means the greatest example of anything, so take with a grain of salt)
"We were two or three miles into the trail when I started to get really tired. When you think about it, some babies haven’t even walked three miles in their entire lives, so it’s a pretty long distance. How big was this place, anyway? Seems like a waste of space. They could fit a lot of tract housing here. Or a really great McDonalds."