Monday Challenge: Wrong Choice Combo #2 With Extra Fortune Cookie

An oyster pail (Chinese takeout container) con...

Can I get that poor life choice with a side of Felt Good At The Time Sauce? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Characters are sad, fucked up little bastards. They ask the wrong questions, fuck the guy they know they shouldn’t, say things just to hurt people, drink the jar of bubbling green liquid marked ‘Poison, Seriously, Don’t Touch’, and generally exhibit what our high school guidance counselors called “poor life choices”*.

At least, the good ones do.

Here is a hurdle at which many otherwise decent writers fall. The instinct as Story Gods**, since we make all the choices for the characters, is to make the right choice. Or at least not a badly, horrifically damaging one. Because the characters are us, in a way, and if we know what the right choice is, why would we make the wrong one?*** At least if we know what the worst possible choice is, we’re not going to do that.

Are we?

Evidence suggests that human beings make those kinds of choices all the fucking time. Sometimes we do it because we’re confused, or angry, or want to hurt someone, or want to hurt ourselves. Sometimes we do it because we think we’re making the right choice, but it later turns out to be Bad Choice Number Three with a side of Bastard Sauce, Extra Hot. Part of it is because, being humans instead of Story Gods, we don’t fucking know what the right choice is sometimes. But a bigger part is just people being people. We fuck up so much we could do it for a living.

Monday Challenge time, godlets: Someone has to choose. It could be a life or death choice, or it could be what sock to put on first. But, whatever they choose, make sure they choose wrong. And write what happens next.

*I knew a guy in university who double majored in Poor Life Choices and Passing Out In Stairwells. They were related subjects.
**I’m trying this out as an alternative to Writer. I think it will be a more interesting way to introduce myself to people at holiday parties.
***Again, I know a guy who does this. More than one, actually.


6 thoughts on “Monday Challenge: Wrong Choice Combo #2 With Extra Fortune Cookie

  1. I do not like my sister in-law.
    I hate that fucking bitch, actually.
    I’m not sure when the hate actually began. Was it at my wedding with her condescending toast regarding all the other women my husband could have had? Was it at the birth of my first child six months later and all the jokes about shotgun weddings when she was just a preemie?
    Maybe it’s because she’s always just so fucking perfect. Her house is always clean. Her children are always well-behaved. Her job is one she’s in love with.
    My husband knows how I feel about Elizabeth. For him I do my best to pretend like she hasn’t hurt me. “She doesn’t actually mean things the way they come out,” he’s told me more than once. “She’s just got two left feet in her mouth.”
    And now it’s Christmas and I stare at the hand-calligraphed envelope with the embossed sticker on the back. I know what’s inside it. The inevitable Christmas update letter.
    It will gush about how perfect everything is. Absolutely nothing negative will have happened that year in my sister-in-law’s household. The words may be different, but every year it is the same fucking thing.
    I don’t want to play this year.
    I don’t even open the damn thing. I just chuck it in the trash and continue with my day. Sara has choir lessons. Will needs a costume for his play at school. My husband is supposed to be coming home in three days, just in time for Christmas and the house is wreck.
    The letter still haunts me. I can feel it watching me from the trash can, even when I’m not in the house.
    I have to do something about it. I have to fire back, somehow. A returning salvo across her perfect decks.
    After the kids go to bed I type up my own update letter. Everything is over the top.
    Everything is so awesome this year! I have to send this all in email because I can’t wait for everyone to hear all the great news this year!
    At age 9, Sara has been accepted with a full scholarship at Juliard, but has decided to take a year backpacking across Europe, just for fun. Fortunately, she has decided to put off marrying Timmy (the adorable boy next door) until after she has her master’s degree. We’ve told her a psychology degree with an emphasis on music therapy and a minor in particle physics might be over-extending herself a bit, but you know what kind of an over-over-achiever she is. She couldn’t even wait to be born properly, she was so excited to get on with life.
    This is not to say that Will hasn’t had his own successes. He might be younger, be he’s still taking life by the horns, just like his sister. We just today received a notice that he’s in the running for a Noble Peace Prize. I guess his essay on “World Peace for Christmas” had a bigger effect on international relations than we thought. Will has said he wants to take it slow for his senior year at high school, so he’s only taking 4 Advanced Placement courses instead of 7 like this year. He’s decided that he’s going to be a doctor and has already managed to line up a summer internship with “Doctors Without Borders.”
    We’re so proud.
    Fortunately, last week we won the PowerBall. $387 million dollars! With this money, we’ll be able to give our kids the lives they want and still have money left over to retire comfortably next year.
    Happy Holidays!
    I generate a huge list of email recipients consisting of friends and family and hit the “send” button. I suddenly feel relaxed. My sister-in-law’s card has been responded to and all without a single foul word from me.
    The next evening I’m able to check my email. Most everyone has replied with “LOL” or “ROTFLMFAO,” or some other variant. I’m smiling when the phone rings and kept help the words that spring from my mouth. “The Smith’s House of Perfection,” I answer sweetly.
    “That was a funny letter,” a slurred voice came from the other end.
    “Oh. Thank you,” I say, checking caller ID because I don’t recognize the voice. It’s Elizabeth.
    “I wish I could laugh at things like you do,” she continues, sounding mumbly-wistful. And drunk.
    Elizabeth gets drunk?
    “Oh, God, I hate my life,” she suddenly says. I can hear the sloppy tears and the runny nose. The sounds are muffled by something, then there’s a gulping noise.
    Elizabeth rambles on with a drunken confessional. The pressure to be perfect. The husband who cheats. The desire to just leave but she feels she can’t until after the kids have graduated high school. The detentions, the acting out. All the activities she jams them into so they’ll be too tired to ask why Dad isn’t home tonight or why Mom is so sad sometimes.
    Lord weeping Jesus, what have I done?
    “It was good to laugh,” she hiccups. “Send me another one, ‘kay?”
    “Sure,” I say. “Good night.” I don’t have the courage to say “Merry Christmas.”

    • *hesitantly starts humming ‘Jingle Bells’*

      Nice job! Amusing side note: the email notification for this comment accidentally got routed to my family folder. I didn’t look too closely at the subject as a consequence. So when I clicked it, I thought it was from one of my cousins or something. And then read that. Surprise!

  2. “We fuck up so much we could do it for a living.”
    … could? We DO do it for a living, all of us. How we manage to survive doing it I don’t know. Well, some of us don’t, and I guess those are the ones who do it right. At some point they’ve learned to fuck up properly, and then they’re goners. The rest of us are still learning, bloody fucking amateurs that we are. It’s a basic problem: the mentors are dead as soon as they have reached the level of expertise required. The rest of us dither along…

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