It's All a Matter of Perspective: Finish the Story Contest #48

in finishthestory •  7 months ago  (edited)

elderly man finish.jpg

This is yet another round in Finish the Story Contest, sponsored by @bananafish. This week I found the beginning particularly evocative. I think it offered a path to a variety of conclusions. It'll be great to see what writers come up with.

I hope my concept took the story in an unexpected direction. But then, with this contest, anything can happen, every week :)

If you haven't tried your hand at Finish the Story, take a look. Everyone is welcome.

Without further ado, here's the combined efforts of @theironfelix and @agmoore in the creation of a unique edition of finishthestory.

The Extraordinary Café

by @theironfelix

cafe2 finish Paul Hoeniger public 1924.jpg

The warm smell of fresh brownies drifted across the cafe, ducking under the tables, squeezing through chairs, urged on by the fans; it flew. A gooey batch, chocolate chips still soft, had appeared on the counter. So loudly rang the placing of the tray, that Matt’s eyes glanced over, his mouth already watering, and so the enticing aroma managed to make him half consider ordering two.

Over Matt’s head, a clock's hand ticked a steady background beat, drawing his attention. For all wandering eyes, it was ten to two; she was twenty minutes late. A huff of impatience escaped his cracked lips, his mind drifting back to the crowded room.

An elderly man sat slouched at the table across from him, his broadsheet newspaper out of place in a room full of faces glazed by the light of phone screens. Matt‘s hand instinctively touched his own in his pocket. If he got it out, his eyes would be glued hard to it, in case the light flashed. His mind knew it would vibrate, but the flash came first. It was an addiction he couldn’t fight. Not to the phone. To her.

His mind buzzed and beeped, unable to fight the itch of wonder…

”...where was she?”

The old man‘s mouth let go of a cough, accompanying the symphony of crinkling as he flipped a page. Matt’s eyes darted up, accidentally catching his gaze, the man smiled at him eagerly folding the paper away.

Matt’s mind shuddered, cursing itself as the man rose, heading towards him. As soon as the stranger came within ear shot, Matt called out trying to put him off.

“Sorry mate, i’m waiting for someone.”

The grin over the worn face widened.

“Someone who still ain’t here yet, ‘ow about a bit of company, to help with the waiting? Whatcha say?”

Put on the spot, Matt’s thoughts already ablaze, he found himself nodding before reason could interject. The flame in his mind was inundated with worries and the urge to call her now - to see where oh where she was. Matt didn’t have the patience for small talk, but it was too late; the elderly man was lowering himself into the chair opposite.

The chair eeking with the slow applying pressure of aching joints, a wry smile found itself on the old man’s lips. In the opposite side of tension: a forced smile began forming on Matt’s dry lips, his hand quivering but extending for an introduction.

My Conclusion:

It's All a Matter of Perspective

By @agmoore

Helping hands2 attr U3119414 4.0 Internationl.jpg

The blast threw Matt to the floor. Instantly, his training kicked in.

Assess the environment. Ascertain risk. Identify casualties.

Where did it go off? Probably in the rear, next to the restrooms. Likely no one survived back there. Those who were able stumbled toward the front door. A wailing filled the room. Debris rained from the ceiling.

The old man was sprawled, a couple of feet away. Was he alive? Conscious?

Eyes open. Glassy. Certainly in shock. Other injuries, perhaps. Not clear.

Course of action: establish position under cover of the table. Pull the old man in. Wait for a second blast, likely to follow soon. He knew the pattern of attack: increase casualties by targeting escape routes and timing subsequent detonations.

The old man trembled as Matt secured him under the flat table top. No apparent broken bones.

"Sir. Can you hear me? You're OK. You're safe. "

Drool issued from the man's trembling lips. He sought Matt's gaze. Conscious, but not fully aware.

"I'm going to cover you with my jacket. Help will come soon."

Were they safe? This was the best option in any event. Sturdy broad top offered acceptable temporary shelter.

Sirens in the distance.

Explosion, smaller than the first, outside, close by.

Screams. A rush to get back into the restaurant. Smoke. Stench of burning plastic.

Matt held fast to his location. The old man was barely responsive. Matt placed his own body gently over the man's torso. Keep the man warm until help arrived. And that better be soon. The old man wasn't going to last long.

A commanding voice at the front entrance.

"Everybody, calm down. Help is here. Slowly, one at a time, come toward the exit. If you can't walk, stay where you are until a medic sees you."

A wave of blue, NYPD officers, converged in the street. The front of the restaurant had been blown away. Instead of a door, a hollowness, an empty, smoldering cavity, opened to the sidewalk.

Officers entered in disciplined formation. Guns drawn. Everyone was suspect, until questioned and identified.

Medics were ushered through, the only people with a clear mission in that newly minted hell.

An NYPD lieutenant spotted Matt under the table and took in the scene: old man trembling, Matt protecting.

"You two all right down there?"

"He needs help, right away."

"It's coming. Keep him warm. Do what you're doing."

A couple of minutes later two medics gently lifted the old man onto a stretcher.

Matt stood, pulled out his ID.

"US Air force. Combat medic."

"Over there, Sergeant."

A young girl, labored breathing, gash in her chest. Matt started toward her and felt the vibration in his pocket.

Cell phone.

It struck him that he didn't care. That his previous preoccupation was absurd. He collected a pair of surgical gloves and knelt next to the distressed child.

building with cellphone.jpg

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If it comes to it the date is less important as acting. Good story, took me by surprise

Posted using Partiko Android

Thank you!

Wow, you threw me right away into an action scene!

I like how Matt ignores the phone in the end as it becomes relative how important things are respectively their importance can change within the occurring events.

He switches on an imprinted habit from his education and training and functions like a straight one. Though the phone buzz triggers the question if finally his date calls and that she was not among the victims - but it remains a little uncertain who actually calls Matt, which I also like.

So yeah, it's a matter of perspective.

Thank you, Erika. Had to resolve his issue--that's our assignment, I believe, in the second half, but also wanted to shake things up in an unexpected direction. I think you and and I share one trait: impatience with waiting for things to happen. We tend to be proactive. Matt was forced to act in the midst of a catastrophe. No Hamlets tolerated in my universe :) Glad you liked where I took the story.

HaHa!! Very much so - I am action driven when situations like this would take place around me. Though not an explosion or some things of this sort, I really don't know, never happened to me. But usually I am not a spectator, either I do something or I leave the scene.

LOL to the Hamlets, too!

Hope you have/had a good morning.

P.S. off the topic: what I really must say is that I am really frustrated for none of the finishthestories of mine to have received a curie. Clearly an ego-thing with me here :-))))

I'm sorry about the is sometimes a matter of pride. But then, you do so well on this platform. You are so appreciated. And your story is unique. You know it. My husband keeps reminding me that I'm having fun, and that's important. So, I keep my eye on that and every post is a win :)

:) no disagreement. Your husband is right.
I have my proud spots, I admit it. wink.

Thank you, my friend.

🌻🌼 🌟

I feel the same as you about curie. And Her husband is right. The fun and the interactions with other writers really fill the absent of curie. At last, this is the first time I felt it that way.

Oh wow! Just wow, and thank you. This was actually a cowrite between me and @theironfelix and after we finished, I listed endings I was hoping for most, we have had a few of them, but there was one so unexpected I didn't think we'd get anything even in the region. Not giving anything away in case we get any late entries, but what you have here is actually a better action-smash way to take it than i possibly could have imagined. In true FTS style, you took all expectations and blew them away - along with half the cafe!

You dive right into the full weight of the topic, and you tell it so very well, I got so caught up in your ending, the first half was immediately forgotten, which wouldn't normally be a good thing but here really is. By the time his phone went off, I had to almost catch myself to remember the relevance. In fact, i would go so far as to say, this is so very well told, you could replace the first two sentences in the last paragraph with him something as simple as "He barely noticed." and it would carry just as well, although that said, this equally may be too well written for that, it is so captivating, the extra emphasis may be necessary for some readers, and I am no expert ;)

This ending is such a sheer stroke of brilliance, thank you @agmoore for your ingenuity and commitment to telling this properly. You don't shy away from the harsh reality, but you don't over paint it, allowing it to hit just the right amount for a genuinely hair raising ending <3

Thank you so much, @calluna. I wanted him to grow. Sometimes you have to shake someone up (I mean, really shake them up 😁) in order for them to see through the fog of their own preoccupation. I needed the child at the end, for me. It wasn't just that the phone was irrelevant, but that there's so much in life he can focus on, and do. And find satisfaction in.
I get involved in characters when I write. It was such a great beginning. So well crafted, so open to a writer's imagination. One of the best beginnings yet. Thanks for that gift :)

Since I did tell @calluna she now is my official voice, I agree and approve to what she said above.

However, I want to respond here as myself and it might extend to @calluna’s thoughts as well. But I shan’t steal her thunder. While I may generally not agree with using tragedies (especially for underrepresented portions of the population) as a means for character growth/depth for it is rather a hard thing to pull off right and not cause offence. But since I think you’ve done the tragedy aspect well, I did find the ending enjoyable and all the implications of such an event. So the character-crafting was done well and you’ve done a good service to your interest of creating/growing characters.

So keep om writing and happy steeming!

Thank you!


  ·  7 months ago (edited)

And you did that so very well, this is very much the mental snow globe shake, the way the character changes in the situation demonstrates that instantly.

I completely agree, it needs the child, that is very much part of what makes the ending so powerful, I only meant this bit

It struck him that he didn't care. That his previous preoccupation was absurd.

But then I was more saying I felt exactly what you express here when I paused at the cell phone going off, before I read the line, that it is so well written, you could say it less explicitly here, not that it would necessarily be improved for better or worse, but that you convey the message so well in the skill of your writing.

Aww that is so wonderful to hear, we actively tried to write an opening that would provide as much possibility as we could ❤️

(🤩~Mój Ukochany is a commenting superstar!~🤩)

You are absolutely right. Especially in a story that is so which I strove to cut it down to clean lines, the first sentence says it. I think perhaps the second strays into a lecture... I might still indulge but stylistically not really warranted.
You do have an eye :)

Equally when writing for an international audience, even with your penmanship it can be worth making sure it hits the mark so I still wouldn't say for certain. And now you say that, I think the only reason I noticed is how wonderfully concise the rest of this is.
❤️ (ohhh that really got me, I always lack confidence in my opinion, thank you)


(<3 I told yah mój Ukochany that yer a great commentor with great opinions <3)

@agmoore, this was intense. I didn't expect it. I thought you were going to get sweat and sobby ... right out of the gate, I'm thrown forward. Even the pictures threw me off.

I don't really do sweat and sobby... bit of a rebel here :)

Excellent ending. You took us from a nice calm morning at the local restaurant, waiting for your girl, into an action packed adventure. Very vivid imagery, I could feel their panic. Matt really stepped up to the plate when he was needed.

I wanted to shake things up (!), change the dynamic, and yet allow Matt to grow. Creating a crisis gave him that opportunity, I think. Thank you for your kind words. Sometimes my stories are so lean, they almost disappear :)

Exciting story that resonates well in the world today.

Thank you @cyemela! I wanted to try something surprising and still help Matt to grow. That you like it means a lot. Looking for your story....

What a blast. One of my favorite endings are those capable to blend with the prompt but, at the same time, to display that off-the-schemes touch of originality. Since a lot has been already underlined trough admirable in-depth comments, I will just add that the functional sentence structure shows clearly your writing skills.

Thank you!

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