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Different Journeys - Smashed Mobile Phone
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Different Journeys

  18+  Teresa's first thing in the morning text message was a punch in the guts.

"Sorry, Colin. I love you, but we're on different journeys. Let's stay friends."

I blinked twice to clear my eyes and was about to respond, "Are you serious?" but threw the phone against the bedroom wall instead.

BUGGER, that was stupid! I picked up my phone and dusted off the shattered glass and plaster from the impact. The phone was dead.

Bad things come in threes, I consoled myself. Teresa had dumped me, I'd broken my phone, and I needed to fix the hole in the wall before the next rental inspection. The day couldn't get worse.

But I'd forgotten Shakespeare's warning, "Beware the Ides of March." 

Okay, it wasn't the fifteenth of March, but the backstabbing and virtual blood spilt during the mid-morning sales team meeting on Zoom had all the hallmarks of a Shakespearean tragedy. 

"Please call me ASAP about your figures," the sales manager messaged in a private chat during the meeting. 

"Yes, of course," I responded, "but my phone died this morning. I need to buy a new one."

Prioritise it!" she commanded in the chat.

"Of course," I replied again, trying to appear as calm and impassive over Zoom as an Easter Island statue. 

My mind wandered. Last week, Teresa texted me a link for a South American tour, including the Easter Islands. In contrast to stay-at-home me, she liked far-flung adventures. How did the dating app miss that in our profiles?

"Are you with us, Colin?" the manager asked aloud over Zoom. 

I refocused on the present and the tiles of the team staring at me on the laptop, several smirking at my schoolboy-like discomfort for being caught daydreaming.

"Yes, sorry," I apologised. "There must have been a glitch with Zoom or my WiFi."

The manager didn't return my smile, but her laser vision locked onto me as she closed the meeting, reminding us of the importance of achieving team and individual targets.  

After the morning's stresses, I needed to stretch my legs and clear my head, so I left the apartment to buy a roll for lunch and a new phone. 

Unlike Teresa's dreams of a tree change and trekking bush trails, I loved my apartment's central location and the busy city streets. It was another mismatch in our dating app profiles, like my chicken rolls and Teresa's vegetarian wraps.

I nibbled my roll and contemplated our differences while waiting for the technician to set up the new phone. Before this morning, Teresa and I had discussed moving in together. Now, that seemed as likely as me achieving my monthly sales target.

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The technician handed me the phone, and I checked my messages. There were several from the sales team and manager, one from the dating app, but none from Teresa.

They say life is full of compromises. I regret making them at work. But I wish I'd made a few and booked the South American tour with Teresa.

© 2024 Robert Fairhead

Thanks to Bjørnar Kibsgaard for sharing the smashed phone image on Pixabay.

I wrote Different Journeys (originally titled, Different Wavelengths) in January 2024 for the Not Quite Write Prize, run by the Not Quite Write podcast. The brief for the competition was:

  • Your story must feature the word PUNCH. The word must be used in full with no spaces or interrupting punctuation. However, it may be included within a longer word provided the original spelling is retained, e.g. punching or punchline.
  • It must feature the action of "spilling something". You don’t need to use this exact wording, and you can feature the action prominently or simply as an aside. The action may occur before the beginning of your story or after it ends, as long as it’s referenced somewhere within your story.
  • And it must break the rule "avoid clichés". You can interpret this anti-prompt in whatever creative way you see fit, but your goal should remain to tell the best story possible.

Writers had 60 hours from midday Friday to midnight Sunday to write and submit their 500-word flash fiction stories. 

Thanks to the Australian Writers' Centre's Furious Fiction challenges, I'm used to writing short stories to tight deadlines, so I had faith in my creativity and process. But as I admitted in the insight for the first story I wrote for the Not Quite Write Prize in July 2023, In Her Head, I struggle with anti-prompts! 

I settled on two clichés:

  1. A punch in the guts.
  2. Life is full of compromises.

Interestingly, as podcast hosts and competition judges Ed and Amanda revealed, there were many "punches in the guts" in the stories submitted. Even the winning entry, It Never Rains But It Pours by Athena Law (on Twitter/X), which "famously" featured the one-word opening sentence, "Moist.", included the line:

The old ceiling fan punches through the humidity, causing darling goosebumps across your golden, youthful skin.

My story wasn't short or longlisted for the Not Quite Write Prize, but it didn't feel like a punch in the guts because I enjoyed writing Different Journeys and proving, once again, that my process works!

Grammarly

Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.

Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.

Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.

He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ~ Maya Angelou

Tall And True showcases the writing — fiction, nonfiction and reviews — of a dad and dog owner, writer and podcaster, Robert Fairhead. Guest Writers are also invited to share and showcase their writing on the website.

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