Write-On-Wednesdays – 2001: A Short Odyssey

Introducing Write On Wednesdays: a weekly warm-up for all endurance writers.  Wednesday is the day we limber up for the challenge of writing a story a month; or keep the muscles warm after the challenge is over. No point getting all those creative muscles in shape only to let them atrophy!

The Prompt

What might you – or a character very like you – have been doing on this afternoon ten years ago? Write a short story that springs from a circumstance or character from your life in February 2001.

OK, so we weren’t traveling to moon bases and stopping off on rotating space stations, but there was a lot of other stuff going on. Remember, this was post-Millennium Bug, pre-9/11 (but only by 7 months), after the first dotcom bubble had burst but before the banking/mortgage collapse. Friends and Seinfeld were still on the air but American Idol was not. “Reality” TV was just about to take over from quiz shows as the new money spinner for networks and no-one was watching video online yet.

What was life like all those years ago? Take us back.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in some way in your story (however tenuous the connection)
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Travel back in time to Feb 2001: http://t.co/OpHsJ04 #WriteOnWed #storyaday #wow

What were you doing 10 years ago? Is there a story there? #WriteOnWed http://t.co/OpHsJ04

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is “2001”: hhttp://t.co/OpHsJ04

Come and write with us: http://t.co/OpHsJ04 #WriteOnWed #storyaday #wow

See my story – and write your own: http://t.co/OpHsJ04 #WriteOnWed #storyaday #wow

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

With thanks to my friends at Creative Copy Challenge for inspiration and support. Go to Creative Copy Challenge every day for a new writing prompt and supportive community of writers.

4 thoughts on “Write-On-Wednesdays – 2001: A Short Odyssey”

  1. Foot & Mouth

    It was dark as a witch’s teat and just as bitter.

    God, I hate February, Stuart thought. He turned up the brown corduroy collar of his waxed jacket awkwardly with one hand and then cupped the hand in front of his mouth, blowing on the numbed fingers as if that would help.

    The beam of light from his left hand played out on the ground in front of him. It was match-flicker in the universe of pre-dawn darkness but he took it with him to stop him going over on his ankle, tripped by the petrified mud ruts, marked with Massey Fergusson treads. They were wider than they should have been, he noticed. Damn Jack. Stuart had told him to watch the tyre pressure. The last thing they needed was a FUBAR tractor on top of everything else.

    A blast of wind caught him from behind and blew Stuart forward, skipping almost, as if he was dancing a Gay Gordon’s with Shona at the Young Farmer’s ceilidh. He wished he was.

    He felt the ground beneath his boots change to the uniform, cold concrete-under-mud that bordered the byre. Stuart stopped, clipped the torch to his belt and fumbled in his pocket for the padlock key. Once, twice his frozen fingers failed to find the keyhole. Stuart tried out some of his ripest curses, hurling them into air, letting the wind catch them and rip them away, out into the far pasture. No danger of anyone up at the house hearing him, even though they’d all be up by now: Mum cooking up porridge, even though nobody ate it but her; Dad looking at yesterday’s bills and trying to figure out which ones could wait.

    BSE had hit them hard back in the early 90s but they’d toughed it out, they’d worked odd jobs, they’d got their compensation from the EU and Stuart had come back from university ready to help. Slowly, slowly they had worked their way back to a place where he could finally thing about going into town and buying that ring from Johnson’s for Shona. Dad had said they could have half an acre up the brae, and there was room in the main house for them until they could put their own up.

    Smiling a little now, Stuart felt the padlock spring open. He tugged the door, fighting the wind, and opened it just enough to allow himself to slip inside the byre. He didn’t notice the smells: warm hay, sweat, urine, dung, hot breath. He just flipped on the lights and sang out,

    “Morning, my girls. How’s everyone today?”

    The cows shuffled and stamped, knowing that his arrival meant food and relief of the straining bags under their bellies. Everything he expected to hear, he heard. But there was just a little less, wasn’t there?

    Stuart was striding down the rows of stalls, enjoying the warmth generated by so many bodies, when he suddenly stopped. He closed his eyes and listened. Yes. There was definitely something different. The cows were quieter. What was the word? Lethargic?

    A cold finger tickled something deep in his chest. It’s probably nothing, he told himself. But he turned. And he looked into the nearest stall.

    Did she look thinner? And hadn’t production been down yesterday, and the day before?

    Moving slowly now, making reassuring noises all the time, Stuart stepped into the stall, and worked his way towards the cow’s head. He patted her, soothing. He ran his hand down the bristly face, over the velvet nose, and eased his fingers under her lips. She shook her head and snorted but he calmed her all the time.

    Grabbing the torch from his belt, Stuart shone the light on the cow’s mouth. When he saw what he was looking for he dropped both hands and sagged, winded. In the blistered mouth of that one cow he saw disaster. He saw his Dad’s defeated slump, his mother’s unshed tears and Shona’s disappointed face. He saw pyres of burning cattle flesh and bankers at the door of the house with sheafs of paper on clipboards and little wooden signs to hammer into the flowerbeds his grandfather had planted.

    He wanted to howl like the window outside the byre, to rage and run and fight the fates, but all he could do was stroke a soft nose and whisper,

    “I’m sorry.”

    —-

    Sorry this one was so depressing 😉 I was inspired by memories of the Foot & Mouth outbreak in Britain in 2001 and by the stories friends of mine told about living through the BSE crisis.

  2. Ah, but it was hard not to when you were living there.

    I still can’t give blood in the US because I lived in the UK in the 80s & 90s!

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