A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Word Count Goal

A thousand words of the saga per day.  That’s the personal, ongoing goal I’ve set for myself in writing the Blue Daunia series.  I usually hit it.  Hell, I actually usually exceed it!  Rare indeed are the days I fail to meet my goal.

I thought today might be one of those rare days.  Spoiler alert:  it wasn’t; I made it.  Exceeded it, actually.  But it was certainly no thanks to my good friend James.

A bit of background:  James is very good when it comes to the technical aspects of computers.  He knows his networking, is fairly proficient in making machines do what he wants them to do, and has even worked for a fairly major networking specialist company.

So anyway, I headed to a famous coffee shop around 6pm, ready to “clock in” and get to work toward my 1,000 word goal.  James would be joining me shortly, as he often does, with his laptop and his big ol’ book on some sort of programming language he’s trying to learn. . . phpBB+ Omega Beta or something (is that a thing?).  I don’t mind his company during my “work” nights, as he’s one of my longest-term friends and a decent fella to bounce ideas off of, and usually keeps to his own studies when I’m trying to lay the hammer down on some text.

At about 6:30, I’ve already gotten 200 words pounded out on my AlphaSmart Neo2 when James saunters in, his trusty laptop bag on his shoulder.  He plunks it down on the table and hits the line to order his drink (I’ve already settled in with my iced black tea with mango).

At 220 words, James is back at the table, pulling the PhpBbPbPBp book and the laptop from the bag.  He goes to hook the power brick to the laptop and plug it into an outlet, when he realizes that the back left part of the black plastic chassis is cracked, and although this is where the brick attaches to the computer, that particular connection still feels firm.  Nonetheless, the little orange charging light won’t light up, and on the screen the little lightning bolt is failing to appear over the tiny image of a battery.

I’m a decently resourceful fellow, so I pinch the chassis firmly together and offer a “now try it.”  No dice.  Not charging.  “Let’s try a different outlet”. . . or two, or hey, five.  It’s a no-go.  This thing has just had it, with the indicator suggesting that there is only an hour and a half of battery life remaining before shutdown (and we all know how that goes).

James whips out his smartphone and quickly checks his checking and savings account levels.  “Son of a bitch,” he says.  “Oh well. . . feel like riding around with me to a few places and shopping for a laptop?”  He has determined that he can afford roughly $400 toward a new one, which he was going to get on Black Friday of this year anyway, as his current machine is over 3 years old (a veritable dinosaur in computer years).

“Sure,” I relent.  So much for my word goal for the day.

We hit Best Buy first.  He likes an Asus and a Dell he sees there, finding the Lenovos to be either too cheap or far too expensive, with no middle ground in evidence.  James is a bit picky when it comes to his laptops, as we all should be, so he wants to shop around.

We hit the interstate for a few miles and head for the area’s ritziest Wal-Mart.  I can practically feel my word goal vaporizing before my very eyes.  If you happen to find yourself at the Wal-Mart at the rich end of Montgomery, Alabama, and you are there for the purpose of searching for a laptop computer, I pray to God you have your heart set on an HP, because that’s exactly what you’re going to find there.  HP, HP, and other HPs.  There was one which seem to fit the bill, but it’s only 7:53, and there’s a Target right down the road.

Oh Target, you silly little creature.  For all your mouses (mice?) and memory cards and gig sticks and styluses and carry cases and screen protectors, you’ve only got two laptops for sale, haven’t you?  The one on clearance with the crushed and open box, and the one you’d have to skip two mortgage payments to purchase.  James reluctantly picks one, though:  the Dell we saw at Best Buy, that very first place we went to. . . the place that was right across the street from the famous coffeehouse.  8:27pm at this point, and Best Buy closes at 9.

Word goal?  What word goal?

We hit Best Buy for the second time at 8:42. . . just enough time for absolutely no one to offer to help us.  I’m going to jump ahead ten minutes here, because it basically amounts to us having to flag someone down with flare guns and whistles.  At 8:59, we’re out the door and heading back across the street.  That particular location of the coffeehouse closes at 10, so that gives us an hour for James to get his new machine set up and running and for me to try to hammer out a few more paragraphs.

Have you ever tried to get some writing done when a clumsy box and scraps of cardboard and twist-ties and plastic bags and pieces of foam of various sizes are bombarding the area within two feet of you?  Try it sometimes!  I humbly invite you to do so.  Or don’t. . . because neither did I!

The new machine is now sitting on the table before us, in all its Dell glory.  The power brick is firmly attached on the PC end.  Time for James to plug it into the outlet.  Nothing.  No orange charging light, no little blue ring around the power button, no magical first-time screen illumination. . . nothing.

It’s at this point that Tevaris, one of our favorite baristas, comes walking over.  “James, man. . . you havin’ any luck with that outlet?”

James:  “No, why?”

Tevaris:  “We think some sort of breaker got tripped.  None of these outlets are workin’.”

James:  “How many of them?”

Tevaris:  “NONE of the front-of-house outlets, man.”

James:  “For how long?”

Tevaris:  “Since this afternoon.”

Alrighty then.  Sometimes you just have to apply palm firmly to forehead, and while I cordially declined to do so, James obliged himself in earnest.

The next part of the plan involved driving BACK over to the ritzy end of town, where the ritzier Target and ritzier Wal-Mart were.  Our destination:  the ritzier famous coffeehouse, this one open until 11pm.  We arrived at 9:30.  James plugged both machines in, and immediately got the orange charging lights on both.  “Damnit” he hissed.

“Had you really rather they were both broken?”  I asked.

“Almost!” he replied.

For the next hour and a half, he fumbled around with setting up his new machine, which he decided he might as well keep, seeing as how he was in need of a new one anyway.  And for the next hour and a half, I hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,115 words.

The moral of this little tale:  never count your chickens if you don’t even have an outlet to plug your incubator into. . . or something.  Something about chickens, I’m almost sure of it.

Author: Benjamin Brunson

Benjamin Brunson (born 1975) started writing at the age of 7, when his father encouraged his pounding out of stories about a certain movie archaeologist on a family typewriter. He grew up in an era when action movies were iconic, and comic books were a mere 75 cents and available at every grocery store and corner gas station. His imagination was further fueled by a mother who introduced him to books and reading at an early age, eventually gifting him with copies of Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That same mother would also bestow upon him a deep love and respect for the ocean and a good storm. Brunson would go on to participate in a creative writing magnet school program in his high school years in Montgomery, Alabama, where he became co-editor of the program’s literary magazine under the tutelage of Jerry Lawrence. At Auburn University, he majored in English and Literature, and quickly landed a spot as the film critic for the campus newspaper. The professors he would encounter in his collegiate career, namely Dr. Oliver Billingslea and Dr. Suzie Paul, would inspire him and help shape and steer his lifelong dream of creating fiction. In 2003, a major television network would cancel Brunson’s favorite sci-fi show about a group of ragtag misfits who, aboard a cargo spacecraft, took on various odd jobs in order to cull out a living and keep on flying. Feeling as if a deep void had been created in his life from the loss of the show, Brunson channeled his love for the ocean and began scribbling the notes for a handful of newly created characters and locations. These notes would, fourteen years later, form the basis for his monthly oceanic adventure saga, Blue Daunia.

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