by J. Smith Kirkland
It was time for John to leave for his community service.
“What if I just don't show up,” he thought, “If he just left town, how could these super heros that are supposed to be keeping me honest even know.”
Just then a knock on the door. John opens it to find a very tall, muscular man wearing a black unitard and red running shorts.
“You must be John,” the man says.
“And you must be kidding me?”
“I am indeed not. I am Mighty Man, and I have been assigned to ensure that you make it to community service. Time to go.”
Community service was packing care packages to be sent to people that needed them. Four hours a day, for the next five days. Then another assignment the next week, for two months. This was going to suck. John was determined he was going to find a way to skip town.
Mighty Man walked with John to the care center, where a man named George met them at the door. Before leaving, Mighty Man told John to remember he was under surveillance by the Super Hero team, and he can not leave town. Then George led John into the center for the first days work.
Each day John came up with a new idea for sneaking out of town. The first one was to just get in his truck about midnight and drive off. When he pressed on the gas to pull out, the car didn't move. He saw Mighty Man in the rear view mirror, holding up the back of the truck with one hand, just enough that the wheels didn't touch. Everything he tried was somehow thwarted by Mighty Man. But John would com up with another idea the next day.
By the end of the third week, John was running out of ideas. That Saturday he decided he would try looking like he had given up, and then just when he had them thinking he was gong home, he'd high tail it the other direction. He went grocery shopping that afternoon, then back to the House. That would make it look like he had plans to stay since he bought all the groceries. Then he went out to dinner and back to the house. After a few minutes he went to the movies. When he came out of the movie, his intention was to drive towards the house, but make a fast sharp turn onto the interstate before he got there.
John opened his truck door, but as he was about to get in the truck hood popped up. When he went to close it, the truck door slammed shut and locked. When he unlocked it, someone snatched the keys from his hand. Someone, but no one he could see.
“Ok, who's there. That you Mighty Mouse? Is one of your powers invisibility?”
“It's me, Inviso Woman.”
“Inviso Woman? Where is Mr. Moose or whatever his name is?”
“He had a meeting tonight.”
“What kind of meeting?”
Across town Mighty Man walks into the meeting room, grabs a doughnut and a coke, and takes a seat up front near the podium.
“so who would like to go first tonight,” asks the man at the podium.
Mighty Man stands up, “I will.”
He walks up to the podium, takes the last bite of his doughnut, and begins.
“Hi, I'm Mighty Man, and I am a super hero.”
“Hi, Mighty Man,” the room says in unison.
Back at the truck, Inviso Woman turned off her invisibility.
“Let's grab a cup of coffee and talk.”
They went in the all night diner, and Inviso Woman explained the situation to John.
“We're not all in this Super Hero club to make criminals miserable. This is our community service to pay for the damage we sometimes accidentally do to public and private property when we are stopping the super villains.”
John had no idea. He had never thought about who had to pay for all that stuff.
“And sometime, being a Super Hero can be a little exhausting, mentally. You know?”
“What do you mean?”
“Think about it. You can't just hang out with your friend and complain about what a crappy day you had; no one knows who you are. And dating. Well that's almost impossible. They wanna know why you stood them up again. What are you supposed to say about the train wreck you just stopped or the villain that you kept from blowing up the world.”
“I guess I never thought of that.”
“Yeah, well, Mighty Man has had it a little rougher than usual lately. His three year relationship just ended. His dog died. He's just got it rough right now. Give him a break. And besides, you just have five more days. Maybe just enjoy what you're doing for just five more days.”
John felt bad for Mighty Man, and she was right. He had already done 15 days. He could do five more.
“So this Mighty Moose, sorry, Mighty Man, he's not been such a bad guy to hang out with. And he's pretty smart. I never can pull anything over on him.”
“He's a good guy.”
So John finished his last week of service, without trying to leave town again. Instead of the usual game of cat and mouse, they started going for a burger after John finished his community service. He and Mighty Man became somewhat of friends. John invited him over to watch movies and play video games sometimes. And every now and then, Mighty Man would just stop by to talk about what a crappy day he had.
Premee Mohammed dug into her a short story stash of ideas to share one with us.
‘Superheroes, community service/non-jail punishment for crime, a secret society.
In a world where superpowers are real, a convicted criminal is spared a prison term… If he agrees to do community service, enforced by an unknown league of incognito superheroes. But how can he skip town while he’s always under their surveillance?”
After our recent podcast episode we discussed this prompt. She suggested that a short story is “an answered question”. This is an insight that REALLY helped me, as I thought about how to start, and end, short stories.
This is raw from the from the index card and I asked Premee to tell us how she would take something like this, a note, and start to think about turning it into a story.
The initial phrase that I sent is a setting or a premise, rather than a plot; it’s the setup.
I would probably start by trying to figure out who might be involved—a reasonable number of people for a short story—and how they could conflict with each other, or how their needs could conflict with each other.
I’d make sure I set up some decision points to answer. The question should be set up at the start, you know, because like a short story is really an answered question, right?
I find it useful to have that question at the start instead of having it develop sort of midway through, because then the whole story can be guided by that.
Story A Day Framework
In a world where superpowers are real, a convicted criminal is spared a prison term… If he agrees to do community service, enforced by an unknown league of incognito superheroes. But how can he skip town while he’s always under their surveillance?
i didn't do a framework. Started with dialog between John and Inviso Woman and then jumped back to the top.