Thursday, August 5, 2010


...was caught working on revisions at the day job. Its not the first time. Head-hunters with nothing better to do than sneaking around the facility, digital camera in hand, in hopes of catching a disgruntled employee conducting some form of foul play. Someone huffing on a cigarette in the break room, or sneaking a conversation with loved ones on the cell while on the company's dime. Such fiends we are.

My troublesome acts have always come from a literary form of rebellion. Reading a book on the clock, or jotting down a few lines I've dreamed up while simulating a hamster in its cage...running like hell and getting nowhere fast.

Yesterday was different. Not only was I caught red-handed working on revisions, but my captor just happened to be one of the company's biggest sharks, a fellow I'll call in Al Sphincter. The "Big A" for short.

"What are you doing?" he asks, hands clasped behind his back, his upper body leaned slightly forward...the almighty A.

Knowing I'm already busted, I say, "Working on some revisions while my part's being checked. Behind me, enclosed in its protective glass housing, a robotic arm was dancing about, touching a crystal-shaped prong to the outer diameter of a torque converter shell, cataloging every detail of an auto part soon to be jammed full with piston plates, hydraulic fluid and the like.

"Revisions," he mumbles. "For a book?"

"For a book."

"You're a writer?"

"I'd like to think so."

He grows quiet, considering his dilemma. Yes, I'm double-dipping, working on something I love, while thoroughly going through the motions with something I've learned to hate. Extra-curricular foolishness on company property. And yet...

"Wanna read it?" I ask, figuring if nothing else, I've found myself an unbiased reader.

He holds out his hand. I offer him what I've been working on...pencil scratches on fax paper.

He reads.

I watch his brow lift, and wonder if that's a good thing. I'm about to be written up, but may have just sold my first book. Good trade.

"You wrote this just now?" he asks.

"With this very pencil."


I can see the wheels turning..."Oh my stars, a commoner with a brain. What is this world coming to?"

Al returns the paper, and says, "You can't be doing this while on the job. This is your verbal warning."


He turns to leave, then stops. "I only read nonfiction...but yours is okay."

"Thank you."

I watch him turn the corner, make sure he's gone, and start shoving more lead across my paper.

...the following is what Al Sphincter declared, "Okay." I hope you agree:)

...a bead of sweat traveled from my scalp down the side of my face, where for a moment it lingered, tickling my chin before accepting its perilous fate. Bent over, hands balanced upon my knees, I watched it fall to the dust, nearly evaporating on impact.

"Coach Hummel, gimme a minute with him."

I studied the dust between my cleats. Nothing more than packed sludge, maybe a scoop of sand mixed in for good measure.

"If you leave him in, you'll ruin him. He'll never pitch again."

"Well I guess that'll keep all those precious records of yours safe, now won't it?"

Give a closer look, it wasn't really sand at all, but countless pebbles rolling about on a field of clay. Their colors, some black, others beige, blended together, providing the locals a baseball diamond similar in shade to any other. But the torn seam in the left thigh of my uniform pants whispered otherwise.

"Son, if you don't straighten up and look me in the eye this instant, you'll be making this decision a whole lot easier for me."

I did as I was told, still wary of my equilibrium. Gathering my senses, I recognized Coach Hummel leaving the ball field, head down, shoulders slumped. Then I looked at Coach Stutzman, and he looked at me.

Under the curious scope of several hundred baseball fans, my coach and I studied each other's expression from atop the pitcher's mound, before at last he spoke.

"Ya know, my youngest son, a few years older than you, he's got the athletic ability of a sloth. That boy could sprain his wrist playin checkers. But his brain's a different story. Sharp enough to leave bite marks. Gets it from his mom, I'm sure."

As he spoke, the home plate umpire's looming shadow lengthened with his approach.

"So he comes to me one day and says he wants to be a doctor, and asks if I have any advice for him. I look him straight in the eye and tell him that no matter what he does, to always keep throwin from the heart."

Hands on his hips, the umpire had joined us on the mound, his brow lowered. Stutzman ignored him.

"When he says I've flipped my lid, I tell him about a pitcher on my ball team. A skinny thing, no bigger than any other kid his age, but with a fastball like nothing I've ever seen before. And all that power, it don't come from his arm. Not his legs neither. That fastball's thrown from the strongest muscle that boy's got."

With a crooked forefinger, he reached out and began tapping my chest, a smirk curling his chapped lips. "Whatever's happened to you, its got you all bent outta shape. Got your heart pumpin like an angry drum. And out here, this is how your dealin with it. Shootin bullets at punks."

"Coach, you're outta time," the umpire stepped forward. "Gotta make a decision."

"Not up to me," Stutzman said. He stood back, folding his arms over a moistened ball shirt. "Got anything left, son?"

...35 chapters in. "Time to keep on keepin on."

Thanks for reading:)


Olivia J. Herrell said...

Elliot, phew! Close call. Good thinking to hand it to him to read. And no wonder it was just a verbal warning. This is really, really good. I love everything about it.

Thank you for sharing, that rebel, Olivia

Piedmont Writer said...

"I only read non-fiction, but yours was okay."

I'm still laughing over that.

This is shaping into a beautiful story Elliot, what little I've read of it so far. I love baseball and read all those books when I was a kid, and of course I can't remember the name of the author but he wrote boy books about baseball and hockey and I think football too....yeah, long sentence. Yeah, long time ago.

Keep on keeping on.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have a friend who does the majority of her writing at work (she's a receptionist). I don't know how she does it . . . or gets away with it. ;)

Jules said...

Oh, those dreaded company lurkers! I love the story though! Being an avid sports person it struck home.

Loved the read, thanks :D
Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Larry Hyatt said...

I sure like that. I could never use a pencil, though. I not only can't read my writing I couldn't spell check the thing.

Terry Stonecrop said...

If a guy, who just reads non-fiction says it's OK, it's really good. I know. I know guys like that, including my husband.

I suspect, he has a new found respect for you, even though he may not admit it.

Good thinking on your feet, there!

It sure impressed me:)

Elliot Grace said...

...writing on "the clock" is far from the perfect scenario, but when the dayjob demands of my presence all hours of the day, drastic measures need called upon.

Thanks for reading:)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I worry for you, my friend. You can dodge the bullet just so many times.

The day job pays the bills. But you must do what you feel is right for you, of course. And only you know the risks you take and their probable consequences.

Your prose selection I thought was so good that, of course, it nearly brought a non-fiction reader over to the fold of fiction readers.

It was an intense scene.

But more it touched the heart, making you worry for the hero who might throw his shoulder out and destroy a long-term dream for a moment's chance of fleeting victory.

You left us wondering if he would make the right decision ... as I wonder for my new friend at his job.

Your gracious comments on my blog and on others about me ... well, they leave me without adequate words. And that's something!

Always in your corner rooting for you, Roland

Helen Ginger said...

Gotta be a way to thwart Big Al. Can you pry up a board in the path that he would take to get to your station so that you would hear it creak? Maybe hang a small bell so that even the air that he would disturb as he walked up would make it tinkle, thus alerting you?

Figure it out. And keep writing...without losing your job.

Good writing.


February Grace said...

Wow. What heart in that entry...made me tear up and sports are so not my genre.

I felt that.


Thank you for sharing it with us...


Donna Hole said...

A lot of "heart" went into this writing. You just never can tell when creativity is going to strike though. Beats boredom - huh?

35 chapters in huh. Awesome. Keep on keeping on is right!


Nicole Murray said...

I have so been there. Snippets of scratch on the back of doctors pads and scraps of paper. Ideas scrawled in between my to-do list for the day.

From middle school on, I was a scribbler and daydreamer. Now I use those powers for good *smirk*

I have handled being caught like you. I welcome folks to take a look. It usually diffuses their animosity a bit.

And a wonderful bit of on the job scratch BTW. I love 'heart' stories.

RaShelle said...

Love your writing. Love you letting Big Al read it.
Love it!!!
You've got heart and it shows in your writing.

Melissa said...

Excellent thinking! I don't think my brain would have snapped to a solution quite so quickly.

And his "okay" is both well-deserved and not nearly enough.

aspiring_x said...

not much room for writing at the dishwashing station for me... (but i don't know if i could bring myself to do it if there was!) sure takes some guts to show Big A your work!

i loved your excerpt! i'm not really a sports fan (could sprain my wrist playing chess- loved this so much!!) but this was AMAZING!

okay- schmokay... this was BRILLIANT!

Lola Sharp said...

First--LOVE the excerpt. AND you left us hanging on a hook. Well played.

AND you didn't get a written write-up from the big boss!

*round of applause*


Damyanti said...

Wow, you wrote that at work?

It is way better than what many writers do full-time. :)

Elliot Grace said... thing I wanted to clarify, if and when this project sees the light of day, were it to be shelved on the sports genre next to something from Mitch Album...the shopkeeper's efforts would be for not.

While there's a definite "sports feel" surrounding this plot, its only the subplot...this is a story about a ten year old boy with an arm for baseball, and a family wallowing in dysfunction.

Thanks everyone for your comments and support. My online crit guys are fantastic:)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Loved the story with Big Al. And your fiction excerpt was wonderful. Excellent writing. Best of luck with the project!

JUST ME said...

your writing = awesome.

And please, keep fictionizing during your day job. Fight the good fight with me.

...but ps, how in God's name can you still write with a PENCIL? I'm not even sure I know how to use one anymore.

Anita said...

Great writing, funny story.

I was in a writing class recently and the instructor asked people to raise their hands if they write at work. I was the only one who didn't, I think. And that was because I pretty much work from home, so I can't count it.

Robert Guthrie said...

Wow, on a several levels. Do sharks actually lurk like that in offices? Big Brother, or what? I always worked in nonprofit, guess I have no clue.

More importantly: Wow on the writing. I'm very much not organized sports guy, but I'm so intrigued by this story. What more could a kid want but then for his dad to say about him, "But his brain's a different story. Sharp enough to leave bite marks." Wow.

Dana Elmendorf said...

I like the story but what I really liked was when you said "start shoving more lead across my paper." Just a really strong visual that struck me.

The Words Crafter said...

First of all, I didn't like the guy calling you a commoner. Who does he think he is? Next time, don't get caught! Second, I had tears in my eyes as I read the snippet. Well done! I felt like I was there on the mound with them. So, what happened next!?!!

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