Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Poisoned Sleep

"Honestly, Tucker - another Mountain Dew?  You'll be up all night,"  Dia scolded.

"That's the idea, Dee.  I'm not getting along with sleep, right now."  Tucker checked his monitor, touched a key, and for the three hundred and fifteenth time in the past six hours, professionally greeted another pissed-off customer of the Flagship family of insurance companies.  Above him, ancient fluorescent bulbs flickered, buzzed, and bleached away his belief in anything good in the universe.

Dia logged out of the queue and waited for her friend to finish his call.  "You have to sleep.  You can't just not sleep.  It's bad for you."

"I hate sleep - that's all.  Besides, what's it to you?"

"Hey - we've been friends for three years.  I'm concerned," Dia said.  "Talk to me."

"Ugh.  Fine.  It's simple, Dee.  I keep having this dream..."

"That's it?  A dream?  Is it a nightmare?"  Dia teased.  "Do you wake up screaming?"

"It's not a nightmare.  Never mind.  We'd better take some calls, or Cina The Warrior Princess will write us up again."

"In a second.  First, what kind of dream is it?  Is it a sex dream?  Is it a stress dream.  Are there ninjas, all quick and lethal and whatnot?"

"No sex, and no ninjas.  What is it with you and ninjas, anyway?"

"I don't know - I just think they're sexy.  But this is not about me.  Talk!"

Tucker sighed heavily.  "The dream is always the same.  I'm at some beach, painting watercolors of seagulls and lighthouses and sunsets - and they're really good.  I have a bottle of wine, and there's a girl there.  Please don't be offended, but sometimes it's you."

"That's sweet.  I'm not offended - at least, not yet..."

"It doesn't get offensive or anything," Tucker continued.  "It's just peaceful.  I can smell the ocean, feel sand between my toes.  It's like I belong there.  It envelopes me.  The call center doesn't exist.  There is no queue, no call count, average call time, no resolution scores - none of this shit.  It's not that I've left it; none of it even exists.  I don't live in that ridiculous little dump of an apartment.  I never get to see where I live, though."

"Well, that sucks.  What happens?"

"I walk back to my car - some old convertible, like a Mustang or something - and I open the door, sit down, and just bathe in contentment for a few minutes."

"Yeah?  Then what?"

Tucker sighed and looked around.  "Nothing.  I wake up."

Dia stifled a chuckle.  "You wake up."

"Yes.  I wake up - in this life.  That apartment, this job, these callers, this life."

"Ah.  I see.  It is a bit bleak, isn't it?  I guess seeing what you see while you sleep, and then waking to this, over and over, would get pretty old."

"It does."  Tucker nodded.

Somewhere deep inside Dia, a tiny, smoking ember began to grow.  "Maybe we just need to wake up somewhere else."



Greetings, friends!  This week, for the first time, I used TWO prompts in one piece.  I couldn't resist putting "QUICK AND LETHAL" from Studio 30 Plus member Tara's LIGHTNING FLASH into a short conversation inspired by "A DREAM HAS POWER TO POISON SLEEP," from the good people at LIGHT AND SHADE CHALLENGE.  I hit their word count limit (500) with great precision.  The same cannot be said for my going 350 words over on the S30P prompt.  I hope they forgive me.



  1. I loved this piece - what a great talent is shown for conveying character, and the dialogue was perfect.

    1. Thank you, sir! I feel so comfortable writing dialogue, sometimes I think I should have tried writing for the screen.

      Thanks for the wonderful prompt!

  2. What great dialogue! I hope they do get away somewhere, they sound really nice people. Thank you for such a great take on the prompt. LM x

    1. And thanks for stopping by! Your prompt was almost too rich for a 500-word piece, but therein lies the challenge, right?

      When I reread the post, just now, I came away thinking of the Martha and The Muffins song "Echo Beach," which I've always liked. I hope that's a good sign.

  3. A romance simmering...I loved the last few lines, the promise of something "else".

    The dialogue was very good, enjoyable and easy to read.

    1. Thanks, Kir. I do love that ray of hope in the midst of meh, I must say. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I'm with Kir. I love the idea of a simmering romance...

    And add me to the list of your dialog fans. You have a real knack for getting it right!

    Great little piece of writing, Joe!

    1. Thank you, Valerie! I love getting my characters talking. If the other elements of my writing came as naturally as my dialog, I'd be signing copies of my fifth bestseller, by now.

      Luckily, I enjoy the act of writing for its own sake. I'm always happy to have others like it, now and again.

      Thanks for stopping by!