Fiction Fragment Friday
Something little different this week, but I think very interesting. The first story I had published was called Sick Day and it was in Sojourn Volume 1. You can find links to it on my published works page. What very few people know is that Sojourn was not the first place I submitted that story. The first place I submitted it was to an anthology themed around exploration. I got general feedback that it did not fit their theme. For Sojourn I worked with the editors and they helped me really bring out the story that I wanted to tell. I learned a lot from that experience.
This week I’m going to share the first few paragraphs from both the original submitted story and the one that eventually was published. I wanted to show just how different a story can be after editing while still at it’s heart being the same story.
I sat on my back porch listening to a car alarm going off in the distance. The wind blew through the trees and I could hear the occasional sound of birds chirping. Basically there was nothing really out of the ordinary except for me. I enjoyed the time I got to spend outside. It was one of my few relaxations, but I had never been outside at noon on a work day before.
Workaholic didn’t begin to describe me. I never used all of my vacation days and it took near death for me to take a sick day. That should give a person some indication about how I was feeling on my second straight day away from work. To be honest though I wouldn’t have taken either if my boss had not forced me to for fear of infecting the whole office. Even staying home I couldn’t help but check in periodically to see how everything was going.
The wind hit my face as I shut off my laptop and leaned back in my chair. There was something about the fresh air that just made me feel better. I could breathe easier and actually put work out of my mind for a few moments. It wouldn’t last for long so I had to enjoy it for as long as I could. I wondered to myself, “Why can’t everyday be like this?” Then I remembered the mortgage, food, bills, and other responsibilities that required me to work.
Those thoughts would normally have led me to check back in with work, but my dog had other ideas. As I reached for my laptop to check my e-mail she came up between me and it to lick my hand. She looked so cute and her face just screamed for my attention. I sighed and rubbed her behind the ears. She had been around me all morning, but I hadn’t really given her a moment of attention. “Come on girl, let’s get your leash and go exploring.”
The tree branches swayed as the wind blew through them, causing the shadows on the ground to dance wildly. I could hear birds chirping, dogs barking, and a car alarm going off in the distance. In other words, it was a perfectly normal Thursday—with only one exception. I had never been sitting on my back porch in the middle of a workday before.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like being outside. Quite the contrary; I loved being outside. It was one of the few things I could do to relax. Long hours at work and a list of projects around the house just didn’t leave time for it. I had plenty of vacation time saved up at work, but I never took much of it because returning to work after time off just meant a larger stack of work waiting. That thought led me to refresh my e-mail and see five new messages waiting. I sighed as I worked through them.
I had to be near death to take a sick day, and while I felt horrible that morning it was not my choice to take off. My boss was afraid that I would infect the whole office when I showed up the day before and couldn’t go a half hour without a coughing spell so he had sent me home with strict instructions that I could not return until my fever broke or I could hold a conference call without needing my mute button to avoid coughing in people’s ears. Instead I went to an Urgent Care and spent a half hour on a breathing treatment before being prescribed a round of pills and an inhaler. That didn’t stop the e-mails and I spent most of that morning constantly checking in to see what was happening without me and if I could keep work from piling up.
I felt the cool breeze against my cheek and leaned back in my chair. It felt good. There was something about the fresh air that just made me feel better and helped fight off the coughing spells. I shut the laptop and set it on the table next to me. Tilting my head back, I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. “Why can’t everyday be like this?” I asked out loud and then immediately answered my own question after a small coughing spell. “Because I have a mortgage, car payments, bills, and all those other responsibilities that need money.”
That thought process naturally led me back to my laptop, but as I reached for it a cold nose stuck itself in my palm. Chloe, my black boxer/lab mix, had decided that she had enough of my work for the day. She put herself directly between me and the laptop while proceeding to lick my hand. Her big eyes stared at me and she lowered her head. Her face just screamed for attention and as I rubbed her behind the ears my resolve melted away. “Come on girl, let’s go for a walk.”