Category Archives: Writing

What should I write about?

I’ve been pretty happy with my posts on economic basics, so I was wondering if there are any economic terms that I’ve used or in the news that I should cover. What economic terms can you think of that you’d like to understand better? Or what talking points should I try to make sense of?

Reflection

Note: Trying to get back into the fiction groove. I’ll be getting back to Stranger soon. This was kind of a stream of consciousness piece, and it’s a little more creepy than my standard fair. If you’re not a fan of horror you might want to skip it.

Red eyes stared at her through the darkness. Slowly, she became aware of herself. She was leaning down, balanced on her toes with her arms on her knees, looking down. It was dark: she couldn’t see anything except those eyes looking up from below her feet. Without taking her eyes off them, she slowly tried to stand up. She was only half way when she bumped into something. Still keeping her eyes on the red eyes below, her hand reached out and found a rocky ceiling above her, about four feet from the ground.

She tried to remember. Where was she? How had she gotten here? Why was she here? Nothing came to her, all she could think about were those eyes. She moved her foot a bit and water rippled. She slowly bent down and touched the ground near her feet. About an inch of water, cold, above a floor of uneven rock. She moved her head to the side and the eyes followed. Reflections, then? How could they be reflections, her eyes weren’t red. They were… she couldn’t remember. She couldn’t picture anything but the eyes looking back up at her from the water. But they couldn’t be hers.

She wanted to look away, to close her eyes, to blink even. But she couldn’t make herself do it. She felt around, trying to orient, trying to find anything that would jog her memory or allow her mind some focus other than the reflected eyes that couldn’t be hers. The ceiling seemed to slope upwards ahead, so with her eyes still locked on the reflection she started carefully moving forward.

She hadn’t moved far before she noticed that the ground was sloping downward, and by the time she could stand straight up she was up to her knees in water. She kept walking forward, shivering and keeping her hand on the ceiling. By the time she was waist deep she had to stand on her toes and stretch to keep her hands on the ceiling. It felt like a lifeline, like something important. Her fingers desperately stretched to hold on to it while her feet slowly moved her forward.

But the only way to keep going was to let go, so she did. It wasn’t much farther before the water reached her neck. By the time her eyes touched their discolored reflections she had entirely given up wondering what she was doing or why, and she was completely unaware as the red light flowed from the water in to devour her.

Stranger, part 7.

The next day a description of the man was given out to police in the area, to less official security personnel in the employ of the Pierce family, and a patrol car was temporarily stationed outside of Joe’s house. So it was that he went about his day normally, completely unconcerned with the crazy vagrant, and confident that he’d just admirably dealt with a trying situation.

But some time after midnight, while he and his wife slept, he was awoken by a tap on his shoulder. He slowly opened his eyes, and found another set of eyes, surrounded by many collars and hats, mere inches away. He was so startled that he jumped, but his breath caught in his throat and his yelp of surprise and anger came out silent. The little man held a finger up to his mouth and shushed Joe, pointing at his sleeping wife with his other hand. He didn’t wait for Joe to recover before he started whispering.

“Now, we had a bargain, fair and square, and I could press my rights. But I’m a reasonable sort, I’m fair and generous to a fault, and I’m in the mood for some sport. So, you meet my challenge, and you’re off the hook, scot free. Fail, though, and you’ll owe me another favor.” The little mans eyes twinkled as he said all this, and his mouth twitched up into a vicious, joyful, unsettling smile. He said it all blindingly fast, and was finished before Joe even had time to reach for him. When he did, the little man had no trouble avoiding the groggy swing, and he shook with amusement.

“You’ll be lucky to end up in jail. You break into my house in the night to play this stupid game of yours? I’ll have every cop in the city and worse looking for you tomorrow.” Joe growled through clenched teeth.

The little man responded with a snicker and a tip of the pile of hoods and hats he wore, then disappeared.

Stranger, part 6.

It was nearly two years later when Joe Mitchell met the strange man again. His day went normally enough, a day spent in the office managing his now extremely successful business, followed by a quiet dinner at home with his wife. After dinner she told him the good news, that they were going to have their first child. He was nearly as excited as her, and twice as nervous. But they had decided together that they were ready, and they were both happy. It was just as he prepared to leave, anticipating the congratulations of his rich and powerful friends at his restaurant, that he was surprised by a knock on the door. He opened the door to find a short man, piled with ratty clothing.

He hadn’t, since the night he first met him, given another thought to the little man, and seeing him brought back no particular memory. So it was that Joe greeted him by saying “Yes, what do you want?”

“What do I want?” The little man replied, sounding a mixture of wounded and mocking. “Why, only what I’ve earned. We had a bargain, you and I, struck 500 days ago to the hour. I’ve fulfilled my part” and at this he peered into the house and whistled “oh, quite well indeed. And now I’ve come to claim my favor.”

A dim memory of their first meeting came to Joe, and slight recognition. “My goodness, you’re the guy I talked to that night, when I thought I was finished. Wow, that feels like another life time. So, what, you mean to take credit for everything I’ve accomplished since then? Listen, if you want to waste my time come back when I’m not on my way out to work.”

“Oh ho, of course you wouldn’t believe me, it’s always the way. But the bargain was struck fair, and I held up my end. I’m owed, and the eyes and ears of the city were witness to it. Just for that, I’ll raise my price, it will be the child your wife carries.”

Joe was dumbstruck for a moment. Only for a moment, though, before he yelled curses and threats a chased the small man off into the night. He didn’t trust the man, though, and so he called a friend, introduced by William Pierce himself, in the police department. Officers were sent out, reports filed, and he felt sure that the little man would be picked up and off to prison in no time. Satisfied and unconcerned, he went about his business.

Stranger, part 5

The man waited for Joe to compose himself, then began. “You likely aren’t aware that William Pierce owns a home only a few blocks from here. He uses it occasionally. He also has a number of business partners who wish not to meet him in public. This is not a matter of legality, simply discretion. Mr. Pierce has expressed an interest in using this establishment for such purposes. He requires your availability on short notice after hours, and that you personally guarantee the discretion of yourself and any other staff who are present.”

The man stopped, and for a moment Joe didn’t realize that the man was waiting for a reply. “Oh, well yes, of course, I’m sure I can provide whatever Mr. Pierce requires in terms of privacy, and I’d be more than, um, very happy to do business with him.”

Joe felt completely at a loss as they worked out details. Rates, availability, ways for Mr. Pierce and his associates to enter without drawing unwanted publicity. It all happened so fast and with such finality he felt as if he’d only watched it happen. But over the course of the next weeks and months, he met, served and talked with very wealthy and important people. He found they tended to like him, once he stopped being intimidated, and as they started to consider him and his restaurant safe he found he had a wealth of connections and favors available to him. It was scarce months before he began to use them, and barely a year before he had moved himself and his wife to a huge house far away from his restaurant, and had staff doing all the days work for him.

Stranger, part 4

Joe woke up the next morning unsure what the day would bring. He might be out of money, but there was no reason he couldn’t run his restaurant a few more days. And besides, he didn’t know what else to do. Joe was a man of routine. But the day didn’t go according to his routine. His regulars came and went, but so did new people, and it seemed that every person who left was happier than the last. There seemed no pattern or explanation, the new people had little in common, but for every one that left two more entered. By the end of the day, he’d done more business than the entire previous week. He and his small staff were much too busy to reflect on the oddity of it, and by the end of the day he could do little more than close the shop and drop into a seat. He went home and slept, and the next day started much the same. Mere hours had passed before he was forced to close due to an empty kitchen.

He spent the rest of the day scrambling to pay bills and restock his kitchen. That evening he and his wife talked about their unexplainable fortune, and dreamt together of success.

The rest of the week went much the same, and it wasn’t until then that he learned that he had been mentioned glowingly by a local newspaper. Days and weeks went by likewise, with people spilling out of his tiny restaurant. Joe was nearly as overwhelmed by this level of success as he had been by his near failure, until one evening, after seeing the last of the staff out and starting to clean up, a man in an expensive suit knocked on the glass door over the closed sign.

Joe waved away at the man and yelled “Closed!” through the thin glass. The man simply knocked again. Irritated, Joe unlocked the door and set his foot behind it, just enough to allow him to talk through the opening. “We’re closed, you want something come back when we’re open.”

“You’re a busy man, and I’d prefer to have your attention. I’m here to talk business on behalf of William Pierce.”

Joe could hardly open the door and stammer welcomes fast or enthusiastically enough. William Pierce was well known as the younger brother of one of the richest and most influential men in the city, possibly the state. Joe stammered and tripped over his tongue as he offered the man a seat.

Stranger, part 3

Joe wasn’t sure if he was more confused or frightened by the little man.. He backed up a step as he answered. “What do you know about my problems or my business? I haven’t said a word about it.”

“Oh, but you have. Not to me, no. But the empty streets have ears, even if most have forgotten, and there are still those who they’ll speak to, rare as they are nowadays.”

Joe was now very uncomfortable, and he decided that it would probably be wise to get as far away from the stranger as he could. But as he moved to walk away the little man under his pile of cloth nimbly stayed in his way. Before Joe could protest the little man continued “I ask only that you listen to me a moment longer, and consider what I offer.” Joe was trying to find a way past the strange little man without getting too close, and he wasn’t having any luck. The man made his pitch quickly. “Listen, you open up the little place of yours the next week, and you won’t be able to help paying all your bills. You keep it up for the next year, and that place’ll be known all over the city. You’ll have more money than you ever thought. And if it goes that way, then you just have to remember this little talk, and the next time you see me you pay me back the favor.”

Joe didn’t really pay attention to what the man was saying, but the man wasn’t asking him to hand anything over, so he hastily agreed. The words were barely out of his mouth and the man quickly backed into the shadows and was gone. It happened so quickly that being alone again wasn’t a relief, but another mystery. It felt as wrong as the stranger’s familiarity with him. But a few short blocks later and he was once again walking familiar streets, and by the time he’d found his way home he had nearly forgotten the few unsettling moments.

Stranger, part 2

It wasn’t long before he was jogging and muttering curses under his breath, though, as he discovered just how out far of his way he’d gone. He was walking into a small industrial district, which seemed to be in the way of the familiar parts of the city. His jog quickly returned to a walk as his long wandering caught up with him and his legs began to ache. He walked slower through the dark buildings and empty warehouses a bit before he decided to sit down and catch his breath. He leaned up against the wall of a building and slowly slid down, letting his legs relax and his head thump against the wall.

“You look like you’re having a rough night.”

After being alone with his thoughts for so long, the sudden breaking of the silence, and the sudden realization that he was no longer alone, startled Joe badly enough that he choked on his breath as he scrambled to his feet and looked around wildly for the speaker. The voice was an odd mixture of high pitched and gravely, worn with age but also young sounding. The speaker, stranger yet, was a very small person piled high with shirts and coats and blankets, so much so that you couldn’t make out anything of the person buried beneath. The man shuffled around the corner and into the light and pulled down the hood that covered his head, revealing a stocking cap, which he also removed.

Joe regarded the small man cautiously, still edgy from the surprise of his arrival, and not exactly sure what to expect from him. The man took a few more tiny steps forward.

“The empty streets haven’t solved your problems for you, have they wanderer? Maybe you’ll allow me to help?” The man’s face, now visible through the light hood remaining on his head, was round, his skin leathery and wrinkled. But while his face seemed worn with age his eyes still had the twinkle of youthful mischief.

Joe relaxed just a bit, figuring he’d found a beggar hoping to talk money out of him. The man didn’t seem like much of a threat, but he still remained on his guard. Not that he could help it, with his heart still sounding in his ears and adrenaline racing through his blood after the shock of the mans appearance. “Oh, I doubt you could do much for me. Not unless you’re going to pay my bills.”

The little mans eyes twinkled. “Oh, I know, I know. But you know the obvious answer isn’t always the best. You think the solution to all your problems is money, but there’s other ways.”

Stranger, part 1

Joseph Mitchell sat in his office and stared at the papers on his desk. Well, he liked to call it his office, but anyone else would probably call it a closet with a chair and an end table inside. Regardless of what you call it, the papers he was looking at still meant the same thing. After only three years of running his small restaurant he was bankrupt. Joe sat back in his chair and sighed. He had, of course, known this was coming, but he thought he had more time.

In the nearby kitchen the phone rang. Joe slowly stood up and walked over to it. He figured it was probably his wife, she knew he would be going over the month’s business tonight, and was probably anxious to know how they had faired. He stood above the ringing phone for a moment, listening to it. He then picked up his keys, walked out the front door and locked it behind him.

Joe was an honest man, and he had no intention of hiding their troubles from his wife, but he wasn’t ready to tell her yet. He needed time to come to terms with it himself before he could stand to say it out loud. And so he started walking. It was late, and the streets were quiet.  Joe smiled and took a deep breath. He enjoyed the solitude of the city late at night. As long as he stayed in residential areas, and away from the bars, he could feel like he had the city all to himself, alone except for the odd passing car. It was a warm summer night, and the breeze felt pleasant and inviting.

Joe wandered for a long time, lost in thought. His mind wandered from memories of his restaurant to wonderings of what he might have done to avoid his fate to how he would tell his wife, and what they would do next.

After a great deal of wandering and thinking, and a few hours, it occurred to Joe that his wife was probably worried about him. For the first time since he began his walk he looked around and he discovered that he didn’t recognize the houses or the names of the streets around him. Annoyed, but not worried, he turned around and began walking back the way he had come, figuring he’d see something familiar soon enough. It wasn’t long before he could make out the silhouette if the city skyline above the trees. He turned towards the city, figuring that the closer to it he was the more likely he was to find himself on familiar ground.

 

Campfire, part 2

It had already occurred to John, more than once in fact, that he’d traveled due west at least twice the distance of any patch of forest within ten miles of where he had set up camp now five days ago.  He was sure of it, in fact he was fairly certain that there was no point in the state where you could travel for four days due west without reaching some sort of highway or other sign of civilization.  But he had done it, and he didn’t know what to make of it.

His mind wandered.  He thought of his job, his friends, his family.  He had no family of his own, but his parents and brothers were wonderful.  His job was pleasant enough—it took much of his time, but it was simple and paid well.  His friends were all much like him, young and busy, time enough to see each other rarely, to catch up and then go back to their respective lives.  His drifting mind was suddenly snapped back to his situation by the first sound in days that he hadn’t caused.  Far away, clear but faint, came the rustle of a large animal in the underbrush.  John dashed forward as fast as his aching legs would carry him.  Far ahead on the path he saw a bright white deer burst from beside the path and begin running along it.  Had he thought about it John would have known that calling out to the animal was more likely to scare it than to convince it to wait for him, but his desperation, his excitement at the first sign of life in so long was much stronger than any rational thought he might have had.  He chased the animal, desperately calling out for it to stop.

He chased ran for what felt like hours, although it was more likely only a few minutes.  Strangely, although the animal was clearly able to move much faster than he, John could always see it, just at the edge of the path, at the very edge of his sight.

The animal stopped suddenly, and the surprise made John stumble.  He quickly collected himself and scrambled to his feet, running before he had even properly picked himself up.  The deer stood still a moment as if waiting.  John had no idea what he would do when he reached the beautiful animal, but he felt he had to, that it was the only way for him to be saved.  The animal waited until John was close enough to see the path around it clearly, and it ran again, but this time into the forest.  John slowed, his feet landing heavily on the ground as he let his momentum carry his to the place the deer had disappeared.  His lungs burned as he swallowed large breaths of air.  He looked into the forest, a feeling of despair creeping into his mind, when he noticed a faint trail.  It was overrun with weeds, and he wouldn’t have seen it but for the creature that he had watched disappear down it.  He slowly stepped into the tangle of vines and thorns.  He had barely fought his way a few steps when the path became clearer and his feet splashed in a stream.  He pushed all attempts at understanding away as he dropped and drank the cool clear water.

After drinking more than his fill and refilling his canteen he started off again, down the dark difficult path.  There was no longer room to walk comfortably, no easy footing as had been on the other path.  After hours of walking he was startled by the noise of a bird above him.  The familiar sound brought hope to him, and his eyes swelled with tears.  Just as he looked up in search of the bird he noticed the sound of crickets around him.  He stood still and listened for a long time before moving on.  It became dark, but not dark as it had been on the path.  Moonlight shone through the trees, and while his path was difficult, still there was enough light to go on.

After walking only a few hours more the path broke open into a clearing.  John cried out in joy at the sight of the tent he had helped pitch nearly a week ago.  He dropped to the ground, tears rolling down his face, as Scott and Dave, the men he had left for his walk so long ago, stepped out of the tent, looking exactly as they had that night.