I’ve got a subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine.  Each issue has a short contest they call “Your Story,”  in which they give you an open-ended prompt and you write a short story from it (750 words or less). 

The last one I entered came from the prompt: “You receive a box that contains a pirate’s eye patch and a note.”  So I wrote the following story.  (Which didn’t win the contest, by the way.  I try to avoid winning contests or getting published because I believe success would spoil my art)

 

I’ve Got My Eye On You

By Michael Anderson

 

I knew it was going to be one of those days when I woke up to the sound of a bullhorn-enhanced voice yelling from my front yard, “Sean Carter, you are surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”

I’d really have been worried if my name was  Sean Carter. But let me go back to the beginning, which was yesterday…

It was on my front steps when I got home: a small box wrapped in brown paper, an uncomfortably-shaped egg, laid and abandoned by some strange bird. It was addressed to me, no return address. I don’t get many deliveries so I was eager to open it. I was sure I’d won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. I would open it up at my kitchen table and ten million dollars would spring out and then float back down on me like large confetti. A band would appear, and a smiling person would shove a microphone in my face.

I was close. Inside was a pirate’s eye patch and a note that said, “I’ve got my eye on you.” It was signed, “L.”

I’ve never been good at pondering, but this got pondered real good for at least six or seven minutes. Then my wife came home.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Pondering,” I replied.

“You’ve never been very good at pondering,” she helpfully pointed out.

“I’m getting better.”

She leaned over my shoulder and looked in the box. “Why did you order a pirate’s eye patch?”

“I didn‘t,” I said.

“And who’s L?”

“I don’t know anyone named L.”

She went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. “Well their name  wouldn’t be L, it must stand for something.”

“Like Lucy?”

She stuck her head out of the fridge and frowned at me. “Who’s Lucy?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. It starts with L.”

“You don’t know anyone named Lucy?”

I shook my head.

“Then why did you say Lucy?”

I shrugged again. “It starts with L.”

She put her head back in the fridge. “Lots of names start with L. My  name starts with L.”

“Did you send this to me?”

She took out yesterday’s tuna casserole and put it on the table. “No, of course not. I wouldn’t send you something; I’d just give it to you. Here, move this box so we can eat.”

She picked it up, then glanced at the label. “They spelled your name wrong.”

“They did?” I leaned forward, embarrassed. In all my pondering I had missed that.

“They put Sean  Carter, but you spell it Shawn.  Whoever it’s from doesn’t know you very well.”

The phone rang. If I’d known, I would never have answered it.

“Hello,” I said.

A male voice said, “Good evening, Mr. Carter.”

“I’m really not interested in–”

“Did you get my package?”

I put two and two together. “Is this L?” I asked, and my wife’s head snapped up from the tuna casserole.

The voice chuckled cruelly. “How very astute of you, Mr. Carter. Yes, this is L, and I think you know why I’m calling.”

“No, actually, I don’t. Why did you send me a pirate’s eye patch? Both of my eyes work fine.”

The cruel chuckle again. I was already tired of it. “You’re very good at acting dumb.”

“I’m not acting,” I protested.

My wife whispered, “Maybe they didn’t spell your name wrong; maybe they’re looking for Sean Carter instead of Shawn Carter.”

I covered the phone and whispered back, “That’s the same name.”

“But different spellings!” she yell-whispered.

I saw her point.

“You know, L,” I said back into the phone, “I think there might be some mistake here. This package was addressed to Sean  Carter, but I’m Shawn  Carter.”

“That’s the same name,” said L.

I explained the spelling difference to him but he wasn’t convinced. “Listen Carter,” he said, “you know what I want, and what will happen if I don’t get it. How would you like it if I made a phone call to the police?”

“Actually, that might be a good idea,” I said.

“We’ll see if you think so in the morning! If you change your mind, you know how to reach me.”

“Actually I–” Click.

Fortunately my wife went to work early the next morning, so she was spared the embarrassment of seeing me in the front yard in my pajamas with my hands up.

“You’re looking for Sean  Carter and I’m Shawn  Carter,” I said to the policeman.

“That’s the same name,” he replied.

 

 

Michael Anderson

 

Copyright October 2008

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