This is only a test.

This is a word test. We’ve all taken tests like this for years—some in school, others at work, also on the Internet. Here are the questions:

1. What’s going on?
2. Now what?
3. What are those small robots doing in your silverware drawer?

This is a word test because you are writers. Please submit your essay on the question of your choice—500 words max. Surprise us.

44 responses to “This is only a test.

  1. Now what?
    What if you thought you only needed one cat but ended up with two? Kitty #1 seemed lonely and a second one felt like the right thing to do. Kitty #2 came from the same place as the first, a shelter/adoption agency just for cats. You’ve watched for the last four months as Kitty #2 has dominated and made life hell for Kitty #1. Kitty #2 has also jumped off your balcony into “no-no” land ten feet down and been captured by the crazy renters in the condo below you. When you rescue her, you smell pot and who-knows-what-other dangerous things. Kitty #2 is on a path to destroy your new couch by clawing deep divots in its arms. Kitty #2 also has been sleeping on your bed at night and taking up more than her share of the space. Kitty #2 makes it quite well known that she requires breakfast at 6AM by loud meowing, sitting on your chest, then if these tactics don’t work, face batting. Your normal waking hour is 8AM, thank-you-very-much. And to top it off, Kitty #2 is not particularly friendly nor does she want to sit on your lap or be held.

    What if, after weeks of agonizing debate with yourself, you finally decide to return Kitty #2 to the shelter? They take her back willingly with no recriminations. You breathe a sigh of relief and reorganize things in the condo for yourself and Kitty #1.

    Life returns to normal and you are happy with your decision.

    Then Kitty #1 stops eating. She wanders the condo meowing and looking for, yes, you are sure, Kitty #2. Kitty #1 is in a funk and no cajoling, special treats, nor extra petting will bring her back to her happy self. You find yourself looking for Kitty #2 when you get home from work. Your mornings have less distractions, but they seems too quiet.

    Now what?

    After four days, you relent and return to the adoption/kitty shelter to bring Kitty #2 home. They say she is there, but no one can find her. They know she spent the first two days in kitty-quarantine to make sure she wasn’t sick, then was released into the large area with the others waiting for adoption.

    You walk into the area calling her name, and after a few calls you hear,”meow, Meow, MeOw.” She has climbed to the highest place in the enclosure and has been in hiding in the corner until she hears your voice. She waits for you to come rescue her, of course, to teach you a lesson. But, she is so high up that you have to stand on your very tippy-toes and stretch your arms as far as you can to reach her. She finally jumps into your arms and immediately starts to purr.

    When you walk through the door, Kitty #1 is there to greet Kitty #2. They play, eat, and sleep together for the next week, totally ignoring you.

    Now what?

    • Barbara Burris

      I really enjoyed reading this story, Parrot. Reminded me so much of my dear friend who has adopted and re-adopted kitties more than once in her life.

    • Cats, ya can’t live with them, and ya can’t live without them.

    • I really like this story, Parrot Writes. It captures perfectly the two-natured essence of cats. BTW, I still am unable to comment at your blog, but want to let you know I visit there.

      • Thanks Gully – I have no idea why neither you nor Shaddy can comment on my site – wish I did – miss hearing from you! I’m enjoying your hiking saga.

  2. Good to read your stuff again, Parrot. I’m glad you picked one of the questions to write about and followed your heart to the cat story. I’m sitting here responding to the zillion new July students who just began, so I saw your posting come in.

    Way to pass the test! It’s a keeper. –Ann

  3. Thanks Ann! I remember how important that first month of BWW (my very first writing class) was for me and appreciated the responses I got from you in the discussion area. Don’t envy you the volume of students I’m sure you have in this July’s class. I love keeping in touch with you and other classmates through your blog. I’ve met some awesome folks through this site, and I enjoy the challenges you post for us. Hope you are settled from your move and life is back to “normal,” whatever that may be for you!

  4. “What’s that noise?”
    Silence. Then I heard it again.
    “What’s that noise? What are you kids doing?”
    The kids both walked in and looked at me as if I had lost my mind. Then I heard it again. The sound reminded me of a train switching tracks at a distant railroad station; sort of a screech and then some rattling and a bump. The sound seemed to be coming from the kitchen.
    “Oh, no, the washing machine.” I ran to the kitchen remembering that I had overloaded the washer when I put in a load of jeans earlier. Much to my surprise, the washer had completed its cycle and the clothes were waiting patiently to be transferred to the dryer. I transferred the clothes and listened. I heard it again. Screech. Rattle. Bump.
    By now, Sally and Sam, both trembling and hugging my legs tightly, pointed to the cabinet. The top drawer was in motion.
    Now I was trembling.
    Carefully I placed my hand on the drawer pull. Should I open it, I wondered. It rattled again, ever so slowly I slid the drawer toward me while Sally and Sam backed away.
    Inside a dozen silver robots were practicing marching in formation. Their tiny feet balanced precariously on the tines of the forks. “What are you doing?” I asked.
    “Practicing.” Was the reply from their leader.
    “Practicing for what?” I asked.
    “Getting away,’ they all responded, their tiny little faces peering up in fear.
    “Away from what?”
    “The ants.”
    So now you know what the robots were doing in the silverware drawer.
    Hi Ann, it’s early and I just finished the writing workshop so I can’t be held responsible for anything I write to day….but you see I am still writing.

  5. Robots versus the ants! That works for me. It looks like your creativity is still firing on all thrusters. Wonder where they’ll escape to?

  6. “What’s going on?” I am sick of her asking that to everyone we meet. To the mailman, to the grocery checker, to the priest. Why can’t she be like most people, and use a regular greeting like “Hello”, “How are you”, even the ole Andy Griffin “Hey”? No, it’s always “What’s going on?”

    I guess what burns me up is that even if someone would tell her, she wouldn’t listen. No, it’s always “What’s going on?” while she just keeps walking and leaves me to listen to whatever comes out of person’s mouth.

    For instance, just the other day we were walking through the park when we came upon an older man sitting on a concrete bench beside the walkway. He sat there with his head resting on his cane, snow white hair curling under his fedora. He straightened up as we came near, his eyes looking up at us. “What’s going on?” she said once again, and once again she just kept on walking, not interested in him or his answer.

    I looked at him and followed after her, but then I stopped and looked back at the old man. His head was on his cane once again, shoulders drooped in his old overcoat. I went back and sat beside him. He looked up at me and I said, you guessed it, “What’s going on”? A pain shot through my eye, it was my hand hitting my forehead. “I mean, how are you? Are you feeling OK”?

    He looked up at me, sadness feeling his eyes, “Oh, I’m fine physically. I’m just lonely since I lost my dear…”, his words trailed off. He looked as if his mind was a million memories away.

    A lump came to my throat, I couldn’t imagine losing her even if she did ask that stupid question all the time. Her laugh, the way her eyes shined as she talked about her day, the way she looked in blue jeans, all out weighed her one stupid, ignorant, gut-wrenching flaw. Without her I’d be this guy remembering all those memories, sitting on a cold, gray concrete bench.

    Suddenly a voice jolted my senses, “Hey, What’s going on”? I looked up, one of those Droopy Dawg looks on my face. “This gentlemen was just telling me how lonely he has been since his dear wife died.” A OMG look came over her as the Droopy Dawg look was suddenly on her face.

    “What”? the old man yellled, “I didn’t lose my wife.”

    “But you said you lost your dear, and got choked up and didn’t finish the thought”, I said.

    “You twit,” he said, “I lost my deer, d-e-e-r, her name was Agnus, and she ran away with some big buck. I raised her from a little fawn and then she just up and leaves”.

    “I’m never going to say what’s up again!”, she smiled.

  7. Only from Walk,. Awesome.

  8. A fine read, as usual, Walk. Your usual combination of a quirky take on life and a bit of the romantic. Always good to read your stuff.

  9. Barbara Burris

    Snow began when it always begins in Wisconsin, on Thanksgiving evening with a light dusting. By Christmas, the ground was blanketed with a thick layer, making everything appear festive.

    When the January thaw began, people were ready for a break. Temperatures rose unusually high, into the low sixties. Bulbs thrust up from the earth and buds appeared on shrubs. Gardeners began to fret they’d lose their spring blooms.

    Newly retired, my husband, Bruce, and I teased our still-working friends. Not only had we been able to avoid the messy daily commutes, slogging along snow covered highways, we’d been enjoying our leisurely mid-morning coffee on the front porch. We joked that maybe we’d be weeding gardens and mowing the lawn by mid-February and made plans to treat ourselves to a matinee at the theatre up town.

    The late afternoon sky seemed a deeper gray than normal. I watched the clouds, something in my memory stirring an uneasy feeling in my gut. Bruce was changing clothes and the house was quiet but for the ticking of the clocks. A distant whine caught my ear. I leaned across the kitchen sink and lifted the window a crack, taking in the sweet spring-like scents. The whine grew louder as I leaned toward the window. Like a jolt of electric current had run through my arms, I stiffened and slammed the window. I ran to the front door and threw it open wide. Barely, barely in the distance, the whine continued a steady tone.

    “What’s going on?” Bruce said as he walked into the living room.

    “I can hear the tornado siren from New Munster.”

    “We don’t have tornadoes in Wisconsin in January,” he smirked. “They must be testing it. Or maybe there’s a fire.”

    I closed the door and went to the bedroom windows, searching the southern sky. These were not winter clouds.

    Bruce ignored me as I collected my routine tornado stuff and attached the leash to my puppy’s collar.

    As I walked up behind him, I saw what I hoped I’d never see. The thick black wall descended to the ground, moving rapidly right to left.

    “BASEMENT NOW!” I screamed.

    “You’re crazy.”

    “Tornado! We have to go to the basement!”

    “I don’t see a thing. I’m not budging until I see it.”

    Anxious and frustrated, I ran back to the window and looked. The sky had returned to the dull, even gray it had been all afternoon. A light rain fell.

    “You’ve been watching too much of the weather channel,” he laughed.

    I gave up trying to convince him and in a little while, I began to doubt I’d seen anything.

    We gave the puppy a treat and headed out toward town. A mile down the road, an ambulance passed us, heading south past our house. Within a moment, we saw the lights of another, fast approaching behind us. We pulled off the road. By the time we got to town, the same ambulance, lights rolling, was leaving the hospital, heading back south.

    • Sounds like a close call! Well told tale, Barbara.

      • Barbara Burris

        Thanks, Ann and Walk! I had fun writing this, but I was terrified when it happened. Bruce had never seen a tornado and thought – until after that day – that they all looked like the long twisty funnel kind in the Wizard of Oz. Many homes were damaged and several were completely destroyed. A few people were hurt, but luckily no one was killed. It touched down just about one mile south of us. Bruce still wants to see one. I hope when he does it’s from a safe distance.

    • Good descriptive story, I’ve felt the tension that I know comes when one of those suckers are in the area.

    • Your descriptions were so vivid, this had to be real. Glad you were not in the path!

  10. Hi, everyone. Hope you don’t mind a newbie posting here. I had fun with this one! ************************************

    Monday, the plumber’s mistake caused water to gush from the shower spigot as though it came from an opened a hydrant. When the surge hit the plumber in the chest, he stumbled backwards, shattering the shower door into a million and one cubes of safety glass that rained onto the floor with the sound of a spilled gallon-sized bucket of marbles. A stream of profanity followed.

    Tuesday, while we worked our jobs, oblivious to the scenario unfolding at home, a rabid skunk burrowed into the dog pen. You arrived home to find the skunk nipping at the dog’s legs, and the dog marching her paws up and down, shaking her head from side to side, in an attempt to dissuade the crazed animal. I arrived home to find the dog tethered to the bumper of your car, a pile of your clothes in the driveway, and you at the door wearing nothing but your tighty-whites.

    Wednesday, the kids across the street ignited a mega-sized firework, toppled it accidently, and dumbfoundedly watched it tear a path through our yard like a scud missile. It ripped its way across our driveway and beneath our cars, and then lodged itself between the slats of our garden fence. Red, silver, and blue sparks erupted from the peas and beans like a patriotic volcano, coining a new meaning for the term “victory garden.”

    Thursday, when you put out the trash, the cat escaped. Wielding flashlights, we wandered the neighborhood in our pajamas and duck boots bawling “Jinxie! Jinxie!” until 1:15 AM, at which time an officer of the law kindly informed us that we were disturbing the peace and directed us back home. We found the cat sitting defiantly under our front steps.

    Friday, we kicked off the weekend with a drive to the local dairy farm for ice cream. The dog bolted out the door ahead of us and ran wild circles around the yard in gleeful anticipation of a ride in the car. I called her to me and glimpsed a coon-skin hat nestled between her jaws. No, wait… not a coon-skin hat, but the young opossum that eats from our compost heap, in the dog’s mouth, perfectly intact and alive.

    Saturday we woke to an odd, but vaguely familiar, scent wafting through the open windows of our bedroom. It also permeated our kitchen, dining room, and den. The scent was reminiscent of concerts and giddiness and… an insatiable craving for Doritos. We poked our heads outside and found over half the people of our neighborhood in their front yards whiffing the air and grinning.

    Sunday, your mother called just to check in and hear about your week. “Hi, honey.” She said “What’s going on?”

    Your response: “Oh, not much.”

    • What a week! I liked the Doritos day. Somebody was up to something interesting that day. Glad you’re having fun writing, Kat Annie.

      • In reality, each of these events actually occured, but not in the same week, thankfully. As Walk posted, it’s amazing how we can fail to notice what’s going on around us. My husband, no matter the circumstances, always says, “not much” is happening.

    • What a week, I’m tired after reading that. But what a truth, we’re so busy that we don’t realize “what’s going on” around us, even if we do we won’t admit it. Welcome to Ann’s World, y’all come back now, ya hear.

  11. Barbara Burris

    After a week like that, I’d be ready for a vacation! Loved the victory garden segment. I can picture it perfectly!

  12. Janice looked up as the Emergency Room doors slid open. She sighed as a couple stumbled in, the girl clutching her stomach, the boy with his hands pressed to each side of his head. They veered towards her cubicle.

    “Something’s wrong,” the girl whispered. Her male companion just grimaced.

    “What’s the problem?”, Janice asked.

    “Both of us suddenly started feeling sick about an hour ago. I’m really nauseous and Greg here is feeling really, really dizzy. He can barely walk.”

    As Janice eyed them, the girl stuttered, “We haven’t taken anything or done anything. We don’t drink or do drugs. That’s not what this is about. This just came on out of the blue.”

    “It’s okay”, Janice replied gently, “I believe you. People have been streaming in for the past hour complaining of the same thing. May I see your insurance cards and ID please?”

    After entering the young couple into the system on her computer, Janice directed them to the waiting area where at least two dozen other people in various stages of the same type of distress sat, clutching their heads or their stomachs. Janice sighed again. It was going to be one of those nights and it wasn’t even a Saturday or a full moon.

    From behind the door that led to the examination rooms came a crash and a cry. Janice stood up to see if help was needed and staggered as a wave of vertigo swept over her. She dropped to her knees, stomach heaving with nausea. The cries and groans from the patients waiting in the chairs increased in volume.

    A volunteer steering a patient in a wheelchair towards the exit wobbled and ran the chair into a pillar just inside the doors, banging the patient’s cast-bound leg into the wall beside the pillar. The middle-aged man cursed and clutched his thigh as the volunteer fell to her hands and knees and vomited on the floor.

    Gritting her teeth and reaching for the side edge of her desk, Janice pulled herself upright. She braced herself with both palms on the desk surface and stared at the waiting area, where patients were sliding off chairs and falling to the floor. Alarm and fear played across the faces of accompanying friends and family members who weren’t themselves clutching their heads or stomachs or rolling around in agony. A little girl with blond ringlets, who looked to be about four, clung, sobbing, to the leg of a retching woman huddled on the floor in front of one of the rows of pink vinyl chairs.

    Mark Eckburg, an ER resident, stumbled through the door from the examination room area and pitched to the floor, striking his chin as he landed. He lay face-down for a minute and then rolled over, blood oozing from his chin.

    Janice lurched over, the room wheeling around her, knelt beside him, and grabbed one of his arms.

    “What’s going on?” she gasped.

  13. Feel free to guess!

  14. A dozen miles north of town, the highway crests a large hill known, appropriately, as Mile 12 Hill and then descends in a mile-long sweeping “ess” curve to the spruce and cottonwood-forested floodplain of Snow River. It crosses a low boggy area and then rises again on a man-made overpass over the tracks of the Alaska Railroad.

    Off to the right, the red steel girders of a picturesque railroad trestle span the river, the kind of trestle not seen much anymore. Downstream of it is a large open area, formerly a materials pit from which gravel for highway construction had been extracted.

    At the apex of the overpass, the eye is drawn to this area, not to the mountains behind it that run parallel to the highway across the narrow valley. Instead, attention is focused on a mound of screened gravel, perhaps fifteen feet high and three times that long. More specifically, attention is focused at the base of that mound.

    That mound of gravel was my destination. A gray overcast that had brought rain for several days was surrendering to a late afternoon sun, leaving remnants of clouds clinging to the lower parts of the mountains.

    I turned off the highway onto a narrow road that led to the double arms of a locked gate. The railroad had posted a “No Trespassing” sign on this gate. I parked, gathered my gear, and ducked under the gate. I was pretty sure nobody would protest my trespass.

    Reaching the base of that pile, I surveyed the task ahead of me. Now what?

    I pulled a folded yellow litter bag from my waist pouch and flapped it open. I began at one end of the mound and worked my way across its face, picking up the detritus of sportsmen without conscience..

    For many years this site has been used as an unofficial firing range and bore the evidence of such. Discarded ammo boxes, plastic cartridge holders, telephone books, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard boxes, pieces of plywood, a tire, a microwave oven, and other impromptu targets were scattered around the area. All of it was pocked with multiple bullet holes. From the highway it looked like a garbage dump.

    After two hours in the still, hot afternoon, I’d filled eight bags with litter and stacked them out of the way so they too wouldn’t be used as targets. I was picking up more litter as I walked back to my truck when an errant breeze brought the mist of a soft summer shower to my skin.

    I looked in the direction from where the moisture had come and there, against a low ridge, was a full arched rainbow.

    I acknowledged the message.

    “You’re welcome,” I said.

    • I know this is a true story and am glad your hard work was acknowledged.

    • Good to hear from you, Gullie. Lovely tale, well told. Small events can be so very satisfying. I’m glad you got your reward. Serendipity suggests meaning, and I for one, will take meaning wherever I can get it.

      I just hope no one took you for an interesting target! Then what?

  15. Barbara Burris

    Lovely story, Gully. I especially liked the gentle ending.

  16. Beautiful!

  17. As soon as I noticed this website I went on reddit to share some of the love with them. “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.” by Bertrand Russell.

  18. Makes one think. Fun to read.

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