Monday, March 11, 2013

Problems

I had fun combining Trifecta's prompt, Time, with the bonus prompt from Write on Edge, Hugo's song 99 Problems.  This piece, while fiction, is a subject close to my heart as I grew up in a military family and have several friends currently serving.  One is stationed in Afghanistan right now.  Thankfully he comes home soon.  After reading my take on the two prompts, be sure to check out other answers.


“Problems?  You’re complaining about your so called problems?” he growled at a pair of teenage girls bemoaning their lack of money to go shopping for clothes they did not need after they flagged down a janitor to clean up the mess they made of their meals.

One gave the scruffy looking man a dirty look.  A blind man could see she didn’t care.  He, however, wouldn’t accept that.

“Let me tell you a little about real problems.  I didn’t start out working as a janitor here at the mall.  I don’t enjoy cleaning up after brats so spoiled their biggest issue is money for more stuff they don’t need.

“I graduated.  Then I joined the military.  I got shipped out, separated from my girlfriend and our son.  I watched several friends get torn apart by bombs.  I had to choose between stopping a convoy and putting more friends at risk or hitting a kid standing in the road.  When I got back I couldn’t sleep because of the memories.  Going outside terrified me.  I even assaulted my girlfriend once not realizing who she was because of the memories.  They left for their safety. I was too unpredictable.  I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again.

“I did this for the people who live here.  I did this for my family.  I did this for girls like you so you could go shopping in public without fear.”

I could see his words hit home for them.  They squirmed in their seats, trading guilty looks.

“You’re right.  We should be happier for what we have,” one mumbled into her ice cream.

“Just remember – no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone else who has it worse,” the man finished cleaning and walked away.

Listening to him made me realize it was time for me to change the way I looked at things as well.  I needed to do something more with my life.  I couldn’t take it for granted anymore.

30 comments:

  1. They needed telling. I hope they remembered what he said. Nice piece.

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  2. I like the point of view here very much--the idea of this overheard interaction being the impetus for change. Nice job.

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    1. Thanks. It was one of those scenes that just popped into existence.

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  3. I found this post to be so thoughtfully written and important for a couple of reasons-one, that we need to keep our priorities straight, and two, that we never forget the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces. Thank you for writing such an eloquent reminder!!

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    1. And not just the men and women who serve but their families who are left behind as well.

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  4. Well written! Sadly, many teens, and some adults need to hear this. Often, more than once.

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    1. That is the sad part that we need the constant reminders.

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  5. There are always others whose problems can make mine small indeed. Well done.

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    1. I have to remind myself of that most every day.

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  6. Afghanistan claimed my best friend. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't miss his existence. Some days I'm comforted in the knowledge that he died doing what he wanted to do, for our country, for me, and that he wouldn't trade another hour for that honor. Other days I wonder why the best die.

    Most Americans don't feel the sting of our wars anymore. We no longer have to give up sugar or butter, or pantyhose or gasoline for the war effort, so unless we know someone personally affected, we go about our day and never give it a passing thought. Our military deserves better than the We the People we give them. We keep electing those thug politicians to that stinkin' hill who don't care about anything but their own pocketbooks. And We the People shall one day reap what we sow. That will be a bitter harvest, if we are left with any fruit worthwhile...

    And I'm off this soapbox now. Obviously it's a topic that I care deeply about and take to heart as well.

    Enough about me and my feelings. I love where you took this post, how you wove all the prompts together. And how you tugged at my heartstrings. Brilliantly done!

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    1. I am so sorry for your loss. This is a soapbox I am often up on as well.

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  7. oh, that they'd all listen that well!

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    1. It would make life easier, wouldn't it?

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  8. The youth hanging around our malls are called 'mall rats'...I'm sure it's meant in the kindest way, though :) God for him for telling them how it is. If it helps them be more grateful and change their ways, it's even better.

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    1. I wonder some days how nice that term is meant by some. I'd like to believe it would make a difference to be told a story like that.

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  9. Very timely and well written message.

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  10. Great job with demonstrating such an important message.

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  11. I tend to take things for granted as well. Very good message.

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    1. I think we all do at times and need that reminder not to once in a while.

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  12. Interesting how the narrator only emerges at the end; makes me wonder what he/she is taking for granted.

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    1. That is a good question. I have no idea but it's something to think about.

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  13. Yeah! You tell 'em! D:< lol Great piece!

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  14. Really interesting piece, Wisper - I think the intensity in the character really comes through in his monologue...

    I wonder at the believability of it all - that these young girls who clearly don't care listen and learn at the end; that the man would even have time to deliver a monologue to the audience - they are not a "captive" audience, they could walk at any time - what holds them there to listen?

    The narrator's voice coming through half-way in as observer was unexpected, but not unappreciated...

    I think my absolute favorite line was: "I had to choose between stopping a convoy and putting more friends at risk or hitting a kid standing in the road."

    I love the way your character does not go on to share his decision. This tells us so much about him - someone who wrestles with the moral implications of his actions, someone who might tell off two girls in a cafeteria, but also someone who wouldn't want to give anyone else nightmares!

    Nicely done!

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