Exercising the craft—January 6, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: What in the world did I agree to?—You had the best time at your New Year’s Eve party—such a good time, in fact, that you can hardly remember it thanks to a little too much vodka. While nursing a hangover, a friend calls and says, “I’m so pumped we’re doing this New Year’s resolution together. I know it’s unusual, but doing it together will make it easier. I’ll pick you up in an hour.” The problem: You have no idea what your friend is talking about. Write the scene starting with the car ride.

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/what-in-the-world-did-i-agree-to

Karen eased herself into the passenger seat of Brian’s car and tried her best to shut the door completely with minimal noise.  She rubbed her eyes and winced when Brian opened his door.  When he slammed it, she moaned.

“Please, Bri, do you have to be so loud?”

“Come on, Karen,” Brian said in a voice that Karen felt in her pounding head as much as she heard.  “We’re off on an amazing adventure!  Here, why don’t you drink some Gatorade?  It might help.”

Karen took the bottle and eyed him somewhat skeptically.  “You think?”

“Yeah, apparently drinking a lot of alcohol dehydrates the body, and drinking Gatorade and stuff gives your body the fluids and electrolytes it needs.  It’s not a quick fix, but it’ll help.”

She shrugged and screwed open the top.  Even the cracking of the plastic ring made her head hurt.  Something Brian had just said tickled at the back of her brain, and after a few moments of concentration she inhaled deeply.

“So, Brian, about this adventure…”

Brian waited a few moments as he clicked his seatbelt and started the car.  Karen barely suppressed another moan when she heard the engine turn over.  She caught Brian out of the eye grinning at her misery.

“Anyway,” she went on, rolling her eyes, “um, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really don’t—remember what we decided.  About the adventure.”

“Don’t tell me you’re flaking out on me now!  No one else would do this, and in our entire circle of friends you and I have known each other the longest.  I mean, we go all the way back to freshman year!  Don’t you remember some of the crazy stuff we pulled in college?”

“Yes, I do,” Karen said, bracing herself as Brian turned right on a red light.  “But that was almost fifteen years ago.  We’re not in college anymore.  We’re grownups with careers and responsibilities.”

“Come on, Karen, aren’t you sick of being chained to your desk?  Besides, this was your idea!”

“Maybe that’s the problem.”

“What, are you regretting it now?”

Karen turned to look at the window as she felt her face get hot.  “Um, I don’t even remember what we decided to do, so at this point all I’m regretting is the last few shots we did last night.”

Shock crossed Brian’s face.  “Are you—no way.  You’re yanking my chain, aren’t you?”

She didn’t think she could say it again, so she just shook her head and kept looking out the window.

“Are you serious?  You’re the one who said you’ve always wanted to do this.  We even used to talk about it college.  Remember that freshman mixer where they asked what we would do if we had unlimited resources and all the time in the world?  Well, last night you said it was time to ante up and stop pretending we were happy working 70 hour weeks.  Those were your words, Karen, not mine.”

Karen opened her mouth to repeat her original assertion that she didn’t remember anything about the previous night when all of a sudden a memory rushed her brain.  Not of New Year’s Eve—her memory still remained stubborn in its haziness—but of the mixer Brian had mentioned.  Suddenly she saw a much younger Brian nodding enthusiastically as she felt her heart swell with excitement at this totally awesome idea of spending the first ten years of her career earning as much money as she could spend a year—

“Brian, you’re kidding, right?  We can’t actually be getting ready to spend the next year trekking around the world with just duffel bags!  I mean, do you remember any of the insane ideas we came up with when we talked about it?  Living exclusively in hostels, getting temp jobs in different cities, using only cash.  You actually want to go through with this?”

He parked the car in a parking lot, and suddenly Karen got a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach.  Brian didn’t say anything.  He just inclined his head toward the door of what Karen realized was a bank.  And not just any bank, but the bank.

“What have we got to lose, Karen?  If we don’t do this now, we’ll spend the rest of our lives wondering what could have happened if we did.”

“But—but—”

“It’s now or never,” Brian said quietly.

Karen inhaled deeply.  She didn’t know that major life decisions would come on the heels of a major hangover on New Year’s Day.  She always thought she would have time to sort through everything, think it through, spend a weekend weighing her options and make lists of pros and cons.  The girl who made impulsive declarations had disappeared when Life showed up in the form of desperate financial need.

She let the breath go.  “All right.  Let’s do it.  I just need to run into my office and take care of a few things.”

Brian beamed.  “I’ll wait right here.”

Karen opened the car door and tried to close it quietly.  The edge of the hangover had dulled.  The sharp nail hammering into her brain had made it through the soft tissue and didn’t feel nearly as piercing.

She squared her shoulders and shook herself a little to bring back the career persona.  Swinging her purse around, she rooted through it for her keys.  Her hand closed around the key fob and she felt it catch on something else.  After tugging it gently for a minute, she gave it a hard jerk and pulled out her business card holder along with her keys.  The holder fell to the ground and popped open.

Karen knelt and collected the cards and card holder.  She took a moment to read her card.

“Karen Vincent, President, First Corner Bank.”

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