Saturday, September 7, 2013


The subject of this month’s invitational post is career change. Note the important word “change.” Change is an essential ingredient of any story: something has to happen to somebody, and that somebody has to change.
Why do people change jobs? Why do they choose to pursue new careers? Read the following seven 99-word stories and learn seven different answers. But there’s one element all seven stories have in common: conflict. Conflict is another essential ingredient of any story. A story without conflict is like a meal without food.

Following the stories is an excerpt from my forthcoming novel Hooperman, which will be published by Oak Tree Press in November. This scene is taken from the first chapter in the book, and it shows Hoop Johnson trying to get a job—any job—working in his favorite bookstore. He has no idea what he’s getting himself into. Career change, for sure! Danger, most likely!
Finally, at the very end of this post is the challenge for next month’s 99-Word Story collection.


by Alice Truscott

The emotional highs and lows that go into trying to get a new job. Ugh. Gearing up for those awful situational questions. How did you handle a dishonest coworker? Can’t remember. How did you deal with an aggressive customer?
Got the hell out of Dodge.
How can you improve our bottom line?
Don’t know.
What kind of experience do you have as a leader?
By the end I’m wrung out and want to run screaming from the room. Then, finally, like winning the lottery, somebody decides maybe you are the one.
Time to learn the new job. Yippee!


By Jill Evans

Charlie was excited about his first day, but felt perplexed when he was directed to the machine shop and the factory foreman.
He watched as the foreman demonstrated. “You take a piece of metal, center it on the machine, press this red button, let the machine stamp it, then remove it. Then you take another piece and do it again.”
Charlie recalled the conversation with the recruiter who promised him a leadership role with daily challenges and high corporate visibility.
“You could get a monkey to do that,” Charlie said.
“Welcome to Hudson Enterprises.”
Charlie left without saying goodbye.


by June Kosier

Grandpa started working for the newspaper at the age of twelve. He delivered newspapers before school, rode a trolley car after school dropping newspapers off at newsstands, and then answered phones in the office.
He became a printer and worked until they made him retire at the age of seventy-six. The paper was going to be printed by computer and they did not want to train him. He threw his retirement watch at them.
Now the paper will be printed digitally by another newspaper and all the printers are being let go. History repeats itself.


by Pat Shevlin

“I really need you,” Jim would plead passionately when he called. She dismissed him for months, but this day was different; today she proposed.
His rejection stung: “I can’t take you away from him now. Our friendship is good again; that could change if I take you away.”
Trisha was hurt. “Don’t ever ask me again.”
Months passed and there he was again. Should she risk it: an older woman and a younger man? Was he worth it?
Leaving the security of 20-plus years in law, Trisha took a leap to Wall Street, where they worked happily ever after.


by Jerry Giammatteo

It was my first job and I had the boss from hell. He railed at me over the smallest mistakes. “You’re an accountant,” he thundered. “You should know this.”
 I was an accounting major fresh out of St. John’s University. The cheap SOB refused to send me to training. He was called Tomato-Face because it was constantly red from yelling. Quitting was my best move.
 I approached my next job with trepidation, but my boss was great. If I screwed up, he showed me why and how to make corrections.
 Maybe I can do this, I thought confidently.


by Christine Viscuso

 “Clarence Bailey, why did you give up a successful law practice to become an entomologist and study ants?”
“Because, Mona, I’m tired of getting people like Irwin Plout off.”
“Isn’t he the guy that bludgeoned his family, cooked, and ate them?”
“Instead we’re in Kenya, being munched on by Driver Ants.”
“Ants have been around for a bajillion years. By studying them, I may help solve some of the world’s problems. I can make a difference.”
“You may have to switch careers again, dear. Seems that Irwin followed us. He’s in front of our hut, strangling a native!”


by Martha Walden

The lash whistles through the air above my bare back. SNAP!
“Row, damn you,” he roars.
“I’m rowing, I’m rowing!” I say. My hands are tied to a splintery oar. My feet are submerged in cold water. Apparently, this boat is sinking.
Whistle, whistle, SNAP!
“Way to reinforce those stereotypes,” I howl.
“Just call me Simon Legree,” he leers.
Simon Legree?
Suddenly I’m black and surrounded by cotton plants. My bare feet sink into the hot dirt.
Actually, I’m sitting in front of a computer, fighting the urge to bang my head on the screen.
“Get to work!”


Now, as promised, a teaser from my forthcoming novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery. Hoop Johnson, a 30-year-old Stanford drop-out, has just quit his job as a pizza chef because he’s seen a sign in the window of the bookstore across the street.

Hoop walked into the office inside the office. Elmer Maxwell looked up from his desk, pulled his reading glasses down on his nose, and looked over the top. He told Hoop he was busy, but the words he used were, “Can I help you?”
Hoop scratched his beard and took a deep breath. “It’s about the juh,dge job. That sss…hign in the window.”
Elmer smiled kindly and said, “I don’t think you’re right for the job, my friend.”
“You’re the man they call Hooperman, right? The pizza delivery guy? You’re famous! My staff loves you. But this is not the job for you. Trust me.”
“Howk, howkuh,kuh,come?”
Elmer paused, then asked, “Hooperman, do you know what shrinkage is?”
Hoop shook his head.
Elmer Maxwell’s eyebrows formed a battle line. “If I have a hundred dollars worth of books, and over the course of a year I take in ten bucks in exchange for books, I should have ninety dollars worth of books left on my shelves, right?”
“Meh,meh,makes ss,hense.”
“Right. Makes sense. So you tell me why in June of this year I closed the store to do our annual physical inventory, and when the numbers came to rest, I was nineteen thousand dollars in the hole. In the hole.”
The Elmer Maxwell now standing up behind his desk was not the cranky businessman too busy to talk to Hoop when he first walked into the office. Nor was he the affable celebrity who had called Hoop famous. This Elmer was a tall, balding, furious victim who had been robbed—robbed—out of nineteen thousand dollars.
“It may be one crook, or it may be a gang of crooks, or it may be a whole ill-mannered generation of crooks, but I’m going to stop them,” he said. “And you, Hoop Johnson, are not the man to do it.”
“Howk, howk—”
“Oh, stop it. Please. Unless I’m mistaken, you have difficulty expressing yourself, right?”
“Only when I speh,ssspeh,speh,sss…peak.”
Elmer shrugged. “Well, this is a speaking role, my friend.”
“Only a pup…roblem with cuh,cuh,consonants. Only some. Okay with vowels. Muh,muh,mostly. Teh,tell me about the juh,dge…ob.”
Another shrug. Another sigh. “I’m looking for a sneak to prowl the aisles of my store for hours, pretending to browse the books.”
“I’m into that,” Hoop said. “For sure.”
“Wait. You’re not really browsing. That’s one of the reasons you’re not right for the job. You’ll spend your energy looking at the books, not the crooks.”
“Any other reasons?”
“Yes. Okay, so you spot a man stuffing a book into the back of his pants, then letting his shirt drop down and cover the evidence. He walks out of the store. Are you up to following this thief out of the store and stopping him on University Avenue and saying, ‘Excuse me, sir, I want you to show me what you have stuffed in the back of your pants?’”
Hoop thought about it. Stupid job. Then he thought about being able to browse the shelves of Maxwell’s Books—for pay.
“I’m your muh,muh,muh,mmm…an.”
“You think you’ll be able to argue with some hard-headed fast-talker?” Elmer asked.
“I’m duh,duh,doing that right now.”
Elmer laughed all the air out of his barrel chest and shook his head. “Well, kiddo, nobody else wants the job. So we’ll go with the Hooperman.”


Want to find out what Hoop’s new job really entails? Can a good-natured fellow with a stammer survive in the fast-talking world of books and crooks? Be sure to read the book when it comes out!


Now, for next month’s invitational post, here’s your challenge. In honor of October, the one month of the year when children are encouraged to say “BOO!” I want you to send me a story that shows the power of language to shock, surprise, and scare. Don’t be timid! Take chances!
Here are the rules:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot, characters, and conflict.
4. The deadline: the first of the month.
5. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:


  1. These are great! Loved Clarence Bailey. I'm still too scared to write a 99 word story.

    1. Thanks, Bill. I'm sure you could write a great 99-word story if you'd give it a whack.

  2. Great stories, more fictional than essay this time, John. Thanks, Jill, Pat, Jerry and Chris for your contributions. You make me proud! John, this excerpt from Hooperman is wonderful, especially the punch line. This job encounter is real and full of heart and hope; I hope you'll share more from the book with us.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Eileen. I'll certainly be sharing more excerpts (I call them appetizers) from Hoooperman, as the publication date grows closer.

  3. These short stories are super fun to read. Love your
    Blog and these ideas you come up with.


  4. Wonderful stories, John. I enjoy reading them each week. My favorite this week was "Second Time Around."