Zack Umstead, Young Writer

November 6, 2012

Business Card Fiction

This year, one of the classes I’ve been taking is Creative Writing. Sounds like a ton of fun, right? Well, it does to me, but so far, we haven’t done a heck of a lot of writing in Creative Writing, and what we have done is mostly nonfiction. But we are now finally beginning to write fiction, and I couldn’t be happier. Whenever I get the chance (and the story’s good), I’ll post what I’ve written on here. This first post was an odd prompt – we were given a picture prompt, the painting by George Tooker you see here, and were told to write a piece of fiction about it. Simple enough, except there was a catch – we could only write it on the front and back of a business card-sized piece of card stock. Not the easiest thing to fit a full plot arc on. I tried my best, and I think you’ll like it. Go ahead and read below!

The Bureau of Time

Walter shuffled forward in line. “Name, please,” the man asked.

“Walter Robinson.”

“How long are you requesting?”

“Eight years.”

The man behind the counter punched a few keys. He had the same face as everyone else behind the counters. That was for protection – there were dangers in this job. “I can’t give you that. At most, you have seven months.”

“Seven months!” Walter cried. “I need more than that!”

“I can’t give you more than that, sir. I suggest you live your life while you can.”

“Oh, you’ll give me more than that!” Walter pulled a handgun and pointed it right at the clerk’s face.

“I’m sorry sir,” he said without emotion. “I can’t help you.”

Walter pulled a trigger and the bullet punched a clean hole through the robot. He emptied the rest of the clip in the two guards coming toward him, also robots. As he was taken away, he heard the clerk say, “Enjoy your life, sir.”

And just for a bit of fun, here’s a picture of the front and back of the card, with a quarter for scale.


July 13, 2012


Filed under: Shorts — Zack @ 1:39 PM

I wrote this short story a few weeks back for a contest on a great blog called Teens Can Write, Too! Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but I figured “Hey, why not share it on the blog?” A little detail, though: the contest required the pieces to be around 200 words, and the prompt was “Beginnings”. Trust me, I would’ve loved to write more than 200 on this particular piece. But, due to those constraints, I cut it down to this, which I titled “Spark”. Enjoy!


“The end is nigh!”

The man stood in Times Square with his basic cardboard sign. The word ‘repent’ was scribbled across it in black Sharpie. His companion a few yards away carried a professionally printed sign and handouts, which he was currently attempting to force into the hands of a man in his late thirties. The man politely declined and tipped his derby hat at the owner of the cardboard sign. He then straightened his tie and walked off.

William’s hat had caused a few beads of sweat to form on his head, and his wrinkled brow allowed them to coalesce. The liquid was suddenly shaken loose as he allowed himself to chuckle at the irony of being told the world would soon end. William didn’t need flyers to tell him what to do — he was going to do it.

Today was the beginning of the end of this imperfect world, and William had the honor of being the spark for the fire. Soon, his companions would continue the work of ending this world and building the utopia that humanity desperately needed.

But William would never see this future. He walked to an officer writing a ticket for an illegally parked painter’s van. “Is there a problem?” he asked in his thick Welsh accent.

“Yeah, this van shouldn’t be ‘ere. What’s it gotta do with you?”

“Well, that happens to be my van.”

“Is it? Well, ‘ere’s your ticket.” He ripped the slip off his pad and handed it to William.

“Cheers.” William reached into his pocket and flipped the switch.

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