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Prompt: Start your piece with the line “The reason I’m late…”
Style: Write in any style you please. Including but not limited to fiction, poetry, playscript, non-fiction and creative non-fiction. Why not surprise us and give us a book report, a public address, or some song lyrics? Anything goes, as long as it fits in the given parameters for the month.
Limit: More than 200 words but less than 375 words. This does not include the title.
Entry 1: Attempted Latecomer
The reason I’m late is a determination to be neither early nor “too late”; just plain late, a healthy level of unpunctuality in between. Given we knew the couple alone and none of their family or relatives, we needed to arrive at the sweet spot between awkwardly prompt and rudely tardy. This we judged to be fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time of 7:30pm.
Departing home at 7:25pm, a twenty-minute drive lay between us and the venue. Plus, we needed to pick up Alison on the way.
“You sure we’re leaving enough time to be late?” asked Nicole, riding shotgun.
“For sure,” I said from behind the wheel. “There are at least five sets of lights between us and Ally.”
“Bring on the reds. Who’s this ringing me?” Nicole said, reaching into her handbag for the vibrating phone within. “Bugger, rung out. It was Ally. I’ll text her we’re coming.”
“Tell her we’re about ten away,” I said.
But the planned delays and constant stop-starts were not to be, the usual despised red light taking the night off.
“That’s four greens in a row now!” I said. “I can’t believe it.”
With one set of lights remaining I pulled back on the accelerator to a nice 45km/h in the 60km/h zone. It still wasn’t to be, the slow speed allowing sufficient time for two red cycles before turning green within metres of our approach. “Damn these lights!”
A couple of unnecessary laps of the block killed two minutes.
“Do you need to fuel up? Fuelling up would kill five,” suggested Nicole.
“Nah,” I said looking at the fuel dial. “It’s on full. Fuelled up last night.”
“We’re never going to be late,” said Nicole shaking her head.
The vibration sounded again from her bag.
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Ally again,” she said.
“Jesus, tell her to keep her shirt on,” I said.
Five minutes later we pulled into Ally’s street. There she stood in her drive hurrying us over.
“What’s the rush?” I said.
“Did you read my message?” she said jumping in the backseat. “It isn’t an engagement party! It’s a secret wedding, the ceremony started ten minutes ago!”
Screeching down the road we hit our first red light. “Bloody lights!”
Entry 2: Reality Check
“The reason I’m late is inexcusable, and I hope you’ll understand” I begin
hurriedly as I enter the room, aware people are already present and
“Just bear with me a moment” I continue as I set my things aside and
gather my equipment.
“You would not believe the morning I’ve had”
“I awoke, not to the sound of my alarm but rather the sound of running
“I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say, I’d sprung a rather
Taking a breathe and trying to settle the nerves that prickle at my senses
every time I’m in this situation, I continue the rambling apology “Any
hoo, $350 later, plumber is gone, leak fixed and I’m right to head in”
“But, getting outside I see the car’s flat tyre”. “I really didn’t have time
for this, I mean I knew you’d all be waiting”
“So instead of changing the tyre, I leg it to the closest train station to
hear the “All Services Cancelled” announcement”
I stop at this point, looking around the room. For what, sympathy, some
acceptance of my plight.
Stepping into my suit and putting on my gloves, I laugh, “I mean to say
could my day get any worse”
Dressed and ready to commence I take in my audience, all quiet and
patiently waiting, “So that’s my excuses made, but I’m here now, and
somehow I think you’ve all had a rougher time of it than me”
Stepping over to the first trolley in centre stage, I pull down the roof mic
and reading the toe tag, I begin for the tape
“Here we have Mr. Charles Sinclair, Caucasian male, 6 ft 5 inches, 90kg –
“Cause of death yet to be determined”
“So, let’s find out what happened Charles” I say bringing the scalpel to
his exposed chest and starting the Y shaped incision.
Entry 3: Extracting Eggs
“The reason I’m late … well, er, where do I start? I was planning to bake a cake to bring today. I had all the ingredients out on the bench, and I realised I had run out of eggs. Damn! I’ll pop next door and borrow a few.”
Julie’s front gate squeaked. “Hiya, wanna cuppa? Kettle’s just boiled.” Julie was hunkered down in her favourite seat on the verandah, smoking, out of the wind and catching the watery, winter sunshine.
“Kylie popped in the other day, as I was sitting here. She needed to use the loo and suggested we should go shopping. She’s after one of those new earbuds; the ones with the pink and grey stripes. Nichole got a pair last week. Apparently, they deliver great sound, and you can imagine those colours against her new green cardigan!”
“Talking of being caught short, I was in the kitchen, baking, and I ran out of self-raising flour. I mixed two tablespoons of baking powder into the plain flour. It worked a treat, and with the lime marmalade, they will be great for morning tea. Jason will be home shortly.”
I had my seque, but I had to jump fast. “Can I borrow a few eggs?”
“No worries. I’ll get em.” Julie stood up, but turned. “I was talking to Melissa last week, and she has found this amazing recipe for a Gugelhupf cake. Ya know that lovely Austrian cake – hollow in the middle. The secret ingredient is the raisins and slivered almonds, and you need to …”
“The eggs”, I proffered as I made a move towards the kitchen door, hoping to lure Julie back onto the task at hand. It took me another fifteen minutes to extract the eggs and get back to my baking.
“So, well, … my planned schedule was thrown out the window, but the cake was going to happen, it did and hence my rather tardy arrival. Entschuldigen sie!”
Entry 4: A Priceless Dinner
“The reason I’m late, oh Mum wait till you hear what Mark just told me.”
“Calm down Rachael.”
“He was having dinner with his Dad at Josie’s Diner and he felt God was telling him they should pay for the old couples meal that was sitting near them. He didn’t have enough pocket money so he asked his Dad. His Dad didn’t want to do it because he had just paid for someone else’s meal the
day before and they aren’t rich. His Dad had been telling him about listening to God and doing things like that. So his Dad thought maybe he was just thinking it would be a good idea and wasn’t really God telling him. That’s what Mark said anyway. So they kept talking and his Dad really
didn’t want to do it.”
Rachael takes another breath.
“So his Dad waited and waited before calling the waiter over and asked him if they could pay for the old couples meal. But please don’t tell them who paid it, they wanted to stay anonymous. The waiter walked straight over to the old couple and told them their meal had just been paid for. When
they asked who by, he pointed right at Mark’s Dad. Mark said his Dad looked even less happy when that happened then when he’d agreed to pay for their meal.”
Rachael takes another breath.
“So as the old couple got up to leave they came up to Marks Dad and thanked him for paying for the meal. Mark’s Dad said it wasn’t him and pointed to Mark and that’s when the old lady burst into tears.”
“She told them that years ago a teenager had robbed her and tied her up and stolen her car and she’d never been able to trust teenagers since then.”
Rachael sniffs trying to choke back the tears as her Mum envelops her in a hug, her own tears
dropping onto her teenage daughters head.
“Sorry I was late Mum.”
“It’s ok sweetie.”
Entry 5: The Dog Ate My Homework, And Other Stories
The reason I’m late … well frankly I’ve had just one of those days. First of all, getting out of bed required almost twenty minutes of discussion with self about whether ‘twas nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of the cold bedroom floor or just to stay snuggled under the doona.
Then there was the most awful traffic between the bedroom and the bathroom … several cats, a dog and two wide-awake small children, all of whom needing feeding, and a husband who needed poking with a sharp cup of coffee. By the time I got to the shower, the hot water was almost gone, there was only a sliver of soggy soap in the dish and all the towels were in a wet heap on the floor.
And I had problems deciding what to wear for this meeting. The usual black trakky daks and sweatshirt (these days, more sweat than shirt) probably wouldn’t do, so I had to go ferreting through the wardrobe (ie ironing pile) to find something resembling the kind of office-wear I used to flaunt in
the old days, when clothes were important.
I decided against the heels, though. Can’t see me ever wearing those again. Nah. Ugg boots are fine.
Then I had to queue for my morning coffee … can‘t start my day without my cup of Coles’ finest with added glitter (where did that come from?) though there was no bread for toast and the cereal box was mysteriously on the deck, filling up with rain.
Finally, I got to the computer and had the usual tussle with the internet (so much for the NBN) and then had to look at the preview screen to make sure my lipstick was on right and not squiffed over my chin like last time.
Then of course you wouldn’t let me in – serves me right for being late. But here I am at last, Zooming across Victoria to join in the Tuesday Stitch n Bitch session. How’ve you all been?
Entry 6: Sky
The reason I’m late
is I was staring at the sky;
its clouds had black heavy bottoms,
like overworked pans.
And the birds above, though their feathers were soft,
flew fast with their sharp beaks pointed together— in military formation,
a Roman legion
threatening the clouds.
Today was not a kind sky.
It wasn’t a bowl of blue hope, waiting for the birth of a cloud,
nor did it summer shimmer or winter crisp.
Today, it was not that way.
Today, it hung over the sad and the worst and the despicable;
it did not offer succor of spirit, a warm arm of sun, or comfort for the lonely.
Today in my sky staring,
I remembered the snow clouds under which news came of my friend;
we’d juggled sunrises and laughter and cracked hearts,
and she had fallen from the sky, wrapped in a plane.
and so did we.
Today, there was a sky
someone could fall from;
even though it could turn blue and tranquil in a twist.
But never trust a blue sky to be good, or kind, or fair.
Be wary of it.
Today, in my staring state,
I realised this
and that is the reason I am late.