Welcome to Week 5 of my 26000 Words project! Can you believe it? I’ve managed to make it through a month! That’s normally how long it would take me to write one short story, and in four weeks I’ve written two! I don’t know about you, but I’m giving myself a pat on the back for this one. It may have only been a month, but I’m finding inspiration is coming a lot easier now. I’m even having an easier time writing my novel – the same one I’ve been struggling with for the past year. It’s all pretty exciting stuff in my world. 

So I’ve written another short story this week. I watch a lot of YouTube videos by Wong Fu Productions. They’re amazing guys who know how to tell a story that can just as much make me cry as make me laugh. After watching their latest short about the perils of trying to return a gift behind a friend’s back (you know you’ve done it!), I was inspired to come up with a story about another everyday situation taken to the extreme. I have a bad habit of being late. I just can’t help it sometimes. But I do try to leave fifteen minutes earlier now just so I have a better chance of being on time. What are some things you do to keep yourself from being late? 

Hope you enjoy the story. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Angry needle gorilla at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

(This pic is what I imagine Jonah looks like when he…well, read on and you’ll find out!)

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“Hey guys,” said Rick as he jogged towards the group gathered in front of the movie theatre. “Sorry I’m late. I couldn’t find parking anywhere.” He hated that he was meeting these people for the first time with a light sheen of sweat decorating his forehead. So much for a good first impression, he thought bitterly.

A Korean guy with a piercing through his left eyebrow stepped forward. “Hey man,” said Steve, giving Rick’s hand a shake. Steve and Rick went to the same gym and after spotting for each other a few days in a row, Steve invited him to come watch a movie with his friends. Rick was new in town, so he was pretty excited to be meeting some new faces.

Steve introduced him to the group, who didn’t seem to notice that he was sweaty and slightly out of breath. There was even a pretty girl with a pixie cut that seemed to be giving him the eye. Rick made a note to try and sit next to her for the movie. When Steve got to the last person in the group, Rick had to do a double take.

“This is Jonah,” said Steve.

Jonah was tall and skinny and wearing the same pair of Vans that Rick had been eyeing at the mall yesterday. They should’ve gotten along instantly because of that, but Jonah was also wearing a scary-looking frown on his face and his arms were crossed over his chest in a very angry way.

“Uh, hey Jonah,” Rick said tentatively. He stuck his hand out, but Jonah made no move to shake it. His eyes narrowed to slits, making the hair on the back of Rick’s arms stand on end.

Steve coughed to break the tension and put his arm around Jonah. “Why don’t we all get our tickets?” he announced good-naturedly and pulled Jonah around towards the ticket machines. Jonah snuck in one more glare at Rick before stomping away to join the others.

Rick was about to take a step forward, when Steve spun around and held him back. “Sorry about Jonah,” he said.

“Yeah, what was up with that?” asked Rick. “Is he always that…friendly?”

“He’s really…sensitive about people being on time,” explained Steve.

“Seriously? I’m not even five minutes late and he’s mad at me? He just met me!”

Steve shrugged. “I know. He’s really weird. But he can’t help it. It’s like his pet peeve. Just take it from me, you want to be on time whenever Jonah is around. I talked him down this time, but there’s no telling what he’ll do if you’re late again.”

“What do you mean you talked him down? He can’t get that angry at someone for being late.”

Steve glanced nervously over his shoulder and then, motioned for Rick to move in closer. “Look, I didn’t want to scare you,” he whispered. “But Jonah goes crazy when people are late. Like he may be skinny and everything, but the first and last time I was late for something he was at, I ended up having cast on my arm for four months. Seriously, man. Leave ten minutes early if you have to. It’s not worth it.”

Rick stared at Steve. “He broke your arm?” he shouted.

“Shh! Keep it down. You might set him off. Look, you don’t believe me? Here let’s get another eyewitness account.” He turned and called over one of the guys. “Luis, come here a sec.”

Luis jumped out of the ticket line and ran towards them. “What’s up?”

“Remember when Jonah broke my arm because I was late to wings night?” asked Steve.

Luis made a face. “Man, why do you have to bring that up? I was just starting to forget how bad it was! Your girlish screams still haunt my dreams.”

Steve gave Rick an “I told you so” look. “And remember what happened when you were late to Carlie’s birthday two years ago?”

“Luckily, no. I blacked out pretty early into Jonah’s rampage,” said Luis.

“See?” said Steve to Rick. “Make sure you come on time, man.” He enunciated each word as if they would magically ensure Rick was never late again.

“Yeah, you don’t want to see Jonah when he’s angry,” agreed Luis.

Rick stared at both of them, dumbfounded. He opened his mouth to say something, but couldn’t quite find the words.

Steve smiled at him and, as if their whole conversation had never happened, said in a cheerful voice, “Alright, boys. Now let’s go watch some Indian kid try not get eaten by the tiger in his boat for the next two hours!”

Steve’s friends were really cool and Rick even hit it off with Carlie, the pixie hair girl. They’d been texting each other the whole week and he was trying to work up the nerve to ask her out. Even Jonah eventually warmed up to him and by the end of the night they’d had a pleasant exchange about why Vans were still cool and what they considered to be the best food trucks in town.

Rick had a hard time believing that Jonah could actually hurt someone for being late and figured that Steve and Luis were just trying to play some kind of weird joke on him.

He was playing video games on his couch when his phone rang.

“Hello?” he said, putting his game on pause.

It was Steve. “Yo, what are your dinner plans tonight?”

“I have a pretty epic pastrami sandwich waiting for me in my fridge. Why?”

“Forget the sandwich. We’re all going to grab dinner at the new sushi place in Kensington.”

“Steve. I can’t believe you just told me to forget about a pastrami sandwich, especially when I just told you that it’s pretty epic. As a man, I thought you would understand.” He grinned as he could practically see Steve rolling his eyes.

“Carlie’s gonna be there,” said Steve, bringing out his secret weapon.

“Okay, now that’s just playing dirty.”

Steve laughed. “We’re meeting at the restaurant at 6. I’ll text you the address. And Jonah’s coming, so don’t be late.”

It was Rick’s turn to roll his eyes. “Yeah, yeah,” he said and ended the call.

He checked the time. 4:10pm. Plenty of time to play another level or two. Or three.

It was 5:38pm by the time Rick left his house. The restaurant was close by and the summer sun was still out, so he figured he’d just walk over. It was only going to take him about twenty minutes to get there. And if he was a few minutes late, he was pretty sure Jonah wouldn’t care. They had really bonded over those food trucks and he was certain there was no way Jonah could so much as hurt a fly.

He started whistling a Top 40 hit he couldn’t get out of his head and smiled at an old lady walking her shitzu. Suddenly he got a text and he whipped his phone out, hoping to see Carlie’s reaction to a joke he’d sent her. With a frown, he saw that the message was from Steve.

Found this on my phone. Don’t be late!

There was a video attached to the message. Rick pressed the play button.

“I told you not to be late!” Jonah screamed at Luis.

Rick’s eyes went wide and he nearly dropped his phone as the video played out. Jonah was beating the crap out of Luis. And it didn’t look pretty at all. The skinny psycho could actually hit!

“Shit,” Rick said, suddenly breathless, as the video ended. Steve was right all along. He checked the time on his watch. “5:48!” he shouted. “How the hell did that happen?” He glanced around frantically. He was still a good fifteen minutes away from the restaurant. “Shit. Shit. Shit.” He pocketed his phone and bolted down the sidewalk. He had to make it on time no matter what.

Another old lady walking her dog was coming up the path. “Move out of the way!” he shouted, waving his hands at her and running full tilt towards her.

The lady had her headphones on and waved back at him. “Hello, young man!” she called out with a smile.

It was either Rick or the old lady and Rick really liked having the use of both his arms. Without even thinking about it, he shoved the old lady out of the way. She managed to keep her balance and Rick shouted, “Sorry!” over his shoulder.

The little old lady responded with a choice set of curse words as her little dog barked ferociously at his retreating body.

He reached a crosswalk just as the DON’T WALK sign came on. He groaned and paused to check his watch.

5:54pm. Twelve more blocks to go. There was no way he could make it there even if he ran like the wind.

As if the gods were on his side, a little boy on the opposite corner suddenly jumped off his bike to grab an ice cream cone from a parked ice cream truck. Rick saw his chance and ran through traffic, dodging honking cars as deftly as he could. Miraculously, he avoided getting hit and grabbed the kid’s bike, throwing forty dollars at the kid as he blazed past.

“Hey! That’s my bike!” the little kid shouted.

“Keep the change!” he shouted back.

He sped down the sidewalk, yelling at people to move out of his way. Someone didn’t move fast enough and her open bottle of ice water flew at Rick. The water did a great job of cooling down his face, but the force of it hitting him also almost sent him careening into a parked car. He swerved to try and avoid the Mercedes-Benz, but ended up ramming into a pole instead. He fell off the bike, hitting the ground hard.

“Are you okay kid?” said a man in a suit, rushing to his side.

“The time,” Rick gasped. “What’s the time?”

The man gave him a strange look as Rick tried to get up. “Easy son. You might have a concussion!”

Rick ignored him and looked at his watch. 5:58pm. He stood up and looked around. The restaurant was within sight! Only a block away. He staggered forward, pushing the man aside and fighting through the pain in his shoulder.

“You’re crazy!” he heard the man shout, but all Rick could hear was the sound of his own thoughts.

Almost there. Almost there. He chanted as he hobbled down the street. One minute to go.

The crosswalk was due to turn green at any second. Then, all he had to do was run across and he’d be fine. He’d be safe from the wrath of Jonah.

Rick waited impatiently, his body sprung tight like a coil, his heart beating rapidly against his rib cage. Almost there.

The light changed and, with a speed he never knew he was capable of reaching, he bolted across the street and down the block to the restaurant in record time.

“Made it!” he gasped, doubling over to catch his breath.

“Woah, Rick, what happened to you?” Steve asked, coming over to his side.

“Rick, are you okay?” he heard Carlie ask.

“Yeah. Fine. Just. Ran. Over,” he gasped, standing up straight to face them. Jonah was staring right at him. Two words escaped his lips.

“You’re late.”

A chill ran through Rick. “No! I-I got here right at 6!” He looked down at his watch. 6:02pm. He felt the blood drain from his face. “What? That can’t be. But I was just…I…I tried!”

Jonah pushed past everyone and started towards Rick. The look on his face was murderous.

“Jonah, calm down man,” said Steve, jumping in front of him.

“He was late,” Jonah said, his voice quiet and dangerous. Steve whimpered and moved out of his way without another word.

“J-Jonah. Can’t we t-talk about this?” Rick begged, staggering backwards. He didn’t know if he had any energy left to run, but if it came down to it, he would. He just prayed that he could outrun Jonah. “It’s just two minutes, dude. You saw me! I was just on that corner over there! I tried so hard not to be late.”

“Too little. Too late,” said Jonah and he punched his fist into his hand.

Rick had never been so scared of a skinny Asian kid in all his life. “I’m sorry Jonah!” he shouted, taking another step backwards.

“Rick, watch out!” Carlie shouted.

And then, everything went dark.

“Look, we’re really sorry we took it too far,” said Jonah.

“Yeah man. I was going to tell you the video was fake at dinner,” said Steve. “I’m really sorry.”

“It was a stupid joke. Luis is sorry, too,” Jonah added.

Rick smiled at them. “It was kind of funny,” he admitted.

“Not really because you ended up in the hospital. I mean, you broke both your legs,” Jonah pointed out.

Rick tried to shrug but he’d also broken his right clavicle, which made it impossible to move.

Steve scratched his head. “That was so random that there was an open door in the ground behind you.”

“The butcher already apologized for leaving his delivery door open. No one could’ve known I’d walk backwards, fall through it and roll down the stairs before landing on a sack of pig parts,” said Rick.

“I gotta say, man. You’re taking this whole thing really well,” Jonah said. “Are you on pain meds or something?”

“Only a few. I mean, if I had to get hurt, at least I ended up at this hospital.”

“What’s the big deal about this hospital?” Steve asked, looking around in confusion

“The big deal is that I just got transferred here.”

Everyone turned towards the door where Carlie was standing in her nurse’s scrubs. “Are you boys aggravating my patient?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at Jonah and Steve.

“Oh, hey Carlie,” said Steve. He looked back down at Rick with wide eyes.

Jonah looked down at him too and mouthed, Nice.

“Sorry I’m a little late, Rick,” Carlie apologized as she came up to his bedside. “The doctor had to talk to me about another patient.”

If Rick could have shrugged, he would’ve. He settled on a big, toothy smile instead. “Don’t worry about it. I think you’re right on time.”

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