The Alphabet Challenge: “K” Story No. 1 of 3 — “Knock-knock”

This is the 11th round of The Alphabet Challenge mentioned in THIS post. As a refresher, the Broxson twins, Gary and Perry, and I will each write one story for each letter of the alphabet. Meaning, a story whose title begins with the given letter. For this round, it’s the letter “K”.

Readers have until the publication of the next round of stories (about two weeks between rounds) to vote for their favorite story in the current round. Points will be assigned to each writer based on total votes received.

In each round, the story with the most votes gets three points. Second place gets two points, third place gets one point. In the case of a tie, the points for the tied rankings are added and then split equally among the writers who tied. At the end of the year, we tally up and crown the winner with the most points.

Long or short, each story will appear on its own post and the trio will be followed by a fourth post where readers can vote.

Here we go. Presented anonymously, the first of three stories with titles beginning with the letter “K” as submitted by its author.


Copyright 2020 — E. J. D’Alise

(1,835 words – approx. reading time: about 7 minutes based on 265 WPM)


Dave woke from the morning half-slumber at the notification sound from his phone.

“Must be seven o’clock,” he thought.

He was right, of course. Seven o’clock was when the “Do not disturb” feature on the phone switched off, and the phone notices were set free.

Twisting, he rolled his upper body to reach the phone on the nightstand behind him, carefully making sure he had a good — if awkward — grip.

The caution was the result of a recent lesson learned when he had rolled to grab the phone only to have it slip out of his hand as he swung his arm back. The phone had attempted its best impression of a Frisbee but, lacking the aerodynamic quality of a Frisbee, landed heavily and skidded across the hardwood floor and into the hallway. Luckily, neither floor nor phone was hurt in the event.

He swiped down on the notification bar to read the latest alerts. A reminder from the calendar app about his doctor appointment next week; a reminder from Amazon about some sale or other; a notice the house alarm was armed (that was from last night), a notice that all apps had been scanned and found safe, a reminder from the phone that it was ready to act as a cash wallet, a notice from one of his credit card informing Dave of a transaction (his auto-payment to the phone carrier), and . . . ah, there it was, the notice that had disturbed his slumber:

“Just a friendly message from your Kroger Store: as we’re all struggling not to be killed by the COVID-19 virus, know that we’re doing as little our best to ensure the safety of our customers. So, come on down and risk your life with confidence!”

Well, that’s not exactly what it said, but that’s how Dave read it.

Lying in the comfort of his bed, Dave figured he might as well read his email. Who knows; perhaps there was something good for a change, or useful, or at least not as irritating as usual.

Opening his email app, Dave swore.

“Dagnabbit!” he said as the screen rotated to landscape.

The auto-rotate option, normally useful, was unaware of the fact he was lying on his side. He could have set the phone to monitor his face and keep the phone oriented relative to his face, but that function ate up the battery in return for minimal benefit . . . except for times like these.

Dave swiped the top of the screen to bring up the settings and the option to lock the screen, and did so after holding the phone vertical to switch it back to portrait mode.


Dave locked the orientation before checking this latest notice.

A text from his sister. Dave didn’t text much as he saw it as an evil intrusion into one’s life even as he begrudgingly admitted texting was occasionally useful . . . except for when texting turned into long and often disjointed conversations with people replying to a text as new texts popped up about something else that made the answer to the previous text look like they were in the wrong place and no longer relevant . . . which was true.

Opening his texting app — one of those fully encrypted apps that were wasted since few in his circle of friends and family used encrypted texting apps — and noticed it was a picture.

He tapped it and waited a few seconds for the photo to open. The landscape photo opened in portrait mode, and Dave turned the phone to see the picture in its native orientation better.

“Dagnabbit!” he said as the screen remained in the portrait orientation because of the lock.

Dave swiped the top of the screen to bring up the settings and the option to unlock the screen orientation.

Returning to the text app, he looked at the photo, but his irritation diminished his enjoyment of it.

He wanted to text a nice comment but opted instead for a thumbs-up emoji. He didn’t like emojis much but begrudged their existence as they occasionally spared him from battling the autocorrect embedded into the on-screen keyboard.

Exiting the app, he smugly re-locked the screen before returning to the email app congratulating himself for remembering, one of the few times he did so.


Glancing up at the status bar, he saw the icon for WordPress; something to do with his blog. Swiping down, he saw the word “like” and blew the notice away. If it had been a notice of a comment, he might have looked at it, but likes had lost any significance as far as interactions went . . . although Dave also left the occasional “like” on the blogs he read.

So, back to the email app . . .


Aaargh! Dave swiped down forcefully . . . not that the phone or the screen cared, but it satisfied Dave’s desire to lash out at something or someone. “Emergency Management urgent message,” it said.

Dave tapped the notice to open the text app . . .

“A message from the Teller County Emergency Management: be advised Rt. 67 scheduled repairs may result in delayed travel between the hours of 12:00pm and 4:30pm. Alternate route is advised.”

Dave hadn’t lived in Colorado for four years now, and although he had signed out of the Teller and El Paso counties notification systems, he still received the occasional notice. He deleted the text without bothering to again “opt-out“.

OK, back to email . . .

Let’s see . . . a bunch of stores having sales, Amazon having a special on Kindles, financial news, national news, local news . . . wait . . . an email from a friend . . .


The notice came up on the screen . . . “Motion detected at Front Door.”

Dave switched to the Security Alarm app and went to the timeline for the camera and the one minute video that got recorded whenever the motion detector was triggered. He watched for the whole minute but didn’t see anything. Could have been a truck going by, a bird, the Invisible Man . . . whatever it was, it wasn’t on video. He did hear birds chirping, and that was nice.

OK, back to the email from the friend.

“Just checking how you’re doing. Hadn’t heard from you for a while. We’re doing fine here.”

Dave marked the email “important” so that he’d remember to reply later.


The notice came up on the screen . . . “Emergency Management weather alert,” it said.

Not aware of any local forecast of impending bad weather, Dave opened the text app . . .

“The National Weather Service in Pueblo has issued a Red Flag Warning for gusty winds, low relative humidity, high Haines indices and dry fuels, which is in effect from 11 AM to 8 PM MDT . . .”

Dave shook his head; just last week, the Pueblo weather station had issued a blizzard warning. “Weather sure be strange,” he thought.

Deleting the text, Dave returned to his email. He took note of the calendar reminders for a couple of other appointments and a few tasks he had scheduled for next week.

While reading the weather warning, other emails had appeared in the inbox; Home Depot wanted Dave to know they had a sale in the garden center; Menard’s thought it important to let him know this was a great time to upgrade the closets with their closet organizer kits; the Smithsonian reminded Dave there were only twenty-four hours left to their spring sale, and the Water Department informed Dave his paperless bill was ready for review.

Just as he went to delete the Home Depot email by hitting the trash can symbol next to it, a new email appeared.

He was too late to stop his finger, so when the new email appeared, and before he had a chance to see what it was, it got deleted.

“Dagnabbit!” Dave said.

“What is it?” his wife asked, coming into the bedroom.

“Oh, nothing,” he replied. “Just trying to read my emails, and it’s annoying me.”

“OK. Want me to bring you a coffee?” she asked.

“No, I’ll get up in a moment and get it myself, thanks.”

“OK,” she replied as she left.

Dave propped the pillow against the headboard and sat up, wanting to get through his emails before getting up.


Dave missed the notice (it only stayed on the screen for a second or so) and pulled down the notification bar to read the notice.

“Your Device Health Check has completed. One Action Item flagged.

Annoyed, Dave clicked on the notice to open the Device Care app.

“Your phone has been optimized,” it said, showing a score of 100.

Dave poked around the app for the “action item” but failed to find anything about it.

Closing the app, Dave struggled to remember what he had been about to do. Something had happened a few seconds ago, but he couldn’t remember what. He knew it had to do with the phone, but after a half-minute of figuratively shaking his short-term memory to see what would drop out, Dave gave up.

Back to the email, eight new items awaited their disposition; two messages from Amazon letting him know they had books on sale, a message from his health insurance reminding him COVID-19 was still running around and to be careful, a couple of the science magazines he followed had updates on COVID-19 — one saying it was transmissible by air. The other saying airborne transmission was rare — and a couple of fresh financial articles, one saying everything was great, the other warning of impending doom. Oh, and a new credit card charge, this one for another automated payment.

Dave blew all away except for the credit card charge email, closed all apps, and was about to get out of bed when . . .


“USPS Informed Delivery Daily Digest:
You have mail and packages arriving soon.
Mailpieces that we do not have an image for are included in today’s mail.
Arriving today: No packages available to display.
Arriving Soon: No packages available to display.”

He wondered about the utility of the service, and at that moment, he remembered the email he’d accidentally deleted. Opening the trash in his email, he looked at the list . . . there it was, the accidentally deleted email; Norton wanted him to know he wasn’t using all of the features of his subscription.

Back to his email, Dave archived the USPS message, set the phone on the dresser, and made the bed.

In the three minutes it took him to make the bed, he heard the following:




Dave looked at the clock. It read 7:16 am.


. . . it was going to be another busy day in the life of the connected . . . just not a productive day.


The End

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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