If you are new to the SDS Challenge, a little background.
Three writers will each write one story a month going down the list of deadly sins. The stories can be anywhere from 666 words to 6,666 words in length, although those numbers are not set in stone. If ambitious, the writers will provide accompanying graphics. These stories will not be anonymous because some writers may want to use the same characters for each story and write a series — or book — encompassing all seven sins. Finally, interpretation of the titular sin is up to the writer. Meaning, each ‘sin’ can take multiple forms.
The seventh set of stories cover the sin of Sloth. This is my offering. Once again, a lame effort knocked out in a few hours of writing. And, again, I like it. I know; I like everything I write, but this time . . . it’s the same.
Disclaimer: The writing challenge has no restrictions and the stories will likely span a wide gamut of genres. The majority of the stories fall in the PG-rating range with a few perhaps pushing into the soft R-rating. Some readers might find a few of the stories disturbing because of the topics, language, and/or plot points, and if so, stop reading and move on.
Copyright 2022 — E. J. D’Alise
(1,865words – approx. reading time: about 7 minutes based on 265 WPM)
Summoned away from a party — a party he was now missing — Argus stood in front of the Justices and had trouble making sense of what they were saying.
The Prime Justice sighed, leaned forward, and slowly repeated the words.
“I said that you, Argus, are on probation.”
Argus shook his head and immediately regretted it. A night of heavy drinking isn’t conducive to clear thinking, and shaking the container was definitely a bad idea.
Argus looked over to his Guild Representative.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“You’ve not met your quota,” his representative replied, pushing a paper across the table.
“We have a quota?” Argus asked as he scanned the paper, focusing on the bold zero to the right of the bold word that said ‘Total’.
“Yes. The guild membership agreed to it at the last contract negotiation,” the rep answered. “All our demands were granted in return for a productivity guarantee. Apparently, some tenured muses abused their secure positions and stopped working, focusing, instead, on partying.”
Argus noticed the room had gone silent, and when he looked up, everyone was staring at him.
“Ah … yes. I remember now,” Argus replied as he corrected his slouch and sat straighter in his chair.
“But, it’s not my fault my charges aren’t producing. Why, the last one I dealt with … er … Joe, I think. Yes, I remember now, Joe!” Argus said, punctuating his sudden flash of memory by pointing at the direction of the Justices. “When I left him, he was incentivized and focused.” (LINK)
“Are you, perchance, referring to the ‘Muse Maestro’ fiasco?” the Prime Justice asked.
Even in his addled state, Argus recognized it was best to hedge, hem, and haw.
“… hmm … maybe?” he cleverly replied.
“Two things,” the Prime said. “One, that was a year and a half ago. Two, it took us nearly a year before we could squelch the rumor about Muse Maestros. Joe mentioned it to a few friends, and suddenly, the Guild was swamped with requests for Muse Maestros. Knowing they were better than Joe, every writer out there demanded one. Some still believe they’re being excluded from having their own ‘Maestro’ and blame the Guild for their lack of success.”
Desperate to deflect, Argus pressed on his last encounter with Joe.
“But, surely, Joe’s success must count for something!”
“It would if he’d actually succeeded,” the Prime said. “After you left him, and without further guidance, he threw himself into other endeavors. The Photography Muse Guild is claiming him.”
“Hasn’t he written anything between then and now?”
“Drek. Crap. Caca. Merda. Sranje. Hovno. Tae …,” the Prime intoned.
“OK, OK, I get it. Joe never did produce quality work,” Argus interrupted, and looking at his rep for support, “but at least he wrote!”
“He had to because of some challenges he signed on to, but it’s all pseudo-clever stuff without substance, while the other writers in the challenge produce interesting literary offerings, Joe is going through the motions,” his rep said.
Argus, his head now clearer and focusing on self-preservation, switched to another topic.
“So, probation. How does it work? I have, like, a year to show results?”
“Two days,” the Prime said.
Argus, uncharacteristically speechless, looked over at his rep, who, looking embarrassed, shrugged his shoulders and nodded.
“You have two days to prove you can still function as a Muse,” the Prime said. She then banged her gavel, stood, and filed out of the hall, the other Justices following suit.
Argus turned to his rep.
“A lot of help you were,” he said.
“I was,” the rep answered. “The Prime wanted to permanently boot you from the Guild. The two-day grace period was the best I could do.”
“What does she have against me?”
Argus struggled to remember the familiar name . . .
“Ah, the young Poetry Muse! What about her?”
“After meeting you, she got disillusioned and quit the Muse Guild. Last I heard, she opened a Yoga studio in Sedona.”
“Lots of Muses quit in their first year! What makes her special?” Argus asked.
“The fact that she’s the Prime’s daughter…”
Argus stared at the rep for a few seconds, his mind trying to conjure up and escape from actual work, but none came. He sighed.
“Fine. Two days. What do I have to do?”
“Well, Joe is facing a deadline in his writing challenge, and he’s got nothing.”
~ 0 ~
Joe looked up from the snack he was making, looked at Argus, and went back to concentrating on his ultimate snack plate . . .
Something was missing … ah!
Grabbing his glass of water and the plate, Joe headed to his office, walking around Argus without giving him so much as a nod.
Argus briefly contemplated giving up, but then remembered he’d studiously and assiduously cultivated a life devoid of practical skills. Being a muse is all he had. So, reluctantly, he followed Joe to his office and plopped down in the chair as Joe settled in front of the computer.
They sat in silence for a while, Argus lost in memories of better — and drunken — times and wishing Joe had picked up drinking in his absence. As it was, he suspected there was no booze in the house.
“There’s rum in the pantry,” Joe said without looking up. “My wife uses it for cooking.”
Argus perked up, trying to remember the location of the pantry.
“Are you reading my mind?” he asked.
“I’m sure there’s nothing there to read,” Joe replied, “but it’s the first time I’ve not seen you drunk, and I figure if you pass out drunk, I won’t have to speak to you.”
“That’s unfair,” Argus said, his feelings almost hurt. “I’ve never passed out on you.”
“Kind of wishing you had,” Joe replied, this time landing a solid on Argus’s self-esteem.
Sullen, Argus stared at Joe, but he brightened upon remembering the pantry’s location. The promise of rum drew him off his chair, and he attempted small talk to break the icy atmosphere.
“So, what are you working on?” he asked as, bottle on hand, he went to the kitchen and got the largest glass he could find.
Before Joe could answer, Argus followed up with another question.
“Do you have any Coke?”
“No. The only soft drink we have is Canada Dry Ginger Ale, and that’s probably close to expired since we only drink it when we have pizza.”
“Of course. I should have known.”
“What do you mean by that?” Joe asked, looking up as Argus sank back down into the chair, opened the rum, and poured the equivalent of many cooking doses into the glass.
“Nothing. So, what are you working on? I don’t hear any typing.”
“That’s because I’m editing photos,” Joe replied.
“Photos, eh? I thought you had a writing deadline.”
“I’ll probably just pass on this round. Besides, I’m way behind on processing photos.”
“You’re way behind your publishing goals, too,” Argus said without thinking.
It took a few moments before Argus realized the temperature in the office had dropped a few degrees from the icy stare Joe was directing his way.
“Look,” Argus said, “let’s concentrate on the short term before looking to the future.”
“We have no future,” Joe replied.
“Humor me,” Argus said, ignoring the comment. “What are you supposed to write?”
Joe looked at the muse casually sitting and sipping rum, contemplated chasing Argus away, but then sighed and replied.
“Hey! I’ll have you know I busted my tail getting to where I am today. Sure, I might have goofed off a bit lately, but…”
“Sloth, as in one of the Seven Deadly Sins,” Joe interrupted.
“I don’t understand.”
“Sloth is the last of the Seven Deadly Sins Challenge. I’ve written a story for each of the other six, but this one is uninspiring.”
“Why don’t you write a story about a sloth,” Argus asked. “You know, the actual animal. Perhaps a tale of a rogue sloth that moves twice as fast as other sloths and becames the King of the Sloths.”
“If you’re trying to motivate me, it might help if you actually put some excitement behind your suggestions. As it is, it sounds like you’re reading ingredients from a soup can.”
“I know! Write a story about a sloth! A rogue sloth that moves twice as fast as other sloths and becomes King of the Sloths! Vur ha!”
“You don’t wear sarcasm well,” Joe replied. “Besides, that’s pretty lame. The animal has no association with the human quality . . . a muse’s quality, maybe.”
“You cut me, Joe. You cut me deep!”
“Look, Argus, you show up here after what, sixteen, seventeen months, and expect … wait, why are you here? I know you don’t care about how or what I do, so this has to be for your benefit.”
Perhaps it was the rum, desperation, or lack of poor judgment, but Argus laid it all out for Joe.
Well, mostly. Argus left out how the probation related to the Prime’s daughter, avoided the sensitive Muse Master topic, and, instead, painted himself as a victim, a tactic he’d learned from human politicians and religious leaders. Admittedly, he didn’t do it nearly as well as politicians and religious leaders, but then, even as slimy as he was, he wasn’t as slimy as members of those professions.
Joe listened, pondered, and considered. Actually, he was thinking that his snacks were gone and that he wanted more snacks. But, he pretended to listen, ponder, and consider while his mind contemplated his next snack. Perhaps sourdough toast with butter, or, maybe, cookies. Cookies always filled in nicely when he was unsure about what to snack on.
Still, he caught some of what Argus said.
“Let me get this straight. You’re charged with getting me to write something for the Sloth installment, or you’re booted out of the Muse Guild?”
Argus looked at Joe, looked at his glass, nodded, and gulped down the rum left in his glass, which was also the last of the rum.
Joe got up from his chair, went to the kitchen, and came back with a can of Coke.
“OK,” Joe said as he placed the now superfluous can of Coke in front of Argus. “I’ll write something, but I want an iron-clad guarantee, attested by your Guild Representative.”
Argus stared at the Coke and the empty bottle of rum.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” he said as he summoned his rep.
It took two hours, but, finally, an agreement was reached.
In exchange for Joe submitting a story for the Sloth round, Argus would guarantee at least six reader’s votes or forfeit his Muse Guild membership.
BUT, still playing the victim card, Argus fought for and won the right to choose which story to tell. Specifically, he fought for this story to be told, hoping that at least a few readers would take pity in his philandering, lying, boozing ass and toss a few votes this way.
Honestly, Joe doesn’t care one way or another. He’s just glad he got something to submit, no matter how lame it might be.
Disclaimer: All characters and other entities appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, dead or alive, or other real-life entities, past or present, is purely coincidental. Heck, the names aren’t even the same, and it’s been decades since I’ve had a Coke in my fridge. Besides, my muse’s name is Guido, and I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing as I’ve not seen him for years.
Here are the links to the other two stories:
The Slow Start <<link
Writer: R. G. Broxson
Word count: 6,400 words – approx. reading time: about 25 minutes based on 265 WPM
The Sloth Queen <<link
Writer: Perry Broxson
Word count: 13,190 words – approx. reading time: about 50 minutes based on 265 WPM
If you’ve read all the stories and care to cast a vote, here’s the link to the Poll:
The SDS Challenge — Sloth Voting <<link
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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