I submitted an entry into a 5-Minute Fiction contest. The challenge was to write a short story with some fun rules:
- up to 1,000 words (it takes about 5 minutes to read)
- a character named Mike
- the mention of a rope within the first 100 words
- and contain this line of dialogue: “This might be the wrong address.”
I didn’t win, but it’s just sitting here, so I thought I’d let you read it.
I turned to her and said, “We could strap an electric sign to your ass and sell ad space on it.”
Physically, we were stopped at a red traffic light in Des Moines, Iowa. Mentally, I was at the end of my rope. I was tired of staring at the Domino’s pizza sign and looked towards the skywalk that stretched over the street. Behind the skywalk was a red brick building. On its roof was a 50-foot scaffold holding a large electric sign that read The Travelers.
My wife and I recently moved to Des Moines. I was an unemployed Art Director looking for a job at an ad agency or a magazine publisher. We had just driven through the East Village and were heading downtown through the Western Gateway neighborhood.
Ignoring my lighthearted remark, she nonchalantly said, “Mike. Green.”
I accelerated the car and drove towards the red brick building. Straining to look up at the sign, I said, “You know, it’s not a bad idea. There are two things that people can’t resist looking at.”
“What are they?” she expelled in a heavy breath.
“Lights and women’s dresses.” I explained.
Literally, the bulbs over my head had given me a bright idea. Women in dresses sell everything from cologne to cars. Selling lighted ads on dresses could make us rich.
I could make and sell the dresses.
When we got home I dug into our unpacked boxes of Christmas decorations. I found a set of white, battery-powered mini lights. I figured I could conceal the battery in a makeshift belt buckle and sew the lights onto the butt section of the dress.
I went to my wife’s closet and procured two of her dresses; one black and one red. After a week of covert sewing, they were finished. They looked like the albino offspring of a Lite-Brite®toy and the New York stock exchange LED display.
Stuck on the Lite-Brite®theme, I considered calling it Lite-Butt, but scratched that idea to avoid any copyright infringement. Other ideas were LED Butt and Cheek-lits, but then I simply wrote down what it was: an ad and a dress. Address! That’s it! The Address. It was simple, descriptive and to the point.
I yelled to my wife from our bedroom and asked her to get a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table. I took off my outer clothes and slipped into the black dress and fastened the belt buckle around my waist. I flipped the buckle-switch to “on” and instantly my shadow appeared on the wall ahead of me. Wow, I could guide Santa’s sleigh in this baby.
I turned my back to the full-length mirror and looked over my right shoulder. I smiled proudly as I read the backwards ad copy written in mini Christmas lights.
I switched off Address and yelled, “Honey, are you sitting down?”
“Yes, Mike.” I heard her reply through the wall. She’s gonna love this.
“Turn off the lights!” I said as I began walking the runway from the bedroom toward the kitchen.
Resembling Shawn Johnson before a floor exercise, I stopped smartly a few feet from the kitchen table. I twirled around on my white-socked left foot simultaneously moving the switch on the belt buckle to the “on” position. I looked over my right shoulder in time to see my wife’s face light up like a Toulouse-Lautrec model. She was a deer in the headlights. She instantly spit her mouthful of coffee directly onto the dress.
“Are you trying to electrocute me?” I howled.
Now she was laughing and snorting.
“Jeez, I could’a got third degree burns.” I said, coffee dripping off my mini bulbs.
She read the ad out loud, “Your ad here.” She erupted again laughing hysterically.
“I have another one.” I said taking a serious tone.
“What’s it say? ‘Eat at Joe’s?’” she asked breathily with her hands on her stomach.
“For your information,” I continued, “It reads ‘Merry Christmas.’ I thought if Address doesn’t get traction, I could sell it as a stocking stuffer.”
I heard her sigh; that sound one makes after a long laugh that hurts like one hundred stomach crunches. My demeanor and the kitchen turned dark as I shuffled back to the bedroom and switched Address off.
A few weeks later, while eating dinner, I explained to my wife that I was sure my idea would be the next pet rock. I told her that I had applied, and was selected, to pitch it at an event called Pitch & Grow held at a company called StartupCity in downtown Des Moines. She said she would support me and seemed sincere. She helped me finish the two dresses and actually made them look professional. I was beginning to think we could really pull this off.
The week before the event, I honed my pitching skills as my wife listened and offered critique. We both agreed that she should model the black Address for the Pitch & Grow.
The day of the event we where driving downtown again and running late, but I needed to take a victory lap past The Travelers sign. We had come full circle.
I turned left onto 5th Avenue, right onto Mulberry, and right again on 6th Avenue. Mercifully, we found a parking spot on the street in front of StartupCity.
“We’re really late. Can you quick-change into Address once we’re inside?” I asked as I opened the car door.
She sat motionless, staring at the black Address folded in her lap. I begged her to please hurry as I fed the meter.
“Mike,” she said, “I think we should have brought the red Christmas dress.”
I answered, “We don’t have time to go home and get the red one. The black one is fine.”
Looking out the passenger side window, she thought to herself, “This might be the wrong Address.”