The Innovator – A Short Story

I wrote a short story for a writing contest a few months ago. I posted the few lines of the story here a while ago. I told you all I’d post the entire story here if it didn’t win the contest. Well, I’m pretty sure it did not win. This particularly story was submitted in the “comedy” category of the contest. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy it. It made me laugh at least. 🙂 Let me know what you think.

The Innovator

“Edible Velcro,” said Jesse.

“What?” said Mark.

“Edible Velcro. Velcro you can eat.”

“Why in the world would you want to eat Velcro?” said Mark. “That’s disgusting.”

“No it’s not,” continued Jesse, “and I’ll tell you why.”

“Uh…”

“Fruit cups.”

“Fruit cups?”

“Yes fruit cups,” said Jesse. “Cups of fruit. Have you ever had a fruit cup, got that fruit all stacked up, and then the stuff keeps falling out? It’s like you could have more fruit if it wasn’t for the fact that the cup just won’t hold it. Well, what if you could just Velcro it in? We’d be rich!”

Mark sighed, shaking his head in disbelief at his longtime friend and co-worker.

Jesse thought of himself as an inventor, philosopher, and traveler. In the broadest definition of each word it was true. It was true that he did conjure up contraptions in his head, he often spouted philosophic on any number of topics, often without prompting or any subject knowledge, and he did travel to work every day, sometimes even taking the long way home.

Everyone else thought of him as a scatterbrain, if they thought about him at all.

“There are a couple things wrong with your idea,” said Mark. “First of all, I’m not sure it’s physically possible to make Velcro out of an edible material. Secondly, how many pieces of Velcro are we talking about? Wouldn’t every piece of fruit need the Velcro? Finally, is the fruit cup industry really that big of a market? You got anything else?”

“I have a few more ideas,” said Jesse, unable to hide his disappointment. “I still think the Velcro idea is pretty good. What about county fairs?”

“It’s not gonna work,” said Mark, his voice rising. “It’s a solution without a problem. What else ya got?”

They were spending their Friday happy hour, as always, thinking of ways to get rich so they could quit their day jobs and spend more time doing what they enjoyed most: going to happy hour and talking about how to make more money. As usual, Jesse played the part of idea man while Mark played the part of the wet blanket.

“Table stabilizers,” said Jesse, slapping his palm on the table. “Have you ever been to a restaurant where the table was all wobbly, and your drink kept spilling?”

“All the time,” said Mark. “I hate that.”

“Well,” said Jesse. “What if you had this little spring loaded gadget that you slid under the leg of the table and it made it all even. Businesses and customers would buy that.”

Mark sighed. “Really?” he said. “We’re gonna get rich with a table leveler?”

“Yes we will,” said Jesse. “I haven’t been to a restaurant in my life that had perfectly level floors. We’ll make a fortune just in State College.”

“Or people could just do this,” said Mark. He grabbed five sugar packets from the table, reached below, and inserted them beneath one the table legs. “Problem solved. Look there,” he said, pointing to the far end of the bar where their boss chatted with two young blondes. “I can’t take another Thursday morning staff meeting with that guy. Got any other ideas?”

“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t,” said Jesse. “I need a drink first. Want anything?”

“I got this round,” answered Mark, handing Jesse a five dollar bill. “Get me a lager.”

Jesse grabbed the crumpled bill and walked to the end of the bar, striking his best “I need a drink” pose. Being a football weekend, his hand had company.

Each time the bartender began in Jesse’s direction, a new customer would cut ahead of him, gaining the bartender’s attention. “What’s taking so long?” Mark shouted after some time, from just beyond punching range.

“Huh?” said Jesse, returning from a far away land in his mind. “This place is too crowded. I got another idea, though.”

“I’ll need a drink first,” said Mark.

Twenty minutes later, having miraculously gained the bartender’s attention, Mark and Jesse finally got their drinks and returned to their table. Or rather, the space that had been their table.

“I guess it’s the bar then,” said Mark, pointing to a tiny spot of open space. “We’d we come downtown?”

“We always come here,” said Jesse. “Two dollar pints!”

“True,” said Mark, clinking his glass on Jesse’s. “So, what’s the new brilliant idea?”

“You’re gonna like this one,” said Jesse. “It’s almost as good as the edible Velcro.”

“Sounds like a winner already,” said Mark. “Go ahead.”

“Take a look at that guy,” said Jesse, pointing to a college student leaning on the bar. “That guy’s completely unnoticeable. He’s never gonna get a drink.”

“Good,” said Mark. “He should have to wait like we did. So what?”

“Where there’s a problem, there’s money to be made,” said Jesse. “He needs to get the bartender’s attention, right? It’s tough to do with all those people, especially when you’re a little guy like that.”

“Right…” said Mark.

“Well,” said Jesse, “What if we create some type of gadget that helps people stand out from the crowd and lets the bartender know they want a drink? Make life easier for both the customer and the bartender.”

Mark thought for a moment. He looked out at the crowded bar. Who didn’t hate waiting to be served in a bar? The idea made sense, at first blush. Then he found a flaw.

“What happens if everyone gets one of these things?” he said. “Then we’re back to where we started: a bunch of people and nobody standing out. Then the little guy goes thirsty again.”

“That’s the best part,” said Jesse smiling. “We charge more for the ones that work the best. If you want a drink bad enough you’re gonna be willing to spend more, right? Heck, maybe we even sell them in the bars.”

“I like it,” said Mark, repressing his usual skepticism. “This is by far your best idea. I don’t see how it can’t work. I think I even know how we can make these things.”

“What exactly were you thinking?” asked Jesse.

“I don’t know,” said Mark, rubbing the stubble on his chin. “The thing would have to be small enough to be portable, but big enough to get people’s attention. Something cell phone sized that made a lot of noise with flashing lights.”

“Yeah,” said Jesse. “The more expensive version should be louder and have more flashing lights.”

“But not too expensive,” said Mark. “We’ll make our money on quantity.”

Jesse, at that moment, began to notice an unusual number of eyes and ears pointed in his direction, not so casually listening to their conversation. The frustration with the lack of service was not unique, and that could be exploited.

“And furthermore,” Jesse began, putting his arm around Mark. “I believe every last one of us should be able to buy a beer whenever we want, regardless of stature. We’re here to tell you that we can guarantee that will happen.”

“That’s what I’m talkin’ about,” shouted a dull man, wearing unexciting pants, and a plain white t-shirt. The man’s comparatively bland friends echoed his shouts. A heavily tattooed gentleman wearing all black, standing in the corner cleared his throat in approval.

The bartender glanced at the group nervously. The bouncer, a large man stuffed into a tiny black t-shirt, shuffled his feet. He hoped he wouldn’t have to move from the spot where he had been leaning for most of the evening, not because he was scared, but because of his disdain of movement in general. It wasn’t part of his job description.

“Where can we buy this thing?” said a timid young man who, based on his level of sobriety, had been standing at the bar for hours.

Mark pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket and placed it on the bar. “We’re all sold out right now,” he shouted. “We have a waiting list, though. If anybody wants one, write your name and your email address on this sheet.”

A line of frustrated customers formed, snaking around the bar. It was a mix of young and old bar patrons, some sober, some drunk, and all male. Those at the front of the line offered praise to both Mark and Jesse for such a great idea. Those in the back of the line weren’t entirely sure why they were forming a line, but they hoped it had something to do with free shots.

Jesse leaned into Mark. “We should start taking down-payments,” he said. “There’s enough interest here we could quit work tomorrow.”

“If you charge ten thousand apiece maybe,” whispered Mark. “Don’t get too carried away.”

“No, I’m serious,” said Jesse, beginning to walk toward their boss, who was still deep in meaningful conversation with the two young ladies, both half his age. “I’m sick of working at that place and I’m sick of looking at his stupid face.”

The crowd gathering crowd egged him on. “That guy sucks,” they said.

Sure that he would soon be independently wealthy with his invention, Jesse walked over to his boss and poured his drink on his head. The bar erupted in applause. Jesse’s boss rose from his chair, looked him in the eye, and said, “I wouldn’t bother coming to work on Monday.” He turned to Mark and said, “You either.” With that he stormed out the door, his two young female friends in tow.

Neither Jesse nor Mark paid for a drink the rest of the night. When they happened to see someone struggling to buy a beer, Jesse would approach them and encourage them to sign the waiting list, which soon approached sixty strong.

A half hour before closing, a rather intoxicated man wearing glasses and a Red Sox cap tilted slightly to one side, tapped Jesse on the shoulder and said, “Hey. Why don’t you show us how this amazing invention works?”

“Alright,” said Jesse calmly. “I don’t have it with me, but let me demonstrate. The key is to get their attention. Our device will make it easy for you. Let me show you the hard way.”

“Hey. I need a drink over here,” screamed Jesse as loud as he could while jumping up and down and slapping his hands on the bar. He followed that with a rendition of the Penn State Fight Song, getting some of the words right. The bartender started in Jesse’s direction.

Out of breath, Jesse said, “See that? Our product will have the same result, without all jumping.” The man in the Red Sox cap grabbed the pen and signed his name.

From what Jesse would later describe as out of nowhere, a stunning woman in a low-cut top leaned on the bar and gave the bartender a subtle nod. His head, along with every other head in the bar, turned in her direction. Jesse was forgotten.

Jesse tried for naught to regain the bartender’s attention. Behind the woman with the low-cut top stood her sorority sisters, each as attractive as the next. Behind them gathered what had been Jesse and Mark’s captive audience.

Crestfallen, Mark crumpled the potential customer list and threw it on the floor. He turned to Mark and said, “Men are pigs.”

“Yep,” replied Mark.

“We’re screwed aren’t we?” asked Jesse.

“Yep,” Mark answered. “What flavor would the Velcro be, anyhow?”

“Strawberry,” said Jesse, with confidence.

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9 thoughts on “The Innovator – A Short Story

  1. Great job, you’ve got a real gift with dialogue!

    Although, I feel like they still could have marketed their product for when the ladies weren’t there. 🙂

  2. Pingback: I Deserve a Commission « The Struggling Writer

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