The Grandest of Procrastinations

Wherein I thank some people and then start yet another story…

A(nother) half-finished short story, but first, some shout-outs to a few WordPressers (I like Presslings better, but who am I to label?), who have made my stay here so far much less lonely than it would have been, had nobody been here to swap stories and thoughts. I can’t overstate how important this occasional interaction and general awareness-of-others has been in keeping me plugging away at the keys, albeit very inconsistently.

The first writer to find and follow this page, Dirty Sci-Fi Budda, is often cheesing me off with his sound advice blogging on how to be a more productive writer. I can tell his Musings hit home for me because I get so very annoyed hearing solid advice coming from an actual, working writer, which I am currently not. His more-successful presence on my WordPress newsfeed (or whatever it’s called here) is a constant reminder that I have yet to fully engage all the gears – and for that, I am most grateful.

Revolutionary Musings is another WordPresser whom (with who? That?) I mutually follow. He writes about a lot of things, but mental health and positive approaches to well-being form a core of his stuff. I struggle with social anxiety, ADD, and depression, though I am un-diagnosed, and un-medicated. I am fortunate that my mental health challenges are mild enough that I can still function, as I know many people suffer terribly from mental health effects, and the stigmas we still attach to them. Knowing there are others in the world who wrestle with their own problems and make daily progress is immensely healing.

Another fellow WordPress user, ellie894, kindly commented on one of my many “Part I” posts the other day, which made me feel like I was on the right track; she is a writer, poet, explorer, walker-of-dogs, and enjoy-er of our natural, magical world. I aspire to worry less, and appreciate more, in those same ways, and different ones.

The comment also immediately reminded me that I’ve built up an awful lot of Part I’s, with far fewer Part II’s.

Rarely one to give up an opportunity to self-efface, I made a joke that I was a Grand Procrastinator, and immediately, this following story nugget was baked and born. There went my Sunday afternoon – which is not a complaint at all. I honestly enjoy writing fiction – like, a lot. Whether I ever make a dime from it, I have found something I enjoy, something that can distract me in the best of ways, and something that – given enough practice – I might even be able to entertain others by doing.

I feel lucky to have the over-active imagination that I do, and though I wrestle with my mind on a moment-by-moment basis, in order to live in this world resembling something closely approximating a functional adult, I’m not sure that I would trade an inkling of imagination for even two dollops of discipline.

And that, of course, is likely my problem. Imagination is great and all, but without some capacity to reign that junk in, all it might ever amount to is a colossal mess of half-finished Things. I don’t ever recall once thinking, while browsing the book aisle at Chapters (it’s sad I should need to clarify that I was not in the candle aisle at Chapters), that I really had a hankering to pick up a few unfinished books. I’ll go for the finished ones every time. Maybe that’s just me.

These aforementioned people – though I’ve never met them in person – all informed the words that follow, in which I attempt to examine my own Racing Thoughts Syndrome, how it has defined to an extent who I have been, and how it has also prevented me from being fully who I might wish to someday be.

It is also probably still full of mistakes, and frankly, my use of punctuation annoys myself. Also, there’s the length of this whole thing. Who’s going to bother to read it? Everybody is too busy. That’s fine. Imma write dis thing anyhow.

Thank you to Other People – you’re the best.

-Mike


BardliiNoonstar

The Grandest of Procrastinations, Part I
A Gradually, Progressively Less Unfinished Short Tale of Something or Another

Of all of the Grand Procrastinator’s grandest of procrastinations, the not-sending of a simple letter that might have saved the townsfolk of Telltale Cross from Certain Doom was his very Grandest of all.

The letter had been penned twelve-and-a-quarter months ago, and left upon a shelf with his seal already upon it, atop a sediment of much older, no-longer-necessary-to-send letters – long forgotten, except in his own guilt-sodden dreams.

It was addressed like so:

To the Elder Knighthood of Thurwood Thatch,
Concerning the Imminent Danger which threatens
the fair folk Of Telltale Cross –
Please open and read immediately.

-Office of Public Concerns, Middling City of Halfway
Grand Procrastinator, Alanwarde IV,
With Gravest Concern.

The Letter inside the envelope – which was itself a work of great care, made from the pressed bark of the Ironoak tree, mixed with secret seasonings and discarded Faerie wings (which typically slough off in the Autumn, in those parts of the Isles) – was precisely eleven words long. A short note, by any standards; easy to read, easier still to act upon, when sent and then received.

To paraphrase it : There was a Slowly Drake approaching Telltale Crossing – The Elder Knighthood had the only remaining weapon capable of piercing its immensely thick hide. It was estimated to finally reach the town in thirteen-and-three-quarters months – ample time for adequate defenses to be prepared.

Alanwarde’s Second-Youngest Scribe, Doris Hollows, had a most valuable knack for stuffing meaning and content into the smallest possible number of words (several wizards from the South Peak College had measured and confirmed this on multiple occasions), and had taken the above message and stuffed it into an eleven-word missive, twelve-and-a-quarter months ago now. It was her finest work to date, and, like all of her work since becoming Second-Youngest Scribe to the Grand Procrastinator of Halfway, it had been read only by Alanwarde himself. The task of sending it was his, by Tradition.

This was still in the days when Tradition kept the Isles on the Straight-and-Narrow. The Isles were nearing the end of that time period as it happens, for reasons I might eventually get to, should this account be completed.

[I am Grand Procrastinator Alanward’s apprentice. You might see the predicament now, or perhaps not until later.]

Every single morning since the compaction of her last letter assignment, Doris had dropped by the Grand Procrastinator’s office to check if he had seen fit yet to send it by owl, crow, mouse, or man. None of those methods of messaging had been employed – she saw nearly each and every time that the envelope had again been shifted slightly on its shelf, where it had rested precariously atop the others it had bested, in Alanwarde’s Last-in-First-Neglected filing system.

She stood before the ailing man now [I, in the corner, forever half-recording his days’ events as they unfolded, as Alanwarde had asked me to become his official biographer the moment he decided his life was Over Half Over. That was some years ago by now]. Doris shifted nervously before the Grand Procrastinator’s Grand desk, waiting for the elder to finish half-reading his various incoming messages – a thing he did most days, before tossing his unfinished breakfast out the room’s small, barred window-hole.

Doris’s stomach growled, her face flushed. Alanward glanced up from his reading briefly at the sound, then returned his attention to the arrangement of forks arrayed in front of him. Doris watched in fascination, the very moment the latest letter found its way out of the Grand Procrastinator’s conscious awareness, and slipped almost imperceptibly into a medium-height stack of varied-yellowing papers, from which she had never seen a single thing re-emerge. The Procrastinator had been at his art for seven decades, by everyone’s estimation, and the grace with which he could move from a thing to another thing without seeming to shift his focus was truly wondrous.

“Doris,” began Alanwarde, as he rearranged his forks for what must have been the fifth time since she had entered the Procrastinarium that morning [it was the ninth, by my own count, though to be fair, I begin my biographing rather early every day], “I sense you have a Concern. I am very adept at sensing Concerns, as you know”. The Grand Procrastinator had already in this short time briefly scanned a second letter (which had the words TERRIBLY URGENTLY URGENT carved in alarmingly red Graphite across its top), and after using it as a napkin to sweep the crumbs from his unfinished breadroll onto the floor, started writing something new.

Doris paused, then nodded. Alanwarde had begun scribbling doodles of mountains at the top of his letter, and, glancing up again (he was practicing eye-contact skills, and was making some progress), offered, “you can speak, Doris, I am able to do several things at once, as you well know”. The unfinished letter had (rather wondrously, she still supposed) disappeared into the shuffled mess upon or perhaps around the Grand Desk, and Alanwarde was at once standing before the small, barred window, having scraped a considerable about of uneaten breadroll to the waiting pigeons below.

He wavered, almost imperceptibly, near the Sending Shelf, his left hand lightly touching the Topmost Unsent Letter – the one containing Doris’s greatest compaction work to date. Eleven words that, in some other existence – where she was not Second-Youngest Scribe to the Grandest of Grand Procrastinators that the Middling-sized city of Halfway had ever known – might well have spurred the Elder Knighthood out of their profound and long-lasting lethargy, and into taking immediate action in service of others once again, as once they had always done. Doris was that good at being powerfully succinct.

“Grand Procrastinator -” she began.

“Please, child, you can just call be Procrastinator – we all know I am the Grand one. Your job is to be succinct, remember?”

“Apologies… Procrastinator”, Doris re-framed. “I notice you have not sent that topmost letter, in nearly eleven-and-a-half months”.

Alanwarde’s old visage lit up, every wrinkle reconsidering anew its position and purpose for a short moment, “Why, thank you for noticing, Doris. That is very kind”. He was now back to arranging his forks again, having somehow sat down already without Doris noticing [I myself did notice the moment it happened, but only because I have been practicing my powers of concentration for so very long now]. There were several newly opened letters in front of him, which he was scanning all at once, to save precious time. He had a number of other issues to attend to, and was running rather later than the late that was his normal lateness to run.

“You’re welcome… Procrastinator -” Doris took a leap, “May I call you Alanwarde?” [I broke the nib of my stylus in that moment, a snap that, thankfully, did not remind either of the two that I was sitting in the corner, biographing. Stealth Biography is a most tricky business]. The Grand Procrastinator himself gave Doris a look – one might imagine it was surprise.

Doris’s face flushed again, and dipping her head respectfully, quickly added, “fewer syllables, it will improve efficiency”.

Alanwarde quickly did the math in his head, his counting fingers wiggling slightly, concluded Doris was correct, and smiled again [twice in a single morning was a noteworthy deviation, which I entered into my Unsolicited Observations section, which was to be a hidden appendix in the final manuscript].

“Grand idea, Doris. I must grant, I have been impressed with your work as Second-Youngest Scribe – I see you are well on your way to becoming the Third Youngest in no time whatsoever”. To Alanwarde, of course, that might well still mean years. Doris swelled a touch with pride nonetheless, as Alanwarde set aside all letters for his late-morning stretch, which consisted of working mostly his left upper quadrant, until it was sufficiently supple to warrant moving on to other things.

“Please, Doris – and you may most certainly call me Alanwarde, in the name of efficiency, which as you know is something I prize highly and continuously strive to perfect in my own actions, thoughts, and long-term aspirations – tell me, what is this concern that you have, which I have detected?”. He was back to writing letters, though first had to find his best quill, since his best stylus was causing his fingers to cramp slightly. Having found the quill, Alanwarde was once again up and about the room, in search of his ink. [I could see the ink bottles from where I sat, of course, but as a proper journalist could of course not intercede with directions, as much as it pained me].

Doris stood respectfully in place, though rotated her torso and head about to follow the elder Procrastinator as he rummaged around the small and stuffed expanse of the Procrastinarium in search of his chain of keys, which he had just remembered he needed to hang upon their hook before they became permanently lost under the continuously growing and settling contents of the room’s too-many shelves. He found another fork, and returned to his desk to re-sort the fork arrangement.

Doris spoke quickly, glancing again at her greatest achievement to date, resting once-more-slightly shifted upon the Letters-to-Send shelf. “There is something unusual about how you have not sent this particular letter… Alanwarde.” She was unsure if being on a first-name basis with the man was better, but she had come to have a difficult time using the man’s title as of late. She understood too well for her own good, the power of words and labels. She had learned from the Bardic tradition as a young girl, long before this current job – not a thing she professed openly, of course. Bards were considered of not much greater use than Traveling Inventors in those days, except perhaps to bounty hunters, who could make passable livings capturing and turning them in repeatedly.

Doris added, “With respect, I believe you are hesitant to not-send it”.

The old man’s fork re-arrangement had come to a halt, and his mind, uncharacteristically, had not already immediately ventured on to the next, other thing. The two stood and sat, sharing a moment of some realization. This was indeed new.

“You don’t say?” was what the Grand Procrastinator said, his gaze still on a middle-distance, somewhere at the far edge of his Grand Desk, one fork still slightly in hand.

Doris, feeling emboldened (as well as still tired, and somewhat hungry), glanced about the room, located a chair that had looked like a short book shelf, owing to the great many half-read books stacked upon it, and added, boldly, “Would you mind, Alanwarde, if I were to sit?”.

The man again met the young woman’s eyes, shook his head faintly and absently, and then turned that into a small nod. “Of course, child – please do”. He had put down the fork, his hands seemed uncertain of why they were doing nothing new, and so his fingers curled and uncurled on their own accord, as Doris proceeded to move the great many books from the chair to the floor. She finally dragged the chair over to the Grand Desk, and sat herself down.

Neither spoke for a moment. They were beyond Protocol, a place neither was certain they would prefer.

Alanwarde spoke first, knowing Doris would insist.

“Doris, how long do I usually leave the Next-to-Send Letter atop the Letters-to-Soon-Send stack, before covering it with another? [I knew this answer, and it was painful to not interject, I must tell you. Thankfully, Doris knew as well]

“On average,” scrunching her face, so as to appear to need time to calculate the number, “approximately seven, perhaps eight days”. She waited for the number to sink in.

The Grand Procrastinator thought about this, his toes, to nobody’s knowledge, had begun to absently curl and uncurl within his slippers as well, but to his credit (or professional shame, depending upon whom you might have asked in those days), he stayed on topic for at least a moment longer.

Doris ventured further, “Of course, there are times when the Next-to-Send Letter is replaced within minutes. I once saw you replace it thrice in a row while resolving a short sneezing fit. On another occasion, you left a Letter atop the stack for nearly three-and-a-third weeks – that was the longest”. She paused, glancing back to the stack. “Until this one, I mean.”

Alanwarde’s old head had begun to bob slightly up and down [a thing at first that both Doris and I imagined was its version of curling and uncurling], and, looking directly at the letter shelf, said, “Yes. I think I know. I am not sure what to think about that”. He was back to looking into her eyes again. “I have – forgotten what is in it”.

Doris did not think that he had completely forgotten, but instead, she said, “That is your job, Grand Procrastinator. You do it very well”.

Alanwarde still seemed puzzled and absent (in that new way). “Thank you. I think.”

Doris became perfectly succinct; she said nothing at all, while Alanwarde thought for a short moment more.

“Doris, I am not permitted to send a Letter unless I fully agree with its content, at least on the day that I choose to send it.”

“Yes, Alanwarde – I know. Protocol.”

The old man’s fingers had come to rest upon the desk – his fork array had been pushed far to the fringes of his work area, revealing a small circle of desktop, which Doris could not remember ever seeing before.

“Doris, should we open the letter, and perhaps consider if it should be… sent? I recall it was your very best work to date.”

[Here, I must admit, I had stopped writing altogether. I would in any case, perfectly recall the details at a later time]

Doris did smile, at last, though she was of course still a bit tired and hungry.

“Yes, Alanwarde, I would like that very much.”


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10 thoughts on “The Grandest of Procrastinations

  1. Mike, it’s just wonderful! Start to finish, inside and out, upside and down. 😊 You have a beautiful way with language and all the senses occurring in a moment. I will sleep on it and read it again tomorrow. I feel as though I’ve been sitting quietly in that very room listening and watching it all. It makes me happy that I might have played the tiniest part in the writing of this. And, thank you for such very kind thoughts on my writing. 🌷Take care,suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Delightful to read, once and then twice again! So many snippets pop out I cannot count them all. I would say it’s a stand alone parable really, procrastination as seen from three different viewpoints entangled yet separate, depending on one another. Eleven words long…my mind reels with the simple details of the original perfect message…and then the many many words (I didn’t count them 🙃) to paint the picture of how it came to wait and wait. There is a great wonder in the waiting and in this case the whole of the story rests there. If the letter had been sent immediately This story wouldn’t exist!

        I think there is more to your Part I’s than you realize. You say you go for the finished books every time. But, is any book ever really finished. An author stops the story at some point but there are always moments he left out or hasn’t even discovered yet.

        I will also take an inkling of imagination for two dollops of discipline…that faerie wings slough off in the autumn will make me open my eyes in search of them as I walk the woods. Perhaps I will get lucky and find one!

        You are a talented and observant Stealth Biographer. I hope that you will come to know that you are already more fully who you wish to be this very day. So, gather all your Part I’s and weave a thread between them that only you know and put them between covers and give them a name…or start another magical story…the world can never have enough of those.

        Either way, this is quite grand! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the second-read comments Suzanne! I’m humbled and appreciative of the time and thought you put into them. Thank you as well for the observations about what constitutes “done”… You’re right, when can a story be said to be done? It does feel fine to me to leave this tale unfinished, but I fall for the characters so easily sometimes, I now want to know what these two decide to do.

      I’m also always tinkering with the copy in my blogs, long after I post them. I struggle with whether this is genuine or even ethical, strictly speaking, since I can introduce edits after readers have commented and formed opinions. I happen to like the idea of posting works-in-progress though, and allowing them to progress according to reader feedback, and the passage of time. I have caught full-on typos weeks and months after last reading something sometimes! Younger Mike always hopes Older Mike won’t be too busy to give him some free editing services…

      The moment where Alanwarde makes a decision is an important one, and I felt the story needed to feel more emotionally impacting, but all I’ve done so far is cross out the passage that didn’t quite work. This is another trap to writing from the heart – that balance between leaving it as it appeared, and editing it afterward for extra stuff and things. It can sometimes feel like an unraveling, if taken too far…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Two characters?! But there are three here. I like the invisible yet present stealth biographer. Of course, there are the obvious questions such as will the letter be delivered or opened or make it in time to be of help to the people. But beyond those are the questions of waiting, how long, what do we do with that time, is it better to wait, do things work themselves out without our help, or do we make some small difference. (Sorry for the run on sentences. I think too fast). Procrastinating is just waiting after all.

        I can see the whole scene, the space, the letters and papers, the characters, even the crumbs. I can imagine this as the opening scene of a film that gives way to procrastination in other places and by other people. Sometimes hints of it. Sometimes blatant. At moments it ends up being a good thing and at others leads to unnecessary sadness. I don’t know how it ends. Perhaps it lingers as the camera pans out and fades…procrastination even in the ending so that one is left to decide for themselves whether it turned out well or not. This whole story is a parable of something larger than itself.

        I noticed the crossed out passage. I wondered at it because I had liked it the first time but I do understand the way when it is your own writing it must feel just so and the words you choose don’t always measure up to what you envision. Play with it some more. It will work itself out. 😊

        Have a grand day ☀️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Suzanne, I can’t seem to reply to your latest note, but for some reason can reply to mine. Oh well.

        I forgot about the stealth biographer! They must be quite good at stealth biographing, or I have blindspots. Naturally, this person would attempt to follow any developments in the plot as they occurred, which would be fun to write about.

        The crossed out passage didn’t convey what I was trying to convey, I think. That moment when the Procrastinator makes a decision, perhaps his first real one in a long time. I didn’t want to bloat the story with too much lead up, since the story was short, so the passage I wrote I think glossed over whatever it was that was happening, or maybe tried to pack too much in. plus, the right words weren’t presenting themselves. I do like what I replaced it with – which is Doris being as succinct as humanly possible; knowing that Alanwarde had been struggling for a while with the guilt of his professional not-acting, sensing he was prepared for a change, and knowing that she only needed to let him complete it on his own, by interjecting no words at all.

        This scene has become a turning point in the weird book I am slowly writing (my own Grand Procrastination!) – the moment when a bureaucracy’s inertia gives out – Doris is a dragon-slayer of epic proportions 🙂

        I like your idea of a story told from the perspective of the timely and untimely actions of many people. Acting abruptly can’t always be good either; I sometimes try to remind myself that things happen best “in Good Time” – it seems to be part of the art of living to gain a better appreciation of timing.

        Thank you so much for your insights 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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