Greg stared at his computer screen, the small vertical black line blinking over and over and over in his face. Brushing aside a strand of black hair that fell in front of his eyes, interrupting his staring contest with the monitor, he tried to glare as hard as he possibly could at that stupid white page as if all of a sudden, a story would pop up on it.

It didn't.

Thoroughly convinced now that he wasn't staring nearly hard enough, Greg's brown eyes focused on picking out every individual white pixel on Microsoft Word. For an hour now, that had been his job. Sitting at his computer desk, Greg pushed his brown glasses a little further up the bridge of his nose and reflected on his fate.

No amount of inspirational quotes, caffeine, prayers, or screaming had yet been able to give him that spark, that one blessed dust speck of utter genius that gave him what he needed to write a story. He had just sat here, in his slight one-hundred and forty pound frame, slowly growing roots into the leather computer chair. But he knew what to do now. He would sit here, and he would get cancer from the radiation emitted by his Dell laptop. Because inspiration was a long way in the coming.

He tried typing. "Once upon a time…" Oh yes. Go with that. So original.

Hold down backspace.

"Allow me to say that…" Because we know someone's going to stop me, he thought.

Highlight and backspace.

"Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I hate poetry,

So why don't you?"

That one actually pulled out a chuckle. Highlight, delete.

This isn't working, Greg thought. Greg knew. If it was working, there would be a lot more words and a lot less white on his brilliantly titled "Document1".

Swiveling in his swivel chair – a medium for inspiration he had tried two hours ago, nearly making himself nauseous after spinning around for so long – Greg looked out the window.

There was the sky. Oh, and below the sky, there were trees. How interesting. And beneath those, dirt. Awe-inspiring dirt. Oh, look, a bird. Bird? Bird!


Wait, no, it was a bug. Screw that.

Grasping his hair with his hands, Greg smashed his head down on the mahogany desk, nearly breaking his glasses. Maybe it was his room. Not too messy, fairly clean with green wallpaper and a beige carpet, his Pennsylvania home lacked nothing of modern conveniences. What it did lack was inspiration.

Kicking the modem – but not too hard, otherwise the stupid thing might turn off on him (and he would severely injure his bare toes) – Greg got up, walked three feet, turned around, and sat back down. Now he was ready to write.

Or, he thought to himself, still staring at the blank screen, maybe not.

He looked down at himself. Green t-shirt. Beige pants. Bare feet. Yes, inspiration if he ever saw it. Leaning forward until his forehead rested on the top of his laptop, Greg stared very intently at the screen.

He did so for about five straight minutes, until he was convinced he would either have a seizure or die. Making a very pathetic sobbing sound, he took a sharp intake of breath and got up, turned around, and stretched his arms. Outside a white Al Camino drove by.

Ha, he thought. Nice car. With a wry grin, the would-be author reflected that there were, in fact, people worse off in life than he. Frowning, he turned back to the computer, putting his hands behind his head. Worse off? Al Camino? That sounded very nearly like inspiration. Nearly, but not quite.

Now pondering quite vehemently, Greg again stared at the screen, but not in the same way. No, he was staring past the screen, coming close to zoning out; in fact, now he was zoning out, carried away by his thoughts, up, up, and –



Flying to the window faster than a bird on crack, Greg pressed his face against the window pane – and was instantly disappointed. Instead of the fiery, burning wreck he hoped to see – was there anything more inspirational? – there were only skid marks, a red minivan driving off in the distance, and a broken mailbox.

Wait. A broken what?! Calm down, he told himself. This could be a good thing. This could be the inspiration you've been looking for!

Oh, really? He thought back.

Yeah! You know, guy is minding his own business, and wham! It happens!

It? He thought to himself, shocked by his own idiocy. If a broken mailbox and near car-crash is 'it', that's pathetic. Twenty-somethings aren't allowed to have midlife crises unless they're total computer geeks have a rabid addiction to Star Wars. Greg offered up a silent prayer of thanks that he was neither of those. Well, not a rabid fan at any rate.

Don't get so down on yourself! You could always… always…

Always start talking to myself like a madman?

Yeah, there's that.

Laughing out loud, Greg very nearly knocked over his lava lamp. With a muffled curse, he pushed it upright before it crashed on the ground. "That was close," he said, and scared himself just by saying it. It was far too quiet in here, he decided. Why not listen to music?

Pulling up iTunes, Greg looked for something inspirational. Not too mellow, not too loud, something just… ah. Here it was. Bob Marley. Choosing "One Love" as his background sound of choice, Greg lay back and let the music wash over him.

"Sayin', one loooove! What about the one heart? Ooone heaaaart! What about the: 'Let's get together and feeeel alllriight'…" Drifting in and out of consciousness, Greg let the music take him where it may. Oh, sweet, sweet bliss. Yeah, what about that one heart? He thought. I could just lay here and feeeel alllrii -

No! Write! He had to write. Checking the wristwatch on his arm, Greg grimaced. 4:14 PM. Tomorrow, he had to go to work. Smashing his head on the desk once more, Greg cursed life. His parents may pay for college, but the freedom of choosing to stay with all the conveniences of home instead of living in a dorm meant getting severely whooped for being late to work – by his parents and his boss. Oh, how he hated his pathetic existence.

Resting his chin in one hand, Greg looked again at the screen as Bob crooned his reggae music. He should at least have the decency to title his story, Greg told himself. I know, he thought, grinning. He didn't believe in jinxes or luck or any of that, but what was the harm in entitling his soon-to-be-started story "Inspiration"? None, of course. And besides, it was a start.


Greg winced. All that hard work and concentration, shattered. "Whaaaaat?" Greg called back, getting up from his desk and opening the door to his room in order to be better heard.

"Dinner will be ready in about an hour, sweetie!" Greg didn't even bother to answer. He simply slammed the door shut and turned back to his story.

So. Inspiration, huh? Bob Marley continued to go on in the background – "Give thanks and praise to the Lord, and I will feeeel alllriight…" and Greg put his feet up on the desk. Inspiration. Why couldn't he find any? "Well, God?" he asked, turning his face heavenward. "Would it kill to give me some of that infinite knowledge and wisdom stuff?"

"One more thing!" shouted Bob and Greg in unison. Sparing a quick and fearful glance at the computer, Greg looked back up at his ceiling. He made a note to repaint it sometime; it looked like it was beginning to peel. "Could you please, I dunno, just make something a little exciting happen?"


Falling over backwards in shock, Greg hastily got up from the floor and listened again. His mother was screaming. "I'M THE LUCKIEST WOMAN ALIVE! WHEE-HEEEEE HEEEEEEE!" Greg nearly winced as her voice reached a note audible only to dogs and fruit bats. He didn't have to worry about going down to see her, though. She rushed in and threw her arms around him, wearing her pink bathrobe and matching slippers. "HONEY! HONEY, WE WON!"

"Wait, mom, what? And stop screeching in my ear!" He pushed his screaming mother off him as she waved some slip of paper in his face. Her curlers were still in her hair, horn-rim glasses dangling on a chain around her neck, the ultimate in "Geek's Mom" attire. Greg cursed mentally.

"We won! We won!" she screamed, voice beginning to sound hoarse. Snatching the paper out of the air, Greg looked at it. It was a lottery ticket. After a few moments, it hit him.

"We… we won?" He said, eyes widening, all desires for inspiration gone. She nodded, eyes sparkling and smile spreading across her wrinkled face. Greg just stared at her. He seemed to be doing a lot of staring today.

Then, they both screamed and began dancing around the room together. "We're rich! We're rich! We're really, really rich!" The shouted, laughing. Greg threw all his worries to the wind – rich! Really, really, really rich! Collapsing backwards on his bed, he smiled and took back every bad thing he had ever said about life.

"Wow Mom, I'm… I'm…" he couldn't find the words. "I'm rich! I mean, we're rich!" he laughed, thanking his lucky stars. Rich! Millionaires! Screw "feelin' alright!" This was amazing! This was awesome! This was –

"To think, little old me, winning MegaMillions!"

And then Greg's train of thought soared over a cliff into a bottomless, flaming ravine of despair and exploded into infinitesimal bits. "Wait. What did you say?"

"That we've won the lottery, honey! We're millionaires!" And she threw her arms around him again. Greg tentatively looked back at the ticket he held. MegaMillions?

"Mom?" he asked, voice trembling.

"Yes, dear?" she asked, pushing herself off of her son and looking at him worriedly. And with reason, because he was looking at the lottery ticket as if it were his own death certificate.

"Mom, what did you say we won?"

"We won the lottery, honey!" she answered, pulling a little farther away from her offspring who was now exhibiting signs of retardation.

"No, I mean, which one? Which lottery did we win?"

"We won MegaMillions. Why do you ask, honey?"

This couldn't be happening. No way could anyone be that cursed.

"Mom… what does this ticket say?" he asked her, voice quavering like the San Andreas Fault. She took it, looked at it, and her face became ghastly pale. She looked up at Greg, back at the ticket, to Greg again, and promptly fell over, totally unconscious.

Sitting on his bed, Greg looked at his mother's immobile body. Getting up, he walked over and picked up the ticket. Pennsylvania State Lottery. Not MegaMillions. All the right numbers on the wrong ticket. Looking from it to his mother's still breathing, if not quite moving, body, Greg then turned his gaze heavenward, his expression shocked and at the same time, grinning at the fact he must be going crazy.

"When I asked for inspiration, God," he began, grinning like a moron. This wasn't really happening, was it? "This wasn't exactly what I had in mind."

(My first work, which happens to be a one-shot short story. Feel free to praise, criticize, or simply give me towering piles of money. Much obliged.

The One and Only,

Irish Penguin)