This is the complete short story Miss Boring Died Today. It started as a flash fiction challenge where profanity and X-rated topics were supposed to take center stage. Swearing is not something that comes easy to me, nor is it something I intend on using … much. I did however tip-toed out of my comfort zone and included quite a few, half-bleeped swear words.
The story didn’t come out quite the way I intended it to. I’ll do an Amy Poehler kind of critique on it in a few days. I’ll explain then what that means. Until then, read, blush (maybe), cover your eyes (if you are a prude), and hopefully enjoy … at least a little bit.
Miss Boring Died Today
By Ada Ireland
“Her BP is dropping. We’re losing her!”
“She’s going into cardiac arrest!”
“Get me the paddles. On the count of three. One. Two.” The paramedic’s count was followed by the low buzzing sound of the defibrillator’s paddles sending an electric shock into Jane’s body. “One. Two.” Another buzzing sound. “One. Two.” More buzzing.
“It’s not working! I’m getting no pulse here. ”
“Again! One. Two.”
The frantic voices and the painful shocks were bloody annoying. What the heck? screamed Jane. I’m beat up already. Stop this stupid crap!
Nobody heard her. The screaming was all in her head. Her body was shutting down. Just moments later, out of the chaos of the loud ambulance siren, the determined efforts of the paramedics, and the infernal electrical shocks, rose the unmistakable, piercing, flat sound of the heart monitor: Jane’s heart had flatlined.
“F*ck. It’s over! She’s dead,” were the last words Jane heard.
Dead? she wanted to argue. No! Wait! Ohhh, f*ck… and then there was nothing. Just complete darkness and perfect silence.
Folks say that some people die and go to Heaven, and some die and go to Hell. I’m really not sure about all that. To my mind, that’s a mighty presumptuous and at least two shades too narrow-minded of a thing to say. But what do I know? I’m just a crazy old man who listens much but hears little. The kind of man who likes to think his own thoughts. What I do know is that some people have to die before they truly live.
Miss Jane Boring died today. And if you want to find out where she’s heading, well … I’m afraid you’ll have to read on. I have to tell you a little more of her story. Don’t worry. I won’t take you too far back. Just a few years and a couple thousand words or so. This is a short story after all.
Jane Boring liked her name. If you asked her why, she’d say that it made her life very easy. She knew what name she had to live up to and she was doing a very good job at it.
There was nothing wrong with boring according to Jane. People just misunderstood it. They thought it meant having no fun. That’s what she had used to think too, up until four years ago when she was a foolish twenty year old who believed that fate favored the bold. She learned very soon that many times the bold died young. A devastating, fiery crash taught her that lesson and put her life on a new path.
Now she knew that boring wasn’t lack of fun. It was living in a very well defined and carefully created comfort zone. It was predictability and safety. It meant choosing your fun and knowing exactly what to expect from it.
Instead of going to a party, getting drunk, falling asleep on subways, and possibly waking up in a complete stranger’s bed, you go to the movies instead, eat butter-free popcorn, watch the show, go home, and wake up bright and early in your own bed. How was that a bad thing?
For Jane, predictable was good. She liked knowing exactly where she was going to wake up every single day. She was determined to make every major choice in her life fit into that category. That’s why she put a lot of thought and effort into choosing her job, her pet, and her boyfriend.
Three years ago, when it was time to get a job, she spent days scanning newspapers and job boards. Nothing seemed good enough. Administrative assistant for busy HR manager? No. Busy meant too many things on one’s plate, too many chances of something going wrong.
Customer service rep for the local gas and electric company? She gave it a thought until she noticed the part about the candidate’s ability to deal with the occasional irate customer. Irate customer? Why would she want to sign up for something like that? You don’t keep your life predictable by inviting other people’s anger and bad attitude in it. No, customer service rep was not a good choice either.
She kept looking. A few weeks passed before she found the perfect ad: “Wanted: Data entry rep for Chamin LLC. We are a locally owned and operated manufacturer of toilet paper. In business for 50 years. Due to our steady growth, we are now looking for a data entry rep. Attention to detail and ability to maintain focus through tedious tasks are a must. Please forward your resume to email@example.com” Steady growth? Tedious tasks? Very good, she thought to herself. Just what a proper company’s growth and an employee’s job should be. She e-mailed her resume right away.
Four days later, she showed up for her interview wearing a black business suit, a white dress shirt, and her hair pinned up in a tight bun. She arrived there fifteen minutes early. The secretary took her resume and asked her to wait for Mr. Chamin, the owner of the company. She looked very calm and soft spoken, and Jane felt that she was already up to a good start.
Mr. Chamin didn’t keep her waiting. A happy looking, short and slightly heavy man, with a completely bald head and warm brown eyes, he made her feel easy right away. The interview went fast. There wasn’t much to the job they needed filled: just entering toilet paper orders in their computer system. Mr. Chamin looked almost embarrassed to tell her that.
Jane had to make sure. “Are there any reports I need to create? Any charts, or graphs?” she asked.
He shook his head slowly and a slight blush colored his full cheeks. “No, Miss Boring. Our accountant takes care of all that. You just have to type the numbers in the computer.”
“That’s good. Very good,” she said. “How about any cycles in your business? Are there months when the workload is heavier. Is there any overtime?”
Mr. Chamin’s blush deepened. His short, stubby fingers started tracing circles on his desk. “No, nothing like that. It’s a steady business. People’s bathroom habits don’t change much throughout the year now, do they?” His eyes lit up as a funny thought came to him. He bit his lips as if to keep from smiling but then finally said. “And if sh*t happens, well, we have it all covered don’t we? We just throw more toilet paper at it.” A hearty laugh shook his body. He was proud of his joke but seeing Jane’s passive face made his laughter die down fast. “Pardon my language, Miss Boring. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“No pardon needed. You answered my question and that’s good enough for me. I would like to work for you, Mr. Chamin. How long before you make a decision for this job?”
Mr. Chamin examined her for a few seconds to make sure she wasn’t joking. There wasn’t a single sign of sarcasm on Jane’s face. “Well, Miss. You’re hired. You can start Monday if you want.” He hesitated. “Nobody else applied for this job, you know?”
“I can’t imagine why, Mr. Chamin. It sounds like a very good job to me. I’m glad it worked out for both of us. I’ll see you Monday, then. Thank you again for your time.” And that’s how Jane found what she thought to be a perfectly boring job.
When it came to choosing her pet, she went through a similar thought process. She showed up at the pet store right across from her new office. She looked around for almost an hour before she made a decision. Puppies, kittens, even fish were out of the question. Then she spotted it: in a fat, sleepy hedgehog’s cage, sliding slowly over fresh pellets of wood, was a snail.
She called the young store employee who was pretending to be busy re-arranging bags of dog food on a shelf nearby. “Excuse me. I need some help, please.” She pointed to the hedgehog’s cage. “Here. This is what I want.”
Jimmy, as the name tag identified him, dragged his feet over in an awkward walk. “Oh, that’s not for sale, Miss. That’s just our local star, Mr. Prickly. A kind of mascot, if you will. It brings more customers to our store. It makes kids happy to see a real hedgehog here.”
For a moment, Jane looked puzzled. Then she arched one eyebrow. “It’s not the hedgehog I want to buy. It’s the snail.”
It was Jimmy’s turn to look puzzled. He squinted his eyes and tilted his head. “The snail?”
“Yes. The snail. Right there.”
Jimmy snorted. A hearty bellow followed. He crouched next to the cage and peered through the glass. “You lucky, little bastard! How did you make it alive?” He looked at Jane and covered his mouth with the back of his hand. “That’s not a pet, Miss. That’s pet food.” He pointed towards one of the store workers. “Jordan and I had a bet going. What would a hedgehog rather eat: manmade food or a juicy, slimy snail. We left about fifty in his cage last night. He must have gotten full before he got to this one. Or maybe he saved it for dessert.”
Not a single muscle moved on Jane’s face. A worried look crossed Jimmy’s face. “It’s not animal cruelty. It’s the cycle of life after all. Hedgehogs really like snails. ” As if to prove him right, Mr. Prickly woke from his slumber and looked lazily around. His tiny black eyes perked up as soon as he spotted the snail. Before Jimmy could say or do anything, Mr. Prickly walked towards his target, picked him up in his mouth, and chewed him with a slow, satisfied motion of his jaw. Then he looked around his cage for more delicious morsels but didn’t see any.
Jimmy was really worried now, yet he couldn’t keep his snorts of laughter back. A complaint from this weird, snail loving lady would create a bad reputation for the store. It might even get him fired. But the look on Mr. Prickly’s face was worthless. Plus, he had won the bet.
Jane’s lips puckered. “Let me know when you’re done laughing, young man. I’d still like to get a snail.” She paused. “Not this one, of course.” From anyone else, that would have been an obvious joke. From Jane, it came out as a necessary comment. She wanted there to be no misunderstandings.
A whole minute passed before Jimmy was finally able to keep a straight face. The rigidity of his neck and face muscles were a good indication of the effort it took. He took a deep, steadying breath. “We don’t sell snails here, Miss. The ones we fed Mr. Prickly were brought over by some kids who found them yesterday after that big rain we had. They were curious to see which animals ate snails. That’s how that bet was started.”
Jane remained unmoved. Her demeanor left no doubt she had no desire to hear any more about the ill-fated snails and that ridiculous bet.
Jimmy cleared his throat. He took out of his shirt pocket a very small notebook and a short pencil with the eraser side clearly chewed on. “I suppose I could call our suppliers and order you a snail. It might be a while though. A few weeks before we get something like that.”
“Few weeks is good. Please go ahead and order my snail then.” A few weeks later, just like Jimmy had said, Jane had her snail in a nice, medium size aquarium filled with some smooth river rocks, a few plants, and even a small patch of grass. She named her pet Snail, had it delivered to her home the same day, and put it in her living room. She gave it a curt nod and felt really good about the new addition. Her pet problem was now solved.
The only other thing that she had to take care of was finding a boring boyfriend. She wasn’t in a hurry. That’s why, the very next day after she got Snail home, she met Mike. That’s when new people come into your life. When you don’t look for them. She was at her grocery store, in the snack isle, when she saw a man holding two bags of chips in his hands, taking turns looking at them, his lips drawn in a tight, slanted line.
“The Pingles are very light and crispy but a little spicy,” she said. “I’d get the Toritos instead. Still crunchy but a much milder taste.”
The stranger looked at her and his face relaxed. “That’s exactly what I was trying to figure out. Too much flavor confuses the taste buds, don’t you think? I want to know exactly what I’m eating and I don’t care for things that are too strong, too spicy … or too many of them at the same time in one single snack.”
For the first time that day, Jane smiled. She couldn’t agree more. Their conversation kept going as easily as it had started. By the end of her shopping trip, Jane knew the most important details about the snack confused stranger and his life: his name was Michael Temer but he preferred to be called Mike. He was single, lived in his own apartment, didn’t have any pets, and taught statistics at the local college.
“Statistics?” she asked. “Is that something fun to teach?”
“The students hate it,” Mike said. “But, it’s a pre-requisite course for the business degrees so they show up for class whether they want to or not. I don’t understand how they can find it boring. How can you not see the benefit of knowing beforehand the probability for the chances and risks in your life?”
Jane was fascinated.
They went on their first date that same week and moved in together seventeen months later. They still had two years and four months before Jane turned twenty seven. That’s when they would get married like your average, statistics compliant couple and get ready for the 1.9 children they could reasonably expect in their future.
Life was good until earlier today, when a drunk driver, completely ignorant of all meaningful statistics, drove into Jane’s car on her way back from work and derailed her from her well-planned, predictable path.
She hadn’t seen him. She heard the loud crash and felt the air getting knocked out of lungs before she realized she had been hit. Her head snapped back and then jolted forward. Everything slowed down to an eerie crawl. Before smashing into the steering wheel she got a glimpse of the unshaven, blurry eyed driver whose car seemed glued to the passenger side of her car. The last thought that came through her mind was, “You stupid idiot!” Then she passed out.
When she came to, she couldn’t see anything. She could tell she was in an ambulance by the siren’s sound and the frantic commotion around her. Electric shocks tortured her body. Then she heard it: the flatline of the heart monitor and the paramedics frustrated oath, “F*ck. It’s over! She’s dead.”
Dead? she wanted to argue. No! Wait! Ohhh, f*ck …
Now, some people might stop feeling sorry about poor Jane’s life getting cut short and get offended by her dirty mouth instead. Before you do that, let me tell you that Miss Jane Boring never swore. She thought that swearing was the language of the ignorant. And if someone with undisputable high IQ and advanced education swore? Well, to Jane’s mind that person was either making a poor, misguided choice or experiencing such a strong emotion that he forgot himself and his good manners. Either way, swearing meant that something had gone wrong.
Jane didn’t even had a chance to ponder what it meant that the last word she had thought of was a swear word. She just died.
I could stop the story now. Some would see it as a cautionary tale. Some would get frustrated at the lack of a happy ending but would go on living their own boring lives. Some would not even give a f*ck. And then there are some who’d want to stick around and see what happens when Miss Boring dies. For those folks, here’s my gift to you: the rest of Jane Boring’s story. Be warned though: there are a few more swear words coming up.
In the beginning there was nothing. Then came faint, distorted sounds and disconnected words. Heartbeat … Alive … Miracle. Finally there was a fuzzy, cold light that became more clear and bright by the second until it became too painful for her eyes even though they were shut. Jane squeezed her eyes tighter.
A warm, comforting hand touched her shoulder. “You’re going to be alright, Miss Boring. We’re getting to the hospital now. The doctors will take good care of you.” Pause. “You’re going to be alright.” Jane didn’t miss the strong note of wonder, reverence even, in that last statement. She wanted to open her eyes and thank whoever was talking to her but she couldn’t move at all. She felt someone moving her out of the ambulance and then she passed out. Again.
When she woke up her whole body was hurting but it was a mild pain. Her mind was clear. She heard the steady sounds of a heart monitor nearby. She opened her eyes slowly. She was in a hospital bed, with tubes and wires coming in and out of her body. Other than the barely noticeable whole body pain, she was feeling good, so why all these contraptions, she wondered. Had something happened to her? As if that were the only prompt her brain needed to release her memories, she remembered the accident. She also remembered the paramedic’s voice declaring her dead. Her heart started beating faster and the sounds on the heart monitor started coming much closer together now. She was on the verge of a panic attack, when she felt someone squeezing her hand.
“Hey, beautiful. It’s OK. You’re OK, now. Everything will be alright.”
She looked up and saw Mike. There was a smile on his face but it didn’t look real. It was as if he were trying really hard to smile instead of … what? Crying? “Am I dead?” she asked. She moved her fingers slowly and let that sensation travel through her whole body. “I thought I died,” she whispered.
Mike gave her a slow nod. “You did. You died. You were dead for almost two minutes, but then you came back to life,” he said and then he did start crying. Not much. Only a few, quiet tears that just couldn’t be held back.
Jane’s own tears followed only hers came with painful sobs that made her feel like she was going to choke. It was as if all her hurt and fear were finally coming out, punishing her for having suppressed them for so long instead of dealing with them when they first happened and then learning to let go.
Mike smoothed down the blanket on Jane’s bed and sat down carefully her. “They’re calling you a miracle, you know? Your airbag didn’t deploy. You got hit hard enough for the passenger side of your car to be completely smashed in. Yet you don’t have any brain injury. No broken bones. In the ambulance your heart stopped for one hundred and fifteen seconds. The only reason the paramedics didn’t give up on you was because you reminded one of them of the daughter he lost a few years ago in a similar car accident.”
He picked up her hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed it gently. He looked at the heart monitor as if to make sure she was truly alive. “Then you came back to life”, he continued. “They brought you here and for the past hours they’ve been running tests on you. They still can’t figure out why your heart stopped. Other than a few bruises, there’s nothing wrong with you.” He squeezed her hand harder without realizing what he was doing. “A miracle. Just like they said.”
Minutes passed and neither of them said anything. Jane finally broke the silence. “Maybe it was too much emotion for my heart to handle. It had to stop and reset itself.” A faint smile spread on her face. It was the first joke she remembered making in a very long time. Not since that day when Ryan died. It wasn’t a very good joke, but it showed her that something changed. She was ready to move on.
“I never told you much about Ryan,” she started, a little unsure of what to say. “Today, I finally understood something. Maybe it’s for me to tell you what happened five years ago.” She waited for Mike to say something but he only nodded. It was enough to keep going.
Her gaze turned inward, recalling memories from a different lifetime. “He was my first boyfriend,” she said. “The most free spirited, no-holds-barred, larger than life person you had ever met. Nothing was out of his reach. He was a skydiving instructor for a company he had started with a friend. I met him in college and fell in love right away. A couple of months later I went on my first jump. I was hooked. I got certified as a skydiving instructor soon after. Everything was wonderful.
“Then we got a call from an out-of-town couple who wanted to rent the plane for the day, fly it and do some jumps too. I had never told Ryan what to do with his business, but the weather was bad that day. It was the first time I asked him not to fly. There was no stopping him. He acted like he could control the weather if he wanted to.”
She swallowed the heavy lump in her throat. “The plane got hit by lightening badly enough to damage one of the engines. I don’t know what else went wrong, but it exploded mid-air and came down like a rock. All four people who were on board died.” She paused and fought back a new wave of tears. “I was on the ground watching … I saw everything.”
She wiped her tears with the back of her hand. “I was so mad at Ryan. I was angry that he didn’t think for one second to listen to me. He chose something irresponsible, completely, dangerously stupid over being safe just that one time.
“After the funeral and after mourning for a few months, I promised myself I would never do anything dangerous again. I would live my life in the most predictable way possible. I wanted to have complete control over what happened to me. I forgot that I wasn’t the only one to have a say in how safe my life would be.” She paused. “Drunk drivers can mess up my statistically perfect life it seems.”
Mike didn’t say anything.
A new thought crossed her mind. “You know what’s strange? If I would have been on that plane with Ryan, I would have been scared, of course, but I would have had no regrets. Short as it was, my life would have been lived the best way I could.
“Today, the thought of dying made me really angry. Not because of all I would be missing, but because of all I had already missed … by choice. All these years I was given and I wasted them. I don’t want to be Miss Boring anymore. When my time comes, I want to have no regrets. I want to live before I die again.”
Mike let go of her hand, traced her face lightly with his fingers, and leaned forward to give her soft kiss. They’d kissed many time before, but this time it was different. It was a promise. A life changing decision and life time commitment. The heart monitor started beeping faster again and the kiss got broken by Jane’s embarrassed smile.
“It sounds to me like we need a two step plan,” Mike said. “First, we’ll take care of the Miss Boring name.” He kneeled by the bed and took out of his pocket a small jewelry box. He helped Jane sit up in her bed, then took both her hands in his. “Jane Boring, would you do me the great honor and the great pleasure of being my wife? I’ve been carrying this ring with me for months now. I didn’t want to wait until you turned twenty-seven to get married. I don’t want statistics to dictate my life. I don’t like them that much.”’
Jane’s deep blue eyes turned darker, the way they always did when strong emotions overcame her. That was the first time since they’d been together that Mike saw them turn that shade of blue. She nodded slowly. “Mike Temer, I would love to be your wife.” A mischievous smile lifted up the corners of her mouth. “ I will do you the great honor … and give you lots of great pleasure.”
Mike burst out laughing. “Wait. What kind of pleasure are we talking about here?”
“Take me home and I’ll show you.”
He shook his head. “Who are you and what have you done with my girlfriend?”
They both started laughing with the excitement and the nervousness of a first date. Mike’s hand was steady as he slid the ring up her finger, but Jane was shaking from the intense emotion.
“I’ve been too scared to tell you this but my last name comes from the Latin temeraria which means reckless,” Mike said. “Are you sure you are ready to become Miss Temer?”
Jane’s head moved up and down in a mock scold. “I’ve known your secrets for a while now, Mr. Temer. As long as you promise not to keep other important information from me going forward, I’m ready to forgive you and put this all behind us.” She cupped one side of his face with her hand and her voice got serious. “I don’t want us to be reckless, but I want us to have fun. Between boring and reckless, I’m sure we’ll figure out some kind of middle ground.”
She looked at her finger. “So what’s the second step of your brilliant plan, Mr. Temer?” she asked.
“That, I don’t know. Not yet. I’ve been wanting to change your name for a long time now. I didn’t know that a car accident would make you want to completely change our lives. Do you have any ideas?”
She had no clue, of course, but that wasn’t going to stop her. Her chin went down as she took a quick look at herself. “I need some clothes first. Hospital gowns are definitely too boring. “ She pointed to the IV tubes and the heart monitor wires. “Then I need your help to get out of these. You’ll take me to the Casa del Sol steakhouse and we’ll have their five course meal, followed by dessert and the fancy coffee. By the time we’re ready to pass out into a food induced coma, we’ll have all this figured out. We’ll know where to go with our lives from here. Ready?”
“Not so fast,” Mike chuckled. “Don’t forget you haven’t even been discharged yet. I doubt they’ll let you go home today.”
It turns out that when you’re determined to change your life, nothing can stop you. Two hours later, Jane was discharged. The doctors tried to convince her to stay at least overnight but she knew, she just knew that there was nothing physically wrong with her. She was looking forward to getting started on her new life.
This time it was Mike who asked, “Ready?”
She gave him a determined nod. “Hell, yes! Let’s get out of here.”
Mike eyebrows shot up in surprise. “What did you just say?” he asked.
She couldn’t help blushing. “Well, that’s a longer story. I’m not going to start swearing all the time, but sometimes heck and gosh darn are simply not enough. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Hell, yes!’ or ‘Oh, f*ck!’”
His laughter was sudden and heavy. It kept going until she finally mock punched his arm. “Are you done having fun at my expense yet?”
“Hell, no!” he answered. He jerked his thumb at the door. “But we need to leave before the other patients hear you and your potty mouth. I’m afraid you could make all the heart monitors on this floor go haywire.”
I wanted to hold my chuckle back but I just couldn’t. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Jane heard me and that was the first time she realized another patient was in the room. I heard her soft gasp and then I could tell she came close to the curtain that was separating the two halves of the room. “I’m very sorry,” she said from behind the curtain. “I didn’t know there was someone else in here.”
“You have nothing to apologize for, Miss Jane,” I said. “If anything, I should be the one saying I’m sorry. I’ve been listening in on your conversation ever since you woke up. I wanted to see what this ‘miracle’ they were all talking about would be doing and saying. Maybe you’ll do this old man a favor and allow me to properly introduce myself.”
Jane opened up the curtain. There I was, in that sterile hospital bed, a young soul in an old body, quickly approaching my ninetieth birthday. They brought me here two days ago. I fell down while rollerblading on the bike path by the beach and got a concussion. I wouldn’t have lost my balance if it wouldn’t have been for that silver haired bombshell in front of me, who turned to blow me a kiss and slowed down enough to give me a piece of paper with her number on it. What can I say? There are some things you never get too old for.
The doctors asked me when I was going to start acting my age. I would have told them that there was no fun in that, but I don’t think they would have truly understood. To some, age is an excuse. To me, it is just a number. It shows how long I’ve been around here enjoying myself.
Jane came close to my bed. I could still see the redness coloring her cheeks. “I’m Arthur Crane,” I said reaching out my hand, “and I’m delighted to finally meet you.”
She shook my hand. It was a soft handshake and firm at the same time. “I’m Jane Boring, soon to be Jane Temer,” she said. “Glad to meet you also.”
For some reason, our conversation didn’t just stop there. We talked about our lives. The adventures we already lived and the ones still coming up. The time I had with Jane and Mike was one of the best three hours of my life. When they left, Jane gave me a warm hug. “When will I see you again?” she asked.
“Well, dear, they’ll let me go home tomorrow. I’ve decided that I want to try skydiving now. What do you think?”
She struggled to find the right words. “Here’s my phone number,” she said. “Call me when you’re ready. If the weather is good, I’ll go with you.”
We agreed to call each other and then Jane and Mike left. They went out to have a really big dinner and figure out how to change the course of their lives. Seeing them go made me a little emotional. Not because I felt lonely. It was because I felt inspired and very happy for them. Many people die with half lived lives. A few lucky ones die with no regrets. But to die so you can truly live? Well, that doesn’t happen much. That is a true miracle and I, for one, felt privileged to have just witnessed it.