Searching For the Muse in a Bowl of Noodles

John Dran stared into his bowl of noodles, trying to divine some sort of wisdom from the tangled lump of strands. It was late. He pushed his spoon through the broth, and when he blew on the noodles the steam scattered. And the muse evaded him.

He wished the rain against the windows was louder – anything to drown out the band practicing in the apartment above him. The drum beat was unbearable – not because of how loud it was, but because of how off-beat it was. He grabbed a broom from the corner of the room and rammed the wooden end up against the ceiling. Suddenly the music grew louder and more chaotic. Several people stomped on their floor (his ceiling) in response.

Just as he sat back down, shaking his head in frustration, his cell phone rang on the other side of the room. He slid the chair over the kitchen linoleum toward the counter and looked at the display on the phone before picking it up and answering.

“Hey, mom.”

He slid loudly back to the table, picking up a piece of paper. It was a lottery ticket.

“No, I’m fine.”

He blew on his noodles again.

“I know it’s late. What are YOU doing up?”

John stared up at the ceiling, then grabbed the broom and knocked again, getting the same response.

“Well, you shouldn’t worry about it. I’ve got a good shot at getting that job. Mr. Campbell’s the only guy in the city who’s still hiring.”

He slurped up a spoonful of noodles, then shook his head.

“No, I’m not eating those sodium-laden noodles…What am I eating?…What does it matter, mom?”

He rolled his eyes.

“Stop it, you know I don’t roll my eyes at you any more.”

He inhaled another spoonful, burning his tongue.

“Yes, mom, I played the lottery tonight. Same numbers as usual.”

He lifted the ticket and looked at the numbers.

“No, mom, I never lie to you.”

He dropped the ticket and slid it under his bowl.

“Look, mom, I’ve got to get to bed. Talk to you tomorrow?…Okay…Yeah, you, too…”

He hung up, slammed the broom handle up against the ceiling a few more times, then stared at the lottery ticket lying on the table in front of him. He hated lying to his mother, but for some reason he had changed the last number. Unbelievable.

John poured the rest of the noodles down the drain and pulled a bag of trash out of the bin. The rain battered against the windows of his first-floor apartment. He had a side door that led out to the alley – there were six bolts that went down the side, and he began unlatching them slowly, one at a time.

* * * * *

Jordan shook his head, and his oversized ear lobes swayed back and forth. Five beleaguered band members stared at him, waiting.

“We suck,” he finally proclaimed.

“Aw, come on, Jordan, just…”

“Get the hell out of here! We suck!”

He started throwing pieces of equipment. His band members knew when it was time to bale. Jordan threw a guitar against the door behind them. Then he heard the person in the apartment below hitting his floor with something.

“Shut up!” he screamed before collapsing on his sofa.

* * * * *

Macy stared at her phone, then peeked around the corner of the dumpster. The girl looking for her had stopped just inside the alley. Macy heard six loud clicks coming from the other side of the alley. A door swung in, and a young man threw a bag of trash in a high arc into the dumpster behind which she was hiding. He moved to close the door but then squinted through the rain toward Macy.

“Who are you?” he asked. Light from the apartment illuminated the alley.

“What’s going on back there?” the girl shouted, walking toward them.

Macy had one second to think. “Sorry Pen,” she whispered to the phone, pushing “ignore.” Then she sprinted across the alley and through the open door into John Dran’s apartment, nearly knocking him over.

Water dripped from her shirt and her hair and formed a puddle on the linoleum floor as she slammed the door closed behind her and slid all six bolts into place. She quickly turned off the kitchen light.

“What are you doing?” he asked, annoyed.

“Shhh!” she hissed dropping down, sitting on the floor. “Get down!”


“Get down!”

There was banging on the door. John dropped down behind the cabinets. The banging stopped as abruptly as it began, gave way to the sound of the rain still pelting the glass. Macy jumped to her feet.

“I have to get out of here – she’ll be here any minute.”

“Hey, hold on a second,” he said, grabbing her by the shoulders. “What’s wrong? I’ll help.”

Macy looked at him with a confused look.

“How can you help me? I don’t even know what’s going on.”

* * * * *

The question for you to answer this week is, “Who is John?”

1 – Someone who just lost the lottery after changing the last number.

2 – A guard who knows his way around outside of the walled city.

3 – A psychic.

4 – Someone who just won the lottery with the same numbers as Macy.

To read the story in its entirety, go HERE (you’ll have to return to this page to vote in the comments below).

8 Replies to “Searching For the Muse in a Bowl of Noodles”

  1. I really like the idea of #4: He won the lottery, but is still subsisting on ramen and being frustrated with the neighbors. Implies there’s something massively wrong, here, and he knows what it might be.

  2. #4, but he’s terrified to turn it in. The government uses the lottery as a morale tactic, but no one has ever heard of an actual winner, or at least no one has ever heard FROM an actual winner. He’s afraid of what “winning” might actually mean.

  3. Looks like #4 is hot. I was thinking as I read the story that he had indeed won. If he lost then finds out Macy has a good ticket he’ll become another antagonist and I’d rather see her with an ally. Of course, #2 would also make him an ally. Great stuff as always Shawn.

  4. I agree, #4, but he is more aware of what it may mean than Macy, which explains his lie to his mom and his preoccupation with the noodles and band. This new “knowing” perspective may help the story progress and give Macy (and me) and answer to the most nagging question of all…”what the hell is going on here!!??”

  5. I vote number 2. I’m really curious what it would mean if he’s some kind of guard for a walled city. What does that even mean? I’m wanting to find out.

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