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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Embarrassment (01/12/12)

TITLE: The Rise and Fall of Harry Harrison
By Theresa Santy


On a typical smog-infested Los Angeles afternoon, Harry Harrison prepares for yet another sold out crowd. Ever since his book The Ultimate Internet Success Formula made the New York Times Best Seller list, he has basked in notoriety. Harry has arrived. This is his time, his moment to shine, and everybody clamors to hear what he has to say.

A well-caffeinated announcer introduces Harry as “A scrawny boy from the analog age turned beefy Internet mogul.”

Harry humbly accepts the crowd’s welcome and proceeds to share the story of how he became a sought-after, money-making machine. He explains how he used to be an introvert from an invisible village in Wisconsin named Yuba, population ninety-two. Now, minus one.

“The place was positively suffocating,” says Harry. “It was a cage of obscurity, and I thought of nothing my entire childhood but breaking free.”

Crowd anticipation reaches pitch height, and Harry goes on to explain his secret to success, revealing his ingenious formula: A healthy body creates a positive image. A positive image creates a successful mind.

It’s that simple.

“You’d be amazed what a little calculated weightlifting can do to transform an image,” says Harry.

Hundreds of gangling computer geeks laugh out loud while typing furiously into their portable electronic devices. Following the lecture, attendees clog the halls, cramming themselves near Harry’s table to grab all they can. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they vanish.

One attendee remains, a woman who stands at a distance at first, but then hooks her big brown eyes onto Harry and reels herself in. She’s an athletic type with a graceful gate, her shimmering chocolate hair brushing against her shoulders. Harry is mesmerized.

“Hi, name’s Karen,” she says, her lashes fluttering bashfully. “I’m a fan.”

The tone of her voice is peculiar, and yet familiar.

“You’ve read my book?”

“No, um—I’m a fan from your choir days, Harold.”

Harry’s manicured brow rises. He was sixteen the last time he sang in the Yuba church choir. Eighteen the last time he let anybody call him Harold.

“Karen! I remember you now. You used to sit in the grass by yourself at recess.”

“Yes, and you sat by yourself at the other end of the grass.”

Harry is amused by Karen’s response, and flattered that she’d followed him to Los Angeles, though she insists she’s in town on other business. The hour hand rushes around Harry’s Rolex as he chats with Karen about what was and what has been. Harry says he had felt trapped inside the smallness of Yuba, with its one school, two churches, and only three bars. Karen still lives in Yuba, and says she teaches at the one school, adores the two churches, and quite frankly, could do without the three bars.

Harry notices a diamond cross pendant bouncing off Karen’s throat whenever she speaks, but it is her eyes that dazzle him. He wonders how it could be fair that he’s spent half his life running away from a place that houses this stunning creature. He makes plans as he walks Karen to her car. He’d get her number and take her on a personal tour of the big city. She would be impressed. But before Harry gets a chance to speak again, Karen leans in.

“You have a hair on your shirt,” she says. “Let me get that.”

Swift as a fox, she grabs the hair and pulls.

Harry screams, jumps back, and grabs his chest; Karen screams, jumps back and flings her arms up high, indicating zero intention to harm.

“I’m sorry I—”

But Karen’s voice is frozen and she can say nothing else.

The hair was attached.

Apparently, this particular chest hair had grown tired of letting Harry’s bulging muscles hoard the glory, and so breached the confining fibers of the Polo shirt. This persistent hair had risen above obscurity, basking in notoriety, right up until the moment it had been assaulted.

Smoggy wet air fills Harry’s lungs and he is struck as speechless as his companion. Awkwardness drives a wedge between the pair.

As Karen’s midsized sedan peels out and away from the parking lot, gaining speed with every passing second, Harry grasps onto the possibility that she had been astounded, perhaps impressed, by his hairy manliness.

Certainly, Karen returned home with a completely different impression of Harry than she had when she had left.

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This article has been read 578 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 01/19/12
Hahahahaha...Funny story, great ending. Nicely told.
God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/19/12
Oh this is so funny! You went in a totally different direction then I thought you were going. Love your sense of humor!
Margaret McKinney01/20/12
This piece literally made me laugh out loud! There is some hilarious imagery in here, and a really creative take on the topic. Well done!
Hiram Claudio01/20/12
A nice story and written very well. It flowed easily and keep me interested from start to finish. Wonderful job!
Linda Goergen01/22/12
Humorous and well written! Enjoyed!
Noel Mitaxa 01/22/12
Loved the sense of let-down that ripped across my expectations here. Good fun stuff, though I'm puzzled how a town can have a population of "Now minus one," which would put it into cosmic "black hole" calculations. I guess you meant "now one less."
I'm wondering if there are ninety two again, because I'd love to know if these two link up again????
Lillian Rhoades 01/23/12
What a great story-teller you are from start to finish!
Can't tell which one to feel sorry for - Harry or Karen.

Great story line and laced with humor. Although the title says it all, there are still many ways to interpret this story, and that's a compliment.:-)
Leola Ogle 01/23/12
Well, this completely surprised me - the expectation of Harry and Karen riding off into the sunset together just didn't happen. Delightfully charming and very well written! God bless!
Terry R A Eissfeldt 01/24/12
I love "tongue in cheek" humor - great job.
annie keys01/26/12
LOL---didn't see THAT coming. Good one, well done!
Helen Murray01/29/12
Further studies of Yuba portending? Great story. Great book?