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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Collaborative Story, IBM Style

Recently our group at IBM participated in a collaborative story. I was the anchorman for it. Here is the story as it read when I got it:

The Snowstorm……or Not

Once upon a time there was a boy named Jim who lived in Rochester, MN. Jim had been going to school every day since the beginning of September and was ready for a day off. He couldn’t wait for the first snowstorm so there would be a snow day and he could stay home from school.

Little did Jim know that he would be getting his wish in early November but school was already out due to end of quarter. On this day Jim woke up to see the ground all covered in white and now thoughts of snowmen and snowball fights began dancing in his head.

Jim kicked the warm covers off of himself and jumped out of bed. He was feeling the kind of energy you only feel when you know you have a day ahead of you with no responsibilities and endless opportunities for fun. He stuffed himself into a sweater and a pair of jeans and hauled on a pair of thick sweat socks. He stepped quietly down the stairs as he realized that his parents and little sister weren't awake yet. He went through the yearly ritual of rediscovering the location of his winter outerwear since his mom and dad had stored it away last year. Once he had finally gotten his snow pants, coat, hat, scarf, mittens and boots on- a frustratingly slow process in his opinion- he clomped his way to the front door. He was about to open it when he heard clomping on the front porch. He peeked outside and saw his friend, Mark, from down the street. He was poised to knock on the door. He was dressed similarly, but unlike Jim, he had an excited look and was clearly out of breath. Between breaths, Mark pointed at a drift of white and said "Check it out!" Jim took a closer look at the snow. Mark asked "What's wrong with this picture?"

The snow drift was nearly as big as a school bus, but that was not the most usual thing about it. As Jim stared at the drift of snow, he noticed that a part of it was moving up and down in a slow, steady rhythm. Up and down, up and down, up and down – just like the front of his father’s purple Vikings jersey when he takes a nap during the halftime show.

Jim was dressed and ready to go outside with Mark. Jim and Mark started towards the giant snow drift. Suddenly, Cindy, Jim’s pet cat came flying out of the snow drift. She flew past the boys and landed on the porch, on all fours (of course). Cindy scampered away. Jim and Mark looked at each other then at the giant snow drift…….

The boys noticed the giant drift was still alive to their bewilderment. They began to tunnel frantically to save whatever else would be buried in the thick heavy stuff. They hit something hard, shiny, and purple. It was a football helmet with Brad Johnson’s head still in it, of course his body is still attached, and of course he is on his buttocks again! The boys asked “Are you OK Brad?” Brad replied “Yes, the snow was falling so fast it sacked me!” The boys helped Brad back to the huddle and ran toward there next adventure….

Time goes by very fast when you're not at school. They both wanted to enjoy outside as much as they could. They grabbed their stuff and headed to the Judd hill - that's a big bumpy hill across Zach's house. Once they got there, they met Zach and his Mom. They were amazingly dressed for such cold snowy day. T-shirts and shorts weren't exactly what one would expect to see on others during a day like this. Mark questioned their ability to think straight, believing their brain had been frost-bitten. Little did he know that Zach and his mom were replaced with robots created by Dr. Evil.

Zach's Mom called Jim and Mark over to come inside and have some ice cream for breakfast. Jim definitely knew something was wrong because moms don't allow kids to eat ice cream for breakfast, but Mark hurried in, sat down at the kitchen table and waited anxiously for his bowl of double chocolate chip supreme. Jim tried to get Mark to come back outside, but it was too late. SLAM! The front door closed and Jim was alone on the front porch. Cindy, the cat, was peering at Jim from under the porch. She too knew that something was wrong.

Jim heard a rumbling noise and looked up to see that the slamming door had shaken loose the snow on the porch roof. He dove under the porch to safety just as the deadly icicles started to fall. Cindy, thinking that Jim just wanted to play, began batting at the string on his mittens. Jim scrambled around trying to find a way out, but the snow was blocking him in on all sides. He was about to start digging when he noticed a light coming from the basement window. The window was loose and there was a crack just barely big enough for his little fingers to grip.

Jim realized that getting back into the house through this window was he best bet for surviving. He struggled and struggled. His cold hand getting colder and colder. Still no success. When he was just about to give up, he felt something moving under his stocking cap. Certainly, something had burrowed its way under his hat. Nearly exhausted, Jim mustered enough energy to reach up and remove his stocking cap. To his great surprise, he discovered a small salamander. Where in the world did that come from ? Just then, the basement window opened. Standing there looking at him (and the salamander) from inside the basement was Brad Johnson.

“Let me give you a hand there” said Brad. He opened the window wider and helped Jim inside. Jim asked him what he was doing there. Brad said that he thought something suspicious was going on when he saw Mark go into the house, so he decided to check it out. There was another door leading into the basement from outside, which was how he got in. Cindy, the cat, had followed him. She was curious, so she started wandering around the basement and looking into the cracks in the walls. Brad and Jim headed towards the stairs leading to the kitchen.

They made it up to the kitchen, and there was Mark! He was sitting at the kitchen table eating a HUGE bowl of ice cream, but seemed sad. Once Mark noticed he now had company, he was in better spirits. Mark convinced the Jim and Brad to explore.

The television was on, and there was a computer turned on. Between the 2 “tubes”, they entertained each other the rest of the day. Cindy stayed in the background, seemingly suspicious that this was not the norm.

Here's how I wrapped it up.

“Wake Up, Jim” called his mother. “It’s time for school.” Jim realized that it had all been a crazy dream. He realized that there would be no snow day. The school bus was coming.

. . .

Charlotte read through the printout (which had been double spaced and set in 14 point Comic Sans) and crumpled it up. When she had received the assignment last week, she had looked forward to writing this story. She knew she could write a good story, but from the onset had been hampered by that initial sentence “Once upon a time there was a boy named Jim.” She couldn’t recall a story that started with “Once upon a time” that had ever won a Pulitzer, and didn’t feel that the mandated 1200 word story length made any sense. Maybe her teacher put that stuff in to throw her off. He was always doing that. Sitting behind that old wooden desk, with his smug face looking over the sea of 10th less-than-captivated graders. On the first day of class, he had told them “I don’t teach Creative Writing, I mold young minds.” Mold indeed. More like Fungus. Exhausted, she tilted the chair back to rest her head on her old pink bedspread. Looking up at the yellowed ceiling stars her mom and dad had given her years ago, she realized that perhaps, it didn’t really matter what she wrote. Just that she wrote at all. Returning to the computer, she closed the active window and selected File-New Document. She had just 2 hours left before her assignment was due, just 2 hours. She started typing.

Comic Sans
14 Point Fonts
And Boys named Jim

By Charlotte Benson

It would be a good day.
I think I did alright. I hope people aren't ticked that I basically gave up on it, but these stories can be hard to contain after a few people get at them.


Jennifer 11/19/2006 03:37:00 PM  

Did Pico have input in this story? I think I recognize his writing style ....

Heather 12/15/2006 09:56:00 PM  

I have to admit I didn't really read this the first time around. I just read how you wrapped it up. I have to say you did the best you could with it. Ack.

IBMers should not write fiction. Sorry. It just shouldn't happen.