It was a gloomy November day. JFK had just been elected to a second term. Ed sat at his usual table at the diner and thought about the war going on in a faraway place called Vietnam. He wished he could stop it. Stop all wars.

Ed wasn’t the president though. He wasn’t a world leader. He was just an ordinary guy with a knack for working with numbers. He often saw patterns that no one else noticed. He had a steady, if boring job, as an accountant, and business was booming. Still, he sensed there was something more, something that he could do—maybe something he was destined to do. If only he could find the right combination of numbers.

So there he was at the diner, where he ate almost every day. Most of the staff knew him. They let him sit there and work, writing on pads of paper—or paper napkins when he ran out of paper–refilling his coffee cup as needed.

There were napkins and papers strewn about the table. He looked at the calculations. There. That was it. Yes! He had found the equations that could change the course of history. He sat back, savoring the moment.

A waitress came by, someone new. “Can I fill your cup, Hon?” she asked. Coffee streamed from the full carafe, some of it missed his cup and spread like hot lava across the table. “Ooops, sorry,” she said, as she gathered up the brown, sopping pile of papers. “I’ll get you some fresh napkins,” she added as she walked away from the table.

Bob lit a cigarette. Tomorrow’s another day, he thought.


Do you make up stories about people you see?  Marian Beaman’s post  on her blog “Plain and Fancy Girl” that featured some of her husband’s art inspired this story. I was thinking of the restaurant portraits she included, and in particular this one.  I hope Cliff Beaman doesn’t mind.


22 thoughts on “Patterns

  1. I love the two surprises here this morning: The surprise within your story and the link to my blog. Thank you, thank you! No, Cliff doesn’t mind. In fact, he says, “Thank you” too with a smile and will probably reply here sometime later today. When two creative arts combine, each becomes stronger – in this case visual art and storytelling.

    You never miss a chance to let the creative juices flow either in prose or poetry. Brava!

  2. Love this, Merril. Thinking about what you said about it being inspired by people seen in everyday life. And I like how you let the main character just toss away the fate of world and not worry about it!

  3. Hi Merril, this is Cliff. Loved your story indeed!

    I have told many times how my art has inspired people but this is a first to express it as you did 🙂 These sketches were to be part of a book about “catching a slice of time” of ordinary people, not aware or waiting to pose for the camera.

    I’ve even made up my own song about a Waffle House experience. Shall I sing it to you? It’s more of a sing-song chant as the waitress shouts out the order to the cook on the open girl although he’s just within a fork’s throw away 🙂

  4. I like everything about this, Merril. The inspiration from Cliff’s portraits, the surprising flash fiction ending, and the idea of an accountant trying to bring about world peace with numbers!!

    Sitting at a Holiday Inn in St. Cloud, MN. Lots of story material right outside my window!

  5. Great story thanks Merril. I’ve just come down to the sea – again – and I too was inspired by Marian’s recent post. I randomly grabbed some photographs from overfull drawers and brought them down with me, to use as prompts –
    People watching/gazing is a great way to let the mind drift –

  6. Funny, patterns was in my post on butterflies and I had my friends mentioning the lawn and way their husband cut the grass and mother laying a sewing pattern upon the fabric, while pinning it then cutting it. . .
    The pattern in history and the future hope, to change the courses of history, gave me goosebumps, Merril.

      • It would be sad to have the coffee flowing over my pattern, but the man said it would be another day tomorrow, as if problems can be tackled again. . . This was realistic in the setting and character development. 🙂

      • This may be best if I in the future just say I enjoyed your poem about patterns, Merril. Many of my comments lately have been missing something. I have so many distractions I will just say, “Nice job!”

      • I didn’t mean to sound like I was criticizing you, Robin. You are such a kind and sweet person. I wouldn’t do that.
        My comment was meant in a joking way. I guess it didn’t come through that way. I appreciate your comments, and that you take the time to write them. Thank you!

  7. By the end of the second paragraph, I was already imagining Ed’s calculations changing history – only in a worse, sad way… his review of GNP, military expenditures, etc. sends us back to Dallas and the Book Depository.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.