These little flash jobs are great exercise in plotting. Nine out of ten times you know beforehand if the extended version will be able to hold reader's interest, or it will fall apart like a cardboard cutout. While writing the compressed piece, you also test your passion, commitment and stamina to write the full version that can take months, if not years to develop. If you, as a writer, don't find it worth sticking to, the reader definitely won't.
A Call After Midnight
Madonna in black velvet costume disappeared. Bulls charging at her stopped dead and fell into yellow dust. Wild roar from the stadium turned into a shrill, incessant ring of a telephone.
I opened my eyes and absorbed the blurry details. Reflection of a blinking neon behind the drawn curtain confused my senses for a full minute. The outline of a dresser and ornate stool with cat's paws. Dull shine of the pewter water jug sitting on the night stand. I was in a hotel room, Grand Central, Simla. Despite the woolen blanket I felt the shiver run down my spine. I found the remote from under the pillow and switched off the AC.
It was the hotel phone, not my mobile that was tearing the smooth, surreal quiet of the hour. I switched on the night lamp and looked at my watch. Who could that be at 2.30 in the morning. My mind felt numb but an important fact registered - only eight people in my world knew that I was in Simla tonight. Three out of them knew about my hotel. My wife would never call me except in case of emergency. Can a woman make up her mind about a divorce at three in the morning? I doubted it. Could it be Derreck Brown ? I was negotiating a contract with him since last four months. Do I get an outsourcing business worth thirty million or my company goes down under? His day in Germany begins when I have my evening coffee. It must be 10.30 in Frankfurt now. The last, the wildest and the most mind-numbing possibility - a versatile fixer who can put Michael Clayton to shame. He was the third person who knew my whereabouts because I happened to meet him in the lobby last night and we had drinks together. I had hired him 11 years back for a job that is unmentionable here. Can he call at this time to tell me something he couldn't tell in 11 years or after five pegs of whisky?
The throbbing in my head reached a crescendo as I pushed the blanket away and reached for the phone. It had stopped ringing.