Penpals – The Process

Penpals is story number twenty-nine in the #52ShortStories challenge.

**SPOILERS BELOW. If you have not read the story and want to be (hopefully) surprised, come back to this when you’re done.**

Certain images have been popping up in my head as of late–mainly flashbacks of things I knew in my childhood which are now obsolete due to the march of technology.

Things like penpals.

Yeah, the Internet has pretty much obliterated that concept.

I had a penpal in junior high that was from Pennsylvania. No bones about it, I was the world’s worst penpal. After a few letters in, the initial thrill wore off and I realized just how much I didn’t like taking time away from playing football and Streetfighter with friends.

Here I was, more penpunk than penpal, leaving this wonderful, sweet girl on the other end of the country, hanging. She even sent me a nice hat from a local amusement park she’d visited.

Just chalk it up to another cringe-worthy event in life.

Anyway, I thought about how some similar penpal relationships might play out and Penpals was the result. Most of us (should) change drastically from what we were as young boys and girls and I imagine some headed down darker roads than others. But there would always be that bond created during the formative years that would only be one fuzzy memory away.

Reviewing the initial outline in my scratch file, I listed a lot of really dumb ideas before I hit on the final (hopefully not-dumb) idea.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding something similar that’s disappeared from your modern lifestyle.

Here’s the general scratch file:

And the daily journal entries:


8 thoughts on “Penpals – The Process

  1. Your scratch file was very interesting! It’s cool to see your thought process.

    I haven’t had a penpal in many years. The closest I’ve come to that is corresponding by email or Facebook to one of my former students from China. He wound up coming to the States for graduate school.

    1. Thanks, Linda! Always appreciate you stopping by. That’s so cool about your former student. I guess penpal-ing is becoming one of those things lost to time.

  2. This is such a little thing, but I used to get excited for the night my favorite show was on, especially if there were a few of them on in a row. It was a small treat to look forward to. Now, with Netflix and all the other viewing options, we can watch most anything we want when we want. I wouldn’t trade that–I don’t want to go back to the early days of TV–but it does make me a bit nostalgic.

    I used to have a pen pal. Not sure what happened to her. She probably wonders the same about me. ?

    1. Yes!! I know that feeling… There were always certain nights that you could look forward to. I still do that a little bit with Sundays when Game of Thrones/Walking Dead is happening, but that’s about it.

  3. As a kid, I had a VHS rewinder that looked like a sports car. You stuck the tape in the hood and pressed it down to rewind it. It was like a toy, which was good, because otherwise I, as an irresponsible kid, wouldn’t bother rewinding a movie when it was over.

    Bookstores aren’t quite obsolete yet, but they’re getting there. It’s sad, because I have many fond childhood memories of the local Borders bookstore–I spent hours in there, reading comic books and game magazines and Star Wars spin-off novels. (Probably that’s where the first seeds of “The Directorate” were planted. Ironic that I made it an eBook, really.) Such places still exist I suppose, but they are becoming rare. I still own a shelf from the store that I bought when it went out of business, for old time’s sake.

    Lastly, this isn’t a personal thing, but I have seen lots of old TV shows and movies where a major plot point involves finding a phone. So many 1960s-era spy stories would have been different if cell phones had existed…

    1. I remember those rewinders and the accompanying video store slogan, “Be kind, rewind.”

      You know what’s interesting about the bookstores, at least in my area? While the Borders and a couple of Barnes and Nobles have shuttered, I’m finding little guys popping up here and there, mainly focused on used books–which is fine by me, because I find so many out-of-print gems I wouldn’t otherwise.

      And yes, it’s funny seeing how many movie plots have been wiped out due to cell phones. I guess the goto now is “no signal.” 😉

  4. There’s a certain screeching sound that’s used on many films and occasionally TV. Reminds me of the loading screens from my old ZX Spectrum days. Always brings a smile to my face as I remember waiting for Elite or Sabre Wulf or some such to load. Amazing how something that’s fundamentally annoying and went on for absolutely ages does that, yet waiting three seconds these days for an app to update on a phone (IN SILENCE!) does my nut in. Not sure whether it’s my age, expectations or what. Probably best not to pull too hard on that thread…

    1. Haha, so I had to YouTube it as I never had a ZX (I was a Commodore kid). Yeah, that would have been pretty annoying and it actually sounds like some of the glitch stuff the kids listened to in the late 90s (talk about age and expectations….). 🙂

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