A few examples from an ongoing project entitled 100×100:
100 Words: Two Letters

A new CEO found a note left by his predecessor, “There are two letters in your desk. When all seems lost, open one of the letters.”

Inevitably, the day came when the CEO encountered a crisis. Remembering the letters, he opened the first one and read, “Blame everything on the old CEO.” He did, and his detractors were appeased.

Time passed and as such matters go, another crisis befell the company. Not knowing where else to turn, the CEO reached into his drawer for advice. Opening the second letter, it simply said, “Time to sit down and write two letters.”

100 Words: Five Monkeys

Three monkeys lived in a cage. One day a ladder was placed inside and a banana tied to the roof. Enticed by the fruit, the monkeys maneuvered the ladder to reach it.

As the first monkey began upward, the caretaker sprayed them all with water. The second and third tried and were thwarted too. All three gave up until a fourth monkey arrived. As he started toward the banana, the cage was once again inundated with water.

Before the fifth monkey arrived, the water had been turned off. Nevertheless, the four monkeys would not let the fifth climb the ladder.

100 Words: The Archer

A famous archer was walking through the forest and found tree after tree marked with a target, and at the center of each, an arrow. Entering the nearest village the archer inquired, “Who has accomplished this amazing feat?”

The villagers laughed, “It was the old man who did it.” Then the archer demanded: “Take me to this great master.” Upon meeting the old man, the archer bowed and said, “Great master, tell me, how were you able to shoot a bull’s eye every time?”

The old man replied, “It’s simple! First I shoot the arrow, then I draw the target.”

-Adapted from the fable of the Dubner Maggid

100 Words: I’m Busy

I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. So many places to go, things to do. But why?

Years ago, economists predicted a life of leisure. “Think of the innovations,” they said. Digital computers, microwave ovens, self-driving cars. (OK, they were wrong about jetpacks.) What they overlooked, though, is the insatiability of human desire. The wanting more – the wanting something else. Besides, nobody wants to slow down or drift along.

But instead of reciting “I’m busy” like the latest mantra or wearing it like a badge of success, maybe we should stop and ask” What are we running toward or from?

100 Words: 136.1Hz

Remember the first time you heard the sounds of a whale? It was like eavesdropping on the cosmos.

A friend of mine recently inherited a tuning fork. It’s in a purple cloth bag and vibrates at the frequency of “Earth,” apparently 136.1Hz. He will even show you how to use it.

Probe your chest until you find the soft spot on your sternum. Then clang the fork against your knee, and press the base of the “Y” into your heart. As your bones start to hum, ohhhmmmmmmm, you begin to understand what those whales already know: the universe is speaking.

200 Words: Ralph

Ralph dreamed of owning a Porsche.

For years he saved his money until he found just the car: a green 928. But before plunking down his cash, he asked for an inspection. The mechanic gave a thumbs up. Thrilled, Ralph zoomed back toward the dealer, windows down, radio up.

From nowhere, a man driving a Honda pulled alongside him and started screaming, “Pull over!” Confused, Ralph kept driving. The man pursed, passed him, changed lanes, and, without warning, locked his brakes. Ralph narrowly avoided a crash. Then, the man from the Honda jumped out, ran back, and grabbed Ralph through the window. Startled, Ralph drew his gun and fired. Boom! Gripping his stomach, the man stumbled and fell.

Later at the hospital, when investigators questioned the man, he claimed Ralph hit him at a stoplight, then ran. But he had it wrong. Tests of paint residue on the bumper showed it was from another car. Nevertheless, the man sued – the first case under the new concealed carry law. The judge ruled self- defense.

Gun advocates canonized Ralph, their patron saint. He was on radio and in the magazines. But Ralph never got his Porsche. His lawyer got a new car instead.

100 Words: What Cynthia Saw

” How long sice the last payment?” “Three months. The bank’s threatening to foreclose.” “So what are the options – bankruptcy?”

“Hold on. There’s a man on the roof of the garage across the street. He’s wearing a suit.” “And?” “I don’t see a car.” “Hmm. That’s strange.” “He’s taking off his shoes.” “What? What do you mean taking off his shoes?” “Now he’s dangling his feet over the edge.” “How high up are you?” “About sixteen… oh, god. Oh, god!” “What!?” “He…” She shrieks. “He just jumped!”

Silence. Then a sob. “I gotta go,” she says, the connection terminating. Wunnnnnnnng…

100 Words: Photojournalism

Photography developed in the nineteenth century, but it was in the twentieth that easy-to-use, interchangeable photographic film became widely available.

Armed with nothing more than a rangefinder and a roll of film, amateurs and professionals alike set out to capture the edges of our world in faithful detail. No story was complete without an accompanying image to corroborate the storyteller’s experience. Confronted by images from everyday urban life to the horrors of war, few forms of media have captured our attention and provoked us more. No longer could we ignore the truth.

No longer could we say, “I didn’t know.”

100 Words: Old Tjikko

Five millennia ago, Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura erected temples to immortality in Giza. Half as long ago, Caesar, Augustus, and Trajan ruled the world. The pharaohs and emperors are now all long gone.

But walk the trail along Fulufjället Mountain in Dalarna, Sweden and you will find a humble tree twice the age of the Great Pyramids. Old Tjikko has lived in the harshest of climates for almost 10,000 years. While the tree’s trunk must continually regrow, its root system remains intact.

Yielding to its environment, whenever its branches touch the earth, new roots form and the trunk begins anew.

© Rugger Burke, 2015