Karl rolled over on his belly and extended his leg as far as he possibly could. He managed to just barely catch the edge of the door with his foot to shove it closed with a satisfying bang. Quincy and Chloe had been crabbing at each other ever since Mom told them to 'Get upstairs and get the crap off their bedroom floor right this minute!' and he was sick of hearing them.
Mom had told him to do the same, but he figured he had another few minutes to build Bionicles before she yelled up to make sure he was cleaning. He usually got a couple of warnings before the hammer fell and he would really have to get to work. Mom usually didn't make a big deal about the messes in their bedrooms, but she wanted to paint the walls in both rooms next weekend so they had to pick everything up.
Karl looked up from the really awesome creature taking shape in his hands and glanced around the room. Yeah, there was a lot of stuff, but he could probably shove it into the bins and under the bed and be done pretty quickly. Just a few more minutes and he'd get started....
He suddenly realized that was Mom's 'I'm Really Aggravated' yell. Oh crap! It was so hard to hear when his door was shut, and she got really mad if she had to yell more than once and he didn't answer.
"Karl! Please don't make me come up there, answer me! Are you cleaning up?"
Karl dropped his most awesome creature, jumped up, threw open the door, and yelled "Yeah, Mom! I'm doing it, I swear!"
He listened for a moment, hoping with all his heart that he wouldn't hear her feet on the stairs. If he got busted for playing instead of picking up, he wouldn't get any Wii time after dinner. Whew! It sounded like he was safe.
One nice thing about Mom yelling was that Quincy and Chloe finally shut up. Chloe had been a real pain in the butt ever since she got her learner's permit last week and Quincy couldn't stand it. They had been really rotten last weekend at Grandma's - Chloe acting like she thought she was all grown up, and Quincy doing mean stuff, like when she put a hair on Chloe's dessert when Quincy wasn't looking. Karl chuckled at the memory. That had been awesome! The look on Chloe's face was perfect.
Oh well, back to work before Mom came to check. Karl sighed as he turned around to survey the task ahead. As long as there was a lot of rug showing, Mom was usually pretty happy. He grabbed the pile of books on the floor next to his bed and shoved them into the already-full bookshelf. He scooped up a bunch of the Bionicle parts and Legos strewn across the floor and threw them into the bin. Hey, wait! There is that other red foot. Sweet! He bent over and plucked it out, only to see a mask and a couple of other parts that would look really good on his creature. He plopped down next to the bin and started digging, adding odds and ends to the pile slowly growing on the floor next to him. This is going to be amazing!
"C'mon, Karl! I really need you to get this done before dinner!"
Karl whipped his head around to see Mom standing in the door. Crap! He missed the sound of her coming up the stairs. He was so busted. He could tell she was trying really hard not to unload on him, too. Oh man, he'd really pushed his luck this time. He jumped to his feet, dropping the parts in his hands.
Mom walked into the room and threw up her hands. "You've been up here half an hour and you haven't even started, have you?" She sighed, exasperated.
Uh-oh. He was really going to have to get busy before she lost it. "Yeah, I did, really! Look, I picked up my books already. See?" He pointed hopefully to the overloaded bookcase, hoping with all his heart that the pile of books and papers he had just shoved in there didn't fall back out while she was standing there. That would be bad.
"Look, Karl. You're nine now and you are certainly old enough to do this without me having to stand here and tell you what to do. Start with the trash, then pick up all the dirty clothes. You know how to do this! If you do one thing at a time, it will go pretty fast. You have to get it done by dinner or there will be no Wii time. Got it?"
"OK. Sorry, Mom." Karl shuffled around the room, picking up all of the socks and shirts and pants. He threw them out into the hall. Then he started grabbing up all the wads of dirty Kleenex. His allergies had been bugging him really bad lately and they were everywhere! He dumped them into the trash, then turned to finding all of his drawings. Hey, there's that cool one I did last week with the Lava Guy and the Wind Guy and the Lightning Guy... I really should have given them different weapons, though. Where's a pencil? There's one! The other papers slipped from his grasp as he dropped to the floor, grabbed a book, and started erasing Lava Guy's shield and Lightning Guy's sword.
Gee, maybe he should finish picking up first.
He dropped the pencil and picked up the papers he dropped. He shoved them into the bookcase, putting his Dragonology book on top to keep them from falling off.
He turned to survey his progress, and... huh. What is that flashing light up in the corner by the door? He moved toward it, squinting, and... Wait! It was numbers! And it was counting! 992, 993, 994... what in the heck is it?!?
His jaw dropped and he backed away slowly, tripping over the blue Bionicle bin in the middle of the floor. 1021, 1022, 1023... OK, this is getting freaky.
He ran into Chloe and Quincy's room, his eyes wide, his heart beating wildly. The girls were sitting on their beds, sorting through piles of crap. They looked up in unison, scowling.
"Ka-aa-rrrrl," Quincy whined, "you know you're not allowed in here without knocking! Go back out and..."
"Wait, wait! This is important, really! Guys, you gotta come see this! There's this light? Up near the ceiling of my room? And it's counting! It's really freaky and I'm kinda scared... oh man, look!" Karl pointed up to the ceiling, the corner near the door. "There it is! There's one here too!"
The girls obviously thought he was trying to play a trick on them, but the fear in his voice seemed real and they couldn't help but look.
"Wait, I see it!" Chloe said, rising from her bed, the stuff in her hands slipping to the floor. "1176, 1177, 1178, 1179... Quincy! Do you see it too?"
"Yeah, and it's scaring me! Moo-ooo-mm!" Quincy leaped up and ran out the door to the top of the stairs. "Mom! You gotta come up, right now! I meeean it!"
Karl couldn't help but think that every single thing that came out of Quincy's mouth sounded like whining. What a pain.
"What?!" Mom's 'Extremely Agitated' voice floated up the stairs. "This had better be really important, Quincy."
"It is, Mom, really! There's this thing on the ceiling and it's really wee-iii-rrd!"
Mom must've believed her because she came racing up the stairs, an alarmed look on her face. The 'Extremely Agitated' voice was gone. "What, honey? What is it? Where is it?"
Chloe pointed at the light. "There! Up by the door, see? And it's counting! 1312, 1313, 1314..."
Mom stared at it for a second then threw her hands up in the air. "GodDAMmit!" she muttered under her breath. "Can't we get a minute's peace?"
Karl was somewhat reassured that Mom didn't freak out and seemed to know what it was, but he was still wary. Whatever it was, it wasn't... normal.
They all just stared at it, even Mom. It was counting, but not regular counting like a stopwatch. It kept stopping and starting, sometimes even backing up. And sometimes it would stop for a really long time, then all of a sudden it would start counting so fast it was a blur.
Karl looked up at Mom. She was transfixed, staring at the glowing green light with a scowl on her face. He tugged at her sleeve. "Mom? What is it? Is it something bad?"
Mom shook her head and looked down at him, absently patting his head. "No, honey, it's just..."
Just then, Karl heard the front door slam and Dad's cheerful "Helloooo, family!"
Mom turned away from Karl and headed out the door to the top of the stairs. "Bob? We're up here. You've got to see this!"
Dad came bounding up the stairs, a big grin on his face. "Hey, what's up? Why is everyone in here? Are we having a slumber party or something?" He kissed Mom on the forehead. "Hi, Sweetie. What's going on?"
Everyone started talking at once, pointed excitedly at the corner, trying to get Dad's attention. Karl noticed that the counting slowed way down. 1572... 1573...
"Hey, hey, hey! Wait a minute, you guys! Let Mom tell me about it."
Dad turned to Mom, his eyes drifting up to the corner by the door. "What is it, honey? Are the big crunchy spiders back? They don't usually come inside until winter." His eyes locked on the light and he squinted, trying to bring it into focus. "What the hell? Is that what I think it is?"
"Yeah," Mom said. "The Writer. She must have the word count feature turned on."
Karl was absolutely baffled. He had no idea what in the heck Mom was talking about. But he was reassured, once again, when he noticed that Dad wasn't freaking out or anything. Dad just stood there like the rest of them, scowling.
Dad shook his head, kind of disgusted, just like Mom had. "Great. Have I told you how much I hate November?" He looked at Mom. "C'mon. You know she won't stop until she hits 2,000. We may as well go downstairs."
Mom sighed and nodded. "Go ahead and wash your hands, guys. Dinner in five minutes."
"But Mo-oo-om," Quincy whined, "what is it?"
"Never mind, honey. I'll explain at dinner. It's no big deal, really." Mom and Dad headed down the stairs, muttering to each other.
Chloe and Quincy ran to hog the upstairs bathroom so Karl headed downstairs to wash.
Dinner was really quiet, too. And nobody wanted to look at the ceiling.
Finally Mom looked around the ceiling and spied the counter thing, over by the back door. 1830, 1831....
She sighed again and looked around the table. "OK, here's the deal. It's November, and there's this thing called NaNoWriMo when tens of thousands of people try to write a 50,000 word story in 30 days. Most of the time, it's no problem at all. Most of the authors are pretty good and you hardly notice them. But every once in awhile," she glowered at the counter, "you get a Writer who isn't very good and they, well, they get in the way."
Karl struggled to understand. "But what's the counter-thingy?"
Dad leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. "To meet the goal, the Writers have to try to write at least 1667 words each day. Sometimes they set the goal a little higher, just in case. My guess is that this noob... I mean new Writer is trying to hit 2,000 words. She must have a word counter in her word processor, that's all. I bet that when she reaches 2000, that'll be the end of it.
So that's what 2000 words looks like. Huh.