Saturday, March 22, 2014

Prompt: A woman receives an anonymous package...

Prompt: A woman receives an anonymous package that contains only a shiny stone and a note with the address of a nearby infamous landmark.

Diane walked up the front walkway from her parked car. She was about halfway up the walk when she noticed a package on her front stoop. She slowed down a bit as she approached and saw that her name was hand-written on it in large, black letters. She was intrigued.

After unlocking her front door, she walked into her house, holding the parcel under her arm. She placed it on a table by the front door and momentarily forgot about it as she walked into her kitchen to get a glass of water.  As she walked past the door to the kitchen, she saw the package again, sitting on the little table innocently enough. She placed her empty glass on the counter and went back out to the foyer. She stood by the small table for a moment, just looking at the package. Then she proceeded to open it.

Contained within the cardboard container were only two items: a stone and a folded piece of paper. The stone was a beautiful piece of polished granite weighing about a pound as she held it in her hand. It was almost perfectly spherical. As she held onto it, she reached into the box with her other hand and retrieved the piece of paper, opening it…

Neatly hand-printed on the stationary was just an address. She didn’t recognize the number as being anything significant but the street it was on was just around the block from her home so she decided to take a walk.

It was a short jaunt to the street. Diane held the granite stone in her hand as she walked down the nearby road and she approached an old, dilapidated house. The roof needed new shingles, several of the windows framed broken glass, the yard needed to be seriously groomed, the trees pruned and the structure itself painted… or just torn down so someone else could start over. She was sure a desperate real-estate agent would try and market it as “a quaint, rustic fixer-upper.” She saw some rusted metal numbers held to the front of the house with a variety of mismatched screws and nails. The numbers matched the address on the stationary. She had arrived at the right address… but she was still a little confused about where she was. Minutes passed as she stood on the sidewalk, staring at the old house then a memory surfaced from her subconscience.

Diane had grown up in this town and she remembered hearing a story when she was a little girl about “The Murder House.” There was probably one in every town. An old place that kept urban legends alive. The story about this house probably changed with every generation. As far as she could recall, a crazy old woman had lived in the house with three young children that she didn’t allow to attend school or social activities. She was strict, a religious zealot and paranoid about everything. Then, one day, one of her daughters was late coming home from the grocery store and the mother just snapped and decided to punish all of her children by locking them in the attic. She kept them there for weeks, feeding them only stale bread and water… when she remembered to feed them at all. Until one day, she just forgot to feed them and simply went about her life as if she never had any children to begin with. No one ever heard from the children again and one day, the woman just died of old age.

Diane always hated that story because it genuinely scared her. The thought of being abandoned in one’s own home and left alone to starve was just too much for her to take. The memory of that story brought up a great deal of negative emotions and she clenched her fists… then she remembered the stone in her hand. She looked around her and saw that the street and sidewalk was empty. She looked again to the windows of broken glass in the “Murder House” and thought, “What the hell?”


She raised her arm, holding the stone in her hand and drew back. She then threw the stone as hard as she could and watched it fly through the air. It’s shiny surface and spherical shape made it very aerodynamic and it’s flight was true as it traveled the distance between Diane and the last unbroken window in the house. With a loud crash, the stone shattered the glass which startled Diane. She quickly looked around her to see if anyone had seen what she had done. The street and sidewalk were still empty. But she started to quickly jog back home.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Prompt: It was my turn to dig again... From writers-write-creative-blog.posthaven.com

It was my turn to dig again. I was still winded and sweaty despite it being the middle of the night and kind of chilly. I thought about how they always made it look so easy in the movies. Then I remembered that in the movies, they rarely show the actual digging and when they do, they dissolve to the guy scooping out the last shovel full of dirt from the completed hole. I forgot about the dissolve. How boring would it be to watch somebody dig an entire hole? I suppose a time lapse shot of someone digging might be interesting to watch.

"Will you hurry up!" said Charlie.

I turned to him and said, "I'm digging as fast as I can."

"Well, I think you're slacking off since we agreed to take half hour shifts. Maybe you're not working hard enough and making me do more of the work."

"Will you give me a break, we're going to be here all night as it is."

"And I'd like to get out of here before sunrise."

We were a ways outside of town. Some unincorporated part of the adjacent county. I couldn't believe it had come to this. Charlie always talked big but he had never followed through with any threats or posturing... until tonight. And with who? Some guy at a laundromat? What was the point? Maybe he needed to prove to himself that he was as much of a bad ass as he made himself out to be. So why am I helping him? Because he's my best friend. Has been since we were kids. Not sure why. I can't say that I really liked the guy. He was a bully. Even in school. I suppose I befriended him just so he wouldn't bully me. It certainly wasn't because he was nice to me. He would always boss me around and being the meek sort of kid that I was, I just did what he told me. Now, here we are, years later, and he's still bossing me around.

"Hurry up!" he demanded again.

"Get off my back, Charlie, or there'll be two bodies in this hole by morning!" I yelled viciously. That shut him up. Where did that come from?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Prompt: Write something that starts with a “Screech”

There was a flash of bright red and my muscle memory kicked in. My foot slammed on the brake pedal and the unmistakable, ear piercing sound of rubber being dragged against pavement reverberated through the structure of the car. The glowing red of the break lights on the semi in front of me seemed to rush toward me when, in actuality, I was rushing toward them.

I must have been following too closely because within just a few seconds of hitting the brake I saw the front of my car make contact with the vehicle in front of me and watched with equal parts horror and fascination as the hood of my car started to buckle and then crumple like a piece of aluminum foil. Then I couldn’t see anything as my windshield shattered, turning into a random mosaic of tiny pieces of safety glass, held in place by an invisible layer of polymer. Then my view was obscured by an off-white barrier that appeared suddenly with a loud “POP!” My seatbelt locked in place as my head slammed forward and my face hit the fabric of the airbag.


It was the first time I had ever been in such a severe accident.

(I was never in such an accident. -Joe)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Prompt: Describe a family member

I’ve never known my Dad as a young man. He’s always been “old.” Always balding and grey-haired with wrinkly skin. I was aware of this but used to it. My friends’ parents were always younger. It seemed odd to me. I got to the point where the idea of “old” became a very relative term. Especially when I heard people talking about how “old” there grandparents were. I had a grandmother who lived until she was 102. The only person I ever knew who was born in the 19th century. So I would gauge “old” relative to my Dad. Someone says their parents are old and I’ll ask, “How old?” Anyone younger than my Dad was still a kid as far as I was concerned.

I remember the first time I really thought, “Man! Dad’s getting old.” I spoke to him on the phone from a film set. For the first time I could recall, I didn’t just hear Dad talking, I heard an old man talking. When he moved into an assisted living facility in 2013, I was told that he showed signs of dementia. I wasn’t surprised to hear this since he was 89 years old, but it didn’t really sink in until I visited him for Christmas and he was talking to me and my girlfriend about church and ask me if I was “familiar with the LDS?”

I was surprised by this. I said to him, “Yeah. I was baptized the same day you were.”

Then he remembered. “Oh, yeah,” he said.


We joined the LDS Church as a family in 1983. We were members for over 30 years and he simply forgot. Then my step-mom told me about how he’s been confusing her for my late mother. Mixing up memories and reconstructing them into a different narrative of his life. I’m glad I was able to talk to Dad and record some of his stories while he was still more lucid. I don’t think I could get much in the way of a story out of him now. Which is a pity because he has lead a fascinating life.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Prompt: Write a story about a man who is forgetful

Jack got into his car, started the engine and pulled out of his parking space at his apartment complex. He was already 20 minutes late. He called ahead to let them know he was on his way. He didn’t dare tell them that he had forgotten about the meeting completely. He cursed himself as he turned onto the street and headed down the road. When he got to the third streetlight he remembered that he had left his presentation on a flash drive that was still attached to his home computer.

“Shit!” he yelled, then quickly made a U-turn when the light turned green, almost getting into a fender-bender in the process. He raced back to his apartment building, ran inside, fumbling with his keys and running into his home office. He grabbed the flash drive from his computer, ignoring the warning from his computer that it hadn’t been properly ejected.

By the time he was on the freeway, he started to relax, just a little bit. Then he realized that he forgot to put the physical model for his presentation into his car. “For the love of Mike!” He hit the gas and headed toward the nearest exit, turned around and got back onto the freeway to head back to his place.

He stubbed his tow on a concrete planter on the way into his building and limped his way back to his apartment. He grabbed the model and went back to his car.

Before long he was back on the freeway. The meeting was being held in a conference room at a hotel downtown and not at his regular office. Of course, he didn’t remember this until he had pulled into the parking lot of his employers. “I can’t believe this!” he screamed, as he spun around in the parking lot and headed back to the freeway.

By the time he pulled in front of the hotel, got his flash drive, model and handed his keys to the valet, he was sweating profusely. He ran into the lobby and turned a corner, ignoring the elevator and running up the stairs to the conference room. When he walked into the room, he was greeted with cold stares by his coworkers and their client.


“Hi,” he said as he brought his hand to his face and realized that he had forgotten to shave.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Prompt: The Unexpected Guest

I walked in the front door and put my coat on the rack. I then turned into the living room and there it was. What looked to be an old dog asleep in the middle of the floor. Danica walked in from the kitchen and said, “Oh, you’re home.”

“Who’s this?” I asked, motioning to the dog.

“I have no idea,” said Dani. “I heard him barking outside the front door and when I opened it, he just walked into the house, found a spot on the floor, laid down and went to sleep.”

I walked further into the living room and sat down on the couch, all the while keeping my eyes on the peaceful, sleeping dog. “Where did he come from?”

“I have no idea. He doesn’t look like any of the dogs from the neighborhood.”

“Do you think he’s a stray?”

“No. He seems pretty clean and well fed,” she said as she joined me on the couch.

“He isn’t wearing a collar.”

“Maybe he has a microchip.”

We continued to just sit on the couch together and watch the dog sleep. His paws started to wiggle and he made little noises that sounded like very quiet but high-pitched barks. He was dreaming. Dani and I smiled at this and enjoyed watching him, wondering just what he was dreaming about. Obviously there was some running involved. Perhaps he was chasing a cat or a bird or another dog? Maybe he dreamt of playing with his regular family.

“What should we do?”

“Maybe we should take him to a shelter. If he has a microchip, they can scan for it and tell us where he lives.”


“What if he doesn’t have a chip?”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Classmate in Prison (Prompt Exercise)


Prompt:

You receive a letter at your workplace from a high school classmate, who is now in prison. “I know I’ve caused you a lot of grief,” the letter says, “but there’s something I need that only you can get for me. Don’t tell anyone about this.”

Exercise:

I sat in the prison visiting room in front of a large plexiglass panel with telephone receivers on either side. I was the only one in the room and I waited. After several minutes, I saw Sean come in through the glass. Even though we were in separate rooms, he was still shackled. He must of really fucked up. I didn’t even know what he was in for and I didn’t want to know.

He sat down in front of me and took the receiver off the hook. I grabbed mine and put it to my ear as I looked into his tired eyes.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“You contacted me,” I said.

“I didn’t ask you to come here though.”

“Well, I’m here. What do you want?”

He paused and fidgeted with the chains between his wrists. Then, with a look of deep and profound sadness he said, “I want you to forgive me.”

I stared at him blankly for a moment then I thought of all the times he had teased me. The pranks he pulled. The embarrassment he caused me. He was such a mean kid who turned into a mean adult and as far as I was concerned he got what he deserved from his life. He was locked up. He couldn’t hurt anyone anymore. Hell, maybe he was the one getting bullied now. Maybe he was somebody’s bitch or a prison-wife. Good, I thought.

“Why?” I asked.

“Why do you think? Look at where I am.”

“I didn’t put you in here. If I had to guess that was your doing.”

“I’m just trying to make things as right as I can. To make amends, ya know?”

“Are you in a 12-step program or something?”

“No. Just thinking about karma.”

I wanted to say to him, Well I don’t forgive you. You can just fuck off and rot in here for all I care. You don’t deserve my forgiveness or anyone’s for that matter. You’ve gotten what you deserve and if that’s going to fuck up your karma, then so be it.

But I couldn’t. To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought about him in years until I received that letter. And while it did bring up some painful memories, I didn’t feel the grudge that I used to feel when I was helpless and being tormented by him as a youth. And now... I actually felt sorry for him.

I looked into his tired, sad eyes and said, “Okay, Sean. I forgive you.”

“You’re not just saying it, are you?”

“No. I really mean it. I forgive you.”

“Thanks, man. You have no idea what that means to me.”

“I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through in there. But if my forgiving you can make you feel a little better, I guess it’s the least I can do.”