Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 23

***Searching for good prompts can take as much time as writing some days. Particularly when I have 1000 word days. But one of the things that’s been really interesting is finding blogs and writing communities dedicated to finding unique ways to help other people write consistently. One of those blogs- which I look forward to exploring further- is Mamakatslosinit.com. That’s where today’s prompt comes from.
PROMPT: Incorporate the phrase “stop looking at me like that” into your post.

I was making dinner at home with Caleb. It was our weekly dinner and a movie night, but my roommate was home, which was fairly unusual. Marie was a box of crazy I had never wanted to get involved in. I consider myself a good person, but she was the type to latch onto people and then alternate between treating them like shit and whining that they were bad friends. She was desperately and constantly in need of friends to whom she could vent late into the night, but she wasn’t great at maintaining balance.

So I steered clear of her when she was having one of her crises, which she was tonight. Unfortunately, the pot on the burner meant that I was essentially chained to the kitchen as long as my meal was cooking. She walked in and took out a can of soda from the fridge, sighing overdramatically. “Well, I had a terrible day…” She always gave an easy lead in. She didn’t let the notion of subtlety stop her drawing me in. I gave a quick, closed-mouth, sympathetic smile. “Sorry. That sucks.” I answered without inquiring further.

Caleb sat at the table cutting vegetable for a salad. I stirred the pot. “You wouldn’t even believe it,” Marie pushed. I turned and made brief eye contact with Caleb, raising an eyebrow. He tried not to smile and buried himself in the vegetables to avoid laughing. I rolled my eyes and turned back to the stove. I nodded in response. “Yeah, sounds like a bad one.” She lingered by the kitchen door before giving up and retreating to her bedroom. I turned to Caleb and exhaled. “What? Stop looking at me like that!” “I said nothing…” and he returned to his chopping.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 22

PROMPT: Write in the second person.
(From Toasted Cheese)

You told him that you’d rather he just stopped talking to you when you have to be in the same room together. It’s an unusual circumstance, an incredibly difficult one actually, but you’ve been managing the best that you can. You try to keep perspective on the situation, remember that it’s not going to be perfect, that you can’t be too hard on yourself. He has never been quite as self-aware. It’s part of his problem.

Instead of respecting your wishes or responding to your concerns he lashes out. “So you just want me to go off somewhere and die, is that it?” You take a deep breath, knowing that addressing his ludicrous outbursts hasn’t gotten you very far in the past. You want to tell him that you wish him no harm. That you want him to live a long, happy, and more importantly healthy life. You want him to understand that you just can’t be a part of it. That you need to take care of yourself instead. But years of these fights have taught you that these are not concepts he is capable of understanding. And again, you’re the one that has to bite her tongue. He never will.

You try to go about your days as if it doesn’t get to you, but there are times when having to see him feels fully unbearable. You feel like your life can’t move forward as long as he’s in it, but your closest confidantes tell you how far you’ve come in spite of it. You struggle daily to figure out what “being okay” is so that you can figure out how to get there. Sometimes you get a little closer. Other times you feel miles away. But that’s just part of living.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 21

***It's Day 21 and I'm happy to say it's the first time I've completed a full week without penalty. It's getting harder and harder to forget about this every day, which makes an accidental penalty less and less likely. I'm amazed that I'm still going though. Next milestone is a month. Here we go...

PROMPT: The hat was never going to be a good idea

This was of very few occasions where they would ever have any reason to be at a dinner party. Even the term “dinner party” was foreign to Lisa and Jack. Lisa had spent two hours last week googling “what to wear to a dinner party.” It didn’t help. Apparently there were all different types. She had gone shopping three times, tried on dozens of outfits, and settled on a dress that could either be construed as fancy or just how fashionable people dress regularly. She figured it was a good middle ground. Jack, having not put the same amount of thought into his wardrobe choices, wore a fedora.

They had arrived on time, not knowing whether people would get to this sort of thing early or late. They smiled and shook hands with their hosts and handed over a bottle of wine that they had read about in the New York Times. Lisa kissed the hosts on the cheek. Just one cheek, not both. They were exhausted before they even got there just from having to think about all of the contributing factors. They had forgotten that they would have to actually communicate once they arrived.

Plum Lenore Manette had already arrived and was sitting at the elaborately set dining table when they arrived. Plum Lenore had been the one to get Lisa invited to this dinner. They had met in Plum Lenore’s shop when Lisa was shopping for d├ęcor for the new apartment. The shop had look like the type she would have seen on a DIY show about young twenty-somethings in Brooklyn. They had gotten along from the start and Plum Lenore seemed to enjoy Lisa’s ignorance of the “finer things”

They took seats at the table. Lisa next to Plum Lenore and Jack next to Lisa. The more people turned up, the less they felt like they needed to carry conversations. Jack, emboldened by the fedora, occasionally made sweeping generalizations about art or culture that probably could’ve been true, but neither of them would have known.

It was a lovely evening if a little confusing. Lisa kissed Plum Lenore on the cheek as she left, saying she would be sure and stop by the shop sometime this week. Jack shook hands with Royce Overfoote, whom he had talked to or listened to for most of the night. Jack suggested they friend each other on facebook. Royce laughed, “Facebook! You’re hilarious Jack. First the fedora and now this.” As they left Royce went over to Plum Lenore. “Where did you find them? It’s like they’re walking irony! Fabulous.” “Aren’t they though?”

They walked to their car, returning to the calm of normalcy. “Well, that was quite an experience.” “He said something about my hat.” Jack frowned as he started driving. Lisa turned to him. “Yeah, the hat was never going to be a good idea.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 20

PROMPT: What was I thinking?

As soon as the words left my lips I was regretting them. My mouth felt dry. I was momentarily convinced that nothing had happened. That this had been another of my fantasy scenarios and I was just imagining the mortification this time. I just hadn’t thought it through in the past. It was just a very real daydream. But as I watched his face, I knew it was never how I would have imagined it.

No matter how many times I had told Roger in my head that I had feelings for him, I hadn’t prepared myself for this. There were times he had taken it well. There were times when I cried and we never spoke again. Every extreme on the dramatic spectrum had been accounted for in my rehearsals. But I always forgot not to overestimate the drama.

It had come about dramatically, of course. That is just who I am, I was now realizing. There was a limit to the number of times I could listen to him tell me stories about his day, smiling at himself for something he did that he thought had been stupid but had really just been normal. Like when he walked away from the coffee cart without his change. I had blurted out that I needed to talk to him about something, and the rest came naturally. How I felt. It had never been hard for me to be in touch with my feelings.

He listened patiently, staring at his mug as we sat at my kitchen table. I watched his face more intensely than I should have considering how much pressure he was probably feeling. It was amazing how quickly a few words could completely change your life. What was I thinking? I watched him turn my words over in his mind, thinking not about what I had said, no doubt, but what the best way to respond was.

“Hallie.” He said after twenty seconds or an hour, “I don’t know what to say here.”
“That’s fine. I actually have some ideas for you: ‘Hallie, I feel the same way and I’ve been waiting forever to hear you say that.’ ‘Hallie, I’ve spent hours thinking about how to tell you the same thing.’ ‘Hallie, I don’t see how we can be friends anymore now that you’ve made such an outrageous declaration of feelings!’”
“Really? That last one?”
“I weighed a lot of possibilities.”
“I think… I think I need to think about it.”
“Oh.”
“Not in a bad way!”
“It’s okay, you could just tell me you know.”
“I mean it Hallie, I just need to sort through. How long have you had to think about this?”
I paused, lowering my eyes. “Five months.”
“Five months!?”
“Yeah. Sorry… Had to be sure?”
“Well, I want to be sure too. One way or the other. I don’t want to ruin everything by making the wrong choice right here in one moment.”
In my dramatic scenarios, everything had happened in an instant. I hadn’t accounted for logic.
“I get it.”
“Good.” He smiled at me and I couldn’t help smiling back. He put his hand over mine on the table and squeezed it. “I have to go, but I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll talk, okay?”
“Okay.”
“Be patient with me.”
And when I looked back up at him it seemed more real than anything. “I am.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day 19

Prompt:Use the phrase, "Anything—well, almost anything—would be better."

I sat down in homeroom and pulled out my history book. It was amazing how I could convince myself that I had studied a lot for a test, when I had really only spent about ten minutes skimming the material. Exam days had that knack for waking me up though. All of a sudden I was a failure who couldn’t focus enough to even read through the material once. I stared at the pages of my notebook, willing myself to internalize what I was looking at, but I realized that I wasn’t actually even reading. I was too focused on my inability to study. This was why people said it was better to study ahead of time.

Mrs. Lefter, the homeroom teacher walked in just as the first bell was ringing. As usual, she was pulling her rolling suitcase filled with books and papers that would never be accurately described as “organized.” She looked more disoriented than usual today. Her hair and clothing disheveled, she seemed almost nervous when the second bell rang and she stood up to address the class.

“Okay, so it seems that there has been a change in scheduling for the day.” A low murmur spread through the room. “Yes, uh, all of your regular classes have been cancelled. We will be having a last minute special programming day.”

My heart soared momentarily at the postponement of my exam. For some reason it felt more likely that I would study the second time around. But then I started thinking about any recent school incidents that would call for a special programming day. I couldn’t come up with anything other than Melanoe Demarco’s pregnancy. I froze as my brain landed on the only possibility. Anything- well almost anything- would be better. But I was afraid that I’d be right about this one.

“Today’s programs,” began Mrs. Lefters, “will be entitled Sex, Safety, and Smart Choices.”

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day 18

PROMPT:Your character has to tell his parents that he's getting a divorce. He knows his parents will take his wife's side, and he is right...

I’ve been thinking for some time now that this is going to be harder than telling the kids. Lena and I sat them down last night and had a long talk about it. They seemed all right. I’ve read every article Google has to offer on telling your kids you’re getting divorced and the aftermath. I know my kids well enough to know that Carly is going to be fine and Sammy is going to reach a rebellious stage either way when she hits adolescence. The divorce will change their life, no question. But living the way we’ve been living is no life for them either. Some day, they’ll understand that.

It’s my parents who will have a hard. Firm believers in the “stay together for the children” method, my parents aren’t huge on divorce to begin with. My uncle got divorced about ten years ago and they still whisper about his ex-wife as if she’s a shameful family secret. But this is different. Lena and I grew up together. My parents loved her like one of their own from the time we were kids. She was best friends with my brother growing up and she was a freshman at UMass when I was a senior. My parents were used to the partying side of me. They never thought I was good enough for her. Everyone expected her to marry Glen. But we were happy together. I still don’t think it was wrong. It’s just not right anymore.

I called them two days ago and asked to meet for lunch over the weekend. I thought we could go out to a diner or something to talk. Somewhere public so that they wouldn’t feel inclined to make a scene. My mom insisted that I just go over to their house for brunch. I meant to show up early. I didn’t.
“Hi Sweetie,” my mom said, kissing me on the cheek when I walked into the familiar split-level. I could only force a smile.

It took a while for me to convince my mom to stop fussing with the food and sit down at the table. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was considering I had just given this talk last night.
“Fine, Andrew, I’m here. What is that you wanted to talk to us about?” My father sat, eating a waffle and staring at the paper. It seemed like he wasn’t paying at all, but I knew he was listening.
“I have something very important to tell you both. It’s really important to me that you hear me out before jumping to any conclusions.”
“Fine, we’re listening, what is it?”
I took a deep breath. “Lena and I are getting a divorce.” It was my fault for pausing there. All that rehearsing in my head and I didn’t have a next sentence planned.
“You’re what?! What do you mean a divorce? Oh that poor thing. Lena must be devastated.”
Naturally.
My dad was just getting started too.
“What about your children? You’re just going to take off like a deadbeat while Lena takes care of your children and raises them? You’re not 18 anymore Andrew. This isn’t a game.”
“What’s Glen going to say?” They went back and forth for a while. Baseless accusations. Overdramatics. Questions that didn’t seem rhetorical but must have been since there was no pause for an answer. Eventually I cut in.
“Alright enough! I didn’t do anything wrong. Or it’s not anyone’s fault. Lena and I haven’t been happy together for a while. I’m not going anywhere. We are going to share custody of Carly and Sam. I didn’t cheat on her or gamble away the money. This is something that some families go through.”
“I just don’t understand Andrew.”
“You don’t have to. I would really like your support on this.”
“What’s to support? You’re leaving your family! They need you!”
It would be a long afternoon…

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 17

Prompt: 10 minute free-write: use the following words = wood, chip, spill, hammer, happy, and rhythmic.
***Usually, I'm not a fan of these use-these-word prompts, but there are a lot of them out there, so I decided to step outside my comfort zone and try one out.

“That makes no sense! He’s your brother!”
“Could you stop yelling at me please? You’re going to make the cookies taste bad.”
He paused and looked at me. He walked out of the room, and I stopped to add chocolate chips to the batter. I turned the mixer back on and listened to the rhythmic hammering of the beater. Cautiously, I poked my head out into the living room.
He was sitting on the dirty wooden floor, Indian-style, his eyes closed. “What are you doing?”
“Shh”
I gave him a look, completely pointlessly, since he couldn’t see it. “I’m meditating so that the cookies come out delicious.”
I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t help but laugh. I jumped on top of him, “You are such a pain in the ass!” I yelled, hitting him, but we were both laughing suddenly. “Now the dough is going to be overbeat---“ He interrupted me with a kiss.
He picked me up and I screamed as he brought me into the kitchen to turn off the mixer. He put me down on the counter and knocked over the flour container I had left out. The white powdered spilled all over the counter and my jeans. I turned to switch off the mixer and stuck my hand into the batter to give us both a taste of the cookie dough. He made a face instantly.
“Oh god, you were right. This tastes like anger and stupid siblings.”
I laughed and hit him again, shaking my head. I kissed him.
We left the dough in the mixer and ended up in the bedroom.
That night we finally made the cookies and they tasted happy to me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 16

PROMPT: This story takes place at a restaurant. Three acquaintances have gone out to dinner together. Person A has just left his/her wife/husband and family. Person B supports this decision. Person C thinks this was criminally irresponsible. write the conversation. (Suggestion: try giving each character the voice of a different person that you actually know. For example, Person A might talk like one of your coworkers, and Person B might talk like your brother or sister. Choose people who are very different from each other. Then try to express each one's unique voice so clearly that you don't need to tell the reader which character said which sentence, that the reader can "hear" the difference between who says what.)

“I’ll just have the salmon please”
“Can I get a Caesar Salad?”
“I’ll… I think I’ll also take the salmon.”
The waiter wrote down their orders, made some perky, faux-excited comment and left them to their tense silence. I would have been the likeliest candidate to speak first. But Danielle, appropriately, was the one who broke it.
“It’s so good to be home. I’ve missed it here so much.”
“Sweetie, it’s so nice to have you here.” My mom always left the possibility for a ‘but’ at the end of a sentence. It was just the right amount of self-doubt injected into us our whole lives. But Danielle was often immune to it, as was now, apparently, the case.
“I feel awful having left.”
I stayed silent. Anything I said would be held against me later. I would try my best to not be my regular sardonic self.
Our mother would overcompensate. “Baby, it’s not your fault. You can’t blame yourself.”
“I wasn’t. I just feel bad is what I meant.”
I couldn’t ignore the obvious though. We’d been silent all day, and I think the theory was that this restaurant would be neutral ground. “So what about the baby?”
I cut the rest of the question short. The Does he not need a mother? The Did you even tell him you were leaving? I couldn’t even bring myself anywhere near the Do I even get to see him?
Danielle looked stricken by the reminder. “Ian is fine with Lee.”
“It’s okay, we don’t have to worry about that right now.”
“Oh no? So we don’t have to worry about the four year old whose mother disappeared overnight. Yeah studies have shown that does no damage at all.”
Oops. Seemed like my avoidance of sarcasm was a little short-lived.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 15

PROMPT: Nancy Kincaid and Dan Carey meet five years into the future. One of them is anti-social. Write these two characters stories based on this quick plot: giving her a cell phone proves to be a big mistake

Dan stood by the lamppost outside his office, smoking a cigarette. His phone lit up and he saw that it was his brother calling. He let it go to voicemail. His phone then took the liberty of informing him that this was the third missed call he had from his brother today. Nothing to be alarmed about in his experience, but maybe a text. He typed a brief message explaining he was busy and not leaving much open-ended. He would get a novel back anyway.

As he moved to return his phone to his pocket, a woman swept by him. “Can I borrow this real quick? Thanks!” She said as she took the phone right from his hand. Before he could register what was happening she was talking to someone. “You’re never going to find me. You might as well just leave me alone! Oh, and I hope you didn’t use your toothbrush this morning... Well maybe don’t do that again. Bye!”

She hung up the phone and Dan had a moment to get his bearings before she tossed it to him. “Thanks” she said. He blinked. “What the hell was that?”
She smiled at him. “Just had to make a quick call to rub it in my ex’s face that he’s never going to find me.”
“With my phone? Lady, you know it’s almost 2020… anyone can trace a phone.”
She paused and looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Oh. Yeah. You might want to destroy that. He’s kind of a jealous type.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 14

PENALTY: Yesterday I skipped because I just didn't feel like it. I did have a headache, but mainly it was the not feeling like it. So 1000 words for me today.

PROMPT: Take a famous line from a famous piece of literature and run it through several different languages on an online translator (like Altavista’s Babelfish) with Korean or Chinese as the last language, and then translate it back to English. Look at what comes out, consider the new meanings hidden within it, and then build a story around it.
       Original quote from Farenheit 451: Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and                consequences.
       English→ Swedish → Armenian → Greek → Japanese → Korean → English
       New quote: True beauty is to destroy it is the responsibility and consequences.
This one got a little dark, admittedly. I found the prompt really interesting and what I came up with even more so. I didn't expect it to take me back to fire, but it just kind of happened.

I’ve never thought much about beauty. It was something that was or it wasn’t. There wasn’t much room for improvement or depreciation over time. Certain people had it. Certain things had it. I’d never thought much at all about being able to create it.

I’m not an artist. I’m not a creative type. I couldn’t care less about going to a museum or an art gallery. But lately I’ve been starting fires.

It started few months ago by accident. I was driving home from work and passed by a car fire. The road was pretty empty, so I pulled over to call 911. As I waited for someone to get there, I got out of my car. The smell of smoke and burned rubber hit me across the face. The heat felt like it was burning me even though I wasn’t close enough to the actual flames.

I couldn’t see anyone in the car. I walked a wide circle around it, watching pieces fall off and listening to the loud popping noises and the crackling of the fire. I was not at all scared or panicked. I’m not a very anxious person, but I’ve never felt so relaxed. Staring at the flames was like being hypnotized. It was so beautiful. I wanted to move closer, but the fire department arrived eventually. Watching them pour water on that fire was like being turned upside down and emptied. Suddenly it was dark and cold in my life again. I didn’t even know that it was before. I needed to see it again.

I didn’t just snap. I work a nine-to-five in a fairly big corporation. I’m a data modeler. I spend the day analyzing data, making charts and presentations, showing it to people. I explain why things work and why they don’t. I work with people on how to make projects better. It’s not mind-numbingly boring. It isn’t all that stressful. It’s pretty standard I think. My co-workers don’t bully me. My boss is a nice guy. I’m not married, but I’ve never really cared about that. It didn’t seem like it was for me. I’ve got friends that I see regularly. My parents are alive and well and we always had great family Thanksgivings with minimal drama.

That wasn’t it. Nothing in my life suddenly became unbearable. I didn’t make a decision- consciously or not- that I needed to act out against someone or something in my life. I just needed to see it again.

So a few days later, I took the jug of lighter fluid that I use for my barbecue and a long fireplace match, and I went for a drive. The shell of the burnt car was gone now. I went out of my way every day to pass by that street. It had taken two and a half days to disappear. It wasn’t anything more anyway. Just a reminder of that feeling.

I drove a few miles to build up the excitement. I didn’t feel nervous at all. I found a green sedan on an isolated street and parked a block away from it. I felt so calm as I backtracked to the car. I could feel relaxed just thinking about seeing the flames again. I didn’t want to break the window because I wanted to see them all shatter, but I don’t know any other way to break into a car.

It was harder then I expected and upset me a little. Somehow it took away from the cleanliness of the fire. But I opened the door and emptied the jug of lighter fluid, leaving it in the backseat. I lit the long match and touched it to a drop of fluid on the leather seat.

It ignited so quickly. I had to jump back, the heat was so overwhelming. I wanted it to be slow, but the flames took over the car in seconds. It wasn’t even that much lighter fluid. I stood back and watched the orange strips dance, wishing I had thought to bring a chair. I felt calm again.

I stood for about an hour, watching it burn and admiring its beauty before I heard sirens. It was hard walking back to my car. It was like the warmth was slowly leaving me step by step. I turned around a few times, but it wasn’t helping, so I just left it and went home.

I did this about once or twice a week for two months before it changed for me. It became second nature setting the fires and watching them burn for as long as I could. I wasn’t all that careful, but I didn’t really think that mattered. I watch a lot of cop shows, but I always kind of felt like those characters are better at their jobs than whoever we have locally.

It was a maroon SUV that changed it for me. I watched it burn for about ten minutes before doing my usual walk around the car. I’d gotten better at standing the heat, so I walked a little closer and saw a booster seat strapped into the back. I hadn’t noticed it before. There was no child but the reality of the struck. There could be someone in the car. And it didn’t wake me up. It sounded wonderful.

The next time I was more careful. I didn’t expect the cops to care much about arson, but this would be different. I wore gloves. I brought more lighter fluid. A few long matches. I drove around for a long time, not really sure what I was looking for. But I knew it when I saw it. A man in his black two-door car texting on his phone and listening to the radio. The street was empty, like most in the neighborhood. He sat there so unaware.

I wondered what he was doing just sitting in the car. Was he avoiding his wife? Waiting for a call from his mistress? Did he not have a home to go to? I thought about this as I walked around the car a few times, pouring lighter fluid across the top and back. He wasn’t paying any attention. I was pretty surprised when he didn’t notice at all. I don’t know what I would have done. But it didn’t matter. I kept going.

I needed to get some in the car though and I wanted to keep him inside. I taped the long match to top of the fluid bottle and lit it. He looked up finally. He must have seen the glint of the fire. I can understand that. But he didn’t register it fast enough. I smashed the driver’s side window and threw the jug on his lap right as the flame met the bottle.

That was the first time, but it’s been like that for a few months now. It’s not always as easy. Sometimes I have to really search for the right place or the right car. Sometimes it’s just a car. Other times it’s not. I’ve seen it in some papers, but I don’t make it a habit to read them.

The guilt comes some days, but I feel empty when I’m not watching something burn. I’ve never thought much about beauty, until now. True beauty is to destroy; it is the responsibility and the consequences. It’s in my control. It’s my decision what to destroy. And my god, is it beautiful.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day 12

PROMPT: Instead of scouring the internets for a prompt, I was inspired by these Bill Gekas photos that I read found on Twitter, particularly this one.

It’s cold outside, and her fingers are uncovered even though she’s wearing gloves. She clutches her book to her chest to protect it from being taken by the wind. Every few steps she takes along the gravel path, she has to bring a hand to her grandmother’s knit cap, which her mother placed on her head in order to keep it from blowing away in the Autumn wind. The sky is grayish and she shivers as she walks.

Her light brown ringlets are tossed around with every step. They gradually fill with fallen leaves. Her hair is loosely held in place by the bright red scarf that her mother had wrapped haphazardly around her neck before sending her on her way. She takes her time making her way through the park.

It is quiet except for the howling of the wind, which she imagines are the sounds of animals in the trees. She pictures them moving through the woods, playing together, rolling around in the crunchy leaves. She jumps on a pile of leaves herself before kicking it up into the air.

Her father is supposed to meet her once she gets to the library. Sometimes he is there. Other times, she spends her afternoons reading and looking through books before she sets out to find her father. Often she finds him at one of her first stops, usually a bar or the barbershop where they play cards. Other times she wanders for a few hours before they meet on the street and he takes her somewhere with a bed.

But the path through the park is her favorite part of these days, especially in the Fall when she sees the leaves flying and imagines where they fly to and how long it will take them to get there. She thinks about how she would like to fly someday and thinks about the places she would go. She imagines there are cities in the clouds, where the sky is bright and the leaves breeze through on windy days. And millions of children bounce and float through the city and play all day long.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day 11

PROMPT:10 minute free write: fire.

I’m not sure I really could’ve prepared myself for what I was going to see. It had been five years since the fire at my parents’ place. It was a fluke electrical fire. Bad wires, faulty something. I hadn’t quite known at the time. There were a few important details: Mom and Dad are fine and almost everything else is gone. I hadn’t come home then because I’d been too busy with work in LA. That’s what I’d told myself anyway. I think I used that as an excuse to not have to do the clean. I’d always been sentimental. I knew what going home to see that would do to me.

After that there just hadn’t been a good time. I’d come back to visit them for holidays. I’d seen the new apartment. I’d been directed to the box of things that were the remnants of my past life. Things that I would probably have no use for but had held onto because I thought someday I would need them. Math notes from 7th grade that I had expected to need in High School. Three of the same birthday card from my Grandfather from consecutive years.

I had gone through during my six months living at home after college graduation. I had sat on the floor and looked through my old bins of junk and cried for days at lost thoughts and memories. At people I’d forgotten, friendships that I suddenly missed so much it felt like a hole had been torn through my heart, the first CD I ever owned. Nostalgia had never been an easy emotion for me to swallow. I’d thrown out as much as I could, but my room remained the same cluttered collection of mementos from the past until the day it went up in flames. And I knew that I couldn’t confront the loss of those things head on.

The idea of losing so much and not even knowing what was gone paralyzed me. I spent nights awake for months trying to remember what was in the back corners of cabinets. My desk at work had a notepad in the top draw with a list that said “things that were in my room.” It killed me every time I remembered something new. Something else lost forever. Presents from camp friends. My keychain collection. My first pair of high heels. My prom dress.

But something had brought me down this street today. I couldn’t tell you what it was, since I’d been so adeptly avoiding it for so long. Yet I found myself here anyway, staring at the beautiful house that looked nothing like the one I’d grown up in. I stood in front of my car, facing the house for about ten minutes before deciding that the effect of the loss was gone now that it had been rebuilt. There was nothing left here to be nostalgic about.

I took a few steps across the street and put my hand on the tree that I had hit way too many times trying to parallel park in front of the house. I looked down to see the familiar knot at the base of the trunk that looked like the head of a snake emerging from the roots. Some things stay the same. I felt the emotions bubbling up and crossed back to my car, locking myself in as quickly as I could before the tears started. Clearly, I’d been wrong about there being nothing left.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 10

PROMPT:Open a fresh Google search. Close your eyes and randomly hit three keys on your keyboard. Open your eyes and see what Google auto-suggests. Use one of these recommendations to jump start a short story. (Letters: S U B-- the word I chose was subcentral)


The smell of garlic hit me so strongly and quickly that I instantly felt the need to find it. I was sitting alone at the subcentral terminal reading my book and eating a bag of pretzels that now seemed horribly inadequate. I turned my head and couldn’t see a single eating establishment in this area of the station. But it was unmistakable. People walked past me on their phones and tablets. No one else seemed to have been disturbed by it as I had. I turned back toward the empty bus slip. My stomach grumbled disappointedly as I returned to the bag of pretzels, but I had missed the bus before in situations just like this one.
The station was gradually growing darker as the sun set and the natural light diminished. It was a gorgeous day that was turning into a disgusting night. The winds were picking up and she expected that the bus would be driving through rain all night long. At least that’s what the weather had predicted. It wouldn’t have been a pleasant night anyway, but the threatening weather just brought a more ominous feel to it.
She wished she could bring her father whatever it was that she was smelling. He would probably love it. Growing up in a chef’s house gave her a unique ability to identify how good something would be from the smell. She couldn’t cook for her life, despite the years of her father trying to teach her. Now he had given up and she was starting to regret not trying harder. Maybe if she brought him the food, he would see it as a gesture.
She didn’t have any more time to think about it though. The bus pulled in and she gathered her bags and her ticket for the long trip home.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 9

PENALTY: I had intended to post last night. I printed out a prompt ahead of time to work on it on the train. But my sister is in town and we ended up staying up until 3 in the morning. Since this is kind of a gray area when it comes to the accidental vs the on-purpose skipping, and the last one was questionable too, I decided I needed to go for a 1000-er tonight. The problem is that I'm semi-conscious right now, so I'm not sure if what's I've type made sense.
***Edit: I was quite literally falling asleep while writing this last night- and I do mean actually typing with my eyes closed, nodding off, and then waking up to try and figure out what I was trying to write to make sure I got to 1000 words. I could just edit what i've written, but I decided to leave it all as is considering the point is to post not post something spectacular. This is a lesson in doing this earlier in the day... 

PROMPT: Write a story where love is created and maintained over a distance. The length and nature of that distance is up to you. It could be the distance between two continents, two cities, or even just between two windows or the rooftops of two neighboring buildings. What lies between, physically and metaphorically? What are the barriers that must be overcome? Are they overcome? How?



Dear Melodee,
         I know you told me not to write. But that was six years ago, and I think I still have things to say. I’ve been doing well. I’ve switched jobs three times since we last saw each other. I think I’ve settled this time for a while. Work place is good. People are nice. I get to make as much tea or coffee as I want in the office kitchen. Life is good.
         I think of you less now than I used to. There was a long time when things would remind me of you everywhere I went. It wouldn’t send me into a depression. I wouldn’t freeze and not be able to carry on with my day. It was just strange to me that I couldn’t call you up and tell you about them. That I couldn’t write a puzzle into one of our letters to help you figure out my day for yourself.
It was always small things. A specific orange color that reminded me of the dress that you have that you wear when people are going to want you to be in pictures. The chuckle that I sometimes hear in a bar or a restaurant that makes me think of your laugh when you were humoring because what I said wasn’t actually funny. It used to happen all the time, but it’s faded.
It still does happen though, and even all these years later, it brings me back to those moments. If I could draw, I would be able to draw a perfect likeness of that orange dress. Almost every picture I ever had of you had that dress. I wonder sometimes if you still have it.
I’m not writing to say that I want you back or even that I miss you. I guess what I wanted to say is that I think about you. Even now. My life has changed a lot. People, places, opportunities have come and gone. I’ve moved twice since we broke up. But I can still write this address without even having to think about it. And sometimes, I still want to use it. Like today. I know I live a thousand miles away, Mel. But I do wonder about that dress.
Bryan

Bryan,

I really felt like I had to respond to this. I opened it without looking at the envelope much and was halfway through reading it before I realized. Full disclosure, it would have taken a stronger person than I to quit reading there. Melodee Grant actually moved away a while back. Ive been in the condo for the last two years, but there was another person in between us I believe. I get both of their mail all of the time. I wish I had a forwarding address to give you. I dont. I hope youre doing well in whatever the new job and the new place are.                  
For what its worth (which I do realize is essentially nothing) I found your letter very sweet and honest. Ive certainly had breakups where I think Ive moved on completely until a smell or a song hits me on the street and takes me back in time. Memory is weird like that. And breakups too. You have this store of intimate knowledge and shared experiences with a person who is no longer in your life. I dont know if it ever stops feeling out of place, but it hasnt yet for me. Good luck with everything. I hope this wasnt too much of an invasion.
Vanessa


Vanessa,
         It was definitely surprising to get your letter and learn that Melodee is long gone. I guess I waited too long to share those “final thoughts.” I appreciate you writing back though. I agree with what you said. It’s like, you can move on, but it’s impossible to truly leave those people behind you. I hope the condo is treating you well, and that the second tap isn’t still dripping at nighttime.
Bryan

Bryan,
                  I was so glad that you wrote back to me. The faucet is still dripping at all hours, but I feel like youve given me the motivation I need to get on this right now. Good looking out! A from increasingly warmer places it seems from the postmark. Miami and then Texas? Hopefully Egypt isnt next. I hear its pretty deadly this time of year
                                                                                                            Vanessa

Vanessa,
            Greetings from frigid Ontario, Canada. I travel a lot for work, but I’m starting to wish it was limited to warm place after warm place. I have yet to be sent to Rio or anywhere Caribbean where I could just lay out on the beach in between meetings. It doesn’t seem fair that my co-workers are living it up in Paris right now (thought it is also cold, by the way) while I’m learning about the Loonie. How is the weather in New York?
Bryan

Bryan,
                  Poor Canada, always getting a bad rap. They have really clean subways you know. Perhaps you could get a doctors note that would limit you tragically to warm areas of travel. Not only would you get the perks, but your Paris friends might get bumped from good trips  because of your limitations Thats probably wrong though, right?
Vanessa


Vanessa
            It’s been so great talking to you these months. I feel like I know you. I wish there were going to be times for me to go out to New York. It would be great to put a face to this voice and writing. You were right about my boss, by the way. The woman doesn’t know what she’s doing and all of the changes she’s made came from sheer fear of this group of four people who completely control her. I’m ready for her to go down. Enough is enough already, but chances are it’ll all just stay the same.
                                                                        Bryan


Bryan,
                  Im so happy for you! Quitting can be difficult, but youre doing what is right for you, and no one gets to decide that aside from you. I know your new job doesnt start for a few weeks. Come see me in New York. We can see the sites that you grew up with or just explore the next restaurants that have popped up since youre gone. It would be so great to meet you in person.
Vanessa

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 7

PROMPT: Think of a memorable quote from a book, show or movie, remove it entirely from its original context, streamline/improve it, and then write a story around it using a completely different plot, completely different characters, and even a completely different world!

Terre held a flame over her ring for a few seconds and lifted it to her face. She inhaled the fumes and held breath. Minton walked in just as she was starting to exhale. “We’re only supposed to do that twice a day Terre.” Busted. “Shut up, Minton.” She said, brushing him off. There was no use in denying it. There wasn’t anyone alive who could get out of bed in the morning without a hit of Plex. And it was just as implausible to say that it was her second hit of the day than her first. It was only three units past rise.
“It’s not a joke, Terre. Too much can mess with your head out in the field.” His voice was calm and robotic, as usual. She smirked. “Yes, I attended the lecture thank you.” Everyone attended the lecture once they were appropriated their Plex ring. Until they were of age, it was applied topically by a guardian, but the application was unpleasant and imperfect. The ring was far more efficient, but it was easier to abuse it. So everyone was required to take a course.  “Consider me scared straight,” she said passing him to get out of the room. “I’ve seen it happen, Terre. It costs lives out there.”
She turned to face him, but his back was still to her. “It saves lives, Minton.” He angled his head toward her. “There’s a fine line between those.”
“Well,” she shrugged, “You get busy living or you get busy dying.”
He turned to her. “What does that mean?”
“It means there are more fine lines in this world than just the ones provided to us.”
“Be careful what you say—“
“Or what? I’ll be sent straight to the front lines?”
He was silent.
“Well, it was my turn anyway I guess.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 6

PROMPT: Put your iPod or iTunes on shuffle. Write a story based on the next song that you hear. You can find inspiration in the story or the emotions of the song. A lyric could even become the title for your story. The song I got was 'Alone with You' by Jake Owen.


            He stared at the phone in his hand as it buzzed, watching her name light up the screen. If he waited long enough it would stop, but it seemed like each time she called the phone would ring for longer and longer. He picked up finally on what felt like the ninth ring. He sighed, “Mackenzie.”
            He heard the smirk in her voice “Hey baby. I need you.” He looked over at the clock on his bedside table. Three AM. He paused for a moment. “I don’t think it’s a good time right now.” Her voice turned from a smirk to a pout. “Aw, come on. You don’t mean that.” He did. But that didn’t mean he would stick to it. He sat up in bed and ruffled a hand through his hair. “Where are you?” He heard a laugh and then a knock at the door. Of course.
            He stood up, briefly pausing in front of the mirror, but she wouldn’t care much what he looked like. It would change nothing. He opened the door and found her smirk waiting for him. She was a mess. Her long blonde hair was sticking up in several directions. Her mascara had run under her eyes, making her look like she hadn’t slept in months. “What took you so long?” she said putting a hand on his bare chest and pushing him back into his apartment. She backed up to lock the door behind her, her eyes never leaving his.
He could smell the alcohol as she got closer to him again. “You’re drunk.” “That’s why I called you.” He raised an eyebrow at her candor. “I can’t keep doing this Mack—“ She brought her lips to meet his and let out a soft shhhh. She looked at him. “You wouldn’t want me doing anything stupid when I’m drunk, would you?”
He felt like he was being torn apart. Watching her like this, every time she called. Every time she came. Trying to feel close to her was like hitting his head against a wall over and over again. But for some reason, every time that wall showed up again, banging his head against it seemed like the only option.
“Can I get you some coffee?” he tried. She smiled and tugged his arm toward the bedroom, stumbling somewhat. “That’s not what I want.” “You’re too drunk right now Mackenzie,” he said his voice slightly raised. She became suddenly serious, staring him right in the eyes. She brought him close and kissed him forcefully. He put his hands on her upper arms and pushed her away, holding her at arms length. A tear fell, dragging her makeup down her cheek. “Come on baby,” she said, reaching for his waist. “I love you. I need you.”
He loosened his grip and was struck, not for the first time, by her careless words. He stood stoic in the center of the room. She took a step back toward him and kissed his shoulder. “Please.” She said, kissing her way toward his neck. He didn’t have the strength to stop her. “Please. I love you baby.” He couldn’t take it anymore. He lifted a hand to her cheek and brought her mouth to his. She jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and he led them both to the bedroom. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day 5 and a So-So Excuse

PENALTY! I did miss yesterday. I was away for the weekend and made it home at around 3am last night. I did actually still think I would get a post in, but to be honest I fell asleep exploring the internet's plentiful writing prompt resources. Plus, the fact that there is a penalty for missing a day makes me feel like I haven't failed. The penalty is doubling the word count, so 500 words for today.

PROMPT: Start by freewriting, beginning with the words "Your mother." You can go any direction you want, so long as those are the first two words.

          Your mother never tells you that it’s easier to stay in the same place than to change. At least mine didn’t. Mine told me to work harder, that I was a bit of a slacker. Mine told me that I could go to an Ivy League school if I wanted to take on the loans. Mine told me that after four years of college, she wanted me to have a career. She told me that I just needed a foot in the door and then I could stay there. New York is the place people move to, not the place people leave. So she wasn’t too happy when I told her that I was quitting my full-time job, foregoing full health benefits, and giving up my apartment. To be fair, I didn’t have a real plan. I had been making money for six years, working day in and day out. I didn’t see a point in continuing to stockpile money that I would never use. So I decided to take some time to travel.
It wasn’t that there wasn’t a specific plan, though I’m sure that would’ve helped a little bit. But I think that had I had an itinerary, a budget and a book of maps of the world, she still would have made it seem like an irresponsible decision. It was amazing that no matter how old you are, telling your mother about a risk you’re taking always makes you feel like a frivolous teenager. And I’d never even made decisions like this in high school.
Still I had gotten through the month of packing and shopping and guidebook reading. I had made it to the airport despite the guilt and tears. Despite the crushing feeling that I was doing something wrong. I knew I would get past that feeling once I got to Italy.
I handed my ticket to a smiling woman at the gate and slowly made my way down the ramp and onto the largest plane I’ve ever been on. Shuttle trips down to Miami didn’t do it justice. This plane was massive. They were multiple aisles and sections. There was more space than made sense to me, but the seats still seemed crammed together. I made my way to the back of the plane, where my recently scanned ticket indicated I would start my journey.
I stepped over two people to take my window seat and buckled up even though we probably wouldn’t be moving any time soon, let alone taking off. I wasn’t the nervous flyer I once had been, but there was still some residual anxiety from my childhood fears that made me just a little uneasy. The man next to me noticed me checking my seat belt every few minutes and decided that patting me on the hand would somehow make the flight more comfortable for me. “Okay, yes” he said, enthusiastically, with a strong accent that I could only assume was Italian. I offered a closed-mouth smile in return.
I pulled out my guidebook and started flipping through the post-it marked pages. I had the gist of it memorized by now, especially for this first leg for which I actually had a plan. After Rome, Florence and Venice, I didn’t really know where I was headed. It was part of the appeal to me. I figured I would know what to do as I went along. Plans would form themselves. “You go to Italy first time?” asked the man next to me. I nodded. “Yes.” He smiled “You can come for dinner?”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 3

PROMPT: The nation is controlled by…


“The nation is controlled by a bunch of morons.”
Karen rolled her eyes. “You know, you really should consider not watching TV anymore.” Dave ignored her and carried on. “I don’t understand how it is possible for such a large number of people, selected by the vote of the people, have such an inability to get things accomplished.”
She sighed, bored by the topic from the first sentence. “So sports, huh?” He sat down at the table, watching TV over her shoulder, and took a bite of pasta straight from the bowl. “I mean, do you think it’s just unwillingness to get things done?” But it was rhetorical, she knew. If he was actually present right now, he’d know better than to ask her a politics questions. She’d told him several times she hated politics, let alone her distaste for long-winded, high-horse diatribes by people who didn’t really seem to know what they’re talking about.
Peter finally walked in and sat down at the table.
“Politics?”
“Yep.”
“Anything specific this time?”
“Nope.”
“So he just gets generally upset about general government?”
“You live with the guy.”
“I know, but he doesn’t get so indignant when we’re playing Halo.”
“Yeah it’s hit or miss I guess. Lucky me.”
“How long is he going to be like this?”
“Don’t know. I don’t usually stick around for the whole thing.”
Peter looked at the bowl of pasta on the table and then at Dave, who was sitting his chair, looking past both of them to the screen. Peter turned around to see what he was watching. CNN. Peter could swear he only watched this stuff while Karen was in the apartment.
“So,” Peter said, returning his gaze to Karen. “Want to go get pizza instead?”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 2

PROMPT: "There's something you need to know about that night."


“There’s something you need to know about that night,”
I could feel the change between us. A moment ago I had felt warm and safe as he touched my cheek. I could feel my guard shooting back up, strengthened by the few months I had let it down. Knowing that it was there had never made it easier for me to allow people in, but I had with Jason. It had taken time and the right circumstances. But those words, that look on his face. I knew instinctively that something had shifted and it took ever fiber of my being to just get up and run before I actually heard what he had to say. Why? What? There were questions that made sense to ask, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak.
            He conceded after several minutes of silence. “It’s not that I haven’t wanted to tell you, but these past few months have been… more than I could have imagined and I knew that you would have run. That I would have chased you away.” He had told me the night of our first kiss that convincing me to go out with him had felt like chasing a deer; He had made only the slightest movements to get closer so as not to scare me away. He was good at reading people. He knew me even better now, saying everything he wanted to say before saying what he had to say. He knew that once he said what he had to say I would be gone. By my estimation there weren’t many things it could be. Cheating stood at the forefront of my mind.
            “I wasn’t alone in that room when you came in.” I steeled myself and prepared to cut my losses. “I had just finished a meeting… with your father.”
            I hadn’t seen that coming. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 1

PROMPT: What would be going on inside the head of a young executive nervously biting her nails?


Oh god. I can’t believe I just hit ‘Send.’ How can I have hit send just like that? They should ask you every time if you are sure want to send the message. I’m sure the few times when that saves someone’s ass would totally outweigh the time when it’s a pain. Crap. I wonder if the ‘undo’ button works. Sometimes I think that then only half the message sends and you end up looking even stupider. I’m not really sure that makes sense.
Okay, so you’re the assistant of partner at a major law firm and you just sent an email to a competing firm containing all of the notes from the meeting with the client. Let’s think about this rationally. Step one… step one should be telling my boss? Telling someone more sympathetic? Asking for advice? Calling the assistant at the competing firm? Going over there and crying to her face? Make up a story about a bad day and that you broke up with your boyfriend this morning? Maybe spill coffee down your shirt on the way over there. Just for some authenticity. That might not be a bad more. Right?
Alright. Deep breaths. In. Out. What was in those notes? Was it anything truly vital? Anything case changing? I don’t think so, but that’s why I’m not the actually lawyer. I’m going to get fired over this if I don’t fix it. There’s no question about it. I feel like I want to throw up right now.
New email. There can’t possibly be a reply already. Wait. Mail delivery system. Delivery to the recipient failed. I typed it in wrong! It didn’t send. Thank god… I’m going to need another manicure. 

The Breakdown

The Problem
Okay, here it is.
Considering I still identify as a writer, it's incredible to think that I can't remember the last time I composed a full sentence simply for the writing of it all. 
Writer's Block be damned; This is Writer's Laziness.

One of the consistent writers' tips flowing across my twitter feed has been the idea that you just need to write- anything. I've always had a problem with that idea. 
Every time I write, I want it to be perfect. I want there to be no spelling errors. No grammatical missteps. No wrong words or incorrect punctuations. 

I worry incessantly about my ideas not being creative enough, my dialogue being dull and unoriginal. The pressure to write my best work right now stops me before I get to sentence 2. 

So here's what I'm going to do. 

The Pledge
I'm taking it upon myself to write something- anything- every day. 
It's scary as hell considering how long it's been, which is why I had to force myself to take the word 'almost' out of that last sentence. 

The Rules
1. I write every day. 
2. The writing can happen at any time of day- morning, night, whatever.
3. This is not a midnight to midnight endeavor. My day starts when I wake up and ends when I go to sleep. Something must be posted before my head hits the pillow each night, regardless of the time. 
4. Each post must be at least 250 words. It's a small challenge, but I have to start small if there's any chance of follow through.
5. On that note, this starts with a week. If I get through this week, it goes to a month. If I get through a month, it'll go to three months. I know it's kind of a half-assed commitment, but I feel like a short-term goal is the way to go right now. 
6. If I miss a day by accident, it doubles my word count requirement for the next post. 
7. If I skip a day because of laziness, the next post has to be 1000 words. 
8. I'll work mainly off of writing prompts. Worrying about doing justice to my own ideas is part of the problem, so I need an escape from that. If I have an idea I want to use, great. If not, whatever. 
9. The link to this blog is going on my bookmarks toolbar, right in between Gmail and Facebook, so that I click it by accident all the time. 
AND FINALLY,
10. It does not matter if it is the shittiest writing I have ever done. The point is not to be proud of the product, but of the fact that there is a product at all.