August 2013

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03 August 2013

When these prompts were read initially I hated them.  I thought they stunk.  I thought they sucked worse than that Joanne Woodward movie from the early 70’s – The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, which I had watched when I was in the Navy, after having been at sea for a really long time.  It is undoubtedly a fine film.  Great cast and directed by Paul Newman however, I was not in the right place when I saw it and at that moment – it sucked. 

The prompts turned out to be great though.  Challenging and thought provoking, they wound up outshining my prose.  See for yourself.

The prompts are:

1. Lessons from the vacuum
2. Forgetting the absence we are always needing you for
3. You keep cages, always at least one beautiful bird of prey.

Begin writing
“What do you make of it Melinda?”

“Seems a little too quiet” she whispered as she stepped into the room and swept the barrel of her handgun around the room in front of her.  Nothing moved so we kept going.  A creaking floorboard from upstairs disturbed the silence and Melinda held up her hand.  I froze, caught her eye and pointed up.  She nodded and continued towards the back of the building while I backed slowly to the staircase and headed up silently.

A deafening explosion brought me right back down though and I found Melinda dusting herself off and getting up.  She was on the opposite side of the room from where she had been when I left her.  “Shit” she said, “shit, shit, shit, I’m sorry.”

“What happened?  Are you OK?” I asked.

She pointed at the remnants of the door across the room, “I opened the closed without checking.  Damn.”

The captain entered the room along with four other proctors.  “You’re dead” he said pointing at Melinda, “and, you’re as good as dead” he said to me.  “What the hell are you thinking, running back into this room like that?  This was a trap.  Is your brain a vacuum?”  He sent us back outside.

“I guess we failed this test.” I said.

Melinda had been my partner on the force for three years and our commander had sent us here for urban terrorist training.  We were good cops but apparently, not very good anti-terrorist troops.  I figured today’s exercise was the last straw and we were going to be sent back home with our tails between our legs.  It was usually me who made the mistakes.  Melinda’s careless opening of the closet door was out of character.  Normally she was flawless and deadly, like an uncaged bird of prey.  I was glad she was on my side.

She kept apologizing for getting blown up in there.  “Mel, knock it off before I smack you” I snapped.  “It’s not your fault.”

“I’m just sayin’” she mumbled under her breath as we stepped out the door to the jeers and laughter of our classmates.

The captains head appeared from the third floor window and he shouted down
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

10 August 2013

The prompts are:
1. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of catfish
2. She dared me to do it
3. They all laughed

Begin writing
He yelled down at us, “It’s going to take some time to get this place fixed back up.  The princess here, really destroyed the door.  Go ahead and take an early lunch.  Be back by 1300.”  We all turned to leave and then…”not you princess, you and your Poirot in my office now.”

I grimaced and looked at Melinda.  “That’s probably it for us partner.  I think we are going back to the ranch.”  She frowned, nodded once and looked at the ground.  We both turned and headed towards the administration building.

We waited in the captain’s outer office for 20 minutes and by the time he signaled us in I was really steamed.  If he’s going to send us home he should just do it.  Making us cool our heels like this is sadistic.  Twice, I tried to convince Melinda that we should just leave, pack our bags and go.  But one of the reasons she and I are effective partners is that she is more level headed and reasonable than I.  I had a tendency to act first and not consider the consequences.  She kept me grounded but, she was not a cold fish; and convinced me to stay by issuing a challenge.

“I dare you,” she said, “to make a face at Captain Kenmore every time he looks away from you.  Let’s position ourselves far enough apart that he has to turn his head away from one of us to look at the other.  When he looks at me, you make faces.  If you keep it up the whole time, I’ll buy you lunch.”

The idea was appealing to me, “OK” I said, “but I want a beer with my lunch.”  The idea of professional suicide never entered my mind.

“You’re on.” She said.

When we finally got into Captain Kenmore’s office Melinda went to one end of his desk and I went to the other.  The little power hungry Napoleon had no chairs in his office other than the one behind his desk.  This ensured, he believed, that we were at our most uncomfortable while he read us the riot act.  Little did he know that we were making a game of it.

Kenmore looked at me and started yelling, “You and your partner have been trouble since you got here.”  He said, and then began reciting a list of things he felt we had done wrong for the last week.  With each perceived screw-up he raised a finger on his hand to count them off.  I felt a surge of optimism.  Did this mean that we had only made five or fewer mistakes?  But when all his right hand fingers were extended he raised his left.  He turned his head and looked at Mel.  I crossed my eyes and stuck my tongue out.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper

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17 August 2013

The prompts are:

1. Like an English garden after a gentle rain
2. Do you like making me angry?
3. An economist’s guess is liable to be as good as anyone else’s

Begin writing
Irene got home and started unpacking the groceries that I had left on the counter. “Crap” she muttered as she glared at me. “Couldn’t you have put these away?  The ice cream is melting.”

“Relax darling.” I said. “It’s OK…They haven’t been there that long.”

She sorted through the bags and put all the freezer stuff away first then, began to separate the refrigerator goods from the pantry goods.  She stopped and rescanned the foods on the counter.  Her eyes narrowed and through tight lips she growled “Where’s the root beer?”

“Oops, musta forgot.”

“What good is it to remember the ice cream for the floats if you forget the root beer?” she questioned.  The volume of her speech had risen to a level of about twice as loud as before.

“I’ll go back and get it” I intoned as I picked up my keys and headed for the door.  As I stepped outside I heard from the kitchen, “What the hell?  Do you like making me angry?”

On the way to the market I passed by Chuck’s, a local hangout where you could always watch a game and throw back a cool one.  Might not be a bad idea to let Irene cool off a bit I reasoned as I angled to the curb and headed into Chuck’s.

The Dodgers had won and the Angels were losing, again when I remembered the root beer. Damn, I tossed some cash on the bar and headed for the store.  Irene is gonna be steamed!

A couple of two liter bottled of A&W later I was headed back home.  I parked the car and sheepishly opened the front door.

“Hey, I’m back.”

No response, the curtains were all drawn and the lights were out.  “Irene? You home?” I yelled as I set the root beers on the kitchen counter where I always put the groceries.

I heard a movement from the den and turned that way.  “Irene? Is that you?  Sorry I took so long.” I said as I turned the corner into the den and stopped.

It was her.  She was sitting in my recliner, smoking.  Irene never smoked.  She had given it up 15 years ago.  Then I saw the nickel plated revolver she was holding.  I couldn’t help but notice that the barrel was pointed in my direction.  “Did you get the root beer?” she hissed.

There was a loud roar as the gun went off…
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper

24 August 2013

We got two go’s today.  Here’s the first one:

The prompts are:

1. It burned all the way down
2. Don’t make me come down there
3. You don’t just eat good food.  You’ve got to talk about it too.

Begin writing
It was a slow morning but, the weather was fine so I was sitting outside enjoying the sea breeze and a fresh cup of Café Bustelo.  I lit a Lucky Strike and leaned back in the chair turning the match book over and back, thinking about nothing in particular.  I dropped the match into the ash tray on the table and pulled another from the packet.  I struck it, then held it up to study the flame.  It burned all the way down to my finger tips.  My phone began to ring so I dropped the spent match and looked at the caller ID.  It was my mother, “Hi Mom”

“Hello Sweetie.  What’s a qwerty?” she started.  My mother could call for some really random reasons sometimes but at least we spoke regularly.

“I don’t know Mom.  Are you doing your crosswords again?”

“Of course you know,” she said.  “I think it’s some kind of computer thing and you are the only computer guy I know.  I need an eight letter word for qwerty, and I don’t know what it is.”

“Spell it Mom.”

“Q W E R T Y”

“It’s a keyboard mom.”

“A what?”

“A keyboard,” I repeated.

“Perfect,” she said, “it fits.  You know your father’s birthday is next week.  Do you need me to give him a card for you?”

“No Mom.  I already got a present.”

“Ooohh, what’d you get?”

“I got him and his new girlfriend, Bambi tickets to New York to see that new play on Broadway, Oh Calcutta.  Thought they could use it for inspiration.”

“Don’t be silly,” Mom said.  “Oh Calcutta’s not a new play and I don’t think it’s on Broadway anymore either.  Wait…Who’s Bambi?”

“I’m just kidding Mom.  If you could give him a card that would be great, I’ll call in the evening to sing him ‘Happy Birthday.’”

“You better do that,” she scolded. “Don’t make me come down there!”

We both laughed and I said, “Mom, I gotta go.”

“Me too,” she said.  “Your father barbecued some salmon fillets on a cedar plank last night.  It was really good.”

“Sounds great” I said.

“Yeah, he soaked the plank all day in red wine, set the fish on it, and put it on the grill with some rosemary and lemon. I made brown rice and a chopped salad.”

I wasn’t really listening anymore.  Mom always had to talk about her food.  “I think I’m losing you Mom, bad connection,” I said as I pushed the disconnect button and picked up my match book.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper

Here’s the second – two prompts and 15 minutes

The prompts are:

1. The sweet floral scent preceded her
2. Darlene stood at the counter staring at the ten pound bag of catfood.

Begin writing
She stood about five feet and a bit, skinny as a rail, her face was narrow

She habitually wore a sweet floral scent that preceded her wherever she went

She had light brown hair, not blond, neither brunette

She kept a well fed, mangy looking dog

She packed a piece in a holster on her hip whenever she wasn’t in town

She worked at the café on 4th street

She lived in a trailer, in the desert

She gave cigarettes to kids

She smiled easily, crookedly, warmly, her eyes crinkled when she did

She liked her whiskey neat, from a flask she kept in her bag

She drove an old brown sedan with suicide doors and gangster whitewalls

She wasn’t scared of snakes

She wore a blue ball cap sometimes, low over her eyes, slightly frayed at the end of the bill

She didn’t own a TV

She hung an old photo of a woman posed next to a car on the wall

She flavored short floral print frocks in the summer

She was 11 years older than me then, and probably still is

She always wore cowboy boots

She was my first love

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper

31 August 2013

We got two opportunities to get it right again today.  Number 1:

The prompts are:

1. Playing around with other people’s imaginations
2. I like a woman who smiles out loud
3. A lazy-ass hippy like me

Begin writing       

“That’s not it at all doctor,” I said.  “I was lucky enough to get into an occupation where it is an asset to be a lazy-ass hippy like me!  Marketing is not a discipline or a job.  It is a non-stop party.”  I looked up at her to see if she understood what I was trying to tell her.  She was smiling.  Not just a grin but a full blown smile.  It was radiant. She was radiant.  I had to look away because looking at her in that moment was like looking at the sun.

“Uh huh” she said, “Go on.”

“My position allows me to take other people’s great ideas and communicate them to artists, writers, musicians, videographers, and other talented people who get to create, and I emphasize they create, ad campaigns to sell these ideas.  They make jingles, print ads, TV commercials, and radio spots to sell them.  I am perfectly positioned to watch them work.  I get to hang out with inventors, visionaries, and captains of industry.  I get to rub elbows with artists and movie stars.  We do lunch and have drinks.  I don’t have to create anything but I am part of the process and I am constantly surrounded by other people’s genius.  It’s like playing around with other people’s imaginations!”

I looked up at the Doctor.  She was nodding her head, still smiling, still radiant but no longer hurting my eyes.  I thought she was going to laugh out loud but she was too much of a pro to laugh at her patients.  She could smile out loud but she wouldn’t laugh at me.

She reached for her teacup and took a sip.  The cup was delicate, fragile, superbly decorated fine porcelain.  She set it gently back onto the saucer.

“Why are you here, Thom?” she asked after regaining her composure.

“Because the judge told me I had to come.  But, my life is perfect, I don’t need therapy.”

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper

Number 2 – one prompts and 10 minutes

The prompt was:

  1.  They still come around sometimes

Begin writing       

“Back in the day when I was a lad this was a tourist town.  Birds and bird watchers would flock to this part of the coast.  The motel on the cliff was always full and the waitresses at the coffee shop had the best paying jobs in town.  Tourists and bird watchers were big tippers in those days.  Might still be, don’t know.”

Mark looked over at me, squinting his eyes against the evening sun.  As grandkids go, Mark was the best, always feigning interest in my ramblings.

“They still come around sometimes you know.” I said.

“Who does?” Mark asked, “The birds or the bird watchers?”

“I haven’t seen a bird watcher around here since they invented IMAX theaters” I told him, “but there was a Great Blue Heron on the cliff last week.”

“Cool” Mark whispered and turned his head in that direction.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper

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