Sunday, February 20, 2011

Exercise #6: The Royal We

Write a first-person-plural narration of an event from the POV of a very close-knit couple. The reader should be unable to discern which of the two is telling the story. Do not use the first-person pronoun I in this exercise. Example: We found the body in the outhouse, and Jenny got the can of gasoline from the garage while Benjamin removed all the toilet paper rolls stacked up on the door shelves (No sense wasting them). 600 words.

I had some trouble with this one, and I'm not sure I did it right, but here it is. Enjoy.

We drove through the night across the dusty Texas highway in silence. Lenny stared at what there was of the fleeting barren landscape as Nora watched the road ahead. The Buick's wheels speeding down the highway droned over the sound of Motown playing on the radio. Oldies was the only station we could agree on. Occasionally, Nora would glance over at Lenny and frown. Lenny would do the same.

The silence weighed heavily on us with words we wanted to say, should have said years ago. The silence persisted between Lenny and Nora until the right front tire blew out twenty miles before we reached the town of Purgatory. Lenny cursed as Nora did her best to ease the Buick into the breakdown lane. We both climbed out of the car to check the damage. The tire was old, practically bald, and Nora said as much in an accusatory tone. Lenny gave her a sharp look that could have slapped her into the asphalt. We exchanged dirty looks. Nora was getting tired of his passive-aggressive bullshit. Lenny was sick of her constant nagging. For once, we longed for the heavy silence that preceded most of our arguments.

Nora crossed her arms against her chest as Lenny popped the trunk and made his way to the back of the car to rummage through the assorted junk for the jack and a tire iron. The trunk was huge, large enough to fit a human body. Nora tapped her foot impatiently, decided to have a smoke to calm her nerves, and rummaged through the glove compartment for a lighter. That's where we keep the gun.

Lenny found the rusty tire iron under a pile of luggage, most of which belonged to Nora. Nora's hand caressed the .38 Special, bought years ago when we lived in Groverleaf Apartments, located in the worst part of town. Lenny tested the weight of the tire iron while peeking around the raised trunk hatch. Our eyes met briefly and in that moment, Lenny realized he would never be free until the bitch was dead. Nora hated him, knew he would never be the man he hoped he would be. A divorce would break him. She would get peanuts in a divorce settlement compared to the millions she would get from his life insurance policy. We knew what we had to do and we were determined to get it done.

He gripped the tire iron tight and called Nora to come see what he found. Nora hid the gun behind her back as she made her way to the back of the car. We were sweating bullets over what we were about to do. We were terrified and horrified and exhilarated. Nora and Lenny had never felt more alive.

Lenny readied himself to swing as her clacking heels came closer. Nora cocked the hammer, ready to blow his brains out the second she whipped it out. She came into view holding something in her hands, and she froze as she focused on the tire iron. We stood there on the side of the road, shocked and frozen in our defensive positions, unable to take our eyes off each other.

We threw our weapons to the ground. Eyes smoldering, our hearts racing, Nora and Lenny threw themselves into each other's arms, kissing passionately, unable to keep our hands off each other. Nora hastily fumbled with his zipper while Lenny shucked up her skirt. We screwed each other's brains out, screaming and moaning, not caring if they were spotted by some passing motorist. Knowing it could happen made the whole thing that much more intense.

After we finished, Lenny zipped up his pants, Nora fixed her dress and grabbed her torn panties from the asphalt, and we both climbed into the car without saying a word. They spent the rest of the trip as silent as they started, but neither of us minded. The air had been cleared, and we could go on peacefully with our least until their next road trip.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Exercise #5: Journalism

Write part of a story in the form of journal entries. Writing this made me feel way old. 700 words.

April 8, 1994: Kurt Cobain was found dead today. I was sitting in the stairwell at school eating my lunch and reading Breakfast of Champions when I overheard a group of girls talking about it. They said he killed himself three days ago-shot himself or overdosed, I can't remember which-and his body was just found today. They were all crying as if they had lost a boyfriend, going on and on about how Courtney Love totally destroyed his life and it was all her fault which is a stupid thing to say when you think about it. I doubt she put the gun in his hand and said, "Here you go sweety. Fire when ready!" And would they care if he wasn't some big famous singer? Doubtful. Why do people waste their sorrow on strangers they barely know?

April 10, 1994: Finished writing Greg Thibedeaux's book report on Champions. He's a D- student and he wants A+ work. I tried to reason with him, warned him Mr. Aaron would suspect the obvious, but he was insistent. He's paying good money, and I pride myself on giving my customers what they want. Greg is a moron who will probably make it all the way to college pro before ending his career with a busted knee. He'll end up being an over the hill bag boy or beer bellied construction worker with a trailer full of dust covered trophies from his wonder years. I'm not being petty. Okay, I'm a little petty, but I'm also realistic. I broke professionalism the other day when I suggested he might want to have something to fall back on just in case football doesn't work out. Of course, he got defensive. Said he'd find someone else to give his money to, someone who wouldn't get all preachy on him. Smoothed things over by offering to do his math homework over the weekend free of charge. Note to self: Never get personal with a client. It only causes trouble.

April 11, 1994: Everyone is talking about the vigil held for Cobain the other day. Girls are crying and hugging each other for comfort. Students are cutting class to hit the music stores so they can snag copies of Nirvana albums they already own. Even Greg was misty eyed when I handed over his work. "It's the end of an era man," he told me when I asked what was wrong. It's been bothering me all day. Not the death of some idiot musician or even every one's reaction to it, but my lack of reaction to something that is obviously a huge deal. If this is the end of an era, why don't I feel apart of it?

April 14, 1994: I'm behind on every one's school work including my own. Spent the last three afternoons locked in my room, reading up on Kurt Cobain, listening to Nevermind and In Utero, just trying to figure out what the fuss is about. Greg lent me his copy of Bleach after I promised to return it undamaged. Seems like wasted effort. Why bother when I can turn on the radio. Every station is playing Nirvana's music, and after three days of hearing the same songs over and over, I still don't get it. I wonder if it was like this when Buddy Holly died. I made the mistake of asking mom and she wanted to know why the sudden interest. I told her about Kurt. Dumb. She panicked. Asked if I was feeling depressed, wanted to talk to a psychiatrist, etc. Told dad when he came home from work. He gave me a lecture on moral responsibility and the ethics of suicide. I tried to explain my interest was merely sociological-not a total lie-but he wouldn't let me get a word in. An hour later, all my music is confiscated including Greg's cassette. He's going to be pissed. I've also been informed that we will all be attending church this Sunday-the first time since Easter. My presence is mandatory. This is why I don't tell my parents anything. For the first time in a long, long time, I feel like a teenager should: angsty and defensive. The weird thing is, it feels kind of good. Maybe I'm starting to get this grunge thing after all.

April 15, 1994: As I predicted, Greg was pissed until I explained the situation with my parents. His dad has been riding him for missing football practice this last week. "Like there aren't more important things going on in my life than throwing a freakin' ball around," he said and the look of scorn took me by surprise. I always thought he was happy being a jock.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exercise #4: The Unstable Self

Write a story that alternates between the I and the he or she(or the name of the narrator), making sure you don't confuse the reader with the switches. This story was inspired by the Supernatural episode The Monster at the End of This Book and Richard J. Evans The Third Reich Trilogy. 500 words.

The blank page curled inside my typewriter mocks and frightens me with words I have not yet written. I am troubled, not by writer's block, but by the story I have become entangled. I pray for God to deliver me from this burden, and if He can not, for Him to give me the courage and wisdom to continue my work.

Esther's fingers throbbed from arthritis and her head hurt from a revelation induced migraine worsened by the "clickety-clack" of her Underwood. Three visions in one night. It was a record she knew she would not repeat. All three visions needed to be recorded before dawn. The clock in her study chimed midnight.

These three revelations have been delivered unto me:

Lost in a vast desert wilderness, dieing of thirst and hunger, I come upon a soldier guarding two fruit trees. The first, a plum tree, twisted and decayed, its fruit lying in a rotting heap on the sand. The second, an apricot tree, striving and lush, its ripe yellow fruit weigh its branches down. The plums smell sweet in spite of their rot. I ask the soldier for water and he offers me a sip from his canteen. Full after only one sip, the smell of the plums still entices me. I ask for a plum, but the soldier warns that the fruit of that tree is poisonous. Unable to resist, I take one of the plums and bite into it. I clutch my stomach in pain. A beast hidden in the branches falls upon me.

The plum had tasted sweet when she bit into it, but the juice burned her stomach and made her head hurt. Her mind had been bombarded with esoteric knowledge and images that lost their meaning upon waking. The knowledge the fruit gave her didn't kill her, but lying in the sand, clutching her stomach, she wished it had. The clock struck one.

Running down a forest path, chased by a beast I can't see. The path leads to a clearing with a solitary tree. A girl sitting at the base of the tree holds her arms above her head palms open. I warn her of the best on my trail. The girl can not leave. "I'm waiting for the stars to fall," she says as thousands fall from the sky in burning arcs. She reaches out to save as many as she can. The rest burn to ash as they fall to the ground.

Her eyes welled with tears at the memory of so many dead stars shaped like the yellow badges the Nazi's had forced her people to wear during the war. The clock struck two.

I wake to find the beast standing over me in my study. Its purple bloated face is as rotten as the plums from the desert and its lips are stained with juice. I tell it I know why it has come, that I can not give it what it wants. "We will see," it says. My mind and body are twisted by his magic, but he doesn't find what he is looking for. My body dies. The beast removes the page from my typewriter, reads my final message, and falls into a rage when he reads these words: The knowledge has been taken from me, given to someone for safe keeping. You should have eaten the apricots first. You will lose.

Esther nodded off at her desk.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exercise #3: Unreliable Third

500 word exercise using the POV of an unreliable narrator. Schizophrenic bag lady or elderly woman on an acid trip? You be the judge.

Fran screamed and slapped her arms in an attempt to douse the flames burning her baggy sleeves. A gentleman wearing a top hat, calabash pipe, and a large monocle stuck in his right eye rushed to her assistance.

"What's wrong wit you, lady?" he enquired as Fran danced around sidewalk in a panic. "You sick or somethin'?"

"Are you blind?" she yelled as the flames spread all over her beautiful blue silk ball gown, the one with the white pearls sewn into the bodice that her late husband, the thirty-first duke of North Cumberland gave her for their twentieth wedding anniversary. "I've caught myself aflame. Be a dear and find a bucket of water for me."

"What are you nuts?" the man said as he stared at her with a quizzical expression while peering down at her through his monocle. "You ain't on fire."

The flames burned holes through her garment, leaving her skin-mercifully fire proof-tingle from the heat.

"You dare insult me, a duchess of the great house of Cumberland, by calling me a liar?" she exclaimed as the flames raged on, destroying what was left of her expensive gown, thankfully sparing her diamond tiara which was a gift from the queen.

"Listen lady," the man said with a puff of his calabash pipe, "I don't care if you're the duchess of cucumber sandwiches or the queen herself. You ain't on fire and that's a fact."

"Of course I am no longer on fire, you swine!" Lady Fran said, aghast at his total lack of etiquette and doing her best to cover her nakedness with her two dainty hands. "You took too long to assist me. And stop staring at my beautiful naked body. I know it is a tempting sight indeed, but you must remember your station as a gentleman and avert your eyes."

He eyed her up and down, taking in her young, nubile form with a keen discerning eye. "Ma'am, I ain't no gentleman and you sure as hell ain't beautiful."

Lady Fran gasped.

"And I knows you ain't naked, 'cause if you were, I'd be too busy screamin' in pain to look at you for long what from the hot pokers I'd be stickin' in my eyes just for to sear the image of your old, flabby carcass out of my skull."

Lady Fran slapped him good and proper. "Take that you cur!"

"What?" he said, soap bubbles inexplicably floating out of his mouth. "The lamppost done you wrong too?"

"Stop spitting those foolish bubbles at me," she said, wrapping her hands around his thick neck and squeezing for all she was worth.

The gentleman whistled and pulled a purple kangaroo with red polka dots out of his jacket pocket. It wore a saddle of finest Italian leather. The man tipped his hat to her as he climbed onto the beast's back and said, "Yeah, yeah, whatever you say you old bat."

Before Lady Fran could argue, the man hopped off down the street as fast as the kangaroo could take him. He was probably late for the queen's ball, of which, Fran also had an invitation.

"He calls me crazy!" The Duchess harrumphed as she observed his departure through her magical looking device cleverly disguised as a toilet paper tube. "I'm not the one going to the ball riding on the back of a kangaroo."

She straightened her tiara, waved her magic broomstick-cleverly disguised as the broken end of an ordinary broomstick making it inconspicuous to magic broomstick thieves-created another ball gown out of thin air, and made her way off to the ball in her magic coach-cleverly disguised as a rusty shopping cart.