Seashell

Short pieces of fiction created as part of 10-minute writing exercises. These pieces appear here exactly as written (except that spelling and punctuation have been corrected) in the ten minutes given for the exercise.

 

Writing prompt: write about a memorable object from your childhood

 

Heather absently waved the feather duster over the knick knacks that lined the bookshelves with military precision. Her chicken-like flapping only served to rearrange the newest additions of dust, but was ignored by the more seasoned layers.

 

“Make sure you’re careful when you pick them up to dust under each one,” called her grandmother from the other room.

 

Heather rolled her eyes. As if. She stepped back and felt her back connect hard with something behind her. She heard the tinkling chimes of a hundred breakable objects teeter and shift as the shelves rocked and then settled. And then she heard one sharp, small sound as something brittle hit the floor.

 

She froze and then, in slow motion, looked down. There, nestled between her sneakered feet, was one small, perfect seashell—a scallop shell the size of her five-year old self’s palm.

 

“Look, Grandma! Look!”

 

She remembered running down the beach, waving the treasure she had so carefully prized from the sand where it had lain half-buried. The sun had reflected off the water like jewels as she ran across the soft, wet sand laughing and shouting, “Look!” The most perfect shell ever. She had never found one more perfect.

 

She stared at the fractured remains of that perfect day. She’d always wondered what had happened to that shell.

 

~TB 01/25/12

Tomorrow

Short pieces of fiction created as part of 10-minute writing exercises. These pieces appear here exactly as written (except that spelling and punctuation have been corrected) in the ten minutes given for the exercise.

 

Writing prompt: at the end of the day, at night, before I go to sleep, I think within myself…

 

At the end of the day, at night, before I go to sleep, I think within myself…tomorrow I’ll do it. I’m really going to kill him.

 

As I lay there, listening to the vibrating snores beside me, resolve bubbles up.

 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll do it.

 

The dark wraps me in a warm cocoon of safety. I lay rigid and tense on my side of the bed, careful to ensure no part of his sweaty, hairy body touches mine.

 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll do it.

 

I’ll come home from work, get his dinner ready as usual. We’ll sit on the couch for a little while, maybe watch some t.v. And then…

 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll do it.

 

I’ll suggest we go for ice cream. His favorite. He can’t resist ice cream. We’ll get in the car. I’ll drive resting my hand on his leg.

 

Maybe we will even actually stop for ice cream. Why not? Last request of the condemned.

 

He’ll know though. After the ice cream. He’ll know we’re on the way to the vet. He always knows.

 

The snoring is interrupted by a whimper of pain.

 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll do it.

 

I’m really going to do it. I’m going to call the vet. I’m going to take him in. He’s suffered enough.

 

~TB 01/11/12

Three Things

Short pieces of fiction created as part of 10-minute writing exercises. These pieces appear here exactly as written (except that spelling and punctuation have been corrected) in the ten minutes given for the exercise.

 

Writing prompt: there are three things she told me never to do

 

There are three things she told me never to do…and I’ve done them all.

 

Never go to bed angry—hard to avoid if your partner is MIA. Waiting for him to come home, waiting for him to call…eventually fatigue takes over and you fall asleep.

 

Never speak ill of your partner outside of the marriage. “You’re a unit,” she said. But this June Cleaver code of silence condemns you to isolation, freezes you in a cocoon of doubt and loneliness. To break free you have to speak, and speak truth.

 

And the third thing? I don’t even remember. Like so much of a mother’s advice, it has been washed away by time. And now she is gone. And I think whatever it is she said is important.

 

As I sit here, alone, I wish with all my heart that she was here. I wish for all the advice she might wish to impart, all the armor a mother’s love can provide, all the sagacity a woman’s experience can imbue as I face the long dark of a solitary night.

 

~TB 12/14/11

Dollops

writing prompt: Lorraine watched the brown dollops roll past her on the assembly line.

 

Lorraine watched the brown dollops roll past her on the assembly line.

 

Blop. Blop. Blop.

 

Despite the deafening noise of the machines around her, all she could hear was the figuarative soundtrack to the glistening, uneneding row of cookie goo.

 

She glanced at the clock on the far wall--her lord and master. She switched the spatula to her other hand, if only for something to do. If only as a reminder that it wasn't an extension of her arm, but something apart from her. Her job was to scrape any imperfectly formed raw cookies off the assembly line before they reached the oven. They called it quality control. But the ceaseless perfection of the machines made her completely unnecessary.

 

Blop. Blop. Blop.

 

Only five more hours to go.

 

~TB 9/14/11

Tornado at the Zoo

writing prompt: the tornado cleared the hill and dug into the zoo...

 

Surveying the results, the rescue workers couldn't believe their eyes. "Joey" the Killer Whale dangled by his tail from one of the giant Oak trees flanking the zoo's entrance. A row of flamingoes lined the branches that held the ocean giant, pink flashing among the naked branches.

 

"I didn't know a whale could spin like a top," said one to his partner, observing the whale twist in the remnant winds. The other man just crossed himself in response.

 

Further in, they found three bobcats treading water in the penguin enclosure. The penguins stood outside the glass, staring at the interlopers with puzzled and territorial gazes.

 

North American black bears and African lions were curled up asleep together in the rain forest exhibit, the trees restfully devoid of the usual bird chatter.

 

The quiet man finally spoke. "It's unnatural, it is."

 

His companion first nodded, then shook, his head. "What is?"

 

"They're all here. But mixed up like. And ain't none of 'em et the others."

 

"Is good isn't it?"

 

"It's unnatural,"  repeated the first. Then he spat onto the debris strewn ground.

 

~TB 5/25/11

An Icy Wind

writing prompt: An icy wind blew across the river...

 

An icy wind blew across the river. Caleb could hear it howling in the distance. Winter was coming. Soon the hard-packed earth that surrounded the little homestead would be covered in knee deep snow. And his little band of livestock, already pinched and pitiful, would huddle together in misery against the biting chill of the river wind. Ploughing in the scorching sun would be replaced with shoveling in the freezing cold. Bug bites would be replaced by chill blaines. Thirst would be replaced by hunger.

 

Winter's song could be heard in the wind. Caleb knew what it signalled. The residents of the little farm had once been hale and plentiful. And each successive winter had picked them off, one by one, until only a handful remained. Caleb listend to the wind howl and knew that death was coming to River's Edge.

 

~TB 4/13/11

Frayed Ends of Sanity

writing prompt: "frayed ends of sanity"

 

The frayed ends of my sanity finally unraveled. The loose edges let go their tenous bond to twist in the wind. A howling, gibbering madness washed over me, and a curtain of throbbing red mist descended before my eyes.

 

"Let me embrace you," I thought. "And twirl. I want to twirl."

 

I threw back my head, threw out my arms, and twirled. Twirled and twirled until my legs could no longer hold me.

 

When I came to a standstill I was facing east. It was dawn. The first rays of the sun were creeping over the horizon. They hit me full in the face, the blazing light piercing the red haze and blinding me.

 

It was going to be a beautiful day.

 

~TB  11/03/10

I Lost My Husband to Brazil

Writing Prompt: 100 CEM note [foreign currency]

 

The first time, it was just for a week.

 

"I don't even want to go!" he said when I complained to go with him. "Do you know how long of a flight it is? Trust me. You don't want to go."

 

But later, after his return, it was all: the countryside, the food, the people--how beautiful, how good, how friendly.

 

The second time, a year later, was for two weeks.

 

"But I speak Spanish now! Mi espouso es muey bueno! See? I've been practicing."

 

"They speak Portuguese there," he said, stepping around me to get a tie from the closet.

 

That return had been followed by "the people, the drinks, the beaches"--how beautiful, how good, how friendly.

 

Six months later, it was another two weeks. And this return was followed by silence.

 

"How was it?" I asked.

 

"It was fine," was all he had to say. "It's late. Please turn off the light."

 

Now Brazil has taken him completely. He is gone and all I have is this 100 CEM note to remember him by.

 

~TB 12/01/10

A Lock of Hair

Writing Prompt: make an object come alive with evocative, visceral description [I drew "a lock of hair" as my object]

 

The dry, thin wisps trail through my fingers. the individual hairs of the single, golden curl are nearly translucent. If I seperate them, spread them out in my palm, they will disappear altogether. As faint an echo of memory as Jem herself.

 

I run a finger along the clump of hair, feeling her breath on my breast, her downy head against my cheek, her soft weight in my arm. This single lock of hair evokes a familiar ache deep in my chest.

 

I hold the curl up to the light, pinched between thumb and finger. And then I release it to the wind.

 

~TB 2/23/11

The Effigy

writing prompt: to celebrate the Edward Gorey exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum (through June 2011), we each picked one entry from Gorey's Gashleycrumb Tinies. I picked The Effigy: the Effigy, got up with clothing Abstracted from the victim's room, is raised aloft to cheers of loathing Before it meets a flaming doom.

 

He looked down on the crowd. Their snarling, gnashing faces were twisted with hate. He stared down at them, impassive, wondering what it was that drove them to such malice.

 

"Burn it!" someone screamed.

 

The bonfire flickered and danced, making the ring of hard, ugly faces wink in and out.

 

"Burn it! Burn it!" The lone voice had been joined by others now, and it had turned into a droning, undulating, chorus.

 

There was a hiss and a flare, and the firelight suddenly glowed brighter, taller, closer.

 

The crowd was chanting faster now, the words running together in buzzing, vibrating hum.

 

He could see the light clearly now. Not the background glow of the bonfire, but a single flame, clear and bright. Was it coming closer? Maybe it only seemed that way because the crowd was falling back.

 

The flame wavered and then dipped out of sight. There was a hush now, and in the silence he heard the crackle of flames. He could smell something burning.

 

And then the world erupted. There was orange and pain, and he could hear the crowd cheering.

 

~TB 3/09/11