It probably would help if I was brave enough to submit it anywhere.
But fiction is generally where my insecurities lie. It’s like lying the inside of your brain on a table and letting people dissect it. Poetry is, in some ways, even more personal, but mine is often dense and symbolic enough that I feel like it’s armored. Whereas fiction? Well all the weird, freaky little things that happen in my imagination might completely flip people out.
We’ll see if that happens here.
When I was getting ready for Writer’s Group this week I came across my old group notebooks. I’ve had several – full of little bits of fiction from our writing exercises we do during group. I think some of them have potential for development, but I usually forget about them once we get home. Instead of letting them slip away, I decided I’d start publishing them here. These are not edited, just directly transcribed from my notebook, so they may be a bit raw!
Please let me know what you think – do they have potential? Did they capture your interest? Are they wretchedly wrought and need to be hidden away lest they bring a literary apocalypse upon us? Comment and let me know!
This was an exercise in writing in the present tense, something I hate! Obviously I don’t have much practice with it as I slip back and forth a bit…
After the door shuts and the footsteps die off into the distance, Alison slides down along the inside of the door, her back to it’s surface, her eyes closing against the stingy ache of tears prickling against her lids. She draws her knees up to her chest and lets her forehead drop to their surface, curling in on herself. For long moments, she forgets to breathe altogether, the pain tight in her stomach is so intense. And then, when her breath finally does begin again, it is in huge racking gasps that tear from her throat like the agonized cries of a damaged animal.
He had left. He had gone, just like that. He had left her. And Maggie. And Theo. He had left because, as he said, “it just wasn’t working.” Saying things like “be reasonable Alison, you know we haven’t been happy for a long time.”
“We?” She had screamed it at him, because yeah, there were days when it was hard to connect, between work and soccer practice and band rehearsals and his poker nights. And sure, there were days they didn’t kiss goodnight any more, but she’d never felt unhappy. Not in their marriage certainly.
She heard his car start up out on the street and a fresh wave of tears overtook her. Suddenly nauseous, she scrambled to the hallway powder room just in time for dinner to make a reappearance.
When she had the violent convulsions of her stomach back under control, she ran the hand towel under the faucet and wiped her face with it, the icy temperature of the water a shock to her system. Her cheeks were turning a rabid pink in her reflection, looking like clown makeup on her ghostly face.
She was forty years old. She had two kids, a decent enough job, a decent enough house, and a few friends. She hadn’t seen much of her family since her mother’s death last year. She had a hybrid, a $60 haircut and gel nails. What she suddenly didn’t have was the man she’d loved since the first year of college, and she had no idea why.
For this piece, we drew elements of a crime story randomly through dice rolls. I drew Victim: Telemarketer, Criminal: Con Artist, Weapon: Bent Lead Pipe
Edith shifted her feet. The cubicle was small; too small to stretch out with any sense of comfort. “If you sign up now, you’ll save 40% off our regular rates and receive three months of free calls to your choice of the US, Great Britain or Mexico,” she droned, reading from the script that scrolled along in green text on her monitor.
She’d heard a click on the other end of the line a few moments before, but kept going anyway. Eventually the system would reset if the line was dead. She could hit the button for a manual reset, but why lose the precious few moments of peace? Soon enough she’d be interrupting someone else’s dinner or TV show or saxophone practice and they’d start yelling – and she’d have to keep smiling and talking.
There was a small, smudged mirror on the opposite wall of the cubicle with bold letters “LET THEM HEAR YOUR SMILE!” emblazoned across the top, with a perversely disembodied wide-lipped grin at the bottom. Edith grimaced at it out of spite. Just then the floor manager’s shiny pink face popped up on the far side of the wall. His bald pate was slick with sweat and his lizardy eyes seemed to dart around even more than usual. He motioned frantically and Edith sighed, hitting F12 to pause her incoming calls.
“What’s up, Stan?” she asked, trying to keep her face neutral. He had been on her from day one. He preferred to stock the calling floor with young female college students and tried to push out everyone who didn’t fit that bill. LIke her. At a slowly graying sixty, she’d needed this job desperately after her husband’s death. Luckily for her, her daughter – the head of marketing for the company – had found her this spot after she’d failed dismally at trying to be an assistant for one of the other women in her daughter’s department. She’d wanted Edith to twit or twat or something on the computer for her, and she’d accidentally sent several confused (and one profanity laden) messages to the company’s whole following while trying to figure it out.
She hadn’t been fired exactly, just relocated, and management had told her they had to work with her. Period.
Stan jerked his head toward the back office. “I need to see you,” he squeaked. “Now.”
He scuttled off and Edith rose to follow him. She’d never seen him in quite such a state. When they made it to the office, he slammed the door and yanked at the blinds on the window, dragging them crookedly over the tinted glass to half-block the view of the cubicle farm beyond.
(This is all I had with this one – I can’t remember where I was headed but I like the set-up so far!)
I have no memory of what the prompt/exercise was for this one – maybe one of you from Writer’s Group can help me? At any rate, I don’t think I liked it from the state of my writing, hah!
Sarah blew on her marshmallow. It was on fire, like the last one. At least it hadn’t fallen into the fire. She glanced up to see her friends staring, wide eyed and silent. “What?” she asked, plucking the sticky black confection off the end of her stick. “It’s not like you guys don’t all devour those stupid sparkly vampire books.”
Everyone stared. Jas finally broke the eerie not-quite-silent-full-of-spooky-woods-noises quiet with a snort of laughter. “Yeah, right Sarah. And my coven of witch friends will be along any minute too, to join us. ” The other girls relaxed visibly, leaning back on their log benches and twiddling with their own marshmallows on sticks.
“Fine. Don’t believe me. You’ll see soon enough.” Sarah tossed her now-empty stick into the fire and stalked off past the tents, in the direction of the lake shore just beyond the trees.
Tiny, shy Elise was still obviously shaken and she looked back and forth between Jas and Alex before whispering “You guys don’t think she meant it, do you?”
Jas reached out and wrapped a reassuring arm about the girl’s narrow shoulders. “C’mon Elise, we all know that kind of stuff is just for – what did she call it? Sparkly vampire books.”
As if on cue, a wolf howl came fro the distance, somewhere in the direction of the parking lot. Elise let out a shrill cry and ran for her tent. Jas shook her head and stabbed another marshmallow. “I am so going to kill Sarah for freaking her out. Now none of us are going to get any sleep.” Another yipping wolf howl sounded, answered by a yelp from near the lake, and then, finally, a shriek from the tent.
Alex stood and brushed off the seat of her jeans with her hands. “I’d better check on her.”
Another howl, another yipping reply, another shriek.
“No, I mean Sarah. If there are real wolves around she shouldn’t be out there alone. Besides, you know how she can get lost in a Walmart, how do you think she’ll find her way back?”
Jas slowly turned her marshmallow and nodded. She’d seen Sarah get turned around in pretty unlikely places. Once, she’d lost her for 40 minutes in a food court even after she’d shown her exactly where she’d be sitting. “K. I’ll look in on scaredy cat in a minute.”
More howls accompanied Alex as she moved into the trees. “Don’t let anything eat you. Unless you run into Joe!” Jas called after her. Alex held up a one finger salute behind herself as she disappeared into the murkiness of the treeline.