On Life (4 of 4)

The third part in a creative writing exercise of mine. The first part  was On Beauty, the second was On Faith, and the third was On Time.

(cc) zedzap on Flickr

(cc) zedzap on Flickr

The dirt road grew deeper and more worn, and he passed intersecting paths and crossroads with growing frequency. As he approached the still distant city, the surrounding world was increasingly under its shadow. Another day’s walk and the road would turn to stone under his feet, then grow smooth and busy from the traffic.

He smiled at the thought. When he decided to return after so many years, the traffic was not something he considered. Yet now, surprisingly, he realized he missed it. The chaos and the noise and the craziness were overwhelming, yet it was a comfort in its own way.

For now the dominant sounds were still birds in the trees and rabbits in the brush. He had never come this way before, the long way around the mountains, and it was nice. There was potential here in this greenery.

An unusually large tree grew right up next to the road, its branches extending deep into the woods on one side and far over the road on the other. Nothing grew beneath it but grass, as the greedy green beast stole all the sunlight in its domain. It made a nice spot to stop and fish the pebble out of his boot that had been bothering him the last mile or so.

He took off his pack and leaned it up against the trunk. He sat atop, tugged off his boot, and watched with satisfaction as the nuisance of a stone slid out and into the grass. He put his boot back on and took a deep, slow breath of the cool air. He would have to come back this way again once he got things settled. Maybe a cabin out here for when that bustle of the city finally grew old again.

He fished the letter from his pack and read it. He didn’t need to since he could recite if from memory, but it was more than the words on the page. By holding it as he read he felt a connection that went deeper than the letters and the ink. The page was creased and more than a little abused, with one corner purple from a spilled cup of wine, but that made it all the more real.

He carefully folded the letter back up and slid it into his pack. A strange sound reached him from the far side of the road as he stood to get moving again. He cocked his head and heard it again, but he could still not tell where it was coming from. He left his pack against the tree and stepped out onto the road to investigate.

His pack was still up against the tree, pulled open and scavenged by animals, when travelers paused at the same spot two weeks later. The travelers fished through it, taking whatever they found of value, and left the rest scattered beneath the large branches. As they rode away, the letter fluttered across the road in the wind, caught on some brambles, and tore.

A Tisket, A Tasket

Image via Wikipedia
“A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow …,” the soft baby voice singing came to a stop.  Madison turned, looking up at the woman seated nearby in a lounge chair.  “Miss Terry.” The little blonde cherub pronounced the name as “Terwy”.  It had been endearing the first time. Now it was just plain annoying.

Terry glanced up from the Sunday paper.  “What?”

“I forgot the next word.”

“Gasket,” Terry said.

A questioning frown covered the young girl’s face.  “Gasket?  Is that right?”  

“Positive.” Terry knew it was wrong, but lying to the child was somehow deeply satisfying, irresistible actually.  

It was early spring and the day was warm enough to make the slight breeze heavenly. Reading under the porch had been peaceful and relaxing until the neighbor’s daughter appeared like a meerkat on the rise of earth that separated their adjoining backyards.  Terry had been tempted to warn Madison away by telling her there’d been a recent pesticide application and it was too dangerous to walk on the grass. It was her most effective maneuver to keep the pesky little rodent from invading her yard.  But, since it was the beginning of the season, she didn’t want to overuse her primary weapon for maintaining her solitude.

Terry had made the mistake of being friendly when the couple and their three kids moved in a little less than a year ago. Their two older children were boys and neither of them had one iota of interest in a middle aged woman. She became invisible as soon as she admitted she had no children, not even a dog they could play with.  All she had to offer was a crotchety old husband.

Madison had been different. The four year old had taken an immediate interest in everything about Terry.  Her flowers, her house, the mailbox with the painted bluebirds.  The child’s obsessive behavior reminded her of the squirrels from their previous residence.

Their old neighborhood was full of towering trees and squirrels. Frank had trained a threesome to accept pecans from him, holding out the nuts with his bare hands. They’d rest one little paw on his finger while quickly grabbing the pecan with the other paw and then scurry up a tree.  It was cute at the beginning. They nicknamed the critters Gopher, Digger and Big Balls. The frequent feedings soon led to their entire backyard looking like a mine field with holes dug to bury the nuts. It was amusing until the day that Big Balls appeared next to Terry as she was planting a bed of bulbs. He was standing upright on his haunches, front paws square on his hips, his posture signaling he expected to be fed. When she couldn’t shake the little beast, she retreated to the safety of the house. But the bugger followed her, flinging his body against the aluminum door. That was the last of Frank’s nature experiment.

Terry listened as the child sang the modified nursery rhyme. “A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow gasket.” 

She chuckled, wondering how old Madison would be when she finally discovered she’d been duped.

creative writing exercise – I needed a prompt

I’ve been heads down on a (non-writing) project the last week, so I needed some quick inspiration to kick start this post.  I cast about looking for a decent writing prompt/story starter and came across the site:


I scanned the first couple of pages and ran across one that clicked with me.  The prompt is hidden as an HTML comment at the end of the piece.

<writing exercise redacted>

It was brought to my attention that the result of my writing exercise was of insufficient quality to be considered worth posting. To save y’all the trouble of having to read something that won’t change the world, I have removed it.

creative writing exercise – one sin

A few weeks ago, Eric posted about a writing exercise in which you only use single syllable words.  I decided to give it a try, but first I had to come up with a title to work from.  I cleared my mind, set forth the constraint that it was to be a phrase consisting of single syllable words (might as well start off on the right foot) and took the first thing that popped in, which happened to be “one sin”.  Now, it is entirely possible that my subconscious was instead trying to convey the phrase “once in”, but I think “one sin” has more potential.  So, without further ado, it’s time to get all monosyllabic.

“One Sin”

Once in the church, I found the priest with a frayed frock tied much too tight ’round his neck.  I thought that I might just back out the way that I had come in, but some other soul who had come in from the cold blocked the door.  Her hand flew to make the sign of the cross as she weighed the scene in front of her.  She must have seen too much of the type of show where the perp hung out and got caught, since she eyed me with a tinge of fear.  I tried to speak, but found no words could be coaxed from my throat while my lips pursed and then gave part, all with no sound.  By the look in her eye, this was not what she would need for us to get past this point.  “Not me,” I croaked with a whisp of drawn breath, while she paused to stare at the floor.

When her eyes once more were raised, she spoke, each word forced like a great weight from deep in her chest.  “One sin, that was all I came back to make up for,” she said.  “And now,” she said as she crossed the floor with new found drive, so fast that I could not move, “I have to live with one more.”

Short and Sweet

A few days back I ran across a small paperback my wife had lying around.  It was The Miracle of Languageby Richard Lederer and was published in ’91.  It’s a quick read, musings on English and it’s use but one chapter hit me.  It was “The Case for Short Words”.  The chapter was fittingly brief, only four and a half pages where the author praises the grace and strength of short words over the plodding ambiguity created by poorly used long words.

Apparently Lederer is also a high school English teacher.  Believing wholly in the power of short words he sets his ninth graders a task.  They are to write a composition, anything they want, but they can’t use words with more than one syllable.  Now “omit needless words” is one thing but monosyllables only?  Thing is the author posted the work of the ninth graders and, freed from the pressure to use ‘fancy’ vocabulary they write clear and heartfelt pieces.  Lederer gives two examples and they’re good.  Now I love me some ten-dollar words so this exercise sounded worth a try–break out of the comfort zone and all that.  I gave it a shot on the ‘one-pagers’ we do in my writing group. 

The key-word was aperitif so I was already starting with a fancy multisyllable word.  The result was interesting.  It was a little awkward at first but the trick seemed to be rhythm.  With single syllables the sentences seem to need a meter to get the flow right and it felt a bit like trying to write poetry.  I doubt I’ll give up all my high falootin words but anyone who gets distracted trying to think of the exactly perfect word to describe the color of the red bricks could just say ‘brick red’ and keep typing.  I’ll post it below if you want to read it but it’s just a vignette, not a complete story.  And hey, it’s short.