Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Execution

In 700 words, gather together three or four ordinary people. Let them meet in a businesslike environment—a conference room, a grade-school classroom after school hours, a hotel room that is part of a suite so the bed is out of sight. These three or four people are going to decide to put someone to death. They are not government officials, rogue CIA agents, Mafia lieutenants—they're just plain folks. And the person they choose to execute is also a run-of-the-mill person just like them, except he is slated for death. Stay in this room. Don't follow through on the death sentence. Simply watch the group decide who needs to die and why. Choosing the victim is going to be hard. Keeping the group from simply going after someone who has angered them or cut them off in line or slept with their spouse—that is going to be your problem. This group of executioners should know one another but not terribly well. Don't tell us why or how they've chosen to do this; just accept the situation and try to let them accept it, too. POV—the executioners', as well as the intended victim's in a sense--will matter a great deal. One POV will predominate. You probably want to tell this scene from a dramatic perspective, allowing only spoken words to come out (don't show the executioners' thoughts).
(from prompt #12 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Serial Killer
"Serial Killer" by 'abnelphoto.com'"

The man at the pulpit, clearing his throat, said “She’s as good as dead anyway.”

“Right, but. What does that mean? Why are we, why are we getting involved then? Why get our hands dirty?” said the woman wringing her hands, staring up at the pulpit.

The third person, a young man, kept his eyes straight down and his arms crossed.

The man at the pulpit cleared his throat again, awkwardly, and the little chapel’s acoustics carried the noise too far. The woman wringing her hands jumped like she was being followed. The young man stayed still, standing slouched against the left wall of the stage that held the man at the pulpit. His shadow, in the dim light, fell around his feet and from above it looked like a dark child hunched over in grief.

“We aren’t. Getting our hands dirty, I mean. We are, well. We are cleaning someone else’s hands. We are,” and his voice started to rise,” we aren’t courting trouble by eliminating it, are we? Are we getting involved in a mess? We are involved, involved enough to gather. And now, I am standing here telling you all that we are not getting our hands dirty! We are cleaning the dirty hands of someone unable to do so herself. What is best for all involved,” and he looked at the young man, at the woman wringing her hands, and then at the shut door behind his audience of two, “is to simply, painlessly, stop the misery. Put an end to it.”

“How?” the young man asked without raising his voice, just raising his head enough to project. To avoid speaking directly to the ground.

“I don’t know if, well. This could be a bad idea? But I, um, think we could send her somewhere? To a home, or uh, what do you call it? A place that specializes in this.” The woman wringing her hands shifted in the pew a half dozen times before completing a sentence. Her jacket was stiff and gray with blackening circles under her arm pits. She also seemed to be shrinking inside her suit, like she was physically regressing to match her age to her infantile demeanor.

With a deep sigh the man at the pulpit spoke. “We talked about that, honey. And I don’t mean to be, uh, crass. But that’s stupid, and you know it. A place that specializes in what? Anyway we need to get to the point.”

“The point being, we want to kill her? Sure. Let’s kill her right now. Like you said, she’s as good as dead.” And with that the young man started to walk toward the shut door.

“She cannot live. She cannot. There is no…why can’t we just say it? You both can blame me! I am her mother’s pastor, I am this lamb’s shepherd. I will live with it. I will. And I will live with your anger, and with her mother’s. But not with the knowledge that I, that WE, sat idly by. What did you think…” he looked towards the woman wringing her hands, “when you found the little bird? With its twisted head? And what did you think, young man, when you found the cat’s tail in her lunchbox? Did you think that nothing would come of it? That, well, sometimes little girl’s like to mutilate their pets? That no one would notice or retaliate? Someone noticed, and now we have to do something. But I need you,” and he looked toward the young man’s back, which was still except for shallow breaths, “to be with me.”

“I’m with you. I don’t want to discuss any more. I’m with you. I’ll just stay right here and pray, and you boys can go while she’s sleeping. Don’t tell me anything.”

“I agree with you, sir, that things cannot go further than they have. I agree that she is as good as dead.”

"So, then, let us pray for her soul, for the strength to follow through on this agreement..."

The three heads bowed down. The man at the pulpit cleared his throat for the third time, but the echo didn't frighten the woman, who stopped wringing her hands. And the young man's slouched back began to straigten as he prayed.

The Cheerful Spectator

In 800 words, introduce to yourself a narrator intimate to a story but outside it as well. Don't make her omniscient or even close to that, although she can guess expertly at the problems she is observing--she can even be wrenched by the emotional logjams she is witness to. Henry James chose this sort of narrator often--a family acquaintance or distant relative who happens to be friendly with a number of the central characters in a larger story than he could command.
(from prompt #11 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Phone it in
"Phone it in" by thunderchild5

I granted myself the role of keeper of her stories, her real live LiveJournal. As if some day, her biographer or E! True Hollywood Story producers would come to me and ask me to tell them everything I knew, and I would have a responsibility to be accurate and in-depth. I stored facts about her, mentally recorded conversations, noted pauses and inflections and generalities. Like, she often uses the word “great.” That’s a thing about her, a thing she does that I know about. “Great, we’ll go to the store, get great amounts of beer, tonight is gonna be great. I can’t believe how great it is that you’re helping, you’re so great.” Not so much as that, unless she isn’t watching herself—sometimes she’ll get caught up in her thoughts and forget to space them apart. But generally, she’s well-spoken; excitable, but well-spoken. An enunciator.

She would call me, late at night, and she would make a proclamation. “I hate people,” she would say. Or, “There is no reason to ever eat cereal.”

I would respond, usually by laughing, agreeing, or requesting further information: “Why do you say that?” or “Where did that come from?!”

The conversations would go on into early morning, and I would act like a blind man’s cane, nodding along while her thoughts wandered and her voice kept pace, using my “mmhmms” and “uhhuhs” to keep her thoughts steady.

She grew up in the environments of retro novels or Lifetime TV movies. No suburban mom, soccer practice, curfews; there were years in hotels as home, in tough urban settings, some time on a farm. At birth, she was the youngest of four boys in a nuclear family; when she was six, she had a step-mom and a step-dad and two step-sisters and one step-brother. When she was twelve, she was an aunt twice. Names took the longest for me to track and place in context—Jake is her oldest brother, the one she lived with for a year in a bad part of Chicago, and Jacob is her step-brother, who is only three months younger than she is, but who once told her that all the girls in his family, that she was now a part of, had to take orders from the boys or else the devil would come in the night and take away a finger for every time she disobeyed.

“After ten times, the devil would turn my blood to fire ants and they’d eat me up from the inside out,” she said. “He was always thinking about food and punishment.”

“He’s the model now, isn’t he? That’s oddly appropriate.”


“Oh, that’s right, I meant...”

“My nephew is a model. He’s great with food and his body image. He’s really not that fucked up even though his dad is a huge tool and his mom left.”

“His dad…”

“When I was eight my brother Joey got his girlfriend pregnant and he didn’t tell anyone in our family until I was ten and the kid showed up at my step-sister Caroline’s wedding. Joey hadn’t even talked to anyone besides Jake for years and totally acted like he didn’t know me until I started getting into rock music and Jake gave me Joey’s girlfriend’s Alanis Morrisette CD, which was great, and then Joey acted like he’d been a huge influence in my life. Which he kind of had been, because I wanted to be like him until I realized what a dick he is. His girlfriend was cool until she started to get religious and took a vow of celibacy and joined a convent in Greece. So thanks to her I got the Alanis Morrisette CD before anyone in my class and Jeron got really great bone structure.”

Sometimes, my incredulous “do tell!” reactions, my blankness, would annoy her. Suddenly cynical, she’d grow reticent, and leave me to back-pedal. “Well, sure. My family is just so boring, you know, I mean…” But then, other times, she was very aware of the effect she had on me, and would get caught up in the excitement of telling a story that struck me as unbelievable. She wouldn’t have to exaggerate, and she’d tell me as if we were two conspirators, marveling at the oddity of an unearthed memory.

“Can you believe that the last time I spoke to my mom, she thought I was pregnant? She wasn’t even concerned, just wanted to see if I knew who the father was, because when her step-daughter was pregnant, they’d had a really embarrassing baby shower with the wrong guy’s parents. So great. Did I tell you about my step-sister’s super trashy family? How when we were kids and we went to her grandma’s for Christmas, in, no joke, Laughlin, all the grown-ups were smoking inside and so us kids snuck some too? Oh my God, one of those kids, so my step-cousin, I think, is on Rock of Love or something.”

I worry sometimes about my role as her keeper of stories. She knew the value of some, but some she tossed off and out like unwanted crust. “That’s where all the vitamins are,” my mom used to tell me, when I’d tell her I didn’t like sandwich edges. Sometimes I worry I won’t know where to start, and sometimes I worry I’ll never be asked. Sometimes I wonder what good it does to store up other people’s stories.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Ironist

In 500 words, create an observer of events outside her own direct experience, someone who knows more than she lets on, jokes with us (the readers) but who also indirectly reveals a complex reading of the events she is describing. M. H. Abrams, in A Glossary of Literary Terms, says "...in Greek comedy the character called the eiron was a dissembler, who characteristically spoke in understatement and deliberately pretended to be less intelligent than he was." The dissembler or ironist or trickster is a wiseass, a clown perhaps, a teller of tall tales.
(from prompt #10 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Lucy wears thick lip gloss and designer heels. Ted wears a smirk and Italian loafers. Lucy twirls a pretty curl and stares at her reflection, and Ted rests his hand in his pocket and watches Lucy. Her mother designs clothes, and the daughter, dressed in wealth and raised accordingly, to be seen as desirable, grew up spoiled. His father purchases and develops buildings, and the son, raised in wealth and dressed accordingly, in anything seen as desirable, grew up spoiled. Spoiled means ruined, and it happens to children like it happens to food: when left out too long, unattended. What happens is that no one wants something spoiled, and they are thrown out as rubbish. The difference between children and food, of course, is that children have thoughts and feelings. Both food and children can be equally unaware of their own spoiled state. And everyone everywhere grows up thinking the way they are is the way everyone is, until suddenly something changes, and it becomes clear that no one is normal.

Lucy looks like a prize, and she even comes with a ribbon. She has wide eyes to look for approval and they are framed by demurely flattering eyelashes; as they say, art isn’t art without the right frame to hang it. She is either very beautiful or very ordinary and it depends entirely on who she is standing near, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so her beauty is in the eye of whoever beholds her. Ted yearns to hold her. He looks for prizes, he understands that a prize is whatever you find and assign a value. Like empty lots and vacant buildings, Ted sees beauty in nothingness, in the lack of the concrete.

The relationship between the two begins in hatred, like so many love stories, and it is only when they realize the other has what they do not that they see how much they have in common. They are a pair of bulls-eyes, they are the center of what everyone tries to hit; the children of power and wealth, the products of vanity and acquisition, no one can see what good could come of them. It is odd to think that such famous parents have such infamous offspring. For those who have watched them grow up it is hard to imagine much more wasted breath than this pair of idiots, and everyone has watched them grow up, we see them on television and we read about them online. You can’t help but feel bad for two little lovers, two spoiled children, who have so many people watching them and judging them, cynically, from a safe distance. What a lovely couple they make, at any rate, as she stares at her boyfriend, staring at her, in the reflection of the mirror in her mother’s Victorian vanity.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Historical Omniscience

Write 700 words about an event set well in the past, twenty or one hundred years ago. Write from above, as if by means of researched opinion (but doing little actual research). Write about several historical characters or an interesting event, imagining any POV. All fiction is historical fiction in the sense that we write about what we knew prior to beginning our stories and novels.
(from prompt #9 in The 3 AM Epiphany)
Read my response:

Travelers had a certain tenacity to them, and yet a certain glamour as well. Their mere presence implied value, not of delicate bone China, but the intrinsic kind, like a solid leather trunk. Travel for leisure, so recently a concept, still required some strength and durability in its participants. And money, of course, but more than that, at least for women. Arriving by train, women dressed more practically than in their daily life. A little girl passing by a train station hardly ever took a second glance at these unfettered women, except for those few girls who had great stores of curiosity, those who noticed exceptions rather than rules. Hats covered heads, rather than decorated them, and gloves protected from the unknown, rather than keeping palms in a state of unknown.

For Martha, traveling was a way of life, and clothes had always been a practical matter. When she was younger she sought out books instead of fashion clippings, and explored with her brothers instead of knitting with her mother. The tenacity of a traveler was innate in Martha, but the glamour was acquired, slowly, as a result of her grit and her journeys more than any learned appreciation for personal style. Even when Martha went to Europe—which, except for during the War, was still regarded more as a shopping port than a haven for the artistic and literary expats, numerous though they were—she was unaffected by the markets. She rarely thought of material items, and in her presence, it was hard for others to think about anything other than her words, which were of far away places on the earthly plane and of the nearness of the spiritual world.

By the time Martha met with the Queen of Romania, she held all the dignity of royalty, without the aid of embellishments or stylish accessories. Martha, while not the sort to command attention, held it. Those who encountered Martha en route to a teaching location, be it Australia or Austria, South Africa or South America, nearly always walked away with similar expression: that of rapt attention and a glowing, almost ludicrous smile.

Meanwhile, Queen Marie had never not known glamour, and grew up as celebrated as a jewel. When she met Martha Root, Marie had already survived a scandalous youth and had come into her own as the face of Romania, the Soldier Queen, and she held control as easily as a crown rests on a head. The difficulty for Marie, striking as she was, wasn’t in getting attention, but in having her attention kept. The Queen had less of the wanderlust that pushed Martha further and further from known comforts, and Martha traveled with, and out of, love for her cause. Instead the Queen was restless internally. By volunteering as a nurse for the Red Cross and orchestrating an intelligent and effective defense against the invading Russians, Marie had employed physical and political efforts to lessen the carnage of the War, but for all that she did, as much as she would end up being celebrated, the destruction that had occurred worldwide left Marie, privately, with a broken view, and she felt deeply the moribund spirit that lingered long after the dead were buried. Like many, Marie yearned for something to revive her soul, and this is where Martha found her.

The two women, one the child of an American dairy farmer and the other with a lineage memorized by British schoolchildren, met in the Queen’s palace after brief correspondence. Martha had begun sending books and earnestly written letters to various ruling figures, eventually even the Emperor of Japan and the Shah of Persia. Marie responded emotionally immediately, and then she responded literally. The Queen felt a connection to Martha. Marie was just under fifty and Martha was just over, and both felt the weight of their years without letting it slow them down; though they died within a year of each other, over ten years later, both continued to travel and teach and lead with ever increasing fervor. Martha helped Marie to embrace a spirituality that the Queen had long suspected within herself but hadn’t known how to grasp. And Marie, as the first monarch to share the faith Martha taught, increased Martha’s sphere of influence and helped to publicize a burgeoning religion.

The fashion of the time, for Martha and for the Queen, left a great deal to the imagination; necklines were high and hemlines were low. Martha, when she traveled, met women whose breasts were on full display and women whose faces and bodies were veiled. As a little girl this had been of no interest to her, and as an adult women, it was indicative of nothing. Women’s clothing revealed where they came from but had nothing to do with where they were going or what was contained underneath. Martha knew this as a child, when she looked out her world for what wasn’t there instead of what was, and as she traveled this was her lesson for anyone who saw her, trunk in one hand and China in the other.

Family Consciousness

In a short piece of prose (800 words), dip into the consciousness of a family. Rather than one or two distinct points of view, this fiction should allow us into the minds of a marriage with children--adult children or young children. This will be different from limited omniscience because a family can reasonably know a great deal about the goings-on of its various parts.

Read my response:

stew fixings
"stew fixings" by Muffet

Eileen managed to make chopping vegetables appear as simple, or at least as instinctive, as opening her eyes. The knife seemed to be a part of her, a third hand. Like an assassin, her comfort with sharp blades intimidates outsiders. When her eldest, Michael, brought girls over to her house, Eileen would interrogate the poor young things with constant, mostly polite inquiries, chopping carrots or celery all the while without taking her eyes of the girl. Eileen had prepared dinner nearly every evening that she’d been married, and now the years she’d spent doing so were far more than the years she’d been independent. She liked to think she set the bar high for her children; she’d wanted to instill certain values in her offspring even before she had any. She woke up at the same time every day, like a farmer. She cherished routines, and their fancy cousin, traditions. While she chopped she surveyed her home, confirming that the windows were clean, the floor recently swept, the pantry full. Only her youngest, her daughter, was home. Today being Friday, Michael was probably out at a happy hour after getting out of his last class at the community college. He wouldn’t be home till late, she must remember to keep the porch light on, to pour a little more generously her husband’s wine at dinner. Jim made no effort to give his son a break, and in fact made great effort to do the opposite. Like many sons and fathers, Eileen understood. But no point in both of them losing sleep waiting for Michael to sneak in, and no point in the whole family having their Saturday breakfast marred by Jim’s passive aggressive questions about what time Michael got home. Better she dealt with a snoring Jim and then a hung-over Jim than having everyone sulking. Ginger was getting in the habit of defending her brother. Or she was just getting better at getting involved in fights. Eight years her brother’s junior, Ginger had some vague idea that being an adult meant yelling at her father. Ginger was probably laying about upstairs now, doing her best impression of Michael.

No matter how much her mother tried to enforce them, some priorities didn't stretch across generations. Ginger preferred sleeping in, naturally, but to her mother, it made no sense. It reeked of laziness. Ginger figured she probably was, in fact, lazy, but it didn’t bother her. She used to want to cook with her mom, she used to drag her little step-stool to the kitchen counter, clapping her hands and begging for some task. For her seventh birthday party, Ginger, per her mom’s suggestion, had a baking party. Instead of a cake, Ginger and her mother made four different kinds of dough for the second-graders to roll and shape. Eileen had outdone herself, providing homemade frostings, multi-colored sugar crystals, and all the candy ever sold that could conceivably go atop a baked good. Even Michael and Dad had helped, clearing out the kitchen and dining room to make room for the oversized craft table they had made for the day. Amy, Ginger’s best friend since second grade, had brought up that party again, just they other day, remembering it completely differently than Ginger. Amy made it sound like her mother was overbearing, bossing the girls around, encouraging the children to take greater pride in decorating and shaping cookies. Amy was probably right.

Once, when Michael first got his car, he took Ginger out for a drive. He told her she didn’t have to be like Mom. He told her, eight years old, a tiny thing with too big eyes and oddly pulled back hair, so she looked like she was all skull and eyes, that he’d love her no matter what. That no matter what Mom and Dad said or did, she could count on her big bro. Ginger hadn’t said anything at the time, she probably didn’t get it, she was so young. But despite the fairly wide gap between them, they were always close. Even when she tagged along, when she was four and still had a security blanket and seemed like such a baby, and his friends came over to play Nintendo and didn’t want a baby sister with her thumb in her mouth hanging around, even then Michael couldn’t bear to shoo her away. Most of the time, at least. Not because his dad told him to look out for his little sister, nothing to do with that, it wasn’t an obligation so much as a need. If his Dad wanted to think he had anything to do with Michael being a decent sibling, fine.

But Jim knew better. He knew that in his family, he was protected. His wife looked out for him more than she need to, his son avoided him more than he needed to, and his daughter was a fighter, despite Eileen’s claim that their youngest was passive. She was a rebel in the oldest sense, his Ginger. And in that way his two girls were alike. Give her a couple of years, and Ginger would be chopping apart whatever she wanted, be it vegetables or boys hearts. Jim knew that. He wondered about himself, worried about himself, more than about his surprisingly self-sufficient family. At any rate, dinner was ready. All he had to do was eat it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Royal We

Write a 600 word first-person-plural narration of an event from the POV of a very close-knit couple. Do not use the first person pronoun I in this exercise. The reader should be unable to discern which of the two is telling the story. Narration tempered by two ways of seeing the world alters every rule of narration we know instinctively.

Read my response:

First. We were both standing outside, Angie on her cell, Eddie just staying next to Angie. We were just standing there, minding our own business, when we saw it. It may or may not have been an UFO. Well, we can't identify it, so it was unidentified, at least. It looked like it was flying. We aren't sure if its an object, though, cause it might have just been light. Or it could be little green men in a spaceship. Anyone's guess is as good as ours. We were a little drunk, we should add, Angie at about four beers and Eddie at about eight. Plus we took a shot--that may have been after the UFO. Anyway, we are both a little tipsy, standing there, looking at the sky, when we we see this glowing orb, white with a row of green across the middle of the orb. We immediately turned to look at each other, and yes, we both saw it. And when we turned back it was gone. We didn't say anything for a bit, we just looked at each other. We were trying not to sound crazy. Then we both started talking, all at once, stumbling over each other to say the same things. Mainly that it was bizarre, and probably aliens. Everyone has seen fireworks, airplanes. Those are identifiable. And this wasn't anything like that, this was different, and we were both there, we saw it and thought like one person, unsure of what we saw until certain the other one had seen it too, and even then. We both thought alien. Mind you we were a little drunk, and maybe we smoked a little pot too, but way earlier. So, second. We both start running. We started running to the ocean without saying anything to each other. Angie taking off her shoes, Eddie taking off his shirt. Angie taking off her shirt, Eddie taking off his shoes. Next thing we knew we were waist deep in the water. In February. Neither of us could tell you what came over us. It was as sudden and instinctive as looking at each other after we saw the glowing green and white orb. We just ran and got naked and got in the water in February on a public beach in front of a busy bar. And just as suddenly--well. We tried. It was too cold for that though. We both wanted to but some things don't work in the cold. We got out right away and got dressed and we didn't really say anything to each other, we just put our clothes on and walked back into the bar. Third. We couldn't tell anyone really properly right away. Everyone wanted to know why we were soaked. And why we were acting so weird. But even we didn't know, we wanted to ask each other the same questions. So we told everyone “Angie dared Eddie” and “Eddie dragged Angie in with him and we took turns embellishing (except for certain parts of Eddie). We made it some other story that didn’t really happen, we made it all up, because it sounded better but also because it was easier. Finally, fourthly. We were standing out there, and we saw a light, and suddenly we were naked. But most importantly we can read each other’s minds. That’s what we’re trying to explain, that was what was so crazy. Crazier than UFO’s or skinny dipping in February, its that we know what the other is thinking. That’s what happened when we were standing outside.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Write part of a story in the form of journal entries (700 words). Keep all the entries close together in time (within a week or two). Everything that happens in the story will most likely happen between the entries; make sure your readers can see the events offstage, but also present your journalist's blind spots.
(from prompt #5 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Every night is so different but the cycle has become more familiar. Like the days but more intense. Tonight was so much like a play, we each had our own hidden plate of sorrow to eat from, and then CRASH! we throw them in the air and hit ourselves and retreat to dark corners to lick the crumbs. It was at such a high, with so many different conversations, right before Ashley fell on the table and half full cans flew and spilt and made a huge mess and then all the undercurrents of what we were trying to ignore rose to the surface. Nothing was solved but everything was blamed. Poor everyone. Ashley crying and Emma caring for her but not about her, Jordan at Emma's side, Heidi talking and talking, Katie and my brother agreeing with each other, mostly about me, little Kim not pushing or being pulled, Katie's home all lit up on her mean dark street, Ashley still crying, Heidi still talking. I can't see myself, thankfully, I don't like where I am and sometimes you can forget about how you make the picture look, you just know what fits and what doesn't, but you can't also know that about yourself.

Caffeine addled alcoholic manic depressive desperate girls blinded by accidents with glitter. Vanity isn't stressed enough as a vice, as a deadly sin, faces don't realize they are being spited, or we don't realize we've shot ourselves in the foot, strawberry sundaes at 2:30 AM taste too good, smiles last too long, too short. I could have lied I'm such a fool my eyes could never ever keep their cool, collections of short stories left out at a party to read in the bathroom, critics raves too good, too intelligent to resist, vain imaginings of raves for my name burn a hole in the bookshelf, my books. Books like Hemingway said, write what is true. No windy introductions, said Stephen King. I wish I could write so well. Kurt Cobain filled so many journals, Edna St. Vincent Millay too. Everyday.

Kim left for college.
Here is how Heidi said goodbye: "Okay Kim! I have to go to the bank! I'll miss you so much! Later!" and hugs her and walks out the door.
Here is what happened with Katie and Kim, how they said goodbye:
(Kim and Ashley-not virgins)
(Me, Emma, Katie-virgins)
Before Emma, Katie says: "Half virgins, half non-virgins!" Emma and I update the count, Katie goes "Oh yeah! Virgins could kick the non-virgins asses!"
Ashley doesn't want her ass kicked and makes a growling noise and gives Katie a dirty look. Then Katie says: "Nevermind! Ashley is too tough!"
I say: "Ashley's tough, but Kim's a pushover?"
Katie: "No...well...oh...nevermind..."
I say: "What?"
Katie: "Well, thinking about how she lost her virginity, she kinda is a pushover..."
Kim doesn't say anything. Me and Ashley defend her loudly, Katie says all these empty protests, like, that's why I didn't want to say anything. Like we begged it out of her.
So we're keeping it light, laughing and stuff, and Kim says: "Remember how we thought you were retarded when you were little? You were dumb!" And so on. But instead of all of us being involved, it gets to be primarily Kim and Katie saying you're dumb, you're retarded.
Katie taking it personally: "I really was retarded when I was younger!"
Kim: "And now you're just not?"
Kim: "No, I'm not."
On and on, Katie as a special ed kid.
Then, Kim: "So being ugly was never a factor?"
Katie bursts into tears as everyone, out of desperation, bursts into laughter. Neither apologized. That was that.
This how I said goodbye to Kim: I cried and I hugged her and I told her we'd visit soon.

The Unstable Self

Write a 500 word story that alternates between the I and the he or she (the name of the narrator), making sure you don't confuse reader with the switches. Look for the musical sound of abrupt self-transcendence.
(from prompt #4 in The 3 AM Epiphany)
Read my response:

I get up at 4:00 in the morning. It’s refreshing. Every evening I say to myself, I will wake up at 4:00 and I will bound up out of bed with joy in my heart and light in my soul. I have no idea what it means but it sure works better than before. I used to be one of those glum folks, snoozing her life away, like a horse about to be put out to pasture. Figuratively speaking. Kill me now. One of those women.

I know I’m one of those people other people talk about. What is she on, that’s what people wonder. Or ask outright, like just cause I’m chipper I haven’t suffered enough. She sure is smiley, she must be some spoiled bitch and she must have lived a charmed life. Listen, that is bullshit: have you ever met a spoiled bitch that smiles? The “bitch” part gives you a clue. The “bitch” part means no.

I know. I used to look at life like it was fucking my boyfriend and giving me the finger at the same time, like I haven’t got anything to offer and I might as well accept it. Like I might as well go under a bridge and shoot heroin and offer my body for a score and all the rest. But I didn’t go under a bridge ever, or jump off one. Instead I wake up uncomfortably early, and for that, well. I hear the whispers.

I might bake a cake before the sun rises. I might have a perfect ass because I run 3 miles every morning. I might get to work early and I might get a raise. I might have a beautiful smile because I practice it a lot. I might, but does that make me a demon?

She’s nuts. She must never relax. She’s probably never had an orgasm. She’s scary.

First: everyone is. Second: only when I’ve earned it. Third: I don’t just practice smiling. Finally: not as scary as a junkie whore living under a bridge.

I get up at 4:00 in the morning. I used to be a different woman, and I didn’t care for her. She didn’t have joy in her heart or light in her soul. And her hair was dull and her ass was wide. I remember this woman, and I feel bad. I feel bad I was that woman. She didn't have much to offer except: she offered me. She's who I am, and she's remembered every morning. In fact, every morning I wake up, like a chipper nutcase with a perfect ass and shiny hair, she gets put out to pasture. Figuratively speaking.

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