Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Use a particular and fairly vivid piece of clothing to tell a story. What does clothing say about us? How does it select us, as opposed to being selected by us? What do clothes hide? What do they reveal?
(from prompt #21 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:
Heavenly Blue
"Heavenly Blue" by tata aka T

I am blue and two pieces. My stitching shows, the thread is a contrasting shade of blue on blue. A tiny bird, mid-flight, is on my left side, just above the heart.

I am all about tits and ass; I am a collection of strings to tie the two, or three, together. The four if you want to be honest.

He bought me for $40 just before going to Mexico. He picked me out, ran his fingers along the back of the ass and checked the size. XS stands for extra small, he was told if he found that to get it, and so he did. I was his as much as I'd ever be. I don’t know how much thought went it all, into purchasing me, because it was all taken care of quickly and without a lot of talk. The important thing was that I fit, and I did.

That’s why I was kept, even after he left. I go well with lots of things. I look good with a white skirt on a hot summer day. As subdued as I am, a dark navy, I do not go unnoticed. I turn heads, I am small but hardy, I cover what’s to be covered without letting go. I do not get loosed no matter how strong the wave. But I am best and most effective in the sun.

Since that spring, four or five years ago, I’ve been to Mexico a few more times. I’ve been to San Francisco, I spent a little time in Colorado and Arizona. I’ve been taken off by different hands, quickly pushed about, slowly unknotted, mischievously pulled from behind. The same two hands always put me back, always tie me up with a bow.

The first time I was used, I didn’t get wet. I was put on, and he—the guy that bought me—smiled appreciatively, said I looked great, asked if I was okay. He was nervous: he’d never done that for a girl before. Lucky I worked out, otherwise there’d have been some trouble in Mexico, and not just at the beach. But he did a good job with me. When I did eventually get in the water, it was supremely satisfying; I’d had some time to adjust, being worn about town under clothes and by myself, sunbathing. So when I went all the way in, at the beach, I was already comfortable; I could enjoy body-surfing in the waves without concern for how I looked, without wondering if I’d fall off or come undone.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the water now, hot tubs and hotel pools and lakes and even river rafting. I’m surprised I’ve held up this long, but I guess that’s the test of quality: I’ve gotten better, more adaptable without losing any of my strength. I’m cut simply, but well. Like I said, I hold up well. Especially the tits.

As long as I’ve been around—relatively speaking, as my kind don’t last long, four or five years is an eternity—I know that I’ll be done soon. There’ve been good times, I’ve had fun, but soon I’ll be replaced with something more demure, a little thicker; bands and straps instead of strings. I go out less as it is, and I’m stretched out.

If I’ve been provocative yet tasteful, functional yet fun and all the rest, then I can retire proudly, with my stitches showing and with wings spread over the heart.

Colors Commentary

Yellow and red
"Yellow and Red" by lrargerich

Two things: colors, and a situation with which I am already very frustrated. I first thought of red and blue as my colors, and situations with which I am already frustrated seemed initially to be out of the question as fodder for fiction. I didn't want to invite speculation about who or what I was writing about, or why. So it was sort of surprising to sit down and start writing and within like, three words use yellow as a color and my own frustrations as the character's.

The frustrating situation is not moving, not rising to action, feeling blocked in and limited. Red, interestingly, has several connotations in popular culture, and a lot of them are opposite. One implication is passion: you burn with passion, it lights you up, there is inspiration, movement, action, fueled by passion. Another implication is stop: red light, stop sign, access denied. Meanwhile, yellow is mellow: it can spring up lightly like a flower or piss away slowly like piss. Strong emotions aren't connected to yellow, but a lot of other things are. So for this exercise, red was always connected to the girl: on her lips, on her feet, in her hands. Her passion, her lust for life, showed up chapped, scuffed up, fading out like the flame in a cigarette. Yellow isn't a strong color, but if it keeps popping up in little ways it can create an overwhelming effect, like a yellow car with yellow lights driven by yellow hair. What kept the girl trapped, getting in and out of her car, starting her engine multiple times without going anywhere, was her own stupidity. (Stop parking there if you are getting parking tickets!) Finally what keeps her from leaving is red, and its her own lack of fuel, the last of which she probably burned starting and restarting her engine.

Writing this was fun, because of the challenge of repeating two colors almost to the point of inanity, of finding multiple ways to inject these colors, of figuring out synonyms when what I mean is red and yellow. I had to stop in the middle of writing it, and during that pause, driving around, EVERYTHING in the whole world was red and yellow. Everything, I saw red and yellow everywhere. So that was fun; I kept thinking, and then the girl can go to McDonalds! And get in the exit only lane! And yield! And also stop! At stop signs! And stop lights! And brake lights! And then she can get pizza! It was interesting to get back to writing it, because I felt like there wasn't enough of these two colors. I thought, while she is stuck in a parking garage, there is a world of yellow to interact with. I felt bad about every sentence I wrote for this that didn't include a primary color, which explains the extended sentences. It was also interesting to symbolize my frustrations, and to think about them in the abstract.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one overall; in some ways I am thinking that not much happened, in some ways I am thinking that was the whole point.


Write an exercise in which you repeatedly use two different primary colors. Describe these colors without naming them too often—and try to find effective synonyms for the colors without being too obvious about this disguise. Repetition of anything alien to the human elements of a story is bound to influence the way the story sinks into the reader's mind. How would red and yellow, appearing over and over again in drapes, carpets, clothes, handmade ashtrays, or toilet bowls, affect you as a reader? If you know anything about the meaning or symbolism of colors, choose your pair of hues well to play off emotions against each other. Apply this exercise to a situation with which you are already very frustrated.

(from prompt #20 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:
icetea fantasy
"icetea fantasy" by shikeroku

She took the yellow envelope off her windshield and tossed it in her glove compartment without opening it. Two more manila envelopes already sat in there. She mentally added and subtracted money from her life and then, biting her lip and tasting flakes of chapping Devilicious lipstick, she took out her cell phone and went to the bouncing, sunny calculator icon. The keys lit up a dim gold in the cab of her car and she jumped a bit at the light reflected in the rearview mirror. She added and subtracted and started delving into fantasy holding down the glowing yellow zero. After a minute, with the phone still flipped open, she put her head down on her steering wheel and stared at the black skids on her red heels. She tried to muster up energy but didn’t move her forehead, even putting her keys in the ignition and letting the radio play while she stared down at her scuffed up ruby slippers; there’s no place like home, even when home is the last place you want to be, she thought. Until she realized that she had tears in her eyes listening to “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” then she sat up, wiped her eyes, pushed herself out of her stupid mood, and started her car.

Suddenly motivated to get going, she put the car into reverse and backed out without looking behind her, where a little VW Beetle, bright as an egg yolk, was double-parked with blinking piss-colored warning lights. She slammed on her brakes and the brake light glared angry red at the Beetle less than an inch away. She did not miss the irony of her predicament as she eased her car back into the spot and reached for her fire engine lighter and a cigarette. She got out of her car, slammed the door behind her, and leaned against the fender watching the warning lights blink on and off. The dim fire at the end of her cigarette inched closer to the filter; she flicked it, stamped it out, lit another.

Three Devilicious tinged butts lay around her feet when she reached for her phone to call a tow truck. Instead she half wrote a text message twice, then got back in her car and turned on the dome light, illuminating the interior with enough of an amber glow to reapply her Devilicious lipstick and to notice her bloodshot eyes peering back from the vanity mirror. She took out the three manila envelopes and thought about putting them on the blinking Beetle and maybe getting a beer. Adding it up in her head, she accepted that she could not afford a beer, but rationalized this thought against the fact that she was stuck and might as well knock herself out while down, so she got out of the car again, clutching her saffron purse. Hell, why not just get a Bloody Mary, she thought. She could just taste it, thick spicy tomato juice, when the blonde came running towards her, keys in hand, calling out apologies. She waved it off and got back in her car for what felt like the hundredth time, started her engine, and realized, thanks to a pulsing red icon, that she was out of gas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Comment

I find the stories behind stories interesting; looking at a photograph, thinking about what it shows, and how, but also why was it taken? Why did the photographer stop and pose this, structure that, capture anything? Was she trying to demonstrate the bleakness of American life in the midst of the dust bowl? Trying to draw a parallel between dust and human mortality? Or just take a picture of a striking woman, because she's there, and her image, in whatever way she is interpreted, has meaning, and seeing it, the photographer had an inclination, obligation even, to share her image? And in music: where did that line come from? How did that particular sound come about?

It's partly curiousity, a genuine wonder about the artistic process: simple luck, 10,000 hours of practice, a concscious effort to create this effect or emotion, a mindful manipulation of expectation? And it's partly knowledge, a history with creating, a shared experience; I know that sometimes things come about in unlikely ways, from the stories I've heard and from the stories I have myself.

But in starting this blog, initially I took the opposite approach: here are circumstances, and you can see the result. Like Jeopardy, a little bit. "These things: don't use first person pronouns in a first person narrative" and I say "What is The Reluctant I?" by writing and posting. Which is interesting, at least to me, because it's my writing, but there isn't any dialogue. We need Alex Trebek to mediate between answer and question and we like to know who these people are that are providing the questions. And while the question they provide relates to the answer, it isn't the only answer for a question like "Who is Theodore Geisel?" or "What is Honduras?" And of course, while the question relates to the answer, there are still more questions that have meaning.

So, while I will continue to respond, in order, to the prompts provided by Brian Kiteley in his book The 3 AM Epiphany, I will also post my thoughts on the process, to share how I approached the prompt, what I was trying to do in my response, etc., when it seems relevant.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Canned Film Commentary

'The Blind Assassin' -- Margaret Atwood
"'The Blind Assassin'--Margaret Atwood" by Karol M

Lately, it seems like every book I've read is about to be made into a movie. (Well, I read the "Soon to be a Major Motion Picture!" edition of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, so that's on me, I guess.) Some of them, like Blindness and Memoirs of a Geisha, I had read and loved long before they had a page on IMDB. But with some of them, production details seemed to be springing up just as I was delving into the fictional world of the novel. Like The History of Love, and King Dork, which may not ever be made into films, anyway.

At any rate, and on a somewhat separate note, with certain books I read I can't help but cast the film. Sometimes, after I've put down an especially engrossing book for the evening, and I'm trying to fall asleep, I'll direct the film version in my head. Even before finishing the book; its a hobby of mine, in a way. I imagine the sets, and the scenes left out, and what technique the director could use to convey some abstract character quality.

I recently finished reading The Blind Assassin, and as I was reading I tried to imagine how the three different stories that are layered within the book would be conveyed. There is the present day character, an old lady, remembering her youth, the novel within the book, also called The Blind Assassin, and the story told between the two main characters.

For this prompt, even though it said "an imaginary film," I wanted to write what I imagined when I read The Blind Assassin instead of creating a wholly original film. I tried writing it several times, and kept using too many words. Also, I kept relying on an imaginary director magically telling the viewer that something happened, rather than on images, which is the whole point of this prompt. So I simplified the plot of the book, took some liberties manipulating the characters, and focused more on images.

It was still a struggle, and I'm not entirely happy with the end result. I wasted a lot of words with the main characters, and I sacrificed a lot of the plot for the introduction. Also, I found it difficult to conjure an animated world, a specific time period, and the effect of alternating scenes. Writing an abridged version of a very complex novel was hard too, and I worry that I cheapened the book by reducing it to the romance.

I do think the book would make a really cool movie, and I think it would be neat to use different film styles for the separate plots.

Canned Film

Write a very short synopsis of an imaginary film, as if writing for one of those video analogies—perhaps 10,000 Films in a Nutshell. Concentrate on images as much as you can in this summary of a plot or an interesting combination of images and time.
(from prompt #19 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:
"the headless lovers" by Cane Ludico Rosso

The film opens in black and white, with stock footage of the two main characters in their daily life, just before they meet. The woman, played by the ubiquitous leading lady of period pieces, Keira Knightley, is shown wearing pristine white gloves and dining with company at a banquet table, attended to by servants, which is neatly juxtaposed by the man (played by underrated Ben McKenzie), with dirty fingernails, jumping out of view of two slovenly matrons to eat an apple in a busted door frame.

When the two meet up at a greasy cafĂ©, the woman looks to the man, who ignores her and in fact walks out of the diner. After a beat, the woman gets up and follows the man to a closet-like room in a tenement building with laundry hanging out the windows. In the next scene, we see the two damp with sweat and half-clothed, and the woman is begging the man to tell her a story. As he talks about aliens living in a highly developed industrial society on an arid planet, haunted by ruby-lipped Zombie women and hunted by a nomad army, the camera pans out to the night sky and zooms into a full color, animated planet. McKenzie and Knightley’s voices interrupt each other, changing details in the animated cast. When she is offended by something, the animation pauses while an appropriate substitution is created collaboratively with McKenzie.

As the lovers continue to meet amid poverty and squalor, adding to the story the viewer sees literally animated, the man struggles to avoid imprisonment for arson, which the woman’s father framed the man for in order to collect insurance on his least profitable factory. Tension simultaneously builds between the nomad army and the insulated alien society, but before the woman is ready to leave her life of privilege for her lover, WWII claims the man, which we see amid the devastation in the science fiction story. Years pass, and the animated world begins to fade away, until finally, the animated priestess voiced by Knightley defies the Father figure, and begins to rebuild.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Write a short interior scene during which a TV is on. Let the words and images on the screen interact interestingly with the activity going on in the room. Your characters can be watching TV, or it can be background noise. Choose your TV show carefully to reflect an interesting aspect of the human situation you're also describing. TV is omnipresent in most of our lives. Write about how people talk around it, over it, or with the judicious use of the mute button. This is a subversive exercise—an attempt to make writers come to terms with the hypnotic, all-powerful medium fiction must take into account.
(from prompt #18 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

That Smashing Pumpkins' song, how does it go? Dead eyes, are you just like me? “By Starlight.” Cause her eyes were as vacant as the seas. I can't help thinking of it every time I see her.

"Doesn't she have dead eyes?" I say out loud.

"She does! You are so right!" Ashley says, laughing like I'm Jim Gaffigan and she's just inhaled nitrous oxide. I am not that funny.

"And Justin Bobby, Bobby Justin, whatever his..."

"Justin Bobby."

"Justin Bobby, then. What is his deal?”

“He is such a player! But Audrina keeps going back to him!”

“Well. Okay. Yes, he is an asshole, sure, but. He is not attractive, either. Like at all.”

“I know, right!”

“Does he have like, a golden penis? What is happening that more than one girl wants him so bad?”

“Like, I don’t know, that’s just how it is. Audrina loves him. But she tries to make him jealous, too, you know?”

Sometimes I feel out of the loop. Not in the way that I don’t know what’s going on. Just that I don’t react the right way, or the normal way. Also Ashley makes me feel old.

“What are you girls watching?” James comes back from the liquor store with a six pack of Hefeweizen, a six pack of Diet Coke, and some off brand of Vanilla Vodka.

Ashley springs up to hug James and to help unpack the groceries and make drinks and all of that. From the kitchen she yells out to me “Do you want a beer or a cocktail? I can make you what I’m drinking!”

I look over at James to roll my eyes, and he’s already looking at me with a smirk. I hate choosing sides. “Um. Yes. I’ll have what you are having.”

“Do you want a straw too? I have bendy straws!” She giggles, of course, after almost everything she says. James is having too much fun with this, he can see me tensing up, so I giggle too and sit up a little straighter.

“Yes! I love bendy straws!” I do, actually. Its just how often does that come up?

“So, what happened this week? Was a boy mean to some girls? Did Lauren cry?” James nudges Ashley. We settle back down on the couch, and Ashley and I balance the scene by sitting exactly the same, holding our diet and vodka cocktails with bendy straws (although hers is pink and mine is yellow) on either side of James, who messes up the balance immediately by leaning over and scooping Ashley closer to him. She rights her drink, which almost spilled, and adjusts, folding her body into his.

“Lauren didn’t cry. Audrina keeps saying how mean Justin Bobby is but she seems like she might actually get over him.” I say, surprising everyone.

“See, she likes it too. You’re the only one who doesn’t get it.” Ashley giggles adorably and looks over at me and holds up her glass; in unison, we say “Cheers!”

And all along, we knew we’d carry on, just to belong. It’s a really good song.


Use synesthesia in a short scene—surreptitiously, without drawing too much attention to it—to convey to your reader an important understanding of some ineffable sensory experience. Use sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. According to M.H. Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms, synesthesia is a description of "one kind of sensation in terms of another; color is attributed to sounds, odor to colors, sound to odors, and so on."
(from prompt #17 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

The boys sat on the curb, leaning into each other without touching, splitting a cigarette like a reverse conch shell, in that whoever held the smoke also held his tongue. Cigarette in hand, head toward the ground, the taller one nodded along to the shorter one, who was speaking excitedly about a plot to sneak in. Add together the years the both of them had been alive and they were still barely legal, but on top of it, they looked guilty. Even if they were just sitting on a curb outside a club, “waiting for his mom to come pick us up,” they looked like they were up to something. And they were up to something, of course. No one believes two kids in skinny jeans, they don’t even believe each other half the time. That’s why they lie so much, no one would believe them anyway, might as well have fun while you’re as young as the night and as trouble prone. Inside the club, when the door opened to let someone in, they caught whiffs of what they were trying to get in to taste, dark syrupy music that wafted out smelling like cherry cough drops, overly sweet and yet just what they needed, just what they craved. Girls stood in line, peering in, catching the scent, shivering in clothes the likes of which the girls in school would have no idea what to do with. The boys stood up, finally, one throwing down the cigarette and the other rubbing it out with his shoe, black Chuck Taylors with potential band names written in ballpoint along the sides and on the white top of the toe. They took deep breaths, and if they knew no one would see they’d probably have held hands out of mutual, nervous support. Support for each other and for the general idea of the night. When they did get caught, and his mom had come to pick them up, the taller one cupped his hand anyway, as if waiting for someone to hold it. His mother couldn’t believe it—no one ever does—and so they found themselves retelling the story to the wrong kind of audience. And yet, though she wouldn’t admit it to anyone, scarcely even to herself, she was impressed, just like kids at school would be. How on earth does a twelve year old convince a club bouncer that they are the DJ’s roadies? How do they convince girls, or rather, adult women, old enough to drink, that they have highly contraband drugs? How did any of these things occur to a child, who just last year was posing with his little sister on the Easter Bunny’s lap at the mall, wearing a baby blue sweater vest and talking eagerly about hunting for eggs? Without any showy displays of vulnerability (the last person who can see you reaching for the hand of your best friend is your mother) the taller one tried, unsuccessfully, to sulk. He was buzzed, from the sips of cocktails he’d swiped and from the rush of doing something he’d set out to do. Inside had been just as exciting as plotting had been outside, the music just as sweet and dark and the air as dank. The shorter one sat in the backseat, relieved (for once) that his mother couldn’t be reached, but just as relieved someone’s mother had been. Without the cops involved, he could remember the night, untarnished, every time he sat smoking a cigarette, long after his best friend had left him.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Paintings

This is another version of Two Images Separated at Birth. Write a story that is an attempt to bridge two photographs or paintings...As in the previous exercise, use two distinct and unrelated paintings or photographs by two artists...that are very dissimilar. The key to this exercise is to study two images very carefully, taking notes on what you see, long before you've come up with any ideas about the story that might grow out of the two images.
(from prompt #16 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

If he could be anything, he supposes he’d be just what he is; no King enjoys the solitude he does, no King has his view. So what if he does it forever, so what. So what if his life amounts to this, suspended in the sun, one arm holding the ladder keeping him steady, his other arm in motion, whitewashing above the city. His work keeps him lean, keeps him strong; it wears him down, sure, but life does that too and doesn’t pay for the privilege. If he could be anything, he used to say, he used to know, he’d be an actor. He had the looks, the ladies said, and even out at the bars the boys all called him pretty boy. And that’s how much he used to know, which is nothing, and even now. No need to know what’s being kept from you if you already know you got what you need, his mother used to tell him and his brothers. She said it when she left for the evening, when they were boys, and she meant it to mean, don’t follow me. She meant it to mean, ignorance is bliss. And if he ever has a son he’ll tell him the same. With a view of the city, he sees it crumble. He sees too much. Painting suits him better than acting, painting is constructive. In his youth, when he was young enough to believe in realities other than the one, he thought acting was about control. An actor—especially on screen, blown up like the truth—portrays a set world, a world that’s been written and rehearsed and constructed, with cuts and edits and better angles. But painting, the construction industry, that’s control he can measure, control he can use. He coulda been a lot of things…how’s the song go? He coulda been a book the way people study his looks. It’s better to be the one who studies how things look, he decides from where he stands.

As for her, she could have been an actress too, the way she lies. He doesn't care what she tells her man. He called out to her, the way they all do, shouting at the woman, to feel like a man as much as anything else. She turned around, looked him straight in the eye, then turned back around and kept on walking. She does that, she conveys so much with her eyes, it’s what makes her lies so convincing. She shudders thinking what she might be capable of, seeing Joan Crawford in the theater. Nobody told her this was a horror movie. Nobody told her that a guilty conscience, like a psychotic mother, can attack at any time, you're never ready. The theater is cold enough that her shudders are not out of place. Her man is next to her and attentive, he leans to put a steadying arm around her, and it’s too much. She murmurs dear, and just a moment; with the dark and the silence, her dishonesty is blatant, but she doesn’t want to address it. She stumbles, apologizes, brushes kneecaps with her thighs, bows her head and blinks back tears until finally she is out of the aisle. Once in the hallway, in the light, she leans on the wall and is relieved to find it doesn’t lean away. She thinks if she ran off with her other man, her painter, how long until she died out of self-disgust. Now in the hallway, away from the crowd, her blue blouse feels comforting, long sleeves that warm her arms. She should go back in and sit next to the kind attentive man, or head outside, find her painter, but she does neither. She stays right where she is, relieved to be the only one in her company.

Two Images Separated at Birth

Think up a vivid, haunting image (a picture in one frame that tells a great deal of story). Work hard to construct this image so that it is not only visible to the reader but exciting and thought-provoking. Then think up another unrelated but equally vivid image. Work at composing two unrelated images, two scenes or situations you do not think are part of any story. Then write a 600 word story fragment out of the two images.
(from prompt #15 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Crowd is to Disneyland as rain is to Seattle. Everything takes so very long, and it is unsettling to realize what humans are willing to put up with in the name of having a good time. In addition to crowds in line for Thunder Mountain, crowds in line at the churro cart, and crowds in line in the Frontier Store Souvenir shop, there is a crowd gathered around the face painting booth. There is a murmur that there is a Make-A-Wish Foundation little girl, and like a car accident, everyone wants to see how bad it is. A little girl, about three, sits on a barstool with her feet tucked under her for added height. The span of her legs from knee to toe is still less than the diameter of the round wooden seat. She is completely bald, and it’s the lack of eyebrows that confirms the rumor. She looks like the poster child for a sympathy driven fundraiser, and also a little alien, with eyes that take up her whole face. The white face paint makes her eyes stand out more, and then there are red polka dots on her cheeks, exaggerated red lips, orange triangle eyebrows, and finally, a little black polka dot on her nose. The crowd oohs and awws at the patience the little girl demonstrates, like she is sitting for a portrait painting by Michelangelo. She doesn’t blink at the gathering crowd, or turn her head to acknowledge them, or smile at the pictures being taken. The face painter respects the little girl’s concentration, and mimics it by likewise ignoring the crowd. The two, painter and painted, make up their own little ring in the center of the circus around them, and despite the number of people in the Happiest Place on Earth, there is a somber hush.

Behind the little girl, her parents blend in with the crowd of concerned adults holding cameras and camcorders. The father long ago took it upon himself to be chief photographer, and while now his daughter is his most remarkable subject, she wasn’t always and won’t always be. He bought the camera, his favorite camera, when he was a kid, eighteen or maybe nineteen, from a pawn shop in Seattle. He went there as a tourist, which is to say, to see a girl. He hadn’t ever been to a pawn shop, or to the west coast, and as boy growing up in the Midwest both had seemed as unlikely a place to go as the moon. But there he was, buying a camera in a pawn shop in Seattle, with an old man behind the counter and a dark sky dimming the shop’s interior. There was no else in the shop, just a skinny white kid running his fingers over lenses, leather cases, flash attachments, tripods, all more involved than anything he’d had in mind. He had a pack of cigarettes in his back pocket and he reached for them, lit one, then thought to offer one to the old man behind the counter. The old man sat fat and cruel in his chair, his thighs hanging off the thin plastic edges of a low seated chair with insufficient back support. The back panel of the chair was like a little black stamp on a wide, overstuffed envelope. He grunted and adjusted his whole body to uncross his arms, and he accepted the cigarette, and the light, with a nod. The skinny man stood leaning against the pawnshop counter, all limbs, smoking a cigarette and considering the investment he was making by buying a photographer’s camera, while behind him, behind the counter, the fat man sat and cynically considered the likelihood of his customer using the camera for anything more than pictures of pretty girls.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Ideas, But in Things

Write a very brief story (300 words) told only in images--concrete, simple, visually efficient movements and details. This exercise does not ask you to eliminate people from your prose, just to watch what they do and what objects they crave and caress rather than what they say or think about these objects and actions.
(from prompt #14 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Boxes of detergents line a shelf hung above a row of washing machines. Two boxes of Tide, Sunny Meadow scent and Fresh Spring Rain, take up the most space. A bottle of All Small & Mighty rests on top of one washing machine. Five quarters go into this washing machine's slot. Inside the machine are two wifebeaters, thirteen elastic-banded socks, a flat sheet, two pillow cases, three boxers, a crewneck undershirt, a t-shirt from The Killers' Hot Fuss tour, a thong, and a lace cami with a built-in bra.

Four chairs flank the windows to the left of the door. In the second seat from the door, there is book of Sudoku puzzles, a pen, and a woven coin purse with orange, red, yellow, and green stripes and $4.75 in quarters. In the third seat from the left there is a boy sitting with his elbows on his knees, rotating a cell phone held by his right hand's thumb and forefinger. His left foot taps unevenly, between six and eight taps every ten seconds.

The machine with the All Small & Mighty buzzes. The boy grabs a metal cart and takes everything inside the washing machine, puts it in the metal cart, and wheels the cart from the washing machine to the row of dryers. The boy pulls his cell phone out of his pocket, looks at it, notes the time, puts it back in his pocket. He puts all of the clothes in the metal cart into the dryer, plus one sheet of Downey Soothing Lavender fabric softener. Six quarters go into the coin slot for this dryer.

The boy sits down on the third chair from the left and picks up the book of Sudoku puzzles and the pen. He puts down the book and takes his cell phone out of his pocket and flips it open, goes to the Dialed Calls screen, then flips it closed. He opens the phone, goes to the Received Calls screen, then closes his phone.

The buzzer rings for the dryer. The boy grabs the All Small & Mighty Detergent, the Downey Soothing Lavender fabric softener, the coin purse, and his laundry hamper that holds two wifebeaters, thirteen elastic-banded socks, a flat sheet, two pillow cases, three boxers, a crewneck undershirt, and a t-shirt from The Killers' Hot Fuss tour. The book of Sudoku puzzles and the pen remain in the laundromat with the boxes of Tide and other leftover objects.


The spectrum of narrative perspectives goes from benighted, flawed, unreliable first-person narration to godlike omniscience--all-knowing understanding of everyone's thoughts and deepest motives. But God's POV is also, presumably, a first-person narration--or perhaps God speaks occasionally in the royal we or the second-person plural. What would God see? How would God know a very ordinary set of events--or how could mere human readers see all that a god (let alone God) sees? Since God should know how to be efficient and get right to the point, do this exercise in only 200 words.
(from prompt #13 in The 3 AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

My Charge, within an isolated system, will always remain constant regardless of any changes taking place within that system. Within the system, My Charge may be transferred between bodies, either by direct contact, or by passing along a conducting material, such as words or prayers. Static occurs with the imbalance of My Charge on a body, usually caused when dissimilar materials are rubbed together, transferring My Charge from one to the other.

The presence of My Charge gives rise to a powerful force: My Charges exert a force on each other. The force acts on the charged beings themselves, hence My Charge has a tendency to spread itself as evenly as possible over all areas capable of conducting the force.

The magnitude of the powerful force, whether attractive or repulsive, elates the powerful force to the product of My Charges and has an inverse-square relation to the distance between them. The powerful force is very strong, second only in strength to strong interaction, but unlike that force, it operates over all distances, all time, all eternity.

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