Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Create a smart character. Show us this person’s unusual intelligence. Write a fragment of fiction at the center of which is one character’s uncommon and somewhat visible intelligence. You’ll probably want to display this person’s intelligence by means of action rather than conversation. If you choose the latter method of indicating a character’s braininess, you should probably decide in advance if you want readers to like this intellect or fear it (or both). 600 words.
(from prompt #31 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

"Rubidoux" by Spencer Finnley

Instrument in hand, he creates a world much like the world around him. Earlier, while driving, the white headlights driving opposite him had disturbed him, and to avoid being blinded he trained his eyes to stare straight ahead, focusing his vision just enough that he remained aware of what occurred around him without being distracted by the brightness of the other vehicles. His gaze steadied, and he remembered that she could cry with blinking, a trait that she would probably say was indicative of cowardice: she’d insist that her open eyes were too afraid to close. He knows better than to tell her the obvious truth, that it is uncommon because it is hard, and hard because it takes a lot of courage to look at the world without blinking, never mind the tears. Telling her wouldn’t convince her, but anyway she needs to realize things like that on her own. Maybe someday he will tell her “la calma è la virtù dei forti,” calm is the virtue of the strong. Speak Italian to women, and he remembers the rest of Henry V’s line: Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse. He made a mental note to look up the year that Henry V said so, and he did, later.

He creates a world much like the world around him. Stuck in traffic, reminding him of her again, he turned down the radio and listened. Around him people sat still or fidgeted or talked or sang, all going somewhere, all contained in vehicles; he thought how we all are alone in this together, he thought how many tiny worlds we have, how inside each person inside each car is a tiny world, inside each car, freeway, town, state, country is a tiny world that is at once its own world and a part of the whole world. Synecdoche, he thought, and he allowed himself to be amazed at the miniature grandeur. He tried to keep the amazement as long as possible, to control his thoughts, to corral his active mind into a pen that was also its own tiny world. The traffic, heaving forward like an exhausted lover, calms him; he steadfastly refuses to be frustrated by anything constraining or restricting his forward movement, and instead believes the constraints strengthen him, challenge him. His thoughts, and the cars around him, come from all over and he enjoys creating a singular story from it all, even if the story is just “Move forward.”

Instrument in hand, he creates a world much like the world around him. He remembers, translates, experiences. From the road he remembered her, hummed a song. The science of it all: to create, for the sake of creation, he has to focus straight ahead; “those who are engaged upon the quest for anything for its own sake are not interested in other things…and the road to it is rough.” He tries to forget her but she is his own tiny world, and so instead he takes his instrument, the tool of his trade, and recreates her, as he remembers nothing else. Thoughts focused, gaze steady, he works without blinking to create a world without her in it but that is still her. He begins his story with all he has, which is memories and observations and loose sayings and half-recalled quotes, and the sensation of an instrument held in his hand.

He creates a world much like the world around him.

1 comment:

  1. this is very intelligently done, very much the middle paragraph. not enough people listen.

    the last part reminded me of the silliness that overwelms a man in love. women, gitty and even obsessive, but mostly reserved and secretive. men, like the end of every romantic comedy, must break their reserve and 'risk' themselves to prove their love.

    i'm not saying its a bad system, men pitted against each other or made to prove themselves. but your post reminded me it. maybe i'm wrong. but you got me thinking, thanks.


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