Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chaos Follows

Write a set of short scenes in which confusion or chaos follows a character, as if in his wake. The character does not cause this, knowingly or unknowingly, but disorder nearly always happens after he has left a room, an intersection, or an elevator. This should not be magic. Imagine an exotic wake, but try to make these effects and aftereffects grow naturally out of the character you're describing.
(from prompt #34 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

"Grass" by Robyn Gallagher

Everyone had just eaten dinner when Georgie came home, so she went to the counter to pick garbanzo beans out of the salad with her fingers while her mother collected dishes.
“Why don’t you get a plate, honey?”
Georgie rolled her eyes and picked out two more garbanzo beans and a chunk of feta, leaning onto the counter and balancing on one leg so that her butt stuck out. Her mother could see her phone light up in her back pocket, and said so. Georgie took out the phone with another eye roll and walked out of the kitchen whispering and cupping her hands around her phone and mouth.
“That girl,” her mother said, to no one in particular. Georgie’s father walked into the kitchen with a beer and rubbed his wife’s back.
“It’s just a stage,” he said, and she leaned back into him. He set down his beer, to put both arms around her, and her elbow brushed the bottle as she turned around to face her husband.
“Oh God!” and she bent to pick up the shards. Even as he cautioned her to be careful, she split open her palm and cursed. She bit her lip but cried anyway when traces of salad dressing that had been on her hand got in the wound. The tears fell out of embarrassment, and pain, and from something else, vague and unformed, buried in her since she’d become a mother. They fell and blended with the blood and beer, which gathered in little lakes in the uneven kitchen tile and ran, muddied, in miniature rivers in the grout.

Upstairs in her bedroom, Georgie hung up the phone and opened her window. She swung her legs over and sat on the sill smoking a cigarette, flicking ash onto her father’s lawn and kicking her heels against her home’s exterior. After a bit she flicked the cigarette out and watched the ember die before hopping down two stories by way of the first floor’s eave. She snuck out the usual way, through her neighbor’s yard, and she threw the cigarette butt she had picked up in her neighbor’s trash on her way out. The noise disturbed the visiting dog of her neighbor’s in-laws, and the yipping beast startled the family’s three year old. He had just been put to bed, minutes past wakefulness but not quite asleep, and the dark barking brought him running in complete terror to the living room. His parents, having gone to shush the dog, weren’t there, just a chair rocking in his mother’s absence and a deep indent where his father had been on the couch. The little boy stared out the window into his backyard, where the damp grass still held the shape of Georgie’s footprint, and in his confusion thought he was the only person alive in the whole world.


  1. Oh, I love this! I decided to read your story first; then I went back and read the prompt. You did a wonderful job of making a story out of it. I felt so sad for the little boy. I hate waking up, already feeling scared, and then things seeming not quite right. Also, I like that you included what I think of as "a mother's pain" after the beer bottle falls. You elaborated on it just enough to create swirls of thoughts for the reader but it didn't feel sidetracked from the main focus (daughter's chaos creating) = even though daughter's chaos is partial cause to mother's pain. I suck at commenting! Maybe you'll know what I'm trying to say.

    I really took notice at how well you developed your characters' personalities through their actions:
    snobby daughter poking out her butt, rolling eyes, the privacy of phone calls. the comforting, very relaxed beer drinking husband putting his arms around his wife to keep her from stressing out, etc...
    All those little details make the characters very real!

    Anyways, great read!

  2. I really enjoyed this one! Very nice indeed! I think im going to start reading your writing first. And then the prompt. Like Clark did for this one... Then I can enjoy the story as is and go back and pick it apart later. This may not work however because you usually tell me about the prompts before you write them.... Keep it up. I feel like each week is gettin better and better. and better.

  3. Clark-Thanks! Yeah, I felt bad for the little boy. I had meant to make it a little darker, actually, but felt too bad to pull the trigger and really scare the hell out of this tiny made-up character. But you don't suck at commenting, actually the opposite. I do suck at receiving compliments, but it really means a lot to me and makes me happy to get feedback on my writing, especially someone who writes and whose writing I likewise admire.

    Anonymous-Thanks as well! I have debated about posting story first and then prompt, but I feel like the stories are too long and the prompts work as a teaser. I hope each week is getting better and better. Or at least, not worse and worse. As long as I'm not regressing I am happy. But thank you, very much, for reading.

  4. Hmmm ... for me the prompt-first idea works. Like "e" said, it is sort of a teaser. This time, I was thinking that it would be too hard to follow the prompt without being all about the chaos. Success! you did it very well. I'm left with knowing Georgie, knowing her mom and dad, and feeling somewhat bummed about the poor little tyke. And enjoying simply reading the way you put words together!

  5. I accidently found this while googling for chaos, and got caught up in the story. I liked it a lot. Children do not realize the impact they have on those around them, you showed that really well. Good job. Will there be more about this family? Where was she going?


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