Wednesday November 10th, 2010

The exercise:

Let's give the random book prompt another whirl. Grab a book from your collection at random, and use its first line as the first line of your prose today (giving credit where it is due, obviously). Then go in a different direction than the book did - your own.

Writing is in progress. Update later.

Update: day ten. I am very tired. Good night.


The small boys came early for the hanging.

They did not do so to secure a spot in the front row. The adults would have just shooed them back home if they had.

Instead, they climbed to the top of the saloon which stood across the square from the wooden scaffold and remained there, bellies pressed flat against the roof, until the appointed time.

They had decided that if the law was going to hang their daddy, they were going to bear witness to it.

And then, one day in the distant future, they would exact their revenge on them all. The judge, the sheriff, the hangman. Every person in the square who cheered when the trap door fell open. They brought pencil and paper and wrote down the names. None would be forgotten. None would be forgiven.

None would be spared.


Heather said...

Marc- I loved the idea of the boys lying on their stomachs. The purpose for their presence, however, is unnerving.

Zhongming- Congrats on your One Minute Writer win!

My apologies. My husband has my netbook in Seattle, and with it, all the html codes I would typically use to post here. So, you'll have to look the book up through a quick search if you are curious.
From: Like Water for Chocolate

Take care to chop the onion fine.

Gloria looked at the instructions for the soup again. Bewildered, she pulled out a white onion and placed it on the cutting board. Her friend, Marcy, had said that it would seem ludicrous at times, but that the 12 step program for moving on really worked. Taking a deep breath, she picked up the knife and began to slice rings off the side of the onion. She felt the familiar sting in her eyes. Rinsing her hands, she wiped her eyes with a tissues. The tears were her least favorite part of cooking with onions.

She approached the lopsided onion on the cutting board and went back to work. The onion was particularly pungent. A few moments later, she pulled the sleeve of her shirt across her eyes to try to clear out the tears that had begun to well up. It was to no avail. Tears sprang up before she'd put her arm back down. Sniffling she went back to work on the onion.

Water streamed down her face as she methodically lifted the knife up only to push it back down. She twisted the onion as she had twisted the truth of why he had left her. The tears began to flow faster and her nose had started dripping. Quickly she rinsed her hands and walked across the room to the box of tissues. Picking up the box, she returned to the kitchen counter.

Marcy called forty-five minutes later. "Hello?" Gloria said through her sniffles from her spot on the floor.

"Gloria??? Are you okay? What are you doing?" Marcy asked, concern filling the long space that followed.

"I'm fine. I'm making the soup for tonight's meeting," she sniffled again, standing on her own two feet.

Marcy, full of understanding, nodded on the other end of the line. "And how is it going?" she inquired.

"Oh, about as well as anyone can expect I guess." Gloria picked up the half diced onion and threw it into the pot. "No one actually eats the soup, right?"

Greg said...

I paused when I saw you'd chosen the Pillars of the Earth for your first line -- it's being televised in the UK at the moment (possibly a BBC production, I've not really been watching it though my other half has). If the adaptation is reasonably faithful, then I would think it's a pretty good book!
I like the idea that those boys will be taking notes of all the people who turned up for the hanging, though they seem a little vindictive -- it was largely viewed as entertainment in those days, like going to the theatre now!

My book today shall be The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which is also well worth a read.

I told myself the spasms were involuntary, and they probably were. It didn't make it any easier to believe that he was dead though; with each twitch hope rose in my throat again. Finally Dr. Abendstern threw the huge knife switch, cutting the current, and I stuck the meat thermometer in his thigh. Mottled grey flesh parted only reluctantly, and the stink of formaldehyde, which I was learning to loathe, plumed into the air.
"94 degrees" I said. Dr. Abendstern nodded, leaning over him to check his pupillary reactions.
"We're getting some neural activity," she said. "I think we just need slightly more exudaphrine, and a bigger initial discharge."
She stepped back, sighed, and looked me in the eye. I noticed for the first time how tired she looked, how many more white hairs there were now, and how wrinkled the skin around her eyes had become.
"Are you sure you want to do this? You could at least let me fix things up a little...."
I was sure. When she was done resurrecting my son, he and I were going to visit the hit and run driver who'd done this, and I wanted the driver to recognise his handiwork.

Anonymous said...

@Marc - What a terrific idea for a prompt!
@ all - These were enchanting! Wonderful vignettes sprung from a single random line.

Anonymous said...

From: Skeleton Lake by Mike Doogan

“Just coffee,” Kane said.

With that, Bella placed an eggshell ceramic mug in front of the detective along with a matching dessert plate.

“Hey, what’s this?” he asked, eyeballing the crumb donut.

“Looks like you need a pick-me-up,” said Bella, filling his mug. “On the house.”

“Ah, babe, you’re always lookin’ after me, ain’t cha?” A third of the donut went missing with a single bite. He washed it down with a swallow of black coffee and wearily rubbed a palm against his right jaw.

“Looks from that 5 o’clock shadow that it’s been a day or two since you’ve seen a razor,” noted Bella, compassionately.

“Yeah. You wouldn’t happen to have a razor in that magic bag of yours now wouldya?”

“Sorry, Kane. Free donuts are all I got."

The detective frowned and demolished the rest of the sweet.

“I could lend you a steak knife for that shadow,” she winked.

“Ever the card,” Kane growled good-naturedly, gulping the rest of his coffee imagining it were his favorite whiskey.

“Speaking of blades, I’ll settle up quick tonight. There’s a stabbing at the ol’ Parker place that’s got my name on it.”

“Sounds like you won’t need that razor then after all,” winked Bella.

“Ever the card. Ever the card." Kane left with two things he hadn’t had coming in: a pocketed second freebie and his only smile of the night.

Anonymous said...

Whoops -- that first from the last paragraph should've read:

"Knife in someone's back? Sounds like you won’t need that razor then after all,” winked Bella.

Watermark said...

What a brilliant idea! I had so much fun with today's prompt - might even develop it later on!

marc: loved the imagery in your piece, especially of the boys taking notes. Brilliant!

heather: I remember watching the movie many years ago! I think I might hunt for the book :)

greg & allycat: enjoyed reading your pieces :)

Here's mine from "Maya" by Jostein Gaarder:

I will never forget the damp, windswept January morning in 1998 when Frank landed on the tiny Fijian island of Taveuni.

Most of us had been up for a large part of the night. The rain had been relentless, although many had taken the opportunity to indulge in a late night party despite the storm. It was no surprise to see the reception brimming with bleary-eyed tourists, those who were scavenging for that extra bit of good news about the weather and others who were submitting to a breakfast that seemed to be calling to them before its time. So no one paid attention to yet another visitor checking in to the resort. Frank stood at the counter, with suitcase in hand, the dark sunglasses he wore speaking boldly of a man who had something to hide; hardly befitting as a disguise.

“Good morning, sir. Welcome to Taveuni.”

“G’day. I have a reservation.”

Frank dug into his briefcase and handed Timi, the young man at the reception, a piece of paper while he drummed his fingers on the counter. It struck me as odd to bring along a briefcase to an island resort.

“Uhh, I’m sorry, sir, but there seems to be some mistake. Uhh..”

“I’m sorry?”

“This reference number, are you sure…”

“Of course, I’m sure! What seems to be the problem?”

“Your booking, uhhh, well I have no record of it.”

“Far out! I called and confirmed from the airport, twice!”

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s nothing…”

“Look, will you just check me into any of your available cabins, er, bures, will you!”

“I’m sorry sir but we’re fully booked and…”

Frank slammed his fist on the counter as the argument quickly got out of hand. He was slowly attracting a crowd around him and murmurs started spreading from the guests nearby. Timi was shuffling through papers with one hand and balancing a handset to his ear with the other, his brow heavy with sweat drops, while Frank continued to hurl abuse. By then I had decided that enough was enough and I walked up to the counter.

“It’s okay, Timi, he’s with me.”

“What?” roared Frank, flicking his head around.

There was a moment of silence as everyone else turned to look at me before the murmurs started again. I waited until the moment faded and very soon the crowd dispersed, making their way outdoors, I presumed – a more fitting distraction. Frank slowly took off his glasses and I could finally see the shock in his eyes, a twitch forming at the outer corner of his right eye. His mouth fell open as he fumbled for something to say but all he did was to follow me out.

Watermark said...

Ooops! Was a bit too long - sorry - might link to my blog next time!

Zhongming said...

All – I’m totally impressed in reading what you wrote! Excellent! :)

Heather – thank you! :)


Book title: Bird By Bird
Author: Anne Lamott

First line: “The first useful concept is the idea of short assignments.”

The idea is to get you think through what you’ve done. Try isolating yourself in the wild or somewhere quiet. Then give your mind the freedom to wander about. Stay in that manner for awhile. It will try it’s best to escape by showing you all the routes that it’s going to take. Now, pick up your pen and write what you’ve just saw in your mind. Go!


I went into the train and I saw someone that resembles her, my love. The memories of her started to flow into my mind. I literally feel like exploding when I remember about how we spent our time together. We’ve never really talk to each other most of the time. However, I treasure the quality time that we spent together.

On our first date, we scroll though a riverbank. I remember that there’re full of people surrounding “Ben & Jerry” stage performance. In the large field behind the stage, there’re full of kids playing in the field while their parents sit on their poncho. It’s like happy family outing for most of the families out there. I can only see joy and happiness all written in their face.

She looked absolutely gorgeous when she arrived. The image stayed in my memories for quite awhile before my greetings. I loved the way she dolls up and I further assured her that she looked outstanding.

After arriving at our destination, we sat down and have a heart to heart talk. The idea is that I want her to have the freedom to talk whenever she is happy or upset over something. I want her to know that it’s okay to express emotional feelings instead of bottling up things inside. It didn’t matter one way or another if she decided to vent her anger on me or cry over my shoulder. I’ll be glad to be even the smallest influence in her life.

Anonymous said...

@Watermark - @Watermark - May I make a suggestion. Pay attention to consistency of voice. Your piece is chiefly in the simple past voice. Then it jumps around into past continuous (i.e., “He was slowly attracting a crowd”) then back into simple past, creating a jarring effect, interruption of flow and uneven storytelling. Work on this and your writing will be improved. Hope that helps.

g2 (la pianista irlandesa) said...

Ah, this is one of my favorite exercises...

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. But they didn't mind; even if it wasn't pouring buckets beyond the window panes they probably wouldn't have taken their planned walk anyway.

They were otherwise occupied.

In this old townhouse, more the shell of one now, in the back he'd found some old tango records, and they managed to dig up and hold together a record player, and now here they were, dancing to a slow Argentine tango waltz, holding each other close.

Well, he was holding her close. She was just good at pretending to reciprocate.
- - - - - - - - - -
I've tango on the brain, but unfortunately I'm too exhausted to finish this at the moment. I'll see what I can do tomorrow.

summerfield said...

The Piano Man's Daughter - Timothy Findley

I had seen her just the day before - a day of pale blue skies and summer breezes. She sat on a white wicker chair propped underneath a huge multi-coloured beach umbrella in the middle of their grassy lawn. She wore large dark sunglasses, the kind where all you see was your own reflection and you'd never know if her eyes were closed or if she's looking at you. She placed two large adobe bricks beside her where she'd put down her book whenever she sipped at her large glass of iced tea, her dark curly hair falling on her face. She wore a white summer dress with tiny red polka dots with wide straps and low neckline and when she bent you could see her ample breasts.

Her husband (or, as people whispered about sometimes, her paramour, for they believed she wasn't married to him) came out from the house, holding a bottle of Miller Lite, walked the length of the lawn slowly saying something I couldn't make out before going back and sat on the grass in front of her. She lowered her large sunglasses and peered at him and put them back on, grabbing her book and putting it really close to her face. He yanked the book away and threw it against the white picket fence, hitting the coral red pansies. They yelled and from where I sat on my kitchen I heard her scream, "I hate you! I hate you!"

I saw him storm back inside their bungalow while she sat on her chair, her face buried in her hands, her shoulders shaking. She grabbed the glass of iced tea and threw it at the door where her husband disappeared to, wiped her face with the hem of her white dress and walked to the fence to retrieve her book.

It was a total shock then, especially to me, to learn that she had died just this morning when she stepped in the path of a speeding delivery truck right in front of their house.

marc, i am truly loving your jester story and you have this nasty habit of ending the day's entry leaving me wanting more.

last night i was at Toronto's Totally Unknown Writers' Festival where Monica Manning was one of the featured writers that's why i wasn't able to post my two haikus.

morganna said...

It's been a long day, so I have nothing to share, but I just wanted to say, Marc, that I really am starting to feel for Jerry -- he isn't fit for the task he's set before himself, but he's going to do it anyway, for love. Good job letting us know all this without explicitly saying so. And good job keeping up with NaNo, providing prompts here and writing something for them, and everything you do in your real life. Keep up the good work!

Marc said...

All - apologies for the short comments to follow. It's past bedtime.

Heather - fantastic creation from that one line. Loved it.

Greg - that was an excellent first line for you to work with. You did not disappoint.

Allycat - great characterization!

Watermark - thanks, glad you liked it :)

What an intriguing beginning! I would be happy to read more if you chose to continue it.

Zhongming - very nicely done.

g2 - hah, I love the twist on that opening line. More please!

Summerfield - that is a lovely first line to work with, and you did a great job continuing from it.

That's very exciting! Did you get to meet Monica?

Morganna - thank you very much :)