Wednesday January 11th, 2012

The exercise:

Write about: the loner.

As Kat was feeling tired and not really up to it, I went to see the latest installment of the Oliver Film Club on my own tonight. I quite enjoyed The Topp Twins, though it did make me miss New Zealand quite a bit.


He sits on the park bench with his thoughts for company. He is aware of the screaming children gathered around and on the swings, jostling to be next in line and soaring through the air, but he doesn't really hear them.

Young mothers walk past, pushing or carrying their most recent accomplishments, registering only as reflections on his sunglasses. Though each one notices him, no greetings are offered.

A hot dog vendor is doing brisk business to his left, but the tempting odors maneuver around and away from his nostrils. As if they wish to avoid attracting his attention, fearing they might draw him closer.

The sun is ferocious in the early afternoon sky, but if its rays are warming his body he gives no such indication. His jacket remains buttoned, his hands loiter in his pockets.

Tumbling, blackened thoughts have his full attention. Potential solutions, ranging from unworkable to sheer lunacy, attack a single question from every conceivable angle.

The question that had invaded and then infected his mind in the glacial seconds that had followed his layoff notice.

What am I going to do now?


Cathryn Leigh said...

Ah... I was something of a loner when I was younger... (Your prompts seem to bring up a lot of memories for me.)

The Loner

A lone girl climbs the tree. A few branches up a small platform sits, with a broken bird box tucked next to the trunk. She doesn't care that the roads right there, cars occasionally zooming past. She sits on her platform built for one.

Legs swing down in the empty air. her eyes half close. Suddenly she's a world away, brought by the wings of her imagination. An Isalnd Kingdom, a group of four unlikely friends, Unicorns and Furries that traveled by hang-gliding.

Here she would play until called back down. The reality of supper reminding her that her imagination was her only friend. It was hard, being poor and shy.

Greg said...

@Cathryn: There's a fair amount of poignancy in that piece, something a little bittersweet about it I think. I also now can't stop wondering how those unicorns are managing to hang-glide :)

@Marc: I really like the structure, the way each paragraph is an abrupt change of idea, reflecting the way the narrator is thinking and trying to cope with his situation. I think you've really captured the sense of alienation a layoff can give.
As far as work goes: I'm taking it one month at a time. Which is bigger steps than alcoholics, so I count that as a victory!

The loner
I met a nomad from an ancient land,
Who said "There is a dwelling in the desert
Inhabited by a man whose hand
Drips sweet blood when there's hurt
Inflicted on his kin. He waits
There, drinking Gentian-water,
Cursing Furies, Gods and Fates,
And tended by his daughter.
She cannot see, or speak, or hear,
He might as well be all alone,
And though she hopes he loves her dear,
She sorrows that she'll never know.
A simple solitude is what they share,
Two people isolated yet not apart,
Trying not to show they care.
It's breaking both their hearts.

Anyway geezer, wanna buy a phone?
Cheap rates, best plan for calling home."

David said...

@Marc this prompt is starting my day off on a very melancholy mood - but you capture the loneliness of those moments when things dont go well for us and the rest of the world keeps on going very aptly

@Cathryn - I feel for the young girl, but with that imagination, I know she will be just fine.

@Greg - thanks for lightening the mood, was afraid these will all be downers.

His office chair held him, like it would for the next twelve hours. He wished to close his officer door, but company rules required it to remain open at all times, part of their “open door policy” to foster goodwill between executives and the proletariat. The policy was more annoyance than fruitful for him. It forced him to listen to the constant chatter of those that worked outside his office.

“Did you see Jersey Shore last night?”

“No, the baby was sick”

“Did you know MTV UK has a show called Jeordi Shore?”

“Is it any good?”

“How am I supposed to know, I don’t live in England. But, I saw it on the internet”

He couldn’t relate. But it did not matter, no one ever entered his office. Not to socialize. Not to seek out his advice. He sat at his desk at 7:30 A.M. and left his desk at 7:30 P.M. He would get up to use the restroom at 9:00 A.M., 12:30 P.M., and 3:00 P.M. He would force himself to stay seated for those last four and a half hours despite any bodily needs. This was a quasi-spiritual practice, feeling that this is the time of the day when he should focus and become as efficient as possible. It was also the part of the day when the rest of the office became less focused and would want to engage in time wasting chatter.

He turned on his screen and stared at it. A spreadsheet reporting the business unit’s quarterly projections stared back. Behind that, hidden, was a dating website where he had half finished a profile, but didn’t know what to say next. The people outside of the office started to arrive for the day. He wished one of them would come in to say hi, just once, even if he wouldn’t say hi back.

David said...

sorry those in the UK - I forgot to make an edit, Geordie, not Jeordi

Cathryn Leigh said...

It's fun to have gotten up early and been the first one to post *giggles*

@Greg - it's only the Fuzzies that fly, the Unicorns gallop across the rainbow from the forest to the mountains. - I loved how your last two lines were unrealted, but could totally be realted.

@David - oh yes she's doign quite well and might end up publishing a few things from her imagination too *wink* - I'd say hi to your executive. Now that I'm in a small company big wigs don'tscare me anymore... :}

Anonymous said...

marc, brilliant!
others, interesting takes!
The Loner

He was known for his long walks in the country. Often, you could catch sight him up on the hill, gazing out over the land he wished he could own instead of just work on, his eagle-eyes spotting for any threats - perceived or otherwise - to his family.
It was a common thing for him to go out deer hunting. It was one of many points of contention between them. An early riser, he’d kit up, take the long drive deep into the bush, and hunt for hours with only a thermos of coffee, some hard tack and extra ammo in case he got lucky.
I’d never known him to get lucky.
He spent so much time alone, communing with whatever it was he communed with in the great outdoors, that I’d always considered him a loner, like it was his natural state. 
It came as no suprise to me but it was probably a great shock to him when she divorced him.
Once alone, though, he realised he was truly free. This was actually what he’d craved all along.

Krystin Scott said...

Writing Prompt: The Loner

He slid his old mercury sable into a space, put the car in park and turned off the engine. A quick scan of the nearly empty lot told him that he would encounter few people today. He took the keys from the ignition, dropped them on floorboard and opened the door.

A salty breeze brushed against his face. He paused for a moment, closed his eyes, breathed in and smiled in satisfaction. Then he shuffled his way past the other cars and down the partially covered concrete path that guided visitors toward the beach.

As he broke though the cover of the trees and reached the coast he could feel the warmth of the setting sun. He reveled in it’s radiance as he walked the shore line. Shoes in hand he felt the cool spray of the ocean in the wind as the foamy shell riddled waves lapped at his feet and ankles.

Occasionally he stopped to pick-up an eye catching scallop shell and placed it into his pocket. Time passed and it wasn’t long before he reached the saw grass that marked the entrance to the undisturbed northern peninsula. He stopped to watch the hermit crabs dance around on the wet sand but when his shadow crossed over them, they scurried down into the safety of their holes, so he turned away and walked on.

He continued walking until the water would let him go no further. Then he stood silently watching the waves roll up on the shore as the sun sank beneath the horizon until there was nothing left but the beautiful backdrop of the pink and blue sky. One by one he flung the treasures he had collected back into the water. As he did he allowed himself the luxury of a single tear and broke his silence.

“Wait for me. We will be together soon.”

Anonymous said...

I can't say for sure it was really "too busy" that kept me from the prompt yesterday and not just "fear of of haiku's" but ah well. Today is another day. I had fun with this one, thanks!

Percy wandered away from the group, dazed and bewildered by everything that had just happened. The words of the others cut deeply at him, troubling him in a way he couldn't quite explain. But the more he tried to explain it, the more his mind distracted him with a dozen other unrelated topics. He stopped, sat down abruptly on the grass and thought hard, trying to bring up the details again. Oh! Yes. They had said he didn't belong with them, that he wasn't like they were and would never be. They spit at him, tried to chase him away. Percy hung his head, their dismissal settling in his stomach like a heavy rock. Oh sure, he sometimes noticed they didn't really make an effort to visit with him, and that when he tried to share his excitement over the sunrise or a new nest of baby birds, they might murmur a few words and quickly turn away or sometimes ignore him completely. He wondered briefly why he hadn't remembered those small brush-offs before now. The confusion and sadness grew inside him, turning somewhat to anger. What WAS wrong with him? Hadn't he grown up right here with most of them! Hadn't he run up and down these same hills! Didn't he graze from the fields beside them! He was a sheep just like they were, damn it! Why did they think he was so different?! The flood of emotion was almost unbearable and he started to hyperventilate.
Out of the corner of his eye, something flashed past him and then he was running, his tail waving behind him like a flag. The movement, which he now identified as a squirrel, was up the nearest tree in a second, and he was jumping and barking as frantically as he could. Suddenly, a whistle sounded from up the hill and he turned immediately and ran for Henry, leaving the events of the afternoon to drift aimlessly away in the warm breeze.

morganna said...

This hit a little close to home for me but I didn't want to disappear entirely today. :)

I was going to comment on each individual piece, but they are all so good and capture the spirit of the prompt so clearly. And I love the twist at the end of H.N.'s.

Marc said...

Elor - me too. I like to think it left plenty of room for my imagination to grow :P

I know it must have been rough, but I'm glad you had a place to escape to.

Greg - thank you :)

You guys are pushing me to be better, since I can't have you lot showing me up!

Love the descriptions in the first part of the poem, and the twist in the final lines even more :D

David - aye, that prompt had loads of potential for sad pieces. I shall have to pick one with more upbeat possibilities next time.

That's a poignant scene you painted. I liked the dating site touch, gives him a little bit of hope.

Writebite - thanks :)

Intriguing character. Glad to see he got what he wanted in the end, even if he wasn't aware of it.

Krystin - wonderfully vivid scene. Felt very real to me. Great job :)

H.N. - haiku are only scary until you get used to them :P

Great twist - or was it a double twist? From human to sheep to dog... either way, great atmosphere and character details.

Morganna - I can appreciate that for sure. Not a problem, and thanks for popping your head in :)

Nita said...

By Necessity; Not by Choice

She gets up from the supper table before the others finish eating and kisses her husband on her way past.

“Test?” he asks.

“Sorta. Drug calc quiz tomorrow, but we started endocrine this week, and it's a lot of information.” She gives him a helpless look because it's always a lot of information, and this is the same excuse she gives every night for leaving them all to their evening while she studies.

She hears them from the bedroom. They laugh and talk, complain and argue, while the TV plays the background noise of the hours they spend without her.

Tomorrow, she'll get the needed 100% on the drug calculations quiz. The week after that, she'll pass the endocrine test. In another 8 months, she'll attend her pinning ceremony; a graduate of the program she struggles through each day.

She might have chosen to apply to this program, but passing it makes constant study a necessity.

She repeats to herself what she tells everyone else when they ask, “It'll be worth it.”


I can't seem to get away from real life even when I write. *yeesh*

BTW, I got the 100% on the drug calc quiz. We take 3 of them each class, and we have to make 100% on at least one of them... Or else. We started with 24 last semester, and they told us up-front that 2/3 would fail out. So far, we're on track. We've lost 7.

Marc said...

Nita - careful, I've been known to get pretty whacky when I feel the urge to force people into fiction :P

That's pretty brutal. I can't imagine how I'd feel going into the 3rd one if I hadn't aced either of the first two.

Anyway! Best of luck! And I'm sure it will be worth it :)