Through the Door


This week’s writing challenge from The Daily Post involved imagining the door to your home has become unstuck in time and the next time you walk through it, you enter the same place, but a different time. I veered off path just a bit and took the prompt to spur something in a short story I finished a few weeks ago — perhaps something that could continue it.



Instead of delaying the judgement that waited inside by walking up the driveway and then across the concrete path to the front steps, Alexis crossed the front yard in a straight line from the car. The Bermuda sod had lost much of its lush green hue over the past week, and it gave a stiff crunch under brown flats. She was thankful for those light shoes as she took the front steps without the slightest sound.

The black front door stood in front of her. Her parents had to special order it last year because the opening was smaller than the standard, and her dad grumbled for a week at the extra cost. Her mom wanted one with the decorative oval glass in the center, but her father refused to consent to anything that allowed someone to see in the house. Alexis had never been so grateful for his stubbornness.

As she reached for the door knob, she felt the porch spinning. She wondered if by some miracle something was transporting her back — or ahead — in time. Perhaps she had wished so hard for the chance to do last Saturday differently, someone or something had granted her wish. Perhaps God had heard her prayers — the ones she prayed every night since Sunday.

She pushed the door open and floated across the living room illuminated in morning sunlight as she brought in the newspaper and passed her younger sister who sang along to the Katy Perry video on the television. Alexis set the paper down on the kitchen counter and grabbed a warm blueberry muffin from the plate next to the stove.

Sunlight streamed into her bedroom windows as she got ready to meet at the school for the band competition. This time she wasn’t annoyed at how hot it made her room. On the way to the school, she didn’t regret leaving her sunglasses on her dresser; she closed her eyes and welcomed the sun on her face. She loved feeling the warmth as she marched on the football field during the band’s performance, and she hated to see it fade on the trip home as she sat on the bus and let Brayden teach her how to twirl drumsticks between her fingers.

This time she wouldn’t linger in the chorus room to tell Madison about how it felt to have Brayden pretty much holding her hands for two hours. She would tell her that she’d call later and try to get out of the room — perhaps to see Brayden one more time. She would do anything to make sure she got out of there before Mr. Easterling could catch her.

She closed her eyes to stop the porch from spinning and turned the doorknob. The incandescent light from the ceiling fan hurt her eyes, but she still saw her parents seated on the couch. Her father’s arm circled her mother’s shoulders as her mother’s hand held a tissue to her nose. A Merriville City Police officer sat in the chair next to the sofa.

The three of them watched her enter the house and close the door behind her.

Friday Fictioneers 2013: Week Two


copyright-roger-cohenThe Audition

(Mainstream/literary fiction)

“I didn’t know Goodwill sold instruments,” Josh said and snickered as he wiped down his bass.

The girl ignored him.

“You have some wicked dings in it,” Josh said.

She leaned the bass away from his outstretched hand, “I’d rather you not touch it.”

The girl made her way to the front chair and draped herself around the bass’s exterior. Her left fingers blurred as her right hand glided like a feather on the wind. For two minutes, Josh marveled at how instead of her playing the bass, the instrument played her.

He knew he would miss first chair again this year.

(According to WordPress’ word count, it’s 100 exactly!)

Photo Prompt: Fireworks (Mainstream Fiction)


file000642086474Nana described first seeing Papa at the town’s Independence Day celebration as he held a lit Roman candle shooting bursts of color into the night sky.

“He had these dark curls that just shined every time something was set off,” she used to say, “and every different color that went up in the air lit up a different color in those hazel eyes.”

Seventy-two years to the day of that first meeting, we huddled around Nana’s ICU bed with the TV on the Capitol’s Fourth of July celebration. Beeping machines struggled to keep up with the thundering percussion and booming fireworks, but Nana’s eyes glistened with reflections of red, white, and blue. I knew she saw him — standing in the middle of the road, Roman candle in hand, mischievous grin on his face.

When the TV spectacle finished, she closed her eyes and went to meet him once more.

Editing a flash fiction piece to 100 words is hard. I started out with about 230 and cut it down to about 150. Perhaps as more time passes I can do more with it.

Luckily, Friday Fictioneers doesn’t find fault with entries that are shorter or longer than 100 words. 🙂

Dialogue Writing Prompt


I get daily writing prompts from Sarah Selecky, and I’ve decided that I’ll post my results from said prompts — ones that I feel won’t lead to anything longer. Yesterday’s prompt was to write a scene of dialogue with this opening line: “It could be coming from the ground.”

I’m all about dialogue — love writing it — probably because I love talking. In the fifth grade, I wrote a Halloween-themed ghost story for a district contest, and I was so proud of that thing, but mine didn’t get picked. I remember asking the teacher (Mrs. Finley, one of my favorite and sweetest teachers) why and she said, “Oh, dear, the whole thing was nothing but dialogue.” Funny how critiques like that can stay with you.

Anyway, here’s my scene.


“It could be coming from the ground.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re an idiot.”

“What? It sounds like it’s coming from the ground.”

“Ghosts do not make noises along the ground.”

“How do you know?”

“No one has ever felt a cold spot or gotten a crazy EMF reading on the ground.”

“Really? Is that your expert opinion there, Mr. TAPS?”

“God, shut up, dude. I can’t hear anything right now for your mouth.”

“Perhaps you need to grab your EVP recorder.”

“That’s the first good idea you’ve had all night.”


Machine clicks on.

“Is there anyone else here? Anyone who’d like to talk to us?”

“Yeah, my ass.”

Loud farting noise.

“Dammit, Rusty, you’re ruining this.”

“Ruining what? Dude, this is a waste of —”


(From a distance) “Help! No, noooooo!”

“Son of a bitch. It was coming from the ground.”

Writing Workshop Woes


I hate complaining. Really, I do. I’m always afraid that I sound like one of those people who believe customer service means they get to treat service industry employees as if they are peasants.

Like the guy tonight at Monterrey — whose idea of “asking” for more sour cream was to say, “If you don’t bring me more sour cream than this, I ain’t payin’ for it.” Really? Does that stroke your ego? Actually, Mr, Chubby McTubbypants, you might wanna lay off the sour cream. Just sayin’.

Anyhoo, about complaining, I have to say that I wasn’t over the moon about this afternoon’s Emrys writing workshop. I’ve been to three other workshops before — one of them being the $5 “Out of Your Head, Onto the Pages” workshop — and I’ve loved all of them and thought they were well worth the money. They involved at least one, sometimes two, exercises along with handouts that provided tips or examples, and I have always come away feeling revived and inspired.

Today was a little different. Our workshop leader (I don’t want to mention her name because I hold no ill will toward her as a person or writer) seemed incredibly capable of facilitating a writing workshop. She has taught creative writing and creative strategy to all ages — from preschoolers to adults — and she had some great stories about how she used writing to get through to at-risk or even learning-disabled children.

When I arrived and sat down, she asked about what type of writing we focused on so that she could make sure we covered a little of what everyone wanted to hear, and she had a two-page handout of writing tips. At 2:05, we started a writing icebreaker when she asked for random words and then told us to spend a few minutes writing a poem, some dialogue, or a scene with those words. Everything seemed promising.

Less than five minutes later, she starts asking who wants to share what they wrote. I hadn’t even finished incorporating all the words, so I kind of kept working for a bit while others read their writings and started discussing the handout.

Then Squirmy McNevercomfortable next to me kept deciding to cross her legs this way and that and decided that an aluminum folding table was heavy enough to keep her leg from sliding off the lower knee. Oh sure, her leg didn’t slide; the table did. Did I mention I was trying to finish writing?

So we’re discussing the handout, and our workshop leader goes over a tip and follows it up with a story from a school where she worked or another job she had. All that was fine. But then there were tangents about northern and southern accents or the imaginary friends we had as children between questions about how we flush out characters.

And then, the “celebrity” writer who graced us with her presence spoke. I had recognized her when she walked in, Ms. Ryobi Poet herself, and I wondered how long it would take her to mention something about what she’d done. It took her less than 45 minutes:

“Well, some of you already know who I am, but I’m a professional writer, and my question is…”

I don’t know what her question was. I was too busy trying to fish my eyes out of my skull after they involuntarily rolled up there. Like she was the only one worthy to deem herself a “professional” writer. Gah!

At 2:52, after catching a glimpse of the watch of the dude sitting adjacent to me, I thought, “Well, this has been some interesting conversation — aside from the ‘professional writer’ bit — surely we’ll get to a longer exercise here in a moment.”

At 3:15, after the table started sliding AGAIN, I thought, “Ok, enough talk, is she gonna give us something else to write or what?”

At 3:30, one of the participants took a silent but noticed (by me anyway) exit. I decided that if we were still talking at 3:45 I was going to leave as well.

I left at 3:47. Was it rude? I’m sure some of them thought so, but I was just sort of unsatisfied and disappointed. These $5 workshops had always been billed as idea generators and times when you’re actually doing writing — not asking questions about it. I can understand someone’s inquisitiveness as to how to improve his or her writing, but there’s never one definitive answer. There’s advice — and plenty of that was going around the table by a couple of people who consistently talked all over each other.

I mean, if we had all been sitting in a coffee shop as a writers’ meeting, all that talk is fine, but I just wanted more. And I’m just bothered by people who dominate conversations talking about their writing. It’s like people who learn they’ve just met a doctor or a therapist and they keep them held hostage asking about their medical or mental problems.

Perhaps I’m just being pissy or cranky, but I do feel sort of guilty about not enjoying this workshop as much as the others because I know the facilitator was doing what she thought was good, and as I said before, I don’t really blame her.

I’m glad I kept working on that first writing exercise until I felt it came to a conclusion since it was the only fiction bit to come of the whole experience. Speaking of that, here is that product. The words we had to use were flower, sprint, blue, fierce, and grackle (a type of crow-like bird).

Angela squinted on the blue flower, trying to catch the right shading in her sketchbook. Somewhere behind her, her mother called out her brother’s name. The sweetness in her voice faded quickly into exasperation. A humongous grackle zoomed by her, snagging her attention away from the flower. The fowl was followed by her brother in full sprint, gesturing like a madman to spur the bird on.

Angela turned back to the flower, now flattened into the grass. She sprang to her feet, letting out a fierce scream, pencil and sketchbook tumbling to the ground.

“Joshua!” she yelled. “You are so dead!”

Writing Exercise: Nature


A few weeks ago, I went to another Emrys writing workshop to get more practice in writing about nature. It was a warm, breezy, beautiful afternoon, and that made going outside for our inspiration all the more pleasant. The area behind the community center where we have our workshops is well shaded and covered with a variety of flowering plants and trees as well as two small streams that come together and then roll on toward the North Main area of downtown. Our workshop leader gave us some questions to answer, and when we went back inside, we did another freewriting exercise. Here is mine:

I have been plucked from the branch and after spinning in circles on the wind, I light on the surface of a gurgling stream. The transparent water carries me along, turning me ’round and ’round until my bearings are lost. I see rocks covered in emerald moss, their tiny whirlpools of maple seeds and petals circling, trying to escape their fate. The water turns me again, and I begin to pray that it will carry me past the trap. I notice others floating with me as the water flows on with a whisper. Some branch off on the shore. Some collect with others around the rocks. I know my path is different from each one of them.

We all entered at different spots, and we will all end up at another place.

Writing Exercise: Early Memories of Food


As part of my commitment to focus on my writing this year, I’ve taken a couple of afternoon writing classes sponsored by the Emrys Foundation in Greenville. With my focus on the Biggest Loser contest at the gym early this year, I didn’t have the time or money to take one of the longer workshop series that were devoted to fiction, but even though the two workshops I took focused on a type of writing — one about food and the other about nature — those aspects definitely could contribute to improving my writing. I learned a lot, and I’m going to have a hard time waiting for the workshops to resume this fall. Of course, I’m hoping to save up some money from freelance to go to the Hub City Writers’ Workshop in Sparkle City (Spartanburg for any of you non-SC folk) in July. It’s about $200 for three days. I’ll take tips/sponsors! 🙂

So this post is mainly to share what I wrote at the workshop on writing about food. I will say this: Never attend one of these workshops when hungry! Between reading the samples our facilitator brought and reliving all these early memories about food I was craving all sorts of stuff! Not good either when trying to eat healthier! Anyhoo, here was my freewriting exercise.

I blame my hips on Aggie’s fried chicken. Before chicken was hailed as good for you then stripped of its skin and pried off the bone, Aggie soaked it overnight in a buttermilk bath. That was the only tip I knew of her fried chicken recipe, and I learned that years after she stopped cooking due to her losing pages from her mind’s cookbook.

My brother and I were never allowed in the kitchen while she cooked. Inquiries as to the lunch menu often went unanswered, and repeated pressing of the issue got us a reprimand to behave or else we would get nothing — which we never believed but kept silent anyway.

So we had to rely on our noses and ears. To this day, people are amazed at what I can hear or smell. We would listen for the cast iron skillet clamoring its way out of the cabinet, the flour canister’s thud on the counter, the sizzle and spatter of hot grease consuming the brined bird.

Then there was the smell. That glorious peppery scent of fried meat drifting into the living room, distracting us from Sesame Street and keeping us from seeing Mr. Snuffleupagus because of our excitement that today was Fried Chicken Day.

Finally, the cat clock on the wall over the bar had reached 12:30, and Aggie called us in to “get something to eat,” although we did no “getting.” Our plates sat on the bar — mine on the left, my brother’s on the right — piled with a crispy, juicy, tender piece of chicken and usually a heaping mound of macaroni and cheese casserole along side a stack of green beans. If we were really lucky, she would whip up rice and gravy, just because she had the time.