Tuesday, February 26, 2013


The trigger sentence was from Blood in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope. As often happens, my writing mate used it to show conflict between two different personalities.

He was aware that was she restless, chafing at the enforced idleness.

“Stop pacing,” he told her for the umpty umpth time. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

“I should have brought my work home with me.” She flopped on the couch and started to bite the nails on her left hand.

A bad sign, he thought as he looked out the window. The snow storm had been predicted to go out to sea, but instead it had picked up water and was now blanketing Boston. The governor had closed everything, according to the morning radio.

“I suppose I could walk to the office and pick up the stuff.”

“And freeze to death.” He didn’t even want to think of her fighting the winds and drifts. “Besides no one else will be in the office.”

“I bet Thom is there. He was still working when I left.” She started on the fingers of her right hand.
“And he’s probably freezing. They said downtown is without electricity.” He almost wished she had worked all night and was stuck with Thom. 

As it was, she had gotten home after midnight having worked late and she’d planned to go back early which was why the briefcase—usually as much a part of her anatomy as her hands and feet—had been left in the office. Instead she’d overslept only to wake to a major Nor’easter. She’d still dressed to go into work as he’d argued with her until she’d given in.

At the moment he felt like he was in a cage with one very hungry tiger. “Why can’t we make the best of it?”
“It’s okay for you to not worry. You’re only a teacher. You can’t work when schools are closed.”

He wanted to lash out at her for that remark, but didn’t. She thought teachers were unambitious, while lawyers did important work. His measly salary compared to hers made her feel she had the right to determine everything they did.

When he was a child, snow days were fun. His mother would make hot chocolate and cookies. She would set out jigsaw puzzles by the fire for he and his sister. Up until their teens they would continue their story log tradition. A small log, or sometimes a branch, would be put on the fire and the story teller would have to make up a story that lasted as long as the piece of wood.

He watched his wife sigh, get up and pace. He thought about how much he loved his job and he knew that the storm brought more than snow. 

It brought the end of their marriage.

Tinsel stars

The trigger for this story is Margaret Attwood’s The Blind Assassin. My writing mate took an entirely different perspective writing about a child with cancer who liked crafts. She used the stickers in place of ribbons in her hair. The line is "She had a packet of tinsel starts, gold and silver, which she would stick onto things we'd done.

She had a packet of tinsel stars, gold and silver, which she would stick onto things we’d done.

I suppose Louann got the idea from nursery school where good papers would earn a sticker and when we were really good, Miss Weagle would put a sticker on our forehead.

I seldom got a sticker, but she did almost every day. Louanne was my twin sister. Naturally we were fraternal twins me being male and all.

Twins are supposed to have some special connection, but not Louann and me. Or maybe that’s just identical twins.

We do look alike. We could be in a commercial for spaghetti or a poster children for a holiday in Italy.
I guess we were more ying and yang, black and white despite our bodily packaging. Louann is an earth mother and me, well my girlfriend Madison thinks I have commitment issues just because I don’t want to set a wedding date.

Louann agrees with Madison which is difficult because my sister and I work together in the family dry cleaning business now that Pop is too old. I do the cleaning and pressing, she serves customers and does the books.

I get the financial statements with those stupid tinsel stickers when we have a good month. In fact, when I see those damned gold or silver sparkly things, I don’t bother to check the figures. When one is missing, it’s usually the month that we laid in extra supplies or bought a new piece of equipment.

It’s good that she does the client thing, because she’s good with people. I would rather deal with the machinery any day of the week—in fact that’s what I do every day of the week.

Business isn’t as good as when Pop ran the business despite all of Louann’s additions to the shop such as the coffee machine, which I still think is a stupid expense. People can go to Mildred’s next door for coffee. And the neighborhood announcement board, well, that’s pretty silly too.

I let her have her way just because it is easier than arguing. But I still would like to hide those God damned stars.

Friday, February 22, 2013

View details

My writing pal and I sat in the café drinking hot chocolate. Who says the South of France is warm in winter? We met for our flash fiction writing exercises. When it is warmer we use people on the street as a trigger, but this today not that many people were out and we resorted to the first sentence of a book that the café keeps for its Anglo readers, The Butcher of St. Peter is the source of the first line. "I slept well."

 "I slept well," Frank said. he sat at the table in front of the stove and made sure that his robe was fascinated. The chill was more not just the temperature registering on the thermometer. What should he do next? Get his own coffee, he decided. He chose the red mug. The smell of coffee filled his nostrils as he took his first sip.

"Jeanne, my love, did you sleep well?" Frank asked.

His wife had been slamming around the bed and bathrooms for the last half hour before storming downstairs.

He threw the covers off, put on his robe and followed her.

Jeanne put on the coffee maker, opened the fridge and took out milk and jam. She banged the door so hard that it bounced open.

Jeanne passed by without touching him to pick up her toast. She spread it with jam and then put the jar back in the fridge.

"I get the feeling you're angry with me."

Jeanne took the toast and poured her coffee into her blue mug and sat down. When she bit into the toast the crunch broke the silence.

"I don't know what I did." He was sure her birthday and their anniversary was next month.

Last night, he'd come home late from a golf game. The guys decided to eat at the club and play a few hands of poker. His wife had been asleep when he slipped into bed.

She stared at him. "I don't believe you."

He frowned.

"I sat in the restaurant with your parents and my mother for three hours. The waiter kept asking when the birthday boy was arriving." She grabbed her coffee and left the room.

A knock on the door

My writing pal both dealt with the end of a relationship based on the first line taken from The Butcher of St.Peter.

It was the knock on the door that made her move at last. Only then was she aware that the room had darkened while she’s been sitting in the chair, his chair. He’d play with his iPhone with the television reporting the news in the background.

This was the time she sat at her desk, playing games on her computer. She didn’t like the violent games, but played things like Mahjong or Bubbleburst. Cricklers too.

She should have spent less time on the computer and more with him. Now she couldn’t.

Maybe she should have seen it coming. The clichéd working late, the too tired for sex. He’d just bought her a diamond necklace for Christmas, a guilt gift, she thought now.

When she came at noon at first she thought the flat had been robbed. Where his DVDs and his computer had been were now empty spaces. A robber wouldn’t take his clothes and toiletries and leave hers.

She found his note on the kitchen table. It too was clichéd: Couldn’t help himself…so in love with…didn’t mean to hurt her…Alan.

The knock was more urgent. She forced herself to answer it.

Janice, her best friend, stood there. “Alan called. He said you might need some company.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Liking yourself

 My writing partner and I noticed the obese young girl strut by the tea room where we were doing our writing exercises. We always try and pick out someone a bit different to describe and to work into a flash fiction piece. This time we both wrote how happy the person appeared. However, the picture I found to illustrate this piece is no where near as fat as the one we were writing about.

Her hair was cut almost into a crew cut except for five tendrils of different lengths sticking out from different sections of the back of his head.

She decided years ago as her body expanded if she couldn’t be pretty, she’d be interesting.

Her belly jiggled under her horizontal striped shirt. Any fashion consultant would have shuddered saying how the stripes accented the fat.

Micheline would have been pleased that they, the fashion consultants that is, even thought of her.

Years ago she’d developed a strut when she walked, her head thrown back and a smile playing intermittently on her lips.

People, okay women, gravitated toward her. She’d be invited to couples parties, probably because the women didn’t see her as a threat with their men. At that thought she smiles. More than one husband had reached out to touch her breasts, probably some latent memory of mother’s milk.

Micheline didn’t mind because she knew it would go no further. They wouldn’t want to and she wouldn’t want to hurt her friends.

She glanced at her watch. She was late for work, but she’d make up the time later in the day.

God, how she loved her life.

Purple pansies

 We are definitely in pansy season. My writing friend and I chose this women to trigger our exercise because she seemed so determined as she walked up the street. However, my writing friend emphasized the heaviness of the pansies and another character in a wheel chair sneaked in. One of the beauties of doing these exercises is that the writer is often surprised where they go.

Alice carried the tray of pansies up the street. She would plant them in her “garden” which was a large purple ceramic pot outside her front door.

When she and her ex owned their house together, she had a large garden with both flowers and vegetables that she canned each fall, even though he said all that work was silly.

After her divorce she’d moved from the American Midwest to this tiny French village with streets so narrow that her ex-husband’s SUV would not be able to drive through without scraping the sides of the vehicle. The idea of his precious baby scratched made her smile.

Jared would not understand how she was happier in her one-room wide house attached on both sides to her neighbours’ homes compared to her five-bedroom home on two acres of land. The ground floor was the living room, the middle was the kitchen and dining area and the top floor was her bedroom and studio.

She’s installed skylights in the red tiled roof to give her enough light to paint. When she fell asleep at night the odor of paint and turpentine stayed in her nostrils. In the last few minutes before drifting off she would plan her the following day.

Last night her thoughts had been of purple pansies to first paint then plant. In some countries purple was the colour of mourning. For Janine it was the colour of freedom.