Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Power games

It was pouring when my writing friend and I met at La Noisette. Hot chocolate seemed almost as important as writing. We used Maeve Binchey’s The Copper Beech to trigger our free write exercises starting with “After tea…My writing partner used an older couple stuck in a rut of always playing games and using the English version of tea as a meal. I wanted to know more about her characters, always a good sign.

After tea, they played games, not board games like Scrabble or Monopoly. They played power games. Trying to control her was Sandy’s specialty.

It would start with who would wash the cups. Sandy would talk about her dermatologist and her non-existent dish soap problem that caused rashes that never appeared. Anita gave her rubber gloves. Sandy would sigh and put them on.

“What movie should we see?” Sandy asked as she ran water into the sink.

Anita knew whatever she suggested Sandy would have a counter suggestion. “Give me a category.”

“Not a war movie,” Sandy said. They’d never gone to a war movie.

“James Bond?” Anita knew that would be rejected.

Sandy rinsed a cup.

“Musical?” Anita said not wanting to see a musical, which earned her an easy no. She wanted to see Lincoln. “Janice saw Lincoln. She didn’t like it.”

“Robin loved it,” Sandy said.

“He would. He’s a history buff,” Anita said. “But Janice said it wasn’t all that accurate.”

“Why don’t we check it out, “Sandy said.

Anita let out a long sigh. “I suppose.”

When Sandy went to get her coat, she pumped her arms and mouthed “yes.”


This trigger is from Copper Beech. The opening line, was “Boys were hard to fathom.”

Boys were hard to fathom. Ellen had come a family of five girls. Her parents had wanted only two children, a boy and a girl. As it turned out their father would have kept trying for his son until her mother said, “No. Enough is enough.” To make her point, she’d had her tubes tied.

At the time Ellen hadn’t understood till her GYN pulled little Daniel from her body a few hours before. Jason and Brett would be thrilled to have a little brother.

She wanted a daughter. She understood girls. They didn’t turn furniture into forts, or push each other in greeting. None of her sisters had ever held a miniature car in their hands and as they swooped it through the air, yelled, “Vroom, vroom, vroom.”

Boys clothes were boring and during this pregnancy she’d looked longingly at little dresses.

The doctor could have told her after the sonogram, but she wanted to hang on to her hopes for a daughter as long as possible.

She looked up from her hospital bed to see her father beaming, “Good on you, girl.” She resisted turning her back to him. He was a great grandpa, doing things with her boys, that he said he couldn’t do with the girls, whom he claimed not to understand.

Then her husband appeared. He’d been on a business trip, when she’d gone into labour yesterday. “I’m sorry honey. We can try again.”

“No, no more,” she said. She may not fathom little boys, but she understood her mother’s enough is enough.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ticking off tourist spots

The trigger for my writing mate and I was from Fanny Flagg's Welcome to the World Baby Girl.
Both of us took the same course, two people with different ways of looking at travelling, although I set mine in New York and she placed her characters in Rome.

When they got back to the hotel, Dena was worn out.

Damn Jim. He had her up before dawn cracked and they'd found themselves downstairs waiting for the breakfast room to open.

"Eat, eat," he'd said, shoveling his bacon, eggs and toast into his mouth.

She preferred to eat slowly and watch the people around her, especially the business people as they glanced at papers from their briefcases or looked at messages on their iPhones.

Their first stop was a get-on-get-off bus. Jim pulled out his notebook. "Empire State Building, Central Park, Statute of Liberty . . ."

"I'm not climbing to the top," she'd said. Any hopes of browsing at Macy's or picking up toys for the kids at F.A.O. Schwartz vanished.

"We can go to MOMA, grab a sandwich, before the matinee."

Dena had always wanted to visit New York, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps. She should have known from other trips that Jim would cram several days of sight seeing if not several weeks worth into a single day.

Why she'd agreed to the trip she had no idea.

She kicked off her shoes and lay on the bed.

"Don't get too comfortable. We've dinner and I want to see Bernadette Peters sing."

Dena rolled over. This was going to be the last trip she would ever go on with Jim, she promised herself. From now her trips would be alone or with a girl friend. He could travel on his own too.

No more ticking off famous places saying they'd been there. In the future, she would have time to see, hear, smell and feel where'd she been.

The Visitor

My writing mate and I met back at LaNoisette. The opening line was from Fanny Flagg's Welcome to the World Baby Girl." Her character was sinister and her writing produced shivers on what could have happened.

She stood and watched the man pull away.

Her mother was at work as usual. As much as her mother tried to be home early each night, her work as a paralegal often kept her late at the office.

Lana saw the wind blow the first red leaves of autumn in swirls in the driveway after the departing car.

He'd rung the side doorbell, which was the first few notes of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". Her mother had wanted to be a classical pianist, but Lana's birth had put an end to those hopes.

Sometimes Lana worried, she'd destroyed her mother's life, but her mother always said that Lana was the best thing that had happened to her.

Lana knew her mother would be unhappy that she'd opened the door to a stranger, but she was expecting her friend Jessica, who was coming to study for a history test. And besides only friends came to the side door.

Instead it was that man standing there. He was about her mother's age, although she wasn't that good at guessing grown-ups' ages. He was dressed in good jeans, an Irish knit sweater and expensive looking boots.

"Lana Friedman?"


"Your mother is Diana Friedman?"


Then he looked down at his boots, looked at his car and said, "I shouldn't have come." He ran to his car, turned and came back. "Give your mother this." It was his business card. He was a software engineer in another city. There were tears in his eyes. "Tell her there's no obligation to call me."

Then he went back to the driveway, calling over his shoulder in a shaky voice, "Tell your mom she did a great job in raising you and I'm so, so sorry."