Friday, July 3, 2009


The latest from Berg with Fries' writing prompt week is the kind of thing most frequently developed in a secret mountain hideaway...perhaps shaped like a skull (1) someone surrounded by throngs of henchmen and individuals in white lab coats pacing quickly around carrying clipboards.

In short, it's a work of evil genius.

Here's the prompt: Write a story about friendship with a high school student as the main character and a fountain as the key object. Set your story in a flower shop.

Hit Berg with Fries to check out the work of the mad writing prompt scientist.

Stay here for a bit longer to see what I came up with:

"You don't need it."

"Of course I don't need it. It's a fountain. Who needs a fountain?

I want a fountain. To 'need' something implies an addiction. A problem. You never say, 'I need a drink.' You say, 'I want a drink.' 'I would like a drink.' If you say you need a drink. Well then, you have a problem."

"What are you talking about?"

Eleanor laughed and worked her mass of red, corkscrew curl hair into a rough ponytail. "We're talking about how I'm going to buy this fountain because I want it."

"Okay," David said with the kind of sarcastic tone only a fourteen-year old boy can muster, "where are you going to put this fountain that you want? Your house is packed full."

"On the dining room table. I think that would be fantastic."

This was an afternoon with Eleanor.

For the first few weeks after his mom died, Eleanor would come by the house as she always had, stopping and sitting on one of the bright white rocking chairs on the front porch. David would hear her talking to his mom as though her best friend was still alive and rocking alongside her.

It was a Wednesday afternoon when Eleanor first invited David to go for a ride with her. She had pulled her living room-sized Monte Carlo up into the high school's circular drive and honked the horn four times to catch David's attention.

On that day they ended up at a diner somewhere in West Virginia. Eleanor talked the owner into selling her a black & white photo from off the wall.

This was something that Eleanor and David's mom had done all the time before his mom got too sick to get out of bed. Though a few times Eleanor had even convinced his dad to carry David's mom out to the car so the two women could do quick road trips.

They would go down the road until they hit a farmstand or yard sale so that they could return home with some kind of trophy.

Now that David's mom was dead, David had taken her place in the passenger seat. Eleanor would play Stevie Nicks' music and keep time by tapping her long, thin hands against the steering wheel.

Their trips would stretch on for hours, sometimes all day, with Eleanor pulling the car in and out of Salvation Army store parking lots and spaces on narrow side streets where her whale of a car barely fit.

And now they were standing in the middle of a sprawling floral shop that specialized in discount arrangements for weddings and funerals. The fountain was part of a display, filled with white tulle instead of water and dotted with tiny toy-like birds. David was pretty sure it was not for sale but he was equally certain that that didn't matter.

Eleanor clapped her hands together. "Let's find someone to help us get this into the car."

1. Which kind of makes you wonder how no one would find it. Do you think he might be hiding out in that island with the mountain shaped like a skull?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Berg w. Fries School of Creative Writing & Stenography

Here's the new prompt from Berg with Fries: Write about a heart that wouldn't quit.

Here's what Professor Berg did with it.

And here's my run at it:

"Damn it Angela...I LOVE you."

She turned to the man sitting next to her at the hotel bar. He was a slobby lump of a guy, so unsteady from the Manhattans he continued to drink that his ability to successfully climb off the bar stool was seriously in doubt.

"My name isn't Angela," she said and turned back to the book she was reading.

"Don't be that way Angela. I know things have been rough lately...but we can work it out. We can fix things. Be really, really happy again. Like we were before. When we...when we were...were happy.

"We can..." And then he started to cry. Solid, body shaking sobs that caused his stomach to push all the harder against the straining buttons of his dull-colored dress shirt. The heat from his face and the damp of his tears made his glasses fog, completely obscuring his tiny, crease ringed eyes.

"I'm not Angela. My name is not Angela."

Nose running, forehead shining with a thin layer of sweat, he slid a shaky hand down the bar and gently touched her arm. His hand was surprisingly dry. His fingers soft.

"We can go to Pittsburgh. We always liked Pittsburgh. Always had a good time there. Like the time it snowed.

"Remember that? How it snowed in Pittsburgh? And we walked around and watched the cars sliding on the streets and the people shoveling? We watched...watched...watched it snow?

"We always have a good time in Pittsburgh." He removed his hand from her arm and then wiped the back of it across his nose. The crying slowly subsided but his face continued to glow red. His breathing continued to come in sharp bursts.

"I keep telling you. I. Am. Not. Angela. Now please, okay? I'm just trying to have a drink and read my book. Enough."

He took a single deep, slow breath, exhaling through his nose with a sound not unlike a sigh. His shoulders slumped further down. A button from his shirt gave up the struggle and bounced with a ping against the bar's brass foot rail. His head dropped to his chest.

She tried to return to her reading but found it impossible not to feel the presence of the deflated man to her right. His heartache so present it bridged the physical space between them.

"Fine," she said, not looking up from the page. "We'll go to Pittsburgh."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Apologies to all three of the folks who read this blog for yesterday's pity party (1). Fortunately, today we'll be doing something completely different.

The singing sensation (2) over at Berg with Fries posted a writing prompt yesterday and I decided to take advantage.

Here's the prompt:

Edith Tidwell and Caleb Francis meet when a mutual acquaintance introduces them to each other. One of them is a chemist.

Pencils ready...and begin:

Edith Tidwell had always been awkward.

Her mother continually hoped that Edith’s peculiar behaviors and mannerisms might one day soften into something resembling a collection of charming eccentricities. But quite to the contrary, Edith seemed to prefer the solitude her odd comportment afforded her.

When sitting at a dinner, Edith would rearrange her place setting so that it would be the mirror image of the setting to her right. If someone moved a dessert fork or replaced a wine glass, Edith would adjust her own accordingly.

When reading a book, Edith would keep an open notebook by her side which she would fill with copious notes about the text. The books would later be bound together with thick burgundy ribbon and shelved in Edith’s library.

When meeting someone Edith would stare at the individual very hard, trying to determine what historical figure he or she resembled. It was this stare that was causing Caleb Francis to become increasingly uncomfortable.

“Edith,” her mother said, “this is Caleb Francis. Mr. Francis is going to be teaching chemistry at the University.”

Edith continued to stare, the pause in conversation stretching out for what seemed like hours.

“John Donne,” Edith said finally.

Pencils down.

1. Truly. All I needed was Vonda Shepard singing in the background and it would have been an episode of Ally McBeal. Though I am considering adopting a theme song to spice things up a bit.
2. The whisk. Very Lady GaGa.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Those pauses down there?

The ones that leave the big gaps between my posts?

The posts that were once part of my daily ritual?

The posts that were written every day as part of my commitment to making sure I was writing something every single day that wasn't for work or an editor or a grant reviewer?

The pauses suck.

The pauses are accompanied by the sound of me banging my head slowly and steadily against my desk.

See...I had a birthday yesterday and it makes those pauses stick out to me like the Grand Canyon.

I'm not a birthday person (1) because I tend to overthink them.

I'm an overthinker.

And as I start yet another year sitting at a desk spending my days doing a job I do not want to do and worrying about things I would very much like to not have to worry about and trying to gin up the enthusiasm to look like these things are not the case I have to say, "Wow, am I sick of my own whining."

Except for the fact that my own whining, if put in written form, becomes a blog post. A whiny, self-centered, more than a bit annoying blog post...but a post nonetheless.

1. But I love that Leopold never fails to put his shoulder to the wheel to make sure I have something to smile about when it comes around. This year he hit it out of the park with one of those gifts that you want and need but would never expect someone else to get for you.