Thursday, October 04, 2007

Assignment number two, take two

Readers with a long memory will recall that this blog held a writing workshop some time ago, and promised a second. The promise wasn't delivered (it came at a bad time because I was swamped with work about three minutes after posting it). But hope is not entirely lost. I'm going to try to find the submissions and we'll have a go at it. Father Luke has prompted this by resubmitting (a fresh piece), so I'm going to kick off with his.

Here is the assignment again, to refresh those long memories:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a story whose action covers no more than five minutes. That doesn't mean that the story need only take five minutes to read. But it does mean that the action within it cannot cover a span of more than five minutes. All the action. That means that you cannot flash back (unless what you flash back to does not take you over the five minutes); you cannot say "when he was a child" (he was a child for more than five minutes) or "last week" (beginning to get the point?). The entire temporal span of the story must be five minutes, maximum.

Apart from that, the only rule is that you must be creative and original. Try stepping outside your usual idiom. I'm awarding praise for those who try to fly, crash and burn, and brickbats for those who play it safe.

Please feel free to submit fresh pieces. Those that I already have, I'll be able to look at, but if you want to resubmit them to make it easier on a poor sinner, I'd appreciate it. At worst, drop me an email to remind me that you've already submitted something, and I'll search for it. The address is drzen1 AT gmail DOT com.

The next post will be Father Luke's piece with my thoughts.


At 6:15 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll submit a piece, if I may. I prefer to submit it here, rather than e-mail. I hope that is fine.


He reached his hand out to take his shoes lying on the floor of the closet. They were a new pair: hard leather, mustard brown, and with a black, stiff sole. The top was low, coming just to the ankle, and they rubbed. The shoes needed breaking in. He could see already that they were taking the toll on his socks; the fabric stretching over the ankle of the thin white pair he had on was now threadbare. The shoes were not exactly his style but she thought they looked smart, so he bought them. The laces were red, with fine yellow stripes spiraling down their length.

He had hesitated, reaching to his shoes, but now he grabbed them and sat on the floor to put them on. He was in the entryway to the house. The floor here was linoleum, not carpet, and was uncomfortable to sit on though he seldom paid it mind. It was only now, for some reason, that it pressed upon him. He loosened evenly the length of lace on one shoe, methodically tugging each section of lace in succession, naturally proceeding toward the nose. He had hesitated. He searched himself. Nothing was clear, though he remembered the moment well enough. It was just that he—stopped. He had just stopped, his hand outstretched, without a conscious thought. It was nothing. He set about to put the worry aside, but the idea pressed upon him that it might be something quite subtler than what he could so cursorily understand. It came to him then that it was as though he were trying to feel—as though he had thought the shoes had a field extending out around them—an aura, if you will—and if he shoved his hand in close enough to them, he could detect it.

He had felt nothing.

He slipped the shoe on and with a rapid series of deft movements pulled the laces tight and tied them. He put on the second shoe in much the same way. Sitting on the floor, he ran over the calculations in his mind once more. It would take about twenty minutes to drive down to the store. Add to that the twenty back, the time in the store, at least fifteen, but as much as forty if he had any difficulty, and finally allow a small amount of dallying and it could start to approach two hours. But two hours. Two hours was quite some time. Perhaps too much. An hour and a half and no more.

His wife came in and he rose from the floor. She handed him a twisted, tarnished door hinge. He pushed it back.

“Take it.”

He stood and took his coat from the closet.

“Why not?”

He put on his coat. He shrugged, facing the door.

“Take the thing!”

He turned on his heel. He felt the cool metal crammed into his hand. Instinctively, his fist closed around it.

She backed away. He could not so easily hand it back. He looked for a ledge to stash it on.

“I’ll remember it.”

“No you won’t.”

“God dammit, I’ve seen the thing long enough, I know what it looks like.”

He, in fact, already had one just like it sitting in the trunk of his car. He had bought it the weekend prior. His wife had been hounding him for over a month to replace it. He didn’t understand why it fell on him to do this, but he found it convenient now.

“You won’t. You’ll forget it. You’ll forget it and then you’ll call home to have me describe it to you. But I won’t quite describe it well enough. There will be five so nearly like it that you won’t know which it is. Take it. Get a clerk to match it.”

He clenched the hinge.

“Why do you do this to me!”

“Why do I do what?”

“Do you think I’m some kind of idiot?”

“Don’t start that.”

“Don’t start what?”

She was glaring. He thought it looked as though she would leave. He decided to wait her out.

He waited for some time, watching her movements closely for signs of capitulation. With each of her rising breaths he imagined he saw her begin to shift. His anticipation would grow, his nerves would strain just short from bursting, but then she would exhale and he knew. She was staying put. He stood waiting her out until he knew he had waited so long that he was making a perfect ass of himself and that he couldn’t wait a moment longer and expect any peace in the house. He resolved to give. He gathered himself to speech, but upon taking a breath, found that his rage at her obstinacy flared anew. He stopped his speech short, but only just to have his voice croak out a strained vowel. If this was the extent of it, he might have recovered. His throat swelled. His throat swelled enormously, and--bursting from his mouth in a flurry of black feather--a crow shot forth, flailing its lame wings about their heads. The wings were far too stubbed for flight, but still had enough vibrancy to betray him and to harass them both before the bird fell to the ground.

She turned her face away.


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