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Oh, What the Heck

BrainPot

You get the idea.

Lately I’ve not really come up with any earth-shattering posts.  My inspiration seems to be on a very low simmer these days so I thought I’d dredge up some old writing prompts and just put them out there.  For you to read.  And comment on.

When I lived in New York, a good writerly friend of mine invited me to a writer’s group type thing in Woodside.  I wrote a post about that.

It was fun and I felt very much the New York writer as I boarded a train and traveled to that cutesy little village.

Boarding the LIRR

Boarding the LIRR

We walked into a tiny coffee shop with people behind the counter that were friendly and artsy.  Tattoos decorated their arms and neck, piercings here and there, brightly-colored or streaks of brightly-colored hair.  One of the baristas was a very happy gay man.  It was so New York.  You know, like you see in the movies.

I felt sooooo writerly.  Anyway, the meeting was in the windowless basement of the shop.  My friend and I waited around until we saw other people coming in and then we followed suit – down some steep dark stairs. A young, sinewy man led the group and after welcoming everyone, he handed out papers with writing prompts on them.  We were given twenty minutes to come up with something.  When the time was up, many brave souls got up to read their writing.  I was going to but it seemed all those who read their work – well it was very deep, literary and Dylan-like (Bob and Thomas).  I felt very intimidated.  Mine wasn’t.  I picked one of the ordinary, every-day-life-kind of prompts plus I had some f-bombs in my story (not very literary – there are no f-bombs in Shakespeare as far as I know), but I felt they were necessary for my story and characters).  So I didn’t read mine and to this day, I regret it.

NYCoffeeHouse

 So you’re that group now.  I’m at the mike.

The mic (or mike) I imagine I would be reading into if we were all were all in a room.

The mic (or mike) I imagine I would be reading into if we were all in a room.

We’re all there in that small room and you’re watching me as I have a mild panic attack.  My heart is beating faster and I’m thinking you can all see it kind of pumping out of my tee-shirt.   I hear that whoosh white noise in my ears, my mouth goes dry and I begin to read.  (The f-bombs and curse words have been starred out.  I know, I know, but it just makes me feel better).

WRITING PROMPT:  Couple thinking of getting a divorce.

The 12-Year Scratch

“I swear to all that’s holy if you sniff and swallow one more time, I’m going to rip your f**king face off.”

Diane looked over at Harry, her husband of twelve years and wondered how she could have ever have considered him a viable option. She hated freckles, which Harry had.  Granted they had given him that bad-boy-like-Prince-Harry kind of look over a decade ago.  But she’d never trusted f**king redheads and his freckles had multiplied over the years. Prince Harry was gone and in his place, was Carrot Top before steroids and plastic surgery.

“Diane,” Harry said in that infuriating tone of his, as if she were the idiot, “I have allergies as you well know. They are especially bad this year.  You’re the one that wanted to move out here to bum-f**k nowhere so you could have your rancher with a picket fence with room for all your dogs and what was it?  Ah, yes, chickens.”

Harry rattled the New York Times, scratched his balls, sniffed and swallowed.

Harry knew where the conversation was heading.  They’d do this berating thing that they did to each other, avoiding the real problem.  That problem being they couldn’t seem to stand the sight of each other anymore.  He glanced over at Diane as she bent over to pick up his newspaper from yesterday.  She made a big deal out of it; her passive-aggressiveness drove him crazy.  Sometimes he left the paper there on purpose just to watch her huff and puff and blow and swear.

What’s the big deal about leaving yesterday’s paper on the floor?  He wanted to reread an article so he’d leave the paper there, just a section of it.  He’d then forget about it and then wouldn’t read it.  But he wanted it left there.  It was better than her having twelve different hair products in the bathroom.  Bottles and bottles of shit that made her hair, shine, curl, straighten out, glow, whatever the f**k — it looked the same brown with those blonde streaks she paid a gay hairdresser named Xavier to do every month for $375.  Three hundred and seventy-five dollars to make her hair look the exact same every f**king month.

Diane tucked her hair behind her ear and looked at Harry.  He quickly looked back at his newspaper.

“What?”  Diane stood there above him, looking down.  “Why did you look at me that way?”

“What way?”  Harry didn’t look at her.  The 7 train wasn’t running tomorrow because of construction.  Macy’s had their billionth sale that month. There was an article about the pollen count being particularly high this spring and cicadas were going to be a major bitch.  Harry took that section out and laid it on the floor to read later.

“NO! You a*shole.  You are purposely putting that section of newspaper on the floor to piss me off.”

Diane strode across the room into the open kitchen.  She opened their massive Sub-Zero refrigerator (where she kept fresh vegetables from their garden and bowls of brown eggs from her chickens) and pulled out a large pitcher of filtered water.  She poured herself a big glass, took a drink and walked over to Harry.

“Pick it up.”  She stood above him.

“Diane,” Harry sniffed and swallowed without looking up at her.  “Calm down, don’t be so dramatic.”  He rattled the paper and pulled out another section, laying it on top of the other one.

He felt a cold rush of water.  The newspaper bled.  The pollen and cicada articles on the floor were ruined.  Diane threw the glass across the room into the fireplace.  It shattered, a couple of big slices of glass lay on the floor.  The sun caught on one and stippled a rainbow across the floor.  The clock ticked loudly.  Chickens clucked outside.  The sprinklers came on with a SWISH, SWISH and click, click, click as water spurted out over the green carpet of lawn that surrounded their suburban nightmare.

“Have you lost your f**king mind?”  Harry stood up, slinging his thick mop of auburn hair off his face.  Diane was tall, nearly as tall as Harry.

They stood inches apart, both breathing hard, glaring at each other.  The phone rang.  Neither moved.  The answering machine picked up after the third ring.

“Diane, it’s Mother. Pick up the phone.  Your father and I are at the cafe down the road and thought we’d drop by if you guys aren’t busy.”

“Go ahead.  Mommy’s waiting.”  Harry turned and headed toward the bedroom, to change.  To make himself the presentable, nice guy he always was in front of friends and parents.

Diane straightened up the pillows, gathered up the newspapers, taking them into the kitchen and putting them into the trash can underneath the sink.

Picking up the phone before her mother could say goodbye, she said, “Mom!  We’d love for you guys to stop by.  Harry and I were just relaxing and about to make brunch.  See you in a few.”

***

Leave a comment if you’d like and be as literary or non-literary as you’d like (remember I only had 20 minutes).  Do you relate to Diane or Harry more – who do you like better?  Is this a tragedy or a comedy?  Do writing prompts hinder or help your creative process?  Also, if you’re feeling froggy, take the prompt and write your own.

About Brigitte

Writer/Editor/Wanderer

Discussion

56 thoughts on “Oh, What the Heck

  1. This is awesome, Brigitte! You perfectly portrayed this rageful couple! It’s often the little things (newspaper, hair products, chickens) that finally create the break. I’m so impressed that you did this in twenty minutes and glad you shared it with us. I’m now clapping like crazy!

    I guess I can relate to both characters. They have obviously reached a place where neither can stand the other and they both feel trapped, and the passive-aggressive behavior is their only way of expressing their ire. Also very true, that couples in this kind of situation manage to hide it from the rest of the world until the splint and no one even suspects… Well done!

    Posted by Cathy Ulrich | November 20, 2013, 9:16 am
  2. This is very well written for something you knocked off in 20 minutes Brig. I personally don’t relate to either character, but it brings to mind warring couples I’ve seen on stage, most memorably earlier this year in the Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Even though I don’t relate I can be entertained – and grateful to not be a part of that couple.

    Posted by lameadventures | November 20, 2013, 10:57 am
    • Hey V, thank you! I seem to work better under pressure. It, at least, gets me started. When I have time to dawdle, well that’s what I do. I have other ones that were hastily written during these same kinds of prompts. I did like that movie (with Liz screaming all over the place) and sure the play was good as well. I’m grateful not to be a part of them either but they were fun to conjure up and write about.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 11:21 am
  3. Wow, Brigitte! I’m extremely impressed you wrote so much and so well in a 20-minute session. You absolutely should have gotten up to the mike. You would have impressed the f*#k out of them! (couldn’t resist!) This is a superb, complete story. Excellent hook to start it off. Excellent ending. Very sharp throughout. You slipped into passive voice in the last two lines but other than that, every word was perfect. I felt I was in the room with them the whole time.

    I hope you go further with this story and this couple. They’ve got enough conflict between them to feed an apartment-complex furnace and carry the reader in whatever direction you care to dangle a carrot–tragedy or comedy. I haven’t done much time-restricted prompt writing. It’s hard enough for me to get words on paper under ideal conditions. Doing so while a target on a firing range would be my last choice. For that reason, I hope to do exactly that this year because I think it would advance my writing skills astronomically. Just recently sat in on a few writers’ groups and had to read some of my work aloud. Not my comfy, happy place, but definitely is forcing me to do better. My immediate focus is on a larger creative writing project (blogging aside for a bit). Feels good to sink my teeth a little deeper into something more substantial.

    Great to see you drift from your typical and deliver to us a heaping helping of your fancy, schmancy, super-fine work. Well done!

    Posted by Sue J | November 20, 2013, 11:03 am
    • Sue, how are you my friend? How’s sunny CA?? Thanks so much. I’m a deadline kind of person so when someone gives me one, I feel as if I get more creative. If I have a lot of time on my hands, I have problems. I wish I would have read it too. But hey, at least I’m getting some feedback from all the great peeps who stop here. Just writing — anything — every day helps me. Now that I have some time on my hands, I’m digging out old stuff. I have a very uncomfortable short story that I think is good; I just haven’t finished it. I found that when I was in my writers’ group for over a month, I became less shy about sharing my writing. I actually read some of it in class!

      it’s good to drift from one’s safe place, don’t you think? I so hope you and yours are great and as always, so nice to see you here, Sue.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 11:25 am
      • Re: safe places, yes, I agree. I do my best when I face the enemy (‘myself’ often). Things are great in CA; finding my way along this fuzzy path I’ve chosen. Curious to see where it goes. :)

        Oh, by the way, I’m giving you until Jan 1, 2014, to finish that short story. Get to it! :)

        Posted by Sue J | November 20, 2013, 12:17 pm
      • I know EXACTLY what you mean, Sue. I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well! And I can’t wait to hear more — when you’re ready to share that fuzzy path with us. Holy shite — I’ve got another short story that I’ve got to finish. I will soldier on. Happy writing to you. ;).

        Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 12:57 pm
      • Oh, and please ignore my comment on passive voice… I sat in on a critique group recently that pointed out a passive-voice tendency of mine, so not truly understanding what they meant, I researched to try to understand. I thought I understood, but now realize I’m still confused on it. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain, Brig. It’s just me fumbling at the controls!

        Posted by Sue J | November 22, 2013, 11:27 am
      • It is confusing to me too, Sue and don’t apologize! When I invite comments, I invite all constructive criticism. I don’t know if this may have been better:

        She picked up the phone before her mother could say goodbye and said, “Mom! Wed love for you guys to stop by. Harry and I were just relaxing and about to make brunch. See you in a few.

        Thank you for that, really because it confuses me as well! ;)

        Posted by Brigitte | November 22, 2013, 12:29 pm
      • Exactly! And in the sentence before it, ” . . . took them into the kitchen and put them into the trash . . . “. This way, the reader stays in the present, active moment. Or, at least, that is what I *think* is meant by staying in the active voice. Always learning. ;)

        Posted by Sue J | November 22, 2013, 2:08 pm
  4. Oh, what goes on behind closed doors, nobody knows…

    I enjoyed reading this. I would not be good at this type of thing which is one of the reasons I don’t attend writing workshops. I don’t work well on the spot, and anything I’d create would be rubbish. I’m all about the polishing, and given that, I would be far to horrified to ever read a first draft in front of people. So not my nature!

    Posted by Carrie Rubin | November 20, 2013, 11:15 am
  5. Not to be redundant with my fellow commentors..but WOW. I can’t believe you wrote this in 20 minutes. This is so painfully real Brigitte. You captured so much in so little. I love that you shared this.. and yes, you should have gotten up to that microphone because you would have knocked their socks off. ( I would have chickened out myself)

    I wish you would share more of your writing like this Brigitte. You are quite the talented writer.

    Posted by unfetteredbs | November 20, 2013, 11:15 am
  6. I sniffed and swallowed–swear to you–as I read this, then, I felt terribly guilty.

    I love the cadence of your voice in this, it moves so smoothly from one slice of the scene to another. I think I’ve mentioned, I don’t like to analyze writing or film or plays–I judge them on if I’m involved with the plot and characters. I’ve been known to read during a program on TV or drift off into my imagination in a play. Here, I was involved, so, I think it was a successful venture.

    No, Willy S. didn’t say fuck, but, didn’t he say forsoothe? I’m calling that an early version. My story, and I’m happy with it.

    Posted by Addie | November 20, 2013, 11:59 am
    • Addie — thank you. So you felt guilty about the sniffing and swallowing, huh? ha! Moving smoothy — I like that and as you know so important to pacing! I know what you mean about getting involved — you either are or you aren’t. I too can read during banal programming on television — for some reason, it’s comforting to me at times. Thank you for your input and for taking the time to read — it is so appreciated. Really, you think Bill used forsoothe as a curse? Well, I guess I’m in good company then.

      Do you like to write? Would you take the challenge? Thanks again, Addie and hope you and that sweet precious baby new addition to your family is wonderful as well.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 12:04 pm
  7. You did this in twenty minutes? You really should have read it–it is just excellent–I couldn’t wait to get to the end then I was said when I did–I like Harry and Diane–make that chapter one–I want to know what happened when mom and dad came. I am so not a person who can change and be happy after being really mad and am always fascinated by people who can–my mom was really good at it and so is my husband–me, not so much. Good thing I do not play poker. I loved all the details–the contents of the fridge, the sprinklers coming on, and if truth be told I was hoping she would pour the water on him. I could go on and on….I would be happy to be your audience.

    Posted by on thehomefrontandbeyond | November 20, 2013, 12:09 pm
    • I did I promise. I had it on my iPad in the notes section (that’s what I had brought to the writer’s thing months ago) when I tapped it out. I don’t think I could have done it had I just been doing it in longhand. I type pretty quickly and my thoughts are flying when I do. That’s not to say this a.m. when I read it again, I changed a word or two. I had the word “prismmed” meaning the past tense of prism, which btw, there is no such word instead of the word i use, “stippled.” Boring minute details, but yeah, 20 minutes to write this.

      I can’t do that either (go from really mad to acting as if nothing is wrong) but some people are great at tucking away their feelings. These two I conjured up were very good at doing that. As a result, those little details were beginning to realllllly get to them. Harry was rather smug, wasn’t he? Thanks so much, Lou. Nice to see you and so appreciate your reading and critique.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 12:56 pm
  8. Easy for me to say (but could never do myself)—you should have gotten up to read this! I don’t necessarily relate to either character, but I know people like them. And you’ve really captured their feelings about one another and shown how people will act out what they won’t say.

    I can’t say I’ve ever seriously tried to use prompts. Writing to a work deadline is one thing. But coming up with something creative “on demand” is quite another for me. And not one I’d have much success with, I’m afraid. It rather smacks me of performance anxiety!

    Posted by jmmcdowell | November 20, 2013, 4:40 pm
    • JM, thank you. You being a “wordsmith” that I admire so much. I always hesitate putting my writing out there. I like to hear the good and the “bad.: What works and what doesn’t. I kind of like those prompts. It forces me to “create” and some of my best writing (maybe from high school and college days of having to submit a paper) makes me do that. I kind of like the urgency of that.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and your comments. I think you are such a great writer! It means a lot that you’ve enjoyed my writing.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 7:48 pm
  9. I imagined the whole story as a movie playing in my head. And that only happens when I’m reading really good, really interesting writing. So, you know, make of that what you will. (aka your writing is fabulous and please share more!) Hey, next time maybe you could record yourself reading it! So that way even though we can’t see you, at least we can hear you. ;)

    On a random tangent, your picture of the “watch the gap” written on the platform edge has solved a mystery for me. A friend recently posted a photo of a London underground platform with the words “mind the gap” written on it, presumably because it’s ‘British’ and different from what would be written on a train platform in the U.S. Since I rarely ride trains/the underground in the States, I wondered for the longest time what the “Americanized” version of ‘mind the gap’ would be. Turns out it wasn’t what I’d thought it would be but good to have this mystery solved. :)

    Posted by lillianccc | November 20, 2013, 4:49 pm
    • Lillian! thank you. It’s nice to hear that my writing bridges gaps — that you can picture this as a twenty-something or whatever age — I like that! I’ve read great writers who write in such a way that I’m surprised — there are human emotions, situations that are universal, transcending time, age, whatever. And there are writers who do that so well. So thank you, I hope you have a “picture” in your mind of Diane and Harry. And I will share more. I think you’ll be surprised — in a good way!

      i love the fact that London is so polite, as in “Mind the Gap.” We Americans assume that you know this already and so we say, “WATCH the gap.” So hope you are experiencing life where you are, to the fullest!

      Posted by Brigitte | November 20, 2013, 7:56 pm
  10. Wow, Brigitte! 20 minutes!? I’ve tried to do this sort of thing for songwriting. “Oh, just write down whatever comes to mind. Let it rhyme, or just go with freeform.” Can you hear my eyes rolling? I suck at it. Besides not liking being told what to do and how much time I have to do it, I’m easily distracted, and I feel such insane pressure to be brilliant (Dylan-like), that my mind … just … goes … What was I talking about? ;)

    This is really good. Thank you for letting us be your audience. I don’t know how connected you feel to this story, and if you’ve thought of picking it back up, but I’d love to hear what happens next. It seems like it even has the possibility of being a play. ???

    Posted by notedinnashville | November 21, 2013, 11:10 am
    • Anita, thank you. I heard some of your songs so I think you do very well! So whatever creative process you do is obviously working. I never thought of this as a play but I really like the sound of that. Thanks again. You and all those who’ve taken the time to read and comment, and the talent of you and them validates this little piece of my writing even more.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 21, 2013, 12:46 pm
  11. Psssstttt–where do I post my tale of marital woe? Here or on my home turf?

    Posted by Addie | November 21, 2013, 12:52 pm
  12. Okay. Posting shortly. I timed myself–22 minutes to write the original piece, added a sentence on the end…no other editing.

    Posted by Addie | November 21, 2013, 3:34 pm
  13. You did this in 20 minutes?! Wow! It’s a bit close to home but you pegged it. Appearances become so important. You nailed it. And I gasped when she dumped the water on him. I’ve thrown a glass before. It’s not good to be that angry. Brava!

    Posted by Maggie O'C | November 21, 2013, 3:49 pm
    • Hey Maggie — thanks. I like writing prompts and deadlines — makes me actually do it! Glad you enjoyed the small snippet and no being that angry doesn’t feel good. How goes your writing?

      Posted by Brigitte | November 21, 2013, 4:31 pm
  14. Hi Brigitte, we are new to your blog by way of mutual blogging bud, Carrie Rubin. We’ve spent some time on your blog & have to say we loved it. This post in particular! Unbelievable that you we’re able to pull that Rabbit out of your hat in twenty minutes. We were laughing right away at the Prince Harry to Carrot-top reference. Absolutely loved that!! And we loved the real-feel the story had, along with the point of view the reader gets of the wife’s thoughts as to what she once had, to what she now loathes. Well done. & by the way….the f-bombs, (to us) made the story all the better. Because in truth, a wife that discontent, would have used them! Great job. :)

    Posted by Inion N. Mathair | November 22, 2013, 6:20 am
    • Hello ladies and welcome!! So glad you stopped in and well any friend of Carrie’s is a friend of mine. ;). What a nice thing to say about my blog — that means so much and I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Ha! Glad you liked the Carrot Top reference and thank you for following me. I’ll most definitely stroll over to your place. You know sometimes a writer has to put that “language” in a story if it needs it and I thought that’s what was needed here. Thank you for your praise — it is SO appreciated. Hope you’ll come back again!

      Posted by Brigitte | November 22, 2013, 9:28 am
  15. Even better the second time around! :) But just as uncomfortable to read because it’s such a realistic depiction of a relationship on its last leg. Yikes. So happy I’m not in THAT relationship! I also think it’s incredible that you were able to put that together in 20 minutes. (As you know, I am not an on-the-spot type of writer.)

    I’m so glad that you shared this on your blog. I miss reading your writing, and can’t wait until December 8th!

    Love you lots! xox

    Posted by Carly | November 22, 2013, 7:53 pm
    • Hey Carly, why thank you. And yeah, it is pretty brutal huh? You and I like to push those limits with our writing, don’t we? ;). I miss reading yours too and I look forward to seeing and talking to my ole’ gang again. love you lots back. xxoo

      Posted by Brigitte | November 23, 2013, 9:51 am
  16. Great writing, Brigitte. You captured a troubled couple on the way to break-up. And you did it in 20 minutes. Impressive. As an aside, my ex-wife once dumped a pitcher of ice water on a friend who had been particularly obnoxious. He had joined us for dinner in Liberia a year earlier at our house in Gbarnga and complained about how skinny the duck was. We were at his apartment in Washington DC when the incident happened. “Why did you do that?” he had asked in dismay. “For the duck,” Jo had replied. She had a long memory. –Curt

    Posted by Curt Mekemson | November 24, 2013, 10:22 am
    • Thank you, Curt. Sometimes obnoxious people need a little reminder that he/she shouldn’t be so obnoxious. I think many women have a long memory, which sometimes isn’t necessarily, a bad thing. Ha! Hey, at least it makes a good story, eh? Thanks a lot, Curt.

      Posted by Brigitte | November 24, 2013, 10:57 am

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