Tit for Tat

I have 25 followers, but… TNKerr, this is aimed at YOU, in particular!

It’s writing prompt time! Never mind my long dry spells. You, TNKerr, write up! This week! V.E.R.B.A.T.I.M!…. (snicker-giggle-snickerhorkhorkspitspat… ). Scroll to the end. Therein lies your challenge fate.

The rest of you? YOU write up, too! Ping/Link your story back to this post. I want to know who you are, as writer, that is. Enjoy!

(For those of you who are wondering…the image? I used to have a writing-prompt blog called The Blog Propellant. Therefore, the following writing prompts…)

  1. stale Cheetos
  2. re-arranging house plants from “needs a lot of sun” to, wait, wha…what the hell…?
  3. She is something I …
  4. …and then…

Breakdown

After all was said and done—as all the broken dishes, broken Christmas decorations, and all the broken hearts lay in shards in the middle of the kitchen floor—it seemed Johanna herself was finally broken. Her outburst of ruthless accusations and hysterical excuses were at an end. She sat exhausted in the corner of the living room staring out the picture window.

The shock of what had transpired was unmistakable. Johanna’s mother, brother and sister-in-law silently cleaned up, avoiding making eye contact. Johanna’s father made his way out into the backyard where Johanna’s eldest brother had escaped at the onset of her explosion, ostensibly to supervise the children. The children, by contrast, happily romped, chasing after each other and laughing, still wound up with the excitement of Christmas, completely unaware of most of the histrionics that transpired inside.

Johanna watched her brother finish setting up the circus play set the Baby Jesus and Reindeer Vixen gave all the grandchildren; “For when you visit Grammy and Grumpy,” the card read in a contrived child’s hand. All children in Johanna’s family, young or old, received Christmas gifts from either the Baby Jesus or Santa’s Reindeer Vixen. Big gifts came from both. Baby Jesus’ handwriting hasn’t improved in all these years, a grown son kidded his mother. Well, honey, he’s just a baby. Wonder he can write at all, she kidded back. Johanna loathed the absurdity of it all.

One of the younger children ran into the house holding a small, brightly colored box with a handle on one side. Look! the child screeched, shattering the charged silence. He hugged the box to his chest and turned the handle with all the brute force of a four year-old. A nursery rhyme haltingly played on an out-of-tune metal harp until the lid of the box popped open and a large plush bird with bugged-out eyes sprung up. The child laughed, shoving the toy back into the box. I’ll do it again! The child’s mother stepped out from the kitchen to escort the child back outside.

Johanna abruptly stood. Her family froze, bracing themselves for whatever might come next. She gathered up her purse and coat, walked over to her mother and gave her a rough kiss on her cheek. Then she walked out the door.

As she reached her car, her father called after her. She turned to shoot him a look of warning.

“Dad, just leave me…”

“Shut up,” her father snapped. Usually the diplomat, her father’s harsh scold caught Johanna by surprise. He walked up to her and leaned into her face.

“What you did today really cut deep,” he said in an angry whisper, “and I am not going to put up with your bullshit anymore, little girl. That’s it. I mean it. I really have had it with you.”

“Whatever.” Johanna opened her car door, but her father yanked her aside and slammed it shut.

“Get this and get it loud and clear: You’re done.” His face was flushed. His eyes were as furious as Johanna had ever seen them. “You drive away, and you don’t come back, ever,” he said pointing down the driveway. “You don’t call with one of your hysterical pleas to bail you out of whatever goddamned mess you’re in. That goes for your brothers as well. I do not want you dumping your shit on them, ever again. I’m telling them to cut you out. From here on out, you wallow in your own stinking shit, and when you need help, because you always need help, always complaining, always making a mess of your life, then get it together and fucking figure it out, baby girl. Just like everyone else in the world who ever had to get themselves out of a jam. This is really it.”

He yanked open her car door and shoved her toward it. “Get in and get gone!”

Shaking, Johanna watched as her father walked back to the house. Her eldest brother stood at the front door also watching his father. He did not acknowledge her. He gave his father a pat on the shoulder and followed him into the house.

Tears fell down Johanna’s cheeks as she turned over the engine. She put the car in reverse and backed out the driveway. As she returned her focus forward, she saw one of her nieces standing in the driveway, waving goodbye, a large smile across her face.


Going back several weeks, the prompts (however loosely associated to the actual prompts) are highlighted in bold. https://aooga.wordpress.com/2020/01/12/olwg-137-fields/

Not the most cheerful piece, but dedicated nevertheless to my constant companion of 18 years, Iona Cat Named Skipper. But I just called her Kitty. Hope your heaven is full of tall ficus trees you can climb to your heart’s content and strip bare of every leaf. May giant buckets of rotisserie chicken just be sitting there, waiting for you, whenever you please. Hope you have yourself many a happy, thoroughly destructive, clawings on the biggest couches you ever saw, and long naps on a plush window sill lounge under a hot summer sun. I hope you find a friend with whom you can snuggle. Miss you forever, kiddo.

A Meandering Road Through Prompts

  1. A member of the Penny Whistle Band in the 70s, Joseph wonders how life would have turned out if he left the band and followed Alice to Selma. Love of music. Love of a woman. The same word, but such different meanings.
  2. He’s racing the moon through the night, trying to make it to dawn, tapping out the minutes like a blind man with his cane. His focus is locked in tight. Only one more chance to get it right.
  3. The weekly meeting of the Beach City Camp counselors was called to order. The group was dog-tired. The campers this year were a real handful. “The whole girls cabin going ballistic because one of them saw a spider in the tub completely undid me,” one counselor admitted.
  4. Dave wondered the significance of a weathered trombone attached to the sign marking the entrance to the Tahoe Mud Baths. As he drove down the long dirt lane to the lodge, he kept rolling possible reasons around in his mind, when a young woman dressed in just a blue lamé bikini and hiking boots stepped out onto the lane. She smiled and shrugged an apology as she continued across the lane and into the wood. Dave wondered what a woman in a fancy bikini and hiking boots was doing wandering around out here. It was still some distance to the lodge. It struck him as weird as the trombone on the entrance sign.

Four weeks of prompts! I felt like I needed to get caught up, but couldn’t thread them through a single story. Had fun composing the little snippets, though!
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/11/24/olwg-130-a-dizygotic-pair/

I’m just saying.

So, this guy named Harv…

uh-huh

This guy named Harv, he works in sales, right?

uh-huh

And we’re in the elevator and I’m on my way to El Mar to meet Jenn all those guys for lunch, right? and he says, hey, don’t you work for Deborah Wheaton, and I say yes and he says, she’s got quite a rep, right? I was like, I don’t know, I guess.

uh-huh

And then we get to the lobby and I start leave and he is right next to me, right? and I’m like so confused. And he says, I’m just curious because I want to work in your department. He says, next time there’s an opening, I’m going to apply.

uh-huh

Anyway, he keeps walking with me and talking about how much fun he thinks marketing is and, like, it’s really weird, ’cause he just keeps walking with me, and I’m, like, not wanting to be mean or anything, but, it was just so weird, ya know?

uh-huh

And he keeps asking me all these questions, like what I do at work, and if I have my own projects or do I just, like, do stuff Deborah gives me.

uh-huh

So, finally, I had to just stop and I say, I’m sorry, but, what are you doing? And he looks all surprised and says something like, I’m just asking questions because I want to know, and I’m, like, I’m going to lunch!

uh-huh

Anyway. I’m just sayin. People are just so weird.

Um


The prompts this week are: A guy named Harv; uh-huh; el mar

Benny’s Honeysuckle Rose

Benny, as the locals call him, is a bonafide gentleman: Sir Bedford Corvallis, an ex-pat Scotsman, and a regular of the Argyll Seafood Grill. Nobody remembers when he landed in our Gulf Coast town. He’s just always seemed to be part of the landscape. I enjoy chatting with Benny when he sits in my section. But this night was busier than usual. There was no time to stop and gossip.

As service started to slow and we had a chance to take catch our breaths, I was surprised to see Benny bent over his horse head cane, clearly crying.  I signaled the host I was taking a break and ordered a couple of Johnny Walker Golds from the bar. I invited myself to sit, offered Benny one of the shots and raised my glass.

“Who are we toasting?” I asked.

Benny took his glass and raised it. “To another long-lost friend. My dearest, my darling. Honeysuckle!”

We tossed back our drinks. I signaled the bar for another round. Benny wiped his eyes with his ever-present pocket kerchief and stared off into the distance. The shots arrived, and I offered, “To friends. Past and present.”

“Cheers,” Benny said, and we tossed back our second. I stood to leave and Benny stopped me.

“She was the love of my life. I know that now, of course. Oh, my. Well, as the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. I couldn’t know then the difference between a fun flirtation and meaningful pursuit.”

He pointed to my seat and I sat back down, giving my irritated host a shrug of apology.

“We were still children, really. Still laughing, still silly and playful. She was smart and bubbling. And, oh, she was a very pretty thing. Prettiest lass in the village, by my reckoning. And, to see her in her bathing suit,” Benny shook his head and let out a small whistle. “We used to go scuba diving, you see. Her father was the proprietor of a charter fishing and diving outfit. Most popular with the tourists.”

Benny drifted off in private thought.

“I would’ve never taken you for a diver,” I said.

“Oh, yes! Indeed, I was quite enthusiastic at the time. My favorite time of day was in early summer, at midday. The sun would be high in a blue cloudless sky, and the waters of my home village are so very clear, that the high sun could illuminate everything below. The world beneath the water’s surface is such a captivating place to explore. If it were possible, I would have stayed under all day! I fancied becoming a marine biologist at one time, you know.”

I stood and gave Benny a pat on the shoulder. “Benny, I have to get back to it, or Jeff’ll blow a gasket. You want another? On me.”

Benny rose from his seat. “No, sweet lady, I do not, but I do thank you. Best I go on home now.”

I handed him his bill and we walked through the restaurant together, and as I broke off for the kitchen, Benny took my hand and kissed the back of it.

“As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed,” he said with a generous smile.

I smiled in return and waved good-bye.

As I ploughed through the rest of a hard night’s work, I couldn’t stop thinking of how truly grieved Benny seemed, and how sad his parting smile. It made me think of David. That last time we got together, I was so excited about going off to school, his grumpiness and hound-dog scowl pissed me off.

I wonder—that is, if David thinks of me—what he thinks of the memory of us. I don’t think I was cruel. I was just a kid looking forward to a big adventure. But I know I broke his heart. Seeing how sad Benny was at the news of the death of his teenage sweetheart, I wondered if maybe I should look up David. Before it is too late to say I am sorry.

As service wound down, and the group of us sat around the bar having our late meals and one for the road, I raised my beer, “Ya know, there’s no time like the present. I just want to say how grateful I am for you guys and I want to thank all of you for being my friends. Cheers to you.”


Two sets of OLWG prompts: roadhouse whisky; a horse head cane; he was crying; round ‘em up; am I smart enough to know the difference?; burying my friends
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/olwg-122-purple-ish-prose-2/

and one from Go Dog Go Café’s Tuesday Prompt: beneath the waters       https://godoggocafe.com/2019/10/08/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-october-8-2019/

Creative Writing 101, Fourth Period, Room 107, and PopPop’s Front Yard

“No shit, there I was, just sittin’ there. Like, seriously, for the whole frickin’ period. And like, the teacher is doin’ nothin’. Seriously! Like, fuckin’ around with his pen and just staring at us. Fuckin’ freak. I mean, I seen teachers like him. Power players. Thinkin’ he will make us, I dunno, bow down, or something. Like, if he keeps up the silent treatment, we’re all going to, like, think he’s all powerful and tough, and like, get all scared. Whatev’s.

“So, then, get this! Like, he goes, he goes, like outta nowhere, right? Like, right before the bell, he says, he says…we have homework! First fuck-ing thing outta his mouth the whole period. Homework! Know what it is? You’ll love this, right? Homework is, we have to write what we learned in class today! Seriously? Is he fuckin’ kidding me?! What we learned?! What sort of ass-hat …?”

Jared shook his head and tossed back the last of his soda pop. His grandfather smiled and tilted his head in a lilting nod of amusement as he continued to weed the flowerbed in front his porch. Jared got up from the stoop stairs and walked over to him.

“Seriously, PopPop, I’m askin’, who da frickin’ fuck does that?”

“So. What did you learn in your writing class today?” his grandfather replied.

“Wha…are you listenin‘? Nothing! We just sat there!”

Jared’s grandfather sat back on his haunches and looked at his grandson. “All of you?”

“What’ya mean, all of us. Of course! I mean, some was getting bored and shit, messin’ around, but…yeah! We just sat there.”

The old man went back to weeding. “Sounds like a great writing lesson to me.”

“ARRRGH!!” Jared yelled. He stormed over to the corner of the house, lifted the lid of the garbage can high in the air, and threw down his pop can with all the force he could. He slammed the lid back down.

“I swear! School is so STUPID!”

Jared stomped back over to his grandfather and squatted down next to him. “PopPop, listen to me, listen to me: We, we… just… sat there. He didn’t say a damn thing about writing. Not teach, not nothin’. Just played with his pens and stared at us, like he was, I dunno, sizing us up, or somethin’. Figuring out who’s a douchebag and who’s a fuckin’ twit. Probably checkin’ out Abbey Jensen’s boobs, like every other horndog.”

He paused for a moment, a bit lost in thought. The old man smiled again; a knowing grin.

Jared snapped back to it. “Oh, wait. I’m wrong. No, you’re right, you’re right. He did do something. He wrote his damn name on the board. I learned…the damn fool can write his own damn name.”

Jared’s grandfather let out a sigh and stood. He tossed his weeding tool into the bed and pulled off his work gloves.

“Stand up.”

Jared complied. The old man wiped his hands on his jeans and placed them on his grandson’s shoulders.

“Jared, now, listen here. You got to learn that not all there is to teach comes out of a text book, or what your teachers talk about in class.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m saying, my boy, what did you learn in writing class today?”

Jared spun out from under his grandfather’s grasp, pretending to tear the hair out of his head. “Oh. My. God!!! NOT A DAMN THING!”

“OK! So…?”

“So?! So, WHAT?”

“Write about it, ya damn hard head! Write about learning nothing in class today.”

Jared stared at his grandfather in wide-eyed disbelief, but from behind his bewildered look the old man could see a tiny spark. Small, but discernible.

“Oh my God, that’s it!!” Jared blurted. “Oh, man! I get it! Whoa!”

“OK?”

“Yeah! Oh my God! Um…I’m just going to…” Jared motioned toward the house. His grandfather waved him on and returned to weeding his flower bed.

As Jared darted inside, his grandmother came out on the porch.

“Hey Grams…” Jared said.

Jared’s grandmother attempted to kiss her grandson’s cheek, but was met with an awkward and furious rush of teenage energy as he rushed indoors.

“You stayin’ for dinner, hon?” she called to him as he ran to the back the house, but Jared did not reply.

She turned to her husband. “What the hell was that about?”

“School. So, hey. It sounds like Bruce is still teaching. “

“Bruce?! ” Jared’s grandmother shook her head.

“I mean, let’s check it out first, OK? Don’t go telling Jenny before we know for sure, OK? Agreed?”


Miss me? I know I said a few weeks back “I’m back,” but sometimes life has its way with me… ANYWAY… I read your prompt preamble and immediately knew what I wanted to write. Looks like you inspired several others, as well! That was my absolute joy when I was running Blog Propellant. Oh, and BTW…I turned in 750 words, Teach!

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/olwg-121-dalrymple/

When you open that Pandora’s box, you will find it full of Trojan horses

How to avoid mixing your metaphors?

It’s not rocket surgery.
First, get all your ducks on the same page.
After all, you can’t make an omelette
without breaking stride.

Be sure to watch what you write
with a fine-tuned comb.
Check and re-check until the cows turn blue.
It’s as easy as falling off a piece of cake.

Don’t worry about opening up
a whole hill of beans:
you can burn that bridge when you come to it,
if you follow where I’m coming from.

Concentrate! Keep your door closed
and your enemies closer.
Finally, don’t take the moral high horse:
if the metaphor fits, walk a mile in it.


Saw this today on FB and had to share on OLWG #105 [attributed to Brian Bilston, “Frequently described as the ‘Poet Laureate of Twitter’, Brian Bilston is a poet clouded in the pipe smoke of mystery.”]

A Deadend at the One-Stop Town

Carly and Bet felt like they’d been driving forever. Lunch at the rest stop already seemed like a distant memory. The landscape dramatically changed from the lush green and varied scenery when they dropped down out of the mountain pass and crossed the bridge over the river. The trees, leafy shrubs and meadows gave way to wide, flat plains of red clay, gnarly yellowed scrub and a seemingly endless cloudless sky stretching out all around them. Heat waves rose off the road in front of them. The farther they drove, the thinner the traffic became until all they encountered was the occasional semi headed the opposite direction toward the big cities on the coast. It was as if they were the only vehicle headed south on their stretch of highway.

Bet and Carly were on a trip to the barely-there one-stop town where Bet spent her early childhood with her grandparents. Bet drove. Carly was quiet, deep in thought with a permanent look of uncertainty since they’d crossed the river. Bet reached over and gave her a pat on the leg and smiled. Carly tried to return a smile, but couldn’t. She turned away, slouching in her seat and staring out the passenger window for the rest of the trip.

“There it is,” Bet said in an overly cheerful voice. The faded state highway sign indicated an exit for the town of Bergsland. Carly let out a long sigh.

In the distance the flat plain rose to an outcropping of several low rolling hills. As they got closer, a few dilapidated ranch houses dotted the sides of the road. Just as the countryside morphed into a desolate town center, a caution road sign read “Stop Light Ahead 500 Ft”

“It’s to the left. Funny how I remember that,” Bet said. As she turned their car at the blinking red light, Carly tried typing the address into her phone’s GPS app.

“So, no network out here?” Carly asked

“That surprise you?” Bet replied. Carly tossed her phone on the dashboard in disgust.

Bet slowed down as they approached the end of the road. Standing like a grand mansion at the end of a long dirt driveway was a fairly large home painted a bright turquoise with white trim and gables. Even from this distance, they could see the large picture window sill lined with what looked like various colored antique bottles. A dog lying on the stoop stairs sat up and looked expectantly at them. Bet stopped the car and turned to Carly.

“Ready?”


Prompts this week are: Gnarly; Antique bottles; Flowers wilted and dogs panted in the shade.

By the way, summer is my busy time at work, but the month ahead is particularly busy with a nephew’s wedding hoopla and then I’m going to take a little time off. You might not “see” me until August. But I’ll keep in touch, so you keep on writin’ and promptin’!