My first “in person” prompt event

It wasn’t actually “in person”. It was on Zoom, but it was with live action, actual human beings. A first for me.

I truly enjoyed hearing the writers reading what they wrote. One person wrote a long lovely poem about yearning. Another wrote a very short humorous essay about sneaking Mimosas into a museum. There was a wistful piece about wide open spaces of the countryside and another essay, this one about digging a tunnel. The last piece was a humorous memoir of a honeymoon spent camping.

I’ll share the prompt with all of you (the first prompt posted here in several months!) I won’t get to hear you read your short piece, but I will, as always, enjoy reading it.

Instructions: Use at least 2 of the word and/or image prompts below in a story, poem or essay. Use both word and image prompts, if you wish. Mix and match! You have 20 minutes to write. On your mark, get set, GO!

WORD PROMPTS: orange delight; Mona Lisa; tunnel; wide open universe

IMAGE PROMPTS:

Ice Cream Truck

Not a prompt response. Just a happy post about the Ice Cream Truck coming ’round my neighborhood this summer.


Last night, for the first time in all the years I’ve lived in my neighborhood, an Ice Cream Truck drove through our condo and apartment lined streets. Every summer I hear the telltale chirpy tune coming from the surrounding single-family neighborhoods, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear it in our corner of the city. In fact, it brought more people out onto their decks and balconies than the Seahawks winning the Superbowl or the fantastic lightning storm a few years ago.

The sound of the Ice Cream Truck may make some cringe, but it always makes me smile, remembering a couple of chilhood summer vacations.

When I was around 7/8/9 years old, my parents and friends of theirs went in on a 2-week southern CA beach rental (when I recall the time, I’ve thought it a weird thing to do since we lived just a few miles up the coast and relatively close to the beaches. Wish my folks were still around to ask why, but I digress).

Our time was primarily spent on the beach, but once a week, an Ice Cream Truck would come around, and no matter what our parents said we ought to be doing, we would vehemently protest. We had to wait for the Ice Cream Truck. Inside. Quietly, expectantly. And then, from a great distance (OK, probably only 3 or so blocks away), we would hear the music box broadcast of “A Bicycle Built for Two”.

We ran out to the street and jumped and shouted as if we were frantically waving down a fire truck to put out a fire. The driver was brilliant. Each time, he’d make us freak out that maybe he didn’t see us. “Oh! Sorry,” he’d joke, “I almost didn’t see you guys!”

My favorite ice cream choice, to this day, is the Drumstick, simply because it reminds me of that Ice Cream Truck. And, years later, a college roommate drove an Ice Cream Truck during the summer, always keeping at least one Drumstick on hand in case I came around on her route.

Just sayin’, if you don’t know what is an Ice Cream Drumstick, then you don’t know what you’ve been missing. 🙂

July, 1963

1984

Jared showed feigned interest as his girlfriend Dianna’s father gave a thorough recitation about each of the smiling people in the various framed photos on the bookshelf. Dianna gave him an apologetic smile.

“…and this is all of us at my cousin Mason’s graduation from High School. He was the first of us through. That’s Mason with his arms around me and my sister Sophia, and that’s mama, daddy, grandpa Ralph, Aunt Louise and Uncle…”

“Dad, can we do this another time?” Dianna interrupted.

Jared raised his hand in a clumsy attempt at civility. “Is Sophia the one that disappeared?” he asked.

“Yes,” Dianna quickly replied, saving her father from having to answer the question. “Sorry, daddy. I told Jared about Auntie Sophia.”

The smile on Dianna father’s face changed to a melancholy grimace. He shook his head. “Well, then, did she tell you it was one of those times, every fifty years or so when the moon goes all red? But that happened in the morning, as the moon was setting, before she’d gone to work. Anyway, yes. Let’s save that story for another time.”

“All I want is to stop sifting through again and again the very little we have ever known about her disappearance,” said Dianna’s mother. “If she left, she left. Terrible of her to just take off like that, if that’s what actually happened. But it would be good to know one way or the other, because if she’s dead, I mean, if she was murdered or something awful like that, then all we want is to lay her to rest.”

Jared leaned over to Dianna and mouthed, “Sorry”.

“I’m going to show Jared the famous tire swing out back,” Dianna announced.

“No, no. Time to eat. Everyone come sit down and we’ll get dinner on the table,” Dianna’s grandmother said as she stood in the kitchen doorway motioning everyone through. “Let’s not scare off Dianna’s young man just yet with stories about my poor Sophia.”

***********

Twenty years earlier

“Great stuff tonight, Sophia,” Philip called out as he passed the women’s open dressing room door.

“Thanks!” Sophia called back. She heard the backstage door open and Philip bidding a good night to Charlie the doorman.

It was a darn good night, Sophia thought. She wanted to thank Gus and Thaddeus, too, but she was pretty sure the guys were already out the door with whomever they’d set their sights on in the club.

Guessing who the fellas would end up with at the end of the night was a game Sophia liked to play. This night she guessed Gus was off with one of the four boys sitting in the back and Thaddeus with the woman in the tight-fitting blue dress at the table up front. Thaddeus always went for the ripe, low hanging fruit. Philip wasn’t part of the game. He was crazy in-love with his fiancé and out the door right after the last set.

“Nice night for it,” was Charlie the doorman’s standard salutation for anyone leaving the club. “Need a cab, Miss?”

“Yes. Thank you, Charlie,” Sophia said, keenly aware of Charlie’s gentlemanly ritual of seeing the women of the club safely off. When the quartet played their first gig at the club, Sophia insisted she would bus it home, but Charlie insisted he pay for a cab. From that point forward, Sophia agreed to let Charlie to call a cab, but refused to let him pay. Living clear across town, she paid with what usually amounted to most of her miniscule take of the evening’s door.

Sophia lived in a one-bedroom apartment she inherited, so to speak, when her grandfather died. She was the one who nursed him through his final days and decided to take over payment of the rent after his death. The apartment was in the sprawling projects along the river, near industrial district where most project tenants worked. As did she, though she considered her circumstance different.

Her day-job was as a senior secretary for the operations manager at Tigart Manufacturing. She started in the Tigart secretarial pool during summers in High School and a few years later, was assigned to the new operations manager, Richard Stanton. Stanton was shy, nervous, and very well-mannered. Her position was the envy of the other secretaries because almost every secretary was subjected to every form of disregard, from being entirely ignored to blatant insult and harassment.

But what filled Sophia’s world was music. It was her total joy. She needed nothing more. It took her far away from grind of her daily life and made the world a wonderful place to be.

Sophia took every chance she could to play or listen to music. She would surreptitiously eat her lunch at her desk so that she could spend her lunch hour at the upright piano in the employee commons. On Wednesdays after work, she headed straight home to eat a quick bite before walking the 5 blocks to the First Fellowship of Christ, the church her family attended when she was young, to practice playing on their Baby Grand Steinway, as well as practice her singing. She had the place to herself, which gave her space and time to work out a tricky bit of something new or rehearse songs for the quartet’s weekend gigs. When she was done, the night janitor, a middle-aged man she’d known all her life only as Mr. Johnson, would walk her home.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings were rehearsal for the Friday and Saturday night gigs with the quartet. Gus was the group’s leader. He did a great good job at maintaining their standing gigs at three small neighborhood clubs, and occasionally landing a private party, musical event or festival. Gus ponied up for a cab to collect Sophia, Philip, and Thaddeus, so they could rehearse in Gus’ make-shift sound studio that he also called home. They rehearsed long into the night polishing up their repertoire and hammering out new material. Gus was adamant Sophia jam with the guys with some scat singing, but if there was one thing she could not quite get the hang of, it was scat. Nevertheless, every week, he encouraged her to try. But when it came to the gigs, she would bow out during the instrumentals and just let the boys rip.

The third weekend of the month, unless Gus had scored a gig, was her time to catch up. Saturdays were spent doing chores and errands, and if time allowed, a little bit of window shopping. Every Sunday was a trip on the bus for dinner with her brother, his wife, their three children and her mother.

Mondays were the only evenings to do whatever she wanted. She joked that it was a good thing she only had Mondays open, otherwise she would end up broke on cover charges at clubs to hear groups play and on tickets to concerts. So, Mondays were typically a quiet night at home for Sophia, especially in winter when it was too cold for much of anything else than the occasional trip to the ice rink with her friend Barbara from work. Every so often she attended the Monday night single adults’ mixer at the church, at the urging of her brother who was desperate to see Sophia settled and out from under his charge. Other times she walked to the library to check out a couple albums of favorite musicians or discover new ones. In summer she like to take the long way home from work along the busy promenade along the river. She would treat herself to dinner with a hot dog and a Coca-Cola from the vendor on the docks. She enjoyed sitting on a bench watching the boats and people go by.

On the second Monday in July of 1963, two days after the fantastic night at the club with the guys, and three weeks after her 23rd birthday, the only thing anyone knew that Sophia planned for her evening was one of her quiet nights at home. The remnants of a tropical storm had turned the weather wet and windy. She told her friend Barbara that she was looking forward to staying home listening to the records she recently checked out from the library. The last time anyone saw Sophia was her saying good night to her boss Richard Stanton.\

—————————————

Prompts used in1984″ are: Bloodshot moon; I should go; chip away

OK, but, no one said it was Wet T-Shirt Night

Amanda stood facing her boyfriend Eric in her gym outfit of sports bra, heavy cotton crew neck short sleeved t-shirt and ankle length black leggings, dripping from head to toe in water.

“If you ever wanted to see me in a wet t-shirt contest? Well, here I am.”

Eric stifled a laugh. “Uh. Yeah.”

Other than the clear definition of the heavy seams of her sport bra and her underwear’s waist and leg bands, and perhaps a some soft who-would-actually-notice nipple definition, Amanda’s wet attire did not reveal anything beyond a jogger caught in a downpour. Only, it wasn’t raining.

“Seriously?!” Amanda argued. “I’m all wet and so, I thought you’d be, like, turned on. I mean,” she continued, looking down at herself, “it’s all sticking to me.”

“No, yeah,” Eric said, still stifling a laugh, “I mean… you are…seriously, man. Crazy! Seriously, how’d you, like, get all wet anyway?”

“Gina,” Amanda said. “From the West Building? She was in the pool, swimming, and no one else was down there. I stopped by the Cabana to see if anyone was using the sauna and, yeah, well, she dared me to jump in. As is.”

Amanda and Eric stared at each other.

“OK, so,” Amanda continued, “I’ll just…” she gestured toward the bathroom.

Eric gave her the thumbs up and settled back on the couch watching the big game, as before.

Hard Times Require Beer (and a Favorite Uncle. Oh, and a Porterhouse)

Elliott’s favorite place is on his aunt and uncle’s back porch leaning against the house in an old kitchen chair with his feet up on the railing. Summertime finds him with an iced tea or a beer. Winter is a hot mug of coffee, or at Christmas, with his aunt’s holiday hot toddy. Elliott could sit like this all day watching the world drift downstream along the fork of the river at the edge of the property.

But on this summer’s day Elliott was leaned forward, elbows on his knees. He slowly peeled the label off of a bottle of beer, wadding up the remnants between his fingers and then poking them down the bottle’s neck. He thoughtfully placed the bottle with the other empties, then reached for another in the cooler under the chair. He took a long draw off of it before going to work removing its label.

“Hard times are easy to find, aren’t they?” Elliott’s uncle’s voice came from just behind the screened door.   

Elliott reached into the cooler and offered his uncle one. The man took the beer and sat on the stairs on the edge of the porch, looking back at his nephew.

“You need to get a new No Trespassing sign,” Elliott said, pointing out toward the river.

His uncle glanced out across the property and shrugged. “Folks can pretty much guess what it says.”

“It’s not like a new sign’s ‘gonna set you back.”

“Don’t see the need, son. But thanks for your concern.”

Elliott finished his beer, jammed to the bits of label down the bottle, set it down with the empties, pulled out another one and got to working on that label.

“Look, kid, it’s a bum deal, but a case of beer isn’t going to make you anything but a drunk, sad-sack S-O-B, more than you already are.”

“Yeah? Well, could be worse,” Elliott grumbled. “Could be out with my guys making a night of it. Been a while since we were out looking to score.”

“OK. I’ll give you that,” his uncle conceded.

Elliott stopped fiddling with the bottle and looked up at his uncle. “Look, I’m a grown man, I know life’s not about scoring, and it’s not always going to turn out to be like some huge winning lottery ticket. I just wish,” he shook his head. “Whatever. Forget it.”

“No, I get it,” his uncle replied. “And don’t go mistaking my big mouth for God’s only truth. I just been around the block a few times more, is all.”

“I appreciate you bein’ here for me.” Elliott smiled as he took a moment to focus his thoughts. “I mean, if we’re talkin’ truths here, me and her? We were chalk and cheese. Take this place,” Elliott leaned his chair back into his customary position, “I love it here!” He sighed as he opened his arms wide. “How can you not love every bit of this?”

“I agree, I agree, of course” his uncle said. “But, you only brought her around that one time. She didn’t take to the place?”

“Who knows. I mean, she said it was pretty out here, but, yeah, I guess not. Anytime I suggested we come out here? She’d make a face and then say we should go shopping at the mall, or see a movie, or go out to dinner, or hang out at the casino, or whatever.”

Two gun shots echoed through the valley, setting a flock of startled crows aloft.

“Mick and Geraldine’s got their grandkids for the summer. Teaching them how to shoot,” Elliott’s uncle explained. Elliott nodded.

“So, how ‘bout I take you and Aunt Mary out for a bite?” Elliott said as he gave his uncle a slap on the back. “Your choice!”

Elliott’s uncle smiled. “Oh, well then, I could do with a porterhouse from River Bend Grill. With one of their whiskey sours Mary likes? You’re on!”

———-

I like to accumulate prompts and then have a go (as the Brits say). Mostly, I like to force myself to just “get with the program” and write, something, anything!
The Un-OLWG prompts used are: big door prize; a simple kitchen chair; hard times are easy to find; gut shot; chalk and cheese; while the world drifts downstream; no trespassing; mistake my big talk for truth; who am I kidding; shamelessly speak the truth

The New Blog Propellant Prompt #9

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and I am enjoying getting back into generating writing prompts.

Write a post: Fiction, poetry, even a true story based on the following prompt. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! All those who read this will see a link to your post in the comments, and all those who read your post will have a link this one. Why do this? Because it is fun to share!

The prompt:

I found a greeting card series that made me, truly, laugh out loud (as in, heads turned and stared, laughed out loud). It inspired a prompt post!

The cards start with a basic greeting: Happy Birthday to… ; Thank You for… ; Congratulations on…
Under the ellipse are multiple choice checkboxes. And, when I say multiple choice, I mean something in the area of 30-40 choices.

Select at least 3 (or as many as you wish) of the following choices to incorporate into your story that begins, Once upon a time…

  • swarm of bees
  • fresh cadaver
  • act of kindness
  • grasping landlord
  • shady fortune teller
  • unsolicited death threat
  • tolerated ex
  • surrealist poetry
  • deranged manservant
  • rude awakening
  • distant acquaintance
  • molds and fungi
  • enchanting colleague
  • one weakness
  • peculiar friend
  • matching accessories
  • faithful canine
  • gilded lily
  • chef to the stars
  • ancient book collection
  • necromancer


Happy Memorial Day!

PNW Coronavirus Chronicle #7: Do Whatcha Wanna

It’s a long list of back-logged prompts this time, both mine and UnOLWG’s:
I don’t want to; a town with no future; elegant or crude; a white gown; it’s “coo-pon”; are my seams straight?; community pool; cocktails; groovy; kick up your heels; a barroom in New Orleans; every week


Well, I’m fully vaccinated. It is not a fail-safe, I know, but I can’t stop feelin’ groovy, like strutting in a Mardi Gras parade behind a 2nd Line band blasting out “Do Whatcha Wanna”.

Parades aren’t allowed yet, so I instead celebrated with my first trip to the hair salon in 19 months. Kissed those long locks buh-bye and sent them on their way to being a wig for someone in need. The next treat was a meal inside a restaurant. Then, it will be a weekend road trip to see a dear friend and her new home. Every week, it is going to be something I haven’t done in the past 14 months.

I live on the other side of town from where the mass-vaccination site is set up, and I hadn’t been through downtown since the initial shelter-in-place order. At that time, it was every bit like driving through a ghost town. All that was missing was grass growing out of the cracks in sidewalks and trash drifting in the breeze. The shockingly eerie scene ignited the news media’s wild imagination, declaring the pandemic a harbinger of The End of City Life.

But driving through the city this time, regardless the continued restrictions, the downtown looked every bit back to normal. Crowds were out and about, traffic jams stifled every arterial, and lots of large “We’re Open!” signs plastered on storefronts. Though the past year unarguably demonstrates that an alternate universe is doable, people are nevertheless clamoring to get things back the way they were.

Take our condo complex’s pool. Last year we were not allowed to use it. I think it was overkill, but the county health department declared all community pools, public or private, closed. Whatever. Our residents didn’t care. They brought their beers and pitchers of Long Island Ice Tea to the patio to enjoy some appropriately distanced company in the summer’s sun. Hey, all it said was that the pool was closed. It didn’t say anything about sitting on the patio. An elegant solution to an absurd situation, if you ask me.

While the pandemic continues to lord over us, I expect we’ll continue to evaluate the pros and cons of conducting our lives “in-person” vs. “distanced”. At work, we occasionally discuss (in-person more and more these days) what “hybrid” presentations would look like for our programs. It’s funny to have to classify events, or give them terms. Imagine having to categorize a common event as, say, a wedding, as “in-person” or “hybrid” or “virtual”. It makes the assumption that events are always “in-person” feel strangely old-fashioned, like silk stockings with back seams.

Anyway, I don’t want to keep waxing philosophic. Suffice it to say that I will keep it smart and respect that the COVID-19 don’t care what any of us wants. I will, however, continue to climb out of the shell of 2020 to do whatever things we can get away with doing. Don’t need no coupons to incentivize me!

The New Blog Propellant Prompt #8

I used to maintain a writing prompt blog called The Blog Propellent. It was a lot of fun and these days, fun is what we need to keep going until the day we are all vaccinated!

Write a post: Fiction, poetry, even a true story based on the following prompt. When you are done, include the URL address of this post in your post. Simple! All those who read this post will have a link to your post, and all those who read your post will have a link this one. More readers = more followers (so they say). Regardless, it is fun to share.

This week’s prompt:

In your WordPress Reader, have you noticed at the top they post three suggested topics to explore? The suggestions are usually a weird combination, but always entertaining.

My suggestions today are: CocktailsCommunity PoolGroovy. Write a post inspired by these suggestions. I left in the links just in case you want to explore blog posts on those topics.


Happy May Day!

The Old Man and the Enchantress

As Alice stood at the kitchen sink filling a glass of water, she looked out the window to see her husband Ed dozing in the chaise lounge in the yard; his “picnic recliner,” as he liked to call it.  The spring sun was high and warm, thoroughly melting away the spring morning frost.  Alice smiled wryly to herself. Ed’s nap was going to last only as long as she let him think she hadn’t caught him goofing off again.

Cutting the arcadian scene came an explosion of cawing and flapping wing chaos.

“LITTLE!” Ed yelled as he sat up, “I swear to God! You damn bird!”

He ran to the coop in a fury. Alice’s wry smile changed to a giggle as she watched the drama unfold. She opened the kitchen window and called out. “Ed! Those two chickens at it again?”

In a casual trot from the direction of the coop came a small hen and her partner-in-crime rooster. Alice walked out to the yard and headed toward the birds.

“You GIT! SHOO!” she scolded. The two birds stood stock still and then began pecking at the ground, as if they were just out for an pleasant afternoon walk, minding their own business.

“I said, SHOO!” Alice scolded again, this time charging the birds. They fluttered a bit. The rooster took a short flight , but the hen stood her ground, head cocked to one side.

Ed strode across the yard with another bird in his arms. “What is it with those two? I swear to God! Look what they did this time.” Ed held out the bird in his arms. It had blood oozing from its breast. Alice and Ed looked at the rooster and the hen. The pair of them had settled onto Ed’s chaise lounge, as if they found themselves a new, comfy nest.

“Damn birds,” Ed grumbled.

***

Pretty sure this goes under the column of “Feel free to seize the prompts, twist them, form them, play with them as you will“, and is inspired by characters I find so fun: A Golden Comet