The Date: Writing Assignment -100 words exactly…

Claire had a date. Tuesday morning she would be picked up and taken to an amusement part, then on a yacht to watch the sunset on Lake Michigan. This date would be one of the easiest ones to prepare for yet! She needed nothing but a ponytail, cute short-shorts, that tiny white; no better go with blue T-shirt, (water rides, need we say more?) tennis shoes. Make-up? Minimal.

Claire is picked up on time, taken to the amusement part, and drowns when she falls over the side of his yacht. Poor Claire…I guess it didn’t really matter what she wore.

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Personal Ad Exercise

SWF – okay, MWF  looking for someone to share afternoons. Must be willing to put up with someone who is terrible at algebra but loves doing dishes, seeing cellulite run rampid on the back side, can’t play the trombone, snores a little and cries a lot, is neurotic, hates too hot showers, forgets to switch out the empty toilet paper roll, sometimes tells white lies that are actually closer to gray, doesn’t shave her legs that often and sometimes forgets to use her inside voice. I can be temperamental and ultra-sensitive with no self-esteem and a huge ego. But I can make kick ass coffee and I love late breakfasts on Sunday mornings while reading the Sunday paper next to my sleepy cat. Call me. Did I mention that I’m bad at returning calls?

Journey’s Greatest Hits

I was sitting at a stoplight. While the light glowed red and certain, Journey’s Greatest Hits played in the CD player of my 2001 Chevy Blazer and I had a minor mid-life crisis. For the first time in my 35 years I felt the wrench of time lost. The lyrics, “Only the young can say/They’re free to fly away/Sharing the same desires/
Burnin like wildfire…
” created a physical reaction in my chest. The realization that I was permanently past that time in my life when everything is possible and new felt like getting the wind knocked out of my lungs; my heart actually shuddered against my ribcage. It hurt. I was permanently past having the freedom to be passionate and headstrong and not give a damn about retribution. The consequences now are so much bigger….so much more REAL.

The light turned green and I headed home towards my loving husband and warm home, to my grown up job and responsibilities.

But I still had the drive home, and until I pulled into the driveway, I was young again…I was singing at the top of my lungs and let loose. Maybe it isn’t about what I felt I lost, but recognizing what I learned and where I am now. Perhaps there is a sense of freedom in that too.

Practice paragraphs

1. They waited by the door. A little worse for wear from last year’s winter, but there they were, leaning on each other to stand. The soles were perfect but the color had faded a bit from bright red to more of a tired red. The rain boots had held their own against the weather before…could they do it again?

2. Jumping up from her seat by the door, Sandy grabbed the phone from the wall.

            “Hello?”

            “Are you ready?”

            “What??”

            “We’ll be there in three minutes.”

            “Who is this?”

            Click. Dial tone.

Three minutes later, there is the sound of breaking glass and a heavy thud. Sandy races to the phone to call for help but the line has been cut. She knew she had to act quickly. There was no way those Ladies Auxiliary nuts were going to get her Grandma’s lemon bar recipe.

Practice paragraphs…keeping the process flow.

1. She was usually late to these meetings, but today, the stars had aligned and both buses had been on time. She walked through the big metal doors into a room lined with windows. Ugly brown metal chairs were in rows across the floor. Everything about this room was cold and tinny. It smelled like many years of floor polish, wet coats and coffee. The coffee pot was the only thing warm and dependable at that moment. As she took her first sip, the warm coffee-scented steam floated up onto her face and slowly relaxed the tensed muscles in her eyebrows and jaws. It was hard to believe she had held her face like that for…who knows how long? Breathing in and looking at the other people milling around the chairs, she saw Millie.

Millie didn’t notice her right away. She was talking with a few people who had just come in. She had a smile on her face but her eyes were wary. She looked over and saw her, Carmen, with a cup of coffee and three umbrellas. It was time to begin.

 ————————————————————————————————————————————————-

2. Grabbing the peanuts from the shelf, the cashier ran back up to her register. The line had grown by about three people and she was sweating. She added the jar of peanuts to the order and totaled. The lady was looking in her purse, shaking it up and down looking for something.

“Your total is $12.45.”

“Yes, I know, I can’t find my glasses.” The woman was starting to panic.

“Well, um, I think they are hanging from that chain around your neck?” the cashier pointed out.

  “Oh! Huh. They sure are. I guess that’s why I did that.” The woman laughed. “How much do I owe?”

 “Twelve dollars and forty-five cents.”

 “Right, let me get out my checkbook. Do you have a pen?”

An audible groan came from the perpetually growing line. The woman wrote out the check, talking herself through it. As she carefully tore the check from the book, she got a confused look on her face.

“Sweetie, did I get peanuts? Can you look on your screen there? If I forget those, my George will really be upset.”

“Yes ma’am, I went and got them for you.” The cashier took the check from the woman as nicely as she could. She knew she should check the woman’s ID but she just couldn’t bear to ask. She was the only register open for another 20 minutes when Geri would come in. Oh God, let Geri be on time, please don’t let her be late again.

 “Thank you ma’am, would you like help out with that?”

“Oh no, I might be a bit slow,” She looked behind her at the line of crossed arms and irritated scowls. “but I’m strong enough to carry this on my own!” Again the woman laughed and took hold of the handles of her bag. She walked slowly out the automatic doors.

As she started ringing through the next customer, she looked up and saw the old woman’s checkbook still sitting on the little platform used for writing.

“Sir, I’m really sorry but she left her checkbook, I’ll be right back.” The cashier ran out to the parking lot to see the woman getting into a beat up old Chevy Malibu.

“Ma’am! Ma’am? You left this!” The cashier waved the little well-worn black leather checkbook toward the woman.

“Oh my goodness! Thank you so much! I would have been in so much trouble!” The cashier noticed that woman’s skin was warm and soft as she reached for her checkbook. Their hands touched for just a second.

“It’s okay, just be careful and have a good day.”

 “You too sweetie, you too!”

As she headed back into the store, the people in line were still scowling and crossing their arms across their baskets of fruits and pizza, six-packs of soda and dish soap. What was the rush really? If we’re lucky, we’re going to end up like that woman, just needing a little bit of help sometimes. She thought.

“Next?”

With My Regards: Alternate ending #1

I want to ride home with him.  At this moment, I want to buy a case of the cheapest alcohol I can find, ride home with Max, get drunk, and let the night disappear into his grin. I am about to say this when I hear a car pull up and turn to see your driver opening your door. You are running before your feet hit the sidewalk but you don’t see me as you head for the diner. You probably think that I am still waiting for you. I realize there is some truth to that.

I see your mouth forming my name. F-i-o-n-a. I don’t hear you say it. I know you are not worried about me as much as what you think I’ve said to your wife. I want you to sweat this out. I want you to feel bad. Your ring is burning on my finger.

Feeling brave I grab Max’s sleeve as he stomps out his cigarette and turns to go inside and call my cab. His sleeve is warm. He turns to me. His face picks up the very last ounce of real light from the horizon.  

“Wait…um, yes. Let’s go right now. I’ll give you gas money.” The words come out so fast it is all like one big long word. I say it with one breath so that I can’t take it back.

But Max is not stupid. He has seen the car, you, and the look in my eyes. He has seen my face change. I know all of this and am begging for mercy in my head. I can’t look at his face. I can’t see that grin go away.

“But isn’t that who…you were…are waiting for?”

I am looking at your car; the driver sees me and waves me over. I look away. My head is pounding again and Max hands me a crumpled up napkin from his pocket. I don’t realize that I am crying.

“Yeah. I guess I should…go.”

“If you want to.”

“I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay, happens all the time.” Max grins at me and pats me on the shoulder. The grin doesn’t go all the way to his eyes this time. I realize this is the first time he has actually touched me.

“Yeah, right…I’m sure. Everyday Max, everyday.” I force a smile but not with much conviction.

You are running back to the car. The driver is pointing over to me. I feel like I am being busted for something illegal. My heart is pounding in time with my head. The tears have stopped.

Max tosses me the cigarettes and the matches.

“Hey, Fiona, good luck. At least you found a great place to get some fantastic coffee.”

“Get outta here Max.” I look at him.  He is looking at the ground. “It was nice to meet you too.”

You finally reach me. You are reaching out to me, hugging me, possessing me.

“I’m so sorry, I knew it was you on the phone. I feel just awful. I was working on my closing and completely lost track…”

I let your voice trail off, allow you to put your arm around me to lead me in the direction of your car. Your driver already has the door open for us. He is not smiling. You are telling me about the dinner we are going to have as we walk back to the car. I pray it is some place with a bar.

I turn my head to look over your hand on my shoulder. I look back at the diner. I see Max ride off; he beeps twice and is gone. Something in my throat catches.

“Who was that?”

“The waiter.”

“Oh. What were you two talking about?”

“Nothing.” I look at you. “Nothing baby, just small talk, he gave me a cigarette. That’s all.” I give you a quick smile and shrug. It doesn’t even register to you that it wasn’t genuine.

You smile, sigh and pull me closer. I am feeling a little suffocated by your cologne but it’s oddly comforting. I look at the pack of cigarettes in my hand and put them in my pocket. The matchbook falls on the ground. I uncurl from your arm and reach down to pick them up. You keep walking. You don’t really notice I’ve stopped. There is a phone number written in black in on the cover. Max. I smile as I stick the matches in my pocket too. I don’t try to catch up with you. I’ll get there, eventually.  

THE END

With My Regards

“I’m waiting for someone, thank you.” I say this to the waiter for what must be the tenth time. I don’t think he believes me anymore. He just keeps coming around and filling up my cup with more coffee. He must want a real customer at this booth but I am so glad when he brings the coffee because I have been drinking it as if it was the only way to breathe. Every time he fills the cup, I also have something to do, something that takes my eyes off the clock above the kitchen door. Taking the cream, I slowly pour it into the black coffee, watching the very point at which the two blend. Then I carefully spoon three tablespoons of sugar in to the cup. I watch every granule. Then I stir. As I stir, I play with the ring you gave me, on my left pinky. It is a beautiful gold band, with a delicately placed row of small diamonds all along the top. You said it was to remind me of you when you weren’t there. I play with it a lot. I look out the window hoping to see your coat flapping against your legs. I can only see the feet and legs of the people passing by, the diner is built into a hill on the lower east side of town, not the hippest place but it’s private and you suggested it. You would be hurrying because you are dreadfully late. I know that when I finally see your coat and legs that I will follow them with my eyes through the wall and my eyes would hit the door at the same moment that you entered. We are in sync like that. You would rush over to me then. You would lift me by my elbows into your arms and kiss me, all the while explaining why you have left me in this diner all alone for the past two hours. Alone…except for…

“Did you need a menu?”

“No, just more coffee please.” I think the waiter is getting anxious. He shouldn’t worry, when you get here, we’ll leave a huge tip and he’ll be glad he was patient. He’s kind of handsome, this waiter. His name tag says “Max” and I wonder if that is his real name. The clock on the wall must be terribly fast. I look at my watch but they have synchronized somehow since I have been sitting here. The door opens and I think it’s you, but it’s only a man with the same coat. Disappointment takes familiar stabs at my heart. It will be dark soon and I would hate to  take the subway alone. I’m sure you’ll have a good excuse.

“Would you like your cup warmed up again?” I feel like the waiter puts extra emphasis on “again” like he’s irritated.

“I would like that very much. Is there a phone I could use?” I explain that you are supposed to be here and that you would never keep me waiting like this unless something was wrong. Something has to be wrong.

“Sure, over there.” The waiter, Max, points to the kitchen door. “Just past the door on your left.”

I write my name in the grime on the wall as I listen to  the ringing on the other end. I am worried now that you are in bad traffic or an accident. My ring is sparkling in defiant contrast to the grayness of this hallway. I can feel my jaw clench and I think I’m getting a headache.

I realize that I’ve dialed the personal line in your office and am about to hang up but you answer. How could you answer? You should be in the car. You should be racing to get me because you are so dreadfully late. I should have called your cell so that you could have lied to me, told me you were stuck in traffic, anything, this I would have just blindly believed. But you are not on your way or even stuck in traffic. You are still sitting in your office like  nothing is wrong, like I don’t even matter! “I’m such a fool.” bounces around my skull as I walk back to my booth. I can hear your tiny tinny voice asking, “Hello? Hello? Who is this?” As the telephone receiver swings back and forth in front of the pay phone counter.

I drink the recently warmed coffee black. I get up and open my wallet to get some money for the waiter who is pretending he doesn’t see the pain and anger that must be slowly taking over my face. I am shaking all over but can’t tell if it is the caffeine or the fact that you have completely humiliated me again.

I want to take a cab to the building you work in. I want to take the elevator up to the seventh floor and step into the lobby of your firm. I want to walk right past your secretary who would be getting up from her desk  to stop me but I would ignore her and would be too fast for her. You have a beautiful window in your office and the sky would be all purples and oranges of the setting sun. You would look up from your monitor. Our eyes would meet for the eternity of an accusing second before I would grab the picture of your wife and pitch it across the room. My crushed heart would appreciate the look on your face.

“This is the last time I get stood up by you…ever!” I want to hiss at you. I don’t know if it’s adrenaline, caffeine, or the sweet mixture of the two but I am feeling light-headed now and sit back down. I realize that I have been standing beside the booth holding my open wallet in my hands and staring at the table. I unclench  my teeth and my jaw relaxes.

“Are you okay?” It’s the waiter, a sudden benevolent voice at my side. He is wearing a denim jacket now and holding a pack of Camels, his black waiter’s apron is gone. He must see me roll my eyes over to the box of cigarettes, my chin still pressed against my fingertips.

“Want one?” He shakes the box for emphasis. “Looks like you could use one.”

” But you, are you, I don’t – yeah. Could I?”

“Yeah, sure. But we have to smoke outside.”

“Okay.”

I am trembling, my head is pounding and think that a cigarette is the exact very thing I need right now. I mean, I know I’m not fooling anyone with the, ‘I quit’ thing. I smoke like a fiend as soon as I’m alone anyway. I follow the waiter out the door and around to the side of the building.

” Hey, I’m Max, but I guess you ah, knew  that.” Max grins and points to his name tag. He takes it off and slips it into his jacket pocket. “Sorry about that.” He jerks his head at the diner and hands me a cigarette. I’m not sure if he means the coffee refills inching towards perpetuity or my being stood up.

“Yeah. Oh, I’m Fiona.”

“Fiona. Cool. Are you sure you’re okay?” Max looks as me as he lights my cigarette then his with the same match. He has same my name like he was trying it on.

“Yeah, I’m just a little hopped up on coffee.” I hold up my finger and thumb about a half an inch apart. We both have a laugh at that. It feels good to laugh now. My headache isn’t pounding so much anymore. “I must have hit the ladies room like a hundred times.”

” I know! I made three fresh pots for you alone!” Max holds up three fingers and is still laughing. He seems amused. I almost feel like I know him, standing there sharing laughter and carcinogens. I remember watching him wait on other customers, noticing his easy grin and smooth manner. Max seems to be harmless but I am half wondering do these places do background checks?

“Sorry about that. I get a little obsessive sometimes. I should have left an hour ago. I mean how late does someone have to be before you realize that they are just not showing up?” I give a half-hearted laugh, shrug my shoulders and realize that the sun is now almost gone.

Max looks at me and shrugs too.

“Cold?” Max has smoked over two-thirds of his cigarette. The veins form little hairy mountain ridges on top of his hand in the glow of the burning tobacco as he inhales again.

“No.” I inhale too trying to keep up but instead hotbox mine and the cherry falls off burning bright against the dirty sidewalk. Son of a bitch. “I should go. Thanks for the smoke.” I kick the cooling ash with the toe of my Doc Martins.

“Actually, my shift is over. You need a ride?” Max is jingling keys in the palm of his hand, a miniature eight ball and four keys hang from a ring that is hooked to a chain that appears anchored to a wallet or something I am guessing lurks in his back pocket.

“I couldn’t ask that. I live all the way across town and you could be some crazy lunatic murderer guy.” I smile at him.

“Yeah, lunatic waiter on the loose.” He winks and grins again. I notice his eyes seem to sparkle in the orangey glow from the streetlights which have just started flickering on. God I am liking that grin.

“Seriously, you want me to call you a cab or something?”

“Yeah, that would be nice.”

I want to ride home with him.  At this moment, I want to buy a case of the cheapest alcohol I can find, ride home with Max, get drunk, and let the night disappear into his grin. I am about to say this when I hear a car pull up and turn to see your driver opening your door. You are running before your feet hit the sidewalk but you don’t see me as you head for the diner. You probably think that I am still waiting for you. I realize there is some truth to that.

I see your mouth forming my name. F-i-o-n-a. I don’t hear you say it. I know you are not worried about me as much as what you think I’ve said to your wife. I want you to sweat this out. I want you to feel bad. Your ring is burning on my finger. Feeling brave I grab Max’s sleeve as he stomps out his cigarette and turns to go inside and call my cab. His sleeve is warm. He turns to me. His face picks up the very last ounce of real light from the horizon.

“Wait. Um. Could you wait here for a minute?”

Max is not stupid. He has seen the car, you, and the look in my eyes.

“But isn’t that who you…were waiting for?”

I am looking at your car; the driver sees me and waves me over. I look away. My head is pounding again and Max hands me a crumpled up napkin from his pocket. I didn’t even realize that I was crying.

“Yeah. I need to talk to him for a minute. Could you just wait though?”

“If you want.”

“Yeah. I do. I’ll be right back.”

I walk into the diner and see you talking to a waiter. You are frantically making hand gestures, and I can almost hear you telling him what I look like.

“Hey.” I tap you on the shoulder.

“Oh thank God.”

You reach out for me but I outsmart your hug.

“I was so worried baby. I am so sorry. I just lost track of the time and I was working on my closing for this case…”

I let you continue, listening to the same lines I always seem to hear from you. I notice that I am twisting the ring off my pinky.

“Here.”

“But…you can’t! I was a little late! I said I was sorry! You have to know that I’m a very busy man and I can’t just jet off any old time. I have responsibilities.”

“You’re right. I know what kind of man you are and I am just tired. I am tired of waiting for you and trying to play keep-away from your wife, your children, your life.”

“Oh now, come on Fiona. Let’s go outside. I’ll make this up to you, you’re just mad sweetie.” There is a nervous laugh in your voice as you try to give me back the ring and turn me to go out the door.

“I’m through. We’re not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere, anymore, with you. I’m sorry. I’m done.” The words are falling off my tongue and I don’t know if I’m trying to convince you or me, but  know that I mean it. I turn to leave on my own. You follow me through the door, the ring still in your outstretched hand.

“Goodbye.”

“But…”

“No.”

You have given up the fight. Just like that. Just like I thought you would. You look down at the ring in your hand; it catches the glint off the street light. You turn and walk away. I walk over to Max and try to smile through the tears drying on my cheeks.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Would you mind taking me home?”

“Let’s go…if you’re sure?” Max looks at me with actual concern. Interesting from someone I didn’t even know three hours ago.

“Uh huh. Let’s go now before I lose my grip on reality.”

We get on the motorcycle and I watch you leave, the driver first closing your door and then driving you off. I am hoping that I will be lucky and not ever see you again. One never knows these things.

After a long uneventful ride, I am standing on my stoop shaking hands with Max.

“Thank you, I really appreciate the ride. Can I give you some money for gas?”

“Naw, just here…take this.”

Max hands me a matchbook.

“But I don’t…”

“Yes you do, and it isn’t just matches. Inside the cover is my number. I would be happy to bring you more coffee, any time.” Max is laughing a little again. The grin is back. I am remembering how warm he was with my front pressed against his back on the ride over.

“Um, yeah…I think I’ve had my quota for the week.” I am laughing now too. We are both shivering. How can I laugh? How is it even possible?

“I guess you know where I live now too. I may need a delivery sometime.”

“Okay, but you are way out of my delivery zone, it would have to be a pretty big order.”

“Three pots of coffee big?”

“At least.”

We laugh and small talk for a little while longer. Max leaves. I go upstairs and into my warm apartment and feel a little better. I get undressed, take a hot shower and get into bed. I am lonely and hurt but filled with the sense that maybe tomorrow will be better. I catch myself playing with a ring that is no longer there. I stop. Things will be better. Eventually.

THE END

Writing Exercise #3

Page 15: “Person, Place and Song”

1. Melissa had been a soccer, Girl Scout and home room Mom all before she could legally drink. The first time she heard the song, “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks, she was driving her brand new Chevy Blazer down Poedeldorfer Strasse in Bamberg, Germany. She pressed the electric window button and let the September air, filled with the smells of breweries and dead leaves, assail her. She was 28 years old, married nearly twelve years to a man nearly twelve years her senior. She lived with him and his two children from a previous marriage in the fourth floor of a military apartment off post. The girls were getting older and didn’t need her around as much lately. Fine with her. Melissa felt every word of the song hit her chest, waking a long dormant soul. “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint…”

“For sure.” She thought. A voice inside somewhere called to her, begging her to remember her dreams, goals, her life. “I’m still here, I’m still waiting!” it said to her. Melissa took a deep breath as she steeled herself against the reunion.

Writing Exercise #2

Creative writing text, page 28 exercise – write about someone you used to know but don’t any more.

1. Her name was Chloe. We both lived in the tiny rural town of White, SD. We rode the bus to the Toronto Elementary School ten miles away. I don’t recall ever saying anything to her. She was dowdy, unkept and wore huge round eye glasses that distorted her badly far-sighted eyes when you looked at her. Eyes magnified to extreme proportions. She wore clay colored clothes and kept to herself. No one liked or disliked Chloe, no one talked to her. I think I went to her house once trick-or-treating when I was very young. I remember a black cherry soda in a glass bottle, so sweet I can still taste it now. She was just so sad, little and pitiful. 

My parents divorced and my Mom and I moved away when I was seven years old. I hope that maybe by her senior year Chloe got contacts and a comb. Maybe she was very smart, although painfully shy but found her voice her sophomore year at UCLA. Then she would become part of the student government and change her major to Political Science and is now a Lobbyist in Washington D.C. She would be successful, beautiful and maybe even have a boyfriend who treats her like an angel. They would have a cat and a rabbit. They would be happy.

Realistically, she is probably still in South Dakota, dropped out of school, by force…couldn’t take people ignoring her and was neglected  by her family, or she married the first boy who fucked her and has five clay-colored, unkempt children of her own who still ride the bus the ten miles to the Toronto Elementary School.

Writing Exercise #1

Writing Exercise: Start a story with, “Where were you last night?”

1. “Where were you last night?” He wondered as he looked at her passed out on the couch. Her leather jacket haphazardly wrapped around her body like a cocoon, make-up smeared across her tightly closed eyes. Her faded red lips were parted and soft snores could be heard, irregular sounds against her regularly rising and falling chest. She hadn’t even taken off her shoes and he could smell the alcohol still seething from her pores. He loved her, had to…how could he not? He wouldn’t ask her where she’d been, he’d pretend nothing was wrong, that their bed hadn’t been half empty last night, cold spot where her body should have been – never was anymore. Cold in perpetuity, like a New Jersey winter.

2. “Where were you last night?” She thought. She had read the story; she knew what was supposed to happen. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother was a no-show and she was still stuck darning her stupid step-sister’s smelly socks.

3. “Where were you last night?” She asked sweetly as she tucked the last of her favorite silk scarves down his throat, his eyes glazing over with regret.