OLWG #4: Dig Down Deep? Maybe Not.

I’m taking the essay approach to the Online Writer’s Guild prompt today. The prompts are: 

  1. Time to excavate our relationship
  2. A twenty dollar shine on ten dollar boots
  3. It’s a handicapped spot

Ah, the dreaded, “we have to talk.” We’ve all been there. But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a twenty-dollar shine on a pair of ten-dollar boots. The time comes when all relationships need excavating in order to get reacquainted with what forged and molded them in the first place.

Couples expect, at some point, they will have to open up and reveal themselves in order to determine either how to carry on, or if it is time to come apart. It’s the unspoken understanding when we enter into a romantic relationship. But, other relationships undergo a similar journey of discovery, or at least, ought to.

Professional relationships, advisedly, don’t wander into the touchy-feely, emotional-needs-being-met realm of human interaction, but they need examining nonetheless. You can have a department full of smart, experienced, talented, hardworking souls, but if they are not getting along, their potential won’t be realized. We all can attest to the ultimately destructive power of a snarky, gossipy workplace.

Now, friendships…Well, that’s tricky. Unlike romantic or working relationships, drilling down into what makes a friendship tick is not required. You hit it off with another and the two of you get along. It’s as simple as that. Contrary to other relationships, it’s unnecessary to explain the reason why a friendship works. And, when it doesn’t work anymore, that’s that. You part company.

Depending on the emotional depth of a friendship, unearthing what lies at the heart of a platonic bond can be misconstrued as a rude intrusion of privacy. There is a point at which that level of exploration feels pushy. I suppose it’s why we differentiate one type of friendship from another. Someone is just an acquaintance, for example. A friend of a friend. Other friends are considered akin to a sibling or close relative, signifying an emotional union. These friendships may be able to tolerate, “we have to talk,” moments, but, in my experience, only to a certain extent.

What’s fascinating about true friendships is their endurance and a high level of tolerance. We give our true friends leeway; a get-out-of-jail-free card we don’t typically hand out to our lovers and co-workers. Our true friends can commit some pretty egregious errors, even betray us, before we decide to sever our ties to them. It’s like being unconcerned if an able-bodied person parks in a handicap spot. It’s wrong, but, hey, whatever. And, our true friends can go for weeks, months, even years, without contact, but once reconnected, it can feel as though no time has passed. No one ever seems to resent the lack of communication. Try that with your sweetheart and you’ll definitely be greeted with, “we have to talk.” Probably over packed boxes and a returned set of house keys. The workplace certainly has a “zero tolerance” for lack of communication. It’s usually cited as the primary cause of workplace dysfunction, or why errors were made.

This isn’t to say friendships don’t take work. They do. Friends have to navigate hurt feelings, misunderstandings and negotiate neglect, by simple virtue of the fact that all relationships need care and feeding. Friendships may have it a easier than others, but all relationships take work. It is the price we pay for being a sentient creature.

I blatantly ignored the clock this time. Sorry! I need to go back to writing these during lunch hour.


OLWG #3: Nothin’ Special

This week’s Online Writers’ Guild prompts are:

  1. I have to find a way to tell them
  2. Nothin’ special
  3. This was not what she needed right now

Woman-Sitting-at-Desk-Exhausted-Work-in-Front-of-HerAfter the month she had, the last thing Paula needed was her manager laid up with pneumonia.

“Six weeks?!”

“Give or take, but yeah,” the department director said. “This means I’ll need to you to jump in with Sean to get that proposal finished.”

Paula resented everything about her job, but this really put it over the top. Filling in for her manager will mean staying late and starting early. Her husband will have to get the kids ready for school, pick them up after soccer and gymnastics, and make dinner most nights. She dreaded telling him the bad news. She dreaded the silent treatment she was in for.

Maybe sweeten the sour deal with an offering. Like, more sex. Not that he complained, but she knew. More sex. Or, maybe let him get both cars fully detailed, which he had complained about. After all, it’s just money. Speaking of which, Paula thought, since we’re going there, let him sink more of their hard-earned/even harder to save dollars into that bottomless pit project of his. On the weekends she’ll make two breakfasts: pancakes for the kids and Denver omelette and all the bacon he wants, instead of making everyone miserable with her tofu-is-food-too scrambles.

As her mind turned over her options, Paula thought again about how many hours she’d be stuck at the office, never mind the work she’ll probably have to bring home. She was going to have to offer up a whole plate of concessions.

Sean knocked gently on her office door and cautiously opened it. “I can see you’re doing what I’ve been doing.”

“What’s that?”

“Thinking of what all you’re going to have to do to make up for all the time here at work in the next six or so weeks.”

Paula smiled and sighed. “Yeah. I was thinking how much more exhausted I’m going to be after making good on all the bribes I’m going to have to hand out.”

“What’cha thinking you’ll have to do?” Sean asked.

“Ooooh, nothin’ special. Just, become a short order cook on the weekends, ready with a special meal for anyone who demands it. A hooker, whenever and wherever wearing whatever. Watch our bank account dwindle to zero. But, hey, at least the cars will be sparkling and that completely useless project of his will be done so he can move on to the next useless and ridiculously expensive project.”

“I hear ya!” Sean laughed. “I’m going to rock the pink tutu look for the next six weeks. My daughter will be thrilled.”

Paula waved Sean in. “C’mon. Take a seat. Let’s get to it.”


What a Nightmare: OLWG #1

She walked in to see me banging away at my keyboard.

“Not you, too!”

I finished my thought and paused to look at my old muse. “Yes, yes. I see you stopped in on TK to harass him. I like the name he gave you. Annie. Annie, Annie, bobanny, fee, fi, fo, fanny. Annie!”

My old muse stepped in front of my table, arms crossed. “You guys don’t learn.”

“Oooh, I don’t know about that.”

I returned my attention to my laptop. Four minutes had passed on the timer. Gotta get back at it.

Untitled-1A cool breeze blew in the back of her hospital gown. Mortified to realize she was standing in front of her fourth-period social studies class, Mrs. Wilson did her best to hush the students’ tittering.

“Hey Mizz Wilson,” Thomas jeered, “why don’t you write on the blackboard, you know, what you were just saying about the United States government. Cuz, I don’t know how to spell ‘Senate!’ Show me how to spell, ‘Senate!’”

Thomas’ gaggle of goofs let out a loud laugh and gave Thomas high-fives. How desperately Mrs. Wilson wished she could wake up, regardless the pain she would feel if she was able to manage it. The anesthesia had too strong of a hold for her consciousness to break through.

“Come on, Mizz Wilson! Show us! Show us! HAHAHA!” the class kept heckling.

“I never said I’d show you…that’s not what I said…what it said… what was said…” Mrs. Wilson tried explaining; tried getting control, but her body was frozen in place and the words jumbled, tossed and turned around in her head.  Desperate for escape, she wondered if could manage to jump out the window, make a run for it…

The classroom faded. Hushed sounds filled her ears. As Mrs.Wilson came to, she was grateful to open her eyes to a hospital room. Her husband looked up from his phone and smiled.

“There she is! How ya feel?”

“I feel …. like I’m done being a Junior High School teacher.”

The 3 prompts for OWLG #1 are: A cool breeze blew in the back of her hospital gown; She did her best to hush the classroom; That’s not what it said. 

Always a fun exercise in creativity! Grab the one prompt that resonates and force-fit the other two to work with it. Such a blast!

Can’t do the timed-writing thing unless I do this at lunch. Wrote in 30-ish minutes. Took 15 more (or so) tonight to tweak.

If you haven’t yet, check out the Old-is-new-again Online Writer’s Guild!


Continued from yesterday’s story, Two-in-One.  R.Sativus’ author April suggested I, “take it another 30,” minutes that is, and continue the story. It was only a few hours before tnkerr posted another of his Online Writer’s Guild prompts, so, in the spirit of how the story started, I decided wait for the next set of prompts. This morning I set the timer for another 30 minutes (and some more time to edit a bit) and wrote the conclusion of Two-in-One based on today’s  OLWG #32 prompts: He really stepped in it this time; Hard right rudder; One more chance!

Click here to read the beginning of the story: Two-in-One

Harvey asked the officer, a bit shyly, “You don’t mind if I ask to see your badge?”

“ ‘Course not,” the officer said, “Glad to. Wish folks always asked, even if a cop’s in uniform, you should always ask.”

Harvey and Lisbeth inspected the walleted document. “So, McIntyre…” Harvey said, a bit haltingly.

“Call me Mac. McIntyre’s my mother’s maiden name. Said she couldn’t think of a real name to give me, so she named me McIntyre.”

“So, Mac, you patrol all of the neighborhood, or just keeping an eye on this house?” Lisbeth asked.

“I keep an eye on the neighborhood. Occupational hazard, I guess! But, I gotta say, the past few months folks have had problems with prowlers and break-ins. Scared the bejeezus out of the Thompson’s daughter last week. She was home alone when she heard…”

“Excuse me! Hello? Hi!” the real estate agent stepped out onto the back porch from the house. She put a friendly, but cautionary hand on Mac’s shoulder. “Let’s not unnecessarily frighten the Samuels, Officer Andersen, OK?”

Mac apologized. “Oh, I don’t mean nothing by it. Just, as I said, doing my bit ’cause of the stuff’s that been happening around here.” The agent put her hand on Mac’s shoulder again and gave him an exaggerated look. “Sorry. I guess I really stepped in it, this time. Sorry Jeanne.”

Harvey asked, “You two know each other?”

“Yes, indeed,” Jeanne the agent replied. “I live just three blocks down, as a matter of fact. And, I tell you, Mac here is a good neighbor to have!” she said brightly with a little laugh. “Break-ins happen,” she continued, “It’s a sad fact of life, but! I assure you, the overall statistic for crime this part of the city is very low!” She gave Officer Mac one last pat on the shoulder.

“Well, that’s good to know,” Lisbeth said. “I was starting to have a little ‘buyer’s-regret,’ but I’ll give this little place another chance, I suppose.”

“Good!” Jeanne said. “The listing agent said yours is the only offer they’ve had so far. It’s a good offer, and barring anything that shows up in the inspection, I think you’ll be happy with your choice.”

Harvey slowly pulled the giant U-Haul moving van up to the intersection. Lisbeth jumped out and jogged across the street to the opposite corner. “All clear!” she shouted. She swung her arms in a pantomime of an airport ground marshal, “Right, full rudder! Full steam ahead!”

[by the way, I choose the sum of 3-2-1, which is 6,  for next week’s “random” selection of prompts ;-)]


I thought it’d be fun to combine the most recent Online Writer’s Guild and Cubing the Stories prompt this time. I even set a timer for 30 minutes. It’s fun discovering what you can accomplish when you set aside time and clear you mind of other matters!

cube-12The Cubing the Stories picture is to the left.

The OLWG prompts are: They’re not vices anymore; Who can argue with ‘affordable’?; Yeah? Lemme see yer badge.

Lisbeth and Harvey sat in their car looking back at the little house. The realtor slowly paced back and forth along the sidewalk talking on her cell with the listing agent.

“You think we should have made a better offer?” Lisbeth asked.

“No. We’re good. They aren’t going to get much better than ours, I’ll bet.”

“I hope. Now that we’re committed to this, I can’t stand the idea of living another moment downtown in that horrible Tower of Pisa-looking building. All we need is an intimate and affordable house.” Lisbeth said.

Harvey chuckled. “Who can argue with ‘intimate’ and ‘affordable’?”

“Well, you for one! You certainly put up a good fight about it at first!”

The realtor walked to their car and said she was heading back to her office. They asked if they could take one more look around before she left. She opened the house again and said she’d wait in her car until Lisbeth and Harvey were done.

“That little fountain’s gonna need work,” Harvey cautioned, “and this section of fence will need a  couple of corner braces to keep it from falling completely over.”

Lisbeth nudged a small beetle with tip of her shoe. “Yes, well, the yard’s gonna need a lot, I mean a whole lot of work, too, starting with a little pest control, especially if you want that vegetable garden you talked about.”

“Gardening, my darling green-thumb, is your money-trap vice, not mine.”

“Yes, well, when you see the size of the tomatoes and heads of lettuce I will grow, you won’t think of it as a vice any longer,” Lisbeth gently scolded, giving Harvey a kiss on his cheek.

They made their way around the little house again, smiling, excited and hopeful. Standing on the back porch looking out onto the little back yard, Harvey remarked, “This will be the perfect spot to watch summer storms roll by, or take in a moonlit night.” He gave Lisbeth a hug and just as he bent his head down to kiss her, the sound of footsteps came from the other side of the yard. Expecting to see the realtor, they were surprised to see a man instead.

“Evening, folks. Sorry to say, but you folks are trespassing on private property.”

Harvey held out his hand and introduced himself and Lisbeth. “We just made an offer on this house. Our real estate agent is in her car, out front. We’re just taking another look around.”

“Are you neighborhood watch?” Lisbeth asked.

“No ma’am, I’m police, actually. I live across the street and told the owners I’d keep an eye on the place while they are away. I didn’t know it was listed for sale. They didn’t mention it.”

(30 minutes…time’s up! To read the ending, go to Three-in-One)


Mija !

Another week of TBP OLWG! The prompts are: “She put her hands on her hips and stared,” “ It’s a shame about your future,”  “The crack slowly expanded across the windscreen.” 

Hand wrote this on a lunch break in my notebook, so about 45 min. Then transcribed for blog post. Only managed to work in two of the three prompts this time, so I choose 2!

cracked-windshieldRenata struggled to keep her focus on the road. The drive was much longer than she remembered. Back when she was a little girl, she and her Poppy made the trip so often from San Diego she was confident she knew what was in store when she decided to make the trip solo. She glanced briefly at the urn she had carefully belted into the passenger seat. Renata couldn’t recall if Poppy ever complained about what a long drive it was to La Paz.

She worried she told her madrina she’d be there by Sunday morning. In order to keep to the schedule as promised, she’d have to drive as far into Saturday as she could manage before stopping for the night. Renata turned up the radio and sang at the top of her lungs to her favorite Tejano songs. She cranked down the windows to keep the air flowing, and took huge gulps of water from her travel bottle.

“You know, there’s a lot of oxygen in water” she could hear her friend Lupe say. “Michael Jackson used to sit in pure oxygen chamber, and I read the Japanese do it all the time to stay young and energetic.” Lupe is always full of obscure trivia, like the effect of inhaling pure oxygen. But the need to fight off the overwhelming urgency to nod off made her a believer. Renata took in another deep breath of air and another gulp of water.


The shot of adrenaline that rushed through her when a loud, bang, hit her windshield did more to wake her up than any deep breathing or gulps of water. A crack slowly made its way across the glass, from one end to the other, right in her line of vision. She wiggled in her seat to sit as far upright as she could manage and still reach the pedals. After five minutes her back began to cramp. She tried scrunching down and reclining her seat back, but it hurt her shoulders and arms reaching out for the steering wheel like that.

For the next three hours she shifted between sitting upright and scrunching down to avoid looking through the crack. There was no stopping, except for gas and a restroom. If she was more than even fifteen minutes later than when she said she’d arrive, her madrina would have every last policía out looking for her. She’d have to deal with her windshield after she arrived.

Renata turned off the engine and took a deep breath. She stepped cautiously out of the car, her body cramped from head to toe. She stretched and twisted, willing her muscles to release. Her madrina stood on her stoop, hands on her hips, staring at Renata while she put her body through all sorts of gyrations, then giving her the warm-hearted scolding Renata anticipated.

“Did you drive all the way without stopping, mija? What is that on your windshield? You drove with that? No wonder you hurt! You ought to have stopped, mija. I would have understood! Dónde está tu poppy? Is that him in the front seat? Ven aca, dame un abrazo, mija!”

Be Careful What You Wish For

I did it! For the first time I used a timer and it worked! I set it for 45 minutes to write and edit. Most importantly, I didn’t allow myself to focus on the direction of the story or how it was going to end. It was so liberating to write like that! TBP OLWG #29 prompts this week are: “There’s no need to make a science fair out of this;” “Yeah, they make it in green;” “I can be gone in 10 minutes”

cauldronAfter pounding the fern leaves into a mush in their mother’s butter churner, Harold and Geoffrey read over the spell again.

“Take two toads, and gut them. Put the liver of the left one in the cauldron and the heart of the right one in the fire beneath the cauldron,” Harold read aloud.

“You think tree frog’s are OK?” Geoffrey asked, as he slaughtered the two frogs. He yanked out the heart of one and the guts of the other. Shrugging, he randomly selected an organ he thought might be a liver and handed the bloody mess to his brother.

“Dunno,” Harold replied. “Dunno we can get any toads around here. Which one was right and which was left?” Geoffrey shrugged again. “Well, you better have got it right,” and placed the organs  in and under the cauldron as the spell directed. He then continued reading.

“Slowly pour the river water and fern mush mixture into the cauldron. Stir three times.”

Geoffrey scooped up the fern mush from the butter churner and plopped it into a bowl of water, then carefully transported it to the cauldron. The stench from the cooking frog parts made him wrinkle his nose. Turning his head slightly away to avoid the smell, he poured the goopy water into the cauldron as slowly as he could manage. A red plume of steam rose up.

“It says it’s supposed to be green!” Harold exclaimed.

“Well, I don’t know, do I? Did you get river water, like the instructions say?”

“Where we gonna get river water from around here? All’s we got is the well!”

“Maybe we should start over,” Geoffrey said.

“Why? We’ve got this far with it. Don’t you want to see first if it’ll work?” Harold asked.

Geoffrey shrugged. “I suppose. What’s it say to do now.”

Harold returned to the book of spells. “Allow the mixture reduce to a paste. This will take approximately 10 minutes,” Harold looked up at the clock. “How long’s it been?”

“A couple of minutes?” Geoffrey offered. “Keep reading while we wait.”

“When the mixture is a paste-like consistency, remove the cauldron and place in a south-facing window sill. Extinguish the fire and scrape the hot ashes on top of the paste. Let sit until one hour before sunrise. Carefully carry the cauldron to the nearest tree on the southwest side of the house. Scoop the contents out with a wooden spoon (preferably an oak spoon, but any wood spoon will do) and spread it evenly around the base of the trunk. Take five steps directly backward from where you stand, close your eyes and repeat five times the thing you wish for.”