In order to get in the habit of writing again, seeing as I’ve been editing and rewriting for such a long time without really writing much of anything new, I’m going to try doing prompts more, and practice showing and telling, something I’d like to work on. Specifically, I’d like to get better at distinguishing when something needs to be in scene and when it can be summarized.
Fair warning, the work below is pretty rough, but I’m open to any feedback or comments about them. I’m not looking for a critique or for you to rail against my grammar, mind you, but I’d love to hear what you think about the two pieces’ distinct tone, voice, style, etc., or whether they dovetail or diverge.
I found it interesting to see how much I learned from one versus what I got out of the other. Same characters. Same situation. But there’s a little bit more about the circumstances and the history between them, it covers a bit more time, even getting into the man’s head a bit more in one, and the other offers a more colorful, but slightly less informative, version of the same situation.
Prompt of the day, via Twitter:
— WriteDivas (@WriteDivas) September 28, 2015
I didn’t write on a timer for these. I just wrote until I got to the bottom of the page and stopped.
Every time Geoff pulled into the driveway now, he prayed she wasn’t home. If he could beat her home, he’d have a few minutes of peace. Just a few. He’d tried sneaking in through the back door, but that was no use. Her room was right over it on the second floor, and if she wasn’t in there, she was in the kitchen with a window he’d have to pass to reach the door.
It had been two weeks of this now. Geoff felt like a guilty teenager, sneaking around, since his mother had showed up on his front stoop, her battered blue leather suitcase in hand, asking could she stay with him awhile. One of the few times Geoff regretted being an only child. Ma’s sister Edna was closer to her work, Geoff offered, trying to be helpful, why didn’t she stay with her? Then Ma had unleashed the sort of guilt trip that she was famous for, the kind that had led his dad to cut bait over twenty years ago.
Sure it wasn’t all bad. No more Ramen noodles or blue box mac and cheese for dinner. Ma always cooked meals; take-out was a foreign concept to her. Pancakes and sausage for breakfast. Roast beef and glazed baby carrots for dinner. But of course, this was after she scolded him for his mildewy kitchen sponges, lack of cooking utensils, and pantry full of pasta and Hamburger Helper.
Geoff loved his Ma. He had bought her that damn trailer three years earlier so she didn’t have to pay rent on it anymore. She wasn’t a bad person. Nor a bad mother. They got along great, most of the time. But living with her was another story. She could be so… invasive. Asking why he kept a box of condoms in his medicine cabinet where just anybody could find them. So… annoying. Talking on the phone to Edna until 11 o’clock at night with her damn bedroom door wide open. So… judgmental. Why wasn’t he taking better care of himself? All that salt in those prepackaged dinners was bound to give him hypertension.
Geoff kept replaying the conversation in his head: how exactly had Ma’s neighbor Annette gotten hold of firecrackers in the first place? The woman could barely make it to the mailbox, for Chrissake. But more importantly, what was she doing popping them off in her Dutch oven, with only two tin walls and six feet of space separating her trailer from Ma’s?
I knew it was going to be a bad day right from the start. Why? The doorbell rang at 7:30 in the A.M. It’s never a good day somebody rings your bell and wakes you up that early on a Saturday. I lay in bed, hoping if I ignored them, whoever they were, they’d go away. Then I heard the voice.
“Geoffrey?” Shrill, and completely unmistakable. “Come let your poor mother in the damn house! Don’t make me stand out here like some solicitor!”
I groaned, debating again whether if I lay in bed long enough she would leave. But no. Lorraine Carville wouldn’t allow that. She’d holler until she was hoarse, drawing the rest of the neighborhood out onto their front stoops to see who was making all the racket, and getting a good eyeful of Geoff’s crazy old mother.
Finally, resigned to my fate, I rolled over and kicked the covers off. I found my blue bathrobe, the one Lorraine had gifted me for Christmas six years ago, and put it on to go open the door.
She called out once more, hammered that arthritic fist on the door for a good ten seconds, before I got there.
“What were you doing still in bed?” she said.
Typical Lorraine. Not even a hello. Just a guilt trip over some deep-seated flaw you’d just reminded her of.
“Good to see you, too, Ma. What can I do for you?” I said.
“Let an old woman in, for one thing! I’m freezing my tits off out here!”
I pushed the door open wider, then I saw the old, blue leather suitcase on the step behind her and I let the door swing back shut, nearly hitting me in the nose.
“Ma? What’s that for? Did something happen to the trailer?” I said.
She followed my gaze, which was fixed on the luggage, and gave a dismissive wave of her hand. “Oh! Long story!” she said. “If you’ll let me in, I’ll tell you all about it! I’ll fix us something for breakfast, huh?”
I didn’t have much in the way of what she’d consider “breakfast.” Some bacon. Bread for toast, maybe. But Ma had a way of taking the little things and making them into something delicious. A skill I had never learned to replicate.
I pushed the door back open with a sigh. “Come on in, Lorraine.”
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