Viewing blog entries in category: Portfolio
The point of this exercise (in truth, it was a Short Story Competition entry) was to tell a short story solely in dialogue (beats were permitted). I chose to have more than two participants to make it more interesting.
“I’m starving,” said Ken. “It’s been a day from hell.”
“That it has.” Laura stared at the menu.
“Can I have pork chops?” asked Jack.
“No, Dad, they don’t serve that here.” Jack waved down a waiter.
“I like a good chop,” sulked Jack.
“They don’t serve chops here, Dad. Seafood and steaks.”
“Good evening, sir. Can I get you something to drink?”
“Yes, I’ll have a bourbon and water, she’ll have a Chardonnay, and an iced tea for my father, please.”
Laura interrupted. “I’ll have gin, instead. Crushed ice.”
“Ok, that’s a bourbon and water, gin over crushed ice, and an iced tea. I’ll send your server over to take your dinner order.”
“You never order gin with dinner.”
“Well, things change.”
“Why can’t I have what I want? I want chops.”
“Please, Dad, keep your voice down. It’s a surf ‘n turf. They only serve steak and seafood. Besides, last time you had chops, your teeth bothered you all night. Look here, they have the crab cakes you always like.”
“I got a phone call today,” Laura said.
“Oh. Okay. I like crab cakes. But none of that pink sauce. I don’t like that.”
“Right, Dad, no remoulade sauce. I’ll tell them. Phone call?”
“Hello, I’m Stefan, and I’ll be your server tonight.” He set down the drinks. “Are you ready to order?”
“I’ll have Lobster Newburg in Puff Pastry, with the Caesar Salad,” said Laura, before Ken could speak.
“Uh, yes. I’ll have the Seafood Casserole, with a baked potato, loaded. And Lobster Bisque. He’ll have the Maryland Crab Cakes, with mashed potato, and chopped broccoli.”
“And no pink sauce.”
“Oh yes. No remoulade sauce with the crab cakes.” Ken sipped his bourbon.
“And another of these.” Laura handed the empty glass to Stefan.
“Stefan, huh. Steve, more likely,” Ken joked.
“Jennifer Welkes.” Laura glared at Ken. “That’s who called me.”
“Yes, oh. I’m sure you can guess the rest.”
“I don’t like this tea.” Jack made a face. “It’s too bitter.”
“Stir in some sugar, Dad. No more than two packets though.” He turned to Laura. “Look, honey, it only happened once, by accident.”
“Accident? What, like a slip and fall, Kenneth? Or was it a rear end collision? Well?”
“I mean, it just kind of happened. It was after a dinner meeting with a client, and we were both a bit drunk, and tired—“
“Kenneth, she told me everything. You chased her for months, then threatened to make her job go away.”
“Don’t you dare call me that.”
“She’s lying. She’s incompetent, and she’s making this up because she’s about to be fired.”
“She just got a transfer and promotion. Today. But you’re right about one thing. Someone is getting fired.” She stood, and gulped down the drink the waiter was holding out to her. “Don’t bother coming home. I’ve had the locks changed.”
“Wait. Your dinner…” Ken emptied his glass, and handed it to Stefan. “I need a refill.”
Jack leaned forward. “Kenny, my boy.” Looked Ken in the eye. “You’re an idiot.”maidahla likes this.
This is in response to another challenge, that it would be impossible to write an interesting story about a man walking down the street twiddling his thumbs.
Despite its name, Broadway at half-past nine on a Tuesday morning closes in on you. Matt paid the vendor for his breakfast, a foot long hot dog with onions, mustard, and sauerkraut, and took his first bite. Around him, people hurried past in nearly every possible direction. Even with the density of the crowd, there was almost no jostling. Men and women in suits, with briefcases or shoulder bags, hurried past bronzed and bearded laborers in dungarees and printed tees without making physical or even eye contact. Smells constantly swirled past as well. Pungent body odor gave way to a whiff of patchouli, followed by a passing cloud of cigar smoke. A strong fragrance of perfume gave way a moment later to a nearby toke of weed, and all around was the aroma of varied foods from the line of vendor carts along the curb.
Matt wadded up the empty wrapper and dropped it into the nearest trash receptacle. The air was already turning muggy. He stepped out into the thick of the crowd, and began walking slowly up the street. He causally laced his fingers in front of him, and started to roll his thumbs.
The crowd changed almost instantly. A bubble of open space formed around him. A gray-haired woman with a lavender silk scarf and a conservative medium grey suit glared at him as she shifted her path to avoid him. A thin man in a black jacket and jeans, and a glowing Bluetooth earpiece, paused from his loud stream of Spanish and caught Matt’s eye. Then he quickly looked away and stepped to the side, nearly colliding with a muscular black youth with a shaved head and half a dozen chain necklaces.
Something struck Matt’s shoulder from behind, and he stumbled but did not fall. A stocky, heavily-inked biker with greasy black hair and a bushy beard swept past without looking back.
Matt took a deep breath, but kept on twiddling his thumbs. He drifted over to a produce stand in front of the Commerce Bank, out of the main flow of pedestrians. But he was not beyond their notice. Faces turned toward him in contempt, while others turned pointedly away from him. An aging drag queen with frosted curly hair and heavy makeup winked lewdly and blew him a kiss.
“Wassup with you, man? You high on sumpin’?” A man with stringy hair, badly in need of a shave and some new clothing was grinning at him through broken yellow teeth. “Got any to share?” He laughed wheezingly and shuffled away.
Matt varied the twiddling, sometimes rolling his thumbs forward, sometimes backward, sometimes alternating every second or two. He kept what he felt was a harmless expression, or maybe it was just a vacant stare.
“Hey you!” Matt turned toward the voice. The produce vendor, a short Asian man in a Hawaiian shirt and baggy shorts, was facing him with his hands on his hips. “Get outa here! You’re scaring away my business. Now move it!”
Matt smiled and nodded his head, and joined the crowd again. He found a new spot in front of a Borders book store, where a standing sign easel left a void in the flow of the crowd. He glanced at a clock across the street. Not even ten o’clock yet. The crowd was beginning to thin somewhat after the peak morning rush. A youth with blue hair and a face full of metal body art stared at him from across the street for several seconds, then hurried away.
A street performer approached him, and began mimicking him with exaggerated motions. Matt ignored him, and after a few minutes, the performer shrugged broadly with a shake of his head, and instead followed a shapely redhead, copying her every move as she window shopped. She caught his reflection in the window of a jewelry store, and laughed. She reached into her purse and dropped a dollar bill into his proffered hat, and they walked off in different directions.
The blue-haired youth returned with three of his friends. They started twiddling their thumbs, too, and stepping in front of passers-by, blocking their path. Within less than a minute, an impatient woman they confronted gave one of the boys a shove. One of the others, a round-headed young man with his black hair cut to a dense fuzz, grabbed the woman’s arm and shook her. A moment later, a patrolman was on the scene.
Matt dropped his hands and slipped through the crowd. He looked in vain for a Metro entrance, and instead hurried into a crowded deli, his heart thudding. He joined the line for the espresso counter, and pulled his cell out of his pocket and dialed. Frank answered on the second ring.
“What the hell did you do, Matt, start a riot?”
Matt kept his voice low. “Never mind. You won the bet. I couldn’t go the full hour.”
Frank laughed. “I’m surprised you made it this far. I’ll bet another twenty you get arrested before the end of the hour.”
“I’ll take that bet. See you in thirty.” Matt snapped the cell closed, and planned his next move.
Malcolm folded the papers and sealed them in the envelope. He looked at the clock. The pickup would take place in the next thirty minutes. If he were late, all his preparations would be for naught.
But he had to be careful. They were watching him, he was sure of it. They had a tap on his phone line, and he had seen watchers in the neighborhood. The surveillance wasn’t continuous, though, and he felt sure he could slip through their net. They were overconfident, and they didn’t know he was onto them.
Malcolm hurried to the window at the end of the upstairs hallway. From there he could see the entire street without revealing himself.
Damn. Across the street, one of them was parked in a gray Acura. He was talking into a cell phone, and didn’t appear to be looking at the house, but Malcolm knew better. He was waiting for Malcolm to make a move, and there was less than half an hour left. He might need a backup plan.
The watcher closed the cell phone and started the car. He looked around, not letting his gaze rest on the house, then pulled away from the curb. Malcolm waited to make sure the man didn’t circle the block to catch him off guard, then he scanned the street for other watchers.
All clear! He hurried downstairs and opened the door a crack. He still saw no one, but they could be watching from concealment.
He forced himself to remain calm, and walked toward the street as casually as possible. He looked to the left, and his heart began pounding in his chest as he saw the small white truck approaching. The pickup was early, and he had nearly missed it.
He stuffed the envelope into the mailbox and raised the red metal flag. He turned away and hurried back to the front steps just as the mail truck pulled up.
“Mr. Walker? Hold up. I got something here you need to sign for.”
Malcolm froze, then turned slowly toward the mail truck. Don’t show fear, he told himself, as his heart tried to explode and his sweat turned acrid with panic. He signed his name on the form on the clipboard, and the mailman handed him a thick envelope marked with a government seal and dire warnings against use for unofficial purposes. He watched as the mailman retrieved the sweepstake envelope from the mailbox, then turned and shuffled back to the safety of his house. At least the entry would be postmarked with today’s date, the deadline.
Once inside, he collapsed into his chair and stared at the dark face of the TV until he could breathe almost normally. The envelope was half-crumpled in his fist, but he smoothed it the best he could. It was from the United States Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, just as he knew it would.
I have often said that the story idea is unimportant, and that a decent writer should be able to make a story from the most mundane of story ideas. I've suggested that even a trip to the mailbox could be written into a story. This is no masterpiece, but it was my "put up or shut up" challenge to myself.
teeekilicious18 likes this.
This is a poem I entered quite some time ago, and then lost track of. It's a double tetractys, and I used the descending count (10 4 3 2 1) followed by the ascending one (1 2 3 4 10) to suggest the ebb between two wave surges.
The surf explodes upon black rugged rocks
a roaring beast
back to the sea,
marshalling rage to launch the next assault.
This is a short piece I wrote in March, 2008. My goal was to write a scene in third person without any direct reference to what the main character was thinking, but still try to clearly convey his thoughts and feelings. I'm posting this not because I think it's a great piece of writing, but because it illustrates the difficulties of a third person objective narrative voice.
Steven clicked the Submit Payment button, then set aside the power bill and picked up the next envelope from the stack. He slit it open with the letter opener and pulled out another bill. After glancing at the total on the front, he turned to the next page, and then froze with a stunned look. Hearing the doorknob turn, he quickly set the paper down on the desk. Janet poked her head around the door.
“Still paying out the bills?” she asked.
He nodded wordlessly. She had on her suede coat, and was carrying a small handbag. “You heading out?”
She looked down at her purse and began rummaging through it. “Kelly called. She’s having a rough time and needs a shoulder to cry on.” She retrieved her keys and turned away. “Don’t wait up. I’ll probably stay there tonight, especially if we have a couple drinks.” She half turned her head around, not quite looking at him, with a tight smile. “Besides, you aren’t a pile of fun to be around when you’re doing the bills.” She walked briskly down the hall, and Steven heard the door open and close.
He stood and walked slowly to the front room. He watched her through a gap in the living room curtains as she settled into her Honda and backed out of the driveway. After she turned the corner, he continued to stare out into the gathering dusk. Finally, he turned away and retrieved a rocks glass from over the liquor cabinet. He wiped the thin layer of dust out of it with the end of his shirt, selected a bottle of Cuervo Gold and splashed two fingers into the glass.
He swallowed half of it in one mouthful, and made a face as the burn spread from his mouth into a warm glow across his chest. Returning to the spare room, he picked up the telephone bill one more time and did his best to stare it down. Then he shoved it to the bottom of the stack, shut down the computer, and took what was left of his drink to his throne in the living room. Janet had long since given up trying to get him to get rid of the ugly high-backed chair. He sipped the remainder of the drink in the dark, and stared at the blank TV screen long after the glass was empty.
Finally, he washed the glass and put it away. He stood there for a moment, then switched on the light and picked up the phone.
He started to punch in a number, but switched off the phone and set it back down. Then he picked it up again and keyed in the entire number. He put the phone to his ear and waited.
“Hello, Helene? It’s me, Steve… Yes, really… I was wondering if the offer was still open… I know, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” He listened for several seconds. “That sounds nice. Let me get cleaned up quickly, and I’ll meet you there in an hour… Yeah, me too. See you shortly.” He hung up the phone, and went into the bathroom.
As he washed his face and ran a comb through his hair, he stopped for a few seconds to look at the stranger in the mirror. Then he turned away, and changed into a fresh shirt and khaki’s. He locked the door behind him on his way out.
Note that the reference to the stranger in the mirror in the last paragraph is a slip. It is a subjective reference, so it doesn't really conform to the rules I had imposed for the exercise.
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