All my entries for Project Writeway

I'm speaking in my daughter's Adult Living Class on Friday about being a writer as a career choice and I compiled all my entries together. Thought it might be interesting to see the progression.

Pre. First 150 words of novel, 60 entries

 Nicole Shanti 

            You can learn a lot from listening. And it’s safer.

            So I don’t ask. I don’t speak. I leave the form on the kitchen counter for Mom to notice later when I’m not around.

            Her back is to me as she leans towards the computer screen as though her need to hear from Chris will produce an e-mail. Her shoulders droop and the click of the mouse signals that she’s moved on to searching the internet for stories on the latest natural disaster.

            I spread peanut butter onto slices of Mom’s wheat bread.

            “Marti. We’re waiting,” Dad calls from the front room.

             I plop on the peach jam, flip the top slices on, and stuff the sandwiches in bags.

            “Now.”

            With a pop, I open a lunch sack, and drop my sandwich inside. Mom doesn’t flinch. She won’t join us until she’s sure the world hasn’t ended, yet.

 

1. 200 Word scene with words: simplicity, plant, cookies, jam, squirt, bulldozer, and someone has to get slapped, 14 entries

 

Caliente

            Andrew leans against a bulldozer at his construction job by one of the many Eegee’s in Tucson where we’re meeting for lunch. Even with sweat down his front he’s adorable.

            Waves of heat prickle my ankles. I’d love an eegees. The simplicity of frozen ice with a squirt of flavor. A brain freeze with a sugar rush. Except I’m saving for college.

            Inside Eegee’s, Andrew points to a man-sized rubber cactus plant with cartoon eyes and one hooked arm holding a sign for a new flavor. “How about cactus-mango?”

            “No.” I tap my sack with a jam sandwich and cookies. I’m not going to be the reason he  doesn’t go to college.

            “I wish you’d stay here,” Andrew says.

            I shake my lunch at him. “I wish you’d apply for college.”

            My parents didn’t tell me I had to move away,” Andrew says.

            “Don’t bring up my parents.”

            “Liz. Don’t leave. Tell them you’re going to the U of A.” Andrew slurps his slush. I want to hit it out of his hand, make him see it’s not my parents. It’s me. I want to go away.

            Instead, I slap the rubber cactus.

            “Watch it,” the cactus says and groans.

 

2. Paranormal haiku

 

Sweetness

Stench of rotten eggs

Devour goat hearts, two teeth marks

Keep farm dogs inside.

 

3. 400 Word Historical Fiction

Sun Dance

            When we heard talk of Butch Cassidy’s funeral, we rode two days to Price. Momma was determined to track down my missing brother John even if it meant a show down with Butch Cassidy himself, dead or alive. At twelve I was the man of the house with Pa working the mines at Telluride and John following after Butch Cassidy and his Wild Gang. I was not gonna be left behind.

            “Least I can keep an eye on you, Brigham,” Momma’d said when I was waiting ‘bout a mile out of town in the blossoming sagebrush, begging to come along.

            Soon as we got to Price, Momma hitched up the horse and we walked right up to those coffins sitting out for everyone to see. Momma stood there for a good five minutes looking over the body with its bush of light hair until a woman in a frilly dress was weeping so loud, Momma couldn’t stand it any longer.

            Soon as I was satisfied that the other dead outlaw wasn’t John, I watched the people shuffling past. Lots of women were sniffling and weeping. A man with a wagon full of straw drove by and then drove by again. On the third pass, when the straw twitched like a kid was hiding about to pop out, I told Momma.

            We rode out of town to a stand of stubby pine trees with a boulder big enough to hide us and the horse. Momma kept one hand on my shoulder, gripping it like I’d a mind to run away. The other hand she kept on the gun in her apron.

            “What we waitin’ for?” I asked.

            “Hush up or you’ll be cleanin’ out the barn with a fork.”

            Then I saw the wagon, the one with the straw. The man driving the wagon was talking to himself. Whistling came from the wagon, but the driver’s mouth wasn’t puckered in a whistle.

            “Hush there, Butch,” the driver said in a harsh whisper.

            “I’m dead, remember” said a muffled voice.

            “Good riddance,” said the man. “Though I’ve never known a better man or a better thief.”

            “Mighty nice of you,” the voice said. “Shame I had to die. I had so much more livin’ to do.”

            That’s when Momma jumped out from behind the boulder and pointed her gun.

4. 400 word scene with middle grade voice

Big Foot         

 

            I whiz around the ice rink, stuffing the gloves that Mom made me bring into my pocket.   “Move those big feet,” Caleb, my younger brother, shouts as he races past.

            My feet have grown two sizes in two months. I had to get the biggest skates you can rent.

            “High five,” Caleb calls. We bump knuckles and then …

            Wham.

            My chin meets the ice.

            I nod at Caleb to keep going and get up to find a bench. Ice isn’t exactly cushiony.

            Mom skates up to me. “Andrew, what happened?”

            “Fell on the ice.”

            “Your feet get in the way?”

            “Not even. It was Caleb.” I lift my chin. Mom’s face turns white.

            “Where’s your glove?”

            I pull it out. She makes me hold it on my chin. I don’t tell her I’d been wiping my nose with it.

            “We gotta go,” she says.

            “I just need a band aid.”

            We’re going.”

 

            “That needs stitches,” Mom says as we leave.

            I shiver. By the time we get to the hospital, my hand shakes so bad I can’t keep the glove in place.

            Caleb stays out front staring at a Disney show.

            The nurse makes me get on a scale and takes my temperature, although that’s clearly not why we’re here.

            She leads us to the trauma room.

            I’ve never had stitches before. Never been hospitalized. Never broken a bone. Now I’m in the trauma room.

            “Growing boy.” The nurse taps my shoe as I lie on the table.

            Mom squeezes my arm. “Want me to hold your hand?”

            I shake my head.

            The doctor pulls open a drawer, rattles around, says something about a 30 gauge needle. Like a shotgun?

            I stare at the ceiling.

            I won’t cry.

            “You’ll be fine,” the doctor speaks in that high voice used for littler kids than me. “A shot, a few tugs, and all better.”

            A tear leaks out. Warm blood runs down my neck.

            The doctor pokes a needle near the cut. Now I wish Mom would hold my hand. She doesn’t.

            After the burn of the 30 gauge and more than a few tugs, I’ve got four stitches poking out of my chin like an off-center goatee.

            “See, that didn’t hurt,” the nurse says as she cleans me off.

            “Except for you poking me,” I say.

            When I come out, Caleb raises his knuckles. “High five.”

            “Not even,” I say.

           

5. 300 word personal essay about why I write

 

CeeMee Right

 

            “Can teenagers love?” asked my oldest daughter. She’s dated a young man for over a year. I loved a boy in high school. He proposed. I said no and left for college where I met my husband.

            I write to be forgiven.

            After a three hour elementary school concert, we found my second daughter hiding under a table, crying. When classes weren’t performing, the rest of the school waited together in a large room. The noise, the bodies, the smells were all too much for her. At other times, the seams of her socks, the buzz of fluorescent lights, lumpy oatmeal on her tongue, my anger, her tantrums, me shoving her out the door to get to school…

            I write to understand.

            My son worships his dad. They wrestle, joke, torch a stripped lug nut to change a tire. To become a man, my son sleeps in a tent on the frozen snow, endures his dad tickling him for an entire minute, and hauls himself up on his chin-up bar when he goes in or out of his room.

            I write to relate.

            I review Shakespeare lines with my fifth grader, proofread papers for my 9th grader, sort through pennies with my son for a merit badge, write down my five year-old son’s stories about monsters, and relive moments of my senior’s life as she prepares for college. I listen to my children’s successes, failures, heartaches, joys. I teach them that the only person they can control is themselves. Still, there are suicide bombings, earthquakes, sexual abuse, cancer.

            I remember the pain of a broken heart, the rage of childhood, being left out of wrestling matches between my dad and five younger brothers. I write because I remember. I write to fix a world I can’t control.

 

6. 400 word dystopian scene

 

Will I. Am     

 

            I am no longer Will.

            My teeth vibrate from the tremble in the earth and the cold. The wool blanket the man-lady threw at me last night won’t cover my toes and my chin.

            And Rissa is gone.

            I should have thrown a punch, kicked a groin, yanked that man-lady’s rifle out of her hands before I let them separate us.

            Yet that animal carcass hanging outside my jail—no, holding room—of the main lodge and the five or so women I’d seen, gave me hope that this community would be safe—at least for Rissa.

            We left the last community in the middle of the night. As soon as Rissa started strutting and bending over and using that breathless voice around the food guard, I knew we had to leave. Sure, she got us stockpiles of beans and creamed corn and oatmeal packets, but that guard was looking for something other than food.

 

            The door bursts open. I jump up from the mattress, my hands in fists, my jaw tight.

            A body slams into me, then arms are around my waist and this person, this girl is soft and trembling.

            “Chris.” Her voice is high, over loud. She pushes away.

            When Dallin found Rissa and me huddled in a demolished gas station, licking out the glop from a can of chili, he said family members could join their community. I had to pretend to be his girlfriend’s missing brother and Rissa had to be his sister.

            The man-lady stands in the doorway. “This is Chris?” A gun rests in her arms like she can take me down between the eyes before I blink.

            “I’m sorry, Chris. This is Leah.” The girl holds onto my arm and her hand chills me through my jacket. She faces me. Her eyes are warm and brown and wet with tears. “We help each other. We have to.”

            We walk past the man-lady—excuse me, Leah—with her gun, past the carcass, and away from the lodge where they’ve got Rissa. I stop. But if I’m this girl’s brother, Rissa means nothing to me.

             “You’re home,” the girl says, loud again, and then leans into my arm, her chest brushing against my jacket. “Dallin sent me. Rissa, your sister. She’s there.”

            Now I want to be Will. Not this girl’s brother. And I don’t want to owe her boyfriend anything.

 

7. 500 word romance scene with a kiss

 

Cassafrass

 

            Dallin stands on my front porch with a boutonniere box. Inside is one white rose surrounded by carnations the same color as my dress. The sun is setting behind the two story house across the street like an orange half peeled.

            “Dallin.” I don’t know what to say. I thought Mom told him she changed her mind about prom, that I had to babysit Sam instead. And my makeup—it’s run off my face from crying.

            But I’m still wearing my pinkish-melon dress with a full skirt to the knee, wide straps for sleeves, and of course, a sweater to cover my shoulders.

            “Wow, Cassie,” Dallin says. “You look…Wow.” He’s in the doorway. Sam wraps his arms around Dallin’s leg.

            I notice now that he’s not in a tux. He’s wearing a white dress shirt with jeans and one button undone. His white undershirt shows at the top. I want to give him a hug but not with Sam around.

            I try to pry Sam off Dallin’s leg.

            “I just came to give you these.” Dallin shakes the flower box. I reach for it, but he pulls back.

            “I get to put it on you.” He walks into the house, sets the box on a bookshelf, and pops off the top. Sam continues to hang onto Dallin, but tilts his head back to watch.

            Dallin’s fingertips brush the inside of my palm as he slips the flowers on my wrist. I get warm shivers.

            He smiles, showing straight teeth except for the middle top one that’s at a slight angle.

            “I should leave.” Dallin backs up.

            “You could…” My voice cracks. “Stay.”

            “Are you sure?”

            “I’m sure.”

            Mom would not approve. Except why should I do what Mom wants when she made me miss my prom?

           

            After three stories, a trip to the bathroom, and two drinks of water, Sam is in bed and Dallin is sitting next to me on the worn love seat.

            “Cassie?” Dallin fiddles with my fingers. I think he’ll hold my hand. He doesn’t.  

            “Yeah.” I keep my voice at a whisper so I won’t scare him away.

            Mom says the surest path to sex is being alone with a guy, taking clothes off, and being horizontal.

            Dallin leans forward until our foreheads touch. “When your mom called, she made it sound like you changed your mind. That you didn’t want to go.” His warm mint breath tingles against my lips.

            I almost stop breathing. “I wanted to more than anything.”

            “I hoped…That’s why I came over,” Dallin says.

            “I’m glad you did.” I close my eyes.

            “Me too.”

            My chest is tight.

            Now.

            My lips open a bit.

            He’s so close. If I move we’ll bump noses.

            I take a quick breath and his lips are on mine. Soft. Warm. Sweet.

            I may not know how my mom could make me miss prom. I may not even know exactly how it works when in a horizontal position. But I know I like kissing.

 

8. 600 word scene of a fairy tale retelling

 

Storyteller

 

            In my tree high above the forest floor, a fluff of snow drifts through the barren branches and settles on my hand, soft as a swan’s feather, cold as loneliness.

            I sew and wish I was playing at hide-and-seek with my brothers.

            They would count. I would run until my breath tore at my chest, then climb a tree until the branches were no thicker than my finger. With my cheek pressed against the rough bark, I waited to hear their song.

            “Six brothers catch little sister.”

            I would shriek when a brother climbed and caught my ankle.

            “Did you see me? How long did it take? Let’s play again,” I said as my brothers covered their ears.

            If only I could sing now.

            Cold drives through the branches I’ve lodged as a roof between the limbs. The slanted floor is a shingle from the robber’s den where I found my brothers before they flew away.

            I huddle over my precious shirts.

            Ice bites at my neck, burning with its cold cruelty.

            If I could laugh, I would repeat my brothers’ joke.

            “Why did the swan cross the road?”

            “To peck off your head.”

            That was a good one. I keep the laugh in my belly.

            If I could speak, I would count aloud my stitches. Three shirts are done. Half of what is needed to free all my brothers. Half plus the ultimate sacrifice for a chatty sister.

            I stitch the seven petals using Poppa’s reel of thread. With the end knotted, the blood-red stitches transform to the pure white of the star flower.

            A limb whips across my back and flies away.

            Where do my brothers fly? Surely they do not miss my chatter.

            Chase never said, “Stop talking.”

            He found me in a tree where I’d fallen asleep, my legs swinging off a limb.

            “Are you all right?”

            I shrieked, a high piercing pitch with a drop like the scream of an eagle.

            “I won’t hurt you,” he said.

            I didn’t know what he would or would not do.

            He waited below and whistled, mimicking my scream. I stayed until my legs and bottom were numb. As I descended, my gown caught on a jagged limb and tore.

            “I’m Chase.” The young man stood and bowed.

            “Anice.”

            “Your dress is torn.”

            “It is.”

            “You don’t say much.”

            My laugh burst out of my mouth.

            After that, when I hid from my brothers, I whistled and if Chase answered back, we met and talked until I heard my brothers’ song.

            If only I could laugh now.

            Hiss. Crack. Roar. Wind flies down in a fury and seizes the shirts. I snatch at a sleeve, a collar. One flies over my shelter.

            I can’t lose it. A shirt takes an entire year to sew. I stuff the two shirts, star flowers, and reel into my bodice.

            With one foot, I search for a foot hold. I hear a whistle: high and sustained with a drop.

            Chase.

            I must not answer.

            I slip, my bodice catching on a twig. The last two shirts fall out.

            I clutch at the tree.

            “I hope this is not all you were wearing.”

            I must not speak.

            “Anice? Is that you? You know I won’t hurt you.”

            The reel of thread bruises my chest. Of course. A way to stay silent.

            I pull myself back onto the floor of my shelter and with shaking fingers, thread the needle. I pierce my flesh. The bottom lip. Then the top. The stitches disappear as I tie the knot at the corner of my mouth.

            I descend.

 

9. 750 word beginning of a YA murder mystery

Mary Multnomah

 

            At the bridge next to the falls, Susie's hair blew behind her as smooth and white as plain butter cream icing, the sweetness on top of a cake.

            The rest of the choir members stayed in the spray of the falls, but I huffed and gasped for breath as I followed Susie and Tom up the asphalt path. I'd heard Tom talk as we changed into our tuxes before the performance on our choir trip through Oregon. He said he'd hook up with her again on the bus as we drove all night to get home. 

            Couldn't she see? See that Tom only wanted her body. He didn't appreciate her voice. If her hair was like icing, her voice when she sang was like pudding in the middle of a layered cake. It's richness moistened your lips, covered your tongue, and became part of you.

            Before the last switchback at the top of the falls, I leaned against a boulder. But then I heard her words, her pain. She was pregnant. He said she'd better take care of it. That he didn't need this now when he had a full scholarship. That he'd jump off the falls right then if she didn't promise. Or that maybe she should jump. I heard the scream, the cry of desperation.

            I ran around the boulder. Susie was gone.

            I charged. Tom hit the falls. His arms and legs flopped like an empty pastry bag until he disappeared to the bottom, 600 feet below.

                       

17 Years Later

            When Kelsey ran, she could deal with what was ahead. One step at a time. Even in the heat of the desert. Today, at the beginning of the cross country season, she ran with her team on Mount Lemmon, an elevated oasis of trees. 

            As Kelsey neared the turn before the last mile of the run, sweat prickled under her armpits, glued her hair to her forehead, and squelched between her knees.

            "Hey, ice princess," Porter called from behind. "Swish that white hair this way. Might cool me off."

            Kelsey unwound her elastic and whipped her hair at Porter.

            "That's what I'm talking about." He grinned.

            Kelsey slowed, her feet flat against the trail. If Porter wanted to continue to run with her, he'd slow down. If he didn't, she'd given him a chance to pull ahead. He stayed.

            Kelsey slipped the water bottle out of her back pouch and squirted it over Porter's hair, already dark with sweat.

            "After this, we're going to the water park," Porter said. "You could come."

            "I'll ask," Kelsey said. She wanted to. But was it worth the lecture about how men cause nothing but pain?  Her mom never said that's what happened with her dad, but that's what Kelsey guessed.

            She squeezed the last drops of water into her mouth. In the parking lot a few runners pulled sports drinks from a cooler in the trunk of the coach's car. Instead of high fives and checking hydration, the coach stood with her arms crossed talking to a woman whose white-blonde hair hung down her back in soft waves.

            It couldn't be, Kelsey thought. Not my mom. Kelsey leaned forward and sped up, running on the front pads of her feet. Her mom never ventured up any mountain or climbed stairs or rode the elevator.

            "We have to go," her mom said, clamping her hand on Kelsey's sweaty neck.

            She shivered with the cold of her mom's touch.

            "Kelsey." The coach patted her arm. "We're going to miss you."

            "What?" Kelsey looked from her mom to the coach.

            "Susie, your daughter is a great runner," the coach said. "Make sure she keeps it up in Oregon."

            Oregon? Kelsey knew her mom hated the heat of Tucson almost as much as she feared heights. She complained about getting sweaty as she walked from the house to the car. The A/C bills here cost more than keeping a diesel truck full of gas in Oregon. It was too hot if you could cook an egg on the sidewalk. Not that her mom would want to, not with all the cockroaches. There weren't any cockroaches in Corvallis, where her mom was from, except for Kelsey's dad if he was still there. That had to be the reason why her mom had never gone back to Oregon, never taken Kelsey to meet her grandparents.

            Could this be about her dad?

            Bring on the pain, Kelsey thought.

 

10. 99 word Flash Fiction

 

La Luna

I made a choice.

53 days. I didn’t speak when my parents announced the plan to keep our family together.

36 days. I kept my mouth shut on the day we arrived at the cabin, our ark in a wicked world.

2 days. When Dallin came for me, I left my family, without speaking a word.

0 days. I did not believe the world would end. Mom and Dad ended my world when they took us away.

——-

Light streaks near the moon. My parents were wrong. It will pass us by.

 My parents were right.

“This is the end.”

 

 

 

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