It’s definitely starting to sink in exactly how many words 50,000 words is. I just hit 14,018 after banging out about 2,000 today, and apparently to stay on target I need to hit about 20,000 on Saturday, unless I want to end up doing a few 10,000 word days near the end.
Thankfully, I still have plenty of plot to get through. Surprisingly, the hardest part for me has been writing this story in order, but in a way it’s good, because I have to write through the tedious explainy bits.
Ah well. We shall see, I suppose. It is only Day 4.
Marie slid into the shower after waiting what seemed an eternity for hot water. Although the water pressure left something to be desired, there was soap like smelled like eucalyptus and something citrusy she couldn’t place. Grapefruit, maybe.
She leaned against the smooth, colorfully tiled wall and slid down to sit on the floor, picking up her right foot in her hands and pulling it close to inspect the bottom. Despite being hopelessly dirty, it was painfully blistered, and Marie caught her breath when the hot water hit her damaged skin.
“Shit!” she swore, as she gingerly began to wash off the dirt.
“Ow. Shit ow. Shit.”
It was a full hour later when she finally stepped out of the shower, scrubbed pink and flushed with warmth. Marie thoroughly inspected the clothes that Elsy, the woman in overalls, had given her and smelled them. They were clean, mercifully, and smelled almost floral.
The white linen pants were generously baggy, although lucky they had a drawstring closure, so that if Marie tied them tightly and folded them over several times, she wasn’t tripping over them. The bright blue shirt was heinously ugly, but was at least a closer match to her size. She’d saved her own underwear and bra, much to Elsy’s protests, washed them in the sink and left them to hang dry. They were still somewhat damp, but at least they were hers.
She gingerly put on a pair of too big flip-flops Elsy had leant her and emerged into a narrow hallway painted a fading, medicinal pink. The walls, like the rest of the small house, were constructed of some sort of plaster, smooth and cold to the touch. At the end of the hall, she turned through an open doorway into what apparently passed as a dining room, a sort of dark, low ceilinged affair with a small rectangular table and a mismatched assortment of chairs. The four weirdos she’d met that morning were clustered around it – Elsy, the fat one, Galen, the tall skinny guy, Hershel, the old man, and Alice, the wild woman.
“About time,” Alice grunted, taking a sip of what was evidently one of a series of drinks. Marie took the empty chair between Hershel and Elsy and inspected the meal that had been laid out for her.
“Some freshly fried chicken, a nice rice pilaf with some toasted nuts, and a little fresh fruit,” said Elsy with pride. Marie nodded her thanks, turned the plate so that the chicken was as far away as possible, and picked up what looked to be a slice of mango.
“You want a drink?” Galen asked. He had his right hand firmly gripping the handle of a pitcher of something.
“What is it?” Marie asked, suspicious.
“Red wine sangria. Freshly poisoned,” Galen said dryly.
Marie stared at him.
“Don’t mind Galen, he’s just an ass,” Alice said, shooting the tall guy a vicious glance across the table. He shrugged, poured her about a pint of sangria and slid it across the table.
She nodded her thanks and attacked another piece of fruit, realizing she was starving. Marie took a generous slug of sangria.
“This is fabulous,” she sighed, taking a second sip.
“It’s also real fucking strong, lady,” Galen replied, reaching across the table and refilling her glass.
Hershel turned to Marie and held up a small medic case.
“Alice mentioned you were running around in the forest barefoot last night,” he said. “Can I see your feet?”
“Right now?” she asked, a forkful of rice almost to her mouth.
“No time like the present,” Hershel replied firmly, and patted his knee. Marie shifted awkwardly in her chair, kicked off a sandal, and gingerly perched her foot where he indicated. He pulled out a few antibiotic pads and got to work. Marie tried her best to ignore him and continue eating, although the ointment stung.
“Not a chicken fan?” Galen asked when she pushed her plate away.
“I’m a vegetarian,” Marie explained.
The four of them stared at her.
“What the hell is a vegetarian?” Galen asked, picking up a piece of her chicken.
“Very funny,” Marie spat.
Word count – 14018
The metro station was pulsing with light, flickering from the dying bulbs overhead, emanating from open cell phones and getting caught in glasses frames and the reflective coverings on posters for upcoming movies and political campaigns. Voices bounced off of surfaces and whirled willy-nilly in the void of the open station where the trains rushed to and fro, many languages mixing in the open spaces and nooks and crannies to froth against the waves of people who moved against each other every ten minutes like clockwork, mingling together like milk and coffee in a travel mug.
In the hallways street musicians played franglish music on poorly tuned guitars, bilingual cardboard sign propped up against the portable xylophone played by a girl with dreadlocks and a rainbow colored skirt. The toonie thrown into the case by the boy walking with the dark haired girl bounced against the sides and settled into the small pile of gold and silver change. The singer nodded his head as they passed, and the dark haired girl squeezed the boy’s hand.
In the corner, an old woman rests her head against the cool porcelain tiles of the wall, long corduroy skirt trailing on the floor as she waits for the train to come. Her gnarled hands skitter on the handles of her bag and the vibrations tremble up her arm and through the tattered windbreaker. The soft rustling of the fabric announces her presence in the station and heads turn to find the source of the noise. She meets the eyes of a girl with long dark hair who is walking hand and hand with a boy in a baseball cap. The girl nods her head slightly in her direction. The train comes.
Today’s story prompt is from Nancy Stohlman.
Find a story you’ve written that isn’t quite working. Chop it down to exactly 100 words. Give it a new title.
This is Drift, the story from my week-long writing challenge, reworked. I love it.
Return to Sender
“Hey,” I said, sitting down next to my fiancée on the bed. Sarah’s eyes were red and puffy.
“Hey,” she said, handing me the wedding RSVP her best friend had sent back through the mail, unopened. “Alissa will not be in attendance.”
I looked at the pale blue envelope, dotted a darker color where her tears had stained the paper. In the weeks since Alissa had told my fiancée she was in love with her, Sarah had sent her five invitations. The bitch had not deigned to reply.
I ripped the invitation in half.
“More food for me.”
Continued from here.
The cut was long and jagged and ran from the bottom of my ribcage to the top of my snow pants. It was already starting to bruise around the edges. I refused to go the ski patrol so Mark bought a tee shirt from the gift shop, stuffed it with clean snow, and handed it to me. Annoyed, I sat down on an outside bench with a huff and pressed it to my side. Mark sat next to me and tried to lift my shirt up a little so he could see the wound better, but I smacked his hand away.
“Stop poking at me,” I said, and it must have came out a little harsher then I meant it because Mark made a face like I’d spit at him and turned away. I bit my lip. We sat there for a few minutes in silence. The day had turned out to be unusually warm for March and some of the other skiers were walking past us in t-shirts. I was overdressed, having gotten ready in the still frigid morning, and the snowpack felt good against my skin until it started to melt into icy little rivulets that ran down into my base layers and held on. Despite the melt, I held it to my side until the snow inside was all gone, then shook it out and laid it over my knees.
“Ready to go?” I finally asked.
“Why won’t you ever let me help you, Susan?” Mark asked me quietly.
“What?” I blurted out, surprised.
He looked at me for a long moment, and I waited a while before realizing that his patience with my stubbornness was finally wearing out, and that this wasn’t one of those conversations where he was going to let me wiggle my way out. I looked out at the mountains, at the long jagged crest line of the horizon, and thought maybe one of the reasons I loved those peaks so much is that there were plenty of valleys to hide in.
“I know you were heading for the cliff,” Mark said.
I said nothing because it was true and because I didn’t want to make him madder.
“I thought you were going to give it up,” he continued.
“Is this conversation really necessary?” I asked. He stared at me for a long moment.
“Susan, I’m not going to watch you go on a suicide mission so you can prove something to a man who doesn’t even call you on your birthday.”
“But is it untrue?” Mark asked. I recoiled from him and he shut his eyes tightly for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a gentler voice.
“Let’s go get in the line,” I said softly, putting my hand on his shoulder. He didn’t look up.
“Susan, I can’t let you do this. You need to stop pushing yourself so hard.”
“Since when do you make decisions for me?” I spat.
“You can take another run, but it won’t be with me,” Mark said, standing.
“What?” I blurted out, “Just like that?”
“Just like that. You’re being too reckless over something that doesn’t even matter.”
I looked down at my side, at my soaked through shirt, and back up at the mountain. She was glorious today, the sun soaking right into the cracks in the trees and letting little shivers of light track down through the unmarked trails. Far above us now hung the cliff face, the long headwall shimmering white, almost blue. I thought about my father standing on the edge of that cliff as I’d pleaded with him not to drop off it. That day had ended at the hospital with his leg in a cast and his arm in a sling. They said he’d been lucky, and stupid, and dangerously reckless.
“Winners never back down,” he’d said, swallowing the painkillers they’d given him.
The clouds shifted slightly and the cliff was cast in shadow and just like that my bravado faded away. I looked at Mark.
“Let’s go home,” I said softly, and he nodded and stood and swung both pairs of our skis onto his shoulder. For a moment I almost protested, but I let him carry them just this once.
That night we lay on the floor next to the space heater using Elvis as a pillow, a task he submitted to only after a long, hard day of chasing his own tail when he was too tired to complain.
* * *
The last few weeks of the season after that passed without incident. We only got in two more days in the backcountry until the cover was too thin to risk it. On those days, we ranged out far from the cliff and explored the deep gully that ran between the two peaks. Little by little, the snow receded from the bare earth until the final day came.
On the last day of the season we rode the ski lift in t-shirts and our thinnest pairs of snow pants, goggles down to block the brilliant reflection of the sun on the remaining snow. To our right on the other peak, the cliff face seemed like a gaping maw, a dark patch surrounded by budding trees. I watched the cliff until the trees obscured it from view.
“I can’t believe this is it,” Mark said, putting his arm around me. I snuggled towards him.
“It’s not it it, it’s just the end of another season,” I replied.
“Even still. That means summer jobs, which means travelling.”
I was silent, watching the water drip off the shiny metallic edges of my skis down into the trail below us. Mark pulled me in tighter.
“Hey,” he said quietly, “if you asked me to stay, I would stay for you.”
I looked up at him. He pulled his goggles up and smiled.
“I couldn’t ask you to do that for me,” I replied.
“Maybe you should,” he said.
I pulled off my goggles.
“Would you stay?” I asked softly, biting my lip. He nodded yes and leant down to kiss me, his lips soft and slightly cold, and he pulled me in tighter then anyone ever had before.
This is it. 200 posts in a row.
I wanted, of course, to do something fabulous and exciting and glittery and super for post 200, but of course I couldn’t think of anything cool and then I told myself I’d probably come up with something cool this morning and instead I sat outside in the sun and read American Gods by Neil Gaiman and drank like 3 cups of coffee.
I of course looked at what I did for Post 100, but then I remember that post 100 happened while I was sitting on a beach in Puerto Rico and then I got sad that I was not currently in Puerto Rico. Also that post kind of sucks.
So yes, I’ve been staring at this blank post for the past hour – yes, hour – trying to come up with something poignant and refreshing, or at least something witty, and all I’ve got to show for it is a few lines of drivel.
NO PRESSURE CASS.
It’s been a rough, weird ride over the past 100 days, internet. I moved to Alaska and got two dogs (a Boston Terrier and a Great Dane. I named them Mister Piffles and Duke Buckingham). I shot a guy and robbed a few banks. I stole the World’s Largest Wooden Chair.
Nah, just kidding. None of that happened, obviously, but I did start an awesome new job and am moving out of my parent’s house in 15 days.
Perspective. It keeps things fresh.
Here. Look at a screen shot of my most popular posts in the past two hundred days.
…I write about weird things, huh.
Did I do it yet?
Is this a good post?
I CRAVE VALIDATION.
Sigh. Maybe my post for 300 in a row will be witty.
Can you hear me? or do I even have a voice?
When the words decide to come and go it’s like I don’t even have a choice
Can you hear me? I’ve got a thousand things to say
I tuck them here and there between the vowels the consonants and the stammering parade
My speech decides all on its own when to come and go
and when the words decide to come it’s like I can’t even ebb the flow
when I talk nobody even understands what I have said
Because when I look at you my mouth is dry and there’s nothing in my head
Can you hear me? I have the truth right on my tongue
and I’m trying to get it out but I’m shy and the night is young
Can you hear me? I keep the words inside my eyes
and although I cannot speak they let you know that I’m alive
Don’t worry I’m trying to say what’s on my mind
but the words are hot
and the words are cold
and the words are cruel
and the words are kind
They’ve been chasing themselves inside my head and the sounds go round and round
and the shapes are bend
and the consonants torn
and the vowels lost
and the meaning found
If you haven’t been following along, ten days ago I decided that I was going to write a short story from scratch and submit it to a national contest.
I didn’t make it, folks.
However, there’s a lot to be said for what I have accomplished over the past ten days.
Firstly, although I haven’t fully completed my short story to satisfaction, I did write a 6000 word piece in ten days, which frankly, I think is decently impressive. The point of the challenge was to get me writing, and though I didn’t finish on time, I certainly achieved that goal.
Secondly, the past ten days of creative writing has given me a much needed break from my usual daily slog. I have a ton of new ideas for things to write about, and I’m actually really excited to go back to my personal sloppy brand of satire. I’m seriously considering doing a week long short story break once every other month or so as a reset button.
Thirdly, I’m amazed and humbled at the show of support and love I’ve gotten from the WordPress community during this little project. I averaged 4-5 likes a day during it, which is pretty insane for me, and although the view count was fairly low, I really felt that the people reading my posts were actually reading and enjoying the material.
I’m going to step away from the story for a little while to get some fresh eyes on it, but I promise I’ll post the shiny, edited, in order version by the end of July.
Meanwhile, get ready for some awesome new material in yo faces.
I love you guys.