Wednesday, March 31, 2010

First Sentence, Non Sequitur, Last Straw

From The Writers Toolbox

None of these were read ahead of time. I read all of them as they came up. I got lucky on the last one.

Part I: First Sentence: After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer.

After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer. Her job at the grocery store just wasn’t paying enough to make ends meet. All she could think about was her son, Jesse, who was already eating two meals a day at school. And it was starting to show. Poor Jesse had gained twenty pounds from the USDA approved menus and physical education had been cut back considerably due to budgetary concerns but Helen just couldn’t afford to buy healthy food to send to school with him. They already relied on the local food bank for many of their groceries which didn’t offer much in the way of healthy alternatives either.

As she stood outside of the gentlemen’s club, Helen thought back to her last day at her old job for a major corporation.

“I’m sorry, Helen,” said Bob, the outside consultant brought in to “trim the fat” at the company. “Times are tough all around. It’s nothing personal.”

“Bullshit!” she had said to him fiercely. “I’m no idiot. This company has been making record profits for the last five years. It’s stock value has never been higher. You’re not firing us because times are tough, you’re firing us just to push the stock price a few points higher. You’re firing us so some suit upstairs can get a fat bonus for making the company more efficient when in reality he’s just throwing people out on the street.”

Part II: Non Sequitur: We were drinking Champagne and losing our shirts.

“We were drinking Champagne and losing our shirts,” she said to the owner of the club during her interview, telling him about the girls night out she had with some of her other fired coworkers. “We all talked about what other jobs were out there and some of the girls had mentioned that they did some dancing when they were in college. I never thought I would even consider something like that but I’ve taken pretty good care of myself over the years so now I think it’s time to just go for it.”

“Well, Helen,” said the owner. “You’re a very pretty girl. Would you like to get on stage and dance for me?”

“Sure,” said Helen with mock confidence. What the hell am I doing? she thought. She had done some research on exotic dancing, watched some videos and put together a routine that she thought might get her in the door. She approached the DJ and asked him if he had the song that she wanted to dance to--she brought a CD with her in case he didn’t--he did.

She went back stage and changed into her outfit. She waited until the song started then mustered up the courage to walk out onto the stage. She was so self conscious and it showed. She tried her hardest to be sexy and confident but Helen, despite her good looks, just couldn’t get into the routine. She briefly made eye contact with the owner, who did not look impressed. Before the song even ended, she stopped dancing and said, “I’m sorry I wasted your time.” She quickly turned around and ran back stage, almost in tears.

Part III: Last Straw: the time he caught a fly ball.

Helen was sitting in the living room of her small apartment crying when Jesse came home from school.

“Mom?” he said.

She quickly wiped away her tears and tried to compose herself. “Hey, kiddo,” she said. “How was school?”

“Okay. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Jesse wasn’t convinced. He knew that times were tough for his mom. His dad was nowhere in the picture but he was okay with that. He felt that he and his mother were a team even though Helen did everything she could to make sure that Jesse had a normal childhood despite their economic situation. Helen always managed to put up a brave and cheerful front but Jesse always knew when she was frustrated and hurting inside. So he did his part to cheer his mother up as well. “Remember that baseball game last summer? The one with that team from downtown?” He asked.

“Sure, baby,” said Helen.

“I remember you cheering. I could hear you all the way on the other side of the field.”

“I lost my voice.”

They both snickered at the memory. Jesse sat on the couch next to his mom and reminisced about that summer game and the time he caught a fly ball.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Write the address of an apartment or house where you once lived. Close your eyes and put yourself back there, experiencing it with all your senses, not neglecting smell, touch and sound. Walk through it. Write in detail a description of the place. Now write something that happened there once...

3460 Brinker Avenue, Ogden, Utah. My first apartment. It was a studio apartment in the same complex my late mother once lived in when she was a student at Weber State University. I can’t think of a distinct smell in the place but it certainly smelled like whatever I was cooking for dinner. My bed was next to the window. My desk next to that. I honestly can’t recall too much detail because the place was almost always a mess.

I dated a girl who lived in the same building. She would call me when I wasn’t home and leave long messages on my answering machine. I loved listening to them. One evening I was listening to one of her messages and responding to it out loud. “I miss you too, baby.” “I can’t wait to see you.” I didn’t know it but she was right outside of my apartment and my window was open and she was listening to me listening to her.

On another evening she and I were talking on the phone. I was in my apartment, she was on her cell as she was driving home. When she told me that she was getting close to home I walked outside so I could see her pulling up and we kept talking to each other the whole time. Even after she parked her car and she climbed the stairs. We were maybe ten feet away from each other before we hung up.

One evening she was mad at me and she toilet papered my car. Not just with toilet paper but also with chocolate sauce. We talked out our problems and she went out with me in the middle of the night to wash my car.