Brainstorming in the USA

Actually, Canada, I just like riffing on “French Kissing in the USA” whenever possible, because it’s a goofy little song.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any real brainstorming, but I love lists, I have a brain and it’s often stormy in these parts, so I have all the ingredients in place.

The goal here is to plant a few (dozen) seeds and see if any of them grow into big beautiful stories or writing exercises while I ponder other projects.

Here we go.

  • a story based on the song “Eat to the Beat”
  • what if they really are lizard people?
  • three wishes/Invisible Weekend redux: getting to try out as a shapeshifter or some kind of shapeshifter story
  • worst superpower ever
  • a talking duck (walks into a bar?)
  • when the line between waking and dreams blurs completely–how risky do you become in your actions?
  • a monster that feeds on hope and optimism (no, not Trump)
  • angry trees
  • the world is suddenly depopulated by 99.6% (30.4 million people–about 7 million less than the population of Canada)
  • getting stuck in the past
  • a bar walks into a man
  • a haunted playground
  • a Stage 4 cancer patient acquires a time machine–can traveling to the future lead to a cure?
  • seeing a person on the train, but only as a reflection in the window

The next task: pick one of these and turn it into a lovingly handcrafted tale of thrills and adventure that tugs at the heartstrings (which sounds pretty unhealthy when you think about it).

Seven more writing prompts for rainy days

Do The Rains get you down, leave you feeling blue? Leave you sopping wet and wishing you could travel outside in a miraculous bubble of pleasantly heated air that would never let the damp in?

If your answer is yes, I can’t help you. Sorry.

But have some writing prompts suitable for rainy days, wrapping fish or lining bird cages*.

  1. It’s raining cats and dogs. In 500 words or more, describe the ongoing horror of people being pelted by pets falling from the sky.
  2. Noah has asked you to build an ark because the flood’s a-coming. He has provided you with the supplies: a ball of yarn, a couple of 2×4’s and a bottle of paste, half-eaten by one of his kids and not closed properly, so most of it has dried out. Weave a tale about your mighty ark construction and how it saves all the world. Do not exaggerate your efforts because God hates liars.
  3. The storm drain is clogging with leaves and will soon cause a flood in front of your building, making it difficult for people to come and go without plunging through an enormous puddle. Write a list of ten other things you’d rather do than address this problem.
  4. Write a romantic story that uses these five words that rhyme with rain: main, gain, disdain, grain, pain.
  5. A magic genie gives you a choice between three kinds of rain: lava rain, electric rain and flaming oil rain. Choose wisely.
  6. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could conjure a little rain cloud to follow around and pour rain on someone you don’t like? Write a story about how totally cool that would be.
  7. Write a story about some unfeeling jerk that has a magic rain cloud follow you around and our rain on you. Nah, just kidding. It really would be totally cool.

 

* fish, birds and cages not included. Prompts will need to be printed on paper first. Paper not included.

Writing prompt: The Burn (Part 1)

Prompt from Creative Writing Prompts:

After I nearly burnt down my house, my garage, and most of the trees in a five mile radius, I mostly stopped trying to light fires.

The Burn

After I nearly burnt down my house, my garage, and most of the trees in a five mile radius, I mostly stopped trying to light fires.

But mostly stopped is not the same as stopped. I was being driven by a man who showed up at my front door every other evening. He would knock once, softly, when he knew everyone else would be asleep, everyone but me. I’d open the door and he would stand there in shadow, a hat pulled low to further hide his face. The dark of the night seemed to not just surround him but infuse him.

Each visit he handed me a box of matches with simple instructions: light each match and toss it aside when it got close to burning my fingers. Do this until all the matches were gone before the next visit in two days’ time.

I had no idea who this man was or what purpose these odd bits of pseudo-arson would achieve, but it didn’t matter because he said if I didn’t go through the box by the next visit he would make sure those I loved would burn as the matches should have.

It occurred to me the guy might just be a crank but was I willing to risk the safety of my family to prove it? I was not.

I was on the third box of matches when I became aware of their control. Each time I took out one of the wooden matchsticks and scraped its head against the side of the box, the spark and smoke and flame did something to me. I could have just gone down the street and lit the full box of matches over a sewer grate and safely met the terms of the “deal” and yet I couldn’t. I was compelled to light each match in the worst possible place and release it only when the guttering flame threatened to burn the skin of my fingers.

When the man arrived late at night with the fourth box of matches, I asked him why I had to do this.

“Some men just want to watch the world burn,” he said.

I told him that was a line from the 2008 film The Dark Knight uttered by Alfred the butler, his summation of The Joker’s motivations. And that since then it had become a popular internet meme. And was pretty dumb, as memes go.

I expected him to step forward into the light of the front step and reveal himself to be wearing full Joker make-up. Instead he just shrugged a little.

I took a match out of the box and lit it. The man took a small step back, as if he was afraid of it. That seemed weird. I held the match before him, saying there was nothing like an early start. Then I flicked the match at him, its spell over me seemingly inert.

For a moment I saw the soft brown leather of the man’s jacket illuminated by the orange glow of the match, then, as it struck, the man’s jacket exploded into flame. When I say exploded, I mean that quite literally–the force blew me back against the front door. When I staggered forward the man was gone, nothing but ash and some ragged strips of clothing in his place.

I considered the box of matches and nearly pitched them onto the street. Instead I kept them and took them with me to the bedroom, placing them on my nightstand before quietly slipping under the covers, hoping my partner would not stir. I fell asleep with surprising ease and if I dreamed, I did not remember them.

[to be continued]

 

More first sentence writing prompts: The woman lives big

Once again from Writing Exercises.co.uk, I present super short stories* based on a generated first sentence (or part of a sentence). The generated text is bold, my contributions are not.

First:

She stood out from the crowd because she was radioactive and two hundred feet tall.

Then:

She was carried along by the crowd of giant radioactive women that had suddenly appeared to lend support. They vanished as quickly as they had arrived, which still took a little while since they were gigantic. The aftershocks they caused persisted for several days.

Finally, and sadly:

He sat her down and held her close before telling her the terrible news: Although he loved her very much, when he stood to kiss her he could not close the 194-foot gap between them, even if he stood on his toes. All he could do was kiss some tiny section of her ankle and hug that weird bone that sticks out of the side of the ankle. What’s up with that bone, anyway? It’s kind of gross, really.

* stories that are super short, not short stories that are super

Writing prompts: Bean there, done that

From Writing Exercises.co.uk, a site that offers a random first line generator.

The part in bold is the generated text, the rest is my thrilling conclusion to the story.

She could smell gas even before she opened the door. That was the last time she’d let Frank borrow six cans of beans.

More:

After five years, he just happened to be walking down her street? She figured he would want something, he had a desperate and needy look in his eyes. She was right–he wanted beans and plenty of them.

Still more:

He had the urge to clear the ground, to look out and see nothing. He grabbed his magic world-erasing brush and with a few swipes back and forth was gazing upon a serene black void. After awhile he got bored of this but had left his magic world-creating pen at home and so was stuck with the black void for a very long time.

And finally:

More and more people were refusing to obey the laws of the land. Soon every last can of beans had been stolen.

Rainy early Spring writing prompts

  1. It’s raining so much you think it might be a good idea to build an ark in case the world floods. Write a shopping list for the supplies you will need, including all of the pairs of animals. Remember, unicorns are not real, so don’t include them.
  2. With trees starting to bud and bloom again, write a story about happy trees. Except these trees are happiest when eating small dogs and children, like those scary apple trees in The Wizard of Oz.
  3. Write a poem that includes the following things that rhyme with spring: ring, ding, sling, fling, ping, Emperor Ming
  4. Spring is a time of renewal. Write a short story about two countries renewing their bitter, pointless war. Make it a romantic comedy.
  5. Spring is also a time when the land again becomes covered with the lush green of vegetation. Write a story about a giant green blob that scours the land clean, leaving nothing but the desiccated bones of all humanity. Also make this a romantic comedy.

1,000 creative writing prompts: No more of 1,000

I once had a cute little notion that I would work my way through the 1,000 writing prompts found in 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2. Here is the blurb I attached to the end of each post for the first ten entries:

These are prompts featured in 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 (Goodreads link). My intent is to write ultra-short stories that are no more than a few paragraphs long, working through the prompts in order. When I am done I will perhaps have a party of some sort.

Sometimes the short stories will be longer and sometimes instead of a story I will answer the questions (most of the prompts are in the form of questions).

There were two problems with this plan. First, 1,000 prompts is a lot, even if I followed the rules I’d laid out (which I didn’t because brevity may be the soul of wit but my wit apparently has no soul). Second, most of the prompts lend themselves more to “What I did on my summer vacation” pieces and not so much fiction, which is what I’m attempting to write here. If I am writing about actual events I don’t need any prompting other than a sense of outrage over Trump being elected president to get going.

But I digress.

I am officially announcing, then, that I am changing my goal from writing all 1,000 prompts to writing the first 10, which I have done. It’s only missing two zeroes so I like to think in some way I came pretty close to my original goal.

I will endeavor to find other writing prompts to mangle and may even return to some in this book as I confess to not reading all 1,000 of them yet. Onward and upward. Or off in some direction or another, hopefully not spiraling down.

NaNoWriMo writing prompts (you should never use)

As I cast about for inspiration for National Novel Writing month–a mere two days away–I realized how selfish I was being. Why spend time thinking of ideas for myself when I could be spending time thinking of ideas for the whole world?

So here they are, a bunch of prompts that will lead any budding* author to a 50,000 word NaNoWriMo success story**!

  1. A mysterious woman is feeding ducks at a pond. When you approach her she turns around and pulls off the shroud she is wearing, revealing the head of a duck. She quacks at you. What happens next?
  2. Lots of people have already written novels and people love sequels. Put the two together and presto, you can write a sequel to another author’s book. No nuanced characters to invent, no pesky worlds to build, just pick up where the author left off! Note: this may not be legal so you might get sued or sent to jail or something. Maybe pick a book that came out two hundred years ago to be safe.
  3. Every time the saddest person in the world cries it starts to rain. Pretty soon the world is in danger of a flood that would make Noah nod his head and say, “It’s ark-buildin’ time!” How do you make the sad person stop crying and save the planet from being a little too fish-friendly?
  4. People love historical novels that tackle serious subjects with care and emotional depth. Since all the good stuff has already been written about, make your novel a sober examination of hoedowns in the frontier towns of early America.
  5. An author struggling to come up with an idea for National Novel Writing Month suddenly finds herself in the middle of her own story–whatever it is! This has never been done before, trust me.
  6. Those two guys on “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” decide to travel back in time to stop Hitler.
  7. Something with vampires.
  8. Part 1 of a 10 part series about, oh, anything. Just throw darts at a board. The important thing is people love series even more than they love sequels.
  9. For inspiration, watch 50 self-made YouTube videos of people talking about how they are preparing for National Novel Writing Month. Upon completion of viewing the last video, you will never want to write again. Maybe don’t do this, actually.
  10. Include the word “girl” in your novel’s title. Then use one of the other nine ideas listed above for the actual story.

* this is not a “BC bud” joke, I swear
** this is, however, an awful play on words

1,000 creative writing prompts: 10 0f 1,000

I’m at 1% complete. I should finish prompt #1,000 right around the same time I turn 1,000 years old. Come on, technology, keep me preserved so I may accomplish this tremendous literary feat.

Prompt 10
(from Chapter 1: Time and Place):

It’s been said that the negative events of the past will repeat themselves if we fail to learn from our mistakes. Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not? How might the statement apply in your life?

Answer:

Do I agree that if we don’t learn from our mistakes we will repeat them? Let me give this some serious thought here.

No, let me skip that because what a stupid question. This is a stupid prompt. It’s like asking, “If you stand at the top of a staircase and someone comes up behind you and gives you a hard shove and you tumble down the stairs and break many bones as a result, will you learn that tumbling down a flight of stairs kind of sucks?” Hmm. Maybe!

How might this statement apply to my life? I learned that eating barbecue-flavored sunflower seeds when you secretly have the stomach flu isn’t a good idea because you will barf those barbecue-flavored sunflower seeds all over the dining room floor, which, by some miracle, is the only room in the house that isn’t carpeted. By incorporating this lesson into my life I have never repeated the mistake of eating barbecue-flavored sunflower seeds when I secretly have the stomach flu.

Seriously, though, it did suck, though not as much as being pushed down a flight of stairs (the stairs were carpeted, too). I was ten years old, didn’t feel at all unwell, was happily noshing away on the sunflower seeds, and then suddenly the flu switch flipped to ON and everything in my stomach had to leave RIGHT NOW. And did. I went from no flu to very flu in a second.

It also left me sufficiently traumatized that I didn’t even touch barbecue-flavored sunflower seeds for twenty years. And then only once. (I didn’t throw up the second time.)

[spoiler title=”Explanation of this exercise” icon=”plus-circle”]These are prompts featured in 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 (Goodreads link). My intent is to write ultra-short stories that are no more than a few paragraphs long, working through the prompts in order. When I am done I will perhaps have a party of some sort.

Sometimes the short stories will be longer and sometimes instead of a story I will answer the questions (most of the prompts are in the form of questions).[/spoiler]

1,00 creative writing prompts: 9 of 1,000

Prompt 9
(from Chapter 1: Time and Place):

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from studying your own past experiences? Would you consider teaching that lesson to others? Why or why not?

Answer:

The most important lesson I’ve learned from my past experiences is that you cannot change the past because it’s over there, in the past. Where you can’t change it. Yesterday will never come back. You can keep waiting like a faithful dog on the porch, wagging your tail, knowing master will be home any moment but he’s not coming back because he is gone, baby. Gone. Because your master is the past.

Unless you have access to a time machine. That changes everything. If you have a time machine then you’ve got the equivalent of a giant erase button on every mistake or ill-considered decision you’ve ever made. Of course you’ll probably screw up history in the process and inadvertently lead to the creation of an army of Hitler clones and you just know that’s not going to end well (unless you’re a Hitler clone).

So the most important lesson I’ve learned from my past experiences is that I can’t learn from my future experiences because they haven’t happened yet. No, that’s not the mot important. Actually, it’s probably barely in the top five.

The most important lesson is that you can’t change the past. And if you could, you probably shouldn’t (because Hitler clones).

Would I consider teaching this lesson to others? I just did.

Class dismissed.

[spoiler title=”Explanation of this exercise” icon=”plus-circle”]These are prompts featured in 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 (Goodreads link). My intent is to write ultra-short stories that are no more than a few paragraphs long, working through the prompts in order. When I am done I will perhaps have a party of some sort.

Sometimes the short stories will be longer and sometimes instead of a story I will answer the questions (most of the prompts are in the form of questions).[/spoiler]

1,000 creative writing prompts: 8 of 1,000

Prompt 8
(from Chapter 1: Time and Place):

If you could send yourself a message several years in the past, what would it be and why? How might getting [a] message in the past change you in the present?

Answer:

This is easy. No, super easy.

  1. Invest in Microsoft and Apple stock. Sell at the appropriate time.
  2. Here are the winning numbers to a $20 million lottery jackpot (I could go bigger but I’m pretty sure I could manage on $20 million).

How would this change me in the present? It would make me filthy rich. I’d spend my time traveling, writing nonsense, painting sharks and dinosaurs or possibly a hybrid, the sharkosaur. I’d go grocery shopping and buy weird birthday cakes and I’d fill up the bin for the food bank on every trip with actual useful items. I’d donate money to schools and give more to family and friends. Sometimes I’d attach conditions, like “You have to spend half of this money on someone else before you can spend the other half on yourself.” I’d donate to Translink if they promised to scrap every one of those terrible original trains that have been tootling around since 1986. I don’t want to ride trains that were running when parachute pants were not an ironic fashion statement.

Maybe money can’t buy happiness but it can buy a ton of LEGO. That’s good enough for me.

[spoiler title=”Explanation of this exercise” icon=”plus-circle”]These are prompts featured in 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 (Goodreads link). My intent is to write ultra-short stories that are no more than a few paragraphs long, working through the prompts in order. When I am done I will perhaps have a party of some sort.

Sometimes the short stories will be longer and sometimes instead of a story I will answer the questions (most of the prompts are in the form of questions).[/spoiler]

1,000 creative writing prompts: 7 of 1,000

Prompt 7
(from Chapter 1: Time and Place):

After nearly a decade of no contact, an important person from your past has come back into your life. What questions do you have for them? Would you welcome this person with open arms? Why or why not?

Story:

Our last meeting was brief and unpleasant. It wasn’t really a meeting at all, we only spoke over the phone. This was back when people actually spoke on phones. Today we would exchange a string of angry tweets, drawing in spectators who would take one side or the other, they themselves getting wrapped up in side arguments of their own. When we last spoke, the conversation went something like this:[show_more color=”#04B404″ more=”Click for rest of story” less=”Click to collapse text”]Him: You made a promise.

Me: Strictly speaking, I didn’t make a promise.

Him: You’re just being an asshole now.

(I couldn’t deny this, I was definitely engaging in some rules lawyering here. If I had a chance to have the conversation again I would have simply admitted it instead of trying to word-game around what I’d done. Things could not have ended any more poorly than they did and likely would have gone better.)

Me: I had every intention of following through. You know me, I wouldn’t leave you hanging without a good reason.

Him: It’s not a good reason. It’s not a reason at all.

(At this point I fell silent, unsure what to say next. There were no good choices here.)

Him: Did a family member die?

(This completely blindsided me, it was so random.)

Me: No.

Him: Well, then. Bye.

And he hung up. After thinking for a moment I realized he was inferring that a sudden death in the family was the only reasonable excuse I could have had for not following through on my not-quite-a-promise. That seemed a bit extreme to me. I could think of other reasons that would be valid. It was really just bad timing on my part. I waited too long to say anything. I do that sometimes, trying to avoid conflict but only delaying it and making it worse. Turning a molehill into a mountain.

That was ten years ago. We had not spoken at all in the intervening time. I once caught a brief glimpse of him at a mutual friend’s house–Tom’s–when he stopped by, unannounced, to drop off something he’d borrowed. He didn’t see me, which helped avoid unpleasantness. Other than that there was no contact at all. His first child had gone from preschool to middle school, his marriage had celebrated its tenth anniversary and then some. Were they still married? I didn’t actually know. He blocked me on Facebook after the phone call, completely erasing himself from my Facebook presence. The only time I saw a hint of him was when he commented on some photo and another person alluded to the comment. He was trying to be funny.

He tried to be funny. He was not a funny person.

On this day a blustery fall wind was blowing through the trees, eagerly tugging off the last of the leaves, gathering them against  sidewalk curbs, clumping them so they could clog sewer drains and create lakes at intersections that pedestrians would have to carefully navigate around. The weather conspires against us.

The message blindsided me as much as “Did a family member die?” had those ten years ago. I had a full beard back then and a full head of hair. I have neither now. I wondered if he would recognize me if we passed on the street. Probably. There are things you just pick up on–body language, the way you carry yourself. This message didn’t come via a phone call but it did come via phone–my iPhone, to be precise.

It was a Facebook friend request. It was from him.

It had to be a trap, but there was no way to know for sure. I accepted the request.

Three days passed and I heard nothing from him. I could see his Facebook profile again. Pictures of his wife and kids. Not much else. It looked like he didn’t post often. We were alike that way. I don’t really get social media. I’m old.

On the fourth day I got an invitation to an event he was attending. It was a reunion for a show he’d done–the show ten years ago that led to our friendship of thirty years ending abruptly after one brief phone call.

So it was a trap. I didn’t decline the event, I just ignored it. In six days it would come and go.

Those six days passed uneventfully. He did not update his Facebook feed in that time.

A few more weeks passed and still nothing happened. That was it, I supposed. I wondered if the invitation was his awkward attempt at reconciliation and not a trap after all. Odd as it felt, I experienced some pangs of guilt. They passed. It would be glib to say they passed like gas, but that’s not an entirely inappropriate comparison. It was ten years later, the guilt was fleeting, like a bad memory that resurfaces before sinking again as the events of everyday once again take over.

One night while sitting bored in front of the TV I launched the Facebook app and went to his profile again. His last post was a picture of his wife. The text was only two words: Beautiful girl. It had 16 likes. The date was from nearly a year ago. He posted even less than I did. His wife looked about the same, her hair was a little longer. Her smile was pinched, like she wasn’t in a good mood when the photo was taken. Maybe he had just told her a joke.

A notification popped up on the phone. Someone was wanting to start a conversation on the Messenger app. I’d never used it before. I forgot I had installed it. It was him.

I wasn’t sure what to do. All the notification said was “Hi.”

I tapped the notification and was taken to the app. I stared at the screen long enough for it to dim. I tapped on it and it brightened. I chose a reply.

Me: Hi.

A few moments went by and got the notice that he was typing. I felt strange and uneasy, knowing we were having live communication after so many years of nothing.

Him: you didnt go to the reunion

Me: No, sorry.

I fought the impulse to add a bullshit excuse like “I had a previous commitment.”

Him: thats OK. would like to meet for coffee and catch up

What a glorious minefield this was. I tried coming up with a reply, anything, and a headache blossomed, nailing me between the eyes.

Me: Sure.

Him: how about the Second Cup on Pender?

I knew the place. We’d hung out there many times. He never went to Starbucks because “they burn their coffee.”

Me: OK.

I would volunteer nothing more. I was already trying to think of how to get out of this. Were any family members about to die?

Him: thursday at 7?

Me: 7 p.m.?

Him: yes

Me: OK

Him: see you then

He immediately went offline. At the same time something was twigging in my head, fighting to push through the headache. I went into a kind of instant trance-like state and found myself opening the calendar app. I had a meeting Thursday night at 7 p.m. I legitimately had a previous commitment. This was the AGM for my condo complex and I couldn’t miss it because we were voting on a bunch of increasingly horrible things foisted on us by a strata council that was itself doomed to be voted out. I had to be there.

What would happen if I messaged him back and declined? Would it buy me another ten years of silence?

I kind of liked the idea, actually. I had three days. I could think about it.

On Wednesday night I pulled up the Messenger app and found his name in my Friends list. He was offline. That was good. I typed.

Me: Hey, very sorry about the last minute notice but I remembered my condo’s AGM is tomorrow at 7 p.m. Could we reschedule? Maybe Friday same time?

I hadn’t planned on suggesting a reschedule, it just came out and I sent the message off before I could change my mind.

I could see him typing a response. The dread manifested itself as a sour knot in my stomach.

Him: Did a family member die?

This struck me as equal parts chilling and absurd. He was trying to get to me. It was working. Just like ten years ago, I had no good choices here.

I was spared, though, as he disappeared offline before I could reply.

Thursday came and went and the AGM was everything I had expected–lots of shouting, drawn-out arguments, the veiled threat of violence that never quite got acted on. A vote to remove the council was postponed for two weeks, the equivalent of telling the firing squad to come back in fourteen days. I needed to sell my condo and get out, the place was the Titanic of property development and the iceberg was in sight. I furtively checked my phone midway through the meeting but no sign of him on Facebook or in the messenger app.

Friday came and went, too, and I still heard nothing. I felt something that wasn’t quite relief and on Saturday I welcomed the weekend, the bright sun providing relief after so many days of gray rain. I had a craving for stuffed olives from a local grocer in my old neighborhood and spontaneously drove over. It was silly to spend more in gas than it cost to buy a small deli container of olives but sometimes you just need to satisfy these cravings.

As I made my way to the deli counter I ran into Tom, the mutual friend. He was happily pushing a shopping cart filled with bulk bags of spices, nuts and dried fruit. We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, catching up on things. I mentioned that I had recently been contacted by our old friend. He looked me over and upon spying my puzzled look, informed me that he was looking for stab wounds. He grinned.

I chuckled, but it was hollow. Even as a joke the idea that our relationship had deteriorated to the point of violence left me chilled. I skipped the olives.

Shortly after arriving home I got a notification from Messenger. From him.

Him: want to meet at Second Cup on monday?

No reference to missing Thursday. Was this good or bad? I didn’t know. How did a fox feel on a hunt? Maybe he was ready to move on, maybe this wasn’t a set-up.

I finally started tapping out a response as the phone’s screen began dimming.

Me: Yes, Monday at 7 is fine. I checked and no conflicts this time. I’ll be there. We have a lot to catch up on!

The exclamation point struck me as friendly, perky. I felt better. It was time to heal old wounds or some shit like that.

Monday evening the rain had returned. I grabbed a bite to eat after work at a sushi restaurant downtown–the toughest part was choosing from the million or so locations–then made my way to the Second Cup on Pender. I got there early and spent five minutes standing on the sidewalk as people brushed past, wondering if my feet would take me inside or back to my car. I took one step back, stopped. Then I strode forward and in, ordered a latte, got a table and sat down. I was nervous as hell. I wondered if he might arrive with a gun.

I got up at the thought and looked at a clock on the wall. 6:52 p.m. I was going to bail. I had to leave now before he got here. I made my way past a young couple at a nearby table and clipped a wet umbrella they had propped up against a chair. As it splatted on the floor I muttered a terse apology. By the time I approached my car I was running and my heart was hammering.

I drove too fast but got home safely. I went into the condo and moved from room to room, turning on all the lights. I pulled the blinds down on the living room window and sat on the couch, holding the phone in my hands.

I had a notification waiting from Messenger. It was, as expected, from him.

Him: where are you?

I did not reply.

I got another message but this time there was no text, just a map. It was my place. But that wasn’t quite right–it was showing his location. And he was here. Shit.

I stood up and waited. I glanced at Messenger. He was showing offline now. Did he change his mind and leave? I was about to check Facebook when the phone rang in my hand. I let out an actual yelp in surprise and nearly dropped it.

I took a moment to compose myself, checked the call display–it was Tom–breathed out a small sigh, then answered.

Tom’s tone left me feeling dread all over again. He had bad news.

Our old friend had an aneurysm while brushing his teeth in the morning. Killed him instantly. My first thought was that he had died doing something sensible. We exchanged condolences, I expressed the requisite regrets over not getting a chance to close the rift between us. I disconnected.

Another notification came in, another message.

Him: im waiting for you

I walked to the front door and peered through the peephole. The hallway was empty.

Another message.

Him: outside

I walked to the couch and sat down. I put the phone on the coffee table and used a finger to scroll back up to the map. His position on it shifted a little, sometimes moving closer, sometimes moving away, but never moving far.

In Messenger he went offline again.

I’m sitting here and waiting and I don’t know what to do next.[/show_more][spoiler title=”Explanation of this exercise” icon=”plus-circle”]These are prompts featured in 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, Volume 2 (Goodreads link). My intent is to write ultra-short stories that are no more than a few paragraphs long, working through the prompts in order. When I am done I will perhaps have a party of some sort.

Sometimes the short stories will be longer and sometimes instead of a story I will answer the questions (most of the prompts are in the form of questions).[/spoiler]