Category Archives: Weekly Writing Challenge

The Night Before “He” Left

The Ray Bradbury Noun List Twist

For today’s challenge, try a twist on a technique Ray Bradbury used to beat writer’s block.

Write a new piece using at least five of the nouns from Bradbury’s sample list, above: The lake. The night. The crickets. The ravine. The attic. The basement. The trapdoor. The baby. The crowd. The night train. The fog horn. The scythe. The carnival. The carousel. The dwarf. The mirror maze. The skeleton.

This week, I’m trying something different – a fictional short story.  I haven’t done this much at all, so I’m not making any promises.

I’d already spent most of the evening hours crying, couldn’t eat my supper, alone, having gone through half a box of Kleenex.  I knew that tomorrow, he was leaving the state, moving far away.  I’d probably never see him again. Then, it hit me hard – 1400 miles away, it’s so far!  I screamed, “No!” and the pain was the worst pain I could ever remember feeling, such a terrible pain, between my breasts, as if someone had wretched open my flesh, stuck their hand into my chest, and ripped out the beating organ that sustained my life. I fell to the floor in agony, and lay there crying and wretched for what seemed like hours, but was only minutes.

I could no longer contain myself.  I had to do something.  I couldn’t just sit there and cry all night.  I picked myself up off the floor, got my keys and my purse and headed for the door.

Once in my car, heading down the highway, I knew where I was headed, towards his town, his house.  I knew it was a fruitless effort, I couldn’t very well knock on his door.  What would his wife think?  Still, I thought, maybe, perhaps, I can catch one last glimpse.

The evening had cooled after that hot, summer day, so I drove with my windows down, hair blowing in the wind.  I kept telling myself what an idiot I had been to get involved with a married man.  It was my one rule – “Never get involved with someone who is taken.”  I screwed up, and now it was costing me.  Oh, if only I had listened to myself!

Once I reached the off ramp, his exit, I wondered how many times he had driven this way, this road, this path.  Eventually, I turned into his subdivision by the lake.  That intersection was near a small stream, tree-lined, and I could hear the crickets in the brush.  They seemed to be singing a sad song that night.

As I turned onto his street, I could see the U-Haul in the driveway.  There were still lights on all over in the house, even in the attic, though it was approaching 11:00.  I drove slowly, hoping to catch a glimpse, but saw no one.  At the next street, I turned around, then stopped and sat a few houses down, thinking perhaps, possibly, he’d come out to put something in the truck.

After a few minutes, I realized this stake-out was pointless.  What was I really going to accomplish here?  It was then, I thought, “I’ve just got to say good-bye.  I’ve got to let you go.”

I turned the key in the ignition, put the car into drive, and pulled out slowly.  As I passed his house, the house I’d never driven past before, I took one last long look, hoping I would see him through the window, so I could blow one last kiss, wish one more fare thee well.

But, I saw nothing, so I kept driving, picking up a little speed, I made it to the subdivision intersection.  I stopped and then couldn’t bring myself to step on the gas and turn the wheel. I sat there for a few moments, and then, on a whim, I turned the other way. I couldn’t drive home just yet, to that empty apartment.  I didn’t want to be alone.

As I drove down the road a bit, I saw a carnival.  Why, I don’t know, but I pulled into the grass to park.  I decided I’d check it out.  Maybe I’d find the pieces of my broken heart near the carousel. Maybe he was here with the family, and I’d get to see him, if even from a distance, one more time.

My feet crunched on the gravel.  I smelled the fried foods and for a moment remembered my own hometown carnival that occurred each summer of my youth.  There wasn’t much of a crowd, so even people watching that night wasn’t going to free my mind of the God-awful truth. “Leaving, he’s leaving, what am I going to do without him?”

I noticed the Ferris wheel, and decided I’d like to ride it, for old time’s sake,  for it’s hopeful nostalgic affect.  I wanted to go back to my youth, even if for a moment.  I thought maybe the Ferris wheel could transport me there.

I bought tickets enough for the fare and went to stand in line.  It haltingly turned, loading and unloading passengers, and I made my way to the front of the line.  I started up the ramp, with my tickets out, and the attendant stopped me.  He said, “Wait, someone has to ride with you.  You can’t ride alone.”

I looked at him perplexed, “What?  Are you kidding me?  I don’t remember this ever being a rule before.”

“Well,” he said, “it’s a new policy.  It’s for safety reasons,” and he turned his neck to spit chewing tobacco onto the ground, turned back and then with the back of his hand wiped his face of the spittle remaining on his chin.

“Oh,” was all I could muster.   I thought to myself, “I can’t even ride the Ferris wheel alone.  How am I going to mange my life alone again?” I turned around and shuffled like a zombie down the short ramp.  Once I stepped off, I realized I just wanted to leave.  I turned to a family waiting for their turn and handed them my tickets.

“Here,” I muttered, “I won’t be needing these after all.”

I think I heard them saying “Thanks, are you sure?”  as I turned and unhurriedly walked away, dragging my feet, towards the parking lot, back to my car.

I got in and sat for a second.  I wanted to cry, but my eyes were already swollen and sore. I flashed back to a few days before, the last time I saw him.  Hhe was heading down the stairs outside my apartment and had stopped at the first landing to look back as I stood by the rail.

“Tell me you’ll be okay,” he asked.

Whether he needed to hear it, or I needed to voice it, I looked at him lovingly, evoked a wee smile, and replied, “Yes,” I paused fighting back the tears, “I’ll be okay.  I’ll always be okay.”



Just friggin pay it forward already, okay?

Weekly writing challenge

Small moments of kindness peek through our everyday lives, from your neighbors’ “Good morning!” to a surprise “I’ll take care of that for you” at the office. This week, we want you to explore what that kindness means to you, and share it with others.

Tuesday: Sorry readers, I’ve been taking time away to sew (a little) on my Grandmother’s fan blocks.  I really don’t like it as maybe I’m making the thread too long or something, but it just wants to knot all the time.  I don’t know how many blocks I have left to stitch the fan at the top, but let’s just say, “too many”. Ugh!

Wednesday: So, I looked at this prompt the other night, and the title is what I wrote, except for “already”, so I must have had something in mind, although, for the life of me, I can’t remember what.  I think part of it was my teenage daughter coming home and demanding my attention for whatever, teenage boy angst, needing something, wanting to talk about the progress of her room (which means painting, moving a dresser out, etc.)  Not sure what it was the caused me to save and close, so let’s see if I can revisit this topic with something worthy of reading.

Oops, it’s happening again!  Teenage daughter just came home, and it’s been a day of “talks”, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish this now.

Saturday early morning: Okay, so you know what, I give up.

What does kindness mean to me? This week, I have been experiencing a lot of people holding the door open for me when my hands were full.  I appreciate that, and I can hold the door anyone, man, woman or child.  Sometimes it is needed, sometimes not, but isn’t it just “nice”.

Regarding this prompt, I feel that kindness can be random, random acts of kindness (RAK), or straight forward giving (making diaper changing pads for my daughter for my granddaughter – working on that later today).  Sometimes, it means not writing that post you wanted to because your teenage daughter needs to talk about boy trouble – and being there for your kids no matter what it is they need even though you are missing your show, can’t take that long drawn out hot bath you wanted, or reading that book you have waiting.

Sometimes, it means spending the day at your father’s house, cause he’s 80 and doesn’t get many visitors, just because you know he welcomes the change (remember the post about time slowing down when you are doing something different?).

Sometimes, it means smiling at your boss when you’d rather spit at him, not because you are saving your job and not getting fired, but because you figure, maybe, just maybe, he’s having a bad day or he’s just a jerk but you don’t want to be (oops, did I say that?).

I think really, kindness, even though I am not a Biblical scholar and can hardly call myself even a basic Christian these days, that it really boils down to the famous Biblical saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Okay, so maybe I’m a potential agnostic, but the Bible does  have some truth.

And, when you do those things because that’s what you would want someone to do with you, it’s not because you are thinking that (I hold this door, because I’d want someone to hold my door), it’s because you see the genuine need of that person, or you really just want to be nice, spread some sunshine and kindness, I hesitate to say “out of the goodness of your own heart” but basically, that’s what it is.

Because you just don’t want to be Debbie Downer, and you know, deep in your heart of hearts, that doing something nice can be karmic (what goes around, comes around), but not always.

Basically, I choose kindness, most of the time (not always), because I’d rather be a positive force in the world. I’d rather be kind to my fellow man, not because of what I expect to receive in return, but because it just makes everyone’s day just even maybe a tad bit more pleasant.