Monthly Archives: February 2013

Unexpected Visitors…Short Story for Writing Class…

In my writing class, we had to write a story based on a character that is under pressure that stresses him while he has to perform an activity that requires concentration. This is what I came up with:

Unexpected Visitors

Megan drove home from work on Interstate 275, which was packed from lane to lane.  She was driving, if you could call it that, in the second to the last, left hand lane with a top speed of about six miles per hour, maybe. After about half an hour, she started feeling claustrophobic and sick to her stomach from the excessive fumes.  She pushed the button on the roof that peeled back the opening to her sunroof.  Thank goodness for small favors. She immediately felt a little better as the fresh air rushed through the car, her lovely little sports car.

Two more inches forward and something flew in through the sunroof.  It flapped around in the little space behind the passenger seat.  Megan didn’t get a good look, but it could have been a bird or a bat, maybe a seagull, but it seemed dark in color. She pressed her foot on the break and turned in the seat to try and see what had landed in her car. Concerned and wanting to pull over, Megan looked up in her rear view mirror, but the other drivers in the next lane were too close together.  Meanwhile, she looked back to see whatever it was flapping around back there crawl under the front passenger seat. It was making a strange noise, almost like a wounded dog.

She turned back around in her seat to see the car in front of her had moved forward and she pressed on the gas, looked in her side mirror, and flipped on her blinker simultaneously.  The driver in the next lane pressed his own gas, nudging forward, to keep Megan from getting in.  “Ass,” she grumbled. 

Four things landed on her windshield with four little thumps, grabbing her attention, and making her jaw drop open, as she stared at what appeared to be humans, though they were only about as big as her hand.  She watched in awe as they scaled the windshield and flipped into her car through the still open sun roof.

Megan muttered involuntarily, “Oh my God, Oh my God,” as the panic slid down into her chest making her heart pump faster.  She leaned back trying again to get over into the other lane where the ass crept forward keeping her from sliding in.

The bird in the back fell eerily silent, while the four tiny invaders gestured stealthily at each other. Something was going on here and Megan had to pull over. She stepped on the gas and forced her way in behind the ass that wouldn’t let her in earlier, and the next car in line honked at her. She ignored it. She needed to pull over, and she still had one more lane to go.

The jerking of the car almost knocked the four men over. They were carrying spears, bows and arrows, and had tiny back packs with strange things poking out.  They were talking to each other quietly in some foreign language and one of them was pointing into her car, as if giving directions to the other three. He stood there on her dashboard holding a long spear that looked like a trident and looked up at Megan.  “Where did it go?” he asked her.

“This is not real.” Megan shook her head and stared straight ahead at the unmoving traffic.

“This is important. Where?” he asked again.

            Megan nodded to the back. What else was she supposed to do?

The other three little men scaled the seat and descended into the back of her car at his gesture.

“I’ve got to pull over,” Megan said, glancing in her mirrors again. The other drivers were determined not to let her in the last lane. 

Strange noises screeched out from the back. Megan adjusted her rearview mirror, trying to see what was going on behind her seat.  “What are they doing back there?” she asked the little man still on her dash.

“Catching it,” he said with a shrug, as if she should know already.

She stepped on the gas gently, urging her car just slightly forward. Then, turned her head and looked in the back but could see nothing.  Facing front again, she had to slam on the breaks to keep from hitting the car that had stopped in front of her.

“Hey, watch it!”  The little man yelled as he caught his balance.

“What are you?”  Megan put on her blinker to try and change lanes again, unsuccessfully, when a chemical, smoky scent oozed up around her.  Smoke curled up from the passenger side seat. She felt like time had run out; she had to get over in that next lane.  She jerked her car back and forth as the drivers cut her off.

The man on her dash had dropped down on his stomach, holding on. The ones that went over the seat were calling out and their pray screeched again as if in pain.

“Relax, I think we got it,” the little man said, standing up again on the dash.

Three little heads poked up out of the burnt seat pulling something with them. It was as big as a cat. Its black wings were bound, and it snarled viciously, defensively.

“Wait!” Megan reached her hand out to it, thinking to save it. How did she know whether these little men were doing a good thing, capturing this creature?     

Just before she touched it, the thing bit her and she screamed.  Her foot smashed on the breaks again, sending the creature and the little men forward onto the floorboard.

Megan had enough. She turned in her seat and waived at the car beside her.  She pushed the button on her door to roll the passenger window over and yelled, “I have to pull over, let me in!”

The other driver’s eyes went wide, seeing the smoke slowly filling up her car, and breaked suddenly, finally letting her in. Megan jerked the wheel around into the other lane and over to the side of the road. She slammed the gear shift into park and looked at her hand.  It throbbed with pain and had black streaks running from the bight out into the palm of her hand.  Was it rotting? “Oh shit!”

“I can help,” the one on the dash jumped down to the console between the seats. “Let me see.” She held out her hand as she watched the other three dragging the flying thing up onto her dash with rope only slightly thicker than thread.

The little man stabbed her with his trident. She screamed and jerked her hand back.

“I have to release the poison,” he said matter-of-factly. Megan nodded and stretched her hand back out and he sprinkled it with a gold sparkling dust.

Still smelling the smoldering seat, Megan grabbed her left-over coffee from the morning and poured it over the seat, and listened as it hissed.  The throbbing in her bitten hand turned to a tingling and she lifted it up, staring at the change. The lines slowly faded as her hand returned to normal.

“Sorry about the damage to your seat. That I cannot fix.” He jumped up to the dash and joined the other three, as they pulled and pushed at the tightly bound creature, managing to finagle it out of her open passenger window.

Megan took a second to look at her pale face in her rearview mirror. What had just happened? She unbuckled her seat belt and got out of her car. She raced around to the passenger side.

They were gone.

She leaned against the car and shook her head, trying to make some sense of the last few moments.  The stink of burnt material and coffee wafted up to her. She turned and looked down at her seat and then at at her still tingling hand. It had to have happened; the evidence was in front of her, but she could not believe it. She took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh, and said to no one and every one, “How the hell do I explain this to the insurance company?”

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What I’m Learning… Part 1

If you’ve followed my blog, you probably know that I’ve been working on my MA in Creative Writing. So, I’m taking an awesome writing course right now… I’m learning a lot, and one of the things we are doing is writing about how we can apply what we are learning to our own writing. That made me think that I should be blogging this stuff…. so…. here is the first installment of what I’m learning:

In his essay, “Talking Forks,” Charles Baxter writes, “How a person sees the things that surround him usually tells us more than an explicit description of his mood. The things carry the feeling. They do not when our emotions are placid, but when our emotions are violent, they must.”

This sentence is the epitome of the essay and could be the driving force of “The Things They Carried,” the short story by Tim O’Brien. People attach emotions to objects and they can relate to objects carrying emotions in fiction.

The soldiers in “The Things They Carried,” carried a lot more than just objects: “Grief, terror, love, longing – these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight (O’Brien). Their emotions were heavy and they were attached to things. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross had a stone sent to him from a girl back home. It weighed next to nothing, but carried the heaviest emotional weight that got heavier as the story progressed. When a soldier dies because he wasn’t paying enough attention to the surroundings because he was thinking of the girl back home, the stone suddenly had more weight than anything else in the story.

O’Brien tells about all the things that the men carried and why throughout the story in order highlight the events of the story. For example, he gives a list of things including, “Kool-aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits…” and then tells about the reasons for some things like Kiowa that carried his grandfather’s hatchet to show his heritage and distrust of the white man. Then, O’Brien switches to something that is more significant to the main plot of the story, such as the poncho that the soldiers used to carry the one that was killed.

He also uses things and emotions to help continue the mood of the story. He writes, “They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity” (O’Brien).

In my own writing, I should be conscious of the things around and my characters’ emotional connections to them. Things can be symbolic of other things like the stone the Lieutenant carried symbolized hope and longing and then after the solider died – guilt (O’Brien). Keeping this in mind can help create depth to my stories. Objects do carry emotional weight and these things can make the characters feel more complicated and real. When the emotions are too hard, putting them into the things around us can help, and that can be used to add meaning and context within a work of fiction as well.

____sources:
Baxter, Charles. “Talking Forks: Fiction and the Inner Life of Objects.” Burning Down the House. St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2008. Print. http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Down-House-Essays-Fiction/dp/1555975089/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1360887487&sr=8-2&keywords=burning+down+the+house

O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. New York: Simon & Schuster. ebook. http://www.amazon.com/Scribner-Anthology-Contemporary-Short-Fiction/dp/1416532277/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360887535&sr=1-1&keywords=Scribner+Anthology

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