Last night, I wrote a story just for fun.
I had assigned myself the story and I had to have it written by the time the bell rang for my first class this morning. Every year for the past few years, I have written my students a letter and asked them to write me a reply. Yesterday afternoon, still in my classroom at 5:45, I hit upon an inspiration. What if I had them write a short story instead?
Write a short story on a theme you currently are interested in.
Just like with the letter, I promised to write one too, to show what a good sport I was and to give a model for guidance should the task seem daunting.
I had no idea what I would right by the time I made it to the gym to teach my 7:30 yoga class and it wasn’t until I was walking home after yoga that the first sentence came to me.
I finished the story at 6:34 this morning, just in time to dress for work.
Here’s the story I wote:
She’s reached the point of highest tension in the story. Somebody is probably going to die. It’s possible Zach is the murderer after all, and they were all fooled by his charm. The gun is sure to go off before the scene ends.
Zoe sits down at the kitchen table to write. Her family is on a trip to the beach without her. She has Sweet John to thank for that.
“I haven’t been writing anything,” she said, last night, letting her head thud to their finished oak table.
“What’s the problem?” John asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t focus. Too many distractions.”
An hour or so later he came into the laundry room where she stood folding tiny jeans.
“What if at least once a week I took the kids somewhere for a few hours so you could get something done?”
Beyond grateful, she told him yes, that would be great. Even that one day could do a lot to help her focus, overall. It’s hard to write with kids around, especially three of them.
Every week for a few months now, on Saturdays, John has taken the kids on a new adventure so Zoe can write. Today, John planned a doozy.
“We’ll be gone a while,” he said. “It takes an hour just to get there.”
Ten minutes after they pulled out of the driveway, Zoe sat down to write. She opened her document and reviewed the last few paragraphs written. She leaned back into her chair, put her feet up on the table and reread the last few paragraphs she had written.
She wiggled her burgundy painted toes, nails long, paint chipped. A three-month old coat, she thought. Maybe a pedi would inspire her? She could think while she painted.
She walked up the stairs to the master bedroom to get her bin of polish, then reseated herself in front of her laptop, her body turned away from the screen. She moved bottles around trying to see each color possibility and finally chose a shimmering green for inspiration.
The sun pushed through the windows. Painting her toes, Zoe could feel her long red curls heavy on the back of her neck, itchy. She finished her toes and put glittery pink toe separators in, then walked on her heels back upstairs to get a hair-tie.
Returning, she twisted her hair up into a bun and cinched it with the tie.
Interlacing her fingers, she pressed the palms of her hands away from her in that way people warm up, gain energy and confidence for the task before them. She settled back into writing, shifting from side to side in her seat to test how long she could feasibly sit.
She could sit a long while.
She reread the last few paragraphs she had written, wrote a sentence.
Zack picked up the single action Smith and Wesson .357 and inspected it from all sides as if he’d never seen it before.
Zoe’s phone buzzed. She thought she probably should have turned it off, but she turned it over to check the message anyway, then immediately wished she hadn’t because now she couldn’t ignore the message.
Call me. I’m desperate.
Probably it was nothing, but what if Patti really needed her. She couldn’t abandon her best friend in her moment of greatest need. What if something was wrong with the kids? What if she and Alec had a fight—a big fight?
She picked up the phone and took it out into the backyard, dialing on the way.
Patti picked up.
“What’s wrong?” Zoe asked.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Patty said, then told a rather long story about her mother-in-law and how she’d called Patti’s youngest boy skinny-minny and how Patti couldn’t make her understand that weight-focused nicknames did damage to self-image.
“Uh-huh,” Zoe said.
“Uh-huh,” Zoe said, again.
Over an hour later, the phone call ended. Zoe sat for a moment looking at her back yard, noticing how the grass had gotten long and needed mowing, and the deck needed refinishing, and she had forgotten to hang up that hummingbird feeder she impulse-bought at Fred Meyer last time she shopped there. Her raspberries hung heavy on the vines, ready to pick. Zoe’s hips ached when she rose to return to the house and she wondered if she had tweaked something at Zumba last night. She walked upstairs, sifted through the bathroom drawers until she found some muscle rub and applied the salve.
Back downstairs, she returned to writing, interlaced her fingers, pressed her palms away from her, reread the last few paragraphs she had written.
She clicked the Chrome icon on the task bar. She’d just check real quick, then she’d start writing.
87 notifications and 6 personal messages later, her stomach began to growl. She went to the refrigerator and took stock, indecisive.
She took out a wheel of brie and a pint of fresh blueberries. She went to the cupboard and selected rosemary-garlic artisan crackers, then sliced up the watermelon on the counter. She ate at the kitchen island, watching their cat walk back and forth across the window to the back yard.
She let the cat in and filled his bowl.
She sat down to write again, flexing her fingers away from her, really going to focus this time.
She wrote one sentence, then another. Her phone buzzed and she ignored it this time. She typed and typed, but couldn’t outrun the moment approaching.
The front door opened and her family spilled in, greeting her with smiles and stories, all three children talking at once.
“How did it go?” John asked.
“It went pretty well,” Zoe said. “It took me a while to warm up, but it went well. I think I’m really getting to the heart of the story now too.”
“That’s great!” John said.
Zoe closed her laptop, settled back in to her family.
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