Monday, December 31, 2012

Riding the New Year's Subway

Prompt: Write a holiday story.

Time: 10 minutes


It's my favorite time to ride the train. Lots of the guys say to me, "Naw, Chad, you ain't wanna be around for that shit. All 'em floozies doin' nonsense and them guys itchin' for a fight." But I brush them off and ride anyway.

It's always been my favorite holiday: all the glam and sham all mashed together so everyone thinks it's a new beginning when it's just one more shitty year down the drain. You don't see sequins any other time of the year but New Year's Eve. All that glitz and gold twinkling and girls tossing their hair like they got money or something. I ignore most of the guys, 'specially later at night when their lids get lower, right along with their hand on their date's thigh.

But the kids you see, their eyes are always sparkling like all those sequins, and you can almost smell the whiteness of the snow on their boots. They can't sit still, all that limitless energy bound up in tiny little bodies . . . it's like they're ready to yank their parents into the new year instead of just off the train.

This year I'm following this one girl. Not like a stalker, nothing like that. She's just been up and down the One line four times already, carrying the same shiny red box. The silver bow fell off one time, but even though I saw it, I didn't pick it up, and eventually one of the guys by the door in a backwards baseball cap and Timberlands picked it up. He tried to get a kiss for it, too, but I guess she's saving her kiss for someone else.

I love her a little for not wearing high heels, and for obviously forgetting to put in earrings. If I still worked in Columbus Circle and dressed in khakis and shaved more than once a month, she's the kind of girl I'd have asked out. Maybe someday. For now I'll just ride the train into 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tin Man: The Beginning

Prompt: Write fan fiction using one of the following characters: Captain Kirk from Star Trek, Jacob from Twilight, or any character from The Wizard of Oz.

Time: 10 minutes


No one ever asked him how he lost his heart. Sure, sure, when Dorothy came along, everyone just thought he was delusional and had had a heart all along. But no one pounded on his chest to see. If they had, they would have heard the same hollow echo that had been there at the beginning of the yellow brick road.

This story starts far, far away; far from the yellow brick road; far from where Dorothy came upon the Tin Man, all stiff and hollow. There once was a time and a place where the Tin Man wasn't stiff or hollow at all, but was the strongest man in all of Oz. The time was many many years ago, when the Tin Man was still oiled and sleek and able to wield every tool with skill and dexterity, not just the sorry little hatchet he ended up with at the end. And the place was . . . well, the place was in Oz, but it was a place no one else had ever explored. A place anyone has yet to explore. The Elemental Mountains.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Three Metals

Prompt: Write a piece incorporating 3 metals.

Time: 10 minutes


There once were three little orphans: Tilly, Sally, and Sue. They were very poor and lived in a hut with their mother, where they all knitted small bits of yarn together, leftover from the nearby store, and sold the pieces for food at the market. One day, however, their mother lost her job cleaning the yarn shop.

"Tilly, Sally, and Sue, I'm sorry but we do not have enough food. I shall have to give you up."

Tilly, Sally, and Sue cried bitterly and begged her not to abandon them, but to no avail. The next day, their mother brought them to the local orphanage and left them huddled on the doorstep.

Sue, being the youngest and most frightened, began to cry immediately. Sally, the middle child, stood to the side, snuffling and rubbing her empty belly. Tilly, the eldest, did her best to comfort her sisters, but soon she too sank into despair. She collapsed onto the steps and buried her head in her hands.

Suddenly, a man was standing before them. He was grisled and without much hair, and Tilly would have thought him one of the town's vagrants except for his shoes--they shone with polish.

"What makes you weep so, little ones?"

"Our mother has left us," Sue whimpered.

"Well," said the man, "I cannot give you back your mother, but I can give you this." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tin cup, which he handed to Sue. "Whenever you are thirsty, put this cup to your lips and it will be full."

Sally stamped her foot. "I'm thirsty! Can I have a cup?"

"No," the man said, "That was my only cup. But here," he extended his hand, in which he held a brass ring. "If ever you are caught, twist this ring and you shall be free."

"You are an old man," said Tilly, "but very generous. Thank you for these odd gifts."

"For that compliment, my dear, you get this." He handed her a copper penny.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Jeweler's Apprentice

Prompt: Draw a superpower out of a hat. I drew "ice."

Time: 10 minutes


It was the perfect job for her, really. Her friends had always called her the ice queen for turning away every guy who came calling. The guys called her "frigid bitch," both in front of and behind her back. Either way, landing this gig in the jeweler's shop on Brunswick Street was perfect. She could walk to and from work, she only had to work with one person--the jeweler, Stan--and she could be as snarky as she wanted to the foolish boys and even more foolish men who carted rings in and out of the place. Stan didn't care, and all of the clients were rich enough that one moderately attractive girl's sneer didn't faze them.

For the first few weeks, she played by the rules. Her work was flawless, and Stan was elated that she was willing to stay late and work weekends. She had always preferred hard, immobile objects to people, so working with diamonds late into the night suited her just fine.

But then the clientele started getting to her. The way one man pushed his wife out the door a little too roughly, or another haggled Stan down $300 when the watch the guy was wearing cost three times what they were charging for the ring. Finally, when one guy came in three times in one day to "check on" the ring they were making for him, with a different woman on his arm each time, she lost her resolve. That night, instead of making fine cuts to the surface of the diamond and removing material from the rock, she added a few fine layers of ice--just enough to add the same sparkle and shine the cuts would have made, but not so much that the diamond was noticeably larger.

The next day, the guy came back with yet another new woman on his arm. As he complimented Stan on his fine craftsmanship, she smiled sweetly and tucked the box into its neat little paper bag.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Snapshot Book Review: Testimony

TestimonyTestimony by Anita Shreve
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the concept for the structure of this book. I really enjoy stories told from multiple angles, and Shreve goes one step further with this book by telling the story not only from multiple characters' perspectives, but also by writing those perspectives from multiple points of view (e.g. first person, third person, and even second person). Even more interestingly, each character is telling their portion of the story with respect to a third party interviewer: someone they are considering speaking to, are planning to speak to, or are currently speaking to.

I sorely wanted to give this book a 5-star review, but Shreve overcomplicated the book just a bit too much by adding too many time shifts between narrators. As the reader, not only did I need to reorient myself as to who was telling the next bit of the story and how they were narrating it, but I also had to determine where I was within the chronology of the story. Some portions were second or third person accounts of what a character was currently or was planning to tell the interviewer, while some portions were first person narratives of what a character was actually telling the interviewer, and this of course influenced what time frame the character was speaking about or experiencing.

The story itself, however, is compelling from all angles. Shreve has an excellent sense of every age from which she tells the tale, and she creates empathy for ever participant, from the headmaster to the boys accused of the crime. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in literature about boarding school communities, family interactions, young adult introspection, and characters studies.

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