It was time for ……………
It was time for ……………
The small girl ran away from ……………
The small girl ran away from the shadow sitting at the foot of her bed. She thumped down the hall and slammed into her parents’ room, waking them with a full-on fit of terror. The girl was so worked up that it took several minutes before her parents could coax out a cohesive explanation of what had scared her so.
When she told them about the shadow, the girl insisted that it looked like her own shadow, but fatter. It had been going out on its own the last few nights and having adventures without her, she told her parents, but the shadow always came back looking more or less the same.
Tonight, however, it had changed. The shadow had plumped up on something. The girl couldn’t explain how she knew, but she was pretty sure that something had been another child.
As the girl spoke, a boy shouted from somewhere in the house. It was her little brother’s voice, and he did not sound happy.
By then, the girl’s mother had already inspected the girl and noticed she cast no shadow. The mother moved quickly to the bedroom door and pulled it open. As she did so, she called out to the girl’s father, asking him to grab her bag. Without waiting for a response, she rushed out of the room. The father hurried out behind her, leaving the little girl with no shadow to cry softly into her father’s pillow.
The plane crashed because……………
the goblin on the left wing showed up to work drunk and failed to deploy the flaps when needed.
Jack and Maureen took their first steps towards ……………
reconciling a marriage that had ended thirty years previously. The old squabbles which had so enraged each of them seemed insignificant after all this time, and, being the only Americans remaining alive, it seemed unpatriotic to remain separated.
Rodney looked down the ……………
eyepiece of the microscope and gasped. He’d been told what to expect. He’d even believed what he’d been told. But seeing them there, looking back up through the glass as if fully aware of being watched, he couldn’t help but mumble a prayer dredged up from his Catholic upbringing.
The sun went in and Maureen went ……………
out. It was their little dance, repeated for millennia. Sometimes they were both out at the same time, but usually it was one or the other.
Jenny slammed the door in John’s face because …………
Jenny slammed the door in John’s face because she couldn’t stand to look at him anymore. He’d changed, become monstrous. But worse than that, he’d betrayed her when she needed him most.
John banged on the door, but she leaned against it and yelled for him to go away. A few tears dripped onto her hands as she fumbled with the privacy lock. She twirled the stupid little thing and silently urged it to protect her.
God, how had it come to this? All Jenny had wanted was to find a good man – not Mr. Perfect, just someone nice would do. She’d almost had it, too. John had seemed more than nice. They were a pair that others envied. Jenny wasn’t much for social outings, but she’d actually dragged herself and her man out to several parties just to show him off.
It was a good thing her friends couldn’t see John now. She should have known it was too good to last. How could he do it? How could he get taken by that other woman? Jenny had watched it happen – knew what was happening even before John.
The woman was obviously diseased. As usual, John was putting others before himself, but this time it wasn’t Jenny he was putting first. It was this other woman. “We have to help her,” John insisted. And then the woman ate a chunk of his arm.
John’s transformation was rapid. Faster than what the news reports had led Jenny to expect. John bent over, clutching his torn arm. He groaned and then gurgled. His skin became pale and splotchy. When he stood again, his eyes found Jenny, but there was no “nice” left. John had abandoned her, and now he stood on the other side of the door, wanting nothing more than to eat her.
Jenny slumped to the floor and cried. Would she ever find Mr. Right? And even if she did, could she ever really give him her trust? Jenny wept harder as John, that traitor, smashed through the flimsy door. It figures, she thought – he isn’t even here to apologize.
Turn on your TV. Write down the first line that you hear and write a story based on it.
Result: “Do you want to run in the rat race or chase your dream? You decide.”
“Do you want to run in the rat race or chase your dream?” Mrs. Kettleman asked from her desk at the front of the classroom.
Kenneth, slumped over with all the spinal support of a slime mold, raised himself just enough to rest his chin on the well-graphittied desk. He was alone for this particular detention – the only one that got caught. “Huh?” he asked.
Mrs. Kettleman repeated the question. Kenneth blinked at her uncomprehendingly. “It’s your decision,” Mrs. Kettleman added by way of clarification.
Kenneth’s eyes dropped. “I don’t have a dream to chase,” he said. Though it didn’t seem possible, the boy squished even lower in his chair.
“Nonsense,” the teacher scolded. “Everyone has desires. Even if they’re not particularly admirable.” She leaned back, and her chair squawked. “What do you like? What do you want?”
Kenneth rotated his face down to the desk so that his nose squashed up to the side. Then he wrapped his arms protectively around his head and disappeared like an ostrich.
“Kenneth,” the teacher warned.
A muffled rebuke sounded from the depths of the boy’s hiding place. Mrs. Kettleman changed her tone slightly so that when she called him again it was clear that, while she had of course been joking earlier, she was now quite seriously requesting his attention.
The boy reappeared, sitting up briefly and then slumping backwards so that his lolling head stared up at the pock marked ceiling. Finally, his spinal muscles regained control, and he made eye contact with the harsh mistress at the front of the room.
“What do you like to do, Kenneth?”
Kenneth sighed as if trying to refill an airless room with the contents of his lungs. “Video games, Doritos, not going to school, ping pong.”
“Oh, good,” Mrs. Kettleman feigned relief. “So there are things you enjoy.” Her chair protested as she abandoned it to take a seat closer to Kenneth. “There’s an unfortunate requirement that goes along with all desires, you know.” Kenneth stared blankly, so she continued. “It’s that you have to work in order to achieve them.”
Kenneth’s eyes flicked upwards before he caught himself. He knew from experience that Mrs. Kettleman did not appreciate eye-rolling. “I don’t have to do jack to play video games and eat Doritos,” he said, hoping to distract her from his ocular transgression.
“Maybe not now. Your parents handle most of that for you. But at some point you’ll move out, and then you’ll have to pay for the video games, the electricity, the rent, the Doritos, the doctor bills that come from doing nothing but playing video games and eating Doritos.”
“I’ll get a job.”
“Mmm hmm. At McDonald’s maybe?”
“Maybe. A job’s a job.”
“No, I disagree with you on that point,” Mrs. Kettleman said. “There are jobs, which you go to to make some money – usually not very much. And they’re usually not very interesting or enjoyable. Then there are jobs, where you work towards something bigger. Towards something meaningful to you. What’s great about those jobs is that you tend to actually enjoy them. And they tend to pay more, of course.”
Kenneth dutifully paid attention, and he dutifully held his eyes in check.
“The thing is, Kenneth, that, unless you’re going to be a bum – in which case you won’t get video games and Doritos at all, – you need income to do the things you actually want to do. So, you can either get a miserable job that you have to spend a lot of time at because it pays so little, or you can spend your working time on something you do enjoy and also make more money so you can afford more video games and Doritos in your spare time.”
Kenneth sighed again. It may have been impatience or lack of interest. Or it may have been a sudden insight into the deeper workings of life. He didn’t let on either way. But Mrs. Kettleman didn’t continue, and it was clear to him that it was his turn to speak. He tried to come up with something and decided on, “Well, unless I can find a job playing video games or eating Doritos, I think I’m stuck with McDonald’s.”
“That needn’t be the case. School is here to prepare you for something greater than McDonald’s.”
“Yeah, so I work harder now so that I can work harder for the rest of my life? I don’t care about any of this stuff school has to teach me. It’s stupid and boring. I don’t care.” Kenneth’s voice rose as he talked. They were entering emotional territory.
“Kenneth,” Mrs. Kettleman started, then paused. She seemed to be struggling with something internally. “Life is work, one way or another. It’s long hours flipping burgers and dealing with rude customers, or it’s putting up with selfish children who don’t care what you have to say.” Mrs. Kettleman had a wistful look as she said that last bit. “Or it’s days and nights searching through dumpsters for a meal and shivering under bridges. One way or another, you’re going to have to work to get the things you want. But a little work now, in school, will set you up for more fulfilling work later that will allow you–”
And then he did it. He couldn’t help himself – it came so naturally. Kenneth’s eyes circled, of their own volition, up and around before returning to a less-than-impressed looking Mrs. Kettleman. He’d done it now, Kenneth thought. More detention.
But instead she let him go early. Kenneth slunk guiltily from the classroom but was in full sprint by the time he reached the school’s front doors. As he ran home, Mrs. Kettleman’s question repeated in his brain. What did he want?
The answer, of course, was video games and Doritos. Definitely. And that’s what awaited Kenneth when he arrived at the empty house. He had a very enjoyable afternoon, with all his dreams fulfilled.
Rewrite a fairy tale from the bad guy’s point of view.
Stevedori fussed over a bare mannequin, picking imaginary lint from its midriff and brushing its shoulders with the backs of his hands. For the thousandth time, he circled the canvas torso, admiring his work. “Just magnificent,” he muttered again and again. He licked a thumb and dabbed at a leftover dot of chalk only he could see.
“Father?” A young girl stood to the side, eyes wide with concern, but Stevedori paid her no attention. Whoever she was, she could wait until this business with the Emperor was over.
The pair had been ushered, along with the Emperor’s spectacular new outfit, into a room within the royal apartments. Though the room was larger than Stevedori’s entire home and tailor shop, it was clear that this was only the Emperor’s closet. And if Steveordi was correct, it was only one of the Emperor’s closets. The room was lined with dark paneling and deep blue curtains and upholstery that absorbed sound and light both, but a row of large windows brightened it enough to adequately show off Stevedori’s handiwork.
Upon entering, he’d set the mannequin up by the windows and gotten to work. From a large bag he pulled long rolls of crinkly paper. Each of these was unfurled and spread out upon the room’s carpets to reveal nonexistent articles of a rich, decorous robe and gown, one of several from which the Emperor would select for this afternoon’s affairs of state. The long-running war with their neighbor to the north was on the brink of petering out, and today’s ambassadorial visit would seal the final details. Hence the need for a new outfit.
Stevedori lifted each imagined piece, mime-like, from its paper wrappings. He inspected them and fit them in place on the mannequin. It was like piecing together a puzzle, and he went at it with an intensity that caused the girl to wring her hands. She had with her a bag of her own and repeatedly fished from it rolls of fine fabric that she offered to Stevedori as if he was in need of additional materials. He waved the nuisance away and wished the stewards would come retrieve her. Perhaps she was a test, put in the room as a final challenge to his focus and fortitude.
Stevedori continued assembling the Emperor’s new outfit on the mannequin which grew no less nude as he worked. He appeared to carry on a conversation as he went, though when the girl tried to answer – for nobody else was doing so – she was hushed and told to stop interrupting. Stevedori then apologized, perhaps to the mannequin, and continued a debate about how best to present the clothing.
“Don’t be silly, humility is for peasants. We must show you off as the grandest ever to exist.” Stevedori held a needle between his lips and rolled it around with his tongue as he listened to a response only he could hear.
“That’s it,” he answered finally. “Utter confidence. That’s our angle. Anyone who can’t see the magnificence of this outfit is an idiot.”
“No,” he continued after a pause. “I won’t be calling the Emperor an idiot because he will see the magnificence. Just you wait. Oh, he’ll see it alright.”
Finally, when there was nothing more Stevedori could do – when the outfit was pure perfection and any additional attention could only detract from its integrity – he shooed the girl into a corner of the room, returned to stand by his masterpiece, and waited, back straight, for the doors to open. The Emperor was on his way, and Stevedori would dress the man in an outfit that the world would not soon forget.