Writing Prompts – Day 3 of 12

Day 3:  Mystery Cookie

One Day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk. Grateful

to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it. The next morning you come in and find

another cookie. This continues for months until one Day a different object is left—and this

time there’s a note.

 

Whenever I actually find something left for me on my desk at work – especially if it’s food of any kind – I assume it’s from Generous George, and accept it with gratitude, always thanking him when I see him. For the purposes of this, I’ll assume it was George, but then come to find that it was, in fact, not. Maybe he denies it, and maybe I don’t believe him at first, but eventually come to the supposition that perhaps the cookies are not coming from Georgie at all. I mean, it goes on for months – that’s a lot of false denial on both our parts.

I wonder why “Day” is capitalized in the prompt write-up?

Anyway, one day I come in and, instead of a cookie, I find a small feather. It looks like it’s from a pigeon. And not so much a note – but a map.

(Note: Just got some rather sad news so keeping this short, because I’m no longer very focused on writing at the moment)

So a map. From what I can tell, it’s for an area of my workplace, but one I haven’t been to in years. Not the way it was, anyway. Renovations several years ago rearranged things, so now there is an alarmed security door between where I am now and the stairwell I used to use several times a day. No one really uses that area any more, as this side of the door is just storage space, and all of the offices that used to be on this level have been moved to a different building all together. Other than the washrooms, there’s no need for anyone to come down to the stairwell on the other side of the door anymore. We used to use it as our main entrance and exit back in the day, however, so it doesn’t take long before I recognize what I am looking at.

In fact, it was in that very stairwell – mere months before I moved away for a short time – that a pendant so precious to me I wore it every day, broke suddenly, and a piece of it was lost. It had been a gift, created by hand, and given to me to mark a special day. I valued it almost as much as I valued the one who gave it to me, and even though I changed the cord it hung from a couple of times to keep it strong, the beads and other items which hung from it remained ever the same.

Until that day.

Out of nowhere, the cord suddenly snapped and everything scattered to the tiled floor as I was starting to climb the stairs. I was a tad confused as to how it had broken, as to my knowledge the cord I was using was still in good shape, but the pendant had broken before, and I’d always retrieved all of the pieces, and placed them back in their proper order on a new cord.

This time, I gathered everything up once again, and double-checked to make sure I had it all. I did not. There was a single bead missing. This would not be a huge deal, except that the beads were all in pairs on the pendant, and not having one meant that the balance was all thrown off. What’s more is that a piece of the whole was missing, and that just didn’t sit right with me. Inside, I started to become a little frantic, and then a lot frantic, as the more I searched – even including the help of a friend – the more obvious it became that the bead was gone.

Despite the fact that there was nowhere for it to go. There were no cracks in the tile, no gaps between the floor and the wall which wasn’t sealed. We widened our search to ridiculous proportions, but eventually I had to concede defeat. A bead from my precious pendant was gone, and it felt like a piece of me was missing.

It felt like something important had left me, like the One Ring when it chooses to abandon Gollum in the caverns.

That feeling returns with the memories of that day as I follow the map which had been left on my desk with the wee feather. I actually forgot for a moment that the door is alarmed now and I can’t go through it without setting it off, so I turn sheepishly to go upstairs and outside to come in the other entrance. There is a tiny ‘x’ near a corner of the map, and while it’s close to the door, it does appear to be on the other side from where I now work.

I begin to feel even more silly as I descend the stairs, yet memories of that one day increase the closer I get to where it happened. Now that I am here, I take a moment to re-orient myself with the map (I’m basically lost once I get inside most of the time – my sense of direction is crap), and look around the area of the ‘x’ for anything which appears to be out of place. I can’t notice anything overt – definitely no more cookies or even feathers – and the floors are actually quite smooth and clean, since they are so rarely used these days.

I’m feeling pretty ridiculous and am about to head back to work when something catches my eye. It’s in a corner, hard to see, but the pattern of the tile appears to be skewed ever so slightly. Upon closer inspection, I realize that it’s not skewed so much as chipped off. A piece of the tile has cracked at some point, and while the broken part has long since been swept away, it left behind a small gap between the tile and the wall it connects to.

What the hell, right?

I get down on my hands and knees, listening for any sign of another person approaching, and pull out my phone to flip on the flashlight app. Shining it into the dark corner, my heart seems to skip a beat.

The light flickers off of something shiny in that tiny gap.

Feeling ever more insane and yet driven at the same time, I tug my key ring from my jeans pocket, select the one which appears to be the best fit, and wiggle it into the narrow, jagged fracture. I scrape the key toward me a few times, then feel something give under the metal. One more pull in my direction frees it completely, and a small object rolls into the beam of light still emanating from my phone.

Naturally, it’s the missing bead from my pendant. All these years later, it’s decided to return to me.

I mean, what would have been the point of telling that whole story if it had been anything else, right?

Seeing The Forest AND The Trees

Last night I dreamed I had a job interview. Of sorts. We were at a Tim Horton’s for a chat and she got me a cookie when she was getting herself a coffee. It was kind of informal. But an interview nonetheless.

And I think it went pretty well, which – of course it did, because it was my dream and existed entirely inside of my head. I remember I was fighting tears as I gave a couple of answers (one about teaching, and one about my current job), but I worked hard to answer honestly, and it felt kind of like a release after. Getting some of that stuff out felt good, even if it wasn’t real. I realized one of my problems might be that I often see the big picture, as well as the details. I see the whole forest AND the trees, which can be overwhelming sometimes. There is the universal struggle to find balance, but added to it is the understanding that it’s an impossible line to walk. You see all the things to do, how each of them affects the whole, and all of the things not done. Because they can’t all be accounted for. You can see all the trees, but you can’t give each of them the individual attention they need at all times. I think it’s what made teaching hard for me, and what makes my current job difficult, as well. It drives me crazy sometimes.

Well…crazier.

I also realized I was behaving kind of like an abused animal – one who has forgotten that human kindness exists. She bought me a cookie and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Which is somewhat true of me in real life, really, so that was interesting to me this morning, as well.

Anyway, what I really want to talk a bit about today is writing. I haven’t been doing a lot of it lately – this blog aside, of course – but I have been doing a lot of mental preparation for more new writing, as well as editing of things previously written. Last night was one of the more painful examples of the editing process, as I needed to get a short story down to under a certain word count, and I wasn’t a huge fan of what I knew I had to do to get it there.

There was a section of text that I’d written a long time ago – a scene that was one of the first conceived when I thought about writing the story to begin with. I loved that scene. I remember working harder on that one segment than on any other part of the story. Even as I was going over it more recently, I found little ways to tweak it and make it even better. The words flowed, the imagery was strong and beautiful and felt like it came out of some long-buried piece of my heart.

And last night I deleted it. The whole thing.

I knew it wasn’t necessary to move the story forward, and that I could get from A to C without needing B taking up more words, even though they were so very pretty. So I deleted B. And as all writers know, B is for Baby. I killed my Baby.

I did it quickly – didn’t give it one final read-through or anything. I just highlighted the whole section and hit the Delete key and then reminded myself to breathe again. And it was fine. It’s fine. The story is better for it. I think. Pretty sure, anyway.

Hoping to get it sent out later today, too, so that will feel good. It’ll feel complete.

That’s a weird thing about writing, hey? Most tasks require you to add more or do more or achieve more in order for it to be complete. Yet with writing, you build it all up, and then the sense of completion comes only after you take enough away; subtract from. Delete. Sometimes you go back and add things – dialogue, description, even entire scenes. But even those aren’t done until you’ve edited them and tightened them up and taken away the unnecessary.

Writing can be like sculpting, in that sense. The art of subtraction.

There’s probably a life lesson in that, but I don’t want to discuss it right now. I’ve killed my Baby – that’s enough subtraction and sadness for the moment!

Another thing that came up yesterday and got me thinking had to do with Carving The Light, my first novel. My Facebook memory feed gave me a look back on my imaginary dream cast for the no-doubt-Oscar-winning film adaptation of the book, with a few different suggestions for each major character.

Since those days, though, I’ve actually gotten to know many crazy-talented artists, and I started thinking it might be fun to dream-cast THEM into the imaginary film. At the risk of desperately wanting to shoot such a film, it could be very interesting to see what I come up with. My mind has already been working on it a bit, but that’ll be a post for another day. The important thing – for this entry – is that there is a tiny twinge of excitement inside me surrounding the idea of revisiting the imaginary cast with people I actually know. Even just talking to Tim about it a few minutes ago got me all wound up about it again.

In addition, there’s something about having people I am more familiar with in mind for certain characters that makes me want to tweak the characters and/or the story itself more – not necessarily cater any part of it to any of them, but to make it better on the whole. Flesh out the trees, improve the entire forest. Somehow, the idea of certain people in certain roles makes the story more concrete in my mind, and therefore I can already see ways of improving the overall piece.

There is definitely something there.