Live Writing Sprints – March 2022

Today’s Prompt –  use the following five words in your story: like, fascinated, massive, cough, and tail

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“You’d better behave yourself,” Charmaine laughed. “Or I’m going to find some salt.”

“Is that supposed to be some kind of threat?” Ed’s mouth twisted up on one side, but the grin seemed apprehensive.

“Yeah, it is. I’m warning you, if you don’t start being nice, I’m going to put some salt on your tail.”

“Salt on my tail?” Ed twisted the upper half of his body to view the massive train of feathers that he’d been dragging behind himself for the past forty-five minutes. “Charmaine, what are you talking about?”

Now it was Charmaine’s smile’s turn to falter. “You know, the old adage…or saying, or whatever… if you put salt on a bird’s tail and it will prevent it from flying…”

“He ain’t flying anywhere, nohow,” Peter contributed, having made his appearance almost too late for call, as usual. “Has anyone seen my gun belt?”

“You playing Cowboy #3 again today?” Charmaine asked, half-heartedly searching for the gun belt. 

“Yes’m,” Paul said, in character – it was the only line he had in the play, although he said it a total of eight times and managed to pack a different emotion in to each of the “Yes’m’s.” he raised a hand to tip an invisible hat.

“Can’t find your hat, either?” Ed huffed and lifted his feathered arms. “What is going on with Melissa lately?”

Charmaine’s face grew hot. “Don’t blame the property mistress for Paul’s inability to keep his poop in a group. If he would return the stuff the way he ought too, he wouldn’t have these issues.”

“Well, now, ain’t it on her to come chase me down if I ain’t returned everything as I ought? Ain’t it her job to make sure I’ve got everything I need to play my part?”

Charmaine fell silent. She really didn’t know what was expected from Melissa, who was new to the role of prop mistress and serving under a stage manager who was new to them all. In spite of herself, she managed to find paul’s gun belt and wordlessly handed it to him.

“I don’t think your hat is in here,” she said. “We’ve looked everywhere.”

“Maybe Melissa’s got it,” Paul said easily. Charmaine’s mouth fell open.

“You mean you came here before checking in with Melissa?” her eyes flicked to the clock on the wall. “We’re minutes from call; she’s probably totally panicking.”

Just then the call for places came through and the trio herded themselves out of the dressing room. Eddie and Charmaine headed up to stage while Paul peeled off to the left, toward props.

“One of these days, his carelessness is giong to catch up with him,” Charmaine huffed.

“Ah, let it go,” Eddie said, letting his tail, which he’d scooped up to navigate the corridors backstage, fall to the floor. “Paul will be Paul.”

The sound of loud voices reached them – the director and the stage manager.

“This was meant to be a dress rehearsal,” Daniel, the director, said. “I don’t understand why I don’t have all my actors in full dress.”

“He didn’t make the call time, Dan, that’s hardly on me,” Sheila protested. Charmaine felt for her. Rumor had it Sheila was coming off a pretty bad divorce, and that her devotion to the show had been the one thing keeping her from drinking herself stupid every day.

“All I know is I have cowboys #1 and 2 at the ready,” Daniel said, flipping a stiff arm in the direction of the two would-be cowpokes, who’d dutifully taken their cues at call. “And, I ask you, where is my cowboy #3?”

The sound of Paul’s voice, in a strangled cry, almost seemed to answer the question. It came from above, and Charmaine looked up in time to see…

I’ve run out of time!!!!!!

Today’s Prompt – Someday

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“This is one of her better songs, in my opinion,” Paul said. I grimaced reflexively, glad to see he had slipped his eyes closed and could not see my negative reaction.

“Mm-hmm,” I said, which I considered not lying, as I told myself it was more of an assent to his opinion than an agreement with it.

“I just love this musical,” Paul said, after singing lustfully with Babs until the track had ended. 

“Can we change things up a bit?” I tried. “I mean, Streisand is certainly a good singer…”

“Good!?” Paul pressed tented fingers to his chest, making the bracelets on his right hand clack as they knocked against one another and sending his gold crucifix swinging. “You take that back, right now!”

“Okay, so she’s not good,” I said, completely deadpan, in anticipation of the reaction I knew was coming.

“She’s only the best, the best ever!” Paul’s attack of fluster did not disappoint. As someone who prided himself on his ability for restraint, he behaved remarkably under the circumstances of this grievous affront, but his face became redder than I’d ever seen it and he adjusted his glasses first with one hand and then the other as his upper body pivoted like a film of a lighthouse played back in fast forward.

“I’ve heard better,” I double-downed.

“Who?” Paul’s hands now collapsed on top of one another and fell to the table. No one could say he’d slammed them down, but I knew they flopped only because he was working extra hard at pretending my dissent wasn’t as disturbing as I knew it totally was.

“Rhondstadt,” came my one word reply.


“Oh, come on,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You must know Rhondstadt.”

“If you’re telling me there’s someone out there with the chops Babs has, I’ll never believe you,” Paul said.

“If you say so,” I said, and then called up, “Blue Bayou.” 

Paul huffed out a little laugh as the simple bass intro filled the car, and Linda’s tentative voice smoothed into our ears about her worried mind.

“So far, not so impressive,” Paul said, and I didn’t even have to say, “just wait,” because I knew what was coming.

The timing was delicious – as Linda launched into that first chorus, I was merging onto 69 and was able to gun the engine, pressing Paul back against his seat. By this point, he’d apparently forgotten his pretense of dislike. I could tell the tune was working its magic on him… when I next glanced over to him, his eyes were once again closed.

Showing off, I sang along with the final line, and nailed that last note. It had killed me not to sing along from the second chorus on, but I’d somehow managed to restrain myself, so Paul could hear Linda do her thing in all her glory.

“Well?” I asked, pressing pause.

“Don’t make me say it…”

“Say what?” I asked, feigning innocence.

“Please, just put on “People,” Paul murmured.

“It’s not going to hit the same…” I warned.

“Just put it onnnnnnnn,” Paul whined.

I smiled and hit “play”

Today’s Prompt – What are you eating?

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Joanie looked down at her plate. Several crumbs had fallen away from the graham cracker crust and formed what her mind saw as a smile face on the plain white porcelain, or what she assumed was porcelain—this was a swanky sort of place after all. Didn’t all swanky people eat off porcelain? Or was that only in the olden days?

Joanie had grown up with corel ware—dishes that were virtually indestructible, especially in the days before granite countertops became the default for the suburban set. As her mind took a walk down memory lane, re-living several occasions in which either she or her sister had managed to explode a corell plate in spectacular fashion, She continued to stare at the smattering of crumbs, longing to press her fingers into them. The keylime pie had been a delicious indulgence that hadn’t lasted quite long enough in the microscopic portion it had been served. 

“I could go for another slice,” a voice croaked from her left side, and Joanie looked up in surprise to meet the gaze of Mrs. Vanderpool, who hadn’t spoken a word to Joanie throughout any of the equally miserly courses the two had sat through together. Joanie had been seated on the end, leaving her with no other opportunity for conversation, and she and Mrs. Vanderpool had been placed immediately across from the perpetually drunk Olsens. Joanie looked across at them now, and saw only the same red-faced man, grinning at everything being said at the other end of the table, where those with good breeding or at least some potentiality for entertainment which overshadowed potential for embarrassment—had been sat, and his washed out blonde wife, who sat as still as she’d seemed to the entire evening, one arm hugging her body, the other a stand for a wine glass which she lifted with rhythmic regularity to her overly powdered face, sipping at it through lipstick that seemed intent to create an entirely new upper lip, this motion only interrupted by a lifting of the empty hand to wave away each offered course, not even bothering to look at the server with her heavily mascara-d vacant eyes. Joanie wasn’t sure if Mrs. Olsen saw her now, or if she had noticed Mrs. Vanderpool’s comment. As far as Joanie could tell, Mrs. Vanderpool hadn’t spoken a word to anyone since arriving at the estate two days previously, merely gesturing to everyone with shakes of the head and points of her walking stick. Her silence and refusal to join in the party’s hilarity had only been matched by that of the perpetually stoned Mrs. Olsen, and Joanie had actually wondered whom she would hear speak first. She wondered now if Mrs. Olsen would smile, were she to understood the nature of her victory.

“Oh, yes, the pie was very good,” Joanie stammered, and smiled at the plump and fashionably dressed matriarch.

“There was a time when the portions were bigger,” she said, lifting her considerable girth in a massive harumph, as if her substantial size were proof of what she’d said.

Today’s Prompt – Use the following five words in your story: behave, suggest, graduate, useful, trainer

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“I don’t think you’re going to get much use out of him unless you hire a trainer.” 

I scowled. “Why does my dog have to be ‘useful?’ In fact, I object to the idea that providing companionship for me isn’t a worthy enough endeavor to justify little Hugo’s existence. Isn’t that right, Hugo?”

Hugo snuffle-huffed a “yes ma’am” and waggled his tail. At least, I told myself it was a “yes ma’am,” and not a, “hey, get out of my yard” to the squirrel I had only at that moment noticed.

“He’s going to take off after one of those varmints one day and get himself killed on 442. Then you’ll be sorry. I’m telling you, you’ll be much happier, and so will Hugo, for that matter, if you get him enrolled in some sort of behavior modification program.”

Pop bent at the waist so he could reach the bristling hyde of the little dog. 

“I know you want to be a good boy,” he said, as though he were speaking to a six year old human instead of a six month old pug. Hugo’s ears flicked and his head tipped back just a bit before he re-focused on the place where the squirrel used to be. I’d noticed it scamper off while Pop had been talking, but it didn’t seem Hugo had been able to trace the movements. I wondered, not for the first time, if there was something off about the little guy’s vision—I’ve always had mild suspicions about the health and abilities of smoosh-faced, bulge eyed creatures. I recognized now my initial reaction to Pop’s mention of training for my little guy was just reflecting back at me my own insecurities about Hugo. 

“Maybe you’re right,” I sighed. I swear, you could have knocked Pop down with a feather.

“What did you say?”

I shrugged. “I said, maybe you’re right. I’ll do some research and see if I can’t find a good local trainer. Maybe, the next time you come to visit us, Hugo will be the newest graduate of “Doggie Trainers R Us,” or whatever.

I’d taken the wind out of Pop’s sail. He had nothing to say. I spent the rest of the evening basking in the glow of an argument not won, but conceded, and wondered that my inclination to be more agreeable had worked out so well. Could it be I’d stumbled upon a training secret of my own? I mused for the rest of the evening about the eventuality of reforming my grumpy old Pop into a very good boy, indeed.