All Writing Sprints Written Prior to The Christian Indie Writers’ Podcast and authored by J. R. Nichols. Click Here To Read A Random Post!
Author’s Note: If you watched me writing LIVE on my facebook page, you can click on the corresponding date to see the text in full. I am not going to edit these, just copy/paste from my working document onto this page. -J.R. Nichols
8.27.21 Today’s Prompt: The Sound of Thunder
“I am not afraid,” Joni pulled the quilt up under her chin and nudged sissy with her left foot. Sissy did not move. She hadn’t even heard the thunder, even though it had been loud enough to shake the timbers.
She used her big and second toe to pinch the soft flesh of sissy’s calf, and to Joni’s relief her sister scooted as far away as the narrow bed would allow.
“Sissy is alright. I am alright. We are alright. I am not afraid.”
Another loud explosion threatened to cast doubt into Joni’s mind and she squeezed her eyes shut against the noise, wondering why God had not had the good sense to provide her with something similar for her ears. All closing her eyes did was activate her imagination, and send her to a place in her mind where terrible things happened on the heels of such loud explosions.
There was not much in Joni’s life to attach the loud noises too, other than stories of war in other parts of the country — like where Matthias had gone off to, and where Pa had wanted to go but had been told he was too old to do so.
The judgement of the Lord was the other explanation Joni had. She’d learned of this explanation for thunder through the pinched lips of Miss Pru, who ruled Joni’s Sunday school class with a swift rod and a mean temper.
Joni squinched her eyes even harder closed and tried to imagine instead what her Ma would have told her about these bursts of booming terror. Or what Pa might have told her, if he’d come home sober enough to hear the noises himself for a change.
Ma’s kind voice and sweet smell were more imagination than memory at this point, but if Joani worked really hard, she coud still manifest them for herself, seeing and feeling and smelling her way back into her mother’s warm embrace.
Joani imagined her now, laughing softly at the trembling form in her lap, shushing and soothing.
Soothing with what words, Joani wondered, trying to unclench the tight grip she had on the quilt, trying to relax into the sense of comfort and ease her imagination was trying to provide for her.
“Look around tomorrow,” her mother whispered. “Look and see how green everything is. When you see how the storm has revived the earth, you will certainly see God’s hand of blessing in the storm.”
A hand of blessing, or a proclamation of judgement. These seemed to be the two paradigms between which Joani was expected to choose as she sorted out in her mind what it meant to be a creation of this strange and all powerful God, who was said to have loved the world so much, but who still permitted things to happen that scared little girls – things like drunken Pa’s and thunderstorms and Mommas who die before a little one has a chance to get all grown up.
The thunder boomed again. Joani tried to imagine the thunder was a call to all the little seeds in the earth, a command for them to send their shoots up to the sky. Joani began to imagine it was a call to her, as well, a command to be the mother to sissy that she herself had been deprived of.
“Is that you, God, speakin’ ta me in the thunder?” She murmured.
She fell into a deep and dreamless sleep before the thunder rolled again.
8.20.21 Today’s Prompt – I’m never getting out of this chair again.
“I am never getting out of this chair again,” Peter sighed as he reflected on the busy day he’d had. Mary stood, hands on hips, head tilted, apparently appraising his reclined position.
“Well, then I suppose you’re not interested in helping me finally get the blinds hung out on the sunpoarch?”
Peter winced. “Not really. This was a really physically demanding week at work. I’m not sure I can manage that level of activity, even if I wanted to.”
“And, you don’t want to,” Mary rightly concluded, with a cluck of her tongue. “That’s fine, I guess, but I don’t want to hear an iota of complaining about the high cost of keeping the house cool when the bill comes this month.
“Agreed,” Peter said, reaching for the television remote.
His shirt pocket buzzed at just that moment and he cursed as he looked at the name displayed – his boss, Carl Murtock, was calling with what was certainly another crises.
“It’s in the ditch!” Murtock yelled, as soon as Peter accepted the call but before he’d even had a chance to say, “hello.”
“What’s in the ditch?” Peter’s brow furrowed. There was no telling what kind of shenanigans Carl had gotten up to on a Friday night.
“The jeep, the jeep is in the ditch!”
“What jeep?” Peter’s mind whirled to connect dots that seemed to float in the either of his mind. Had the company acquired a new vehicle? No… this of course must be a personal matter.
“Did you buy your daughter a jeep?” Peter guessed, remembering some talk about the pressures Murtock faced having to support the whims of his three children on his millionaire budget. Peter scowled as he thought how nice it must be – he’d barely been able to afford the jalopy he’d awarded to his own daughter on the occasion of her high school graduation.
“No, why would I do that? Don’t you listen to me when I talk? The jeep, the jeep I borrowed from Don Hemmingsly. It’s in the ditch! I need you to go get the truck with the winch and yank me out of here.”
Peter wanted to say, “of course I listen to you, you arrogant son of a-” but instead he said, “yes sir,” and snapped the phone shut.
Propelled by the adrenaline coursing through him, caused by the terrorizing yelling that had just come through the earpiece of his phone, Peter flicked the stick that would drop the legs on the recliner and sprung from his chair to retrieve his workboots.
Mary re-entered the room, and asked, “Where are you going?”
Crap, Peter thought. The blinds.
“I’ve got to go and do something for Murtock. You know how he is.”
“Yes, I know how he is,” Mary said, and that was all she said. She turned and walked back out to the sunporch.
Peter knew what she wanted to say – “are they going to pay you some overtime for this adventure? Is this going to put you in line for a raise?” And knowing she was holding back saying it made him even angrier, somehow, than her actual saying it would have done.
“I’m doing the best I can,” he screamed, as he slammed the door behind him.
Storming through the garage, he kicked at the rubber trashcan that was in his way and yanked the door of his truck open with a satisfying jerk of the elbow. He fired up the old beast and said a silent prayer, as he always did, that the jalopy would make just one more trip to the office for him.
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he cursed again, whipping it out of his shirt and screaming, “what now” before even looking at the screen.
“I appreciate you,” the text from Mary read, accompanied by a heart emoji.
Peter slipped the phone back into his pocket and pressed a hand to his mouth, his elbow propped on the driver’s side window.
What, he wondered, was he doing? Where was this all going? Something was going to have to give. He just wished he knew what that would be. Lately, he’d been thinking it would be his heart – certainly he couldn’t withstand this sort of pressure for very much longer.
“It’s all the expectations of me,” he muttered. “Everybody wants a piece of me.” He rolled past the bum who frequented the intersection of main and second at just that moment. He praised himself silently for not flipping the guy off.
Something was going to have to give.
TIME IS UP
8.13.21 Today’s Prompt – Use the following sentence in your story: He poured rocks in the dungeon of his mind.
He poured rocks in the dungeon of his mind, each signifying a particular stressor. He gathered them together like dice in a Yahtzee game, putting them in an invisible cup which he could almost feel as he closed his hand into a fist, during dinners with friends or business meetings. His nails would press half circles into the meaty flesh of his palms as he mentally scooped up thoughts of a promotion or a raise or what Betty would say when she found out he had requested neither.
Into the cup went concerns about braces and future weddings and college education. Each rock stayed a rock, in spite of his efforts to turn them, in his mind, into dice or anything that resembled something that would make sense to the world outside his internal prison.
Why did each issue so stubbornly remain a baked hard piece of clay? Why did each issue seem so much like any of the others, undecipherable when the cup was upended and the individual troubles spilled over him at the end of the night, when he sat oh so still and tried to make sense of everything that was expected of him.
He preferred the rocks to remain inside the cup, but he couldn’t seem to hold on to the cup tightly enough to keep it from tipping and spilling, tipping and spilling.
“Talk to me,” Betty pleaded, and the worry in her eyes became another rock. Into the cup it went with a plunk.
“The car’s acting funny,” his daughter said, and the information, as well as the worry in her eyes, became another rock in the cup.
Cigarettes seemed the only escape that didn’t further worry anyone, so the beer that was bought and was surely his secret remedy remained unconsumed in the refrigerator, his secret craving for it still another rock that went into his cup.
How unfair, he thought, that it was okay for some other guys, to sit unfeeling and stewing in an inebriated slumber. How must their internal lives seem? Not clenched, not holding on. Blissfully adrift on a sea of foam. It sounded like heaven.
The thoughts were a handful of gravel, pouring from his soul into the damning cup of judgement he insisted on filling, every day – every day.
One day as he sat in the garage, once again dumping and inventorying and scooping up again all of those many rocks, a small man in a cheap suit made his way up the drive.
“Hello, brother,” the stranger said. “My wife and I just started a church up the street.”
“Hello,” was the reply, tentative – this was a preacher man, after all, certainly here to add some more rocks to the cup.
“Would you like to come and visit?” Asked the wife, who’d been straggling behind trying to wrangle what looked like around eight children, who were too enthusiastic about the innumerable crickets in the field to hustle up the driveway the way their father had.
The cup lay upended in the dungeon of his mind, his problems scattered before him, shouting up at him from the dirty floor upon which they lay. He wondered if there was a way to leave them all there, and fill his cup with something new. He wondered if this little man and his big, happy family could offer him something that could stop the endless torment of filling and spilling, spilling and filling.
“I think I might like to visit, yes,” he said, and unclenched his fist long enough to shake the preacher man’s hand.
8.6.2021 Today’s Prompt – Use the following five words in your story: rest, brink, tray, progress, yearn
“Just once,” Julie thought, “Just once I’d like to sneak a fry.”
She looked longingly down at the tray on the counter, where the golden potato fingers were poised in a perfect pile next to the filet of fish sandwich table 42 had ordered.
“Here,” Cookie said, shoving a bowl of chili at her through the pass through window. “That is all you need for now, right?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Julie added the bowl of chili to her tray and tried to remember which of the two girls at the table had ordered it. Neither had been keen on making eye contact with her – it was clear they were on some sort of “bonding” excursion with the orderer of the filet of fish sandwich – their grandfather, Julie imagined, based on the age difference. She didn’t want to make the mistake of putting the bowl of chili down in front of the one who had sneered in disgust at the mention of “being ready to order.”
The problem was, the two girls looked so much alike. Julie thought they must be twins, the similarities between them were so striking. To make matters worse, they had gotten up to use the restroom, one sliding over to accommodate the other as each took a turn.
Julie sighed, wishing she was more like her boyfriend, Oscar, who had an eye for detail. He probably would have remembered that it was the girl in the blue hoodie who had ordered the chili, for example, or would have been able to find some other way of attaching the dish to the person who wanted it. Julie stupidly relied only upon her notepad, and the seating chart system she had relied upon to keep her orders straight.
As she approached the table, she held her breath, wondering if she would magically remember which of the two drooping heads had ordered the meaty stew.
“Here we go,” she said, as she slid the fish sandwich and fries in front of the elderly gentleman.
“This looks jus fine,” he said, clapping and rubbing his hands together with glee. “Do you have malt vinegar?”
“Yes,” Julie said, and in a moment of inspiration, set the bowl of chili down just at the edge of the table, between neither girl. “Let me run and get that for you.”
Relieved, she crossed to the service station and then turned around to see the girls had pulled the bowl of chili between them, and were sharing it.