Author’s Note: If you watched one of my writing sprints 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
5.7.21 Today’s Prompt: Use the following five words in your story: paragraph, contradiction, cereal, dynamic, expectation
A collective sigh rose up from the students as the teacher turned and printed a long homework assignment on the board. Sally snapped her gum.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Mary said, rolling her eyes and checking to see if Mrs. Marcom had put a quotation mark at the beginning of the prompt, or not. It made a difference – if Mrs. Marcom put it in quotes, it was meant to be used in the story.
“At least one paragraph,” Mary tapped her chin with her pencil. Does that mean three sentences, minimum, or do you think I could get away with one big old sentence adorned with semi-colons and em dashes?”
“Are you serious right now?” Sally snapped her gum again and tapped her pencil on her bare desktop. “You really plan on writing that stupid thing?” She sneered in the direction of the fastidious teacher, who was stacking her papers in preparation for the long weekend ahead.
“You know I have to live up to a certain expectation,” I murmured. Sally sighed. She knew what it was like in my house. At her house, we got the sugar cereal and even poptarts for breakfast, if we wanted. Not at sally’s house; her Mom just left her a twenty on the counter and asked her to make sure she didn’t go hungry every morning.
Sometimes Mary longed to be Sally.
“You’re a walking contradiction,” she muttered back, slapping a rhythm on the pine Mary knew would come out later when she strummed her guitar and Mary cruised through her Tiger Beat. “You hit the books like crazy, but seems like you want to party all the time. I can’t figure it out.”
“Gotta get that white picket fence, you know. It’s what’s expected.”
The bell rang and the girls scuffled down the hall to Sally’s locker – which was too skinny to house her guitar, in spite of what the sitcoms they saw as kids had promised. Sally had worn out her gum, I guess, because she stuck it to the inside of her locker.
“You need anything out of there?” She asked.
“Nah, but let me toss this in.” I lobbed the heavy science tome into the heap of crumpled papers and brown lunch sacks, oozing with rotten fruit, that had collected in the bottom of this communal cesspool. Three of us shared this particular locker, and the others, conveniently located in the buildings separate pods.
“I really have a dynamic expectation for the song you are going to write later, Sally,” Mary said.
“I had a really high expectation when the author wrote the first paragraph,” Sally replied. “Let’s hope it is not a disappointing day for us, both!”
5.14.21 Today’s Prompt: “How did you come by such a big sum of money?”
“How did you come by such a big sum of money,” Millicent asked, lowering her lashes and twisting the stem of her wine glass. It was the question she knew she was expected to ask; Daniel sat there, all propped up on his chair cushions, with a big cigar in one hand and a Dewars on the rocks in the other, just as he always did, holding court for Millicent and the other ladies of the garden society, who never seemed to understand that the name of the game was to coax the funding they needed from the hand of this misdirected would-be sugar Daddy.
“It was all speculation, my dear.” Daniel tapped his temple with a finger from the cigar hand. “Brilliant business deal on my part. Bought that back forty when it was worth peanuts. No, not even peanuts – as I recall, that’s what crop was growin there when I bought them out.”
He laughed and Millicent smiled. Jodi, who had at least half a clue and enjoyed being brought along for the sake of the refreshments Daniel always had brought out by his people – whom he sneeringly and repeatedly referred to by a racist moniker no decent person would use in polite company. He dropped it again and Millicent twisted the linen napkin in her lap.
Why hadn’t the grant funding come through?
She sighed inwardly and tried to hold back tears as she let this bloviated whale of a man drone on and on about his personal brilliance, while she imagined imaginary dollars flying out of the gaps around the windows down at the Little Saints home for orphaned children. Why, she wondered, was she forced to sit there, like every other person in this man’s life, and pretend that he was something amazing?
Because he has the money, and I don’t, she thought, swallowing the truth like a pill along with the swallow of wine so expensive, the people on her block would have had to take up a collection to afford a single bottle.
“Will you excuse me,” she said. She slipped into the gilded guest powder room, and cried.
5.21.21 Today’s Prompt – Where in the world is Jenifer Carll-Tong?
There was a squirrel in the yard. It had been there all morning, hopping around digging up whatever it is squirrels dig up. Making a mental note to look that up sometime soon I went into the kitchen to get myself another cup of coffee.
The phone rang. I looked at the screen and rolled my eyes before clicking the green button. “Hi, Rhonda.”
I normally don’t roll my eyes when Rhonda calls but she’d been on a really dramatic streak lately. The last time she called me, it was because she had inadvertently placed her readers on top of her head and had looked everywhere but there for them. It was the first place I’d suggested and she’d been super grateful, but I was anticipating another dramatic escapade, and I was really looking forward to escaping into googles world of squirrel facts.
“Where in the world is Jenifer?” She asked. She sounded like she’d just run up a flight of stairs so I expected there was something very, terribly wrong.
“Why? What’s going on?” I asked, panicked myself. Irritated that I would let Rhonda’s energy disturb my own peace, I breathed a “now, now, now,” to bring myself back to the present and the likelihood of acorns in cleverly planted positions all over my front yard. I smiled at the recollection of the fuzzy-eared baby squirrel I’d seen. Squirrels are scrawny here in Flordia. I remember the ones in Michigan were quite plump…
“Jamie!” Rhonda snapped me back to reality. “Do you know where she is, or what?”
“Rhonda, what’s going on?” I was clamer this time.
“She’s number one, that’s what’s going on!”
“Number one? Where? What?!”
Squirrels suddenly forgotten, I raced to my laptop. As usual, I had to bang on everything from the enter button to the space bar to the power circle in the corner to get it to wake up.
“This is like some stupid magic genie lamp,” I said, cursing – because Rhonda seldom checks me on that and i know I can get away with it.
“Try rubbing it instead of banging on it, maybe you’ll get somewhere,” she offered.
“Har, har,” I snarked back, adding a genuinely surprised,
“You can hear that?”
“Yeah. You’re totally wailing on that thing. I’m surprised you haven’t broken it.’
“It’s not my fault they make these things so confoundedly temperamental.”
Rhonda stayed quiet through my temper tantrum and I was able to load up the google.
“Okay, where am I looking? Where is she number one?”
“Go to facebook.”
“What? Rhonda, can’t you just answer me?”
“No, just trust me.”
I went to facebook and there on my feed was a post Rhonda had tagged me in, showing Jenifer, beaming with joy, on the set of Janette Oakes latest book to TV miniseries.
“You’re kidding! She won!”
“Yes! They’re going to take her on as a writer! She’s getting a big pile of money and a contract and a secretary and everything!”
“A SECRETARY!” I jumped from my chair and leapt up and down. “SHE HIT THE JACKPOT!”
5.28.21 Today’s Prompt: Doodling
The pen didn’t work. I scowled and fished in my purse for another. No good, in spite of my repeated scribbling on the same spot for long enough to make a hole in the top sheet.
I flipped to the next one, exasperated, and went back to my purse for yet another fishing expedition. I found a lip liner this time and was half tempted just to make it work, but I couldn’t stand the idea of prissy Jenny Finklestein looking over and spotting me doing so.
“Who cares what she thinks,” I chastised myself, even though the answer was, very clearly, “I do.”
As if it would help me locate a pen easier, I poked my tongue out and rolled my eyes up and to the left. It was of course at this moment that Mark Smith tapped me on the shoulder with a folded note.
I huffed and turned. There he was with his big brown eyes, smiling at me with his adorable, dimpled grin, handing me a note for Jenny.
Of course I didn’t smile back. Of course, I snatched the note with the same saucy attitude I always did. Of course, I launched the note to Jenny Finklestien by flicking it with my thumb and forefinger, sending it toward her like a pop up fly.
My timing was off, though. It was never off. This time, Mrs. Kensworth turned from the board in time for her head to trace the trajectory of the note as it arced, end-over-end toward jenny.
“What is this?” Mrs. Kensworth said, and I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to prevent “what do you think it is?” from flying out as she strode purposefully across the room and snatched up the note.
She didn’t unfold or read it, thank God – the school I went to would have handed her backside to her if she’d humiliated any one of us, but she did tuck that little note into her dress pocket.
“Time to get back to your studies, Miram,” she said to me. There was a twitter of laugher in the room, but nothing else, save for Jenny Finklestein’s glare which shouted,
“nice going, moron,” at me in the ensuing silence.
I sat there wondering how I would ever be able to face Mark Smith, whom I was assured was sitting in the desk behind me, meticulously plotting my revenge killing. I was convinced the bell would ring and I would be rendered physically incapable of standing, of turning. For the rest of the period, I forgot all about doodling, and instead focused all my energy into making myself invisible at the molecular level.
Of course, that didn’t work – had never worked, no matter how much time I spent on that particular endeavor. As usual, the exercise only made me more aware of how sweaty my clothing had become during the long day and of how desperately I wanted to go home and take off my bra. I glanced at my watch – still twenty endless minutes to tick by before the inevitable judgement.
I felt something poke my back and froze. It felt suspiciously like the end of a pencil. I checked Mrs. Kenworth – reading. I turned to look. Mark Smith was there, as expected, but instead of meeting with disappointed dimples, I met with a cute young man holding up his own doodle pad, upon which he’d written in giant, graffiti-style letters – “sorry”.
I grinned, and couldn’t help but look over at Jenny. Mark tapped his desk. I looked back. He shook his head and held up a finger. Anxious about Mrs. Kenworth, I turned back around in my seat. After a moment, the back poke came again.
I looked, expecting another marquee message, but this time I was handed a note, not folded save for one single crease to conceal the contents.
My name was written on the outside.
My name, in Mark Smith’s handwriting.
My heart thumped in triple time as I slipped open the paper.
That’s all I’m going to write. I feel I would just disappoint you with the time I have left. Why not write your own ending? I’d love to read it! Thanks for watching!