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the monday timed writing that i put off until i could put it off no longer

February 20, 2012

[Happy Monday, folks, and welcome to Chasing Maybes. Here, I challenge myself not to believe everything I think.  It’s a fumble toward growth, and it’s lots of fun.]

So, I could write here that I’m posting my timed writing at eight o’clock at night because my children were home from school for President’s Day today and I overslept by two hours and I have had no quiet time to myself and I have a cough.

I could write that, because it is all true.  What is also true, though, is the fact that I really didn’t want to write on this particular prompt (chosen at random on Friday from The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood).  Frightened animals, civic leaders, and small audiences are, individually, elements that I think little about.  Stir them all together in one big pot?  Brutal.  Still, slogging through the unfamiliar (and falling down, and slogging again) is the purpose of my Chasing Maybes project.  My challenge-avoidance skills are well-honed — I don’t need to flex those muscles any more — but I can always use a little practice doing the hard stuff.

At any rate, the prompt is below, followed by my 30 minute, unedited vignette.  While I don’t necessarily like it, it gave me an idea for another story I am working on.  Man, do I love happy accidents.

“Work the following elements into a single scene: 

a frightened animal, a civic leader, a small audience.”


She hadn’t needed the microphone, a dormant monstrosity on the tabletop podium, after all.  The sticky-floored, chalk-smelling high school auditorium at Central (her alma mater) housed only fifteen people.  This wasn’t an estimate.  She had counted them as she waited for the first question from the floor.  When she’d been elected president of the Oak Haven Neighborhood Association last month (a unanimous vote cast by the twelve participants in attendance), she had briefly fantasized that her leadership would draw the citizenry out of their living rooms and into civic action.  She had, after all, been a fixture in this neighborhood for her entire life.  She knew everyone.  After a lifetime of digging, part of her had  believed she had finally unearthed her calling.

But there were only fifteen people in the auditorium.  In the second row, she noticed Florence Gunderson, the retired librarian who lived across the street. Feeling the left corner of her mouth begin to twitch (it did that when she got nervous), she smoothed a stray lock of hair behind her ear.  Silently, she begged old Florence to raise a timid hand, to ask a question about the proposed drug and alcohol rehab center breathing down their neighborhood’s neck.  She was prepared to respond to her neighbors’ fears, which she imagined were also hers, with the details of a letter-writing campaign she had organized.  She was prepared to provide email addresses and phone numbers, even pre-addressed stamped envelopes to the group.  But the silence in the old auditorium, unchanged since she’d starred in a 1978 production of “Oklahoma,” burned her ears.  In the second row, Florence didn’t even look up from her knitting.

Suddenly, the auditorium door flew open with a squeal and a clatter.  In the semidarkness, she saw only a large, back-lit figure.  Her brain tricked her for a moment and she thought it was a bear on its hind legs, frightened and wandering, lost from its mountain home.

“Help!” it wailed, spinning fifteen white heads around in their seats and sending her loping up the long auditorium aisle.


Whew.  All done.

Whatever you are putting off tonight — the dishes, the homework, the phone calls — I urge you to consider just jumping right in, headfirst and with enthusiasm.  You’ll never know what happy accidents might wait around the next bend unless you do.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

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