Speed Writing #17 – Fandom Mashup

“Gryffindor,” Mikhail said firmly.  “Neville Longbottom level.”

“Airbender,” Evie countered, a smug smile on her lips.

“What?” Mikhail asked, an eyebrow raised in confusion.  “Did you just jump fandoms on me?”

“Ashitaka is clearly an airbender,” she replied.  He was one of the few people she could have this type of argument with.  “He’s all about peace and freedom.  He’s practically a reincarnation of Aang.”  She paused for a moment, her eyes going to the ceiling.  “Though I’m not sure how that would work, since Aang’s already a reincarnation.  So maybe we could call him alternate reality Aang.”

“Nuh uh.”  Mikhail shook his head.  “I see him as more fire nation.”

“Fire what now?”

He laughed, rocking back on her couch to put his feet up on the ottoman.  “His mission was nearly impossible, but had the drive to accomplish it.  Totally a firebender trait.”  He shrugged.  “Though I would entertain an argument for earth.”

“He’d be water before either of those,” she insisted.  “He’s got the adaptability down.  How else could he leave his isolated village and manage to both cure his curse and save the forest?”

“If he’d been a waterbender, the loss of his community would have been too much of a blow for him.”  He pushed his hair back, though it wasn’t really hanging into his face.  “And I’d only agree to earth because of his persistence and strength.”

She let a puff of air out of the side of her mouth, suggesting disgust, though the way her eyes crinkled at the edges suggested amusement.  “He doesn’t have the temper of a firebender.  If he did, he would have conquered Irontown to force his plans.  He always asked.  He gave others a choice in their response.  He tried to see where they were coming from.”  She ticked her points off on her fingers. “Why else would he take a turn on the bellows and spend all that time with the people of Irontown?”

“Because he was devious,” he suggested.

“Mikhail!”  She gasped in mock outrage.  “I’m appalled.  Simply appalled.”

He laughed again.

“The forest spirit wouldn’t have helped him if he’d been a scheming snake oil salesman,” she said indignantly, pulling her feet up under her.  “He pushed for peaceful resolution and discussion.  Shave what’s left of his hair and dress him in orange; he’s an airbender.”

“Gryffendor,” he retorted.


“I’m starving,” he said calmly.

She giggled at the non-sequitur.  “Yeah, me too.”

He nodded once, decisively.  “Fine.  I’ll concede that Ashitaka is an airbender, and you can take me to dinner.”

She stared at him a moment, then swallowed.  “Okay.  Where you wanna go?”  Was this a friendly dinner or a date?  They’d been friends for months, and she was interested in a more romantic relationship.  One that came with kisses and cuddles; Mikhail seemed like he’d be good at both. 

“There’s an Indian place over on Johnson,” he suggested.  “I’ve heard it’s nice.”

She grinned.  “Perfect.”  She’d been there once, and the low lighting would definitely make it feel more like a date.  She stood up and grabbed her purse off her desk.  “Get your shoes on earth boy.  I’m taking you to dinner.”

Prompt: We started arguing about which Hogwarts house this one character would be in and we completely lost track of time, and now you’re demanding I take you to dinner.  Is this a date?

Speed Writing #15 – Heatwave

  The power was out, as it had been for the last three days.  Caleb sat on the front steps, leaning against the railing and fanning himself with the lid from the largest Tupperware bowl he’d been able to find.  The neighborhood was smothering in the sticky silence of the second brutal heat wave of the summer.  Nobody on this side of town could afford generators to power fans and refrigerators, and it was nearly too hot to move.  For some of the city’s elderly folks, moving too much had been a fatal mistake.

 Transformers were popping faster than the utility company could repair them, and it had become normal to hear the big diesel trucks rumbling around the city at all hours.  They still had water, but even it was warm, and he had to keep reminding himself to sip the liquid to replace what he was rapidly losing.

  The house was stuffy and oppressive.  The front porch was marginally better; there was a hint of a breeze every so often.  It wasn’t much, but he suddenly found he didn’t really need a lot to be content.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or the fact that eating just made him feel sick, or it was the increasing certainty that nature really had it out for him, but suddenly life was a whole lot simpler.

He closed his eyes and focused on his breath, the only real sound he could pick up.

 An almost inaudible low rumble rolled in the distance, and he slowly raised his head.  The sky was still gray, it had tricked people into expecting rain for a week or more.  But there was movement in the clouds now, sluggish, like the city, but present nonetheless.  He stared into the sky, half expecting it to be his mind playing tricks on him.  A bolt of lightning arced across the sky.  Moments later, thunder answered.

He didn’t want to get his hopes too high, and given the lethargy, it was easy not to.  He simply sat and waited to see what would come of this.  It may just be a cruel tease of nature, or it could be salvation.

Time didn’t matter so much, as he sat and sipped his tepid water, fanning himself with his plastic lid.  Eventually the breeze picked up, and with it, the neighborhood seemed to slowly come awake.  Neighbors who had been hiding in their bathtubs or basements crept out onto their front steps and yards.  The pretty lady across the street, who Caleb hadn’t quite gotten the nerve to introduce himself to, settled herself on the railing of her front porch.

 There was a new tension in the air.  While he could hear a little quiet muttering, no one seemed too keen to break the silence.  It was as if they were afraid too much talk would turn back the shower they all desperately awaited.  It wouldn’t have.  Caleb could see that in the clouds.  There was too much power wound up in this storm.  Under normal circumstances, he would have been more than a little worried about the potential for devastation, but now he embraced even that.

 It seemed only minutes and the neighborhood was plunged into twilight, though true night was hours off.  With no streetlights, it felt eerie, like a ghost town.  Next came great gusts of wind.  That alone started stirring people up.  It wasn’t exactly cool, but it had a cooling effect on a sweaty body.  Then the fat drops starting to fall,  rare and scattered few before becoming regular.

 Caleb levered himself off the steps, raising his face to the rain.

Prompt: thunderstorm after a menacing heatwave and we’re both getting weird looks for dancing in the rain

Note: I’m still off my game from the cold apparently.  Never even got to the dancing part, which is a bummer.  It was going to be epic.

Speed Writing #14 – Going Solo

I woke disoriented and my eyes felt gritty.  Sunlight was shining on me from a strange direction, though my blanket felt and smelled familiar.  I stretched and rubbed my eyes before looking around the room.  The eggshell white walls were bare and there were boxes stacked next to the dresser.  I was in a new apartment.  I’d moved my stuff in yesterday, but hadn’t finished in time to even start unpacking.  Kicking off the blanket, I sat up and rested my feet on the bare wood floor.  It was cool against my skin, so different from the carpet of my old place.  But that had kind of been the point.

The efficiency was my first apartment on my own.  The last place I’d shared with my boyfriend.  Ex-boyfriend, rather.  We’d broken up a couple months back, and it had been ugly and uncomfortable ever since.  To be honest, it hadn’t been comfortable for the two or three months leading to our dissolution.  Getting out was a relief, and it felt like I could finally breathe again.  But it was also a very definitive sign that we were really through and there was no reconciling.  Not that I really wanted him back.  I mean he’d been a jerk.  He’d already slept with two or three people since I told him we were through, and that didn’t count the ones he’d been with when we were supposedly monogamous.  It wasn’t the end of the relationship that was hard; it was more the destruction of the idea of what the relationship was supposed to have been that hurt.

As I was rummaging through boxes for a bowl, I heard the soft sound of footsteps upstairs.  One of the things that appealed to me about apartments was that I didn’t feel alone.  There were people all around me, but I had my own private space.  Victorious with my initial search, I tried to find my silverware.  Cautious shaking of boxes eventually revealed it to me.  I was just starting my quest for cereal when the gentle background sound of water running through pipes in my ceiling started up.  I closed my eyes and embraced the way these noises differed from my last place.  I needed to get used to them, because this would be home for a while.  

Thirty seconds later I was startled out of this contemplation by the most beautiful baritone voice singing “She Moved Through the Fair.” He was really good, and I wondered if he was a vocal music major at the university about a mile down the road.  He was way too good to be an amateur, yet it seemed unlikely that a professional would live in a building of mostly efficiencies and two bedroom apartments rented by college students and recent graduates.  I felt the smile spread over my face.  I had no idea who he was, and it didn’t matter.  This one moment had totally made my day.

I tried not to get attached to the voice of my unknown upstairs neighbor, but it was hard.  He always sang in the shower, and I was embarrassed to realize I’d memorized his routine.  Six am shower, every other day.  He seemed to prefer Italian to Latin, though there was a German piece that distracted me so thoroughly I’d burned the eggs I’d been scrambling.  He had a whole repertoire of English folk songs.  He sang in the evenings as well, but didn’t really belt it out like he did in the shower.  I was torn between telling him that his spontaneous arias were a bright spot in any day, and accepting it as a gift from the universe.

The universe, as it turned out, had other ideas.  Ideas involving the two of us retrieving our mail at the same time.

Prompt: You live in the apartment above me and every day I can hear you singing in the shower; you’re really good and it makes my day.

Note:  I had to write this in two 15 minute stints because of a minor dinner calamity.  Everyone survived, and the lentil stew was awesome.

Speed Writing #12 – A Soggy Start

Morning dawned gloomy and threatening rain. The campground was filled with the nervous energy of people packing up as quickly as possible to beat the weather, or adjusting their tarps and rain flies to tough it out. By the time the first fat drops fell, those who remained planned to see it through.

Chai tossed a book and fuzzy blanket down on the couch of her motor home and went to put on the tea kettle. As she waited for the water to boil, she gazed out into the mostly deserted campground. There were only two tents left and herself. One of the tents was a high end enormous structure that looked well anchored down. The other, closer tent, was a tiny backpacker model designed more for weight and insect protection than severe weather. She frowned, wondering if its inhabitant was ready for a day long soaking which would surely seep through the light rip-stop. There was a green internal frame pack leaning against the closest tree.

Chai settled on the couch, snuggled into the blanket with her tea and book. She loved the low rolling thunder in the background and the gentle pounding of the rain. After a while, she set aside the book and closed her eyes to enjoy the weather.

She was startled out of her reverie by a loud crack of thunder. As she got up to refill her tea cup, her eyes were drawn out the window to the hiking tent. She felt her forehead furrow as she frowned. Water was ponding throughout the campground, and the tiny tent was surrounded. It wasn’t really warm enough to be comfortable thoroughly soaked. She understood the desire to be close to nature, but this just seemed too unpleasant.

Grabbing her umbrella and slipping on her hiking boots, Chai pushed open the lightweight side door and stepped down into the mud. “Excuse me,“ she called as she approached, hoping to be heard over the pattering of rain. “Is anyone in this tent?”

“Yes, I’m here,” a woman replied.

“Are you okay out here?” Chai asked. “It’s not that I doubt your abilities or anything, but I’ve camped in this weather before and was thinking you might be a bit wet.“

There was a shuffling noise of nylon against nylon. “Yeah. It’s more than a bit wet,” the woman agreed.

“Well if you’d like to get out of the weather, you’re welcome to join me,” Chai offered. “I’m your neighbor in the motor home, and I’ve got tea and cocoa.“

The zipper sounded as the woman opened her tent. “I’d love to.” She looked to be in her early thirties, and quite damp. “Is it all right if I bring my pack?“ She gestured to the tarp covered lump by the tree. “I may have something dry to change into.”

“No problem,” Chai said. “You can leave it in the shower enclosure to dry once you’ve changed.“

Prompt: “you’ve been camping in a crappy tent next to my really comfortable caravan/motor home and it’s been raining cats and dogs for ages, do you want to come in and have a hot cocoa to warm up?”

Notes: This was written in two chunks, the first started on a Saturday while waiting for my daughter’s dance class to wrap up. It was finished on a Sunday when I was sick and asthmatic. So my brain was less quick and agile, which may be apparent. I thought about not posting this, but figured it serves as an example that not every writing day is a good writing day, and that’s okay. It’s part of the process, and it’s true for any art.

Speed Writing #11 – 2 AM Snack

The rumbling of my stomach woke me.  I rubbed it, hoping it would stop, then rolled over to glance at the clock.  Fuck.  Two am?  Seriously?  I burrowed back under my blankets, but it was no use.  There was no going back to sleep without a snack.

  As I padded to the kitchen I remembered that because I’d picked up an extra shift, I hadn’t actually been to the grocery store.  I was out of nearly everything.  I could make up some plain pasta with butter and salt, though that had been dinner.  Or maybe heat up a can of green beans.  Yeah.  That wasn’t happening.  I went back to my room for a sweatshirt, and pulled my hair into a messy tail on the back of my head.  As a whim, I decided my nightgown was perhaps a bit too risqué to be traipsing around in on State Street, so I yanked on a pair of long yoga shorts.  They were supposed to be capris but my ungodly long legs made them knickers.  Perfect.  I looked like a crazy disaster, which meant no one would bother me.

  I didn’t even mess with socks as I stuffed my feet into the shoes waiting by the door.  I took a moment for inventory.  Keys?  Check.  Wallet?  Check.  Cell phone?  Eh.  I could live five minutes without it.

  I stepped out into the hallway, brighter than my apartment had been, and was surprised to find my neighbor Karl in a sleeping bag on the floor.  We stared at each other for a moment, as though both of us were trying to find a polite way to ignore the weird.  His pale cheeks went slightly pink.  “Uhhh.  Hi, Tien,” he said shyly.

  “Are you locked out?” I asked.  It didn’t seem quite right, because he was awful prepared for that.

  Sitting up, he shook his head, his long blond curls bouncing on his shoulders.  God, I wished I had his hair.  “Andy’s fiancée is here for the weekend.”

  It took me a moment to figure out exactly what that meant.  Their apartment was a mirror of mine, and the two guys shared a room.  Oh.  Yeah.  That’d be awkward.  “Don’t you have a couch?”

  He looked down.  “They’re really loud,” he said delicately.

  I couldn’t help but giggle.  “Wanna go get some ice cream?  I have the munchies and I’m all out of groceries.”

  “Sure.”  He unzipped his sleeping bag and pulled on his shoes before standing up.  “Beats lying here.”  He slept in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, which was unfortunate because Karl was pretty easy on the eyes.  Or maybe he just dressed that way when he was stuck sleeping in the hallway.  “Oh crap.  I don’t have my wallet, and I am not going in there for it.  But I can still walk with you, if you want.”

  “Yeah.  Come on,” I looped my arm around his, a little surprised by my own forwardness.  Apparently being tired did something to my inhibitions.   “Triangle market has Ben and Jerry’s.  It’ll be my treat.”

  “You don’t have to,” he said, and I noticed he was being careful not to pull his arm out of mine.  “But I can’t bear to pass up the offer.”  He smiled, showing teeth so perfect they had to have been straightened at some point.

  We managed to get all the way to the sidewalk without disconnecting, and it somehow didn’t feel forced, even though I was totally making an effort.  I regretted the sweatshirt, which kept me from feeling his skin against my own.  “I like Phish Food because of the fudge fish.”

  Still grinning, he shook his head.  “No way.  Chocolate Fudge Brownie is the superior option for meeting your chocolate needs.  Chocolate Therapy is good, too, but they don’t usually carry it.”

  This guy spoke my language.   “What about S’mores?”

  He stuck out his tongue in disgust.  “Not enough chocolate, the graham crackers are weird, and I’m not used to eating marshmallows.”

  “Is there something wrong with marshmallows?”  Sure they were obnoxiously sweet, but that was the point.

  “Marshmallows aren’t vegetarian.  And I feel weird eating something that tastes like them, even if it doesn’t have gelatin in it.”  His blue eyes were wide, reflecting the street lamps, and he looked like he was having fun.

  “You wanna sleep on my couch?” I abruptly offered.

  He missed a step, but recovered quickly enough that I didn’t have to let go of his arm.  “Yeah.  I mean, if it’s not too much trouble.”

  I bumped him with my shoulder.  “It’s no trouble.”

  “Thanks.”  He squeezed my arm a little.  After a few moments of silence he suggested, “If you get eggs and bread, I’ll make you breakfast.”

Prompt: I got up at 2 am to get some snacks at the convenience store down the street and opened my door to find you sleeping on the floor of the hallway because your roommate has his finacee over so I guess I’ll lend you my couch for the night

If you want the genesis and rules for this project, or to read the other completed exercises, go to my Completed Exercises section.

Speed Writing #10 – Fumbled Shot

Stupid forest.  Stupid right of passage requirements.  Stupid bow and arrow.

So I’m not your typical elf.  Yes, I’m tall and can pretend to be a willow tree if I really try.  And it’s dark.  And you’re half blind.  I can stomp through the woods without making the kind of noise that draws attention, even if I want to call attention to myself.  I’m pretty smart, though I don’t think I’m really old enough to be considered wise.  I mean, who’s wise at nineteen?

My people have a rich culture mired in our history, and no one clings to tradition and history like elves.  I mean, I have some cousins, on my dad’s side, who still work for Saint Nicholas, despite the fact that their great, great, great, great grandparents fulfilled the terms of that indenture contract.  This might sound great, if you’re the sort of person who prefers stability to uncertainty, and custom to progress.

I’m a philosopher by nature.  My brother would say I’m argumentative, but that’s just not true.  I feel it’s healthy to question everything.  I mean, just because something worked well five hundred years ago, doesn’t mean it’s still the right choice today.  But nobody listens to me.

So here I am, tromping through the forest trying to kill some poor defenseless animal to prove myself a contributing member of society.  I proposed the much harder, and more interesting, coming of age challenge of creating and maintaining a garden for an entire summer, but the elders completely shot that down.  I don’t even eat meat.  This whole thing is barbaric.  Ugh.

Through the trees I see movement.  Great.  It’s a deer.  Rolling my eyes in disgust, I knock an arrow and pull back, aiming down the shaft.  I feel sick.  I let the string slide off the tips of my fingers and the deer bounds away into the low shrubs.

“Holy fuck!”  My eyes widen as I hear the loudest, and most interesting string of profanities echo through the trees.

Have I mentioned that I’m an impressively awful archer?

“Oh Aelfwaru,” I whisper, wincing.  I’ve hit someone.  And she’s really unhappy about it.  Instead of running away, which is what most of my kin would do, I dart toward the shouts.  “Are you okay?” I call.  I shake my head as I realize she won’t hear me anyway.  Stupid magic.  “Oh my alder, I am so sorry.”  I push my way through the sumac to find my unintentional victim.

She’s bent over to the side, clutching at her upper arm, her eyes pinched tight and her breathing shallow.  I see my fletching protruding from the back of her shoulder.  I drop my things and rush to her side.  “It’s going to be okay,” I whisper.  “Here, sit down.”  I have no idea what to do about this, but I have to make it right.

Her head snaps up in surprise, and the front of my jerkin is clutched in her fist before I have a chance to step back.  “Who the bloody blazes are you?” she demands, giving me a rough shake.

“I’m Högni,” I answer automatically, which is weird, because I’m never that forthcoming with strangers.  I reach out and try to peel her hand off my clothes.  “Let me help you, please.”  She’s older than me, but not by as much as I would have expected.  But then again, she could just look young.  If her face wasn’t contorted in rage and pain, she’d be very pretty.  Who am I kidding?  She’s pretty even with her twisted expression.  Her skin is the red brown color of oak leaves in the fall, and her eyes are almost black.  Then I catch sight of a necklace peeking out from under her tunic.  She’s a wizard.  I am in so much trouble.

“How do you propose to do that?” she demanded, giving me another shake.

I can no longer meet her eyes.  “In any way that you wish.  I’m so sorry.  Please don’t turn me into a beast.  I wasn’t trying to shoot you.  I didn’t even know you were here.”  Aelfwaru, my mouth runs over.  “Please let me make this right,” I beg.

She releases me and I flinch, expecting the worst.

“You shot me?” her voice is quiet now.  Somehow reminiscent of a deadly snake.

I reluctantly nod.  “I’m supposed to be proving myself a capable adult, but it’s barbaric.  And I’m terrible at archery.  I swear I was aiming for a deer, and I didn’t really want to hit her either, but I missed anyway, and I guess I hit you.  Because that’s definitely my arrow, and I’m really, really sorry.”  I only stop when forced to take a breath.  “Please sit down.  You’re in pain, and it’s my fault, and I want to help.”

Prompt: I’m an elf with really bad aim, so while hunting I accidentally shot you in the shoulder with an arrow.  I’m so sorry, can I make it up to you in any way?  Oh shit.  You’re a wizard.  Please don’t turn me into a frog; I’ll do anything you want me to.

Speed Writing #9 – Inappropriate Apparel

The air was more than crisp as I stood at the bus stop, embracing the predawn stillness.  I’d had to haul out my hat and gloves this morning, and I could smell a hint of snow with each inhalation.  I tipped my head back and yawned, admiring the deep blue of the sky, where only the brightest stars and Venus could be seen. It was so quiet that everyday noises came across as intrusive.  The crunch of gravel and scrape of rubber soles against concrete warned me that someone was coming up the sidewalk behind me.

I glanced at him… well, it started as a glance but turned into straight out gawking.  The young man had sandy brown hair that would’ve fit right in with the skateboarders back when I was in high school.  He looked about twenty-four, roughly my age, and he hadn’t dressed anywhere close to appropriate for the temperature.  His short shorts and T-shirt showed off his very fine limbs;  He was obviously an athlete, but didn’t have weirdly bulky muscles.  He was several inches shorter than me, and had his head down, eyes pointed at his trainers, so I don’t think he noticed my lapse in manners.

He stopped a few feet away, and didn’t continue on as I’d expected. “Good morning,” I said, my Minnesota nice upbringing taking over before the rational part of my brain could stop it.

He raised his head slightly, looking oddly cowed as his eyes met mine. “Hi.”  He wrapped his arms around himself, his hands briskly rubbing against his biceps.

“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, unable to keep the question from leaping out of my mouth.

He shrugged, his hazel eyes darting to the left.

“Dude, it’s like thirty degrees out here,” I said in shock.

“Not much I can do about that,” he said, shrugging again.  He turned away, clearly not interested in continuing the conversation.  He looked so miserable and pathetic, wanted to do something to help him out, but if he didn’t want to talk to me, there wasn’t much I could do.

We stood in silence for a few minutes, the sky just starting to lighten with the rising sun, when a gentle breeze picked up.  I heard a gasp, and a stifled curse.  He was rubbing his arms more vigorously, but it didn’t think it was helping.  “Oh for fuck’s sake,“ I muttered, slipping my backpack off my shoulder.  I unzipped my jacket, a layer of Gore-Tex and a layer of fleece.  Under that I had a dark blue hoodie.  I took that off and draped it over his shoulders.  He looked up in surprise.

“Put this on,” I said sternly, grabbing one of his hands and shoving it into the sleeve.  I would not be accepting any kind of polite refusal, and I wanted to make that clear.  I quickly pulled my own jacket back on, and tried not to think about how nice his hand felt in mine for that brief moment.  The cold had made him clumsy, so I zipped myself up quicker.  I reached over and took care of his while he was fumbling with getting his hands out of the overlong sleeves. “No, don’t.”  I caught one of his wrists.  “Stayed tucked in there.“  I tugged the hood up onto his head.

“Thanks.” His voice was barely a whisper.

“It’s nothing,” I assured him, realizing he was looking at me now. God, he was like a puppy who’d been left out in the rain, pathetic and adorable.“Is it a little better?”

He nodded immediately, smiling shyly.  “It’s still warm, uh, from you wearing it.  It’s lots better.“  

Written with DragonNaturally Speaking

Prompt: I catch you at the bus terminal shivering your ass off because it’s 30 degrees and for some godforsaken reason you’re wearing a short sleeve t-shirt, so out of pity I lend you my hoodie, and you look so surprised.  It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, setting aside the fact that you’re a goddamn idiot.  Do you want to get sick?

Speed Writing #8 – Good Deeds

“Excuse me.”  The young voice startled me, and I looked up from where I was hunched into the trunk of my car, rummaging for the jack.  She looked Japanese and about fourteen.  Her black and silver clothes made me think of the night sky.  She stood in the center of the sidewalk, a hopeful expression on her face. 

“Do you have a map I could borrow?” she asked.

“Uhh…”  It took me a moment to pull my brain from the track it was on, to one that could answer her question.  Poor kid was lost.  I realized she wasn’t alone, though.  Another girl, similarly dressed, stood in the grass several feet back.  She was holding what looked like a couple of brooms behind her back.  “I don’t have like a paper map or anything,” I said, wondering what happened to the one I used to keep in the glove box.  “But I could pull one up on my phone, if that would help.”

She looked puzzled.  “You can do that?” she asked.

I smiled and straightened up, taking a step closer.  “Yeah.”  I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and held it up for her to see.  “Here, I’ll show you.”  My fingers slid quickly across the screen, unlocking the device, then navigating to the map app.  While it loaded, I turned it toward her.

“That’s a phone?”  She blinked a couple of times.

I nodded.  “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a smart phone.”  It didn’t seem possible.

She smiled, and something about it was secretive.  “I’ve never seen a phone like this.”  She glanced over her shoulder, her straight black hair twirling out about her shoulders.  “San, do you want to see it?”

The other girl shook her head stiffly.

The first one shrugged and turned back to my phone.  “She’s a little nervous,” she whispered.  “It’s her first big outing and she’s never been lost before.”

“You have?” I asked.  The map had loaded, and I tapped the GPS button, and it adjusted to our location.

She giggled.  “Lots of times.”

“So why don’t you have a map?”  It seemed a bit obvious.

“It’s more fun if you have to work at it,” she said.  “So it’s more memorable.  You don’t ever forget and get lost in the same place twice this way.”

“Where are you from?” I asked, thinking it odd that a girl her age was accustomed to getting lost.  Her philosophy about it was strangely mature.

“Oh, you wouldn’t have heard of it,” she assured me.  “It’s a tiny little town.”  She stared at the screen.  “So we’re… here?”  She pointed to the red pin marking our place on the map.

“Yup.  Where are you trying to get to?”

She chewed on her lower lip as she thought for a moment.  “I think you call it Raspberry Island.”

I smiled, it sounded like she was a tourist, translating the place name from her own language.  “Do you have a different name for it?”  I turned my phone sideways and dragged the map a little to find the island.

“Of course.  Oh!”  She smiled brightly and pointed to the screen, careful not to touch it.  “There it is.”  She glanced back over her shoulder.  “We’re only a little off course San.  We’ll be there in no time.”

“So what are you doing?” I asked.  “How’d you get lost?”

“We’re meeting at Raspberry Island,” she said.  “We’ve all been left someplace we’ve never been, and we have to find our way there.”  She looked up at me.  “Don’t worry.  It’s not cheating to get help like this.”

“So it’s a competition or something?”  Someone had dropped young teens all over St. Paul with these instructions?  That seemed kind of harsh.

“More of a test,” she corrected.

“Do you need a ride or want the bus schedule or anything?”  Raspberry Island was easily three miles away.

She grinned.  “Oh, no thank you.  But it’s very kind of you to offer.”  She looked at my car, parked at the curb.  “And I do appreciate you interrupting what you’re doing to help us.”

“No problem.”  I’d forgotten about my flat tire, and the break from that frustration had actually been quite welcome.

“Have a good evening,” she said, before turning to her friend, her hand held out.  The other girl passed one of the brooms to her.

“Thanks.  You too.”  Then I froze and watched, dumbfounded as they straddled their brooms and floated up into the evening sky.  When I finally got back to my tire, it was no longer flat.

Prompt: Do you have a map I could borrow?

Speed Writing #7 – Intimidation Gone Awry

I leaned against my elbows on the high top table and gazed at the stage.  The between set curtain was still down, and I could see tennis shoes moving back and forth while the roadies set up for the next band, and real reason I was even here.

Clubs were not my scene, but once in a while there was a band I liked enough to endure the crowds and noise.  The Fratellis fell into that camp, so here I was, at First Avenue, by myself, waiting.  At least no one had spilled their beer on me, and my feet were relatively unscathed so far.  Unlike my friends, who dressed up to go out, I preferred to wear clothes I didn’t care about.

I felt the table jiggle a bit and turned my head to see the guy who’d taken the stool next to me.

“Is it okay if I sit here? ” he asked.

I shrugged.  “It’s a free country. “  Usually sounding bored and disinterested worked on those few who decided to hit on me.

He looked puzzled.  “I mean, you’re not saving it for anyone or anything like that, are you?”

I shook my head.  “Nope. “

He smiled, and I cringed internally.  Instead of a friendly expression, it showed his ego, in all its glory.  Ugh.  I wondered if he practiced that one, thinking it looked sexy.  Then I wondered how many other women agreed with him, or at least went along with it.

“So, I saw you sitting over here,” he said, ignoring my cues.  “And I thought a girl as cute as you shouldn’t be alone.“ 

I raised an eyebrow as I looked at him.  Cute?  I was a lot of things, but cute was nowhere on the menu of options.

“Did you get stood up or something?” he asked, his attempted concern coming out as condescension.

“Nope.  Sometimes I like to do things by myself.”  I looked around.  “Like concerts.“

He frowned.  “Now that’s just sad,” he insisted.  “Going to concerts alone… that’s the loneliest thing ever.“

“I’m good, really,” I assured him.

“Are you?”  He grinned and winked suggestively.  “I’m told I’m good, too.“

Oh how gross.  I’m pretty sure some of my revulsion made it past my social filter onto my face.

“What?” he asked in a teasing voice.  “Don’t believe me?  I’d be happy to let you decide for yourself.“

That was it.  I couldn’t put up with this crap any longer.  I fully turned to him.  “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Surprise seemed to have stifled his ability to speak.

“I’m obviously not interested.  I’ve got a pretty clear ‘fuck-off’ vibe going on here.”  I glared at him.  “Were you raised by socially inept howler monkeys or something?“

“Woah.”  He held up both hands in a placating gesture that felt fake.  “Just relax, babe.“



“I’m not overreacting, and I will not relax,” I stated firmly.  “I didn’t come here for losers like you.“

He stared and blinked a couple of times.  “I’m just saying that I’m not trying to hurt you.  Hell, I’m complimenting you.”  He had some gall to sound annoyed.

“I don’t want or need your compliments.”  I really shouldn’t have to break things down this way, but that’s what life in a rape culture brings us to.  “Leave me alone.“

He rolled his eyes.  “You act like I’m threatening you.”

Scowling, I looked straight into his eyes.  “I would never feel threatened by you.“

That must have stung, because he got to his feet, his smarmy smile gone as he clenched his teeth.  “I wouldn’t be so sure of that, if I were you,” he snapped, pushing back his shoulders and looking down at me.

He was clearly used to his physical presence intimidating others.  What an asshole.  I smiled and stood up, easily eye to eye with him despite my battered Chuck Taylors.  I planted my hands on my hips.  “You’re tall.  So am I.  You look like you work out.  So do I.  You want to try your odds against a third degree black belt?“

Prompt: You’re used to people having to look up at you and being intimidated by your height, but now that I’m standing, you’re a bit surprised to find me eye-to-eye with you, and now you’re starting to regret that snarky remark.

Speed Writing #6 – Pannetone Papers and Poor Choices

He had just dropped the last of the bread dough into a pan when his cell phone started to vibrate in his back pocket.  He quickly brushed his hands off on the front of his apron before reaching back to blindly turn it off.  It was his five-minute warning.  She was like clockwork.  While she’d only lived in the upstairs apartment for about two weeks, he already had her morning schedule down.

“I’m going out for panettone papers, do you need anything?” he called to Elise, his boss and the owner of the bakery.

“Can you bring me two dozen eggs?”  She responded from behind the double-decker oven on the other side of the kitchen, her usual location this time of day.

“Sure thing.”  He pulled off his apron and hung it on a peg near the back door, then went out into the alley.   

When Elise first opened the bakery, she’d converted the old garage into storage.  Anything that couldn’t handle the heat of the kitchen, especially consistent heat day after day, and perishable supplies were kept out here.  In the winter, it was a nice break from the heat to walk the fifteen feet to the store room.  Normally the alley was quiet and empty.  But that had changed about two weeks ago. He hadn’t actually even met her yet, didn’t know her name, but somehow just the sight of her could turn even the worst day around. Sure, she was pretty, but it wasn’t just that.  There was something else about her, and he couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

He was going to have to hurry if he was going to make this look natural.  He punched in the lock’s code, waiting for it to beep cheerfully at him before walking into store room.  The lights came on before he’d made it two steps.  He gathered up his supplies and hesitated, peeking out the window for just a moment.  As he tugged the door to latch it, he heard footsteps on the wooden stairs from the apartment.  He had to take a deep breath to squelch the jolt of energy he felt the timing it so perfectly.

The stairs ended about six feet away from the bakery’s back entry.  When he turned around she was halfway down the steps, and looking at him.  “Good morning,“ he called, smiling warmly at her.

“Hello.”  She looked a little different today, With streaks of blue running through her blonde hair.

“I like the new look,” he said.

She blushed, then nearly missed a step, and blushed harder.  “Um, thanks.”  She looked down at her feet until she made it to the cement landing.

He couldn’t quite keep the grin off his face.  He’d flustered her.  That was a good sign, right?  Unless, of course, he was freaking her out.  After all, he was kind of stalking her, if you wanted to be technical about it.  He hadn’t thought about it that way, and a wave of guilt washed over him. “Have a great day,” he said, feeling a little awkward, as he ducked his head and rushed back into the bakery.

At what point had he crossed the line from harmless flirting to creepy jerk?

He disabled his timer and intentionally avoided making supply runs during her morning departure the next day.

On Friday, he was tucking the rye loaves under a towel for their final rise when he heard her coming down the steps.  He really wanted to see her, to feel the way his heart sped up and his stomach dropped when she met his eyes, but he turned away from the back window, making a point of not watching her.

“Her name’s Carina,” Elise said, startling him.

He looked up, surprised to find his boss right beside him.  “What?”

Elise smirked.  “My new renter. Her name is Carina.”

“Oh?”  He nodded, trying not to seem too interested.  Even her name was beautiful.

“She misses seeing you in the mornings,” she added.  “She asked me if you’d gotten sick or something.”

“Uhh…”  He felt his face go hot.  He shrugged, trying to sound nonchalant.  “I guess I’ve bumped into her a few times.”

Elise cackled.  “Dude, you were setting an alarm to keep tabs on her.”

“You noticed that?”  Oh god. What did she think of him?  “Why didn’t you tell me I was being a creep?”

Prompt: This really cute guy rented the apartment over the bakery/flower shop/store where I work, and I keep trying to find excuses to be outside when he comes home.

Modifications: the cute renter is a woman