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

Speed Writing #5 – Fairly Artistic

She looked down into the swiftly flowing water of the tiny stream, imagining her troubles flowing away with the water.  If they bumped into a couple of rocks and cracked along the way, so much the better.

“Excuse me –”

She shrieked in surprise, turning so fast her feet slipped on the gritty limestone.  Her arms pinwheeled desperately in an attempt to catch her balance.  She felt her hand hit something, then everything stopped for just a moment.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly.  “You’re not going to fall.”  Though a Germanic accent colored his speech, his English was perfect.

She was leaning sideways over the stream, her right arm stretched toward the rippling water.  An arm was around her waist, and she slowly turned to see who held her.  She gulped as her glance turned into a stare.  He was a tall man with the clearest blue eyes she’d ever seen.  His hair was very light blonde, almost white, and it hung past his shoulders.  He looked about her age.

“Are you all right?” he asked, eyebrows furrowing in concern.

She nodded, unsure if she could even talk just now.  Where had he come from?  How had he sneaked up on her so easily?  Was she really that distracted?  Though she probably should have been a little worried about his proximity, she somehow felt he meant her no harm.

“Here, why don’t you sit down.”  He slowly backed up a step, pulling her more upright with him.  Once she was no longer in danger of falling, he withdrew his arm and gestured to the nearby park bench.

“Uh, I can’t.”  She winced at how stupid she sounded.  “I’m… um…. allergic to most metals.  I can’t sit there.”  But the idea was sound, so she carefully lowered herself to the ground.

He smiled, just showing a hint of his top teeth.  “I can relate.”  He sat across from her, his long legs folding up more tightly than she expected.  He obviously did yoga.  “I get the worst rash if I touch it.”

“Really?” she blurted, as surprised by her question as his statement.

He nodded.  “I can’t even ride the bus,” he admitted.  “It makes me sick.”

“Me too.”  She leaned forward, eagerly.

“It’s a bit ironic,” he said with a shrug.  “I live in a city, and can’t touch metal, can’t even get too close to it.”

“I’ve never met anyone else with the same allergy as me.”

“Really?”  His eyebrows went up slightly.  He clearly had an expressive face.  “I know quite a lot of people with it.  Of course, none of them are here in St. Paul at the moment.”  When he looked into her eyes, he felt familiar.  “I’m so sorry I startled you.”

“Oh… that’s okay.”  Normally it was something she said without thinking, but this time, she meant it.

“My name is Earl.”  He placed a large hand in the center of his chest, his long fingers splayed.  “I’m an artist.”  He pulled a leather strap off his shoulder and over his head, to reveal a worn brown satchel.

“What kind?”  When he looked puzzled, she elaborated.  “What kind of artist?”

He smiled and opened the flap on his satchel, drawing out a large sketchbook.  He hesitated a moment, then handed it to her.  “These are… just my ideas.”

She carefully turned over the cover, to be met with a pencil sketch of a fox.   The next few pages had a variety of drawings of children in a fountain.  She thought the fountain might be downtown, but she wasn’t a hundred percent sure.

“I make paintings from them,” he added.

“They’re amazing.”  They looked like photos that had been converted with fancy software.  She gazed in awe as buildings, trees, boats, and people came alive on his pages.

“I… I was wondering if you would let me draw you,” he said, uncertainty creeping in to the end of his sentence.  “I swear I’m not some freaky stalker or anything,” he added quickly.  “But…” pink blossomed on his high cheekbones.  “You’re really beautiful, you know?  Just looking at you gives me ideas for paintings, and I was hoping you’d let me do that.”

Prompt: “Hey, can I draw you?”

Speed Writing #4 – Night Swimming

There was nothing more perfect than gliding through the water at two in the morning, under a cloudless sky with a sliver of a moon.  This was when everything was calm.  The annoying mosquitoes and even more annoying drunks had all gone to sleep or passed out.  The bats, who were active early on, had settled in for a few hours.  The surface of the lake was still, glassy, with the exception of the small ripples spreading out from her body.

Having a restaurant and bar right on the edge of the lake was a novelty, though it had worn off after the third or fourth karaoke night.  It wasn’t that she minded the music.  She was all for expressions of happiness.  But the off key howling of hammered patrons hurt her sensitive ears.  Her evening swims had moved later and later.  And it seemed she had finally stumbled upon the perfect time.

She rolled, belly up to gaze at the stars, allowing her momentum to slow, but not stop.  She had a long way to go to complete her circuit, but she had plenty of time, and there was no need to rush.  Her eyes caught the dim glow of a satellite tracking quickly across the sky, and she smiled.

Without warning, her head rammed into something firm yet yielding.  It was immediately followed by an inarticulate shout and a great deal of splashing.

Fearing the worst, she twisted her body to tread water and look around.

A man stood about six feet away, the water just reaching his lower ribs.  He was shirtless, and water dripped from his dark hair to shoulders.  She couldn’t help following the little rivulets of water down his pale chest, wishing her hands could do the same.  Though she was sure the water temperature hadn’t changed, she suddenly felt warmer.  He held his arms out, hands open and extended as if he feared he might need to fight something off.  He was breathing hard, obviously more startled than she was.

“I’m so sorry,” she said quietly.  She didn’t want to disturb the silence of the night needlessly, but she felt bad about causing his panicked state.  “I should’ve watched where I was going.  Are you all right?“

He blew out heavily, lowering his arms.  “Yeah.  Yeah, I’m okay. You?”

She nodded, her lips curving into a small smile.  “I’m Luria.“

“Luria? Hi.  I’m Krish.”  there was a trace of uncertainty in his voice.  “So… what are you doing out here this late?“

“Swimming,” she said with a giggle.  “Isn’t that obvious?“  She thought he might have blushed, but it was hard to tell in this lighting. “What about you?  What are you doing out here?”

“Uh… couldn’t sleep, actually,” he said.  He took a couple steps closer.  “I’m on vacation.“  He pointed over his shoulder toward the little cabin behind him on shore.  “But my brain hasn’t realized it yet.”  He had a nice smile, friendly.  “So… do you… live around here?“

“I do.”  She grinned at the accuracy yet misleading nature of that statement.  “Would you be interested in a local tour guide?“ This time, she moved closer.

“Is that an offer?” he asked, delight clear in his wide eyes.

“It is.”  She reached a tentative hands toward him, hesitating and pointing to his left shoulder.  “You have a bit of lake weed.“

He stared at her for a moment, slightly befuddled as his brain tried to put together her actions and words.  “I… what?”

With a little laugh, she let her hand finish its trajectory to pluck off the scraggly green strand and hold it up for him to see.

Prompt:I’m swimming laps in a lake alone at night and I thought no one else was here, but I just swam writing to you, and uh?  You’re not wearing a shirt, and your hot as hell.  Please take me right here.

Modifications: She’s not human

Speed Writing #3 – Sleepy Traveler

The thing about traveling solo is that you never know who you’re going to meet.  Meegan’s parents perpetually expected her to run into rapists and murderers, compliments of hyperbolic media.  She’d encountered some really nice folks and a few incredibly rude ones, so really, just people being people.  She expected this trip to be a lot of the same.

She hadn’t been to Minnesota in a couple of years, not since the meeting where she’d landed these particular clients.  Most of the time she was able to work with them over the phone or online, but they had a new CEO, and he was the sort who liked to meet everyone in person once.  All that being the case, she’d decided to tack a little vacation on to her trip.  Her co-workers assumed she would spend most of her time at the Mall of America, but she’d seen it on her last trip, and it was enough to know it wasn’t really her thing.  She’d heard there were really nice trails both in and near the Twin Cities, and that was what she was really looking forward to.

She fidgeted in her seat a bit, wondering how long the wait would be. This was the disadvantage with being the first person at the gates this afternoon.  As she was looking out the window, a shadow fell over her.  She glanced up to see a young man pushing his carry-on into the overhead storage.  He was easy on the eyes, with light brown skin, dark brown eyes, and shaggy black hair that flopped into his face.

He looked down at her and smiled.  It was warm, but there were shadows under his eyes.  “‘Low,“ he said, his voice a low rumble. “It looks like I’m next to you.”  He gestured to the seat beside her.

“Hi, I’m Meegan.”  She gave him a cheerful wave before he could offer a hand.  It wasn’t that she disliked touching other people.  She just detested shaking hands.  So many people were terrible at it, either weak and sweaty-palmed or crushing her fingers as some sort of display of whatever.

He settled into his seat and started looking for the ends of his seat belt.
“Are you traveling or going home?” she asked.  It was always a good starting point.

“Going home.”  The buckle clicked together and he looked at her.  Even sitting, he was pretty tall.  “How about you?“

“Traveling.” She smiled.  “I have a work meeting in Minneapolis.“

“Hmmm.” He reached up with both hands and stretched, letting out a sigh as he brought his hands back to his lap.  Everything about him seemed exhausted, maybe a little sad.  “Too bad.  St. Paul is way better.“

“Really?” She hadn’t heard that before.  As far as she could tell, St. Paul and Minneapolis were one big city rather than two separate ones.

The pilot’s voice came overhead then, preventing a response.  After the usual pre-flight rigamarole, the plane started to roll forward.

“I’m probably going to fall asleep,” he said, apology in his tone. “If I snore, please feel free to jab me with your elbow.”

“Uhhh. Maybe I’ll try something gentler,” she suggested.

“Whatever works,” he agreed.  “I won’t mind.  I don’t want to be rude and trap you with a bandsaw for the whole flight.“

She giggled.  “I’ll keep it in mind.”

He did fall asleep, but he didn’t snore.  That would have been both better and worse.

Before they’d even leveled off from their climb, he had slipped down in his seat, his head lolling to the right.  The next thing Meegan knew, his cheek was resting against her shoulder.  Startled by the touch, she turned to him, her hand reaching out to give him a shake.  Her hand froze, halfway to it’s target, and she wasn’t sure why.  He was a stranger, and she owed him nothing.  But he wasn’t hurting her. Besides, he  obviously needed the rest.  Relaxed, he looked easily five years younger, and kind of adorable.  His breath across her neck and collarbones was warm and pleasant.  She couldn’t detect any cologne on him, which was a good thing as far as her asthma was concerned, but she liked the way he smelled.

Prompt: You fell asleep on my shoulder on the plane ride, and I would ask you to move, but you look so comfy and adorable when you sleep.  Also you smell really good and the feeling of your breath on my skin is somewhat relaxing.  Maybe we can go out to lunch in this shitty airport when you wake up. 

Speed Writing #2 – How to Lose Your Dragonette

The cool evening air was a relief after a full day stuck inside a warehouse with sketchy air conditioning.  I pushed open the heavy glass door to the balcony, and stood there for a moment, just breathing.

 A birdlike shriek called my attention back into my apartment.  I turned to see Spark pouncing around his dish, his usual a pre-dinner performance.  He paused and turned his yellow eyes in my direction before spreading his leathery wings and flapping to the counter top where he knew he didn’t belong.

 “Hey!“ I chastised.  “Get down from there.  This is not a self-serve buffet.”

 He let out a protest, but settled all four feet onto the green counter, as if to inform me that he’d feed himself if I didn’t get on with it.  Dragons may not be able to speak our language, but they sure as hell could communicate.  And they were smart.

 “All right, all right.“  I jogged over to prepare his dinner.  “You’ve made your point, you crazy little reptile.”

 He let out a little trill, the noise he used when he was being cuddly and cute, and extended his head to rub against the back of my hand.  I took a moment to stroke down his neck and tickle under his jaw.  Spark was a baby yet, so he only weighed about thirteen pounds.  As a dwarf  Yé Fēixíng, I could expect him to top out at sixty, a little big for an apartment, but manageable.

 “Who’s a clever little dragon?“ I asked, running my fingers over the soft scales of his wing shoulder joint.  That got me another trill.  He pressed his snout into my palm, his forked tongue darting out to brush my skin.  “Yeah, yeah.  You’re hungry.”  I scooped him off the counter and put him on the back of the couch, where he could watch.  That’s when I made my mistake.  I turned away to get his fish out of the refrigerator.  I warmed it, and cut it into nice little pieces.  “Okay, that should do it.” 

 I looked up just in time to see the trapezoid sail on his tail flick out onto the balcony.  “Oh shit.   No.  Spark, come back here!”  His flight skills were sketchy yet, and the third floor balcony wasn’t safe for him.  Still holding his bowl, I chased after.  He was up on the railing, leaning toward my new neighbor’s balcony, and peering in her window.  She’d moved in last weekend, and he was probably curious what all the noise had been.

 “Hey silly guy,” I called gently, afraid that he’d fall if I startled him.  “Come here.  I have your nice tasty fishies.”

 He didn’t even acknowledge me.  If I didn’t know he had excellent hearing, I would have assumed he hadn’t heard.  His wings arched up and he leaped to the other balcony.  My breath caught until he landed, reasonably gracefully, actually.  That’s when he turned to look at me.  He let out a little chirrup, then sauntered right into my neighbor’s dark apartment.  She’d left the door open this morning, and she clearly wasn’t back from work yet.

 “Shit.  Shit.  Shit.“  I muttered, rushing over to the railing.  “Spark come here,” I called, using my playing voice.  “You don’t want to miss out on this nice perch, do you?  It’s your favorite.”

 His chirrup was faint; he wasn’t even standing near the door waiting for me.  He’d gone exploring already, I could tell.  That was trouble.  Though Spark was a sweetie, he was still a dragon.  And he was a terrible house-guest.  He tended to rip holes in couches and chew up carpets.  He’d savaged enough shoes that I’d lost count.

 I had to get him out of there before he damaged anything and before my neighbor got home.  We hadn’t even properly met.  This was so bad.

Prompt: My stupid cat sneaked out on the balcony and into your open window, and he has this habit of destroying furniture and pissing everywhere, so I followed him inside and you came home earlier than I expected and found me in the middle of your living room but I swear I’m not a burglar.

Modifications: Change cat to dragon.