I belong to a super-secret writing group online (for real — don’t bother looking, you won’t find us), and lately I’ve been working on little exercises with them. These are some of the things I’ve done.
She was shopping for her own engagement ring in a mall kiosk. I told her I wouldn’t make her buy her own wedding, and she smiled at me. Those witch-hazel eyes reflecting all the tiny diamond-points of white from the tracklighting, her teeth disarmingly unbraced. Her lips were pink like the blush on a peach. I doubt her fiance would bother to describe her lip gloss. I was picturing her on my living room couch, my arm around her shoulder and popcorn between our laps like an old Blockbuster add, before I even asked her name. When she told me, I started pairing it with the names of our children. I offered to buy her a coffee, talk over her ring options. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t know.” I offered to talk her out of this marriage; I explained that I was serious about never making her buy her own ring, that I would take her anywhere, give her anything. Already I felt this way. Already I loved her. But already she was gone, before I could even process her response — I still don’t remember what she said as she left — and I was alone at the glass cabinet, looking down into the Tahitian pearls and the tennis bracelets. The upside-down reflection of a groomed salesman, grinning into the glass. “May I help you, sir?” I don’t know. I just don’t know.
The glove never came off because I never put it on. My fist would not unclench. There is no room for fingers. This is how you wanted it, and for the first time I understood the older people who would sigh with their heads down and claim that whatever they did to me, it was hurting them more than they hurt me. I didn’t believe them; I believe them now. I look at you and ache. You challenged me, and when I slap you, it will be with my bare hand.
This online writing group likes to work in prompts or themes (which seem to be all the rage these days — Housefire, In Between Altered States, Unshod Quills, Whole Beast Rag, and of course the aptly named Prompt, just to list a few), and the vaguer the better. I don’t always write for everything, but the two that prompted these short pieces were related to falling out of love and gauntlets, respectively. (And yes, there’s a typo in the first one, which someone in my writing group already called me on, but hey, it’s about the exercise, not the perfection of prose, so I left the typo in for you, dear reader).
I’m kind of fascinated by the idea of letting these two pieces stand as they are. They need work, of course — both are awfully rough. What I mean is, I think I’d like to leave them this short. I love working in flash fiction, but the shortest one I’ve ever felt worked was in the 350-word range, and most of my flash lives closer to 1,000 words. I don’t often play with forms so short I might as well call them prose poems. But both of these seem to want to stay this length, whatever their final text, so I think I’ll see what happens if I just edit and don’t try for a wholesale revision.
Unless you talk me out of it. What say you, readers? Expand? Contract? Leave the way they are? I’m all ears. Or eyes — this is the Internet. 🙂