I am definitely happy to see the end of this week. I spent most of it in “Leadership” training at Ye Olde Day Jobbe. Long days of talking, networking, group exercises, and more networking are draining, especially for an introvert / non-people-person like me.
Fortunately, I’m all done (for now) and can look forward to a relaxing weekend and (maybe) a visit from the Easter Bunny . . . well, as soon as I take care of some of the work that accumulated while I was out in training I will.
After I catch up on work, and before I start thinking too much about chocolate bunnies and colored eggs, I’m going to carve out a little time for some writing. Though I keep getting distracted in the midst of my efforts, I’m determined to give today’s story prompt and random words the old college try.
Care to join me?
For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.
If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope today’s story prompt and/or random words will catch your creative fancy.
What if: “Your character found a magic lamp?”
Feel free to include any (or all) of the following random words:
chewable hoodwink sauce binocular
guilty money apocalypse stun
freezing camel collusion afterlife
scream crash grotesque alcohol
I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments. If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts. Ideas are always welcome.
Happy writing to all!
Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the first novella in a series I’m currently working on:-
“The vast, gleaming, ladies powder room was papered in damask rose. A wall-length unit of dusky marble contained a row of deep, gold-tapped wash basins. Opposite them was a long counter of the same marble, at which were placed gilt-edged, burgundy velvet button backed boudoir chairs. A small golden cage, containing luxury toiletries, stood on one side of the counter.
The black and white tiled floor stretched endlessly. She saw herself over and over, a string of Ellas, repeated, one after the other. Tiny figures, dressed in slim fitting black, disappeared into the distance. When she turned the other way, she saw herself multiplied again, growing ever smaller and melting into an infinite horizon. Everywhere there were mirrors: gilt-edged, like the chairs, above the wash basins and the makeup counter. And full length versions that made the area seem boundless.”
Wow! I could see that endless visions of myself could be cool or, you know, scary. Sounds like a beautiful powder room, though!
Thank you so much! Mirrors are an important feature of this story; what they reflect back have great power. Cool or scary indeed, depending on each character’s particular set of circumstances. And it is meant to be a beautiful powder room. Thank you again.
There’s this Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, who has been working with infinity mirror rooms — very, very cool! https://hirshhorn.si.edu/kusama/infinity-rooms/ I remember as a little kid hanging out in dressing rooms while my mother tried on clothes, and seeing six or seven versions of myself in the three mirrors. Very cool concept!
Just clicked on the link, thank you for this, it’s really interesting. I love this blog site you have here! So pleased I found it since I’m quite new to WordPress myself.
Thanks! You are quite welcome! Writing can be solitary, but the community is such a support.
It is, and thank you for your kind interest and support. You sound like a lovely lot of ladies!
Very nice. Thank you for sharing.
My pleasure. I love that you give this wonderful opportunity for us to take part in. Thank you so much!
I like that! Thank you for sharing. It’s such a strong visual, like a glamorous version of an Escher print.
Thank you so much – especially as you’ve now introduced me to Escher’s artwork!
Lovely! I do wish they’d bring back powder rooms, but I guess that would mean that they’d bring back powder, and corsets and a lot of other stuff I don’t miss.
Haha – yes – powder is messy, and corsets very uncomfortable. My story is set in the modern age – a kind of urban fairy tale/mystic journey – and the powder room is based in a fictional hotel in London’s Bayswater area, kind of based on a real hotel, but also not. I wanted to create a feeling of timelessness as well as old world grandeur.
My student union had this lovely, 1920s style powder room with fainting couches. I don’t know why I’ve been thinking of this so often, but it was a wonderful, magical space. (-: No mirrors. But great art. I hope it’s still there.
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I have often wished for a magic lamp.
The Family Reunion
I felt a little guilty about skipping lunch with the fam, but a girl can take only so much alcohol-free reunion fraternizing before screaming. So I hoodwinked my cousin, telling her I’d be right back. And then I took the money and ran, so to speak, and headed out in my rental to somewhere—anywhere.
After a while I felt my nerves settle and as I approached a big yard sale, I decided to drop in. You never knew what you might find—a stunning Chanel, a grotesque gargoyle. I was up for the search.
Almost the first thing I saw was a brass lamp that looked like a sauce boat. I didn’t need binoculars to see that it glowed like the sun, sending out rays like it was advertising the afterlife. I power-walked over there to check it out. It was bigger than I’d first thought, old and dented and freezing cold when I picked it up. What was with that? Plus the glow.
I rubbed off a smidge of dirt on the surface, and immediately the lamp shivered in my hands, vibrating like mad. And then the ground shook for all like the apocalypse was arriving. Objects fell from the tables and shelves and crashed onto the ground. I grabbed onto the door for support.
When the madness ended, the yard sale was a shambles, and a camel stood before me. He spit, barely missing my sandaled foot.
“ ’Sup?” he asked.
Excuse me? I rubbed a lamp, and I got a talking camel? I wasn’t sure I should be happy or terrified that I’d left the family reunion for this. Were they tricking me? Had my cousins colluded to bring me back into the family fold?
“Got any chewable vitamins?” the camel asked. “I need to keep my strength up. Getting out of there takes a lot of work.”
I dug into my bag. I did, in fact, have chewable vitamins. And if this camel and I were destined to be friends, we might as well start off on the right foot.
That’s wonderful, Kay. I laughed out loud at the camel’s”Sup?” and the “I did, in fact, have chewable vitamins” lines.
That is my favorite writing sprint in forever. A talking camel with a vitamin deficiency. You could’ve given us the smokin’ hot genie with the granite jaw and the six-pack, but where woulda been the fun in that?
(-: So much fun! I’ve heard that camels are just pure evil . . . I’m sure it’s a foul stereotype, but maybe there’s one supernatural camel out there who was so bad, someone imprisoned him in a lamp. Or . . . maybe the camel knew too much?? Sounds like a cool camel, anyway.
Larger than life, just love this. I could see and feel that magic brass lamp in my hands.
One of the things I love about Elizabeth giving us the words is that, now that I’ve done a few, the juxtapositions can be really fun. They really do help me jog my creativity. Thanks for playing today, Marie! I got to read your wonderful powder room, and I got to write a talking camel. What could be better than that?
I can think of nothing better than sharing writing in such a congenial place. Yay to powder rooms and camels! I look forward to participating again, if possible.
Father had been a hoarder, but he was very good at masking his behavior. I hadn’t set foot in his house for fourteen years – we always met at my home, or restaurants, or stayed at a hotel in some city in between. So, when he died, I was stunned by the pure accumulation of crap he’d managed to achieve since Mother had died. Well, perhaps “pure” is the wrong word to use.
In the kitchen alone, he had 15 half-empty bottles of Wow-Wow Sauce, eight bottles of chewable vitamins and two cans of condensed camel’s milk. I assumed that meant there was sugar in there, but since I can’t read Arabic, I’ll never know. As I threw them into the garbage, Father must have been angered in whatever afterlife an Egyptologist goes to, and the floor gave way under the trash cans, and half the kitchen slid into the basement. The kitchen sink, the counter, and the cupboards over the sink. I escaped the apocalypse by hanging on for dear life to the stove. The oven door swung open, and of course I screamed, but the hinges held steady, and I was able to drop lightly through the hole into the basement with only a quiet crash.
Standing on top of the kitchen debris, I was eye-to-eye with the area under the floor, but over the flimsy false ceiling of the basement rec room. I was cursing up a storm, of course, and all the dust was making me sneeze. I tried reckoning up just how much money it was going to take to fix all this before I could sell the house, when a stray sunbeam hit a little box attached to the underside of the kitchen floor. I suppose the reinforcement of the shelf it sat on is what kept the stove from collapsing into the basement, too. I removed the box, slid down the splintered wood and plaster onto the rec room’s carpet, and took the back stairs out of the basement into the backyard.
I shut the cellar doors, and sat on them in the early spring sunshine. It wasn’t freezing, but then again, with all of the adrenaline flowing through my system, I just may not have noticed the cold. The box had a complicated lock, but very rusty screws, and it fell off as soon as I wiggled the dial. Inside, there were two bottles of whiskey and an old teapot that looked like Aladdin’s lamp.
“Thanks, Father,” I said. “The alcohol is sure to come in handy after I bulldoze this monument to crap that you left me.” The teapot was filthy, and I rubbed it to get a better look at the designs etched into the surface. Swirling smoke began to pour out, and I threw it onto the patio, and quickly retreated into the basement again, pulling the cellar doors tightly shut behind me. Crazy as it sounds, I was worried that it would be the ghost of Father, come back to tell me to kill my mother’s lover or something, and I wasn’t willing to play the Hamlet. Father was guilty of a lot of things, and I wouldn’t put it past him to find a way to reach beyond the grave to keep screwing up my life.
No, I did the sensible thing. I went around the pile of plaster, went up the front stairs to the kitchen, skirted the giant hole, and let my self out the front door. Father could rot in the backyard. I would hire a bulldozer to tear down the place, and just sell the property as an empty lot.
I made it as far as my car before I looked over my shoulder. I should have turned into salt. There, looming over the roof, was a gigantic genie. That was no teapot, that was a friggin’ lamp, I realized belatedly. And of course, the genie looked very angry.
BE PROACTIVE, I thought to myself. “Hey, you! Did you see the guy who let you out? Let me tell you, I have a bone to pick with him.”
The genie looked confused. “Didst not thou let me out of my prison? I have been imprisoned in there for fifty years, and I swore after the first ten years that . . . .”
I’d read my Arabian Nights. I knew how the spiel was supposed to go. “Nah, it wasn’t me. I could just kill that guy, couldn’t you?”
“Was it Ransom Edsel Dumont? That foul scholar had no right to trap me in this filthy lamp.”
My father. Of course. “No. It was collusion. Ransom’s just stepped out to the store, and his poolboy was watching over the treasures.” Hah. Treasures. Two cans of camel milk and 14 years worth of the New York Times.
The genie now looked puzzled, and it was absolutely grotesque, the way his wrinkled brow seemed to consume the corners of his eyes. “He’ll be back?”
“Yeah, he’ll be back.” Yeah, I lied. And no, I don’t feel guilty about it at all.
The genie settled his forearms over the roof. “Then I will wait. And thank you for the information. I will grant you one wish.”
Great. I knew how these wishes things worked out. Not well at all. “Take it, buddy. I wish you were free. Go back home, and get your life together.”
He frowned, his brows creeping over his eyes like some sort of birding binocular vision. “Then how will I punish your father?”
“I don’t know. Say, maybe I do. Why don’t you just take the house and all the belongings with you when you go? That’d show him, coming back to an empty pit.”
“Excellent idea, mortal! And I won’t even leave him the pit.”
In the blink of an eye, he’d done what he’d said. I’d managed to hoodwink the genie, and get the lot cleared away, all in a single afternoon. I walked over the ground that had appeared over the former basement. Birds tweeted in the trees as I grabbed up a handful. That was some good quality dirt. I’d have no problem getting this lot sold. I noticed the genie had left the box, and when I picked up the whiskey, I noticed it was two bottles of 1926 McDallan . . . the booze that was in the news for selling for a million dollars apiece. I wasn’t going to be greedy. I’d sell one, live happily ever after, and drink the other one myself on the anniversary of Father’s death.
“Thanks, Father.” It seemed that somewhere, I heard a sigh, and felt a subtle lightening of the air. He seemed gone, and it was time for me to go.
Clever stuff, great imagination and love the ending.