Everyone has their quirks – right? One of mine is a horror of having to check luggage while traveling. I’ve made several 3-week sojourns to Oxford with nothing more than a carry-on bag and a backpack, and the backpack was only needed for all of the books I had to take with me.
That particular quirk means I look at choosing what clothing to pack when I travel as a puzzle and packing as a showcase for the Tetris skills I developed in my video-game playing youth (it’s one of my super-powers).
Thus, I’ve spent the past week “trying out” outfits; deciding which ones will make it through the day, easily adapt from warm to chilly and back again, and which can be mixed-and-matched to get the most variation out of the fewest pieces while still looking distinct.
Sure, sure, I could have spent that time writing no doubt, but I had to get dressed for work every day anyway – might as well make a game out of it.
Anyway, now that the outfits have been narrowed down to a precious few and the shoes are lined up awaiting the “take” or “leave behind” final decision, it is time to at least make an *attempt* at getting some words on the page. I think today’s story prompt and random words will be the perfect place to start.
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 introvert character had to host a big party?”
Feel free to include any (or all) of the following random words:
parachute moaning triangle marginal
gin barnyard grin symbolic
gravel tragic lightning dosage
servant sabotage forgotten bed
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!
The ancient Ford was still on the beach, and as I expected, the keys were still in it. Martha and Jonas (with much protesting from Jonas) piled into the back seat, Porky-pie took shotgun, and I took the wheel. We roared off the beach onto the gravel road, with much sand flying. It truly was the nick of time . . . Ash and Sam emerged from the woods by the creek, and my rear-view mirror framed a satisfying mime show of cursing and footstomping and blame-laying. I looked over at Porky-pie, who seemed to be grinning a doggy grin, his fringe covering his bad eye.
“For god’s sake, Katie, watch the road!” Jonas squealed. The sun was rising, and a deer was smart enough to skitter off the road. I floored it, and before long, we were at my little cottage. I rushed in, and called Officer Jim, who invited us down to the station. I eyed my bed, under the triangle of eaves, and bade it a fond farewell. No time for showers or breakfast. I pulled a box of granola bars from the cupboard and gave everyone a bottle of water.
“Officer Jim won’t come to us, guys. We’ve got to go to him.”
Jonas demanded trashbags, and picked my newspaper off of the porch. “We may have to take another trip in that Deathmobile, but we don’t need to ride in filth.” Martha tutted, but agreed.
It only took five minutes to drive to the police station, but Jonas had time to clean the backseat and provide an inventory. “Two jugs of that local white lightning Danny sells at the Stop’n’Go, five empty bottles of whiskey,” and here he paused and delicately shuddered, “three of gin and one of tequila. Fifteen white dinner dishes, two coffee cups of the same boring china, 16 sets of silverwear, a wedding cake topper with the frosting still attached, and a bouquet of dead bridal flowers. Your hoodlums seem to have robbed a wedding.”
Our favorite public servant was out in front of the police station, sweeping up the remnants of what looked like a party.
“Big night last night?” Martha asked.
“The DARE mothers had their July Mocktail Night here.” Officer Jim didn’t say much, but his face spoke of unspeakable suffering. “Sounds like you had a big night, too.”
That was putting it mildly, but I put on the same stoic face, and started reciting our events, from our trip to the Prom at sunset, to waking up in a stable, finding poor Bob on the banks of the creek, being lured to the Estate, escaping through a secret passage and finally making our way to the station in the stolen Ford. During the course of the conversation, Officer Jim had guided us into a consultation room, and provided us with hot beverages and donuts.
“Well, the county boys have been keeping an eye on the Estate this month, so they’ll be interested in hearing your story. Deputy Elena” and here, the good officer blushed, but then continued, “will check out that barnyard. We’ll run a check on that Ford. Just take a few minutes, then we’ll give you a ride to the Prom to pick up your vehicles.”
The other two looked as exhausted as I felt, and Porky-pie had fallen asleep with his head on my foot. I hoped I wouldn’t doze off; the end to a very long night was in sight. I dug through my tote bag to find something to keep me awake. The papers! I’d forgotten the papers. I took them out; maybe reading them would keep me awake.
The first lines jolted me to a state of alertness I didn’t think possible. “Guys! Listen to this! ‘This is the last will and testament of Phillip P. Worthington.’” The Old Man of the Estate! He’d been my grandmother Catherine’s boss before she’d gotten married and became a pillar of the community and the terror of her grandchildren. “’Being of sound mind and body, and with the end approaching rapidly, I declare Andrew J. Bing, son of Catherine Bing, nee Dixon, my son and the only heir to all my worldly goods and possessions.’”
Martha said, “No way! That’s your dad!”
Jonas, with the tact that won him the enmity of dozens, blurted out, “That’s what the beekeeper meant when he said Cathy was a whore.”
“My grandmother was the most strait-laced prude who ever sat on the Purity League Council. There’s no way she was messing around with the Old Man.” I was aghast at the thought.
“Those old ladies who are the most stuck-up often made mistakes in their youth,” Martha said. “My grandmother was a hellion – smoking at 14, pregnant at 18, married at 18 and a half, and with a baby before she turned 19. She was also pretty priggish, but surprised the whole family when my sister got in trouble, and she was the most understanding of the bunch. Her sister then ratted her out. Great-aunt Molly was the complete opposite.”
My dad was in Chicago this week, but due back tomorrow . . . no, today already. No rest for the wicked, I guess. I’d have to get to the airport, pick him up, and figure out a time to get the papers to a lawyer.
Officer Jim came back in the consultation room. “We’ll collect Bob’s body, and I’ll take care of informing his mother, if it does turn out to be him.” I nodded grimly. “The Ford was stolen from a wedding party over in Arcadia two weeks ago, and the suspects match your description. Several people want to press charges over the destruction and vandalism of the wedding hall, so we’ll be looking for your Ash and Sam.”
The trip to the Prom was silent and sleepy. We were jammed in the back of the police car, three people and one dog who needed a bath. I had just about dozed off when we arrived. Martha hopped onto her scooter and headed home, while Officer Jim met up with Deputy Elena and headed up the creek with forensics. Jonas and I headed to my little car, when Porky-pie started growling. “What’s up, boy?” God, I just wanted to get home and get to bed.
“Nothing’s up, Psychic Lady.” Sam emerged from my car. “Can you foretell your future? They want you back at the Estate something bad.” Porky-pie went from growling to lunging, but Sam beat him away with a crowbar, and Porky-pie was senseless on the ground.
“How dare you hurt my dog??” I went to tear Sam’s eyes out, and Jonas was shouting, but it was no good. Ash also popped out of the car, and had Jonas tied up and gagged in a trice, and it wasn’t much longer before I was in the same condition. They bundled us into the backseat, and left Porky-pie behind.
I cried bitter tears. I thought everything would be all over once we’d talked to the cops, but here we were, back on a wheel of suffering, heading back to the Estate where bad, angry men awaited our coming. And the USB stick! I’d forgotten to tell Officer Jim about the USB stick! I wished my hands were free to consult with the cards, but there was a bad feeling at the base of my spine. I didn’t need the cards to tell me that danger lay at the end of our road.
Oh no! Just when things were starting to look up an unexpected twist ending. Looking forward to seeing where this will all wind up.
I hope something suitably awful happens to Sam for that attack on Porkie-Pie. Also, I’m quite curious about why Sam and Ash-honey robbed a wedding. I could understand stealing the gifts, but the wedding cake topper and bridal flowers? I suspect there was more than just ordinary robbery going on there.
Well, there’s the raw draft. One of the dangers of this kind of exercise is that you wind up going in circles, so I’m glad I’ve decided this needs to be done in the next two or three weeks. We’ll see what happens next. (-: I certainly don’t know!
I sympathize on the packing. I try to pack light, but I’m often taking a trip to see family and friends, so I wind up needing to take half a grocery store’s worth of Japanese food on my trip, and then when I come home, I’ve got two years of underwear and shopping in my bag. On my last trip to Saitama, I almost got away with just packing a carry-on, but my bag is a tiny bit too small for three sets of clothes and a CPAP. And anyway, I wanted to take homemade pickles and salsa to my daughter, so we were back to the big suitcase again.
Another obstacle to packing light is that I get tempted by ukuleles. They have been carry-on, thank goodness, but such a mess.
I’m the kind of person who likes to have two bottles of water, wet wipes, picnic mat and half a drugstore for a simple shopping trip, though, so it’s always a battle when I travel.
I sympathize with the non-clothing portions of the packing equation. For me, it’s often books and camera equipment that take up all the space. I had a friend recently who packed an entire suitcase with food for the last family vacation, finding it worth paying the checked bag fee in order to avoid the high cost of food (and wine) at their destination.
Mostly I pack light because I don’t want to have to check luggage when I fly. It’s partially for the convenience factor and partially a result of, very early in my career, seeing my co-workers clothing and unmentionables scattered all over the luggage carousel when the suitcase broke open as it shot out onto the carousel. Definitely an embarrassment I’d prefer to avoid.
I think your direction (go light) is the right way to do things, but I’m such a packrat that I just can’t. When my suitcase got damaged the first time, I went out and bought NameBrand Hardbody Suitcase. When THAT got damaged, I asked the lady at the airport which suitcases seemed to hold up the best, and she told me soft-sided ones.
One of our best suitcases was a Target cheapie ($35?). I think it must have made at least 10 overseas trips in all. But you can’t tell . . . other cheapies made two or three trips, and were done.
(I won’t travel with a slightly damaged suitcase unless there’s no choice — if I had to, I’d duct-tape the shit out of it.)
There’s a burning mass of green-fire jealousy in my heart when I see travelers tra-la-la right through the “no checked baggage” door (-:.
But then again, there’s a certain amount of happiness when I spread around the products of nations to friends and family, so I’ll probably not mend my ways. Not until international shipping starts to come back in line with an extra bag . . . .
(-: No comparison! I totally see where you are coming from.
Links so far for Porky Pie (as of Sept. 28, 2019, unfinished)
Episode 1: https://eightladieswriting.com/2019/05/24/elizabeth-friday-writing-sprints-22/