Artella is a most excellent website/newsletter/purveyor of goodies/provider of classes/subject of inspiration/tool not to be without. Go here then come back.
And I just thieved a prompt from their newsletter. Bad Spike.
"First, you must use the phrase "I never saw it coming" somewhere in the piece.
"Second, you must include something about a meal.
"Third, you must incorporate the following words:
"Automobile, Coupon, Display, Identity, Knee, Jaguar."
Right. Here we go:
If I had known what Monday had in store for me that day, I would have gone back to bed and hidden with my head beneath the pillow. Seriously, I never saw it coming.
I should have known when the alarm went off, and I groped around for the snooze button, only to manage to turn the whole darn thing OFF. And then I slept in, like the proverbial log, until about T minus ten minutes from "Oh shit."
I thought about calling in sick that morning, hopping around the bedroom with one leg in my pants and juggling the tasks of drinking some coffee, combing my hair, and getting lunch put together. Breakfast? Who has time for that?? If I called in, I thought, I'd have time to make bacon and eggs, pancakes and juice. I could read the paper, I thought, clenching my teeth around my coffee cup's rim as I pulled on my socks, tipping my head back for a swig. I could do that, clip coupons for tonight's shopping (no, I didn't get to the store this weekend, why do you ask??) and then go in to work around lunch. I could miss all the rush-hour traffic, have a nice easy morning, and still be a hero! I could skip the makeup to look authentically washed-out, moan a little, run for the bathroom at varying intervals, and weakly clutch my forehead, murmuring no, no, I simply HAD to come in and finish this presentation--my responsibilities wouldn't let me rest.
But no, here I was in the garage, turning the key in the Jaguar (what my ex always referred to as my "identity display." There was some truth in that--I'd wanted a look-at-me car all the way through high school and college, and when I could finally afford an automobile worthy of the full title (as opposed to just "a car." A car is what you drive to a job. An automobile takes you to your career.) then I'd gone ahead and acquired it. What else was I working for?)
He never could make up his mind whether he was yuppie or boho. He wanted a sugar shack to boogie-woogie in--as long as the investment would appreciate; came with a hot tub, golf-course perfect lawn (maintained by someone else, please); living room filled with the latest styles in decor (ditto); sumptuous master bath (ditto); and children who were both perfectly mannered while free and uninhibited. (Oh, and ditto to that last part, too.)
At the same time, I was to be liberated (but not to make more than he did), a full and equal partner (who deferred to his decisions over anything more important than the color of the polish on my nails), and to have a fulfilling career so long as I could be home in time to cook a hot nourishing dinner for all of us just like his mother would. With the kids freshly scrubbed and dressed for dinner. And me, polished, poised, and hanging on his every word.
Do I need to explain what happened next? Sheesh. Thank heaven I got out of that BEFORE we had the progeny running around. I wasn't that hepped on being a mommy with a partner (though how MUCH of a partner I would really have had is debatable); going it alone would have been infinitely worse.
So, here I was, going it alone. It would have been nice to have a partner to carpool with, I thought, sitting and seething in the parking lot that is rush-hour traffic in this corner of the world. Watching mothers zip by in their SUV's, using the carpool lane because they had a baby on board, and a child in the front passenger seat. Wasn't the point of carpooling to take additional cars off the road?? Were they issuing licenses to kids who hadn't mastered sippy cups yet? Would it be ethical to borrow children from the neighbors and deliver them to daycare services by my office, I wondered.
Inch. Stop. Inch. Stop. Into the tunnel where you can't see what lies ahead, can't anticipate what the flow of the traffic will look like and change lanes to avoid the jam until you're in the thick of it all.
And that's when it all stopped dead. That is, deader than usual. I sat there for a whole song and commercial cycle, and we weren't budging. People around me honked for a bit, and then I saw the folks a little further up getting out of their cars. Clearly we weren't going anywhere for a while. Good--now I had a readymade excuse for being late. Too bad I hadn't had any way of knowing--I could have had that Sunday morning breakfast I'd fantasized about.
I shut off the engine, started walking up the lane. Suddenly, the ground shivered, and the light at the end winked out. I heard screams, and a wave of people began running from the dark end back towards the light. I kicked off my shoes, and spun to keep ahead of the wave of panic.
I was able to slip over to the side and avoid the crush in the middle. I saw people trapped by cars, unable to get back into the stream, scrabbling over hoods to avoid falling and being trampled by the stampede.
Once I was out of the tunnel, I turned to look back, like Lot's wife. A very human flaw, curiousity. I could see over and behind the tunnel, to the blocked side.
A foot. A foot the size of a Volkwagen bus tipped up on its end; toes, arch and heel. Callus on the heel. An ankle, presumably leading to a calf. The knee was hidden by the mouth of the tunnel, but the thigh dwarfed the puny skyscrapers that make up the Phoenix skyline, such as it is.
The first of the giants had fallen.
Okay, not fantastic--you know what I mean, plenty fantastic, but not Litrachure For the Ages. Not every forced fiction (i.e., fiction with a mandatory set of words included) is gonna be great.
Hmmm. Now I'll have to post "A Thankless Task" next week so y'all can compare and contrast.