Monday, February 7, 2011

Challenge 91: Losing Denver...

"Hi sweetie, how was your day?"

"Fine," Denver grunted.

Mrs Lebowski pulled a tray of cookies out of the oven and slid them off onto a plate. Denver, who had been half way up the stairs, paused and sniffed.

"Smells good."

"Chocolate chip and raisin," she laughed. "I'll trade you a cookie for a story about your day?"

Denver slouched in the doorway, school bag heavy on one shoulder. "That guy in shop - Mitchell Lewis. He stopped Anthony Biggs from hitting me today."

Mrs Lebowski's eyes flashed. "Why would Anthony want to hit you?"

"I dunno, because he's a retard."

"Well it was nice of that boy to stand up for you."

Denver shrugged. "Not like we're really friends or anything."

"Ah." Her overly bright smile returned. "You should try a little harder to make friends, sweetie."

"I have friends." Denver said between mouthfuls of cookie. Half the tray was gone before Mrs Lebowski confiscated the rest "for your father."

"So why don't I ever get to meet your friends?" she asked with a pout.

Denver shrugged the school bag back on and said, "Most of them are on the other side of the world. Online gaming and all that."

"Do you have an online... girlfriend?" Mrs Lebowski took a moment to decide on that last word.

Denver's eyes narrowed. "You know what? That's none of your business, Clare."

She looked like she'd been slapped in the face. Footsteps pounded up the stairs and a door slammed shut. Clare flinched, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes.

Denver didn't emerge again until much later, after George got home.

"Mmm, roast." George gave Clare a kiss. "You know me too well."

Denver made a face behind shoulder length black hair.

"How was your day honey?" Clare asked as George carved the lamb. "Any new developments?"

"The Jefferson Estate looks like it might be a good catch, if I can get my hands on it." George put a slice of lamb on Denver's plate.

"That's lovely darling." Clare smiled.

They ate in silence for a while. Then Clare said, "Someone tried to hit Denver today."

Denver groaned. "Why did you have to bring that up? Makes me sound like a wuss. It's not like he succeeded."

"I wish you wouldn't keep getting into fights, Denny," George said quietly. "That's not how you were brought up..."

Denver scoffed a whole baby potato to keep from responding.

"Maybe you should go easy on the potatoes, Denny." George poured gravy over his own meat. "You are starting to look a bit pudgy."

Denver gave him a scathing look and shoveled another huge spoonful.

"Denver Lebowski." George growled. "Cut the attitude."

Denver stabbed a steak knife into the untouched meat and stood up. "Seriously dad, you call that attitude? I didn't say fuck you for calling me fat. I didn't scream at Clare for thinking I'm gay... even though it's written all over her face every damn fucking day."

"Shut your mouth before I shut it for you." George put his cutlery down slowly.

"George," Clare put a hand over her husband's. "I think Denver has had a hard day. Why don't we deal with this tomorrow after you both have had time to cool down."

George let out a breath and rested his head on his palm. Denver was already gone; motorbike screeching down the drive.

"I don't know what to do about that kid," he said.

"Being a teenager is rough," Clare said. "Losing a mother triply so."

"Denver used to be such a sweetheart though." George asked. "Other kids have lost their mothers and they don't go and... change that much. We should never have allowed that bike..."

"Wasn't our money," Clare replied. "Denver has been working in shop for three years to be able to afford that bike."

"I prefer the online games," George admitted. "At least then I know she's not out getting herself pregnant."

Challenge 91

Leaving Out
Write a scene leaving out some significant detail about the character at the center of the scene. The character could have cancer or just have won the lottery. Don't make us guess - play more with the idea that whatever you are leaving out will naturally flow in around the edges of this description of character in action. Pay attention to the other important details about character than the largest and flashiest ones. Demand of them (and yourself) a range of other traits and confusions.

Word count: 700 (+/- 10%)

Challenge 179: The middle of Nowhen.

I live in Nowhen, an attic above a clock tower. I stare out my window sometimes, watching the people of my city, frozen in the middle of their conversations - or supping cups of tea. Moments, like pictures, hover every 'where' I look, but the when is all up to me. It takes some practice.


There is Mrs. Harper and her old black poodle Tabitha, wandering down main street.


Oh, there she is at her house - Christmas Day - her daughter holds wee Tabitha as a puppy.


And there is Mrs Harper at her daughter's funeral. Tabitha is only a few years old, head on her paws in the drenching rain.

Nowhen is a lonely place. Sometimes I wish I could return...

See, there I am. Over there in the school yard, waiting to go into bat. Or there, sitting at the edge of the school dance, hoping someone will notice me. And there I am, staring up at the clock tower, wondering why the hands have never moved. If only I could tell myself to turn around. Go home, Lily. There is so much of life to live.

I could have been like Kiera, down at the lake, head on Michael's shoulder watching the sun set. Or Susan, trading a frozen moment of pure agony in the hospital over by the theatre for a family full of smiling faces.

There are more than a hundred thousand paving stones in the street below my window. Go back far enough, it is mud. Go forward and it is overgrown with weeds. People leave and never come back. The clock tower stands all alone, hiding its secret. Hiding me.

Mama never knew where I went.


There is Tabitha, sniffing. She barked up at the clock, once. Mrs Harper had stopped to buy tomatoes at the grocer in central park. That was when she lost her dog, and I stopped being quite so alone.

Tabitha and I will never get any older. She is a terrible conversationalist, but then I am not that attentive. Mostly we sit, and I wonder. Maybe I can leave. After all, this is Nowhen, not Nowhere. If I can be here, I can be not here, but how?

Perhaps it is as simple as walking out the door. But that would mean accepting that my 'when' will some day end. I don't know if I am ready... maybe I will watch just a little longer.

Challenge 179: Seal heads

'Too many damn refugees, that's the problem.'
'I haven't seen any,' I said.
'Yeah, but they all get off the boats and stay by the port, of course. Since when do you go down to the port, eh?'
'Is it very different then, with them around?'
Regent adjusted his wreath and shook his head. 'It's crazy. You know they wear seals on their heads?'
'Seals, of course. It's a small breed, they're not so heavy. Looks ridiculous. The kids have baby seals and the adults have grown ones – though when they die I guess you have to start from the beginning again, of course.'
'Is that why they stay by the ports? To feed the seals?' We reached the end of the street and turned around again.

‘We're in modern times, aren't we? Not like it's that hard to get fish.'
'How do they keep them wet? Tubs in the streets, and in their houses?'
'Yep. They don’t have problems here, of course.'
'Least you can tell who they are, of course. Can't hide with a seal on your head.'

'Actually, there's so many of them these days you'd be better off with a seal on your head than a walrus on your ankle.'
'Phew.' I adjusted my own wreath. ‘Can’t believe I haven’t seen any.’

‘They’ll be taking over the city soon. Already wanting their own schools, can you believe. Privately funded – not sure how refugees can even afford that.’

‘Crazy, I thought our schools couldn’t cope with the numbers as it was.’

‘Mmm, they’re putting pressure on everything…schools, housing, water…’

The other end of the street, and I paused briefly to adjust my trouser leg before turning. ‘Water?’

Regent looked a bit edgy. ‘I heard something interesting the other day. They’re saying…they’re not just here because of the war. Maybe that’s why they started coming, of course - I don’t know…but what I heard was that they’re here because of the seals. Not enough water where they come from, and it’s getting too warm.’

‘Er, eh? So they’re coming to take our water instead?’

‘Apparently it used to be like here – green all year – and now it’s practically a desert. Sad business.’ We’d reached the intersection again, and I took my wreath off, looking for a spot to drop it. ‘Time to go, I think. I’m late as it is - Rex needs a bath and I’ve got a load of housework to do, of course.’ Regent took his own wreath off and was about to trample it into the ground, but suddenly changed his mind and placed it on my head, then took mine gently out of my hands and put it on instead. ‘See you tomorrow.’

I smiled, and bent to give a tug at the chain around my ankle, pulling my walrus out of the shade of a bench and into the evening heat.


Word count: 480

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Challenge 111: Life in the polar regions

The kitchen is where I'll sleep. It’s the kitchen because the main stove is in there, but we can't do much cooking.
Our first night is colder than usual, and we're gathered around the stove. Dirk reckons we have fuel for months; we shouldn't stint.
Food we're not sure of, unless we raid one of the caches left by a previous party. Perhaps when the storm lets up a bit.
Mac is leaning against the metal trying to warm his hands. Ten minutes ago, he climbed out the window and started shovelling furiously. I didn't understand until he emptied the big metal pot into the bigger metal pot on the stove. The temperature's dropped now that the snow is melting. I shiver, but Mac grimaces because his fingers are starting to thaw and it burns like hell.
'If I leave my gloves here, anyone can use them,' I suggest. 'Mac, that was a bit stupid, not wearing any.'
Mac shrugs and his indifference bothers me. 'Guess we'd better put our tents up, mate,' he says to Dirk.
Seana comes in from the 'pantry' - the semi-frozen antechamber connecting the main entrance to the kitchen.
'Dehy soup for dinner.' She chucks packets of split pea and of black bean on the table.
'Tents,' says Dirk. 'How about you stay and cook up something hot and delicious, lovelies?'
'Fat chance,' I say, and follow them out while Seana makes inchorent fake-angry noises.

Ekker and Pete are in the other hut trying to fix the radios. Tools are scattered everywhere and though they're both mild-mannered, now they're red-faced and snapping.
'Give it a rest and come put up tents,' Mac suggests nonchalantly, picking up a couple of tent-bags, but they ignore him. 'Where the fuck’s the red screwdriver?' barks Pete.
I cut in: 'Pole's broken in that purple one, I was going to fix it...'
'How can we borrow your gloves if you're coming out?' Mac replies. 'What if you stick around, fix up the tent; Dirk and I will put them up. We could even have a glove each...' he winks.
'I've been inside all day! I want real work!'
'If we weren't in a rush, hon, but we need to do this before the weather turns worse.' Dirk gives me a friendly shove away from the door and I shove him right back. Mac gives me a kinda shrug as he walks out with an armload of tents.
'Fucking patronising bastards,' I tell Ekker and Pete, who are looking for the screwdriver and don’t care. Going back through the pantry for duct tape I pass Seana, who asks me to keep an eye on the stove please and wanders to the other hut.
She spends a few minutes bitching (they're treating her like some kind of second-class wife ‘always on at me about the cooking'; she has to freeze in a tent while I ‘fucking trophy wife’ get the hut because I made puppy-dog eyes at Mac). Like Mac would fall for puppy-dog eyes.
Ekker eventually says 'Don't see you putting up tents,' and she tells him he won't get any dinner if he's like that, and he says there's room for two to sleep in the kitchen so why doesn’t she, though maybe she won't care to now since it'll make her look soft.
'Fuck you,' she says ('Sure!'), leaving the lid of the shit bucket off in the adjoining toilet when she storms off.

Dinner's as good as dehy can be (but don't try the black bean, it's vile). Mac brings out chocolate he must've carted all the way from home. Dirk opens a can of peaches 'so we don't get scurvy'. I didn't get the pole fixed, so they’re sharing a mountain tent. I don't want to sleep inside, after what Seana said, but with her in the other little tent and Ekker and Pete sharing the big one, there's hardly room elsewhere.

Word count: 655. I cut almost 200 words and didn't want to get any more cheated instead :P