Thursday and up and at 'em! Last night the writing group. Turned out I didn't lead the prompts - forgot I had asked William to do the honors so, fun to just sit back and be one of the writers. Wasn't sure I liked his first prompt - it was highly directive and I tend to prefer something more open ended - just the suggestion of an idea like a picture or a first line. He had us select one picture from two piles: the first a person, the second a setting. Once we'd made our selection he told us, "You have just been confronted by someone showing you the picture of the person you chose - a person in a position of authority is quizzing you about the person. Write about that exchange and also weave into the story the location you selected. I ended up liking the prompt and what I wrote:
"Red hair, you say?" I stalled for time. "Can you be more specific? Are we talking auburn, strawberry blond, or out-of-a-bottle old lady red?" I knew I was shifting from foot to foot - seeming suspicious - probably didn't fool him one bit.
"Mam, I showed you her picture - please just answer the question! Have you seen this woman?" the house detective was, I could tell, losing his patience with me. I looked at the picture more closely - feigning concentration when what I really felt was rising panic. How could he NOT see that, except for the glossy helmet of red hair, everything else was ME! The smattering of freckles across my Doris Day pug nose, the Slavic cheekbones, my painfully thin pale lips! She was ME!!
"What did she do?" I asked nonchalantly.
"I'm not at liberty to say," the littler Hercule Poirot wannabe responded cryptically. "Let's just say, when we find her, it ain't gonna be pretty!"
So someone had seen me and snapped a picture - but who? I was so careful! I'd waited until only the night front desk person was left before I ventured from my hiding place - under a skirted banquet table that appeared to be staged for a conference the next day - little boxes of cereals, coffee cups and empty covered domed serving dishes. I wore the red wig just in case a camera caught me in action or someone interrupted.
First, the lovebirds - easy to open their cage but not so easy to get them to leave. They were snuggled together and looked annoyed when I whistled them to freedom. The Myna bird almost blew everything when I removed the cover to his cage, he squawked - must have thought it was morning and feeding time.
"Shush you!" I whispered. "Go now." He waddled across the lobby, looking back at me with beady eyes like a toddler does his mother when he first finds his stride and realizes there's a world out there waiting to be discovered. Insecure but excited.
I wasn't sure about the snakes and iguanas but valor got the better part of my discretion and in the end, I decided not to discriminate between God's creatures. They waited not a minute in securing their freedom. Last I saw, a boa was rounding the corner to the first floor guest rooms and the iguana had scuttled up the flecked wallpaper and was peering at me from a crystal sconce.
My work done, I returned to my room, glad it wasn't on the first floor, hoping snakes couldn't slither their way up to where I was. This was my life work - the work that chose me when I decided to become a vegan. And really, it was my mother's fault - that book she innocently bought me on my 10th birthday, So, You Love Animals. She'd been in a hurry - last minute Christmas shopping. "This will be nice for Elena!" she must have thought, knowing how much I took to animals. She should have looked inside the book, should have read it herself. Took me a while to be able to pronounce and spell the word "vivisection". Now I'm an activist.
I pride myself in using the twenty minutes of writing time wisely, laying down my story and bringing it to a conclusion within the requisite time. The next prompt William gave us was an empty envelope. You have been called to a will reading - you are unsure why you were included. In this envelope is the letter written by the deceased. Write about the reading. I quickly got into my story but soon knew I was in trouble....no way I would finish which bothered me. And yet...I think it has promise! Here is what I wrote:
The reason I called you all here will soon be evident. You're confused - understandably so. You don't remember me. None of you remembers me and yet, each of you was important to me. You're excited, yes? The reading of a will? The anticipation? Maybe, today will be the answer to all your money problems - maybe you'll walk out of this room a rich man, a rich woman. Yes, that is the hope, surely, or you wouldn't be here, right?
If you've all come, there are seven of you. Look around. Do you recognize any of your fellow travelers No, of course you don't. You've never met. and yet, through me, you are connected. Today you will be bonded to each other, inextricably, irrevocably. Only through death will these new-found bonds be severed. The six people you see before you - they will become the most important people in your life - more important than your spouses your children, your parents. You will think of them constantly - worry what they're thinking and doing - worried they might talk. They will, in turn, have the same thoughts about you.
Let's start with you, Herr Grosse. I've studied you, read the biographies, the newspaper accounts, even interviewed your servants - told them I was writing a book about you. I know more about your life than even you do! Did you know your wife is having an affair with your sister-in-law? You don't remember me do you? Why would you? I was young and fat when we were in school but cute, yes...you must have thought I was cute or you wouldn't have chosen me to be your twisted playmate. Ladies and gents, see before you Herr Grosse, great industrialist and sodomizer of little boys. It's a habit that never dies, eh Herr Grosse? Now your secret lives with your new friends who will know, when they see photo shoots of you cutting the ribbon at some new boy's home, that you are a monster - a snookerer of little boys.
Don't look so shocked, Serena! I know you well, know that your mind is whirring with the possibility of blackmail! I know what you're capable of! When you burned the horse farm for the insurance I was in the barn, helping my beloved Sweet Pea give birth to her first foal. I have the burns to prove I was there. I witnessed your crime, saw you walk away from the barn even though the horses were shrieking for help.
....and that is all I got done.
Thanks for reading. No challenge today. Just enjoy the chilly winter day. Make soup and find someone to cuddle with. Like the lovebirds.