My writing goal is to be steady,
at a time.
I steadily fail. I never quit.
Lotan Brown, aka Ian Gough, on Twitter offers up the #7daytale. The writing challenge is to write a story using 7 tweets, one per day, for a week. I decided to give it a go. I'm a pantser. I didn't outline the story or write ahead. What you'll read is what came to mind each day that I sat down to add to the story. I have not edited the story. Each day below is a direct copy from my daily tweets. I titled the story at the end. Writer or not, give it a try.
Not What It Seems
By Robert Stanhope
From a safe distance, I observed something I never thought I'd see. It happened quickly. A young blonde girl riding a bike down the street. A gray van pulled along side her. A side door opened. Two men hurried out, grabbed the girl and the bike, and pulled them inside.
The van raced away and I followed. After turning onto Main Street, the van slowed to the speed limit. I kept my distance a few car lengths back. After a right onto Elm, the van stopped in front of a warehouse. Three men in black, and the girl, got out. I called 9-1-1.
The police dispatcher heard my report & kept me on the line. The police were en route. "They are coming out!" I shouted as four people, dressed as clowns, exited the warehouse & climbed into the van. "I know the small one is the girl." "Okay, sir. We'll be there soon."
A fifth clown rolled bicycles to the van. They drove off. I was conflicted. Follow the van? Wait for the police? I followed. "The van is moving & I'm following them," I told the dispatcher. A stern, calm voice replied, "Step down, sir. We'll track them down." "Sorry."
"Sir? Sir!" The dispatcher called out. I ended the call. I thumbed through my apps. I wanted to go live on Facebook. I placed the phone in its holder and started streaming. Why are they pulling into the elementary school parking lot? Another van pulled alongside them.
A police van? How did the police know where they were going? A half dozen officers got out of their van & walked around the gray van. No guns drawn. No urgency in motion. They slid open the door on the gray van. The clowns exited and hugged the officers. I was shocked.
An officer walked in my direction. He was carrying what looked like a suitcase, but larger. He stopped at the street corner, opened the case and stood it up. A sign. "POLICE DEPARTMENT CIRCUS - TONIGHT - 6:00 PM" A circus! I turned down a side street and drove away.
In life, don't be afraid to lean in and lean on, to embrace and to be embraced, for we are not alone, we are not one without love, we are on a journey together, sharing love.
A few times in my blog I have discussed writing prompts. You can search Google for writing prompts. You can open a Twitter account and participate in daily prompts from various authors in a variety of genres. The great thing about prompts is that they get the muse going. You can adapt them to your writing style. I use them primarily to practice writing concise lines. Since I enjoy writing poetry and flash fiction, being concise becomes extremely important when I want to enter writing contests with limited line submission guidelines or limited words.
WRITER TIP: Keep a log of writing prompts and your prompt writing. This journal can be a useful reference if writer's block strikes.
Today, I practiced with the prompt for #MuseMon which was the word save. Here are a few samples.
I saved the moment I fell in love with you, like an instant Polaroid picture, slowly coming into frame, pinned to my heart. #MuseMon
She needed saving, but her salvation was locked away in a broken heart, filled with hatred and confusion. She was a lost soul. #MuseMon
I'm saving my final words for you. The words will reflect my life, a life I couldn't have lived without you. #musemon
Never on a pirate vessel
has a lavish and gaudy man
offering peace written to paper.
A king, soon to be,
knocked flat on his ass,
stripped of his gold rings and teeth
by a ruthless, blacklisted captain
laughing in the face of
a weak monarchy.
I closed my eyes and opened my mind.
I tried to access the neurological freeway.
The ramp was closed to traffic.
I followed the orange detour signs.
A left turn and then another
Into a dimly lit valley of my cerebrum.
A storm was brewing in the distance.
Flashes of light lit my unknown route.
The road suddenly came to an end.
The only exit from the valley
A ladder to the left, a door to the right.
Or, I could have turned back.
The top of the ladder wasn’t visible.
The door was chain locked.
The return route had turned pitch black.
I chose to climb the ladder.
Each step to the next rung was stable,
The flashes above brighter.
My legs began to burn as I climbed,
My hands remained firmly gripped to the rails.
Blue, orange, and white flashes,
An eerie shadow and an ominous growl
A pit of fear formed in my stomach.
A pair of eyes appeared with a bright flash.
I had climbed too long to turn back.
I had to face the unknown shadow.
The growl became a constant.
Everything was suddenly pitch black.
The darkness drew silent.
The shadow grabbed my arm and threw me.
I was tossed deep into the darkness,
Helpless, screaming, and fearing where I might land.
I began to feel weightless, as if in space.
Motionless as I came to a sudden stop.
The bright flashes no more,
Just pitch black, the night starless.
As my heart raced, I tried to calm down,
Talking to myself and counting through deep breaths.
My chest throbbed as the void began to close.
The pitch black world turned to anxiety.
I screamed to break the silence.
Not a sound, not even my voice.
I felt as if I were being buried alive.
A great weight crushed my body.
Then a light appeared beneath me.
An opening to what appeared to be a large tube.
I began to fall with great speed into the tunnel.
Brighter and brighter, the light glowed.
A blinding white flash in a freefall,
Nothing to grab to slow my rapid decent.
I could hear myself screaming,
A heat mounted as I went deeper,
I was burning up in the core of my brain.
I awoke buried in sand up to my neck.
At first, I noticed a few mischievous children,
Forming a circle around me with an evil grin
On their faces, all with the same maniacal laugh.
Their numbers grew and grew
Casting a shadow over my face.
Darkness returned to my world.
The children were still laughing.
I could no longer see their faces.
Sweat formed a puddle around my neck
Rising to touch my bottom lip
I couldn’t move an inch as I tasted
A salty liquid coating my tongue.
I began to drown, surrounded by children
Laughing as I gasped for fresh air.
The liquid engulfed my mouth,
The children’s laughter ceased.
I was dying in a pitch black world.
I jolted from my bed, gasping for oxygen.
I turned and saw the time on the clock.
It was 5:22 in the morning.
I reached for my cell phone.
I had my oneirologist on speed dial.
A groggy voice came from the speaker.
He questioned, “Pitch black again?”
Then a child began to laugh.
Damn that smarts!
Under the skin.
Cut the finger off!
To stop the agony!
Son of bitch!
Precision surgery begins.
Focused on removal
Of a micro-spear.
Picking at the epidermis,
Peeling it away,
Flake by flake,
Suck on the wounded digit.
Pick, pick, pick.
Ah! Much better.
Admire the wood splinter-
A respected foe.
Rain pouring down,
Washing away the pain.
Emptying bottles of booze,
Curing depression and blues.
Pull on weathered boots,
Spreading the news, grassroots.
Thank the Lord,
Cut the cord,
To a man that used to be.
A man that used to be.
Rise up tall,
Show them all,
that needs to be.
Change a broken life,
There are kids and a wife.
No more drunken nights
And late night fights.
Thank the Lord,
Cut the cord
To a man that used to be,
That used to be.
Today's a shining day,
Here to stay.
One more chance to pray
For a man that needs to be.
“I can’t take another step,” said José.
“You can do it!” exclaimed Rosita.
“I can’t!” proclaimed José.
“The rest of your life is before your eyes in America. Now get up and brush yourself off because the land of plenty is just ahead,” Rosita said with enthusiasm.
José and Rosita haven’t had a drink of water in two days. There has been no food. They have walked for miles through the desert heat and slept under the stars with fears of snake and scorpion bites. They have the dream of America driving them to the border. They know if they can just get there, that their entire life will be better. This is the dream of America being sold around the world.
“FREEZE!” shouted a man in a uniform, holding an automatic weapon.
Startled, yet exhausted, José collapses. He’s unconscious. His best friend Rosita drops to her knees to try and wake José.
“Help me, please,” pleads Rosita. “Please!”
The soldier wants to help the two children that have reached the American border with no family or other adults for support, but he is torn between duty and humanity.
Along the border, there is a battle to protect a line in the sand. Cross that line and you may be shot! American militias have taken arms to protect their land, their nation, and their sovereignty. Their representatives in Washington have failed them.
“I’ll get you some water,” says the soldier.
“Is he going to be okay,” Rosita asks without a response.
The soldier hands Rosita two bottles of water and she tries to get José cooled off with one bottle and unselfishly reserves the second bottle if he awakes, not tending to her own dehydration.
“I think he’s dying,” screams Rosita.
“We have two more kids that have made it,” said the soldier into a handheld radio.
“When will this ever end?” was the response on the radio.
“What should I do?” the soldier replied.
A bus appears in a cloud of dust. It’s full of unbathed, crying children. Their parents told them that this would be the beginning of their new life in America.
“José, can you see!” Rosita said to José when she saw the bus.
“We are in America!” Rosita shouted unable to shed a tear of joy.
The driver steps off the bus, wipes his head with a sweat-soaked rag, and calls to Rosita to get on the bus. Refusing to leave José, she grasps his hand even tighter.
“José, wake up!” she whispers in his ear.
There is no response.
“Please José!” Rosita cries as she tries to get water in his mouth from the second bottle of water.
There is still no response.
The border soldier walks to the two children, choking back his emotions as not to be seen by the bus driver.
“Please get on the bus,” the soldier says to Rosita.
“I can’t leave José,” she continued to cry dry tears.
“I will take care of him,” says the solider. “Please get on the bus.”
Hesitantly, Rosita rises from José’s side and released her grip from her friend’s hand. Just a few more barefooted steps to the bus and she could rest her bloodied and blistered feet. Her pain was in her heart and not in her feet as she looked back to where José lay lifeless.
“Come on kid,” said the soldier to José. “Wake up.”
There was no response.
“I need to keep moving,” said the bus driver.
“I’ll take care of him,” replied the soldier.
As the driver settled into his seat and closed the door, Rosita called out – “What about José?”
The driver put the bus into gear and started to pull away when Rosita got her last view of José, as the soldier placed his ball cap over his face. José was gone.
There is a dilemma at the border, in Washington, and in our hearts. We need to protect our nation, but we need a human spirit that can rise above the politics. We were humans before there were borders.
Writer and photographer.