The Most Difficult Writer’s Challenge: Breakthrough for the week of 10/21/2019

The kitchen is two rooms away from the front door. You/s/he have just settled down at the kitchen table with a beverage. The doorbell rings. You put down your cup and stand. Move your character from the table, through the two rooms, to the front door. Hold your reader’s interest and let your descriptions of each room tell your reader something about your narrator. Pay attention to the time of day/night, the season and the weather outside. I look forward to what you write. ms


From Theresa Souers:

Another long trying day.  Another miserable day spent in a miserable life.  Slumped behind the steering wheel of his black 1994 Chevy Impala, Bill closed his eyes and reminisced about his heyday spent racing his “muscle car” along the back roads outside of Saginaw, Texas.  Those roads don’t exist anymore.  Strip malls and apartments with no character took over the landscape years ago.  Nothing precious exists anymore. Nothing but faded picture shows stored deep in his mind.  Back then he was known as Banger due to his fame as the one that could bang down a six pack of Bud within 5 minutes.  Now he is just Bill.  Boring Bill.  Boring Bill living a bland life. He stared at the front door of his house, sighed heavily and lifted his bulk up from the car seat and slammed the car door behind him.  With his hands shoved deep in his right coat pocket, he fiddled with the car keys as he slowly trudged toward the house.  Hesitating at the front door, he privately wagered on which version of his wife he would find within the suffocating walls.  Maniac Scarlet Ohara, stern Kathryn Hepburn, bitchy Bette Davis or scary Kathy Bates.  None were the girl he had married the year after he purchased the Impala.  He was riding high back then.  Now, his life was gaining momentum in a downward slide to hell.

“Maybe she won’t be home,” he hoped.  “When there is hope, there is life,” some airy-fairy shrink had once lectured him.  “Right.  Keep on hoping,” he mused.  Maybe he could just grab a beer from the fridge and veg on the sofa for fifteen minutes.  Just fifteen minutes.  He could always hope.  “Ha.”

He laughed inwardly at his fantasy and headed straight to the kitchen.  Reality slammed hard.  There she was.  Grace.  What a name.  Anything but grace.  She was half bent over the sink, legs spread tripod stiff and wide.  Her hands were firmly planted on the kitchen counter as if braced against a fall. His eyes focused on her obscenely protruding shoulder blades.  They looked like razors ready to slash anyone that dared to touch her. His mind drifted to two weeks prior when they’d had the plumber install the sink. He remembered what she had said with disgust in her eyes: “Now, do you understand?”  She had a way of blurting out these obscure remarks.  “Understand what? Clarify please.”   There was absolutely no logic in her random outbursts yet he was supposed to be a mind reader and reassure her of her value and his undying love.  He recalled the plumber had been telling an age-old joke having something to do with a wife asking her husband if her pants made her butt look fat.  He couldn’t remember the punch line.  It didn’t matter anyway as he had never found that joke funny in the first place. There was nothing humorous about being caught in a no-win situation. He walked that tightrope every day.  The plumber, straight out of central casting, had struck the expected pose with his head under the sink, with the butt-crack that could swallow Dallas exposed in full glory.  Grace had glared at that crack with pitch forks in her eyes and then turned to stare at Bill.  She didn’t have to say a thing.  At that particular time, he could read her mind.  He should have done something to keep that man, all men, across the planet from saying stupid things at stupid times.  Of course, she took his dumb joke as a personal attack.  Everything was about her.  The world judged her.  She was the eternal victim.  And he was the guy holding the gavel.  He was exhausted.

Snapping back to the present he once again focused on Grace.  She remains motionless over the sink but he could feel the anger emanating from her entire being.  He couldn’t see her face but she appeared to be staring at the drain.  “Crap,” he remembered he had left a coffee cup in there this morning and was certainly going to hear all about it.  “I’m not a paper doll,” she said, not looking up.  Bill was speechless.  He felt caught in a freeze frame.  Time had stopped while he noticed her faded dress, her stringy hair, her thighs no thicker than her arms.  She looked like a character he once saw in a Great Depression photo. “I’m not a paper doll,” she repeated.  How the hell was he supposed to respond? That was always the question.  If he was truthful, he would tell her that she certainly looked like a paper doll.  Thin, flat, fragile.  Her clothes hung from her shoulders as if tabs were the only thing keeping them on her pitiful frame.  He felt a smile try to creep on his face with the image of his little sister screaming long ago.  He had purposefully bent the head of one of her paper dolls backward just to set her off on one of her endless tantrums.  He had been punished but it was worth it. Grace certainly looked like she could be bent in half.  She was emaciated, disappearing, nearly gone.  He recalled a Steven King novel where the main character basically faded away to the point where he floated up into the outer hemisphere, never to be seen again.  Maybe Grace would just float away and Bill could stop living this nightmare.  There was always hope.

She turned to face him, “Did you hear me?”  She screamed.  “I am not a paper doll.”  “No,” he heard a distant voice say.  To his surprise, he realized that voice was his own.   Still fiddling with the car keys in his pocket, he stood tall and calmly said, “And you won’t be floating away.”

He felt a grin spread across his face, and found he liked the sensation.  He remembered Banger, the back roads of Saginaw and the Impala waiting at the curb.  As he turned toward the front door, he thought to himself, “I’m turning my back to Grace.” He chuckled at the irony.  Hell, for the first time in an eternity, he was actually turning toward grace.  Grace and freedom.  Grace, freedom and life.  He crossed the threshold for the last time, softly closed the door behind him, and whistled a John Prine tune as he strolled to the Impala.  He settled in to the well-worn seat and placed both hands on the custom steering wheel.  After a few deep breaths, he reached into his pocket to pull out the ignition key. Two more slow deep breaths and he turned the key.  The Impala’s engine purred as he gently pressed down on the gas pedal.  He had forgotten how much he loved that sound.   He looked over his left shoulder for any possible oncoming traffic.  Seeing the road was clear, he eased the car onto the road and noticed that reflection of the setting sun in his rear-view mirror.  He never looked back.





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