Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Changing Brain Channels

Over the past few weeks, our charmingly outspoken writer-friend Dean has been giving us writing exercises for us to have a better grasp of what is, to me, still a mysterious craft. He starts off with a sentence and an objective, and we're supposed to compose a vignette that he'd critique later on. Here are my takes on the exercises so far:
Objective: Describe a Person
First Sentence: Playing chess frightened her.
Playing chess frightened her. She didn't want to lose her head.

It was the last of her possessions, a lone medal of value where she found brittle traces of beauty despite its engorged roundness. It bathed in the zigzagging falls of her unkempt amber hair and floated with each whisper beat of her wide wing-ears.

Her half-full squinty eyes were always almost forward, slightly avoiding the horizon, but never looking down. She didn't want to. Most of her body had already been consumed by the everyday of 16 years. Days of loss and losing, a slow nibbling, sometimes a violent tearing at her cotton skin.

Her legs crumbled when she was five, the death of mother, and walking became difficult. Feeling that emptiness where her legs once were, she ate and ate, hoping they would grow back, and she swelled like a balloon. A large, lonely balloon without legs.

At school, her arms and hands disappeared. She retreated from the taunts of her schoolmates and flew off to caged places where no one could touch her. Her fingernails, shapeless chips of dry lavender, floated around her like dull uninspired stars, reminding her constantly that she once had arms and hands. That she once could touch, hold, and feel.

On her sixteenth birthday, she awkwardly gave her balloon body away to a boy who said loved her. The longest night of her life capped with the shortest goodbye and a distant chuckle on the horizon. Left with almost nothing, she swore never to look that way again.

She stared at the ebony-ivory board before her, squinty eyes squinting even more, creating wide furrows on her forehead. The man before her, perhaps in his thirties, smiled an odd smile that sought a response. He had made the first move with a word and a gift, both of which sat on that familiar horizon to which she would not turn. The match had barely begun, but she wanted to duck again into that sweet caged place to shield herself from his touch. The checkmate.

Objective: Describe a Place
First Sentence: Nothing had moved.
Nothing had moved.

Thomas smiled as he took a whiff of the country air. Pausing as he found himself between the worn picket fence and the large aging house of his childhood, he took his gaze around the garden, a parcel of a past he had once thought long forgotten. He remembered how his mother would wake up at dawn each morning without falter, to tend to her roses and daisies before gliding into the kitchen to prepare the family breakfast. The blooms had long ceased to grow, but Thomas could still imagine a flowery palette painted on the now barren stalks surrounded by weeds and dandelions. He could remember the scent that would greet him each morning – roses and daisies, and the family breakfast.

The iron carousel creaked lazily under the tender brush of breeze while, on the opposite end of the garden, the little painted seesaw waited patiently for playmates to return, not caring if much of its youth had been peeling away from its mosaic complexion. Thomas had attempted to locate Clarisse Robertson, the shy pig-tailed girl he had shared the seesaw with, only to learn that she had since found contentment in her marriage with a Baptist pastor in Kentucky. He made a mental note to visit her should his business take him to the Southeast.

It was near noon, and the air grew hot and dry. Thomas slid his pinstriped coat off and loosened his tie as he began towards the house for shade. Time was kind to this place, he thought. Though age had obviously set in here, his yesterday's home, Thomas began to remember all. Nothing had changed, he concluded. Nothing had moved, save him.

And knowing this, as he walked towards the door of the house and back in time, he felt happy.


I haven't gone around tackling the third exercise as I find myself stumped. The objective of the next exercise is to "describe an action or series of actions." This is particularly challenging, as I'd opt to draw the thing than describe it in words. Here is where my paradigm limits set in. Now where is that friggin' dictionary?

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