Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Inspiration/Block (for the writer) (05/20/10)
TITLE: Toaster Ovens, a Dead Horse and a Cabbie’s Pug
By Anita van der Elst
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Sliding the rubber band off the newspaper, Milktoast clears his throat. â€śYes, dear,â€ť he says meekly. â€śI heard you informing their pastor of that just now.â€ť He skedaddles into the living room hoping to settle unobtrusively into his recliner.
Almost trampling on his heels, Hairiest rants, â€śShe reported me to the authorities on false charges, you know! And they are rewarding our neighbors with toaster ovens for spying on me!â€ť
â€śDear, can I get you some tea?â€ť Milktoast turns to her, his head bowed. He has no confidence his perceived safety zone will be respected. Drawing his shoulders in and with one hand raised to fend off any possible strike, he suggests, â€śOr maybe youâ€™d like to take a nap?â€ť
Hairiest and Milktoast are not their real names but in the years I knew them, my hairiest experiences were in her vortex and Milktoast fit my father-in-law well for obvious reasons. I donâ€™t know if this scene played out as Iâ€™ve pictured but it wouldnâ€™t be too far-fetched.
We chose safety boundaries for our familyâ€”they chose separation from us rather than mutual respect. Their behavior inspires me to spates of fictional imaginings.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
â€śWeâ€™re going to the races, the races, the races!â€ť Janelle chants as she hops to the car. Her sister, Heather, imitates her gleefully. Their grandparents regularly go to the racetrack and today theyâ€™ve invited their twin ten-year-old granddaughters to join them.
Granddad gives each girl a twenty-dollar-bill to bet on the horse of her choosing. Janelle thinks Three Biscuit will be a winner, and Heather opts for Rear Admiral. Excitement mounts as the horses burst from the starting gate. Granddad points out Three Biscuit and Rear Admiral, both fine looking animals. Janelle yells, â€śGo, Three Biscuit, go!â€ť Heather cheers for Rear Admiral. Rear Admiral takes the lead. Three Biscuit is nose to rump with Rear Admiral. And then! Three Biscuit halts in mid-stride and crashes to the ground while the racers thunder on.
â€śWhat happened, Granddad?â€ť wails Janelle. â€śWhy isnâ€™t Three Biscuit getting up? Heâ€™s just lying there, like a, a, aâ€¦â€ť
â€śLooks like Three Biscuit justâ€¦dropped dead, Janelle,â€ť Granddad puts his arm around her shoulders. Heather, eyes fixed on Rear Admiral, pays no attention to Janelleâ€™s anguish. Her horse crosses the finish line, nothing rear about it. Rear Admiral has won!
Janelle cries as Heather collects her winnings. Granddad, feeling sorry for Janelle, gives her some money too. The ache in her heart for the poor horse and the unfairness of Heatherâ€™s horse winning and hers dropping dead right in front of her knows no balm.
A smidgen of conversation overheard in a lunchroom, a quick scribble in my ever-present little notebook and a few years later inspiration launches a story from my mindâ€™s starting gate. I wonder where Janelleâ€™s life and my imaginings will lead her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Iâ€™d salivated over the gyros my boss treated me to last week at that cafĂ© a mile out of town. My mind imaged the pita bread overflowing with diced lamb, onion and tomatoes. The site wasnâ€™t close enough to walk to. Mouth watering anticipatorily, I jumped into the taxi Iâ€™d summoned with my cel phone. I gave the cabbie, a kelly-green tartan cap atop his head, the name of the restaurant and asked if he knew it.
â€śNae,â€ť he said, â€śWhat street, lassie?â€ť
â€śAsh Street, West.â€ť
â€śAye, Iâ€™ll have ye there in no time, and I wonâ€™t rob ye much either,â€ť he said with a nod.
I jumped a little when what I first thought to be an inert pile of rags on the front seat moved. The flat nose of a pug popped itself out from under its paws.
The cabbie glanced in his rear-view mirror, honing in on my alarm. Barking, the dog rose to its feet and began to jib. I had to avert my gaze. What would cause this animal to act so? I felt fear ooze up.
Raising his cap, the cabbie ruffled his curly black hair. â€śThâ€™ puir jo has been a bit on thâ€™ edge,â€ť he said. â€śNoticed it just aboot thâ€™ time I was tempted to give up me vows.â€ť
A challenge to use all the words from a Scrabble game I recently played inspires me on a strange ride.
Which of these stories shall I follow to the end? My keyboard beckons...
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