Chuck Wendig: The Dancer and the Shattered Shell

I missed the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge last week, so I was determined to get one done for this week.  This week’s challenge is to pick one from a list of ten randomly-generated titles that he put out there, and write a story of up to 1,000 words to go with it.  Mine is 645 words long.  I hope you like it.


 

The Dancer and the Shattered Shell

I sat alone in the back of every room I was ever in.  I was the kid who never raised his hand, who never spoke up, who never said hello.  Or goodbye.  Or anything else.

I built walls around myself to keep me in and everyone else out.  Walls that reached up and arched over and met in the middle to form a dome high over my head.

A shell.

And inside my shell, I kept my own counsel.  I drew.  I wrote.  I read.  I sang.

I drew innumerable doodles of starships and swans and dolphins and cartoon dogs in the margins of my class notes, but never showed the drawings to anyone.

I wrote poetry on the inside covers of my notebooks.  Shy, hesitant poems about darkness and light and the way the wind feels on your face when you step outside into a cold winter storm.  I never showed those to anyone, either.

I read thick, impenetrable epics full of heroes and villains and magic and love and fantasy that took me to places I knew I would never reach on my own.

I sang.  Not out loud, but in my heart, where only I could hear it.  I sang the popular songs of the day as well as my own compositions, songs of longing and desire and the need to be accepted and the fear of reaching out.

And I danced.

Oh, above all, how I danced.

In my bedroom, late at night, I would put on headphones and turn on the music, crank up the volume, and I would dance.

I never had any sort of musical training, and my rhythm was suspect, but I didn’t care.  As the music pounded through my headphones into my soul, I would throw my head back and my arms wide and spin and leap and hop and thrash and mosh and give myself over to the beat.  It was the only time I ever allowed myself to let go, to show who I truly was.

Of course, no one ever saw it but me.  Everyone else was outside the shell.  I was safe and insulated within.

Then one day at school, some kids were fooling around while we were waiting for the bell to ring.  We were out in the courtyard and someone turned on a speaker and started playing music.  A couple of kids started dancing, just goofing around, and everyone else was laughing and clapping, egging them on, joining in.

As I usually did, I moved away and sat alone, reading.  I read while listening to the music with one ear, head bobbing ever so slightly to the beat.

Someone called my name.  I looked up, and they were all waving at me.  “Hey,” they shouted.  “Come on!  Show us what you got!”

They had done this before.  I did what I always did.  I held up my book and shook my head.  “No thanks,” I said, and I ducked my head back down to read.

This day would be different, though.  For some reason, they weren’t going to take no for an answer this time.  Someone came over, laughing, and reached through my shell and took the book out of my hand.  Other hands reached out to me, imploring me to get up.  Faces smiled and heads nodded reassuringly.

The call came again.  “Show us what you got!”  Cheers, clapping, some of it probably from people who were hoping to see the class mope make a fool of himself.  They weren’t going to let it go.  I took a breath, and I stood up.

The song changed.  One of my favorite late night songs came on.  It was a sign.  I smiled.  It was the first time some of these kids had ever seen an expression on my face.

I threw my arms wide.

My shell shattered.

And I danced.

Chuck Wendig: That House

Chuck Wendig runs flash-fiction challenges at his blog.  He gives a prompt, you write a story based on it and publish it on your blog.  I am going to take part in as many of these as I can this year to help get the muse flowing again.

The challenge this week was to bring up a random Flickr image and write a 1,000 story inspired by it.  The photo I chose was entitled That House by Arif Ünsal.  The link is https://www.flickr.com/photos/arifunsal/24319708705/ and the picture is below.

ThatHouse

Here is my story.  I hope you like it.

Home

We were out when the snow really got bad.  Jenny wanted to go to town and get some lunch.  She wanted a cheeseburger.

“I can make you one,” I said.  “There’s meat in the freezer.  It won’t take long to thaw.”

“I don’t want one of yours,” she said.  “You can’t cook for shit.  Besides, I want a margarita too, and there’s no tequila left.”

“That’s not my fault.  You know I don’t drink tequila.”

“Maybe you should start.  Might improve your cooking.”  She was always saying stuff like that, trying to yank my chain, get me going.  I ignored her, as usual.

“It’s supposed to snow this afternoon, babe,” I said, still trying to talk her out of it.  “You know I hate driving in that stuff.”

She wasn’t having it.  “Just a little snow,” she said.  Then she did that pouty thing with her lips that she knows I can’t resist.  “Come on, Seth, please?”

I looked at the ceiling, then at her.  “All right.  Let’s go.”

We live almost 20 miles from town, way out in the middle of nowhere.  The snow had started by the time we got to Jack’s.  We got out of the car and she stood there for a second.  The snow swirled and spiraled in the wind and dusted her hair and shoulders with a radiant halo of crystals.  She was beautiful.

“We better hurry,” I said.  “If this keeps on we’re going to have a hell of a time getting home.”

“You can’t rush a cheeseburger at Jack’s,” she said with a grin.  I just looked at her.  Her smile faded a little and she nodded.  “I know.  I’m sorry.  I just thought it would be fun.”

“It will be,” I said.  “I just want to make sure we get back before the roads get too bad.”

 

Fifteen minutes later we said our goodbyes to Jack and Sheila and came back out to the car.  The burgers had been delicious and she had loved her margarita.  She smiled at me.  I love to see her smile.

The snow was falling harder than it had been when we arrived.  The car was covered with it, not just dusted.  Had to have snowed an inch while we were in there.

We headed for home.  The roads were covered with snow and in town, drifts were already forming against the curbs.  I had chains on my tires—around here we put them on in November and don’t take them off until March unless God Himself comes down and says it’s going to be sunny—but I kept my speed down.  No sense tempting fate.

Jenny teased me about my driving.  She thinks I drive too slow anyway, and now she really started to hoot.  “Is that a turtle passing us?”

I spared her about a half second glance.  I could barely see the road for the snow blowing, and I didn’t want to take any chances.  “If it is, I hope he’s got his chains on,” I said.

It took almost an hour to drive the twenty miles home, but we finally made it.  I almost went off the road three different times, and by the time we saw the house in the distance, Jenny had quieted to let me concentrate.

We’d made it.  I parked the car and we went inside.  The fire had gone out, so I laid some new logs and coaxed it back to life.

I walked back outside to gather more firewood.  It was covered with snow, but I made several trips and stacked it by the grate in the mudroom to dry.  I made one more trip.  This one was just for me.  I walked halfway to the road, stumbling through the piled up snow, and turned back to look at the house.

It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The snow had stopped falling.  The sun was glaring down out of the silver sky.  The ice in the trees and the snow on the ground were sparkling in the reflected light.  I could just make out the shape of the house under the trees.  I threw my arms wide and shouted.  No words, just a roar of happiness and contentment.

I walked back up to the house and went into the mudroom.  I scraped off my boots and tossed my gloves and hat on the grate by the wood to dry.  I hung my jacket on one of the hooks by the door and headed into the house.

“What was that all about?”  Jenny had gone into the kitchen while I fooled with the firewood and wandered around the yard.  I walked in and leaned on the counter beside her as she plundered in the cabinets.

“I just felt like yellin’.”  I grinned.

“You’re such a caveman.”

“Not in this weather,” I said.  “Maybe a Viking.”

“Like Thor,” Jenny said, “except he’s hot and you’re just a skinny little guy with a bald spot.”

I shrugged.  “You married me.  You weren’t so picky back in the day.”

“Maybe I should have been.”  She gave me a hug.  I kissed her.  She leaned into me for a few more seconds then pulled away and started looking through the cabinets again.  “You want some hot chocolate,” she said, “if I can ever find it?”

“Sounds good,” I said.  “It’s in there.”  I pointed at a drawer.

She opened it and took out a couple of packets of cocoa.  “What the hell’s it doing in there?”

“I dunno.  I saw it in there this morning.”

As she made our drinks I went into the living room and jostled the fire around a bit.  She brought me a mug, steaming hot, and we cuddled up together under a blanket, sipping our hot chocolate and watching the snow start coming down again through the window.  We stayed there, enjoying each other, until we both dozed off.

It turned out to be a pretty good day after all.

Rebooting the dream

Welcome to Writing The Egg, version 2.0.  I have made many attempts over the years to be a more frequent, consistent writer and blogger, and 2016 will see yet another, as I try to recover from the abject failure of last year’s #NotLazy campaign.

In a different sort of approach, I have decided to completely reboot WTE.  I have changed the template for a new look and cleaned out the archive, getting rid of the past eight years of posts and whinging and intermittent fits and starts.  This is a new era for the blog and a fresh start for me.

I am not going to lay out all sorts of goals and aspirations in this post, other than to say that I am going to make an effort to blog more often and write something every now and then.  I have no intention of trying to write a novel anytime soon.  My muse has been on vacation or on strike or something for more than three years now.  Grandiose plans and schemes will not bring her back.  If I can blog a bit, and write the occasional short story, I’ll be happy, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

So keep an eye out.  I will definitely be posting a story here later today.  Check back and see what you think of it, and keep a look out as the year progresses.  Maybe I’ll actually get some writing done.