Friday, November 07, 2008

Fiction Friday

Here's a fun game that I just made up, that I'm sure someone else has thought of already, inspired by the writing life of Charles Dickens. Dickens published some of his works one chapter at a time in a magazine, and readers would write in suggestions for endings, etc. (Legend has it that's why Great Expectations has two endings.)

Here's how to play. I start a story using a prompt from The Writer's Book of Matches, by the staff of Boiled Peanuts. You send me an ending suggestion or prediction in comment form. The following Friday I'll give you the rest of the story and the title. Here's the prompt:

"An old man is dining alone in a crowded restaurant when a fire breaks out."

Mike couldn't remember the last time he had seen his grandchildren in person, but his son sent him updated pictures from North Carolina every so often. Today he let them spill out of his tattered leather wallet when the waitress approached him to refill his coffee. "This is Joey, he's six now, and Patrick who is about 10." He spoke like it was the first time he was showing the pictures, as if the waitress had asked to see them. She had not. "They sure are getting big, Mike," was her polite response, as she poured the coffee and excused herself to serve another table. Mike liked to sit at this particular booth because he had a view of the whole restaurant. Cricket's was a homey sort of place, decorated like an English smoking parlour, with dark green plaid wall paper, hunting trophies and a working fireplace beside the bar. A crisp fall day like this one always packed the restaurant with people lured by the smell and warmth of the famous homemade chowder in a bread bowl.

Mike was born and raised in New York back when kids played stick ball in the streets with real sticks, and people in cars actually stopped and waited so they could finish a play. His eyes were that certain shade of blue that makes women notice, and sometimes he would glance up at his reflection in the mirrored Budweiser sign on the wall across from his seat. He was checking to see if he still "had it." As he watched men and women at the bar, he thought of his wife when she was young and vibrant. Sometimes he imagined she was sitting on a bar stool, holding a cigarette in her delicate fingers, daring him to approach with her eyes.

Mike had another picture in his wallet that was one of his most prized possessions. He tapped a young mother feeding a toddler in the booth next to him on the shoulder to show it off. "This is me, and my two brothers...I was Navy and they were Marines. We all came home from WWII on the same day, alive. Boy, did the family celebrate." The picture was black and white, but the color of joy was evident on the faces. "See how the women all look relieved!" He laughed. "We all were, because my brothers and I lived through Hell." The woman feeding the toddler nodded politely, because the man was obviously lonely, and she felt sympathetic. Then she excused herself from the conversation and ordered another coke.

A loud boom shook the place so hard it shattered bottles and glasses behind the bar. People gasped and screamed. Black smoke and heat rushed into the room. Mike could see flames pushing through what was left of the oval glass windows in the double doors that led to the restaurant kitchen.

Alright, now it's your turn to tell me what should happen next.

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Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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