Hand sanitizer. Windmill. Crying jag. Burned paper.
The only thing I want more than solar panels is a windmill. Our neighbors have one, although theirs isn’t the kind that generates electricity. It’s just for looks. I want one that looks good and produces usable current. My dream is to be off the grid. Every time I think about the oil spills and the poor animals they kill and the habitat permanently decimated by drilling, I become incredibly depressed. Last week when I heard about the fire on the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, I went on a real crying jag. Forgetting I’d just applied hand sanitizer, I rubbed my eyes. Wow! Now there’s a real wake-up call.
Very clever, Barbara!
I love how you connected the crying jag and the hand sanitizer.
You’re leading the pack with your response to this writing prompt. You go girl!
Go Barbara! Very impressive!
Carly stood at the window rubbing hand sanitizer over her fingers and across the palms of her hands. The windmill was motionless. No power meant no water for the farm; life had been hard for weeks.
Instead of allowing another crying jag to drag her down, she pulled a sheet of paper from her desk. Crying made her weak and listless while pouring herself out with her pen in hand gave her hope.
Carly sat at the dining room table and wrote for an hour. When the page was filled and her heart was empty, she lit a match and touched it to her list of sorrows. Her woes were minimized to burned paper and she could breathe again.
OMG. Nothing worse than windmill with no wind. Like a sailboat with no wind, seeded dandelions with no wind, an eagle with no wind beneath its wings. Nice one, Shaddy.
Great job, Shaddy! Loved the ending.
Thank you for your kind comments about my story. You are too hard on yourself, though! Your piece is as poignant as it is succinct. I could feel the catharsis.
She knew she couldn’t take much more of this. Today’s crying jag had lasted well past noon. She’d held it together until after she’d left her mother-in-law’s home. She didn’t want them to think she was ungrateful for the bit of comfort she found in their quiet sanctuary. But, really, how much could one person endure?
And why, she wondered, did the days seem to grow longer as the deadline neared. Wasn’t she looking forward to this? Wasn’t this her lifetime dream? Shouldn’t the time go faster instead of slower? She certainly had enough to do to get ready for it.
And, how was she going to explain her red, swollen eyes to her husband this time? He’d know right away she’d been crying again. He’ll think it was the terrible service at his mom’s that was causing the tears, and he’ll feel badly about that, knowing there was nothing he could do but empathize and tell her to hang on a bit longer.
“It’ll get better, I promise,” he’ll say. And that would make her feel worse.
Well, nothing to do now but sort through more boxes, she thought. She carried an orange milk crate out into the yard, sat down, and opened another box. She scanned each page, putting some into another box, and others into the fire before her. A gust of wind snatched the burned paper from the flames and windmilled it across the bare ground.
She jumped up and ran after the blackened pages. Then she returned to the milk crate, put the paper back into the fire, and cleaned her hands with hand sanitizer.
“This is ABSOLUTELY the last time I’m ever moving!” cried Ann, as tears once again transformed the flames into moving shadow shapes.
Windmilling papers? Very slick way to work it in, Ms. Gullible!
Sweet idea, that is, using the words to let Ann know her move is on your mind.
Wow, I love the windmilling paper, too! I even imagined a trace of flame on the blackened paper. The surprise ending is the kind that makes a person sit back and say, “How clever, completely clever!”
Martha sat with her head in her hands staring at the note lying on the table in front of her. John was leaving her again, this time for good. The crying jag she had just finished hadn’t made her feel any better. It was a good thing she had this waitress job at the Windmill Café. For sure he wouldn’t have left her any money, and there were bills to pay. She picked up her lighter, touched it to the note and had the satisfaction of watching the burned paper disintegrate to ashes. She ran a comb through her hair, dabbed makeup around her eyes, and touched up her lipstick. She took a few deep breathes as she rubbed the hand sanitizer over her hands. Guess I’ll have to take the bus home tonight, she thought as she pushed her way through the swinging doors into the dining room.
Parrot Writes, I say this as kindly and gently as I can, and only in your best interests. Seriously? You need to broaden your horizons! Guess you weren’t in the class where I killed that no good, huh?
Couldn’t help myself. I keep trying to move on, but those lessons, well, they are just so hard to forget! (PS – I really do write about other stuff. You should visit my site sometime!)
I do. Really.
I love it whenever someone brings John and Martha back again. Anything that reminds me of BWW is precious in my mind.
Good ole John and Martha! Their lives are infinitely complex. New episodes can surface at any time.
Parrot, I picture a windmill on the roof of the café–like the Moulin Rouge in Paris. The show must go on.
I just posted this a couple of hours ago, and I am TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY! You are all so good! I am moved and energized and happy and I-don’t-know-what-to say- reacting. Are you guys writers or what? Brilliant. I’d rather read these than any book I’ve been checking out or listening to for a long time. Absolutely stellar.
Happy moving, Ann.
PS: We had a good instructor.
This type of writing prompt is fun, fun, fun. More, more, more, PLEASE.
His dream had come true when he purchased his dream car, a Jaguar XKE. He stood beside the driver’s door and pulled out his cigarette lighter and struck the wick. With his bank note in his other hand he said, “Paid In Ful” and let the burned paper float away.
He rubbed hand sanitizer into the pores of his hands, as was his practice before grabbing the wood grain steering wheel. As he snuggled into the fine English leather, he adjusted the mirrors and fastened his seat belt. The autocross course ran through his mind, the right turn, the 180, another 180, the left turn, around the windmill, through the s’es and to the finish line. The engine whined, the clutch engaged, crying Jag tires smoked the air, his heart raced, his reactions perfect. “Now,” he thought, “that is what this car was made for.”
Crying JAGuar. Leave it to you, Walk. I love it.
What a creative take! Though you never describe the owner, I can vividly picture him and his Jag.
Good work ladies, as Ann said, I rather read this than any book.
Susan stared out the window but saw nothing. If sharp stings had not announced the countless invisible paper cuts and assorted nicks on her hands, she would not have even noticed that she was slathering her hands with sanitizer. Between this year’s swine flu scare and all the recent time she had spent in hospitals, reaching for hand sanitizer had become a reflex.
The end was going to be messy. She knew it. Accidents, illnesses, and trips to the emergency room had became more frequent. Susan had started to dread seeing her parents’ name on her caller id. No longer had she been able to skip answering an unfamiliar number; a kind neighbor might have been calling with an unkind report. Now it was even worse. The cruel caller id regularly flashed the name of the nursing facility.
“Knock! Knock! Susan?”
“Susan! Are you alright?”
The still figure at the window jerked around quickly.
“What? Is everything okay? … Oh, Joyce! Thank heavens it’s you.”
“I’m sorry. I did not mean to startle you. I can only imagine how distracted and upset you must still be. But coming back to work is the best thing for you right now. After weeks of bouncing between hospitals and chasing down doctors, you need to get back into your own life. Your students need you to get back into your own life, too. We are here to do whatever we can for you,” explained Joyce. “Besides, everything is now in the hands of professionals.”
“You are right, Joyce. Thanks for the wake up call–literally. What can I do for you?”
“I just came by to let you know what a great job you did with Mackenzie this morning. Her crying jag seemed to last forever, but you calmed her down and got her to the infirmary so quickly. Falling off the swing set is dangerous and scary, but that kindergartner, who barely had a scratch on her, definitely has a flair for the dramatic. Her Mom picked her up a few minutes ago and asked me to come thank you for taking such good care of her daughter.”
“Ah, good… Um, I mean, that’s nice of Mrs. Wiggins. Thank you, Joyce.”
“Are you sure you are okay, Susan?” probed Joyce one last time.
“Yes. I am okay.”
After the elementary school administrator disappeared down the hall, Susan sunk into her desk chair and mindlessly started munching a morsel of a windmill cookie that was left over from story hour. The cinnamon flavor transported her back to her own kindergarten days. Miss Andrews used to serve chocolate milk and windmill cookies as a snack while she read stories like “Black Beauty” to the rapt youngsters.
Susan broke her own spell–time to straighten the classroom for tomorrow before going to see her parents, who may or may not recognize her today. As she picked up scraps of construction paper, paste pots, scissors, and a variety of brightly-colored plastic toys, she recalled the late Friday afternoon phone call turned her world upside down.
“Uh, hello, er uh, Susan? This is your Dad.”
Immediately, she knew something was wrong because her Mom was the one who always did the calling. Straightening herself, taking a deep breath, and trying to sound as if nothing were scaring her to death, she answered, “Oh, hi, Dad. How are you?”
“Uh, Susan. I have some… well, uh, I need to tell you… um… Your Mother has had a massive stroke. We’ve been in the acute stroke intensive care unit at Cumberland Hospital all day.”
If that trauma were not enough. No more than two weeks later, the dreadful phone rang, and the relentless caller id revealed the name of the rehab hospital where her Mother was being treated. The professionally trained medical voice on the other end urgently admonished, “You need to come get your Father and take him to the emergency room. We fear he is having a heart attack.”
The present once again interrupted Susan’s mental replay. The bulky box of crayons slipped out of her hand, and all 128 colors escaped across the floor.
“Great time for inanimate objects to stage a revolt!” Susan muttered to herself.
When at last her fingers grasped the cornflower blue crayon, the last errant rebel, she spied the corner of an old piece of construction paper poking out from underneath the book shelf. What used to be a smooth, vibrant magenta sheet was now a yellowy brown, sun-burned curl of paper. Was this her own inspirational kindergarten assignment? She could still make out “Excellent! Great work!” The faded words were in the unmistakable handwriting of Miss Andrews.
Susan picked up the damaged relic of her childhood, smoothed it gently, and carefully placed it in her bag. She turned off the lights and closed the classroom door. Walking down the hall, Susan felt like she was in a bubble–so much distance between her and the rest of the world. How would her parents be this afternoon?
Wow! Seems Ann’s prompt came at a perfect time for you. You took it and romped with it.
I barely got on my feet with it. Why, I wonder. Ann didn’t say she was timing us!!
I suspect the challenge fired me up and I just HAD to accomplish it ASAP, typical of my nature.
You rocked as you romped!
Oops! A few typos…
Accidents, illnesses, and trips to the emergency room had *become* more frequent.
…she recalled the late Friday afternoon phone call *that* turned her world upside down.
The slippery bottle of hand sanitizer twirled like a windmill as it fell from her fingers and then slammed against the tiled floor. Carly refused to react. Her eyes were still irritated by threads of smoke drifting up from the otherwise empty wastebasket where she’d tossed the burned paper; she fought back the creeping fingers of an oncoming crying jag.
(I do enjoy being thrifty and to the point. the first time was so much fun, I just had to return for another helping).
Yes and thrifty you are! You created a great image with few words!
The crying jag was over and the windmill of emotions that poisoned her mind came to a slow, grinding halt. A lifetime of hurt and humiliation disappeared like germs rubbed out with hand sanitizer. Martha sat on the floor in front of the fireplace and watched as her marriage license turned into nothing more than burned paper. She stood up, smiling to herself. Yes, the crying jag was over.
I like this alot, Kathy. I always like what you write and would love to have more of it to enjoy.
Yeah! Someone else can’t forget Martha. Nice use of the prompts KathyH!
Keeping Dylan entertained wasn’t always easy, but it was necessary. While I weeded my flowerbeds, he kept himself occupied with the handful of toys he had brought outside. I looked up to find him using a magnifying glass, harnessing the sun’s power against a defenseless anthill. I don’t know how long he had been at it, but I spied a candy wrapper that had been reduced to a small piece of burned paper next to the ant hill. I got cleaned up and we went on a search for entertainment. That search led us to Poppy’s Putt-Putt.
Even with Dylan’s coaching, I couldn’t hit the ball through the Dutch windmill. Miniature golf was not my game. There would be no putt-putt career for me. After taking my penalty points for that hole, we finally finished the game.
Once we settled into the SUV, I found the hand sanitizer I kept in my purse. Who knew who had handled those golf clubs before us?
“Did you have fun, even though I beat you, Nanny?” Dylan asked, still rubbing his hands together.
“Of course I did. I always have a great time with my awesome grandson.”
I had been doing my best to keep my seven-year-old grandson from burning down my house while his parents–my son and daughter-in-law– stayed at the hospital with his newborn baby sister. Abby had come a month early and she would have to stay in the neonatal unit for a few days. Her first few hours of life had been uncertain and trying. More than once I had fought against the threat of being consumed by a crying jag.
“Yeah, but I beat you bad, Nanny. Real bad.”
“Hey, are you giving your poor old grandma a hard time?” I asked in mock offense. He laughed.
His giggle filled me with joy. I wondered what Abby’s laughter would sound like.
Nice job, J.J. You used Ann’s prompt to relate a heart-warming real life story.
Beautiful story JJ! As a Grandma I can relate so well to kid-let giggles and being beat at a variety of childrens games. Heartwarming.
How about this? Write a short piece containing these words:
Ann, now settled, had the support of her friends while moving.
Well, you said short.
Perfect, Gully. I don’t think there’s a way to make it much shorter.
Moving slowly, Ann settled into her favorite chair, the one with the extra back support. If only she had listened to her friends and quit at half an hour on the treadmill instead of continuing for a full hour. “Oh well, no pain, no gain,” she said to herself, rubbing her sore legs.
Excellent. You took this in an unexpected direction. I hope Ann has had time to work off some of her stress, even if she had to endure sore muscles.
Methinks our lady Ann has moved in to her new house and cannot find her computer…
Pretty close, Gullie.
I posted something new…just for you.
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle