Flash from the Past!

I’m working on Assignment 7 in the Beginning Writers Workshop with a rambunctious group of December people right now.  You remember that assignment, the one about writing strong sentences.  (The leaves were red, the tornado was like a bull in a china shop, etc.)   Every once in a while a student would surprise me and combine all four weak sentences into one strong paragraph.  That was always great fun. 

So here are four weak sentences.  Some are too vague. Others are so overwritten, you will want to shove a finger down your throat.  There are mucho blah clichés here and mixed metaphors to boot.  Your challenge is to not only rewrite these awful sentences, but come up with a way to weave them together into a fine story.  Here you go:

–It was an old coin.

–Veronica threw back her flowing blond curls, and her emerald green eyes snapped with furious, violent anger as she shoved poor desperate Rudolpho in his purple vest away with an imperious finger.

–The thunder rolled and pounded as if little men were bowling up in the sky, and the downpour of rain came down in sheets, flooding the streets like a burst pipe in an unattended basement.

— In the dying light the endless curving dark bark path led through thick thickets of scary trees that seemed to reach out to tickle any who passed their way.

48 responses to “Flash from the Past!

  1. The diplomatic assembly from Liliputia is in Dubai for the Renaissance Fair. The leader, Ludwig, has been captured by the rogue leader of the Western Witches. Ludwig is being held as ransom by the Elder Tailors Association. The Most Elder, Rudolph, plans to use Ludwig as the key to the Sewing Circle Warehouse in the Wild Forest of Combed Cotton.
    Veronica, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to rescue Ludwig before the Elders can gain entry to the Sewing Circle Warehouse. Taped under the phone stand is the token you need to enter the forest.
    Veronica reached under the phone stand and pulled out a round metal token. It was an old coin. The writing was unreadable to her.
    As the phone stand self-destructed, Ronnie strode over to her tangerine orange 1978 Corvette, jumped in and peeled rubber. She jumped at the booming crash of thunder that shook the overpass. Rain came down in sheets. The streets began to flood and Ronnie tapped the brakes to slow the car down to avoid hydroplaning off the ramp.
    As the rain cleared and the last of the daylight turned red in the western sky, Ronnie pulled into the entrance of the Wild Forest of Combed Cotton. She eased the car over onto the shoulder near the dark bark path that led through the thickest thickets. The path was completely blocked by thick bushes covered in dead vines. Ronnie drew the coin from her belt case. It seemed to glow in the moonlight.
    Hmmm, it wasn’t glowing before….
    The moving shadows cast by the gnarled trees gave her goose bumps on her arms. Ronnie hiked as fast as was possible in the 4 inch heeled thigh high black leather boots.
    Spotting the entrance, Ronnie stopped while still hidden in the brambles. There was the group of ne’re do wells, the Western Witches, standing around drinking beer and grousing about how over worked they were. Sitting in a rough carved wood chair and tied to a nearby tree sat Ludwig, apparently uncomfortable and miserable.
    Ah, there’s Rudolph, strutting around like a rooster trying to impress the others into thinking his plan was going to change their life.
    Veronica stepped into the clearing, her emerald green eyes snapped with furious anger as she shoved Rudolph in his purple vest away from the others. Rudolph lost his balance and landed on his but.
    Without saying a word, Ronnie took out her Leatherman and freed Ludwig from his bindings. Turning to Rudolph and the rest of his men, she said, “Tailors do not kidnappers make. Sew yourselves some moral fiber”.
    Veronica took Ludwig’s arm, and, striding like the king and queen of the land, they departed.

    • I enjoyed your story…”Sew yourselves some moral fiber.” Perfect!

    • Yikes Patsy Watsy! You are on a roll here. So many odd ideas, all wrapped up in a kidnapping plot.

      Not to mention that I enjoyed typing “Patsy Watsy” one more time.

    • PW, love the story, although I don’t understand it, but that is typical for me. I am with Ann, I like that you are here. I have missed you very much.

    • Thanks everybody. I had just gone to see the new Mission Impossible movie two days before. It was packed with scenes. The plot incredulous. It was set in Dubai. Hey if they can go on a flight of fancy in Dubai, so can I.
      Ann, it’s good to be posting with you.
      -Patsy Watsy

    • Wow! This is some wild tale! Lots of fun to read.

  2. Veronica’s blond curls dripped as the rain dripped, and her emerald green eyes flashed anger at Rudolpho for bringing her to the forest as thunder rolled and pounded in the dying light, and rain drenched the path hidden by thickets and mossy tree branches that hung like witches fingers.
    Rudolpho picked up a muddy old coin and tossed it at her and said,“Penny for your thoughts.” He grinned, though his countenance was uneasy, and he looked as odd as his purple vest. Veronica felt a surge of panic and turned to run, but twisted branches reached out and captured her with a ripping grasp.
    “Sorry it wasn’t a gold coin,” said Rudolpho. Then he howled like a wolf as a moonbeam shined through the clouds.

  3. Witches fingers! Grabbing branches! Howling wolfman! You make this look easy.

  4. Ann, I am going to attempt this task, but it is not easy for me. That is what will make it worth doing. I wanted to know if there are any more Onward Is Best books left. My dearest friend loved it so much, I gave it to her for Christmas. I want another for me. Also, would like to know what you thought of my least favorite relative piece because I would like to tweek it and maybe send it to a magazine. I’m nervous, but want to try. By the way…Happy New Year.

    • Yes! There are still Onward is Best books left. If you go to the website, onwardisbest.com, you can order one. I’m delighted.

      I’ll go leave some comments for you on the previous challenge. Yes, do try.

  5. He heard the screech of her voice over the clap of thunder, not the words, but he could imagine what she was saying. Rudolpho wasn’t sure which he feared most at that moment, her wrath or the wild wind and rain that soaked him to the bone as he stood beside the town car surveying the damage.

    “We’ll have to walk,” he repeated. He rolled the old silver dollar he carried in his pocket over and over in his palm, wishing for luck as he nervously glanced at the dark curving path they would have to take through the forest to the town and the venue on the other side.

    Veronica stepped from the car, her umbrella shielding her from the torrential rain that jumped off the pavement matching her fury. She clutched ineffectually at her blonde curls as the wind whipped them from her grasp.

    “I will NOT be late, you worthless man,” she said shoving her finger at his chest, her green eyes flashing in the reflection of another lightning strike. “Do something!”

    “The tire is flat and I haven’t time to change it and get you there,” Rudolpho said straightening his top coat. He wanted to add that she was the one who told him to take the back road instead of the main one.

    “It’s only a block to the other side; we should go now.” The sound of the wind and rain stripping large branches from the trees outlining the path caused his insides to quiver, but he was desperate to get her there.

    His status in the town would definitely increase if he was seen escorting Veronica the Great, current Champion of the WWE, to her next event.

  6. Thunder rolled and crashed around them. Lightning seared the darkening sky and lit up the overhanging trees. Andrew’s familiar sweeping driveway seemed narrower and strangely forbidding to her. A sudden fury of wind ripped the umbrella from Rudolfo’s grasp, and the deluge drenched them as they ran and scrambled onto the porch. Veronica dragged her sodden blond curls away from her face and turned to the pouting Rudolfo. He hoped the flash he saw in her narrowed green eyes was reflected lightning rather than her notorious anger. She jabbed his embroidered purple vest with her finger, then held up the tiny gift-wrapped package she’d been showing him when the storm hit so unexpectedly.

    “If you’re gonna get all heterophobic on me, Rudy,” she snarled through the roar of rain on the porch roof, “I’m gonna be sorry I invited you along. What I actually said was that Andrew has a weird thing about ‘old coins’, not ‘old queens’.”

  7. Veronica’s emerald green eyes flashed as she shoved poor Rudolpho away from her. The black and white cat jumped onto the highboy dresser for a better view of the action, the old coin on its collar jingling loudly. Rudolpho hadn’t meant to make her angry. Her voice was loud and her sharp index finger pointed in his direction, punctuating every hurtful word. When she began throwing the pillows off her bed, he backed slowly and quietly from the room. The cat wore an imperious smirk as it looked down at him.

    Black clouds dimmed the afternoon light. The damp smell of cocoa bark under his feet, Rudolpho followed the curving path into the woods. The old oaks were so tall he could only guess where their upper branches ended. He passed the fire pit where in happier times they’d shared a hot dog roasted on a stick. Around the bend, the field roses snagged his purple vest, scaring him so that he lurched back, tearing it. A sudden gust of wind twisted the meadow flowers on their stems. It was dark as night, but Rudolpho could still see the path that led to the evergreen grove. Hot white lines crisscrossed the sky above him. The earth trembled. He quickened his pace. Acorns began to pelt the ground around him. He dodged them as best he could, but one hit him sharply on the head. It hurt.

    Then he heard her voice. “Rudolpho! Rudolpho! Rudie, my baby!”

    And there she was, reaching down to scoop him up into her arms. He didn’t want to admit he was scared, but his trembling knees gave him away.

    “Oh you’ve torn your little vest! Don’t worry, Mommy can sew it up good as new,” she said as she nuzzled his fur.

    The rain fell all at once as though they’d stepped under an icy waterfall. She held him in the crook of her arm, tucked inside her warm jacket as she ran to the house, her long blonde curls flattening against her head.

    The warm towel felt good as she gently dried his fur. She kissed the tip of his nose.

    “I’m sorry, sweet boy,” she cooed. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt Mommy’s new comforter. Don’t worry. I washed it and it’s all fixed now. ”

    That night as they snuggled in bed together, Rudolpho dreamed of his afternoon in the scary woods. His tiny feet twitched as he tried to run away. The scary things were coming to get him. His feet ran faster and faster, but the scary things were catching up!

    He wakened, heart pounding, body shaking. There was a small damp circle under his tummy. He raised his head and looked around. The cat lay nearby. Quietly, with great stealth, Rudolpho picked his way across the blanket, over Veronica’s legs, to the other side of the bed. He snuggled in next to her arm. She sighed and drew him close.

    • The cat won’t have that imperious smirk once mommy wakes and thinks it was the cat that made the new mess. Hilarious. Loved it.
      -Patsy Watsy

    • Peanut Beranski (aka Becca)

      I’m in awe of this fine furry tale. Great read and I would love to arrange a play date for Rudolpho and my Zoey. They share the same dreams.

    • So cute. Reminds me of my house…three cats and one dog. I think you’ve captured it! This morning, my cats snuck out to the screened porch, and they wouldn’t come back in, so I woke my husband up to help me gather them. He covered himself up with a blanket – head and all, went to the porch and growled… all the cats ran back in. They thought he lost his mind.

    • Cute story! Yep, kitty will have some ‘splainin’ to do in the morning!

  8. Brilliant ploy, turning Rudolpho into a dog. It took me a while to grasp that, but it works perfectly. Great way to slip the old coin in too!

  9. Veronica shoved a pencil behind her ear where it nearly disappeared beneath her blond bob. “And get rid of the emerald green eyes! Don’t you know that’s a fictional cliché?”

    Rudolpho rolled his eyes and yanked on his purple vest. “She’s a fairy queen! She has eyes like green gems. It stays in.”

    Veronica growled in a voice that sounded like thunder brewing up a storm. She shot three Tums out of the bottle on her desk, right into her mouth. “What about this? Dark bark? Thick thickets? Have you completely lost your mind? And how scary are tickling branches.”

    Rudolpho stood up. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a grubby nickel. He flicked it at his editor and grabbed his manuscript. “For your trouble,” he sneered, then headed for the door. “I’m going bowling.”

    • Ah, I’m guessing your doing John and Martha in BWW right now. Or, perhaps the Deadly Four sentences?

      • The deadly four. It turns out that one can find inspiration anywhere.

        This challenge was just an attempt at a creative head slap for myself. And, of course, I just like to goof around.

  10. Ha Ha. The point of view of an editor. Good one.
    -Patsy Watsy

  11. Peanut Beranski (aka Becca)

    Bravo Ann, I think that Rudolpho and Veronica would be perfect characters for a TV series. I had a wonderful, but non-sympathic Speech Coach in High School. His favorite phrase was “Ya pay your nickel, Ya take your chances.”
    That phrase felt comforting and actually served to teach me to be a gracious loser.

  12. This is a hoot, Ann. My favorite was the Tums line. Been there.

  13. Enjoyed this, Ann.

  14. I’ve always wondered if you have Tums by your desk when you read our BWW stuff! You’re definitely kinder than Veronica.

  15. Sorry that I could not even hope to come up to the caliber of these “Blasts From The Past.” So here is A little story about my real past. I am so Right Brained that I walk listing to the right side. Hope you enjoy.

    Left Brain Envy
    Mrs. Eunice R. Naggy, the 6th Grade Math teacher at Towncrest Middle School in 1959, took her usual place at the front of the room and announced to the class that the lesson for the day was to work on a “Story Problem.” She proceeded to give the students the parameters of the assignment.
    “A plane leaves Los Angeles International Airport at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time headed for Chicago which is in Central Standard Time, 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time. The plane was going 550 miles per hour and the distance to Chicago is 1,739 miles. What time does the plane land in Chicago? You have 20 minutes to work on this problem.”
    At the 20-minute mark, Mrs. Naggy looked in my direction and said, “Becca, would you please come up and put your equation and answer on the chalkboard?”
    I was honored and nervous, as I had never been called on before to show my work in front of the class. I selected the biggest piece of chalk available and began to write my answer.
    The plane never landed in Chicago because there was a terrible snowstorm and the airport was closed. The plane was diverted to Nashville Tennessee instead. The flight was in a holding pattern for more than an hour due to fog issues, but it finally got clearance to land. Unfortunately, the airport in Nashville became completely fogged in before the plane could refuel, so all the passengers had to spend Thanksgiving in the airport, eating food out of vending machines and sleeping in uncomfortable chairs.
    Mrs. Naggy was not pleased at all with my answer. “Becca, just where is the answer to the Math question?”
    “Well, Mrs. Naggy, you said it was a story problem and I finished the story.”
    After class, Mrs. Naggy and I agreed that I had no aptitude for Math and that I should concentrate my studies in the language Arts. In 1959, I was labeled “Math Deficient,” but now it is known as “Extreme Right Brained. I am so Right Brained, I do not even turn left in my car.
    Research has shown that Left Brain people are good at math, very logical and usually do things in a planned orderly way. They like to tell stories, but not act them out, they think better sitting down and they are attentive during long verbal explanations. Another interesting fact, Left Brainers cannot be hypnotized. Lab Scientists, Judges, Lawyers and Bacteriologists are just a few examples of Left Brain occupations.
    Conversely, Right Brained people are dreamers, artists and musicians. They are the class clowns, easily hypnotized and are often times absentminded. They think better lying down and solve problems intuitively. Right Brainers are Forest Rangers, Artists, Politicians, Craftsmen and Actors.
    I wish I was logical and scientific, but I have Left Brain Envy. Logic it is not in my nature. Math and Science fascinate me. For example, I find it intriguing that Isaac Newton was moved to ask “Why?”, when the apple fell from the tree. Even more amazing is that the fallen fruit sparked him to set about proving the universal law of gravitation through mathematical calculations. If the same apple had fallen beside me, I would have picked it up, inspected it for wormholes and reveled in the crisp and delicious taste of the red jewel. My only question would have been, “How did that apple manage to miss hitting my big head?”
    I clearly remember the day our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Brainard asked each of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. The majority of the boys wanted to be Policemen or Firemen and the girls wanted to be Nurses or Teachers. When the question came around to me I responded, “I want to be surprised.”
    Perhaps that is the common ground that Sir Isaac and I can share, the ability to be surprised. He was surprised by the mechanics of the fallen apple and I would have been surprised by the unexpected gift of a delicious snack.

    • PB,
      I enjoyed your story so much. And now I have right brain envy so much more than I used to. My husband and I are pretty analytical. I even see writing prompts as a puzzle I have to solve instead of writing what I’m dreaming or imagining. Somehow we managed to create a daughter who is creative musically and artistically and I have been envious of her talents since they started to emerge. I would give up my right brain for your left brain any day.

      • Thanks Lisa, The world needs both kinds of folks..The Dreamers and the Doers. I think you are more Right Brained than you realize. Your excellent writing clearly shows that.

  16. this is a delightful essay of your experience and a fun way to grasp the meaning of Left Brain – Right Brain. Your writing the math answer as the finish of the story and answering “I want to be surprised” to the question of what do you want to be when you grow up – priceless.
    -Patsy Watsy

    • Patsy Watsy. Thanks. Many of my teachers were less than impressed with my math and sceince skills. They didn’t even allow me down the Math/Science hall in High School…Fear of Contamination !

  17. Great story. I hope you are saving all these. I don’t know how small your home town is, but I keep seeing your stories as a newspaper column in the “Lifestyle” section. Beranski’s Brainstorms. I think there are a lot of folks out there who would like to be surprised.

  18. Peanut — I loved this! It was so interesting and fun to read. I agree with Ann – Beranski’s Brainstorms sounds perfect.

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