Sunday, November 7, 2010


I am eye-level with the hooks screwed into the underbelly of the bar where the ladies hang their bags in a row. There are all color bags: brown and black and red even, one is red. Mama doesn’t hang her purse. I wonder if she sees the hooks. She is talking to the man next to her with the long black ponytail and the sideways smile. Something about the music festival.

“I’ll make sure you all get paid don’t’ you worry about that.” She says to him, and then to the man behind the bar, “Brandy Manhattan please.”

My feet are slippery in my patent leather shoes so I squiggle around on the rug like ice-skating. I saw the Ice Capades last time. I want to be like that I think, and then the door opens and the ocean air comes and separates the smell of the bar. Outside are city lights far away like it’s a small world and the door shuts again and the hooks are there looking like the mouth of a big bird that wants to say something and I reach out to tell Mama and her skirt smells like the kitchen and corn on the cob and there is a stairwell behind me and I think it will be fun to bump down the stairs like a ride and I start to go over there—

“Duffi Jo stay right here,” Mama says.

“Mama…” I point at the stairs.

“Just stay right here a minute,” She says.

So I float there in the bar like a little secret and she hands me a matchbook to play with. She picks me up and sets me in a chair at the bar that rocks in a half-circle and that is fun until I get dizzy. Then I open the matchbook and I scrape it along the bar like I’ve seen Mama do with the lid of a shoebox to get the seeds out.

“Do you want a Shirley Temple?” The bartender says.

I nod my head a little.

He pulls a snake tube out from his sink and out comes bubbly water and then he turns over a red bottle and a jigger of syrup comes out and then he puts a cherry on top. Pretty please with a cherry on top, my sisters say. He slides it to me. It has a straw. I like a straw. I am going to have to stand up in the chair maybe. I shift around and hold onto the arm part so I can get my feet under me and my whole chair tips a little.

EXERCISE: I combined two here. First, write out some words and phrases that you can use as "triggers," things that will get you thinking. Tear them into separate sheets and wad them up and put them in a jar. Pull one out and then write a list of words in response to that word or phrase. Now, write a scene that puts a character in conflict with a setting. Imagine a character who misunderstands the nature of the place, or over looks something important, or is oblivious of the danger suggested by certain details. Use the words from the first half of the exercise in the scene you write.

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