On being worse than teenage poetry.

I teach twelfth grade English at the local high school. I interact with teenagers every day, bearing witness to the comedies and tragedies that fill the hallways, cause lockers to slam angrily, demand hall passes and fill their little worlds right up. I enjoy being an audience member to one thousand mini-melodramas five days a week, and to be honest, I find it fascinating. I don’t think teenagers should be ridiculed and lectured on the importance of perspective because as we age, we lose the passion we once had. I think perspective should only be mentioned when comforting the distressed, and I definitely do not believe that one should be admonished or feel ashamed because they reacted passionately to an event, a person or an idea they felt strongly about. We should forever be passionate.

That being said, I’ve decided to share some of my “teenage poetry.” The following poems were written when I was in high school. Feel free to judge them harshly 😛

“Untitled” (Actually, the title of this poem was the name of the boy I liked at the time, but names have been changed to protect the innocent 😉 )
Even though the words are awkward
And I don’t know what to write,
I’m sure there’s something I need to say
so that I can set everything right.
Sipping liquids that are too hot,
Willing them to burn your tongue,
Feeling a thousand years older
And now wishing you were young.
Sitting at a lonely table
In a coffee shop in the mall
On your hands and knees, I beg you.
I am daring you to crawl
Back to the ones that loved you
Back to me who still does
And maybe now we can share that drink
That never was

Apparently, one of my friends saw this beloved boy of mine at the Starbucks in the local mall, and commented that he was alone, drinking coffee. I loved this image of him – I romanticized his loneliness, enhanced my own desires and wistfulness. That boy was everything to me when I was fifteen and if I am being completely honest, I still think about him a lot. Is it because he’s the one who got away? Is it because things ended so badly? Is it because I feel so stunted emotionally? Who knows?

“Untitled” (This one really didn’t have a title, I promise)
The lines on the page start to blur.
The pain shoots up my spine.
The sweat drops off my forehead.
There’s a pounding in my mind.

One pill, two pills, three pills, four
I took the whole bottle with regret
I downed a whole bottle of vodka
So many things I just had to regret

My body’s shaking and I can’t see
I trip and stumble until I hit the floor
I raise my weary, pounding head
There’s no redeeming light behind that door

There’s no saving grace, no second chance
Someone lied to you, it’s okay to give up
I was close to the edge and I decided to jump
Life was hell, enough was enough

I convulse on the floor, puking in pain
I took my own life without regret
Life was shit so I’m moving on
I openly welcome death

This poem is embarrassingly juvenile; I realize that. Suicide is NEVER a viable option, let alone the answer. The hopelessness that pervades the poem is unnerving- were things really that bad less than a decade ago? They weren’t, but I’m sure they felt like they were. I am not ashamed of this poem, or that I have several suicide-themed poems in my arsenal, because the writing helped me to express all my feelings into something positive, into a creation. The writing saved my life.

“Untitled” (There was a time when I totally titled my poems … this just wasn’t that time, apparently)
fix the seams of all my parts
starting with my broken heart
make me whole, make me complete
get me back out on my feet
but take me by my trembling hand
and help me to fully understand
how your needles and your thread
brought me back from the dead
you breathed new life into me
made me whole, happy and healthy
i owe you every breath i take
thank you every time i wake
because you’ve saved me
you’ve ressurected me
because you love me
i can be
and happy

There are notes from a math class besides the poem – clearly, I wasn’t paying attention and I need to send an apology to Mr. Savitsky. Not only did I not understand anything that was happening in math class, but I did not understand real heartbreak or recovering from heartbreak. Writing is all about writing what you know and experience. I had very little experience with anything at fifteen – other than the social microcosm of high school – and now, at twenty-three, I feel the same. I have yet to travel, to have a full-time job with benefits, to live on my own, or to experience a whirlwind romance. I crave these things every day, and they do find their way into my writings, but then the writing comes off as cheap and not genuine.

My friend Brandi and my mentor both told me to start living; to finally begin my journey. I vowed to you that I would.

But have I?

On wondering where the good goes.

I would like to begin this entry with an apology; this time, for my absence. My computer broke Wednesday night – something about the power switch being worn down to nothing – and I could not get it to turn back on. I had tried to update this blog from my iPad, but was unsuccessful. I was so stressed and just sat on my bed and cried, and cried, and cried. It was silly, and most certainly foolish, but I felt so helpless and frustrated.

I updated the blog with a pity party; a post that just ranted about how sad I was, and how woeful I am, and so on and so forth. But that is not why I started this blog, and that is not who I want to be. There was nothing creative or entertaining about the post; it was only self-indulgent and annoying, so I deleted it. I realized that I hadn’t lost as much weight as I should have, that I wasn’t being a creative writer, and that I was being weak again. I was letting myself down, and it was time to knock it off. It was time to start fresh.

So, it’s a new day, and I’m typing away on a new computer. I also discovered a new set of prompts by Writer’s Digest that are perfectly tailored to a writer suffering from a creative slump. Let’s give this another shot, shall we?

THE PROMPT: “The Song that Changed Everything”
You walked into the emergency room. This simply couldn’t be happening. Just a few hours ago you were playing cards with your friend, listening to your favorite song on the radio – the song that defined your friendship. But now, as you make your way to the nurses’ station, that song was playing again. Only this time, it felt different.


Amanda’s hair flew out behind her as she ran through the parking lot. Her flip flops slapped haphazardly against the pavement and she knew she was one bad step from a bad spill, but it didn’t really matter – nothing did, except for Allison. Amanda had been in the classroom, idly checking her work e-mail while the students worked on their expository essays, when her cell phone had lit up beside the mouse. She had done her best to discreetly place her phone so that she could see it, but no one else could. Teachers weren’t allowed to have them because the students weren’t allowed to have them, and it was all about solidarity or some nonsense, but she had hers close anyway, just in case there was an emergency or something.

                And there was an emergency, wasn’t there? Amanda hadn’t answered her cell phone because one, it would be unprofessional and two, the call was coming from a number she didn’t recognize. She ignored the call and took a cursory glance at the students, all of whom were bent over their desks and writing furiously. Things were momentarily interrupted but were quickly on their way back to normal, until the phone in the classroom rang; the generic phone that hung beside the desk in every classroom. Twenty heads popped up, snapping their necks to the phone like an abnormally large pack of deer trying to cross a four-lane highway flooded by headlights. With a rueful smile, Amanda told them all to keep working and she answered the phone, never thinking that anything could be wrong. Or hell, if something was wrong, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be easily remedied. Amanda prided herself on being able to handle issues. Her classroom management was exemplary – the principle had even said so – and she did her best to never rattle. Other teachers came to her to vent because they knew Amanda would be blunt and put everything into perspective.

But Ms. Taylor, the secretary in the office with the short blond hair and lust for high heels, told Amanda that the hospital had called, and that the hospital said Amanda should hurry down there because something had happened to Allison; there had been an incident. Ms. Taylor mentioned something about a Hall Duty teacher reporting to the classroom, and about not worrying, about it being okay to leave, but Amanda was already gathering her purse with the keys – everything else could stay, could wait until the world righted itself. Some of the students called out to her, asked if everything was okay, but she barked at them to just keep working. What else could they do? What else could anyone do? What was she supposed to say? She was frazzled.

                Using the crazy energy coursing through her, Amanda didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but just ran – ran through the front doors of the school to the parking lot, ran through the parking lot to her Ford Explorer. She fumbled with the key s at the door, simultaneously struggling to calm her shaking hands and to regulate her haggard breathing. When she sat in the driver’s seat and slid behind the wheel, she shut the door behind her and it was silent. For a moment, Amanda thought she might cry. It was a tempting idea, to just sit there and cry, and just be totally consumed by the fear and the helplessness of the situation. Why not? What else was there to do? Would driving like a madwoman to the emergency room and demanding entry to Allison’s room help things any? It wouldn’t and crying in her car alone wouldn’t help either, but so what? If neither was beneficial, why couldn’t she choose how to spend her moment of weakness?

                Despite her cerebral struggle, Amanda’s body seemed to act accordingly; the keys were turned in the ignition, the gear was changed so she could back out of the parking space and before she could really understand what was happening, she was on the highway and speeding towards the hospital. She didn’t hit any red lights, and she gently touched the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror. It was like God knew that if Amanda stopped, even for just a minute or two, she would not be able to start again. When she parked in the crowded parking lot of the hospital, it was all she could do to keep one foot moving in front of the other. Her mind was racing, sprinting from worst case scenario to who she should call to who would probably already be there. She was taking in deep breaths, constantly smoothing her hair back away from her dampened eyes. Her movements had slowed, probably because her mind was using all her energy and she almost stumbled through the sliding doors and into the hospital.

                Everything was white, bright and smelled like disinfectant. Amanda instantly wanted to be somewhere else. Her stomach turned over unpleasantly and she shut her eyes against it for a moment, not wanting to be sick or cause a scene, but how could she help it? Her best friend was in the hospital, in a coma from an apparent overdose, and how do these things happen? Just last night, they had been at Allison’s house, playing Drug Dealer with a battered pack of cards, laughing loud and hard. The case of beer had been nearly gone, and it was getting late, but then “Where Does the Good Go?” by Tegan and Sara came on the iPod. Both women had screeched in delight and slammed their palms upon the table, demanding the song be turned up as loud as it could go, and promptly be started over from the beginning. Mike, who was always there with them, got up to do just what they had asked, and Amanda seized the moment to be nostalgic. She leaned closer to Allison and whispered, “Do you remember how we used to listen to that song over and over?”

                Smiling, Allison drank from the can of beer and wiped the corners of her pale lips before adding, “Absolutely! We did that one time, on the way to the wrestling match, because you were so obsessed with Billy!”

                Blushing slightly, she covered her face with her hands and collapsed onto the top of the table. It had been years since she thought of Billy and senior year. She popped her head up to see Allison looking victorious and particularly smug. Amanda couldn’t have that, so she said, “Wait a second; you were obsessed with Nick, so that makes us even Steven!”

                Allison burst out laughing, and both women doubled over in laughter. It wasn’t that hilarious – Billy and Nick had both been wrestlers, had both been attractive and had thereby been out of their league, so to speak. She supposed it was somewhat humorous that both girls had heard the song that night, on the way to the match, and had deemed it appropriate to relate to their unrequited love. Maybe the women laughed because they were embarrassed at how juvenile and foolish they had been just a few short years ago, and weren’t sure what else to do. It was silly, high school romance, and wasn’t meant to be picked apart and brutally scrutinized. But when the heart was running out of beats, and a friend was running out of time, everything was rehashed and analyzed, and relived.

                When Amanda came back to the present, Mike was there. He was always there and he was helping her to a chair, talking fast and low. She wanted him to start over, to speak louder and more clearly, but she couldn’t speak – she had just seen Allison last night! They had reminisced about the boys that filled their notebooks and adolescent daydreams and everything had been fine. They had been drinking and having a good time, making plans for the weekend. How could Allison be dying? How could things not look good? When she had left Allison’s house last night, Amanda hadn’t kissed Allison or hugged Allison; they weren’t particularly affectionate friends. But as she followed Mike through the front door, Amanda had turned to see Allison. Her long hair was hanging in her face, and she was still sitting at the table, staring at the can of beer that had to be close to empty. She wasn’t looking at it so much as through it, and Amanda felt as if she had to break her concentration. “Are you going to go to sleep soon?”

                Allison looked at her friend like she just remembered she was there. Allison shrugged, offered a half-smile and said, “I don’t know; maybe I’ll stay up and play some NHL.”

                Amanda smiled and said, “Alright; just text me later.”

                “Will do,” Allison promised with a tiny wave of her hand.

                Allison had never sent that text message, and Amanda hadn’t bothered to text or call, and now where were they? They were in a waiting room, waiting for what? Were they waiting for news, for death, for absolution, for recovery? Did she really have that kind of time?

                Mike was calling her name, getting loud, and so she turned to him. He was asking if she was okay, and if she had heard anything that he had said. She had every intention of answering Mike, of shaking her head slowly from side to side, but the song playing over the crappy, muted speakers was asking a question she had heard before, and desperately wanted answered now, before it was too late.

Where does the good go?


As always, please feel free to comment, to critique, and to share.

On stranger mothers and familiar daughters.

I was feeling really blue when I awoke this morning – completely suffering from a case of the Mondays. I was listless during work, and struggled to find motivation to do anything other than sleep.

I felt infinitely better this afternoon, when my friend Melanie and I walked the deserted boardwalks of Seaside Heights. Among the caged stores and waves crashing in the distance, we talked about everything and anything. Walking against the wind, with sand stinging our faces, we admitted our fears, bad habits, and desires. It was relaxing and rejuvinating.

I felt ready to tackle what I consider a very difficult and very personal prompt. This prompt unnerves me for two reasons, the first being it deals with my mother. I love my mother deeply, although I must admit that I do not know her. There are times when I was confident I had my mother figured out, but she continues to surprise me. I’ve considered her the stronger of my parents my entire life – that she was a little colder, refrained from showing emotion and told us kids “no” when she had to. But now that I’m older and wiser, and Mom feels like she can talk to me as an adult about adult worries, I realize that my mother is vulnerable, and that she has feelings that can be hurt. I think this realization was subconsciously playing at the back of my mind when I decided the route this prompt would take.

Also, it reminds me of myself when I was about five years old. I wouldn’t let my twin sister inside our room after I had retreated there, hurt and embarrassed because I had been yelled at by my mom. Tears streaming down my face, I had fled from the dining room table in hysterics. I wailed with each step and had no idea my twin sister was right behind me, step for step, worried and eager to make me smile and forget the whole thing. I closed and locked the door behind me, and for as long as I live, I will never forget the desperation in my twin sister’s voice as she begged me to open the door and let her in. I will never forget how she raised her tiny fists again and again against the door.

I will never forget how cold I was, how selfish I was, and how I did not open the door.

THE PROMPT: “Your Mom at Five”
Today’s exercise is courtesy of Leslie Pietrzyk, a novelist and short story writer who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Imagine you are your mother. You are five years old. What are you seeing / thinking / doing?


It was late, much too late for a five-year-old girl to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but Kelly Ann was just that. Her eyes were as wide and as bright as the moon, shining just as clearly. Her eyes were a wonderful shade of green that altered ever so slightly depending on her outfit. Her eyes were beautiful, but all of the character in her face came from her nose – a little too large with nostrils that were a smidge too wide, but shaped in a more attractive than abrasive manner. It was reminiscent of a pig – but the cute, small, pink kind and not the wild boar kind – and she would grow into it before the cruel teenage years.

            At this moment in her remarkably young life, Kelly Ann was not dwelling on her eyes or her nose or her mouth or her ears, and the only thought she gave to her less than clean, knotted hair was to push it back and out of the way because it had a troublesome habit of falling into her face, obscuring her view and tickling the tip of her nose. Kelly Ann didn’t have time for useless things like hair because she was in the middle of quite the captive conversation with Thumbelina and Pebbles. Kelly Ann was enthralling the ladies with her adventures from outside earlier in the day, when the sun had been high in the sky, and she had tried pedaling as fast as she could. Kelly Ann had been bicycling through the paved streets of the neighborhood with a kind of reckless abandon that only the very young – or the very foolish – could afford, sometimes lifting her hands from the handlebars and her feet from the pedals, so that her own momentum would take her places. She hadn’t been slowed by any of her nine brothers and sisters, or by her stressed and harried mother. Kelly Ann was free, speeding along hills, navigating curbs and weaving across the road as she saw fit. It had been a wonderful day, and she had been thankful for every breath in a small, genuine way – the only way a five-year-old could be thankful.

            She was just about to relate how Mean Mr. Polly had tried to squirt her with the water hose as he tended to his garden near the edge of his lawn when Kelly was interrupted by loud yelling. Kelly Ann had been so enveloped in relating her melodrama that she hadn’t heard the voice, which seemed to be coming from outside and which seemed to be growing steadily louder. Kelly Ann narrowed her eyes, annoyed at whoever was making such a ruckus. If Ma woke up and found her awake at this time of night, it would be catastrophic.

            But at that time enough, and with an imagination such as Kelly Ann’s, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Ma woke up, because what if the boogeyman was out there, yelling and making all sorts of noise to get all the children up and out of bed so he could gobble all of them up? Shivering slightly before going completely still, Kelly Ann inhaled sharply and let her beloved – albeit uncommonly dirty – dolls tumble to the uncommonly dirty, carpeted floor. Kelly Ann’s face fell as she decided what to do – wake up Ma? Should she maybe sprint to Ma’s bedroom and dive beneath the itchy blanket to curl beside Ma’s thin body, at least until the boogeyman left and the terrors passed? To do that, though, would mean admitting to Ma she had been awake and the wrath of that woman would be worse than that any boogeyman who made a scene on the front lawn.

            A new round of yelling was starting up, and Kelly Ann listened with all her might, closing her eyes tight to aid in the effort. Was it unintelligible growling, or were there English words? What kind of monster yelled out to be let inside? How scary could a monster be if he had to beg? The voice sounded like it was demanding, like it was telling and not asking, but it didn’t really sound dangerous. Kelly Ann opened her eyes, now more intrigued than ever. It wasn’t a monster at all, but someone she might know. She rose from her scabbed knees to stand on her bruised feet and then paused again to listen hard. Her nightgown, which was really some worn, smelly tee that one of her two older brothers had used for gym class, hung just below her knees. The fabric rustled gently against her thighs as she padded soundlessly to the bedroom window opposite the bedroom door. Breathless with excitement – and an ashamed twinge of fear – Kelly Ann stood on tip toes and gripped the windowsill in tiny, grimy hands. She pulled herself up as much as she could, and peered out of the window and down onto the lawn below.

            It was Daddy. Daddy was on the lawn, yelling for someone to come downstairs and let him in. Kelly Ann’s face broke into a radiant smile, and she released a breath she had been holding just in case it was a boogeyman down on the grass. Daddy’s face was red and looking up at her window. He must have seen the light, known that Kelly Ann was up, and was trying to get her attention. She raised one of her tiny, grimy hands to wave, and she saw Daddy smile big. He jumped into the air, waving both of his arms above his head, and called for Kelly Ann to come downstairs and let him in. Careful not to shout and wake Ma, Kelly Ann showed her Daddy the thumbs up sign and then disappeared from sight.

            Once again, she padded soundlessly across the room to light switch beside the bedroom door. Once again, she employed her tippy toes and stretched until she could stretch no more so she could flick of the bedroom light, lest Ma knew she was awake. Once she was safe among the shadows, Kelly Ann slowly, slowly, slowly opened her bedroom door, simultaneously biting down on her full, bottom lip as if that action would not only keep the door from creaking, but also keep Ma snoozing peacefully down the hall.

            With the door open, Kelly Ann peered up and down the hallway. She saw no one and released a tremulous breath. The only movement came from dust mites, gracefully floating in the random shafts of moonlight that reflected through the upstairs windows to light upon the floor. The only noise Kelly Ann could hear was her own breathing and the ticking of the big clock downstairs in the living room. As far as she could tell, the coast was clear. She crept along the hallway and tip toed down the stairs, making sure to lightly tread along the carpet running down the middle and to jump over the trick step that always seemed to squawk at the worst possible moments. Enthralled by her stealthy abilities, Kelly Ann began to imagine that she Agent 99 from that show “Get Smart” and that she was really rescuing her Daddy from a group of masked bandits that had gathered on the front lawn. He was depending on her, he needed her and Kelly Ann was going to save the day.

            Kelly Ann reached the bottom of the stairs and took only a few steps towards the back door, which was through the kitchen that was straight ahead before she stopped dead in her tracks, terrified and open-mouthed.

            “What do you think you’re doing?” Ma sneered, standing just inside the kitchen doorway with her hands on her hips, and her shoulders so tensed that they were all the way up by her ears.

            Kelly Ann turned to her mother slowly, fighting an oncoming pout and averting her eyes. “I – I was just, I was just gonna let Daddy in.”

            “Don’t you dare,” Ma growled. “If he wants to go out drinking with his friends after work, and not come home to help a woman with ten children, then he can stay out, the bum!” The last part was more directed at Daddy than at Kelly Ann, and Ma turned her body more towards the door to prove it. She sneered at Daddy, and Daddy just looked back at Ma helplessly through the window.

            “Come on, Helen,” he pleaded. “It’s cold and dark out here, and it’s late. Let me in and we can talk.”

            “Not a chance in hell, Charlie!” she shouted. Ma was fighting mad.

            Daddy rolled his eyes in exasperation, and in doing so, landed them on Kelly Ann. He smiled brightly and waved. “Hey, Kelly Ann, come on over and open the door for Daddy!”

            Kelly Ann beamed back at her father and forgot that her mother was in the room at all. She took a few more steps forward before she felt Ma’s icy, iron grip around her arm. “Get upstairs and go to bed!” Ma ordered. Kelly Ann offered her father a small, sympathetic look before turning and bounding up the stairs.

            Kelly Ann was crying. She wasn’t scared anymore – well, she was a little scared of Ma and what she would do to Daddy, but she was very sad that she couldn’t save the day. Daddy had been depending on her, and she had fallen short of the mark.

As always, please comment to offer critiques, responses, and pieces of your own.


Today was most definitely a day I would classify as “weak,” meaning that I did not accomplish even half of what I had planned. My room is still a mess, I’m running out of clean clothes, I ate like a pig and got no exercise. I’m slipping back into selfish, lazy habits and I am ashamed and feeling incredibly weak. I would like nothing more than to admit defeat, crawl under some covers, and have a nice, healthy cry.

It is with this mindset that I offer you tonight’s prompt. As always, please comment and respond with advice, criticisms, pieces of your own, or just a friendly word.

Your character is an obsessive compulsive. Describe his or her morning. Do not use the words “obsessive compulsive.” (Show, don’t tell.)


Anna woke to the sound of four alarm clocks buzzing in union. The sudden fury of sound startled her to attention, and while Anna knew that one alarm clock would suffice, it did not change the fact that she needed four. Four alarm clocks ringing out in the still morning air made sure she would be awake. Four was sure- a certainty, and it did make her feel better. Anna went to sleep easier because she knew she would not oversleep in the morning, and would not miss anything. The day would start as it should, and all could be right with the world. Certainly it was not crazy to think that successfully starting the day was inextricably linked to successfully ending the day, right?


Her clean feet landed firmly on the wooden floor, and her toes wiggled for an even count of four. Anna felt it necessary to waken each part of her body because that way, she would not suffer any kind of physical mishaps that could send a perfectly ordinary day spiraling into a nightmare, like cramps or embolisms or aneurysms. She sat and rose, sat and rose, sat and rose, sat and rose, and then stood up straight and tall. She raised her right arm and lowered it, raised her right arm and lowered it, raised her right arm and lowered it, and raised her right arm and lowered it before completing the same exact exercise with her left arm. Anna could swear she felt the blood running more vibrantly through her veins, excited to be traveling to freshly woken limbs. She felt better, she really did.


She headed to the bathroom, crossing the threshold once … and then backing out to reenter three more times. One only had to be careful when entering the room because all the possibility lay in that moment, where as when one left a room, the damage (so to speak) was done. Anna reasoned that a similar logic applied when climbing into the shower, perhaps even more so because the danger was increased, what with the rushing water, sharp razor, and the vulnerability of being naked. So the right leg was lowered and raised, lowered and raised, lowered and raised, lowered and raised before resting on the bathmat, and before the left could rest as easily, it also needed to be lowered into and raised out of the tub four times. As a result, she did not cut herself while shaving, did not slip or even get shampoo in her eyes. A shower went a long way to make one feel human, particularly when said shower was successful and secure.


Towel wrapped tightly around, Anna crossed through the bedroom door, backed out and reentered for a total of four times before she headed toward the closet, smiling broadly and eager to select a sleek and professional looking pair of pants, and coupling it with an interesting, colorful top. She applied deodorant four times, brushed her hair four times, left and entered her bedroom four times before she went into the kitchen to begin breakfast. The green digital numbers on the stove read 4:30AM. Work did not begin until 9:00AM and she did not have to leave the house until 8:30AM, but she had to allow time for her rule of four.


The smile she had been wearing dimmed considerably when she was overwhelmed by exhaustion. She knew damn well that she did not have to be up and moving so early, that she was intelligent enough to realize that doing things four times did nothing to ease her mounting anxieties but she was too weak to do anything else. Ashamed and desperate to break, to crawl back into bed and sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep, Anna wiped the tears from beneath her eyes – four times for each eye – and got the same mug she always used from the cabinet (but only after she opened and shut the door four times).

On giant golden Buddhas.

Let me begin this particular blog entry with an apology: I am sorry that I am a big, fat liar. I was supposed to being my year-long creativity challenge yesterday, but here I am, beginning today.

Better late than never, right?

The prompt and the resulting piece follow, and I sincerely hope you enjoy them. If not, feel free to tell me all about it! Comment with critiques, praise, or your own piece! Let’s share and see if we can’t make this better!

THE PROMPT: “Giant Golden Buddha”
In San Francisco there was a townhouse with a second story picture window – the living room, apparently – completely filled by a giant golden Buddha. This seated Buddha, which must have been at least six feet high, faced out, serenely overlooking the marina. The exercise is this: Robert has been invited for cocktails. He enters the living room from the hallway. From Robert’s point of view, this large statue blocks what must be a magnificent view. What does he think about that? Write the scene, and include some dialogue with the host and Robert’s unspoken thoughts.


Robert’s shiny shoes clicked loudly against the concrete sidewalk, and the echo sounded hollow and empty when it returned to him on the warm breeze. He was walking to Mr. Martin’s townhouse for some cocktails, or at least that’s what he had been told by his secretary, Allison. Friday afternoon, as he was calling it a day and leaving the office, she had excitedly stopped him and told him about the invitation from the head honcho, the big boss man. Allison also admitted, somewhat ashamedly, that she had already accepted the invitation on Robert’s behalf, and had copied down all the necessary information onto an index card. With her finely manicured nails, Allison made sure to point out the time and the date several times. She wanted to stress the importance of this seemingly innocent cocktail party, and the possibility it had to positively affect both of their futures at the public relations firm. Robert began to voice his concerns, his trepidations and some nerves, but Allison hurriedly cut him off and told Robert not to worry. She promised that Robert would be fine and make her proud, and instructed him to just be himself, but to not show up empty-handed. Allison had given Robert an encouraging pat on the back, and then returned to her desk.

            During Allison’s instructions, Robert had smiled and nodded, and done his best to seem eager and prepared. He wanted Allison to believe that he believed her when she said it was no big deal, and that he would be fine. Truth be told, though, Allison was full of shit. Being invited to your boss’s expensive townhouse after being with the firm for only a year was a very big deal. Maybe Robert would be fine and would handle himself well, but no one knew for sure and danger was just as much of a possibility as success was. He had been nervous and battling an upset stomach since receiving the invitation and here he was, headed to the townhouse almost a full twenty-four hours later, feeling no better. He wasn’t sure if he felt worse, or if that was even possible, but his palms were slick with sweat and his stomach flipped uneasily every now and again. He thought walking would help release some of the nervous energy, but it hadn’t made a noticeable difference. Robert had then tried to enjoy the weather, which was truly beautiful. The clear sky was slowly being filled with majestic hues of burning orange and romantic red as the sun made its habitual descent. The dying rays were powerful, and Robert had to squint against them and at times, look away to his shoes – his shiny shoes.

            Was he trying too hard? Robert wondered how he really looked. With his meticulously pressed pants and finely tailored button down shirt, he knew he looked professional, and he hoped his long, thin tie helped him retain his youth and optimism. His hair was short and neat, or at least it had been. Robert wasn’t entirely certain of its current appearance because he had nervously run slightly shaking fingers through it about a million and one times. Looking professional was helpful, but Robert knew it wouldn’t be enough to be memorable or impressive. He’d have to be smart, charming, witty but generic enough to blend in and not upstage the host, or any other guest. It was an incredibly fine line to navigate, and he was certainly feeling the pressure. When a smooth, warm breeze rolled lazily along the street, he welcomed it gladly. He closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and slowed to a halt.

            Mr. Martin’s townhouse was awesome. Open-mouthed, Robert craned his neck to take it all in; its Spanish roofing with terracotta coloring, its looming picture windows that had to offer incredible views, based on its proximity to the marina. So this is what it’s like to live high on the hog, Robert thought, allowing a small smile to play upon the corner of his lips. For a moment, he began to envision himself in such a residence and what the kind of life would be like, but he reminded himself where he was and snapped his mouth shut. Straightening his tie, he casually strolled – or at least tried to – the wide, stone steps to the front door. He rang the bell and focused on his breathing before the door opened before him to reveal Mr. Martin himself.

            “Hey there, Roger; I’m so glad you were able to make it!” Mr. Martin greeted Robert with a disarming smile and a loud, booming voice that grabbed the attention of anyone and everyone within ear shot. Robert offered a queasy smile.

            “Thank you for inviting me, sir. You have a lovely –“

            “What’s that you’ve got there?” Mr. Martin asked, indicating the bottle of scotch tucked beneath Robert’s arm. Robert had forgotten he had even had it, and now offered it to Mr. Martin.

            “I just thought it’d be nice to bring a little something, sir, so I stopped by the liquor store and asked the attendant-“

            “Is it single malt?” Mr. Martin asked. His smile had become strained as it transformed into scrutiny. He was studying the bottle and the label, and Robert’s throat had suddenly gone dry.

            “Well, sir, I don’t exactly know. I asked the attendant-“

            “Ah, well it’s no matter. Come on inside!” Mr. Martin clapped Robert on the back strongly. His strength wasn’t surprising to Robert – it was expected. He wasn’t massive in size, but he certainly was massive in personality. The man exuded confidence and effortlessly commanded respect. Dressed casually in a pair of tan slacks and a light yellow polo shirt, he pulled Robert inside the home and let the door shut behind them. His canvas boat shoes moved soundlessly through the short hallway that led to stairs that then led into the living room. The room was nearly filled with executive types, smoking cigars that probably cost more than anything Robert had ever smoked. The scent of cologne hung heavily in the air, mingling with the smoke, and both created a somewhat stifling atmosphere. Robert loosed his tie and turned to Mr. Martin, who was discreetly handing the bottle of scotch to a maid, whispering something. Robert tried to keep the heat of embarrassment from his face and tried to trap it within his chest. “So Roger, let me introduce you to the guests!” Mr. Martin once again clapped Robert on the back, and he felt his knees slightly buckle under that weight, and the weight of the pressure to be impressive.

            He was steered by Mr. Martin to the different groups that had assembled, and introduced to some of the most successful and well-known men in the community. Each was generically handsome, dressed in a fashion eerily similar to that of Mr. Martin, and each shook Robert’s hand in a professionally polite manner. Once all the introductions had been made, Mr. Martin left Robert to fend for himself. Unsure of what else to do with his sweaty, shaking hands, Robert shoved them deep inside his front pockets and took a few steps toward the nearest group of businessmen. He smiled brightly at those who noticed him – though none really did – and listened to the conversation for an opening. An older man with peppered, slicked back hair was saying, “I’m taking the wife and the kids toParisthis summer. We have a house inGreece, but we’ve been there so many times and, you’d be surprised, it’s a tiny island. We’re confident we’ve seen all there is to see.”

            A man beside him with a rotund belly and significantly less hair asked, “What’s there to do inParis?”

            The first man shrugged and rolled his eyes. “I know the wife wants to see theEifelTower, but the daughter was going on and on about seeing such and such with the ex-patriots or something.” He paused and let a small laugh escape him. “I didn’t know they had patriots inFrance.” Those around him laughed heartily. Well, all those except Robert.

            Robert cleared his throat and said, “I think she was talking about expatriates – people who temporarily reside in a country and partake in a culture other than their own upbringing.” The crowd fell silent and what felt like a hundred piercing eyes turned to Robert. Suddenly, he felt small and dumb. Casting his eyes downward, he continued, “Have you ever heard of Fitzgerald or Stein? I think Hemingway went, too.”

            Another man said, “Are they involved in PR?”

            Laughing, Robert shook his head slowly and looked up. He was the only one laughing. His face fell and he decided to explain himself. “No, they were American writers in the 1920s that went to Francebecause they found artistically inspiring and freeing.” Robert took his hands from his pockets and brought them in front of him. He wasn’t sure what else to do or say, but he still had the attention of the group. “Has anyone ever read The Great Gatsby? What about The Sun Also Rises?”

            The portly man laughed and said, “We don’t have time to read, Roger! We’re building an empire!” The other man laughed and the conversation returned to safe and familiar territory for the men – back to business. Robert’s face burned red and he excused himself from the group. His tail was between his legs and he was feeling defeated. Clearly, these captains of industry had nothing in common with him, and had failed to correctly remember his name.

            What’s worse is that it wasn’t their fault; Mr. Martin had been calling him Roger all night, and Robert had never corrected him. Was he too afraid to contradict him? Was he weak enough to suffer that kind of humiliation?

            What was he doing?

            Robert had inadvertently traveled into the adjacent room, which was blessedly empty. There wasn’t much room for guests as the space was filled with ornate furniture and expensive looking knick knacks that served no discernable purpose other than “completing the room.” Robert turned to his left slightly, and there before him was a massive, golden statue of Buddha. It nearly hit the ceiling, and was wide enough to block the majority of the picture window … a window that clearly looked out onto the marina and the setting sun. Behind the grotesque and gaudy statue was a breathtaking view of natural beauty, of something that the hands of men could never emulate, that was engineered by and worthy of something great. Robert scuttled from left to right, rose on tip toe and slightly squatted down, but all he could see was Buddha. He sighed in frustration and turned to see Mr. Martin standing in the doorway. “Roger! I’ve been looking for you! What are you doing in here?”

            Robert jerked his head back towards the statue. “What is that, sir?”

            Mr. Martin shrugged and puffed on his cigar. “I don’t know. Mrs. Martin picked it out. It set us back a fair amount, though. It’s made of solid gold, and there’s no other statue like it. It might have set a record for its size, too.” Pleased with the statue, but more so with his ability to acquire it, Mr. Martin grinned in a manner Robert suddenly found absurd and wiggled his eyebrows.

            “Sir, do you know who Buddha was, or was this statue symbolizes?”

            Mr. Martin’s face was void of the humor it had so recently displayed. He narrowed his eyes at Robert. “What are you getting at, Roger? Do you find this statue offensive in some way?”

            Robert threw his head back and laughed. “No, sir; Buddha symbolizes serenity and enlightenment. There’s very little offensive about that. What does offend me is that you have yet to get my name right.”

            “What do you mean?” Mr. Martin asked, although his face paled as if he knew the answer.

            “My name is Robert. I’ve been working for you for about a year, and my name is Robert.” Robert had clenched his fists and stood up taller and straighter. He had also raised his voice, and a few of the men from the other room had wandered over to see what was going on. Robert paid no mind to the other men, or the way his body was subconsciously and physically reacting to the evening. “I apologize that I brought the wrong bottle of scotch sir, and I am incredibly sorry that I will not be in the office on Monday. Or ever again, really.”

            Mr. Martin took the cigar from his mouth and pointed it at Robert. “What’s this all about, Rog-“

            “It’s Robert! And this entire night, all anyone has talked about is work and making money and that’s all well and good, but why should I be made to feel like I’m weird and insignificant?” Robert was exploding. More eyebrows were raised as more eyes crowded into the room and the narrow hallway beyond. Robert had never wanted to work in an office, had never wanted to work for money, meaning he had always wanted to do something he loved and was passionate about. He hadn’t been happy for months, but he’d been too much of a chicken shit to admit it or do anything about it. It took a comically large statue of Buddha to set him off, to finally make him realize he was becoming insignificant in his own life. “I like to read! I like fine art! Maybe I should write for an arts and leisure magazine! Maybe I should be a food critic! For the past year, I have kissed ass and toiled away for hours in a tiny speck of a cubicle and for what? For a golden statue to fill the picture window in the townhouse I can’t afford?” Robert turned to yell at Buddha now. “I don’t want that! I want to be happy, and I want to see what’s beyond money! I want to be happy, and loved and needed, and I want to come home from work not exhausted, but inspired and exhilarated!” It was a level five meltdown and Robert was going to end with a bang.

            Head held high, Robert walked over to the statue. “I’m sorry, because I do not think I am superior to you gentlemen. You are successful and admired, and I would never take that away from anyone. But I am different, and I’m sick of being a square peg in a round hole, and I am sick of this statue!” Suddenly, Robert threw his body against the statue. He used the entirety of his weight and the statue wobbled before crashing onto its side. The men scuttled back, gasping as the glass table beside the statue shattered beneath its awesome weight and the floor shook. “Look!” Robert exclaimed, pointing through the window. “Look at that sunset! Look at the water! That is what I aspire to!” Hair askew and breathless, Robert turned back to the men. They stared at him with wide mouths and vacant expressions, unsure of what to make of the man before them. Embarrassed, Robert cleared his throat and straightened his tie.

            “Robert,” Mr. Martin said gravely, “I think it’s time you left.”

            With a nod, Robert maneuvered through the crowd to the exit.