All 4 entries tagged Assignment
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November 23, 2010
The cold ache of hospital light has stripped all colour from the hyacinths in my shaking hands. Each quiver releases heady scent into the air, suffocating, sealing up my nose and mouth. But I can’t escape the dank, medical reek that coats her skin. She is so small, the soft folds of her skin have ebbed into nothing and we can already see the skeleton inside rising up to take possession. How lovely your bones are, grandma. We are arranged in triptych around you, we carry false hope, hyacinths and cards. The bed is raised high above the tacky floors and crackles with starch as we sit. A low, omnipresent hum throngs the corridors, as if some huge bell has sounded. The harsh light bleaches us as white as the walls, everything is inescapably white, except the gentle yellow crepe of her skin, shrouded in hospital blue, the birdlike hands that sweep up and say hello. The room is filled with doppelganger women, the place is a charnel house of the abandoned elderly who lie and silently watch. I can taste the bitter machine coffee on my breath and I hope my kisses are not sour.
Let me tell you a story about three young men. Thomas, the irrepressible dandy, Nicolas, the irresponsible rake, and Ramon, who was merely irresolute and who was forever changing his mind, as Thomas changed his clothes, and Nicolas changed his women.
Now, it was a soupy evening in the slack end of spring, and Thomas, Nicolas and Ramon were lurching inexorably from the rank den of the pub towards some party. Thomas was inspecting his soiled shirtsleeves in the stark yellowing streetlights. They were dank with the beery sweat of pint glasses and had woefully abandoned their original pristine white. Sullen and uncharacteristically silent, Nicolas nursed the livid scarlet smart of a slapped cheek- the price of having numerous interchangeable lovers who inconveniently patronise the same pubs. Finally, Ramon was muttering dreamily to himself, for he was uncertain whether he should attend the party at all or whether it might not be better perhaps to go home and blog interminably about his own indecisiveness. It was raining.
Suddenly, three skeletons appeared, resurrected in a puff of deliquescent smoke. Each was caked in corpse slime and their moist, glutinous remains gleamed with a strange, macabre incandescence. Their delicate bones were luxuriantly draped in fetid rags, indistinguishable from the rotting flesh and sinews that still clenched their cadavers together.
The boys were quite astonished and stopped in their tracks.
“You!” proclaimed the skeletons in hollow, resounding voices, each raising a reeking digit to point at the young men with deathless grins. “You are, what we were.” They hissed, “What we are, you will be!” With this the skeletons cackled gleefully and danced back into the ether, unearthly echoes reverberating about the boys’ ears.
For some time the boys stood frozen with unimaginable terror. Eventually Thomas found himself able to speak:
“Did you see his hat?” The others shook their heads mutely. “Quite horrid, I should say. Absolutely passé.” And Thomas shook the rain off his hat and continued on his way to the party.
There was a long pause before Nicolas offered “That one in the middle though, the girl” (he play-acted worldly rumination) “You could tell she was pretty once… Nice figure, not too fat” With this he flashed an echo of his inexorable sexy smile, stuck his hands in his pockets, and sauntered off to the party.
Ramon remained silent and alone in the street for some time. “I don’t know, though,” he said, to an empty sky. He scuffed his shoes in the dirt. “I’m going home”. And he strode away into the embracing dark.
A Completely Misconceived Response
We were told to write the actual spoken words of someone we knew particularly well, and then make a story from this. UNFORTUNATELY, I took this rather literally and spent several hours literally rearranging some of the actual words into a story, which makes very little sense. Didn't read it out to the group because I was too ashamed so of course I am now going to confess it to the internet instead.
Interesting that the original monologue was based on my mother, but the story that emerged is about my grandmother. Or a grandmother, mine isn't a whale.
Grandma (my father’s mother) is a whale. She drifts blackly mad in her allergy tank, sometimes eating bits off wrecks and ill water. Grandma sits and listens and shuts our daydreams inside, she judges then checks the new ones, cleans them up, squeezes Jesus over them, feeds them to the animals and then we forget them, and she rings the bell for our dead house.
One night the cats threw one up, they meant not to say, but we found out. And we were free and held a jumble sale and made awful money, fat sausages of quids to hold off the pit. I planted blackberries and mustard absolutely everywhere, even in the skip. My mother threw them out in plastic bags, she doesn’t like mess. But we were free from the farm, the dogs, cats, and guinea pigs, we gave them chicken and sausages for a time, then pasta and potatoes, then salad until we ran out and had to feed them dreams again. And then we forgot.
Grandma cackled on the awful coast, took back her half of the house, tidied it up and took it down as if it were a paper sculpture we had thrown over her waters.
Exercise in Eavesdropping
The first assignment in Modes Of Writing was to eavesdrop on a conversation. Of course I became utterly carried away, spent an entire week behaving like a top secret government spy, occasionally even wore dark glasses (despite the fact that it was a rather miserable October) and came up with this, which is hideously long. Should probably learn to exercise some self control and also fashion sense. Dark glasses in winter belong to the creepy and the clinically blind; I am neither. Anyway, here it is:
I am somehow trapped on the top floor of a crowded bus to Coventry, my neighbour sat just a little too close, and the dank warmth of his thigh against my knee has me in an intense limpet-like relationship with the window. It is Sunday, and the decision to meet a friend at this time, and in this fashion, is already incomprehensible to me only two hours after I have made it.
The bus seems to be increasing in temperature and decreasing in size. I am sitting in everyone’s lap. The ghoulish man with the nicotine beard next to me seems to be engaging in abusive scent warfare, and condensation is smeared down my cheek. Today I am a tiredly wrinkled weasel of a girl in an overly large jumper, and suffering for it.
(Two stops ago I noticed he was breathing through his mouth and I have not been able to forget it; even as I reflect that it is October, and he probably has a cold. In fact, he does have a cold, as I will ruefully consider two days later whilst snuffling forcefully into a handkerchief.)
Just ahead and across of me, two affectedly pretty girls are distinctly audible to everyone on the top floor, despite the hornet buzz of morning traffic, and I concentrate only on them. They appear slim despite a liberal coating of layers, but the unexpected heat of the bus has baked them slick with dirty perspiration. Ambitious patches of moisture creep intimately from their armpits to sprawl about their upper torsos, and the two girls seep the quiet desperation of the self-consciously sweaty. One of them, a small and moleish brunette, is surreptitiously trying to smell herself. The larger, a dusky blonde, drawls in a light Trans-Atlantic coo and stares absently out of the window.
“Well, yeah, I mean, I was like thinking of trying out, you know? But then I was like, so tired the night before and I just slept like all day” The blonde turns from the window to roll her eyes wildly and puckers her tiny lips in an expression of self reproach. The Mole is nodding eagerly, wisely, and incanting “Yeah, yeah, yeah” in a fit of sympathy. Her ponytail bounces pertly as if expressing its own dumb, parallel enthusiasm.
“And then I was talking to the captain the other day, and she was like nobody turned up anyway, she didn’t find anyone she thought was good enough, and they’re gonna holdasecondtryoutsessionanyway.” The last of this sentence is expelled in a flurry of glamorous hand movements. A series of bangles chime sweetly about her bony wrists.
The small brunette is still wisely nodding and now counters with a staccato burst of “Mm-mm-mm” accompanied by more nodding. She opens her mouth to say further, a moist o of lipgloss hanging in her downy face, but then seems to think better of it. A silence descends on the two as she self-chastises. The blonde patiently waits as a boy further down the bus chortles in an abrasive, braying manner. I wriggle around to stare but he has already fallen silent; I cannot tell who it is. I lose several minutes of conversation in my effort to do this without climbing into my neighbour’s lap. When I rejoin the girls’ conversation it seems to have changed drastically and I wonder what vital explanation I missed. The would-be sportswoman is talking again:
“…with a bag full of nails, like, sticking out of it”.
This is perplexing enough; but then Mole inexplicably lets out a keening wail of “Aaawwwwwwuh...!” appropriate to the appearance of a sister’s newborn baby or the witnessing of several kittens falling out of a box. It is the sound a certain kind of girl makes when she sees an otter in booties. I am bewildered and a little frightened. The blonde follows this cryptic statement with another garbled hilarity, the only words of which I can decipher seem to be “knives”, “toga” and “kinda gross”.
“Oh my Go-d” sighs the Mole. She is jealous, and wears her envy on her sleeve where it chimes in harmony with the bangles of her friend. She does not have the accent, although I begin to sense that she is acquiring it through osmosis. She is small and sleek and velveteen, and rather sweet. She begins to say: “Do you think that-“ when the blonde nudges her violently in the ribs. “Urk” A brief, intense whisper-fit comes upon them both, and I notice the sportswoman shoot me a hostile look- busted.
I try and look small and whimsical rather than intense and creepy, shifting a little in the hope that the panda on my jumper will prevent some kind of confrontation involving adorable bags of nails. The Mole looks doubtful; the two stand up. I unnecessarily make a sound somewhat like “Squee”.
Happily, this actually is their stop, and I watch them stalk off, jeans squeaking tightly in the humid air. Next to me, the flu-ridden nicotine addicts shifts away to other seats and I relax in the euphoria of unexpected blessings.