Teachers Write 7.11.17 Tuesday Quick-Write with Phil Bildner

Good morning, writer friends! Tuesday and Thursday are Quick-Write days at Teachers Write, so our guest authors will be coming by with some writing prompts to try out. Do as much or as little as you’d like with each mini-assignment, and feel free to bookmark those you’d like to use with students later on. Teachers Write posts don’t go anywhere after the summer ends. They’re always here for you to use and share with student writers.

Today’s guest is Phil Bildner, the author of numerous children’s picture books including Martina & ChrissieMarvelous Cornelius, ​and ​Twenty-One Elephants​.​ He’s also the author of A Whole New Ballgame, Rookie of the Year, and Tournament of Champions, the first three books in the middle grade Rip & Red series. A former middle school teacher in the New York City public schools, Phil spends much of the year visiting schools around the country conducting writing workshops and talking process with students. He lives in Newburgh, New York with his husband and dog.

Coming and Going

Today’s Quick Write isn’t an entirely original one. I’ve seen variations of this prompt a number of times. The one I’m sharing is a technique I use more and more to help jump start and layer my own writing.
Watch people come and go. When you’re at the coffee shop, the supermarket, the cleaners, the gas station, the gym, the doctor’s office, or wherever, watch the people as they enter and exit. But don’t only focus on their appearance — what they look like and what they’re wearing. Think about the how. How are they coming and going? And think about the why. Why are they coming and going, Think of their story. Think of their purpose. 
Today’s assignment: Whenever you’re in a public place today – the grocery store or coffee shop or picking up kids from camp – spend a few minutes writing about who comes and goes, and how. Choose someone and imagine their story, and spend a little time exploring that in words. As always, feel free to share a bit of your writing from today’s prompt in the comments!


137 Replies on “Teachers Write 7.11.17 Tuesday Quick-Write with Phil Bildner

  1. Ah, nice twist to this exercise, Phil. TY. I’m going to the library later on this will be an easy one. Love Marvelous Cornelius!

  2. I am staying at home all day with my granddaughter. This is kind of lame…but I watched my chickens wake up today.
    The automatic chicken door swings open and 6 hens hop out of the stuffy coop, one at a time. Just as expected, the ring leader, Suzie, is first. Ugly Betty hops out last as she pokes her head out, looks all around, making sure all the other chickens are in their place. Betty waddles down the ladder, her black and white head feathers swaying back and forth. In the corner she grazes, then scuttles right back up the ladder into the coop. Suzie gets her fill of fresh water, staying put at the trough while Fiona hops over for a sip, too. It’s the early morning water conversation and two other chickens join in, planning their day with quiet neck gestures. Nonnie nestles into the dust bath pool and begins having her morning bath, sand and dust flying in a cloud around her. Two others have found their way back to the coop, most likely in the nesting box where they’ll be for several hours as they await the arrival of their prized egg. It’s pretty quiet in the run, but next door a rooster alarms, alerting the neighborhood the day has started.

    1. This isn’t lame at all! I love how you chose chickens (animals) instead of humans. I also love the names of all the chickens.

    2. I love this, Kim! Your verb choices are particularly strong- waddles, scuttles, hops, nestles- great chicken actions! I like the water cooler gossip/planning, too!

    3. Kim, I love how descriptive you are especially with the automatic door opening and procession that follows. Your girls seem like a fun group to watch. Thanks for sharing.

    4. I love chickens and wish I got to hear their “early morning water conversations” – well captured!

  3. Thank you, Phil, for the lesson and your books. As a middle school teacher (6th grade), my library shelf not only includes the Rip and Red series, but it also includes many of your picture books. The kids love them.

    Short snippet (from writing prompt):
    Splash! I’m awake! I’m awake! I’m awake! Ugh, this water is freezing cold.

    “Boys and girls, let’s get our butts moving this morning,” bellows Coach Ryan from the deck.

    Why am I always the leader in lane five? Dubbed the fast lane.

    Time to get my entire body wet before coach begins smacking the kickboard on the cement deck. The minute my head is immersed under the water my arms instantly begin treading. The legs are working and there is a slight pull from the swimmers following down the right side of the lane.

    By flip turn three, the daily goal is clear. No lazy laps today. These summer laps will pay off in March when I swim in the state championships. And if Kristy, who’s two swimmers behind me notices the dedication, even better.

    1. Let’s hear it for middle school teachers! Thanks for sharing my books with your students.

      You packed so much into this. You really captured the swimming pool setting, Andy. Thanks for sharing this.

    2. Been to my share of swim meets – your writing brought me right back to the
      Scene – I could almost smell the chlorine.

  4. Eight tables, filled with people in combinations of twos, threes, fours, sixes and eights. Strange – no fives or sevens this morning. Name tags on many but not all. Arrivals with name tags are “parking luggage” by the front door.

    Polite. Unhurried. But yet they appear to be on a time schedule. Name tags reveal first and last names and tour group name matching the bus outside the front door. Destination unknown. Travelers bound together for this trip – appears to be “retired” folks ranging from 60’s to 70’s.

    One man gets his wife coffee and returns to get his own coffee. There is a line. He waits patiently for his turn, fills his coffee and leaves it at the table. He walks up and down the hallway, not ready to spend his day sitting on a bus. He refills juice for others and also picks up discarded plates and napkins. The bus driver is loading luggage and some breakfast folks quickly finish and head outside to claim their seats. The man drinks his coffee quickly as his wife stands and collects her belongings. Smiles, little touches, and brief conversations – all attest to pleasant travel times ahead

    1. Thanks for sharing, Fran. I’m loving the wide range of settings people are already creating this morning.

    2. You pulled me into the setting and how the characters move around within it; and because you did that, I want to know more about the polite man. What’s his story? It was fun to read your post.

  5. Thank you, Phil!

    Debra left the classroom, thinking to herself. Well, I don’t want to be remembered as a bully. Who would? I hope that book is finished soon. Mrs. R. has been reading it for too long. Hashtag Choose Kind, blah, blah, blah. Enough, already.

    Debra dropped her literature class junk into her bag as she walked passed the row of 6C backpacks. “I wish this day was over,” she said aloud, but to no one in particular.

    “Pardon me?” asked Samantha.

    “Pardon me?” Debra mimicked. “Dork, I wasn’t talking to you.”

    “Oh, sorry. I thought you were,” Samantha replied, shyly. Samantha continued to load her literature anthology, notebook, and free reading book into her pink and teal paisley backpack, trying to ignore Debra.

    Her mom had told her Debra probably was hurting inside herself from one thing or another. “Maybe you can get to know her and help her see the bright side of life,” Mom had suggested, with her typical sing songy voice.

    “You just don’t understand, Mom. She’s bad,” Sam had explained.

    “You know her name means ‘bee.’ I guess she’s living up to her name–stinging people who get in her way,” said Mom.

    “Bee. Who would name their kid after an insect?” asked Samantha, who knew her name means The Listener, and knew that Dakota means friend, Mahala means woman of power, and Theodore means gift of God. She knew many more too; her mom was really into names.

    Samantha finished at her backpack, then managed to muster up enough courage to say, “Have a nice day, Debra.” She raced off to geography class before waiting to hear if there was a response.

    1. I like the way you brought the mom’s voice into the moment. It’s like the little angel on the shoulder telling the child to do the right thing in the moment, even if it’s hard.

      As a parent, I would like to think that happens more often than not, even if the child doesn’t realize it. This scene is a pat on the back for the parents who persist even when the message doesn’t seem to sink in sometimes.

      1. Ah, thanks, Janet. I’m glad it made sense. I guess I didn’t even think that it might have not been clear. I like the angel on her shoulder image. Yes, praise God for parents who persist to bring up kind children.

    2. Well done, Denise!

      The dialogue really helps the story flow. It also helps bring it to life. I love the line – “Mom had suggested, with her typical sing songy voice.” It made me think of my wife when she is giving my 14-year-old daughter advice and she is rolling her eyes because mom’s know nothing.:)

      I also loved the tidbits with the meaning of the names – very clever.
      Keep on writing!

  6. I’m a middle school teacher, too! (Good to see you here again, Andy!) Last night I stayed in a hotel on my way to visit family 800+ miles away. Not too many people at breakfast this morning, but a few. It’s always nice to be reminded to find inspiration in the people around you! Thanks, Phil!

    His granddaughter slouched as low as she could in the chair, her head barely poking above the tabletop.
    “Eat your bacon,” he said.
    She picked up a couple more chocolate chips and tossed them in her mouth. She still wore her fleece pajamas. Her grandmother, who was prone to spoiling her, let her come down to breakfast in them. At least her hair was brushed.
    “Ya gotta eat some protein. Eat your bacon,” Shelly piped up in support. Okay, maybe she didn’t always spoil her.
    His phone squawked like a clown’s horn and he checked the screen. He smiled.
    “Chet’s cleaning the house today. Wants to know when we’re expected back.”
    “It shouldn’t need too much cleaning,” Shelly said. “I cleaned it before we left.”
    Ben wondered what his son-in-law had gotten up to in their house while they were gone. A blissful weekend without his daughter, living in a bigger house than he was used to, with a fully stocked bar and swimming pool.
    A picture of their two pomeranians curled on the couch appeared on his screen and he laughed.
    “Lemme see!” His granddaughter cried and she slid off her chair to stand in front of him. He turned the phone so she could see. She grinned, exposing her missing front teeth. He tousled her hair, messing it up.
    “Go eat your bacon,” he reminded. He was exhausted. How did his son- in-law do it day after day? He hoped he’d made a mess. He deserved it!

    1. Bacon, chocolate chips, more bacon. Now I’m hungry! I also want to know what Chet was up to while they were away!

    2. Jen,

      I agree with Phil – I am now going to eat breakfast for lunch because I am craving bacon.

      I enjoyed reading your snippet and the last sentence really pulled the whole thing together. Usually, the son-in-law isn’t getting much love, so I like the twist (sounds deserving) at the end. I also loved the line – “His phone squawked like a clown’s horn and he checked the screen. He smiled.” I could hear the phone in my head.:)

      Great job! Thank you for sharing.

  7. I walk down the steps. The kids are eating doughnut holes, cantaloupe and blackberries. Open cereal boxes are strewn across the table, others are on the counter, sealed tightly. Immediately, I’m bombarded with questions. Do I want cereal? Strawberries? Orange juice? They just won’t leave me alone. I can’t take all this unsolicited noise. I need quiet. But, alas, when you are on a family vacation with your in-laws, quiet takes a vacation, too.

    1. Rachel,

      I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this snippet. I was out doing yard work this morning and come in to find my three daughters rummaging through cupboards for more breakfast. Empty cereal bowls, half-empty cereal boxes, crusts of toasts, and a half-eaten carton of yogurt on the counters. I pick up my phone because I don’t want them to spill anything on it and I find a text from my son (at a sleepover). It read, “What’s for dinner?” He sent it at 9:15 AM. UGH! I SO can relate to your setting – I love summer vacation, but sometimes, it’s as hectic as school.

      Enjoy vacation! Thank you for sharing. Happy writing!

    2. I can totally relate to the need for quiet when on vacation. Sometimes I feel like I need a vacation from my summer vacation!

    3. Bahaha…I felt that tightness of “Ok, here we go, no slow wake up,” that comes from having children who demand to be be fed. 🙂

  8. Perfect day for this exercise as it’s a travel day for me. I’ll do this later tonight at the NOLA and Dallas airports!

  9. Al, the auctioneer plopped himself on the tall stool and tested the microphone. He set his white cowboy hat on the table in front of him and leaned down to his wife, who was seated to his left. He covered the microphone before speaking to her, but the crowd seated in front of them still heard him ask her if she is ready to go.

    The auctioneer introduced himself and told the crowd that his daughter would be taking the payments. Speaking into the microphone, Al told the crowd, “There are no friends at auctions, so be bid what you want to pay. The farm toys in this auction are from one collector and all of the boxes are original.” He moved the microphone away and gulped for air, coughing a bit. I wondered how he would be able to do the auctioneer-speak…

    An aside – Phil, it is good to see your name and wise words here. It was so good to have you and your message at the 2012 Wisconsin State Reading Association convention when I served as the convention chair. Hallelujah!

    1. Hi Joyce! I remember WSRA well. It was a fun group that winter. You painted a great picture in the scene you wrote. I want to hear Al auctioneer-speak!

    2. Great job, Joyce!

      I love auctions. I’ve always been fascinated by auctioneers. I don’t like to speak in front of large groups of adults, but I have no problem speaking to kids. Maybe, I could be an auctioneer for a kid’s auction.:)

      I enjoyed this line – “Speaking into the microphone, Al told the crowd, “There are no friends at auctions, so be bid what you want to pay. The farm toys in this auction are from one collector and all of the boxes are original.” It really brought the auction (and snippet) to life.

      Well done! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Thanks, Phil! Any excuse to people-watch is welcome. (But really, who needs an excuse?) In a crazy bit of karmic luck, even before I read your prompt this morning, I had completed the exercise based on some people-watching that I did yesterday at an outlet mall in suburban Maryland. (What a *great* place for people-watching!!) Here’s a snippet:

    She entered the Hanes Outlet store in a swirl of black robes, only her eyes visible from her burqa. Half-way into the store — in the midst of a colorful display of sports bras — she stopped. Her gaze darted from one side of the store to the other. Racks were covered with bras of every description. Black, white, nude, pink, purple, blue, leopard, red. Lace, sheer, leisure, sport. Underwire or natural fit. After a moment, she turned suddenly and walked back out into the mall proper. A small girl, three years old or so, turned from the vending machine and ran toward the woman, arms outstretched. Her older sister, maybe eleven, also turned, smoothing back her long brown hair, thick and wavy, flecked with gold.

    1. The outlets are a great place to people watch. The one up by us is a huge tourist attraction. They bus thousands of people up from the city every day.

    2. Hi Jennifer,

      I love that you picked the Hanes Outlet store. It is unique and there is almost something private/personal about it.

      You had my attention at the first two sentences – “She entered the Hanes Outlet store in a swirl of black robes, only her eyes visible from her burqa. Half-way into the store — in the midst of a colorful display of sports bras — she stopped.” Beautiful flow with vivid descriptive language that helps to lead the reader through the rest of the scene.

      Thank you for sharing. Keep on writing!

  11. I decided to pretend I was in the heads of two people … a custodian and a middle school student at my summer school site, imagining a brief morning for each of them …

    “Only one row left of classrooms to clean. Good thing the kids will be gone Thursday. Man, I hope those two girls won’t come sneaking around and ask their questions and just let me do my job,” the custodian thought as he started to clean the first classroom of the day.

    “It’s f-ing summer. Why do I have to be at school?” Angelique thought as she walked down the street. “Who cares if I learn to read? I don’t even like reading. Seriously? They make us go to school during the school year and then take away our summer too? God! I just want to be in bed.” When she got to the bus stop, she pulled her phone from her back pocket and scrolled through facebook until the bus pulled up. The bus hissed as it came to a stop and when the doors opened, Angelique climbed on taking a quick scan of the kids on board, chose to sit next to Nataly.
    “So, you think Juan’s going to show up?” Nataly asked as Angelique sat next to her.
    “Don’t know. He sent me a snapchat last night,” Angelique replied, pulling the app up on her phone to show her the pic of him with the dog filter. The girls laughed at the sight before lifting the phone in front of them for a selfie.

    1. Nicely done, Stephanie.

      I agree with Phil. I would love to see/hear the girls interact with the custodian. The dialogue helped to define the characters and their relationship (at least the two girls). While I was picking up my daughter from art camp this morning, I watched the summer school bus unload and there were many unhappy teenagers. You nailed it in your story.

      Keep writing and I’ll keep reading! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Phil, thanks for getting the writing sparked today. I am another one of those middle school teachers in need of some inspiration to be creative for my students and for me.

    Rather than a person who is “coming and going”, I chose to write about the teenager who has to stay at the coffee shop likely for a summer job.

    A cheery faced adolescent calls from across the glass barrier, “What can I get you?” She fills my order of a freshly baked blueberry muffin betraying her true feelings as she sluggishly reaches into the case. Her smile transforms into a scowl. Without a word, her body communicates, “I’d rather not be here. How long until my shift is over? I can’t believe I was up at six on a summer morning!” The crumpled bag is shoved toward me and in a snap, she pivots in place toward the next customer in line.

    1. Middle school rocks! I feel like I know the teen you created in your scene. So believable.

  13. Despite the early hour, the chainsaw buzzed for the second day in a row. Only way to beat the heat of July. “Early start, early finish, ” the boss liked to say from the comfort of the air-conditioned office while the two of them sweated it out, yard after yard, six days each week.

    “Out of the way, Jose!” Jack yelled his normal warning at his partner over the whining hedge clippers. “She’s comin’ down!”

    Just then a gusty wind began to blow, shifting the angle of the mid-sized tree as it began to fall. With a sudden realization his partner couldn’t hear him through the ear protection and noisy clippers, Jack could only watch in horror as the tree fell in the wrong direction. When he opened his eyes, he saw Jose standing amid the leaves, the branches having missed him by mere inches.

  14. There is a woman preparing to leave Starbucks. Blue and black block dress, yellow pocketbook, strappy sandals, black bra strap showing. She’s maybe in her fifties, elegant while I sit here in my shirt with a hole and over-pocketed capris. She says goodbye to the men sitting with her. She walks back to the coffee bar after the men have left; she needs more fortification for work or wherever she’s going. She looks at me for a moment, seeing if she knows me, if I’m worth smiling at. Cups, keys, and sunglasses balance precariously in her hand. “Cute little dog you’ve got there,” she says to the woman in the wheelchair with the therapy dog, who is struggling in while she is striding out. Who is she? Clearly someone with a purpose. I wonder where she’s going.

    1. You have made me curious about the woman too. Who were the men she was meeting with? Why were they meeting? Where is she going? With her looking at you to see if you are worth it, are you? She seems to not be just into herself and her own perfection because she has taken the time to notice you, the woman in the wheelchair with the dog. Is she deeper than the lovely together person you see before you?

      Thanks for making my reader’s mind wander.

  15. A dad with three young boys. One looks to be three and despite my smile he glowers, distrustful of me. A second, older by a few years, bounds ahead, while a third lags behind as Dad patiently waits.
    “Go ahead Gavin, you know the way. Go check in and tell the nurse you’re here,” and off marches the three year old, a little soldier going off to fight the dragon trying to take his life.
    And now, I wonder as my husband often does about his own predicament. Why him? Such a small child off to a room decorated in jungle theme that is meant to soothe the savage beast growing inside of him. Cancer – the indiscriminate demon.

    1. “The dragon trying to take his life” — what a great image. Seven words that say so much. Nicely done.

    2. Carol,
      This is beautiful. As Phil said, it is nicely done. That dragon metaphor is powerful. I like the jungle theme room comparison to the beast inside, as well. Good writing.

  16. Thanks Phil. I look forward to people watching when I head out later. Thanks to the brave writers who have already shared. Inspiring.

  17. Hi Phil!
    Thank you for today’s prompt. I’ve been to Newburgh, NY! I live down the road in a summer resort town in NJ, and we get inundated with tourists. My writing below is based on a real experience that happened yesterday as I was grocery shopping at the local Acme. I look forward to reading more about your experience writing children’s books!

    “Do you sell one hamburger patty? All I need is one,” inquired the college-freshmen-aged girl to the fellow restocking the choice steaks. Her Coach purse hung from her forearm as she looked searchingly at the man in the stained, white coat.

    “Miss, what you see is what you get. The four-pack is the smallest quantity,” replied the exasperated employee as he turned to push his now empty cart through the double doors of the stock room. The wheels of the cart squeaked slightly–the last sound as the doors swung behind him.

    I turned my attention back to the girl who was blocking my path to the meat counter as I waited for her to move away. Her tan bangled arm raised as iPhone to her ear, the clink of the bracelets distracting me from hearing her first words, “…don’t have one patty. All I need is one. I can’t go to another store. Traffic was horrible just getting to this one….” She turned her back to me as she continued to scour the refrigerated case.

    Not wasting anymore time, I pushed my cart out of earshot and towards the poultry section. I can do steak for dinner another night. Instead, I’ll cook the lemon chicken recipe I saw on Pinterest this morning.

    1. You had me at “Her Coach purse hung from her forearm.” I also like how you captured sound imagery — the clink or her bracelets, the squeaky wheels of the cart. Great post!

  18. Love this, thank you so much for being part of this project Phil. I am playing with writing a story about my dog, Sadie, so I’m going with that:

    If she were a fashion model one would say she had wavy ombre blonde hair. But she’s not, she’s a dog and playful whisps of short white and golden fur frame her frame. She is like a sprite, leaning back on her haunches, extending front legs stretched out far in front while flexing the pads of her paws as wide as they can go. In one motion, she pushes forward leaning into her front legs as she drags her back legs behind her, “Ahhh” say her bright brown eyes “That feels good.”

    Taptaptaptaptap jauntily heading out and across the honey stained wood floor. She picks up, what appears to be, a favorite toy. It is a brown thing with antlers and bulging eyes. Taptaptaptap squeak SQUEAK squeak taptaptap… She stops, she looks, and she is optimistically still.

    1. Yep! I love how dogs communicate so much with their eyes. You can’t not see what they’re trying to tell you.

    2. Love this! Your use of onomatopoeia and nonverbal communication is so clear. “Optimistically still” is the perfect phrase for when dogs freeze, waiting to play.

  19. Thank you for the prompt, Phil! I had to take my kids to swim lessons this morning, so this was a fun exercise.

    Here’s my quick free write:

    A little girl, swim goggles up around her head, stands wrapped in a blue towel, shivering, just waiting to go, waiting for her grownup. A boy walks out on his own, his dad calling to him to use the crosswalk. He hesitates, turns back, squints, fidgets. Then he walks on. My daughter charges up the walk, looking confident but nervous she’s late, eager to swim. Her younger brother meanders slowly behind, already tired, his backpack too big for him. The principal leads a student back to summer school, focused, walking quickly. The boy hesitates. He doesn’t want to leave the pool. There are mothers weighed down with tote bags, struggling to hold damp towels and the little hands of children. The lone dad at the entrance is shoeless and carries nothing. The boy who always comes alone rolls up on his scooter, late and unkempt.

    1. Your writing has a lot of movement: shivering, waiting, calling, hesitates, squints, fidgets. Your words bring me into the story in a way I can experience it too. You leave me wondering about the unkempt boy. Thank you.

    2. With each child’s description, I felt like I was waiting to see which was important enough to be the main character in your story. It was fun because although you included your own children, I was more drawn to the last two, the one who has to go back to school with the principal and the boy who always comes alone. It’s interesting how much can be conveyed in just a few words.

    3. I can picture your characters, all of them unique from one another, yet part of the same community. This scene could grow into a book of interconnected characters, like Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive Kitteridge.”

    4. I love that I can picture each child perfectly. I found each description endearing in such short descriptions.

  20. Thank you, Phil! I appreciate your post!!!

    Today’s snippet:
    She knows that she looks nothing like the suburban moms you expect to find in the locker room.  You might be surprised to learn that the woman is a Russian spy and until today, she was just here to do research to learn what real Americans are like.  Her superiors are curious about what Americans are like beyond the tracking of every click and surf and purchase and post.

  21. Hello! Thanks for this great opportunity to write and get feedback from such a talented, diverse group of writers. I work with kids in grades K-5. My story is about a biker I passed this morning.

    Will pedaled more slowly as he neared the end of the trail, grateful for the canopy of trees overhead that kept the morning pleasantly cool. It was slated to get up to 94 degrees today. He stopped his bike and got off as he approached two walkers, a mother son, finishing their trek. The woman was likely near fifty, but Will had always been a terrible judge of age. The boy was 18, 20, maybe heading off to college in the fall. Will took his helmet off and wiped a thin layer of sweat from his forehead. Ah, to be young again and feel your body, satisfyingly sore from work or play, strong and confident in its ability to move, lift, push through anything.

    They all exchanged good mornings as Will walked his bike past the pair, then across the road to his truck. “I wouldn’t trade places with them, though,” he thought as he carefully leveraged his bike into the bed. He was at the age where he had begun to outlive his friends, even a brother and sister. He had hard-earned wisdom he wasn’t willing to part with. And painful days and months he didn’t want to repeat. Time softened the memories of days sitting at your son’s bedside in the hospital, or feeling sick as you see your business fail or your wife grow thinner with each chemo treatment, but Will remembered enough to know he didn’t want to do it all over again. Despite all the laughter and good times.

    “Make the most of it,” he thought as he pulled out of the gravel lot. He waved a hand to the woman as she waited to pull onto the road. “Store up the good memories. Do as much living as you can,” he silently willed her.

    He rolled down the window and felt the breeze on his face, still cool but laced with humidity that hinted at the heat to come. He would weed the tomatoes when he got home. He smiled as he thought again of the boy. So much was ahead of him. He was probably just coming into himself, just figuring out what he wanted to do in this world. “It’s going to be a good life,” he thought, and the smell of honeysuckle poured into the truck with the wind.

    1. Wow, this is really powerful. It seems intensely personal — or that it could be intensely personal. Thanks so much for sharing this. Some of the images and details in here are spot-on.

    2. I agree. You have managed to capture so much about Will in four paragraphs. I want him to be a character in a book I get to read.

    3. I agree, too. This was powerful and beautiful. Will feels so real. I found myself feeling like I was there watching Will and then I could smell the honeysuckle. Thank you for sharing!

    4. Wow! I love this so much. This line is what really hooked me, “Ah, to be young again and feel your body, satisfyingly sore from work or play, strong and confident in its ability to move, lift, push through anything.” And then quickly followed by not wanting to change places. The pacing felt good. Your post helped me see what I was missing in my own thoughts about this one, thanks!

    5. I definitely want to read more about Will’s story! I love how you took a brief encounter and created a character whose experiences resonate with readers. Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece!

  22. I actually live in one of those nearly unbelievable idyllic towns. Here’s a quick view of my favorite coffee shop. Thanks for the prompt to “spy” there.

    The Works is an almost time-bending coffee shop; attached to an independent book store, for each person walking in intent on their iPhone, there are three others clutching books, and two with knitting needles or bright red yarn poking out of bulky canvas totes. Knee-to-ceiling windows lined in spring green frames and orange lights serve as marquees for the moving pictures behind them. Through one a man sighs to his phone while his dog pants patiently beside him, finally lying under his owner’s chair. In the next, a short, dark couple strolls by, the woman clenching the hands of twins, each in bright pink jackets with perky cat ears. Through a third, a vignette develops. A customer moves from inside to a sun-spotted iron table on the sidewalk. He has that slightly longish gray hair that might be trendy or might be unkempt, depending on his financial successes. He looks around, lays aside his beanie cap and carefully places his reusable coffee cup, book, and worn notebook on the table. Maybe he meant to start some sort of work, but he glances sideways, then moves closer to two cap-wearing men at the neighboring table, hoping to engage them in conversation. The two aren’t interested, they smile politely, make their excuses, scrape their chairs back to leave. The younger pokes his head in the shop and motions to the woman nestled in the corner of the perfectly pillowed sofa. Her glossy hair slides across her shoulders, exposing her neck, as she looks up from her book. She’s more attractive than he and doesn’t deign to get up, just offers a slight movement with her hand and returns to underlining with her pen.

    1. I want to be here! What an interesting mix of people you have captured. I love how you show those who have or hope to make connections with each other, and those who are too intent on their own cares, worries, joys, etc. to notice those around them. The patient dog and the twins in their cat ears are lovely images.

  23. I can feel the sun’s warmth radiating on the other side of the path. I uncoil slowly moving toward the heat while stretching every inch of the way. Mid path I feel heavy footsteps and quick shallow breaths. Dogs and hikers. Damn. I freeze. I stay frozen even when the high pitched screaming starts.

    “Oh my God. Oh my God. A snake. I didn’t even see it. It’s a snake.”

    And laughter from the other hiker. “He’s just trying to cross the road. It’ll take him awhile.”

    The footsteps continue and become memory before I make my way across the path into the long brown grass on the other side. Close call.

    1. Did you pass me hiking this morning? This feels so real to me. I love this snippet because it’s very relatable to me. Thank you for sharing!

  24. Good afternoon from Texas! I actually have had an unexpected lazy day today. My husband works out of town for weeks at a time and surprised us by coming home a day early! He took our oldest (Paige: she will be 3 next month) golfing and I have stayed home with our youngest (Laney: 9 months). I have been getting some things done for the school year and updating my new Erin Condren planner (any fans out there?!) Clearly, I can’t write about my observations of people out in the world today, but I do have four 4-week old mini/toy schnauzer puppies I can entertain you with.

    Snippet: I wake in the morning to the pitter patter, or more like scitter scatter, of little feet, I mean paws. 16 of them to be exact. All with their own mission.
    Rowdy is the loud one of the bunch who has already made his presence known by growling and barking his way into the morning. I can’t help but laugh because he feels so strong and confident in himself even though his bark is the sweetest thing since I first heard my daughter giggle.
    Now June, she is the complete opposite. She is the smallest one of the litter and startled by her own shadow. She is cautious in her surroundings and depends on Mack, her “twin”, to guide her in all her decision making.
    Mack is small in stature and carries himself exactly like his father, Cash (our 5 year old schnauzer). He is sweet in disposition and very loving. Naturally, he is the one we are going to keep, and let me tell you, he knows it. He’s got our number and I’m answering all day.
    Last is the queen of the group, Gordita. And yes, she is exactly that. She is not shy in her actions and has no problem hogging the food bowl.
    These may not be humans, but they have as much personality. They make these summer days a little sweeter, more playful, and there’s nothing like puppy snuggles.

    1. “He’s got our number and I’m answering all day.” Oh that line describes my 4 1/2 month old puppy. What a wonderful description!

  25. I just read through everyone’s responses to Phil’s prompt today and kept looking for a “like” button. A “love” button, actually. I’m in awe of all this courage and creativity and out-of-the-box thinking in our very first week. Go, all of you!!

  26. Hi Phil,

    So nice to see you on TW! Thanks for the writing prompt. I gave it a try and below is a snippet from it. I’m currently in Ghana (I lived in Ghana for many years before moving to Hong Kong). Today, I discovered a new coffee shop in town and while I was waiting for my order, I got a chance to observe another customer.

    As I walked into the coffee shop, I noticed him right away. His stern look stood in total contrast to the broad and welcoming smiles of the coffee shop staff and the animated expressions and lively chatter of other coffee shop visitors around the room. He was leaning against the bar, in front of him a tray with two coffees and with what looked like an oversized brownie, that was already missing a considerable chunk. When we made eye contact, there was no reaction whatsoever visible on his face, he didn’t even seem to blink, almost as if I was invisible to him. His hand, as if controlled by someone else, broke off another piece from the brownie in front of him, and put it into his mouth. He still hadn’t blinked or looked away. I felt a chill run down my spine. Only when the barista placed a third cup of coffee on his tray, did he finally look away, to pick up his tray and walk towards the door. I noticed how slow and deliberate his steps were, how tense his whole body was, as though he was carrying a load far heavier than the three cups of coffee. He walked out of the door and sat down at a table were two young men seemed to have waited for him. Their facial expressions mirrored his…


  27. I am a middle school librarian sitting in a comfy chair at Barnes and Noble with my daughter asleep on me. My son is sitting on a chair nearby. So here’s today’s snippet’ I may have to blog again! This is fun! Well here:

    He plops into the garishly-upholstered chair in the bookstore with an audible thwump. Another patron walks over to reclaim his seat but one look has him walking away hurriedly. The man sits like royalty, leaning forward just a little bit before settling into his comfortable throne.

    He is soon reading his novel in stoic silence. The pages of the novel seem to flip forward almost like magic. There is a clockwork rhythm to the movement. His fingers barely touch the page.

    Judge Walter sits two chairs over chatting with Ella, the matronly queen of the bookstore. They talk about the latest insanity that has come down in the past few minutes. Paul Filch tunes them both out. He is hard at work on his computer typing the great American novel as always.

    The king of the couch is now flipping pages almost faster than humanly possible. The whirring slices of former tree make a sound reminiscent of little Brady’s fidget spinner. Brady has been taught to be seen and not heard by his mother. Today he is taking that to a new place. He leans out ever so slightly from behind the chair opposite the magic man.

    The man’s book now appears to be floating just above his finger tips. His forehead is creased with lines of consternation or maybe it’s just old age. Brady is mesmerized by the book which seems to be growing thicker by the moment. The cover has long since flown off and silver tarnished writing coats the ashy book now. The man is muttering something but Brady can not hear the words only see the fidgety movements of his lips.

    If he could hear, would the revelation be equal to the delicious uncertainty?

    1. And thanks Phil for the prompt! It’s always fun to stress my thought processes and sit down and write a little!

  28. I never know if I’m getting this right, but I do love trying. Here goes…..

    He walked across the street and out of nowhere my mind traveled back to Ms. Z’s 10th grade English class. I was staring at what my brain pictured was the main character from a Russian novel. How did I miss the fact that my neighbor looked just like Ivan Denisovich?
    He wasn’t as nervous about meeting me as I was about him and clearly, we had varying degrees of personal space measurement. He had just finished smoking a cigarette and had another waiting behind his ancient ear. His accent was thick just like the July afternoon air. (How was I the only one sweating?) We met when I pulled my car over to watch a mama deer and her three babies. I think we might be friends now, except that I did not understand his name when he told me, and that makes me sad. I wanted to tell him that he seemed kind, but all I could manage was a “thank you,” for what I think was his description of how to find those deer again.

  29. My summer days are spent at a lake in our community. I bring my children to the lake for swim lessons and activities all day. There are plenty of people to watch.

    One observation of many today:

    I’m relaxed, finally. Why do people always tell me my life is so easy? “Oh, you’re so lucky you get to stay home with your kids.” I am lucky, but I’m exhausted. And now I’ve taken on watching my niece. I mean I don’t mind, but if I wanted three kids I would have had another kid.

    Thump! A tennis ball from the court next to her comes flying over and lands near her. She throws it back to the young boys playing on the courts.

    “Mama, will you come in the water?” says her daughter.
    Oh no, I don’t want to. If I say yes than I have to walk across the beach in my bathing suit. “You know what honey, your brother has swimming in a few minutes let’s go swimming together after. Okay?”
    “Okay, Mama.” says the daughter.
    Perfect, everyone leaves after the last lesson and I can just swim and play with the kids without anyone watching.

    I wonder why Joy moved her seat? She always used to sit where Karen sits. And why did Karen move? She always used to sit next to me. She must be mad or annoyed with me. I don’t really understand. Oh, forget it I’m just over thinking. I mean Karen still talks to me.

    Thump. Another tennis ball comes flying over and hits her umbrella. She gets up and tosses the tennis ball back to the young boys playing on the courts.

    “Mama! Mama! Mama!”, her son is screaming, quite a high pitched squeal, “I got sunblock in my eyes! It’s burning!”
    “Okay, honey. Let me see. It’s going to be fine, honey. Just let your eyes tear and breathe.”
    Her son continues to scream.
    Everyone keeps looking at us, why? I mean he has sunblock in his eyes. I’m doing what I can. Maybe I should loudly explain what happened. Do they care? I just don’t know.

    Thump. Another tennis ball comes flying over from the courts.

    “That’s it! I have had it!” She yells at the young boys playing on the courts, “Do you see everyone sitting here? Do you realize that there are children sitting here? Stop hitting the tennis balls at us on purpose! And good luck playing because you’re not getting the tennis ball back.”

    A boy from the court said, “I’m telling my mom that you’re yelling at us.”

    “Good, go tell your mom to come talk to me. I’ll tell her how rude you are.”

    And everyone says being a stay at home mom is so easy. Now I feel like I’m being a mom to every kid here.

  30. Her feet propel her forward, but her eyes are turned behind her, watching the two pairs of smaller legs to be sure they are following quickly behind her. The traffic, construction, full bellies and time on the clock propel her forward, but the sense of urgency has not caught the girls. Pulling the door open, she tries to take a deep breath. Which room is closer? Which hall should they cut down? Pfew, there is room 102. Which child belongs in this room? Where is the next room? How many years of NerdCampMI will it take to understand the layout of this school? There it is! Room 106. Once both kids are checked in for their first NerdCamp Jr, she can finally pause.

  31. I had a hair appointment today. While I was getting my hair washed I noticed a woman come in and sit in a chair with a beautician. She did not look happy, she pointed to her bangs with a bit of a scowl. The beautician instantly got her scissors and began to trim her bangs. Her expression changed and she had a bit of a smile as her bangs were being cut. The beautician finished the bangs and put a product on her long hair that seemed to tame her curls, She left looking very pleased.

  32. Phil, my middle school students really enjoy your books. I have a few precious copies that are special to them and they remember reading them in elementary school. They are worn and repaired several times- due for replacement soon:)

    Here is a piece of my writing : Thanks for the great prompt.

    She waits. Hiding behind her mothers leg afraid to venture out into the world. She watches, the old man with a crooked back adjust his cane and takes off his hat. She turns her head. Peering at a quiet woman in the corner reading her newspaper. She stares at the turning pages and gentle sips of coffee. Memorized. The woman searching her memory and slipping her ring back and forth in her fingers. She pauses. The moment comes where their gazes meet. She smiles so tender it helps heal her wounds.

  33. Thank you, Phil, for this fun exercise! It was really interesting to get into the head of a guy. I wonder now what my husband was thinking as we whipped through on a similar mission to this one:
    I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond today and watched as this couple shopped for bedding. Well, the wife shopped. The husband was her sherpa. Here’s the experience as I’d imagine it from his point of view.

    “Okay, babe. We’ve got sheets and a blanket. We good?”
    My lovely wife turns on her heel, staring at me as though I’ve just grow another head. “That’s a duvet,” she replies sweetly. “And we’re just getting started.”
    I get the feeling I should have gotten a cart. Or two. “What else do we need?”
    “I’ve got a list,” she chirps, flip flops slapping the laminated floor as she picks up speed. I grab our stuff and follow, dodging carts, displays, and other men who look just as perplexed as I do.

    Before long, my arms, weighed down with bedroom accessories I didn’t know existed, are straining like a leashed dog at a barbecue. One more fluffy little pillow (poodle?) gets thrown on top. I peer around the pile at my wife.
    “Why do we need all of this?” I ask gingerly. “My bed just had sheets, a blanket, and a couple of pillows on it. We’ve got enough here to build Fort Knox.”
    She smiles. Not so sweetly. “Honey. I’m creating our SANCTUARY. Don’t you want a place where you can come home to? A place where serenity and calm are present? Not JUST a bedroom?”
    “Uh… sure,” I say. This is one battle I choose not to pick.

    1. Thanks for the laugh, Lorie. I think a lot of men can relate to your story, myself included. You captured the bewilderment of shopping nicely. The “SANCTUARY” part was especially funny. Well done.

  34. I loved this! I went several places today but no one grabbed my attention until I was washing dishes and saw my neighbor and his son outside. Here is my snippet:

    Sittin’ and Spittin.’ That’s what Dad calls it. What we are doing right now. Sittin’ and spittin.’ He learned it from his dad who learned it from his dad. Sometimes, three of us would sit and spit but today there are just two of us. Me and Dad. Sittin’ on a fence rail and spittin’ watermelon seeds. We have a whole bowl of watermelon; I know we won’t eat all of it today. There’s not enough time.

    We sit and spit as we laugh at the dog trying to catch the seeds. He catches some but not many. Birds come too and fight over the seeds he misses. Ants even gather around one working together to carry it away. Sometimes we just sit and spit quietly; other times, like today, Dad tells me stories about when he and Grandpa would sit and spit.

    If you want to finish it, you can read the rest at http://chaulk-it-up.blogspot.com/.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Wendy. The voice in your story is unique. It reminds me of summer, or those old Country Time Lemonade commercials. The part about the rattlesnake was especially funny and unique.

  35. Hi Phil! Thank you for sharing your ideas and expertise with us. My scenario came after watching various people at a local nature center. Thank you for the reminder to be a keen observer, and look for the stories through the eyes of others.

    It has been a full week, and it is only Tuesday morning. Let’s just say that yesterday was packed to the gills. Between Mom’s weekend visit extending an extra day, Chloe’s cold, and the tension with Kurt last night, I find myself craving the get together with Cindy this morning. I hope Chloe’s summer cold can handle the visit to the nature center.

    Pushing the stroller through this heat and humidity is a beast. It’s barely 10am, and the sweat is rolling down may back. Chloe is cranky, and I must have left her snack on the counter back home. Now I have to find something to settle her so I can enjoy a little time catching up with Cindy.

    As we approach the building entryway, I notice her, with her double stroller. Trying to figure out how to get Chloe’s stroller through the door, I realize Cindy’s double-wide won’t fit. Her composure is striking, as she maneuvers to a different entrance, one that will accompany her twin-sized baby ride, I realize why I love our visits. She is a safe place to be me, and she reminds me that these moments, despite the sweat, the whining, and the occasional tempers, are the best moments.

    It’s going to be a great morning.

    1. Nicely done, Greg!

      It does sound like it is going to be a great morning. The vivid description helps the reader visualize the setting – the reader feels like he/she is in the story. “Her composure is striking, as she maneuvers to a different entrance, one that will accompany her twin-sized baby ride, I realize why I love our visits.” I LOVE this line. I can visualize it.

      Thanks for sharing. Happy writing!

  36. Thanks Phil! This was a fun one.
    Adrienne was already scanning the shop before she even pushed open the door. She edged her sharp shoulders between the opening door and a customer leisurely walking out. Her eyes focused on the counter, the line of people and she blew out an impatient breath as she halted at the end of the line.
    Her face frowns as she rummages through her oversized shoulder bag. She scrolls through her phone without really looking at it, her ears perked to the side aware of each movement forward in the line. The woman in front of her ordered a double latte with extra froth. A groan formed in her throat and she swallowed it with a scowl. Even she knew that it would be inappropriate to growl in public.

  37. I went to the post office to mail a parcel today and expected a line. I was the only patron. My conversation with the postmaster helped me imagine what she experienced earlier today:


    As the line shuffled forward, the eyes of the middle-aged woman who had just arrived at the end of line bugged. The young woman approaching the counter had 68 packages. She knew the exact number because she had little to do but wait. And worry. It was her lunch break and, though she’d expected a line, she hadn’t expected this logjam. She turned her body, smiling at the elderly gentleman who queued behind her, subtly angling her head so she could overhear the conversation better.

    “No, nothing fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous,” the woman with the pile of packages said, smiling. “They all contain books. The same book in fact. I am a newly published author and I am sending copies to all my friends and family.”

    “Please press the button,” was the harried clerk’s only reply. His eyes flicked from the mountain of packages to the line which now extended into the lobby of the small post office.

    “Next!” called the clerk who had just opened a third window.

    The line shuffled forward.

    “Oops! I pressed the wrong button,” cried the new author wiping the hair from her eyes.

    The clerk, seeing the line begin to move, finally smiled. “It happens all the time. Let me just reset it.”

    “Thanks,” replied the author with a relieved look on her face.

    “Do you need any stamps today?” asked the clerk.

    “Not today, thanks.” The young author paid and walked out of the post office, a bounce in her step.

    “Next!” called the clerk and the middle-aged stepped up to the counter. “How can I help you today?”

  38. A little late in the evening – had a jam packed day. This was hard!! I found myself stuck because I was trying to avoid stereotypes. It was a good exercise for me though because I struggle with the same thing with my supporting characters. I don’t want them to be cliche but I’m having a hard time seeing things from their perspective and not my own. Anyway, sitting on the steps of the Boston Public Library, looking at the Copley Square Farmers Market. The woman handing out religious pamphlets on the corner. I kept being drawn back to her. I had so many questions I wanted to ask about what it was like for her to be in this place with her mission. This is one perspective I came up with.

    Ok, don’t forget to smile. And don’t talk to anyone. We don’t harrass, we invite. This is your big day.

    “You doing anything after this?” John asks me. “I’m heading back to get ready for tomorrow. I could use some help if you are free.”

    “Oh, thanks. I’m heading out to dinner with my boyfriend.” I lie. I don’t want John to know about my hip hop yoga class. Is that allowed? I don’t want to seem like I’m not invested. Because I am. Invested. This is my calling. I feel it all the way to my toes. I just also love hip hop yoga.

    “That’s ok! Have a great time!”

    John is too nice. He’s so dedicated. Hm. Should I cancel my plans?

    1. Cancel your plans. I agree that John does seem like a good guy.

      So I’m getting into your snippet. I really like how you used the dialogue to express the main character’s emotions and doubts.

      Terrific writing, Megan! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.:)

  39. Thank you for the assignment, Phil. I loved this spin on people watching. I did my observing at the chiropractors office today and saw a plethora of interesting strides and walks.

    “Bye now. Hope you feel better,” the receptionist jingled. Frank hobbled toward the door and grunted in reply as his bumpy knuckles flexed around the doorknob. He twisted, pushed, and stepped forward, but the door didn’t budge. His crooked nose was the first thing to plow into the heavy door followed quickly by the rest of his face. Everyone in the office glanced up at the thump, though the tiny cracking in his neck was audible only to Frank.

    “Oh dear. That’s a pull door, hun,” bubbled the receptionist as she looked up over her horn rimmed glasses.

    “Mmmmph,” Frank groaned as he turned back around. “Guess I’d better take that appointment next week after all.”

    1. Nels! This made me laugh out loud in my living room just now. I could really imagine everything described – the crooked nose, the bumpy knuckles – LOVE the bumpy knuckles. And the last line, nailed it. Poor Frank but he has a sense of humor! Well done!

  40. Thanks for this prompt, Phil! I spend a lot of time in line at Costco, so I am constantly people-watching there!

    Like a broken record, I have the same thought every time I pick a check out line at Costco — why isn’t there an express lane? As a one-person household, I have little need for vats of soup or giant boxes of cereal, but I can’t resist a deal. I know I can’t get tissues or toilet paper, or even my favorite cucumbers any cheaper, so hanging out for what seems like an eternity in line is worth it.

    I am always entertained by my fellow shoppers in line, both by the people and by the contents of their carts. My favorites are the heaping bomb shelters on wheels that look like they could keep the whole town alive and well in any crisis. Every cart is much more interesting than mine, so I am a vigilant observer of the intriguing snacks, the pies the size of pizzas, and the pizzas the size of SUV tires, most of which I barely notice in the store. Why does the woman in front of me need so many boxes of candy? It’s nowhere near Halloween. Is she in charge of her office snacks? I check and sure enough there are also monster sized coffee accessories, so I might have guessed right. Maybe I am good at this game. Maybe that was an easy one.

    It is a lot harder to imagine the other sides of the many phone conversations that are taking place in line. Some seem to be getting confirmations on their to-get lists. Others are loudly mediating between children with threats or bribes. A man across from me was in a suit, speaking softly into his phone, his face not revealing any emotions. The only items in his cart were two enormous bouquets of roses in the front section, as though maybe he could not decide between them. As I speculated the range of reasons for buying those flowers, from celebration to apology, I instantly wished there was an express lane for him, because the only thing I knew for sure was that those flowers had an important job to do.

    1. I was in Costco today too, commenting on the size of the enormous pies! This is a really entertaining piece and very realistic too. It made me laugh. Thanks for sharing it!

    2. I laughed out loud while reading your piece:) I felt that I was standing beside you in Costco watching everything that was going on. There were so many lines that I loved, such as: “My favorites are the heaping bomb shelters on wheels that look like they could keep the whole town alive and well in any crisis” and “I am a vigilant observer of the intriguing snacks.” Thank you for sharing!

  41. Standing in line waiting for the water park to open. Three cousins, one boy and two girls. Skin shiny and slightly white from the sunscreen that wasn’t quite rubbed in all the way. First in line. Each separately planning the strategy for a day at the water park. The boy’s thoughts moving straight to the big water slides. While the sister’s sights are set on the lazy river. The cousin is just excited to be at the park with her mom and her two cousins.
    “What time is it?” asked the boy eager for the park to open.
    “It’s 9:42,” the aunt said. “You know you just asked me that same question 2 minutes ago.”
    “Wow we still have 18 more minutes before it opens! That is going to take forever!” the boy said quickly moving his attention to his sister and cousin.
    “What’s your favorite tv show?” asked his cousin.
    “Liv and Maddie!” chimed the sister.
    “Baseball” replied the boy.
    “That’s not a tv show,” clarified the cousin.
    “Okay I like NFL Top 10,” offered the boy. “What about you? What’s yours?”
    “I like Star Wars Rebels,” answered the cousin.
    “What time is it now?” asked the boy.
    “It’s 9:49, only 11 more minutes,” replied the aunt.
    “Well at least we’re first in line,” smiled the boy.
    Standing in line waiting for the water park to open. Three kids on a hot summer day.

  42. Thanks for the fun writing prompt! I saw this boy when I was walking this morning and had fun thinking about his story.

    Riding out of the park, long legs peddling his bike while his brother followed behind on his scooter, John meandered down the bike path weaving back and forth because he was riding so slow. He couldn’t get too far ahead of his mom, who was walking. John knew the way home. If he had been with his friends they would have been racing down the path, yelling and taunting each other, filled with swagger. But instead, he was with his mom, spending his day trying to lord his dominance over his little brother and salvage some fun from another monotonous summer day.

    1. Hi Diana,
      Thanks for reading my post and your kind words. I loved your observation of the bike riders! I can picture John enduring the pace of his family. Great description!

  43. Thanks for the great prompt. I wrote this based on a man I passed in a parking lot today: older gentleman, lots of tattoos, long grey hair:

    Paul was very early. He had arranged to meet his Aunt Linda at the local Home Goods store, but that wasn’t until 2. It was late morning, though, and he still had time to scout locations for his next performance.

    Paul had only recently retired from his career at the Post Office that spanned four decades. Every day, through wind, sleet, snow, and driving rain, Paul would deliver the mail, all the while composing poems. Long poems, short poems, funny poems, and poems so sad they brought tears to his eyes.

    Having never completed high school, Paul feared his work would never be good enough to share publically. But, like all writers, he felt incomplete without an audience. Twenty-three years ago, Paul decided to use his skin as his private publisher. He chose his favorite lines from his work, and had the words etched forever into his skin. He started this process on the parts of his body that normally remained covered: his back, butt, and thighs were the locations of his first publications.

    But Paul was to poetry what Stephen King is to popular fiction. Before long, Paul’s words were woven around his arms and chest. Free verse decorated his calves and haiku rippled along each finger. With each publication, Paul’s confidence crept forward. By the time his body started running out of space, Paul was ready to perform his work for the public. That’s when he started looking for coffee houses.

  44. I felt my shoulders raise and elbows bend as I asked, “what’s wrong with you?”
    Scared. Shocked. Terrorized on a trip to the store. His finger pointed, lifted out the window as he screamed into the July heat, words that were lost in my car’s engine and air conditioning but the rage was raw. His passenger’s mouth formed a perfect O as he honked and swore at me. Then his truck lunged and my shaking leg found the gas as I sped through the parking lot, closer to the store and witnesses to this road rage. He followed still beeping and yelling but then turned as the lot became more crowded. I shuddered wondering what slight he felt as I pulled out of my spot. Did he feel I was too slow? Too close? Too blonde? Did he leave his house angry and why?
    I imagined his passenger spoke little to this rage and did not acknowledge my innocence or terror, lost in her own. Maybe she enjoyed the outburst as it was sure to remove some consequence for her. I looked for the brown truck in my rearview for some time afterward. Wondering if she was ok and if I could have helped him in any way.

  45. Hope my EMergency room description was sent? Trying to write while juggling more than one ice pack! Disappeared before I could enter my info.

    1. The setting sun sky was so different from the night before last. Though the neighbor’s dog usually tugged her up the slight incline as her heels lifted out of the too-wide denim flats she had found on sale at the dollar store, she still managed to note how the moon had looked like the bright orange tennis ball that, despite his aching bones, Bobo had scrambled into the street to chase and handed to Kenni just after the black car paraded past the shop the night before she left.

      Tonight the clouds seemed to stack into an inverted V that threatened to drop more than moisture into the air. The back of her hand moistened the paper the ER receptionist insisted she sign before she could even ask the balding male nurse if she could head straight to the triage room. Just as the sliding glass doors shut behind her, he had plopped into the chair and wheeled close to the receptionist to tell her a good story. Hattie closed her eyes to imagine how such a large flat screen in front of him might project the deep brown of Kenni’s eyes. If just once she could skype with her only son on such a device. She would willingly give up a morning coffee for such a treat.

      Instead her eyes flickered open into shock that a hospital might have not just one but two such devices to simply check in patients who arrived in pain greater than the reddening blisters that had formed on the back of her heels, and sometimes turned and walked out in greater pain when they were denied treatment. The files those devices accessed yielded so many decisions.

      Though the bus had departed as soon as her foot slid off the bottom step, she now saw a different light. A streak of green neon light flashed outside the window in the growing darkness. Hattie saw the yellow felt of the banana-shaped hat emerge from the opening doors before the same deep brown dancing eyes of this boy so close to Kenni in age. His mother and older sister followed a few strides behind, arms full of prizes they must have spent a small fortune to earn at the hospital auxiliary carnival just across the street in the open field.

  46. My cousin spent time at a local nursing home while she recuperated from back surgery. While she was there, she loved sitting out on the porch in a rocking chair. On our last visit with her before she returned home, we sat on the porch with her. Since it was later in the day, things were fairly quiet, but there were a few folks who captured my attention, one of whom was an older gentleman. This is the story that I imagined for him.

    Every day it got harder and harder to leave. Not just physically, mind you, but also emotionally. How could he just walk out that door and leave Maudie. She might not even know that he’d left, but he felt the pain every time the door closed behind him. He wasn’t young and spry anymore, so maybe it was time for him to think about joining her. But as much as he missed Maudie, part of him wasn’t ready for that. At least not yet.

    He paused on the front porch of the nursing home. His legs weren’t cooperating much today and he had a long walk to his car. He grasped his cane tighter as he nodded at the four ladies sitting on the porch chatting. He missed the days when he and Maudie used to sit on their front porch in the early summer evenings. They’d sit on the porch for hours. Sometimes, they’d talk, but other times, they just sat and enjoyed each other’s company.

    He carefully walked across the driveway, leaning on his cane with every step. The parking lot had been full earlier in the day, so he’d had to park a good distance from the main building. While he was glad that so many folks were visiting their family members and friends, he sure wished that he’d been able to snag a better spot. Finally, he was close enough to the car to hit the unlock button on his key fob. Just a few more steps, he told himself. Right foot, left foot. Right foot, left foot. He grasped the handle on the car door and slid into the seat. He slipped the cane over on the passenger’s side and started the car. It was time to go home to an empty house.

  47. Thank you for this prompt. Our community experienced news of the passing of a teacher today. Watching others as I was moving around town helped me to share grief and memories. Writing is healing and writing about this was a helpful process as I puzzled through life’s mysteries.

  48. Written from my experience going to one of my husband’s game nights. Definitely a different universe. 🙂

    Game night at the Silicon Valley coffee house. The players straggle in shyly, carrying stacks of board games in their outstretched arms like gifts to be presented. The more serious ones drag in large nylon totes on wheels, for which they probably did hours of research online to find the optimal carryall for an occasion like tonight.

    He pulls his bag behind him. His eyes blink as if he’s startled, as if he is more accustomed to looking at a screen eighteen inches in front of him than the world around him. Once he settles in at my table, he introduces himself as Steven. Unzipping his bag, he takes out a box. On the cover, a bearded wizard with a furrowed brow thrusts out a staff.

    I glance around the table. Steven and I both see that it’s too late–there’s a challenger. A red-faced teenager at the end of the table has already opened his own game and begun unpacking the pieces. A Star Trek dice game. Steven’s face falls, and he looks down at his own game sadly. He’s probably read over the rules to Wizards of the Darkland several times, excited to introduce everyone at the table to the unique possibilities of this role playing world.

    I watch and see that Steven’s sadness has turned to disdain. His narrowed eyes and curled lip say it all: Doesn’t this kid realize the limited functionality of a dice game? And a cheap knock-off of the Star Trek universe at that. Not even canon…

  49. I’m a liitle late getting to this post, but I thought I would go ahead and share, as Phil’s prompt inspired me to write a new scene from the YA book that I’m drafting.

    Why do teachers have to assign seats? As if geography is really going to solve all their problems getting kids to pay attention instead of messing around.
    “Please consult the seating chart on the board before taking your new seat,” Ms. Baker said as we filed past her into 3rd period English.
    I hung back a little scanning for my name from a safe distance as other people jostled each other, leaving the front of the room with varying levels of annoyance or satisfaction based on how far away they were positioned from their friends.
    “Yayyyeeeeh,” Chrissy and Jen squealed in near-perfect unison as they realized they’d be together. Nothing could separate those two as far as I could tell. They’d been BFFs in middle school, too, and popular. Now we were all lowly freshmen, but I was sure it wouldn’t be long before Chrissy and Jen were making their mark on Placeholder High.
    I didn’t have any friends in this class–no big surprise–my concern was more about not being stuck where I’d be bothered. But, of course, when I spotted my name it wasn’t really a huge surprise. It had only taken Ms. Baker three weeks to realize I’d make the perfect “Bad Boy Buffer.” Great, I thought, stifling a sigh, as I headed back to the far corner of the room and tried to avoid eye contact as I took my seat in front of Trent the Terrible.

  50. I’m trying not to be ‘just’ a lurker. 🙂 High school teacher, Averill Park, upstate NY. I’m trying to catch up on the week of camp, but trying not to rush through the days’ writing prompts and lessons, but I’m not sure how much longer my daughter will be amused without me. 🙂

    He walks with the heavy steps of one who hasn’t learned not to absorb the weight of Life. His stoic face, the armor he has built from perceived injustices and the forgotten lightness of Moments.

    He looks more intently at the screen in his hand than his young daughter, slightly hopping in place, rambling energetically about the choices of breakfasts on the almost illegible chalk board. She tugs at his hand.

    Perhaps he is grieving a loss and needs to take that text. Perhaps he is grieving the loss of life he expected to live.

    Whatever it is, he is missing the Moments, the Joy who holds his hand and wants his attention but won’t in a few years. I smile at her and she returns it with a glow that brightens the room.

    He missed it. He pulled his hand out of hers to push ‘send.’

    He thinks these Moments are catch-up-on-aple. He thinks they can be recaptured. I understand why he walks with the weight of the world. He doesn’t understand Life is these Moments.