Shut Up & Write Scene-Building Prompt Day 1: House By the Side of the Road - Three Takes
I hate mornings. No, let me rephrase. I hate school and walking to school, which happens to start in the morning.
There’s that stupid house with it stupid green grass and sprinkler and dumb flowerbed. Yep. There’s old Ma and Pa Kettle just yapping away. God that house is an embarrassment with its old-people-paint and smell.
“Fine, Mrs. Lieberwitz. How are you and the Mister?” Yes. That’s it. Give 'em your best smile.
God, I hate mornings and walking and people with their morning energies. Just look at the two of them! Sitting together on that stupid porch swing, holding coffee or tea or whatever old people drink, just jabbering away. Hmm, looks like Mrs. Lieberwitz is doing all the jabbering. The Mister looks a little pale and grumpy. Weird. Must be Monday. Their dog…Skippy or Dippy…even looks irritated.
“Yes, Mrs. Lieberwitz. It is a beautiful morning!”
Sad when a beloved member of the community dies. Mr. Lieberwitz will be missed. Salt of the earth. A pillar of the community, and all that. I’m certain I heard he built their colonial house—well more of a craftsman—now that I am really looking. A blast from the past. Hmm. 1930’s, perhaps? Catchy phrase. I could use it in the listing. Fingers crossed.
I wonder if Mrs. Lieberwitz plans to stay in the house? I think anyone would be lucky to land this listing if she decides to sell. I’m glad I thought to bring along some coffee and muffins. Get the conversation going. It is always a tough one. What to do about the house.
Let’s see…Well-kept…no, Pristine craftsman style home with stout square columns and a cozy front porch, complete with a slatted wood swing. The swing could use a coat of paint; maybe white? The shutters too. That hunter green is so 1990. Greige would make the original glass-pane windows pop. The roof looks new. The siding too. Pretty catchy rhyme. I should write it down for the listing. That last hail storm did a number on all the homes with vinyl or aluminum. That has to be Hardie-board and they chose soft white paint...or maybe eggshell. That will up the price at least 15K. Well played Mr. Lieberwitz. Well played.
Oh! And there goes the sprinkler system. Like clockwork. Look at that grass! St. Augustine? Those live oaks must’ve been here before the house was even built. They have to be…hmm…60 feet maybe? Someone has a green thumb. Daylilies for days. Pretty catchy! Better write it down.
This is what coming home feels like. Anticipation as I spy the “City Limits” sign. Butterflies in my stomach as I turn on my street. Then I roll my windows down, and...aah…spring and the scent of newly mown grass.
There’s my house, with the sprinkler on. We always did have the greenest yard. Oh! The green shutters aren’t green anymore. Grayish? Beige? I guess that would be called greige? Greige shutters on eggshell siding. Monochromatic color schemes are all the rage, but it somehow doesn’t seem as cozy now.
My oak tree! Yep. Still there. The “D.B. + A.L.” carved on the trunk when we were in middle school, then exed-out once we got divorced. Childish, I know, but Dave was a real ass. He may be gone but at least my tree is still here.
The flowers still look nice. Orange daylilies were always Daddy’s favorite. Oh! And my tiny hand-print forever encapsulated in the sidewalk. I still remember the man smoothing the concrete out to a glass-like perfection, then going over it again with a straw broom—to rough it up. I asked him why he messed it up when it was smooth and perfect and he told me it was so the surface wouldn’t be slick when it rained. Smooth things aren’t always perfect.
Then Mama and Daddy let me put my hand in the square closest to the mailbox. The concrete felt cool and gritty. Not squishy, like I thought. “Now write your name just like Mama showed you,” Daddy said. And, using my right index finger, I did. It is still there under my hand-print, ANNA. All caps. I loved to write the capital letters. My hand is much bigger now. Time has certainly moved on.
It looks like someone re-stained the porch and the swing is white. It is different but looks clean, somehow less cluttered. I wonder if the new family would mind too much if I cut two daylilies before I head to the cemetery. One to lay on each headstone. What do you think Skipper? Shall I knock on the front door (still Mama’s yellow) and ask?
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by a Shut Up & Write Scene Setting Challenge.
Shut Up & Write Scene-Building Prompt Day 2: Underground Gambling Game (For today’s exercise, take a moment to picture an illegal gambling game set in your favorite time period. Are you in love with the 1920s, or maybe you prefer medieval games of chance? Whichever is your favorite, today we’re going to bring that gambling scene alive and fill it with story potential.)
She was a tall drink of water, see. Not like them other dames. She had class. Style.
“What’ll it be sweet cheeks?” I says to her and she says, “Whiskey. Neat.” Whatta gal.
I poured her two fingers of my finest and was over the moon when she says to me “What’s a gal to do for some kicks in this one-horse town?” and I says, “I can show you some fun, baby. Just gimme five,” and I nodded at Tiny Lou and went to get my coat. I can’t believe that angel done me wrong.
Her and me, we walks down to Bad Jimmy’s and I gave the secret knock. (knock-knock-knock (pause) knock (pause) then two quick raps) Squints eyes me through the peephole and he says, “Who’s the skirt? She ain’t the fuzz is she?” and I says, “She’s with me. Don’t worry 'bout it.” He says, “You know the drill. I gotta pat her down. You know. New face and all.”
I was offended at being called sweet cheeks, skirt, and dame but I kept smiling sweetly at Bricks while we waited. We’d been after this pile of goons for a while and Bricks was the key to the kingdom. I heard a jingle and a series of clicks as Squints turned numerous keys in numerous locks and then one final thud as he lifted a draw-bar. This door looked like it had seen better days; warped and splintered in places and spattered with rusty brown specks, crusty like dried blood.
The stairwell was dimly lit and stank of smoke, booze, and the distinct tang of body odor. I sucked in my breath while the battered door slowly creaked open and Squints moved to pat me down. I batted my lashes at him and killed him with my brightest smile and he said, “Eeh. Gal couldn’t swat a fly,” and stepped aside.
I took Bricks' arm and he led me into a cloud of smoke, so thick it had my eyes watering and left me gasping. The walls were cast in a yellow glow and there was a hum of excitement in the air as I took in the tables, laden with wads of cash, as sad-sacks hovered around and eyes were peeled to dice being cast while others sat on low chairs at a round table as cards were dealt.
Some eyes exuded panic inside of faces drenched with sweat. Others looked serene in faces calm and smug. Lives would change with every cast of the die, with every ace dealt.
Thugs were silhouetted by the golden light as they leaned on walls and eyeballed a wisp of a girl with smudges of mascara and sweat streaked rouge, as she squeezed by balancing a tray, heavy with amber liquid inside of chipped highball glasses. She couldn’t have been a day over 14 and it was apparent that she’d been bawling. I spied the distinct outline of a meaty hand-print, red on an otherwise stark cheek, as she glanced my way in passing.
These meatheads were going down. Bricks was so gullible. So easily manipulated by the smile of a lady. I almost felt a twinge of guilt about what I had to do but then my eyes drifted to the girl, still making her way around the poker table, setting drinks down with arms shaky from the burden of her tray, that red hand-print glaring like a beacon.
I leaned in, real close-like, and inhaled the masculine scent of cigar smoke mingled with the sickening sweetness of pomade, slick in Bricks' hair. I whispered, real gentle-like, "You were wrong about me, baby.”
“Whatcha goin’ on about doll-face? What da ya mean, I was wrong?”
“Wrong about me not being the fuzz.” I reached under the hem of my skirt, finding my thigh holster, and pulled my weapon just as the blood-spattered door imploded and my squad rushed in, weapons drawn.
“Police! Freeze!” That door had seen its last day.
By Lisa H. Owens
Inspired by a Shut Up & Write Scene Setting Challenge