This site is my warm-up place, where I stretch my writing muscles as best I can. They're pretty rusty after all these years. With each entry, I'll ask a specific question, but I'm also open to any comments or suggestions you have as you read. Thank you!
Question of the Day - What sort of piece you expect will come from this excerpt? A novel, a poem, a short story? What genre does it suggest?
Once upon a time, in a far away land - let's call it "Detroit" - there lived a smart and beautiful woman, with a husband, three children, and her cat Annie. Her name was Melanie, but everyone called her Melly. In her early twenties, she'd thought "Melly" sounded too childish. As she approached thirty, she felt an anxious need to keep the youthful feeling. Now, as an early thirtysomething, she accepted the name as who she was.
Melly had one of those computer programming jobs that no one understood except other computer programmers. And even then, other programmers preferred talking about anything except programming. So when people asked her what she did, she just said “stuff with computers.” Every day she went to an office building, up an elevator to the fourth floor, and to her cubicle, which sat next to a window, so that she could at least see the sky. She sat at her desk for eight hours a day, stopping for the occasional chats around the water-cooler – or, in this case, the coffeemaker in the lounge – about the season premiere of Lost, about the existential questions brought about when one runs out of toilet paper, about everyone’s opinions as to the best brand of chocolate.
The desk within Melly’s workspace was more or less neat, more or less comfortable. She kept all sorts of emergency supplies – brushes, lipstick, crackers - in the drawers of her desk, including a collection of first aid supplies, which she gladly shared with colleagues. In exchange, she was given stories about biting dogs and toddlers running with ice scrapers. She kept several different kinds of tea, which she drank throughout the day, having given up coffee after grad school because of a caffeine intolerance. Hanging on a grey bulletin board were the requisite pictures of her family, ticket stubs from the last time she saw “Wicked,” and the odd witticism on postcard or bookmark. “Well-behaved women rarely make history,” and “Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.”
She didn’t regret her career choice. Many of her friends, on turning thirty or thirty-one or thriry-two, were realizing that what they’d wanted in their twenties was no longer what they wanted now. So they’d gone back to law school or nursing school or sociology school, to become lawyers and nurses and professors. Melly was happy where she was. She was happy with her family, she was happy with her place in the world. In Detroit.
On a February morning – let’s say it was a Thursday – Melly arrived at her more or less comfortable cubicle as usual, hung her wool coat on the coat hook, as usual, and, as usual, tucked her turquoise and grey messenger bag under her desk, snug to one side so she still had room for her feet. As she reached to pull out her laptop, to plug it in, she noticed that sitting across the top of her heavy ceramic tea mug was a package. Irregularly shaped, it was about the size of her fist, wrapped in white tissue paper and tied in a silver bow. She tried to think – was it her birthday? No, not for a month or more. Was it one of those non-existent holidays, like sweetest day or boss’s day, invented by greeting card companies to get people to spend money? She could think of no reason a gift would have been left for her.