Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wordsmiths Challenge - Tif made me do it...

So here 'tis. My first Wordsmith-challenge attempt thingie. I'd like to blame Tif for talking me into it. I'm as stalwart as cooked spaghetti when she asks me for something.

For those who read along that don't know the deal, here's a recap.. Wordsmiths posted a picture (below) and wrote the first paragraph of the story. Our task was to pick up the story and run with it, for another sad little 500 words. (FYI, sad and little were not part of the description - that's all me).

A loud rapping at the door awoke me from a deep dreamy sleep. It was early, too early to be awake, and certainly too early to be out in the streets pounding on doors. I thought that there must be some emergency in town and ran to the door to find out whatever news there was from whoever was there. Much to my surprise, there was no-one at the door ready to identify themselves and their message, and yet a package with my name on it had been left at the door. It was a most curious circumstance, and yet I saw no real harm in it, because secret gift giving was the hallmark of the holiday season. I myself had delivered many a gift in that manner over the years. The package was heavier than it should have been from its size, and once I had it indoors I eagerly opened it to find out what it was and who had sent it. Alas, there was no identification of the giver, and more's the pity because what was inside was a most remarkable carved wood box, worked with figures of animals and dragons all over, in a magnificent shade of red. Whoever sent it to me must have been a prankster, though, because I could see no way into the box, no clasp or lock announced itself, no hinge or platen presented itself as a means to the inside. I was locked out, and most frustrated by this unfortunate turn of events.

I dropped the box back into the packaging and headed for the shower. As my head began to clear I reconsidered the mysterious gift. Unusual yes, but not so unusual that it couldn’t have been purchased at any one of the dozens of New Orleans shops and stores found all over the french quarter. I’d start with the phone book.

More than two dozen phone calls and an hour and a half later I hit pay dirt. A young shop employee remembered a similar box being in the shop a week or more ago, but nothing more. The shop owner would be in later and should be able to give me the information I wanted.

I impatiently passed the afternoon, unable to finish anything I started. I kept finding myself staring at the box, running my fingers over it, tracing the outline of the dragon. Each time I touched the dragon, a warm, tingling sensation traveled through my fingers and up my arm, not uncomfortable but unsettling. I closed my eyes but still saw the red dragon, and then I heard screaming, and smelled blood, thick and fresh, and suddenly I was cold and very afraid. Dizzy, nauseous and a little out of breath, I jerked my hand back. I didn’t touch the box again the rest of the afternoon.

A bell announced my arrival into the patchouli scented shop. I walked around amazed at the cluttered shelves and tables stuffed and stacked with books, ornaments, figurines, dolls, not an inch of wasted space.

The voice came from the back of the store,
“So, you’ve come about the box.”

The man attached to the voice was as ordinary as cardboard. He was smoking a cigar and smiling, maybe laughing.

“Well, I was hoping you could tell me who sent it to me, it’s beautiful but I can’t open it and don’t really have any use for such a thing, but I should say thank you to the person who sent it and….” I trailed off, aware I was rambling wildly. This man made me uneasy.

“I sent it to you” he said, smiled, took another long drag of his cigar, exhaled, “and you can open it, in fact, you are the only one left who can.”

“Only one?” I asked confused, “what are you talking about, why me?”

Now he was laughing at me and not trying to hide it.

“You can open it, my dear, because you are his only surviving descendant”

Still confused, I dared not speak.

“The question is not can you open it, but will you?”


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had to stop. Is someone supposed to pick this up where you left off? I wasn't sure about the instructions. I like what you wrote, though. In fact, I'm not sure who you are, but from your posts you have a great writing voice.

(I don't log in while at work.)

Biff Spiffy said...

Oh this is a happy day indeed. You absolutely ROCK at this! My only complaint about your site is that I come here way more often than you post. Or, maybe that's just MY problem...

Tiff has that effect on you too, huh?

This is a swirling work of beauty, JC. I was into the story immediately, and could picture your role in it very clearly. Love the 'ordinary as cardboard' line. You have a vivid, conversational style that flows right into my imagination.

Nicely done.

tiff said...

Sure - JC gets swirling work of beauty from Biff. I'm jealous.

But he's right. My only issue is that it leaves me hanging. Would have liked more of an ending. However, in 500 words that's tough to do. Might suggest taking out some of the descriptors and adding more action to move this further along (but what the hell do I know?).

Thank you thank you thank you for writing and becoming a part of the wordsmiths wee family. I can send you a button for your sidebar if you'd like it, now that you've participated.

Biff Spiffy said...

Now I'M jealous! I want a button, nobody ever offered ME a button. Crap.

Wordnerd said...

Wow, JC -- not only are you a killa trivia player, but a heckuva writer as well! Well done!

Marisol said...

Damn I love those twisty ending thingys!!!! Quite the tale in 500 words. Easy to feel outdone in this class of writing!

Kudos to you...keep up the great work!


the only daughter said...

I enjoyed the conversational style.

His? who he? and will ya, huh? will ya open it?

Kingfisher said...

This misfired: "a similar box being in the shop." A little awkward, I recommend a different verb. Also, the tingling passage. The rest of the story has an interesting informal flow, this seemed a little forced.

This worked: That damnable aggravating, frustrating, cliff-hanging ending. I wanted more story, and there wasn't any. Brilliant.

Thanks for joining us!

This Girl I Used to Know said...

I loved the cliffhanger. I think it's better that we don't ever truly find out what's in the box here.

This line was excellent...

I heard screaming, and smelled blood, thick and fresh,

I don't know how you might trim down the process of finding out which shop, etc, but I felt that it took too many of your 500 words to get to that point. Not sure how I might advise cutting it, though.

The whole "touching the box" section was, I think, the strongest part of the piece.

Excellent work :)

Sea Hag said...

The shop and the shopkeeper remind me of the shop in 'Gremlins' where the dad buys the Mogwai. Heh, Gizmo.

I liked the cliffhanger too, but I wish there had been just a little more to it, I wish there had been more of an interaction with the shopkeeper and the narrator and less of the search for the shop.

And I've also noticed that of the stories I've read so far, almost everyone has had their Mystery Box causing visions, sensations or noises of some sort. What's up with that? It's kinda interesting.

Rosie said...

I so loved this. It was honest, believable and had verisimilitude. You broke up your paragraph structure to make it easy on the reader's eye. I completely believed that your protagonist just wanted to know more about the box to send a thank you note. As a Southerner, I totally get that.

The one nitty-picky thing I'd like to see is maybe you having her go somewhere while she's waiting for the shop to open that would give me more of a feeling of being in N'Orleans. Perhaps a beignet shop for coffee. Invoking the name of N'Orleans in itself places some people there, but it might be nice to feel the sticky humidity for those who have not.

This is good writing and I'd like to see more.