Explanatory Note: From time to time (and it’s been years since I’ve done such), I run a “writing challenge” wherein participants are given a unique set of three words around which they should compose a story or poem or photo series, whatever moves them. Once the contributions have been received and perused, I then hold a virtual (translation: not real) and multi-night cultural celebration at Bonnywood Manor wherein the contributors are celebrated for their creativity. The proceedings are co-hosted by yours truly and a surprise, actual celebrity. (Again, not real.)
Confused much? That’s okay, just jump in and go with it. Enjoy.
Dear Guests, Patrons and People Who Would Much Rather Be Anywhere Else but They’ve Already Paid for Their Tickets and They Might as Well Get Some Free Shrimp Dip Out of It,
“Thank you for joining us on yet another night of Bonnywood’s Annual Cultural Arts Festival and Bacchanalia. I’d like to thank all of you who have managed to attend every day of the festivities, as it means so much to the artists-in-residence at our writing colony. It also means a lot to our funding committee, as the alcohol sales alone should keep us in the black for at least another year.”
Somewhere off to the side of the stage, one of the committee members let out a loud whoop, swilling sangria and greatly relieved that the pressure to maintain creativity with the accounting ledgers had been greatly reduced.
Somewhere to the back of the stage, a door slammed and someone began clattering his or her way to the podium.
The audience leaned forward. Was it Cher? Was she finally going to make an appearance after blowing off Bonnywood-Palooza earlier in the week?
It was not Cher.
It was Meatloaf.
The audience leaned back. Well, at least he could sing. That softened the blow a little bit.
Meatloaf, grabbing the microphone out of my hand and swatting me aside like a gum wrapper: “Hey, everybody! So good to be here. Thank you for inviting me!”
Me, flat on my back, glaring up at Meatloaf Lucy holding the microphone football out of my reach: “No we didn’t. What are you doing here?”
Meatloaf, still facing the audience and ignoring my sorry sprawled-out ass: “Oh, that Brian. He’s always been such a jokester. We go way back.”
Me: “No we don’t. Well, we sort of do, in a spiritual way, because I’ve been singing your songs on my back patio for decades, especially after somebody breaks the seal on a tequila bottle. My sister and I can do mean duet of-”
Meatloaf: “Back to me. Any requests from the audience?”
Me: “Could you help me off the floor?”
Meatloaf: “Oh. I thought you were doing performance art about your blog stats, flat-lining and all. Here ya go.”
He hoisted me up with a startling strength that would have been erotic, given other circumstances. “Thank you. Now, as splendid as this has been, you really need to go. The audience is patiently waiting for me to announce the next presentation in the 3-Word Challenge.”
Meatloaf: “I can sing the announcement. I just need a second to coordinate with my backup singers so the harmonies will be just right.”
Me: “Did you really bring an entourage to Bonnywood? Even Chaz Bono didn’t do that.”
I turned to see Kim Carnes, Juice Newton, Sheena Easton and two of the three members of Wilson Phillips, standing behind a startling array of microphone stands. Sheena waved coyly, the others just stared blankly.
Meatloaf, whispering: “They needed the money. I couldn’t say no.”
Me: “Well, I can. This is a writing competition, not Burning Man. You and the Fly Girls need to exit stage left.”
Meatloaf: “What if we do a duet?”
Me, hesitating: “I’m not really sure that would work. I haven’t had any tequila.”
Meatloaf: “I want you, I need you…”
Me, weakening: “But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you…”
Meatloaf: “Now don’t be sad…”
Backup Singers: “Don’t be sad…”
Meatloaf: “Cause two out of three Wilson Phillips ain’t bad…”
I lost control at that point, tossing aside my next cue card, which fluttered to floor…
Artiste: Lynette at “In the Net – Pictures and Stories of Life”
Three Words: elusive, bawdy, trampoline
Medium: Short Story
And here we go…
This post is in response to Brian Lageose’s Three Word Challenge. The idea is to write a story based on three words that Brian has assigned. Mine are: elusive, bawdy and trampoline. For whatever it’s worth, here’s the result (and yup, I’m still thinking about the personal implications of that word assignment … ) And do be sure to visit Brian’s site – https://brianlageose.blog. You will be happy you did.
Jack kept squirming in his seat. For some reason, he was uncomfortable. He vaguely felt as if he might throw up, which was really odd, because his girlfriend had just made his favourite pasta for supper, carbonara. He loved carbonara and always enjoyed it.
He considered the situation.
Suddenly his stomach gurgled and then he really did feel close to yakking, but somehow he also didn’t feel ill sick. It was more like … like … what was it? Guilt sick?
Why would I feel guilty, he asked himself.
Jack examined the last few days for any signs of a moral hangover but couldn’t think of anything.
“Is everything okay?” his girlfriend asked. She sounded a bit alarmed. “Have I done something to upset you?”
He stopped the ferocious gnawing he was administering to his fingernail and regarded her. He realised that he had been chewing and vacantly staring. “Oh no. Everything’s fine. I just am suddenly not feeling very well. My stomach is bothering me. That’s all.”
It occurred to him that he wanted to keep this one. She was always so pliant and concerned about pleasing him.
“Okay. Is there anything I can do for you? Get you an antacid? Carbonara is pretty rich.”
“Not really. I think I just have to ride this out. Sometimes my stomach bothers me and I don’t really know why.”
Suddenly, Jack leaped up and sprang for the bathroom, slamming and locking the door behind him. He just made it to the toilet before bringing up the morning’s toast and everything else but his shoelaces. He heaved until he was empty and then draped himself over the edge of the toilet. He was exhausted and sweating.
Finally, he leaned back against the bathtub and hoped that he was finished.
Ten seconds later, a wave of nausea wracked him again, and he scrambled desperately for the toilet.
If he could just remember why he felt so guilty, he could stop feeling so sick. He thought he had a piece of it, but it slithered elusively into his mind’s attic.
If only this heaving would stop, I’d be able to think clearly and then … and then I would have the answer and then I wouldn’t be sick, he thought.
Thoughts bounced around in his head like they were springing from a trampoline.
What did I do?
What was it???
A dress. A green dress.
Emerald green. Yes. That’s it.
But what about it? Why did I think of it?
You know why, said the mouse.
It peeked at him from around the edge of the toilet bowl brush, its delicate white whiskers trembling knowingly, its wise gaze unflinching and unruffled.
Did that mouse just talk to me, Jack asked the room.
Yes, said the mouse, I did. Don’t you remember me? We talked a lot about that green dress. Or more specifically, about that bawdy relic who was inhabiting it. She was way too old for you. And way too forward. And besides, finding women in bars was never really your thing. Don’t you remember?
Ohhh yeah, Jack said. Yeah. I remember now.
Just then his girlfriend rapped on the bathroom door.
“Are you all right in there? Is there anything I can do?”
She rattled the door handle.
Jesus Christ, thought Jack. Can’t she leave me in peace when I’m sick in the bathroom? Just leave me the fuck alone, he raged silently.
“Jack?? Are you okay? Are you able to answer me?”
He heard her fiddling with the handle, trying to get the door open.
Fuck this, Jack thought as he started furiously ripping up floorboards.
He forgot about the mouse.
He forgot about the green dress.
He forgot about everything.
As the floorboards came up faster and faster, a heavy, clear plastic glinted at the edge of the light.
It covered something green.
Jack awoke to the sound of a sports recap show. He was stretched out in his recliner but felt uncomfortable and cold and his neck hurt. He was ravenously hungry.
He rummaged in the fridge and found some leftover pasta from dinner.
He vaguely remembered having had a fight with the maker of the dinner and he somehow thought she had left, but just then he was too hungry to think about it.
He finished his plate and began to shuffle off to bed, the notion that he was forgetting something twitching at the edge of his memory.
He felt so tired!
But tomorrow is another day, he thought. I’ll think about it then.
This piece has been nominated in the following categories:
The Edgar Allen Poe Award for Creepy Use of Things under the Floor.
The Lewis Carroll Award for Making Us Uncomfortable around Animals That Can Talk.
The Margaret Mitchell Award for Clever “Gone with the Wind” References That May or May Not Have Been Intended.
Gratitude Award from the founder of Bonnywood Manor.
You can review more of Lynette’s portfolio by clicking here.
Shortly thereafter, backstage…
Me: “Where did we go wrong?”
Kim Carnes: “For me, interestingly enough, it was that duet with Kenny Rogers. It was a smash hit, but certain people were offended that I had a better rasp than he did, and they eventually turned on me.”
Juice Newton: “If I had to put my finger on it, I would say it was my name. Because it sounds like something you would to do Wayne Newton at an after-hours bar in Las Vegas.”
Sheena Easton: “It was when I took that stupid morning train. It was fun in the beginning, but I got tired of going there.”
Wilson Phillips: “What was the question again?”
Previously published, altered minimally. This re-post was inspired by a recent multi-night conversation with the lovely Angie at King Ben’s Grandma. Anyone who might be interested in participating in a revival of the 3-Word Challenge (and the subsequent Cultural Arts Festival That Doesn’t Really Happen) should send me an email at BonnywoodManor@gmail.com . (Fair warning: If you DO send an email to that account, please give me a holler in the comments, as I am alarmingly neglectful when it comes to checking said inbox.)
Categories: 3-Word Challenge