In every writing studio, a lot of exercises are assigned. There's usually some kind of restricting prompt, and the goal is to get at least a page or two of writing out of it. I don't know what to think of them. Sometimes, they're helpful, make me stretch, and give me a good idea for a longer story. Other times, they're just embarrassingly awful pieces of flash fiction that are only written for the sole purpose of getting school credit. "A House of Words" is an example of the former. Here is an example of the latter.
“I know. I’m always late. Also, I’m hungry.”
“Where are you right now?”
“I’m driving down a road to somewhere. I don’t know where I am. I’d like to think I’m in
He is driving down a road somewhere. He has a bag of potato chips in the passenger seat and the speakerphone on so he can keep both hands on the wheel.
“But you’re always driving down a road somewhere. You’re never on the highway. Maybe you should get on the highway.”
She is closing her eyes; she can’t imagine him doing anything at all.
“It’s very dark out. I don’t know where I’m going. It is always dark out like this.”
“I’m having a glass of wine and warming up near a fire place. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
“It does. It sounds nice. I don’t even have orange juice.”
“Why don’t you want to join me near the fire place? We can watch the fire light up our faces. We can drink wine and roast marshmallows.”
“I still wish I had orange juice. I can’t drink wine because I am still on the road.”
“Why are you on the road? Why aren’t you here? I can fly to
“I’m looking for the end of the road. I just saw a squirrel climb up a tree. I could just barely make it out. It looked scared and jittery.”
“Do you need directions? Would you like me to give you directions? Are there any signs or Home Depots nearby?”
“You can’t give me directions. I don’t have a GPS. You can’t give me directions. I can’t even see what’s in front of me. Hold on a second.”
She hears him putting his hand in a bag of potato chips. She hears him munching. He doesn’t speak for a long time after that. She can hear him breathing and sighing. She stares at her glass of wine but does not drink it.
“You can’t turn around? You can find me if you turn around.”
“I’m staying on this road until it ends. I hope it ends soon. I really do.”
“Please turn around. I bought a new bed. I can move it near the fire place. Please sit next to me near the fire place. It makes things bright and warm.”
”I don’t feel cold and I can’t see anything.”
“Please turn around.”
“This road is straight and narrow and dark. It never seems to end.”
“I think I’m going to turn left.”
She grips her wine glass tight, with both hands, waiting all night, waiting still, still waiting.
I should also point out that for some strange reason, my studio teacher from the previous semester said that was her favorite thing I'd written. Go figure.