Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Writing Prompt: The Morning After

Prompt from Eliza Dashwood....
All sorts of things happen to people when they've had a few too many drinks. Try writing about a character that wakes up to find some strange items in their pockets. Have them retrace the night’s events. What happened and how did these items find their way into your character’s possession?

Locker key, Digital Camera, Match book, A chocolate egg, A cat’s flea collar and I.D. tag

Cordelia Swinson was a refined woman, full of good Southern breeding, a love of English tea, and perfectly pressed suits.  She was a lovely neighbor to have, keeping her home and yard neat and tidy, and cleaning up fastidiously after her teacup poodle.  If ever there was a woman of class and manners, it was Cordelia.  Which is probably why it was ever so stunning when she poured the bucket of cold water on me at 6 o'clock in the morning.  In her defense, it was my own fault, having passed out on her front porch smelling of bourbon and foolishness.  But that did little to lessen the shock of feeling waterboarded into wakefulness.  Opening my eyes, I looked at her with wide and wild eyes, not understanding through my fog what on earth could have brought her to this act.  She smiled down at me ever so sweetly, and cordially invited me to get off her porch swing and go back to the rock that had I crawled out from under.
I obliged as quickly as my stiff and sluggish body would allow me, straightening my suit coat and tie.  As I left the porch with downcast eyes, I stuffed my hands in my pockets, looking for my keys.  To my surprise, not only were they not there, but instead I seemed to have a random collection of items.  Not wanting to pull any of them out to examine them in sight of Mrs. Swinson, I kept walking.  I crossed the dew-damp grass to my house next door, wondering how I was going to get in without my keys.  I tried the door, knowing full well that I had locked it the night before.  I blew out a sigh of frustration, and headed around back to see if I could find a window to pry open.  Charlie barked at me, happy to see his owner, or at least happy to know he would soon be fed.
I felt in my pockets again, hoping the keys would somehow magically appear. I pulled out a cat's flea collar and ID tag.  Odd.  A memory dawned of Mrs. Swinson's cat leaping onto me in the wee hours.  In my efforts to fling the cat off of me in haste, his collar had come off in my hands.  I made a mental note to return the collar later.  Maybe it would be best to just drop it in her mailbox and avoid that awkward conversation.  As I put the collar back in my pocket, I was relieved to feel the coldness of a brass key, and took it out.  I looked at it, and realized that it was not a house key, but a locker key.  What in the world?  A hazy memory of putting quarters into a bus station locker floated in my mind.  Why had I been at the bus station last night?
As I dropped the key back in my pocket, I contemplated the windows on the back of the house. Thinking that surely at least one must be unlocked, I looked around for something to stand on.  Ah yes, a lawn chair was leaning against the shed, that would do.  I unfolded it, and held onto the aluminum arms as I gingerly stepped up.  The flaw in my plan became immediately clear, as my right foot slipped in between the nylon straps of the seat, sending me flying backwards into a heap.  My ungraceful dismount not withstanding, I was still pretty certain I could make the chair work for my purpose.  Dusting myself off, I noticed that a chocolate egg had rolled out of my pocket. It seemed wise to eat something to raise my blood sugar, so I unwrapped the foil.  As I ate the waxiest piece of 'chocolate' that I had ever experienced, I noticed some writing on the inside of the foil.  I spread it out with my fingers and read, 'Mr. Wong's, Open 24 Hours'.  Interesting.
I put the chair back in place, a bit more careful this time to make sure it was on level footing.  Success!  The chair held and I had found an unlocked window on the first try.  I had my first leg through the opening when I noticed Mrs. Swinson in the corner of my eye.  My little wave at her did nothing to remove her puzzled expression, but thankfully she went back to her plant watering.  I shoved myself through the window pretty quickly after that, and landed in my kitchen with about as much grace as my previous fall.  I didn't care at this point though, as I was just grateful to be back in my house.  Charlie was overjoyed to see me, and pledged his undying love as I filled his food dish.  Loosening my tie I threw it on the counter and hit the play button on the answering machine.  As my mother's voice filled my ears I headed for the coffee maker and got it ready.  Coffee would be needed this morning more than ever, as I needed to clear my head and figure out what had happened the night before.  Mom rambled on about all the usual topics; her health, Sunday dinner, my failure to provide grandchildren and Uncle Peter's goiter.  I tuned out most of her rambling as I measured out coffee grounds.  The machine beeped at the end of her message, and a second one began.  
"Mr. Harkmen, this is Candy.  We met at the bar last night?  I forgot my camera and I was wondering if maybe you had picked it up.  Please call me back, my number is....."  I felt in my other pocket, and sure enough, I had a small digital camera.  I set it on the counter and wrote down Candy's number.  Her voice had reminded me that I had gone to Mr. Wong's last night, and sat in the cocktail lounge for a while.  Candy had been waiting for someone who never showed, and she chattered on endlessly to me about school, and photography and trying to 'find herself'.  She was cute, but way too young, and really, she barely took a breath as she gabbled on.  That must have been why I ordered more bourbon, to numb myself to the squeaky sound of her voice.
I poured myself a mug of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.  I emptied my pockets completely, laying their contents on the table.  The items all seemed to make sense now, with the exception of a book of matches.  Where had they come from?  Probably Mr. Wong's, since Candy was a smoker, and I lit her cigarette for her.  I looked at the cover, surprised to see that it instead read, 'Randy & Julie, March 25th, 2009.'
I was instantly flooded with memories and realization.  I had been invited to Julie's wedding, but hadn't planned to attend.  Who wants to see their ex-girlfriend get married?  But she wanted to stay friends and be grown-ups about it, so surely I could be mature enough to attend.  It wasn't until I saw Julie coming down the aisle in her pure white gown, looking stunning and gloriously happy, that I truly realized what I had lost.  I was still in love with her, and how could I sit there and let her go?  As the ceremony began, I squirmed in my seat, thinking fast.  As the minister came to the point of asking if anyone objected, I was filled with resolve.  This was my moment!  I stood up, and shouted my objection!  I beamed at Julie, waiting for her response.  This was the time when she would realize how wrong we had been to break up.  She would throw down her bouquet and run to me, and we would run back down the aisle, and burst out the double doors into our sunshiney future.
Alas, Julie simply turned red and stared at me.  Randy put his hand over his eyes, shaking his head in disbelief.  The minister coughed nervously.  As every single person in the church turned to stare at me, Julie turned away, looking directly at the minister, making her intent clear.  She really was going to marry him.  Heartbroken and humiliated, I slumped back down in my seat.  As soon as the ceremony was over, I slipped out through the crowd and left.  Unable to face my empty house just yet, I turned onto Beecher Street and headed for Mr. Wong's.  The haze lifting, I remembered all those emotions, and knew I had been drinking away my thoughts of Julie, rather than trying to drown out the bubbly girl at the bar.  Some things would have to remain a mystery however, because I simply could not account for that locker key.  Maybe I had gone to the bus depot to flee the scene?  Make a run for the border?  Who knows.  I'd have to go down there later to see what I may have stashed.  Maybe the wedding gift I had brought, or my sanity perhaps.
I put my head in my hands on the table and sighed.  What an idiot I had been.  The answering machine had continued on, though I had stopped listening.  I sat up straight when I heard Randy's voice.
'Hi John.... it's.... Randy.' Long pause. 'Listen, I just wanted to say that I forgive you for what happened at the church yesterday.  I knew you probably still had feelings for Julie, but I had no idea you still felt so strongly.  Listen man, if I had known, we wouldn't have pushed you to attend.  I mean, I know Mom wanted you there and all, but..... Look, I just called to say that it's ok, and we still love you and we'll see you at Easter dinner.  Bye.'
The sound of my brother's voice was a bit comforting, but I doubted that I would have the courage to face the family at the holiday dinner.  I dread spending the holiday alone, but really, how could I see my sister-in-law again so soon?  I poured myself another cup of coffee, and wondered if Mrs. Swinson had any plans.



KateO said...

I really liked this! I think its good, but then again, I'm no english major, and I missuse punctuation and all that...but I liked it!

Roxie said...

Fine writing. You did great with the exercise. I love your drunk protagonist. Thank God I never did anything like that at a wedding! :)

Anonymous said...

That's lovely work! I like it a lot and I'm glad the prompt was useful. :-)

Shay said...

Thanks so much!! It means a lot :)