Start a Story

I invite you to copy the paragraphs below and paste them into a document.  They should be one page, single-spaced.  Without reading the whole page, take a pen, close your eyes, and stab a sentence.   Take that sentence and construct a story around it.  I hope you’ll post your story! 

Opal watched in fascination as the newborn baby was fed her first mouthful of food on the tip of the family sword, along with a speech in which, because they spoke slowly in keeping with the ceremony, she was able to catch at least two words she knew: “fight” and “death.” 

            After a moment of silence, the new parents rose and distributed presents to everyone around the fire.  Opal received a string of red and blue glass beads.  She put on her new necklace in imitation of the others who typically wore all their jewelry, all the time.

            Hulgar reached inside his shirt and, to Opal’s dismay, pulled out a pair of her soft kidskin slippers, dyed a muted pink and trimmed with tiny pearls.    Opal could hear everyone inhale, then hold their breath at the sight of the pretty, delicate slippers, a gift so precious she knew without being told that they would never be used, but only kept to bring out on the most momentous of occasions.

            When people spoke again it was in whispers, and they stole glances at Opal, knowing that it was a gift that had come from her as well.  Hulgar shot stern glances at her, as if daring her to be so rude as to object, but Opal had no heart to do anything but stare at the beautiful but useless slippers.  Her chest grew tight at the memories of the life she had left behind. 

            After the meal, the ceremony, and some serious talk among the adults that Opal could not follow, a pair of dice was produced.  Some sort of game began, accompanied by much shouting and teasing; clearly it was a gambling game.  Men and even a few women took turns rolling the dice after placing small chunks of compressed tea leaves on a slab of rock and taking their share when they won.

             When a woman first took a turn, Opal expected her to be heckled for participating in what, back home, would have been solely a man’s game.  To Opal’s surprise, no one seemed perturbed.  Thus encouraged, Opal shouldered in next to Hulgar so she could watch every throw of the dice, every bet, and the way the dice were passed until she was fairly certain she understood how the game worked.

            After Hulgar lost several chunks of tea, Opal reached out for the dice before they were passed beyond her to the next person.  All the faces looked up, surprised, but not displeased.  Opal half-expected Hulgar to make a fuss, but she had already decided that if he did, she would ignore him.  Other women were playing; she wanted a turn.

            Instead, Hulgar slapped her on the back, grinning, and saying something that made everyone laugh.  Hulgar roared even louder when Opal won her bets.  She heard the boasting tone in his words when she completed her turn and passed the dice on to the next man.  She sat back, giggling and happy at her success.

            When the hour grew late, the game broke up.  Hulgar and Opal rose, both awkward in their nightly confusion over sleeping arrangements.  Hulgar pointed at Opal’s handful of tea chunks and said, “Good,” a phrase he was fairly certain she knew.

8 responses to “Start a Story

  1. I felt like taking my own challenge, so here we go!

    Opal half-expected Hulgar to make a fuss, but she had already decided that if he did, she would ignore him. “Liam, pour me another Glenlivet—no ice.” She glanced at Hulgar out of the corner of her eye.

    Hulgar was bent over his Guinness, wiping the moisture off the side of the glass with one finger. He chewed on his lower lip, then took a long swallow of his beer. He slammed the glass down on the bar, wiped his mouth, and headed to the bathroom.

    Opal sipped her third scotch. Three was more than she usually drank, but damn, it wasn’t everyday a person got laid off for no good reason. She was in a mood to cut herself some slack even if Hulgar wouldn’t. It was true that without her paycheck, they were going to be in serious trouble. Hulgar hadn’t taken the news well. She drank again. She’d figure something out tomorrow. Tonight she was going to drink to her rotten luck.

    Idly, she wondered how her glass had gotten empty so fast. “Liam! One more, please.” She felt a bit heavy but happy. I’m floating on a cloud, she thought. La de da da da. Take me out and shoot me, but I’m having a nice night in spite of it all. She grinned at herself in the bar mirror.

    What was taking Hulgar so long? He’d been in that bathroom for at least twenty minutes!

  2. Barbara Burris

    Opal trembled as she boarded the plane to Las Vegas. Inside, the cavernous jet was bustling with excited travelers in bright colored summer clothing hurrying to stow various pieces of luggage and find their seats. It looked like a party was about to start.

    “May I see your ticket?” the flight attendant asked.

    Startled, Opal realized she was blocking the aisle.

    “Oh, oh yes, of course.”

    “Ms. Arriete? You’re in seat 23A next to the gentleman in the gray suit.” The attendant pointed through the crowd of people to an empty seat about twenty feet farther down the aisle.

    As if he’d heard every word, the man stood as she approached. The handle on her new suitcase refused to collapse. She anxiously pushed and wiggled it, but it stubbornly resisted.

    “May I?”

    He touched the handle and it magically responded. Wishing she hadn’t packed the bag so full, she looked around her, calculating how to swing the thing up over her head and into the bin without clocking at least three other passengers. This time without asking, he took hold of the bag and easily slid it into the bin. Opal knew she was blushing and purposely looked down at the seat.

    “Thanks,” she said quietly as she sidled past him.

    She struggled with the awkward giant purse her best friend Leah had insisted she’d need, trying to shove it underneath the seat in front of her. She pulled the seatbelt around her lap and clicked it shut. Once closed, she realized it was too tight, but she couldn’t get it open again.

    “Lift the lever,” he said pointing to the buckle. “First time flyer?”

    “Yes,” Opal cringed.

    She stared at the back of the seat in front of her, not certain why she felt so embarrassed. She desperately wanted to find and read the emergency evacuation information, but she was afraid he’d comment on that, too.

    “Are you meeting friends or going to visit someone?”

    “I’m going to gamble.”

    “I see,” he didn’t try to hide his smile.

    Opal checked out his shoes – black and polished the way Papa always polished his – the way he’d learned in the Army.

    “You’re not dressed like the other passengers; this must not be a vacation trip for you.”

    “I’m on my way home from a business trip. My name is Matt, Matt Hulgar.”

    Matt extended his hand to shake hers, forcing her to finally make eye contact. His smile was crooked, but kind of cute for an older guy. His brown eyes danced with an amused twinkle. Opal guessed his age to be at least twenty-eight.

    “I didn’t think anyone lived in Las Vegas.”

    “Really? I suppose you think the thousands of people who work there commute every day on airplanes.”

    Opal was used to being the butt of jokes at home, but she hadn’t expected the same irritating sarcasm to come from strangers. Papa and Mama always made fun of her dreams of traveling. They said vacations were a waste of money.

    “What’s there to see we can’t see on the television from the comfort of our living room – and much cheaper, too?” they said.

    As soon as she graduated high school and began working, she’d begun to save money so she could get away from cow country and see something.

    “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be condescending,” Matt said. Vegas is actually a nice place to live. There’s a lot more to it than casinos.”

    Opal leaned forward and wrestled the enormous purse from underneath the seat. She rummaged around inside it until she retrieved the paperback Leah had insisted she bring in case her seatmate turned out to be annoying. Thank goodness for travel wise friends.

    “Where are you from?” he asked. His voice softer now. She could tell he was genuinely trying to make up for his rudeness.

  3. Opal received a string of red and blue glass beads, a parting gift from her boss. It was Friday late and she had expected something else since they were alone in his office. Her eyes narrowed and her teeth were clenched. Holding them up to the light she smiled. “They’re pretty, Johnson.” She turned to him still smiling. “Tell me true, Johnson. Is this a kiss-off? A return for the service I’ve provided here?”
    Elmer Johnson snickered. He’d been her boss for the last fifteen years, and had given her the package. His moon face smiled up at her. “Geez, I thought you should have a lil remembrance for all the service you gave me. Honey, those were my mother’s. She set a lot of store by them. And you ought to be dammed glad you got those and you got ‘em,” he snickered again, “because Molly Strauss thought you should have something personal to remember me by.”
    Opal didn’t respond. Her head was cocked and her mouth puckered as she looked down at the beads sliding through her fingers, seeing flashes of red and blue light, and feeling their hard edges.
    Now she giggled. “Johnson, this is really nice of you and Molly, I mean that kid, what is she nineteen? Just what I was when I came here. So she’s fresh meat huh?” Opal laughed.
    Elmer scratched his ear. He looked bewildered. “ Opal, you’re not going to be a pain in the ass are you? Sweetie, everything comes to an end. You know that. I never said I’d leave the old lady.”
    “And you’re not gonna give me that crap about true love, are you? You can’t. You’re the one said how lonely you were; how your old man Frankie was neglecting you, and besides you said he had a little something on the side anyway. So why shouldn’t you?”
    “And anyway you said you couldn’t afford a divorce. He had his mother’s trust money, a big job at the loan company so you if split you’d end up on the street with nothing. You didn’t think I was gonna come save you, did you? I don’t do that.”
    His voice had grown in anger as he’d gone on. “You shoulda knew how it was when we were back on that couch. It was fun, and we had some great times here. But that’s all it was. I mean – Jesus – everything ends, you know?”
    She was nodding, fingering the beads. He’s right she thought. Everything ends. She took two quick steps over to Elmer Johnson, grabbed what was left of his hair pulled his head back, and whipped the beads around his neck. She grabbed the loose end, jammed a knee in his back and sawed savagely until dark red blood shot out over her hands
    “Yeah Johnson,” she chuckled, “you’re right. Everything ends.” She released the pressure and Elmer fell on his desk, arterial blood pumping over the papers there. Opal pulled the beads free and sauntered out of the office, twirling the beads as she went.

  4. Apologies for the formatting. Something goes awry when I bring things in from Word. Why is that? Here’s a profound idea. Why don’t I check things out before I send them?

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