How About a Plotting Challenge?

We’ve worked on characters and fleshing out a scene, now how about pushing a plot to a conclusion that is not predictable from where it starts. I’m going to make the beginning fairly cliche-like so you are forced to look past the obvious ending and come up with something surprising.

The Story So Far:

Martha is waiting at a bus stop in the snow….       (Just kidding! Ha ha ha! I just wanted to give Gullie a hard time.)

The Real Story So Far:

I lay writhing on a gurney as it raced through the halls from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room. Blood pumped out of my chest even with the bandages; I could feel it. Damn Randy for screwing around with Dad’s gun. I think I’m dying.

Remember to surprise us. No cliche plotting!

8 responses to “How About a Plotting Challenge?

  1. I lay writhing on a gurney as it raced through the halls from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room. Blood pumped out of my chest even with the bandages; I could feel it. Damn my big brother Randy for screwing around with Dad’s gun. I think I’m dying.

    Bang! The end of the gurney hits the OR doors, and they swing open. Three masked nurses are already fiddling with equipment. I want to scream with the pain, but McAllisters don’t cry. I grit my teeth instead and swear silently at the top of my lungs.

    Thank goodness. They’ve stuck a needle in my arm. I’m fading. Yes. Sleep. Fix me up, Doc. Fix me up.
    Uh. Um. A ski lodge? Crackling fire in a circular pit in the middle of the room. Snowy mountain views outside.

    I check my chest, but I can’t tell if there’s blood; I’m dressed in a red track suit with white sneakers. Keds, I think. Everyone in the room has on the same duds. Jeepers. There must be two dozen people in here, sitting on comfortable chairs in a circle around the fire. What are we waiting for? I was shot in the chest. Maybe I’m dead.

    “Number 74?” A woman with a clip board has come through a door. I check her out. Not my type at all—too old, easily 35—but she does have a nice pair of MinnKotas under that uniform. I’d think she was a nurse except that she is dressed all in black right down to her tights. Am I supposed to take a number? I check my pockets. Yep. I’m number 93.

    A middle-aged guy with a goatee stands up and walks over to her, handing her his number slip. Ms. MinnKota gives him a nod, and they disappear behind the door. No one says a word. I nudge the guy next to me, but he only grunts and scowls at me.

    “Anybody have a magazine?” I say in a breezy tone. Everyone acts like I am giving off a bad odor. If that’s the way they want it.

    MinnKota is back. “Number 93?”

    Everyone glares at me like I butted in the line. I hold up both hands and then point at MinnKota, making helpless hand gestures. She taps her clip board with a red fingernail, raising one eyebrow.

    I shrug and go with her through the door.
    “It’s a boy! A beautiful baby boy!” The first-time dad can barely believe his eyes. “We have a son—our first child. Little Randy McAllister.”

    “Randy,” whispers the mom, hugging the baby gently. “Welcome to the world.”
    I let the EMTs take my brother away, sirens blaring, even though there is no way he is going to survive that chest wound. The gun is still in the garage on the old work bench where I threw it after I accidently shot him. The police will be here soon. Good thing Mom and Dad are dead. I don’t cry. Randy McAllister never cries. There is only one thing left to do. I turn and walk back into the garage.
    Uh. Um. A ski lodge?

  2. This is the ORIGINAL given opening:
    I lay writhing on a gurney as it raced through the halls from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room. Blood pumped out of my chest even with the bandages; I could feel it. Damn Bobbie for screwing around with that gun. I think I’m dying.


    So what else is new? Hell, I am 81 years old. My name is Dolores. Doctors have been telling me that I have been dying for the last dozen or so. The nerve of them. I haven’t even made those final arrangements, what do I care? My husband died in Korea. My son disappeared from my life decades ago. And my daughter? Well, I haven’t seen that slut since she and her girlfriend lover tried to move in with me when I lived in my cottage on Elm Street, before I moved into Golden Acres Retirement Village. That was 20 years ago. Take care of me is what she said. Phooey!

    But I did hear from her. She called me this morning, an unfamiliar voice on the phone. “Hi, Mom, it’s Alice. Please don’t hang up. Please.”

    The urgency in her voice sounded sincere, but then it always did. I hung up. She called again. I let the phone ring. She called again as Bobbie stuck her nose in and asked, “You going to answer that damn thing or what?” I like Bobbie for her youth and finesse. She’s 77.

    So, I answered.

    “Mom, don’t hang up. Don’t”

    “Okay,” I replied, “Start talking.”

    “Mom, tell me about Robert. What happened to him?”

    “Your brother, Robert?”

    “Yes, Robert.”

    A tightness in my chest squeezed its way up my neck to my head like an emotional python. I sat down before I fell. My phone dangled from my fingertips. My stomach felt at war with the three cups of tea I drank before going to breakfast. It reminded me I had not yet eaten.

    I pulled the phone to my mouth, now dry and quivering. “Why do you want to know about Robert?”

    “Mom, he called me. Just out of the blue. At first I didn’t believe it was him. So I asked him about his tenth birthday party. He told me about the fire. Mom, it was him. He also told me he started it. He started it? He started the fire?”

    “Lots of people could know about the fire. Doesn’t prove anything.”

    “Mom, he knew about Daisy. He laughed about Daisy.”

    Daisy was the kitten I adopted. I loved. For a week. The kitten that the fire took along with all my possessions.

    “What did he want?” The words spit from my mouth with the venom of a cobra.

    “He wants me to help him kill you.”

    “It figures,” I replied. “So what did you tell him? You going to do it? Help him?”

    “Mom!” Alice screamed into the phone, “Hell no, I’m not going to help him. That’s why I’m calling you. To warn you.”

    “Hrmmph. I guess the 30 years he was supposed to spend in Huntsville prison hasn’t dampened his spirit. Didn’t know he was out. So how is he going to do it? Fire again?”

    “Yes. He said he wants you to burn in hell and wants to give you a head start.”

    “Sounds like the sick bastard.” When?”

    “Tomorrow night. He wants me to visit you and open the window to your room. He said he will be watching me from the street. He threatened to kill me too if I didn’t. Jamie is packing her van with whatever we can take with us.”

    “Okay, so come visit your dear mother and open the window.”

    “Mom! I can’t do that. I know you don’t approve of my life and, but my God, you are my Mother. I’m not going to be a part of this.”

    “Yes you are, Alice, you are going to visit me. Bring your bitch friend with you if you like. We can make a party of the afternoon.”

    “Mom, Jamie is not a bitch. She is a wonderful companion. I love her. She loves me. We’ve been a couple for nearly 25 years now.”

    I heard her voice start to crack and I paused. “Okay, Alice, maybe I’m the bitch. I’m sorry.”

    I watched Bobbie as I spoke with Alice. Although she was only getting half the conversation she was as slack-jawed as I have ever seen anyone. Her jaw trembled as she tried to fathom a question, but a quick stare her way told her to hold her tongue.

    “Alice, I want you to come, say at four o’clock, before supper. Bring Jamie, too. Guess I need to meet a woman who can put up with you for twenty-five years. Bring a cake or something. You can host my farewell party.” I was starting to giggle.


    “Alice, quit saying “Mom.” I’ve heard that word more times today than I have in the past forty years.”

    I hung up the phone. Bobbie’s bug eyes looked at me, she didn’t have to ask. I started telling her.

    “Bobbie, my son is a sick man, he was a sick kid, you know, upstairs. He was caught setting fires in his high school years. His dad and I spent a fortune on shrinks trying to get his head adjusted. Hell, we were the ones who needed head adjustments. The final straw was in his senior year, he set fire to a car.”

    Bobbie squinted her eyes, “So what was so final about that?”

    “It was nearly midnight on a Saturday. He tracked the girl he thought was his girlfriend and a guy out to the hills where the kids parked and necked. He put an open metal can of gasoline on its side under the trunk, you know where the gas tank is, and lit a gasoline trail which led to it.”

    “Holy crap!”

    “The girl saw the flare-up from the
    gasoline, and the kids got out and away before the tank exploded.”

    “Double holy crap.”

    “Another couple recognized Robert and our car making tracks out of the hills. Cops put two and two together. He was tried as an adult, two counts of attempted murder, got thirty years. I testified against him. How about that, a mother with the balls to send her son away for a long time. Looks like it wasn’t long enough. Now it looks like he is trying for a life sentence. He’s coming for me tomorrow night.”

    A gasp rushed from Bobbie’s lips. “So, what are we going to do?

    “We? We aren’t going to do squat. You are going to stay out of it. I will handle this.”

    “The hell you will. You are what, 81 years old? What the hell can you do on your own? We have to call the police.”

    “No. No police. If he wants to try to kill me then he can just look me in the eye when he does it. I don’t think the chickenshit can do it, face-to-face.

    Alice and Jamie arrived at four as I had requested. I met them in the lobby. I extended my hand to my daughter for a lady-like handshake. The southern charm welcome with toothy smile and twinkling eyes I had practiced in the mirror instantly evaporated. Unrehearsed tears propelled by hidden emotions flooded my face. My hand trembled as it grasped hers, and I clung to her nearly in convulsions, both arms wrapped around a child long lost and now found.

    As if in duet, a chorus of “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” echoed between us. I clung to my daughter in a feeble effort to reestablish the physical contact that twenty five years of pig-headed stubbornness had cost me. Cost us. The tears quickly washed the shame away, and smiles arose all around like the sunrise of a new day. I found myself hugging Jamie as well. Bobbie joined in for hugs, and the four of us walked arm in arm down the hall toward my room.

    For an hour we ate cake, drank bottled water, and laughed like children. Alice commented, “Its getting stuffy in here, Mom, okay if I open this window a bit?”

    “Sure, Alice, some fresh air will be good.” A breeze wafted by Alice as she looked toward the street.

    Robert watched through his binoculars, his top lip curled in a sneer. He smelled the airy fumes of the gasoline from the closed container on the back floorboard. He tested his butane igniter one more time.

    At five, we four ladies left my room and walked toward the lobby. Alice and I walked arm in arm, Bobbie and Jamie chatted along behind.

    “So, Jamie, you’ve never had a man?” Bobbie asked with quiet restraint.

    “Bobbie, shut the hell up about that,” I growled at Dolores. Jamie grinned and gave Bobbie a flirtatious hug. Bobbie tucked her head.

    When Bobbie and I reached my room I grasped both of her hands. “Bobbie, I want you to stay in your room. I want you to stay out of this, but keep alert. I know this is asking a lot. If things go wrong there is a fire alarm on the wall two doors down. If you need to, then pull it and start evacuating the wing.”

    “But what is going to happen?” Bobbie inquired.

    “Hopefully nothing,” I replied. I wished I wasn’t lying. I knew I was. I showed Bobbie to the door and gave her a hug. I hoped it wasn’t my last.

    I left my curtains pulled open and went to the open window several times. I wanted my son to see me, hopefully to infuriate him with my obvious presence. I turned on my radio and found a Big Band station, Glenn Miller played like a soundtrack to the scene I presented. I found myself getting into character.

    At nine o’clock I dressed for sleep in my bathroom, the curtains were still pulled open, and a breeze fluttered their hems. A Dorsey tune was now light in the air. I left the table lamp next to my bed on as I pulled down the covers to take my rest as usual. I turned off the lamp and laid down for an instant. With all the agility I could find I rolled to the side of the bed and retrieved a roll of several blankets which were at my bedside. I laid them on my bed is a curved shape, grabbed my coat, and left my room. As I exited the hallway through the end door to the outside I felt the comfort of the pair of sewing scissors in the coat pocket. A finger ran across the sharp pints of the blades. They would have to do.

    My room was at the end of the hallway, I concealed myself the best I could in the darkened doorway. I waited. I listened. In a short time I saw a crouched form approach. My son was a lousy assassin. His height was only a few inches over five feet. He was much thinner than I remembered, approaching skinny. So much for prison food I thought. I could hear him wheezing as well, his asthma as a kid apparently continued. He even seemed to struggle with the weight of the can he was toting as he lifted the open spout to the window sill. As he began to pour a liquid trail to light before dumping the can’s contents into my room I stepped toward him. His breathing masked my footsteps.

    “You chickenshit little prick,” I blurted out. He turned with a startle, gas sloshed down the front of his shirt. “Come to see your mother one last time?” My hand reached in my pocket for the scissors, I pointed them at him. He started to lunge at me as he held the gas can to his chest, reaching for the scissors. I backed down the side of the wall.

    In the dim light I could see the rage in his face. It was manic. I sensed I had made a mistake. He grabbed the scissors and raised them at me, still clutching the gas can, as if he was not sure which one to drop or use.

    I felt the pain in my chest at the same time I heard a pop resound behind me. I spun out of Robert’s reach as I saw Bobbie approaching, a small gun in her shaking hand. The silly woman had a revolver and had shot me by mistake at a distance of only five feet. She screamed “Dolores” as she ran toward me, the gun still pointed somewhat at Robert. Robert grabbed for the gun in her hand, and she fired again. The bullet pierced the gas can and the fumes around Robert ignited in a flash, the gasoline on his shirt just as fast.

    I watched Robert drop the can of gas, turn and try to rip off his blazing shirt. The flames were now consuming his pants. I stood motionless as he dropped to the ground and roll in a futile attempt to extinguish the flames. I listened to his screams. I wondered what my screams would have sounded like in my room.

    The yelling of my son merged with my own cries as I saw an unfamiliar hallway fly by me as I lay strapped to a table. Lights overhead moved across my vision, my God I thought, flying saucers, I am being abducted by aliens. Then I saw a familiar masked face of a doctor looking at my eyes.

    “Lay quiet lady, you’ve lost some blood, but you are in good hands.”

    As I returned his look I deadpanned a response, “Just as long as they aren’t Bobbie’s hands.”

  3. I lay writhing on a gurney as it raced through the halls from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room. Blood pumped out of my chest even with the bandages; I could feel it. Damn Randy for screwing around with Dad’s gun. I think I’m dying.

    The ticking of the round, white clock on the Operating Room wall became louder and louder. Time ticked and swished further away. I loved that timepiece and climbed upon the hour hand and rode it backwards. An unexplained chill ran through me like a stream. Row, row, row your fear gently down the stream. Life is but a dream, or a clock or a Glock. No, no not a Glock. Life is time. Jump in the time machine and ride the wave of fear like a stream.

    One, two three…clear. Tick tock swish.

    I felt like I was drifting in a cloud. My eyes opened and closed and opened. I was in a quiet hospital room. Mom was there, standing beside my bed. I saw her turn toward Dad and belt him in the face.

  4. I lay writhing on a gurney as it raced through the halls from the Emergency Room to the Operating Room. Blood pumped out of my chest even with the bandages; I could feel it. Damn Randy for screwing around with Dad’s gun. I think I’m dying.
    Sadly, these were the last thoughts of Zander Zundergrund, loving husband to Gerta, doting father of Hans and Heidi and devoted brother of Randall Zundergrund, Jr.
    Zander, the world renowned Glockenspieler from Sheboygan Michigan, was mortally wounded when he and his brother Randy were exploring a cave near Bear’s Claw MN.
    As stated in the Craw County Corner’s report;
    Randall Zundergrund, Jr. always took his father’s small caliber handgun whenever he accompanied his brother on outdoor adventures. Randall Zundergund, Sr. had been the victim of a vicious Wolverine attack in 1975, which left him in a paraplegic vegetative state. Zundergrund Junior was never able to overcome this trauma.
    Zander was walking ahead of Randy, as usual. Randall thought he heard the sound of a Bear or a Bat or something else “That goes bump in the night.” Fearing for his brother’s life, Junior discharged the weapon toward the ceiling of the cave. The bullet dislodged a calcium deposit which fell and hit Zander in the middle of his chest…”Sort of Vampire, wooden- steak- through- the -heart kinda thing.”
    Cause of Death:
    Falling Stalactite kills Glockenspieling Spelunker.

    Respectfully Submitted,
    Dr.Sydney Dawn Fluke, M.D., D.D.S., D.V.M., A.D.H.D

  5. Try and say that cause of death five times really fast! As always, a gem.

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