Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: December 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Jonathan dresses his characters in the faults of his wife. At breakfast, he studies her loose, chewing mouth; her thin pale lips. Perhaps when this novel is finished, they will divorce.

Perhaps not.

This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.
"This weekend we're asking for 33 of your own words that exorcise a demon.  One of your own, or one from your imagination.  Let it bleed on the page."


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Incapable Heroes

The girl wears shiny patent leather shoes. There's a scuff of mud on the left heel. Her tights are bright white, shockingly white, like too-perfect teeth or brand-new sheets. Her dress is red velvet. A long ribbon encircles her waist and ends in a luxurious bow at her back.

Her mother presses three dollars into her hand, folds the fingers over her palm. “Right to town and back,” she says. “Follow the sidewalk all the way. No turns.”

The girl nods absently.

“Are you listening?”

“Follow the sidewalk all the way.”

“To the bakery and right home.”
Read more »

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


Traditions are held.
Yet boundaries extended
as we celebrate Christmas with our Muslim student from Israel.
Packages wrapped in tolerance; sealed in understanding; filled with wisdom.
We exchange gifts of peace and love.

This was written for this weekend's Trifecta Writing Challenge.

This weekend we want you to give us a pithy summary of your feelings about the holidays.  Your response does not need to be cynical or sarcastic.  We welcome all thoughts and feelings about this time of year--so long as you express those thoughts and feelings in 33 words.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Crazy Jack

Crazy Jack enters the coffee shop, struggling with three bulging grocery bags.

Mayor Mueller eyeballs him from his table. “What you got there, Jack?”

“Carrots and peppers.”

“Don't throw them seeds on private property.”

“You don't like carrots in your lawn?”
Read more »


Sunday, December 16, 2012

With Feeling

The conductor drops his baton and the music tapers away. He looks at the soloist. “Once more. With feeling.”

The soloist lowers his violin slowly. “Technically, that was perfect.”

Agreed,” the conductor says. “But there was no passion in your playing. No...”

Perhaps I'm passionless.” He gives a small shrug. Lifts his eyebrows.

The lead trombonist rolls his eyes at the trumpet section. Violinists get all the attention.
Read more »

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Trappings Vivisect

Thirty-three words to win a laugh.
Perhaps a smile will do.
Will they buckle beneath a chuckle?
Utter a giggle or two?

Articulate painstakingly.
Trappings vivisect.
Utmost here—beseeching, dear—
Be certain you're correct.

This piece, written in response to the Trifecta Writing Challenge, was written for Draug and as a lecture to myself: I recently incorrectly questioned Draug's usage of a word.

This weekend we're asking you to write 33 words that will make us laugh or smile.  Even a chuckle will do.  We look forward to the communal spirit lifting.  Good luck!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Stuart watches a boy with spiked-up hair enter the gallery with his parents. The father has a Nikon hanging from his neck. The mother carries an iPad. They arrange the boy in front of a suit of armor and snap pictures. As the father lowers his camera, the boy releases his pose. They study his image as they leave the gallery.
The world, Stuart thinks, perpetually posing for itself.
He listens to the banalities surrounding him. People striving so hard to sound intelligent to themselves and each other, walking past without acknowledging him. He tells himself he likes the invisibility.
Snippets of conversation weave around him like cigarette smoke.
“These big museums just bring in big artists…They don’t want to invest in small time…”
“When I lived in Munich in ’86…”
A puffed-up man reeking of mothballs queries his wife: “When does life become art?”
He hears a snicker and turns to his right. A beautiful woman stands there. Gorgeous red hair; bright green eyes; petite. He reaches for his crutches and pushes himself up: He doesn't want to waste her time.
He is surprised when she doesn't move. Normally, when he stands; when he reveals the part of himself that is missing, people quickly discard him. “When I was a boy, I dreamed of war.”
She nods and puts a cigarette into her mouth.
“Then I barely lived through it and the sheen of war fell away.”
“Why do you guard this room?”
“It's the one they gave me.” He eyes her. “I've heard the museum staff aren't very bright.”
She laughs and her eyes are merry.
“I wonder,” Stuart says, surprising himself, for when he lost his leg, he lost the easy confidence he used to possess, “if, a hundred years from now, the shattered remains of my leg will be on display in this museum. ” He paints an imaginary marquee in the air. “Effects of modern war.”
She takes a drag on the cigarette.
“Works better if you light it,” he says.
“I'm trying to quit. Besides, the guard will kick me out.”
He laughs. “Stress?”
“Oh, yeah.”
“The job?”
“You could say that.”
“Where do you work?”
“Oh, yeah?” He is pleased. “You new?”
“I've been here four years.”
“I've never seen you until today.”
“I'm the director.” She meets his eye and gives a laugh. “I'm holed up in my office most of the day.”
“I guess that means I'm fired.”
“No.” She extends a hand. “My name's Josie.”
“Stuart,” he says.
“I know who you are.” She feels herself blush.
A girl with oversized sunglasses walks in, nodding her head to the music being pumped into her ears. A woman sits on a bench and promptly falls asleep.
“God this is boring,” Josie says when the museum closes. She smiles. “Join me for dinner?”
And Stuart's life suddenly feels beautiful and new.

This piece, part of a larger story, was posted for this week's Write on Edge link.

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Monday, December 10, 2012


Daniel McAllyster doesn't find the tree. No, the tree finds him. After arguing with Bess over the state of the cabin and the meals she prepares for the little ones, he stumbles out the door and heads into the woods for some clarity.

The tree stretches across the creek, topmost branches reaching east. In the soft silences of the woods, it came crashing down, taking with it smaller trees as its arm-like limbs grasped for purchase. But once a tree has fallen, it has fallen. No amount of helping hands will be able to right it.

Daniel studies the roots, now angry and exposed among the great mass of fresh dirt and rock. For a moment, he mourns.
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Saturday, December 8, 2012


Sandwiched in between thick jail walls, the harmonica player's music snakes and curls into cells, dark and lonely. Perhaps he plays to overcome the silence of the gallows, nooses swaying in gentle breezes.

This piece was written for this weekend's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  

This weekend we are giving you three variations on a prompt.  We need you to give us 33 words back, and 2 of those words must be either "cheap flights," "sandwiched in" or "spectacularly clean."  This weekend, your piece must also be non-fiction (poetry or prose).  And yes, we reserve the right to call your mothers and former lovers to ask for verification on your tales.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Space in Between

Madam Moira glanced at the senator; pointed to the rock on the table before her, long and flat. “Some people like the mortar and pestle. I prefer stone.”

Why?” Humor the woman.

I like to feel the moment the essence is broken.”

Essence?” Nutcase.

Everyone's made of it.”

The soul, you mean.”
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Monday, December 3, 2012


Francine met Howard at the front door. “I got the Johnsons today.” She smiled with a wide mouth. Her teeth were perfectly white. Her lipstick was blood-red.

Howard stepped inside, removed his coat and handed it to the housekeeper, their third in as many months. “Thank you...” He looked at her, trying to recall her name.

“Did you hear me, Howard? I got the Johnsons!”

He sighed. He rather liked Phillip and Bess Johnson, their neighbors five doors down, just around the bend. “Congratulations, dear.”
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Saturday, December 1, 2012


Santa's boots and crinkled lists.
Harried faces and crying children.
Love bound in ribbon and credit cards.

“Never mind.” She turned away.
Enpty-handed, she left the mall, humming a carol to herself.


This was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.

For the weekend challenge, we're asking you to write exactly 33 words about rebellion and/or revolt.  Interpret it as you will, just keep it to 33 words.