For better or worse, it’s February 14th and that means love (or, depending on your point of view a horrible reminder that you are single or an exploitative capitalist holiday) is in the air! True love, sorry – I have to get this out of my system: Anyway, true love is a concept that permeates our system and the holiday, …
I’m not much of a shopper. Ask my little sister, who tries to get me to go clothes shopping with her at least once a month, in which I decline or sit outside of the stores with a book while she tries to get my opinion on clothes she’s trying on (generally to not buy anything I say looks good or that I like on her).
But I like books. Drop me off in a used bookshop or a Barns & Noble and say goodbye to me for a few hours. I may not have a passion for shoes, but I do have a passion for books.
I found this cool little book that generates writing prompts. Not just a few, but a ton. It’s called The Amazing Story Generator.
I opened the book up and liked what I saw. The book generates the thousands of prompts by combining three elements – a starting situation, a protagonist, and the driving action of the story. By randomly flipping through this book, one can generate several prompts and never get the same writing prompt twice. Here’s a few example prompts from me randomly flipping through the book:
While dog-sitting,/ a clown in training/ is tormented by vengeful spirits.
Following a disastrous job interview,/ a gold prospector/ is transported to another galaxy.
Upon breaking a lifelong promise,/ a big-time weather reporter/ is elected mayor of Chicago.
Some of these generated story premises work better than others, but overall, they’re all fun and a great way to challenge yourself, as a writer, to literally write anything. I decided to give that theory a go and do a quick write-up on a randomly generated plot.
When I think of July, one thing comes to mind: fireworks. July is a month that is full of barbecues, beer, family, and fireworks. Americans love to celebrate Independence Day by playing with mild explosives after probably a few too many hot dogs and Bud Lights. So for this month, we asked our writers to create a story shot with the inspiration of fireworks.
“I don’t want to see fireworks. None. I’m too mad at America today.”
“Okay,” he replied.
“And I don’t want American food, either. No cheeseburgers – in fact, fuck cheeseburgers.”
He listened to my stupidity so well. He shared my anger, I think, or at least he let me vent it. The Fourth was not a day of celebration for me; indeed, the fireworks depicting independence and sovereignty were lost in irony to me. Earlier that week, the Supreme Court had ruled that corporate religious rights outweighed individuals rights of free choice and privacy when it came to medical treatments. The night before the Fourth, the Supreme Court had extended this decision to include not just Christian for-profit companies, but non-profit companies as well.
I showed up downtrodden. He gave me a smile and we went inside. Nothing was red, white, and blue. We sat and watched Blazing Saddles and then grabbed some Indian food for dinner. Later that night, we both comforted his dogs through the loud bangs that echoed in the dark. For a bitter, sad lefty like me, the night was perfect.
As I drove home, I couldn’t help but see fireworks going off in the air. They sparkled, but I saw no reason to acknowledge their shinning. I lost the awe and wonder of shiny things long ago, and instead of being dazzled by the brief and wondrous flash of chemicals burning up the night’s sky, leaving behind a pollutant tail of ash, I saw the burnt up cinders of freedoms and rights we had fought so hard to win not too long ago being blown away on a wind bellowing in the wrong direction.
– Amanda Riggle
When I arrived at George’s house, I pulled down the mirror and checked my makeup, spreading more balm on my chapped lips. They were at the park down the road, waiting for the fireworks to go off, and I was late. I had tried on my entire closet before settling on a gauzy, tie-dyed top and a pair of jean shorts. I made it half way out the door before realizing I had forgotten to shave. I stared down at my legs, where a thin layer of hair had begun to sprout. “Shit,” I muttered. Now, as I walked down the hill, I rubbed my ankle against the smooth skin on my calf, casually trying to get rid of the itching sensation that had begun to spread across my legs.
When I saw him, my heart began beating so loudly I could feel it rattling in my skull. My breath came in sharp puffs. I tried to summon the rhythmic chanting of my yoga instructor, breath in and out. Or was it out and in. I no longer remembered. Half the time, I lay curled up on a mat at the back of the classroom—the dark, musty atmosphere lulling me to sleep. They were headed in the opposite direction, and when he saw me, his lips curled into a smile. His sharp canines spilling over his full lips.
“Leaving already?” I asked as I joined them.
“George forgot the whiskey,” he said, lightly punching his friend’s arm. Later, the night grew foggy and dense. Ice clinking in a glass. Billiard balls smacking into one another. My torso bent over the green cloth as I closed one eye and aimed, his palm resting, for a moment, on my hip as he passed behind me. And later, spilling onto the carpet, together, because the bed we shared creaked too loudly under our weight. It was the first time I missed the fireworks. I could hear them, the high-pitched whistle as they shot into the air. The crackling, staccato explosions as they descended, their willowy branches dissipating as they reached the earth. I was nostalgic for them, even then. It felt like I was turning my back on something, leaving it behind like my belief in the tooth fairy or Santa. Like my belief in God.
– Melanie Figueroa
There’s something so Americana about the riding in the front passenger’s seat of a car. For me, movies like Grease pop into my head and I see all the greasers at the drive-in. For others, riding shotgun invokes memories of childhood, riding alongside their parents on road-trips or sitting alongside a friend during their first time driving as a licensed adult. Like our other pieces of short creative nonfiction, these stories are uniquely our own yet share a common theme. We invite you to read our tales, and add your own to the comments below.
“Shotgun!” She yelled. That meant that I was in the backseat. Her new boyfriend was driving. He was a friend of both of ours before they started dating; he was also a really nice guy. I had just gotten hired at my first job. We were all going out that night to celebrate. I got into the backseat, behind the passenger’s seat, and we were on our way. We were about a block from my house when we were rear ended in an intersection. It had happened so quickly and unexpectedly that not one of us looked back to see the car that had hit us pull back into the intersection, change directions, and drive away. No one pulled over to see if we were okay. I was dazed. “Are you guys alright?” the driver asked. “I think so,” his girlfriend replied. “I think I broke your passenger seat headrest with my head,” I replied as I looked at the damage. It was definitely bent in a way it shouldn’t have been bent. His girlfriend was leaning against the window instead of the headrest, at least, so I didn’t hurt her with my big, thick, seat-breaking skull. “Is your head okay?” he asked as he turned around to see if I were more damaged than his car. “Just a little stunned, I guess,” was my reply. We didn’t call the cops because we didn’t want his car insurance to go up. We were young and stupid and not sure how to proceed with these kinds of incidences. The only real damage to his car was a dented bumper, and the shock the three people inside the car were in didn’t register with any of us. We went to the mall that night and I spent my first paycheck on posters. Let me repeat that: I spent $75 on posters – really shitty posters from Spencers. I probably should have spent that money on an emergency room visit to make sure my head was okay. In the morning, we found that Mindy, the woman driving, had left an imprint of her vanity plate on my friend’s bumper – 5MINDY5. We called the cops then, but they told us because we didn’t report the hit and run at the scene of the accident, there was nothing we could do. We just had to live with our sore necks and the fact that Mindy is a bitch.
By Amanda Riggle
I called shotgun in case I had to take my shirt off. It seemed safer. The name of the game escapes me, but it involved risk and the removing of clothes—it screamed “I’m sixteen” and “Fuck you, Dad.” We watched the streetlights as the car neared the intersection, waiting for a flash of yellow. The boys waiting for the sight of bare skin and the girls waiting to be seen. I sat, spine leaning forward and hand clutching the door handle. The light turned. “Slow down,” it said. I slapped the ceiling with the back of my hand, hearing the loud thuds of the others who followed. I always had quick reflexes. Bunny rabbit girl.
A month earlier, we played battle of the sexes in health class. The girls lost in every category, except for reflex. The teacher dropped the yardstick above the empty space between my thumb and fingers. And the bunny rabbit girl closed her fist before she could remember to hold her breath. You had to move fast.
Stacy took off her top and threw it in my lap, the soft cotton brushing against my thigh. Her hand was the last to hit. And he draped his arm against the back of my seat, his fingers delicately wrapping around my shoulder. He was leaving tomorrow. To a college in another state. I figured, what better way to say goodbye.
By Melanie Figueroa
He looked nervous as he dropped me off at my car. He was twiddling his thumbs on his steering wheel. He unbuckled his seatbelt as I struggled to figure out a way to carry all my books. I like books, and I had bought too many from a used book store out in L.A. He offered to drive because I didn’t want to drive. We had had dinner together. It was a good night. I just didn’t know if it was a date. I can never tell. Do I make him too nervous to make a move or is he just not interested in me like that? I’m not pretty. I’m not skinny. I’m not quiet. I’m not the usual girl guys pursue. I know that. But I’m also a great friend. My default mode with everyone is to treat them like a new best friend. I smiled as I tried to jam another book into my bag. It wouldn’t fit. It looks as if my hands were pretty full. He looked over at me and shot me a nervous smile. I smiled yet again. We smile at each other a lot. Is that flirting? He made a motion like he was going to get out of his car, but I panicked. “You can give me an awkward car hug,” I offered. “Oh, okay,” he said, gave me another smile, and wrapped one arm around my shoulders as I sat in his passenger seat. I blew it. I think?
By Amanda Riggle
Love hits us all differently, and firsts are sometimes the most painful memories to recall. Firsts are the memories that never leave you. I remember the first time I got into a fight in grade school. I remember the first time I split my lip open playing softball. I remember my first day at both of my high schools. I remember my first car accident. I remember the flow of blood when I got my first stitches. Firsts live on in our memories well after our first times have passed. This is why Cupid is a little bastard. No one ever has a good first memory of getting shot by his arrow. No one has a good first love.
It was bland. Dead lips and cold fingertips bland. He was a womanizer and I just a girl naïveté. My friend accompanied us to the movies as a clever cover, but became an added bonus for his teenaged testosterone. Arms around us both, he complained of an ouchie on his hand, which I kissed away. Then his shoulder and neck, and finally, his lips. It was a peck. Plain pursed lips with a pop. And that was it for me. He turned to my friend and kissed her too. Her last name was Bland.
By Nicole Neitzke
Thinking back, I still remember how giddy I was whenever he was in the same room, or when someone mentioned his name. We were in my parents’ garage on a warm, October Friday night when he asked me to be his girlfriend. I said, “yes.” Of course I wanted to be his girlfriend. Nothing would make my sixteen-year-old self happier than to hold his hand between Biology and History; the classrooms were on opposite sides of our enormous high school campus. He went in for the kiss: my first kiss. I panicked and turned my head so he kissed the side of my face, just where lips end and cheek begins. I was mortified. I joked it off and said, “That was my first kiss, and I ruined it. Can we try again?” He smiled at me and kissed me. It was still awkward, but I had finally gotten my first kiss, and I was high on happiness and excitement. We dated another twelve days before I decided I didn’t want a boyfriend. I was a heartbreaking bitch. Sorry, Daryl.
By Allison Bellows