Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

Prompted Writing: Will You Help Me?

13 Comments

An elderly lady's cane

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

To celebrate the launch of Punch for Prompt, I’ve set myself a project for the month of March: Create 4 pieces of writing based on Charlotte’s writing prompts.

You’re welcome to join the project and have some writing fun of your own! It’s very simple:

  1. Punch for a writing prompt.
  2. Write.
  3. Polish.
  4. Post.

The prompt I got was ‘Will you help me?

I must confess, I don’t follow Charlotte’s instructions when using writing prompts. Instead of writing straight away, I play. I allow my Creativity to mull over concepts and explore possibilities before I start actually writing.

What thoughts did my Creativity and I have when presented with this prompt?

Usually those who ask for help are helpless – small children, the elderly, displaced mice. But what if we turned that on its head?

That led to this short story.

Will You Help Me?

Grace MacDonald felt the 83-year-old muscles in her back, already protesting the morning walk, grumpily spasm as she spent the energy needed to stand up straight. Her focus changed from the speckled cement footpath below her feet and walking cane to the jeans and checked shirt of the stranger standing in front of her.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, conscious of the squeal from her hearing aid as she pushed it deeper into her ear.

“Will you help me?” said the man.

It had been many years since anyone had asked her such a question. In her school teacher days, students were always asking for help. Then there were her own children asking. Before she knew it, there were grandchildren asking. And then, yes, the last request for her help had been from the lips of her husband. Two days before his heart attack, his weakening fingers getting the better of him, he asked her to help him with the top button of his shirt.

Fifteen years ago had been the last time someone asked her for help. Since then, she’d been the one doing the asking.

“Help you? What with?” Now that she had straightened fully, she could get a better view of him.

He was a large man. ‘Strapping’ they would have called him back in her day. He towered over her, his muscular shoulders twice as wide as her frail frame.

She pulled her knitted blue cardigan tighter across her chest. What on earth could this brute of a man want help with? She glanced behind him. The butcher’s was only 200 metres away. If she called out…

“I’m looking for a street.” He slid a beefy hand into his shirt pocket.

Her heart sank. This area had changed so much over the past twenty years. When her children had gone to school, Ashville was a town in its own right. Now the area was swallowed by urban sprawl. Homes had been demolished and trees cleared to make way for apartment buildings and new roads. Everything was different. She could barely find her way to the corner store and back, let alone give directions.

The paper crackled in his hand as he unfolded it. “Berkshire Rise is the name,” he said.

“Oh.” A relieved smile touched her lips. “You’re very close. It’s two blocks that way.” She gestured up the road behind him.

“Wonderful.” His face softened. “I’m looking for an old house. Number 14. Do you know it?”

She nodded. “A beautiful house it was. Jacaranda trees in the front garden. But it’s not there anymore. Torn down for some new development.”

His big mouth drooped. “No. Really? I’ve come all this way and…” He ran a hand down the side of his face. “I was born in that house. Hoped I could come back and see it one more time.”

A breath caught in her throat with a wheeze. “You’re not one of the Sikes boys, are you?”

“Yes, Billy Sikes. That’s me.”

She laughed. “I remember you. You used to come and play in our backyard with my children. I even have a couple of photos of you in the album.”

“Mrs MacDonald! Of course! You made the best lemon meringue pie I ever tasted. Photos, eh? I’d love to see them.”

“Well, so you shall.”

With that she slowly turned around and walked him back to her home, all the way helping him recall the distant childhood memories he’d hoped to find.

It felt so good to help again.

*****

Now it’s your turn. Punch for Prompt and see what you end up with. It’s great fun!

Next Friday I’ll be posting my next piece. Stay tuned.

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Author: Jessica

I'm a writer who refuses to pin myself down to one genre, hopping from science-fiction and fantasy through to literary and even the odd western now and then. Check out what I've written at www.jessicabaverstock.com or follow me on Twitter @jessbaverstock.

13 thoughts on “Prompted Writing: Will You Help Me?

  1. A touching story and thanks for sharing ‘punch’ 🙂

  2. What a fantastic turnaround! And a great story! I love Charlotte’s Punch for Prompt (though I like to use it to stir creativity, NOT write fiction — argh, that scares me).

    Love how you played with the prompt your own way (rebellious? lol). I really love that you PLAYed with it!

  3. That was great, simple, linear and poppy.. gorgeous old character.. c

  4. What a wonderful story, Jessica. Well done. Punch for Prompt rocks; so glad you collaborated with Charlotte to create it!

    Looking forward to your next story…:)

  5. Well, you’ve done it. I’ve been trying to find a way to turn facts, details, and snippets of memories into writing that didn’t sound absolutely stilted – for how many years? Then all it took was a “Punch!” and the words came pouring out. It’s all your fault. And I love you for it.

    I’ve seen that person before.

    I stared at the woman, trying to dig into my memory for a place, a situation, a name. She was laughing as she tossed the ends of a big blanket high into the air and watched it float down into place on the grass. She continued to smile, chatting happily with her family, dancing around – placing the contents of the large picnic basket in just the right spots, and commandeering some of the younger ones to set the improvised table with plates, silver, and cloth napkins.

    I know I’ve seen her before.

    I think it was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. She was visiting from Sweden… I think. I wasn’t very old. Mama had loaded us into the car and we had ridden for four hours – it felt like eternity – to see Grandma and Grandpa.

    Grandpa was in the kitchen, as usual. He moved slowly, not just because he was old, but because that was his nature. Somehow we knew this, and because we loved him so much, we waited without our usual impatience. He had his famous Swedish rye bread rising on the table, so that there would still be bread available after his ravenous grandchildren had eaten all that had been baked yesterday. He slowly made the sandwiches we had come to expect every time we visited – thinly sliced ham on that unbelievably wonderful bread that I’ve never been able to duplicate. The sandwiches were on plates accompanied by the inevitable canned green beans. We ate at the card table Grandpa set up in the middle of the living room just for us.

    When lunch was finished, we sat and waited patiently and politely for him to get around to reaching up with his long arms to a shelf soooo far above our heads. That’s where the butterscotch candies were kept, and we knew that’s what was coming next. He never disappointed us.

    Then it was time for cleaning up. When the dishes were done, Grandpa got out the vacuum cleaner. Slowly and methodically, he cleaned the carpet.

    “Grandpa, you missed a spot.” Grandma pointed with her cane to the offending crumb still on the carpet. “And another one, there.” He obediently vacuumed up the crumb, the piece of lint. She had a perfect view of the entire room from her spot on the couch. She also had keen eyes to see every speck that Grandpa couldn’t, looking as he did through his Coke-bottle lenses.

    Grandma’s spot. The same spot where she had sat for as long as I could remember. Once in a while she would take the long walk to the bathroom—a walk that took me two seconds and took her five minutes. I was too young to remember when she could still walk, before her stroke left her virtually immobile.

    I’d heard stories about how she used to work as a young girl in Sweden, cooking fancy dishes for a wealthy family, learning skills that would serve her well after she and Grandpa moved to America and raised six kids. Mama said they had a Swedish smorgasbord every Sunday. If you put a tiny bit of each delectable dish on your plate, by the time you made your way around the table, your plate was heaping and you couldn’t eat it all. Wow! I thought. I’d love to be invited to one of those Sunday dinners! But now Grandpa did the cooking, and Grandma had taught him everything he knew.

    Something woke me from my reverie, out of those familiar long-ago memories and back to the present. I glanced up again, and was startled to see the woman smiling at me. She obviously remembered me.

    “Johanna!” she called. “Is it really you, my little Johanna?”

    As she raced toward me, I gasped with a jolt of recognition. Seconds later, tears streaming down my cheeks, I held my precious grandmother close to my heart.

  6. Pingback: Prompted Writing: Obedient Tongues « Creativity's Workshop

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