This short snippet of a story was created in my critiquing class on Thursday. It was an exercise borrowed by our tutor Kate Eltham from author Simon Higgins (who had also borrowed it from someone – but I didn’t write it down.)
The premise is two family members who have been estranged are coming together for the first time. The story is based on ten prompts to create the story. I was quite impressed with what I scribbled out.
It was forecast to rain but he air stayed dry, the sky clear and the sun relentless.
A curlew wailed its disembodied call close by.
The table which sat between them, battered from decades of shared mealtimes, was now stacked with old gossip mags and an overflowing ashtray.
A breeze picked up, cooling the sweat on their skin.
The black tank top hugged her clammy skin accentuating the rolls of fat which breastfeeding had not dissolved like everyone said it would.
The curlew was silent, but still near by given the random scratching coming from the parched undergrowth.
Where laughter and animated conversation had once flourished around the table, the centre piece of coming together, it now lay like a vast uncharted ocean between them.
She pulled at the damp cotton which clung to her like an unwanted second skin, feeling bare and unable to hide.
Her mother’s upper lip twitched, a remnant of the stroke, which bothered her daughter for all the wrong reasons.
“I thought you would have brought my Granddaughter.”
Looking back on this vignette I used:
- the weather – to create a sense of change or the anticipation of something to come. Rain is also a powerful metaphor for cleansing.
- the curlew (which has a blood curdling wail) – to evoke a sense of sorrow and a sense of dis-ease. If you’ve ever heard the call of a curlew you’ll understand! Several indigenous clans believe curlews embody the souls of the departed.
- the table – to personify good times which have passed and the distance between the two characters.
- the tank top – to show something about the daughter, which then sets up the scene for the final piece of dialogue.
- and the mother’s twitching mouth – to give an idea of why the mother and daughter may have chosen to sit back at the table again, as well as something of the power dynamic in their relationship.