Think of something you would never do. For example: dive off a cliff, cheat on a partner, steal from a department store, etc. Then write a passage about a character similar to yourself who does do that thing you would never do. Reach for that person who is like you, but not exactly you. Keep it short, preferably under 500 words.
#1 - Downtown
Ohhhh... I'm staring at the light again. And I love it, in a weird, slightly masochistic, sense-retarding way. Just for a couple minutes, so that lingering retinal-burn orb creeps across most of my vision like some kind of reverse tunnel vision. Now I walk down the hall.
Keep your hands to your sides, I tell myself. Grasping for doorways is likely to draw attention.
In the kitchen.
The refrigerator is stocked with butter balls in big tubs, half and half creamer cartons, and juices in cans and bottles: orange, apple, cranberry, grapefruit. All the way in the back is my orange juice. Nobody notices it in the back. My own special blend.
And I only need a sip!
A sip will send you reeling. A sip will shove the back of your brain into the front of your skull, and don't try it too far from the kitchen sink, either. I've turned my stomach practically inside-out with too large of a gulp.
Squeeze your fists. Squeeze your fists. Purse those lips shut and clench those teeth. The wall will hold your back.
Now slide down.
Your ship is sinking
Touch down on the sea floor.
Grounded like so many behemoths of the past, waiting to be discovered. I am the Nuestra Senora del Populo and my hull stinks of dead rodents and foul concoctions: tart juices and stale, bitter almonds. You can never tell how long you'll be submerged, but this time the slap of rubber echoes through the ocean current and music is playing an old refrain:
'...Downtown, where all the lights are bright
Downtown, waiting for you tonight
Downtown, you're gonna be alright now...'
And here I am, sitting alone in this aluminum box. I know I'm not moving but I'm pretty sure I'm getting shipped somewhere. Beat all you want on the walls with your sleeping pad, it doesn't make a sound.
But he forgot about my watch!
Scrape at my reflection--
--Crashing through my fingers out my ears, boiling my eyeballs like a burst of lightning straight to the brain!
So I sing that beautiful song in my head. I sing it out loud, so loud that it doesn't sound like music anymore and I'm shouting at the top of my lungs:
'...So go downtown! Things'll be great when you're
Downtown! Don't wait a minute for
Downtown! Everything's waiting for you!
Downtown! Downtown! Downtown! DOWNTOWN!...'
#2 - Decaf
The words are such a mantra to Charity Carlisle's being, it's a surprise they're not tattooed somewhere on his body. Who knows, maybe they are. Charity Carlisle is like that, or at least he might be. And Charity Carlisle is all about the decaf. Straight up, no additions, fresh from the spout of the Mobil gas station dispenser, topping off that god-knows-how-old Nalgene bottle with a smug grin and a small pin affixed to the white collar of his Neiman Marcus dress shirt. In small, block print, the pin reads 'Free Trade My Ass, I Get My Coffee Where I Get My GAS!', a Charity Carlisle Original.
But today, Charity's trying something new. Charity's got his own special blend he's been laboring over in spot number three of his three-car garage-turned grow room. Used grounds from the dumpster behind the Mobil station make the perfect five to one ratio of mixed soil for his budding coffee bean garden. Why else would they be called 'grounds'!? And once this crop is harvested, Charity's gonna capitalize, capitalize, capitalize! The Mobil gets busy as all hell in the summer and leaving packets stashed around the aisles is his foot in the door. Pretty soon the manager will be knockin' on Charity's door, just begging for a Charity Bulk Coffee Account, unbeknownst that the key ingredient is sitting in heaps behind the station.
Napoleon said that in a revolution, there are only two sorts of men, those who cause them and those who profit by them. But Charity's pretty sure Napoleon never met Charity Carlisle. Yeah, he's pretty sure he'd remember him.
#3 - Knitwit
The World Championship Speed Knitting Competition is tomorrow, but today, in the steely grip of my easy chair, is when the real battle is fought and won. Any speed knitter will tell you that the day before a competition is all about mastering technique to transform a muddled mess of yarn and sticks into a fluid motion, pumping out scarves and socks, tea cozies and blankets. The needles become dancers in a tango of maddening tempo, their fancy footwork leaving by-products of warm winter sweaters and glove-mitten hybrids emblazoned with argyle patterns.
Know your enemies to defeat them. Meet the contenders:
Betty Rosenfield, a.k.a. The Spider
5 foot 4, 68 years old, her fingerwork is so nimble and smooth that they liken her to a spider spinning her web. That's partly how she got her nickname. And she doesn't slow down, so if you can't keep up, you're just another fly on the wall and now she's got you. Her signature piece: the reversible fly-fisherman's sweater vest.
Karen Crosby, a.k.a. The Human Loom
At a staggering 6 foot 11, 51 years old, Karen Crosby knits so fast that she's been drug-tested three times in a single competition. She pumps out patterns of pixies and ponies so prolifically that she earned her namesake, The Human Loom, after her first national competition. Her signature piece: the pocketed, quintuplet baby shawl.
Cybil Yeo, a.k.a. Mad Cackler
4 foot 9 and 83 years old, Cybil is the oldest competitor but those extra years of experience are why she holds a five year winning streak when she puts her knitting sticks together. Her speed ebbs and flows as she maneuvers through intricate designs and weaves foot after foot of feat after feat. What may look like a mess of random swatches will transform in minutes into a zoo of knit work, each piece punctuated by a shrieking cackle of laughter upon completion. Nobody knows exactly why she does it, but it never fails to send shivers through opponents' needles. Her signature piece: knitted stuffed animals on a knitted stuffed train.
As you can see, the pressure is on today. But ol' Maddie McFee's got a trick up her sleeve this go around. See, The Spider keeps the pace, but she's not the fastest of the pack and The Human Loom might be fast, but every competition her designs are a little sloppy, and when you're vying for World Champion, that counts too. The Mad Cackler eeks them out with good, speedy knitting, and avante garde pieces that push the envelope of where knitting is headed into the 21st century. But there's a reason they call me 'The Rabid Moose', and maybe it's that I'm unpredictable and drop spittle as I feverishly hammer out my knittings, but this year they'll start calling me The Rapid Moose. I've been prepping eleven months straight and I'm fast and I'm technical and nobody's gonna expect my creation: the far-too-tightly-knit competitor cozy.