Suspense – a writing exercise

I don’t know what the hell the shop at my back sold, but its windows’ steel shutters were cold to lean against, and the concrete sill dug deep into my butt. I’d be numb if I had to stay there much longer. But if I as much as twitched, the sensor above and to the left of me would light up the whole shop front like stage lights.

It was a hell of a night to be stuck like a statue. Chilly—probably a frost coming in. Wet—a slight sprinkle with heavier rain a definite probability. Clothing—absolutely useless for the job.

From my damp and cold position I could see both of them—she, leaning against a lamp post three metres along from the restaurant door over the road; and he, hidden in the dark, half sitting on the window sill of the fashion boutique diagonally across the intersection from me.

I knew he couldn’t see me. A large planter was butted against the shop wall beside the window, its tall, full shrubbery hiding me from his view. There were just enough gaps that I, right there beside it, could see his position. Every so often a pin-point of red, glowing at the end of his cigarette, assured me he was still there, after seventy-two minutes.

She knew where each of us was. She was counting on me, and dreading any move he made. Her job was to wait until the Brit left the restaurant and approach him before my marked man intervened.

I knew she was armed. Her silly little hand gun would be tucked in her left knee-high fashionable boot. Being ambidextrous, but mostly using her right hand for everything except fighting, gave her a fractional moment’s advantage should she need it—which she often did. God knows where she kept her stiletto.

My peripheral vision caught flickering sparks from his fag butt as he tossed it down. He moved away from the wall, by about a half-step.

With a sudden rush of chatter and clatter, the restaurant doors swung out into the entry. The doorman stepped out and latched them open as the inner door glided closed, shutting off the brief sound of diners having a good time. That was appropriate—no one in my sight was going to have a good time for much longer.

The doorman stood with a shoulder tucked behind the edge of one door, his back to the man who had silently moved further to stand in the far gutter. The Brit and his minders came from the lobby and stood waiting for their ride. One minder at each shoulder, they ignored the doorman, who knew better than to look at them.

She had already straightened up and stood away from her lamp-post. She grabbed her shoulder tote and slung it on her right as she moved towards them, a gentle sway of her hips suggesting a less than honourable job.

One minder spotted her. He moved from behind the Brit and around to stand in front of him, already on his toes, his knees relaxed, and shoulders balanced ready to go. His shoulders’ tension was an easy tell. This one meant business.

She raised her hand—just a simple flex of her wrist. He relaxed back onto his heels and eased his shoulders.

She continued towards them, the strap of her shoulder tote now wrapped firmly in her right wrist. As she reached a point where the minder’s bulk blocked our man’s vision—he was now halfway across the three-lane road—she raised one finger from the strap.

The minder moved only an eyebrow—up, down—acknowledging her warning.

Aversion – Show Don’t Tell Exercise

Daniel’s girlfriend caught on to his family’s expectations of Mrs Smith’s cooking while joining them in the dining room, all awaiting the bearer of the platters. The family drew out their chairs and sat. Sue and Daniel were the last to arrive.

She was quick of eye and caught many a surreptitious ‘sniff’ as she sat to Daniel’s left. After each one around the table had inhaled the not too pleasant odours from the kitchen, the conversation around the table died to an awkward silence, filled only with the quiet shuffle of fidgeting.

Mr. Smith’s reaction to the test of the approaching flavours was to pull in his chair tight against the table’s edge, as he pulled from his pocket a tube of peppermints. He sat bolt upright, avoiding everyone’s eyes.

Sue noted Daniel hooked his right ankle around the chair leg of Amy, the youngest daughter, beside him. On Amy’s other side, another brother had her far chair leg also hooked by an ankle.

Peter’s shoulders had slumped, and Rosie’s head was drooping. Thomas rose from his chair and fetched two more salt and pepper sets and another pot of mustard. Mister Smith motioned to Joanna, who began pouring and passing glasses of water. Large glasses.

The younger Peter passed around the paper napkin dispenser, and Sue noted how they all took at least three.

Daniel gripped her hand, and whispered “Don’t worry. It’ll be alright.”


Written at March meeting

Le Tour d’Eiffel

At the writers’ group, we were shown a small model of the Eiffel Tower, and asked to write whatever came into our heads, based on the model. Here’s my effort, written in the ten-minute allowed.


Zhwoowh, zhwoowh, zhwoowh …
Fading in and out, finally strengthening in its solidarity, a blue small box – the height of a small shed, but of a size for only one, with a blue blinking light on top, materialized on the footpath corner.
The noise died down. all that could be heard now was the sounds of occasional night road traffic.
The door opened, and out stepped a tall man, wearing a long coat with a ridiculous top hat on his mass of curls, followed by a young woman, blonde and busty, with a slightly vapid, bored expression on her face.
   ” Look, it’s still here. I told you it would be,” gloated the man.
   ” Well, o’ course,  ‘s been ‘ere since 1800 and somefin’, ‘s made of iron and it ain’t gonna gerrup an’ walk off, is it nah?” She was obviously  bored, or failed to understand his excitement.
   ” You just watch,” he said. “Tonight’s the night. It’ll all happen tonight, and we got here in time!”
   “Wha’ will?,” she asked, examining her nail polish.
   “Galarians. They’ve been slowly gathering here for days. Tonight we’ll see them take off to fly back to Galaria.”


From the top field

farmer on high field He leans back against the top wire of the fence, arms folded, glaring over the paddocks down to the farm house.
That bloody green ute’s back – and yes, there’s Gloria climbing out the passemger window in last night’s finery.
Now leaning back in – probably locking lips with that no good son of the jerk farming the back block at the end of the hill country gravel road.

“Lazy young shite he is. That ute door’s been rusted shut for years, even from back before his dad gave it to him. And my Gloria has to latch onto him as her boyfriend. Wouldn’t mind if he had a job, or helped his Dad on their farm. But no, the high school rock band’s his major daily focus.
Oh, no!”

Even from up here he can see Gloria’s ball gown’s ripped through the back.
He straightens up, mounts the quad bike and sends it pell-mell down the slope, hoping to get there before the green ute pulls out and away.

“Manhandle my daughter, would you? Would you bloody not!”


The picturre was the inspiration for a ten-minute Quick-Write practice activity;
© Lynne R McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2013 August

That Sinking Feeling

I’d left my desk early, on the pretext of getting the tea room ready for morning break. I’d passed Julie, frantically typing up whatever garbled message her boss had left on his dictaphone. Marie was sorting invoices, matching them to statements of accounts payable and stapling them – with that furious “THUMP” on the stapler to let everyone know she hated this job. Noel was emptying his client’s suitcase of all the month’s business papers. No one looked at me as I passed.

I was clutching the envelope in one hand buried deep in my suit pocket. I’d not opened it yet. I wanted to be on my own, as I had that sinking feeling that goes through every employee in a business where there are rumors of layoffs.

I filled the Zip, pulled the cord. While it started to rumble, heating the water, I clattered the coffee cups and mugs into neat rows, emptied the humongous teapot and threw in the customary handful of tea-leaves. Sugar tin out of the cupboard, milk bottle out of the fridge, teaspoons clinked into a mug.

As the Zip screamed, I leaned against the bench and opened it.

Phew!  Only a pay-rise!

(C) Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, Aug ’13

10-minute “Quick Write” – I was plunging down, down, down …

Ten-minute Quick Write is an activity my local writers group gives us periodically. The last starter was “I was plunging down, down, down “. Now, I don’t swim (therefore no Scuba Diving. I’m poorer than any church mouse ever was, so I’ve never tried Sky Diving. I don’t go Mountain or Rock Climbing, so I can’t imagione plummeting in free-fall down a hillside or rock-face.A “true experience” piece was out of order for me. So a penchant for crime and action reading helped a little. Here’s what made its way from my brain, down my arm, through my hand and fingers then through the pen onto the paper.

I was plunging down, down, down – desparately pulling myself deeper, trying to see through the murky water which roiled around the wharf’s piles. Somewhere ahead of me, she was sinking quickly to the harbour’s bed, chained to a concrete bollard.

As my chest began to ache with the rib muscles’ need to gain some fresh air, I wondered if she, so much deeper than I, would be drowning now.

At last, I saw her pale face below me, turned upward to the surface. Her eyes were open, staring.

As I kicked harder and closed the gap between us, she saw me – she blinked. I grabbed at one of her arms reaching up to me. From my pocket I pulled the mini bolt cutters I’d snatched from the chop-shop I had run through to get to the wharf’s edge.

Two men had pushed her over the edge into the harbour as I burst out onto the wharf. I heard her cry, the splash, and racing past them I’d dived straight in.

I cut the chain and freed her from the weight holding her down. With an arm around her, I swam us in and up under the wharf between the huge supports. I placed my mouth over her soft, cold lips, and felt them part. I blew air into her mouth.

We kicked together, driving up to the surface, out of sight of the two hoods – who may already have left, or more likely would be waiting above to shoot at whoever came up out of what they had expected to be her watery grave.

As we approached the surface, I slowed. I wanted to break the surface without a splash. She seemed to understand. As our heads cleared the water, against all instinct we both held our breath before releasing it  slowly without a gasp, and inhaling again smoothly and quietly. We clung to the pile, in the cold water and beyond any sunlight or view, listening for any sounds from above.

© Lynne R McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2013, July

Good heavens it’s 332 words! Hand writing is definitely faster for me than typing! (Doubles the work though, darn it.)

The Opus Urban Myth

Given the urban myth of the murder/suicide or Ronald Opus (refer  for the source) we were asked to select one of the characters in the tale, and present the story from their point of view, using dialogue. Most writers selected Ronald Opus, his mother, the medical examiner.
Me, I had to go for the obscure character, a mention only – one of the building workers, mentioned almost as an aside.
I chose to present only the words a workman said, not both sides of a dialogue. And I shan’t apologise for shifting the locale to the UK not the US. This is the result of a 15-minute quick-write

“Yer, I’m free to talk to yer nah, h’officer”

“Nah, we’ve bin workin’ on upgradin’ v’ buildin’ fer munfs nah. Vat safety net only went up on Sat’dy nigh’, ‘cos up to v’ Fridy we’ve bin workin’ only dahnstairs – basement an’ grahnd floor.”

“Got an ‘elluvva shock when ‘e come dahn – broken glass frough v’ mesh – good job we’s all wearin’ ‘ard ‘ats. But v’ fellah wot landed in v’ net – gawd – scared v’ b’jesus outa ever’ one!”

“Aah, could tell ‘e wuz dead or dying. ‘Free shots in ‘is chest ‘n’ side, an’ one ‘frough an ear?!”

“Oh, Joe – over vere, see – ‘e ‘unts, see. So ‘e knowed vey was shotgun pellets, not bullets. ‘Sides, we’d only ‘eard one blast.
Joe reckoned  v’ shot frough v’ ear woulda bin v’ fatal one. Y’know – going inter v’ brain an all. ‘E reckoned eiver a long barrel, or righ’ close range.
Yeh, talk to ‘im wen ‘e’s finished at v ‘ambulance – ‘s in shock, y’ know.”

“Yeh, course we knew ‘im. Well, not ‘is name but.”

“We’d see ‘im goin’ in an’ outa v’ block, same as alla tenants. E’d sometimes come aht grinnin’, stuffin’ cash inter ‘is walle’.”

“Nah, a while ago ‘e wuz comin’ aht in a righ’ rage. An’ ven since, gerrin’more mis’rable ev’ry day fer weeks, nah.”

“Fink it’s sumfink ter do wiv the ol’ couple livin’ on v’ ninef floor. ‘E’d visit vem near on ev’ry day jist abaht. Usually wen v’ ol’ man weren’t  ‘ome – ven ‘e’d visit.”

“Oh, well some of v’ crew’ve bin workin’ on v’ stair wells, so vat’s where vey’d see ‘im, ven.”

“Nah, v’ lifts dahn’t work, mate.”

“Me? Nah, I’m orrigh’ mate. Takes more‘n some poor sod droppin’ aht frough a winder ter shake me.’’’

“Fanks, hofficer. No worries. ‘Ope you find wot yer need ter sort aht yer paper work an’ all. See ya later.
– ‘Oy, Ron? Put v’ billy on, son!?”