Writing 101

A few weeks ago — actually a couple of months ago, now — I facilitated a writing class at The Commons at Central Hall here in Dover-Foxcroft. Part of that class included creating a continuing “story” members of the class could work on {that sounds familiar}. Despite the common beginning — which some tweaked — the stories veered off in different directions … proving we all have a story to tell.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve included their individual efforts. This week, I’ve combined them into one story … an incomplete story since we ran out of class time. But it was interesting how the three took that initial paragraph and went off in three different directions. The power of words and thought.

My thanks to Gloria Powell, Jody Morse and Mary Montag. They made this class click!

A Morning in Meadowland

James and Molly were walking down the path in the preserve in Meadowland, something they did every morning. James was the master and Molly was his silent companion this morning , a Labrador, Irish setter mix.  Occasionally his wife Kerri and 10 year old son Peter would accompany them, but most mornings they chose to sleep in or had to be up for job and school. Luckily his schedule started a little later. The sun started its ascent spotlighting the morning mist rising off the river. The dew glistened in the meadow and the birds serenaded them with their morning song.

Suddenly the sound of metal digging in earth reached both their ears. At once Molly’s floppy ears stood up. James found cover behind an outlying group of bushes pushing Molly to the ground with the whispered command “Stay.” As he glanced from his vantage point, a young girl not more than 20 years of age, placed a small bundle wrapped in a light blue blanket gently into the freshly dug hole. Other than the steady sound of the dirt rhythmically falling by shovelfuls back to the earth filling the gap, her muffled weeping filled the air that had just moments earlier been filled with bird songs. She stopped briefly, leaned on the shovel breathlessly, and seemed to mutter a quiet prayer. In the space of a few minutes she slipped the shovel under her arm and hurriedly walked down the well-worn path out of sight.

His imagination went wild as he contemplated what it was this young girl could have buried. An infant, perhaps not fully developed, perhaps miscarried, a favorite cat, or dog, or even a box of love letters abandoned after he broke her heart?

This land was a public park, the trails well maintained by volunteers who made sure fallen trees and debris were cleared frequently for the safety of those who enjoyed hiking in the wood. Fortunately his own property abutted this nature preserve, but he wondered if the woman lived nearby or had she driven here to complete this deed and parked her car in the nearby lot. It was too late to find out as she was well gone before he and Molly could submerge from their cover.

“Well Molly,” James said aloud, “we’ve become a part of a mystery I’m not sure I want to try to solve. In a way I want to respect that young woman’s privacy, something I’m sure I’d desire for myself if were me.”

Chapter Two

At the north end of the trailhead, Rob and Sarah started their walk down the path, something they did every morning. They, too, saw the sun start its ascent from a different vantage point spotlighting the morning mist rising off the river. The dew glistened in the meadow and the birds serenaded them with their morning song.

Out of the blue, an eerie high-pitched scream assaulted the tranquility of the morning! Instantly, the birds muted their song, and Sarah shivered involuntarily as invisible icy fingers played tic-tac-toe down her spine.  In unison, Rob and Sarah stood stock-still.

“What was that?” Sarah cried.

Chapter Three

On the south end of the trailhead, Tobias and Tilly were getting ready for their walk on the path, something they also did every morning.  They, too, saw the sun start its ascent spotlighting the morning mist rising off the river. The dew glistened in the meadow and the birds serenaded them with their song.

Suddenly, Tobias jerked hard, patting his pockets like he was trying to mug himself. It was the rude interruption to our monotonous gait that successfully shocked Tilly from her sleepy morning mesmer.

She gasped, “What is it?” as if she couldn’t imagine.

“My phone,” he replied, “I don’t have it. I think I set it on the roof of the car when I tied my sneaker. I’m sorry; I have to cut our walk short. I need to catch the morning conference call. Do you want to come back with me or are you going to finish the loop?”

Truth told, Tilly still felt annoyed with him for shocking her back into his mundane issues. She feigned disappointment and said, “Oh bummer, but yeah, I am going to walk on. Go ahead back and catch the meeting, I’ll see you at dinner.” she finished with a real smile, as she anticipated a silent walk instead of the incessant drone of Toby’s work place dribble.

Like two ships that passed in the night, they each took charge of their intended destinations, two steps too far before realizing the missed obligatory peck good-bye. The kiss was awkwardly embarrassing and stiff with the hassle of it. They each channeled this energy into quick steps away from the moment and into continuing their day, separate from one another.

Tilly slowly inhaled the dew drenched air, cloyingly sweet with the scent of freshly bloomed lilacs. She revitalized and re-centered herself, leaving behind the trivial tensions she has been building up against Toby. She is not going to let all these petty irks ruin her walk on such a fine spring morning. She picked up her gait to the rhythm of music the natural elements are creating around her. In a multi-phonic cascade, the river plays the base. The warm breeze rushing through the upper leaves of the old oaks, maples and birch, was like the woodwinds. “No pun intended,” giggled Tilly to herself.

The cacophony of songbirds was harmonized by the rising sounds of the newly awakened insects. Tilly’s senses were heightened as her heartbeat increases in accordance to her breath. She found herself smiling broadly and laughing out loud when she imagined how she must appear to any happen chance onlooker; trotting along through the wooded path smiling alone like a goon.

“Is it weird to feel so happy when only minutes ago I felt numb at best and so annoyed over a small mistake (?)” she mused to herself. “What is wrong with me? Am I falling out of love? Am I jealous Tobe’s work is going so well for him while I’m struggling with what my purpose is? But, that’s ridiculous. I do love him. I do support him and his work. Why am I so out of sorts, off balance, out of sync, whatever you want to call it?”

Just then, Tilly was startled. Something big was tromping through the underbrush. All at once, she tripped over a tree root, exposed by route worn traffic and natural erosion. The root lassoed the tip-toe of her sneaker on her lead, right foot. She crumpled to the ground like a calf at the fair, the rocks branding her bare elbow as she landed, twisted and shocked. It took about a half a second — that seemed like three minutes — for her to hit the ground hard and think, “Damn it! That’s going to bruise! I’ve ruined my new sneakers! What did I do to deserve this? What is in the woods?” And then, a guttural, discordant noise defiled the symphony she had been listening to so peacefully only moments ago.

“Oh my gawd, that’s me! OW, OW, OW, my ankle!” Pain, like a vise grip crushing her ankle, cast over her in undulating waves. A whole new song was now filling her ears, which can only be compared to acid rock death scream, and she was singing it!

Chapter 4

“Shh!” whispered Rob. “Listen!” Somewhere across the meadow they could hear a woman’s voice travailing from the depths of her soul. Then, just as abruptly, the cries stopped. the birds resumed their joyful singing and peace once again prevailed as if nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred. Yet, something deep within Sarah, call it woman’s intuition, perception or foreknowledge, convicted her that her life had moved off-kilter and may never become “her” normal again.

Rob took off running across the lush green meadow. Sarah followed more slowly, hampered by the damp grass which slapped wetly against her legs and stained her new Reeboks the color of pale pea soup. Cursing her over-fed, under-exercised body, she watched Rob effortlessly reach a stand of towering spruce trees whose columns appeared to be marching down to the river. Breathing heavily and slowing to an awkward race-walk, Sarah reached a conveniently situated stump. Plunking herself down was truly sweet indeed; but, before she could catch her breath she heard Rob‘s urgent voice calling, “Sarah, over here!” Quickly she followed the sound of his voice, now modulated into a soft melodic croon. “Now, now, wee one, everything’s going to be alright! What a brave little girl you are!”

“Oh! No!” she thought, “He must have found a child!”

Sure enough, there stood Rob gently holding a small, dark haired, round faced little girl who was eyeing him with a sober intensity. He explained he saw the baby in a shallow grave, covered up to her neck in fresh dirt. She couldn’t have been there long.

“Isn’t it amazing?” Sarah enthused. “Look, she’s not in the least bit frightened of us! Where is her mom?”

“Gone AWOL,” was Rob’s sarcastic reply.

“What a darling baby child,” Sarah thought, as she gingerly approached her. “She looks to be about eight months old.”

The baby saw Sarah and reached her arms towards her; and her heart almost stopped with a nameless joy as she lifted the baby into her arms. The little girl snuggled her small self into Sarah’s warmth contentedly. “Hello sweetie,” Sarah murmured against her curly dark hair.

While Sarah attempted to distract the baby, Rob did a quick search of the area and returned with a measured look. “Did you find anyone?”

“No! Nobody,” he replied. “Did you bring your cell phone, Sarah? We need to call the police.” Reluctantly she nodded as Rob reached into the pocket of her old, red, corduroy jacket and removed her I-Phone. She watched silently as he began tapping in the numbers of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department, located in Dover-Foxcroft.  Their town, Meadowland, is too small and too poor to afford a local police force. The only town official allowed to carry a weapon is the town’s animal control officer, Bert Peterson; so, residents use the county police or the state police according to whatever force is able to deploy fastest.

“Rob,” Sarah said hurriedly, before he could speak to the dispatcher, “Do we need to do this? Can’t we just take her home?”

“Seriously Sarah? She’s not a lost kitten or puppy! Somewhere there’s a family member who is worried sick. Imagine how you would feel in the same situation!”

“Yeah, yeah!” Sarah muttered, “Be like that; be the sensible one. But, I can’t believe any parent with kinfolk would abandon their child to nature.”

“Okay honey, I get that;” Rob replied, “but, there are two sided to every story, and we are only seeing the one in front of us.”

With deep sadness for the plight of this child who had lost everything meaningful in her young life — identity, family and stability — the three stood in Meadowland Park, shaken and anxious; waiting for the police and whatever developments would occur next. Time wise, it seemed an eternity!

Chapter Five

James and Molly had been gone longer than usual from their daily morning hike. Kerrie had woken late and when she reached over to touch James, the empty space indicated she’d overslept. She never set the alarm on weekends just for that reason, to get some extra, well-needed sleep. She never had set an alarm until she’d married James as she disliked being so abruptly awoken. They both had to be up for work and he insisted on the alarm as he couldn’t wake up naturally as she had taught herself to do. Peter was at a sleep over at his friend Ben’s and she would be picking him up shortly. As a matter of fact it was 9:30 and she was due there at 10. She had to dress, grab a quick cup of coffee and go.

Upon reaching the house, James made note of the missing car in the driveway, but then remembered Peter’s sleepover. Kerrie had volunteered to pick up Peter so that answered that question.  He and Molly were just entering the kitchen when he heard his son’s voice, “Hi Dad!”

“Hey kiddo,” he slapped his son on the back and said, “So how was the sleepover?”

“The usual, Peter replied, “Popcorn, a movie, and then we played video games until about 11 when we both hit the sack. We had fun, though.” He said, adding, “Oh, mom went to get the mozzarella you need for tonight’s supper. She should be home soon.”

Peter grabbed his overnight bag and headed up the stairs as he heard his mom enter the kitchen talking with his dad.

“Did you get in a good hike? You were gone longer than usual?” Kerrie inquired.

“Yes, but I saw something unusual, a young woman burying something wrapped in a blue blanket. She didn’t see us as we were behind some nearby bushes.”

“Really, what do you think it was?”

“I have no idea, but I think we should respect her privacy. It was probably a pet of some kind. It was a small bundle not more than a foot or so long. She was crying, seemed really sad.”

“If you think so, but it may be something we need to report to the police. What if it were a baby? What if there’s more to the story that could implicate the woman in foul play?”

“Let’s think about it. My gut feeling is we should stay out of it, respect the woman’s privacy. Hey, thanks for remembering the cheese. I can’t believe I forgot it. I even had the recipe with me!”

“Yes, I wrote myself a note and left it on the counter,” said Kerrie. “Luckily I spotted it before heading out to get Peter.”

Upstairs, Peter was on the phone. “Hi, Ben. Listen, I just heard my parents talking about something my Dad saw this morning while hiking on the nature trail. I don’t want to say much now ‘cause I’m afraid they might hear me. How about if we meet at Griffin’s Store and bike over there. It might be buried treasure … I’m just saying. I’ll fill you in when we meet. I have the fold up shovel from Scout camp I can bungee cable to my bike. See you at 11, o.k?”

“Sure, sounds like an adventure!” Ben replied.

Chapter Six

Lieutenant, William Harrison, a Maine State Trooper of Field Troop E out of Bangor, was as usual up to his ass in alligators. Moments ago he had ended a telephone conversation with the sheriff of Piscataquis County, who requested assistance for an abandoned Baby Doe incident in Meadowland.

In recent years, Will had become aware of the changing dynamics of Meadowland from a reasonably stable farming community into a steady decline.  He believed some of the reasons for this decline were governmental buy-outs of dairy cattle, mill closings and lack of opportunity. The fairly recent clamp-down by law enforcement in the larger cities of Maine on prospering crack houses and meth labs produced a fleeing population of drug producers into the small unpoliced towns of the countryside where they thrived. Also, coming into the mix was the resurgence of “The Pagans,” a notorious biker club, into the area. This speeding pack of gypsies — on speed — could mobilize and evacuate in seconds, frustrating and making impotent law enforcement pursuit. A merger was created as producers and bikers realized their potential together in uniting to form an unholy corporation. Will shuddered, recalling an incident between a suspect and a land owner who discovered pot growing on his property. Blood was shed and the landowner was killed. Consequently, most residents, fearing reprisals, became tight-lipped and uncooperative while responding to troopers inquiries.

Glancing at his watch, Will left his office to brief the deploying team, a Major Crimes Unit and his last two detectives available, Troopers Auclair and Michaud. Winding down the briefing, Will reminded the team to stay within the protocols and watch each other’s backs while in Meadowland.

As he watched the vehicles depart from his window, he mentally wished them — especially his detectives — “Bon Chance.”

Chapter Seven

Defused morning light gave away to bright sunny beams that tickled Tilly gently, coaxing her back from a twilight slumber.  The warmth on the left side of her face was in stark contrast to the right side. The pungent smell of the damp cold ground where her head rests uncomfortably brought her to fully experience the acrid smell of dirt.

Mumbling to herself, Tilly mused as she pushed herself upright, “I must have passed out from the pain. I wonder what time it is?”

A quick glance at her phone, with the newly cracked screen – “Oh great!” — told her not only was it 9:09 a.m. but she had also had several texts from Tobias. His teleconference was over and he thought she would have been home by now.

“Wait, huh, police are searching the woods? What’s this all about? They can’t be going too crazy. They haven’t found me passed out in the path less than a half mile in,” she thought bitterly as she dialed Toby’s number.

Tobias’ phone started playing In Case You Didn’t Know. It’s their song and now his ringtone for Tilly. He about dropped the phone trying to answer it so fast.

“Tilly, where are you? I was about to come to look for you. I was just leaving the driveway now but was stopped by the police. They told me I couldn’t go into the woods.”

Tilly’s voice seemed small and far away. “I’m just past Grover’s Bend. I’m okay but I definitely sprained, maybe broke my ankle.”

“What?!? Oh no. Did you call the cops? Is that why the place is swarming?”

“No, of course not, but I could use some help. No one has found me here, broken on the path. I can’t imagine they would have stepped over me while I was passed out, do you?”

“You passed out? Oh gosh baby, you must be in such agony. I’ll get you help. Hold on, don’t hang up. I going to talk to the police parked here in the cul de sac”.

“Ok, I’ll stay on the line. I hear voices now in the woods. They are not on the path. Wow, what is going on?”

Tobias wasn’t listening any more. She could hear him talking with the police. “I have my wife on the phone, you know, the one I wanted to go look for. She has broken her ankle on the path about a half mile in. Can I now go in to help her?”

“No sir,” said the surly officer. “The woods are on lock down. Only ones in and out are on the search mission. I’ll notify my team and see if they have located her.”

“They haven’t, she’s on the phone as we speak,” Toby replied in the clipped constraint of one who is about to lose his patience for having to point out the obvious but knows better. “But she hears voices in the woods. She’s on the recreation path, in the middle of the path,” he added as a little dig to relieve some of his frustration.

“Ok, Mr., er, um?”

“Tobias Jenkins”

“Ok, Mr. Jenkins, give me a minute and we’ll get this sorted. Please tell your wife …”

“Tilly.”

“… Tilly, to sit tight, we’ll be right with her. I’m going to call in a medic unit too.”

“Ok Honey, did you hear that? The officer is going to send someone to find you and he’s calling an ambulance. Just sit tight.”

“Ok, Tobe,” said Tilly meekly. All her morning mourning’s were washed away in a flood of love and appreciation.

Epilogue

That’s as far as we got … three thoughts with a common starting point and marching in different directions. I tried to mix, match and blend them together into the opening of a new, combined piece from the three ladies following a timeline suggested by Jody … roughly starting around 7 a.m. … the nature-breaking scream (was it the nameless woman or Tilly when she fell?) … the police involvement … Toby trying to get to Tilly a little after 9.

As all writers know, one scene leads to a thousand questions. I challenged them to continue and I challenge you to answer some of those questions {writing classes as so much fun}.

Some of the questions include the fate of the baby. Do Sarah and Ron get to keep the baby as foster parents? What about her biological mother? Is she found? Does she receive help and support? Was she an addict in the process of selling her child for money to feed her addiction? Was she just trying to get away from someone? Did she willingly give up her child or was she acting under duress?

What were discussions with police? Did James remember anything else? What about Tilly? Did she remember hearing or seeing anything while in the woods?

What about the police investigation? What direction did it take?

How did the incident change the lives of James, Kerrie, Peter, Rob, Sarah, Toby and Tilly?

Did Tilly and Tobias rekindle their love?

And the boys? Did they make into the woods? Did they “discover” anything … like a wad of money?

So many directions … Maybe we’ll flesh it out a little more at the Spring class.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Without a door to open, the key to success is useless.

 

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About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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1 Response to Writing 101

  1. Pingback: What Is Writing? | Father Says…

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