The drawer opened slowly, letting in the light. It flooded the stack of pages, exposing them like they were nude. But it also felt fresh and good. The top page curled up to meet the air, flexing, showing off a snippet of handwriting, scrawled across its midriff…
Maybe a story about synchronised swimmers?
The pages beneath it shivered like a little stack of zealots. Word zealots. Soon, they were going to be out and free. This could be their week to come to life. Unleashed from the drawer. Was this what Jesus felt like when God let him out of the tomb? And he’d only had three days to get through. The pages had been shut away for a whole week. Ever since the writer had finished her last short story. She wrote one every Saturday. It was Saturday again. But not just any Saturday. This was THE LAST Saturday in her year-long short story challenge. Her final story.
Oh heavens. Oh lords and ladies a leaping. What a time for celebration. What a time for guilt.
The writer looked at the stack of pages, winced, and then lifted them carefully out of the drawer. She shuffled across the room in her pink and orange socks and plonked herself down on the edge of her bed. She scooted back until she was bolstered up against the headboard, with a wedge of pillows holding her firm.
This was her final story. And she had a stack of discarded ideas. She twisted sideways and fanned the pages out on the bed.
Something about a plague of serrated moths that strip people’s jumpers. How would you kill them? Fire??
Something from the POV of a castle.
On and on…
Crumbs of words. Sandwiches of lines. An abandoned buffet that hadn’t quite come together.
‘He left, with the towel draped over his head.’
‘The back garden was a rain-beaten mess.’
‘They both struggled and yelled and then tumbled down, side by side, like two skinny fish, flapping on a deck, hooked onto each other, fighting for air.’
‘Lucia, do you have a fever? What do you need?’
Names. People. Places. Worlds
And now what was the writer to do with these notes? Some pages shivered again, trying to catch her eye. One shimmied close and tried for a paper cut, but her jeans were armour against its edge. The writer crumpled it up and hurled it down to the bottom of the bed. Another one tried the same tactic and met the same fate.
“That is not the way to get my attention!”
Two more tried to get to her, and she ripped them in half.
The writer pushed her glasses back up her nose. She was supposed to be a wordsmith, not a murderer. But what was she to do? If she shoved all these pieces into one story, it would be like her least favourite dessert. Trifle. Yuck. A total monstrosity of an invention.
Oh…we’ve got some cold custard lying around? And some old sponge? And some cheap booze. Excellent. Let’s put it all into a bowl and set it together with some jelly. What? You don’t think it’s delicious? Ok. We’ll pipe some whipped cream on top. No? How about now, with some sprinkles?
She was not going to turn these discards into a trifle. She was going to give them a noble death. She scooped the pages up and shoved the two paper balls into her pockets. Then she marched down the stairs, her biro wedged behind her ear.
Outside on the front lawn, she set the pages down on the dry summer grass. Then she weighted them with a rock while she went in search of matches. She wasn’t a smoker, so it took her a long time to find some. Too much time to reflect on all those unborn stories.
At the time, many of them had been a pain in her ass. How to end them? Where to begin? But now…now they seemed like precious little pieces of hope. She sighed as she finally located some matches, inside the old barbecue in the shed. Maybe she should barbecue the stack, to save the grass from being scorched.
She dragged the barbecue out from behind a bag of compost, and across the grass. Then she rolled the rock off the pages and laid them on the grill. This was kind, right? Kinder than putting them back in the drawer, to rot, like that failed experiment she did back at school. The one that involved strawberries and her Mum’s airing cupboard. She forgot about the strawberries, and they rotted, quicker than she could properly monitor for her biology homework.
Better to go out quickly. To burn hot. To burn bright. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail, said a quick mumbled thank you to the word gods, and then put a match to the stack. She was hoping that they’d float up to the sky, in ashy pieces, like word confetti. That they might blow on the winds, like kisses, there for the taking.
But instead, the stack turned an orangey brown in places and smouldered feebly. She retrieved some olive oil from the kitchen and drizzled that over them, anointing them. Hadn’t that happened with Jesus’ feet? Then she flung more matches onto the pyre and watched the flames lick higher, and the oil smoke, and bits of the stack drop through the bars of the grill, in clumps.
Well, that was an end…of sorts….
What would her own end be like? She’d likely be buried or cremated, with unused words in her head. Gummed up in there. Gross. She wiped her smoke-stung eyes. And felt the pressure of fresh ideas forming and bubbling up out of the spongey depths. Wriggling down her arms. Her right hand spasmed. She shoved it into the pocket of her jeans and felt the scratch of the dry crumpled paper balls that she’d forgotten to burn. She yanked her hand back out. She wanted nothing to do with them.
Her right hand twitched again. Jeez, these new ideas were itchy. When she reached the top stair, she huffed and sat down. She pulled the biro out from behind her ear and wrote on the back of her hand.
Something about a lion. Roses and thorns.
Thank you, brain, we’re done here.
A portrait of a goblin.
That time when you caused a flood.
No, thank you. Over and out.
Something about the dinosaurs coming back.
That’s Jurassic Park.
Dinosaurs on the moon?
Dinosaurs on the sun?
Now you’re liking that lion idea a little more, aren’t you?
Are you sure?
Holy mackeroley, it's the last week of my short story challenge. 52 weeks of showing up and making a story in under 2h.
This week was a little send off to scribbled bits and bobs. There is no real drawer. Except in my head! Where there are drawers, filing cabinets, boxes, nets full of ideas.
I would never really barbecue them! Or would I?
And before I sign off of this particular challenge, I am going to jot down a post with 10 things I learned. So coming right up...