In last Tuesday’s Café Stories workshop instead of starting with character I got participants to start with an object. I asked them to choose an object in the cafe and describe it. But first, I told them, or reminded them really, about the value of simile. I gave them a few, and asked them to think of ten more. Some found it relatively easy, others found it almost impossible. No one managed ten. But this is only because they’re out of practise, so I shared my ten:
Sweet as Christmas
Beautiful as a hand worked quilt
clever as a cheese sandwich
Blue as love
grateful as as a grinder full of fancy peppercorns
stiff as a trout
fragrant as his wedding shoes
musical as a summer breeze
stupid as a blunt pencil
posh as jam in a crystal bowl
and we brainstormed for a few minutes to get into the swing, before I asked them to write the opening scene of a story in which their chosen object features. I now have a raft of pretty wonderful stories to comment on for tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I chose a rug as my object, and have spent the entire week trying to construct a half decent story around it. In the end I actually had to write an outline, something I never do, so I could work out what I wanted to say. I didn’t actually manage to say it, but I’ve a start, I just need to deguddle it.
Twenty-Eight Years Gone
She advances over a rectangle of carpet that reminds her of dead grass scattered with crushed rose bouquets, most of which are the colour of fading chicken pox blisters. One bloom, though, in each posy, is set apart by being yellow, pale as the custard in one of those old fashioned tarts you may still find in small town bakers. Too small for the floor, the carpet exposes dusty boards on every side, which makes it look like it shrunk in the wash. Though, she concedes, you’d need an absurdly large machine to take it. Her entire house could fit into this once grand entrance space. As she approaches the drawing room a floorboard lets out a yowl, and stills the hand making for the door-knob. What she’ll find on the other side Ronnie can barely bring herself to suppose.
Rats nesting in the grand-piano; cobwebs the size of Spain; a group of wizened pensioners drinking Whisky Sours in a silent rave?
She hears the tuneless humming of a preschool girl sitting on the sill of French windows open to the garden, a broken doll in one hand, a snail in the other. On the sofa a woman cloaked in turquoise smokes a Gitane born by a black Bakelite holder longer than hair, and tells the child to ‘please, darling, play in the garden if you must make so much noise.’ The door opens and a new man enters, ‘ah, who is this?’ he beams. He is wearing her father’s dressing gown. The girl runs to the glass-house in which Daddy once nurtured Angel’s Trumpets, wraps herself in his old apron and disappears under the potting bench.
Ronnie feels the air move, turns to the front door she’d left open and sees a young woman, satchel over her shoulder, suitcase in hand, disappear as it clicks shut. Fuck.
She takes a step back onto the wincing floorboard, grabs the doorknob, twists, and, invisible book pile on her head, walks forward: ‘Mum?’
Now to finish writing the lesson plan for tomorrow.
Header image: Ian Paterson on Urban Ghosts Media.