Q: How Do You Write a Novel?

A: Like a snowflake.

Intrigued? This week at Bigger Picture Blogs, I’m sharing my writing process with you, start to finish, how I go about penning a 300-some-odd-word beast of a story. If you’re looking for new ways to get story ideas out from your head and down onto paper, you might like to check it out!

Here’s the post!

Happy Friday, and happy writing!

Written In The Margin

This short piece of fiction comes from a Writing Circle session. Due to popular demand, the group wrote in the genre of horror/thriller/suspense. Totally out of all of our comfort zones! What follows is what I wrote for the session, finalized after suggested edits by the group.

Written In The Margin 

The headlights of the car were off, but she could hear the crunch of the tires across the leaves. They had found her. Claire Siebold held her breath as she crept around the threadbare couch, tucking loose strands of her bobbed, mousy brown hair behind her ears, her mind issuing prayers that the driver would see all the lights out in the cabin and think she wasn’t there.

All was silent. Then she heard a small click and the quiet thunk of a car door being shut. He moved soundlessly over the leaves as he closed in on the cabin, but she knew he was there. She could feel his presence like the prickle of a coming fever. She knew now they wouldn’t give up until she was dead. Never mind promises, there was too much at stake – and she, a lowly, 24-year-old, barely-paid staff assistant, was too expendable.

She cursed her naïveté for thinking she could hide. She realized now these people would stop at nothing and that, one way or another, this encounter between her and the man with the gun, was inevitable since the night she picked up the wrong jacket.

It had been a big night for her. The chairman of the opposition had hosted a gala at his own home and invited members of both sides to celebrate his 65th birthday. It was a rare mixed event in the ramp up of an election year and tensions were high. The race had been close, but Claire’s own party’s candidate, Michael Robb, was gaining ground thanks to the rallying support of the handsome, winsome Senator Lucas Martin. He was popular, if young, and people were already whispering that he might be the next candidate in four or eight years. He was a game-changer and he had stirred up the pot with his impromptu speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial two weeks earlier. With Martin solidly in Robb’s corner, their party had hope. Claire’s boss, Ivy London, was a senior ranking House member and close confidante of Michael Robb. She had attended the party for a good show to the media hounds, but the plan was to eke out every possible moment raising more funds among potential donors. Claire, as assistant to the House staff assistants, had not expected to attend, but at the last minute, London called her personally and told her to be there. She blew her meager savings that afternoon on an appropriately fashionable and attractive but forgettable cobalt blue satin gown and begged Megan, London’s personal assistant to tell her everything she knew about not screwing up.

As far as she could tell, the evening had gone swimmingly. London secured more funds and gave Claire a rare compliment for her wit and efficiency when she had come up with a quick response to Senator Powell’s challenge on the Green Air Sustainability bill. She picked up her jacket from coat check and sauntered out into the night, buoyed by confidence that she would actually survive the world of politics. She was too distracted by the thrill of minor success to notice the jacket was at least two sizes bigger. It wasn’t until she entered her tiny shoebox flat and went to hang up her coat that she spotted the McIntyre label – a designer she 1) couldn’t afford, and 2) wouldn’t wear if she were paid to. Now that she looked at it the details were all off – bigger buttons, a different cut – but she had just seen a black wool coat and trusted that when she handed over her number, the coat assistant would return the correct coat.

She fished through the pockets hoping to find a business card or phone or wallet – anything to identify the coat’s owner. But of course it bore no such details. She found an inner pocket and thrilled to find a folded piece of paper inside. She threw the coat on her couch and fumbled as she tried to open it up. Across the top bore the insignia of the opposition party. She scanned the typed memo for clues, but it was one of the deep, inner pages of a legislative memo. It looked like it was the 45th page on a bill on transportation and infrastructure initiatives, otherwise completely innocuous. Such a strange thing to have tucked away, she thought. But then she noticed what was written in the margin.

$$ xfrd
Spider
11:47
LSM

Money transferred. That much was obvious. But what was the rest? Claire had shrugged her shoulders and just made a point to call the chairman’s house staff first thing in the morning to leave her name and number in case the owner of the jacket made an attempt to retrieve it. She hoped they still had her jacket as well.

It was only later the next afternoon, when she was picking up lunch for the team at the Greek deli around the corner from the office that she realized what the note meant. She had been standing in line waiting for her order, sipping her lemonade, when she heard the news. The entire packed deli went silent when someone had called out for everyone to shut up and they turned up CNN on the TV screen overhead.

There were scenes of mayhem, police and firemen running around, and then cut to the shocked and excited face of a reporter relaying the news that the beloved Senator, Lucas Samuel Martin, had been shot. Claire watched in horror as scenes of the murder splashed across the screen. Martin had apparently been delivering a speech to party supporters and as he stepped down from the podium, a gunman had opened fire and, according to witness reports, shot twice, and killed Senator Martin at 11:47 a.m. that morning.

Claire dropped her lemonade. The words “11:47” struck her like a drop kick to her shoulder blade. Her knees buckled under her. 11:47. LSM. Lucas Samuel Martin.

The deli broke out in pandemonium, but Claire couldn’t move; her mind was in a whirl. Money had been transferred. Spider…a code name? For an assassin? Martin had been assassinated by members of the opposition! The owner of the jacket had been in on the assassination! And she had the evidence to prove it!

…And she had left her name and contact info with the chairman’s house staff that morning.

Her first instinct was to run. But where could she go? The pushing of the thronging crowd was suffocating her. She had to get outside. She shoved her way through to the open street and willed herself to think. Could she go back to the office and pretend she never knew anything? But if she didn’t release this information, the party would suffer. Without Martin’s support, they couldn’t win. Everyone knew that. And the corrupt politicians who had murdered him would win. It would be an insult to Martin’s memory, and, she was still young and idealist enough to believe, detrimental to the well-being of the nation to be left in the hands of murderers and crooks.

It didn’t take long for the phone call to come.

“Whatever you think you know you will keep quiet. Or you will be dead,” threatened the unrecognizable man’s voice. She didn’t have to recognize the voice to know who she was dealing with. Only the top brass would be in on a plot like this. In her fright and shock, she had promised silence and begged for her life. The line went dead and so stopped her heart.

She did not go back to the office. She left the sandwiches at the deli and went back to her flat, chopped off and dyed her hair, packed her suitcase and got out of town. She drove for hours and hours, out of the city, and down the highway. She wound her way through the deepest Appalachian forests several states away, found an old hotel with isolated cabins for camping, checked in with the name Rebecca Chamberlain, a mishmash of two of her friends’ names, and paid in cash.

She spent every day that week in hyper paranoia. She shopped for basic groceries two towns over, parked her car half a mile from the cabin and walked back, fretting the whole way about having withdrawn cash from the ATM. She had only done it once, out of desperate need, but she knew it left a trace. Other than when it was absolutely necessary, she never left the cabin. She had dumped all her electronic devices: her Macbook, her Blackberry, even her iPod, back in DC, operated only during daylight hours, and kept the lights off at night. She did her best to make it look like she wasn’t staying at the cabin at all, and prayed that if they did come, she’d remember something of that self-defense class she took when she was eighteen and moved to the city. She kept the folded piece of paper on her at all times.

She worried about her parents, having never had a chance to tell them she was leaving and not to worry. She worried over her job. It would not be there if or when she got back. Disappearing in the middle of a workday without word? It was unheard of, and she imagined, unforgiveable. And she had no excuse she could give. She listened to the news on a small transistor radio in furtive, 10-minute segments a few times each day. She couldn’t catch much, but already she knew the fallout after Lucas Martin’s death was disastrous for the party, and to her mind, for the nation as well. Could she survive like this until after the election? After the inauguration, even?

She didn’t have to wait that long. Eight days later, they found her. Despite all her precautions, they had found her and there was a gunman outside her cabin door. She had promised them secrecy. She had delivered them secrecy. And still they had come.

But that was their mistake…because now, Claire was mad.

Claire crawled out from behind the couch, sweat pouring down her cotton tank top and gray sweat shorts, her hands and knees digging hard into the wooden, splintery floors. Instead of moving towards the back closet, as was her initial impulse, she crawled her way to the kitchen. Watching the windows for the shadow of a man, she reached up and eased open the drawer by the stove, and reached in for a knife.

She clutched the scallop-sided chef’s knife to her and leaned back on her haunches. Which way would he come from? She needed to see better. Slowly, she stood up and started to step towards the front door. She moved closer and closer, her hands slippery with sweat on the handle of the knife. Dared she peer outside?

She didn’t see anything. Had she imagined the sounds? Was her paranoia actually driving her mad?

Claire began to let out a breath – until she felt the muzzle of a gun bump up against the back of her head.

“Put down the knife.” The man’s voice was hard. It sliced through her and made her gasp. “Put it down slowly,” he said.

She made to crouch down like she was putting the blade on the floor, then swung around to slash at him. He was taller than she, but not by much. She swept upwards at his mid-side but was farther away than she thought and smacked the knife against the hand holding the pistol. The gun went off, like lightning in her eardrums. The man cursed and grabbed his bleeding hand as the .22 Sig-Sauer clattered to the floor.

She started to run, but he growled and tackled her. They crashed down onto the wooden floor of the cabin and she could feel the splinters in her cheek as he pushed on her face. She struggled underneath him, but he was too big and heavy. He cursed at her, pinning her down with all his might as he tried to reach for the gun. He couldn’t quite reach and she used the opportunity to try to squirm her way free. He was forced to use both hands to pin her.

Claire grunted and managed to turn more on her side, her hip digging painfully into the wood, and he smacked her hard in the face. “You’re not going anywhere, bitch,” he breathed into her still-ringing ear.

“You should have stayed away,” she spat back, more bravely than she felt. “You had it good. You had me quiet. But that’s not enough for you greedy sons of bitches, is it?”

He laughed. “That’s right. And now you’ll find out what we do to anyone who gets in our way.” He grabbed her hard, by both arms, and hauled her up and dragged her to the couch, which he threw her on. She struggled to sit up and launch herself at him, but was caught at the sight of him. He had his gun back in his hand. She fell back on the couch, eyeing him with every hair on her body on end.

“So, Peaches,” he said, suddenly in a better mood. “Tell me. Where is the paper? What did you do with it?”

“What paper?”

“Don’t be stupid,” he snarled. “We both know you have it. You’re gonna’ give it over nice and easy now and then this will all be over.”

She scrutinized him, weighing her options.

“Be quick!” he said. When she still didn’t move, he cocked the gun and got up in her face. “Where is the paper, damn it! It ain’t gonna help you if you’re dead.”

“It’s in the bedroom,” she whispered, her eyes wide with fright.

“Get it.”

She got up off the couch and moved toward the back of the sparse cabin. He followed her, the gun trained on her every move. She made her way to the bedside table, and pulled open the narrow top drawer.

“Hurry up,” growled the man.

She rustled a few papers, then finding what she was looking for, drew it out. He leaned closer in anticipation. She took a deep breath, then whipped around, and with every ounce of strength she had, stabbed a paring knife into his stomach. Even in her fear, she noted how much harder that was than she thought it would be. He yelled out in pain and fury and she kneed him forcefully in the groin, then front kicked him in the chest. He dropped backwards onto the ground and she jumped over him and ran towards the door.

On her way out, she stopped only to grab the kitchen knife, and could hear him stumbling after her. She pushed open the front door and rushed outside. As she ran, she sliced open both tires on the driver’s side of his car, and then pelted out to the woods, running faster than she ever had in her life.

Claire grunted as side-aches splintered her sides, and she forced herself to run faster. She crashed through the forest, branches cutting her face and hands as she pushed her way through. Her lungs ached, and her bare feet screamed in pain, but she pushed on, aware he must be only moments behind her. Even carrying the knife became too much of a burden and she dropped it in the leaves somewhere along the way.

Finally, she broke through the forest edge onto the main highway and screamed – a cry for help or of frustration, she wasn’t sure which. There wasn’t a car or person in sight. Desperate, she began to run along the open road, the gravel tearing up her feet with every step.

Then, to her unending relief, she saw headlights. She called out and ran in front of the car, flagging it down to stop. The ancient, early 70’s Chevelle screeched to a halt, coming to a full stop mere inches in front of her. She folded over, plopping her hands on the car’s hot hood and she peered in through the windshield to make out the scared and shocked faces of two teenage boys gaping at her. She ran around to the driver’s side.

“Dude, lady, are you all right?”

“I need your help!” she gasped. “Can you get me to the nearest city? I need the police.”

The dumbstruck boys looked at each other and shrugged. “Sure lady, whatever. Hop in.”

The driver got out to let her in the back of the hardtop coupe. Claire fell into the back seat, and struggled to catch her breath. It was only as the kid got back in and got the car back up to speed that she reached into her pants pocket and felt the folded paper that she began to feel hope. “Hey,” she said. “Either of you boys got a phone on you?”

The kid in the front passenger seat tossed his phone at her. “Have at it,” he said, his voice still registering his wonderment.

She punched in the number she knew by heart. It rang three times before she heard the woman’s voice on the other end.

“Megan. It’s Claire. Put me through to London.” She knew she was safe when Megan connected her, no questions asked.

If you wish to participate in a Bigger Picture Blogs Writing Circle, check out more information here. The next one is poetry, hosted by the lovely Alita on August 9.

Such Great Heights {A Bigger Picture Blogs Celebration}

It’s Bigger Picture Blogs’ SECOND Birthday today and we’re celebrating in double! Yesterday we shared treats in preparation for the party. Today, on Bigger Picture Moment day, we’re sharing words and photos with you. We partnered up and collaborated, each in response to a prompt. My partner is May from Achieving Clarity and our prompt was “Such Great Heights” {The Postal Service}. We broke the rules a little bit (in service of our concept!). Instead of one photographer and one writer, we collaborated on both!* Here’s our contribution to the fun!

Such Great Heights

Little boxes
of status updates
a perfect theatre of who we are.
But everything looks perfect, from far away.

We paint our world
through words we choose
so carefully, nothing left to chance
Knowing everything looks perfect from far away.

Even imperfections
are perfect imperfections,
the kind we all appreciate.
Because everything looks perfect from far away.

Disparate lives, in different worlds
Friendships forged across space
Age, place, culture and experience matter no more
When we find ourselves waving from such great heights.

So come a little nearer
Linger a little longer
See me for who I really am.
Even artifice is not artifice, when a mask shows who I wish to be.

You reveal to me
And I reveal to you
Together we become the women we long to be
Perfect imperfection achieved from so far away

And eye to eye, sister to sister,
Womb to womb, and heart to heart
We speak our words of truth.
Read closely, I’m not so very far away.

Pour your soul into words
Half way ‘cross the world
I hear your heart beating.
Together we are home.

…..Even when we’re far away.

*We both took photos {in case you couldn’t tell…} and May edited and compiled them. In the poem, I wrote the odd-numbered stanzas (first, third, etc.), and May wrote the even-numbered ones (second, fourth, etc.), and I edited the final version. Upon sharing the final piece with my husband, I learned that’s how The Postal Service did their music too. Producer Jimmy Tamborello would lay down the instrumental tracks, then ship it over to vocalist Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) who edited it as necessary and added the lyrics, then send it back via USPS, hence the name “The Postal Service.” Talk about serendipity!

We’re all linking up our posts at Hyacynth’s today! Join in the fun, browse the various compilations, and we have a bonus prompt for any latecomers who want to join in! (For Me This is Heaven by Jimmy Eat World) Anyone who participates is entered into our giveaway: this creativity package from Compendium and two free copies of A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves!

Happy Birthday, Bigger Picture Blogs!

Mango Coconut Lime Cheesecake Tarts

Need I say more?

Bigger Picture Blogs is celebrating its second birthday and we all decided we want CAKE! So we are each baking a cake, with our own unique twists, and sharing the deliciousness with you, our lovely readers. And what presents a better Thai-American fusion than mango, lime, coconut, and cheesecake? I ask you. (Serving on fancy Thai silk optional.)

Well…actually, the ancient Greeks were already loving cheesecake…but it was an American who came up with cream cheese and thus created the modern cheesecake! Whoa, okay, nerd alert. I’ll stop now. Anyway, I chose cheesecake because I don’t really like cake. (Don’t shoot me.) We even had lemon cheesecake at our wedding because I don’t like regular cake and couldn’t imagine spending $500+ on a cake I didn’t adore. And I saved about $350-400 to boot.

But I digress.

All right. This recipe is adapted from this one, which features an actual cheesecake. I (sort of) cut the recipe in half and made mine into 12 tarts because 1) I have really fantastic cake pans…in storage in CA, and I’m loath to plop down money on something I already have. What I didn’t have was tart pans, so buying new ones was okay by me. And 2) it’s just me and Toby here and we can’t eat a whole cheesecake. Well, we could, but then I would be a cheesecake. No thanks. Besides, tarts are easier to share with the neighbors. We here at Bigger Picture Blogs advocate neighborliness.

For the crust:
You will need: 3/4 cups crushed gingersnap cookies, 3/4 cups grated coconut, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter.

Preheat your oven and lightly grease your pans. (I used 2 tart pans, each holds 6 2.5″x2.5″ tarts.) Mix the above ingredients until moist, then press firmly into the bottom of your tart pans. I used about 2 heaping teaspoons per tart.

Bake at 325*F (165*C) for 10 minutes, or until browned at set. Set aside to cool.

For the filling:

You will need: about 12 ounces of softened cream cheese, 5 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon of lime zest (I like my desserts on the tart side, use less if you’re not as much a fan of citrus), 2 tablespoons of coconut cream (often sold as “coconut milk” in the States – if it’s watery, it’s the wrong kind; if it’s thick and creamy, you’ve got the right one).

Turn your oven to 300*F (150*C).

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Slowly pour in the condensed milk and work into the cream cheese. Add the egg and beat until it’s all just blended.

Pour half of the mixture into a second bowl. With this half, add the lime juice and lime zest. Spoon the mixture evenly into your tart pans.

With the remaining mixture, add the coconut cream. Spoon that evenly over the top of each tart, taking care to fill in all the edges, using the back of a spoon to prod things along if anybody’s being recalcitrant. Don’t be afraid to fill the tart pans right up, these babies don’t rise much.

Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. (Bear in mind, my oven is a small convection oven.) When the top of the cheesecake springs back upon pressing gently, it’s done. Turn off the heat and leave the oven door ajar, allowing the cheesecake to cool completely.

Refrigerate until chilled. I did mine overnight.

For the sauce:
Get a couple of mangos. Wash them, peel them, slice off pieces of them and toss into a blender with a couple of teaspoons or so of sugar. I prefer mine less sweet so I didn’t put much. Feel free to add sugar to taste. Puree. Chill. Pour over tarts to serve.

I cut some thin slices of lime for a little decorative flair. Mint would also add a nice touch.

Join in the birthday bash! Bake a cake and link it up at Sarah’s today!

And don’t forget, tomorrow’s Bigger Picture Moment is celebrating with 2×2 collaborations! We’ll be partnering up writers & photographers for double the fun!

PLUS a giveaway featuring a creativity gift from Compendium and (2!) FREE copies of Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days! Don’t miss out!

BPB is Turning {Two}!

Remember I said I was gonna have an announcement today? Well this is it! Bigger Picture Blogs is turning TWO!! (Side note: wow, two is one of those words that looks really weird when you write it out too many times.)

Bigger Picture Blogs is turning 2!

And we’re inviting YOU to celebrate with us!! For our second birthday we are hosting a very special Bigger Picture Moments that will stretch our creativity and connect our community! We will be randomly pairing up two community members to create a post for our special birthday celebration link up on Thursday, June 28 at Undercover Mother. Each creative collaboration duo will be given a prompt and work together to write a piece with one visual. Like any good party, there will certainly be gifts, too. We have a few lovely, creativity inspiring giveaways in store for a few of the party attendees who link up their collaborations!

 

And what would a party be with out some treats? Join us Wednesday, June 27 at This Heavenly Life — the day before our big birthday bash — to feast on ideas for some delicious treats to bring to the celebration. We’ll each post our favorite cake/dessert recipes, baked with our own unique flavor, and link up our treats so we can share some sweetness with each other. Those who link up a recipe will also be entered into our birthday gift giveaway. And feel free to be as creative as you so desire with your recipe, heavily flavoring it with sprinkles of your life or who you are or what you love.

 

Come celebrate Bigger Picture Blogs SECOND birthday by pairing up TWO things that are at the heart of BPB: creativity and community. 

 

Let’s party, friends!

Write Out Loud

Looking to hone your skills as a writer, with the encouragement and support of other writers? Check out Bigger Picture Blogs’ Writing Circles! Next up: June 15 – Fiction/Short Story, hosted by yours truly. Join in now! Details below.

We all have different stories behind why we write.

We love words; we love painting pictures with sentences, capturing moments, journaling the purest and rawest of emotion.

We writers write because we cannot not write.

But in writing, there are blocks we authors sometimes blindly slam into; we all know the scenario of coming up blank when we’re brimming with emotion or hesitating before pushing publish or wishing for just another set of eyes to read what’s come spilling out of our fingertips.

We need more than inspiration. We need other writers to surround us and give praise, encouragement, and constructive criticism if we are to fully blossom in our writer skins.

Perhaps you’re ready to really hone your craft and skill? Maybe you’ve hit a plateau and need some inspiration? Or maybe you desperately need another voice to help shed light on your own written words?

Whatever the case may be — whether you are a seasoned writer or have recently found your love of words, Bigger Picture Blogs Writing Circles might be just what you need to stretch your writerly mind and heart.

Here are the details:

What: A group of three to five writers will come together via Skype with the add of Google Docs to share a written piece in a specific the genre to hear each piece read and then engage in a praise/critique session with each writing piece. A prompt will be assigned and a word limit will be suggested a week before the Writing Circle meets.

Next up!

  • Friday June 15 8:30 p.m. CST Fiction – Short Story, Hosted by moi.

How and Where: Via Skype and Google Documents in the comfort of your own home!

Details: Our first Writing Circles are absolutely free of charge, but there is only space for FOUR participants in each circle. The first four people to register by filling our this form will be part of the circle. After that we will maintain a waiting list and those on the waiting list will be emailed as new dates/spots open up.

Comments? Questions? Leave it below and we’ll be sure to answer!

We look forward to growing together as writers!

Embrace

“’Member that time we went swimming with them girls up from the North Shore? You and me stripped down to our bare ass and that one girl – Mary Ann, Mary Lynn something – almost did too, except ol’ Mr. Wickman saw us and chased us on up out of the lake with that fucking…fucking blowtorch.”

“Mmph.” Snap grunted with a grimace. If he remembered correctly, Mary Lynn was wearing a particularly enticing lace top he’d been real interested to see her get out of. He wanted to catch Joe’s eye with a wink, but he couldn’t open his own just yet. He enjoyed the breeze too much, feeling the comforting whoosh across his face and down his left arm.

“Good times.” Snap could hear Joe’s smile, could practically see the slash of his salty grin.

* * *

            When he came to again, his friend was asking him a question. “Hey, Snap. You know what I miss most? Bacon. Crispy, fatty bacon. And my mama’s cornbread. These gooks do up a mean rice, but don’t nobody beat my mama’s bacon and cornbread.”

“Mama Dee sure could cook it good.” His own mother, God bless her, couldn’t tell a skillet from a stick.

“When I get home, that’s the first thing I’m gonna’ do. Ask mama to make me some bacon and cornbread. And you know what she’d say?”

Snap grinned. Mimicking a throaty, Southern woman’s voice, he said, “Boy, you got some brass on them balls.” They both laughed. Snap tasted blood on its way up.

“And she’d do it anyway,” reminisced Joe.

“Yeah. She’d do it anyway.”

He tried to sit up, but it damn near made him pass out again. He cursed under his breath. Taking a few steadying breaths, he pushed himself up on his left elbow. Searing pain shot up from his right arm, straight to his spine, on up into the space behind his eyes. The movement caused Joe to groan.

Looking around he saw they lay in a ditch several paces wide. The lifeless faces of four other troop members greeted him. Johnny T’s eyes were still open. Snap looked away. He turned his attention instead to the gaping wound in his arm. It seeped blood from his bicep onto his sleeve and ran down to the soil below. Gingerly, he tried to move it and intense pain shot up again, making Joe cry out. That’s when he realized his maimed arm was trapped underneath something metallic pinned down by Joe’s chest. Joe, his best friend since the squashed toad incident in the third grade, lay on his left side facing him. He had no arm at all. His entire right side had been sheared off by blast burns, both his legs turned at wrong angles. Snap struggled, pulled, and strained, trying to get his arm out, but each tug aggravated his friend’s open wounds and exacerbated his pain. He lay back down, assessing the situation through dim, hazy awareness. He used the dirty fingers of his left hand to investigate the wound, nearly fainting again when he caught a glimpse of bone.

He remembered an explosion about thirty paces off. They had all turned to see five of their squad go down in a landmine blast. There was a voice in his ear, crackling, issuing commands…then all he remembered was waking up. The air was silent, save for the wind brushing the trees. He strained to hear a helicopter, voices, anything. None came.

Panic set in, and with it, came clarity of purpose. He tried to move his legs. His right ankle hurt like a mother, but he could move it a little. He didn’t think it was broken. “Joe,” he urged. “Joe. We gotta’ get outta’ here.”

“Tour’s almost over,” came his friend’s muffled voice. “Two more months. We can hang in two more months.”

He frowned at his friend. By the looks of it, he wasn’t gonna’ last another two hours. He’d already lost too much blood. Joe’s voice cracked and groaned with every word yet he seemed not to have any idea of the state he was in. Snap looked at his own arm. Gruesome, but they could fix it if he just got help. There was a camp not three miles away, if he remembered right. But every move he made only caused Joe more pain.

Life flowed out of Joe, seeping into the ground like liquid rust. The color of his face turned unnatural.

Snap felt the beginnings of fever. If he was going to make it, he had to move fast. But he couldn’t, not with Joe on top of him. Pushing him off to free his arm would surely kill him, pain the last thing he would know as he went.

A surge of anger coursed through him. He pounded the earth repeatedly with his one good fist.

“Snap?”

He gritted his teeth. He ached to yell and scream. The only thing preventing him was the desire not to disturb his friend. “Yeah,” he said, at length.

“I love you, man. I just…you’re my best friend.”

A chasm opened up beneath him and he fell into flames. That was how Snap felt to hear those words. He bit his cheek, willing himself not to lose it. “Love you too, man.”

Renewed pain coursed through his arm. A sense of urgency filled him; his instincts for self-preservation had woken up. He had to move – and soon – or he, too, would die.

“Snap?” said Joe. This time his voice had grown undeniably weak; it was almost inaudible. “I still owe you a bottle of whiskey.”

Snap heaved a breath, finally gaining the courage to look at the mess of his friend’s body. He had three options. One, he could send Joe into a final spasm of pain and death as he wrenched himself free. Two, he could lay back down and die with him. Tempting. That option was tempting. Or three, he could reach over and quietly end his friend’s misery and life, free himself, and run for help.

They looked at each other in the eye, though Snap couldn’t tell that Joe saw much of anything at all. He could have been staring at a pile of bricks for all the expression left in his face. He thought of how many times they must have looked at each other, knowing just what the other was thinking without saying a word.

“You don’t owe me nothing, man. Not a goddamn thing.”

He rolled over closer to the only person he’d loved as a brother, and passed his hand over Joe’s eyes to close them. With his good arm, he reached across his friend, enveloping him in a final embrace.

This piece is a product of a Bigger Picture Blogs Writing Circle, where writers come together virtually to share their writing. In each Writing Circle, three to five writers are called together by a moderator who sets a prompt. Each person writes in response to the prompt and shares it online via a Skype conference call, wherein the other writers listen to their words, reflect on them, and offer praise, encouragement, constructive criticism and feedback to help us stretch and grow. The prompt for this Writing Circle was “Embrace,” in the genre of Fiction/Short Story, with a 1000-word limit.

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I Might Have Been in Wonderland

I might have been in Wonderland except I didn’t know until I got swallowed up by the rabbit hole. From sunshine and daisies, I fell off the edge of the earth down into a dark, cramped, musty hallway, following the music of a trusted voice, hoping it wouldn’t lead me astray. But stray it did, ‘til I found myself inching further on down that hallway, past the broken lights and misplaced candles, down deep to an open door. The voice called to me, to peek inside where I didn’t know I should not look. In loyalty and trust, I followed the voice and looked through that door, where inside, instead of one, I saw two.

I didn’t want to believe at first.

“No, don’t,” I wanted to say. I wanted to ask, “Don’t you mean this other door instead?”

But she was already inside with this other. They had already crossed a threshold, and all I could do was watch and wait.

The two, they stood there, all alone in this big, wide room, a space only they two could share. They did not touch, but I know you don’t have to touch to feel, and the air, it got so heavy it hurt.

In the end, they did not touch. They did not touch, and she walked herself right out through the front door, not the back. But still I was not unaffected. It is such a heavy weight, this weight of a sin not yet committed. It’s such a heavy weight, to witness a wrong waiting to be. I understood how it could happen and did not judge for a feeling, but I felt the shadow of pain of the one who wasn’t there, the one who should have been in the room instead, and I felt the inky wash of a feeling I could not name. I felt I had been witness to something awful, like the death of a star, something that didn’t even allow the satisfaction of blame. I’d become privy to a secret I should not know.

I clambered back out of the deep, dark hole, shaken and uncertain. I wanted to cling tight to my other half, to call him close to me, terrified of a hole that suddenly gaped. I think he must have felt it too, for without my speaking or even looking, he clung to me first, even though he hadn’t seen where I’d just been.

This piece came from a Bigger Picture Blogs Writing Circle. It was written in response to the prompt “deep/depth,” received feedback from other writers and edited to create this final piece. If you’d like an opportunity to try out your writing and get some feedback in an open, welcoming, supportive and constructive forum, join us in our next Writing Circle. Spaces are filling up fast! See here for details.

 

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