Today I sat down to write a blog post that’s been in my head for a couple of weeks. I had my journal of ideas in front of me and a few sticky notes that I jotted down in the middle of the night, as well as an image I wanted to include. Despite all this prep work, the words wouldn’t come. I couldn’t figure out how to start, and my screen stayed blank.
I tried different angles, but each one felt false. I brainstormed personal anecdotes to use as springboards, but everything fell flat. Finally, I decided I needed a couple of specific, current, relevant examples of my topic, so I started searching for them online. After thirty minutes, I came to this conclusion: they’re not there. This idea for a blog post, which seemed so poignant when I came up with it, simply isn’t true. Huh.
So I’m giving up on it.
It’s hard, sometimes, to let go of something you thought was promising and admit that the minutes or hours spent on it (or days or weeks in some cases, thankfully not this one) were wasted. But there’s merit in recognizing when a piece just doesn’t have what it takes, and this time, that is the case. I will spare you a pointless post. You can thank me later.
So, instead, I give you this.
In every issue of Writer’s Digest (which I subscribe to and you should too) there is a “Your Story” competition. Sometimes they provide a photo, and you have to write the first sentence of a story to accompany it. Sometimes they provide the first sentence or the topic, and you have to write the story. You submit your entries online, they choose the finalists, and then people vote on the winning entry, which then gets published in the magazine. It’s all good fun.
Your Story #56 challenged writers to write a story of 750 words or fewer beginning with this sentence:
“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”
I decided to enter. My story was not chosen as a finalist, but I had fun writing it, so I’m going to share it with you here anyway. If you would like to read the five stories chosen as finalists, there is still time to vote on your favorite. Just click here and then click on the link to the forum. You do have to register to vote.
My Story for Your Story #56: A Friendly Game
“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.”
I groaned. Rickie and his games. Every time he came over, it was, Will you eat what’s in my hand? Or If you can guess what number I’m thinking of, I’ll tell you a secret. A glutton for punishment, I usually played along. In the eating game, the rule was you had to say yes and promise to eat it before you saw what it was. If you said no, it remained a mystery forever. I’d said yes four times, allowing my palate the delicacies of a green M&M, a slice of grapefruit, a homemade peanut butter cookie so fresh it must have been burning his hand, and a cricket. I hadn’t said yes since the cricket.
Usually, Rickie made his offers the moment he arrived. It was, “Hey Amber-dextrous, want to play a game?” before he was even inside the door. Then, after the secret had been confessed or the palm candy eaten, we sank onto my stuffing-less couch to hang out.
But today Rickie had already been on my couch for three hours when he propositioned me. We were halfway through Teen Wolf Too, having already suffered Grease 2. It was a weekend of disappointing eighties sequels. I looked at him. He stared at the TV, popping Junior Mints into his mouth one at a time. I stole a glance at the pockets of his jeans but they revealed nothing.
“How many guesses do I get?”
He considered. “Three. If you look me in the eye and tell this movie is better than the original, you get one more.” He turned to me, one eyebrow raised in a challenge.
“Psht,” I spat. “I’ll stick to three.”
“Ready when you are, Amber-gris.”
I held out my hand for a Junior Mint, and Rickie supplied one. While I sucked the thin layer of chocolate off the sugary mint paste, I deliberated. “A key.”
“Why a key?”
I shrugged. “You like keys. You have that jar full of old dorm room keys and car keys and apartment keys that you never threw away.” He nodded, not a yes to the guess, just an acknowledgement that I knew him well. “Besides, maybe it’s the key to a Lamborghini or my dream house or your heart,” I said, and immediately wished I hadn’t.
Rickie’s cheeks turned pink. He looked back at the TV. “It’s not a key, Amber-vilant.”
Stupid, I chastised myself. Rickie and I were friends—just friends—and it was perfect. But I knew he’d be willing to change that. I’d tried to make it clear that I didn’t want anything more from our relationship, yet time and again I slipped up and said flirty things in front of him.
Embarrassed, I crossed my arms and rushed my next guess. “A pen.”
“A pen? Why?”
“I don’t know, I like pens.” I shrugged and scooted away an inch, making it look like I was just shifting for comfort.
“Well, it’s not a pen,” he said. His tone suggested I wasn’t even trying. “One more guess, unless you’d like to rethink your opinion of Teen Wolf Too.” He offered me another Junior Mint, and I took it without letting our fingers touch.
What is it? I wondered, sucking at the chocolate. I thought back to movies we’d watched, conversations we’d had. Rickie had told me how much he used to love candy cigarettes, so maybe—wait! I had it! A ring pop! I’d gone on and on to him recently about how they were my favorite as a kid, how much I’d loved seeing the giant purple “jewel” on my hand, how I’d watch its shape change as I licked, how I was always a little disappointed when it was gone and I was left with a purple tongue and nothing but plastic on my finger.
“I’ve got it!” I said, all previous awkwardness forgotten with the anticipation of victory. “It’s a ring—“ At that moment, the Junior Mint I’d been sucking on lodged in the back of my throat. I put a hand to my chest, gasping for breath, tears flooding my eyes, unable to speak as Rickie’s face lit up and he lowered himself to the floor on one knee and reached into his pocket.
“Yes, Amber-osia, you’re right!” His smile stretched the length of his hopes as he pulled the diamond ring out of his pocket. “Will you marry me?”