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three little pigs

The Irvine Valley Writers’ Group (IVWG), the writing group I belong to, periodically host internal “assignments”, just prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

Our assignment for February was a re-write of the classic children’s tale The Three Little Pigs. I found it difficult to get a handle on this one. I just couldn’t come up with anything I thought was fun or creative enough to present to the rest of the group.

I knew I wanted to write something which was a parody of the current economic times, turning the big bad wolf into the big bad credit crunch. I knew I wanted to turn the pigs in to people.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (also, it will be published on the IVWG website before too long) I hereby present my re-write of The Three Little Pigs. It was by no means the best or most creative example within the group, in fact I’d say it was near the bottom, but it was interesting and fun, either way.

Oh, and by way of explanation, I’ve chosen the format of a morning radio show with the DJ named Chaz interviewing a man named John Porcus (see what I did there?). So, here you go:

Sure, we’ve all heard about the dire economic state of the world – The Big Bad Credit Crunch, as it were. While everyone undoubtedly knows about the housing crisis, we here at KCRW wanted to know more; we wanted to explore the personal side of The Big Bad. So a few weeks ago we went out to find someone who could tell us their story. Enter my next guest, Mr. John Porcus, the youngest of three brothers who have all been affected by the fall of the housing market. I’m happy to say that John has agreed to come on the air to tell his story; good morning John.

-Morning, Chaz, thanks for having me.

-Not at all, not at all. Now, in your e-mail you said it’s not only yourself but also your whole family who were affected.

-That’s right, Chaz.

-Sounds pretty awful, why don’t you tell us what happened…

-Well, I imagine it’s all just been a result of some rather bad timing. About four years ago our mother met an married an Australian man and they emigrated together to Australia, following the sun, you see, which meant that my brothers and I no longer had a place to stay.

-Tricky situation.

-It wasn’t the best, no. So we all went out and bought our own homes. It seemed perfect – we had a few months of freedom before it all came crashing down… We’d all done it differently, you see. My oldest brother, Jack, is in banking. With a secure job in a major bank he stretched himself a bit beyond his means, bought a lovely, grand stone house in the country. Then there was Joe who is a structural engineer and at the time was working for a fast-growing construction company with building sites all over the place. He moved in with his girlfriend but they bought a brand new house off-plan, one of those wood frame house, in one of his company’s developments which was scheduled for completion near the end of the summer. I was a bit more cautious. I’m a teacher, you see, on a much smaller salary than my brothers.

-So, John, what did you do?

-I convinced our Mother to keep the family home and I took over the payments on the mortgage.

-Sly.

-Yes, well, it’s a nice house. A cottage, very old – been in the family for generations. Thatched roof…

-Right, and the monthly payments…

-Small. Very small.

-Sly! So now you and your brothers are all living in your new homes, enjoying the peace and quiet. Then what.

-Well, then everything went to heck, Chaz. Jack lost his job at the bank within weeks at the beginning of the economic crisis. On top of that, all of his investments were now worth very little and his glorious stone villa lost a lot of value. Was worth less than what he paid for it, anyway. Which would have been tolerable had he been able to continue payments, but, of course, being unemployed, he couldn’t.

-So he lost his house.

-So he lost his house.

-What about Joe?

-Well, the company Joe was working for shut down and he was made redundant. His house never got built past the wood frame. He got some money back from what he paid, but not enough, really. Oh, and his girlfriend dumped him.

-Jobless and homeless. Like Jack.

-That’s right, Chaz.

-Terrible. What about you?

-Well, I’m fine. I was the lucky one. It’s strange, really. Four or five years ago my family were all on my back to get a better qualification and a better paying job with more security. *chuckle* If only they’d known…

-Does your story have a happy ending, then?

-Well, all of our stories do, really. I mean, the housing crash put a dent in all of our plans. Jack lost his stone mansion. Joe lost his brand new wooden house. Thankfully, though, I’ve still got the family home – our lovely thatched cottage that my great-great-great-great grandfather built with his own hands. We’re all living together again, of course, because they have nowhere else to go, but it’s working out OK for now.

-For now.

-That’s right. For now.

-What a great story. Thanks so much for sharing, John. I wish you and your brothers all the best.

-Thanks for having me Chaz, it’s been fun.

-So, listeners, what do you think about John’s story? What about yours? Did the Big Bad Credit Crunch cause you as much grief as the Porcus family? Get in touch via e-mail or text message. Or you can visit the website where you can leave feedback on today’s story. And now back to the music

When I get the others’ pieces published on the IVWG website I will link them. They are all excellent. One in particular will have you laughing so hard you will struggle to get oxygen to your brain. I am quite blessed to have found such an excellent, supportive group of people who share a passion for writing.

Our next assignment was actually one that I thought of. I printed off some famous first lines from classic novels and everyone had to choose a line at random. The task is to use that first line as your own first line and create a story from that.

The catch? Our word limit is 200 words!! Of course, the 200 word limit does not count the famous first line, otherwise some would only have a few words left!

Fancy having a go? Choose a number between 1 and 100, go to This Website and find the corresponding famous first line. Then think of an additional 200 words that tells a story following on from that first line. If you are familiar with the novel from which the line comes try to go in a different direction than the plot of that novel.

My line?

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I haven’t written my 200 words yet, but as soon as I do, you’ll know about it!

xo
A

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why not?

I know Halloween has been over for weeks, but I thought I’d go ahead and post the scary story I wrote for the Come Dine With Me edition of the Irvine Valley Writer’s Group. We met at Jolyn’s house for dinner on 6th November and all brought “scary” stories. Mine is a ghost story. You may recognize the setting.

It needs work. I know it needs work. I think it’s a pretty good start, though. Tell me your opinion! Oh, and I don’t have a title. Any suggestions would be welcome!

As always all work published on this site is the sole copyright of me. Do not steal, it’s not nice.

It all happened the summer I turned sixteen, when I went to visit my father. That was the first time I heard them. Of course, I didn’t know then what I was hearing; I didn’t know what it meant. If I had known, my story would undoubtedly be different.
The house he was renting backed directly up against the chain link boundaries of the abandoned amusement park, and my father took great care to warn me away from playing there. It was far too dangerous – nearly falling down, a kid could get lost in there…

These warnings did not stop me. I was reckless, fearless. Every morning, being careful to avoid the poison ivy, I would lower myself to the ground behind the sycamore tree and stomach crawl under the fence. Once on the other side it was only moments before I was swallowed up by greenery and impossible to spot.

I would spend hours there in the park, wandering aimlessly. I doubt there was anyone, in the end, who knew the place better than I did. From the broken turnstiles at the entrance, to the rusting hulk of The Coaster which towered high above, wooden planks rotting and nearly engulfed by the searching branches of trees.

The ferris wheel stood sentinel over the scene, an oak tree as spinal column, blanketed by thickly twisting vines. There was a popcorn stand, complete with popcorn machine long abandoned but still plugged in. There were the remains of the hotel which had burned down many years before, looking like nothing more than a gaping mouth with rotted and broken teeth. The outdoor stage, nearly hidden behind new growth, with graffiti scrawled across the hastily painted and horrific face of a clown: “The Old fortune TELLeR Lies dead ON The FLooR, NoBoDY NeeDS FoRTUNes ToLD aNYMore”. Smouldering in the brush was the remains of a baby grand piano, white keys still shining in the gloom, impervious to the filth of decades.

The ballroom was my favourite place. In its time it had undeniably been magnificent and it stood as a reminder of summer nights spent dancing into the small hours of the morning. In the drawers of the desk at the ticket booth I found maps of the park and brochures advertising “Come Dancing at the Starlight Ballroom”. In the basement was the canteen, trays stacked neatly at the end of the stainless steel service line. A mess of mouldy paper cups advertised the park’s 100th anniversary.

On the wide, shadowed dance floor a mechanical floor polisher stood menacingly, it’s perished electrical cord snaking to the socket in the wall. Anytime I came across a light switch I would flip it on, half expecting the park to come alight and back to life.

**********

On one sultry day in July I was taking shelter inside the picnic pavilion, dangling my feet over the edge of the water, watching raindrops rippling over the surface of the lake. Suddenly behind me someone laughed, the noise ripping through the quiet afternoon. No, not someone, it was a girl – a little girl, laughing. My head turned so fast the muscles in my neck screamed protest. Yet even through the gloom I could tell that no one was there.

My pulse beat hard, rushing in my ears and my tongue tingled with the taste of a new penny. Had I imagined it? I stood and glanced around, peering as hard as I could into the thickness of shadows upon shadows. With the innocence present only in the very young I was completely sure that there was a little girl hiding from me in the darkness. After all, I had heard her laugh.

I didn’t stay long in the pavilion, preferring a fast run in the rain toward my house to the lingering fear of waiting for something to appear. When I reached the carousel I heard her laugh again, just behind me, and turned around fast, slipping in the mud and falling to the ground. This time the taste in my mouth was blood and I could feel the heat of it on my chin. Spitting and cursing I stood, not bothering to look around – I knew there was no one there. There couldn’t be.

I shouted into the rain and then again the sound of laughing, giggling. Fear coursed through me. What was that? Beside me the lights of the carousel went on and I could hear the swell of music coming quietly from rusty speakers. I backed away as quickly as I dared, blinking, unbelieving, stumbling over debris on the ground, until I came up against the cab of a decaying orange pickup truck. The door was open and, as I turned to look inside, the radio flashed on, playing the same song that came from the carousel. And still the little girl, laughing. Without thinking, without pausing, I turned and ran, stopping only long enough to throw myself beneath the fence, ignoring the scratch of thorns and finally, dripping mud, I ran into the kitchen and locked the door behind me.

********

A few days passed before I dared return, but not out of fear. The poison ivy I contracted from my careless slide beneath the fence combined with a fierce summer cold kept me confined to the house. I was old enough to convince myself that nothing had happened. Still, the image of a lit carousel devoid of horses haunted my dreams, along with the sound of a laughing little girl.

Going slowly through the undergrowth, scrupulously avoiding every green leaf, I walked, head held high, back into the grounds. Above me a bird took flight from the coaster turn, wing beats rustling the leaves, and I jumped, adrenaline rushing through me. Shaking my head at my own cowardice I continued. I thought, first, that I would go straight to the carousel but I found myself walking the familiar path to the ballroom. Taking the shortcut by the hamburger stand I began to forget my momentary fear and started whistling softly, swinging a dead branch at the tall grass. Ahead of me I saw a brief flash of pink and white amongst the green, rushing between trees and along the old midway towards the arcade, and once again I heard the laughing.

When I got to the junction of the midway I turned, and in the glare of sunlight reflecting off the surface of the lake I finally saw her, standing in a pink dress, with a crisp white bonnet covering her blonde pigtails, smiling and beckoning me to follow her.

“Where are we going?” I asked, but she did not answer. As we walked past the carousel the music started softly. In the periphery I could see exquisitely carved wooden horses rising and falling in time to the music, sun glinting off their golden paint, but if I turned to face the carousel head on they disappeared.

As we approached the old arcade I grew wary – this was the one building I had not yet explored. The roof was sagging heavily and the wide doorway bowed in the middle; it looked as though one stiff wind would bring it crashing to the ground. The ghost of the girl sensed my trepidation and returned to me, reaching out and taking my hand. Her touch was cold as ice, raising goose bumps on my arm. She walked ahead, gently pulling me, but I resisted.

I could smell the delicious scent of freshly popped corn and from behind me I could hear more laughing. I looked over my shoulder toward the ferris wheel, it’s metal skeleton hidden now not by vegetation but by the ghost of sparkling lights. Between its empty frame I could see the swinging form of passenger cars brightly painted in primary colours. And still the carousel turned.

Ahead of me from the darkness of the decaying building came the sound of coins dropping and the mechanical whir of arcade games coming to life. I looked into the pale face of the girl and followed her silently, carefully.

I walked slowly, fear pulsing in my veins. I glanced constantly over my head waiting for the beams to give in to the ravishing years and come crashing down upon us, but all was still.

We passed a skee-ball gallery, the tilted surfaces beckoning us to play a game or two. We passed penny peep shows and ancient pinball machines covered in layers of dust. In the remotest corner, where the light from the entrance was barely visible, sat a wizard fortune teller; the lights within were lit, casting a menacing shadow onto the cobwebbed floor. Inside the glass case the papier-mâché wizard’s head rotated back and forth, back and forth, it’s red eyes gleaming. The fingernails on his wooden hand scarped a well-worn path on the dusty velvet of his table.

The noise of the midway faded completely and in the silence I could hear the crackling hiss of a phonograph record going round and round. Behind me I felt the suffocating crush of years and a frightened glance over my shoulder revealed a hundred pale faces waiting, watching. I was so far beyond fear that I could barely breathe.

I heard the hum of wheels turning and then, with a sound so final my heart leapt, a yellowed paper rectangle dropped into the metal slot at the front of the machine. Shaking, I reached forward and lifted the fortune. The edges crumbled to dust between my fingers. As I turned it over, terror driving my actions, I realised that I could smell smoke, but was unable to comprehend what it meant. Printed on the card in bold black letters were the words “Can we keep you?” and scribbled beneath it in a child’s frantic scrawl, one single word, “RUN”.

oooOOOooo! Spooky! 🙂

xo
A

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