In Which We Discuss The May Prompt

BECCA: Okay, so I’ll start this out: I know why I chose this picture, but what first struck you guys about it when I posted it?

K.T.: At first I thought. Wow, that’s pretty. And then I wondered how she got underneath the fish. Which was followed by: oh, she was murdered. Because my brain does that…

LEIGH: My first thought was actually, “Ooh, she’s pretty, I bet she’s a mermaid.”. For a while, I played with a more solidly mermaid idea (Which I’m holding in reserve because I think there might be more use for the twist I put on it later!) before picturing a little girl running along a jetty. Those things terrified me as a kid, the crevices between the rocks always seemed enormous! I ended up pulling it back into the pond kind of idea, when I remembered the gold fish, and modified the scene to go with them.

BECCA: For me, it was the dissonance in it. When I first looked at it, it seemed like a fairly straight-forward portrait, possibly with flowers in the girl’s hair, but then I noticed that the flowers were fish. And I really liked that switch-up, how the artist played with perception.

How’s about a follow-up question! How did you go about building your stories?

K.T.: The chinking shovel. I kid you not. And then I went oooo chinking shovel digging pond to cover her… And that was about it

LEIGH: The first line popped in my head when I sat down to write. I decided to keep the pattern throughout, and the rest just fell into place.

BECCA: I’m with Leigh – it was the first line for me, and then I followed it from there. Which is very, VERY different from how I construct longer works. I never pants it. Okay, last question: Do you guys have any other thoughts you want to share about this prompt? Anything you learned from the first go-round?

K.T.: I learned that if I have the picture to look at and no immediate inspiration, I just need to look at it a few more times and say what I see. Once I did that, the idea took off and the rest was easy to do. I adored Leigh’s and loved the voice in Becca’s so much. I feel like this is pushing us to write tighter and more varied pieces than we usually would. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun!

LEIGH: I learned I need the picture in front of me when I’m working on it. I was working on it at work, and totally forgot about the goldfish until I went to edit it, then had to modify it to fit. I’d just had the image of the little girl under water in my head. But so far, so good. I love seeing what you guys come up with too! I was creeped out by KT’s, and Becca’s was utterly amazing. I think it’s great that we’re breaking out of some of the boxes we tend to land in with novels.

BECCA: Personally, what struck me most are the different directions all of us took, which shouldn’t be surprising but still kinda is. I loved seeing that and seeing where you guys took things. And I learned to loosen up a little bit, to let a first line and a single image take me someplace without planning it out so religiously first. It was a good exercise.


Treachery of Folk

Mama says Never trust an ocean-child and I always says back I ain’t fool enough for that. ‘Cause an ocean-child creeps up on you like the tide – slowly an’ then all at once. And they don’t give nothin’ back.

I always imagined ‘em blue and grey, roarin’ and whirlin’ — all changeable so they’re different every time you turned ’round.

When I met him, though, he was green. Green like the reeds. Green like the grass in the delta a’fore the water gets salty. He didn’t sound like no waves neither, hushin’ and rollin’ all the damn time. His voice was deep an’ cool an’ alive, like wet earth.

He smelled like rain, an’ Mama never could get me outta the rain.

He kissed me an’ told me I was sunlight. No, I tasted like sunlight. Or somethin’ like that.

I didn’t think he tasted much like anything, but the way his tongue moved in my mouth an’ how his fingertips danced up my thighs made my whole body prickle. Like how I felt that time when I was little an’ I touched the electric fence as keeps the cows in around the farm down the road.

Warm. Fuzzy. Buzzing till it’s almost hurtful.

He would take me down by the delta. Always by the delta. Drag me to the ground, press hisself against myself, kiss me until he came up gasping, burning hot – the green in his eyes an’ his hair an’ his skin rich an’ bright. An’ then the rain’d come in, an’ I’d go home, tired, with mud on my shorts.

One morning, I woke up tireder than the usual. Tireder than I ought to be from just lyin’ there an’ kissin’.

And my eyes was green.

When Mama saw me, she cried and cried.

She says to herself she tried. She says to herself she taught me about the folk after all. She says to me she didn’t raise no stupid girl an’ she didn’t give two shakes what was to become of me.

I didn’t care. Didn’t feel much of anything. I wanted to go down to the delta.

I waited for him with my feet in the water an’ my hands in the mud an’ felt better. When he finally came to me, he even made the trees look grey. It was like somebody was walkin’ around shinin’ a light on him. I’d never seen him look so beautiful.

I’da bet he tasted like sunlight.

There weren’t no kissin’ this time. He touched my face, told me I’d always be his, and sank into the water. Or maybe just walked away. I dunno. I was starin’ at my muddy fingers.

I walked back home to Mama, who hugged me an’ pet my wet hair an’ cried some more. Told me she loved me even if I were just another ocean-child.

She takes me every morning to go sit in the water, an’ every evening she brings me home again. She says to me Never use up nobody, ocean-child.

And I says to her I ain’t fool enough for that.