November 27, 2017

After a week off, I’ve started my fourth module, STYLE, where we are learning about developing scenes and stories that have meaning, sense and clarity. For this week’s assignment, we’re looking at the fundamentals of style, which include the experience of all the senses. Besides covering sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound, I also wanted to explore the emotive senses. Another writing challenge is to create a character far removed from your own reality. One of the best examples of this type of writing success is Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel by Arthur Golden. Mr. Golden did a remarkable job describing the life of a young Japanese girl and I still remember discussing the book and his success as one of the first selections of my book club when it first published 20 years ago. For this assignment, I also tried to write from another point of view, albeit from a shared experience.

ASSIGNMENT: Meaning, Sense and Clarity

Artists learn to draw and thereby learn to see. That’s what this exercise is about. Learning to draw with language and thereby to perceive more vividly. This is a simple exercise with a simple emphasis: writing with your five senses. Write a three-paragraph description of a person or a place. Show the reader what it looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like, even tastes like. Try to put pressure on every word, every phrase. Make every sentence meaningful, sensible, and clear.


TITLE: Next Chapter

The young man knelt on the hard, wooden floor, wrapping his arms around the dog’s strong, thick neck, his knees creaking and aching with the squat, an audible and muscular reminder of repeated sports strains from high school and college. His face scrunched at the rank odor of a wet dog. Neither the dull aches nor the odor mattered. He needed this time to bury his face in the dog’s silky, golden fur, ruffle his drooping ears and whisper to him, “We’ll be back soon, we won’t forget you”. The dog turned his face toward the man and let loose his long pink, sandpaper tongue covering the man’s face with a few moist, rough licks as if to say, “I know”. From the driveway, the blast of a car’s horn interrupted the man’s reverie and good-bye. As he stood, he patted the top of the dog’s head one more time and headed to the door. He picked up his worn leather overnight bag and pulled the door to as he left, feeling the knob catch and the weatherproof strip’s rubber grasp the door tight with a suck and hold. He knew the closing of this door was closing a life’s chapter.

Inside the hospital room, a pale green paint covered the walls, a neutral and natural color intended to offer a calming setting. The wireless speaker set on the window shelf, connected to his iPhone, played her relaxation playlist, a repetitive loop of surf crashing with an occasional gull cry. The electric diffuser plugged into the wall sat next to the speaker, sending a light lavender scent out into the room to mask the antiseptic, sterile bleach hints that clung to every surface. Even the nurses spoke in low tones, hoping to maintain a sense of tranquility. Valiant efforts, all of them. But none worked. There was no calm in the room. His eyes never looked at the walls, their exclusive focus on her face. Reddened, furrowed and strained. The surf crashes couldn’t drown out the beeps of the monitor. The diffuser might as well have been left in the overnight bag. The nurses’ experienced and soothing words went unheard. All he could hear was his wife’s anxious questions, each successive one becoming shriller. “How much longer?” “I can’t do this anymore.” “Please. Please.” And then the grip of her hand tightened around his even more. Her fingernails dug into the top of his hand. He looked into her deep blue eyes as tears rolled down his face. As they reached his lips, he licked them away, savoring the salty, tart taste. Never in his life had he felt so inept, powerless, and fearful.

A son. His son. Their son. Wrapped in the hospital issued swaddling blanket and matching soft, flannel cotton cap, only his face peeked out of the blue frame. He held him in the crook of his bent arm as the nurses had showed him, supporting his head and neck. His eyes were closed. His face a pinkish cream hue favoring her Scottish ancestry. He sat on the edge of the bed. She slept. Exhaustion and adrenaline had won its battle over her. The wireless speaker was off. The diffuser was on with a gentle hum and lavender scent now filling the air. The monitor machine removed from the room. The only sound came from beyond the room. A click of heels on the linoleum floor, a grandmother on her way to visit. He leaned into her, brushing his lips over her forehead for a light kiss, tasting the sweet citrus face cream she needed after thirty hours in the dry hospital air. Now there was silence, calmness, tranquility. Their next chapter had begun. It was going to be a great one.

P.S. I had to use a picture of the dog or I would have given away the ending 🙂

December 5, 2021 – updated

Happy 30th Birthday to the inspiration of this assignment four years ago. My first born. My son, James Peirce Daly. It has been and continues to be, a great chapter.

P.S. I must have been a Teen Mom.


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