Sunday, September 17, 2006

chicken and potatoes: a writing exercise from 2005

From Pretend Writer...

Write a piece that contains the following words:

  1. potato
  2. store
  3. landing
  4. paper
  5. jaunt
  6. silver
  7. chilly
  8. variety
  9. package
  10. bump

Cecilia shifted the brown paper package from the butcher's counter under her right arm and stroked the unhideable bump of the baby girl that was expanding her way into the world. From the moment Cecilia realized she was pregnant, her hand, sometimes involuntarily, wandered to her belly to protect and to comfort.

Now, in the chilly aisles of the SuperMart as she browsed the variety of canned ravioli in silver tins, she suddenly longed for the closeness of her family. It was two Thanksgivings ago when she last saw them. When she closed her eyes she could still see them all seated around the dining table, her mother's traditional dinner aromas almost overwhelming her with joy.

She made her way over to the produce department, directly toward the heaping pile of Yukon Golds. Ripping a plastic produce bag from the roll, she selected a large potato, already envisioning a beautifully steaming mound of mashed potatoes on her dinner plate. When she pulled the third potato from the pile, her mouth watering with the buttery taste, she triggered an avalanche from the unstable mountain, and the potatoes came rolling off the table with a hundred thuds, landing on the green tiled. Momentarily frozen, and completely embarrassed, Cecilia quickly scanned the area to see if anyone had witnessed this humiliation. As she eased down onto her knees and started to gather the fallen potatoes into her arms, she felt a rush of hot tears.

This is silly, she thought, I'm crying over this? As she wiped the tears with the back of her hand, a man in rough denim jeans and work boots bent down on one knee and rolled several of the potatoes in front of him.

"Mind if I take these?" His voice startled her, and she was struck by the way his dark hair fell in front of his blue eyes.

"Hmm? Oh,, I don't mind," she sniffled.

"Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"No, it's okay. Just...hormones I guess." She stood up and brushed dust off her dress.

He recognized her then. The article in the local paper said she had just moved to Harrington a month ago, and was already opening a women's shelter downtown. It also said she was single.

"What?" she gave him a sideways smile, "You look like you've seen a ghost or something."

"No, I just recognize you from the article in The Trailblazer. I didn't expect that..."

"That I was pregnant? Ah, yes. They didn't mention that little fact, did they?"

The article was mostly about the new shelter, but neglected to delve deep enough into her past to dig up her own story. When the reporter had interviewed her for the piece, she wasn't quite showing then, and she hadn't told anyone about the baby yet. It was still her secret.

"I'm really sorry about what happened to you. I think it's really amazing that you're starting this shelter. It's very brave of you," he unloaded the potatoes from his arms back onto the overstocked table. "I'm Jonathan, by the way." His outstretched hand was rough from years of carpentry, but she didn't notice the tough calluses when she shook it.

Cecilia didn't know for sure, but she had a feeling that her little jaunt to the grocery store was about to result in more than just chicken and potatoes...


"Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled."

-- Dean Koontz

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