First Day of Prompt Class

Today was an exciting first day of Writing Prompts class. This has been the class I’ve been most excited to teach from day one, and so far it is everything I’d hoped it would be. There is a good mix of students with a variety of experience and the spirit of enthusiastic acceptance is electrifying. Thursday just became my favorite day of the week.

We talked about The Iron Writer’s challenges, nanofiction and why prompts are important for writers.

Today’s prompt, given by a returning student, was:

There is an extremely cheap house or room to rent, but there are two conditions to living there. First, the housekeeper has to stay with the house. Second, you can never move the furniture.

I had fun with this one. Laura and I wrote up our different versions as an example of how different people can see the same thing. I won’t include hers here as she plans to publish it, but here’s mine for fun. I liked where this is going and may expand on it in the future.

There’s still room for sign ups. Information on registering is available here!

Vacancy

vacancy“What happens if I move the furniture?” he asked. “You won’t rent a room to me?”

“Just don’t,” she said. She narrowed her eyes for emphasis. He grinned boyishly and put his foot against the edge of the coffee table.

“Will your daddy get mad?” He scooted the table forward a centimeter.

“Don’t!” She smacked his leg off and pulled the table back quickly. She carefully matched the legs to the matching indents already in the carpet.

“I’m serious,” she said. “Maybe you shouldn’t have answered the ad.”

“Don’t be stupid,” he said. “The rent is crazy cheap and I need a place to live.” He leaned forward and nuzzled her neck. “You must be lonely in this big, empty house all on your lonesome.”

“I never said I was alone,” she said. “I just said I didn’t live with anyone.”

“So why does it matter if I move the furniture?” He tried to pull her towards him for a kiss, but she held back and pushed him away.

“It just does matter. My father was blind and he hates it when he can’t find his way. He needs to know exactly where everything is. Just don’t move anything.” Irritated, he sat back and looked at her.

“You’re a real freak,” he said. “You advertise a room but then tell me I can’t move anything. How can you not be alone if you don’t live with anyone? You need help.” He stood up, making sure to scoot the coffee table several inches in the process. “Oops, guess I moved it.” He started towards the door.

“Now you have serious problems,” she said from behind him. Her voice had a flat, toneless quality. He turned around to see her sitting straight up on the couch, her eyes rolled up so that she was staring at him from the whites. Her lip was twitching up on one side as if she was trying to suppress a smile.

“Okay, I’m done,” he said. “I wouldn’t rent from you if it was free.” He backed towards the front door. The coffee table in front of her suddenly flung itself at him, hitting him head on. He had no time to react but flew back into the china hutch against the wall behind him. China and glassware smashed to the floor around him. Stunned, he fell forward to his knees, cutting himself.

“You’re just making it worse for yourself,” she said. “Now you’ve made a mess. Daddy hates a mess.” He looked up to see her standing and facing him, eyes still rolled up in her head. Behind her, the hutch rattled against the wall and then came down on him. Broken shards cascaded over him like a glass waterfall before he was shattered himself beneath the wooden monstrosity. Silence settled over the room along with the dust. Many minutes went by before she moved.

She walked through the familiar dark room, blindly, and grabbed a broom. She didn’t need her eyes in familiar territory. Her lip was twitching up on one side again, as if she was trying to suppress a smile. Finally, she let it go–a toothy, lopsided grimace that gleamed like a death’s head in the dark.

“Don’t worry, Daddy. I’ll clean up my mess.” She started giggling while she swept up fragments of prospective renter and glass from the carpet. As she cleaned up, a telephone rang from somewhere in the house, echoing through silent, empty rooms. After three rings, an answering machine kicked on with a prerecorded message followed by a beep.

“Hello,” came a young man’s voice over the speaker. “I’m calling about the room for rent?”

Again, the girl giggled in the empty house where she wasn’t ever alone before she picked up the phone and answered.

“I still have a vacancy,” she said. “When would you like to come by?”

Written by Angela Yuriko Smith

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith's work has been published in several print and online publications, including the “Horror Writers Association's Poetry Showcase” vols. 2-4, “Christmas Lites” vols. 1-6 and the “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthology. She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award.
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