With writing, I’m always open to learning about new rules. I also love to experiment. If you don’t try, then you’ll never know.
In June, my writing buddies, Melissa and Zach, plus me gave ourselves a writing challenge.
I may be aging myself, but have you ever heard of the MASH game? It was a popular game for girls when I was in school. Basically, you created random categories, picked four options for each category, then selected your choices by counting your marks.
Our short story challenge was to come up with a “random” story. My picks were:
- Guy–Lucas, video game developer
- Girl–Gretchen, caterer
- Place–Asheville, NC
- Motivation–Failure, so need redemption
- Object–Row Boat
- Plot Device–Big Deadly Storm
I had to present each category into my short story. What a challenge! Having fun, I didn’t take my story too seriously. The main goal was finding motivation to write, which it helped tremendously. I know for a fact that I’m not big on disaster stories. However, I found out that I wouldn’t mind writing more dramas.
Here’s my “random MASH” story if you’re interested:
I Need Gretchen
by Yawatta Hosby
With a blanket draped over my shoulders, I’m still wearing the same shorts and t-shirt I had on three days ago. I can barely hold on to the cup of orange juice in my hand. I imagine that I look like one of those anorexic guys who lose weight for a movie role, except I’m not cute with my disheveled hair, bad breath, stinky armpits, and caked mud on my wet clothes. This isn’t a movie. It’s my life.
A chubby older lady approaches me, a clipboard and pen in her hand. Sympathy in her voice, she asks, “Can I have your name please?”
“Nice to meet you, Lucas. Are you with anyone else?”
I slam my eyes shut, holding back tears. “I’m all alone.”
* * * *
Walking up the long, gravel driveway, I passed hickory trees that had some squirrels fighting over acorns. The front yard was planted with perennials, dogwood, and Virginia creepers. With the Victorian house, I could tell the high-end party would probably take one stern look at me and realize I didn’t belong. Heaven forbid I came from a middle class family in Virginia instead of a rich family in Asheville, North Carolina.
It probably didn’t help that I was going to crash this party. I couldn’t help it; I needed to see my sister Gretchen.
In the gigantic backyard, I noticed her. I could point out my sister’s auburn Mohawk anywhere. She was kissing ass to one of the guests. She always tilted her head to the side and placed her hand over her heart with a loud laugh when she was kissing ass. It worked on our parents all the time.
I could see the lightning flash of recognition in her eyes as Gretchen caught sight of me in her peripheral vision. She had turned her head slowly like she was hoping I’d disappear. Wide-eyed, she motioned for me to leave. Standing still, I ignored her because that’s what little brothers were supposed to do. They were supposed to annoy their big sisters. I read it in a handbook somewhere.
Gliding her way through the crowd like a heavy wind, she finally stood in front of me. I leaned up against an oak tree, anticipating the third degree, knowing I had to charm my way out of a lecture.
“Lucas, what are you doing here?”
“I need your help.”
She glanced at me, concern in her eyes. “Please tell me you have a place to stay. Why haven’t you invited me to your dorm room yet?”
It wasn’t easy, but the words poured out of my mouth like a flash flood. I spilled the beans of flunking out of South College-Asheville my freshmen year. If mom and dad knew, then they wouldn’t have let me come back into town. I couldn’t stay a prisoner at home, being treated like a kid, seeing the disappointment in dad’s eyes every day. I wanted to stay with my sister because I knew she’d always protect me. She never judged; at least not harshly like parents tended to do.
“Do mom and dad know?”
I shook my head.
Without hesitation, she said, ” You can sleep on my couch, but I’m not lying to mom and dad. You better hope they don’t ask me anything.”
I wrapped my arms around her quickly, so she couldn’t protest. I squeezed her tightly. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
After I let go, Gretchen looked around the yard to see if anyone had been watching, which I found amusing. It must be exhausting caring what others think of you all of the time. She should try and be more of a free spirit like me.
“Maybe you can help me run my business until you get on your feet, dropout.”
“Ha-ha very funny. Don’t worry about me. I got things covered.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “How?”
“I applied to art school. You know I’ve never cared about business, but I’m into video games. I’ll go back to school, and…” I put a big emphasis on the word ‘and,’ knowing Gretchen would appreciate that I had a well thought out plan. “Next week, I intern for Mash Videos. They’re impressed that I developed video games in high school with Uncle Mike.”
“I’m proud of you. I wish dad would support your decision.”
“You know how he is. He thinks I’m just playing around.”
“Well, I got your back.”
* * * *
Babies cry around me. Parents hold their weeping children. I can’t ignore the loud noises. I can’t find silence. I can’t find a place where I can be alone. But, I’m alive…
Instead of staring at the basketball rim, I scan the room. Everyone looks worn out and emotionally drained like me, swollen red eyes from crying, bones sticking out from hunger. I wonder if my life would have been different if I had kept my basketball scholarship to Virginia Tech. I was a fool following my high school sweetheart to North Carolina. She ended up breaking my heart by the end of first semester. I failed every class because of depression. How embarrassing is that?
It doesn’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things, though.
A little girl in pigtails shivers in the cold. She won’t stop staring at me. Maybe I remind her of someone? I smile at her. If I squint my eyes hard enough, she resembles a younger version of Gretchen with doe-like hazel eyes and light caramel skin.
I slide across the bleachers until I’m sitting very close to the young girl and her mother. Before the mom can object, I take the blanket off of me and place it on top of them. The young girl smiles.
“Thank you, young man.”
It hurts to speak, so I just sit in silence. Who knows, we may all die in here. The rain hasn’t let up, sounding like gunshots whenever it hits the tin roof.
I sigh when I notice the chubby woman approach my side of the gym again, clipboard and pen still in hand. Yelling, she says, “We’re running low on supplies. Are there any volunteers who are willing to look for any trapped survivors in the city?”
The chubby woman stares at me like she’s hoping that I’ll raise my hand. Can I be a hero? Do I really have a choice? We can’t expect women or children to risk their lives. I wonder if they would look at me differently if they knew I was only nineteen. I can hear my dad’s voice: “Be a man, son.”
* * * *
Gretchen sequestered me in the kitchen with her staff. When she wasn’t paying attention, I hid on the third floor balcony. I looked down at the guests and decorated landscape, manmade lake included.
I was proud of my sister. She had managed to follow mom’s footsteps. They both attended a prestigious culinary school, worked for a famous chef in Dublin, then made names for themselves in the US. The only difference, mom worked in a restaurant, and Gretchen started her own catering service.
Hopefully, one day I’d become successful like them. Dad wouldn’t let me live it down if I didn’t. He was a circuit judge. The day I told him I had no desire to ever be a judge or lawyer was the day I broke him. Covering the resentment, he urged me to get a business degree. He wouldn’t even entertain the thought of his son becoming an artist. He said art was for wimps. A stubborn man, that one.
The wind swept colorful leaves up into the air like a baton ribbon. I glanced up at the sky. It was still sunny, no clouds in sight. It started to drizzle though. I stood against the wall of the house, protecting my dreads from the rain. I scanned the party one last time. No one seemed affected by the drizzle. I hid in a room and took a nap.
Hours later, I woke up to Gretchen screaming my name. Heavy winds shook the house. Finding my balance, I opened the balcony door and peaked over. The rough rain almost knocked me down. I held into the rail.
“Lucas, we have to get outta here!”
I could barely hear her. I felt a sense of dread seeing her frightened expression. My eyes never left hers. “I’m coming down!”
The guy she spoke with earlier grabbed her arm and whispered something into her ear. He closed his eyes, waiting for something.
I couldn’t see behind the house unless I ran to the other side of the room.
Gretchen and the guy vanished. A gigantic wave forced them under water. Windows broke from the impact, the railing trapped me. It felt like I was under a waterfall. “Gretchen! Gretchen!” Once water filled my lungs, I began choking.
No! I had to save my sister! Please help me!
I had sat on that Victorian house roof for three days before a rescue team found me. My body was wrinkled and white like baby powder. I just kept rocking back and forth, glaring into the distance. They probably thought I was a mute because I wouldn’t answer their questions. For three days, I had watched Gretchen’s body, face down, dead in the lake. Just floating. Floating like a wilted flower in a puddle. It haunted me. I didn’t know what stopped me from stepping off the roof and drowning myself.
Maybe guilt? I should have protected my sister. I should be dead like her. I had planned on wasting away on that roof. I planned to starve myself. I would die a painful, slow death. I sobbed uncontrollably when help arrived. Not tears of joy, but tears of hopelessness. They had ruined my plan of joining my sister. How could I live without her?
* * * *
I’m in a rowboat with two other guys. I have no idea how we’re going to fit more people in our boat if we find survivors. The rain stings my skin like sleet. Water completely drowns the streets of Asheville. Roofs are the only visible parts on buildings. The gym was built on a mountain, but heaven forbid, there’s a mudslide.
I don’t even have the strength to paddle anymore. What’s the point? Dead bodies are everywhere. I’m not strong enough for this. I need my big sister. I need Gretchen.
I really pushed myself by experimenting with non-linear plot and creating a drama. It would’ve been too easy to stay in my comfort zone, creating a suspense. I’m happy with the end product because I learned a lot about my writer self.