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Exercise #29: How Did We Ever Manage?

“How did we ever manage to find each other?” The question wasn’t always rhetorical. In the early years, you’d invite me to reminisce for hours about how we met for the first time at a mutual friend’s party. How you hesitated before giving me your number. How I heard that you were finding your way out of a relationship, so I never summoned the nerve to call. Then we didn’t see one another again for two years. How we used to enjoy retelling each other the story of our chance meeting at the museum …more

Exercise #28: Movie Star

Hollywood, CA—Entertainment industry sources are buzzing today with the gossip that the world’s last remaining noncelebrity, Phil Stackfield, a tax accountant from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is engaged to become the fifth husband of model, country singer, and celebrity cage-fighting phenom Darla Chartreuse. Chartreuse, 27, who began life as Darlene Carter, is the platinum-blonde star attraction of Fox Ultra Reality Channel’s Celebrity Death Match and the singer-songwriter who scored Grammy gold last year with …more

Exercise #27: Evasion

Jeremy woke up one morning, sat up in bed, looked at Boot—perched on the pile of Newsweeks under the window—and said out loud, “Today is the day.” He swung his legs off the side of the bed, careful to place his feet in the narrow path that led to the bathroom.

He said it again, louder this time: “Today is the day.” At the sound of Jeremy’s voice, Boot sprang from the stack of magazines to the bed. Some papers fluttered to the floor. …more

Exercise #26: Not Wearing It

Dr. Schollman says it doesn’t matter if I wear my hat or not, and that the important thing is that I take the pills, take all the pills, take the pills every day, the blue pills that the pharmacist counts with big steel tweezers on a white tray into the bottle one two three four five and so on until there is one for every day of the month and then I am supposed to come back for more, But it’s very important, Billy, says the pharmacist—this is the pharmacist talking to me now, not Dr. S—It’s very important, Billy, that you take your pill every day.

But I know that the pills are like the hat …more

Exercise #25: The Halfway Mark

In Half

Andrea told people later that she was driven by rage, but the truth was that too little sleep and too much late-night TV put the idea in her head.

James had called as she was washing the dinner dishes to say that he wanted to come by in the morning to get his half of the stuff they’d bought together. When he had said he was ready to move on with his life, she had known that was code for “ready to start the parade of women” through his crappy apartment. Three years earlier, Andrea had brought up the rear of his last such parade.

The commercial was one she’d seen dozens of times without paying much attention. An idiot in a lime-green …more

Exercise #24: Busted!

Super

Apartment 1A has never given me so much as a McDonald’s gift certificate at Christmas time, even though she has thousands of dollars under her mattress.

1B is a filthy pig. Clean your bathroom, man!

I once showed up to replace the window unit in 1C and found Mrs. S. still in her nightie at 4:30 in the afternoon. I thought I heard a noise from the hall closet. At 5:30, Mr. S. said hello to me while I was washing the sidewalk. He looked like he was …more

Wondering why my posts are showing up here out of order?

I’m glad you asked.

I was 10 days into a 50-day writing workshop called “50/50 Fall 2008” when Hurricane Ike arrived last September. Several days of pandemonium and 11 days without power pushed the workshop to the back burner, where it remained until recently. Except for one anomalous book review, I didn’t make time to put anything else on the blog for most of a year.

A couple of weeks ago, I revived the 50/50 workshop as part of the process of coaching a friend through an exploration of her own writing. I’d been working the exercises for 10 days or so before it occurred to me that I should post them at Incompleat Iconoclast. I’m putting up the newer pieces as I write them, but in the interest of not burying my few subscribers in a whole bunch of messages at once, I’m spreading out posting the older ones until I get caught up. (But I’m dating them at the time I wrote them so that they’ll appear in chronological order on the blog.)

Write to me if you want to know more!

Exercise #23: Too Much

Outgoing

Today is the day. I’m going to leave here. I’m going to make a couple of sandwiches, wrap them in waxed paper, put them in one of the brown paper bags that I asked Morena to buy when she brought me groceries last week, and I’ll add a bag of baked potato chips and a can of Coke. Then I’ll put my lunch in the new backpack that I bought online from Timberland, along with a couple of magazines. I will walk out the front door, I will lock it behind me, and I will take the three flights of stairs to the ground floor. I’ll walk out of the building and …more

Exercise #22: Lead Line: “I was so tired that night, I fell asleep with my clothes on…”

Contrary to every science fiction or horror movie stereotype, they came at about 11:30 in the morning, not in the dead of night. I guess, strictly speaking, it was the dead of night somewhere, because they touched down simultaneously in at least three dozen places around the globe. But it was 11:30 a.m. here, and the last thought I remember having before I heard the shriek of something very large braking in the atmosphere was, “I should think about lunch.”

And then, like everyone else, I raced out of the building to find out what was making that awful noise, and I saw a huge gray cylinder streak across the sky pushing a wave of white heat ahead of it, trailing a stream of white vapor. It slowed noticeably as I watched. The sound of its passage diminished until all that was left …more

Exercise #20: Paper That Changed Your Life

Mental Note #7639471

Larry M. was my roommate for the semester we spent at the University of Dallas Rome Campus. He was one of the gang that traveled to London together before the start of the semester for a week and then took the train to Rome by way of Paris. He was my companion on several weekend trips out of Rome, too, including Florence, Munich, Salzberg, and the ill-fated attempt to get to Malta for Easter, which was aborted in Siracusa, Siciliy, when we found that the boats were all booked up, and then turned semi-tragic when we were robbed at gunpoint in a pizzeria in Messina on the night before Easter.

Larry used to carry a tiny notebook everywhere he went, into which he would write notes about photos he’d taken, places to visit and sights to see, addresses, hours of operation, Italian phrases, and so on. …more