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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!


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

Exercise #23: Too Much


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 #19: Lead line: “Every morning I sit across from you…”

Every morning I sit across from you, and you stare back at me with a blank screen. I’ve configured you so that the WriteRoom word processor’s solid-black window hides everything else on the screen—the other applications, the desktop, the menus, the dock. I chose these settings so it would be just you and me when I sit down to write every day for the first of two 25-minute periods. The top line of the blank page is dark gray, and an insertion point in antique white blinks impatiently at me.

Some days, I feel as if you’re taunting me. “So you think you’re a writer, do you?” On better days, you are …more

Exercise #18: Food That Defines a Place

Note: I wrote the following exercise at the end of a long day when I didn’t have much energy or imagination left for writing. I’m only posting it on my blog because I don’t want to upset my loyal readers by leaving a gap at Exercise #18 in the series of exercises on which I’ve been chipping away. I don’t usually inflict the raw, unfiltered stream-of-consciousness emanations of my tortured brain on anyone else—except my friend Jo. So unless you’re reeeeally bored—or one of the aforementioned loyal readers—I’d skip this one if I were you. (No, really.)

It’s very late, and I’ve had a long day. I was up early without very much sleep, and I had a mountain of work to get done before …more

Exercise #17: Things That Matter

Back to the Garden

Grass. I have a real problem with grass. For starters, it’s not much to look at. Sure, it’s green. But it’s a monotonous, uninteresting green. And then we have a few weeks of drought, and it’s not even all that green. And what does it do? It’s not a food source. It doesn’t provide much in the way of food for insects or animals, either, since we don’t let it get tall enough to flower or produce seeds. In fact, you can make a good argument that it’s actually bad for insects and animals, since it supplants natural vegetation that would be more likely to produce something they can use for food or building material. A grassy lawn is a monoculture, a genetically vulnerable and unnatural creation incapable of …more

Exercise #16: Annus Mirabilis

I always said I would make the perfect lottery winner. I would not be one of those assholes who win $37 million and manage to blow through it in two years, then end up on food stamps or something. No, I had a plan. If I ever won the lottery, I would invest the money. I would put some into mutual funds and some into safe stocks, and a little bit into the stocks that are too risky for my retirement fund, but that I’ve always thought about gambling on. And I would set some goals for growth and income. Whatever I managed to earn on my investments, some percentage of it would be reinvested, and I would only draw on the excess income for spending money. And if that meant I had to …more

Exercise #15: Carrying Something Heavy

The week before school started in my freshman year of college at the University of Dallas, I was hanging around with some new friends in the University Center when someone—I no longer remember who—came looking for strong boys to help with something. As the biggest and tallest in the group, I could think of no face-saving way to beg off, so I volunteered, along with three or four others. We followed our taskmaster out the north side doors of the UC, across the patio, down the hill and through the woods to the Art Center. There, in one of the workshops, we saw the object for which our help was needed: a huge three-sided bar built of plywood and particle-board covered with …more

Exercise #14: Lead Line: “I cannot help noticing all the things that…”

I cannot help noticing all the things that I let get in the way of writing. I came in here more than an hour ago, and my agenda was clear: to write for another half hour, including coming up with something in response to this prompt, and then to get my ass to bed at a reasonable hour. But no. I had to have a quick look at Facebook. And then I had to see what was going on over at two or three other “social networking” sites (read: places to meet guys). Nothing was going on, but I didn’t let that stop me from distracting myself there for a while. Then back to Facebook, because I was thinking about what I’d said to my young cousin, Michelle, about maybe setting up a fan page for the Gumnick family. But then I determined that they don’t really accommodate family sites in the “fan page” model, so I had to figure out where to go to set up a group, and then I had to nose around to figure out which category a family group gets filed into. And then I had to figure out a name and description for the group. And then I had to find jussssst the right photo for the group page. And then I had to tweak some of the wording a little. And send an invitation to all of the family members who are on Facebook. And then remember a few in-laws I’d forgotten. Then I had to go back to one of those other sites to reply to a couple of messages that had come in while I was tinkering on Facebook.

And mixed in with all of that, there was a fair amount of staring blankly at the screen and thinking, “I should stop messing around and get to writing, or I’m going to be up half the night. But first, let me see what this thing over here is.” [Sound of mouse click.]

But now I’m here, and I’m writing. So get off my back already.

Note: The title of this assignment is self-explanatory, I think. It didn’t inspire any flashes of creative brilliance (or even dull glows thereof), but I’m sticking to a “warts and all” policy of posting everything I write in this workshop.

© 2009 Edward F. Gumnick