24 July 2009

With a Little Help From My Friends or, In This Case, Friend

A week or so ago I had the challenge of being in a 24 hour short story contest. At 12 pm sharp, CST, Writer's Weekly sends out a writing prompt and a word limit. Each contestant then takes the prompt and has to incorporate it in some way into the story. The finished product must be emailed back before 24 hours have expired.

I've always liked extemporaneous assignments. (I am also quite proud that I can spell "extemporaneous"!) I enjoy the challenge of whipping out something readable and entertaining in a short time frame. However, fiction is not my forté and my results are usually mediocre.

Such was the case this time. I finished my story and then read it and thought Bleh! Lame! So I cried out for help on my Facebook page. Seeing my S.O.S., Carlyo jumped to the rescue. She gave some ideas for a trouble spot and said she wanted to read the whole tale. So I emailed it to her for review.

She sent it back with a few revisions that seriously improved it. In fact, I think her tweaking took it from mediocre to pretty-darned-good! Unfortunately, I didn't get her email until after the deadline, so I had to send in the lame version.

*sigh*

Oh well, at least I now have a reasonably good story that I can doing something with.

See what you think. Here's the prompt:

The girl was licking the cotton candy crystals from her fingertips when she felt the first raindrops. She joined the other visitors in racing for shelter as the drops turned into a summer afternoon torrent. She ducked into the nearest red-and-white striped tent, almost running into a woman with caked make-up and large rings on every finger. As the girl started to offer an apologetic smile, the woman looked up. Her wrinkled face registered instant recognition and she screamed, "It's you!"

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Here's what I ended up submitting for the contest:

The Tempest

Darla was licking the cotton candy crystals from her fingertips when she felt the first raindrops. She joined the other visitors in racing for shelter as the drops turned into a summer afternoon torrent. She ducked into the nearest red-and-white striped tent, almost running into a elderly woman. As the girl started to offer an apology, the woman looked up. Her wrinkled face registered instant recognition and she screamed, "It's you!"

Darla stared back in confusion; She had never seen the woman before, "Um..."

"Why aren't you home taking care of Susa?" the angry voice demanded.

Darla took a step back. The rain splashed onto her sandaled feet as her eyes darted back and forth seeking a way of escape. Lightning flashed; Thunder boomed. The other fairgoers knotted together in tight clusters, shouting to each other over the storm. No one seemed to notice her awkward predicament.

"Um," she began timidly, "I'm not sure who you think I am, but I don't know you and I've never heard of anyone named Susa. I think you have me confused with someone else." Darla gave a weak smile.

The woman's eyes blazed, "Jenny, you should be ashamed of yourself, playing games like this! I may be old, but I'm no fool!"

Darla's eyes went wide as the strange woman grabbed her by the arm. She tried to wriggle away, but the old crone's grip was unexpectedly strong. Darla opened her mouth to scream, but the old lady leaned in close, "Don't you dare make a scene, you little imp. We're going home right now and check on Susa. Who knows what sort of trouble that puppy may be in all alone!" She tugged Darla away from the safety of the tent and out into the storm. Darla struggled, but she was small for her twelve years and the woman's ring-encrusted hands were large and vice like.

As they scuffled in the rain, Darla, digging in both heels, yelled as loud as she could, "Help me! Someone, please help me!"

The old lady stopped cold and slapped her across the face, "Jenny, that's enough! I won't have any more of this smart ass behavior!" Just as she grabbed the sobbing girl and began to drag her again, a young bearded man who had been sheltering in the nearby goat barn charged up to them.

"Gramma Price!" he shouted, "What in the world do you think you're doing? Let go of that little girl! NOW!"

The old lady lifted one penciled eyebrow at him. "Who the devil are you?" she demanded. "Go mind your own business!"

The man wrested her hands away from Darla and held her wrists tightly. The child slumped into a sobbing heap on the ground. Concerned bystanders ran toward the scene crying, "What's going on here? Is everything alright? What are you doing to that dear old woman?" Gramma Price's voice rose above the others, "OW! OW! OW! He's HURTING me!"

A young woman dropped down to check on Darla as a couple of teen boys sprinted with alarm toward the bearded man. One of them grabbed him from behind. "No, no!" he shouted. "The old lady is my grandmother and she's senile. She was hurting the little girl!"

"He's lying!" the old woman screeched, "LYING!" Rain streamed off her sun hat and her eyes were wild. The two boys stepped back, looking at one another uncertainly.

The woman holding Darla gently lifted her face, "Honey? Are you OK? What happened?"

Darla looked up anxiously, "That crazy old lady tried to drag me away..." She began to sob again, collapsing in the woman's arms.

"Jenny ran away!" the old woman declared. "I was just taking her back home where she belongs."

"That's not Jenny. Aunt Jenny is 58! That's some poor child that you are terrorizing and YOU are MY grandmother," the bearded man stated again.

"I AM NOT!" she shot back. "I don't even know you! OW! OW! OW!"

He continued to hold her struggling arms and shouted to be heard. "My wife," he gestured toward Darla's comforter, "and I brought Gramma here to enjoy the fair. We left her in the quilt tent while we looked at the animals. Apparently it was too much excitement for her."

"I'll give YOU excitement!" Gramma Price kicked vigorously at his shins. One of the teens grabbed her from behind. Thunder rumbled. Two security guards ran toward the commotion. One of them tackled the teen who was holding Gramma Price. The other quickly squatted down to check on the little girl.

Free now, Gramma Price began shuffling away from the mayhem as fast as she could.

"Good grief!" the grandson called out. "Stop her before she hurts someone else!" Startled, both the guards left their respective charges and ran after her. Once they'd caught up with her, she suddenly stopped, her head cocked to one side. "Alright boys, you got me. Take me in." She held out her wrists as though waiting to be cuffed. The rain began to let up.

Her grandson sighed and limped forward, "Sorry for all the trouble, this is my grandmother, Janelle Price. She's 86 and she's rather senile. She got a little agitated..."

Darla sat up straighter and watched as the guards cautiously set the old lady on a bench in a nearby tent. She seemed calm, so they let go of her arms as they wrote their notes and made their calls. Her grandson collapsed next to her.

Darla let the woman help her to her feet. The clouds parted and the sun peeked out.

The storm was over.

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And here's the "New and Improved" version, thanks to Carlyo!

Darla was licking the cotton candy crystals from her fingertips when she felt the first raindrops. She joined the other visitors in racing for shelter as the drops turned into a summer afternoon torrent. She ducked into the nearest red-and-white striped tent, almost running into a elderly woman. As the girl started to offer an apology, the woman looked up. Her wrinkled face registered instant recognition and she screamed, "It's you!"

Darla stared back in confusion. She had never seen the woman before.

The old lady lifted one penciled eyebrow and scolded, "Why aren't you home taking care of Susa?"

"Um, I'm not sure who you think I am, but I don't know you or anyone named Susa. You must have me confused with someone else." Darla gave a weak smile.

The woman's eyes blazed, "Jenny, you should be ashamed of yourself, playing games like this! I may be old, but I'm no fool!"

Darla took a step back. Her eyes darted back and forth seeking a way of escape. Lightning flashed; Thunder boomed. The other fairgoers knotted together in tight clusters, their voices roaring above the storm. No one seemed to notice her awkward predicament.

The petite twelve year old's eyes widened as the strange woman grabbed her arm. She jerked away, but the old crone had quite a grip. She attempted to scream, but the old lady clapped her wrinkled hand over Darla's mouth. "Don't you dare make a scene, you little imp. We're going home right now and check on Susa. Who knows what sort of trouble that puppy may be in all alone!" The woman tugged Darla away from the safety of the tent and out into the storm. Lightning cracked. Darla quivered. The woman's ring-encrusted hands dug into Darla's small wrists, holding her like a vice, as she pulled her through the rain.

Darla dug in her sandled heels and called out, "Help me! Someone, please help me!"

The old lady stopped cold and slapped her across the face, "Jenny, that's enough!" She dragged the sobbing girl through the midway.

A bearded man charged up to them. His eyes surverying them both. "Gramma Price! What in the world do you think you're doing? Let go of that girl now!"

The old lady scowled "Who the devil are you? Go mind your own business!"

The man wrestled her hands away from Darla and clamped the woman's wrists. The child slumped into a sobbing heap on the ground.

Bystanders ran toward the scene. "What's going on here? Is everything alright? What are you doing to that dear old woman?" Gramma Price's voice rose above the others, "Ow! Ow! Ow! He's hurting me!"

A young woman dropped down to check on Darla as a couple of teens sprinted with alarm toward John. One of the boys grabbed him from behind. "No, no!" John shouted. "That's my grandmother. She's not in her right mind. She was hurting the little girl!"

"He's lying!" the old woman screeched, "Lying" Rain streamed off her sun hat and her eyes were wild. The two boys stepped back.

The woman holding Darla gently lifted her face, "Honey? Are you OK? What happened?"

Darla looked up anxiously, "That crazy old lady tried to drag me away . . . wanted me to take care of her dog . . . Susa." She began to sob again and collapsed into the woman's arms.

The young woman looked up at her husband. Susa had been dead for years.

"Jenny ran away!" The old woman's face was a puddle of frustration. "I was just taking her back home where she belongs."

"That's not Jenny, Gramma. Aunt Jenny is 58! That's some poor child that you are terrorizing and I'm John, your grandson".

"You are not!" she shot back. "I don't have a grandson." Gramma Price howled in pain. "Let me go you, brute."

John kept her in his grip though she to tried to wriggle free. "Calm down . . . now!" His eyes dashed about the embarassing scene. The wet crowd begged for an explanation. John's voice rose above the others. "My wife," he gestured toward Darla's comforter, "and I brought my grandmother to the the fair. She insisted on staying to enjoy the quilt tent while we looked at the animals across the way. She seemed content. Apparently all the people and then the storm were too much excitement for her."

"I'll give you excitement!" Gramma Price kicked his shins with vigor. One of the teens grabbed her from behind. Gramma squirmed. Thunder rumbled. Two security guards ran toward the commotion. One of them tackled the youth who was holding Gramma Price. The other quickly squatted down to check on the cowering girl.

Gramma slipped free and shuffled away from the mayhem as fast as her exhausted legs would take her.

"Good grief!" John bellowed. "Stop her before she hurts someone else!"

At attention, the guards left their respective charges and went after her. Once they'd caught up with her, she halted, cocked to one side. "Alright boys, you got me. Take me in." She held out her wrists as though waiting to be cuffed. The rain began to let up.

John sighed and limped forward, "Sorry for all the trouble. This is my grandmother, Janelle Price. She's 86. Rather senile. She got a little agitated"

Instantly the old woman's eyes puddled with tears. A slight croak attempted to escape her throat, but trailed off.

Darla sat up straighter and watched as the guards ushered her assailant to a bench in a nearby tent. She seemed calm, so they let go of her arms as they wrote their notes and made their calls. Her grandson collapsed next to her and wrapped his arm around her damp shoulders.

Darla let John's wife help her to her feet. The clouds parted and the sun peeked out.

The storm was over.

******************************************

8 comments:

anno said...

Groovy, this is fabulous -- both versions! I'm glad to see you taking up the challenge, happier yet to see the results. Sure like Darla, and I think you've got Gramma Price perfectly captured; I think I've known one or two like her in my time.

groovyoldlady said...

Anno, I count that as high praise coming from you. Thank You!!

Bear said...

Here's my effort...

The girl was licking the cotton candy crystals from her fingertips when she felt the first raindrops. She joined the other visitors in racing for shelter as the drops turned into a summer afternoon torrent. She ducked into the nearest red-and-white striped tent, almost running into a woman with caked make-up and large rings on every finger. As the girl started to offer an apologetic smile, the woman looked up. Her wrinkled face registered instant recognition and she screamed, "It's you!" The girl looked up with recognition in here eyes, "Yes, Grandma Price, it is."

What do you think...? Now be honest, I can take it.

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

What a fun exercise! I do think the second version is better -- more action? better description? -- but I enjoyed reading the first version too.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Good Luck Groovy! They look good. I love the 24 hour contest but haven't entered for awhile. Eventhough I never win I always have a good story to send out. Two of my losing stories have gone on to be published. So if you don't make it through, you should send yours out.

groovyoldlady said...

Bear...I like your version best. It is short and get's right to the heart of the matter without alot of unecessary drama. Thank you for your thoughtful input.

writercorinna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
writercorinna said...

Thank you for sharing your story! And thank you for allowing me to share mine. Good luck! Is this your first 24 hour contest. It is my second but I did not make the deadline for the first. This one I wrote in about thrity minutes! First contest I was trying to write the full 24 hours...