Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Inspiration/Block (for the writer) (05/20/10)
TITLE: Phyllis' Last Stand
By Marita Vandertogt
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“I can’t do this. Nothing is coming out. I have nothing to say. Nothing.” Phyllis flung her arms into the air and snapped the computer shut. Her bottom lip curled into a frown as she walked over to the fridge, her beat up mules slopping against the floor in a kind of defeat.
“If I can’t write, I’ll eat. Eating helps me write.” She directs her words to Granger, a long skinny German Sheppard lying stretched on the floor, opening his left eye wide enough to acknowledge her voice. The fridge door opens, hitting Phyllis in the face with a waft of cool air, a white mist against the warm room. “No,” she slammed the door, hard, as quickly as she opened it. The ceramic tea pot on top of the fridge rattled with the force. “No,” she said again, confusing Granger now as to what his part in this loud firm No, might have been. Phyllis walked back over to the computer, sat down in front of it, addressing it as a kind of enemy at her mercy.
“This is it,” she says to the lid as it flips open once more. The screen stares back at her, still as blank as it was when she began at 7:39 this morning. Three cups of coffee later and a brisk walk around the block in her pyjamas and extra long sweatshirt still didn’t bring the desired result. Her first sentence.
Stream of conscious, she says to herself. Just write. Remember, just write and edit later. She talks to herself, trying to find that bit of encouragement that would move her past the empty spot in her brain. Her red chipped nails tap against the keys. Still nothing. Just type then, she says out loud, bringing Granger to her side for some kind of assistance, confusion in his big brown eyes. She strokes the back of his ears, and his eyes glaze over in pleasure. Get your leash, she tells him. We’ll walk again. Maybe we’ll run into the muse along the way. This is getting me nowhere.
Out the door she went again, pulled by Granger who was happy to be the distraction she needed right now. The mid morning air was cool, clean. Phyllis breathed it in, pulling it into her lungs in long slow breaths. Granger pulled to get ahead, and she picked up her pace. “I’m not a writer,” she tells him. “I can’t be. A writer writes, right? No matter what. You can’t wait for inspiration. You can’t. It may never come.” She stops talking to Granger as a jogger runs across her path. Then starts again. “A writer would be writing right now. What am I doing, waiting for something special to happen, wasting time?” With that, she pulled the leash and headed back to home. Once inside, the computer laid there, still a threat, still the enemy. “I’ll show you,” she says, snapping the lid shut once more. “I’ll show you.”
Later that afternoon Phyllis lay on the couch, her mules dangling from the end of her feet, a look of satisfaction on her lips. This is what was missing, she says to Granger, tossing a short chewed HB pencil in the air as she snapped the handwritten pages from the tablet. This is it. Here’s my story, and all I needed was a good old fashion pencil and paper.
She took the worded sheets and moved back to the computer, typing them quickly into the machine. It needed little editing.
“There,” her eyes half closed in a look of completion. Finished. All I needed was an old fashioned method of writing. Never mind waiting for the muse. Give me a good old piece of paper and pencil anytime. “Now,” she said to Granger. “Off I go to the fridge for a slice of celebratory cake, complete with a scoop of ice cream.
Tomorrow I buy a year’s supply of pencils and sharpeners, and paper. Granger raised his head from the kitchen floor for only a moment, laying it back down again. He was used to the outbursts, as he waited for his own piece of the cake, a guaranteed event every time she began another story.
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