Writing Exercise, Sentence Stealing

Here is the first part of a short story I started. The prompt came from Poets & Writers.com:

Sentence Stealing:

In Writers Recommend, author Alix Ohlin writes: “When I’m in direst need of inspiration, I do what I call ‘sentence stealing.’ I find a sentence from a writer I admire and write it down. ‘In the beginning I left messages in the street.’ Or, ‘Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ Then I write my own version of the sentence, focusing only on its rhythms: by which I mean, replacing a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb. What’s left is a ghostly echo of the original sentence with no relationship to its actual content. And I follow that new sentence wherever it takes me, down the road to an unfolding story.” Using Ohlin’s method, write a story of your own.

Taken from Rebecca Stead’s “When You Reach Me,”: (P.1): “So Mom got the postcard today.”

Well, we finally got the bill yesterday. It all happened one week a few months ago. I had just finished my last day of work, and it would be two weeks until I started my new job. I would also be starting school again, for the first time in years, that fall. Sean had finished his Bachelor’s degree, and he had given his two weeks notice with a month off before he started his new job. We didn’t have anything planned for that week, we just figured we would lay around – maybe take a couple of day trips. But, when his cousin offered to watch our dog, we figured we could go out of town. And with the extra money we had been saving, plus (I’m not proud to say) but the room we had on my credit card – we figured we could take an impromptu vacation.

We made a list of nearby places we could go for a couple days – spending a reasonable amount of money. Then that night, I lay awake all night. All I could think of was the amount of responsibilities we were about to encounter in our lives. We were both starting new, more time consuming jobs – really it was going to the be the beginning of his career. I would be busy practically for the next three years after I started school again. And at some point, we would probably eventually buy a house and start a family. When would we have a week to just be irresponsible and doing something crazy again?

So the next morning I threw some things together in our big suitcase. I grabbed everything from sweaters to swimsuits. There was no plan. I grabbed all of our toiletries and even our towels and sleeping bags – because I had no idea where we would be staying that night. I rolled everything up, and somehow managed to fit all of the necessities into our suitcase. I woke Sean up, telling him just to get dressed and that I had a surprise for him. While he was in the shower, I called the taxi. There was no use leaving our car parked in a garage for a week, and I wasn’t telling anybody we were leaving town – so a taxi was the best option. He got out of the shower, the taxi showed up, I grabbed our bag and out we went.

“To the airport,” I told the driver after Sean and I had both gotten in. As we rode, Sean said, “Did you get us tickets to somewhere while I was sleeping or something?”

“Not exactly.”

“You booked us a room somewhere and we are on standby for the tickets?”

“Wrong again.” My cheeks began to flush. I wasn’t sure if he would be thrilled about my crazy plan.

“Okay, so why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”

“We are going to the airport. I packed everything we could possibly need. I did the math, and have an idea in my head of about how much we can spend over the next five days. We are going to the flight attendant and going the first place they have two tickets to in the US.”

“Oh, okay. That’s all.” Sean laughed maniacally. “I thought maybe you had gone and done something crazy.”

“It’s not crazy. We have both always wanted to travel more around the United States. We have smart phones, we can book a room, or a hostel, or even a campground wherever we go. You and I both have friends and family around the country. We will be fine.”

“Okay,” Sean said sounding like he was trying not to lose it. “You take the lead on this one. It’s your plan, you make it work.”

The taxi pulled in front of the curb at the Mccarren airport. Sean grabbed our giant, heavy suitcase – I’m not even sure why he was being that gracious towards me. And we went in. I went up to the first airline I saw and got in line. Sean stood just behind me, probably hoping I would back out. My heart beat quickly, and I tried to swallow but my mouth was too dry. Where were we going to end up? Alaska? Hawaii? New York? Nebraska? What if we wound up in the middle of nowhere, with no place to stay? Just as I was about to back out, the woman at the airline desk called the next in line.

“Hello. Name please?” she asked.

“Well, here are our id’s. We actually don’t have a reservation yet.”

“Okay. I can make you a reservation, where are you trying to get to today?”

“Um… actually, we just want to fly to the first place you have two available tickets to,” I answered. My hands were shaking. I felt like a complete idiot.

“Okay,” the woman eyed me suspiciously. She probably thought we were two criminals running from the law or something.

“Let’s see. It looks like we have two available seats on the noon flight to three different places.” She paused as she focused in on the computer.

“Do we want to pick out of three places or just have her pick randomly?” I asked Sean.

He thought for a second. “Well, this is your crazy plan, so you can choose overall, but I would say that this has been crazy and spontaneous enough and that we should be able to at least pick between three places.”

Well, if I let her pick we might end up somewhere expensive or just lame. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to hear the three options and pick the best one.

“Alright, here we go. Are you ready for your choices?” she asked amused at our situations.

“Yeah, go for it.”

“Okay, we have a twelve o’clock flight to…,”she paused for effect, “Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Atlanta, Georgia.”

“Well, it looks like we are going to Atlanta, Georgia then,” I said.

“Okay. I will just need a credit or debit card for the payment.”


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