Free writing: word doodles – mini escapes – writing for the fun of it

London – still as a picture – 16 April 2020

Hello,

I hope the days are being kind to you.

Today I’m really pleased to bring you some free writing by others. If you’ve never done free writing, you may be sceptical about the process, but I find it absorbing, in a good way. For me the best part about it is that nothing has to be perfect, and all you have to think about for small pockets of time, are a few words or ideas. Some days the ideas come more easily than others … like sketches in a notebook.

The first of the pieces below is by Saraswathi Sukumar, the writing friend who generously gives up her time to think of prompts and to lead our sessions, and the ones below that are by Leonie Bedford in Canada. Thanks to them, and to all who give it a go or perhaps just think about it, and a special thanks to Aunt Jean who first took up the challenge!

***

Thief (by Saraswathi Sukumar)

The night sky like spilled ink, casts a dark shadow beneath which the thief hides. Money. Lust. Greed. Need. Desperate need. But not all thieves hunt at night. Some move through the day silent and unseen. I remember one that visited my grandfather. Years later, it visited my grandmother. Its fingers danced upon their heads, then it reached inside. This one?…This one?…Or perhaps this one? It plucked from them a knowing, a moving picture. It laughed. It ate. Then promised, ‘I’ll be back for more.’ My grandmother mistakenly called me on her second grandchild’s birthday, thinking it was mine. My grandfather frowned and stuttered as he gestured towards me and asked ‘are you the older one?’ Before the invisible thief came back for seconds, Death took them both.

***

Hide and Seek (by Leonie Bedford)

While probably one of the most easily understood or recognized games of childhood, there are other forms such as in our house on the eve of the arrival of the cleaning lady. What usually happens is that there is a frantic run around picking up all stray belongings that it would take too long to put away and stuffing them into a cupboard, drawer or some other “safe” place. Of course what happens is that a few days later a question is asked about an item and then it becomes a bit of a scramble trying to remember where it was put. My usual response to “Where is X?” is “Oh, it’s in a safe place.” However, on occasion, the place is so safe that the item isn’t found for some time. Or, I would say “Oh, it’s in the cupboard.” Of course, upon opening the cupboard, everything comes tumbling out.

Mirror (by Leonie Bedford)

What if there were no mirrors? Would we be nicer to others? Would we be more honest when giving our opinions? Do mirrors really reveal the truth or only the truth we want to see? Is what I see in the mirror the same was what the person standing next to me sees? How many times have we seen someone when going about our business and asked ourselves “Did that person look in the mirror before they went out today?” And maybe the person did and thought everything was just fine and it’s me who has the problem.

A New Start (by Leonie Bedford)

Gemma had finally done it, she had left him. Having been together for 20 years it didn’t seem possible to start again but here she was with a new start which included a new place to live in a different city. In getting her bearings in her new surroundings, she spent her time when not working walking around, exploring the different areas, checking out the coffee shops and bookstores. Because she was new in town, everything was of interest to her but she was not of interest to anyone and that suited her until one day when she was browsing through the fiction section of a bookstore. While leafing through a novel she overheard two people talking. Initially, she didn’t pay any attention but then their conversation intrigued her.

“So how is your brother doing, the one who lives in Vancouver?”

“Oh Jim’s still in the film business. Seems to be doing quite well. He’s made a number of small features that have been well received.”

“Is he married? I can’t remember although I remember seeing Jim with someone. I think she also had something to do with the film business. But it was such a long time ago.”

“Yes, well the two of them are no longer together. In fact, Gemma just up and left and no one knows where she is. After 20 years or so, it seemed very sudden but who knows what goes on between two people even if one of them is your brother. It was strange I hadn’t heard from Jim in ages and then he called me the other day and told me.”

“Did Jim say what had happened? Twenty years is a long time.”

“Well, Jim didn’t go into details except to say that they had grown apart.”

By now Gemma had stopped reading the novel in her hand and had crept closer to get a better look at the two people having the conversation. She had only met Jim’s sister once and that was very briefly and here she was in the same bookstore as herself. Gemma felt in some way her anonymity had been destroyed. Her hands were shaking, she was breathing quickly. Gemma quickly put the book down and rushed out of the bookstore into the bright sunshine and started walking briskly down the street.

_

Alison had decided that it was time to clean out the storeroom. She had been thinking of doing it for some time but always found a reason to put it off…too nice outside, something good to watch on TV and so on. But today was the day. If she got it done she would treat herself to a glass of wine.

There were a number of boxes in the storeroom. When she opened the first one she found a miscellany of items in it that seemed to make no sense in why they would be together. There was a doll with blue eyes one of which was broken. Alison wasn’t sure who the doll belonged to but it definitely needed to be thrown out. Then there was a red hat with a white feather. Had it belonged to her mother? She couldn’t remember her mother wearing something like that. Other items in the box were a broken radio, a broomstick (no clue, maybe it had once been part of a Halloween costume), a newspaper from 40 years ago, a broken bottle, a letter and a dagger. The broken bottle didn’t appear to have any significance although it looked like there was something shoved right at the bottom. As for the dagger, Alison had no idea. It almost seemed as if all these disparate items had just been gathered and thrown in the first available empty container.

The items that intrigued Alison the most were the newspaper, the letter and the broken bottle. She looked at the broken bottle first to see what was wedged at the bottom. It turned out to be an envelope with her mother’s name on it but the envelope didn’t contain anything inside and was partially torn. The newspaper was of most interest to Alison as she was a former journalist and although now retired, she still enjoyed scanning through newspapers. When she flipped through the pages, she noticed a profile about an up-and-coming film director, Jim Brooks. The name rang a bell but she wasn’t sure why. Perhaps she had met him somewhere but she couldn’t remember.

The letter was more curious. It was from her sister, Gemma, to their mother. Alison started to read it and as she went on, she realized how she knew Jim Brooks…he and Gemma had lived together for 20 years, as far she knew they were still together. Alison had never met Jim and had not really kept in touch with her sister.

The letter started off by Gemma asking after her mother and how she was doing but then went on to say that after 20 years, she and Jim were no longer together and that she was leaving town, going to a new city and a new life. Alison was stunned. Gemma also said she would be in touch once she was settled but that was a long time ago. Now, their mother was dead and how Gemma was doing, Alison wasn’t sure but she hoped she was happy.

***

Thanks for reading. If anyone would like to pass on their writing, or throw in some prompts, please let me know. Thanks to Saraswathi Sukumar for the ideas that prompted these pieces, and for the new suggestions she’s given us that I hope to put up on the blog tomorrow.

Meanwhile, wherever you are, I hope it’s possible to stay safe, stay home, and to mind that gap.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2020

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