Sunday writing chat prompts for 14 Nov 2021

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    • #8210
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      The Sunday Brunch Prompted Writing Chat is an opportunity each week to test your skills at writing under pressure — or to have some fun without the need to be brilliant — or both!

      The prompts are intended as both as a challenge and a starting point, open to creative interpretation. You can use these as an excuse to write anything that comes to mind, whether it’s fiction or creative non-fiction or a mixture of both. You can write a separate piece for each prompt, or try to link them all together in a single story.

      If you join in the chat, you can add “an excuse to complain about unfair prompts” to the entertainment, too. But even if you can’t attend the chat session, feel free to give the prompts a try anyway (and leave your responses, comments, or complaints in this thread if you like).

      This week’s prompts are posted below.

      1. Use the following five words: benefit, treatment, embark, helmet, litigation. (10 min)

      2. Use the phrase, “That’s not part of the celebration.” (10 min)

      3. Write about things we no longer wear. (10 min)

    • #8211
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      There were a couple guys in the scout troop, a little older than Sam, both of them patrol leaders. On camping trips, the scoutmaster had decided each patrol should camp close together, to mix the older kids with the younger ones. These two guys… Sam couldn’t remember their names any more, call them Jon and Clyde… had objected. They had shared a tent for a year or more at that point and didn’t want to stop.

      Sam camped with his six or eight younger scouts and didn’t think anything more of it.

      Jon and Clyde just kind of vanished. There was a big push on the middle level guys to Step Up And Become Leaders, all code words that made Sam, who arguably already was one, want to cash out his chips and hike south on the Appalachian Trail as far as he could while the weather held. Like a couple months worth, before he checked in again, with anybody.

      But the scoutmaster wanted him to have the benefit of the power vacuum, so since he had more gaudy embroidery than anybody, two things happened. They invited him to be Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, and they nominated him for some kind of secret honor society. He’d heard bad things about the treatment those guys dished out to newbies from older boys.

      He embarked on the scout leadership position, which meant they trusted him to do a lot of the legwork and organizing, motivating kids to go on the adventures, and more meetings with the Scoutmaster and the dads on the Committee. A careful ear to the ground led Sam to think that some kind of secret litigation was going on to try to drum Jon and Clyde out of the troop. Another thing to keep his head down about, Sam was thinking.

      The honor society initiation involved taking twenty-four hours away from the troop at summer camp. The scoutmaster assured Sam he could handle the troop, so go. It’s an honor.

      Sam remembered Jim once telling him, “you can’t eat honor.”

      So they got taken away from the bonfire to individual sites in a meadow high up over the camp, told to carve insignia to identify themselves, sleep here, use this one match and this egg to make your breakfast, and keep silence for the following day. Which involved mingling with the other kids to some extent, but the insignia should be recognizable so people would know why he wasn’t answering back.

      Thankfully it didn’t rain, because all he had was a sleeping bag, no tent. It’s very dark up on a mountain at night. When he wasn’t sleeping, Sam was thinking about how all the various brands of leadership fit together. The pastor seemed to be doing more or less the same thing the scouts were doing. He wasn’t so sure about the school. For one thing they were subtly pushing the notion that some people, kids in this school even, are probably gay. Dad, Pastor McCarthy, and the scoutmaster all seemed agreed that nothing could be further from the truth. Something to file away for another dark night’s meditation.

      The match didn’t light his little fire. So he drew some water, mixed in some sage and beat the egg a little and drank it down raw. He guessed one of the goals here was to show people not to waste their resources, and another one might be to show them just how much they could put up with if they tried hard enough.

      After dark they were all marched to a circle of stones high up in the meadow and there was a ceremony. They were given sashes and patches for their uniforms, a password that was in some Indian language, but he couldn’t remember which one when he tried later to look it up. And there was a bonfire that got a little out of hand, so they buried it in the dirt.

      “That wasn’t part of the ceremony,” the lodge leader said. Yet another leader to jocky into his life somehow.

      And then they hiked down off the mountain in the dark, barely able to see the white sash across the back of the kid in front of them. There were like ten million stars in the sky, so many that he had no idea which direction they were going because the familiar city constellations were crowded out by so many fainter stars. And he stumbled a time or two looking up when he should have been tending to his business: getting safely off the mountain in the dark.

      The lodge leader was from a troop in the next campground over from where Sam’s was, so they strolled along the road together once they returned to camp. His sash had a couple extra glyphs on it that Sam couldn’t read, but they’d promised a book or something would be sent to them in due course.

      “There used to be a lot more hazing to the ordeal,” said Gus, just as Sam was about to remark on how many stars he could see. “But I guess some executive someplace thought breechclouts were either a little too much culture to appropriate from the Indians, or a little too gay for modern boy scouts, or something.

      Sam knew the reference from a native dance troop he’d been in briefly. It’s that strip of cloth or leather that goes over a waist band front and back. He could imagine way too many ways an initiation ordeal could go wrong.

      “The stars are amazing from out here,” he remarked, in reply.

      “They really are. Hardly anybody ever goes up on the mountain at night to see that,” said Gus. “Almost worth the price of admission, just for that.”

      Sam was still smarting from the silence, the embarrassment, the harassment of the past day, so he didn’t engage on that question.

      Gus gave Sam some kind of a complicated handshake he’d been shown at the ceremony, took off his sash, and vanished into the darkness, walking quietly.

      Sam thought it would be good to just kind of be, here in the dark, for a while.

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