Sunday writing chat prompts for 2 May 2021

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    • #7297

      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: trait, earthquake, wire, laborer, suburb. (10 min)

      2. Use the phrase, “Wait, don’t do that.” (10 min)

      3. Write about trying not to laugh. (10 min)

    • #7298

      “You like hiking?” I asked her, late in the morning, over breakfast.

      “Um, sure,” she said. “I’ll need different clothes.”

      So we stopped by her apartment on the way to the suburbs. There was a park-like forest preserve out there. There’s no old growth forest here any more, but at some point around 1820 people trying to unstack farms here figured out they could just move to Ohio and spare all the labor of moving rocks. She asked me in, and set me to filling water bottles while she did her business. I swear her boots must have twenty pairs of eyelets that needed attention.

      I count things. It’s an unfortunate trait. But it comes in handy at the lab sometimes.

      “We’re not at the lab now,” Ann pointed out.

      “True,” I said. “Not until Monday.”

      “Unless we’re coming down to the wire,” said Ann.

      I laughed, because the project was in fact coming down to the stage where we would build cables and run wires so the various widgets could talk to each other and the controlling computer.

      Car, parked. Sunscreen, applied. We walked until we were tired. “Just a little over that way,” I suggested.

      “What’s over there?” Ann asked. “Oh. Oh, my.”

      “There’s this scarp around the south side of the Fells,” I explained.

      “Go on,” said Ann when I stopped talking.

      “I try not to explain things people probably already know.”

      “I’m not from around here, so I know nothing about the local geology,” said Ann.

      “I’m going to resist the urge to calibrate your accent, and instead tell you about a Precambrian earthquake,” I said.

      “I’m from Nebraska, by way of Berkeley,” said Ann.

      “Idaho, then Colorado,” I said. “There are mountains of Precambrian rocks out there.”

      “I always sort of wished I’d gone to the mountains when I was in California,” said Ann. “There were too many distractions.”

      “Ooo, shiny,” I said.

      Ann laughed. “Exactly.”

      “You probably don’t want to hear about ancient earthquakes. I could just shut up and we could swing our tired feet off the cliff while we have lunch.”

      “Don’t do that,” said Ann. “I like learning about anything.” She looked pensive for a long moment. “Well, pretty much anything.”

      “You could tell me about the boundaries so I don’t trespass where I shouldn’t,” I suggested.

      “Mmm?” said Ann. “There was a really excellent department in Berkeley, as you might imagine. There were also some professors who had, um, extracurricular ideas, shall we say, about the education of grad students who were young, impressionable, and female. Shall we say.”

      “Ah.” Somehow my trials and tribulations with other people were all about staying alive and out of the hospital, not about unwanted attentions like she was describing.

      “Anyway, what happens at the end of a fault?” Ann asked.

      “Uh… what?” I said. Or something equally eloquent.

      “So the rocks slip in opposite directions when the fault breaks,” said Ann. “But it’s, like, I dunno, only ten miles long or whatever. What happens at the ends?”

      “Ah, I understand now. Rocks are elastic and they stretch or compress. It moves the stress that caused the earthquake further down the line where it broods and schemes for another six centuries or whatever.”

      “Cool. You want to start back now? My feet might be good for trudging back to the car,” said Ann.

      “It’s been fun, getting to know you outside the lab,” I said. “I mean, uh…”

      There was a sound from her throat like air through the neck of a balloon. She sat down on the nearest fallen log, covered her face with her hands and giggled a little around the edges of trying to suppress a waterfall of laughter.

      I hit the mental rewind and play buttons, wondering if it was something I said.

      “Oh dear,” said Ann, when she had recovered enough to stand up and breathe again. “I’m sorry, it’s just… Like, I know you’re too busy fitting in to actually fit in.”

      I looked at the merriment in her eye and smiled.

      “Sorry, that came out all wrong. I’m hoping I get to spend the rest of the weekend with you,” said Ann. “Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say. You’re refreshingly peculiar.”

      “Oookay, thanks? I think?” I said.

      “That’s a good thing,” said Ann. “The rest of the lab guys are all, well, competing to see who can be the most like all the others. Or something. That makes no sense.”

      “One of these things is not like the others,” I sang, quoting something from Sesame Street.

    • #7299

      The meeting I rushed home for was boring. Accounting is rarely exciting. Yet, as I watched the faces of my colleagues, I noticed tension in the face of one of the newer accountants.

      Even though I’ve been working remotely for years, I’ve been slowly taking on more responsibility. Even though my father has made it clear, I would never be involved in management it didn’t mean that I was coasting. In fact, I’d requested that my duties at the company never be brought to my father’s attention. Gary, my boss, understood my dilemma and decided I was too good an accountant to lose because my father didn’t like capable women in the workplace.

      Father was old school, I mean turn of last century, old school. Honestly, with the traits my mother used to run the house, she would have exceeded my father’s successes had she been allowed to use them. Instead, she ordered around the labourers who maintained my childhood home in the suburbs with a determinations even an earthquake couldn’t shake.

      Even though I was meek at home, I was wired with the same business acumen as my father. If I was male, I would have been celebrated but as his daughter, I had to hide my accomplishments. James wasn’t interested at all in what I did at work, so there was no temptation to highlight my accomplishments to him either.

      After I finished my video meeting, I called Kathryn. The employee who had looked distraught in the meeting. Like me, she’d been regulated to the background because of her gender.

      “Thank you for calling Westbrook Enterprises, Kathryn speaking.”
      “Hi Kath, it’s Naomi. Are you able to talk?”

      “Yes, sir. I’ll have it on your desk in an hour.” she said into the phone.

      It confused me until I heard voices in the background. “Is that my father?”

      “Yes, sir. I can do that.” she replied.

      “I’m free until one-thirty when I have to pick up Jimmy. Call me when you have privacy.”

      “Thank you, sir.” she said before hanging up.

      More concerned than before, I continued to work while waiting for her call. My thoughts bounced back and forth between the thrill of seeing Ben Mason again and worry. Kath wasn’t the type to be concerned without reason.

      Finally, an hour and a half later, she called. I could hear traffic in the background this time. She’d left the office. That realization alone made the hair stand up at the back of my neck.

      “What’s going on?” I asked as I answered. “Something is bothering you.”
      “Big time.” she sighed into the phone. “Naomi there is something going on. Three of our projects that should be earning five per cent returns are barely breaking even.”

      “Which ones?”

      Her answer blew my mind. We were a real estate developer. These were multimillion dollar properties. We should be raking money in hand over fist. “I want to go to Gary but upper management has been all over him for the past few days.”

      “Wait, don’t do that.” I said to her. “Give me a minute to think about this.” I wrote the names of the projects, one per page, leaving enough space for details under each.

      “What have you uncovered so far?” I knew Kathryn, she would already have started looking into the anomalies.

      “There are a few vendors I can’t find back up for. Their names are similar to companies we use but not for that project. So essentially we have two surveyor companies, one that was approved for this project and the other with a name close enough to the surveyor company we use for a different project also on the payee list. Anyone scanning the vendor file could easily miss the duplication because there are so many venders. Who ever set this up was smart, it took me hours of looking for a problem to see it.”

      “Something that if we had the software upgrade I’d been pushing for” Well, I thought to myself, the software Gary, my beard, was pushing for, “the duplication couldn’t have been set up in the first place.”

      She gave a short harrumph as if she was trying to hold a laugh in. “Yeah, you’re a girl. What could you possibly know?”

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