Sunday writing chat prompts for 7 Mar 2021

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    • #7173

      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: dive, court, neighbor, collar, organize. (10 min)

      2. Use the phrase, “Is that a cactus?” (10 min)

      3. Write about an arithmetic mistake. (10 min)

    • #7174

      Saturday, September 14, 1985

      John knocked at her door the following morning.

      “I almost didn’t recognize you with your hiking gear on,” said Sandra. “I’ll just grab the sun hat I use on digs and we’ll be ready.” She reappeared in a few moments, putting her arms through the straps of a small day pack. There was a small wet spot near the water bottle, which had clearly just been filled.

      Sandra lived on a dead-end court just a few blocks from the edge of the city’s mountain park, so it made sense for John to park his car in her driveway and walk from there. “The neighbors share the driveway, so pull it up close to the garage,” she told him.

      The first mile or so was fairly populated. The weather was still nice, and a new crop of students had just moved to town, so Saturday was a day for people to go hiking in the nearby foothills.

      “I seem to have forgotten about sunscreen,” said John. He turned up his collar to cover most of an already pink neck.

      “You need an outdoorsy person to keep you organized,” said Sandra. At the first opportunity to stop that involved a rock to sit on and a tree for shade, she came up with a tube of sun screen and handed it to him.

      “It’s true,” said John. “We claim we’re observing nature, but it involves staring at computers in an underground lab.”

      “So tell me about that lab and the stuff you found that might be relevant to my rock,” said Sandra.

      “Right, so,” said John. “Shall we walk? I haven’t been to the Royal Arch in years. It’s not far, but it is all uphill.”

      Sandra murmured something that sounded like assent and encouragement.

      “Right, so,” said John again. “The past few years several of us in the physics department have been building a new, larger, accelerator. It goes up to twice the energy of the ones we had before, basically by running the mechanism twice. Aaaand you don’t care about that part. It’s fine.”

      Sandra laughed. “You must have seen my eyes glazing over. I need them for hiking. Is that a cactus you almost stepped on?”

      “Yeah, I should watch where I put my big feet,” said John. “What’s new about this is nobody’s ever been able to reach those energies before, so we figured we’d kind of systematically do a search to see if there’s anything there.”

      “Makes sense,” said Sandra. “Now let’s unpack the weasel words. What do you mean by being there. I’m thinking of the Here there be Dragons on old maps.”

      “Something like that,” said John. “If we happen to unleash just the right amount of energy for one of the particles nature knows how to make, we might see some of them in our detector. That’s the kind of thing we’re looking for. There’s no road map or anything, just beat the metaphorical shrubbery and see what surprises there are.”

      “And you found something,” said Sandra.

      “We did indeed,” said John. “We were pretty lucky. It was my job to figure out how to do the search, how far apart to tune the accelerator and how long to sit and watch at each step. Most of the time, the particles are unstable so if you get the energy approximately right you can find them. This one… not at all. You have to hit it almost exactly.”

      “OK, I think I missed something,” said Sandra. “Does that mean this particular, what do you call it, particle? That it’s stable?”

      “It does indeed,” said John. “And I lectured for a couple hours in my class this week about the Uncertainty Principle, so I’ll spare you the rerun.”

      “Thank you,” said Sandra.

      “The fun part, is that apparently once you’ve created a pair of these particles, they seem to travel faster than lift,” said John.

      “I thought you couldn’t do that,” said Sandra.

      “Indeedily,” said John. “But they do, and it turns out if you relax a few assumptions about how the world works, we can understand that. They can’t slow down, just like things on our side of the light speed barrier can’t speed up.”

      “Okaaaay?” said Sandra. “And this has what to do with the rock I found in New Mexico?”

      “Well it turns out if you irradiate certain kinds of brass with these things, they can be captured into what we’re calling racetrack orbitals, where they zip around at their superluminal speeds, but bound to a physical object,” said John. “It gives the brass some really interesting properties.”

      “Which you found in my sample,” said Sarah. “I should be a prosecutor, prying information out of an unwilling witness.”

      “Which I found in your sample,” said John. “And if I’m unwilling it’s because I’m starting to think about some of those interesting properties, which might involve the possibility of time travel.”

      “Um,” said Sandra.

      “And it’s all because of the convoluted search strategy I came up with,” said John, “I ran into this guy in that dive down by the creek? The one in the log cabin. He was wanting science people at the University to try out his latest upgraded microprocessor in our computers. Like anything new, it had some bugs, but it landed square on this new particle nonetheless.”

      “Interesting,” said Sandra.

    • #7182

      Dave met up with Arif at a dive bar in the same neighbourhood as Kamila’s place.

      He had so many questions about apparent Alison’s dual personality that he needed help to figure this mess out. Nothing he knew made sense. So he organized a night out on the patio to talk to someone who knew Alison better than he did and who had the added benefit of being engaged to her best friend.

      “So, you think Alison is this chick online who calls herself S Mama Bear?” Arif looked as puzzled. “That doesn’t sound like Alison at all.”
      “I know. Alison seemed so grounded at the picnic but then I remember the girls going on about her hair and nails. That matches the impression I have of SMB.”

      “SMB?” Arif raised his eyebrow.

      “I’m not going to keep saying S Mama Bear on a public patio. Alvie and I have abbreviated her name to SMB cause it’s also a long-assed name to type all the time.”

      “Makes sense.” Arif took a sip of his scotch.” For a dive, this please had a good selection of top shelf indulgences. “Anything else that makes you think Alison is SMB?”

      “SMB was online b-ching about how she was going to go to the school to scream at the principal for blaming her son for misbehaving, then it was the ‘other kids’.” He used air quotes around ‘other kids’. I saw that just after Alison said she couldn’t meet up with DJ and I because she had to go to the school.”

      “Okay.” Arif seemed to consider this information and then asked. “Who is Alvie?”

      “He’s another single dad on the forum. He and I chat a lot via DMs. He thinks SMB is as obnoxious as I do.”

      “His name is Al-Vie?”

      For some reason, his question made my collar feel a little tight. “Yeah. Why?”

      Arif suddenly had a twinkle in his eye. “Have you run any of this past Alvie to see what he thinks?”

      “Nah, I suppose I could. He said he met someone the same weekend I did. So, he already opened the relationship topic.”

      Arif nodded. “Yeah, I think you needed to talk to Alvie about that S Mama Bear chick. I think he’ll have some good advice since he’s already familiar with her online persona.”

      “You don’t think it’s Alison, do you? Even though she told me she’s part of the forum and quoted SMB to me.”

      “Oh, look at that advertisement. Is that a Cactus Club coming to this part of town?”

      I looked and couldn’t see what he was talking about. When I looked back, he seemed to be struggling to contain a laugh. “Nope, it was just a poster on the bus advertising the one in Burnaby.”

      “I don’t know. It just doesn’t add up.” I took a swig of my beer. “I’d love to get to know the woman I met the other day but if she’s anything like her online persona, I don’t want her near me. I especially don’t want her anywhere near my son.”

      “Well, I figure the ball is in your court.” Arif pointed his finger at Dave. “The only thing you absolutely can’t do is ghost her. She’s Kamila’s best friend and an honorary part of our group. The girls really like her too. That alone should tell you there is more to the story. I can’t see any of the girls, Kamila included, having any patience with someone like SMB.”

      I gulped the sip of beer I’d just taken. Arif was right. Even if Alison was SMB, there had to be a reasonable explanation.”

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