Sunday, February 18, 2007

Audience participation - story circle

(Updated below; updated again)

I used to play a game when I was growing up, but I never knew the name of it. The game went like this: the players sit in a circle, and one player begins a story. They can talk for as long as they like, and stop wherever they like. The person beside them in the circle then has to pick up the story where the previous player left off. Anybody can finish the story anytime they like.

Yeah, I know, not a lot of rules. But some interesting stories grew out of it. I still don't know what it's called, so I'm calling it (with my talent for the obvious) Story Circle.

Today I'm proposing a blog version of the game. I'm going to begin a story. You, my dear and kind readers, are invited to continue it on your own blogs. There are a few rules for this one:

  • Leave a comment letting me know that you have continued the story, and I'll post a link to your continuation.
  • You may either pick up where I leave off, or pick up after another blogger's continuation. This means that the story could have several branches.
  • Your piece of the story must pick up exactly where someone else's left off. Ideally, the first line of your story will repeat the last line of the previous piece.
  • You can change the style, voice, mood, whatever you like, and you can end the story if you like, or leave it hanging for the next blogger to pick up.
  • You can invite your own readers to participate. The more players, the more interesting it will be.

Am I being a shameless whore for comments and readers? Yes, yes I am. Am I being lazy because I have the beginning of a story but not an end? Guilty. But you know you want to play, so sharpen your pencils, class, and see what you can do with this:

The ballet dancer who lives in the flat above mine is home. I know he's a ballet dancer 'cause he told me so the day I moved in. He said it in an offhand kinda way, like he was just letting me know so I wouldn't wonder about his weird schedule, but I think really he was showing off, like he was still new at it and wanted the whole neighborhood to know.

I know he's home because he's the noisiest neighbor I've ever had. I don't really have any reason to doubt he's a ballet dancer - he's built like one, with all those finely developed muscles, and I guess he's gay - but I kinda thought ballet dancers were supposed to be light on their feet. This guy's not very big, but he sounds like a freakin' gorilla up there.

Usually I ignore it, but tonight I can tell I'm gonna have to do something about it. The girl sitting on my couch keeps looking up at the ceiling, all annoyed. Not like I can blame her. He's outdoing himself tonight. Like he's throwing steamer trunks full of hammers at the wall, over and over.

I'll have to go up there if I want to get anywhere with this chick. Mara. She's ready, too, if Twinkletoes up there will just take a breather. A glass of wine in her hand and that skirt inching up her thigh. I've been dreaming about Mara for weeks now. Okay, months. So I'm not gonna let the drum circle upstairs screw things up for me.

I tell her I'll be right back, and kiss her real lightly on the cheek. I take another look at her as I back out the door. I can't believe she's sitting on my couch. I head up the stairs, the rhythm party in full swing up there. On the third step, the stair creaks, and all the noise stops. Sorry to harsh your buzz, man, but I got Mara waiting for me. I get up to the door and knock.

Suzanne picks up the story: stompin' trompin' drum-circle frenzy

King Mongo circles in: the discomforting touch of nothing

LynnP goes deep: A freight-train rush of desire

A different branch, courtesy of monkey0: off the road and into the Salt Flats

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm not blogging today

I'm not blogging today, even though I've said I'd blog more regularly now, and I didn't blog this weekend or last night, even so. I'm not blogging today.

I'm not blogging today because last night an eighteen-year-old kid strolled through a mall I used to work in, shooting ten people who could have been people I know, but weren't. Because the news showed a picture of a woman's body on the floor, a picture that could have been shot from where I stood every day at work. Because when I tried to call my old boss, nobody answered the phone, of course nobody answered, the mall was closed today, but all day I was obsessively checking the news, ashamed at the relief breathing out of me when I read the names of the dead. They weren't anybody I knew.

I'm not blogging today because I spent too much time on the phone at work, talking to people who seemed to be talking about something happening just to one side of me, not what I was talking about at all.

I'm not blogging today because my stomach hurts, and what an incredible bore that is.

Maybe I'll blog tomorrow, but I'm sure as hell not blogging today.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


A flu took my sense of smell. Not in the usual way - my nose wasn't stuffed up, I could breathe through it just fine - I just couldn't smell. Not anything. I pushed my nose right up to the pan as I saute├ęd garlic. No dice.

Of course food didn't taste right. And I couldn't tell whether the litter box needed changing, or if that shirt was good for another wearing or should go in the laundry.

But, something else changed.

On the morning bus, I see a passenger I often share the evening ride with, the man with the tribal jewelry, black ear plugs an inch wide. We are nodding acquaintances. I smile; his eyebrows raise in surprise to see me in the morning. He flashes an almost-smile, looking quickly away. But his mouth hangs wrong on his face, and I wonder, as I step into the street, if some malicious thought had slipped out.

Perfecto, the security guard with the unchained smile, waves as I pass, his grin as big as any other morning. But he's wrong, too. Like another expression moves underneath that smile.

As I walk through the day, I am suspicious of everyone. My colleagues have occult motives, communicating in code. The placement of a cup, the roll of a pen along a desk, a laugh. I believe none of it. They're playacting, every one of them. The man at the cafeteria, the pharmacist, the FedEx guy. Once I look away, they relax into their true, hideous faces. When I look again, I see the trail of effort, that last furtive movement after replacing the mask.

I am sad, numb on the bus home. The boy with his stand-up bass is at the front. He's a favorite of mine, cradling the bass' neck on his shoulder, long arms wrapped around, a book propped open on the body of the instrument. But tonight he's an impostor, not the kid I feel tender toward, wanting to smooth the cowlick at the back of his head.

The kid wrestles the bass onto the street, and a girl with red lips climbs on and sits beside me. Slowly, a scent seeps in to my consciousness. Her perfume, cheap and sharp. I open my eyes and nostrils wide and breathe in.

The girl beside me is colored in as I roll the scent around my brain. She is plump as a peach, her lips opening deliciously over a smile - a real, beautiful smile - as she talks to her boyfriend on the phone.

Was that all it was?

A tall man climbs onto the bus, face like a bad road. He's holding his coat closed, glancing around nervously. A suspicious character, but he holds my attention. He looks softly into his coat. The oversized nose of a puppy blunders out from inside, bumping up against the man's face.

I'm falling in love again. With him, with the girl beside me. With the kid in the stocking hat, a studied nonchalance on his fourteen-year-old face, feeling big and brave in the city. With the woman holding herself like deposed royalty, like Anastasia incognito on the city bus.

I can smell them all. The sweat and the puppy breath and the Altoids in the pocket, the candy wrappers rolling lazy along the aisles.