Tag Archives: writing exercise

Storytime – A Journey to Jamaica

Caribbean Island 2

The months have rolled by, day after day, and I am still alone. I have only my treasured memories of what used to be, as I gaze out to sea. I am in the most beautiful of locations, I am sure, but I am a prisoner, with no way of escape. I watch the waves lapping at the sandy shore, and my eyes fill with tears once again.

It all seemed so simple, as it was explained to me. For the sum of £1000, the sugar plantation was mine, and the sea voyage to Jamaica was only a trifling thing, hardly to be considered at all. I signed my name, my belongings were loaded aboard the Queen of the Isles, and I set sail from Plymouth on a bright, sunny day. After I had made my fortune in that faraway land, I would return triumphant, taking the beautiful Julianna as my bride. Two short years, they said, and I’d be back.

The sea crossing was hardly a trifle, as I felt that I had been lashed to a cork inside a bucket, and the water in the bucket was being vigorously sloshed by a mad giant. I spent many days holding onto the railing, expelling the contents of my outraged stomach. The sails were going slack one moment, then as they caught the wind, they sounded like cannon fire, booming all round me. My misery was complete, as we dropped precipitously down the face of one huge wave, then struggled up the face of the next, endlessly.

The captain and first mate were fighting the wind and the waves, hurling commands at the exhausted crew as the storm worsened. Great volumes of water were coming aboard, and the masts were groaning and complaining at the strain. Men who had to go aloft were taunting death, and two of them met that reaper as they fell from the shrouds, falling with the top foresail, crumpling onto the oaken deck. Their screams as they fell are with me still.

There were few passengers on this small ship, and for the most part they stayed below, in the faint hope that they’d be safe there – warm, dry, protected. At one point a woman came running out onto the deck from below, and we could clearly see that she was mad with fear. She was instantly drenched when she came up, her wild hair was streaming in the wind, and her face was a crazed mask, with large, rolling eyes. She looked across at me, where I was feebly holding to the foot of the mast, then she tottered, danced a bit on the wet, sloping deck, then she was over the side, gone as if by magic. I could hardly believe it – was it a dream?

Just then, a man, perhaps her husband, came running up from below, shouting and wailing, but we could not understand him over the shrieking winds. He was clawing at his face, twisting about, fighting the wind and the water, and hardly a moment later he, too, was over the side.  The door to the lower cabins was banging in the wind, back and forth, perhaps calling the people below, beckoning to them, and urging them on deck. Madness, everywhere.

Then, amazingly, the storm began to intensify. The ship rolled frighteningly from side to side, the tips of the masts barely clearing the wave tops, as we held on tightly. The captain himself was manning the wheel, and the first mate was aloft, trying to reef the mainsail, hoping to gain some control. I looked up, trying to gauge his progress, wondering if I could be of aid, but just then the mainmast snapped in two, with no warning at all, and the remaining men fighting the sails were tossed into the sea. The top of the mast was hanging over the side, held by the remaining lines that had not parted, but soon it was swept away, trailing behind us in the raging water. Some few men holding on to it disappeared in the darkness, lost in the maelstrom.

The captain and a couple of other men ran to the side rail, trying to chop loose the remaining wreckage trailing by the rope ends, trying to prevent them from dragging us into the depths. Just as they were starting to make some headway on that problem, the second mast came down, barely missing them, but causing a new tangle of ropes to be chopped away.  They were still hacking with their axes and hatches, some trying to use their knives, but it was a mighty task, and they seemed to be losing. The ship was tilted toward the stern, and was taking on more and more water, getting more and more sluggish among the giant waves. Many of those huge waves were now crashing entirely across the width of the ship, striking the men, taking them one by one over the side to join their lost shipmates. I gazed in horrified fascination.

There was a new sound now, adding to the cacophony, a booming, crashing sound, somewhat reminiscent of the noise of the sails in the wind, but this had a deeper, stronger bass note. It was rhythmic, pulsing, reverberating in my chest with its power. I struggled, trying to get up, desperate to discover the source of this new assault on my senses. I pulled myself upright against the base of the shattered mast, casting my eyes all about, trying to see through the wind-blown rain, fighting to stay on my feet on the slippery, tilted deck.

There was a momentary lull in the wind and rain, and I could now see what was generating the new symphony of horrible sounds. Our ship was being driven onto the rocks of some unknown shore, inexorably pulled, drawn into the maw of death itself. I stood, transfixed, by this time alone on the deck. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, didn’t know what to do. I looked into the eyes of the Reaper, as he reeled me in. I closed my eyes and sagged to the deck, accepting my fate.

So, I am gazing out to sea again, hoping for I know not what, but still hoping. I have found abundant food here, and I’ll likely last for years, but… do I want to? I have no companionship, no love, no Julianna. Of what shall I dream?

Storytime – Another Writing Exercise starring S. Holmes

keywords to include: Ostentatious  Obnoxious  Extraordinary  Dilettante

Holmes, the Perceptive Magician

Sherlock Holmes was certainly no dilettante, as anyone could see.  Puzzle solving was his raison d’être, and it drove him with an extraordinary passion. As each exquisite layer of the puzzle was removed and laid delicately aside, his focus narrowed and intensified.  Those who attempted to distract him would find him most obnoxious, even rude.  He frequently said, “The game’s afoot, Watson!”  But, for Holmes, it was no game – it was his very life.
Watson once wrote about “The Case of the Ostentatious Killer”, in which the murderer openly wore expensive jewelry pieces belonging to his victims, but little-known pieces which would not incriminate him.  Holmes, most fortuitously, had written a monograph about patterns in jewelry purchases by the wealthy, and was therefore able to link these openly displayed bijou items to their recently-dispatched owners, and thus show a link to the mad killer. As the man was led away in shackles, he was shaking his head in disbelief, and was heard to mutter, “How the devil did he….?” Perhaps if he had known Holmes, or had heard of him…. but, that’s pure conjecture.
On another occasion, Holmes was able to track down “The Careful Burglar”, by showing that the hapless thief was not so careful as everyone thought.  Inspector Lestrade had once again turned to Holmes when all their efforts at Scotland Yard had led them down blind alleys (to his credit, Holmes never publicly ridiculed Lestrade or any of his detectives, but we know of his private opinions by reading the stories penned by Dr. Watson). The burglar could not have known that his habit of smoking Turkish cigarettes while gathering up his treasures would lead to his capture.  Another Holmes monograph, this time about the ash characteristics of various cigarettes of the world, led our bloodhound friend to his door.
Perhaps the most famous of cases that came to be solved by the Wizard of Baker Street came to be known as “The Wiles of Lady Persephone”, and as we learned from Watson’s treatment, this case showed a level of brilliance, and yea, even subterfuge, in Holmes that we hardly appreciated before.
This lady distracted our dear Holmes to a degree only seen once before, when he was so magnetically attracted to Irene Adler, and this time it was nearly his undoing.  Even Dr. Watson saw through her facade, and perhaps their housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, also had an inkling. Only Holmes seemed to be oblivious to the danger signals.  She led him on and on, even to the point of meeting him at several secret rendezvous, which quite frustrated our Doctor.
But, she eventually went too far, and it was at this point Sherlock showed that his fascination was only a pretense, and it served him well in getting her to reveal her cards. Incredibly, Holmes was making use of fingerprint identification long before it came into general use. We can assume that perhaps Lady Persephone was also impressed, as she was escorted into the Black Maria wagon, on her way to Newgate Prison.
Thank you again, Dr. Watson, for showing us the man, the complete man, not just the detective.  We will ever be indebted to you.

Story Time – Luncheon of the Boating Party

(Writing Exercise for Corydon Quills & Quibbles writing group – this  exercise was assigned to be a 500-word story about one or more of the figures represented in the Renoir painting, “The Luncheon of the Boating Party”.  I chose the man with the red-banded hat, background, at right).

Nouveau Chapeau

My Dearest Clotilde, My treasure…
Can you ever forgive me?  I am bereft, I am devastated, crushed.  In my vain attempt to impress you, I fear that I may have lost you.  I cannot bear the thought, I cannot live without you.  Can it be?  Where is my justice?  What shall I do?  Please let me try to explain.
It all began with the inquisitive cat which belonged to my concierge.  Yes, it does sound incredible, I know, but stay with me a bit longer.  This heinous animal, with the unfortunate name of Pandora, was forever prowling the rooms of all the tenants and marking his territories with foul leavings.  For some reason Pandora chose my flat for his most despicable desecrations.  I repeatedly appealed to Mme. Morisot, our concierge, to get rid of the satanic beast, but to no avail.  I had no funds to allow my move to more favorable lodgings, or I would certainly been on my way.  Alas, I had to remain and suffer the attentions of this spawn of the dark regions.
I received my invitation to the boating luncheon just this past week and was unfortunately of two minds about it.  On the one hand, it would be a delightful gathering of artistic luminaries and friends, including you, my sweet, but it also meant that I would have to attend closely to my meager wardrobe in order to be presentable at such a party.  If I could not quickly sell at least one more painting I would be required to decline the invitation altogether, since my jacket was in need of repair and I had no suitable hat.  All I wanted was a straw hat, sometimes called a boater, just a simple hat, but the cost would be ruinous!
You may ask, “What happened to the hat you most recently wore, with the fine blue band upon it?”  Regretfully, I would have to admit that the aforementioned feline has defiled and destroyed it; it is no longer fit to be worn by even the rudest of street workers.
I visited the local mercier to examine his wares – perhaps he might have something newly acquired that would suit my needs.  I entered his shop and espied a wonderful chapeau with a narrow red band that would certainly be appropriate and dashing for the party.  I went to the counter to pay for it, but the owner pulled me aside with a whisper, “Are you certain that this is the hat you wish to wear?  Do you know of this type of hat?”
In my haste, I assured him that indeed this was the hat, and I must have it immediately.  He sighed, then took my money and sent me on my way.  If only I had heeded his warning.  If only.
My dear, disaster befell me as I headed back to my flat after the party.  An officer of the government passed me on the street, but then turned and came after me, shouting as he came, “You there, Communard! Halt, or I’ll shoot!”  I ran and ran, finally losing him in the crowd, but they seek me still.
If only I had known, the red-banded hat was the secret sign of the subversive Communards, and now I was branded as one of that hated group.  Now, I must leave France, or risk deportation to New Caledonia.
I must say farewell, Clotilde.  I am a victim of fate, and I must go.
With great sadness,
Claude