Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Prompt a Day

Hi All:

I'm posting a writing prompt every day this month. Have fun and send your writing as a comment if you'd like. I'll use poems, photos, video, quotes, and excerpts as prompts. Set a timer for 15 minutes and write! Write whatever comes to mind--first thought, as Allen Ginsberg said. Maybe a word jumps out at you; if nothing strikes you, write about having nothing to say and see where that takes you.

Here's the first one, for January 1, 2009.

In Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, the astute Frenchman who visited the United States in 1831 and wrote extensively about his American visit: Tocqueville wrote (and this is the prompt):

"Every American is eaten up with longing to rise."


Jill said...

I was missing your prompts, Carol. Thanks.


“Not everybody can have a body like this, you know.” Gary takes a swig from his one-liter bottle – orange fluid, a mixture of Endura, Cytomax, and just a hint of Gatorade for flavor. The Gatorade’s a secret; Gary doesn’t want anyone thinking he’s mainstream, or worse – soft.

He was a chubby kid, the kind that got teased, who sat in the lunchroom with his ham sandwich while kids threw French fries or tater tots depending on the day’s menu, yelled things like ‘lardass’ and ‘Gary fairy.’ Funny how fat meant gay back then. But now he’s a different man, hard-core bodybuilder with six titles and aspirations of a seventh.

He hits the gym at 4:30, but would go as early as midnight, if the doors were open. He abstains from alcohol, women, and sugar, won’t even chew a stick of gum. Seven unnecessary calories. Everything in Gary’s life is necessary. Chicken, organic, boiled or bake, steamed vegetables, the frozen kind that doesn’t lose its nutritional value, a half-cup of rice, measured of course, maybe a potato.

When a competition is coming up, he buckles down, cuts out carbs and liquids, so every striation pops, every bulge of muscle visible from 100 yards away, with the help of spray-on-tan of course. His buddy Jeb sprays every exposed inch, as Gary yells, “even, even, you better get it even this time.” He has no tolerance for imperfections.

Gary is thirty-four, but claims to be twenty-six. No one argues, though he looks near forty, tired, overworked. Strange since Gary doesn’t have a job, got fired two years back from Circuit City for showing up late, arguing with everyone within ten feet of him. His boss demanded Gary sign up for anger management.

“Fuck you and your fucking anger management,” Gary responded, before storming out, punching a hole in the wall on his way. Right next to the, “Be The Best You You Can Be” sign.

The gym is Gary’s life now. Early to late, eat and sleep to recover. But it’s never quite enough and Gary can feel it, like a champion who is beginning to age, to lose a step, he’s not on top of his game like he used to be.

See there’s this girl. There’s always a girl. The downfall of any man in search of greatness. She’s a gym rat too, tan, toned, but not masculine like the other women bodybuilders. And the rack on her. Man, when Gary catches a glimpse of that benchpress bar resting on top of those full D’s, well let’s just say it’s not just his muscles that get hard.

Gary doesn’t know her name, but imagines it’s something cute like Susie, dreams of her at night, the two walking down the aisle after a hard pectoral-busting workout, arms twitching underneath his tailored tuxedo. And of course Susie will be wearing something low-cut, to show off the girls. Rhonda and Liz, or maybe, Ginger and Jewel.

But just as the minister is about to summon their ‘I Do’s,’ something happens. Susie looks deep, deep into Gary’s face. He thinks she’s searching his soul. She squinches her eyes and cheeks and twists her head to the left.

“What? What is it?” Gary whispers. The congregation looks on.

Susie starts to open her mouth. Gary leans in to grab her hand left hand, fingers that giant diamond he purchased from all his prize winnings.

“Is that…I’m just not sure…Gary, is that a pimple on your chin?”

Gary jumps out of his nightmare, hits the floor beside his bed, 100 push-ups perfect form. He slinks into the bathroom, without flipping on the light, feels his face. Thank God, all clear. Does 50 sit-ups before returning to bed. Promises to put Susie out of his mind. Vows to win a seventh title.

Mary said...

Jill, this is wonderful! I have wanted to mentally explore the psyche of these men I see regulary at my local Y watering hole! They suggest to me a world set apart from my nice, tidy, 60 minute work-out before I head off to teach first grade. Thanks for the laughter this morning. Now, I'll go hit the gym, and be much more enlightened!

Isabel said...

"Every American is eaten up with longing to rise."

I think right now, today, most Americans are eaten up with the longing to have enough to put dinner on the table, but basically our country has a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog, every man for himself, atmosphere centered around status and acquiring wealth.

I went to a quaint town in the middle of France, a town that jutted out over a hillside, with rounded red roofs, cobble-stoned streets. It looked magical, irresistable, and I was especially excited to go there as my first pass through we couldn’t stop. So the next time I had plenty of time and money to delve my grubby fingers into this enigma of a town. But no one was home. The town, literally every shop, was closed.

How could they do this? All these cute stores, patisseries, boulangeries, clothing stores, restaurants – closed! On a weekday! In the middle of the day?! Don’t they want the sweaty money I have stuffed in my pocket? I want to give them my important American money and they have left?!

We walked up and down the streets. All was shut up tight. A few straggly tourists walked slowly here and there with vapid looks. I had my daughters with me, always an excuse to spend way too much money, more than I had even. But to no avail.

I had to regroup, rethink and quickly. We had ridden our bikes here and it hadn’t been easy. There were really steep hills and the rental bikes had god-awful seats that killed our behinds. Many stops were made just to argue about whose bike was worse, and to switch bikes to alleviate some pain only to find new pain from the other bike. I felt a sense of urgency. We had come all this way, and the townspeople were gone. I had to think fast but my mind was empty. I felt that if we didn’t buy something our trip would have been wasted.

I wondered if there was another town we could visit, perhaps on the way back.

And then we found one store open. At last! We went in, it wouldn’t have mattered WHAT they sold, orthopedic shoe lifts would have sufficed. We tooled around, spent some money and left for the ride home, which was a bit less excruciating because my daughters complained less, and we all were a bit quieted by the empty town, our moods deflated, and even our animosities emptied out for once. Teenage sisters often find little nothings to fuss with each other about.

We later learned the impossible – the town had all gone home to eat lunch with their families. Imagine! Leaving your workplace to eat with your family! In the middle of the day! Your family for crissakes!

We were obviously NOT in America.

Carol Henderson said...

Now I know why I don't want to join my husband's co-ed gym. Girls only, please.

Carol Henderson said...

Let's hope America doesn't force the rest of the world to succumb to our 24/7 shopping frenzies. I like that the teenaged girls and the mother are "a bit quieted by the empty town."

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