This is, according to Mr. Novakovich, a fairly easy prompt for his students to write. I didn’t find it so, actually. The prompt is to write about a fight. I did not, in hindsight, pick another person’s fight – I actually do like to write conflict. But trying to write it about something that was related to my own experience was really difficult. I learned about myself in the process, which of course now means that I suggest this to other writers – grin. (I always suggest stuff that I’ve learned a lot from, so there you go.) (Yes, I know prepositions aren’t supposed to end sentences. Tough.)
ANYWAY. Here’s mah storeeeee!
A note on these: they’re not, strictly speaking, “stories.” They’re sketches. I found that doing them was like doing actual sketches as a limbering-up exercise, just like if I were a painter. They really do seem to help. Once I knew I didn’t have to come up with a plot, or a beginning-middle-end structure, it was actually fun to just write what I saw in my mind. That helped me get somewhere and, oddly, led into story. I could use these to continue from. I point that out for those of you that have thought of trying similar prompts but didn’t have an idea for a full-blown story in mind. Just be willing to sketch something and see where it takes you.
The interior of the car pulsed with the rotations of the wheels on the highway, bouncing every-so-often as they went over a pothole. Chicago had two seasons, they say: “Snow Repair” and “Road Removal.” Highway 57 was better than some but still pitted. Difficult winters meant bad roads, there wasn’t really any way to avoid it.
Jenny peeked at Roger as he drove. He still clenched his jaw, giving him a chiseled air. Still handsome, but less approachable.
“I don’t want to fight, Jen,” he startled her by saying. He glanced at her, eyes red.
“I don’t either,” she retorted before she thought, then looked out the window. “It just happens.”
Angry tears leaked down her cheeks in spite of her efforts to keep them from coming.
“Come on, Jen,” he coaxed. “It’s not like it’s a lot.”
“It is too a lot!” she snapped, head whirling around. “It’s not enough that we have to deal with their schedule all the time. You have to stand up to her, Rodge. You can’t just roll over every time she wants something. It’s not fair to us, and it’s not fair to him!”
Roger’s neck flushed and his hands tightened on the wheel. He stubbornly said nothing, his usual pattern.
“Say something, dammit! You always clam up when we try to talk about this!”
“What do you want me to say, Jen?” he shot back.
“That you’ll stand up to her! Tell her that we want Marty for the whole summer, for Christsakes! You wait too long, like you did last year, and it won’t be her fault for not having the time since she will have had to make other plans! We have to tell her now! You can’t keep being chicken about it!” She went farther than she intended, but stared at his profile anyway, seething.
“I’m not being chicken!” he shouted. “You two just keep putting me in the middle!”
Her stomach evaporated and she turned away to stare out the window, crying silently. She wanted to throw up. Bile burned the back of her throat and even her neck muscles cramped. He said nothing, just navigated around a dual-trailer semi lumbering along in the slow lane. He moved in front of it and coasted along at the speed limit, the truck falling farther and farther behind.
“I am not putting you in the middle, Rodge,” she finally told him. “It pisses me off that you would say that. Just because you’re too fucking pansy to stand up to her, and I hold the line on the boundaries, doesn’t mean I’m the one putting you in the middle. She wants what she wants, and you don’t stand up for yourself. How the fuck is that me putting you in the middle?”
He didn’t say anything to that, just drove. She could see his profile out of the corner of her eye, the set jaw and the furious eyes. She turned away, moving in her seat so he couldn’t see her face. If he was going to be like that, he didn’t deserve to see her tears.
The highway stretched on, silent.