You've heard me rattle on and on about how this semester I took an English unit on creative writing.
So I'm going to share with you the story I wrote for my end of semester folio which was worth 40% of my final grade. We had our final exam a few days ago and it was a lot of fun (I talked about one of my favourite novels Never Let Me Go and then wrote a poem about music).
Bear in mind, I spent a maximum of three days on this story and it technically failed the required word count (it was 1100 words when the allowed range for a short story was 1200-1800).
I was given well over 10 weeks to write my story.
It came in a spur of the moment type of situation. (Well, to be honest it came from me sitting at the Reid café a day before I had to submit it to my class, writing down whatever words came into my head).
I'm not going to post the score I received for my story but if you ask me personally I'll tell you. As in via twitter, fb, email, or in person.
A man sat down on a bench at an empty park. He carried with him a large metal lunchbox which he perched on the seat beside him. The man looked up ahead of him at nothing in particular. Without glancing down or making a sound, he opened the lunchbox and began his routine.
Perhaps this is the day. He nibbled on a biscuit that he held in his left hand. No crumbs fell to the ground.
It was peculiar how the man breathed without making the slightest noise, yet he noticed every now and then the tiny clinking of his eyelashes blinking. That is, when they did happen to blink.
The man had neither a name nor memory of his life or identity. He arrived every morning at the very same park bench. His routine was all he knew. Nobody ever talked to him, approached him, or even noticed him.
Emeline was sitting at a table outside the café across from the park. She hadn’t been to The Sleepless Café in a while and was there to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to finish her assignment.
Looking up from her laptop, Emeline spotted a mysterious man sitting on the park bench, eating biscuits. Peculiar, she thought. The man continued on slowly, unaware of his onlooker, and never ceasing his biscuit nibbling except when reaching for another.
He wore a grey hat – one of those fedoras men in the film noirs of the fifties always wore. The man sat stationary on the park bench with his arms positioned oddly on his lap – his left arm transported the biscuits to his mouth and his right hand lay palm-up on his knee.
As she sat, sipping her coffee on the terrace of The Sleepless Café, Emeline’s eyes were fixed on the biscuit man. She looked right past the woman in the navy velour tracksuit walking her dog. Emeline barely even registered the elderly couple strolling by hand in hand, or any of the other pedestrians passing her by on the street path alongside the park. None of whom ever lifted their eyes or acknowledged the man on the bench several feet away.
Emeline ordinarily would never have taken much notice of him sitting there alone, but even from the distance across the street she could see the strange, dazed look he wore on his face. She was intrigued.
The man in the park donned a mustard yellow scarf that swished to and fro with the slight breeze. The biscuit crumbs fell onto his scarf, and like a child on a playground slide, slid down and onto his lap.
“Hello?” he offered to the air in front of him. The man’s voice seemed timid but he spoke articulately.
“Who are you?” he asked, more hesitantly this time.
His only reply manifested from a strange and preternatural mixture of an exhale of breath and a sigh that seemed to sing.
“That is the wrong question.” The answer blew gently onto his face. It came from before him, like a shifting of breeze or a whisper of wind.
This was what he was waiting for. He had a feeling today might have been the day. The day he would be heard and answered, the day he might understand for the first time.
The whisper was his only companion, but today was the first day it gave him words audible enough to comprehend. Before, he had only ever received incomplete blurs of sounds – the breaths and breezes of the whisper. At other times he could sense some incomprehensible sentiment attached to them.
The whisper, or ghost of a whisper, held his gaze somehow, and the man continued nibbling on his biscuit. His eyes never wavered, and his heart beat steadily as he reached into the lunchbox beside him to pull out another one.
“Who am I?” tried the man.
He sat even stiller on his perch, stopped nibbling and waited for a response.
No answer came.
He decided to try something different. “What am I doing? Why am I here?”
“Where am I going?”
The whisper breathed again, this time from directly behind him.
The focus of the man’s gaze did not falter, but his face transformed to a look of vague confusion. Dissatisfied and too listless to implore for more information, he reached for another biscuit.
Emeline watched as the man on the bench paused snacking for a moment and say something aloud. Was he talking to himself? He looks so odd! How many biscuits has he eaten now? He must be crazy, she thought.
Then suddenly the man’s facial expression changed. She noticed his eyes open wider. But the change was fleeting and the man promptly resumed eating his biscuits, as if nothing at all had occurred.
Bored of observing the stranger in the empty park, Emeline gulped down the last dregs of her coffee which she’d long let grow cold, and turned her attention back to her laptop. She had only a few hours left before her assignment was due for submission.
As the man picked up his eleventh biscuit, he felt a sudden tingling sensation slowly crescendo within his ankles. He dropped the biscuit and wondered if the whisper would restart their conversation. The half-eaten biscuit landed on the ground beneath the bench.
He felt the tingling more intensely as it travelled along his calves and up to his knees before returning down to his feet and toes. From there it exited his body.
The man wiggled his toes in response and then sneezed.
The noise startled Emeline into looking up just in time to see the biscuit man’s body convulse from a sneeze. It was so loud and extreme he almost toppled off the bench.
This was the most exciting thing that he had done today, and yet it was the first normal thing he had done.
But not before long it became the second most exciting thing he did. As soon as the man recovered from his sneeze, he resumed his natural composure once again and promptly vanished.
The man had disappeared like a grubby mark on a window being wiped away in one swift motion.
Still gaping at the now empty park bench before her eyes, Emeline failed to notice the silent appearance of a biscuit inside her empty coffee mug.