I came across Anna Spargo-Ryan’s rather excellent blog the other day. Anna is someone I have long followed on Twitter but who I have interacted little with (I am not sure why). That said I have been a keen observer of her work particularly because she is a writer and this is something that I am interested in. I like how she honestly talks about the craft of writing and really unpicks it – I also love the way she writes!
Anna has been putting some writing prompts out there. I discovered them late but as a little experiment I am going to have a go at them all. I feel kind of excited because I haven’t really done anything like this since school and I am not sure what I’ll come up with. Here is my first attempt with the prompt and image supplied by Anna.
Nb. I had a comment on Twitter that I was brave to write these – my creative writing is always fiction and that’s why I keep it in a separate section on this blog. Yes, real events and people sometimes inspire it but these are not diary entries!
Initially there is no smell, just a grey light and a feeling of floating. Then it clicks into place and she feels the pang of the last thought as lids closed. It lodges in her throat for a moment until she can smell it. The smell is one of a lack of things and saliva and a niggle that never seems to go away.
Her Kelpie stirs and arches his back against hers. He hasn’t moved since the night before. He never does. Instead just the soft, reassuring, snuffling snores (even when she kicks him and tells him to shut up).
His morning smells like bliss and buried bones.
She reaches down and curls fingers around his belly, willing his warmth to provide an answer. As her fingers draw lines in fur she wishes that she could shrink to tiny, climb onto his little body and hide behind his pointy ears. He is her protector. His breath reminds her to be calm. She mirrors it beneath the quilt, listening to his soft rise and fall.
She knows though that unless she pokes a toe out now he will pace the floor and eventually grow skinny in the courtyard. That if she lies here longer, the smell of buried bones will be replaced with his distant memory of being abandoned once a long time ago and that his pelt will become matted and his eyes sad. And so she wakes, scoops him out of the bed and clicks her tongue for him to come outside.
With a tin of dog food and a spoon she faces the silver sky.
The fingers curled around hers are sticky and fat. She wills them to be still. Ramming headphones into her ears she stares numbly ahead allowing the endlessly repeating cry of mum. MUM to be silenced at last.
Next to her he is twisting in his seat trying to get the attention of the people behind her. He fidgets and clamours; kicks the rail in front. Then up again to press his nose up against the window leaving a snotty swipe. He flops back bored. Twists. Kicks. Connects with her shin. She wants to tell him to fucking sit down and shut the hell up but here she can’t.
Around her she can already feel their disapproving stares.
She imagines them in their homes that smell like lavender or baking bread, eating breakfast at actual tables. They wouldn’t have spent last night arguing the case for a tiny green pea until tears and shouting and slamming of doors had ended everything in a swearing mess.
They wouldn’t have had that numb that followed, sitting on the couch, wishing that her life was other than this. That he was not here until guilt took over and she saw the reflection of the worst kind of person in the dark window.
No. Their bed sheets would have smelled like flowers as they crawled under their warmth, not stale like hers and crusted in bits of food and sweat and tears. They would not have woken at 3am in a panic and full of fear for the both of them and how they would get through the next ten years.
She can feel him standing on the seat now. As the train comes to a clumsy halt at the station he slips, one knee colliding with the floor, the other hooked back on the seat. She can hear his wail beating inside her chest before it starts; the silence before the roar.
But her arms are already there. She scoops up this tiny child made up of her own flesh and bones and blood. Whispering into his ear, she breathes in his familiarity and his dependence. Then, holding him tightly to her, she buries her face in his beautiful hair.