serial writing

Round Robin: The Smell was Familiar IV

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group.

Cheri: The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart. Why had I been so angry? Why was he? I am sure it was because of the kids, the unpaid bills, life, the usual suspects of marital discord. No one was talking, we were both just sitting there, angry. I didn’t want to be angry, but I wasn’t about to give in. I was right. Let him apologize. I could only assume he was thinking the same thing, which was getting us nowhere fast. As I sulked on the couch waiting for an apology, my mind wandered to an anecdote I had read a few weeks ago. The article asserted that whenever you are angry with the one you love, walk over and sniff them. The thought made me both laugh inside and smile. No way! I wanted nothing to do with him right now, but maybe…

Dorothy: …I was really angry with myself. Why did I ever love HIM? Why not someone else, anyone else. That darn smell. The smell is to blame. My anger was strong and protected me, but then…maybe I could smell him. Just walk over and lean down and smell him. NO, No! I would probably like the way he smelled. NO. STOP. Don’t let the anger go – it is the only thing protecting me – I need to be angry.

But I can’t. It cost me too much. I do love him. He is not my enemy. He is my friend, my lover. Surely we can work on this – yet there are so many things. Can we work together?

Bev: I’ll do it. Had to try it.

I got up, walked over to his chair, and leaned over his head. His arm went up in defense.

“What are you doing?”

I took a sniff. Hair gel mingled with after shave, and something else. What was that? Familiar, yet not. I stood back and looked him in the eye.

Susan: “I remember,” I said in a hushed tone. “I remember when…”

I saw the look in his eyes, the look of distrust. That was the same look that I had seen in the mirror last month, last week, and even this morning. The distrust that came from hopes and dreams that had been shattered, then scattered about as mere trash. All the memories came flooding back as I remembered his words saying he was moving on without me.

MJ: That meant that I would be all alone. He did not like me any more. He didn’t need me. Where do I go from here?

DK: There are times in life when one must love, and still leave. Remember the first, but walk away from the anger. A place deep in my heart told me this was one of those times.

Barry would always be my first love. That smell, or scent would always take me to a memory of better days and love and bright beginnings. But now, it was time to move on. To find other scents, and colors, and experiences.

I walked to the table, signed the divorce papers, and smiled. I looked into Barry’s deep blue eyes one last time.

“I love you,” I said as I walked out the door.

Lorelle: “And good riddance to bad rubbish,” I quoted the old Bugs Bunny cartoon to myself, then cringed. The relationship hadn’t been rubbish. There had been beautiful moments, memories of moments brought back by the scent of hair gel, burnt into darkness by the resentment in his eyes.

In the car, I gave that thought more consideration as I put the key in the ignition. Memories of joy triggered by hair gel? I started to laugh, hard. Gut tearing laughter. Mouth open, guffaws exploding out.

I put my hand over my mouth, then the laughter turned to sobs. Tears for hair gel. Not funny any more. I cried for the angry voices, the missed appointments, the mean things said behind people’s backs – those were the memories I hoped would be washed away with the tears.

The engine revved as I pressed too hard on the gas as the key turned. I had to leave now. It was now or never. Yet it was done. Finished. Time to leave.

It was final. I’d done it. A done deal. Time to get over it and get on with it. But get on with what? I wasn’t sure what I would move onto, but it was time. The act of putting the car into gear and stepping on the gas felt good, in control, confident. A wipe of my eyes cleared my vision. I let my foot off the brake and rolled down the driveway.

I had plenty to move on toward, I assured myself. Let’s start by turning left.


Round Robin: The Smell was Familiar III

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group. Please note that there was an overall time limit for the writing and not all stories completed well.

Susan: The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart. It took a moment to register but it was an Avon scent. Roses, Roses. I remember the bottle clearly as it sat on the mahogany vanity. It was made of a silky looking, almost clear glass in the shape of a flower. The center of the flower had a small plastic cup that turned, and when opened, delivered a heavenly fragrance. It was a very special bottle and was only used on rare occasions. The last time the bottle was opened as when Dotty went to the dance at the old grange hall.

Margaret: When I got there I was taken aback by the big crowd. There were a lot of young men there. I thought I should be able to take my pick, but every time I looked again, he had disappeared. What should I do now, she wondered. There was nobody there I knew. Maybe I should just leave.

DK: As I turned to go, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and a soft voice asked, “May I have this dance?”

I looked up into the face of the most handsome young man I had ever seen. My words fled from my brain and my mouth, and I was barely able to say “yes.”

He put his arms around me. The music was slow. “My name is Brad,” he whispered. What’s yours?”

“Monica,” I replied.

“What’s that perfume you are wearing? It smells wonderful.”

Lorelle: I blushed and dropped my head to his shoulder. I could hear the beat of his heart echoing through my body, and felt my heart slowly match his rhythm as our feet moved across the floor of their own volition. As I seeped into him, pressing closer, his breath warm through my hair, tickling my ear, I knew I’d found home.

The scream of anguish cut through my peaceful senses. Brad and I whirled toward the noise as everyone came to a halt on the dance floor. The musicians instruments made awkward screeching sounds as they trailed off to quiet.

Dotty stood at the edge of the dance floor, tears pouring down her face. Her dress was dirty and torn, bits of dark flesh peaking through. She put her hands up to her face and screamed again, then pointed at me.

Cheri: Dotty and I had a history, and much of of Dotty’s history was wrapped up in histrionics. She was drama, and when you couple that with her desire to receive the most attention, her fit made sense. Was this another attempt to get attention? I wouldn’t hold it past her. Last year at the church picnic, she almost “drowned,” men flocking to her side to “save” her. It was always something. But the real injuries on her body seemed like something more, something real – after all, how do you fake real injury and why would you want to? But the real question was, “What does this have to do with me?” In a million years I wouldn’t hurt a soul. Does this have something to do with this amazing man I just met? Suddenly it all made sense. Dotty was…

Susan: …willing to die to get all the attention. Everyone here knew her and her games. It appeared as someone was tired of them and had shot Dotty. Dotty was dramatic but harmless, so why would someone shot her? Someone had obviously called 911 and the paramedics were arriving. I was pushed closer into Brad as they passed by. Brad’s arms held me closer with a firm loving grip. It was as if we had know each other all our lives.

Bev: But why had she pointed at me before she collapsed? Or had she? In the crowded room I could have mistaken her pointing at us. Maybe she was reaching out for help? I pushed through the crowd and rushed to her.

“Dotty, what is it?”

“Monica, I’m, sorry,” she whispered.

Prompt: The Smell was Familiar II

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group.

Dorothy: The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart. That was my heart? At least I could feel again. My heart had been broken for so long, it was new and I was excited to feel its warm flow. The light pounding in my ears was like music, a soft drum. I let the pain go and felt alive again. Wow, how can freedom come so quickly, so quietly.

Bev: All because of that wonderful scent! I turned toward it. Where had it come from? Was he here? It couldn’t be. In the crowded shopping mall I whirled in search of the source.

Susan: The man next to me was startled by my sudden movement and he called out in pain as he twisted his ankle on the slick tile floor. I bent down to help him to his feet when I realized the scent had come from him.

It wasn’t an earthy or manly musk scent, but a light feminine floral fragrance. I wanted to drink it in and be transported back to that dance. But instead, this poor guy was laying at my feet, clutching his ankle.

Margaret: How could I get him up? Maybe I would have to take him to a doctor. Did he have any family near by? There was no phone nearby to call for help. I felt so helpless.

DK: Always the caregiver, in my panic over his injury, I had forgotten where I was: in a crowded mall. Of course there was help. Within seconds an EMT team was hovering over him.

“Are you his wife?” They asked.

“No, just a passerby,” I muttered.

“But I’m his wife,” called a voice in the crowd. As the stylish woman shoved her way toward us, I found myself staring at a tall lady with my face. She stared back. It was unreal. She smelled of the very same perfume that I had noticed earlier on the injured man. The same perfume used by my mother before she died in an auto accident two decades earlier – before foster care, and the separation from a twin sister I had never been able to find. Until now.

Lorelle: I stepped forward. “I’m sorry. We bumped into each other. It’s so crowded here.”

She looked at me and a flash of recognition flickered across her face. She knows me, I thought, and it’s her face she sees. But how?

She turned away from me toward her husband as the EMTs lifted him onto the stretcher. One turned to her. “I think it’s just a sprain but we need to get him checked to make sure it’s not broken.”

“Where are you taking him?”

“Mercy General.”

“I’ll meet you there,” she assured them. Then she turned back to me.

I wanted to run. Escape now. Fear clutched my heart, dampening down all the feelings of a few moments ago. It rattled in my ears. I could barely hear her next words.

“My name is Sally Sparrow. You are Olive Sparrow, aren’t you?”

I couldn’t speak. My stomach clenched. How did she know my birth name? I’d hidden that name so deep, tucking it into the dark recesses of secret thoughts and memories. She knew my name. It wasn’t possible, none of this was.

Cheri: But it could only mean one thing – Sally knew about me. This was not about just knowing about my existence – she knew about personal aspects, such as my name. When I finally could speak I asked her, “How do you know who I am?”

After what seemed like eternity, she quietly motioned me over, away from the crowd. I saw her eyes quickly dark to the left, and I instantly looked left as well. My deep breath in spoke volumes to those who could hear. To my complete surprise, a woman looking very much like my mother was standing there, tears in her eyes. Sally touched my shoulder and softy spoke to me. “Our mother is alive,” she simply said. It was clear that the perfume that reminded me of my mother had the ability to reach deep into my soul, but having her standing in front of me was a total different experience. Suddenly I passed out. When I started to come to, all I could smell was the perfume. I was happy. I was sad. I was confused. When I looked up, I saw my mother’s face. She had some explaining to do, but I wanted to enjoy the memories that the perfume brought to mind. They were happy memories, and much more innocent than my new reality.

Round-Robin: The Smell was Familiar I

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group.

Bev: The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart. It was clear long before we saw it. The scent of the sea is unmistakable, but not apparent at all until you get up and over the ridge of mountains that shield the sight, sound, and scent of the ocean from the valley. We only made the trip once a year but this time it had been five years and anticipation of the wonders of the seashore.

Susan: The kids in the backseat were antsy and loud. Little Billy was especially vocal because he had been too little to remember the trip the last time. Now he was wiggling around in his car seat, causing Emma to upend her can of soda and splash Evie with orange creme all over her Sunday dress. Undaunted, I pulled the car over and pulled each kid out. All lined up against the car, I scrubbed and blotted and straightened each one until we were ready to continue on the journey.

The light sea breeze was calling. The destination close. The kids were all back into their places as I started the car.

Mary: What would they do now? We had a long drive ahead of us. Could we get there safe and sound? The kids fell asleep but I knew I’d better stay awake. It would be a long time until we got to the beach.

DK: The night before had been a mas rush to find the motel, switch rooms when the toilet didn’t work, eat a hurried snack, shower, and tumble into bed. We were all exhausted. Traveling with four kids under the age of ten was harder than I remembered. I had hidden the option for a sleep over back in the recesses of my mind, but now was so thankful that I had packed a spare bag with extra clothes and essentials.

Six AM. Bill was first to wake, screaming “Momma! Momma! I can see the ocean!” He jumped up and down on the bed waking all his siblings.

Lorelle: I was surprised at the speed the children took to get dressed and out of the motel. Back home, it could take 45 minutes to get most of them up, showed, dressed, and off to school This morning, it was accomplished at whirlwind speeds in under five minutes.

Pails, plastic shovels, umbrellas, sun lotion, towels, sun hats, all flew in wild semi-synchronous order onto bodies as if pulled in with rare earth magnets. We all traipsed down the path to the beach below, colorful and noisy, my parade of ducklings.

The beach didn’t stand a chance. The kids tore into it like it was under construction, a demolition derby of digging, building, tearing down, and rebuilding. By nightfall, the tide would come in and erase their day of labor, but for now, they were master builders and architects.

The supervisor of the anarchy, I sat under one of the umbrellas and read, until my cell phone alarm reminded me it was time for another dousing of sun lotion on the precious skin of my ducklings.

By evening, the worn out tykes were quick to shower off sandy warm bodies and drift contented off to sleep. I smiled at them as I stepped outside and closed the door. Finally alone.

Cheri: This was my time, and thanks to the bottle of brandy I had thrown into my bag, I could sit down and let myself relax. It occurred to me that my parents had probably felt the same way at one point. After dealing with all of us kids, they would tuck us in and retire to a quiet place in order to spend a little time alone with each other, probably talking about the day. But here I sat, alone, with no one to reflect with other than my brandy and the sound of the ocean. Being alone is hard, and I often wonder how I arrived here, solitary, with no one to share the events of the day. Of course, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened. Circumstances beyond my control. But it doesn’t make the loneliness any less painful.

DSO: Death of a spouse is not an easy thing. Who am I supposed to be angry at? Steve? God? The drunk driver? His boss for demanding he go that night? Am I jealous because he is safe now and I am left here with the issues of life to deal with? He was always telling me brandy can never be a good friend because it dulls the zest for life that helps make good decisions.

Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group

The prompt this week was a sort of round-robin of serial writing. Done as a group, two prompts were offered to choose from:

The smell was familiar and touched a deep place in my heart.

It was a dark and still night. The noise outside didn’t sound like the wind.

The first person chose one and wrote that down and continued for 2 minutes, then the paper switched to the person next to them for another two minutes of writing, continuing from whatever the first person started, then on to the next and next. If you have eight people in the group, eight stories will circulate through. Allow the first person to end the story when it circles around back to them, then read each story aloud to see where each went.

This technique could be done in the following ways if you are not part of a writing group.

  • Email: If you have a few writing friends, even one other person, do this with them, emailing the exchange back and forth and see where each takes the story.
  • Social Media: Either part of a social media online writing group or to your followers, explain the prompt and ask everyone to add a line in series, and see where they take the story.
  • Family or friends: This doesn’t have to be with writers only. Gather a group of friends or family members and set a timer for two minutes and circle the stories around.
  • Alone: Write for two minutes on day one and leave the story (saving it if on the computer). Return the following day and add two minutes more, and keep going until you’ve completed this for a week or month, whatever time period you wish. Or do this once a week for a couple months, allowing time to pass between attempts.

Round-Robin: It was a Dark and Still Night I

The following is one of the prompts created by members of Writers in the Grove in response to Prompt: Round-Robin Writing in a Group.

ML: It was a dark and still night. The noise outside didn’t sound like the wind. I was sure someone was outside. They were probably hiding my ducks. Where would I find them tomorrow morning. They would need to be fed. Sure enough when I awoke in the morning, they were gone. There were none on the flag pole. I looked all over the flower beds. Maybe I’m the one who is lost. I think this mother duck needs to watch her babies better.

DK: It took about an hour to find the mother duck and all five ducklings. They had traveled much further than I would have thought, and were swimming happily in my neighbor’s pond. I gathered up the brood and brought them back to my house under protest o the mother duck. She had been happy in the pond. Much more so than my neighbor, but when I went into the penned area where I usually housed them, I realized the lock on the gate had been forced open. That was the noise I kept hearing during the night. The sound of someone breaking into the duck pen. Since I lived all alone, frightening thoughts started filling my head.

Lorelle: A duck thief? In this neighborhood? Who would-of-thunk? It would not make sense to rob me of the ducks, my precious little flock, so necessary to me for their eggs, food, and company. Mostly for the company. It was quiet here in the wooded foothills of the Coastal Mountain Range of Oregon. Deer were free to range here as were the elk. Why would anyone let the ducks out? What did they want?

On closer observation, it was clear that my lock had been cut clean through.

My great grandfather had built this farm. He had lived to be 99 years old and died only four years ago. What would he have to say about someone breaking into the old duck pen? I looked at the old wood shed, its ramp up for the ducks to waddle up was disturbed. Footprints, muddy boot tracks, stepped up inside the duck house. What could they possibly want inside? The eggs? Wrong time of the year. What was going on here?

Cheri: I decided to explore the footprints a little closer in the hopes that the thief had left behind a clue for me to follow. The prints were small, almost childlike. Was the thief from one of the neighbors? I followed the footprints into the woods, thinking about potential suspects the whole time. “Why would a child want a duck?” I wondered out loud, my voice breaking the silence of the woods.

Suddenly it dawned on me why a child would be after my ducks. And I knew where I was going next.

DSO: Yes, the sweet faces of the people in town. I remember seeing the whole new family at the General Store. I had been amazed at the quiet, gentle spirit of the mother and the strong peaceful presence of the father. I was surprised that six children, rowdy children, belonged to the tall, smiling adults. Even though they minded well, they never stayed long at mother’s side, two seconds and they were off again exploring, touching, and smelling. It made me smile and I missed the wonder of my youth. Well enough of that – back to my missing ducks.

Bev: I asked Minnie at the post office about the new family and learned they had inherited the old Stewart place down the road. I pondered how that big beautiful family would manage in that broken down place. It had been vacant for years, had no indoor plumbing or electricity, and half the windows had broken panes. Maybe that old fireplace might keep them warm, along with that big wood cook stove.

Susan: But my ducks, why?

As I stepped up the ramp following the muddy footprints, I heard a noise inside the duck house. Giggling erupted from the back of the duck house. As I stepped on a loosened floor board, I fell right through to the ground below.

“Thieves and vandals!” I screamed. “That is what has moved in. Nothing more than thieves and vandals!”

The twelve year old hooligan smiled at me through the hole in the floor. He was just standing there with that smile and a pair of bolt cutters in his hand.