Recently I joined a local Creative Writing Group and the latest piece of ‘homework’ was to write a page or so around the prompt word of ‘Stuff’. Here is what I came up with.
You reach for the floor beside the grubby mattress and your hand stops. Paper. Your eyes flicker to the pile of magazines; this section all sports but the top one is askew and from years of practise you ease it back to perfect alignment. A silent satisfied sigh slips between your lips. Lips, thirst, only now do you realise the rasping dry feeling in your throat, you gag, try to cough, to spit. Anything. Just tiny puffs of air that lift the dust from all around, it flutters freely in the gloomy air, some dancing in the shaft of light beaming through the torn curtain. Light, too much light. You need to eradicate the beam, to restore the darkness, to preserve your stuff. Slowly you ease yourself onto your ankles, wincing with pain, time standing still, each movement agony. Don’t need this. Really could do without this hassle. You mutter. To yourself. The left knee gives way and twisted you fall back onto your hideaway. Surrounded by piles of newspapers, magazines, records, memorabilia. It’s all junk, she said as you came back from the car boot sale. Was that the fourth time, or the twelfth? Just because it’s called a car boot sale doesn’t mean you need to fill it, she joked. At first. Beth was sweet, good, kind. She tried to stick with you, with it. You shake your head, the memory of her too much, too distant, another lifetime. The sunlight moves and blinded you lash out, fast, violently. As vicious as your swiped at Beth. You didn’t mean to hurt her, honestly. You did your time and were set free again. But are you? Ever? Again you lash out at the light, striking it back and forth, striking your cave of print material. You feel a gentle pummel first, then a cascade as first one pile wobbles then topples over. Over you. An endless colossal collapse of stuff. Are you free yet? Vincent?
66 thoughts on “STUFF”
Evocative piece–and you dribbled in the backstory like dropping M&Ms in front of a toddler. Nice. 🙂
Thank you very much for your comment, Cathleen. 😃
I’m in a bit of a reading slump. Too tired to read… due to too much editing! So unusual for me. But this piece of writing really captured my interest, and kept it. Well done, joining a creative writing group is a great idea. 🙂
Marje, I’ve been wondering how you’re getting on – reckoned you’re working hard on your book. The slump will lift once you take a longer break…but it feels odd when you can’t read and take things in properly. I feel honoured you took the time for ‘Stuff’ and so glad it grabbed your attention. Next writing session we’re doing a ‘live’ writing exercise based on prompt words – fingers crossed my mind doesn’t go blank!
Good luck with your next writing session Annika, I’m sure you’ll come up with something great. 🙂
Really well done. Love how you used the word ‘stuff’ to create metaphors around it. Seems to me like the character was still imprisoned, but this time, by stuff.
BTW, I took a look at your Florida visit post. I lived in Florida for many years. Can’t say I liked it much, but my favorite place in the entire state was St. Augustine. We used to visit there once a year. The place is the closest thing that we in the U.S. have to something old, compared to the rest of the world. It’s a ghostly town. 🙂
Lori, you totally understand my ‘Stuff’ short writing piece – how often don’t we make ourselves a prisoner – whether by ‘Stuff’ etc or in our own minds! There is always the risk of a pile-in.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the old feel to St. Augustine with all the buildings full of atmosphere of a by-gone era. Wonderful! As it was very busy and vibrant when we were there I didn’t feel it was ghostly as such although funnily enough they do offer ‘ghost-walks’ at night as many parts are supposedly haunted.
I agree, Annika. St Aug is busy and vibrant. I love it there. By ghostly, I meant that I could feel the energy of those “by-gone” generations who came before. I did go on the ghost tour. It was fun, but the really good ghost tour I went on was in Charleston, SC. I didn’t care much for Florida when I lived there, but I AM going to miss those yearly jaunts to St. Aug. Glad you enjoyed it, too.
Lori, how right you are – I kept waiting to see people from those ‘by-gone’ eras just walk by – as if I’d time warped into another century or two! So Charleston, SC it is for a ghost tour if I ever get there!
Ooooh. So much in here, Annika. I like the short, clipped style, and the hints in the story about what happened. The piles of stuff seem suffocating physically and metaphorically. Well done!
Diana, wow, thank you so much! Exactly! I wanted to try and catch the claustrophobic through the language. Suffocating is definitely the word.
You did it perfectly. I love it when writing puts me right in there so I “feel” the story. 🙂
Oh wow, Annika. This is very powerful and sad. Poor Vincent seems a prisoner to his stuff. I think it raises a question about how “stuff” can define us if we let it. I’ve reached that point in my life where I would like to unload a lot of things, less clutter, clean and lean rooms. Great writing for such a minimal and difficult prompt!
Lana, initially I drew a total blank with this prompt apart from the banal but a walk brought several ideas which merged into this. A topical issue in today’s world as I see more and more people ‘decluttering’ (myself included – well, apart from my study!). Obviously Vincent’s stuff is much more and yes, defines, him, his life and those around him. Happy sorting! 😃
Thank you so much! 😀
out = put (oops!)
I like the idea of your putting out various candle holders in your house! 🙂
During the dark autumn and winter months I always have candles on in one room or the other – so cosy and welcoming with its gentle glow. One day I’ll have to count them all and probably surprise even myself!
You have told so much in so few words – a complete story in itself but one which still leaves so much unsaid. This leaves me wanting to know so much more. I don’t know how you do it. Such a sad story too. Well done and keep up the good work!
Mike, writing this I wanted to know more and in my head was already building up the story…your summary said it so well: ‘a complete story in itself but one which still leaves so much unsaid’. This exactly what such short pieces should be like.
Annika, this is excellent! Your character is so complex. I can imagine a whole story about him. So many things I want to know!
Thank you so much! 😀 I must admit I became caught up in Vincent and his story whilst writing this and am very tempted to expand. Indeed a complex person who seems to bring tragedy to himself and those around him – what is his motivation, what has driven him to this…glad it left you wanting more!
Keep going – that sounds book worthy!
Wow, that’s a lot of stuff you depict here, Annika. Sad story, indeed. But your response to this prompt is brilliant; the story is well-crafted and concise. Great work!
Khaya, thank you for your kind comment – wow, that means a lot to me. I used to dread these shorter exercises before but recently feel I’ve got the knack for writing them better.
I’m not sure if I’m sorry for him or not! 🙂 Happy Sunday, Annika 🙂
Jo, it is often difficult to rationalise ones feelings in such situations and I was hoping to put the reader into this dichotomy.
There is way too much in this for a short story. Wow. You had me going ten different directions. You definitely trust the reader to draw conclusions. Nicely done, Annika.
Thank you so much, Jacqui… sending the reader out in many different directions is exactly what I wanted to do! Also although I don’t often like open endings it works here I feel. Really appreciate your comment.
Annika! Wow, you captured the essence of some people’s treasures, another’s “junk!”
I am okay, seriously fairly normal but if you opened the doors to my three closets in my one bedroom apt you might cringe!
To have composed and whittled down a three bedroom home, finished basement with a great room which had a ceiling of nearly two stories high into this place was an accomplishment. My oldest daughter keeps threatening to clean my closets out! But she won’t since I tell her, “If you keep the closets closed, it is fairly normal in here!”
I unpacked my autumn decorations and put away my summer ones so the 4 grandies who stayed over could see Nana’s seasonal extravaganza! 😀 xo
Robin, thank you so much! I’m impressed that you have managed to down-size so well – a long while ago I realised that whatever size your accommodation than it is immediately filled with ‘stuff’. Initially a room at home, then to a flat, then a small house and now a bigger house. Each one bursting at the seams accordingly although I have regular clearing attempts – one so this weekend when two pieces of furniture are now being put on eBay – to make room for more ‘stuff’ from my father-in-law’s house. Oh, you are definitely allowed at least one messy closet – I’m sure there is a law stating so! I have one ‘everything drawer & cupboard’ and I’m the only one allowed to open them! Oh, I like the idea of autumn decorations…what do they consist of? In October the various pretty candle holders make an appearance.
I have Indian corn with husks, one yellow and the other is variegated. I have fake apples in a basket, as well as some bittersweet on a twisted vine wrapped into a bronze woven basket. I have collected a few Pez dispensers, Vampire, Witch, monster and ghost. I buy plastic rings that have spiders, bats, and ghosts and out them in those folding orange pumpkins (wire keeps them popped open) and what we call “boo balls.” Craft stores sell these large metal balls in orange or black with a textured gritty glaze. They say “Boo” in lettering on them but ring like bells. Bigger than sleigh bells. Finally, I have scarecrow figures and a Love Potion black bottle with an apothecary glass bulb top. It has an owl on it. I took out my Halloween books and ouy them on a child’s stool. Thank you for asking, Annika. I used to have so many decorations, so proud of being able to give most away when I moved into a simpler lifestyle. 🙂
Annika, this is amusing even though I’ve had relatives who were hoarders, just as bad as they show on TV… I’ve managed to get rid of a lot of my stuff but now I feel like my laptop is full of stuff. It never ends…
Annika. I owe you an appology for I clearly didn’t read close enough too understand the story you wrote I should have read it again. I’m sorry. For that and have learned a lesson. Sometimes cutting.corners clearly doesn’t. Jeff
Please, Jeff, there is no need to apologise. I know well what it is like and once misread another blogger’s post and got all the facts wrong! It’s okay, we all have lots on in our lives and never enough time it seems and rush around like crazy.
I can empathise with what you said about your laptop full of stuff – I feel the same with so many files on my computer, bookmarks galore on safari…it seems never ending and then still sorting out my 20,000 emails that crashed into my inbox when I got a new computer. Argghhh….my virtual piles of stuff!
Wishing you a peaceful weekend – no worries. 😀
Thank you, Annika…
Great mind leap there, Annika: a hoarder with a tragic twist. I knew a family of hoarders once, a very bright woman and an even brighter man whose home was filled with newspapers. They invited me over to dinner once. I had to walk though aisles of newspapers stacked several feet high to get to the dinner table. The whole house was the same, as I discovered when I made my way to the restroom later. I like reading material in my bathroom, but… –Curt
There is definitely a line between clutter and hoarding, Curt! Interesting that you mention how bright the couple you visited who were hoarders. Having watched a couple of documentaries most of the people featured were extremely clever, from ‘high-powered’ jobs. Thank you very much for your comment.
I can be guilty of clutter, Anika. 🙂 I have to fight it! –Curt
What a wonderful though sad and poignant piece of writing Annika. You captured the raw emotions and the overwhelming sense of desperation in the prompt perfectly.
Thank you so much, Miriam – your words mean a lot to me and although I don’t often write shorter pieces I did want to pack as much into these couple of hundred of words as possible.
You certainly did that.
Great job, Annika! Very vivid. Reminds me sometimes of my hubby–though thank goodness he’s nowhere near that bad 😀
Thank you, Julie! 😃 Funnily enough my husband currently re-doing his study was one of my inspirations for this – I can’t even get into his room at the moment as one side of books etc has been shifted to the other as shelves are being put up – would drive me mad but luckily it’s out of the house in a converted part of the garage!
I love this, Annnika! Although poignantly tragic for Vincent, your reflection encourages me to continue working toward completion of of the too many projects I’ve begun. Lately, I have been truly annoyed by the piles of stuff everywhere from too many things in process – for the manuscript I’m working on, now on hold to focus on the class I’m teaching and the garden that needs harvesting. Unlike Vincent, though, I don’t add more to the piles. Each day I arise and make a little progress, knowing someday old stuff will be gone, hopefully replaced by stuff for newer creative projects after the current ones are completed. Maybe they won’t be as messy?
Carol, thank you so much for your lovely comment and I loved learning about your working method. This does not sound messy at all, rather an organised system! Well, that is my excuse! It sounds exciting to have many projects on the go and if they give you joy not a bad thing at all. I am so happy you liked this piece. 😃 Wishing you a great weekend with your projects!
I hope you have a wonderful weekend, too, Annika. I apologize for being slow responding to comments on my blog. (I teach class tomorrow and have been bush grading papers and putting my PowerPoint together. Yes, more books and papers in piles. 🙂 )
You did well with a difficult prompt, I think. “Stuff” is a toughie. 🙂
Thank you – I thought the same to start with – just imagine a despairing groan. Luckily a walk and letting my thoughts drift often works to get ideas flowing!
That sounds like a good way to handle it. 🙂
Wow, I’m a newbie here and I am trying to learn more about writing and I learned some new things by this write-up….
That’s one great aspect of blogging, the opportunity to share work, learn from others and also help fellow bloggers. So glad if this inspired! Hope to see your work out there soon. Welcome to WP and have fun!
Thanks and yes it surely did inspired for some new experiments in writing.
What a tragic life and such trauma. All that you have portrayed so
strongly in such a short piece. Great writing.
Thank you so much! 😀 It’s always tricky trying to pack a lot into just a few hundred words but glad you get a feel for his former life as well as the trauma now.
So sad, Annika. It touches on all sorts of chords. How much one needs a partner in life, to prevent the buildup of the wrong kind of “stuff”.
How sad, Annika…but well done indeed!
Thank you, Jill and a real tragedy indeed for everyone it touches.
What a great prompt – I’ll have to remember to give that one to my creative writing students. You do a fabulous job describing what ‘stuff’ means to this poor injured messed-up soul. Sad, indeed.
Pam, I must admit at first I didn’t like the prompt as it had such a wide scope but then I took my usual remedy to get ideas flowing – a walk. Great that you can use this with your writing students and it will interesting to see what they come up with.
Annika, a sad, sad, sad story that felt very real. Well done.
It was partially based on a news story from last year when a man was found dead buried under his hoarding stuff; there was no back story to his life available.
Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.
Thank you so much for the reblog!😀