Okay everyone, I finished day 1 of my November writing challenge. I promise not to preface every day with boring stuff, but I thought I would today for two reasons. First off, it’s the first day, so I thought it should be marked. And second, apparently WordPress has their own little November Challenge and so I’ll be tagging my posts accordingly.
For those of you who are new or just missed my post a few days ago, here’s the basic deal. I’m a budding writer who is trying to hone his discipline. To do that I’m doing my own little writing challenge in the month of November. There were rules I laid out, and I won’t list them all here, but I’ll give you the gist of them: 2,000 words a day, no putting off writing because of work or sickness (within reason), and all my stuff has to be new (No revisions of old stuff right now). I will basically be doing free writes for the first week, then will hopefully start doing exercises by the second week. Also, I have a rule that if anyone gives me a writing prompt or suggestion, I have to use it. All of the work I do will be unedited. I am doing it this way because I get hung up a lot of the time and will spend hours rewriting a single paragraph to get it perfect and never actually working on my stories. So, for the month of November I will simply push on and get words on paper/screen as best I can. I think December or January might be a month in which I focus on revision.
So, without further adieu, I give you, Day 1 of my November Challenge. It’s actually a full story, so, enjoy. And it was inspired by the day’s daily prompt, so, I’ll give a link to that as well.
Day 1 Writing (Untitled)
By, E.W. Morrow
Word Count: 2007
Glasses tinkled and silverware clinked against fine china, adding a tinny quality to the general murmur of conversation around the table. In the center of the table a large turkey, partially sliced into neat little slices, dominated the other dishes. There were creamy mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, a mound of stuffing in the maroon bowl with a chip on its edge, a relic of years past, and cranberry sauce with decorative orange peel garnishes on top cozied up next to the plate of dinner rolls. Granny Martin reached across the table and grabbed an old gravy boat with a wrinkled, shaking hand. The thick gravy hardly wiggled at all as she trembled and dumped too much of it out over her plate. It got over everything, the potatoes, the meat, the casserole, and even her roll, but she didn’t seem to mind. From time to time a brief bout of laughter would burst forth from one of the family, but it never seemed to last for long.
Micah sat at the corner of the long dining room table. He ate in silence as best he could, though he was frequently engaged in conversation by one of the family members seated close enough to him to try. His responses were always short almost to the point of being rude, but nobody seemed to notice. They just smiled and nodded and Micha did his best not to look at the bits of cranberry stuck in their teeth or the blob of gravy on their chin.
What he couldn’t ignore was the sound of chewing. Everyone at the table seemed to be as noisy an eater as they were messy. Chewing didn’t do it justice. The slurping, chugging, slopping and altogether guttural sounds of his extended family at meal time nearly drowned out the sound of their conversation until it seemed to Micah that there was a secondary level of communication happening all around him.
“So!” boomed the voice of Uncle Eustice to his left, “I hear you’re studying pictures up at that school of yours.” Beneath the bluster of actual speech the sloshing of food in his uncle’s gullet added it’s own subtext: Sounds a bit like fairy work to me. Always thought you were a fairy, boy.
“Um, yes.” Micah said after a moment of thought. “Art History and Museum Sciences. Focusing on baroque paintings.”
“Well now, ain’t that a thing,” Eustice said through a mouth of green beans. Once again the food added it’s own little undertone: Fag.
“Have you found a girlfriend yet?” asked his aunt, Jerricah.
“Actually…” Micah began.
“’Course not.” barked Eustice. Jerricah looked at him in mild disapproval. “He’s…busy studying, obviously.”
“Well, you best hurry up. I know your mother would just love to have some grandchildren. Isn’t that right, Marjorie?”
Micah looked over at his mother. Unlike Jerricah, Micah’s mother had never really fit in with the family. Jerricah was not his aunt by blood, but you could never tell by looking. She shared the same husky, curved features of his family. She had the same sort of face, wide eyes, wide mouth, almost no neck. Even the volume of speech that was so characteristic of the Martin bloodline was present in Jerricah. But Micah’s mother was different. Like him she was thin and wiry. She had light brown hair and a gentle voice, just like Micah, and she rarely, if ever, spoke in the presence of the Martin clan.
Looking at his mother, Micah finally managed to put his finger on something that had been bothering him all evening. He still didn’t have a firm grasp of it, but he’d finally managed to bring it within reach. His mother seemed smaller. In every possibly way Marjorie Martin had diminished since the last time he’d seen her. Dainty fingers grasped enormous pieces of silverware and made tiny cuts in her food. Even her ability to think and speak seemed diminished, so she barely even noticed what was taking place around her anymore. Her eyes were fixed on a point not very far away in space as if even her capacity to dream were shortened. The tiny portions she placed into her mouth only seemed to exacerbate the problem. Without actually getting smaller, there was less and less of Marjorie every time she took a bite.
With new vision Micah surveyed the dinner table. Was it his imagination, or did everyone else at the table look just a little bit more alike than the last time he’d taken pains to notice? The beastly quality he’d come to loathe in his extended family was more pronounced now than it had ever been before. Even his cousins, repulsive little twin monsters that kicked and bit any family member they could when they didn’t get their way, looked like miniature versions of the adults at the table.
Finally, Micah looked down at the table itself. At first he didn’t see anything too out of the ordinary. The food still looked as appetizing as it had when he’d sat down and there was still plenty to go around. Which, Micah thought, was the odd thing. Just over a dozen people were squeezed into every available space around the dining table and all but two of them were shoveling food into their mouths at a sickening pace. And yet, even at this unabated rate of consumption, there was still plenty of food.
Micah watched as his grandfather picked up the plate of stuffing and shoved a mountain of it onto his plate. When he placed the dish back down Micah stared at it in fascination. There was no difference. None. The amount of stuffing in the bowl had not changed an inch, even though he’d clearly seen it nearly emptied mere seconds before. One of his cousins dripped honey over her biscuits in an endless golden stream. Granny Martin reached over sloshed another helping of gravy over her plate. Eustice was busy with his fifth turkey leg, alternating between gorging himself on the meat and waving it around wildly as he talked.
And still there was the sound beneath the sound of dinner. Something lurking behind the slurps and the chewing and the burps.
Micah was jolted from his thoughts by another bark from his uncle. “So! I hear you’re studying pictures up at that school of yours.”
“Um, yes.” Micah said after a few moments thought. “Art History and Museum Sciences. Focusing on….wait.” Micah paused mid sentence. His uncle glanced at him from the corner of his beady little eyes but didn’t stop eating.
“Focusing on what, dear?” asked Jerricah.
“Um, baroque paintings.”
“Well ain’t that a thing.” said Eustice.
“Have you found a girlfriend yet?” asked Jerricah.
“Hang on. Haven’t we already talked about this?” Micah asked. His aunt and uncle gave him a blank stare.
“This. We’ve already done this.”
“I don’t think so” said Jerricah before filling her mouth with potatoes.
“He’s just embarrassed he doesn’t have a girl yet.” Eustice explained.
“’Course not…” Jerricah gave him the same disapproving look she’d used earlier. “He’s…”
“Busy studying,” Micah said at the same time as his uncle.
“That’s what he calls it anyway,” jibbed Eustice nastily.
“Well, you best hurry up. I know your mother would just love to have some grandchildren. Isn’t that right, Marjorie?”
Again Micah looked over at his mother. She was noticeably more diminished than the last time he’d looked over. Her clothes seemed baggy and her face was drawn and taught over her skull. Minutes ago she’d been about as tall as those sitting to either side of her but now she was several inches shorter. Maybe even as much as half a foot. Marjorie took a tiny, delicate bite of turkey with a dainty little fork. Once again Micah thought he noticed a marked decrease in his mother’s presence.
Micah frantically tried to think of an excuse to leave the table, but he was finding it difficult. At some point in the evening he’d begun to grow tired. It was so subtle he hadn’t noticed it right away. He gave up and simply started gathering up his dishes.
“May I be excused?” He said in a tired, small voice.
“Sit down boy,” grumbled his father. He sounded like a volcano that had lain dormant until quite recently. “We aren’t done eating yet.”
Micah sank back down to his seat. The action had exhausted him more than he cared to admit, but even if he’d been wide awake and perfectly fit, the tone of his father’s voice would still have compelled him. Nobody in the family ever seemed to be able to resist it. At least, Micah had never seen anyone even try.
Instead of leaving Micah decided he would at least clear his plate. Maybe then his father would let him up from the table. As he made his way through the turkey and potatoes and green bean casserole, he was vaguely aware that some part of this plan didn’t quite match up. It was a little, nagging voice in the back of his head but it was drowned out by the sound of clinking silverware and murmured conversation. And, as always, by the sound of chewing.
He’d made it through five slices of turkey without refilling his plate once when his uncle’s voice cut through the mental haze he was lost in.
“So! I hear you’re studying pictures up at that school of yours.”
Micah couldn’t find the energy to answer, but something about the statement jogged his recent memory. Something about having already talked about this….
“Have you got a girlfriend yet?” asked his aunt in a painfully loud voice. Had her voice always been this loud?
“’Course not!” barked Eustice. Micah couldn’t lift his head to see if his aunt had given Eustice a disapproving look again. “He’s….busy studying.”
“Well, you’d better hurry up.” Jerricah said.
Micah waited for a few seconds before he realized that his aunt wasn’t going to continue speaking. He thought she had been going to say something about grandchildren for his mother. Summoning up a last reserve of strength Micah looked over at his mother, surprised that the table’s surface seemed so much closer to his face than he’d remembered.
Marjorie’s chair was completely empty. On either side of it the family had expanded to fill the void. Their toad-like bodies rolled into the empty space like unfinished dough. The sight of the empty space hit Micah squarely in the stomach, and he had a moment of clarity. This was wrong. Everything about this was wrong. His family was eating and eating, never ceasing their relentless consumption, and meanwhile he and his mother were simply wasting away. And beneath it all he was still aware of the sound of chewing. He heard it even more clearly now. It spoke to him, independent of the voices of his extended family. It was a wet, sloppy sound but it was clearly a voice now. And all it ever said was one word, over and over again.
A tear welled up and rolled down Micah’s cheek. The tabletop was almost over his head now and he didn’t have the energy to get up from his chair. The walls of his mind were closing in and shutting out the light of rational thought and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Feebly, he tried one more time to asked to be excused. No one heard him over the sounds of their own chewing.
And suddenly, the sound of dinner stopped. The meaty, corpulent bodies of the Martin clan all eased themselves back in their chairs. There was still food on the table, but it no longer seemed unchanged and endless. Micah shuddered in relief. He tried to cry tears of joy but his tear ducts had shriveled and dried up towards the end. Still, he thought, at least it’s over now.
“Alright,” came the deep rumble of his father’s voice. “Who wants dessert?”