Last week I mentioned the 24-hour short story contest at booklocker.com. I ended up writing three stories, only submitting the last one. Judging won’t end for around six weeks, so I don’t know if I won anything. But the first story I wrote was the one I actually like best. I didn’t use it as my entry for a reason that I’ll explain at the end of this post.
The piece was limited to 916 words. Also….the first graph contains the writing prompt required to appear in the story. I wasn’t crazy about it, but amended it only slightly. So I will accept only partial responsibility for the over-dramatic prose there. Hope you enjoy it, and comments/criticism are welcome!
Clinging tightly to her valise, she glanced over her shoulder before stepping onto the platform. She was wearing the black and white habit of a Dominican nun from the 19th century, and her headdress fluttered in the wind. Dark blue clouds marched across the sky, pregnant with the promise of a blizzard. The conductor was urgently pleading for everyone to get on board so they could depart before the storm arrived. As she placed her foot on the first step, she paused. She looked like a woman who’d forgotten something…..
“CUT!” the Director screamed in exasperation. The cameramen, stagehands, and cast muttered and sighed audibly, with several actors rolling their eyes and shaking their heads, “Audrey”, the Director said, his voice shaking with anger. “The line is ‘I know I’m forgetting something’! How many times have we been over this?”
Audrey’s cheeks flushed to a bright red, as she timidly walked over to the Director’s chair, avoiding eye contact with the script people and stagehands gathered around the Great Man.
William Harrison Guest did not suffer annoyances graciously. Forgotten lines, unexpected crashes from props dropped backstage and empty whiskey flasks were at the top of the list, and this….girl….had just made two contributions to category one. His head was covered with white hair that had not been tended in some hours, and his bright blue eyes flashed beneath bushy, silver brows. Audrey looked at the floor as she stood before the famous filmmaker.
Guest stared at Audrey. “If you can’t remember the line, young lady, we’ll find somebody who can. I don’t care who your family is. Do you understand that?”
Audrey nodded, her eyes darting from side to side underneath the broad brim of the habit.
“Now get back on your mark and play the scene already, so we can all go home.” Guest turned away from her and shook his flask at his assistant, who snatched it from his hand and ran offstage.
Audrey walked slowly back to her place, gathering herself for the scene. When she got to her mark, she turned and nodded at Guest. He turned and motioned to the cameramen, and said “ACTION!”
Audrey slowly mounted the steps and turned to the camera. Staring into the distance, she said, “I know I’m forgetting something….”
“CUT!” Guest screeched, taking a swig from his newly arrived flask. “Print that, and have it ready for review by tomorrow.” He was already stalking off the stage as he spoke, and the crew began wrapping up production for the day. Audrey took off her hat and walked quickly to her dressing room.
When she got to the end of the long hallway, she saw her friend and hairdresser Evelyn waiting at the locked door. Audrey fished the key out of her bag and opened the door. Evelyn followed and, as she closed the door, Audrey fell on the couch, sobbing.
“I don’t know why he has to be so mean to me,” she said, crying quietly as Evelyn offered her a box of Kleenex. “He know this is my first movie. Why can’t he be more patient with me?”
Evelyn sat beside her, a hand on Audrey’s shoulder. “You have to know that it’s more about your father than you,” she said quietly. Audrey sat up, nodding, dried her eyes and blew her nose. After several loud honks, she absent-mindedly handed the tissue back to her friend. Evelyn shuddered and wrinkled her nose, but held out her palm. She dropped the trash into the wastebasket and made a mental note to start carrying handkerchiefs.
Meanwhile, Audrey had turned her attention to a mirror and began wiping off makeup. She looked up from her work when there was a soft knock. Evelyn opened the door to a stooped, wizened man of 80, who smiled and bowed slightly. Seeing her visitor in the mirror, Audrey said “Daddy!” and rushed to embrace him.
“When did you get here?”
“I just drove down from the cottage, sweetheart,” he said. He suddenly saw the streaks in the makeup on her cheeks. “Audrey, have you been crying?”
Audrey flushed with embarrassment. “It’s nothing, Daddy. Just a run-in at the end of shooting today with William.”
The old man’s eyes glittered and he pursed his lips. “And what, pray tell, did the great William Harrison Guest find to be unhappy about today?”
Audrey turned away. “It’s really nothing, Daddy. I just made a mistake and he got angry about it. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all, but he threatened to take me off the film in front of the rest of the cast.”
He stood up. “I see. I believe I’ll have a word with the man.”
Audrey shook her head. “No, Daddy, no…please don’t. I did make a mistake, and he’s under a lot of pressure to finish the film. It was nothing. Really.”
He offered a tight smile. “As you wish, dear. I have a meeting in the city, so I’ll see you this weekend.” He bowed to Evelyn, kissed Audrey’s cheek and left, closing the door quietly.
Guest was draining a glass in his office when there was a knock at the door. He barked ‘Come in”, and the old man entered, fixing the director with a hard, flinty stare.
Guest sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. “ Come in, Dad. What is it now?”
After I finished writing this, I looked at the fine print on the contest rules, and it said using the prompt as a scene in a movie or play is a common plot device and is a fast track to the discard pile. So, while there is no rule specifically prohibiting using it that way, I decided to go in a different direction for my entry. That one contained baseball references, and I’ll post it at some point.