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Thinking Outside the Box But Within the Big Picture

As a member of the Knoxville Writers Guild, and in particular of the Guild’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy Writers’ Group, I recently joined in on a writing experiment that was downright fun. The idea, which was thought up by another member of the group, was that each of us write a short ditty (called “flash writing”) using a photo as a writing prompt.

We were given several stock photos to choose from: a couple of samurais fighting with swords, a hovering spaceship, robots walking down a street, a field of sheep near a fairy castle. The one I chose showed a trashed, abandoned street with a post-apocalypse reek. (I’m a big apocalypse junkie, by the way. Walking Dead, Mad Max, The Road, The Stand…all that kind of stuff.)

It took me no time at all to finish writing because I knew right away what approach to take. Here’s what I “flashed”:

I really needed to pee.

Don’t snicker. You arrive in a new city, empty handed except for a half-eaten box of vanilla wafers and a water bottle long since drained, and tell me your nerves wouldn’t have you dying to pee too. The fact I had only one round left in my 9 mm didn’t help. At least I had Sheila, my trusty crowbar.

Except she probably didn’t need to pee, and I did.

Yep, I was stalling. The port-o-johns on the east side of the street were calling my name, but I hesitated. I hadn’t heard even the rustling of a rat since entering Kansas City, and the quiet was downright terrifying in its own way. All of my PABs—that’s post apocalypse buddies to you surviving out there—would laugh their asses off if they knew I was too uptight to cop a squat in the middle of the trashed urban avenue before me. But then, none of them were women with a fat ass and a few remaining synapses of decorum firing in their head.

Finally a sound! It looked like a half-installed sheet of roofing aluminum had finally discovered gravity about a block away. Crashing down onto who knows what, the sudden loudness of it made me lose a bit of bladder control. But only a bit. I’m a trooper.

Keeping still, I waited to see if the noise from the aluminum sheet would wake the bottom feeders. They rarely came out during the day, but it happened. Shit. A rump roast as big as mine could be just the breakfast call one of them needed.

I quietly sidestepped to the right toward a couple of long-abandoned Honda bikes that surprisingly still rested on their kickstands. They looked as if their owners had just pulled over to use the port-o-johns ahead of me. All I’ll say is they’d better have put the seats down before they got eaten.

Five more minutes passed.

Nothing. All stayed quiet except for a whisk-whisk coming from a candy wrapper being blown along the asphalt near my feet by a timid breeze made brave by the funneling action of the street. Still I couldn’t do it.

Aw, hell. I’ll just let it dribble down my leg. There’s bound to be a fresh set of pants somewhere in the debris on the outskirts of town. ‘Course I’ll have to take them off a corpse, but I figured that prospect held a touch more decorum.

Now, you got to admit, that was a hoot (and easy to appreciate if you’re a woman). I can’t wait until the group tries another writing prompt. It's fun just thinking outside the box but within the picture.

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