Writing Exercise: Again and Again and Again

Part One: Write a paragraph that includes at least three repetitions of a noun, verb, or adjective.

I hadn’t any desire to go, I told her. She asked whether I wanted to go shopping with her, and I blithely said that this was not my desire. She huffed, whipped her coat out of the closet, and stomped off without a word. And there went my desire. Did I want to go to the grocery store and watch her stare at produce? Did I want her to solicit my opinion on which root vegetable I cared the most about? No, this is not my desire. That which snatched her coat and clawed at the car keys was my desire. I desired to lay close to her, to hide within her garment, to adhere my skin to hers and feel her vitality thrumming into me. I desired a head full of her breathing, a chest full of her thunderous footsteps, and fingertips full of all the delicious, sweet skin I could reach. That is desirable, and I am desirous. Instead, the object of my desire has fled and thinks poorly of me, and I desire to not exist.

Part Two: Write a short narrative in which something is said or done, and then something is said or done that echoes or repeats it, perhaps in a different context.

The old man’s reel whizzed. His grandson, excited, barely refrained from jumping with excitement. In moments, there was a large trout gasping in their hands. Its sides glistened in green and gold blotches, and its belly was a brilliant copper. Its huge eyes bugged and gaped without comprehension.

The old man pinched the hook and smoothly slid it out of the fish’s jaw. He held the little beast under the water, letting it regain its composure, and it zipped away like a bullet.

“But grandpa!” the child cried, amazed.

The old man only ruffled the kid’s hair, chuckling. “That one was too valuable to only catch once,” he said. “Someday you’ll understand.”

I sighed and punched the large, red button on the remote. There was officially nothing good on.

Holding my breath, I stretched luxuriantly, nearly bringing myself to orgasm right there on the couch. Wow. Is that a thing? Can people train that? I thought I read something about it somewhere. I picked myself up, stabilizing myself on the remote control as I stood at the end of the couch cushion. The coffee table was too far away to leap to, so I was about to lower myself gracelessly to the carpet when I heard the front door open.

“I’m ho-o-o-o-ome!” she sang. I heard her keys hang up on the hooks by the door, heard the crinkle of a paper grocery bag, heard her wedges clop against the floor. It was some time before she drew close enough for me to see her over the low ridge of the couch back.

She walked around the couch and stood in front of me, her back to me. I grinned at the backs of her knees and thighs, loving this little favor she did for me. Bending at the waist raised the hem of her skirt, giving me a peek up it. Mine is a very, very good life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, not even one with better TV programming.

There was a glassy *clank* on the coffee table. When her huge legs stepped aside, I saw a large glass bowl with several tiny people inside. That is, people my size. What were they doing here? They wore shreds of clothes and some looked like they weren’t doing so well. They pressed their grimy faces against the bowl and drank in their new environment greedily. Just watching them stare with such desperation gave me the strange sensation that something I owned was being drained away.

“Sweetie? What’s this?” I called up to her.

She was standing over the bowl, hands on hips, smiling cheerily. “There was a sale!” she chimed. A sale at the grocery store? They didn’t sell Tinies at the grocery store. “I was on my way home and I saw these kids had set up a little booth on the sidewalk, and I thought I’d help them out and buy a couple cups of lemonade, just to be friendly, you know?” Her knees folded, her bare thighs pulsed, and her pert butt crashed to the cushion beside mine. “But they weren’t selling lemonade. They were selling Tinies!”

My eyes widened. “Are they safe? Have they been inoculated? Do you even know where they came from? What if they’re stolen? There are stiff penalties−”

She pooh-poohed my protestations. “It’s all above-board. Their parents were there, they produced documents: these were free-range Tinies whose colony collapsed and were eligible for rescue. Really, it’d be cruel to just let them starve on their own, fending for themselves against small animals and vehicles, you know?” She hadn’t made eye contact with me since setting the feral Tinies on the table. She looked at the bowl, some nearby magazines, the darkened TV, but she would not turn to me.

“Right, but you know the statutes on ownership, too.” I walked over to her hip, where the lemongrass skirt stretched taut. “No more than five to a household. People get busted for farming and intent to distribute. There’s six in that bowl.”

“Well, some of them are doing worse than others. I don’t expect they’ll all last very long.” She reached over and picked one up. I saw he was missing a leg, was using half of a travel toothbrush as a prosthesis. “I’ll use this one up, usher him out with tenderness.” The corner of her mouth curled slightly.

I looked through the crowd. Everyone else looked more or less healthy. With a few meals and a couple nights’ sound sleep, they could clean up nicely. I called up, “Which one will you get rid of after that?”

She slipped the crippled Tiny up her skirt, patting his butt until he hobbled inside. “It would’ve been cruel to leave them, you know,” she said, her voice dropping. “They’re disadvantaged. They wouldn’t have all the privileges that, say, another little guy might have.”

A minty chill spread through my chest, and I don’t remember much after that. We had a conversation, a loud and one-sided conversation, but I don’t recall a word of it. Just the noise my throat made after it cracked and how she gasped through her sobbing. My things were collected and boxed up with me. The car’s engine revved too high, the wheels squealed, and my box slid back and forth until it pitched off the seat and the car’s sounds were much closer to me.

When the engine cut and the passenger door opened, I didn’t recognize where we were. It could’ve been anywhere: a stretch of highway, a speed limit sign, and acres of geometrically ordered young pines. Her wedges crunched in the gravel as she carried my box across a ditch and entered the woods.

“You can’t, you can’t,” I said. Her nostrils flared above the box lid, and her cheeks were shiny. “You love me, you need me. That book I’ve been writing, the journal of our time together. Don’t you want to know how it ends?”

“We know how it ends,” she murmured, choking.

“We’re practicing songs together. You were teaching me that dance you like. Who’s going to make you that cute little charcuterie you like so well?” My tiny clothing bounced around me with every pounding footfall. Dry needles splintered under her strides. “I learned Italian for you, I sing you those classical songs when you go to sleep. I got over my fear of ferrets for you.” The sunlight was broken up by narrow shadows, hundreds of shadows. Her breasts swayed just over the box opening but I was too terrified to appreciate them. “I put myself through CBT to be better for you. I learned how to communicate, I took all those online courses in empathetic listening and creative journaling.”

Her upper body rose into the heavens and bent over me. The bottom of the box rasped against dry pine needles and twigs. Her necklace slipped out and pointed directly at me, and her bare knees poked bluntly. Some distant part of my mind wondered how Crusty Joe Toothbrush was faring.

“I rewrote myself for you.” My chest strained for breath and my arms reached up to her face, so far away. “I scraped away the gunk and polished up the good parts. I wanted to be my best for you, because you’ve given me so much. How can you toss me away for that roadside cruft you just found this afternoon?”

She started to speak, but I heard the old man’s voice.

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

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