Writing Exercise: The Old Woman

Version One: Tell the story of an old woman doing something in the present while recalling something in her past. Write it in first- or third-person, tell it all in the present or all in the past, and intercut between past and present at least twice.

Helewise pushed aside the vines that draped like the long tresses of a young woman. She looked up into the morning sky, the specks of birds crawling through the air just above her face, the stagnant clouds that billowed like her own hair. She closed her eyes and inhaled slowly, wind rushing into her pudgy nostrils, and her wrinkled lips spread in a trembling grin. She appreciated the gift of another lovely day in the mountains; they all were lovely, but as time went on she was grateful for each additional day.

There had been a time when she hadn’t thought of endlessly stretching days, when her hair was as long and fine as the sheet of ivy that poured over her cave. But it was honey-gold then, not as silver and gray as clouds. She’d rarely noticed the sun, except for the shapely shadow she cast, looming over the village of tiny people, or how it felt on her bare breasts when she lay upon the mountain ridge with her chosen tiny lover. He cast no shadow, his footfall was nothing: all he knew was warm, glowing, soft skin, and his delight shown brightly on his face.

Helewise ran her fingers through her starchy hair, cupped one leathery, creased cheek in her palm. Her lips frowned but the rest of her face grinned as she, bowing her head, picked her way down into the vale. Wrinkled with so many years, she thought, looking at herself in the river-fed lake. Far too many years for anyone. The sun glowed in her snowy ringlets, glowed in an aura around her shadowed face. Gravity did her jowls no favors, and she snorted wryly at her contorted reflection.

She had bent over like this before, many times. Way back when there was a village here, back when money and goods flowed in and out of the vale, back when young men came calling on her. All she had to do was pick her dainty way down to the lake and rinse her hair, and they came calling. “Goddess,” they called her, as though each were the first to think of it, as though the meaning never diminished through abuse. The brave ones, she could scoop up in her palm and lift up the length of her body, her flat belly, her proud breasts, up to her ruby lips. For the others, she would simply crouch on the ground, allowing them to creep between the huge, pink pearls of her toes and seize fistfuls of the fur between her thighs, haul themselves up to her moistening passage (how readily it moistened, way back then! How eagerly it flowed). They tickled, they weighed nothing, but it was their thrill she savored. Their lust burned like tiny torches against her skin, warming her cakes of cool flesh. She could scent their longing, when they came begging, like lavender on the breeze.

There hadn’t been any such scent in a long time.

Helewise captured a small pond in her palms and flung it crashing into her weathered, wiser, sadder face. It sprayed over the dock where tiny men used to fish. It dripped down her chin to the gardens long gone fallow. Once more she turned her face toward the sun and let its warmth sink into her cheeks, as it had done for centuries.

Version Two: Rewrite the same story, using the opposite person and tense as before.

It’s another lovely day. I’m lucky to have this day, to have all these days, I know. I tell myself this. Just look at the valley: lush and green, vibrant with life! The tiny little birds… each month, each year, it gets harder to see them, but I can hear them. I’ll always know they’re there, sliding through this sweet, cool air every day of the year. Oh, I hope I didn’t just inhale some! Life is full of so much comedy! I won’t know until I clean out my nose.

And I’m young again, finger halfway up my nostril, gazing at the little village of the vale. The other people are just specks, going about their gardening, breeding this bull to those cows, this ram to those sheep, always hoping for more just so they can stay where they are. I’m picking my nose and standing on the edge of their farm, looking down at them, mesmerized. My knobby knees and lean thighs cast shadows over the garden and the house, and the sun pours a thin, radiant beam between them. A river of light runs over the ox cart, over the tiny woman hauling a full milk jug back to the house, over the tiny man pausing in his fence repair to look up at me. The light stops there because my pussy blocks it, and that’s where he stares at me.

My thighs aren’t so lean, now, my knees not so knobby. I let out a long, slow breath, running my hands over myself. My belly is round and heavy now, but at least the skin there is smooth. I flex my fingers, splaying them in the sunlight I remember from my youth, though they don’t unfurl as fully as they used to. All these little aches and pains that build up… Inevitable, I suppose, after three lifetimes of hauling all this meat and bones and fat around on a planet not built for me.

The lovers come for me, so many of them over so many years. They sing songs, they bring eensy-weensy little gifts. They demand things of me, calling me horrible names, insisting their need implies an obligation in myself. They take what they want, stealing upon me in the middle of the night where I sleep, and there they die more often than not, crushed beneath a rolling boob, swallowed in a sleepy gulp, or mashed into my folds with an errant fingertip when I think I’m alleviating an itch. They let me know, generation after generation, that despite my power, my potential, the strength in my arms and legs or the thunderstorms in my skull, they assure me that my worth is so narrow. There is only one thing they could all desire of me, and they all deserve it, and I’ve no right to keep it from them.

Should I feel relieved, then, that no one comes a-callin’ any longer? I haven’t had anything to offer those men in over a century, and now the vale is bare.

I can’t even see the fish in the lake, if they’re still there. My knee drives into a fallow patch that once bore gourds and legumes, more than enough to sustain the families that flourished here. Washing my face, I savor (as I have learned to do, for lack of any other stimulation) the iciness in the water, and the chilly breeze that dries it on my cheeks, at my face’s high altitude. Idly, without malice, I simply place my pudgy foot upon the old farmhouse. It splinters disappointingly beneath my sole, almost apologizing as it collapses aside. The fat around my thigh hardly shudders at all. Last decade, the stables; next decade, the barn. Before you know it, it’ll just be me and the river-fed lake in a race to the unknowable end.

[Photo by Mick Stephenson]

One thought on “Writing Exercise: The Old Woman

  1. Alright. Here’s the way I see it… and I’m aware the following is a disconnect from your exercise, but I still have to say it. Because as human we feel alone, we are tragically designed to be surrounded by billions of people like us, yet feel utterly lonely in that endless ocean of people… we then project our feelings into those of a giantess. A giantess is lonely. A giantess is alone. There’s no one like the giantess. Sure. I buy into that often… but not always.

    So, the way I see this entry is as… “one day in the life of”. One day she gets up in the morning, and that one day was the culmination of weeks skipping her green smoothies, and not taking her minerals or whatever, so she’s bereft of proper nutrition to help her fend off depressing thoughts. That day. She’s usually busy with projects, and she doesn’t dwell on the past, because she has the present. The only thing she doesn’t have is young men throwing themselves at her. That’s a very small (har-har) part of her life.

    She paints. She writes. She reads. Her bard (the latest; her first bard died centuries ago, and she still misses him) reads to her. She sows and grows her own food, and that of others around her. She helps during floods, despite her creaky bones. She talks to the women in the village, and finds out who the latest raconteur is, and enlists him to tell her news from abroad.

    She’s near the end, but the end isn’t near her, is all I’m saying. But don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed what you wrote here. It touched my heart as I put myself in her shoes. One day I’ll be old, and my bones will be decalcified, and my hips weak, and I’ll still think of shrinking someone, and of growing as tall as buildings, countries, planets, galaxies… and I’ll walk around, invisible because I’m old. The invisible giantess.

    Fantastic, poignant entry.

    Liked by 1 person

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