It happened because . . . Prompt #72

Set your timer for 12 minutes. Start by writing “It happened because”  . . . then write for 12 minutes without stopping.

No thinking. No crossing out words.  Just write.

WatchIt happened because . . .

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  1. mcullen Post author

    It happened because she caught his eye. If only she hadn’t looked up right then. She wasn’t in a mood to talk with anyone that January morning. She had walked quickly down Western Avenue, anxious to get from Point A to Point B so she could get to Point H — Home.

    She was approaching Main Street when she noticed him shuffling towards her. She intentionally looked down.

    But at the last second she looked up and the thin, bedraggled man with a long unkempt grey beard, dirty jeans, a weathered blue parka and a tattered backpack looked at her. She had never noticed how blue his eyes were. She had never really looked at him and she had never spoken to him, until now.

    He hitched his hands on his backpack straps as a farmer might hitch his thumbs on his overall straps and in a reverential voice asked her, “Can you spare some change for a homeless person?”

    He leaned slightly in her direction. He had no emotion on his face, nor in his voice. He was passionless in his quest to obtain money. It was as if this was his job, to wander the downtown streets and survey, rather than panhandle, for money.

    But he did have a lean hungry look so perhaps he needed money for food.

    She took in a breath and with a tired exhale, “You’re not homeless. I know where you live. I’ll bring food to you. I know where you live.”

  2. Kathy Myers

    This is a vivid vignette where the characters are revealed by their actions. I like the image of adjusting his straps like he is hitching his overalls, and the contrast between his disheveled state and noticing his blue eyes. The words “tired exhale” speaks volumes. Nice twist at the end that caught me off guard.

  3. marcyt

    Your friends will have all sorts of theories as to why some people get cancer and others do not.

    They see you pour a glass of water from the tap and shudder. If only you’d drunk bottled water, they are saying to themselves. They see you going out for a walk on a windy day, eating bacon, having a second glass of wine, driving a car with a broken headlight, and the head inside their head is nodding sagely.
    But I’ll tell you something. It isn’t the water.

    It could be your parents—and don’t we all wish sometimes that we’d chosen other ones? It could be some environmental thing—those wires outside your bedroom window, the cellphone tower, the chemicals downstairs from your office. But it isn’t the water.

    It could be something emotional, some trauma you suffered as a child, an unkind word you internalized, a fear eating away at you inside. But it isn’t the water. I’m sure of that.

    It could be worry, stress, anxiety, lack of sleep. It could be that time you moved all the furniture that had been under tainted water after the flood. Or that time you cleaned out the garage and there were all those solvents. It could be any of those, but not the second glass of wine. I can promise you that.

    And here’s the thing. You’ve got it now. And now the doctors and the nurses could not care less what caused it. They are busy with their armor, loading their weapons, readying for battle. They do not blame you. They know you exercised enough, ate reasonably, took care of your teeth. Or not.

    They’ve seen it all and they know how it mostly ends, and if anyone had the right to affix blame it would be them. But they have no time for blame.

    Would they love to be out of a job? Change careers, deliver babies, whatever? No. They are called to this. They have the hearts of lions and the eyes of angels. They have tears to match your tears and they remember the names of your grandchildren.

    And if some magic wand were waved and no one ever got cancer again—Amnesty! All are cured!—they would just move on to the next thing. Leprosy if need be.

    They would rejoice in every fiber of their being that one killer was gone, even as they girded their loins for the next one. They are a breed unto themselves.

    Oh, it’s easy enough to be an angel on a cloud up in heaven, after all the suffering is done. The real angels hold your hand down here and make the machines stop beeping.

  4. mcullen Post author

    Big deep sigh. . . Marcy, poignant, beautiful. Your writing has a lovely rhythm that I can get lost in. Very satisfying to read. Thank you for posting. This is one I will read and re-read. . . for the satisfaction of getting lost in gorgeous writing.

  5. Lynn L

    Marcy, that’s just amazing. Marlene’s word “poignant” is so apt. I like the peacefulness the piece evokes, in spite of the difficult topic. I like the way it suggests, not forgiveness, but the fact that forgiveness is not necessary. The doctor’s heroism shows through in the way you humanize them. Superb.

  6. Lynn L

    It was irrational but so powerful.

    “Let it be,” Jake would say. “Quit pickin’ at it.”

    But leave it be Arlene could not. What if they’d left five minutes earlier, or five minutes later? There were days when she forgot about it, sometimes for hours at a time, but it had not yet faded far enough into the past to become inevitable. She couldn’t stop thinking, “If only.”

    It was in the midst of one of these bouts of melancholy that it first happened. It felt like a tingle and sounded like a hiss, and then hadn’t it been 5:20 the last time she looked at the clock? Why did it say 5:15 now? She must have been mistaken, she decided, must have read the clock wrong the last time. But the next five minutes had a brain-tickling sense of déjà vu about them – although any particular five minutes lying despondent in her bed in the middle of the day surely felt like any other five, with nothing to do but watch the dust motes drift on the late afternoon sun, the light so rich and angled so wrongly, reminding her that she had no business lying around all day – until the guilt of it drove her back into a logy, unpleasant sleep, and she woke again at sunset to repeat it. How could any five minutes not feel like every other? She gave it no more thought, although it happened again and again. She just accepted it as part of the landscape of her gradual unraveling, until the cat came in and dropped the mouse on her bed twice in a row. And how many mice like that could there be in the world? It was black and white, exactly like a miniature cow, and the second time it happened, Arlene sat up. The cat gazed cool yellow eyes at her. Arlene had always suspected that cats were multi-dimensionally gifted. Right now, between the two of them, the cat seemed to be the only one with a clue about what was going on.

    The mouse darted off the bed and hid behind the cedar chest – and hadn’t it hidden under the end table the last time?

    Arlene decided that she didn’t care if it meant she had finally lost her marbles. For the first time since it happened, she felt curious about something, felt drawn to solve a mystery other than what she might have done different.

    1. marcyt

      As always, I’m dying to know what happens next! So many possibilities, and I hope one involves Jake, and one involves the cat–after all, with multi-dimensionality, we can have it all, right? Your writing is so visceral. I’m lying on that bed, just like Arlene and I can see the dust motes. I love “the light so rich and angled so wrongly.”

  7. mcullen Post author

    Exquisite writing, Lynn. Intriguing, mysterious. . . I especially love, “It felt like a tingle and sounded like a hiss.” Powerful writing. Thanks for posting!

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