What do you want? Prompt #110

What do you want?

Set your timer and write for 15 or 20 minutes. See what comes up for you.

If this prompt is too “open” or vague for you, how about this:

What do you want to do today? If you could do anything you want. . . what would you like to do today?

You can answer for yourself, or as your fictional character would answer. This might be a fun way to get to know your fictional character(s) a little deeper.

Above all, have fun with this prompt!

Laffing Sal

 Laffing Sal 

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  1. Ke11y

    Okay, look, you won’t believe what I’m going to tell you. I’m not sure I believe it myself. But I know if I don’t set it down on paper, exactly as it happened, I will forget and just assume I dreamt the whole thing. It was one of those instant decisions. I mean, I didn’t get the idea having seen the lights flashing around the advertising hoardings, but for some unfathomable reason I got off the bus in Petaluma. I was probably thinking about a writing prompt, being my mind is always in transient mode, and watched a juggler entertaining the people standing in line for the circus being held in the fairgrounds. He juggled a hat, which he’d taken from the head of a small boy, and then two shoes, requested from the feet of the boy’s father. The children giggled and hissed in fun as they spied a hole in the man’s sock. He appeared unembarrassed, having as much fun as the children. It’s quite a feat to juggle objects of varying weights. The line applauded happily.

    Farther down the line a clown, with yellow hair, a red nose, and a very pale face, was tickling many of the children. As I got closer it was obvious the clown was a woman. I heard her soft, caring voice, asking each child their name, and then handing each child a balloon. She was asking the children what they wanted to be, hearing every beautiful idea as if it were a certainty. I hadn’t realized I was stood in line until she stopped in front of me, handed me a balloon and asked what I would wish to be when I grew up. The children snigger, hiding their petal-like faces behind their hands. Then the clown tickles me under my chin with a feathery duster.

    “Now, my little lad, you’ve come to see the circus, have you. Welcome. Tell me, what’s your name?”

    The little girl in front giggled. A little boy, a few feet away, was frowning. He could see ‘his’ balloon not making it into his hand.

    “Don’t be shy, we get big boys come to the circus all the time. Oh, com’on, I bet it’s Walter – it is isn’t it?”


    “Louder, please!”


    The giggling girl became hysterical.

    “Tom, meet Abigail. Shake her hand please. She is six. How old are you, Tom?”

    “I’m a lot older than Abigail.”

    “And why have you come to the circus, Tom?” Her voice was not mocking. It seemed genuinely interested in knowing.

    “I thought I liked clowns!” I said.

    “You don’t like me, Tom?” She asked loudly, standing back, shoulders open, arms pleading to her chest.

    Abigail’s glower could turn me to stone.

    “No, I love you, I think you’re great. Wonderful.” I said. Conscious of carrying a young girl’s favor.

    “You love me, Tom?”

    The clown did a tiny foot shuffle, getting in real close. Then rested her pale face on my chest.

    “Tom loves me, children.”

    Abigail’s face turned from sour to peach in a moment. She started jumping up and down on the spot.

    “Tom loves the clown – Tom loves the clown.” She laughed and giggled

    “Now tell me, Tom. How did you do in school today?”

    Abigail fell about, it was breathtaking with laughter. Her mother was infected by the moment. She, too, laughed gaily. Children were coming from down the line to see the fun.

    “I didn’t do so well, Miss Clown, I did very badly.” I bowed my head, placing my index finger on my lower teeth.

    “I did good, Miss Clown, I do good every day.” Shouted Abigail. Holding her mother’s hand and making little leaps of joy.

    The clown turned to her, then feathered her little shining face. Abigail shrieked.

    “You didn’t do good, Tom. Oh my – Oh my, Tom. You know what happens to boys who don’t do well in school, don’t you?”

    “I’d guess they don’t get a balloon, Miss.”

    The clown stood back, straightened her back, and raised a wagging finger.

    “That’s exactly right, they don’t get a balloon. You must try harder.” She turned to look up the line. “Did anyone here do good in school today?”

    A small boy held up his hand, reaching on tiptoes, trying to touch the sky it seemed.

    “What’s your name little man?”

    “Billy…Billy Chapman, and I did good, I really did.”

    Did you hear that, Tom? Billy did really good in school. What do you think that deserves?”

    “I think it deserves my balloon, Miss Clown.”

    She took the balloon from me, offering a huge wink of an eye.

    Billy sighed his relief. His face shone like an October apple.

    With that the clown was gone, and the line moved toward the entrance. I headed back toward town center, stopping in at Starbucks. I sat down with my coffee. It was an hour before the next bus to San Rafael. I was enjoying my coffee when a woman, stood at my table and asked:

    “Why did you really come to the circus, Tom?”

    I recognized the voice immediately, so kind.

    I thought for a second, before answering.

    “It was a strange thing really. I’d had the question posed to me: What do you want to do today. I wanted to do something that would create laughter. I saw the Big Top and the flags on the way home from work, I just got off the bus.”

    “Thanks for being a great stooge. I picked on you, rather. I could tell you’d cope. That’s part of the job, understanding who you can approach, and in what kind of way. I knew you’d be fine.”


    There was a pause. I could sense a tear, its own universe, welling behind my eyes.

    It was as if all the laughter in the world was captured in Abigail’s body, a spark that entered into my heart and set it beating like a circus drum.

    “Tell me, if you were asked the question: what would you want to do today.”

    “That’s easy, Tom. I always wanted to drive buses.”

    1. mcullen Post author

      This is like a dreamy story-before-bedtime, which I love. This is written so expertly I can see that clown, see her dismay and see her pretense at being “shy.” The dialogue is spot-on and moves the story forward in a lively way. And I love the ending . . . love seeing/hearing the real person behind the clown costume. So many good lines, here’s a favorite, “It was as if all the laughter in the world was captured in Abigail’s body, a spark that entered into my heart and set it beating like a circus drum.”

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