Not too long ago I started attending a weekly writing group at a coffee shop in Manchester city centre. Each week we spend the first half talking about what we’re working on, sharing things we have written at home, giving each other advice and constructive criticism. The second half is a writing exercise in which we are shown a photograph and have fifteen minutes to write about what we have seen, and then read it out to the group.
Here are two very short stories I wrote from those pictorial prompts. Both stories are pretty much as written in the exercise, only having been tweaked for spelling and grammatical errors.
The first one, Bert & The Balloon was written with children in mind as a nine-year-old girl came to our group this week to learn more about writing so she could write a book about her dog (which her sister is illustrating). The second one, Stuck, has provided me with a launching point for a new, longer story.
Bert & The Balloon
Bert did not like balloons.
It wasn’t the shape or the colour that bothered him. It wasn’t that squeaky noise they make when you touched one, or the way you could make someone’s hair stand on end when you rubbed one on your jumper. He didn’t even mind when they burst with a loud bang. He was fine with all of that. He couldn’t quite explain what it was he didn’t like about them.
But like them, he did not.
So he was very alarmed to find that a small white balloon following him one day. He first noticed it in the park while he sat on a bench feeding the pigeons.
There it was again on the bus as he was on his way to get the shopping with his granddaughter. And it followed him all around the supermarket; in the fruit and veg aisle, all through the freezer section and even when he visited the loo before making his way home.
“Grace?” He turned to the little girl holding his hand.
“Yes, Grandpa?” She said.
“This might sound like a crazy question but can you see a balloon following me?”
“No Grandpa.” She shook her head.
Bert thought this most curious.
All the way from the town centre back to his house, he could see it in the corner of his eye, bobbing innocently a short way behind him.
And there it was again in his sitting room as he put his feet up to watch the football.
“Jean! Jean!” He cried to his wife. “There’s been a balloon following me all day!” He cried “But do you know what?”
“What’s that?” came the voice from the kitchen.
“I don’t think I’m afraid of them anymore!”
“Oh, that’s good dear” his wife replied. The old woman and the little girl high fived each other.
Jean handed her granddaughter a pair of scissors with a wink.“There’ll be an ice cream in it for you if you be a good little girl and cut that balloon string from the back of Grandpa’s trousers.”
“ABC Elevator Services. Joe speaking.”
“H-hello? Can you help me? I’m stuck in this lift.”
“That’s what I’m here for ma’am. Let’s start with your name shall we.”
“Marie. Marie Lexington.”
“OK, Marie. Now, don’t you worry. I’m going to get you out of there.”
“Oh thank you, sir. It’s cold in here, and dark, and I really don’t like it. I’m so frightened.”
“Well, now you have me to talk to there’s nothing to be afraid of. OK, Can you tell me the building you’re in so we can get someone out to you?”
“I’m at the Talisman Theatre on Main Street.”
“I see. And did you happen to notice the number of the elevator you got in?”
“Yes. It was number 3. I remember because that’s the same as my house.”
“No problem Marie. Now let me look that one… oh.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No, no. Don’t worry. It’s just not showing on my system. It’s an old building, this happens. Listen. I’m new here so I’m just going to talk to my supervisor. I’ll be back in a…”
“Are you going to leave me alone again?”
“No Marie. I’ll stay on the phone until you’re safe. You’ll just hear some music while I talk to my boss. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I suppose. Just hurry back please.”
“I will. Try not to worry.”
“What is it Joe?’
“I’ve got a girl trapped in a lift, but can’t find the building on the system.”
“Oh yeah? Where at?”
“She says the Talisman Theatre.”
“Joe? Hang up.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m serious. Hang up right now.”
“You weren’t here when it happened…”
“When what happened?”
“The Talisman is gone, Joe. They knocked it down like two or three years ago but they didn’t realise until they were clearing up the rubble that a fourteen-year-old girl, Mary? Merry? Something like that, had snuck in to the place and got herself trapped in the elevator. She tried to ring for help but the guy who worked here before you didn’t realise the danger she was in, so put her on hold to go to the loo and he didn’t come back until it was too late.”