The Holy Meal


Prompt courtesy of Writer\’s Digest “Promptly” prompt of the week. 

I thought it might be interesting for you–the reader–to see how stories are written.  Or at least how I write them.  🙂  Along with the final draft that I submitted on the Writer’s Digest website (with a word limit of 500 or fewer), I am including the initial drafts. 

With my writing style, I often edit as I go.  So, while I technically only have 3 drafts, each draft has been changed many times.  The plus of making/keeping drafts is that it can be very difficult to slice and dice your own work–having multiple drafts allows you to keep the parts that you like but don’t make it into the final draft.  Editing has to be very surgical and precise, especially when working within a word limit.  While a phrase may sound nice, if it doesn’t add to the story in the way necessary, it has to go.  Well, it has to go from the final draft — I still keep it around should I ever want it in the future.

You will also see a few notes to myself — very few, actually, since this story is very short and I mostly wrote it by the seat of my pants.  For some of my works, though,  I  have many notes written to myself to make sure I keep on track.

While this was more of a “let’s see what I come up with” story, I still did my homework.  Example:  I researched whether or not it really is possible to get a coin back from a vending/slot machine.  🙂 

Enjoy!

It’s been days.
You’re dehydrated and wild-eyed.
And now this.
You traveled all this way for this?

Final Version

 

A stuffed bear with googly eyes grinned at me from its perch on a plastic pony.  I swallowed hard, the sides of my dry throat sticking together.  I blinked even harder, but the googly eyes still googled.

The fair whirred around where I stood battered, bruised, and deranged. Fire breathers scorched behind me.  The Bearded Lady dropped me a wink from her shabby booth.  Children with cotton-candied fingers and twitchy limbs squealed in delight at the flashing lights of game booths.  But my attention was focused on the balding, plush bear before me. 

This was it?  My arduous journey ended here?  Mr. Hendricks’ directions led to this spot – there was no mistake.  And yet there must be.  It wasn’t here.  I was being stared down by a mangy bear, and it was winning.

I swiped a super-sized Coke from a tween slurping by me. 

“Hey!”

Fixing the kid with a withering glare, I took a long drag on the straw.

“Yeah, ok, whatever man,” he muttered, backing away.

My seared throat sighed with content as I guzzled the drink.  Refreshed, I surveyed the bear’s surroundings.  Its stall was of termite-infested wood.  Straw was strewn on the ground, tickling the pony’s hooves.  The hideously pink and toothy pony had seen better days, probably fifty years ago. The bear looked like a multi-flavored snow cone.  A small, archaic slot machine stood in the corner.  Otherwise, the stall was empty.

I pulled a worn, grubby parchment from my pocket and studied the scribbles there.  The last few lines, nearly illegible with the dying Hendricks’ haste, were etched in my memory:  The fair.  Stall 13.  End of your quest.  Play the game, keep the change.

Puzzling.  No amount of study made sense of the words.

I gazed at the stall, waiting for inspiration to strike.  A triumphant shout erupted from a nearby game booth.  Play the game…  My eyes darted to the slot machine in the corner.  I palmed a dime and knelt in front of the machine.  Keep the change…  Grabbing a piece of straw, I tied the dime into a leash.  Carefully I lowered the coin into the slot, driving it home.  I yanked it back on its leash as the screens rolled.  The slot machine stopped—three cherries—and the stall began to tremble.

The pony and bear twirled in a downward spiral, disappearing through the floor.  I leapt to the spot and slid into the gaping hole. 

A small door was carved into the side of the hole’s wall.  A coin slot stood sentinel next to it.  I inserted my dime.

The hatch swung open on creaking hinges.  There it was.  I stumbled towards it, took it gingerly in my hands:  the recipe for the world’s most sought-after hamburger.  This morsel of heaven would catch a fortune unimaginable.

I sidled around the pony and climbed up the wall with my prize.  I just reached the top when a fuzzy voice asked,

“Would you like fries with that?”

–A. Bees 11/11/2009

First Draft

 

A stuffed bear with googly eyes grinned at me from its perch on a plastic pony.  I swallowed hard, feeling the sides of my dry throat stick together.  I blinked even harder, but the googly eyes still googled at me and the plastic pony blinded me with its garish gleam.

The fair whirred around where I stood battered, bruised, and all but deranged. Fire breathers scorched behind me.  The Bearded Lady dropped me a wink from her shabby booth.  Children with cotton candied fingers and twitchy limbs squealed in delight at the flashing lights of game booths.  But my attention was focused on the balding, plush bear before me –the object of my quest, the perpetrator of the last few days’ agonizing journey.

This was it?  This?  Mr. Hendricks’ directions led to this very spot – there was no mistake.  And yet, it must be.  Nothing enlightening or priceless dwelled here.  I was being stared down by a mangy bear, and it was winning.

I swiped a super-sized Coke from a tween slurping by me. 

“Hey!”

Fixing the kid with a withering glare, I took a long drag on the Coke.

“Yeah, ok, whatever man,” he muttered, backing away with his palms in front of his chest.

Kids.  Screaming nerves in my seared throat sighed with content as I guzzled the drink.  I felt my strength trickle back.  Maybe now I could figure out this whole mess.

I began to survey the bear’s surroundings.  Hendricks said the item for which I was seeking would be in plain view, the best possible guise.  The stall housing the bear and pony was of a termite-infested wood.  Loose straw was strewn on the ground, tickling the hooves of the pony.  The pony itself had seen better days, probably about fifty years ago.  It consisted of a hideous bubblegum pink plastic with a bucked teeth grin spread across its muzzle.  The bear looked like a multi-flavored snow cone, rainbow colored and textured.  A small, archaic slot machine stood in the corner.  Otherwise, the stall was empty.

I pulled a worn, grubby parchment from my pocket and studied the lines and scribbles there.  The last few lines, nearly illegible with the dying Hendricks’ haste, were etched in my memory:  The fair.  Stall 13.  End of your quest – it’s plain to see.  Play the game, keep the change.

Puzzling.  I had hoped during the many times that I had studied this document that the scribbles would make sense once I was at the destination.  No such luck.

I gazed at the stall, waiting for inspiration to strike.  A triumphant shout from down the row—a poker table—was the lightning strike.  Play the game…  My eyes darted to the slot machine in the corner.  I palmed a dime and kneeled in front of the machine.  Keep the change…  Grabbing a piece of straw, my enthusiasm imbuing my fingers with speed, I tied the dime into a leash.  Carefully I lowered the coin into the slot, driving it home.  I yanked it back on its leash as the screens rolled.  The slot machine stopped—three cherries—and the stall began to tremble.

The pony and bear twirled in a downward spiral, disappearing through the floor.  I leapt to the spot and slid into the gaping hole. 

A small door was carved into the side of the hole’s wall.  A coin slot stood sentinel next to it.  I pushed the coin into the slot, kissing it for good luck.

The hatch swung open on creaking hinges.  There it was – the holy grail.  I stumbled towards it, took it gingerly in my hands.  The world’s most delicious burger, warming under a heat lamp, gigantic and juicy.  This morsel of heaven would catch a fortune unimaginable.

I sidled around the pony and proceeded to climb up the wall with my prize.  I took one last look at the cave, and that’s when the bear’s googly eyes swiveled towards and it asked,

“Would you like fries with that?”

***

Word count:  668

(Maybe end with the item being something really silly?  Or a gift for his kid?  Something like that?)

Ok, so maybe he puts some change (finds it on the floor?  Hendricks left him a dime?) in the slot machine and the bear and pony come to life or reveal a hidden door.

Revision #1

A stuffed bear with googly eyes grinned at me from its perch on a plastic pony.  I swallowed hard, the sides of my dry throat sticking together.  I blinked even harder, but the googly eyes still googled.

The fair whirred around where I stood battered, bruised, and deranged. Fire breathers scorched behind me.  The Bearded Lady dropped me a wink from her shabby booth.  Children with cotton-candied fingers and twitchy limbs squealed in delight at the flashing lights of game booths.  But my attention was focused on the balding, plush bear before me — the perpetrator of the last few days’ agonizing journey.

This was it?  Mr. Hendricks’ directions led to this spot – there was no mistake.  And yet there must be.  It wasn’t here.  I was being stared down by a mangy bear, and it was winning.

I swiped a super-sized Coke from a tween slurping by me. 

“Hey!”

Fixing the kid with a withering glare, I took a long drag on the straw.

“Yeah, ok, whatever man,” he muttered, backing away.

My seared throat sighed with content as I guzzled the drink.  My strength trickled back. 

I surveyed the bear’s surroundings.  Its stall was of termite-infested wood.  Loose straw was strewn on the ground, tickling the pony’s hooves.  The hideously pink and toothy pony had seen better days, probably fifty years ago.  It was a hideous bubblegum pink with a toothy grin spread across its muzzle.  The bear looked like a multi-flavored snow cone.  A small, archaic slot machine stood in the corner.  Otherwise, the stall was empty.

I pulled a worn, grubby parchment from my pocket and studied the scribbles there.  The last few lines, nearly illegible with the dying Hendricks’ haste, were etched in my memory:  The fair.  Stall 13.  End of your quest.  Play the game, keep the change.

Puzzling.  No amount of study made sense of the words.

I gazed at the stall, waiting for inspiration to strike.  A triumphant shout erupted down the row—a poker table.  Play the game…  My eyes darted to the slot machine in the corner.  I palmed a dime and knelt in front of the machine.  Keep the change…  Grabbing a piece of straw, my enthusiasm imbuing my fingers with speed, I tied the dime into a leash.  Carefully I lowered the coin into the slot, driving it home.  I yanked it back on its leash as the screens rolled.  The slot machine stopped—three cherries—and the stall began to tremble.

The pony and bear twirled in a downward spiral, disappearing through the floor.  I leapt to the spot and slid into the gaping hole. 

A small door was carved into the side of the hole’s wall.  A coin slot stood sentinel next to it.  I inserted the coin.

The hatch swung open on creaking hinges.  There it was – the holy grail.  I stumbled towards it, took it gingerly in my hands:  the recipe for the world’s most sought-after burger.  This morsel of heaven would catch a fortune unimaginable.

I sidled around the pony and climbed up the wall with my prize.  I took one last look at the cave.  The bear googled at me and asked,

“Would you like fries with that?”

A fuzzy voice asked,

***

Word count:  537

 

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