I’ve been in Coffee Cup Cake for an hour, listening to them babbling on about their success as Internet influencers, the perils of public transport for mothers with buggies on their way to drop of their little darlings at the childminder’s, and date nights with their partners, “thank God for babysitters and grandparents!” Not one of them has asked how I’m getting on with my strict diabetic diet (they didn’t even consider that when they chose the venue – a coffee and cake morning isn’t really my cup of tea) or how I manage to get around now, apart from fussing over Molly, my seeing-eye dog, who they’ve been secretly feeding under the table. I know because I can feel her strain on her harness when she’s offered a morsel. They’re not even bothered that I had to take a day out of my annual leave to meet up with them. The bank is very strict about taking days off, and they’ve been so good about me injecting my insulin during working hours, allowing Molly to sleep under my desk, and providing me with an assistant. I should have invited her to come along. She’s more like family than my parents; they haven’t bothered to visit me in months.
I shouldn’t complain. It’s been three years since we last got together and none of them were around when I first lost my sight. We were in our mid-twenties then, they were all getting married, full of plans for the future, ready to start families, while I was spending all my free time at the gym, and weekends and holidays climbing mountains and having adventures. Now I’m twenty-nine, my only family is Molly, and I struggle with unfamiliar places, especially stairs and escalators.
What’s that? They want me to settle an argument about breastfeeding! What do I know about that? Jan wants to bottle feed her daughter after only three months, while Sophie insists on feeding her son until he’s three. How does that work on days out or when you’re visiting friends? And what’s wrong with Molly. I can hear her panting under the table. Oh know, she’s going to be sick. Have they been feeding her chocolate cake?
Kim M. Russell, 19th July 2020
I wrote this in another e-mail workshop organised by a member of staff from the Norfolk Library and Information Services.
Each participant wrote a sentence or two on character, setting and conflict, which were then sent by email, separated, and mixed up. We then each received a setting/character/conflict combination, which did not include any of our own ideas.
Character: The lady in question is now blind due to diabetes. She used to be a gym addict and rock climber. She is 29 years old and works in a bank in a boring environment.
Scene: Sitting in a fashionable coffee shop meeting up with old school friends after three years apart discussing life, the world, the universe and their part in the future. The realisation that the others have all followed their own paths into jobs, marriage and children and have no interest beyond those subjects, that she no longer belongs to this place or this circle of old friends. Even her family have become strangers.
Conflict: Character is being actively pressured by two opposing sides and must choose which to support. They have loyalties with both. If they don’t make a decision soon, it will be too late and the consequences for their family could be dire.
We then wrote stories from these combinations. I pared mine down to 369 words for today’s Writers’ Pantry.