It was a lovely idea for whoever dreaded the Christmas holiday or could do with an extra writing challenge during the dark days around Christmas. Prompt! Writing organised a ‘Christmas Write-along’, a little Christmas present for everyone who works with text or who simply loves writing.
Working together on the same writing project through small daily assignments that stimulate the imagination and cost little time.
I must confess there were moments where I struggled, but the assignment of the next day always managed to put me back in the writing flow. On the last day, we were allowed 12 minor edits and added a title.
Below you’ll find my story. It’s hardly a literary tour the force, but it’s been a good writing exercise.
Stranger At Her Door
She carefully mixed the different brands of dog kibbles with the salmon oil and the vitamins under the watchful eye of her eager dog. As usual, she performed the food song and dance that always excited the dog even more.
One moment she set out to the dog’s food spot, the other moment saw the entire bowl of oil-coated dog kibbles strewn across the floor, the bowl itself laying upside down at the end of the room.
Thoroughly annoyed with herself, she was just gathering the kibbles with a dustpan and bin when she heard a rather loud tap on the window. Suddenly self-conscious for still wearing her pyjamas, she looked up into the smiling face of a stranger, standing in her front yard. Sighing, she went to the door.
“Good morning”, he called out to her before she had even opened the door.
“Is it?” she grumbled.
“Need a hand?” he inquired both helpfully, with a familiarity that implied she should know him. She didn’t.
He took a step closer towards the door, that she didn’t open any further than the crack needed to speak through.
“It’s John, remember? I know I’m early,” he started apologetically, sensing her reticence, “I was just in the neighbourhood and thought I’d come by. Best to start early, I always say.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I just don’t know what this is about.”
Something in his eyes changed as he took another step towards the door.
She felt an unpleasant vibe coming off of this stranger at her door. Uncomfortably, she wondered just how long he had been standing there in her front yard, watching her through the window. Did he witness her minor mishap or, worse, could he somehow have caused it?
“Now look here,” she said, straightening her back, clearing her throat, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing here.”
“You know,” he said in a low voice, “you’d better let me in.”
She felt threatened. The man didn’t seem to be armed, yet there was something ominous about him. Desperately, she searched her mind, but no associations came up. He never mentioned a business or an organisation he represented, so why would he be so intent on coming in?
“Wait here,” she said, closing the door on him, grabbing her phone to call her husband. Clearly busy, he sounded annoyed as he answered.
“There’s a man named John at the door, insisting on coming in.”
“So let him in already.”
“But who is he? This is just typical; you asking over your vague acquaintances without letting me know.”
“I can’t help it if you don’t pay attention to what I’m saying, or that you forget everything. I told you I met John in the dentist’s waiting room, and that he works with granite. I asked him to come over to size up our doorstep, so he can make us a new granite threshold.”
“I don’t forget everything; I just don’t remember this John, and let me tell you: there’s something threatening about him I do not care for at all. I’m sure somehow he made me drop the dog’s food bowl, staring through the window like he did.”
“To you, everything is threatening these days. You don’t need much, do you, with your superstitions. There’s nothing wrong with John, just open the door and let him get to work.”
Still, something about John didn’t feel right.
She walked back to the door, where he was still waiting. His pleasant smile had made way for a dark look on his face. She opened the door at a crack, deciding to test him before she would let him in.
“Say John, what exactly is your history with my husband?” she asked him.
John hesitated before he answered: “Well, I’m not sure… I met him somewhere, talked a little…”
“Could you be more specific,” she insisted, “where exactly did you two meet?”
There was a pensive look on John’s face as he clearly struggled with his memory. Suddenly his face cleared up, and he looked at her happily, exclaiming: “The supermarket! We met at the local supermarket! I’m sure of it!”
She trusted her husband unconditionally and knew his memory wouldn’t fail him. Clearly, John was lying. But why?
“Are you sure?” she pressed. “That is not what my husband told me.”
Once again, a dark cloud passed over John’s face as he again took a step closer towards the door.
Clearly annoyed, John insisted: “Look lady, your husband and I met at the local supermarket. We got to talking, I told him what I do for a living and he said he wanted a granite table in his garden.”
Now she was sure John was lying. She was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as to the location where they met, but as far as she knew him, her husband would never want a granite table in the garden.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “that just cannot be true. I know you didn’t meet my husband at the local supermarket and I am 100% sure he wouldn’t want a granite table in our garden. I can’t let you in,” and started closing the door on the angered stranger at her doorstep.
At that moment, she heard music coming from the road. As she looked past John, she was surprised to see an unconventional brass band move slowly by. It was a motley crew consisting of some elderlies and quite a few disabled or otherwise challenged people, all playing their instruments with zest.
The bandleader waved, then stopped right outside her gate. The band abruptly stopped playing.
“Hey there John!” he called, “Where were you? We’ve been waiting for you!”
John’s brow furrowed. He looked very confused for a moment, but the next moment he was smiling again, waved at the band and, without a word, turned away from the door and dashed towards the band.
“Has he been giving you trouble, Ma’am?” the bandleader called to her, “Sorry, he sometimes forgets where he’s supposed to go.”
Bewildered, she watched John pass through her gate, quickly take his place in the band, pull a harmonica out of his coat pocket, bring it to his mouth, and fall in line with the band as they started moving and playing again.
Relieved, she closed the door and turned her attention once more to the dog that was still licking the floor where the oily kibbles had fallen.