I used this exercise from someone else’s blog: http://creative-writing-course.thecraftywriter.com/
The paltry grandeur of diamonds does not compare
To the vastness and power of earth and air
The wind prods clouds through iguana blue sky
Trees shake in communion that money can’t buy
That which springs from the dirt is close to the earth
And alive, alive
Jesus was right: The rich shall be poor, while the poor of the earth thrive
Short story response:
Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Michelle’s alarm clock went off at 5:00 on Friday morning. Beep beep beep. Michelle stretched a tired arm to the clock to switch off the beeping and heard the words “paucity of spirit.” Startled, Michelle thought someone was in her apartment. The words were muddled and she struggled for a moment to put the words in order in her brain. She looked around her bedroom, still dark except for the nightlight near the door, and saw that it was empty.
“Huh,” Michelle thought. The voice was strange, but she quickly dismissed it as the tail end of a dream. There was not time for pondering anyway; Michelle put on her gray scale outfit for work, drank her coffee that was set on auto every morning, and walked out of her gray scale apartment to catch the subway. This was New York, and there is no time for nonsense.
Michelle ignored the squirrels beside the street and the sound of people’s shoes against the sidewalk and made it to her subway and sat down. On the morning commute, Michelle was normally so immersed in scrolling through her meetings and organizing her day that she never noticed other passengers. Leaving her neighborhood at this time of day, she only ever saw working professionals, usually equally engaged with their phones planning their days. Michelle was relieved it was Friday, both because it was the end of a grueling work week and because Friday was her day to meet with her therapist. She and all her friends had therapists; for some, getting one was as casual as purchasing a handbag, but Michelle had been with her therapist for three loyal years.
As Michelle reminded herself of her appointment schedule, two passengers next to her became unusually chatty. Michelle kept her eyes on her phone, planning, but their voices were impossible to ignore despite the fact that they were barely whispering. “Big Indian Mountain, pick up in the Bronx, Big Indian Mountain, pick up in the Bronx, Big Indian Mountain, pick up in the Bronx.” Who were these people? And why was it that every time Michelle looked at her phone, all she heard were these phrases repeated? Why was Michelle able to hear their plans at an elevated decibel level when all other passengers seemed unperturbed?
“Focus!” Michelle snapped at herself. She had always had the ability to drown out outside noise when doing work. “You need to get your job done!” Michelle got off at her stop and made her way into the office building, ready to obey her inner steel-edged voice.
The day was a whirlwind of meetings, and Michelle skipped her lunch to keep up with the workload. By 5 pm, she was hungry and a bit on edge, aware of the empty vastness in her intestines that caffeine had burned through. She imagined papers fluttering throughout the whole building as everyone tried to keep pace with the demands of crunching numbers and increasing profit. She laughed at the image for a moment, and then snapped at herself again. “Get your work done!” she barked in her brain. A tree scraped her office window, and Michelle saw that the sky was losing its blue. The office seemed smaller as it got dark out. Michelle pushed down the urge she sometimes felt to be in open fields, away from the city, letting the wind rush through her long hair. She pounded the keyboard mercilessly, the edges of her fingers red.
By 5:45 pm, it was time to leave. Michelle texted her therapist to tell her she might be 1-2 and a half minutes late, but no more than that! Her therapist replied, “Take your time. I’m always here.” Michelle sighed a relief, thankful she’d found such a reliable therapist. She’d heard horror stories from her friends of being criticized rather than supported in therapy, and Michelle didn’t think she could handle that on top of a 60-70 hour workweek.
Michelle grabbed her black laptop bag and packed up her laptop and folders to finish at home. She appreciated how glossy the top of her desk and the freshly polished floors were, since her company had hired a new cleaning staff, and shut the lights off. The room was swallowed by the lack of light.
Michelle made her way to the elevator, rubbing her neck with her left hand and carrying her work bag in her right. “Hold that, please!” came a voice from behind her. Michelle stepped on and held the door with her work bag.
“Michelle, hi!” said Brad, the newest hire from accounting.
“Brad, hi,” Michelle muttered, resisting the urge to look at her email on her phone because she knew it was rude. She was still rubbing her neck with her free hand.
“Is your neck bothering you?” Brad asked.
“Isn’t everyone’s after work?” Michelle replied, not wanting to seem like she thought her pain was special.
“I’m sure it’s common. I find that hiking on the weekends helps me unwind after the crazy weeks here.”
Michelle tried not to scoff. Brad had been there for three weeks and was talking like he was a veteran. “That’s nice,” she said, out of automatic politeness rather than real interest.
“You should come with us sometime. I could pick you up and show you where the pickup point is,” Brad continued.
“This has been a busy week,” Michelle hedged, not wanting to appear rude, but knowing that she had to put in a good 6 hours on Saturday to stay on schedule.
“It’s up to you, but I think you’d enjoy it. Send me a message if you change your mind,” Brad said as the elevator opened. They walked out to the sliding glass doors, ready to part ways. “We go to Big Indian Mountain to hike every other Saturday. There’s a pickup point in the Bronx on a coach bus so no one has to worry about driving.”
Michelle must have indicated recognition on her face. “You know it?” Brad asked.
“I’ve heard of it,” Michelle said, still surprised. “I think I’ll go with you after all. You have my address from the work picnic sign up sheet?”
“Sure do,” Brad answered. “Can you be ready by 9 tomorrow morning?”
“Yes, I’ll see you then,” Michelle answered.