Monday, January 26, 2004

Writing exercises

I'm participating in Yahoo! Groups' NovelMentor Writing Warmups. We are doing daily exercises based on the book A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. Our assignment today was to describe the contents of someone's closet.

It's done in 15 minutes, by the timer, and when the timer stops, I stop.

Aunt Mary's Closet

Aunt Mary’s closet smelled of cedar and mothballs. I pulled the string hanging from the ceiling, and a bulb clicked on, dim and dust-covered and valiantly trying to dispel the shadows.

The closet was neatly arranged, with shoes on the floor, clothes hanging on the rack, and mysterious boxes piled high on the shelf above. After looking through the old lady’s dresses, quickly, the technique I learned at Goodwill, and trying on one shoe – it was way too small for me – I turned to what interested me, the boxes on the shelves.

I went back into her room and brought a chair over. Four hatboxes stacked together held frothy confections like birthday cakes. A locked metal box probably held her financial records; I set it aside for later. A big, flat box that had formerly held a photo album now overflowed with unfiled photos. I tossed it over to the bed.

Inside a wooden box that would have locked but didn’t were an old woman’s keepsakes: a dried rose, a small flat stone, her senior class key, dated 1938, a ribbon, and a bundle of letters tied neatly with a bow. This was my clue.

I took them to her bed and untied the bundle. They felt as old and dry and crinkly as Aunt Mary herself. The handwriting was hard to read—clean and masculine, but in an old style that I wasn’t accustomed to, having spent most of my life reading print on a computer screen.

The last letter was dated 1942, and inside were only a few lines, blurred by tears.

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