Thursday, December 31, 2015

Your Turn - the unfinished short story




In April 2015, I presented CWD with an opportunity to join in a collaborative writing project. I set the story outline and invited others to write a scene each. I got some excellent responses, but only for a couple of scenes. It was fun, and interesting to see how others interpreted my original ideas. Because the whole story didn’t get written, I thought I’d pitch it again, and hopefully because we are in semi-holiday mode, other writers might like to have a turn.

The rules: 1. Write according to the scene synopsis I have pitched; 2. Write in order; 3. Give your name and city/town to identify your work.

There were a couple of proposed endings which I won’t put up, as I’d like to see how the story unfolds first, before going straight to the end.
For those two contributors, Linsey and Cindy, whose scenes I will include, I have made a few minor edits. If and when the story is finished, I will publish it on my website, and give credit to the contributors. Have fun!!

Setting – small rural Australian town, mid winter

Main charactersMichele (pronounced Mick-el) named after his Italian great-grandfather, 30 year old farmer who has just taken the reins of the farm as his parents have bought a caravan to take a year travelling around the country. He agrees to take in a house mate to help the local school with a short-term accommodation for one of their temporary teachers.

Charlie – 23 years old, is named after her grandfather. Fresh out of Uni has won a short-term temporary contract at the local primary school for a maternity-leave staffer. Charlie is from the city but has been assured they will find her suitable accommodation.

Scene One – Charlie has left the city at 4am to reach her new school in time for classes, but she has a flat tyre. She Googles ‘How to change a tyre’, but the wheel nuts won’t loosen. Michele comes along, is condescending and she is offended. The tyre is changed. It is raining.

Scene 1 by Linsey

“Oh no, please don’t do this to me.”
This was the perfect time for a few choice four-letter words but Charlie bit her tongue and eased her foot down on the brake. She maneuvered over to the side of the road and flicked on the hazard lights.
The last thing she needed was a flat tyre. How in the heck did one change a flat? She’d never had one before. Trains don’t get flats. Charlie considered calling roadside assistance, but out in the country at 6.30am, was it really worth it? She’d probably be waiting for hours.
Charlie swallowed another mouthful of coffee, instantly regretting it. It was stone cold and foul.
What was so hard about making coffee? Apparently everything, judging by the horrific swill she’d been ingesting since 4am. She should have brought her own thermos.
Wrestling with her bag in the front seat she managed to locate her mobile.
“Yes, reception!” Charlie typed ‘how to change a flat tyre’ into Google search and a YouTube video popped up.
That looked easy enough. Charlie sighed and peered outside. The only light came from her headlights and rain still pelted her car. It was the middle of winter.
“I so don’t want to go out into that.”
But from the video it looked as though changing a tyre was an outside job.
“It’s okay, I can do this. I can do this.” Charlie put her hand on the door handle in what she hoped was a determined way. “I am twenty-three years old, independent, I am a teacher, and I am on my own. I am going to have to do this. And I’m going to have to stop talking to myself.”
Charlie took a deep breath and stepped outside. The rain hit her in the face, stinging her eyes and cheeks. It took a few seconds before it started to trickle down the inside of her jumper. Her coat was in the back. She ran to the back of the car and popped open the boot, this time letting a few expletives escape. It was chock full of her luggage. How could she possibly get to the jack thingy and spare tyre? Did she even have a spare tyre? She was sure Poppa must have kept one—he was very organised. Charlie began tossing her things into the backseat. At least with the hatch up she was shielded from the rain.
Success, a jack thingy and yep, there was a tyre snuggled underneath the mat. She wished she could trade places with it.
“Okay, I’ve come this far. Be brave.” Charlie slammed down the hatch.
She got down on all fours cringing as the mud rushed up to meet her jeans. This was going to be a long, long morning.
After wrestling with the jack forever Charlie stood up, groaning as her knees straightened. She surveyed her work. The back wheel was actually off the ground. The jack had done its job.
She let out a whoop and punched the air. “Yes!”
Now, to get the thing off. She fumbled around in the dark trying to find the first nut and managed to fit the wheel brace around it and pushed down hard. It didn’t budge. She took a deep breath blew on her frozen hands and pressed down as hard as she could. Her hand slipped and she almost landed in the mud.
Who had tightened this thing, Superman? There was no way she was going to get it off. Charlie straightened and screamed in frustration. She’d have to call road-side assist.
“Do you need any help?”
Charlie’s heart slammed into high gear and took off down the highway. What the heck?
“Oh my gosh, don’t do that to people.” She yelled, still staring at her car.
She turned around, hand on her still racing heart and faced the intruder. It belonged to a male rugged up in a Driza-bone and Akubra. Who was this guy, the man from Snowy River? She almost told him it wasn’t the nineteenth century. But then noticed the soaking rain was running right off him. So, maybe the jackaroo get-up was justified.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He had to yell to be heard over the engines and rain. He gestured to his ute which was parked behind her hatchback, it’s headlights spotlighting her car. How had she not noticed him drive up?
“Looks like you could use someone who knows what they’re doing?”
Charlie took a step back. She wasn’t some damsel in distress here. She’d just jacked up her car in the pouring rain, for crying out loud.
“I’m sure I can figure something out,” she said, the words jumping out harsh, but then she’d meant them to be. She unconsciously wrapped her arms around herself to try and preserve some warmth.
“I’m sure you could.” The guy replied and then raised his eyebrows as she forced her hands back to her sides.
Charlie groaned inwardly. This guy was going to make her beg for his help. If it had been any other situation, she’d have told him to get lost. But she needed him if only to get out of this weather before she began to go into hypothermic shock.
“I would really appreciate your help,” she forced herself to say between gritted teeth—gritted to stop them from chattering more than anything else.
“That a girl.”
She forced herself to ignore his condescension, though she would liked to have decked him.
‘Jim Craig’ took the wheel brace in both hands and then pulled up.


Scene two – Charlie reads instructions to Michelle’s house. When a man opens the door – the man she has already met on the road, she asks after Michelle, and he is annoyed, as he is Michele. She’s expecting a woman, he is expecting a man. Charlie says she doesn’t feel comfortable moving in with a man. He says ‘suit yourself’.


Scene 2 by Cindy Shultz, Melbourne

Charlie’s teeth were still chattering even though she had the car heater on flat out. She tried to stop her hands shaking so she could read the notes on how to get to Michelle's house.
"I'll probably catch pneumonia thanks to you." She aimed a clenched fist at the steering wheel. A car horn tooted as ‘Jim Craig’ sped off. He’d finished changing her tyre and then helped her re-pack her boot.
"Arrogant self-righteous male," she yelled after the disappearing taillights. "If I never see you again, that will suit me just fine."
She’d only just indicated to pull back onto the road, when she began to regret her outburst. Now that she was back on the road she realised she might still have been stuck in the mud and icy rain if he hadn’t stopped to help her. No other vehicle had passed them during the whole drama. It was just the smug air about him that had ticked her off. "Him with his ‘Jim Craig’ hat and coat," she groused. She had conceded defeat and sat in his car while he changed her flat tyre, already soaked to the skin. He had insisted after loosening the first wheel nut, pointing out she was wet and freezing. Stating the obvious. He had held out his keys in a condescending manner and instructed her to start the car and crank up the heater. His steely blue stare had stopped her rising protest and instead she had ungraciously snatched the keys from his hand and retreated to the dry, heated interior of his car. Watching him from the warm interior through the swish, swish of the windscreen wipers, she had been amazed at how quickly he had finished the task. In no time at all he was on his way with barely another word.
"Come on heater, get warm faster." Just the brief walk from his car to hers had been enough in this foul weather to add to her already sorry state. She sneezed violently and wiped her nose on a tissue she’d found in her handbag. Peering at her directions once again she tried to forget the roadside encounter and concentrate on getting to her destination. It was slowly beginning to get lighter around her, though the rising sun had no hope of breaking through the low-hanging rain clouds. Turning on her interior light she squinted at her notes again.
"Hurry up heater," she mumbled again. The rain was still teaming down on her car as Charlie carefully drove on. After taking a left turn off the main bitumen road, she needed to make an immediate right turn, and found the road was mud. The grip of her tyres was dicey, and she slowed down even more as she heard mud splatter up underneath the car. "Good grief, I'm in the middle of nowhere!" There was no sign of civilisation in any direction—just paddocks and wet cows and sheep, blowing trees and endless drumming rain. She pulled to a stop and snatched up her notes again. Her hands had stopped shivering now, and she was beginning to feel a semblance of warmth, despite her wet clothes clinging to her back. Peering at the road ahead she made a decision. "Ok, so I think this is the right way. I need Woolshed Lane on my right.” She put the car into gear again, and moved slowly forward. Out of the dim morning light a crooked signpost with faded black lettering appeared. She indicated, though she wondered for whose benefit. Perhaps the cows would like to know which way I’m going to turn. If she’d thought the last muddy road was a hazard, this was a whole new driving experience—Water-filled pot-holes, thick gluggy mud that caused the car to lose traction as she felt herself slip and slide along. She was now at snail’s pace carefully navigating the first section "Bet the locals all have 4 x 4's. Never mind old girl, we're nearly there. Should be on our left soon." Peering through the slashing wipers she could just make out the shadowy shapes of buildings. She almost laughed when she automatically indicated again before turning left into the driveway, and continuing down the long tree-lined drive. As her car turned onto a wide circular drive in front of a large timber homestead she felt a rush of relief. The lawns out the front were manicured and gardens well kept. Wow, this is lovely. I hope Michelle is still home.
Switching off her car and grabbing her handbag she stepped out of the warmth into the freezing rain, quickly slammed the door and navigated the front steps as fast as she could, without slipping on the wet tiles. She paused on the veranda for a few seconds to flick water off herself and pat her hair into place. She couldn’t help admiring the house as she took in the long veranda and the large carved timber front door. The brass horse-head knocker in its centre seemed to be staring at her. Swallowing her nerves and shaking off the frustrations of the early morning drama, she raised her hand and let the brass knocker rap three times. She was still subconsciously brushing rain off her clothes when the door opened.
"What are you doing here!"
Charlie was startled by the question, but more so when she saw who it was who’d opened the door. Jim Craig! Determined not to be intimidated, she put on her most polite voice.
 "Is Michelle home? I believe it’s been arranged that I’ll be staying here for a few weeks. This is her home, I assume."
A strange look crossed the man’s face. Why is he annoyed? There was a definite flash of something in his steel blue eyes.
 "The name is Michele pronounced Mick-el."
“Michele,” Charlie said, blinking in confusion. “Does Michelle live here?”
“No. This is my house, and my name is Michele, and as you can see, I’m not a woman.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
"And in any case, you can't possibly be Charlie. You’re not a man."
Charlie frowned at Michele trying to piece the situation together. He just stood there in the doorway in his dry jeans, blue shirt and boots and frowned back. Charlie opened her mouth twice, but nothing sensible came out, so she closed it again. Then she began to shiver as the cold wind against her wet clothes sent chills through her body. Michele suddenly stepped to the side and waved her inside with a sweep of his arm. "For goodness sake woman, come into the sitting room and warm yourself by the fire while we sort this mess out." The increased chill factor made the decision for her, despite the mix-up, and how they had somehow managed to tick each other off. The warmth and crackle of the wood stove drew her and for a few minutes, Charlie forgot about her reluctant host, and just held her hands out over the heat and let it soak into her bones. After a while, she remembered the man in the room with her. She stole a quick sideways glance at Michele. Now Charlie could see him without his coat, she noted he was handsome, tall and muscular. She rubbed her hands together and turned her gaze back into the fire. It had never occurred to her that someone might think she was a man. What a disastrous day this was turning out to be.
"So Charlie." Michele had sat on the couch, crossed his ankles and folded his arms across his chest. "I assume that's your name.” She nodded.  “We’re in a bit of a predicament. You thought I was a woman and I thought you were a man.” She nodded again.
“Well, my offer of a room still stands. I'm out working all day, and I guess you will you be too, so we will hardly see each other at any rate."
Charlie pulled herself up to her full height. This was not what she had signed up for. "I can't possibly stay here. It wouldn't be proper for a single woman to move in with a single man. I take it you live alone?" 
"I do now, as of recently."
"Relationship breakup?"
"No!" Michele sat forward in his chair, annoyed again. "This is my parents' house. They've just set off in a caravan for a year trip around Australia."
"Oh." Charlie didn't quite know what to think—he was definitely single, but he lived with his parents, until recently.
“Anyway, we hardly live in the Victorian era now," Michele continued. "I really don’t think relationship status is of any consequence as to whether we should live together.”
“What would people say?”
“Doubtful they’d say anything. The school asked me if I’d take in a boarder for a few weeks, I said yes. I was just expecting another bloke, that’s all.”
Charlie shook her head. She wasn’t so sure, 21st Century or not. She didn’t know him, and didn’t think it was wise just to trust him like that. “No, I don’t think it will work. Thanks anyway.”
“Suit yourself.” Michele got up from the comfy chair and opened the front door, letting the cold wind blow in.
Charlie was annoyed that he was so quick to throw her back out to the weather, but then she realised that she was the one who had refused his hospitality. Just like she’d been rude to him when he’d changed her tyre. Chagrined, but too proud to admit it, she picked up her hand bag and crossed the room. Without giving him another glance, she walked out the front door, pulling it closed behind her. The brass door-knocker rattled in protest. Perhaps she had been a bit too forceful in her staged protest. Still, she wasn’t going to go crawling back. She had her pride.




Scene Three
Charlie finds her way to the town and the primary school. She is met by the principal who gives her the details of her job, and then tells her to take the rest of the day to organise alternative accommodation, get dry and sorted. Charlie goes to the local pub. It is run down, poorly run, and the owner is a bit sleezy – as are some of the patrons. Charlie gets a key to a very run down room. She goes to have a counter meal and gets propositioned. She stands her ground, but not very convincingly. Michele has come to the pub to see how things turn out. He plays the hero and fends off the unwanted attention. Charlie is annoyed with him, as she says she can look after herself. She decides she would prefer to trust Michele than the men in the pub.

Scene four – Charlie’s second day at school. The classroom is a little chaotic.  A ten year old informs her she is Michele’s cousin, and tells Charlie all about what her mother thinks about Michele and his impossible love life.

Scene five – Charlie discovers she and Michele have something in common: they both love footy (AFL). She agrees to go watch him play on Saturday. She sits in his car, pulled up around the outside of the oval. It’s all good until he takes a hit in the head and is carted off the ground on a stretcher. She waits until his mates come to get his car. When they see her, they suggest she could take him to the hospital in the next town. She has the car and the keys, and they basically leave her with it.

Scene six – The doctor says Michele can’t drive, and someone should keep an eye on him for his concussion. Everybody makes assumptions. She sits up with him for the whole night.

Scene seven – They have something else in common: they both go to church on Sunday. Charlie drives. More raised eyebrows and assumptions

Scene eight – Michele’s young cousin if full of gossip and what her mother thinks of the situation. Charlie sets her straight, and determines to set the record straight with Michele’s aunt.

Scene nine – The six weeks are up, and Charlie has packed ready to go. She has a little farewell party with the kids at school. Michele’s cousin tells her that Michele doesn’t want her to go. He’s never said anything to her, so she is a bit confused by this. 

Scene ten – writers, choose your own ending. Let’s see what you come up with.

Have fun with this, and don't forget to check to see how the story is developing in the comments.

Meredith Resce has published 17 titles - her most recent 'Echoes in the Valley' is now available as e-Book and paperback internationally.

4 comments:

  1. Jennette Bishop from MELROSE S AUS - Scene three
    As Charlie turned her car around and headed back long the very muddy track that had led her to Michele’s home she couldn’t help wondering if “having her pride” was really such a good idea. The road seemed to more muddy than it was on her entrance to the place and as the car slipped from side to side she could hear her Father’s voice as he tried to prepare her for her little sojourn into the bush. “If the road is wet, remember to keep your hands and feet off everything, just go with the slide” the phantom voice just seemed to say as the car uncontrollably headed for the side of the road and a big puddle of mud. Fortunately some hidden rock caught onto the tyres and gave the car a bit of traction so that Charlie was able to steer her way out of trouble. Finally the outskirts of the town came into view and it was with some gratitude that she searched ahead for a sign that would lead her to the local primary school. It seemed as if she had been all day just trying to get past mud and a rather rude man who had finally left her in the lurch and now, at this point Charlie was beginning to regret the manner that she had adopted with Michele.
    Charlie was quite relieved to be able to at last meet the Principal of the school, who was very under-standing and after giving her a nice strong hot coffee, explained what her job would be for the next six months. It seems she would be teaching children in the upper primary class and the Principal warned her that in a small town like this everyone knows everyone and even the children will be related to each other so in such a small knit community she must be careful what she says. Charlie had no concept of the advice that she was being given having spent her entire life in the city but she would, in the near future, find out just what the Principal was talking about. After the coffee it was decided that she should take the rest of the day to find herself alternative accommodation and get everything dry and sorted out, for which Charlie was very thankful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jennette Bishop - scene 3 part 2
    The first thing that Charlie had to see to was some kind of accommodation and to this end she found her way to the local pub. As she approached the building she felt a slight shiver run down her spine as the sight of this building left a lot to be desired. Charlie understood that everything in this small town was very old but this local pub was decidedly run down and looked like a real dump of a place, but where else was she to find accommodation? She entered the front door of the place and was immediately overwhelmed by the dark and dingy room. It had a long bar running the length of the room and at one end were three men. Behind the bar was the proprietor who was dressed in very scruffy clothing which appeared as if it needed a good wash and the smell of the man lent credence to her observation, he looked decidedly sleezy. The three men at the end of the bar looked just as grubby and were downing glassed of beer quite quickly. They began sniggering and making comments in a stage whisper which made Charlie very uncomfortable. As she approached the bar to enquire about getting a room all her senses were offended by the bad breath and beer smell that issued forth from the Proprietor.
    “I am the new teacher at the local school” Charlie introduced herself “would I be able to have a room in your hotel” she queried.
    The Proprietor gave a wide grin revealing a row of decayed teeth and replied,
    “Sure love, I’m sure we can fix you up.” He said with a wink at the sniggering men at the end of the bar.
    He took a key off a hook behind the bar and coming around the end of the bar indicated to her to follow him as he headed for a very narrow and dark stair case at the side of the room. At the top of the stair case there were a row of doors all numbered and the Proprietor opened number four and stepped back to let Charlie enter.
    With that he announced “You can get food at the counter for lunch if you need it and dinner is from 6pm in the dining room.” And then he was gone.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Jennette Bishop - scene 3 part 3
    “In the dining room” Charlie thought “I wonder what that will be like she thought as she cast her eye around the sparsely furnished room. There was a bed with white sheets that could only be described as slightly grey and a very worn cover on the bed. A wardrobe which was very scratched and battered, and a small table beside the bed. Charlie put her luggage on the bed in preparation of unpacking but time had gone and she was getting hungry so she thought she would firstly go down and have a bite to eat. As she entered the bar where the counter lunches had been prepared, she noticed that there were a couple more of the locals that had decided to have their lunch there and the three patrons that were there when she first arrived, now already inebriated, had moved their glasses of beer up to the end of the bar ready to have their lunch. As she took up her place at the counter the door opened and there was Michele and he also approached the bar and ordered a lunch. She looked at the meal that she had been given and wondered if it would be safe to eat but this was all there was so she had to go with it. But it was only a moment or two before the man seated closest to her began making comment to her about her meal and asking questions about where she came from. Charlie was aware that he was slowly moving further and further towards her and then to her horror he actually suggested that she might be interested in coming to his room after lunch “to get to know him”.
    Charlie was horrified “How dare you make such a suggestion” she shouted at him as he groped towards her grabbing at her arm.
    “Aw come on you won’t regret it” his words slurred as he lunged off his stool.
    With that the large frame of Michele appeared between him and Charlie, as he took hold of both the man’s arms and with a stern voice told him to get lost and don’t dare treat the teacher in such a fashion again. At this action the man slide from his stool and knocking his glass over he scampered out of the door.
    “Are you alright?” Michele asked Charlie as he turned to face her.
    “Yes thank you!” Charlie said almost grinding her teeth in fury, “I can look after myself you know” she said.
    “Is that so?” Michele responded, “Well never-the-less I think your original arrangement to stay at my parent’s home may be safer for you, please yourself of course but I’ll be outside in my ute for about 15 minutes if you decided to change your mind.” With that he turned and with about four long strides was gone out of the hotel.
    Charlie was feeling a little shaky after this experience and it took only a few minutes for her to decided that she would prefer to trust Michele than the men in the pub. It took her no time to race up the stairs to number 4, grab her gear and be down again ready to meet Michele at his ute where she admitted she really did need to have the help offered. He then escorted her in her car back to his home.

    ReplyDelete