We had 60 hours to write a 2000 word or less story, use the words "Phrase," "Detract," & "Thankfully," and draw inspiration from this picture.
I barely finished on time and wrestled with whether I should try to write a story when my muse wasn't being cooperative. I guess it turned out okay all things considered.
The first time it'd been a warthog, and Devin Green had gotten away with it. Later on things got more complicated, but right at the beginning, it had started out almost consequence-free...
Despite the fact that Devin was dutifully packing his duffel bag for spring break, it didn't stop him from making a last ditch effort at avoiding the trip. As soon as his mother poked her head into the room to check on his progress, he went on the attack. "I don't want to go, Mom. Don't make me."
Ellen Green sighed and looked towards the ceiling, as if she could find words of wisdom written up there. "You know you have to, Dev. You spending school breaks with your father is written into the custody agreement."
"So? Am I gonna go to jail if I miss a spring break with Dad?" Devin asked irritably.
He thought he'd been a pretty good sport about things up until now, but this year, when he and his friends were actually old enough to do something interesting over break, his plea to stay home had been met with a resounding no. It wasn't fair, he'd been packing up to wander all over creation with his father every spring since he was seven and he was sick of it.
"No one would send a fifteen-year-old to jail for missing spring break-" Ellen started to say, only to have her son cut her off.
"Well, would you go to jail then? For being a bad custodial parent?" Devin asked, getting more wound up.
"Then why do I have to go? It isn't fair. You have an affair after Dad ditches you for work, and I'm the one who spends the next eleventy-seven years paying for it every spring and summer. Where's the justice in that?!"
"Devin!" Ellen's eyes flashed dangerously, and Devin knew that he'd pushed her too far. "You're going and that's the end of it."
"Fine. Whatever. I'm going to go to college in Australia and never coming home," he said petulantly as he dragged his duffel off the bed and stalked out of the room.
"If you can find a way to pay for that, power to you," he heard his mother muttered behind him, and it did nothing to improve his mood.
Three more years and they'd stop being able to shuffle him back and forth like a rook on a chessboard. He couldn't wait.
Three hours later Devin got off the bus and went into the station to look for his father. Rich wasn't much of a father, but he usually had drinks and snacks with him when Devin got there, which was a point in his favor. This time was no exception and Devin spotted him clutching a Dunkin Donuts bag and bottles of Sprite.
"Hey, Sport!" Rich greeted him in the same way he had since before Devin could tie his own shoes. It was something his son found both annoying and endearing. "How was the bus ride?"
"Long. Hot. I sat next to the last living member of the Spanish Inquisition and spent the trip answering stupid questions about how I liked high school," he said, taking a bottle and opening it for a long swig.
Rich gave him an uncertain smile, obviously not sure how to react. "Well, at least it's over."
"Right. Where to now?" Devin asked. "Are we backpacking in some dry place that's never heard of plumbing, or are we going somewhere it rains twenty days a month?"
Neither possibility would have really surprised him because his father usually spent spring breaks dragging him to places that people who didn't have "investigative" TV shows to host knew better to stay away from.
"Nope." Rich shook his head. "This year we're staying stateside."
"Did you get fired?" Devin blurted out before thinking that through. Though, it would be interesting if the job that he'd picked over Devin and Ellen tossed him out on his rear.
Rich's eyes narrowed. "I did not. I'll have you know that we're investigating urban magic this week."
We're. Rich always phrased it that way, even though Devin usually spent the entire time trying to keep out of the camera crew's way, and definitively off-camera himself since his mother flatly refused to let his dad "exploit" him that way. During a good spring break he might get to lug some equipment for the crew so he had something to do other than miss his friends.
If his dad had been a suburbanite commuting to and from a job in a nearby city, maybe these breaks every spring and summer might not suck so much because he'd have neighbors, and neighbors often had kids. The idea of friends he saw at his father's might have been okay.
"Urban magic?" Devin asked when he realized the conversation had lulled. "Really?"
"Yup. We're heading to Detroit."
"Here we are," Rich announced, but he was speaking to the camera, not Devin. The show liked to tape arrivals, even if it meant "arriving" six or seven times to get the intro right.
It wasn't a burned-out building, but both neighboring buildings were. Devin got out of the van and looked around. "Shithole" didn't even begin to cover his opinion of the place.
A door opened and a wizened old woman the color of mahogany began to slowly approach, which one of the cameramen captured in loving detail. Devin didn't stay close enough to hear his dad or the woman speak, but he could pretty much imagine the exchange. Viewers didn't seem to notice that it was basically the same stuff over and over again, or maybe they did and they actually liked it. Either way, Rich's show 'What's Out There' usually made good ratings for something on cable.
After the whole meet and greet was captured on film, the cameras went off so Rich could speak to the witch, if that's what she was, off camera to strategize. Viewers might think that everything they saw was completely spontaneous, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was in the best interest of everyone involved that both the host and the gracious guests were both put into the best light, and every detail of that was planned.
"Dad, I'm going to poke around," Devin called before wandering off.
He contemplated exploring one of the gutted buildings before he decided that falling through a floor might be more exciting but not more fun. He was at a loss until he realized that he could see someone waving to him, so he went to check it out.
The someone turned out to be a girl about his age, and she had a complexion just about the same shade as the old woman. It made Devin feel absolutely pasty in comparison. "Hey," he said cautiously.
"You're with the film guys?" the girl asked. "You don't look old enough."
"'cause I'm not. My dad thinks that dragging me from film site to film site is father-son bonding," Devin groused. "I'm Devin."
She smiled at him. "Belle, and I'm totally with you. Grandma's got the same idea, but I usually just get dragged to her clients' houses."
"So...is she a witch, or something?" Devin asked, not really worried about sounding rude. Belle didn't strike him as the touchy type.
"Or something," Belle agreed with a nod. "Fact is, anyone here can do what she does, they just don't know it."
"For like the next four blocks, yeah." Belle glanced around. "There's something screwy about this place since everyone left. Grandma said that 'the divide is bleeding,' whatever that means."
"Are you talking about magic, or..."
"Really," she insisted.
"So you're saying that I could do magic?" Devin asked dubiously.
"No really. Close your eyes and think of something, anything, really hard. Concentrate on it, and when you open your eyes, it'll be real."
"What, are you scared?" Belle taunted.
This got his back up. "I'm not scared."
"So try it."
Sighing, he closed his eyes and thought really hard about something that would never wander through a half burned-out urban neighborhood.
Before he even opened his eyes Belle was squealing. "What is that? It's so ugly!"
The warthog standing in the road didn't seem to think much of Belle either, and glared at her with beady eyes. "Holy crap!" Devin yelped. "How do we get rid of it??"
"We-" Belle started to say, but she stopped when a speeding car barreled into the warthog and erased it from existence. It didn't simply disappear, but the red, slightly furry remains would be hard to identify.
"Ewww." Devin looked away. "So, can you make anything just by thinking about it?"
"Almost anything," Belle amended. "I've never been able to get a giraffe right."
"You've tried to make giraffes?" Devin looked surprised. He'd thought that replicating the warthog that'd attacked their jeep last summer was pretty clever, but it was disappointing to learn that the neighborhood had seen other exotic animals already. "Why?"
"Dunno, I just like them."
"How do you 'almost' make a giraffe, anyway?"
"You kind of make them headless," Belle muttered. "It's not on purpose, I just have trouble with animal heads. Usually I stick to non-living things."
"Uh..." The thought of a headless giraffe struck him as pretty unpleasant, but it did give him an idea. "Hey Belle, you want to make your grandma, like, the most famous person ever for a while?"
"If it'd get us out of here, sure. What do we have to do?"
"We've gotta wait until..." Devin outlined his plan, and Belle nodded along.
It wasn't until people began to scream later on that the plan seemed like a bad idea. Devin had tried hard to imagine what would happen if, just when Belle's grandma looked like she was concentrating hard, a headless giraffe suddenly appeared. But his imagination hadn't done the image justice.
The poor beast lumbered around, swinging its long neck to and fro, before thrashing against the brick wall of Belle's house. It gamely tried to get somewhere, but the lack of eyes, or a brain, made it hard for it to find its bearings, so it was more sad and horrific than anything else.
Everyone but Belle and Devin shouted in alarm, and at least one of the camera crew dropped a camera as they tried to do something, anything, about the headless ungulate. Belle poked him hard in the ribs. "Holy shit, we're going to be in so much trouble."
Devin shrugged. With everyone screaming and failing about, no one even seemed to know they were there, thankfully. "If they blame me, maybe I won't have to spend the summer with my dad." He couldn't imagine that his mother was going to react well to a headless giraffe incident, so maybe it'd work out in his favor.
Later on, after the photos were published (a reporter got wind of it before the giraffe was banished) two things were crystal clear: one, 'What's Out There' had never enjoyed higher ratings. Two, even if he was forced to spend more school breaks with Rich, it'd be hard to top the excitement of the magic in Detroit...but as mid-June rolled around, Devin found himself looking forward to what his dad had in store next.
"I break my wooden bones for you. You took my crystal heart and shook it through and through" -Sea Wolf, O Maria