And now for something completely different...

The Madrid Writers Club is one of the perks of living in crazy-ass Spain. Meeting every Tuesday, you get to share stories and beer with talented folks while practicing your craft. You share information about the market, offer tips and encouragement and, often do a bit of free-writing based on verbal (and in this case, visual) cues. I provided the drawings here, and each writer took a 10-minute shot at crafting a tale to complement the image. For example...

Writer's Prompt 1

Andrew Leon Hudson
The kids dress up in the clothes they find and pretend the house is theirs, that they are married too.
He imagines the tracksuit fits, that he is tall and lean and long-armed, strong-legged. He does some job that needs tools, like building a new bridge across the river that separates their neighbourhood from this one, where the rooms wide and the ceilings are high and babies have toys that are new and sleep in their own beds, not their brother’s.
She wears the summer dress like a ball-gown, its hem hiding her old sneakers. She hugs a pillow to her beneath it and suddenly breasts and belly bulge out before her, a baby to sleep in the empty cot while she smiles down on it, the way her mom does with her little sister, back turned to all the rest of them.
The boy pulls the huge hoodie over his head and vanishes like a monk into its deep shadow. He brandishes the hammer, then starts hitting the bars of the cot, paint chips flying. The girl pulls the teddy bear between the bars, then she takes the pillow out from under the dress and holds it down over the blank, button-eyed face.
Miriam Foley
1. Preggers

Sandra watches from the doorway. She won’t leave him alone in her sitting room. He could make it off with one of the DVD’s by the TV. ‘Would you like a Coke?’ she asks.
‘Yes please,’ he says, wiping his forehead. ‘That would be great.’
Supporting her lower back with the palm of her hand, she leaves the room. She hopes he doesn’t notice her weird walk, the fact that if she said quack, she could actually be a duck. In the kitchen, she takes out a lemon and the ice tray; two cans of Coke. She pours one can into each glass. Cuts a wedge of lemon, drops it in, followed by two ice cubes in each. She carries them into the sitting room on a tray with a plate of biscuits. She hopes he’ll go soon. He’s been here too long. His tools are taking up the whole room. And he doesn’t seem interested in finishing any time soon. He keeps talking to her and not looking at what he’s doing.  If only Jake was a handy man, he could look after it all himself. But he has two left hands, as well as two left feet.
‘Here you go,’ she says.
He puts the hammer into his toolbox and stands up. ‘Here, let me take that.’
‘Oh alright,’ she says, giving him the tray. She follows him into the room; sits on the sofa. She pats the cushion next to her. ‘Sit down, take a break,’ she says in a voice that is light and soft.
He wipes his hands together and sits down close to her. His arm brushes against hers and she shivers. She’s annoyed at him having the cheek to sit so close that she can feel the heat off his jeaned thigh. Who does he think he is? She is a married woman. A woman expecting a baby in two weeks’ time. In fact, she could go into labour at any minute.  

Jaslo Moscovitz

1 Pregnant woman and Man in Room
She was starting to regret ever losing her virginity all those years ago. Who knows what lithe and unattached life she could be living today if it weren’t for seventeen-year old Billy on that dull afternoon in summer school. 

She hadn’t meant to tell her husband, “to go fuck off and impregnate some other dumb bitch,” but her mouth, like her body was out of her control—a force disconnected and malignant and growing more so with each day. 
The nursery, or what would be the nursery when she finally birthed the mysterious tumult of energetic seesawing inside her, was stagnant. Quiet and lifeless. Its grey walls oppressed her. 
“Tanya, what the hell? Why are you talking to me like that?” She didn’t know but the anger she felt toward him only grew as he leaned with such agility against the cheap baby prison that his mother had insisted got the top consumer reviews. His body was still his own- would always be his own and he could take risks and drink brandy and choose to leave at any moment. Not her, she was just as imprisoned as her mystery belly inhabitant. They were symbiotic prisoners.
“I just…I just think you’re acting very insensitive Ronald. I…” She didn’t know what to say or where she was going. She didn’t want to accidentally express a momentary hatred that might pass or should be kept buried. She imagined herself dismantling the baby crib with violent kicks and graceful punches until the room was empty again. What she wanted was freedom. She wanted to escape.

Lance Tooks
1 untitled
Preparing for my arrival was not an easy task for my parents... judging from the photo anyway.
My mother wanted me, I can say with certainty. She had plenty of doubts about my father, about his commitment to being a family man, but me she wanted. She'd lost a child by miscarriage just a year earlier, and was beginning to doubt she'd ever have the daughter she'd yearned for since she was a child herself.
My father wasn't really sold on me until I arrived... he looked into my eyes and nothing more needed saying. But in the photo he still seemed plagued by doubt. Saying goodbye to your own childhood is hard, and he was more in love with the night than with my mother. She bullied him into meeting his obligations, because that was unfortunately what worked best with him. He'd resent it for a minute, then slouch away, resigned to his fate.

Writer's Prompt 2

Andrew Leon Hudson
The black man and the negro had been riding for too many days, too many nights.
From time to time, the negro would turn in the saddle, not even sure why he did so. Each time, the black man still appeared as a silhouette against the sun, featureless, not even the glint of his eyes to confirm that his gaze was upon him, always upon him, never blinking, never shifting. 
Weary with fear though he was, the negro was grateful that he had still never seen the black man’s face. At dawn, the sun rose behind him. At dusk, it set behind him. At noon, it burned so fierce from above that the negro couldn’t muster the strength to turn. And in the cold night the world was utterly dark, the black man visible only where he obscured the stretch of stars behind him. There was no moon. And they continued riding through the dark.
Then, on the last day, the negro found himself riding into the sunrise, its light first soft on his face, then flat and hard. 
He turned around.
Miriam Foley
2. Guys on horses

The sun is blazing through the sky like a burning orange. John and Sam ride through the mountains, along the valley. It has been three days and three nights. 
‘John, the sun is burning through my clothes,’ Sam says. 
‘No it’s not. You’re hallucinating. Focus. Look ahead.’
‘I can’t look ahead. I can’t see anything.’
John laughs, only his throat is so dry it is more of a croak. ‘Of course you can.’
‘No, really. I can’t see. I can’t see anything.’ Sweat rips own his face, his face crumples. ‘Oh Jesus Christ.’
‘Shut up Sam. Stay calm. It’s OK. It must be dehydration. I’ve heard of that. It’s OK. Your horse will follow mine. We’ll find water.’
‘You’ve been saying that for three days, man. Oh Jesus. Oh fuck. I knew I should never have come. An adventure. Looking for where a river starts. How were you ever going to find that?’
‘Calm the fuck down, man.’
Sam lifts his arms and the reigns. ‘I can’t see, man,’ he screams, breaking into tears. With the scream and the movement of his arms, the horse screams a neigh and leaps into a run. Sam is thrown forward and hugs the horse with his arms and legs.
‘Sam! Sam!’ shouts John. ‘Sam, come back.’ He sits on the horse and kicks it with his feet and he realizes then that he doesn’t know how to make a horse gallop.

Jaslo Moscovitz

2 Two Men on Horseback 
“Look, could you just tell him that I’ve never actually ridden a horse before.” Danny said in a forceful whisper to the extra beside him. “I don’t feel at all comfortable when mounted and my agent promised me that this part did not include dangerous stunts, animals or fire…I have a lot invested in every detail of my well-being and appearance…”
The young extra turned his attention from his own stallion toward Danny Jones, Hollywood “it” boy. “Look, buddy. That’s a solid horse you got. Just relax. This really isn’t a stunt. We’re just sitting on these horses for one minute of filming. You don’t even have to trot. I’ll tell the director what you want but…”

“I know what you’re thinking.” Snapped Danny. “That I’m a coward. That I owe everything to my good looks and that I have no talent but it’s just that I have a tremendous fear of animals and live things in general. I’m afraid of getting trampled or bitten or of accidentally killing something myself.”
The extra gave Danny an apologetic and slightly disgusted look. “I heard a lot of you Hollywood stars like meditation. Why not try something like that, bud. I think it’d be real good for a sensibility like yours.
Danny’s usually flawless features looked unusually anguished. His hands floated a couple of inches above the horses neck as if he couldn’t bring himself to touch the animal. The extra shook his head in defeat.
Danny’s horse was a brilliant white under the lights of the giant stage-moon. She was young and had never acted before. She had come from a farm in New Mexico and left behind a great love with chestnut hair and black eyes, and a life of liberty and endless hay bales. The weight on her back was really starting to make her nervous. The weight was shaking and clenching her ribs in between two great chops of flesh. She hated the weight and wanted it off her so she could run fast and far from the falseness of the cameras lenses.

Lance Tooks
 2 untitled
They were more than halfway there, with three long days and nights between them. The curious cowboy and the unusual slave had a mission in common, and little else on the surface. The cowboy began the journey believing that he would collect a bounty, which an unforgiving Arkansas Sheriff had placed upon the African's curly head... but in a turn of fate, amplified by the heat of a vengeful desert sun, these unlikely allies rode carefully towards Mexico. Nobody would know them there, and they could start anew, building a curious and unusual life together, in peace.

Writer's Prompt 3

Andrew Leon Hudson
Chita looked out from beneath the shelter of the fake palm-leaf awning of the beachfront bar. The sea was rolling in, great dark swells. Rolls of distortion behind a haze of graininess, like she used to see on the cheap, second-hand TV her mother had taken as payment one summer when Chita was eight. Rain was the graininess now.
It wasn’t like a beach you’d see on TV, of course. The palms were battered, leaves dangling like they were about to break and fall. The sand was saturated; she could see each rain drop burst a tiny crater at the edge of the bar’s circle of illumination, a moment before new craters overlapped the old. There was a constant hiss of rain on sea, crackling against the big, broad leaves of the real palms and the plastic pretend ones over her head, protecting the empty bar.
It wasn’t even a TV storm. No screaming wind to dramatically stir the world, blow the trees, whip her hair crazily around or transform the waves with wild foam and spray. The waves just rolled with impossible weight, a moving negative in the grey dark. But from somewhere, out there with the distortion, the roll, the static hiss, she heard a voice. 
“Help,” said the voice. A tiny whisper she could hardly make out, like a character on a program half-lost in the chaos.

Miriam Foley
3. Storm
The rain slashes the sea; falls away from itself. Everywhere she looks, shining diamonds shoot from the sky, denting the sea, the sand, her skin. The waves roar, the sand swirls. She stands, still, like the trees. Their leaves droop, like her hair, filling their rivets with water. She opens her mouth to capture the drops. They are hard on her tongue. She stays like that, like she’s drinking from the stream an hour north from here. Alive. She feels as alive as the trees that are dancing now, as the breaking sea, as the clouds that speak to her in hushed tones. 
She waits. She listens. She doesn’t look for shelter. 

Jaslo Moscovitz
3 Woman looking at Tropical Setting
Michael was the second cokehead that JoAnne had fallen in love with but the first RICH cokehead that had introduced her to his family in Hawaii, London, Brazil and even two cousins in Paris.
She looked at the waves and wondered if he’d come back tonight or if he had died and was already sinking beneath the tropical sand. His family’s own tropical sand. What a waste. What bad luck. She could go for a bit more coke... 
They had to talk. If he came back. She would give up too. They could be sober together. They could find a rehab near one of his families properties, and in their spare time (time not spent detoxing and ohm-ing and drinking cucumber water mixed with cayenne- she imagined,) they could relax with foe grass and Shakespeare in the Sand performances, actors flown in from all over who had survived addictions of their own. 
It was only three a.m. so she could be overreacting. She could go search for him but she was a little high herself and didn’t like the idea of wandering the unknown shores alone and agitated. What if he’d gotten into a fight, found a high end brothel and fallen in love anew, what if he’d set fire to something, gotten on a plane, told his mother the truth, been caught with a baggie…
She felt stupid and furious standing there in her tropical fucking dress, on the private beach, looking at the water for answers. She hated feeling like her life was a soap opera and Michael demanded that of her. With Michael it was drama or nothing. The waves wouldn’t tell her anything. He wasn’t a sailor lost at sea. If that were the only problem everything would be simple. 
Lance Tooks
3 OJALA (oh, if only)
Luna had an inseparable connection to the sea. She was born there, in the deepest part of the Mediterranean, several kilometers off the southern tip of Spain. She wasn't the first of her kind to renounce her fantastic origins to live amongst the humans, but she was surely the only one to have done it for reasons other than earthly love.
Rain dribbled down her face and body, causing her heavy hair and dress to cling uncomfortably. Would she take that courageous step forward, back into the ocean to her family, to her culture, to everything she once held dear? People here on dry land were loud and petty, but her brethren were no different. Having waited tables at a beachfront Chiringuito might be considered unbecoming of royalty.
"Oh, if only there was queso manchego at the bottom of the sea..."

The next time you're in Spain on a Tuesday night, look us up at the Madrid Writers Club. Everyone's got a tale to share... let's hear yours!
Lance Tooks

(PS... for an Andrew's eye-view of the proceedings, visit his very special journal! And thanks to all participants for allowing me to share your wonderful words!)


nicola said…
Great work guys...I hope you do that kind of workshop again since it looks like such good stuff came out of it and I missed it while I was in England!
We missed YOU, Nic!
xx L

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