The Paper Tells the Story.
Using materials at your disposal, start mangling and/or burning a piece of paper to make it look like it came from a pile of rubble. Then, imagine that you’ve just picked up that piece of paper from the destruction it came from. How does the context help you focus on the plot? What were you doing there, picking up this paper, anyway? Bring that all into the story.
Length: 350-500 Words
There is nothing striking about Winston. He’s average every way – sandy haired, blue-eyed, and soft-spoken. However, in what’s not average is the fact that he served his country in the armed forces. He’s an army veteran who served two tours in Iraq. His girl, Alice, a blue-eyed redhead lass has waited from him to return home. He’s promised her they will marry as soon as he could build a small house on the fifteen acres of rural property he’s inherited from his uncle Byron. But being a man of limited means, that is not going to be an overnight event.
One afternoon on his fourth week home from the army, and while waiting in the IGA grocery line he overhears one farmer telling another he’s been plowing around an old house on his north eighty for too many years. He’s going to set fire to it that very afternoon.
“Yes,” replies the farmer, turning. Winston was taken aback for an instant. The bulge in his lower lip suggested that he enjoyed his Copenhagen. Deep lines of time were etched in his face. If he’d worked a nine to five job he would probably have retired a decade earlier. But it was obvious he was one of those men his father referred to as “the kind who will die at the throttle”.
“My name’s Winston. Would you hold off on burning that house long enough for me to tear it down and salvage the lumber?”
The old man smiled, revealing a row of tobacco-yellowed teeth. “It’s an old house, son. Without a doubt there’s some good lumber to be had, but it’s so old it’s held together with square nails, the kind a blacksmith made at his forge before your granddaddy’s time,” the farmer replied.
“How much time would you allow me?”
“Let’s find a place to talk.”
Winston settles up with the cashier and then joins the farmer on the sidewalk.
“My name’s Winston,” he says, extending a hand.
“I know who you are. You’re that Jenkins boy.”
“I’m Claude Hines. Let’s go over to the cafe and have a cup of coffee.”
They settled in a booth and after the waitress brings them coffee Winston shares his plans. Hines listens intently, and after Winston is finished the old man spooned in a bit of sugar in his lukewarm coffee and slowly stirs it.
“You were over in Iraq, weren’t you?”
“Yes sir, I was.”
“That took some balls. What was it like over there?”
“Pretty tough duty. “I’d say it’s the asshole of creation.”
“I suspected that,” he said, and began stirring his coffee again. Glancing out the window his faded blue eyes focused on something no one else could see. “I was a kid, eighteen years old, when they drafted me. I was on a troop ship headed for Hawaii when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor.” He fell silent for several seconds then he cleared his throat and swung his gaze back to Winston. “You know I bought that eighty acres from the Taylor estate ten years ago. And I’ve been plowing around that old house ever since ‘cuz I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. I guess it wouldn’t make a lot of difference if I plowed around it one more year. You can have that old house. But you got to take it all, the pier blocks and everything.”
“Thank you, Mr. Hines. Thank you a lot. I’ll sure do that.”
“Okay. Thank you Claude.”
“I’ve got an old Diamond T truck, about a 1940 model. I’ll loan you that to haul the lumber with. And you take your time on it.”
“Yes sir. Thank you, Claude”