According to the description on the cover of “The Writer’s Block,” the purpose of the 786 ideas contained inside is to jump-start your imagination. I’ve decided to pick a page at random – once per week – and post the results of that creative exercise here. Now for the disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend that whatever I post is award-winning material. These exercises are meant to stimulate my mind, and I’m using them to keep my creativity stoked as I continue to write and edit my other work.
Now…for Exercise #1: Write a story that begins with the words, “Why didn’t you call me?”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
It wasn’t as if Eiko Samuelsson hadn’t asked herself that same question every day for the last 719 days. However, she could never come up with an answer, and especially not when the red-rimmed brown eyes of the person she loved most in the world stared into her.
“Look, Mama,” Eiko began.
“Don’t, ‘Look, Mama’ me, Eiko Frances,” the older woman said sternly, dabbing at her eyes with the delicate handkerchief held in her free hand. “It’s been over two years since I’ve been this close to you. Enough time has been wasted and, with the look of things, even more is about to be lost. Don’t mince words with me. I want an answer. Why didn’t you call me?”
“What was I supposed to say when I called?” Eiko said as she looked back at her mother through eyes of a nearly identical brown shade. “You warned me, Daddy warned me…everybody warned me, but I wanted to do things my own way.”
“This was your own way?”
“That’s not what I mean,” Eiko sighed. “I didn’t expect things to turn out this way. I thought I could handle it. Things were fine with Daniel and I…fine for a while…”
“Fine,” Eiko’s mother repeated. “So fine that, the last time you came to see us, you showed up three hours late to a Memorial Day barbecue wearing pants and long sleeves that didn’t cover the bruises on your wrists.”
“Mama,” Eiko sighed again.
“Daniel was lucky he didn’t have the guts to show up,” her mother continued. “Your brothers had a boot party ready for that fool, but I made them promise to wait until I could talk to you and convince you to come home.” The brown eyes filled again. “I guess I shouldn’t have waited. We wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“The mess is mine!” Eiko stressed. “You, Daddy, and everyone else tried to talk me out of going back that night, but…for some reason I thought that giving him space might make things better.”
Eiko stared down at the long sleeves of her orange shirt, ironically thankful that they hid the multitude of scars that decorated her arms – scars that were now a matter of public record thanks to the Washington County justice system.
“So, what happens now?” Eiko’s mother asked.
“My lawyer said that, considering my history with Daniel, the judge is likely going to be lenient at the sentencing tomorrow,” Eiko said gently.
“Lenient,” Eiko’s mother snorted. “If they meant to go easy, you wouldn’t have been convicted of murder in the first place.”
“Voluntary manslaughter, Mama,” Eiko corrected.
“No matter how you call it, a man is dead and they’ve had you locked up here for two years because of it.”
“Everything’s on record, Mama,” Eiko said. “They have the pictures of the knife wounds from when he attacked me, and pictures of the bruises I already had from earlier that day.”
“And they also have witness statements from those nosy people in your apartment complex that saw you outside on the patio smoking a cigarette while Daniel was apparently asleep inside,” Eiko’s mother said. “Why didn’t you just leave again when you saw that he was asleep when you got home?”
Before she could answer, a uniformed and armed officer seemed to materialize from nowhere behind Eiko’s left shoulder. She stiffened, seeing his reflection in the thick glass that separated her from her mother. Taking a deep breath, Eiko blinked hard and hoped that she could be out of her mother’s sight before the tears came again.
“Time’s up, Samuelsson,” the officer said, though not unkindly. Eiko watched as her mother’s grip tightened around the phone she’d been holding and using to communicate with her only daughter.
“We’ll be at the sentencing hearing,” her mother said quickly, pressing the hand holding the handkerchief against the glass. “We’ll all be there. Now that we know where you are, we’re not losing you again.”
Her mother’s kind face became a blur, and Eiko jumped up from the stool, slamming the phone upon the receiver and shaking her head. She leaned forward to quickly kiss the glass, placing her lips upon the space occupied by her mother’s palm on the other side. She knew that her mother was mouthing something else, but Eiko could neither hear what it was nor bring herself to take up the phone again as she whirled on her heels and quickly left the correctional facility’s visitation room.