Welcome to Another Notch, the podcast about writing prompts. I try to get thoughts on paper and stretch ideas until they become stories. If it inspires you, you need to subscribe! If my writing needs help, show me the error of my ways. The whole idea is to make me a better writer, so lets get to it.
Here’s today’s writing from a random prompt I found on the internet. A 16 year old kid living on a ranch get struck by lightning and can now hear what people are thinking.
As always, I write what I can in one day’s time and what ends up on the table is a rough first draft of however far I got into the story. These are not finished stories. Perhaps, one day, I’ll get around to finsihing some of these stories. In the mean time, I think I’m benefitting from the practice. So, keeping that in mind…
…here we go…
Caleb couldn’t see anything. All he could hear was a shrill, high-pitched whine. He couldn’t see, even though it was late afternoon and the sun had been shining bright all day. He couldn’t move. Actually, he could, but it was painful, and he hurt enough already. Just breathing was painful. His lungs hurt, his heart was racing. His throat and nose were sore and filled with the scent of warm sulfur.
As he lay there…was he laying down? Was he standing? He thought he had been standing but he certainly couldn’t be standing now. He could sense the Earth beneath him. Yes. He could feel the ground. He was laying on his back, spread-eagled.
As he lay there, his vision began to register once more. He could start to see some light, then some semblance of different colors, and shapes. He blinked, and it hurt, but it helped clear his vision a bit more. He was definitely laying on the ground. But where was he
Caleb could see a building to the right. He tried to turn his head a bit. Pain shot through his body. He stopped and blinked some more. It looked like…a barn. It was a barn. It was his family’s barn!
He lived here, on this property. He glanced toward his feet and could barely make out a more distant building. It was white with green trim. The house. He loved in that house. He felt some comfort in realizing where he was. Flashes of views of the inside of the house ran through his mind; sitting in the living room watching TV with his parents; lighting a cigarette on the gas stove when his parents weren’t home; playing with the dogs in the backyard. Memories trying to come forward and offer some context, some comfort.
Caleb came sprawling back to reality as he realized he had no idea how he had ended up on the ground somewhere between coming out of the barn and heading back to the house. What was he… He had been feeding the horses. It came back to him slowly.
He had been feeding the horses and he brushed them a bit and then he went to collect eggs from the hen house. Caleb looked around to see if he could find out what happened to the eggs.
There were at least half a dozen eggs laying splat on the ground, as if the Johnston kids had come crashing through with a Halloween prank with really bad aim. Not a single egg could be salvaged. He looked closer. The ants had already started in. He had to have been knocked unconscious for a bit. Caleb sat up and wondered what in the hell had happened.
The ringing in his ears was gradually letting up. It was more of a tinny sounding whine and he could start to make out some of the sounds from his immediate environment. He could hear birds now. He could hear a dog barking in the distance. And he heard MIldred Faulkner telling her husband he was a fat, ferocious pig.
That last bit was quite remarkable. Shocking, actually. Not because of what Mildred had said, but because Mildred lived next door, in the house down the road…half a mile away. He had been looking in the direction of her house when he heard her voice. That was impossible…well, improbable. He had heard her voice…from a half mile away.
The last wisp of high-pitched whining spun out of Caleb’s right ear and he could hear just fine once again. His head cleared a bit. He slowly leaned forward and, pushing against the ground, managed to stand upright. He turned his head to look down the hill into town. He might have to go get some aspirin. He knew his father had used the last of it the other night and Caleb had a feeling he was going to be sore for a while.
Hell, he was going into town to get aspirin. He might even stop at Doc’s and tell him what’s going on, have him check him out. He still had no idea what happened. He was looking down the hill and started to walk when he heard Doc’s voice in his head.
“Yes, two a day, one every twelve hours, with a meal, just like I said thirty seconds ago when you asked. God, I hope you even remember to take this stuff, Catherine. God knows you need it.” said Doc’s voice. It wasn’t like Doc was talking to him, and it wasn’t like Doc was standing anywhere near him. It was like Doc was wearing a hidden microphone and everything he said was being broadcast directly into Caleb’s brain.
Caleb closed his eyes and turned his gaze downward and gently shook his head. He went to the porch swing and sat down, putting his arms up on the back rest of the swing. He kept looking down at his feet as he slowly pushed back and forth on the swing.
What…in God’s Green Earth…was going on?! thought Caleb.
The things these people were saying, it’s not like things they would say to these people. Mildred and Doc were way too polite and he had never heard them talk like that. It’s like he was, maybe, hearing their thoughts. Is this what Doc actually thought of poor old Cathy Grayson? That must have been who he was talking, er…thinking of when Caleb heard his voice. And, is that how Mildred really thinks about her husband? Well, that’s no surprise, really. Mister Faulkner is kind of an ass.
A thought struck Caleb. He had to try something. A quick little experiment to see if what he was thinking was actually the truth. He stood and walked down the porch steps. He glanced back down at the little town towards the bottom of the hill. Over the treetops, he could see the trailer park off to the East. He followed the trees and trailer tops until he saw the tallest pine power pole sticking up out of the ground. He stared at the trailer right in front of it. And he thought of Amanda, that beautiful girl with the shoulder length black hair, from school.
“ooooh…ooooh…ooooh…ooooh…” said Amanda’s voice in his mind. “That’s it! Now push! God, it’s so hard!” Her voice sounded close to exhaustion, but energized.
“Yes! Now hold it…hold it…right there… that’s it! and five… four… three… two… one.” said Amanda’s voice, collapsing at the end. “Damn this stupid exercise video. It’s gonna kill me and then I’ll lose weight for sure!”
Caleb’s face was flush. He quickly looked up into the sky. He could feel the heat escaping from the top of his close cropped hair. Something was definitely going on but it wasn’t something he was going to waltz in and tell Doc about. Suddenly, he felt a stabbing pain in his chest. Whatever was happening, he resolved then and there that a trip to Doc’s was definitely needed.
“These lines right here,” said Doc, tracing along the dark lines on Caleb’s calves with the tip of his pen, “these are called Lichtenberg scars.” The dark scars running the length of his calves was purple and sore and tender.
“Most of the time, they tend to fade in a couple days. I don’t see why these would be any different.” said Doc. He put his pen in his shirt pocket and, looking straight at Caleb, he folded his hands and smiled. “The cardio tests we ran all came back ok. I think you were most likely under a lot of pain and perhaps a little duress from the confusion of not knowing what happened, but you seem to be recovering just fine.”
Caleb was sitting on the examination table with the big roll of paper at one end. The comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to have a bit about those little tables, about how he always felt like a piece of salami at a deli sitting on one of those tables, waiting to be examined, or maybe wrapped up an placed on the counter.
“Thanks, Doc,” said Caleb, “that’s a relief. I’m glad to know I’m gonna be alright.”
“Not a problem, Caleb,” said Doc, “your mother is waiting for you back at the house. Make sure you get home.”
“I wish you hadn’t told her, Doc.” said Caleb, “You know she just worries about stuff.”
“It’s not like I had a choice, Caleb.” said Doc, “You’re sixteen years old. You’re a minor. You’re mother gets notified.”
“AND…” continued Doc, “you were struck by lightning. Did you think I wasn’t going to notifity your mother? She would have my license to practice if she found out from anyone else.”
Caleb looked at him and smiled and was about to thank him when he heard Doc say something else, except…Doc’s lips weren’t moving.
“You’re a damn lucky kid. Lucky to have a mother like that and lucky to be alive.” said Doc’s voice…in Caleb’s head.
“Are you alright?” said Doc, lips moving and all. “You got kinda still there for a minute. You look kind of pale.”
“No. No, I’m fine, Doc.” said Caleb, sliding off the examination table. “I’m just still getting over the shock, that’s all.”
“Ha. Pun intended?” said Doc, with a smile.
“What? Uh…yeah. Ha!” said Caleb, realizing he had made his own joke. “Thanks, again, Doc. I’ll see ya later.”
“Straight home, Caleb. Tell your mother I said hello.” said Doc. He gave a little wave and a nod and disappeared out the door and on to the next examination room.
Caleb was out the door, down the hall, through the lobby and onto Main street. It would be about a twelve minute walk up the hill and to the house.
While he walked, and relieved from the stress about his previously unknown medical condition, he started thinking about the strange new…skill, he had in his head. It had to have been the lightning strike. He had heard about stuff like this, but it was all science fiction and nonsense, like UFO’s and people getting abducted.
But this was real. He was living it. He didn’t understand it, and didn’t know how long it would last, if it would go away, or if the lightning had affected him in other ways. So many questions.
He kicked a rock in his path. The tiny rock skittled across the concrete sections of sidewalk until it hit a metal sign post and deflected at a right angle into the alcove doorway of the town hair salon. Caleb looked up as he passed.
For a moment or two, his eyes met with the eyes of Peggy Sue, the assistant manager of the hair salon. And by assistant manager, I mean she was the OTHER hair stylist in the shop. She was on duty when the first one wasn’t working.
Caleb heard her voice clearly inside his head, right through the shop window, above the sound of a passing car, and despite the radio echoing out from the shop.
“That poor kid. ‘Doesn’t even know what’s going on with his mom right now.” She went back to spraying and teasing out a her client’s hair while she continued thinking to herself…and, unwittingly, to Caleb. “If he ever found out…”
She didn’t finish the sentence but Caleb glanced back to see her shaking her head while she combed and clipped. Caleb turned his attention back to his house on the hill and kept walking.
“What is going on?” Caleb thought to himself. “I’m going nuts. First, I almost get killed by a lightning strike on a sunny freaking afternoon, and now I can…what, read minds? Hear people think? And now there’s supposedly some secret about my mom?”
Caleb stopped in his tracks. He wanted to go back and grab Peggy Sue and ask her what in the hell was going on with his mom, but that would probably put her right over the egde. He stood a moment longer before making his decision.
“Ya know what? Who cares…” thought Caleb. “Today has been an absolute shit show and I’m going to get some answers before anything else happens.”
He reinforced his resolve, turned on his sneaker and started walking back to the hair salon, thinking about what he was going to say to Peggy Sue when he got there.
He saw a guy in a leather jacket walking up to the salon. It was about eighty degrees today. Caleb slowed his pace and watched as the man approached the door of the shop.
“Quick and easy.” said the voice in Caleb’s head. “Cash register on the counter, safe in the back next to the clothes dryer…24 – 17 – 34. Three minutes, in…and…out…”
The man reached the doorway just as he reached into his jacket to pull out a snub-nosed .38 revolver.
“Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do. Everyone remained calm. No one tried to play hero. And everything worked out.” said Sheriff Belton. He gestured to the man handcuffed in the back seat of his cruiser. “You did real well, Peggy Sue.”
Both of the town’s police cars were parked in front of the salon, lights flashing. Belton’s deputy was still talking to people and taking their statements; Everything that could be done to make sure this guy stayed in jail for a long time. And it was all because Caleb called 911.
Caleb sat in one of the faux leatherette seats in the little waiting area of the salon. He pretended to be reading a car magazine while everyone around him was hustling and hugging and chattering about the recent events in the shop. He would wait. He was determined to talk to Peggy Sue.
Another fifteen minutes and the sheriff and deputy had everything wrapped up and they moved out. Most of the shop patrons were gone, having to come back another day for their appointments, except for one woman who was having her hair dyed. She had a towel wrapped around her head and was past due the time she was supposed to have the dye rinsed out of her hair. Peggy Sue was rushing to get to her client and get the shop back to normal. She had a hectic afternoon but this poor customer was about to lose some of her hair if she didn’t get rinsed soon.
Alright! Thank you for joining me in today’s writing prompt. I wish I could hear what lot of you are thinking right now but, alas, you only wish that I had been struck by lightning. What about you, have you written today? If not, get on it. If you have written something, good for you. You deserve a cup of coffee.
That’s today’s writing prompt. I’ll be back with more. Be sure to subscribe if you find this interesting. Thanks for listening and thanks for your feedback. This is Kurt Copeland. Keep the momentum and take your writing up Another Notch.