I have been part of the Serious Scribes writer's group for over eight years. We meet, critique, share stories and do our best to inspire the writer in each of us. Of the four current members, we write on diverse genres yet enjoy the progress each of us makes.
At one of the last meetings, our leader gave each of us an assignment. We blindly chose a sheet of paper from her. Written upon the one I selected were the words, "If you can guess what is in my pocket, you can have it." We were instructed to use this writing prompt as the first sentence of our writing and return to the next meeting with a story that had a beginning, a middle and an end.
I had no idea what to write. I wanted to return to writing my book, not something else. I got up from my writing table in the kitchen to walk around and consider it. When I returned my dog, Hermione, pictured above with Huck in the background, looked like she was prepared to take over the writing for me.
I picked up Hermione, took my seat and decided it was time to write. The sentence made me think of some things I didn't want to write about, but them I remembered my Dad. When my Dad came home from work, he would shake the coins in his pockets and say, "If you can guess how much money is in my hand, you can have it."
I loved to guess but never guessed correctly. I came close a few times. He was happy to get the jingle jangle of the coins out of his pants.
With that memory intact, I sat and wrote this short story. Not autobiographical, but inspired.
If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it
“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” My mother stuck her hand in her apron pocket. She smiled and jiggled her hand. There was no noise.
My friend Jamie looked in awe and circled around her. I had seen this trick before, but this time I had no idea what she would have that didn’t make a sound.
“Well, it can’t be coins because I would hear something.” I sat at the kitchen table, placed my elbows on the edge and rested my chin on my hands. “And, it can’t be marbles because I would hear that, too.”
Jamie continued to circle my mother. “Is it a million dollar bill? Is it a toad? Is it my homework assignment I lost last week?”
“No, no and no.” Mom smiled and watched as Jamie shrugged in frustration.
“I was really hoping for the million dollars. Then I won’t have to go to school and take the test tomorrow,” said Jamie.
“A million dollar bill would be nice, but it won’t solve all of your problems. And, what would you two ten year old girls do with a million dollars anyway?”
“We would figure out something!” Jamie and I answered in unison.
“A million dollars would have been good. But I still want to try to figure it out.” I loved the mystery, I loved the intrigue, and I loved the moment between knowing and not knowing. “Can we ask questions about it?” I asked.
“Well, perhaps a couple…ok, three, only three questions and only three guesses.” Mom turned and stirred the water and noodles in the pot. It had not yet returned to boiling.
“So, where did you go today?”
Mom turned and said, “What a funny question…let’s see. I visited Mrs. Green next door, I stopped at the market for milk and I mailed the letter to your grandmother.”
“Hmmm, that is not a lot to work from.”
“Not a lot from which to work.” Mom was a grammar perfectionist. I was lucky I had a subject and a verb in my sentences.
“Hmmm.” I looked around the kitchen trying to find any clue. No sound, a trip to the market and the mailbox. What could my mother have in her pocket? She could be so sneaky sometimes. “So, you didn’t go to the department store, you didn’t go to the basement, and you didn’t visit Dad at work, correct?” I thought I was as smart and observant as Sherlock Holmes.
“Correct. Well, you have asked two questions, although that last one should almost count for two.” Mom brushed her hair back with her wrist and set the spoon on the counter top. “Only one question left.”
Mom put her hand in the pocket again, and then twirled around the kitchen. Again, no noise except the squeak of her shoes on the floor. “And you only have five more minutes to guess. This secret won’t keep forever. I am setting the timer.”
Jamie and I groaned as we knew our time was limited. As the timer clicked to 4:55 minutes remaining, my brother Mark walked into kitchen. “Hey,” called Mark as he breezed past Mom.
“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” Mom smiled at Mark who stopped abruptly.
"Mom, I am too old to play your stupid games. And, if it isn’t a million dollars, I just don’t care to play.” Mark stomped out of the room.
Mom turned to me and Jamie. She smiled but it was not the same smile as before, it was a forced smile.
She walked to the pantry and I thought I saw tears brim in her eyes. I looked at Jamie and I knew Jamie understood. We were quiet for a few minutes as Mom randomly moved items from one shelf to another shelf and then back again to where it was originally. Then I understood just how important the game was.
“Mom, are you ready for my last question? I think I have a good one!”
Mom ambled back slowly to the stove. She breathed in deeply and squared her shoulders. “Ok, shoot. I am ready for the last question.”
“Is the something in your pocket something you love?” I asked. As I said it, the timer buzzed loudly startling each of us.
Mom pressed the button to silence the buzzer. She reached into her pocket and slowly pulled her hand out.
“Roberta, you are the absolutely the best at this game. You are correct.” Mom flipped her hand over to show us a picture of me as a baby. Underneath the photograph was a lottery ticket.
“It may not be a million dollars, it may be more, it may be less,” Mom said as she clasped the picture and the ticket into my hand. “And, I thought what was in my pocket was something I loved, but your spirit and willingness to play is priceless, and I love you more each hour of every day.” She hugged me and I hugged her back tightly.
“You know, Mom. I may not always wear an apron but I think the pocket game is the best game ever.”
Mark popped his head back into the kitchen. “Did I hear more than a million dollars?”
I placed both hands over my picture and ticket. “You heard wrong, Mark. This game is priceless. I can’t wait to play it with my children and grandchildren.”
Mark looked from me, to Jamie, and to Mom trying to understand. Mom smiled again, enjoying the confused look on his face.
“If you can guess what I have in my other pocket, you can have it.”________________________________________________
Inspiration can come from anywhere...from unexpected writing prompts and dogs. Use sentences, comments and sights to inspire you to write something you didn't expect. The journey is worth it.