Your job is to incorporate one or more of the following into the first, second, or third paragraph of a short story or novel. (And if you do, send me the draft for a free critique: kasthomas at hushmail dot com.)
The old shopkeeper shuffled away, then paused to look back at me one last time, doing one of those painful old-person torso-turns in which the neck doesn't participate.
After only the second day of pink snow, people were already less concerned (much less, in fact) about why the snow was pink than when it would end.
From where I was lying, I could see the dirt along the baseboards, the dead fly in the corner, a decade's accumulation of fuzz and cruft under the refrigerator, Satan's trail mix.
It was a thoroughly vile idea, a painfully wretched and repulsive plan, which is exactly why we knew it would work.
One tiny smudge of lipstick on the rim of a wine glass. That, and something sticky on a napkin. That's all it took.
Inside his lunchbox, the shards of a broken mind.
When Dad shut the car door, there it was, that awful feeling again, the sudden realization that there was no longer oxygen enough for two.
You wouldn't think a moldy grapefruit could set your life on fire, but it can.
From my vantage point, I watched her bury the notebook, not all at once, but one crumpled up page at a time. It was like planting a garden. Every few inches, a broken dream, packed carefully in topsoil, with a raised mound around it, to let the tears drain off.
He reeked of day-old cigarette butts. And old-vine zinfandel. The vines, mostly.
"Can I go now? Or is there a law against wearing a gun holster with a banana in it?"
Until that moment, my life had been something I just watched indifferently—an animated test pattern, a Rorschach test of the damned, played on a continuous tape-loop on the Absurdo Channel.
"Like I said, I wasn't trying to start any trouble, okay? All I said to the guy was 'Nice belt. You make that in prison?'"
There was only one thing left to tell Richard, the thing that had sent two prior fiancés into therapy (and their therapists to rehab).
It was Aimee's idea to burn the wig, the wallet, and the weird thing with the fake flower. I wouldn't let her burn the shoes.
That afternoon, I stood in the longest line at the bank, the line with people depositing false dreams.
Justine called around midnight with the "good news." We'd just elected another turbodick from Planet Mutando to the U.S. Senate. Little did she know her man's political cojones (and maybe soon his real ones) were in a safe-deposit box in the Cayman Islands, registered in my name.
When Richard opened the suitcase, flies came out. Flies and fumes. There were pineapple skins, milk cartons, coffee grounds, cigar butts. An old sock wrapped around something that blinked. "What's the matter?" I asked. "You said you wanted a dirty bomb."
A tiny old Haitian woman came to the door wearing a rooster's foot on a necklace. She held it up to my face carefully, as if to say "speak into the foot."