Writing Prompt: Birds in a List

April 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Virginian Partridge

Google tells me that it’s John James Audubon‘s birthday. You know, the man who made all those fabulous paintings in our guides to North American birds? The paintings themselves are gorgeous and inspiration enough, so if you’d like to use a picture as a prompt, there will be no stopping you. For myself, I’d like to look a little deeper into the idea of cataloguing.

Definition courtesy of thefreedictionary.com: A list or itemized display, as of titles, course offerings, or articles for exhibition or sale, usually including descriptive information or illustrations.

Let that be your inspiration for today’s writing prompt, and see what you can bring up out of a list. Don’t forget to post your responses in the comments to this post.

If you’re interested in an oral prompt, hop on back to the first TELL me a story prompt.

Oh, alright. Here’s my response:

These are some women I know:


She is short and fat and wears tight shirts that show off all the rolls of fat when she sits down in the chair and hunches over like she does. She has about six chins and I hate them all, but I will tell you something. She has very soft hands. We stood in the bathroom next to each other and danced our eyes away in the mirror. Oh, she looked at me, look at the soap dispenser, give a weak smile, focus on washing your hands, come on. Then she asked me if I had any lotion, and I told her that I didn’t, and she grabbed my hand which was still wet, and put it on top of her own. She told me to feel how dry it was, but through the water I only felt how soft it was, like a melting marshmallow, bending under my touch like a bed under lovers. She made me shiver and later I tried to see her fat rolls as just something soft, something vulnerable, but they still made me want to throw up.


She smells like fresh ink, that stink that gives you a headache if you stay around it for too long, like permanent markers, but more subtle so it seeps in instead of charging in. She smells like that. I wish that she didn’t, because she sits next to me on the bus every morning and gives me that headache before I get to work and they never open the goddamn windows on the bus. I almost like when the homeless man who lives down by David gets on and sits somewhere near us, because he seems to overpower her if he sits close enough.

I just wish that she didn’t smell like ink, but I know why she does: her fingers are stained black and she sits next to me and draws the backs of people’s heads and asks me if I know anyone with a gallery who’d be interested in making people come to see vaguely-round masses of hair. I get off the bus early and walk a little while longer to work.


She is small and sucks on the end of my thumb. One time, her mother let me carry her out into the playground so that her big sister could see her, so that Alexa could get dizzy from the whirl of bright plastic and in the air she’d never even know about the sharp woodchips below her. I held her up while her sister swung across the monkey bars and thought about walking away with her. Where could I keep her? It was weird to think of her like some kind of loaf of bread, a package, something to put on the entry table while I took off my coat and hung up my keys, and I wondered if that’s how it was going to be when I finally had a baby of my own: just another thing you have to set down to do anything, just another burden, a bag full of groceries.


She is the one who told me that my nose was crooked and after that I couldn’t stop touching it. I touched it especially whenever I saw her, walking up with her cute button nose, the kind where you can see a little of the nostrils, but it’s not gross, just calm, like it’s balancing out the nose with the nostrils. Also, she is the one who is slowly, slowly stealing away my boyfriend. I was friends with her before and introduced them and now they meet after work when I am still at home and talk for hours. He told me that one time they talked for four hours and I am afraid of her. I am afraid because she tells me where I am weak and at the same time, without speaking, shows me how she is strong and in what ways I am not worthy of my boyfriend. Every time I close my eyes, I see him running his finger down the bridge of her nose. I started sleeping on one of my sides, hoping my nose will bend down with gravity, but nothing ever seems to go the way he promised that it would.


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§ 2 Responses to Writing Prompt: Birds in a List

  • Sarah (peanut19) says:

    There are places I want to go back to, if only for a moment:

    The Park:
    Where we met and flew kites in the rain. Where Hanna cried when we told her we were leaving, tears melting into the sweat on her rose-crème cheeks. She was so devastated when the words “We are leaving; but you’ll never lose us.” Escaped from your chapped lips.

    The state line:
    We used to lie on the road with our arms spread out like angel’s wings and count the stars that would guide us away from this place. They seemed to complex, to dazzling to look at much less use to our advantage. There we were magicians, willing our bodies to be one and to be in two places at once. You whispered through my hair and into my brain that you wanted to cross the line and sprint away from there until your shoes were rubbed raw from the road.

    Adison Memorial Auditorium:
    The first song we ever sang together is engraved on those walls, blasted through the speakers and permanently splattered against the sound proof cage. Behind the stage there are marker etchings where our initials are there for the future to see. The velvet purple curtain shield my nervous heart from the audience that could easily shatter it and blocked us from the noise as you pleaded with me to go on. There my courage took flight banging with the beat of the drum against young people’s awaiting ears.

    I promised I would stay there. But you pulled my hand along behind you like a child and showed me a word that my innocent eyes were closed from. Now sitting on the gum dotted sidewalk thinking back on the things we shared before everything in life became “ours”; I only want to go back to you.

    • Hannah says:

      Sarah! Peanut! Thank you so much! I especially liked the last section, because I notice the gum spots on the sidewalks all the time and want to talk about them, but haven’t gotten around to doing it very well, so that was awesome to see it in your writing, too. That concept of everything turning into “ours” is something that rings really true with me, as well, so you got right into my home with that last entry.

      Thank you, again! I hope to see you posting around more. :)

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