Week 12-Final Project-Earthquake

Earthquakes’ train

The tremor briefly ripples desiccated dirt on the road in parallel lines. Stillness follows. A starling whistles once, then again. Wind blows west and rustles the prairie grass. Chiseled men relax. They return to dig and pick apart the hardened earth with steel pickaxes. Dust clouds fills nostrils and mouths. Sweat pours down their chins. Shirts come off. Sun burns.

Look! A flock of starlings abruptly lift westward from telephone wire. Active men squeal to a halt. Rumbles tingle toes. The numbing of feet forge waves of fear straight through toughened bodies. Jelly legs and panicked voices forewarn men and beasts: Earth’s westbound train approaches. Nails and hammer drop with a thud. Weak waves of dirt flutter in reply. Hundreds of feet begin to stampede in differing directions.

The other men bustle past me. Their shoulders shove mine as they scramble to safety up the cactus-peppered landscape. I fall in line onto my hands and knee; I press my right ear to the ground. I eat dirt and listen. The deafening roar of vibrating earth intermixes with churning wheels. Not sure how far, now. Teams of horses whinny and rear. I push up and run out of the way one second before hooves crash down where I crawled. My stomach derails with shockwaves of adrenaline.

I howl in helpless pulses. Faces around me melt with fear. The inevitable groundbreaking eruption fuels fights. Fist knock hats off balding heads. The beat of the breaking earth trembles louder. How many of the men here will survive? Will I? I slap my face. Wake up, Sam! Don’t freeze up now. A straight path opens up on my left between the Mill and the General Store. Time slows. Hobos cling to the stores’ wood siding. Slate shingles fracture at their feet. The last water barrel topples. Water ejects in thick rivulets. I run, full speed ahead.

Injun arrows cross country above my head as I steam onward into their path. Undeterred, I grit my teeth and put my head down as I run. Ululations thunder out the sounds of my heart beating in my ears. Windows rattle from the increase frequencies underfoot. Cracks split panes. Men slip and fall. Animals scatter and trample. At the last possible moment, I flatten myself against the side of the General Store as the Injuns scream on by me. I watch. The sheriff crumples into a pile of flesh. Blood-soaked dirt swells.

My mental switch flips. I turn sharply on my spurs and run against the undulating flow of teeming Injuns. A tomahawk sails past my head and into the wood. Twang! Rifle shots mix with metal slicing into skin. Short screams reverberate between the stores’ walls. Bile and disgust rise in my throat. Sweat overtakes tears that leak from the corner of my eyes. I breathe in hard. And I run. Gasping, I emerge from the human tunnel and keep going. The crescendo of disintegrating buildings fuels an explosion of debris and dust behind me. Its force blasts me onto my face.

The Mill’s foundation cracks opens and yawns. Wham! Earth rips apart with the sounds of two freight trains that crash full throttle. The Mill shatters and disappears. Burning fuel sears my nose and lungs. I taste blood and dirt. My legs shiver. I collapse. I wait for the shaking and the screaming to stop. I close my eyes and come to a standstill.

When I regain awaken, my temples are pounding. I get to my feet, swaying woozily. A familiar shape lies on the ground. I limp over to the other man, kneel, and push him over on his back. I look into the face of my youngest brother, Jesse.

Jesse? Is that you? Wake up, brother. Wake up! Come on. We gotta get out of here!

I shake him somethin’ awful.
He doesn’t move.


Week 11 Assignment-Old Swimming Hole

This assignment ends Week 11 of my BerkleeMusic course called “Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.” The criteria for the assignment are:

  1. Pick a collision from this week
  2. Pick a point of view
  3. Pick your verb tenses
  4. 300-500 words
  5. Include the title in your assignment

Other criteria that we’ve used in our assignments include: varying sentence length and varying sentence type (statement, command, conditional, questions). I included those as well.

Collision Title: Old Swimming Hole -> Temptation -> Jewels in an Unlocked Case
Point of View: First Person
Tenses: Present, Future

Week 11 Assignment

The turquoise waters of the old swimming hole tempt me with their alluring glitter. I thrill from the age-old desire to grab forbidden treasures and make a quick escape. Nervousness floods my mouth. My lips tremble. I lick my sweaty upper lip. I slowly look around. First, left; then, right. I see no one. I hear only rippling waters, tweeting sparrows, and reeds hushing each other as the wind sneaks by. With no alarms raised, I pull off my tank top and toss it on the ground besides me. I forcefully breathe in the emerald marsh air. Ah!, I sigh aloud. I pause to listen, but no one answers.

I go over the plan again in my mind: I will lunge my left leg backwards, ready both fists by my side, bounce three times, and take off. I will race down the weathered diving plank as if the police were in pursuit. My imaginary pursuers will reach for me too late as I spring off the edge of the board and into topaz waters. The plank’s thrumming will drown out the coppers’ anguished cries. The anticipation dries my mouth with the taste of mineral salts. Will this work? A red-tailed hawk scolds me: Stop wasting time. Silver fear infuses my nostrils. I rub my shoulders hard to psyche myself up with bravery.

My ears perk up at the pale sounds of far away laughter. Now: do it now, I mentally yell. Adrenaline floods my limbs. I sloppily throw my left leg back, makes fists, and bounce twice. I sprint down the plank at full speed. At the last moment, I launch. As I descend from the high arc, I hold my knees tightly and close my eyes. I slam through the pearl surface. Water roars into my ear canals and penetrates my mouth. I open up completely, kick my legs, and spin until dizzy. I come up with arms outstretched, gasping for air. Approaching laughter is my final warning. If I don’t get out now, I’ll be seen.

I scrabble haltingly out of the pool of liquid jewels. Each falling droplet leaves a semiprecious trail of temporary clues. I roughly yank my tank top back over my head and down onto my torso. I smell hot August sun drying the last aquamarine memories from my skin. Alum, the fool’s gold of the swimming hole, tarts my tongue. I tiptoe into the tourmaline thicket down a rarely used footpath. I periodically turn back to look for the swimming hole. When I no longer see it, I breathe a sigh of relief. I keep walking. I do not stop or look back. My sandals crunch sticks pleasingly. I whistle victory at my easy escape.

Week 10 Assignment – Pain is a Teacher

Pain is the teacher who carefully lays out the lesson plan to fit every day of our lives. Her tiny cryptic scrawls cover the blackboard in white. As we file into our seats, the smell of chalks fills our nostrils and covers our tongues, and seeps into our skin.

Pain pop-quizzes us Monday mornings when we are slack with sleep at our desks. Do we really have to do this now? Our Trapper Keepers and textbooks slap closed and land on the floor with a satisfying thud.

Pain surprises us with last-minute room changes posted on our classroom door, two hours after the class ended. There is no room 5-B in our two-story building. As we sit in study hall, we sweat and ring our hands. Our stomachs clench and make us dizzy with anticipation. Did we fail?

Pain tests our critical thinking skills. Turn the wrong way and pain stops us with a smack of the ruler on our backsides, bringing our attention back to the beginning of the lesson plan. Extra credit assignments stack high and sway menacingly over us. Panic rips our guts apart. How will get through this? We pass notes when the teacher isn’t looking. The test paper answers change when we aren’t looking.

After high school, birthdays become our only progress chart. Blind to the future, we grope around in the dark, searching for the light switch but sticking our fingers in the sockets and getting shocked. Our hands stick to the plate from an ungrounded outlet. We pull away, only to be drawn back into the electrical center. Zap! Zot! Muscles tense hard. We pull away hard and try again. Nothing deters us. Into the sockets our fingers go. The intensity holds us hostage and we reflexively shout. Our senses are in sharpest focus. Pain courses through our blood and electrifies us into action. Our hearts or legs get broken.

After the power has been shut off, ee close our eyes hard and pretend our lesson isn’t there. Our discipline disintegrates. We pull out hair in frustration at our lack of learning. Don’t you wish it would end and we could get some peace? We cry: No fair! Our only answer is the squeak of a rusted door that is moved slowly back and forth by the wind.

Week 9 Assignment

I hope you enjoy my assignment submission for the end of Week 9 of the Berkleemusic.com course, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.’ This class, especially in this week, has been a boon to my writing in conjunction with a technical editing course. I hope you enjoy this piece.

Week 9 Assignment Requirements

  • Choose one of your collisions: Summer -> Carefree -> Children
  • Choose your own point of view: First person narrative (I, we)
  • Choose your own tense movement:  Present, Future
  • Expand in into 300–500 words and focus with your senses.

Summer  -> Carefree -> Children

Children: kids, young, run, jump, play, potential, growth, education, love, chubby cheeks, sweet, fingers, learning, alphabet, reading, crayons, daycare, happy, play games, hopscotch, jump rope, dodge ball, horseback riding, pool, beach, volleyball, softball, baseball, naps, day camp, campers

Summer jumps into the season, giggling and laughing. Passing sun showers hopscotch over our heads. Summer stamps her hot feet through spring’s last puddles. Water fountains splash us playfully. Rainbows draw their colors on the paper-blue sky. Sunrays tag our faces with rosy love. The summer solstice stretches her potential length to maximum. The last days of school peel off in white flakes. A warm breeze rouses us from our homework chains. Freedom becomes our new fresh skin.

Excited Atlantic waves bounce the ferry S.S. Happy Campers on its knees. We wear orange lifejackets, lean over the ships’ bow, and heave in the salty sea air. After we arrive, we burst down the pier. Shoulder to shoulder as we run, we muscle each other out of the way, yelling and stomping our feet. Yes! I win! Fist pumps greet groans in friendly camaraderie. Next stop? Mad Martha’s Ice Cream! We eat our vanilla sugar cones and dig our feet into burning sand. Beach balls hop back and forth over nets. Sand castles rise. Moats overflow. Turrets tumble into the sea. We dig deep, and find joy under pink seashells. For lunch, we unzip sandwich bags with sandy fingers. Coca Cola pops open in wide smiles. Oreo cookies loosely crumble out of our mouths onto damp bathing suits. We nap on cotton towels under a blue umbrella. Comforting sea breezes caress us while we sleep. Splash! Water on our faces! We noisily chase after seagulls with our hands in the air.

Sunset sneaks up on us. Tag, we’re it!  Fluorescent Crayola colors wrap the sky in brief swathes. Dark hues cool our sandy party. What will we play tomorrow? Will we rent three-speed bicycles in Vineyard Haven and meander down-island to Oak Bluffs? Before bedtime tonight, we will imagine putting on plays about our indigenous island ancestors; victory will be ours. Our parents will tell us to go to sleep, but we will read under bed sheets with flashlights until late. Crickets will sing us to sleep. Peepers will peep. We will dream.

Week 8 Assignment

This week’s assignment parameters:

  1. Choose one of our writings from this week and expand it to 200-400 words;
  2. Write from second person narrative using both present and future tense; and
  3. Use sense-bound language
Earlier this week, my teacher commented that my writing from Day 3, A needle is a thunderstorm, was written backwards. I wrote about a thunderstorm using needle terminology when I should have been writing about needles using thunderstorm terminology. Even with a list of nouns, adjectives, and verbs that I free-associated from the word ‘thunderstorm’, I could not get it right. I tried four different times to start, only to realize that I kept doing the same thing — writing about thunderstorms, not needles. It wasn’t until I hit on the idea of a sewing needle, vs. a medical/injectable/sharps type of needle, that I got it to work. I think. Here it is:

A (sewing) needle is a thunderstorm

            As you sit at the antique Singer table, your sewing needle pelts the fine cotton hem with lightning-fast jagged dashes of bright white thread. The sharp tube focuses a downpour of electric, metallic artistry in your hands. You whip out the skirt with a streak that lets out a thunderous clap. Overcast skies darken your vision and you squint as you blink hard, trying to focus. Your lashes are heavy and wet; your gusts of sewing ruined your efforts at planting the needle just right. Your grandmother will soak you in your next Saturday afternoon lesson if you don’t dry out the mess left by your hail of sharps.

Side by side on her sprawling porch you will both sit, a duo of clothing storms vaccinating your clothes with color and style to combat their fashionable finish. You will inject new life into your tired blue jeans by rejuvenating them with swells of shiny pink thread. You think of your grandmother, who will want to puncture her 20-year-old housedress within runoffs of pastels.

Much later, your weekly follow-up visits will turn into one-sided, annual visits where needles and cloth are replaced by stems and flowers that you leave in solace at her grave. You will reflect on these painful lessons, cry, and be glad that she inoculated you against the jab of saying good-bye.

Week 7 Assignment-Expressed Identity

This week’s assignment asks us to pick one of our writing pairs from this week, expand it to 200-400 words,  and write it in third-person POV. My teacher liked my treehouse/book pair so I wrote more on that one.

Expressed Identity: Treehouse/book

            David spent his leisurely hours climbing up the boards that were nailed into the side of the oak every six inches until he reached the landing outside the treehouse door. After pulling back the curtain, David steps into ‘The Adventures of the Pirate Brothers,’ a miniseries filled with swashbuckling adventures in arcs of fighting, treasure hunting, and stealing ships from enemy pirates. Fiercer than Blackbeard, the Pirate David dedicates his life to sailing the fictional high seas, his best friends at his side, cannon blasting any girls who dare to kiss them, and going down like a pirate should, with drops of his spilled blood decorating the ocean floor and wide-brimmed hat slowly drowning under rocky waves.

David sat down on the wide oak boards that bound the floor, the walls, and the flat roof cover together in tight, parallel lines. He pressed his blue ballpoint hard into the parchment and slowly carved the names of each club member in a list on the left side of the paper: David, Simon, and Mark. To the right of each name, he drew an underline where they would sign in cherry-juice blood and pledge allegiance to their crew. A blue jay screams outside the window cranny, which opens out towards the well-mowed lawn. A black curtain hangs heavily in the doorway with an unevenly stapled sign marked ‘X’ in thick red marker. The sound of footsteps thuds up the planks and hushed hurried whispers heighten the anticipation.  David froze, trying hard not to breathe or think ahead and guess the ending. Three knocks and a unified round of ‘yo-ho-hos!’ mark the beginning of the next fearsome chapter.

Week 6 Assignment -Metaphor Nouns+Verbs

This week’s assignment asked us to write 200-400 words expanding a noun/verb collision that we wrote earlier in the week. POV: Direct address, Required tenses: Present and Future.


            You open the television and see violent crime packaged in large red doses. Is it too large to swallow? You grab your cotton sweater near your neck. You sweat as you anticipating the ingesting the loathsome pill. Onscreen sirens accelerate your heart’s rhythm. Wee-ooo! Wee-ooo! Wee-ooo! Breathing deeply, you notice faint traces of skin cauterization. You hold your nose and look away. Bitter salt floods your mouth and force you to swallow a copious amount of liquid. Like a shot, you press the power off button on the television. Spin! You stagger to your couch and lay down. Your hand drapes limply over your forehead. You close your eyes, focus on your breath, stretch out your legs, and try to digest what you’ve been exposed to.

An hour passes but your heart still races and you breath only in short gasps. Picking up your slippery cell phone with a shaking hand, you look at it and pause. How will you explain that taking in such a small amount of evil made your belly tighten into a rebellious knot? That it made your heart race, your brow sweat, and your mouth water? Will they believe you? Your head sways in dizziness. You wish you had smelling salts nearby. You wish the nurse would list ‘the sight blood’ under a list of known allergies in your chart. You close your eyes tightly. A single tear leaks from the corner of your eye and plops its fat self onto the slipcover.