Backstory: Feb. 10

Gabrielle Idlet (

The Challenge Of Writing Quickly

Healing the body, healing the mind

It is excruciatingly hard to write a story. That’s true for most of us, anyway. We can describe people and places, we might be able to capture the things people say, but to string setting and dialogue and character together along the arc of a plot is something else altogether.
In workshop, there’s hardly time to bring more than a moment to the page. And yet, week after week, people manage to write stories. This story, by Martin Jardon, was written in response to the following prompt: Write about an incident your body experienced when you were a child, and link it to an event your body experienced in your adulthood. As is the rule in our workshop, Martin broke the rules and took off running with half of the prompt.

"Our front wheels collided. I flew off my bike to my right, Justin to his left. The bottle, still in my hand, had survived without a scratch. Then, came a sharp pain from my knee. The blood shocked me when I saw it, and again when I saw it on Justin."

By Martin Jordan

“Mr. Donahue,” we cried, dashing through the back gate, jumping the stairs to the patio, and nearly collapsing at the middle-aged man’s feet. I had just turned twelve and Justin, two grades behind me, clutched at his elbow as blood ran over his fingers. I held my knee in a vice grip as I bled onto my shin.
Mr. Donahue was one of my dad’s friends from law school and had been staying with us since the last day of sixth grade. It was now late June, and he seemed to have camouflaged himself as part of my summer. He spent most of his time hanging out on the back porch and rarely spoke. I began to wonder if my parents had brought him home with one of their decorative garden rocks, by mistake. Dad said Mr. Donahue had just come from a halfway house, which meant he’d lost his mind and was working his way back to being a regular person. It had started when he took his BAR exam. Mr. Donahue picked up his pen, wrote two sentences and walked out of the room completely insane. He’d almost made it back to reality 15 years later, so he was staying with us until he could get a place of his own.
Ten minutes earlier, Justin and I bet on the fastest path from his house to my house. Justin set off on his bike and I on mine, each of us following our favorite route and intending to prove the other wrong by arriving, first. In our own classic form, we broke from the starting line with our right hands on our handlebars and our left hands grasping glass bottles of Pepsi. One block from the finish, our pathways met at a right-angle intersection. I looked down the hill toward the home stretch and saw no one ahead of me. I knew I had him beat. As I approached the intersection with my vision set dead ahead, I caught a glimpse of something to my left. Justin had arrived at exactly the same time. It was going to be a photo finish. Nothing had prepared us for what would happen in the event of a tie. Our front wheels collided. I flew off my bike to my right, Justin to his left. Instinctively, we held onto our Pepsis. Flat on the pavement, I looked up. The bottle, still in my hand, had survived without a scratch. Then, came a sharp pain from my knee. The blood shocked me when I saw it, and again when I saw it on Justin.
“What should we do?” yelled Justin.
“Leave the bikes and the drinks!” I called back, and we sprinted up the hill to my house, leaving the vehicles and bottles strewn precariously about the street. As we neared my yard, I knew our chances of rescue had vanished. An empty driveway lay before us. With both my parents gone, how would we stop the bleeding?
Whenever I pictured someone going insane, I thought of a cartoon in which Daffy Duck annoys Porky Pig to the point that the normally well-mannered and soft-spoken pig becomes red-faced, begins to wheeze uncontrollably, and chases Daffy around the house with a giant ax. As we ran across the patio toward Mr. Donahue, bleeding and yelling, I wondered if this would be the event that pushed him over the edge. The man who had blended in with our backyard so effortlessly over the past few weeks was becoming crimson and flustered. He rushed inside.
Justin and I looked at each other, unsure whether to follow him.
We kept no axes in the house, but my mom had more than a few oversized kitchen knives. I could hear him beyond the doorway, rustling through cabinets and drawers. I held my breath. I exhaled as the door swung open and Mr. Donahue emerged with a box of bandages and a container of hydrogen peroxide.

Writing Challenge

Write about moving from one place to another, physically or otherwise.

*No part of Martin Jordan’s story may be reproduced without permission of the author.

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