What's His Story? - writercize #65

Sometimes the best source of inspiration for a writer means turning off the computer, closing the book and walking out the front door.  I've said before that I love people watching and creating a story, and even more so I love seeing what stories people can imagine from the same situation and clues, so I've decided to revisit a writercize from April.

The previous writercize, Read Between the Lines, gave a prompt of a woman walking into a jewelry consignment store silently sliding a ring over to the store employee.  A couple of brave writercizers took on the challenge to write her story, and I was so impressed and excited to see what they imagined had happened in her life.  If you like today's prompt, I invite you to try that one too.

writing exercise:  Imagine you see a man in the following situation and create his story.  

A young man sits on a park bench.  His head hangs between his knees and a single tear drops to the pavement between his feet.

Who is he? What is he doing in the situation?  As you look around the park, are other people involved in the story?  You may want to think about whether it is day or night, what neighborhood the park is in, or where he was prior to the park what sounds are nearby to complete the picture.

Click "read more" to see writercizer sample response.
writercizer response:

When Nathan awoke this morning, he prepared his day as any of his friends at school might.  He rolled out of bed, gave a little stretch, brushed his teeth under the shower, slipped into his scrubs, enjoyed a cup of coffee over the morning news (on an iPhone app, naturally).  Then he headed out the front door and started his walk over to med school.  Having just signed some paperwork for even more loans,  financially he was feeling pretty sorry for himself, but otherwise pretty positive.  He'd be finished with school in less than a year, he enjoyed some good friendships, and had enough money and energy to make it out to the pub a couple nights a week.  Just cute enough and just funny enough to get phone numbers from girls there, he knew that if there were any lonely nights, he could call someone for a little frisky companionship.

He'd arrived at the school fifteen minutes early for class, and used the time to swing by the cafeteria for a plastic-wrapped pastry.  Today's class should be interesting - they were going to examine one another with a CT scan.  It would be good practice looking at "real" patients instead of textbook pictures, and they'd get a good feeling for how their patients felt undergoing such tests in a claustrophobic tube.  Any day without a lecture was a good day.

When class started, Nathan raised his hand to offer himself up first for examination.  He had laid down and closed his eyes while the other students prepared him for the scan.  Young and healthy, he figured it would be quick and painless.

When they scooted him into the machine, he felt calm, but he knew that his patients would not feel the same.  He knew it was an experiment and that he was healthy; they would know that they were in pain and needed answers, hopeful that medication or surgery could fix their problems, but afraid for worse.  He tried to put himself in their shoes to more fully experience the medical exercise.

After five minutes, he was still in there and wondered what was taking so long.  Maybe the machine couldn't give an accurate reading and they had to reboot it.  That happened sometimes, especially if there had been a power outage or something during the night.  After ten minutes, he was getting worried, no longer imagining the patient he would put in the CT scan, but anxious for himself.

They pulled him out and the teacher looked straight into his eyes, clearly nervous.

"Nathan, have you been having any problems lately?" Dr. Stern asked him.

"No, nothing out of the ordinary," Nathan replied.

"Change of vision?  Headaches?  Nausea, anything?" asked Dr. Stern.

Nathan reflected on the past few weeks, months, years.  He was in his late 20s and had been a student for a long time, so changing vision and headaches were par for the course.  Right?  No nausea, not unless it had been a late night at the pub.

"Umm, no.  I mean, yes, I wear contacts and go in to the eye doctor every year.  It changes a bit from one year to the next.  She told me it was all the computers today; staring at a screen so many hours changes your eye.  And headaches, yeah.  I don't sleep much - all the studying and late nights at the hospital you know, and I am sort of a caffeine addict, so I just take some meds and get over it," Nathan said.

"Well, Nathan, I don't quite know how to tell you this.  You have a tumor.  It's located very close to your brain stem, resting up against the occipital lobe.  Of course, as you are aware, there's no way to know if it's malignant or benign.  We'll have to run tests.  But it's quite large, and, well, I have a feeling this semester will be better spent getting to the bottom of things.  I don't know that you'll be able to study and receive evaluations and treatment," said Dr. Stern.

Nathan sat up, looked at Dr. Stern, nodded, and walked out of the room.  He headed straight out the front door, and not knowing what to do or how to feel, he picked up a coffee and a newspaper from the newstand.  It was a short walk to the park; he sat on the bench and looked around.  People walking by, smiling, moms pushing strollers, women and men running to nowhere, and he felt alone.  And scared.  And confused.  And really, really useless for being pretty much a trained doctor.  

He hadn't even diagnosed his own symptoms.  And he didn't know if he could save himself, if he needed saving.  What sort of person spends years training and studying for something he could be so blind to in himself?  And if he can't save himself, what was the point?  If he gets through this, at least he'll know the right questions to ask and relate to his patients.  He won't have to fake it anymore when delivering bad news.

He put his head between his knees, squeezed his head between his hands with all his might, as if willing the tumor to shrink back from the pressure or pop right out of the back of his head, and began to cry.


  1. waiting to see more stories from people! i do have one "uplifting" idea that i'll add as a comment in a few days. :)

  2. Ha! You had me guessing what the reason for his crying was: a financial issue or his health. Can't wait for the follow up.

  3. My take -

    At first Jimmy thinks it’s a drop of rain, but when he looks up the sun is shining and the bright blue sky is clear. But it can’t be a tear. Jimmy never cries.

    He didn’t cry when he was five-years-old and fell headlong into the corner of the old coffee table in his grandparent’s living room. The cut on his forehead gushed blood like water from a broken fire hydrant. His mother was hysterical, but Jimmy thought it was cool. Even when the doctor sewed up the cut with stitches, he stayed quiet.

    He didn’t cry when he was 13 and his alcoholic father shot himself in the head. Jimmy found him in the basement after coming home from school. At the gruesome sight, all Jimmy felt was relief and then shame.

    He didn’t cry at the viewing when his family and classmates stood in line and one by one offered condolences. He wasn’t sad; he was angry –angry with his weak, pathetic father, angry with God, and mostly angry with himself for his lack of emotion.

    If his father’s funeral didn’t make him cry, then certainly no movie would make him cry. At 16 on the couch beside Tina Tortelli in her parent’s well-decorated living room watching Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, all Jimmy could think about was the way Tina’s dark hair smelled like Pantene, the way her tongue slid along her lower lip, the way her tank top clung tightly to her chest, and the way he wanted to put his arm around her.

    When the movie ended and Tina sobbed, Jimmy laughed, which made Tina angry. “How can you laugh? You have no soul, Jimmy!”

    Jimmy didn’t argue with her. Maybe he was soulless. Did tears come from the soul?

    After so many years of never shedding a single tear, Jimmy is shocked at the water droplet on the pavement between his feet. With nothing else to do on his day off, Jimmy had wandered in the downtown theater to get out of the heat. On this summer afternoon, they were showing an old classic.

    When the film started, Jimmy slouched down and propped his feet up on the seat in front of him, prepared to take a short nap, but after a few minutes found himself caught up in the engaging story.

    As the credits rolled, Jimmy slowly made his way out of the theater and over to the park across the street where he sort of fell on the nearest bench. He couldn’t stop thinking about the decision Travis had to make and the agony he must have suffered when he shot his beloved dog, Old Yeller.

    Oh, if only Tina Tortelli could see him now!

    thanks for the great prompt! BTW, I used it in combination with a writing exercise from Dawn at The Write Soil for my post on writing today :)

  4. ooo - love it Brianna! Alma, I can't wait for your take on it! ;)

  5. Hello,
    First time, I read out your story.
    I think that your viewpoint is deep, it’s just well thought out and truly incredible to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts so well. Good job and keep it up.

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