Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It's PROMPTuesday again. Sandiegomomma's weekly writing inspiration. Today's prompt:

Start a story with the sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night.

Here are the rules:
  • Try to write your entry in 10 minutes. This encourages top-of-mind, primal thinking before the ego and judgmental brain kick in. Just set a timer, make your kid count to 600 slowly, whatever. It’s an honor system. And I trust you.
  • Aim for 250 words or less.
  • Please have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Together, let’s rediscover the simple joy in the writing process.

It was a dark and stormy night. Rebecca called Light cue 56A, and Frank could hear the dimmers buzz under the music as the front-of-house lights rode the curtain up for Act II, casting a blue glow onto the set of the haunted castle, and the corps de ballet posing onstage. He stared at the cue light, double set of red golf-ball-sized light bulbs, dangling from the lighting pipe overhead and clipped to the offstage edge of the velour drape.

"Standby, Light Cue 57 and Thunder Effect," she said, poising her finger on the button to turn off the stage right cue light.

"And 57 - Go!" Rebecca flipped the toggle switch off at the same time. The strobe light mounted just inside the downstage portals flashed a millisecond later, and Frank, standing upstage right, saw the cue light go out and he shook the wooden handle attached to the thundersheet, issuing a shuddering roar from the floppy sheet of galvanized steel.

"Stop! Stop! Stop!!"

The music abruptly stopped. The wraith-like dancers, their arms gracefully raised above them, broke their pose and slumped their shoulders.

"Can we go back?" The voice came over the head-set and then through the PA system so everyone in the theatre could hear. "Sorry, ladies. We need to go over that transition again. It was late! Rebecca, call the curtain up on measure 6, dah DAH, dum da dum Duummmmm!"

"And can we have more thunder?" said the choreographer from the auditorium, and the Voice of God repeated the request - "We need really loud thunder, back there. Really loud."

It was now 9:30 p.m. They had tech'ed Act I last night, and had gone over notes this evening before starting Act II at 7:00 p.m. How had they spent an hour and a half, to be still working through the Act opening?

Frank shifted his shoulders to work out a kink, and let the thundersheet settle back into place. It was hung from a pipe attached to the backstage wall; a thin galvanized sheet of steel about 3 feet wide and six feet long, its bottom edge clamped into a handle made of two-by-four stock. A stencil marking it property of the ballet company was painted on the steel, along with the stencil of the union insignia. Someone had written "Eugenia's Thunder Thighs" on it in black magic marker - Eugenia was the ballet's artistic director, and Frank was not sure whether she had seen this legend or not. She was a scrawny old bird with a beak of a nose, and she often smoked cigarettes out on the loading dock with the rest of the guys during a break in rehearsal.

He watched two of the dancers roll their eyes at each other. In the wings, the male lead propped his leg up on the back of the lighting boom, stretching his hamstring. Over on the flyrail, Cookie called out, "Heads up, curtain coming in!" and he and Jeb slowly brought the main drape down until the hem touched the groundcloth.

Rebecca flicked the switches and Frank's red cue lights came back on. "Standby, please," said Rebecca. "We're in Light Cue 56. Warning, Light Cue 56A, Curtain up, Light Cue 57, Thunder Effect and Light Cue 58. Standby. Are you cued up again on the music, Joe?"

"Yeah, we're ready."

The music poured from the onstage monitors, and the company went through the sequence again. When the red cue light flicked off, Frank flapped the thundersheet again.

"Stop! Stop! Stop!!!" the music ground to a halt. The Voice of God said, "Louder! Let's hear it again."

Frank flapped it again. "You call that loud? I want it really loud!"

Again. "I want it as loud as you can do it! I want you to BE the thunder!"

Now Cookie and Jeb were cracking up with laughter over on the flyrail. Frank's ears burned. He grabbed the handle with both hands and shook it for all he was worth, and kept on shaking it till his ears rang.

"That's IT! I want you to do it like that every time," said the director. "Let's go back to the beginning."

Frank looked at the thundersheet. Its wooden handle was smooth and darkened from years of other stagehands' palms gripping it. Graffitti listed names, productions, and years. "Jerry B., Nutcracker '96. Jensen 1978.

Be the thunder. He saw the twinkle in Cookie's eye, and wondered just how humiliating the jokes would get. Shit. Thunder Thighs. He guessed it couldn't get worse than that.

His light came back on and the music started again. He gripped the handle. He owned the damn thing now.


Vixen said...

Really brilliant. Great job.

Hasn't the weather down here in SoCal been insane lately?

blognut said...

That's great writing. I like Frank!

San Diego Momma said...

All I can is: awesome.

Truly and wonderfully.

I would read anything you write.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Holy frickamole. You. Are. Brilliant.

mo.stoneskin said...

Eugenia, Cookie, how did you get these names to roll off-the-cuff? Genius!

Nihal said...

Your digital pen is very strong, Glennis. And, your power of imagination is more than your pen. Next Tuesday? Will be eagerly looking fwd to read a new story from your pen:)

Janet said...

Can Frank come over and shake his thundersheet to help me get to sleep? That'd be great :-)

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

wow---you just popped that out?????

Jennifer said...

Great story! You've got a great talent.

Jennifer said...

Great story! You've got a great talent.

foolery said...

Although it's clear you have lots of theater experience there is just NO WAY you could have popped this out in under 16 years.

Great pacing and energy and imagery. his was inspired.

-- Laurie

San Diego Momma said...

Oh crap. I made a typo. MAN!

Let me rephrase my comment:

"All I can SAY is..."

Damn it all.

cactus petunia said...

Ten minutes?! You wrote that in ten minutes? I'm thunderstruck!

tinsenpup said...

You are such an impressive writer. You always do an amazing job with these prompts.