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May 05, 2008



Asking forgiveness in advance. Not a happy story.

Write about some place you’ve never been (20 minutes)

Esther licked her lips but felt no relief to the dry, cracking lips, caked in dust. She weakly lifted a hand to flick at the flies she felt settling on her closed, crusty eyes. She didn’t want to move yet. She didn’t want to start the long, hot day.

Another day without food, without water. Another day walking with Uncle, her only family now since the day the men came to free them. She wasn’t sure from what. The evil government they said. The greedy men in power who had forgotten about them. She didn’t understand, of course. She was only nine and had always lived in the same house in the same village, seeing the same people every day. Laughing, playing, working, eating, drinking, dancing… But they were almost all gone now. Some taken, like her brothers, to go with the men to free others. Some had been left behind in the ashes of the village, eyes closed, hearts still.

The men came to free them, they said, but not everyone wanted what they offered, it seemed. Esther drew her arm over her eyes. In the dark behind her eyes, she still could see Auntie’s home engulfed in flames, she could hear the screams, the loud cracks like the sound of trees falling. She could feel her uncle grab her arm, pulling her from her safe place. “Come child,” he had said. And they had run.

That first day they had met a few like them who had survived somehow the men who had come to free them. Esther couldn’t help but think they’d come to free them from life since so many had died. She thought, perhaps they’ll come back and free me, too.

Uncle said they were going to a place where people would help them. They had come from across oceans to bring food and water. Esther’s swollen belly grumbled at the thought. The men had promised good things, too. But they only took things. Food. Homes. Brothers. Father. Mother.

In school, she had seen a map of the world. She had found her country. But she couldn’t’ find her small village. She wondered how Uncle could believe someone was at the end of their journey waiting to help them. Who could know where they were? The world was so vast, and they were so small. So unimportant, they weren’t even on the map.

Esther licked her cracked lips, sighed and reached out to awaken her uncle, touching only air. She opened her eyes. He was gone.

(Where is this? Any number of countries in Africa, the Middle East or Asia)


Write about someplace you have been (20 minutes)

The soft waves rocked the small boat in the early morning gray. Myra opened one eye to look at her watch. Five-thirty. She slid from between her husband and her son, and tiptoed below deck to their room to get the camera. Most of the passengers, twelve in all, had slept beneath the stars on deck. It was beautiful at night to see more stars than one ever dreams exist living in the suburbs of New York. And night is never as dark as it is on the sea, in spite of the vigilant moon. For Myra, it was rather frightening, but it was preferable to the relatively unpleasant smells and warmth in the tiny cabins with smaller windows. The New York Times had written an article on the Turkish gulet cruises many years after Myra and her family had started going on them and she thought it was right on the money: great scenery, great food, great people. However, the rooms leave something to be desired…so sleep on deck.

When Myra returned above, no one had yet stirred. She sat on a pillow with a perfect view of the horizon and waited. This was her favorite time of day. Sunsets were also lovely, but there was something awe-inspiring about sunrises, especially when they docked close to land (although not civilization). The silence of the night broken only by the lapping of waves was suddenly filled with the sounds of nature awakening. It was a symphony of sound. All the insects, trees, leaves, flowers, birds, everything seemed to awaken at the same moment in a way that was almost eerie in its beauty. The sky lightened. She waited. And then, finally, streaks of light followed by the ball of fire. In seconds it finished its ascension into full view. The camera sat in Myra’s lap as she gazed in wonder.

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