My oldest son is a writer, and now my niece has caught the bug as well. They love to go on Skype together and collaborate on stories and scripts. When we visited my brother’s family over Christmas, the two of them sat side-by-side with their laptops almost the whole time, working on a book and a script together.
A big fan of Food Network, my brother came up with an idea for a writing activity, chopped-style, with three ingredients. Pick three random things and don’t explain what they are. The writer must incorporate all three of them into their story within a time limit. We sat the kids down and gave them 30 minutes to write.
Their “ingredients” were:
1. Nalgene bottle
2. The President
3. Slot Machine
I thought this was a great idea for stretching creative muscles. Here’s what my son came up with (it’s unfinished because they had to stop at the end of 30 minutes–he’s going to finish it up later):
David sat on the park bench, reading a text on his phone when he felt a tap on the back of his neck.
He turned around, trying not to move his neck, which was still sore from last week.
No one was there, and on the ground sat a water bottle—Nalgene, made of slightly tinted plastic—with something inside. After last Wednesday, David’s eyesight hadn’t been the same, so he couldn’t tell what the thing inside was.
He reached down and retrieved it. It didn’t look like it could be dangerous—he knew what something like that would look like. There seemed to be some kind of bronze box inside—small, rectangular, like some kind of jewelry box.
He shook the contents around inside for a second, and after finding he was unable to tell exactly what the thing inside it was, he unscrewed the cap.
He shook the box out of the bottle, into his hand. He held it close to his nose, and panicked at first glance.
It looked like a circuit board of some kind. David’s first thought was the worst possible scenario: a bomb.
Maybe they didn’t catch him, David thought, thinking back to the terrorist he’d had to deal with last Wednesday. Guarding the President was never an easy job, generally always harder than anyone knew, but the terrorist had given him even more trouble.
For one, the man had actually gotten past the security guards, unlike the others. The President was giving a public speech that day, and was standing on a stage surrounded by guards.
The man climbed on stage, and before David had a chance to react, the man held up his hand. In his clenched fist was a jumble of wires.
The guards went for the man. Rookie mistake, David knew. Instead, he, one of the more seasoned guards, went for the President.
David knocked him out of the way just before the man had let the circuitry in his hand drop.
A few didn’t survive—others were seriously injured.
All except for David and the President. Even then, sitting on the park bench, David didn’t know how they’d done it. Maybe being behind the stage had blocked some of the force.
After that David had been given some time off. He’s been burned slightly by smoking debris that flied in all directions after the blast, and was also suffering from post-traumatic stress.
But back to now, David thought, coming back to reality. He probably should have reacted, but something was telling him to stay. For one, the piece of circuitry didn’t look like a bomb—he’d been trained to know what it should look like.
The turned the thing over in his hand. On the other side was a three-inch screen with a red button under it.
He reached for the button cautiously, not sure if he should push it. He had gone through years of training—he should know not to do this.
Before he decided on what to do, his phone rang. He closed out of the text message, and answered.
Before he could say anything, a gruff masculine voice on the other side spoke: “David Stein?”
“We need you for something.”
“Who is this?”
A slight pause, then:
“No one you know. I see you have the bottle.”
“Yeah, I—” David glanced around himself, looking for someone who could be watching him. No one was there—the park was eerily desolate.
“Press the button.”
“Who is this?”
“That doesn’t matter right now. Press it.”
“We’ve got a sniper watching you right now. His scope is set—any time now.”
The man sounded dead-serious, so David wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth or a very good actor.
David didn’t know what made him do it, but he pressed the button, anyway.
At first, nothing happened. Then a single word appeared on the screen: spin.
The man on the other end didn’t say anything. Not exactly sure what to do, David pushed the red button again.
Three columns of letters appeared on the screen, and spun around vertically like some kind of virtual slot machine.
The letters slowed and finally came to a stop. It said:
“Go there,” the man on the other end said.
David spotted the sign outside the gates of the park. He stood, and walked to it, the Nalgene bottle under his arm, slot machine and phone in each hand.
He stopped at the street sign.
“Okay, Thirty-Second Street. I’m there,” David said.
“All right. Listen, because we don’t have time for me to repeat anything.”
“Got it,” David said.
“A bus is going to pass in exactly thirty seconds. I want to you toss the bottle into the road with the machine inside it.”
“What will happen?”
“No time,” the man said.
The bus was now visible in the distance. David had to react fast.
“Do it, David. Everything depends on you.”
What to do, what to do…
It was an early Sunday morning, and there weren’t many people around. Hardly any cars.
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