September 17, 2012

Creative Writing Now - Day 1 of 30

I just downloaded a free ebook of writing prompts. You can download the ebook here by entering your email address (on the right top of the page). If the prompts don't get your creative juices flowing, check out the site for more inspiration.

The idea is to work a minimum of 10 (ten) minutes on each prompt - hopefully, you'll be inspired to continue your story beyond the time limit. If not, you've at least written something.

I decided to take the challenge. Today is Day One - let's see how far I'll go. Play along if you like...let's see what we can create!

Today's prompt: Your character moves into a new apartment. On the surface, the place seemed ideal, but his/her first night there, your character discovers a terrible problem with the place that he/she didn't take into account...

Things Not Going Accordion to Plans

Andrea had been searching for a new apartment for weeks. Her lease was up at the end of the month, and she had no intention of staying in the one-bedroom flat at Homestead Meadows. She hated her long commute to her job as a university grant writer; to be honest, she wasn't all that thrilled with her job, but there were bills to pay and she needed the income. If she was forced to sign a new lease, her rent would go up $50, as the Homestead area was becoming more desirable and was approaching the status of gentrification. She was running out of time.

Saturday morning, the 28th of July, she sat at her tiny Formica kitchen table and perched in the only chair that didn't wobble, the Classified section spread out before her. As she sipped her second cup of coffee, she circled ads that looked promising with an orange Sharpie. After she had located five ads for apartments that met her criteria (reasonable rent, manageable commute, convenient shopping and dining nearby), Andrea picked up her cell phone and started calling to set up appointments to see the apartments.

Feeling hopeful and still enthusiastic at this early hour, Andrea called the number for the most promising ad. 2br, strt lvl,  spacious rms, lge. eat-in kit, laundry hkups, near University Center, fun neighborhood. $720. The landlord answered on the second ring. 

"Hello?" The man who answered had a foreign accent, maybe something European?

"Hi, my name is Andrea, and I was wondering if the apartment you advertised is still available.", trying to keep the hope out of her voice.

"Yes, it is, but I have two other people who have called about it today. They haven't shown up yet. I'm sure that if you see it, you'll want it. I'll rent it to the first person who shows up, assuming your credit is good."

"I assure you my credit is good. I am looking for a bigger place that is closer to my work - my office is off of Grand Avenue. I have references if you need them. I could be there in fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. Is that okay?"

"Great, Andrea. The apartment is at 2723 Vine Avenue. It has a green awning out front, and it's only one block from the nearest bus stop. I'll meet you in front of the building in twenty minutes, yah?"

"Yes, thank you. And your name is, just in case I get there before you?"

"I'm Ivan, Ivan Pawlikowski. See you soon!"

Hmm, Ivan Pawlikowski. Could that be Polish? From the city's founding, Pittsburgh neighborhoods were a melting pot of nationalities, from Polish Hill to Germantown to Squirrel Hill to the east. Andrea rose and dumped the dregs of her coffee in the sink and rinsed out her cup. She gathered up the paper and her purse, cellphone and keys, and headed out to her Ford Focus, which was parked at the curb.

Seventeen minutes later, Andrea's car sat two buildings down from 2723 Vine. The building's green awning was relatively new and had no rips in it. The front of the building was brown brick, and the glass entry door was opened by entering a code on the keypad, so it was pretty secure. From the driver's seat, Andrea noticed college-aged pedestrians as well as families with young children traversing on both sides of the tree-lined street. From her vantage point, she could see an Irish pub and a "fern bar", as well as a Kinko's and Chinese takeout joint mixed in with other two- and three-story apartment buildings with brick facades. She also noticed that both bars had signage that indicated that they had parking in the rear, so that was a plus. There was nothing worse than coming home and not being able to find a parking place, or having to park blocks away from her door after a trip to the supermarket.

As she was daydreaming about beginning her life anew in this neighborhood, a man she assumed to be Ivan Pawlikowski sauntered up the street and stood by the entrance door, scanning the sidewalk for a glimpse at his prospective tenant. She hadn't noticed his truck pulling into a space across the street, but there it stood: a  white Chevy 4x4 with "Ivan to Fix Your Pipes" and "Pawlikowski Plumbing" prominently displayed along the door and truck bed on the driver's side. She turned her attention to Ivan - of medium height and weight, he appeared to be in his mid-50s with graying temples and a receding hairline. Large wire-rimmed glasses sat upon his face, and his squinting into the sun caused his crow's feet to deepen. He was clean-shaven and dressed in dark jeans, work boots and a clean Pawlikowski Plumbing t-shirt. He stood expectantly, hands in his jean pockets.

After checking herself out in the rearview mirror, Andrea eased out of her car and grabbed her purse. Standing five feet, four inches, her most striking feature was her hair. She was a brunette, but her hair was shot through with golden highlights and it fell in waves almost down to her waist. She usually only kept it down on weekends - during the week, she put it up in a messy updo, or pulled it back into a loose ponytail. Her brown eyes twinkled when she smiled. She had a pleasant, kind face, and a cute cupid's bow mouth. Guys her age usually thought of her as "one of the guys" - at 28 years old, she was still looking for "the one" who saw past her amiable exterior and realized that she possessed a sharp mind and passionate side to her personality. She strode up to Ivan, eager to see the apartment. Clad in dark jeans, a "Hello Kitty" t-shirt and pink and white New Balance cross trainers, she looked friendly and approachable. She took Ivan's outstretched hand and gave it a firm shake as the introductions were made. Ivan punched in the security number - "The security code is changed every couple of months, and always changed whenever a tenant moves out", Ivan said. He held the door for her and she entered into the foyer. Five mailboxes were on the wall, Andrea noticed. The building was large, so the rooms must be spacious, as promised in the ad. He selected a key from a jangling ring of keys on his belt, and inserted it in the lock of Apartment 2.

Andrea fell in love as soon as she walked into the clean apartment. This place was so much larger than her current home, and the rent was only $15 more a month. The living room faced the street with three large windows and a wide window seat. The taupe-colored carpet was spotless and the off-white walls had nary a nail hole or fingerprint. She moved into the large eat-in kitchen. It offered stainless steel appliances and ample cabinets. She'd be able to buy a bigger table, and could have dinner parties. She opened a door beside the refrigerator and gazed into the butler's pantry. The apartment's high ceilings (the walls must have been nine feet tall) gave the place an open, airy feel. The kitchen's window was over the sink. Sure, it overlooked the fire escape, but it (and the door leading to the fire escape) brought more than enough light into the room. A second doorway from the kitchen led to a long hallway. She joked to Ivan, "I could bowl here!", and he laughed agreeably. Ivan walked back to the living room and leaned against the wall and let Andrea explore the apartment by herself.

The second bedroom was closest to the kitchen; it would make a great study/guest room. She'd never been able to have guests stay over at her apartment, it was too small. She was excited, thinking about the Pottery Barn furniture she'd buy to make the room functional and cozy.

Further down the hall on the right was the master bedroom. It had an electric fireplace on one wall, and a modest closet. Below the two windows were cabinets with built-in drawers - certainly enough to hold her out-of-season wardrobe. The cabinet top functioned as another wide window seat - with a cushion and some cute pillows, it would be a great place to curl up with a book. The windows overlooked a small, well-manicured back yard. A door between the windows led out onto a small balcony - how wonderful it would be to drink her morning coffee here!

Sighing contentedly, Andrea left the bedroom to check out the apartment's one bathroom. It was a bit small, but functional. A frosted window let in some light. She opened what she thought would be a linen closet - inside sat a full-sized washer and dryer. Even though there was no closet for her linens, there was a vanity under the sink. She turned on the water in the tub and turned the middle knob to activate the shower. The water pressure was good, and the water was hot. The bathroom was as clean as the rest of the apartment. Either the previous tenant suffered from OCD or Ivan made sure the apartment was immaculate before he showed it to potential tenants.

On her way back to the living room, Andrea peeked into each room again, determining room dimensions and calculating whether her existing furniture would fit. She wanted to move in right now - the apartment seemed perfectly suited to her, and it was fifteen minutes closer to work. Because the bus stop was so close by, she could avoid driving in Pittsburgh traffic when winter weather arrived.

Andrea smiled at Ivan when she returned to the living room, and couldn't help but squeal, "I love it!" Ivan smiled and pulled some folded paperwork out of his jacket pocket. Walking to the kitchen, he smoothed the paper out on the kitchen counter and got a pen out of his jeans pocket. 

"Okay, the paperwork. Fill this out for me please. If you really want the apartment, I'll run a credit check today as soon as you pay one month's rent for your deposit. Let's see if we can get you in here as soon as possible, yah? Just make the check out to me - here's my business card so you can spell Pawlikowski."

"Great!", Andrea said, and she started filling out the application. While she wrote, Ivan told her about the other tenants in the building.

"In Apartment 1, there are two sisters - Amy and Kerri. They're about your age, I think. They're pretty quiet girls, but they do have an occasional party. If they ever get too loud, just go over and knock on their door, and they'll quiet down. Upstairs, in 3, is Mrs. Sherrow. She's a widow and retired. You won't hear much from her, but rest assured, she'll know everything about you. She's a bit of a busybody, but she means well." In 4 is my nephew Frankie. He works with me, and he'll fix anything that needs fixing here. He's a frustrated musician - plumbing is not his idea of a career. But in this economy, he realizes that he might have to postpone his dreams - he's a good boy. Down in the basement is Greg and his son, Scott. Greg's divorced, and has shared custody, so Scott will be around here half the time. He's 8, and a good kid, kinda quiet. Greg has a girlfriend who practically lives here; Sheila's a nice girl. I don't think you'll have any trouble with the neighbors here."

"The rent is $720, and you'll pay your electric, phone and cable. The boiler is in the basement. Have you ever lived with radiator heat? You'll be warm, and the air won't be dry in the winter. I think you'll like it. Like the lease says, rent is due on the 1st of the month, but I have a grace period up to the 5th. I won't be happy if you want to pay half the rent twice a month - it's an accounting problem with my bookkeeper. If you are going to have trouble paying your rent, talk to me first - don't leave me hangin' on the 5th, yah?"

"I know the credit check won't be a problem, said Andrea confidently. How soon can I move in?"

"Assuming you're right, we can date the lease for tomorrow, if you like, and you can start to move your stuff in whenever you want. We'll pro-rate the rent for the last two days of the month." Ivan called his bookkeeper and read off the information Andrea provided in the application. Within minutes, her credit checked out okay, as she knew it would. 

"Well, Andrea Miscovich, welcome to your new home - it's yours if you want it", Ivan announced. Andrea got out her checkbook and wrote Ivan a check for the security deposit.

"Yes, I want it! Can I come tomorrow and measure the windows for curtains?"

"Sure thing. You have my number on my business card. Just call me, I'll call Frankie - he'll let you in, yah?" Andrea signed the lease, and said she'd give Frankie a check for the pro-rated rent.

Andrea pumped Ivan's hand a second time. "Thank you! See you tomorrow!" She practically bounced out of the apartment building and onto the sidewalk. She got back into her Focus and drove away, grinning like crazy.

On Sunday afternoon, Andrea called Ivan and asked if 5pm was a good time to pick up the key from his nephew Frankie. She spent the morning packing, and had her Focus packed full with some of her things. Her friends Tad and Louie would be bringing the furniture and the remaining stuff in a couple of pickup trucks. She'd be out of her apartment before her lease was up, and would take the day off from work on Monday to go back and clean up and make sure she hadn't left anything behind. By Tuesday morning, she'd take her new route to work and begin life in her new apartment.

"Sure, Andrea. Frankie told me he'll be home all day. He and his friends might be able to help you carry stuff, if you like."

At 5 o'clock sharp, Andrea pulled up in front of the building. She walked to the entry and buzzed Apartment 4. A young man's voice answered, and buzzed her in. "I'll be right down to give you your keys and tell you the security code. Welcome to the building!"

Andrea met Frankie coming down the stairs from his apartment. Oh, he was cute! He had his uncle's piercing blue eyes, but he had a full head of curly black hair. He was tall, about 6' 2", and had a nice body. That's one plumber's crack I wouldn't mind seeing, Andrea thought to herself, smiling. Frankie returned her smile and handed off the keys. "My buddies and I are upstairs rehearsing. Just knock if you need any help, okay?"

"Thanks, Frankie - will do." She watched appreciatively as Frankie sprinted back up the stairs, even more excited about moving into her apartment now that she'd seen the "scenery".

She walked into her quiet apartment and sighed. She walked leisurely through each room, imagining her furniture, her stuff, here. "Oh, it'll never get in here if I don't start!" She raced out to the Focus and carried in an armload of clothes.

Tad and Louie rang the bell, and Andrea buzzed them in from the intercom. She opened her door wide and the young men lugged her box springs into the living room. "Down the hall, last room on the right. Thanks so much for helping!"

Andrea followed them into the bedroom and started putting her clothes in the drawers below the window seat as the guys leaned the box spring against the wall. "Come on, man, let's get the frame and set this baby up! Nice place you have here, Andy", Tad crooned.

It didn't take any time at all for the men to unload and place all of Andrea's furniture. She phoned in a pizza order and Louie walked down to the pub for a six pack of beer. While they were waiting for the pizza to be delivered, Andrea made a few more trips out to her Focus. On the last trip she saw Frankie and another man running up the stairs, and they both smiled at her. She noticed that an old panel van was parked in front of the Focus, but she didn't pay attention to the company name.

Andrea had half the kitchen unpacked by the time the pizza arrived. She located the paper plates and napkins and the guys dug into the pizza and cracked open a couple of beers. She was too excited to eat as she busied herself organizing the pantry. All of a sudden, the relative silence was broken by singing from somewhere upstairs.

Oh, I don't want her, you can have her
She's too fat for me She's too fat for me She's too fat for me
"What the hell is THAT?" asked Louie. "Andrea, didn't you tell me your upstairs neighbor was a frustrated musician?"

Then the musical accompaniment started. First she heard the base drum. Was that a tuba she heard? And what was that whiny sound?

Tad laughed. "Hey Andrea, I think you're living below a full-fledged polka band." He walked into the living room with his beer and looked out the window. "Well, I'll be damned! This building is home to the Steel City Polka Boyz!"

7 comments:

  1. No way you wrote this -- with all the detail and set-up and stuff -- in just 10 minutes!! If you did, then I HATE you for your amazing talent! This was so fun! I was ready to move in to that apartment.

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    1. No I didn't do it all in 10 minutes. Within 10 minutes I had the main idea, and I knew polka was involved (but no reason why I picked it). Wouldn't polka neighbors be a nightmare?

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  2. And why couldn't you do NaNoWriMo?

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    1. I started out with good intentions, but then my story took sick and twisted turns and my mind dried up.

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  3. You have got to be kidding! YOu developed this in 10 minutes? Why aren't you writing novels? The details ...the plumber's crack. You are such a great writer. Just think, when you complete allof your promts, you will have started so many novels. Go for it.

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  4. I figured out the polka idea in ten minutes (my mind is twisted that way) - it took me much longer than 10 minutes to write the whole thing.

    I spent some of the time looking up polka lyrics - I was torn between "She's Too Fat for Me" and the one with the lyrics "get an ugly girl to marry you".

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  5. hahahahaha. omg, that is hilarious. what a fun writing tool.

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