Mairy Hairy Blogmas, minions!
Today is a special post. I’d like to share an old prompt that was a result of my attempt at a prompt sharing group. It worked well for a few months, but I got busy and it was hard to keep a schedule for writing new material while still in school. Anyhoo, this prompt highlights Rule #2 of Prompts: A Picture is worth…at least 500-2500 words.
The old saying rings true as evidence of why pictures make easy and effective prompts. During my (third) residency at Carlow, with the aforementioned Janice, I became obsessed with her prompts, which we took part in at the end of every workshop.
One day, she had printed out simple, but elegant pictures for us to choose, ranging from a chair with peeling paint (I chose that one and it didn’t make the final draft of Dollhouse Daughter), a praying mantis, a beach. All of the photos were simple, straightforward and provided a way to tell the story by providing you with a visual cue to begin with. Again, like with the beginning sentence prompt, it allows you some guidance in that you will have to use what is physically shown in the picture, i.e. if it’s a green praying mantis you can’t describe it as purple. Yet, it also allows you to shape a story around one image, which to some authors is how a story begins.
The prompt below is a reaction to a photo of the Khao Luang caves in Thailand. (Picture below) And the short story is tentatively titled, “Heritage Honeymoon”.
My voice bellowed through the cavern, echoing at least four times before the copycat was no more than a whisper. A flock of tropical birds fluttered through, chirping to each other in a whirlwind of vibrant colors. Dakota had the spare batteries in his pack, while I wandered in the darkness of Thailand’s largest national park with a lighter and my dead flashlight.
The last time I saw him, he shoved his way through some thick foliage covering one of the cave entrances that popped up along our trail. Some people take their honeymoon to Mexico or the Bahamas. Dakota wanted to explore his heritage after 25 years of Americanization by taking a two-week backpacking trip through the national parks of Thailand.
Now, when I say national park, it isn’t a tourist stop with a light helping of nature. With the exception of our elusive tour guide Aran, who lived in one of the nearby villages, we were alone in our travels through the uncharted rainforests. I tried persuading Dakota towards the cozy resorts a few miles away in Hiu Hin, but he was determined to “rough it.” With the extra-tall backpacks filled to the brim with the survival necessities, we had set out last Saturday for our epic adventure.
Epic may have been a hasty definition of our journey when Dakota left me soaking wet in the afternoon rain outside an unmapped cave. My slicker felt like twenty pounds with the amount of water it had absorbed. I peeled it from my skin as I checked out where Dakota had led me. Once I had maneuvered through the narrow passage, I found myself in one of the illustrious Khao Luang caves. Enough sunlight filtered through the ceiling openings that I didn’t need a flashlight to see after all.
There was a lofty set of stairs in front of me, so steep that all of the loose stones had fallen to the bottom stair. I kept walking, hoping the sun’s warmth would dry my button up shirt and cargo pants, which were only slightly less drenched than my coat.
“Dakota Finnston, where are you?” I yelled, hoping he wasn’t far behind.
My black hair swept in front of my eyes when a blast of warm air rushed passed, reminding me of home. I was born in Kihei, Maui, my little slice of heaven, and I had left it six years ago for Dakota to pursue his dream of hiking every national Park in the United States. As a financial advisor during the week and hiking enthusiast 24/7, Dakota took me along for the adventures hoping I would catch the “nature bug.” I comply because I love him, but it’s just not my style. He’s the one built for the outdoors—tan and muscular with energy to spare.
I followed the staircase as it looped around making a bridge across the spacious chamber. On the other side, I heard shuffling coming from the right, and I hesitated before entering the next room. Scattered around the floor were a congregation of Buddhas. The tiny, globular statues hugged the wall made of various material and decorations. I spotted a few statues that reached several feet in the air, some even jeweled or gold-plated. The entire cavern was filled with candles that illuminated what appeared to be a petite shrine. Dakota told me these shrines would be popping up, but I had no idea they would be so beautiful. Somehow my concept of Buddhism did not include the wonder of nature even after Dakota insistent teachings. I had always assumed vanity was not a big concept for this particular faith.
I still hadn’t found Dakota, and the noise I heard earlier grew louder in the minutes that followed my entrance into the Buddha room. What nerves I had being left on mine own were shaken quickly into fight or flight response complete with racing heartbeat and weak knees. Turning the corner slowly, I discovered a secret alcove to the shrine that an ornate statue had been tucked away from the main area. The man stood with a burnt orange robe covering his back, and a soft chanting echoing and the shuffling that I had heard earlier was the man switching from a kneeling position to a standing one. He must have done that motion twenty times since I first heard him.
“Sir?” I asked. “Have you seen a tall, American about 6 foot 3 with green eyes and a large red backpack? I lost him about a half hour ago.”
The chanting continued. My frown deepened as he treated me like one of the many statues posted around the cave. The nerves turned to anger at my unanswered question. My husband was missing and the only person in sight was this monk, who couldn’t do more than mumble to a stone face.
“Hello? I said I lost someone. Can you speak English? I think Buddha can wait. I just need to know if you’ve seen my husband.”
I felt my face burning in frustration until the man finally faced my complaints with a serene disposition. He removed the satin hood and a familiar head of lush black hair popped out, followed by my husband’s face locked in anger until he met my eyes. The shock on my face caused Dakota to fill the room with his boisterous laughter—all at my expense.
Find a picture, ask a friend to pick one for you, and share the results with me. I would be happy to post one on the blog.