The exercise was to write something - a poem, essay, short story, whatever - starting with the words
"J died" and ending with the words "an Oscar Statuette".
These are the random lines I drew at my writers' group last Saturday. I then had twenty minutes to come up with something.
Here are the entries, in the order in which I received them. There's is some humor as well as some poignant moments - a wonderful variety of ways to get from A to B (or in this case, from J to O...)
Mine is on the bottom.
J died. He was only eighteen. Actually he was more like 12 but in real time he was 18. A tragic life of sorts. Born still and revived. I think he saw Jesus. I am most sure he did. In his things there was a box and in it was an Oscar statuette.
J died, broken-hearted. It had been his lifelong dream to win an Oscar, yet, although his performances were inspired, even brilliant at times, he was unable to secure a nomination. He came close to it on more than three occasions, but each time Fate stepped in and he found himself declined in the final run-up. His Mother, E had of course been his most valiant supporter and, just as his coffin was being carefully lowered into the freshly dug grave, she lent forward and, ever so gently placed an ornate box on the lid. Inside was her very own Oscar statuette.
J died, as did A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I before him. The little girl stood straight and tall as she sang. Each letter the alphabet rang out clear and strong before fading into history as the next letter grew into perfect tone and cadence before it, too, dyed away.
When the little girl had finished her song, the small crowd stood and applauded as she smiled and curtsied, ever so slightly. She hated singing for her parent's dinner parties, but they would never know by the stellar performance she'd just given them. As she exited the dinner hall, the little girl imagined herself leaving the stage on Oscar night, flashing a smile and carrying an Oscar statuette.
By Middle Child:
J. died. It was a rainy night and his car slid off the road and into a ravine. When the police came to inform me, I was numb.
I made all the arrangements for the funeral and contacted all I thought should know.
The day of the funeral, I awoke feeling,...different. Better? When I was able to identify the feeling, I suppose I should have felt shame but I didn't. I realized I felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders!
I got dressed for the funeral and as a last touch, I smeared my mascara under my eyes and put on a black satin hat with a lace veil that dropped below my eyes.
As I had expected, the funeral home was packed. Everybody loved J. I stood by the casket feeling nothing as they passed by telling me how wonderful he was and how much he'd be missed. I dutifully dabbed at my eyes and sniffed now and then.
In the days that followed, I allowed friends and relatives to come and take something of his to remember him by. After a while people stopped coming to the house. I took all the rest of his possesions and placed them in the burn pile out back. When it was late and very dark I brought a bottle of whiskey and a chair. I lit the pile on fire. As the flames grew, my thoughts were calm. I did not keep any momento. Everyone loved him. They did not know what happened at home and I did not tell. He was such a good actor, fooling everyone. If there were such a category in life I would say he certainly would have recieved an Oscar Statuette.
By Norm Wotherspoon:
J died on stage every Saturday night
In the bright spotlight
Of the Metro stage;
The audience clapped, everyone could tell
That J always died incredibly well,
He was the coming star of the age.
By each new morn
J was brand-new born
As an actor with stars in his eyes;
Every new role came
With its chance of fame,
And the comforts that stardom buys.
Alas! The years flew past,
And his hopes were cast
To the winds of dreams forgotten;
In his heart he knew,
They would never come true,
Dreams unwound like a reel of cotton.
Until, one day,
While browsing E-Bay;
He bought something he’d never regret.
All his friends think it’s grand,
What he bought, second-hand,
An Oscar statuette.
And finally, mine:
J died in front of 478 people. We all sit, stunned.
A man coughs, signifying the end of our moment of silence. People stand and gather their coats and purses. A woman in front of me shakes a paper cup and gives the straw one last, noisy suck. Others grab mostly empty popcorn tubs, or kick them under their chairs. Slowly they begin to file out.
I remain in my seat, eyes focused on the dead man. His face is frozen in a ghastly grin. Slowly his cheeks and lips relax. He gazes back at me, deep shame in his eyes and a flush of anger rising to his cheeks.
"What are you looking at?" he screams at me.
We're completely alone now. I shake my head at him and stay silent. I want to tell him it's okay. I want to say, "I know you tried. I know what this was supposed to look like. You were close - so close..." but I can't lie. J's performance sucked like the vacuum of space and left about as little warmth in the room.
I should slip my arms in my coat. In my mind I see myself walking out the door, pulling my collar up against the wind. I could enter the safety of my car – but I’m frozen in my seat. Outside, the real world, noisy and messy, awaits us both but we stare across the rows of seats at each other, silent, unmoving.
His face contorts again as tears begin to roll through the creases of his cheeks and nose.
Finally, I find the strength to move. I rise from my seat and walk towards the stage. I step up to where he stands. Now he is not an actor, but a man, and as my arms wrap around him my embrace becomes his Oscar Statuette.