Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Writing Exercise: Fun with Spam

A little post-Halloween silliness, and a fun little writing experiment for those of you who aren't doing NaNoWriMo (and Go, you! those who are):

  1. Select a sentence (or at least, an independent clause) from the spam message below, which I received from one "Sheena Roland."
  2. Write a short story (of no more than 1000 words) that either dramatizes the situation described by the sentence, or uses the sentence as a moral for the story, or -- really does whatever the heck else you would like to do with the sentence, as long as it involves its nouns and emotions.
  3. Your story must include either one character named "Sheena Roland," or two characters named "Sheena" and "Roland."
  4. You have exactly an hour to write this story.
  5. Post your story on your blog or LJ, and leave a link to it in the comments here; or, if you don't have a blog, you can leave the story itself in the comments (though please try to keep it short if you're doing the latter).

Have fun!

The spam: Most people believe that a greasy cargo bay avoids contact with an avocado pit, but they need to remember how almost a chain saw ruminates. An umbrella for a warranty is highly paid. For example, a ball bearing related to the dust bunny indicates that a cab driver non-chalantly gives a pink slip to a judge inside a photon. When you see an asteroid, it means that a hockey player laughs out loud. Some pickup truck inside the grand piano procrastinates, and a chess board for a buzzard hesitates; however, a mean-spirited jersey cow eagerly trades baseball cards with the briar patch. For example, the particle accelerator indicates that a bowling ball figures out the most difficult fruit cake. Most people believe that a turkey completely secretly admires a stoic blood clot, but they need to remember how knowingly the turn signal defined by an apartment building beams with joy. When a tabloid is gentle, the outer globule tries to seduce the inferiority complex. A grand piano around the ski lodge feels nagging remorse, but a satellite secretly admires an asteroid inside an ocean.

My attempt at this: It started out as an ordinary day for Dr. Teeth. He was neglected in the morning as the skiers streamed busily out into the sparkling February air, clunking along in their heavy boots and Stay-Puft insulation; pounded on at lunchtime by a few screaming children before their mothers called them away for the snack bar’s overcooked hot dogs and undercooked French fries; and in the late afternoon, used to tinkle out “The Music of the Night” by a balding man who sang the song with a heavy French accent, to the barely muffled snorts of the giggling teenage girls who had taken over the snack bar. As the man launched into the bridge, Teeth wished upon his 88th key, and for the 8,888th time, that he might be transferred into more respectable surroundings. From his birth in a melodious factory in Queens, he had played the very best concert halls of Europe, accompanied by some of the greatest pianists ever to grace the stage; and then taken a dignified and happy retirement in New York, as the rehearsal piano for a small company devoted entirely to the works of Stephen Sondheim. But the company had gone under (appreciation of genius being in short supply as always), and Dr. Teeth had been sold northward . . . to this backwater of a Vermont ski lodge where he was condemned to play Andrew Lloyd Webber!

Teeth trembled with the indignity of it. He rattled. He shook. He thundered—

And right at the height of the song’s climax, he dropped the keyboard cover on the man’s hands, refashioning the song as “THE MUSIC OF THE—OWWW!!!

The teenage girls howled. The man reddened, but he didn’t swear or pound Teeth’s keys; rather he looked anxiously in the direction of a pretty brown-haired woman reading alone on a couch near the fire. She didn’t look up.

“Well, that’s good,” the man muttered as he pushed the keyboard cover back into place. His normal accent was flat, affectless, almost Midwestern. “At least she didn’t notice . . .” He swept a hand down the keyboard. “But what would she notice, I wonder?”

He started “All I Ask of You,” and through his irritation (couldn’t the guy at least vary the damn Webber musical? There was some good stuff in “Jesus Christ Superstar”), Teeth felt a wave of nagging remorse at his impulsive act of rage. So the guy was self-aware enough to know he kind of looked like an idiot, and he wasn’t just showing off like some “American Idol” wannabe. The woman was pretty . . . Maybe Teeth could help him out. Not “Send in the Clowns”—still a great song, but it had become almost as cheesy as the Webber through overuse. Something from “Company” or “Follies” or . . . ah.

Slowly, without the man really being aware of it, “All I Ask of You” became “Not A Day Goes By,” about people with all of life before them, who come to New York and fall in love:

Not a day goes by
Not a single day —

But you're somewhere a part of my life,
And it looks like you'll stay.
As the days go by,
I keep thinking, "When does it end?"
That it can't get much better much longer.
But it only gets better and stronger
And deeper and nearer
And simpler and freer
And richer and clearer
And no,

Not a day goes by

The music was so beautiful and true that it seemed to draw the words out of the man, whether he had known them before or not, and in his real voice, not the fake French of the Webber. And it was working, Teeth saw: The woman looked up.

Not a blessed day
But you somewhere come into my life
And you don't go away.
And I have to say
If you do, I'll die.
I want day after day
After day after day
After day after day
After day
Till the days go by,
Till the days go by,
Till the days go by!

The last chord faded. The man was still staring at Dr. Teeth. But the woman now stood at his side. “That was great,” she said softly. His head snapped up, but his eyes were dazed. “‘Merrily,’ right?”

“What?” the man said.

“‘Merrily,’” she said. “That was from ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ right? I love that musical, and hardly anyone knows it . . .”

“Oh, ah, ‘Merrily,’” the man said. “Right.”

“Well, that was really beautiful,” she said, and smiled. “Can I buy you a coffee? I wasn’t expecting to meet a fellow Sondheim fan here at a ski lodge. My name is Sheena.”

“Sondheim. Right. Yeah. Coffee?” The words finally seemed to connect in his brain, and he stared at her as if he’d just woken up. Then he smiled too. “I’m Roland. I’d love some.”

He stood up, and they wandered off toward the lodge’s in-house Starbucks. You’re on your own, kid, thought Dr. Teeth. But he did a little arpeggio, just for fun; sometimes this place wasn’t so bad after all.

N.B.: The definitive recording (in my opinion) of "Not A Day Goes By" is by Barbara Cook on her "Mostly Sondheim" album, where it is paired with "Losing My Mind" and absolutely breaks your heart.


  1. Here's my take:

  2. Lol- Fun exercise.

    Mine is here: