Monday, January 08, 2007

What's The Plural of Donkey?

Lucas Pederson, on his new blog, Through The Never, has posted his own activity. He has written a couple hundred words beginning a story. Then, he has invited anyone to take what he has written and change it, or continue it. It's sort of a writer's version of telephone. In my experience in writers' groups, the chain tends to peter out quickly. However, I'm always game for something a little different or fun, so I've accepted Lucas' challenge. Below is my variation and continuation...

The Valley

Chomper emerged from the shadows, muzzle dark and dripping. Donkey watched him uneasily, a shiver passing through him. The dog’s killed again, he thought. One of the two-legs this time. How would the dog justify the kill to the others? He wouldn’t. They would never know, and Donkey didn’t have the courage to tell them.

“Two-leg tired to trick me,” said Chomper. The dog bared its teeth, pantomiming how it had leaped to grab the two-legs’ throat. With the performance completed, it crouched and studied Donkey with large brown eyes. “I had to,” he said.

“We better get along, where there’s one of them, there are more,” said Donkey.

“There can’t be that many of them,” said Chomper.

A sound made Donkey look up. A mewling. Chomper growled, the fur along his spine rising in places. The mewling became cries. A baby.

“You killed a mother,” said Donkey.

“I killed a two-leg,” said Chomper. “Now I’ll go kill another.”

The dog’s eyes shined with a predatory hunger. That look came too often to Chomper’s eyes these days. Too often. Marietta, the oldest of the Originals, had warned that the mastiff couldn’t be trusted.

“Chomper’s a killer. It’s his breeding,” she said.

“He kills to eat,” acknowledged Donkey.

“It ain’t just that. I’ve watched the two of you together. I’ve seen him nip at you. I’ve seen him draw blood. He likes the taste. And you’re afraid of him.”

Donkey hadn’t been able to deny the last statement.

“We’ll have to deal with him,” she said. “Eventually.”

Chomper started toward the sound of the crying, ears flat against his head. Donkey stomped a hoof to distract him.

“Let it be,” said Donkey.

Chomper stopped, ears suddenly forward in surprise. Appraising Donkey, he let a tongue loll from one side of his mouth. “I didn’t know it had a pup. But it did, and now it’s dead, and so will the pup be. It’s better to kill the two-legs’ pup, than let the poor thing starve. It’s helpless. I’ll be quick and merciful.”

“No,” said Donkey.

Chomper turned from the him, ignoring his stupidity. He couldn’t stop the dog. His words had no strength, the dog had no fear. Donkey remembered the last time Chomper hurt him. He remembered the feel of those fangs, the tearing of flank. The pain lasted days, and though his friend was conciliatory, their relationship shifted and they were no longer equals.

Donkey moved to block Chomper, not sure what he was doing. Anticipating the pain, he shut his eyes. Muscles tensed. Hind legs kicked. A shocking sound followed as Chomper yelped and hit the dirt with a thud.

Horror. Donkey brayed, leaping about in panic. He stopped himself, fighting to control his breathing, and looked down. Chomper was dead. Donkey, backed away a couple steps, unable to imagine what the Originals would say. No, Chomper’s side moved; he was alive, stunned.

The two-leg colt cried. Donkey’s head lifted.

Chomper would get up. When he did, he would know what Donkey had done and strike out after him to seek revenge. Stupid Donkey. Worthless Donkey. Run away. Leave the valley. Or. Donkey looked down. Or finish the job. He moved toward Chomper, feeling the weight of his hooves, sensing it wouldn’t take much to finish the dog.

Except that’s not me, thought Donkey. Forlornly, he backed away, back toward the sound of the two-leg, unsure what to do next, sinking into panic. He couldn't kill Chomper, not intentionally. He wouldn't do it.

That's it...that's my someone was to take up this mantle, there sure are a lot of ways it can go. What's happened to society? What's the valley? Who are The Originals? Hell, it actually has potential for something, doesn't it? As long as you stay away from a simplistic Orwellian narrative.


Lucas Pederson said...

frWow! You certainly made this your own! Very intense writing! I liked how you added the baby into the mix, it gave the story more flesh, as it were. I also liked how you made Chomper a Mastiff instead of a mutt, and adding in the mysterious stuff about the Originals. Making Donkey less passive made it all the more real too. I like how he appeared to be protecting the baby. You took my blueprint story and made it into something more.
All in all I really liked it. I have a question too: Did you have fun with this? It looked as if you did.
By the saying I write in Orwellian simplicity? I deny it. (Sticks out his tongue in a toddler's gesture of defiance).

Turnbaby said...

Very interesting. I'll have to play around with it when I have some time.

Christina Rundle said...

Very intense. When you brought the baby in, I started to hold my breath. I feel for donkey.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Yeah, it was fun, not something I like to do too much of. Like I've said, most assignments which are like a game of telephone end up dying quickly or lapsing into something absurd.

As for Orwellian simplicity, I like Orwell. Of course, we have the disadvantage of reading translations of his work.

Rach said...

very interesting !! what a great idea !!

Crunchy Carpets said...

Love gave me the creeps...have you read the comic miniseries.."We Three" totally freaky.

And can i ask what you mean about reading Orwell's books in translation? He was English.

I read 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying'last year and basically you should never read this book if you want to be a writer.

so freaking depressing...but he just makes me squirm with his descriptions of middle class england.

Lucas Pederson said...

Stewart, i like Orwell too. I was just kidding around a little. Anyway. I'm glad to see you had at least a little fun with this. I was hoping someone would. Cool-beans!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks Rach, but Lucas must get all the credit...

Crunchy, it was a failed joke on my part in response to an earlier statement I made about Orwellian simplicity and....never mind.

Erika said...

I almost started a blog like that, but then i realized i was a college student, I already have 2 blogs, 3 jobs and not a whole lot of time! lol.

I would love to see your doodle! Blog it!

SQT said...

I really liked your take on this Stewart. I do think you do dialogue very well and this piece was really good.

I think I get where you're going with the Orwellian joke. It would only be too easy to turn this into another Animal Farm.

fergal said...

stewart - another comment on your previous post: for what its worth, i read a headline a few hours ago that van halen have just been inducted into the rock & roll hall of fame


ShadowFalcon said...

lol what an interesting idea!

Susan Miller said...

At one point in the story I thought, "No way. There is no way Stewart is going to kill a dog." I knew you wouldn't.

It's sad, I think, that nobody has heard Chomper's side of the story. Does he have any redeeming qualities? What led him to this place in his life? Or is Donkey just paranoid and a bit delusional? What if, my friend? What if?

Bird on a Wire said...

Hey, how fun! Good work, Stewart. This sounds like a challenging but very useful writing exercise.

Stewart Sternberg said...

thanks for the compliments all...just doing an assignment set in place by Lucas.

By the way...ASSIGNMENT LINKS for HEAD RUSH should start coming in today and tomorrow...maybe also Thursday..I do hope some of you reading this will be participating.

And Sue, you were right. Dogs will never die in any of my work.

fergal thanks...I know VHI is currently posting a schedule to broadcast the induction ceremony. I think inductee this year is Sting