Thursday, July 18, 2013

Write a story with Neil Gaiman

As part of Neil Gaiman's publicity tour for his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Gaiman provided the opening line of a story to the Guardian and asked readers to finish the story.  This was the line:

It wasn't just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat.

I thought it was a great stunt but did not plan to offer my own (I was working on something else that day).  But once that germ of an idea had set its hooks into my brain, the idea of not writing something soon vanished.

It's funny how a lot of ideas, bits of dialogue, and other pieces of my writings come to me while my mind is focused on another thing entirely.  Which I take as a good sign because it means that my mind is always working on these stories, even when I'm not conscious of it.

Anyway.  Here was my contribution:

It wasn't just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat.

That damn cat, which was how Gil had come to address the third wheel of their domestic bicycle. It wouldn’t stop licking his face or swatting at the blaze orange tie Deirdre had gotten him. She’d been so excited; told him once she spied it in the window she had to get it for him; wrapped it in sparkly paper and offered it as a 6-month anniversary gift.

Looking back, he could see that had been the first sign. A 6-month anniversary – it frustrated the entire meaning of the word, from the Latin annu, meaning yearly, meaning not every six months.

And blaze orange. That was a winning color.

Subsequent signposts on the road to unhappiness had built up exponentially, like the Fibonacci sequence or that video game he’d played as a kid, Tetris. Built up until they’d formed a metaphorical pyramid of Giza.

Signposts Gil had actively ignored.

The damn cat should have been the last straw. Deidre knew of his allergies, and still she’d invited the stray into their home. “Only for a few days, until its strength is up,” she’d said. Days had turned to weeks and then months until it welcomed itself into their bed evenings, and Gil had moved to one of the guest rooms.

It was all obvious now, looking back over the previous three years. Three years. Had they only been married three years?

Seemed longer.

The biggest surprise had been the fact that Deirdre, figuratively speaking, had been the one to actually pull the trigger –

And another piece locked into place. No wonder his wife enjoyed those crime and legal dramas on television so much. They’d been research.


At least it had been painless. Gil could thank her for that. No doubt the poison would be hard to trace, as well. Which gave him time to properly figure this ghost thing out. And on the bright side, Gil finally had an answer about the afterlife.

He smiled, picturing the weeks ahead invisibly tormenting his now-widowed Deirdre. And that damn cat, too. It was, perhaps, the best revenge of all.


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