Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sternberg Assignment from Feb. 7, 2007


Stewart Sternberg, Great Cult Leader & Writer, assigned this last week. I'm not an official part of his writing group but I like to participate in his assignments, as well as spread the word about the great and powerful Stu, hence I've started a separate blog just for that purpose.

Here's the first draft of last week's assignment. Unfortunately, today was the first chance I had to work on it. Oh, well. Without further ado, I bring you:

February 1964

Yellow light spilled beneath a frilled lampshade, pooling unkindly in the valleys of Mrs. Miller’s face as she frowned over her knitting.

“Fudge,” she muttered as she dropped a stitch. Those darn bugs were on the radio again. She laid aside the yarn and needles to snap off the switch.

“Beatles.” She spat out the word as if it tasted foul in her mouth, and resumed her knitting, jabbing the yarn with the sharp sticks.

‘Eileen’s probably happy,’ she thought. Her daughter, home from college for the weekend, loved the group. Mrs. Miller shook her head.

Andy Williams, now there’s a singer.

She wound the yarn up and around the needle, her eyes misting. So much had changed, so quickly. She blinked back tears and looked at her work.

The scarf she knit would match her blue hat. Let Eileen complain no one wanted to wear pillbox hats anymore; she was keeping hers. The hat was a tribute--a way of showing respect to the First Lady. It didn’t matter who was president now; as far as Mrs. Miller was concerned, Mrs. Kennedy would always be the first lady. Her fingers faltered slightly and she dropped another stitch. She wound the wool more tightly; if she weren’t careful, the whole thing would come undone.

Eileen. Mrs. Miller redoubled her efforts, knitting quickly. She’d hoped Eileen would have come home from college with a fianc√© by now, but she showed no signs of it. If anything, the girl seemed more restless by the day. What’s happening to my daughter?

She sniffed slightly. Her hands shook as she thought of the Roberts’ girl down the street. She’d had to leave college and go live with relatives. She closed her eyes and said a quick prayer. “Please, Lord, don’t let my daughter turn out like that.”

When she opened her eyes, she saw she’d dropped another stitch. She laid the scarf on her lap and rubbed a weary hand over the bridge of her nose. She startled as Eileen bounded into the room, swooping down on her in an impulsive hug.

“Bye, Mommy! I’m going out--see you later!” She gave her mother a kiss and skipped toward the front door, unaware that the button of her coat sleeve had snagged the yarn.

Mrs. Miller’s mouth moved, but made no sound. She could only watch in horror as all her work unraveled.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

I love this! The last sentence is wonderful and expresses perfectly Mrs. Miller's anxiety over her daughter and the changing values in her daughter's world, her resistance to admitting any changes into her own, and her helplessness to control everything.

Did I mention that I really love your story?

Kate S said...

Thanks so much--those were exactly the things I was aiming for. I was afraid it either didn't come through, or came through so strongly as to be "hoaky." I almost had the yarn catch on the daughter's watch, but was afraid that would be too much. :)

Thanks again for your kind words of encouragement.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

very nice story, kate. you end your stories in the most perfect ways...

Susan Miller said...

Lovely, Kate, just lovely. I, too, adored the ending! Your tackle on these assignments is brilliant, and I do enjoy reading your work. Thank you for sharing it!

Kate S said...

Thanks, Wayne & Susan, for such kind comments. :)

Stewart Sternberg said...

Now, this is great..the unravelling of one generation giving birth to the arrival of a new generation. Your write well, Ms. Kate.

You know one thing that upset me about this assignment? I may have been born in the fifties, but I always considered myself a sixties kid. Maybe seventies. But as I did this assignment, writing about the year I was born, the weight of age descended upon me like something predatory. Scary.

Kate S said...

Thanks, Stewart.

I was born in 64, but have always thought of the late 70's through late 80's as "my time." I think that's because we can only appreciate the ethos of the time once we are old enough to understand and truly participate in it - usually our teens and twenties. Those years are also often a time of vigor and foolishness - hence, the fond memories we have of them later in life, even when they sucked. :)

So see, you WERE a kid of the 60's and 70's. Hiss at that '55 and send it scampering back to the closet.

Lucas Pederson said...

Like everyone else here, I loved the ending. It's already been said, but I like the way one generation has to unravel to reknit a new generation. Great stuff. And it's so true. Already withmy own children I can see my generation unravelling. Ans their only 2 and 4 years old! Craziness.

Kate S said...

Thanks, Lucas. Scary to think you can already see it in your daughters, but I believe you. I noticed it when my daughter started going to daycare.

etain_lavena said...

aaaahhhh NO....shame....such a lovely easy to read story....:)

Kate S said...

Thanks, Etain. :)

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