Writing prompts can take many forms. Often, prompts arise from single words or complete sentences. Other inspirations may evolve from simple phrases or questions. My writing instructor used all of these instigators, plus another tactic––multiple-object prompts. She would stand before the class with a sly grin on her face, write four unrelated items on the blackboard, and then tell us our assignment for next time was to write a story that incorporated each of those oddball items. Of course, we students shared glances that reflected mutual consternation and thoughts like Is she nuts? By the next session, however, we had all complied and the outcomes were fantastic.
With that in mind, my post this week is based on one of those disjointed, four-item prompts. In this case:
A laundry basket
A rotary-dial Princess phone
A bowling ball
A Sunday church bulletin
Enjoy. And thanks for stopping by.
A nudge to my shoulder jarred me awake. Bleary-eyed, I scanned the empty sanctuary from my usual spot––the outer aisle seat in the last pew. Although seldom a late arrival, I was rarely the second parishioner out the door. Sunday morning services had become more habit than personal commitment. But I enjoyed singing. Maybe it was the hymns that prompted my regular attendance because the sermons… Well…to be kind, power naps were pretty common. This week, however, my batteries must have really needed recharging.
I sat up straight. “Geez, I’m sorry. Where’d everyone…?”
Once he’d determined I wasn’t dead, the usher glared. “Services concluded twenty minutes ago.”
“Right. I was just saying a prayer to… Never mind. I’ll be on my way.”
“Don’t forget your bulletin.”
Red-faced, I snatched the folder from the pew, inched past the elderly gent, then made a hasty exit.
Outdoors, a billowing cloud blocked the sun. Raindrops began freckling the sidewalk. Only a few blocks away, I hurried toward my apartment, while thoughts of my encounter in church buzzed in my mind.
Still debating whether I felt resentment or guilt from the incident, I unlocked the door to my cozy abode and shuffled inside. Clothes overflowing from the bedroom hamper reminded me of another Sunday routine that awaited my participation.
The laundry basket sat in the closet. A sleeve from a team jersey I’d been meaning to wash dangled from the top shelf. After I jerked it down, a low rumble struck a chord as to why the shirt was there just before the bowling ball ricocheted off my forehead.
It didn’t make sense to be lying on the floor. After all, I’d already taken a nap, why did I need another? When I blinked to awareness, however, I was prone on the carpet. The lump on my noggin stung when I touched it. A cadenced ringing irritated my eardrums. Were the two related? The jingling persisted…like the retro ringtone I’d chosen for my smartphone.
Slowly rising to a sitting position, I looked to the left. A pink, rotary-dial Princess phone clanged on the nightstand…like the one Mom had in her bedroom. But that was…over fifty years ago. What the hell was going on?
I crawled over and lifted the receiver. “Hello?”
“Jared, it’s Mom.”
“You don’t recognize your own mother?”
“That’s not funny. Who is this?”
“Have you been sleeping in church again?”
The knot on my forehead throbbed. “Look. My mom is dead. Now who––”
The voice on the other end deepened. “Jared, how many times have I told you not to be disrespectful to your mother?”
Bug-eyed, I dropped the receiver and rushed to the bathroom. Cold water eased the thump-thumping in my head, but not my nerves. My parents had passed away in a plane crash eight years ago. What was happening? Had the bowling ball knocked me into a time warp? Was their reconnection some sort of reminder––or retribution?
Following several deep breaths, I returned to the bedroom. The bowling ball had rolled to the far wall. My smartphone lay flat on the nightstand. A blurb on the screen indicated that I’d missed a call.
The church bulletin lay wide-open on the comforter where I’d tossed it earlier. I glanced at the messages inside. The sermon for today had been titled, “Time for Change?” I wondered whether––for me anyway––the title should have been “Do You Believe in Karma?” Regardless, I gazed toward the ceiling and vowed to pay far more attention during future Sunday services.