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coffeebreak: alone in the sky

Apologies, it’s been a while between breaks. With my recent move to Melbourne, stable internet has been a scarce resource of late. Things are finally starting to smooth out this week.

In case you are new (yes, every now and then I do actually get new readers) the deal is nice and simple: write for 10 minutes against the photo below and post an excerpt in the comments below. No judgments, no revisions, just a chance to mobilise your creative ligaments within the confines of your daily grind.

This photo reminds me of one of my favourite books, Falling Man by Don Delillo.

Alone in the sky, originally uploaded by roibradbury.

  • Jess Mc

    She stands looking out at the rooftops below. The pools of aqua blue, the faux turf rimmed by welcome palms, the occasional tennis court, several long forgotten banana chairs with cracking plastic seats. The latter, of course, Clara can’t actually see. But, like the naked bodies she places in the empty spaces, filling in the detail comes easily.

    • Mark

      Hi Jess and thanks for joining in. I really love your moment, especially the specific minor details “the faux turf rimmed by welcome palms, the occasional tennis court” which I am a big fan of. Don’t need to overwhelm with volume if you focus in on the unique.

      I better get my own excerpt up quick smart!

  • Liz

    A tangled jumble of distant murmurs swept through the doorway, echoing eerily between the slick floorboards and the vast ceilings above. Like the city below, it was difficult to find silence even here, high above the constant blink of neighboring skyscrapers, up among the ever-present smog of a city growing beyond its means. But it was enough.

    She made a point of coming here on Tuesday mornings, when workers in shades of black or gray or navy blue walked in lockstep towards jobs, white earbuds in ears, simultaneously oblivious to the buzz of activity around them and keenly aware of slight openings in the sea of light wool, poly-blend, and silk. A space to dart towards, a bit of room to breathe. Cars, too, dashed through treacherous roads, contributing their discordant chorus to the milieu. Buses ignored desperate would-be passengers, sweating through their once-pristine white button downs, news stands pitched the latest scandal in bold black fonts, coffee burned, and street vendors set up shop — just forty dollars for Gucci, ma’am, and you won’t find stitching this good in Saks.

    And here she was, watching over it all behind an inch of tinted glass. She gazed out into a horizon punctuated by cranes and jailhouse orange construction tools before brushing invisible crumbs from her gray wool skirt suit and reluctantly joining in.

  • Jay

    The grid of the city disappears beyond the blur away from the terrestrial; I imagine i hadn’t always seen it this way. There was a time where things seemed sharper, distinct, may be when you were younger, naivety stopped you from seeing the blur. Seeing things like a cartoon; high contrast, no distortion and compartmentalised. Cartoon horizons are always drawn as a line, a singular meeting of earth and sky. Now that time seems like the horizon, distant and unobtainable.

  • Jess Mc

    Hi Mark
    Glad you liked!

    I had had a couple of glasses of wine, stumbled across your blog via the NSW Writers’ Centre newsletter, thought it was an ace idea to invite people to write, and so I did.

    Am looking forward to reading more :)

  • Mark

    Liz, there is so much texture in this line: “keenly aware of slight openings in the sea of light wool, poly-blend, and silk.” I just love it. And I had almost forgotten a word as good as “lockstep” existed. Nice.

    Jay, this is something special: “Seeing things like a cartoon; high contrast, no distortion and compartmentalised.” and your closer is DeLillo quality. Was that all from the photograph?

    I better unleash my own…I figured I might try and write something about a couple who enter an elevator just after instigating a war of words, and how that passage to the top deck might reflect a heightening of the argument itself (in silence). Anyway…

    Before he said it he knew the time wasn’t right but it was done now, the elevator doors shut, the air tightening around their heavy summer clothes. He took up a position by the door and he set about pretending to examine the workmanship of the elevator, surprising himself when he noticed the make, KONE, stamped into the console, and beside it the serial number and service record. He noted the date, which was recent, and used the reassurance of its specificity to further build the illusion, giving him permission to stand close enough to the door that his damp breath marked the steel. He fingered the edges of the floor button, and then when he felt confident that it was not of the ‘clicking’ variety, pressed it inwards, ever so slowly, so that she would not hear him at it, and now sure that the mechanism would not betray him, he started to press it over and over as her little breath beat away like a hummingbird waiting for him to turn.

  • Liz

    Thanks, Mark. I’m glad you liked it.

    I enjoyed how you portrayed the tense silence that falls in such situations, and the strange fixations that so often develop as a result. You’ve done an excellent job of using small details (the careful observation of the service record, the quiet, repeated press of a button granting access to that upper floor) to draw the reader into the scene.