We did several writing exercises at the workshop. One of them involved a word list and a title that provided a scenario. I put the words from the list in bold here.
Ella Moon, 30, contemplates an ashtray in the laudromat at 5th & Palmer in Deep Gap, NC, 2010
"Oh my hell of God," Ella cursed. "Here I am, looking like 10 long miles of bad road, and Friday is adrift under the freakin' dryer. I don't have time for this kind of crap. I need to get some color on these roots before Buster gets home."
Maybe Friday wasn't all that important. After all, the pink was a bit faded and the lace was beginning to fray right where Ella's Rottweiler, Raucous, got hold of it. But Buster preferred that she wear a day on a day, and Ella preferred not to jump into an argument the very minute Buster got back from Arizona. She knew this was now a game of beat the clock. Buster should be rolling into town in less than an hour.
Ella stomped outside and grabbed a stick from under the birch trees on the boulevard. Good thing she'd decided to hit the Suds and Duds on Palmer, the only street in town with any trees left. Back in 2008, Deep Gap had surrendered nearly every living tree and bush to an early season hurricane. The storm transformed most of the Gap, once a verdant village, into an unsettled tract, waiting for Japanese developers to figure out what to keep and what to raze.
Optimistic as always, Ella came up with a scheme to retrieve the panties without getting down on the incredibly filthy floor. She pulled over two orange plastic chairs and draped herself over them, her luscious butt facing God and her poor, tired dogs pointing at the devil. If she squirmed at just the right angle and remembered to keep her wrists cocked, she could wedge the stick under the dryer and shovel out the panties.
Right about the time her first attempt came up empty, the lights flickered. Ella jumped, sure Quentin had come to shut up the place for the night. One glance at the clock reassured her, but with closing time less than 20 minutes off, she needed to get it on.
Truth to tell, Ella didn't mind a deadline. She did her best work under pressure. Extemporaneous was her color. She called upon the Bodhisattva, all the angels, and anyone else up there willing to help her keep her happy ass out of trouble. It was a short list.
Ella's next smooth swoosh with the stick turned up one Bubble Up bottle cap, two quarters and three dried up ground cherry husks. On the third swoosh, the stick got well and truly stuck. "Damn it all," she sighed.
Back and forth. Up and down. Ella pushed and pulled, see'd and sawed with the stick, trying to dislodge whatever had settled back there, in front of or on top of Friday. When the stick broke free, Ella pulled back, slow and careful.
Friday's lace emerged first, rosy and decadent in the fluorescent lights. Tangled in the lace and elastic was a flat aluminum ashtray marked, "Relax tonight. We'll do the cooking. Call Hutch."
God alone could discern how long the ashtray had been under there. Hutch himself had been dead and gone more than a decade. Buster owned the place now, and he hadn't ordered ashtrays since the lung cancer carried his dad home to Jesus.
Ella shook out the dust bunnies, stepped into the leg openings, and shimmied into Friday. She tucked the ashtray into her purse for Buster. He could use it for target practice. He always had wanted to shoot that old son of a bitch.