One Quirk Later #9–not to get all poetical on you, but…

Hello, friends!

The New Year is underway (regardless of whether or not we can recall the fact when we are writing out the date). What sort of year will it be? It’s too early to say. But one thing is for certain: it will be a year in which I will continue to participate in Jem Jones‘ Quirk series.

This is promising indeed. Because participating in this organized chaos* is always a delight.

*I mean, it’s not THAT chaotic, except that someone almost always inevitably gets stabbed

To summarize for those not familiar with this post series: Jem gives us pictures. We stare at the pictures for long hours, searching for the plot bunnies hidden within them, then we Write Things. And, finally, we all READ the things that everyone else wrote, and a jolly good time is had by all.

Be sure to check out Jem’s post introducing the prompt (and Jem’s blog in general because it’s quite excellent).

Here’s the prompt:

A few things you don’t need to know before you read what I wrote:

  • So….narrative freeverse? For no apparent reason?
  • Eh, why not?
  • I wrote two pages about this character about…five years ago? He just popped back into my head out of nowhere.
  • (Characters are sneaky like that)
  • Will there be angst? Do you even have to ask??
  • You know, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that’s actually a toad in the watering can…


I put a frog in the watering can
because I’m feeling
whimsical, I guess
or nostalgic
or maybe just sleep deprived
to the point of

She loves it
because of course she would
Because it’s something
she would do
She wraps her hands
around its slimy body, giggling
at its flailing legs, until I tell her
Don’t squeeze it so tight
Her face gets serious, brown eyes as wide
as the frog’s, she nods
because she would never
hurt anything, never
on purpose, never
do what I’ve

The frog slips through
her fingers, launching
across the mismatched grass
and knots of weeds
touching the ground
only twice before diving into
the perfect epicenter
of ripples

She is so close
freckles of water dot her cheeks

Say goodbye

Goodbye, Mr. Frog
I drop to my knees and she climbs
on my back, one arm
around my neck, one hand
on my head, tiny fist
gripping my hair, she whoops
and urges me on—
her magnificent steed

And I don’t care
that her hands are frog-slimed
pulling on my hair like reins
until my scalp sings

I don’t care

Inside we sit at the piano
my fingers resting
on the keys
my chin resting
on the top of her head
She says show me how
and I play, slow and simple
until she cuts me off
Okay, my turn

Tiny frog-slimed hands
on the chipped white teeth

It is a new composition
never heard before, never
to be heard again
a cacophony of harmonious

Wow. Beethoven should quit
She looks up at me with green eyes,
brow furrowed, Who’s Beethoven?
I just laugh

Show me more
But I can feel the seconds
slipping, almost gone
so I wrap my arms around her
like I could possibly
hold her

It was just daylight
but outside the window
there are stars
because why not?
Because she loves them
Because I love them

We stare at them and I hold her
and hold her
I love you

She looks up at me
Time’s up, she says
though I don’t mean for her to
You’re going to miss me
I stare down at her
nod wordlessly
You’re going to miss me
so much, she whispers
She opens her mouth again
but before she can speak—

This session has ended.
Do not attempt to set a new configuration.
Please report to the barracks immediately.

I pull the goggles off
stare at the non-descript panels
of the walls
their faint luminance
stark and empty

I rip the patch from the base
of my skull, return it
to the console
because free time is over
and it’s just a patch again
not a conductor
of the thoughts in my head
not a tool to help me pretend
I’m not talking
to myself

Lying in my bunk
in the barracks while I wait
for morning, for a voice
to come blaring through the speakers
tell us its time to go
raze another city

I can’t remember
what color my sister’s eyes are


And suddenly, I don’t think
I can stand it, I don’t think
I want to

But I know I will

I’ll survive.
Somehow I always do


….Did you notice it’s my sci-fi-war-default-setting again?

There you have it!

Many thanks to Jem Jones for being my honorary grandma giving us the prompt!

Have you ever put a frog in a watering can? (Or a frog that was actually a TOAD??) Do you ever write narrative free-verse? Do you ever wonder why you’re writing narrative free-verse? Do you see any plot-bunnies hidden in Jem’s prompt? Do tell!


17 responses to “One Quirk Later #9–not to get all poetical on you, but…”

  1. Awww, this is so sweet! And sad. I love how well you captured the sibling relationships AND I love the narrative free verse. I’m going to need to try some of that sometime…I always love reading it, but I’ve never tried writing it, for whatever reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! The main time I write narrative free verse is when I’ve just reread House Arrest and my brain is all INSPIRED (…but I haven’t reread it recently, so I’m not quite sure where this came from). So if you ever decide to try your hand at it, I’d say spending some quality time with Timothy (or…any other protagonist of a narrative free verse book–but Timothy is the best) is the way to go 🙂


  2. YOW.

    This was reminding me of that poem “this is just to say,” which, if you’ve read it…suffice it to say I was not expecting the twist and it made me sad.

    But then he couldn’t remember the color of his sister’s eyes and my heart was like “nope, can’t handle this” and left. Don’t know where it went, but I felt it drop out of my chest like a stone and have not since felt it land anywhere so…I’m assuming it’s gone for good.

    So yow.

    (Also, your description of how Quirks go. The accuracy.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Seriously, beautiful, beautiful writing (the free-verse! YES) and the gut-punch characters you always write… Just lovely. Siblings. And Pain. I LOVE SIBLINGS AND PAIN.
    “I can’t remember what color my sister’s eyes are” is kind of the best line. Also “Time’s up” she says though I don’t mean for her to”?? So good. All so good. All. Of. It. DID I MENTION HOW GLORIOUS IT IS? I am so proud of you for emotionally scarring all of your followers with this, dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “it’s not that chaotic, it’s just that someone inevitably gets stabbed” reads to me with such a tone of mild bemusement, as though you can’t quite figure out why this keeps happening xD

    oh okay I just. finished reading it. That moment where she looks up and says “Time’s up”, I had a “wAIT there was angst promised wasn’t there, nO” moment, so good job hitting us with that xD

    And of course I am your honourary grandma, my dear Erik! it’s, well, an honour?? Even though I mostly use my position to tell you to stop hurting your children… (actually it’s really good reading, you hurting your fictional children, so uh….. keep it up. and let me adopt them when you’re done, kay.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Every time you give us a new quirk. 2 days later, me shouting from the backyard: “Grandma, somebody got stabbed again.”
      Hehe, I’m glad I could accomplish that “oh wait a second, there’s gonna be angst, oH NO” moment XD (I mean….I like it when I’M the one cooking up the angst. Not so much when I’m reading along and suddenly realize wait somEOnE coULD dIE)
      *hiding large knife and several heart-wrenching plot twists behind my back* I won’t hurt any of my characters, Grandma. I promise!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. *clutches heart* THAT WAS SO GOOD. I’ve never heard of free verse narrative but it’s such a cool medium!

    Also I completely relate to the sci-fi war default setting. XD It’s just a really versatile and deliciously angsty aesthetic, right??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! It IS a lovely medium. If you ever want to read more narrative free verse… *slyly sliding book across the table to you* …you should check out House Arrest by K.A. Holt because it’s beautiful and Timothy is a DEAR
      You too with the sci-fi war default setting?? I hadn’t tried to articulate why I’m drawn to it, but you’re absolutely right about the versatility and angst potential XD

      Liked by 1 person

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