I recently read the short story “Cat Person” in the New Yorker that has been getting a lot of attention online. It’s rare for a short short to go viral; anything that’s not a Twitter post, YouTube video, or Facebook image usually has no chance, so it’s great to see an interest in the medium spark up.
Since the story is more or less about a really bad date/relationship, it inspired the theme for our recent writing stream: what’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?
We started off with a fun exercise: get a sentence from a random sentence generator (yes they exist and they’re awesome), and then write a story about a date starting with that random sentence. We wrote for 10 minutes or so, and then we got another random sentence, which would become our ending sentence, forcing us to somehow complete the story toward it.
It was tough, but thanks to some suggestions from the chat, I liked where we ended up. You can read the story below:
(This was the random sentence we had to start with.) “Should we start class now, or should we wait for everyone to get here?” Becky asked Steve, the teacher for the adult computer programming night class at the local community center.
“What do you mean?” Steve asked. “There’s still half an hour until class begins. Why did you come so early again?”
Becky twirled her finger through her hair, staring ahead from her seat behind the monitor, fixated on Steve as he set up the projector for the Powerpoint presentation.
“Oh, you know,” she said coyly. “I just had some questions I was hoping you could answer.”
“Okay,” Steve said. “Go ahead, but it’s usually better if you ask when everyone else is here, so that the rest of the class can benefit as–”
“Do you want to get something to eat after class tonight?”
Steve stood at attention and stared at Becky as she laughed at the ceiling. For a moment neither of them said anything, and Steve’s face burned red.
“I don’t know,” he said cautiously. “I have to get home and….”
“Oh,” Becky said, the laughter vanishing from her face. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.”
(This was the point where we got the random ending sentence and had to somehow write toward it.)
“No, it’s not that. I’m flattered, it’s just, you know, I’m the teacher and you’re the student, so I don’t think it’d be very appropriate.”
“But you’re not older than me or anything, right?” Becky said. Her eyes scanned Steve up and down more carefully than before, as if trying to uncover any age-hiding secrets that she may have overlooked.
“No,” Steve said, “but I still don’t know if–”
“Hey!” Becky shouted. “How about we make popsicles tonight instead of programming? That sounds like way more fun!”
Steve went silent. “Excuse me?”
“No, you’re right,” Becky sighed. “On second thought, maybe we should just ride bikes on the roof instead.”
Steve had no idea what was going on, but then the Powerpoint presentation turned on, and he remembered the topic for tonight’s class: how to code random number generation.
“Becky,” he said, “did you work a little too hard on the homework for class today?”
“Of course!” she said. “I wanted to get as perfectly random numbers as possible in my program, so I hooked it up to my brain!”
“Wait a minute,” Steve said. “So that means everything, the date too, was all just you asking random stuff?”
“I think so,” Becky said. “But I’m not sure. The heart or the brain…. Where do random thoughts come from?”
It’s not the greatest story ever, but the ending is kind of cute, so I’ll take it!
For the writing prompt, we went straight for the jugular: what’s the worst date you’ve ever been on? After letting the chat choose from three miserable experience I’ve had, I ended up writing about my “sneaking out regret.” Dredging up all those PTSD-inducing memories was… fun!
If you want to join us and find some inspiration with exercises, troll me as I try to write, or share your own stuff for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-9:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
And you missed the stream, you can still watch it here on rerun for a few weeks until Twitch deletes it.
Hope to see you next time, friend!
Featured image: Pakutaso