Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Guitar, Scar, Hometown

WRITING PROMPT: Monday Matchup #12
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings.
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

Write a scene featuring a guitar, a scar, and your hometown.

Also! The names of all the story-posters from the last month or so were thrown into the Promptly hat, and four were pulled to each receive five books from the stacks on my desks. Reggie Manning, Janel, Evelyn and Mark James—can you e-mail me your addresses so I can get the swag mailed out? And as always, thanks to everyone who posted a story—or stories—in the last month. You truly make the Promptly world go round.

(Image: Meanos, via Wikimedia Commons)

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13 thoughts on “Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Guitar, Scar, Hometown

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  4. Lily Elderkin

    His fingers moved up and down the strings like magic, flying over themselves but never tripping. He found true salvation here.
    This was exactly the boy I remembered.
    “Hey,” I said. “Your mom let me upstairs.”
    He gave a little jerk and looked at me. “Hi.”
    His voice was still low, staccato. It was so different from the long, soulful notes of the guitar, which I think is what drew him to it in the first place.
    I walked in, as uninhibited in here as ever. I remembered years ago when I’d come in for the first time, amid the dirty laundry on the floor and the Miles Davis CDs scattered across the bed. It had been sort of…home.
    “How have you been?” I asked plopping next to him. He inched away, and I couldn’t stop myself from flinching. What had happened to us?
    We had ventured out of this room. That was where our mistake was.
    “How’s college?”
    His smiled involuntarily. “Great.”
    “How are the girls there?” Did he hear the note of regret in my voice?
    “Not very hot. None of them shower. It’s a musician thing, I think.”
    I laughed. “Wow, that’s sexy.”
    He looked at me for a second with a half-smile on his face. And then, like it had always been, suddenly his lips were on mine. Somehow his lips were always on mine, despite his heart never entering my grasp.
    “Sorry.” He leaned his forehead onto mine, a pseudo-romantic gesture. “I wanted to see if you still tasted good.”
    “Do I?” I asked.
    “Yes,” and he kissed me again.
    “Let me see the scar,” I said, because I had to.
    He leaned away from me, then. I knew he would.
    “Let me see it.” It was time I finally did.
    He slowly inched his shirt up until the huge gash from his collarbone to his hip could be seen, like half an X drawn across his body. I had cut him in two.
    “We never should have left,” I said, my head down, my voice low.
    “What, left my suffocating house?” he said, and his voice was rough. “I’m glad I have this. It’s proof that I once had courage.”
    “Or stupidity, which I stamped out of you.”
    “It wasn’t your fault.”
    “Um…yes it was. Were you in the car?”
    I couldn’t believe we’d never had this talk before. Probably because I had run out of town before I could even find out if he was alive. I got out with nothing but a guilty conscience…although in some ways, that’s a million times worse than some scar.
    He frowned at me. “The only bad thing you did was leave. My mom finally forgave you, but…I never have.”
    I felt tears rise to my eyes. I never used to cry, not when he’d known me. “Neither have I.”
    “Maybe we should.”
    I just looked at him, the tears spilling out. It felt like I was the one to be cut in half. “Maybe.”

  5. Reggie Manning

    Downtown Rocky Mt. NC, there sits a guy on the sidewalk with no friend in the world, but his guitar. He’s positioned with his legs folded Indian style, but he’s not Native American; He’s black, surrounded by a world that isn’t… and his only friend is his guitar. His hair is wild and blows in the wind in cadence with the collar of his faded denim jacket. His shoes lack a bottom, the knees of his khakis lack threading, his wisdom teeth lack neighbors, and his eyes lack life. His bones lack calcium, because he is in fact lactose intolerant, but he tolerates it. People breeze by with their expensive fragrances drifting behind them, but he tolerates it. Children tease him, stray animals even make of him, but he tolerates it. He has no friends, only his guitar.

    He sits there every Carolina morning, playing the chords to ‘Carolina in the Morning’; it’s ironic because he plays that song even through the night. He never speaks a word, not even a hum or a grunt. He lets his only friend in the world do all of the talking, the arrogant language of his guitar. People stand and listen for brief seconds and then continue with their day, but he stays. His surrounding changes, windows break into micro crystals and blow away, plants melt into dust, but he stays. Cars past by filled with high schoolers who honk at junkies, but he stays. He’s accompanied in this lonely world, by the only friend he has, his guitar.

    He never stops playing and his fingers are scarred by the rigorous string plucking, but he still plays. He has pricked his finger and formed an everlasting friendship with his guitar, his only friend in the world. Through April showers, he still plays. Through mid January snow storms, he still plays. During Halloween he dresses as a pile of leaves… and still plays. Last Christmas he won the title for best snowman, he and his guitar. He never eats nor drinks, he just sits, and continues to play. His body feeds off of his angelic chords with is fingertips on auto-pilot. Truly nothing could be finer, than to be in Carolina, in the morning.

  6. Deborah Ebersold

    The town I considered my hometown was only 20 miles to the left of the road I was on. If I stayed on this road I would miss it. I turned to the left. What would I have to lose?

    As I drove into the little town, what I saw shocked me. The gazebo in the center of the town square was the only thing that remained the same. The grass had died in the park that surrounded the gazebo. You could say the same for the crumbling buildings and stores that lined those same streets. Gone is the little drugstore where I could buy ice cream. The windows were boarded up. The two story building on the corner by the street that lead to my old house where I had dance lessons was more or less a one story. The second floor had only walls. There was no roof. There were no windows. All the other buildings were in the same shape.

    As I drove down the street that led to my house, I wondered if it too, had fallen down. It was standing, but deserted. The windows were boarded over, the paint was peeling, and the tiles were falling off the roof. I knew my parents had died 20 years before. I wondered if they had died around the time the town was. They hadn’t mentioned it in their letters. When they died I had sold the house in probate. Now I was just curious about the place.

    I looked over to the side of my old house and was surprised to see the old oak tree that I had climbed as a child stood proud and tall. I touched the scar over my eyebrow that was a reminder of that tree. I had fallen off of it many years earlier as a child when a branch I stepped was weak and had broken off sending me tumbling to the ground. It seemed like a lifetime ago. I had lost touch with so many of my former friends. It looks as all of them had moved on.

    It was time to leave, but not before I wrote a song to immortalize memories of my past; the golden years and the nostalgia that colored those memories. Was I really so carefree? Did the future really seem so rosy? Were my friends really so pure of heart as I believed they were then? Did it really matter? You can never go back home or change the past.

    I started the car again to head out of the town of my youth and as I left the rusted sign to announce it in my rearview mirror, I decided to pull over. I reached into my backseat and grabbed my guitar and strummed some chords. One thing about memories, they proved to be great material for songs. I’d write a song and move on.

  7. Shari Geldrich

    Shards of icy winter sunlight sliced into her eyes through the dark shade of her glasses. Sighing, she adjusted them on her nose. Walking was treacherous; under the snow crust a layer of ice had formed. Her worn-thin sneakers were no match and the snow quickly gathered, stinging her sockless ankles. Ignoring the cold she trudged forward, intent on doing what she came here to do. She shrugged to heave her guitar back into place, jostling her heavy backpack. She gasped as it slammed into the deep, still-tender scar on her back. Interesting, she mused, how the pain of the wound wasn’t bad when she thought about it; what still hurt was the memory of how it got there. The sensitivity was, by now, just a constant, dull reminder of choices she would live with for the rest of her life. She knew the visible remnant of the scar would fade eventually but the real damage was inside, irreparable and much harder to detect.

    She stopped to catch her breath. The hill to the old Washington County cemetery was bigger than she remembered. It had been so long since she had visited, and she always hated coming to the cemetery in winter. Something about the snow on the ground, blanketing the grave; even though she knew he was far beyond feeling the bitter cold it still bothered her. She was beginning to feel the familiar constriction around her heart, her lungs, making it hard to breathe as she got closer. It was dread, she knew, not fear. She wasn’t afraid of coming here, and when she was anywhere else it was marginally easier to push the terrible reality to a far corner of her mind. But she couldn’t put this off forever; she had to come. And then, all over again as if it were brand new she would have to face the crushing certainty that he was gone and there would never be a way to make things right. As she got closer the knot in her stomach grew. Somewhere deep inside her consciousness a small, rational voice reminded her there would be nothing new, nothing unexpected here; nothing to get so worked up about. It had been three years. More than that, really, and she had been here before, just after the funeral, but not since. Still, she knew that it would look the same; nothing would be different, and yet her heart grew heavier with each step, as if the truth only existed here, in this place, and no other. As if this were finally where his absence was tangible, visible, and not in the daily fabric of her life.

    From the crest of the hill she could see his grave marker, hard, cold and grey as a winter cloud, rising from the snow. There was no solace here, only sadness and loss. She slowly walked to the grave and dropped her pack and guitar.

    Sinking to the ground she leaned against the stone and sobbed.

  8. Dare Gaither

    The audience gasped in horror.
    It was worse than they had expected.
    Mazey steeled herself against the involuntary humiliation from the crowd.
    The feel of warm polished wood beneath her fingers gave her strength.
    She would play regardless.

    The fireball had burned her face and neck.
    Her friends had acted quickly to extinguish the flames and call 911.
    Their quick thinking had saved her body, but her face was scarred beyond recognition.
    She was also completely blind.
    They said she was lucky to be alive.
    They almost sounded sincere.

    Her guitar was her greatest healer.
    Through the voice of its strings, she spoke her pain, her hopelessness, her anger.
    Embracing its familiar shape brought comfort to fill her loss.

    Her fans were encouraging, eager to hear her play again.
    Tonight was her first public appearance since the accident.
    It was a small event, hosted by the Brevard College music department.
    She knew they meant well, but the forced applause could not
    diminish the sting of their first reaction.

    Mazey took a deep breath and touched the strings.
    Her song poured forth from the depths of her heart.
    The music enfolded her in peace, leaving behind her
    world of pain and sorrow. Her ravaged face was transformed
    by the radiance of her love. Her soul became the song.

    The audience thundered applause through the small auditorium.
    Soaring free on notes of grace, Mazey never heard it.

  9. Evelyn

    Always being the smartest one in the room was my cross to bear. Not because of my genius, but because I had been sentenced to three weeks detention alongside Clive and Rufus, the two biggest morons in Frontier Central High School, and possibly, the State of New York.

    Clive was waving a switchblade around like Zorro in study hall, split open his thumb and earned detention and a nasty scar. Rufus got caught smoking a joint in home room. Like I said, they’re morons. I, on the other hand, got busted for my entrepreneurial excellence, selling completed homework to academic deadbeats.

    The three of us were interned in the music room every school day from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. with Mr. Litton, music teacher and neo-hippy. Mr. Litton wasn’t really stupid, just politically unstable. He believed that Elvis was still alive; capitalism drove him to fake his death.

    Mr. Litton would sometimes practice his guitar and sing weirdo folk-commie tunes during his watch. In one particularly passionate strumming session I decided to test the limits of Clive and Rufus’ IQ. I whispered over to them, “See that fire alarm? It’s disconnected. The only one that works is the one in the principal’s office. Go ahead and pull it, you’ll see.”

    Neither was convinced so I had to sweeten the pot. “I’ll bet you fifty dollars that fire alarm is disconnected.”

    Clive didn’t budge, but Rufus did. He titled his chair back from his desk, reached over to the alarm, and gave the handle a yank.

    No sound. No lights. Nothing.

    Their stupidity must have been contagious, because I couldn’t sit at my desk enjoying my unintentional fifty dollar win. My eyes were fixed on that alarm. Why hadn’t it sounded? Was it really disconnected? I snuck out my seat and gave the handle a little jab.

    Sirens. Flashing Lights. Mahem. And Mr. Litton busted me as the sole perpetrator.

    Clive and Rufus completed their detention two weeks ago, but I’ve got another week yet to serve. So I sit, listening to commie folk music, bearing my cross as the smartest one in the room.

  10. Stephenie Hirschman

    "Strum, strum," resounded the guitar as a murmur building more strength with each stroke of the hand and flick of the wrist. The blue eyes of the the musician flickered from the upper neck back to the crowd of family that gathered to hear him. Concentration and calmness were possessions to the sound of what some call, "jamming-out."

    However,the pain felt during the exposure of his soul could not just roll off of a back, but chill a spine. For, a chance to listen to the live unpredicted sound of a lone instrument playing is a refreshing first sip. Furthermore, like a merlot with a dry kick in the back of your mouth. Leaving the listeners searching for more a long with being speechless.

    The listeners grasp at the artist for time has been lost and wishing it were a scar instead of empty sound that became ringless. Additionally, at best they would all go to rest in the places they know best.

  11. Mark James

    Zac. . .thanks!

    As if he’d prayed, and God had found him deserving for once, Trist spotted the perfect place to hide. Low strains of squealing brakes drifted up from the kind of grate Marilyn Monroe had made famous. The panhandler leaned up against a brick wall just on the other side of the metal grate could have been at the beach, playing his guitar and soaking up a tan.

    His scarred face gave no sign of the cold. It was twenty eight degrees in Manhattan and the sidewalk had to be freezing his pants to his skin. But his nimble fingers ran over the guitar strings and picked out a melody that was vaguely, hauntingly familiar.

    Trist hunkered down in front of him and dropped a twenty into his metal cup. “Mind if I join you a while?”

    “Do you sing three part harmony?”

    “Only on Sundays in the choir.”

    “You move mighty spry for a boy’s that’s got no place to be.” The music shifted into a major chord, then tripped down the scale in a floating melody that made even hardened commuters pause in their rat race.

    Nic trailed his eyes over the guitar player’s seamed skin. The scars were from childhood, long since folded into the wrinkles of his face. The way he cocked his head and listened told Nic that the man was blind, or close enough not to matter. Settling down on the pavement, Nic said, “Moving spry keeps me alive.”

    “For how long?”

    A question Nic had asked himself too many times lately. His answer came back to him, the way it did on long sleepless nights, long enough to not be dead for another day.

    “What’s that song you’re playing?”

    “Something I learned in Heaven,” he said.

    The grate made the sidewalk warm, almost comfortable. The rush of footfalls seemed to blend with the music, which seemed to come not from the guitar, but from the air around the man’s fingers. “I thought they played harps up there.”

    “How much is it worth to you Nicholas?”

    Fear stabbed through Nic and coiled in his belly. He reached inside his jacket and touched the cool steel of his knife. “How do you know my name?”

    “We play harps up there,” the old man said, “but down here, I get my guitar.” He turned to Nic. “You believe in guardian angels, son?”

    “I believe in staying in alive.”

    “How do you know this world’s the best? Take what I’m offering,” the music playing angel said, “and find out.” He stuck out his empty hand, fingers spread, as if he expected Nic to shake on a deal they’d made.

    Long nights, dark dreams and too much cheap coffee had Nic wired to a hair trigger. He focused on slowing his breaths and waited for his heart to stop pounding. He took the old man’s hand because even though he wasn’t playing anymore, the music was still there.

    The moment their hands touched, Nic’s heart stopped. It felt good, so good to finally let go.

    His last thought in this world was that sure, Death was the ultimate guardian angel, the one who put an end to all trouble. Forever.


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