Your Wednesday Prompt: Here's To the Lion

Hey writers,

On Monday I read through last week’s pool of stories: How you all turn around such content so fast with innovative spins continues to baffle me. Moreover, it’s awesome to see Constant Writers (the Promptly pickpocketing of Stephen King’s Constant Readers terminology) developing—a sense of your voices is percolating to the surface. I’m proud to have you writing here, and I type that without flattery. To you, and our new writers this week, thanks for sticking around after the initial challenge. I’d like to call all of you out, but you know who you are.

As for the Notable Story pick of the week, the title goes to Loveskidlit’s story from “Photogenic Stranger.” Check out her well-written, haunting flash-fiction here. To me, she took an unexpected direction and nailed the prompt, down to the meditative final line.

For today’s story, let’s try the Literary Roadshow approach again (I’ll pull a normal, out-of-context line from a book, and use it as a prompt—is one writer’s line-in-passing another’s creative jackpot?).

Yours in writing,

Zachary

From Ernest Hemingway’s short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”:

PROMPT: Here’s To the Lion
In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring, write a story inspired by or containing the following:

“Here’s to the lion,” he said. “I can’t ever thank you for what you did.”
Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson.
“Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said.
Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him.

Also, I run writing exercises in our InkWell section of the magazine, and yesterday stumbled upon Bonnie Neubauer’s new WD “Take Ten for Writers” book, which is jampacked with endless prompts and exercises. If your prompt quota is still not filled, check it out or read an excerpt here—it inspires jealousy in even the finest prompt scribes.

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11 thoughts on “Your Wednesday Prompt: Here's To the Lion

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  4. S.E.Ingraham

    Let’s Not Talk About the Lion

    It was a total fuck up from the get-go. That’s what happens when you try to get two different ethnic groups together.

    All right, not groups then. Gangs. Two different ethnic gangs. Tho took off down the street, his red bandana flapping loosely in the breeze, his knife clearly visible above his boot-top just as the members of the other gang caught sight of him. He couldn’t help grinning as he ducked into Pagaloc, waved to his uncle and shot into the kitchen, then down the stairs to the basement.

    The swarm of white kids ran by the restaurant, never even pausing. Horns honked as they tore across the intersection, running against the light, oblivious to the traffic, sure they were still onTho’s trail. Finally pulling up in front of the Bank of Hong Kong, they clustered together, eyes looking everywhere – up and down the street, back and forth across as well, arguing amongst themselves, gesticulating, talking loudly.

    “Where could he be, man?” A squat blonde, muscular kid, his arms covered in ink, looks personally affronted by Tho’s get-away. He keeps pacing around the group, continues to look everywhere, as if the Asian kid will magically appear if they just keep looking hard enough.

    “Where did they say they would meet us again?” The group falls silent when a tall, dark-haired kid, more man than boy, speaks. He hardly raises his voice but they all hear him. The leader for sure. He makes a chopping motion with his hand and says sharply. “Where?”

    “At the g-g-g-gates Jimmy – they said they would be at the gates – ” They turn as one to look at a skinny, non-descript kid in ripped jeans, kicking the sidewalk, not looking at anyone.

    “That’s right,” Jimmy has folded his arms in front him now, is smiling benevolently. “The gates.”

    Then, with economy of movement unlike anything they expect, Jimmy moves and drops the kid to the ground. No one is sure what has happened. Only that the skinny kid is lying unconscious on the sidewalk, blood pouring out of his nose.

    “The gates –” Jimmy’s tone is unreadable but they all take a step back. “What fucking gates, you morons? Which ones?”

    Oh. They get it now. No wonder they can’t find the Vietnamese gang leader. They probably went to the wrong gates. Ah shit. It’s because of those damned dragons. Or lions. Or, whatever. Nobody can ever keep them straight. But they all know this is not going to cut it with Jimmy. Somebody shoulda found out which was which before the meet.

    “Well?” Jimmy is waiting. Who is going to be brave? More like the sacrificial lamb, most of them are thinking but hey, let’s not talk about the lion.

  5. J. Alvey

    "Let’s not talk about the lion," she said.

    So, we didn’t.

    I’d said "That is one god-awful planter there," sitting on the front porch of her parents’ house.

    And it was. Some sort of half-chinese, half-african lion, and I am not sure that China even has lions, now that I think about it, maybe part dragon, part lion, I do not know nor care to guess, but simply said, "That’s one ugly f’ing lion."

    And she became defensive and said what she said and I said what I said and we sat there next to each other on the swing on the porch sipping the proverbial tea, a bit too sweet for my taste but you do what you have to do, and so I did what I thought I had to do and sipped the tea and, having noticed the lion, stared at it for want of something better to do besides, of course, fondling her, which seemed a bit of a reach at the moment, and then I noticed she was staring at it too, the dragon lion, or the lying dragon, whatever the hell it was, and was even more contemplative of it than me, and I was the one with nothing better to do, as she could have had her way with me if she so desired or even told me to leave, but no, she was staring at it as if it were a long lost friend, but a deal’s a deal, ergo I did not speak of it, but only watched her eyes watching the eyes of the lion, or perhaps examining the frail flowers trying to grow from the hole inexplicably open on its back, better that than through the mouth, I know, and though I wondered I refused to speak, refused to ask, and simply sipped my tea and stared at that same lion, the same dying flowers drooping from its back that she was staring at until she finally said, "I gave that to my dad."

    I said, "Wow! That’s awesome! Does your dad like lions?"

    She said, "No, he likes dragons."

  6. J. Alvey

    "Here’s to the lion"

    It happens. I wouldn’t venture a guess as to the odds. I am not a gambling man, or thought I wasn’t.

    I would not venture a guess. But it happens.

    All of us in all of those hotel rooms, and then all of us together, drinking German beer, the one with the Lion on the front, Lowenbrau, I think they called it then, back when it was German or pretended to be, and all of us getting fairly well lit up while I played old songs on the guitar.

    And when we were done, when people were straggling back to rooms, when I was done, and ready for bed, she was still there, lying on my floor, as if comatose.

    How many of us did not think that was an act? I do not know. I was not among them.

    She was young, athletic, and in her own way beautiful.
    I said, "Let her stay. I will put her in the bed, and I will sleep in the chair."

    They believed me because I was believable.
    I coaxed her up and into the bed and she slept.

    I laid there in the sleeplessness that is a chair until she said, "You can come up here."

    And so I did.

    And later, months later, when her husband toasted me for all I had done on behalf of their son and all of the other boys on our travel team, I offered up a meager acknowledgement.

    His wife, drunk, said, "Here is to the lion!"

    I did not smile.

    He smiled at me and repeated, "Here is to the lion."

  7. Diamond

    Margaret closed her eyes and rested her head against the cool vinyl of the booth.
    “I loved you the first time I saw you; I’ve never stopped loving you.” Wilson’s voice echoed so clearly in her mind that she thought it must have been audible to their entire company. Twenty years flashed back to her in that moment.

    She remembered catching a glimpse of herself in the full mirror in the hallway as she swept past. The glittering royal blue of the elegant satin gave her pale eyes a deep hue and contrasted handsomely with her shiny dark hair that fell in loose curls around her face. She smiled excitedly and rushed away, ready to accompany her Jack to the reception.

    They had met in Brazil, fell in love, and married within three months. Now, just as she breathlessly rounded the corner of Jack’s home in the States, she collided with him. Wilson was tall and serene, handsome and strong.

    He smiled out of the corner of his mouth and extended a bronzed hand. “Wilson,” was all he said in introduction. A million words couldn’t have made the impression that that one word did, his voice resonating in her mind so many times throughout the years.

    That was twenty years ago now, but she still got butterflies whenever he walked into the room, when she saw his strong hands and smelled his expensive cologne. She glanced over at her husband, unwillingly contrasting the two men. She loved them both deeply; she loved them because they were everything the other was not. Jack’s extroversion and ready laugh had won her love, but they didn’t intoxicate her like Wilson’s half-smirk. Nothing about Jack set her on fire; everything about Wilson made her crazy.

    They had gathered that night to celebrate life—and a close call at that. Wilson entered the lounge and joined the company. A silence swept over the group as their eyes perused the lengthy scar that ran from below his nose and down his neck, stopping just above his collar. Jack took control of the situation. “Here’s to the lion,” he said, raising his glass in a toast. The people laughed a little and the tension broke. “I can’t ever thank you for what you did,” he said on a more serious note, directing himself to his friend.

    Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson. “Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said. Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him. His eyes burned into hers with the same message he had just whispered to her on the veranda. She willed herself to tear her eyes away from his gaze and accepted Jack’s hand that was nuzzling into hers beneath the table, swallowing her feelings down with her Malibu and Diet Coke.

  8. Loveskidlit

    When they arrived home they found the boy rocking in the hallway, sandy head bowed, arms clutched across his chest, legs folded in their incongruous snowman pyjama pants as if the pants themselves were on a shelf.
    “I can’t get him to respond,” shrugged Melody. “I tried being nice, and it didn’t work.”
    “So what did you try next?” the boy’s mother asked, her steely tone barely masked.
    “I put him in time out, but he kept getting out.”
    “Wilson? Wilson honey?” her husband was on the floor beside the boy, coaxing his arms loose. She hated when he called Wilson honey.
    Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson.
    “And then what did you try?”
    The sitter was already packing her backpack again. She checked the screen of the ubiquitous cell phone before dropping it into an outside pocket (who did she call? What could she possibly have to talk about? Wilson?) and grabbed the fistful of keys from the sideboard.
    “Well, I threatened to put some other stuff in time out, and that’s when I knew I had him because he started freaking out.”
    Margaret’s eyes shifted to Wilson and Mark. If she didn’t get her out of here, Mark was going to “freak out” on her, and there goes another sitter.
    “And what got him to this stage?”
    The sitter may have picked up the tone, finally, because she looked uncertain for the first time.
    “His Lee Lee. I put it on his closet.”
    Margaret nodded and paid the sitter who dashed out, released.
    She went into Wilson’s bedroom, and reached his stuffed Lee Lee down from the closet. Instead of taking it to her son, though, she paused in his room. It looked exactly like a boy’s bedroom, in the nicer catalogues. Everything said “boy,” from the colors of the plaid to the wooden airplane Mark had hung from the center of the ceiling, whose only function was to keep blades of dust from falling to where the vacuum cleaner could reach them.
    Margaret sighed, and went to hand the stuffed lion to Wilson. The boy reached for it automatically, and then relaxed all his muscles, folding into Mark. Mark looked up at Margaret with relief.
    “Here’s to the lion,” he said.
    Wilson whispered to Lee Lee, as he did for hours a day. Margaret caught something that sounded like: “I can’t ever thank you for what you did.”
    “Marg,” began Mark.
    “Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said. Her dinner sat, uneaten, on the restaurant table. She might have known it would be a waste, like all the others.
    Wilson looked over at her without smiling.
    But surely, he hadn’t done it on purpose. He wasn’t calculating enough to summon his parents home like that. And you can’t expect too much of a teenaged babysitter, either. Putting Lee Lee away wasn’t even a bad plan, all things considered.
    Margaret felt herself soften, holding Wilson’s gaze, and now she smiled at him.
    (500 words)

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