Writing Prompt: Something you should never see on a computer at the library


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
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make sure it gets up.

At the library, you see someone using a public computer—and the contents of her screen leave you speechless. Pretending to look at books, you peer over her shoulder and read.

Also, after putting all the author names from the last couple of months into the official Promptly top hat (or, more accurately, the Promptly bowl from my kitchen) and pulling one at random, Julie Jordan* will be laying claim to the latest collection of interoffice swag. (This time around, a hearty stack of books and a couple of magazines; to make up for lost time, we’ll be doing another drawing soon, too.)

And like I’ve written before, to everyone who wrote a story, stories, or shared their thoughts in any
form on the blog in the last couple of months: An honest thank you for being a part of

*Julie: Can you give me a shout at writersdigest [at] fwmedia [dot] com and provide your address so I can get
the swag shipped out?

(Image: Via)


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romance to YA to blended forms. An interview with Bird by Bird scribe
Anne Lamott. How to write from anywhere. Click

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6 thoughts on “Writing Prompt: Something you should never see on a computer at the library

  1. Tom T

    I really never felt comfortable in a library. It is so intimidating. I mean all those words pounded out, day after day, year after year, century after century, and I can’t get one thing published! I’m here now so I might as well make the most of it. Jim said he’d be here by 8:00, and he’s usually on time. Perhaps I’ll read a paper or peruse the stacks or I’ll check my email.
    The computer consoles were in the right front part of the main lobby of the ornate, converted post office given to the city by the U.S. Postal service at the insistence of the local Congressmen. What a guy?
    The first one is occupied by a older women in tight jeans, well they look tight from the rear and the second by two young kids who seem to playing some sort of game. That shouldn’t be allowed the library. The third looks free.
    Good the kids just finished and are leaving I’ll grab that one. As I pass I see the girl’s screen blank-well not blank in the sense that it’s not on but blank as if a page is waiting to be written on, begging to be written on. The seat next to hers is so close I can view her screen as I’m logging onto my email. I can’t help it but since I have to wait until the booting takes place I glance again at the details of nothing and for the first time see her eyes, from the right side, fixed on…well nothing. What the hell, is she in a trance? Has she dosed off without realizing it and her eyes forgot to close? My email log on is complete, nothing of interest except a note from one of my students about her grade but I can deal with that later. Besides, what’s happening, or not happening, next to me is more interesting.
    Her expression never changes,her eyes dead, like Paul Sorvino, playing Pauly in the Good Fellows. Speaking of staring, I’m now turned in my seat looking directly at her and she doesn’t or can’t acknowledge what a jerk I am for being so rude. But train wrecks are hard not to watch and I have this feeling I could be witnessing something really different. What was that! On her screen, in the middle, that white dot. It’s speaking to me, us? What I can’t understand, what are you saying? Concentrate, look closer. OH, yes I can do that, sure. Together, sure I suppose we can, sure. When? Who is it again? Well, if it’s that important count me in.

  2. Zac

    I dig the pieces!

    And ha! I didn’t even notice the connection, Martha. Good call.

    I know I’ve been slow on the comment draw in the past couple of weeks, but like Mark said last week: Welcome back, Martha. And Mandy, I’ve loved reading more of your writing.

  3. Mandy

    Thank God for Saturday Story Time.

    Before I had kids, a free 30 minutes on a weekend afternoon could be blinked away in a moment. Gone before it ever arrived, and certainly not treasured. These days just the prospect of Saturday Story Time can get me through a good three or four days. It’s only 30 minute, but I have them all to myself.

    Usually I wander to the coffee shop next door with a magazine for some cafe au lait in a big, comfy chair, but not today. Today I have work to do. Getting time at home with the computer without a little person looking over my shoulder or wanting to sit in my lap has been impossible. If I want to find a cool party site in our new town and manage to keep it a surprise with the kids, this is probably my best bet.

    Making my way to the computers, I allow myself a moment of pity here in this new place with a bunch of kids and nothing but the internet to help me with party ideas. Of course, it could be worse. I could still be in Tuscon. Instead I am here with a birthday party to plan. Things are definitely looking up.

    I click my way easily through the login process and towards the internet. Immediately images of brightly colored cakes, balloons and putt-putt golf courses fill the screen. It looks like central New Mexico has plenty to offer in the way of kiddie entertainment. Jotting phone numbers quickly on a receipt I dug from the depths of my purse, I notice that it’s already 2:30. Time to gather the little people.

    Making my way through the computer maze, I spot a familiar face. Actually, from this perspective it is a familiar bun, but that bun can only belong to one person. Bright red hair bound tightly and secured with a black ribbon, makes this fellow library goer Sarah, the Preacher’s wife. I’ve only spoken to Sarah a few times, but running into her here makes me feel a little less alone in this new place. As I step forward to greet her, the screen of her computer comes into focus. I freeze. Am I hallucinating? I can’t believe what I’m seeing and now there is no way out. The ribbon whistles through the stale air and our eyes lock.

  4. Mark James

    Congratulations, Julie!

    Martha, funny how we both had a romantic theme. Hmmm . . . I’m thinking I need to hang out more in the library . . . for research. . . what else?

    I knew I shouldn’t have been reading over her shoulder, but it was a good suicide note. The kind the cops like; wouldn’t leave any doubt she’d offed herself.

    "You want some help with that?" I said.

    She whipped around, tried to hide the screen with her body. "It’s none of your business what I’m doing."

    Her eyes were blue like the sky on a day at the beach when the water’s perfect, the sun’s perfect, and everything feels right in the world. "I was just asking, because hanging yourself is a lot harder than people think. You could be there a while if you don’t get it right."

    "It doesn’t say what I plan to do." Her face went pale. "I mean, what could happen."

    "Most people, they don’t mention a weapon, means there’s something at home to do it with." I looked past her to the screen. "Got rope? If you try using a sheet, it could rip and you’d break a leg, then you’d have to explain the marks around your neck."

    "I’m writing a novel."

    I leaned on her cubicle, got a better look at the screen. "A one page book?"

    "Only cops and shrinks ask that many questions," she said. "I don’t have to answer anything."

    A bar of sunlight coming through the window behind me caught her red hair, made her eyes look that much more heartbreaking. "You’re right. Don’t answer. Just listen. The best way to do it is to gas up your car, find a garage, the smaller the better, drive in, shut the door, and listen to your favorite music. You go to sleep. You don’t wake up. No mess. No sheets. No misses."

    She swung back to the computer, reached for the power button on the hard drive.

    I grabbed her hand. She was shaking. "Don’t," I said. "You used your library card number to log in. If it looks like you changed your mind, they’ll think it was murder. Your mom might end up getting asked a whole lot of questions she won’t feel like answering."

    “There’s nowhere else to go,” she said.

    I let her pull away, leaned over, deleted the note, saved the blank file and logged out. “There’s always some place else besides the inside of a coffin.”

    "You kill yourself a lot?" she said. "It’s like you’re some kind of expert."

    "I watch a lot of movies." The library’s overhead speakers came to life and told us we had fifteen minutes to check out our books. "How do you like your coffee? Cream? Sugar? Black?"

    She looked at the dark screen. "I can’t."

    "Why? You in a hurry? Don’t worry. I know a good garage, small, out of the way."

    "That’s where you go to get coffee?"

    Her laugh helped me forget the last time I’d used the garage I was thinking about. "Or we could make it dinner."

    "That’s the craziest pickup line I ever heard," she said.


    She looked down at her hands in her lap. "This whole thing. It’s like now that I heard someone else say it, I can’t think – -"

    I heard the tears in her voice. "You only get one moment at a time in life. How about we do the next few moments together, then take it from there?"

  5. Martha W

    Congrats, Julie!

    Zac, how fitting to give away a load of books on a library prompt! lol.


    Nine days. That’s how long she’d been alone. Well, not technically alone, because really, how alone could a girl get in the middle of a college campus? Ally tugged at her sweatshirt, pulling the hem down over her butt as she stood. These jeans were fitting a little snug lately, she thought.

    Probably all the chocolate.

    She scooped her books off the table, shoving them into her backpack. “I’m going.”

    “What?” Adrian looked up from his computer. “We just got here.”

    “I know, but I’m beat.” It was the truth. Having your boyfriend of four months walk out on you was draining. “I’ll see you later.”

    He stood quickly, grabbed her arm. “No. You promised.”

    “Please, don’t.”

    “Ally, you need to stay out of your dorm room. You need the fresh air.” He waved his free hand in her face. “Look how pale you’ve gotten.”

    She stared at him, not sure whether to be insulted or flattered.

    He huffed out a breath, slid his hand down to tangle with hers. “C’mon, stay.”

    “I’m not ready for this. For you.” She pried her fingers loose and tossed her bag over her shoulder. “I’ve got to go.”

    His next words stopped her in her tracks, made her heart race. “Bill is my best friend, but he’s a first-class jerk.”

    She started walking again without even looking back.

    He raised his voice. “You’d give him a second chance, wouldn’t you?”

    Ally blinked back the tears, turned on him in a fury. “What do you want from me?”

    A low giggle from Ally’s left drew her attention. A girl, probably nineteen or twenty, sat reading her email. A pretty blush tinted her pale cream complexion. Almost immediately, the picture filling the tube caught Ally’s attention, leaving her stunned.

    Staring out at her from the dingy little computer screen, Bill sat with his arms wrapped around the girl on the pier in Chicago, his last business trip.

    The email simply said, “Always yours.”

    Ally read those words a dozen times before she felt a warm hand press into her back, moving her through the room and out the door.

    Had she been that naive? That blind?

    “Let’s get a coffee.”

    Adrian’s quiet rumble caught her off-guard. “I’m sorry, I really need to go home.” She didn’t know if she could make it much longer without breaking down.

    Not from a love gone wrong, but from a mortifying embarrassment of having looked like a fool.

    Adrian kept hold of her arm, steering her quickly along the sidewalk. They passed two coffee houses before she asked where he was going.

    “My place.”

    She drew up short. “You never answered my question.”


    “What do you want from me?”

    He kept his gaze trained on her, trapping her to the spot where she stood. “I want nothing from you.”

    She wilted in the wake of his statement.

    Adrian tilted her chin up, forced her to meet the intensity in his eyes. “Except you.”

    Holy crap, she thought.


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