Wednesday Write-In #34

This week’s prompts were as follows:

Sinister :: minty-fresh :: Seoul :: Add to Cart :: Gold

And here’s what I made of them.

Power Play

‘Good morning!’ Kyung-Soon said as she strode past his cubicle, already halfway out of her coat. ‘My goodness, you’re in early today. You must be vying for my job, Gary!’ As always, as soon as she was finished speaking she let out a loud giggle. He never knew, exactly, what she was so amused by. This morning, her laughter was like water bubbling over out of a saucepan on a too-hot stove – uncontrollable, slightly frightening, and noisy. He quickly minimised his internet browser, switching instead to his Amazon homepage. Last search: ‘Gold: The Best of Spandau Ballet’. For something to do, he clicked ‘Add to Cart’. He tried to look busy.

‘Yeah!’ he chuckled back. ‘Just – you know. A good start is half the battle, and all that.’ She muttered something inaudible, but which sounded friendly, over her shoulder as she thumped her way across the thick carpet which led to her office. For such a small woman, she sure made a lot of noise. When she wanted to.

He licked his top lip, and found it tasted like salt. Was he sweating? Could she tell? I don’t even have a Kleenex in my drawer to wipe my stupid face with, he thought. He hopped up from his chair, intending to go to the toilet and see what colour his face had turned, and if there was anything visible in his eyes. As soon as he got to his feet, though, there she was, striding out of her office again, all raw silk blouse and pencil skirt, minty-fresh breath and stiletto heel. A daughter of Seoul, golden-skinned, hair so dark it sucked at your eyes. He felt his throat close over as he watched her approach.

‘Gary, would you mind running these documents down to the filing room, please? I know it’s not your job, strictly, and I am sorry, but…’

‘Sure, Kyung-Soon,’ he said, cutting her off. She blinked, drawing her head back like he’d spat in her face. After a second, she grinned, but only a little. ‘Sure, it’s no problem to do that for you. I’d be happy to,’ he continued, trying to speak slowly and softly. Remembering to smile.

‘Thanks, Gary,’ she replied, carefully, handing him a bundle of paperwork. ‘That’d be wonderful.’ She nodded, frowning slightly, and started to turn back to her office. He watched her go, and his decision was made in a split second. Run for it now, do the stupid job she wants, hurry back to the desk, she’ll never know. If he hesitated at his computer now, she’d twig something was up, and the next thing he knew he’d have IT Services on his back. He clutched the stack of papers like a policeman’s baton, and made a sprint for the elevator doors.

As the gentle ping sounded to tell him the doors were about to open, something caught his eye; instinctively, he turned, looking back at his cubicle. Even though on some level he knew the game was up, he almost vomited when he saw her, perched in front of his computer screen, sitting side-saddle on his swivel chair. Her long legs curved out in front of his desk drawers. Even from twenty feet away, he heard the sharp intake of her breath.

She’d found the site. He couldn’t read it from here, but he knew, from memory, what she’d be looking at right now. The homepage, with its rolling banner headline, and the eyecatching images – once seen, never forgotten. The Sinister Scourge of Immigration! Foreigners Out! And there was worse, too. All she had to do was click through a few pages to find out what they wanted to do with foreign women. Asian women, like her.

She turned to face him, already half on her feet. Behind him, the doors popped open, sliding apart with a silky hiss. Her mouth was open, and the scream starting, as she rounded his desk, bumping her hip against it as she went. She almost turned her heel, but she kept going.

Gary threw the papers into the elevator and was already running as Kyung-Soon started to sprint for her office, where her desk was, with her direct-dial telephone to the security booth. The thick carpet snagged at her spindly heels, almost like millions of tiny pale hands trying their hardest to drag her down. She didn’t stop.

8 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-In #34

  1. Sam E.A.B. Russell (@thequietscribe)

    Woo! What a corker this one is, SJ. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

    The tension is just right for the content and the characterization of Kyung-Soon is precise and effective.

    I’m interested by how Gary’s personality come through her as well, in her reactions as well as his. I both dislike and feel sorry for the guy. He’s both a danger and a bit of a twerp at the same time which is great because it’s more realistic that he’d be reading the inflammatory tripe and chicken-shit it out of there than act on it.

    However, I’m not sure Kyung-Soon would be ready to belt out a screech – she pegs it, which is what I’d do, but – despite her making noise when she really wants to – I’m still unsure she’d scream, or go to scream.

    Also, why would she be at his desk? We can’t know that from her POV, but a physical indicator as to why she’s there and how she’s come across the page (is it half hidden behind Amazon? Did a key word catch her eye?) will give her a reason to be there. Maybe she’s delivering some files Gary has to work on for the day?

    There are a few modifiers like ‘silky’, for example, that feel like they belong but then feel like they’re leeching the sentence. It’s hard to decide which adverbs and modifiers work, and is down to the writer to choose, but I always cut them out and see if the sentence works better without them.

    I was half gasping, half laughing, mortified and horrified by the last couple of paragraph which is always an excellent response to writing. It means that I’ve forgotten I’m in bed, in pain and feeling rather rubbish at the moment – and that is the purpose of fiction in my mind, to make me forget my woes.


    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you, Sam! I really love your feedback comments – they’re so useful and incisive.

      I was hoping I’d hinted at Kyung-Soon’s suspicions earlier in the story with her reactions to Gary; her frown, her drawing back from him, her nervous laughter when she sees him in work early, and (most importantly) the fact he doesn’t hear her approach his cubicle, when he’s looking at the offending website, but she makes her usual racket as she goes to her office door. These hints are intended to make it clear that she already has suspicions that he’s up to something, but perhaps she’s not sure what. It’s entirely possible I didn’t put in enough hinting! And, of course, you’re right in what you’ve observed – it might have worked better to give some sort of physical clue as to her position, and her movement around into his cubicle.

      Thanks a lot for your observations re. the adjectives/adverbs. I tend to be a bit liberal with my sprinkling of modifiers; something to be aware of in future! I’ll use your trick of taking them out, and seeing if the sentence works without them, from now on. If you don’t mind, that is. 🙂

      I’m really sorry to hear you’re unwell at the moment, but very glad to know you enjoyed my story enough to forget your pains for a few minutes. What better reward could any writer receive? I really hope you feel better soon.

      Thanks, again, for your wonderful comment.

  2. Elaine Peters

    This is so good. Both characters come across really well and your descriptions and use of the prompts are, as always, excellent. I think the ‘frowning slightly’ indicates she has picked up a vibe from Gary and intends to check his computer but doesn’t wait until he was out of the way. She is a foreign woman holding down a position of authority and perhaps a bit paranoid about hanging on. I feel the screech is justified as she’s dropping her executive persona and ‘seeing red’. I loved it!

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thank you! You picked up on so much that I was hoping I’d hinted at strongly enough. I’m delighted to know you enjoyed it. 🙂

  3. aanderand

    Amazing piece you put together from the prompts! Or, rather an amazing story brought out by the prompts. The hint of a ‘history’ between the characters from the beginning as Gary was caught while up to something. The rest unfolded in a most interesting way makes you wonder about the bigger story. Your talent as a writer is amazing, but I know it has come as the result of a lot of hard work.

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Aw! Thanks so much. *blushing* I really appreciate your kind words, Rand. I was hoping that I’d hinted strongly enough at her suspicions to make the thing work realistically, so I’m glad you picked up on their ‘history’.

      Seriously, thank you so much for your comment. It means so much. 🙂

  4. anna3101

    I always like your stories. You should write a collection of those, with one subject. Like “Love and hatred” or “Magic and danger”. Or “Noodle Soup for Aspring Writer’s Soul” 🙂 I like to read collection of stories, both by the same author and by different authors, and I mostly pick them by subject – summer stories for the summer, Christmas stories for the winter, love stories or crime stories or cat stories – there are so many nice ones, some are real jewels. I totally see you in one of such books!

    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Thanks, Ania! I really appreciate that. 😀 I never would have imagined myself as a writer of short stories, but it’s funny where life can take you, sometimes. 🙂


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