Exercise 6: “Write a scene that uses the words smitten, Carter, and waffle.”

His wife poured orange juice into small glasses as she talked, slopping a little onto the tablecloth when she raised the jug to gesticulate. The frozen waffles he’d stuck in the toaster popped up.

“I’ll get them! Sit,” said his wife. She swung the jug to the counter but did not put it down, grabbed the waffles with one hand and tossed them to his plate. “Ouch. Hot.”

Before he could get up, his wife pivoted to the counter again, swiped the butter, pushed the glass container to him across the table. “So!” she said.

This “so!” this tiny word, made his heart sink. It was the way she said it. As though she wanted something from him he was not going to like.

“Will Ferrell has a new movie out! I want to see it.”

Ah. He spread a little too much butter across his waffles, watched the divots in them fill, felt briefly rebellious about it. Will Ferrell. Always with Mr. Ferrell. His wife was smitten with this man, an actor whose squinty eyes he found beady, whose pasty body made him want to punch the man’s gut. He flipped open the cap on the Aunt Jemima.

“Yes,” his wife was saying, cutting enthusiastically into her egg. “It’s called Everything Must Go, and it’s based on a short story by that guy you like so much, the guy who always writes about drinking whiskey. Every story! You know the one…Carter.”

“Carver,” he said, his mouth full.

“Hmm? Yes, that’s what I said. Carter. Anyway, you could take me. You can read the story and take me. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

In the den after breakfast, he pulled a volume of Ray’s stories from the shelf. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He knew the story she meant, he saw the preview for the film at Teddy’s. They were watching the ballgame, drinking a couple of beers. Teddy flicked through the channels when a commercial came on. He stopped to watch the ad for the movie. Teddy said, “That Will Ferrell, he’s the one Gloria likes, isn’t he?”

He sank into the leather sofa and set the book on his lap while he lit a cigarette. He opened the book to the first story. “Why Don’t You Dance?” It was a strange title. He would have called it something else.

It was short all right, that story. How they could make a whole film out of it was beyond him. But they had, and Gloria wanted him to take her, so he could watch her eyes light up when Mr Ferrell came on screen, those lights that faded again on the drive home. He was sad about it. He imagined Gloria leaving him, all the stuff in the house ending up in the front yard, like in the story. Everything except the Will Ferrell DVDs. He imagined getting drunk on the lawn. He’d drink a whole bottle of whiskey, maybe.

The one thing he would not do was dance.



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