Part of the purpose of The Writer’s Block is to get you writing spontaneously without going into a lot of pre-planning or outlining, so for this first exercise I just picked the first prompt that grabbed my attention and ran with the first thing that came to mind. None of these exercise posts will be complete stories. That’s not what they’re for. This is also a good exercise for me in letting go of judgment or fear of it, posting things I know aren’t polished and letting them stand as-is. I hope they’re moderately entertaining and at the very least they give you a behind the scenes glimpse of a writing process and how dramatically something can change from beginning concept to end product.
Prompt: “Tell a story that begins with the discovery of a ransom note.”
“Gimme those.” Jimmy snatched the binoculars from Adam’s hands and trained them on the mailbox down the street. He didn’t see the point in watching after the letter was delivered. They had the kid. They dropped the note. Sticking around just meant a bigger chance of getting caught, didn’t it?
“You don’t gotta be that way,” Adam grumbled. “Already let you drive.”
“You didn’t let me do anything,” Jimmy said. “Now shut up. I’m watching.”
Further up the street an old sedan drove toward them at a slow roll. At every couple of mailboxes, it came to a stop. A skinny kid jumped out of the passenger seat, ran up to each box on either side of the street, snatched the mail, and ran back to the car. “What’s he doin’?” Adam grabbed at the binoculars and almost made Jimmy miss the fact the kid grabbed the mail from the ransom box.
Jimmy cursed and elbowed him in the side of the head. “I don’t know, but that asshole is going to cost us a lot of money if we don’t get it back.” He cranked the car and prepared to U-turn to follow when they were far enough away he wouldn’t draw attention.
“Why don’t we just write another one?”
How a dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks snot nose like Adam ever got in with Harvey was one of the mysteries of life Jimmy hated being confronted with as often as he was. “You got anything in here without our fingerprints, or fibers, or whatever else they’re gonna use to figure out where it came from? That note was clean, numb nuts.” He turned the coup around and followed along almost at a crawl. He had to with the car still making its stops and starts up ahead.
“It ain’t clean now,” Adam pointed out. “It’s got that kid’s prints all over it.”
Jimmy sighed. “How do you breathe and talk at the same time? It doesn’t matter if it’s got the kid’s prints. Hell, that works out for us, because it points the cops in the wrong direction.”
“But we told them not to call the cops,” Adam said.
“And you think… You know what? Never mind. Don’t talk to me. Not another word or so help me God I’ll toss you outta this car and leave you behind.” The sedan suddenly picked up speed. Jimmy had no choice but to do the same if he didn’t want to lose them. The trouble with being in the suburbs in the middle of the day was it was impossible to look like he wasn’t following, especially when they made several obvious moves to try to shake him off their tail. He eyed the gas tank needle. They should have filled up before making the drop.
When the sedan turned onto a main thoroughfare leading toward an Interstate exit, Jimmy knew he had to do something. He revved the engine and roared directly for the rear end of the beater. “Are you crazy?” Adam shrieked.
“Shut up. We got airbags.” The crash was way more jarring than he expected. Airbags sounded cozy and fluffy in theory. The reality of something inflating at 200 mph and coming right at his face was something else. His arms felt like they were on fire, too. In a daze he held them up and stared at angry red skin and rising blisters.
Adam moaned and held his hands up to his face. Blood leaked and dripped between his fingers. A sharp knocking on the driver’s side window snapped Jimmy’s attention back to why he did this in the first place. The woman giving him the stink eye through the glass looked like she could give Harvey a lesson or two in intimidation. Jimmy rolled down the window about an inch and a half. “Yeah?” he asked, wary.
“Why were you following me and my son? Are you a lunatic?” She folded her arms tightly.
“Why were you stealing mail?” he shot back. “Are you a criminal?” The irony wasn’t lost on him.
“So you’re not a cop?”
“No, I’m not a cop, and you didn’t answer my question.” Jimmy felt his patience wearing thin with every throb of his new burns. Adam’s moaning wasn’t helping his mood.
The woman smirked and dug in her purse. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m a criminal.”
The warning synapses didn’t fire fast enough. Before Jimmy could think to react, the woman had a canister of pepper spray right up against the gap in the window. Within seconds Jimmy felt nostalgic for the burns on his arms. As bad as things were now, this was nothing compared to what Harvey would do when he found out they lost the ransom letter to a two bit mail frauder.