It’s A Wrap: Beginning with Endings

By Maryann Henck

Pho­to Cred­it: Eri­ka G.

At the end of the semes­ter, I always like to include a wrap-up exer­cise for one final cre­ative writ­ing task: “It’s a Wrap” – which also seems to be a fit­ting way to say good­bye to the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Blog this Sep­tem­ber. Here’s how the task works:

  1. Select end­ings from nov­els or short sto­ries with­out reveal­ing the orig­i­nal source. These are some of my favorite choic­es:I real­ly, tru­ly wish he hadn’t said that. I keep think­ing about it. I can’t stop. I don’t have any­thing else to add. I just want­ed to make sure I had the last word. I think I’ve earned that. (Gone Girl by Gillian Fly­nn)

    “It’s because I’m con­cen­trat­ing on my the­sis, I don’t wor­ry about oth­er stuff. Nobody asked if Freud checked the use-by date on the milk.” “They didn’t have use-by dates in the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.” It was incred­i­ble that two such dis­sim­i­lar peo­ple had become a suc­cess­ful cou­ple. (The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion)

    Through the win­dows a strange sub­ter­ranean light was ris­ing, bare­ly dis­tin­guish­able from dark­ness. I felt change far beneath me, mov­ing deep beneath the sur­face of things, like the plates of the earth blind­ly mov­ing in their black traces. I found my bag, and my car keys, and I let myself silent­ly out of the house. (Tran­sit by Rachel Cusk)

    …Also I’ve begun to feel he’s the only per­son who knows any­thing about me. Maybe because I’ve nev­er hit any­one else with a bot­tle, so they nev­er got to see that part of me. Nei­ther did I come to think of it. It did make a mess; but then, I don’t think I’ll ever be a very tidy per­son. (Lady Ora­cle by Mar­garet Atwood)

  2. Ask par­tic­i­pants to write a piece of short fic­tion (350–700 words) using the select­ed end­ing as a prompt for begin­ning their stories.
  3. Keep your promise and reveal the orig­i­nal lit­er­ary sources to your par­tic­i­pants once they’ve com­plet­ed the task.

In the fol­low­ing sto­ry, “Who’s Get­ting Crowned,” the end­ing from Alan Bennett’s The Uncom­mon Read­er inspired me to cre­ate a meet­ing between the Queen and her most loy­al sub­jects. Enjoy!

 

Who’s Get­ting Crowned?

By Maryann Henck

“Oh, did I not say that?” said the Queen. “But … why do you think you’re all here?”

Can­dy, Whiskey, and Foxy tilt­ed their heads as the Queen spoke. She had nev­er tak­en them to a play­ground as impres­sive as this one. It was a plush, paw-friend­ly area full of gleam­ing obsta­cle cours­es under a canopy of stars – the per­fect place for a noc­tur­nal gam­bol with their strict, yet agree­able mistress.

“Are you pay­ing atten­tion to me, my lit­tle dar­lings?” The trio pricked up their ears and moved clos­er to the Queen.

“Now it’s time for some fun and games. Let’s play leap chair. Whichev­er one of you can leap the high­est over this big red chair will receive a prize.”

She opened up a bag of treats, and the tempt­ing smell of dried beef began waft­ing through the air. The Queen lined up her cor­gis and motioned to Can­dy to take a leap. Can­dy, named so due to her sweet tooth, hob­bled over toward the red chair and attempt­ed to jump but only man­aged to crash into the arm­rest. Years of pil­fer­ing short­bread from the roy­al tea table had added pounds to her frame – pounds that she could no longer walk off. In spite of her fail­ure to accom­plish the task, the Queen reward­ed her with a yum­my treat and a pat on the head.

When it was Whiskey’s turn, the Queen had to rouse him from his mid­day nap. He was the lazy one of the bunch who enjoyed loung­ing in front of the fire­place as the flick­er­ing flames lulled him to sleep. He made a half-heart­ed attempt to com­plete the leap chair task and was proud to have hit the vel­vet seat cush­ion. It was so com­fort­able that he decid­ed to set­tle in and con­tin­ue his nap until the Queen gen­tly prod­ded him off the chair. Whiskey found him­self back on the ground, giv­ing the Queen the paw in no time. He received not one but two treats. Can­dy shot Whiskey a look of pure food envy, which Whiskey sim­ply ignored.

Final­ly, it was Foxy’s turn – he was so excit­ed that he began run­ning cir­cles around the chair, leap­ing deft­ly over it before the Queen could bat an eye. Although she rarely smiled, she could not sup­press doing so this time.

“Well, I dare­say that I believe we have a win­ner, my fleet-foot­ed lit­tle cor­gi,” the Queen pro­claimed as Foxy bounced over in her direc­tion and gob­bled up the three treats he received as tasty reward.

The Queen picked up Foxy, set him on the throne, and placed her crown upon his head. It wasn’t the best fit, but it would have to do for now.

“So, now you must know why you’re all here,” said the Queen, paus­ing to take a deep breath. “The truth will out: Not only am I tired of being the Queen after all these years, but also no roy­al human is fit to sit upon my throne – at least for today. Foxy, you’ve won the com­pe­ti­tion and will receive Mr. John­son with me lat­er this after­noon. I have to be diplo­mat­ic to that buf­foon of a Prime Min­ster and need the per­fect accom­plice. You see, Mr. John­son is a dog person.”

Foxy shook his fur­ry head, and the crown tilt­ed a bit to the left. The Queen read­just­ed it. Then Can­dy and Whiskey nod­ded in approval, gaz­ing up at the Queen longingly.

“So be it. Then it’s all of us against him. Ever since that Afghanistan inci­dent where he decid­ed to evac­u­ate pets before peo­ple, Mr. John­son has made his alle­giances clear. Well, at least we have that in com­mon – that we pre­fer pets to peo­ple. We’ll have him wrapped around our fin­gers – or should I say paws – in the blink of an eye.”

Before the Queen could snap her fin­gers, Can­dy, Whiskey, and Foxy were at her feet and ready for duty as they pro­ceed­ed to fol­low her out of the Throne Room.

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