In this week's story, Writer's Block, we revisit friends who once had a goose appear in their house
Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways. This week's prompt came from thinking of phrases that include the word 'writer' and it led back to characters from Episode 4, A Goose in the House.
More about Susan Quilty
Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society. Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.
Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 19 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:
Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction.
[Light piano music]
Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is Writer’s Block
Thanks for stopping in for a story break. If you’re new to Freely Written, here’s how my process works. I choose a word or phrase as a prompt, write whatever story comes to mind—with no planning and very little editing—and then share that story with you.
Today’s prompt led me back to characters I created in Episode 4, A Goose in the House. It’s fine if you haven’t listened to that episode yet. You won’t need it to make sense of today’s story, but if you do enjoy this story, you might want to jump back to Episode 4, too.
Now, on to the story:
Sheryl and Ted quietly sipped tea. They were sitting in their living room, side-by-side on their comfortable couch. Sunlight streamed in from a window on their right and, on the left, the room opened into their airy kitchen.
The tea was mild and just the right temperature for comfortable sipping. They wore comfortable clothes, weekend leisurewear, and appeared to be in no rush to go anywhere or do anything.
“Have you noticed how dull our lives have gotten lately?” Ted asked, peering into his ceramic mug of tea.
“Dull?” Sheryl asked, raising an eyebrow before lifting her cup for another delicate sip. “I wouldn’t say our lives are dull.”
“Hmm,” Ted responded gently. He also took another sip of tea, though he first glanced across the room with a look of concern.
“I’m enjoying this tea,” Sheryl told him, as if that settled the matter.
“Well, yes,” Ted allowed. “I’m enjoying this tea also, but I wouldn’t call it exciting.”
“I didn’t say the tea was exciting,” she reminded him. “I said I was enjoying it.”
“I know,” Ted sighed. “But enjoying something doesn’t mean it isn’t dull.”
Sheryl considered that, taking time to inhale the aroma of her tea and feel the warmth of the mug against her cupped hands.
“I don’t know about that,” she countered slowly. “If you’re enjoying something, can it really be all that dull? Isn’t dull not enjoyable, practically by definition?”
“I think you’re missing the point,” Ted said, again looking across the room with concern.
“I don’t think I am,” Sheryl argued. Her tone clearly showed that she was losing patience with this conversation. “I’m simply saying that enjoying tea is not dull.”
“Forget the tea,” Ted snapped in exasperation. He sat his cup on a nearby end table and turned back to Sheryl with fire in his eyes.
“When was the last time we went anywhere?” He asked pointedly. “When was the last time we traveled or went to the movies or even took a walk?”
“Well, we… uh…” Sheryl trailed off, puzzling over the answer.
“Or forget going anywhere,” Ted went on. “When was the last time anything interesting happened right here? In our own house? Anything interesting or unusual?”
“Oh, I get it,” Sheryl huffed, setting her mug down on the table beside her end of the couch. “You don’t find me interesting anymore!”
“No, no!” Ted waved her hurt words away. “You are interesting. You are perfectly wonderful. But when was the last time we did anything interesting?”
“You think I’m perfectly wonderful?” Sheryl blushed and smiled, ignoring the rest of Ted’s comment.
“Yes, of course,” he told her, trying to keep his patience.
They were quiet then. Sheryl reached for her mug of tea, then set it back on the end table.
“We have been drinking a lot of tea lately,” she admitted, beginning to catch a bit of Ted’s concern.
“Right?” Ted encouraged. “That’s all I’m saying.”
He again looked across the room. This time, Sheryl’s gaze followed, and she sighed heavily.
“This has happened before,” she reminded softly. “And it’s never lasted terribly long.”
“I know, but…” Ted frowned, lightly shaking his head. “I’m getting very tired of tea.”
Sheryl watched as Ted hung his head. She felt sorry for him but was afraid that saying the wrong thing would only make the situation worse.
“We kind of knew this was coming,” she suggested cautiously. “When that showed up.”
She gestured at the object across the room. It was a large block of stone roughly five feet long on each side. It took up most of the free space in the living room, crowding between two wing chairs and covering all but the top two inches of their wall-mounted TV.
The block was not barring their exit from the room. They could skirt around its rough edges to reach the kitchen and the rest of the house, including the front door. The block was not keeping them where they were… except that it kind of was keeping them there.
Despite its nondescript features, the huge gray block was mesmerizing. Whatever else they tried to do, Sheryl and Ted soon found themselves back on the couch, sipping tea and looking at the stone block. Looking at it, but not talking about it. Until today.
“It’s pretty obvious,” Ted noted sadly.
“Oh, extremely obvious,” Sheryl agreed. “But that’s the point, isn’t it? Or part of the point?”
“What is?” Ted studied Sheryl curiously before catching her meaning. “Oh, you mean, the point of a writer putting a large block in the center of our living room to indicate writer’s block is such an obvious point because the writer’s own writer’s block is limiting her creativity?”
“Ted!” Sheryl hissed warningly, glancing toward the ceiling as if afraid they’d be overheard.
“Oh, please,” Ted scoffed. “Do you think the writer doesn’t know she has writer’s block?”
“Well, she does now,” Sheryl muttered, beginning to chew her lower lip.
“I don’t see why we’re supposed to tiptoe around the writer when her issues are affecting our lives.”
“Ted, please,” Sheryl begged. Ted was now standing, getting bolder by the minute, even as Sheryl looked around the room with growing fear.
“You know I’m right,” Ted insisted. “I get that there’s a writer creating the whole world and spinning out the stories of our lives… I mean, it would be pretty crazy to think otherwise… Like, what? Like those people who think we just do whatever we want without any kind of guiding direction?
“Anyway, wait… What was I saying?”
“That you know there’s a writer creating our world and spinning out the stories of our lives…” Sheryl repeated, drawing his monologue back on track.
“Right, thanks. I know that, but maybe the events she creates in our lives are partly up to us to interpret.”
Sheryl stopped biting her lip and blinked at Ted’s suggestion. She stood up and studied the stone, trying to see it in a new light.
“But whenever this block has appeared before, our lives have gotten…”
“Dull,” Ted finished.
“Less busy,” Sheryl corrected weakly. “There’s never anything….”
“Interesting,” Ted supplied.
“Out of the ordinary,” Sheryl amended. “So, it does stand to reason that if the writer writes less whenever there’s a large block in our house…”
“Yes, it makes sense.” Ted jumped in, saving her from finishing the uncomfortable thought. “But maybe we only think that because we lack the creativity needed to see the potential in the block.”
Ted rubbed his hands together as he excitedly cast his eyes around the room.
“Well… maybe…” He drew the thought out until his eyes caught on the fireplace at the far side of the living room. “The writer puts the block here to see what we’ll do with it.”
“Like a test?” Sheryl questioned, beginning to understand Ted’s reasoning. “To see if we’ll interact with the block in some interesting way?”
Ted pulled an iron poker from the set of fireside tools and tested its weight in his hands.
“Oh, but Ted!” Sheryl’s cheeks flamed as she realized what he was about to do.
“It’s time we took matters into our own hands!” Ted exclaimed, stepping forward and raising the poker over his head.
“But, Ted…?” Sheryl’s quiet voice caught Ted just before he took a swing at the stone.
He turned to her, a look of impatience chasing the glee from his face.
“If the writer writes everything we do… isn’t she writing what you’re doing now?”
Ted lowered the poker, knowing Sheryl was right.
They stood quietly. Ted stared at the floor between his feet. It wasn’t the first time he’d gotten caught up in a thought like that. Blurring the lines between what the writer might or might not control, but ultimately accepting that she was behind everything.
“Oh!” Sheryl perked up with a clap of her hands. “Ted, think about it! If the stone block does indicate writer’s block… you wanting to smash the block must mean the writer is ready to move past it!”
“Huh,” Ted slowly began to grin. He tapped the heavy poker against his open palm and eyed the block with renewed excitement. “That makes sense.”
“Well…?” Sheryl urged. “What are you waiting for?”
With a triumphant laugh, Ted lifted the poker overhead and smashed it onto the block. A large chunk of stone cracked off an upper corner, revealing the curved edge of an object that seemed to be embedded within.
“Keep going!” Sheryl cried, then stepped forward, extending her palm. “No, wait, give me a turn!”
For the next several minutes, they passed the poker, taking turns as they chipped away at the massive block. The air filled with fine dust and the floor became littered with chunks of stone. When they were finished, they stepped back to survey their work.
A stone creature sat where the block had been. It had the look of a woodland nymph or elf, but with androgynous features and a drawstring bag slung over one shoulder. A stone butterfly rested on the creature’s upturned palm and a bird perched on its opposite arm. All in all, it was a lovely statue.
“We’ll put it in the garden!” Sheryl exclaimed with another happy clap.
“Near the rose bushes,” Ted agreed, smiling proudly at their new creation.
“And we’ll have a party to show it off to our friends!”
“Yes, a barbecue!” Ted beamed, his mouth already watering at the thought of charred beef.
“And you were afraid our lives were getting dull…” Sheryl teased lightly.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ted shrugged, feeling his cheeks turn pink.
“You just need a little faith,” Sheryl told him.
“And patience,” Ted agreed, returning her warm smile.
They brushed the stone dust from their hands, ready to get on with their party plans.
Thanks for joining me today. Remember you can hear another story about Sheryl, Ted, and the writer, in Episode 4. You can also learn more about me and my books at my website, SusanQuilty.com, find me on social media, or support me through my Patreon page.
`Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you.
[Light piano music]