Teaser Tuesday: A Little Exercise

I'm in the midst of a dialogue and point of view writing class with Naomi Williams and I thought I'd tease today with the results of an in-class exercise.

We were talking about the part that tense (present tense, past tense, etc) has to play in POV. The assignment was to share a true story (but it didn't have to be your own experience) and start out telling it in past tense, and then move into present tense. I immediately thought of this story, because it is still so vivid in my mind all these years later. Some details have been changed to protect the shamefaced.

In this assignment, we could choose to tell the story in past tense and then retell it in present tense, but Naomi told us to switch tense after five minutes of writing, right when I was going into dialogue. So I chose to make the dialogue in present tense and leave the exposition in past tense.

And I hope I don't have to keep posting warnings or disclaimers for my posts, but this does have some scatological crudeness in it.



I saw part of this play out, or I might not have believed the rest. Me and Joe were working the checkout near closing time, and the store was quiet even for a bookshop.

Then a girl came in, set down her duffle and struck up a conversation with Joe. Her accent struck me immediately: French with a nasally undertone. I stifled a grin; Joe wrote comic books, and the sexy villianesses or tramps often sported a Pepe-le-Pew dialect, so I knew she had his attention.

They left together, every fantasy he'd ever had about exotic foreign women writ large on his face. The next morning, he gave me the dirty details:

"She says right up front that she needs a place to crash, and she's willing to share my bed for the night. I take her back to my apartment and ply her with frozen burritos and St. Pauli Girl beer.

"The whole time we're eating and talking, there's this weird stench in my apartment. We both comment on it in passing. I check the garbage can, run the garbage disposal, sniff the refrigerator--nothing.

"It's not til I go into the bathroom to rummage for a condom that I see it, a giant turd that's been stewing in the toilet since this morning.

"I flush it (three times) and I feel like I have to say something about it when I go out. So I do, and I follow it up with "I understand if you don't want to stay now . . ."

"And, unbelievably, she does."


A note: when they left together, I genuinely expected his story the next day to include, "And when I woke up, she was gone, along with everything of value in my apartment."

8 comments:

Karla Nellenbach said...

ha! thats a cute story...and I half-expected her to rob him blind too! The transition from past to present tense is pretty seemless and if you hadn't told me that it was required by your teach, I would've thought it was just part of the story. :)

Phoebe said...

Ahahaha! That's awesome. Nice use of the tense shift. And the details--"ply her with frozen burritos and St. Pauli Girl beer"--are terrific.

Joann Swanson said...

NICE - love slice-of-life stuff and this one is particularly good. Gruesome too. ;)

Caitlin said...

Oh-so-awkward... haha, loved it!! The poor guy XD

Noelle said...

LOL. EWWW! I'd have been gone!

But you switched to the present tense very cleverly! I really liked the voice and Joe sounds hilarious!

Good job!

~Noelle

RAD - Dot Painter said...

That is so funny. I thought perhaps there was something dead in her duffle bag. Well done! I hope you're having a great time in your class.

Christina Mercer said...

Oh boy, mighty embarassing moment! That darn maintenance man must have used the can while they were out, right? ;-)
The tense switch is perfectly smooth, didn't even think about it. Glad your class is going well!

Bri said...

Heh, that would kill the mood a little :P Didn't even notice the tense switch, so awesome work!

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