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500 wrong words

Can you write a 500-word sentence? 500 exactly.

Shelly Lowenkopf mentioned a fellow named Barnaby Conrad and his 500 word sentence. I couldn’t resist the effort.

Janie Hopkins, her curves and wayward hair, waited by the Hamilton train tracks just within sight of the high school where her boyfriend, or the boy she hoped would be her boyfriend, would see her through the window of the science class; he stared out that cracked, dim window everyday to dream about life elsewhere, places he had yet to read about, places perhaps glimpsed on television but which he knew no one else in town had ever imagined, and Janie Lee hoped that he would see her waiting and place her in that dream even if he put her there by accident, simply because she was there and certainly no other girl in town bothered to put herself in his line of view because why would they when he had no prospects of any kind considering his family’s past and no father would allow his daughter to walk through town in front of God and everybody with a Pilketon boy, but Janie was lucky if being fatherless was ever lucky because no one cared what an orphan did because they expected such a girl to lose her way at the first available opportunity, which was just about every day, especially for her and her curves and wayward hair; didn’t everyone know that the more curves in a girl’s body the more chances to go wrong as if curves meant derailment and this was why a train went in a straight line and everything good was flat and everything suspicious bent one way or another, and this was why Janie’s sister would never wait for Merit Pilketon to see her do anything like stand by the train tracks, looking for all the world as if the train would stop just for her and her hand on her hip, but Janie knew that a boy wasn’t his father no matter what folks said about apples falling from trees; in fact, she liked fallen apples best with their bruises and the feeling they weren’t wanted by something so much larger than themselves and in the case of Merit Pilketon, Janie knew he was the best apple of all, perfect to hold as if she were a teacher and fate were giving her an apple to put on her desk, though she wasn’t really sure she could teach fate anything other than to leave her alone, which was an important lesson for fate to know, and here she scuffed the dirt next to the track as if fate itself were the earth under her feet and that’s how it had power over all of them, but she wasn’t about to concede anything to something she could walk on even if the world did grow from it, everything from weeds to apple trees and her very own self; the dirt couldn’t possibly care what boy she wanted or what she wanted from him and what she wanted from this boy was escape, and who better to offer escape than someone who had already fallen.

Please point out my comma errors. (Commas beat me in my sleep.) Hell. Point out all the errors. It is 500 words long! And I wrote it while my students took an iBT TOEFL reading practice test and decided not to edit.

I challenge you to 500 words. See what happens.

4 thoughts on “500 wrong words

  1. This works, Marta. I wouldn’t worry about the commas, but I would look at the way this exercise got you to open up the nuance and layers of relationships and the story. That’s a good deal to stuff into five hundred words. This is a story as it now stands. As well, it could open to a more commodious story yet–provided the energy is still there for you.

  2. Sorry it came out so sad.

    As she sat on her little wooden chair, her small hands hovering over the keyboard, she contemplated the absurdity of this challenge for her, for Susan Collins, the woman who never had anything to say for herself, who lived her silent life listening but not speaking, thinking but never translating her thoughts into real words, into sentences that could be heard or read and understood by the world outside her solitary one, and she thought of the people in her life who would have been more up to the challenge than she was, of her father who had once been proud of his little girl, but who became saddened by her inability to respond and jealous of the time and energy she took from his wife, and who eventually took the easy way out through the front door; of her mother, who talked to her for hours on end, telling her about fun, happiness and distant lands and asking her questions, trying to get into her head, never giving up hope that one day her daughter would answer her; of teachers who quickly lost patience and therapists who rapidly lost hope; of carers who didn’t care at all – not one bit – who pretended to care when the supervisor came to inspect the home, smiling and talking to Susan like old friends, but who left her alone as soon as the supervisor’s back was turned and spent their time sitting in the kitchen and gossiping about their husbands and their children and their parents and their friends, about lives that Susan could only imagine and never experience; and finally she started to type, letters that formed real words that told of real thoughts and feelings, reactions to all the things that had happened to her, of the way her father accused her and thoroughly humiliated her before he opened the front door, of the teachers who threatened that her mother would also abandon her if she didn’t talk and the therapists who did exactly the same thing although she expected better from them, of children who pointed and laughed and adults who pointed and shook their heads, of her love for her mother and her longing to cause her mother to smile, a wish that overwhelmed her in its intensity and made it impossible for her to do the very thing that they both desired so passionately, of her mother’s funeral and the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing, drowning all words for many more years, of the staff in the home who came and went, changing their faces but never their condescending words, their “How are we feeling today?” and their obvious indifference to her feelings; and when she finished typing, she read all of her words from beginning to end increasingly aware of the raucous laughter coming from the kitchen, so that as soon as she heard footsteps approaching, she selected all the words and pressed Delete, creating on her pale face the blank expression they all expected from her.

  3. Wow Marta, this is gorgeous. I’m not sure I could pull it off!

    had no trouble at all with the commas and semi-colons, they showed up in all the right places, at least for me. You could try reading it out loud; that’s always a good test of flow.

  4. Wow, you did great on that! There’s no way I could write a 500 word sentence, which is why I leave the writing to people like you, Sherri, and my husband. 🙂 There’s so much feeling in that, so much story. I give your writing test an A+ 🙂 Great job!

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