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Exercise Wednesday: Color My World

June 6, 2012

This weekend, I went to a full-day writing marathon. Before I got there I stayed in a room where the bed had white sheets and pillow cases, a white blanket, and a white comforter. So the color white entered my mind, and I tried to figure out how to use that, why someone might have a bedroom, apartment, or house dominated by white.

And with that single-word prompt, I rewrote a scene in which my protagonist goes to his business partner’s condo, which is almost completely white. The walls and ceiling are white and the tile floor is blonde–almost white. The kitchen counter and cabinets are white, as is most of the bathroom. Even the furniture and plates are light colors or white. White’s also a dominant theme in the artwork.

Why? Because during her childhood, she was more or less attacked by someone she should have been able to trust. A protector turned on her, and she figured she should have seen it coming. With the white, you can see things coming, even if it’s dark out. The white around her gives her a sense of power and protection, even decades later. It’s not an antiseptic place where she lives, but it’s a place where she can feel secure.

So today’s prompt is to pick a color and run with it. Sorry for the vague prompt, but with an open prompt, you can bend and shape it to your own purposes.

Time limit: 30 minutes.

One Comment
  1. Chris Hamilton permalink
    June 6, 2012 6:18 am

    Catherine likes white. Not in her clothes—she’s pretty eclectic that way. And that’s good, because her condo is an exercise in white. White walls and ceilings. She says the tile floors are blonde. That’s the name that came on the box when they were installed. They look more like a really light tan to me. The throw rugs are white, or pretty close to it. The top of the dining table is a white marble with faint streaks of light gray. For the kitchen counter, she briefly dabbled with granite, but figured out they didn’t make that in light colors.

    And then there’s the lighting. They made her take one of the units on the east side of the tower so she wouldn’t blind the pilots coming in to land at Tampa International Airport.

    In short, if you’re going to be hungover, don’t do it at Katherine’s.

    “Why is your apartment this white?” I stumbled from the guest bedroom cursing my lack of foresight in not bringing sunglasses. “This is the place Corey Hart sang about.” If you’re scoring at home, Corey Hart sang a song called Sunglasses at Night back in the 1980s.

    “I have spare sunglasses in the top dresser drawer in there if you want them. For guests.” She was squeezing orange juice. By hand.


    “Yeah.” Her tone said no. “Jackass.”

    “Why are you squeezing orange juice?”

    She shrugged. “Because I want to. Plus it strengthens my hands.”

    “Oh. Because strong hands are vastly underrated in our profession.”

    She nodded toward the fridge. “There’s some turkey bacon in there if you’d throw some in the microwave.

    “Is it free-range turkey?”

    A couple years ago, Catherine had gone through a health phase. She’d done a cleanse and now her only vestiges of the old life were one cup of caffeinated coffee each morning and periodic alcoholic beverages of her choice at happy hour.

    “Are you a class-A jackass?”

    I shrugged and got the turkey bacon out. She was going to the jackass well a little too often for my taste, but it was early and we’d had some booze. Sometimes you have to cut people a break.

    “Seriously, why is your place so damned white?”

    She was even wearing an over-sized white t-shirt that came to her knees. Her black hair and tan skin were the only points of significant contrast.

    “Because I live alone and I want it that way, so that’s what I got. Besides, what do you care? I’m not charging you rent. I could, with as much time as you’ve been here lately.”

    Usually with Catherine, a joke is a joke. Except when sometimes it isn’t a joke. Sometimes, it’s a hint. The problem is, you typically can’t tell one from the other, even after sixteen years.

    “Were you looking to have company last night?”

    She stopped working on the orange and turned to me. “On occasion, I need one of your kind to recharge my batteries, but typically I am a complete, Amazonian goddess until myself.”

    I winced. “Who writes your dialog?”

    She fought a smile and lost. “Some moron. And if I need some me time, I’ll tell you. I kind of like having a valet around to make my turkey bacon. Later you will pick up my dry-cleaning, loofah my feet, and service me, my valet.”

    She stepped toward me and got a plate out to microwave the bacon on. She’d showered and smell fresh and feminine, faintly like flowers of some sort or another. Her hair was still faintly wet.

    “You showered and put your pajamas back on?”

    She started on another half an orange. “I went downstairs and worked out and was kind of sweaty after. So I just put on a t-shirt. I figured being almost middle-aged, you could handle the sight of female legs without trying to attack me.”

    As I’ve said, my wife and my business partner were close friends. They had to be to co-exist as they did. So while I knew Catherine was a woman, I never saw her as an available woman. Ask any politician. You never, ever touch the third rail.

    And yet, here was the third rail, in front of me.

    “You squeeze the oranges because of your arthritis and because it might help with the fibromyalgia—the activity with your hands.”

    She stopped and turned to me and I couldn’t read her face. A single flame of fear climbed my body. Maybe that was a secret that you knew and never articulated. Maybe you just let it be an open secret. No one likes to be reminded of their frailties. Particularly not Catherine.

    “You figure if you have to have that problem, you’re going to do everything you can to push it away because you don’t want it to beat you.”

    She said nothing.

    “Your apartment is white because of something bad that happened to you when you were a girl, and because you can see things when there’s a lot of white. And if you can see things, you can fight them. You can’t fight what you can’t see.”

    Her mouth fell, but it really shouldn’t have. “I never told you those things.”

    I shrugged. “Yeah, you did. Just not all at once.”

    She still said nothing.

    “Sixteen years is a long time.”

    She nodded again, her mouth still open. Then she swallowed and took a baby step back. Turned back to the orange, then stopped and turned again.

    “You’re terrified that you’re going to be alone. That this job’s gonna go away and Matt will blow you off and that all the acquaintances you’ve made working here will move on to the next big thing—”


    “Oh, please. I said the next big thing, not the next gnat.”

    I swallowed and waited for her to finish the thought.

    “Worse yet, you’re afraid you’re going to get left with Nina. Because for all the people you know, you haven’t really let anyone in. Just Wendy and Matt and me. Wendy’s dead. Matt’s pissed at you half the time.”

    She stopped at that.


    “And Wendy and I were your center tent posts. You’ve relied on both of us for years. We’re what makes your world right. Without us, you’re terrified it’s all gonna fall apart.”

    She shook her head and turned and picked up the orange. She twisted it once, then stopped. “I don’t want it to go away, either.”

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