I have a book called Complete the Story and it has 150 interesting writing prompts. I recommend it to anyone who often faces writer’s block. I do one every Tuesday and Friday, although I kind of accidentally-on-purpose took a break last week. This is day 33, and prompt #51 in the book. Below, the red is the initial prompt and the rest is what has happened in previous parts.
When you’re the only family living on that side of the mountain, you learn how to keep calm, work hard, and go with the flow. One morning, Mom, up first as usual, walked into the living room and let out a startled, “Oh!” as a hot air balloon landed in their front yard. “Land” is a bit inaccurate, it was more like stumbled and tumbled across the grass. Soon, the whole family was awake, gaping at the strange, empty balloon. Seven-year-old Charlie happily climbed in, and to everyone’s surprise, the basket tipped upright on its own and he began to slowly float away. He landed in the middle of nowhere, and was determined to find people. So he marched down the hill, confident, and a little excited to start his first journey. He found a stone in the ground, removed it, and fell into a hole: through dirt, water, and finally, nothing. Then Charlie fell even more, only to land at the bottom of the hole. Luckily, he found a tunnel that led to a ladder, and soon he was back out. He sprinted back to his balloon, because it was floating away. He floated for a bit, and then the balloon landed. Charlie jumped to the ground and was delighted to see the little village just a ways away! He tied the balloon again to another T-pole that had sprouted while he was looking at the village, and then he set off.
“Hey! Hello!” Charlie screamed as he ran through the first few houses. He spotted a man sweeping in front of a little shop and Charlie skidded to a stop in front of him, setting loose a cloud of dust.
“ARGH!” the man exclaimed, his raspy voice muffled by his thick moustache. “Now I’ve got to start all over again!”
“What are you doing…” Charlie asked, then added quickly (because the man didn’t look like he was in a very good mood), “…sir?”
The man harrumphed and said, “I’m dusting the street.”
Charlie cocked his head. “Dusting?” The man patted the tip of his broom carefully in front of Charlie’s feet, loosening a bit of dust.
“Yes–” Charlie nudged his toe into the thin mound of dust in front of him. “–ARGH! No, boy! You are ruining my job!”
“I’m sorry! What do you want me to do!” Charlie exclaimed defensively. Then he calmed down, not wanting to get into even more trouble, and said in his most formal tone, “Per-haps if you were to explain to me what your “job” is, I would understand it better and would understand how not to disturb you, sir?”
The man harrumphed again and said, “You know you don’t have to call me ‘sir.'”
“What is your name, then?”
“Mister,” he replied with his head high.
“Mister? Is your name?” Charlie asked, confused.
“You have a problem with that!?”
“No, no, no. Of course not. What were you saying?”
“I hadn’t started to say anything.”
There was a long silence between them. Charlie looked awkwardly at his dirty, worn down shoes. Finally he said, “Okay, so what are you doing… Mister?”
“I told you, I’m dusting,” Mister said. He gripped his broom and shuffled the dust into place.
“That isn’t what dusting looks like at my house. Usually I have to grab a duster — which isn’t a broom — and brush the dust off the furniture,” Charlie explained.
Mister scoffed. “Here, that’s not how we do things. You must live very far away.” (Charlie considered correcting him, but he figured it didn’t matter.) “I am taming the dust, and gridding it.”
Charlie was bewildered. “Taming? As in, like, animals? And what the heck is gridding?”
“Yes,” Mister said in a high-pitched voice, mimicking Charlie. “as in, like, animals.” He continued normally: “Hello? Dust is alive. Duh!”
“Uh… yeah, duh,” Charlie lied. “I was just seeing how smart you are. Now, next test question: what is ‘gridding’?”
“Okay,” Mister said, rubbing his hands together. Charlie could tell he loved being quizzed when he knew the answer. But he was overly enthusiastic, and it was quite odd. Then again, Mister was an odd man in general. “So. I use the broom to tame the dust, get it in shape. Then, I carefully lay it out in lines. Rows and rows and columns and columns, until there is a neat grid in front of The Duster Den.” Mister gestured up to the sign hanging from the front of his shop.
“Ohh… oo-kaaay…” Charlie said slowly, nodding.
“Now go away. I have work to do,” Mister said, waving his arm.
“Wait!” Charlie exclaimed. “I need help! I’m lost!”
Mister groaned and turned back around. “What!”
“I need help getting home. I’m lost,” he repeated, pointing a finger toward the mountain. “I live up there.”
“No can do, kid. Gotta keep working. If I was paid by the hour, I’d gladly stop and chat some more, but that’s not the case. You’ll have to get help elsewhere.”
Charlie groaned and spun around. But something caught his eye. Was that — his balloon? And… someone climbing into it?