Practice Advanced Mod C from The Ponds High School

“I’m writing my story so that others might see fragments of themselves.”

In a maximum of 600 words, write an extract of a piece which responds to this stimulus, in an imaginative or discursive way.

*

Here’s the thing, I said to Alice, who was ignoring me again and writing in the notebook. She shoved the box of Rice Krispies out of the way. I noticed that she was breathing heavily. I grabbed a half-full glass of orange-juice which Katie had abandoned. No one will care to see fragments of themselves, or how they look in your story. You know why?

She looked up at me, her unbruised eye wandering around the room as if it had amnesia. The other eye twitched inside the pomegranate of skin that had swollen around it. She said neutrally, Why.

Because it’s your story, not theirs. No one nowadays cares about other people’s stories, only their own, and no one wants to see fragments of themselves – they want to unleash the whole thing on the world. Present their own story, and control it.

She put the pen down clumsily. Her bandaged hand looked like a mummy’s hand. Joke bandages for Hallowe’en.

Why are you saying this?

She put both hands on the table where they lay, accusing and swaddled. I want to cry, she said carefully. I want to cry but I can’t because I’ve got drops in my good eye and the other one is sealed shut. My ribs would hurt from the effort and I can’t hold a fucking tissue. And if I, your literal car-wreck of a wife, want to write my story so that some people catch a glimpse – Just.A.Fucking.Glimpse, Andy – of what they’ve done to me, I cannot, cannot, understand why you’d get in the way.

She was so angry, so red and purple and bruised and battered and magnificent in her refusal to give in, in the belief that she could do something to make right a stupid woman’s moment of inattention at the wheel. As if the actions of a single, butterfly-frail person could overcome a tonne of speeding metal with a driver on the phone.

There were tears leaking from the corner of her good eye. I went around the table and knelt at her knee. I’m saying it because I don’t want you to be hurt, any more I mean. Writing for other people – God, it’s such a waste of time. You hope and hope that they’ll stop, notice, see things the way you saw them. See you. Even see themselves through your eyes. But no one reads the way you want them to. God, hardly anyone reads any more.

There was a long silence. The clock ticked into it like drops of water falling down a well.

So what do I do?

It’s what every writer dreads hearing, because by the time you need to hear it, you’re already hoping it’s not true. I put my face in her lap and breathed in the scent of her clothes, still faintly hospital-smelling. At one and the same time I wanted to murder the driver who had done this, but knew that if I had the chance, I wouldn’t. My anger is weaker than Alice’s, and that was probably why I got on in the world more easily. Maybe it was why I never got published. I always let things go, in the end.

Write for yourself.

She slumped, and I felt as if I’d run her over too.

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