I was at a meeting with some fellow writers and, as writers do, we were talking about writing. One of them gave us a writing challenge. We had to write five beginning sentences for five stories. We had ten minutes to do it.
Here were my five:
My mother told me a joke on my wedding night saying. "The difference between rape and rapture is co-operation."
The day that my brother blew his hand off is the day that my father started drinking.
Whatever the past, the future is spotless.
I don't give a dang, for I have seen the elephant.
The only time I like water is when it is cold and the day is hot.
As each one read hers, we discussed them trying to figure out how the story would go. At the end of the meeting we decided that we should take one of our sentences and build it into a short story, or the beginning of a novel for our next meeting.
I took my second sentence and here is the beginning of the novel I wrote around it. The day that my younger brother, Ralph, blew his left hand off, was the day that my father began drinking. Not that he hadn’t drank before. He'd have a beer on Saturdays with the neighbours or a drink at family gatherings but it was that day that he began drinking every day as soon as he got home from work. And the change was immediate. When he and mom came home from the hospital after leaving Ralph, Dad went to the cupboard and pulled out a half empty bottle of whiskey. He got a glass and poured it almost full. He drank it down. I was watching him as mom told me and my younger brother, Jimmy, that Ralph had lost his hand and would be in the hospital for a few days. Dad took time off work and he and Mom went to see Ralph every day. But every evening Dad drank himself into a stupor. When they brought Ralph home from the hospital the only change in Dad's routine was that in the morning instead of going to the hospital he went to work. He got up sober, left the house at his usual time and was sober up until the moment he entered our door after work. It was once that door was closed on the outside world that he'd sit in his chair in the living room and pour his first glass of whiskey or vodka or rum whichever he had on hand at the time. Mom would serve him his supper there while the rest of us ate at the table in the dining room. His evenings varied little. Sometimes he'd stare at the television set, sometimes he'd stare into the corner of the living room. And he continued drinking all evening until he passed out, usually in his chair, sometimes on the couch, occasionally he made it to bed. He became, and remained for the rest of his life, a functioning alcoholic.