Exercising the craft—December 2, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Thanksgiving Intervention—You’ve been invited to attend a Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house, but when you walk in you notice there’s no turkey and, instead, a giant “Intervention” sign hanging across the mantle. Your friend, who is surrounded by many of your other friends and family, sits you down and explains that you have a problem: you spend too much time writing! Write this scene and how you handle it.

http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/thanksgiving-intervention

Despite the pity I felt for the employees who had to work on Thanksgiving, I tried to hide my smile as I left the store.  I’d needed a new USB to back up my latest novel and I hadn’t gotten a chance until today to buy one.  When Stacey had called this morning to invite me over at the last minute for Thanksgiving dinner, I immediately jumped online to check whether any of the stores close to her house were open, and now I had my new USB.  As I jogged back to the car, I checked my watch again and realized that I was now about a half-hour late.

I got in the car, dropped my wallet into the oversized cup holder, and then took a moment to find a place for the small plastic bag.  I finally decided to stuff it into the glove compartment and then locked it for extra measure.  Starting the car, I put it in gear and drove as fast as I dared to make it to Stacey’s on time.  I managed to drive the four miles to her place without alerting any cops to my speed.

I parked in her driveway and jogged to her front door.  After pressing the doorbell really quick, I let myself in.

“Stace?  Sorry I’m late.  I had to stop at Target to get…”

I lost my train of thought when I saw my entire family and several other friends sitting in Stacey’s living room.  A banner hung above the mantle with the word stating the word “Intervention” in a serious way.  Stacey saw me and smiled in a way that practically screamed compassion.

“What’s going on here?” I asked, trying to laugh it off and yet suddenly aware that my heart had begun pounding in my chest.

“Erin, we need to talk,” Stacey said, her tone now matching her expression.

“We just want to help you, sweetheart,” my mother said, holding out a hand in my direction.  “We’re worried about you.”

“Worried?  Why?”

My father stood up.  “You’ve been spending an awful lot of time with your computer lately, and we think it’s time you stopped.”

“What?” I scoffed.  “You can’t be serious!  Come on, Dad, I’m not like some hobo who hasn’t showered in weeks.  I pay my bills, I talk to my friends, I—”

“When was the last time you called me?” Stacey asked suddenly.

“You?  Well, uh, we just talked on Cameron’s, uh, birthday, right?  Wasn’t that…um, two weeks ago?”

Stacey inhaled deeply.  “Erin, it’s November.  Cameron’s birthday was in July.”

I think something must have gotten in my eye, because all of a sudden I couldn’t stop blinking.  July?  I could have sworn Stacey had just called a few weeks ago to tell me what she’d bought for her husband.  Didn’t she…?

“This is what we’re talking about,” my sister, Lucy, said in her practical way.  “You’ve got to stop.  You’re addicted to your computer, to your writing.  You’ve got to come back to us, Erin.  We miss you, and we love you, and we want you to be a part of our lives again.”

“Come on, Luce, you say that like I don’t know what’s going on with anyone anymore.  Just because I forgot that Cameron’s birthday was back in the summer doesn’t mean—”

“It means that you need to stop spending so much time with your characters and a little more time with us,” Lucy said quietly.

I started backing toward the door.  “Whatever.  Look, guys, I came here for a Thanksgiving dinner, and if you don’t have one ready then that’s okay.  I can just—”

Stacey suddenly came close to me and gently held my shoulder.  I couldn’t help noticing, though, that she held it firmly, as if she didn’t want me to go anywhere.

“I have a wonderful meal planned, Erin, don’t worry about that.  And we’re not asking you to give up your writing for the rest of time.  We just want you to take a little break.”

“Yes, a break,” my mother said, a spark of optimism in her eyes as though she’d suddenly found a way to explain everything.  “Your father and I have booked a wonderful vacation for you.  It’s by this new travel agency that does—uh, what do they call it, Bob?”

“Unplugged vacations,” my father supplied quietly.  “No electronics for two weeks.”

I sighed.  They’d tried this type of intervention before, tried to convince me before that my writing had consumed my life, but apparently they didn’t understand.  My characters needed me.  And no one else could tell their stories the way I did.  But I also knew my family worried about me.  So what could I do to alleviate their concern?  What would my characters do?

Suddenly I got an idea, but I knew I had to be careful otherwise they would get suspicious.

“Well, a vacation would be nice,” I said in a voice that I tried to make sound conciliatory without sounding like I’d given in completely.  “It’s been a while since I got away.”

The relief that swept through the room practically engulfed me with its palpability.  Everyone started smiling, and I could see a few of them exchange grateful looks.  They probably didn’t want to spend their entire Thanksgiving day trying to convince me to give up writing.

Neither did I.

I let everyone surround me and accepted their kind words, repeating to myself that they just wanted to take care of me.  After about an hour I managed to finagle the information about the vacation out of my dad, including the contact information for the travel agent who had sold him this bogus trip.  I knew the agent probably wouldn’t be in the office, so I tried to play it cool when I took the piece of paper from Dad and slipped it in my pocket.

We all mingled and chatted about nothing.  Several times my friends, who at one time used to ask with some interest about my latest story, started to ask a question.  And then they stopped, obviously coached by my parents and my sister to stay away from all topics related to my writing.

I gave everyone a big hug that night and murmured my thanks for their concern, and I meant both.  But I also knew what I had to do with that vacation.  The next morning I called the travel agent.

“Yeah, hi, my father told me about the vacation he booked for me, and I was wondering if there was a way to rebook it…yes, I do have an idea of where I’d like to go.  The East Coast Writing Association is having a conference in New York City in the middle of the December…Yes, I’ll hold.”

While I waited for her to check on hotels, I couldn’t help eyeing the little plastic bag that held my brand new USB.

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