Three Little Words | Writing Prompt Exercises

Where is it happening?
What is going on?
Who is involved?

Garage, Crept, Rooster >>> As I walked up to the open bay door of the Speedy Muffler garage, a chihuahua crept across the cement floor, holding its belly close to the ground, sniffing its way towards the cage containing a prancing rooster.

High School, Climb, Donkey >>> A man wearing orange overalls climbed the paved pathway up to the front doors of the high school, leading a donkey on a leash.

Airport, Bride, Burp >>> Waiting in line at the airport’s coffee shop, I detected the aroma of rum emerging from the bride’s mouth when she leaned over towards me, her torn veil and smudged makeup at ease with her bout of burping as she whispered, “I was supposed to get married today, but I’m the only one going on the honeymoon.”

Red Barn, Snore, Dinosaur >>> The sound emanating from the open doors of the red barn sounded like a snore--something on the high end of the Richter scale. It made the glass in the windows quake, leading me to believe a dinosaur slumbered amongst the herd of dairy cattle.

Cave, Drive, Red Slippers >>> My mother drove away, abandoning us without even making our dinner, leaving me no choice but to pull her favourite red slippers out from underneath her bed and bury them in the dry dirt of my hideaway cave in the woods.

Cornfield, Collide, Walrus >>> “I want to buy a farm and raise sheep. Why do you think that’s such an outlandish idea? It’s not like I’m planning on colliding with a walrus in the middle of a cornfield.”

Skyscraper, Walk, Taxi Cab >>> Upon glimpsing the reflection of a purple taxi cab in the street-level glass windows of the nearest skyscraper, I turned around, gladdened to recognize the man behind the wheel. The passenger door creaked open as I walked up to the car.

Backyard, Collide, Doctor >>> “I saw it all happen from my bedroom window. The ice cream truck went right through the stop sign, straight down the driveway, through the gate leading to the backyard and collided with the poor doctor, sitting there drinking his glass of pink lemonade.”

Candy, Snore, Hockey Goalie >>> I’d been waiting at the counter of the candy store for about five minutes, hoping the man slumped down over his desk would stop with the snoring. Just as I reached over to slap the bell ten times, the shop’s door opened behind me. A tall man wearing the full gear of a hockey goalie, excluding the ice skates, stumbled along the carpet runner. It would have made for a grand robber’s uniform, despite the somewhat spoiled anonymity of a name and number glaring at me from the back of his shirt.

“Barney! Wake up man! I need one of those chocolate bunnies.” The man in the mask turned to me. “Sorry for buttin' in like that. The game’s about to start. I almost forgot my lucky charm.”

Lawyer’s Office, Yawn, Leopard >>> My daughter tapped my elbow just as we left the sidewalk and crossed the parking lot of my lawyer's office.

She pointed at something. "Isn't that a leopard in the back of that truck?"

I followed the general direction of her arm and finger. Like all cats, it enjoyed the sunshine. Stretched out and yawning, flicking the tip of its tail in a back and forth motion.

The truck had some sort of zoo logo painted on the driver's side.

"It doesn't look much like much of a man-eater. I’m be a bit more worried about the man-eating lawyer waiting on the other side of that office door."

Attic, Kiss, Blue Jay >>> I’d brought Rodney up into the attic, hoping he’d finally kiss me. I moved my tongue across my top lip, tasting the sweet stickiness from the cherry sucker he’d bought me at the corner store. Our eyebrows were a few inches apart. A blue jay flew in through one of the broken windows.

Hospital, Compost, Salami >>> “What would you call a compost heap in a hospital?” asked a woman, her dimpled elbows straddling an open notebook.

“Salami,” answered her companion.

Police Station, Sweep, Ostrich >>> A woman dressed in a long gown and wide-brimmed hat adorned with an ostrich feather swept the sidewalk in front of the police station.

“What’s the special occasion?” I asked.

She stopped mid-sweep. “If I have to do community service, I’m gonna do it in style.”

Church, Yell, Airplane >>> Maximus O’Malley walked down the centre aisle of the church, dressed in his size-five suit. The jerky movements of the young boy’s body were a direct contrast to the gentle rhythm of the piano music playing in the background. He plopped himself down at the end of one of the pews. Unable to sit still for longer than two minutes, Maximus raised a miniature airplane up above his head, letting out a loud swooshing sound, followed by an eruption of make-believe machine gun fire.

Mrs. Belvedere pushed the piano stool backwards, its wooden legs scraping against the floor. She stood up, hands on her hips, staring at her grandson. After a few moments, she yelled out to him with the forceful voice of an opera singer, “Maximus Donald O’Malley. You might want to be a pilot someday, but consider yourself grounded.”

Bathroom, Write, Lion >>> Six people lived in our small house. Most days, I had to lock myself in the bathroom to get away from everyone. I’d write in my diary about giving my pet lion a haircut, talking to a hummingbird who couldn’t fly, or riding a black unicorn. With three older brothers always banging on the door, I developed my very own short-hand.

Toronto, Shout, Peacock >>> Three peacocks strutted along the middle of the sidewalk, looking a little plain with their stubby tail feathers. Most of the downtown Toronto pedestrian traffic stopped to watch them.

Everyone seemed to be under their spell, until someone shouted, “Those have got to be some of the ugliest peacocks I’ve ever seen.”

Zoo, Vacuum, Groom >>> I walked up to the man wearing a three-piece suit and a white carnation boutonniere on his lapel. Oblivious to my close proximity, he continued vacuuming the carpet.

Unable to capture his attention without giving him the fright of his life, I unplugged the cord from the wall. He looked around the room with a strange look on his face.

I waited until he turned towards me, then said, “There’s nothing wrong with the vacuum. I unplugged it from the wall, just so I could talk to you. I’m lost. I hope you can help me.”

“Well, little lady. I’m not from around these parts, so I’ll not likely be able to help you out all that much.” A dimpled smile appeared on his young face. “I’m feeling a tad lost myself. I’m the groom. My bride seems to have gone missing and I’m stuck here cleaning up after my guests because I’m not looking forward to losing my room rental deposit. I should have listened to my sister. She told me to get married at the zoo.”

Museum, Chasing, Kitten >>> Few visitors dropped by the museum on a Monday morning. Especially in July.

A young mother walked by the table where I sat sipping my hot cup of tea. Four children followed her, zig-zagging between the pedestal-mounted taxidermy-type trophies otherwise known as exhibits. As the last girl walked past me, I heard a soft meow, right before something furry stuck its head out of the small opening in her backpack.

The girl glanced over in my direction.

Watching her as she chased after the other three kids, I said, “You might want to keep your kitten away from the rodents of unusual size.”

Engineer, Snoring, Library >>> Being a mechanical engineer, we all thought the sixty-two year old man would have taken himself to task to design some kind of device which eliminated his snoring. Every afternoon, he’d enter through the library doors, read for thirty minutes and saw logs.

We’re concerned he’s going to wipe out all the trees of Northern Ontario.

Goldfish, Stomping, Parking >>> Standing over a bright orange blob the size of a small plum, the young boy stomped his foot a few times and said, “Don’t die. Please. Don’t die.”

The desperate voice urged me to approach him. “Do you need some help?” I asked.

He pointed downwards, toward the black asphalt of the parking lot. “It’s my goldfish. I just got it from the pet store. They stuck him in a plastic bag with some water. The bag broke.”

Remnants of the bag lay beside the floundering fish.

“Wait right here. There’s a floral shop around the corner.”

“They ain’t gonna have fish bowls,” he said, looking up at me, forming the words through a wide gap of missing teeth.

“Maybe not, but they will likely have water and glass vases.”

“You’re pretty smart, mister. What’s your name? I wanna name my goldfish after you.”

“Thank you for the compliment. I’m Arthur. You might want to pick another name, though. I don’t know how to swim.”

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Swimming, Park >>> The fallen leaves covered most of the pathways and thinning brown grass. Two women sat on opposite ends of a park bench, as if they were glued to a level teeter-totter.

A young boy, closest to the younger woman sitting on the left, emptied a water bottle into a clear plastic bowl. Holding a figurine between his fingers, he plunged his hand into the water.

“I don’t think tyrannosaurus rex knew how to swim,” said the woman nearest the boy.

The boy kept looking down, moving his hand through the water.

“Make-believe is such a wonderful thing,” the older woman said, smiling.

Rooster, Ironing, Bedroom >>> I’d already decided last week that I’d never spend another Friday night alone, in my bedroom, ironing my boyfriend’s rooster-festooned boxer shorts.
Decisions are like eggs. They require time, energy and resources to take shape, yet crack so easily.

Dentist, Laughing, Art Gallery >>> While I waited in the dentist’s office, a middle-aged woman entered, looking like she had been on a shopping spree in a high-end fashion shop during the 1960’s. Strictly vintage, from swept-up hairdo to shiny patent pumps.

She leaned over the desk, whispering in a clear voice, loud enough that I could understand what she said.

“Excuse me, dear. Do you suppose Dr. Peterson would agree to giving me a tiny dose of laughing gas?”

The receptionist’s eyebrows raised, crinkling her forehead.

The woman continued. “I am scheduled to attend an exhibition at an art gallery this evening. It’s a collection of my own work. I haven’t done this kind of thing for over twenty years. I don’t think I could survive the rejection, you understand. It’s merely a preventative measure. I abhor alcohol, except for an exceptional wine, now and then. Anything else is out of the question. I am certain my nerves will require calming.”

“It’s an unusual request,” the receptionist said.

“As a result of my many visits to Dr. Peterson, I carry a small fortune inside my mouth. Think of this request as a rather tiny token of a means to demonstrate your customer appreciation.”

Bullfighter, Sewing, Helicopter >>> When my cousin asked me to visit during the summer, I had no idea I’d be sewing up a six-inch tear in a bullfighter’s cape while flying over the Spanish countryside in a helicopter.

Sunlight, Flatten, Fashion Show >>> Harriet flattens the palm of her right hand against the open door. Her black hair absorbs the sunlight without returning a speck of reflection. She’s wearing a fox-fur coat, an anniversary gift from her first husband. Above the rim of her knee-high rubber boots, her wool trousers billow out and over in graceful folds as if arranged for a strut down a fashion show runway.

Fireman, Knitting, Golf Course >>> The fire truck pulled over to the side of the road, lights flashing and siren wailing. Barely stopping to watch for traffic before crossing to the other side, the driver jumped down from the raised seat. He climbed over the low fence segregating the golf course from the pavement and approached an older woman sitting on a wooden bench.

Speaking in a lowered voice and pointing to the man laying on the green by the 18th hole, the fireman asked, “How long ago did this happen?”

The woman lowered her knitting, looking at the younger man. “About ten minutes. You got here pretty darn quick.” She picked up her knitting. “Don’t mind me. Just do what you have to do.”

After examining the husband, the fireman said, “He needs to see his doctor for a physical. His blood pressure is a bit too low, but I think he’ll be okay.”

“Well, that’s good news,” the old woman replied. “I wouldn’t want my knitting to go to waste.”

Cheerleader, Crying, Subway >>> In an almost empty subway station, a young woman and an elderly gentleman sat side by side on the bench. The young woman wore a cheerleader's uniform and clenched a wad of tissue in one hand. The gentleman bent forward slightly, both hands on the handle of his walking cane.

"Now, now Cassandra. I know how disappointed you must feel," the gentleman said.

Crying, the young girl wrote something on the pad of paper she held across her lap.
Stupid laryngitis. How am I supposed to lead the cheer, when I can't even talk?

"There will be other tournaments."

I’ll be too old next year.

"Fuss and nonsense. I'm seventy-three, and haven't felt better.”

Chicken, Cutting, Beach >>> Near the end of the summer season, I discovered a secluded beach. As my mind had wandered, my feet had followed a self-directed path.

I stood at the crest of a sand dune, watching a young man as he cut a long piece of driftwood down into two-foot lengths using a hand saw. Nearby, a chicken picked its way through the treasures washed upon the sandy beach.

Judging by the stacked pieces of dry wood and blackened circle from a previous campfire, I'd have to say the chicken behaved in a totally delusional manner.

Clown, Writing, Park Bench >>> "Davey, leave that clown alone," a teenage girl shouted. "Can't you see he's busy?"

The blond-haired boy hesitated for a moment, kicking his feet at the long grass. Making up his mind a few seconds later, he approached the clown sitting on the park bench.

"What's that you're doing? Is it a colouring book?" he asked, pointing to the open pages of a book.

The clown looked up. "No. It's a diary."

Davey took a few steps back. "You're a girl? Girl's aren't supposed to be clowns."

"Girls can do almost anything boys can do," the clown said, pulling off the big red nose.

"What's that you're writing? Is it a story?" Davey asked.

"No. It's for recording my thoughts."

"'Cause you'll forget them?"

The bright makeup surrounding the clown's mouth magnified her smile. "Sometimes. But not today." She reached into the pocket of her polka-dot pants, pulling out a tissue to dab at her eyes.

"You crying?" Davey asked. "Clowns aren't supposed to cry."

"That's the tricky thing about being a clown. You have to seem happy even if you're feeling down.”

Sabre-toothed Tiger, Meowing, Mansion >>> "It's much darker than how it appeared in the listing photos," the woman said to the man standing beside her. "And definitely a cross between Gothic and Hunstman. Perhaps Caveman."

"I know. Spooky, right?" the man said, writing something down in the book he carried. "When I first walked through this mansion, I expected a sabre-toothed tiger to come bounding down those stairs."

"Meowing, of course," the woman said.

"Ah, no. Definitely not." He looked up at the domed ceiling. "Would you like to see the rest of the place or is it too overbearing for you?"

"After I take down the trophy beasts with their sad eyes, the walls will not seem so sinister. Then I shall clear away the multiple sets of bleached bones carefully kept in their glass cases. They may have been much beloved by an archaeologist, zoologist or some other such enthusiast, but my interests definitely do not include them. Nevertheless, I could call this place home, providing the price is acceptable. The interior could be light, bright and airy. Even my mother-in-law would want to live here. Before I consider submitting an offer, you must show me the basement."

Teenaged Boy, Reading, Cliffside >>> I’d been following the descent of the sun on the horizon when I noticed a silhouette squatting along the edge of the cliffside. Wishing to announce my approach, I ground my hiking boots into the loose gravel of the narrow pathway leading to the cliff’s barricade.

The silhouette turned, holding a book between his hands. Lips pouting, long hair hanging down over most of his face, the too-slim body of a teen-aged boy could not be hidden under his tight-fitting sweater.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “You should be back here, behind the barricade.”

“I’m fine,” he answered, turning back to his book. “Just reading.”

“I’d feel better if you came over to this side.”

“Look lady. I appreciate your concern, but I’m not a jumper, okay?”

“That’s not what I meant to imply. Simply that it’s not safe for you to sit so close to the edge.”

“I’ve been sitting here for years. Nothing’s happened to me yet.”

“Sorry to have interrupted you,” I said, making my way back down the pathway.

“I’m reading
Catcher in the Rye,” the boy said. “My mother gave it to me. She died of cancer.”

I gazed out over the fire-streaked water. “My son drove his car over the edge of a cliff. On purpose.”

The boy placed his book inside his backpack, got up and climbed over the metal barricade to stand beside me.

“My mother had a strange sense of humour. She named me Holden.”

“My son didn’t know how to laugh. I named him Alfred.”

Violin, Cleaning, Airport >>> “What if we get on the wrong plane?” I asked, looking down into my daughter’s one-year old eyes.

Her fuzzy red hair curled up and around, intermingling with the brown fur of her hood. She smiled, baring her two top teeth. A stream of drool dribbled down, disappearing into the soft material of her coat collar.

“Do you think anyone else will notice that my hands won’t stop shaking?”

A saliva bubble appeared on her lips, then popped and disbursed.

“I’ve never been on a plane before.”

She scrunched up her face and placed a finger on my chin.

“Ouch. Remind me to trim your fingernails.”

I glanced around the airport’s lounge area, seeking a distraction.

Pushing a cleaning cart towards the nearest washroom, a woman dragged her feet along the tiled floor. The thump-thump sound of her work boots made themselves heard beyond the continuous buzz of mingled conversation. She pushed the door open with her backside and pulled the cart in with her muscular arms.

A few minutes later, a woman exited the washroom, wearing a long dress, violin and bow in hand. She stood beside a previously ignored chair. With the grace of a ballerina, she cradled the instrument beneath her chin and drew the bow across the strings. After birthing the first few notes, the annoying chatter died.

Upon finishing her makeshift recital, and without making eye contact with her amateur audience, she shifted her feet, back and forth a few times. The scuffed toe of a work boot showed itself to those of us paying attention.

“Ophelia, there’s something really special about that washroom over there,” I said, smiling at my daughter. “You go in as a cleaning lady and come out a violin player.”