Hold Steady Writing Prompt

As mentioned below, I’m currently enrolled in an online writing workshop put on by the guys at Barrelhouse. This week, the prompt came from editor Dave Housley (I hope he doesn’t mind I’m posting this), who had us work off this line: “He’s got the pages in his pockets that he ripped out of the Bible from his bedstand in the motel.”

The line comes from the Hold Steady song “Cattle and the Creeping Things” (which, itself, is part of a larger narrative–Separation Sunday. Check it out.)

Anyway, here’s what I did. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

“He’s got the pages in his pockets that he ripped out of the Bible from his bedstand in the motel.”

“Anything else?”

“Sorry, Alan. Perhaps he didn’t realize the gravity of the situation.”

“No one informed him?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

Alan, a man of great wealth and little faith, turned to the stranger that had been delivered to him. The man stood a little over six feet tall and wore a fedora that shadowed his features. A black shirt, jeans and leather jacket was all he wore. Alan had expected a clergy robe. He tried not to sound angry or impatient: “Do you know what’s happening here?”

The stranger’s head dipped. “Believe so. Daughter’s sick, right?”

A muffled scream seeped through ceiling above them. The sound of glass, shattering.

“You could say that.” Alan looked at the bishop, the one responsible for bringing this stranger into his house.

The bishop shrugged. “He’s our last resort.”

Alan rubbed his thumbs into his eyes and sighed deeply. “Listen Mr…” and when the stranger didn’t fill the blank, he went on. “Have you done anything like this before?”

The stranger looked up to the ceiling, where all the noise was coming from. Light fixtures shook and their illuminations flickered. “Twice,” he said after a long while. “One time worked, the other time didn’t.”

“What do you mean ‘didn’t’?”

“She’s dead.”

Alan’s legs gave out underneath him and he collapsed into the carpet. The bishop motioned as if to pick him up, but Alan brushed him away and sobbed into his arms crossed atop the knees.

“Well, would you at least like a whole Bible?” asked the Bishop. “You could use mine if you want.”

“Nope. Got the pages I need.”

Alan was still sobbing on the floor. “Goddamnit,” he repeated. “Gddamnit, Goddamnit, Goddamnit…”

The stranger stood above him, took cigarette out and lit it. “Indeed,” he said. He took the folded Bible pages out of his pocket and began reciting them—practicing as he climbed the stairs to the daughter’s room.