Saturday, January 07, 2006


Preface: The narrative writing sample was to, in 500 words or less, answer the tag line: "Tell about the first time you visited the circus." Originally, this piece (and one other that we'll post later) was selected -- and we were going to be published and paid!!! -- by a publishing company in their project to create a book for middle schoolers teaching and explaining different styles of writing (narrative, descriptive, expository, etc.). Obviously, thinking outside the box was required. As elated as we (Pearce & Story) were when our pieces were selected, we were just as disappointed when the project fell through. Regardless, we thought we'd share how we would answer that line. Oh, and try coming up with something on your own in 500 words or less. It ain't easy. Hope you enjoy our answer in 493 words.
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“In the show we’ll perform without the net.”

“That doesn’t scare me,” I lied. My eyes shifted from Galinda to the mesh canopy stretched across the arena below.

“Good. We can’t have blokes freezing up on us when it’s gone… that’s why we have a position to fill now.”

I clutched the ladder tighter but wouldn’t let fear phase me. I needed this job.

“Where you from?”


He looked disappointed. “Bloody luck. It’d be nice to have a chap from Holland in the Dutchmen. Closest we’ve gotten is Brussels.”

KABOOM! A body hurtled past. The flailing figure looped close to the tent top before diving.

The Great Galinda blanched. “Blast that wretched cannon! These glorified sideshow freaks have replaced art with smoke and noise. In the Dutchmen, you’ll learn a performer’s craft.” Pride swelled his chest, and mine puffed too.

“Still… you are young. Our top aerial artist, VanGeffen, started at sixteen too, but he’s exceptional. Are you exceptional, lad?”

“West End’s finest,” I boasted.

“Bah! Whipping the local gym rats and performing under the Big Top in the spotlight are completely different, like comparing my pocket watch to Big Ben.” Then, he smiled and whispered, “Timing’s the key. Either you have it, or you don’t. And there’s only one way to know.”

I swallowed hard. I’d learned plenty about timing dodging my old man’s flying whiskey bottles. ‘Course the only good timing I managed in my whole life came after I hit the streets, and Billings let me crash at the club while he trained me. That and catching the ad for Bombo’s Big Show a fortnight ago. Today held my one chance to start over, to have a new life, a new home, to be a star. I’d be hanged if I was gonna blow it now.

Galinda waved to another performer on the far platform and reached for the swing hanging before us. “’Right then, try to land on your bum instead of your face when you fall.” He chuckled.

“Unless your mate can’t catch, there’ll be no falling,” I scoffed with some false bravado.

“Can’t catch?” Mild insult touched Galinda’s eyes. “I’ve told you, VanGeffen is exceptional. You’ll not find a better catcher anywhere. He’s ace! But your spirit’s there, lad. Let’s see if you can back it up.”

I took a deep breath. Even the popped corn and elephants would smell like perfume if I made it. Steeling my nerves, I nodded to VanGeffen and vaulted forward.

Freedom’s air blew over me as I dove and then ascended. At the height of my arc, the decisive moment arrived, and I released.


I opened a mite too soon, and as I plunged, fear gripped me. Then, powerful hands clasped about my wrists, and I swung to salvation. Exceptional, indeed.

Moments later, exhilarated, I stood before the Great Galinda, shaking his hand. “Bravo Godolphin! Welcome to the Daring Dutchmen!” And with those words, I had found my home.


codepoke said...



You were WAY outside the box, and what a joy to read. I love the accents, and the Dutchman's pride. The whole thing was a slam-dunk. (It was going to be a home-run, then I remembered that baseball is a national pastime, not a sport.)

Scot said...

Adjective adjective noun verb preposition adjective noun. Adjective noun adverb verb preposition adjective noun. "Interjection!", pronoun verb. Adjective adverb verb noun.

Dang! I had a good story going, but my diagraming software was toggled wrong. Oh well, never mind! Even with its software bugs, at least I'm not still diagramming all my sentences by hand before posting comments, like the rest of you suckers.

P&S said...

Codepoke: Thanks for the kind words. Glad you liked it.

Scot: I've got to disagree. Everyone knows you start a story: Adjective noun verb preposition adjective PRONOUN. You've got to hook your audience with that first sentence. Oh yeah, and lose your adverbs.

Sorry for the harsh critique.