WEEKLY WRITING PROMPTS: “An Idiot With a Crayon”


03-09-15

So, last night, I joined a Facebook-based group called “Weekly Writing Prompts”. Today, I’m playing around with the first writing prompt: “We Are Being Led By An Idiot With A Crayon.”

So, now, not knowing what the administrator wants — fiction or non-fiction — I wax philosophical in an essay. See below:

“We Are Being Led By An Idiot With A Crayon”: My First Writing Prompt

As a college English professor, I instruct students to pre-write in order to generate ideas for a major assignment. Now, it is my turn to become my own student. As I ponder this one-sentence challenge, several ideas occur to me.

First, who are “we”?  Townspeople? An army? A tribe? An enclave? A special-interest group?

And what lucky soul gets to be the “idiot”? How else will we recognize our esteemed leader? After all, “idiot” seems so unkind. Perhaps this person is only a grossly-misunderstood, much-maligned genius or free thinker instead of one who is profoundly challenged.

Next, the crayon. Could it be a metaphor for something greater than a stick of wax that colors pictures? And what color is it? Playful orange? Tree-hugger green? Regal purple? “Kiss me, you fool” lipstick-red? “Just-the-facts-ma’am” black? Or, just maybe, an “invisible” white?

Finally, we must consider the tone. Serious? Sarcastic? Matter-of-fact? Tongue-in-cheek?

So many angles to consider. Where on earth should I begin?

Nah, I thought, wadding it up after I read it. Too erudite. Too…teacher-y.

After batting around a couple of ideas, Ideas, like hailstones, pelted my brain. The following story is what I  posted to the group.

“We Are Being Led By An Idiot With A Crayon”

“Family Day” in the Fernwood Asylum dayroom is going about as I expected. Charlie, ninety-years old and toothless, in his backless hospital gown, is mooning anyone who gives a rip. Inez, a tiara on in her two-toned red-and-black permed head, is parading around in her swimsuit, serenading the visitors with an off-key falsetto solo of “Here She Comes, Miss America”. And I – a run-of-the-mill, garden-variety likeable nut – am doing my best to steer clear of the real crazies in this joint.

In one corner, “Wheel of Fortune” blares from a wide-screened television. Inmates and their families shift around, crossing and uncrossing their legs in metal folding chairs and yell out the answers faster than Vanna can turn the letters. In the center of the room, four sit around a card table playing “reverse strip-poker” with the loser winning unclaimed clothing from the laundry. The Grand Prize:  someone gets to wear someone else’s choppers for a day.

All is reasonably quiet. Okay, that’s not entirely true. In a place like this, you learn to re-define “quiet”. Even so, with family here, we are all on our semi-best behavior until our newcomer — Hazel, renowned ballerina who runs around in a tutu, wound up in here after someone found her hiding from militant extra-terrestrials – pirouettes into the dayroom, embarrassing the snot out of those of us who are trying our best to act civilized in front of our mamas, daddies, spouses, and kiddos.

Commanding our attention by banging on the back of a bedpan, she turns the page on a huge tablet we use to play Pictionary with on “Game Night”. Pulling a red crayon from a sixty-four pack of Crayolas, she then passes the box around as if it contained fine chocolates.

“Take one without noticing what color it is and wait for me to tell you what to do with it once everyone has one.”

Well, knowing Hazel, or “Witch Hazel”, as we like to call her, just to piss her off, there’s no telling what she’ll do, next. She waits until we all settle down before she asks us to put our crayons in our mouths and hum “Yankee Doodle” at the same time.

Well, we may be a bunch of nuts, here, but we ain’t stupid. We wouldn’t be caught doin’ half the stuff she dreams up in that frizzy head of hers.

Bubba, a Larry-the-Cable-Guy wannabe,  stands up in back. “I ain’t-a gonna do this,” he yells, thumping his chest. “It ain’t right. It ain’t natural!”

“Me, neither,” says his side-kick, the one we call his “Other-Brother Bubba”.

Well, after one right after another rebels against Hazel’s wack-a-doodle idea, we have us a good ol’ riot goin’ on.

Cupcakes fly. Punch sloshes. Babies cry.

Suddenly, Pedro, a former inmate-turned-security-guard pulls me aside.

”What’s goin’ on, here?”

As Hazel in her pink tutu leads everyone on a march around the day-room, holding their Crayolas to their mouths and playing them like flutes, I point to her and whisper, “We are being led by an idiot with a crayon.

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