“I don’t think it’s fair that She offloaded this reviewing gig to us,” Sparky complained.
Enigma was scrolling through the eBook, paw on the track pad. “How ARE we supposed to review this? It’s not even the kind of book you have to read from front to back.”
Sparky peered at the screen with his beady little eyes. “1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, by Bryan Cohen,” he read aloud. “So it’s a book on how She’s supposed to write more, cept She’s not. Where do we start, Mi Mi?”
The cat grimaced. Mi Mi was her real name, but in the spirit of autonomy, she chose another. Still, it didn’t stop Sparky from using it when he wanted to annoy her. She came from a franchise of children’s toys. Her best pal the pig was rescued from a reject shop, so that could account for his occasional lack of class.
“From the beginning,” she decided, rolling the document back to the top. “There we go. Reviews. Praise for 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts (Volume 1) by Bryan Cohen. This book inspires me to write more… yadda yadda banana.”
Sparky giggled. “You think any of them actually read the whole thing? No, we need another strategy. This is a book of writing prompts, right?” He rested an arm on Enigma’s back and leaned in. “Tap the down button to the next part… there. The author Bryan Cohen explains why he put together a book of prompts. It’s because you won’t feel like starting from scratch if someone hands you a place to look.”
Enigma flexed a fore paw. “I won’t mind giving Someone a scratch if it’s going to get Her started on…”
Sparky scratched his feline friend soothingly behind an ear. She forgot about wanting to scratch anyone and purred.
“Let’s see what else this says,” suggested Sparky. “Scroll, scroll, scroll, stop.”
“How to write from prompts,” Enigma read. “Seriously, porkchop, he pulled all 1,000 ideas from his head and put it in this eBook, and made the prompts open ended so it can be used over and over. So it’s really 1,000 multiplied by infinity and nobody should run out of ideas.”
“Okay. So he gives an example here of how you can reuse the same prompt. We should try it out, Mi Mi!”
Enigma sighed. “How do you pick one prompt out of 1,000 when nobody really cares…”
“Pick a number between 1 and 1,000!”
“Six-six-six,” the cat said drily, and leaned on the track pad since her paw was still on it. They both watched words flying upwards for a few seconds. The 500’s rolled by and Enigma stopped leaning in favour of tapping until they reached the 600’s.
“Did you see that? There were sections. The prompts are divided into sections,” Sparky said. “I saw Holidays near the top but 666 is under a sub-category called ‘Writing’, which is under ‘Literature and Genre’.”
They both peered blankly at item 666:
How do other people affect your writing? Talk about how a different people in your life change your writing after you interact with them.
The cat was the first to shrug. “I won’t know. I’m a cat. You’re a pig. We’re just messing around.”
“I’ll pick a number. Um, forty-two.”
“All the way up again? Nice.”
“Sorry. But that’s the only significant number I can think of.”
“Sometimes I’d sit and wonder about 42. But it hurts my head.”
Sparky’s choice said:
42. You are visiting four thanksgivings in one weekend (a la “Four Christmases”). How do you eat all that food? Which one is the best? Who are these people you’re visiting?
“I’d take a spoon of everything, just a spoon, put it on my plate and eat it all,” decided Sparky. “Then I’d move on to the next house.”
“I’d just eat my fill at the first house and take a nap. Who cares about the other houses when one is sufficient?”
“Can we just pick another one and be done with it? All this talk of food is making me hungry.”
Enigma switched over to the browser and typed in random.org. “Let’s just make it fair and let a random number generator pick the last number,” she said.
The result box shows the figure 353. Enigma found the entry and they both stared at the prompt:
A body has been found and the dental records show it is your best friend. The parents have asked you to go and identify the body. Describe the experience.
After a pregnant silence, Enigma started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” asked Sparky. “That’s pretty grim!”
She stopped laughing. “Ok, Sparky, how would you write this?”
I have dreaded this moment since Mi Mi Enigma went missing after the party. Her parents decided to stay outside while I go identify the body. As I walked slowly towards the oddly-shaped lump under the sheet, I felt scared. What if I can’t tell if it was her or not? If they had to identify her by her teeth, would it mean that she would look like a toothless old cat?
The morgue duck pulled the sheet off when I nodded. I covered my mouth and nose with my hooves. It was horrible. It smelt horrible. She was very flat and squished and there was a very large tire track from the side of her head to her tail that I can’t tell for sure if it was Mi Mi or not. Only her fur colour matched. Only the bits that weren’t caked in dried blood.
I stumbled out of the back room, ignoring Papa and Mama Enigma, and ran to the wash room to puke.
“Gee, thanks,” Enigma said sarcastically. “Tire track.”
“Your turn now!” said Sparky eagerly.
I knew something fishy was up when the phone rang. The phone never rang. I picked up and before I could say hello, a distressed but familiar voice spoke first, “Is that you, Enigma?”
I never thought I’d hear that voice again. Not since we gave up looking for Sparky.
“Mrs Porcine,” I replied in guarded tones. “What a… surprise.”
“They found him.”
I was silent.
“They found my baby Sparky. I can’t… They said someone has to go down to identify him but I can’t possibly… please… can you…”
“Say no more, Mrs Porcine,” I cut in, sparing the dame the misery of repeating bad news. My gaze strayed towards a ceramic bowl where I kept my keys. “I’ll go immediately.”
The waiting room in the morgue was silent and smelt cloyingly of citrus that didn’t quite cover the stench of dead. I tried not to wrinkle my nose too much as I slipped my sunglasses off. The medical examiner was another business associate of mine. His name was Dr Jay Kensington but I called him Ducky and occasionally he called me a heartless five-letter B-word.
“You sure this is a good idea, detective?” he said, meeting me at the door to the inner sanctum. “I know that the vic was a buddy.”
“I promise Sparky’s mother, Ducky. Now show me the body. I can take it. I’m a big girl.”
“If you say so,” Ducky waddled back into the examination room. “Truth is, there’s not very much left of the body. It came to us in pieces.”
I mentally braced myself as he peeled back the sheet covering the table. I didn’t know what I expected, but the three piles of unidentifiable material didn’t make much sense to me until I stepped right up and looked a little closer.
The first was a pink, terry cloth material. The second was white, synthetic wool and the third was a perfect set of teeth.
“You weren’t kidding about him coming in pieces,” I said weakly. Catching myself, I coughed distractedly and indicated the teeth. “May I?”
Ducky nodded assent and I picked up the teeth.
“Mmm hmm,” I muttered, spotting what bothered me about them. “Ducky? This might seem like a strange question, but were they a match to the records?”
“Yes. I matched them myself. Terrible business.”
I tested each molar with a finger. “This isn’t Sparky.”
Ducky held up both wings, annoyed to have his work questioned. “The records say…”
“There’s nothing wrong with the records, Ducky. But there’s plenty wrong with these teeth.” I looked at him. “The last time I saw him, I punched him in the face and knocked out two teeth. This one,” I held an incisor in the upper row between two fingers. “And this one.” I pointed at another in the bottom row.
The medical examiner took the set of teeth from me and tested it himself. “I’ll have to run some tests to be sure but what makes you so sure Sparky didn’t have them set back in?”
I stuck a paw into my coat pocket and pulled out something I tossed in together with my keys and showed it to Ducky. “I kept his teeth in a bowl on my desk.”
“Enigma,” he used my first name this time. “If this isn’t Sparky, then why all this trouble?”
I didn’t know, but I sure hell was going to find out. I put Sparky’s real teeth back into my pocket. “Run your tests and give me a call when you have results. But I’m quite sure you’ll find a discrepancy somewhere.”
Ducky nodded stiffly. With his professional integrity in question, he would order the tests immediately. “What are you going to do next?”
“Get to the bottom of this,” I enunciated slowly. “It would seem that Sparky’s death was nothing but…” I slipped my sunglasses back on and glanced at Ducky. “…a lot of hogwash.”
And I left.
Sparky applauded loudly. “You should do all the writing around here!” he said, patting Enigma on the back. “I can give the ideas. We’ll split the profits 50/50.”
Enigma was pleased with the compliment but ignored the suggestion about profits. “Let’s shut this off and go take a nap,” she suggested. “Screw writing the review. She can do it herself.”
1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More is available on Kindle from Amazon. Review copy courtesy of Story Cartel.