Starting today, we’ll be publishing pieces composed for ENGL 450, “Daily Themes.” Interested in being featured? Submit your theme with its prompt to email@example.com to be considered for publication.
Prompt: “Write a narrative that has the form of a list embedded in it. It might be the story of a particular day, or a series of errands or some other simple actions or events. Suggest but do not explain the implications of the order of the items in your ‘list.’ Push the sequence toward a surprising conclusion that illuminates the list’s secret coherence — or possibly that undermines the expectations you have built up.”
BY SHIRA TELUSHKIN
Marc surveyed the anxious crowd before him. He knew he would have to pick 10 today. There was a light frost on the ground, and his uniform, newly acquired when he’d been upgraded only this past September, provided little protection. He hated this part. He knew he was supposed to be a man, to revel in the power of choice, and he was working on it. He was looking for the strong ones, the fearless, the healthy. He hated weakness and fear. He didn’t want to be reminded how unsure he was in this unlimited authority. You, he said, pointing to a tall red-head. The male got up and looking guiltily at those he was leaving behind walked slowly to Marc’s side. Narrowing his eyes, Marc pointed this time to one of them who had short hair and folded arms. He seemed tough. You, he beckoned. Then he chose one with a sharp chin, another with a broad face, and one who stood absolutely still, not shivering in the cold. That seemed a good sign. There was one smaller one with glasses and longish hair, but when Marc turned his eyes on him, he smiled in return to Marc’s gaze. Disgusted at this implication of equality, Marc turned aside the choice. Glasses were weak, he decided. Finally ten were lined up to Marc’s right, facing the crowd that was left behind. The crowd searched the group desperately with their eyes while the line of chosen looked only at the ground. Relieved, captain by virtue of his new high-school status, Marc sighed and picked up the red ball. The neighborhood dodgeball team had been selected.