Story Prompt: A Strangeness in Town

The reason I write these prompts is for you, the writer, to be inspired by the narrator in the passage below.

Don’t copy this word for word. (And beside, that’s plagiarism.) Pay attention to the mood of the narrator, observe what he or she sees, feel a kind of tone that is being used. Is this story prompt hinting at a problem to be later solved? How can this prompt inspire ideas for your own work?

I don’t know why it happened, but after Jack “Stiggy” Collins somehow managed to hang himself—and the how it happened will still be argued at Elaine’s Bar and Grill over many, many beers and overcooked chicken wings–from an EZ-In convenience store billboard sign on Baseline Road, my small town of Huntington, Florida seemed to change yesterday.

Stiggy seemed to strain, panting and struggling up the last of the fifty feet before stepping onto the billboard’s safety platform and wiping off sweat from his weathered brow. He looked down and over the small town of Huntington. Since May eighteen, nineteen sixty, the day Stiggy was born to a diabetic mama and a mostly absent daddy—but none of Stiggy’s personal problems ever stopped him from being responsible and safe on the job as he made sure to always let everyone in town know–the place wasn’t really any different than the early days of the Three Coins Diner and Bassmouth Bob’s Quick Shoppe. Only the names had changed, and vinyl artwork sheets were now attached to erect steel frame structures with ratchet assemblies and gripper rods. The days of gluing poster panels over a wood billboard frame were, “Dunzo,” a made-up word that Jimmy Jenkins, Stiggy’s work partner, repeated for the seventh time this week.

Jimmy Jenkins didn’t know much, so he invented words and he fabricated stories, mostly telling them at Elaine’s after work. It was crap and nonsense that never made a point or hit a punchline. “ ’Bout as interesting as Huntington downtown. And nobody wants to go there unless they have to,” Tom Dander would say after dropping two bills on the bar to pay on four Friday drinks before going home to do his husbandly duty.

But yesterday, probably about four pm by my estimate, when Jimmy, who stood off to one side and looking kind of nervous, uttered Bizarrotada while gawking up at Stiggy’s swinging body–and everyone from town gathered around and stood silent-like and Elain was there and she was crying–Jimmy’s made-up word stuck under my skin in a way I can’t explain. It probably stuck under everyone’s skin even though nobody wanted to admit it. Not the outsiders, the Ocala ambulance crew, of course, or the Ocala fire crew that worked to cut the body down: They didn’t even know Stiggy and didn’t care.

But I had known him. To see him now staring down at me with empty, open eyes as if he tried to tell me (but couldn’t) that he hadn’t been irresponsible, that it had all been a freak accident or it had been foul play or it had been nothing at all–well, Bizarrotada.

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