Writing Exercise: A Prayer For Help

Homework: Descriptive writing for your journal. Spend five minutes on each (40 minutes total). Use each sentence or phrase to show. Don’t tell.

Due tomorrow. To be checked and graded.

1. A messy room:

At first glance, the black chord roping from the dirty plate under the bed and up the wall out the window gives the impression that the paper plate is plugged in to an outlet outside, until she realizes how ridiculous that is, thank Gd, before the question comes out of her mouth.

Don’t want to wake him.

He slumps in the rocker in the corner. Sunflower seed shells in his lap and on the floor around him. Saliva drips from his protruding lower lip.

Harmless, asleep. Better this way.

The nurse who comes every day but Sunday does not clean. And he does all his smoking when she leaves. The dutiful daughter gathers the cleaning supplies. Sweeps the shells, other crumbs and pieces. Throws away used plates, cups half full, cigarette butts and ashes on the windowsill, on the end table, and the lines of ants.

Some people garden on Sundays. She picks up soiled shirts and pants from the floor and moves just in time to avoid a palmetto bug falling from a sleeve to the floor where her foot had been. It scuttles under the dresser.

He sleeps until the end, when she wakes him for supper.

When she gets home, she spends fifteen minutes washing the smell of the apartment from her skin, her hair. She counts the minutes as she scrubs where he grabbed her wrist, a flash of the old strength, a simmer of the old power in his red-rimmed rheumy eyes she’ll see in her dreams for a week.

And then she’ll go back again.

She’s asked herself a thousand times, but there is only one clear answer as to why she keeps coming back.

It’s simply this: Someone has to clean the mess.

2. A kind person:

She trails the young man for blocks in the scorching heat of a mid-August day in the city to return a card he dropped as he’d exited the theater. She’d been sweeping the deep red carpets of smashed popcorn when the silver flutter of the card caught her eye. He walks fast. Two times he stops at a corner for traffic and she stands close enough to smell his cologne again, but chooses not to say his name or call his attention, observing, instead, how he looks at everything and everyone with brows knit in disdainful confusion until his face melts at the site of a baby pulling the ears of the adult she rides in a backpack. She catches up to him on the next block, taps his shoulder as he pauses at the corner, and presents his card.

“You dropped this,” she says.

He plucks it from her fingers, turns heel, and crosses the street without looking back.

The next day, a rose meets her at the theater. Addressed to her name. Anonymously.

Her allergies plug her face and head for hours, but she keeps the flower in hair over her left ear all day.

3. Temper:

He cries into her mother’s lap saying sorry, so, so, sorry. I’m so sorry.

I’m sorry.

4. A frightening situation:

A rare family gathering. Best behavior. Long sleeves are best. No questions beg no answers.

She remembers how woven noises of conversation and laughter and silverware and clinking glass stutters, hesitates, and then stops almost all at once, and everyone’s attention focuses on her mother, whose face is a shocked “O” of surprise.


Her mother pushes back her seat and stands up.

Hyperventilating. She looks painfully delicate. Breakable.


He shakes his head. “What is it?”

Her mother holds her hands to her chest. Coughs. Cries out in pain.


Chairs fall over. Someone screams 9-1-1.


No one notices her.


She finds him looking at her with serene, absolute calm.

She knows right then that she will leave him, too. But alive.

She also knows that she will never really leave him because he has made himself part of the way she sees the world around her.

Untrustworthy. Cruel.

She hears him calling her name in her nightmares.

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That will never end.

5. A depressing scene:

This wall is marked with scratches and smears. Sunlight seeps through closed stained wood blinds. Soon she’ll hear the train again. Everything repeats. Even lives.

The sprinklers turn on.

When he leaves, she doesn’t know if he’ll come back.

She doesn’t know if she’s worth coming back to.

He doesn’t say goodbye anymore.

She forgets her name when she’s with him.

So she lets him do anything. He doesn’t know she’s not of age. No one knows she’s still in high school.

No one knows how she prays in notebooks. How she goes to the synagogue where the rabbi nods at her in recognition and she writes and writes and writes.

He’ll come back. As always.

He never deigns to notice the smell of burnt pages in her clothes, her hair. Prayers up in flame.

He doesn’t pray even when he calls out to Gd.

Vanity. All vanity.

Because she is nothing.

6. The storm was violent.

Her mother is gone.

But her mother is here. Always here in her every move.

The house walls shake with rage.

When the roof goes it sounds like the pine trees cracking their knuckles.

The volume of wind is the sound of birth.

Or death.

7. The dog looked dangerous.

She sits in the corner while his spittle rains on her hands covering her face.

“You are so weak!”

She begs him to stop.

He doesn’t listen.

She has nowhere to go.

He knows this, knows no one will know.

She wears long sleeves. She has always worn long sleeves.

8. She is a good problem solver.

Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.



Imaginative work. It feels like there’s more to this. And a couple seem incomplete.

Let’s work on clarifying your use of pronouns and tightening up the punctuation.

Rewrite for a better grade.

Grade: B-




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