The Reluctant I

So this is an exercise from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction.  I am trying to get in the mode of writing more often. And I think that having some direction would be helpful.  I’m sort of starting at the front and going forward until I get comfortable with the rhythm and start flipping through.  

At any rate, this is the first exercise:  Write a first person story in which you use the first person pronoun only two times.  The point of this exercise is to imagine a narrator who is less interested in himself than what he is observing. The reader should not be surprised to realize 40 or 50 words in that it is the first person.  600 words. 

That fireworks show before the oil rig blew was amazing.

Before it started, after several delays and some encores by the Mutaytor, everyone could feel this weird tension in the air.  The thousands of people standing in front of the stage were vaguely aware that something could go horribly wrong, and we’d all die a quick but firey death in the moments before the build up to the blast.

It’s not as if this thing was field tested. It’s not like they had a really precise idea of what minimum safe distance was.  It’s not like the art cars at the scene weren’t to some extent flammable, not to mention the yards of fake fur, stretchy lame, and other synthetic fabric on the population. It’s not like everyone wasn’t repeatedly told to read the back of the tickets with the lengthy disclaimer, which included death.

A fire truck stood by.  People with walkie talkies moved the perimeter circle even further away from the hundred foot tall oil derrick surrounded by 20 foot statues.   Rumors flew.  Was the BLM going to shut it down?  Did anyone know how many fire balls there were going to be?  No way was this going to be better than the Man burn that happened a few hours ago.   Some people spun fire or LEDs.  Others danced around the art cars.  Still others stood alone in the desert, in their own worlds, surrounded by thousands of other people.

But no one moved. Some people talked about taking a few steps back a little before the show started, but once the smoke started wafting in and that air raid horn started blaring, everyone was transfixed.  Heartbeats start speeding up.  Lovers squeezed each other tighter.  No one made any effort to leave. Instead, everyone turned their attention to the oil derrick, sitting silently in the distance.  The air horn went off forever and ever and ever. And everyone waited. And then it stopped. And a minute later, the Star Spangled Banner started, which morphed into this cool Arabic music, and the fireworks were off.

The fireworks were beautifully choreographed to some pretty fucking amazing music in a fairly ballsy way. The music and the fire were synched, and the bursts of color exploded in patterns and motions that not seen before.   The whole display hovered around the derrick, closer to the earth than displays they show in the default world.    This show drew our attention to the thing coming out of the earth, not the sky.   It seemed to go on forever and ever, and everyone was transfixed.  But that tension was still there. Even with the awe and beauty of the fireworks and music, everyone was acutely aware of all of that jet fuel waiting to blow.

And at the end, the Star Spangled Banner started again, but this time with a funeral organ playing it slow and morbidly.

And then a wait.

The motherfuckers knew exactly how to make every single person in that desert just shake in anticipation of this blast that was going to go off. It seemed like hours, staring at that oil rig, knowing that it was going to blow, but being unable to do anything more than just stand there and watch.

And then it did. Was there a sound? Maybe a sort of dull roar. The night turned into day for a few seconds, and everyone leaned back away from the radiant heat at the same time. People from far away said that the fireball went 500 feet into the air, but we were too close to see that high.  The crowd was just surrounded by light and heat and thousands of people, old and new, who were all thinking at the same exact moment, “Holy fucking shit.” Afterwards, the crowd stood there and watched the rest of the oil derek catch on fire and burn and burn and burn.