Prompt writing

I was poking around my computer files this morning, procrastinating cleaning things up a bit before catching up on some NaNo writing (my goal today is 4,000 words. *gulp*). I stumbled upon the very first prompt I sent out to my old writing group, called “The Black Velvet Box.” It was supposed to be 500 words or less, but mine clocked in at just under 850.

I remember being amazed by how many different interpretations everyone in my group had. One box contained an old seaman’s curse (The Black Dot), one had a lost wedding ring, there was a coin stolen by a ghost, and one story was told entirely from the point of view of the mice who found the box. I love writing exercises like this – it’s a great way to work out my creative muscles and clear my cobwebby brain.

Here is the prompt –

Writing prompt for March 21, 2008
The temperature outside is finally above freezing and winter’s snow is beginning to melt, revealing a season’s worth of lost things. Disregarding hats and mittens, a man walking his dog becomes intrigued with a black velvet box. He opens it and is shocked to discover its contents. What’s inside the box and how did it get there? ~

And this was my result –

The Key to My Heart

“Jeez, boy could you hurry it up? My fingers are f’king freezing off!”

Ritz, my golden retriever, ignored me and kept digging at the frozen snow bank. Knowing I was the idiot guy for running outside without gearing up first didn’t improve my mood. In my defense, 40 degrees in New England in March is usually tee shirt time. I also had about three minutes until I was late for work again, and I was getting wicked pissed off.

“Come on already! This isn’t play time.” I tugged pretty hard on his leash, and he fell right off the mound, knocking snow everywhere.

“Sorry buddy, but can’t say I didn’t warn…” I noticed a black object. Before, I’d assumed was a chunk of road chewed up by the plow, but now I realized it was a small jeweler’s box.

I promised my frozen fingers they’d soon be wrapped around a large Dunks. After a minute, the box squeaked open to reveal a very shiny, very large…. key.

“A key? Why the hell would… you gotta be kidding me.” There was a piece of paper underneath it, so I shoved the box in my pocket, dragged my dog back to the apartment, and beat feet to work.

I didn’t get a chance to read the note until a lot later, when I’d come up tons of different treasures the stupid thing might open. I got disappointed a second time when it turned out to be a cryptic message.

“You are holding the key to my heart. To unlock my love, return it to me. I’ll be at the Black Rose this Thursday. Ask for Sarah.”

“Oh, for the love of Pete! Some poor lovestruck idiot must’ve botched a Valentines surprise.” I thought for a minute, then decided since the place was on the way home, it couldn’t hurt to stop in for a quick Guinness, and see if I could put someone’s mind at ease about the fate of their key. Maybe help out the poor guy who probably caught holy hell for not showing. Hey, he might even buy me a beer, and it wouldn’t be a total waste of my time.

When I got there, I found the last empty stool at the bar. The place was swarming with end of shift guys, so after I ordered, I waited before asking the bartender if she knew Sarah. My money was on her. She looked young enough to still believe in romantic gestures and happily ever afters on Valentines day. It took until almost the bottom of my glass, but finally there was a lull, and I waved her over.

“Can I get you another?” she asked.

“No thanks – I’m all set, but I did have a question. Are you Sarah?”

She got that detached but guarded look on her face they must teach the first day of bartender’s school and said, “Who wants to know?”

I took the box out of my pocket, opened it, and slid it across the bar. “I’m returning this to her.”

She about fell over. “Where did you get that?” she gasped, and looked at me like I was a knight in shining armor or something. I got a bad feeling.

“My dog dug it out of a snow bank. I figured you’d want it back.”

“But, how? Oh my god, I never thought anyone would actually find it.” She looked at me with bright shiny eyes that scared the crap outta me and then she went into full babble mode. “I did this stupid single girl ritual thing when I visited my sister in California. We put these boxes together and tied them to balloons, and our true love was supposed to find them and hand the key back to us, which meant we’d found our soul mate, but how did it make it all the way across the country… this is too weird…”

She gave me that starry-eyed look again, and I knew it was my cue to leave.

“Well, I didn’t know if it was important or not, so I figured I’d drop it off. Now I have to get home. My wife will be wondering where the hell I am.”

I swear she stopped breathing for a second. “Your… wife?”

“Yep, married twelve years this month. Hope you find someone too. Good luck with the key and everything.” I dropped a ten on the counter and hoofed it to the door.


Sarah tried to keep her composure, knowing there were at least five hours between her and a good cry in the privacy of her room. She grabbed at the box, and tried to hide it in her apron before anyone could see it and ask uncomfortable questions. She was so lost in her swirling emotions that when her best friend and co-worker John put his hand on her shoulder, she shrieked and almost jumped into the bar.

Over the sound of her racing heart, she heard him say, “You dropped this.” He gently placed the key into her trembling hand.


Feel free to post a link to your own result to the prompt in my comment section, and we can compare notes. Happy writing!

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