As part of my need to stretch my brain, fingers and psyche this year, some prose-making must take place. I expect to continue chronicling my life to an extent (and with the swell magically dropping to a perfect 4 at 11 this morning, I may have a surf report later), but am inspired to do some writing exercises. Like practicing chords on the piano or baseball drills. One of my favorite exercises, called to mind recently during an Apples to Apples game, is the 14-30: the writer is given 14 random words and has 30 minutes to write something incorporating all 14. Now, I’m on a tight schedule this morning, so I’m going to do 7-15 instead.

These are the words, chosen from the Apples to Apples box:

Bangkok, my mind, sharks, pit bulls, black holes, a flat tire, cigarettes

“Oh, here’s a good one!” I said. “You know a man going through an airport turnstile is going to Bangkok!” I laughed, but the sound fell into a black hole of disapproval. OK, so maybe that wasn’t the best joke to tell at Thanksgiving dinner. Aunt Catherine frowned at me over the turkey carcass. Uncle Michael looked about as friendly as a pit bull as he moved the near-empty wine bottle away from me to the other end of the table. Point taken, I changed the subject. Turning to Melissa, the youngest of the cousins, I offered, “How was that Finding Nemo movie you watched last night?” Her wide blue eyes opened even wider. A long intake of breath led to an explosion of sobbing and falling into her mother’s arms. Everyone around the table gave me That Look. “What?” I asked. “I’m sorry!” My sister fixed me with that older-sister expression that says, you’re a hopeless idiot; they should have stopped with me. “The sharks scared her,” she said. Slowly. So I would. Understand. If only I smoked. Then I could excuse myself, step outside and light up cigarette after cigarette, avoiding everyone until it was time to leave. But, no. That particular vice I’d never successfully required. The night wore on, the holiday rhythm reminding me of limping along with a flat tire. Bar-rumph. Bar-rumph. Bar-rumph.