Lizzie Flashes: The Restrained Impulse Exerciseby Lizzie Stark • 10.08.2009
I can’t believe it’s Thursday already. This week’s exercise is based on Robert Hill Long’s “The Restraints,” found on p. 131 of the book Flash Fiction, edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka.
The Restrained Impulse Exercise
“The Restraints” is about a little girl with an uncontrollable urge to dance that begins as a hunger. Long begins, “Even when she was very little her hunger was worth something: hunger taught her to dance, and her father noticed.” The title refers to the fact that when she was a child her father “tied a rope from her ankle to his ankle at night” to protect his “livelihood” from running off. Many years later, dying, she is tied to a hospital bed, even as her feet continue to knock against the footboard as she remembers the dances, which represent her moment of “having everything.” The piece ends with a more metaphorical notion of restraint, lying in her hospital bed, “when she closes her eyes now she knows who it is, tied to her on the narrow bed.”
Write a story of two or three pages in which the protagonist has an uncontrollable urge to perform a physical activity in order to survive (it is no mistake that Long’s protagonist’s obsession begins with her hunger). Concretely establish the obsession for this physical activity early in the piece, then introduce a physical or situational check on the narrator’s obsession. The end of the piece should add a metaphorical meaning to the notion of restraint by fast-forwarding through time by ten years or more.