One evening this summer, I led my writers' group through several back-to-back short exercises. This was easily the favorite of the night:

Create a story that is 26 sentences long. Each sentence must begin with the next letter in the alphabet. For example, the first sentence should begin with A, the second with B, the third with C, and so forth.

Here's what I came up with:


"And stay out," Pa yelled at the tail-end of the escaping dog. "Bloodhounds aren't good for anything. Call Peterman and tell him to get these mongrels off our property. Dammit. Enough is enough."

"Fella's just doing us a favor." Gripping the open door screen, Ma shook her head, her white hair fluttering in the aimless breeze like dandelion fluff.

"He comes around here one more time and I'll shoot him."

"I'd like to see you try," said Ma and reached for her husband's soft shoulders. "Just come back inside, Xavier."

Keeping the screen open with her hip, she guided him into the house. Liver spots shadowed his shaking hands. Many years had passed since either of his deep brown eyes had seen a thing.

"Never will understand why that man sends his dog over here."

"Oh, Pa," she said. "Peterman means well."

"Quit pushing me," he said, swatting at her hands.

"Really, he's trying to do right by us. Service dogs cost money is all. Tramp don't cost a thing," she said and walked toward the bathroom, but then stopped and looked back.

Underlit by the glow of the television set, where the football game had suddenly changed to static, Pa appeared alien to her all of a sudden. Very odd to have a blind, ornery stranger in her living room after sixty-four years. Wind picked up at the corners of the house, as she expected. Xavier hunkered down in his chair as the tornado siren sounded.

"You know, I think this time we're heaven-bound, Ellen," said Pa over the high, fearsome whine, and his voice tugged her heart once again, bringing her back to his side; she knelt on the floor and held his hand.

Zeb Peterman pulled Tramp into his root cellar next door, let the doors bang shut above them both, and whispered, "Well boy, at least we tried."