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Write Like it Will Never Be Read

May 6, 2013

Every Tuesday night, all summer long, the United States Naval Academy Band performs free concerts down at the Annapolis City Dock. Residents bring lawn chairs and set them up in the park that borders the harbor. They bring their kids, grandparents, babies in strollers, and the cares of a long day. Tourists perch on pier pilings or wooden benches as the band sets up, drawn to the electric anticipation in the air. The bricks in the courtyard still hold the heat of the summer sun, but no one cares. A saltwater breeze from the harbor carries its cooling promise of the coming night.

Because the band is military, its members are in uniform–midshipmen and -women wearing their dress whites for the occasion.

The lead singer is a beautiful girl– shiny blond hair tucked under her cap. She welcomes the crowed, her crisp shirt neatly tucked into the A-line skirt that ends professionally at the top of her knees. There is a stir of anticipation. Then the drummer starts the beat, the guitarist joins him, and our conservative young naval officer breaks into a rousing rendition of Lady Gaga.

But the real show is in front of the stage, where about a dozen children–most under the age of 6–have gathered. They swing and sway, they hop up and down in place like tiny lunatics. They are completely off the beat. They spin like little helicopters that have lost their stability rudders and fall into each other both unselfconsciously and without acknowledgment, then clamber to their feet and spin some more—as if each is dancing to music only he can hear.

 Today: write about someone (you?) who hears something no one else hears.  A voice of warning? (Don’t go! Come home!) Music? (The strains of a lullaby? A haunting melody that can’t be placed?) A crying baby? The  voice of God? A long-dead relative?  Or try this: maybe the story is about what the dog can hear that no one else can. 

(excerpted from The Story Within, New Insight and Inspiration for Writers, Penguin Books)

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