WRITING PROMPT: Write a poem about happy endings. Or write a story about a couple who win the lottery and fervently disagree about what to do with the money.
Lawrence and Lydia always sat side-by-side. Touching shoulders. Touching elbows. And holding hands with their fingers interlocked. Lawrence always sat on the right. Lydia to the left. This was their lucky formation. They never really knew why they decided it was lucky… They had never actually ever won anything. But every Saturday evening… at 10:56 pm… they would rush to the sofa… sit in formation…and await the drawing of the numbers.
“The Lucky Numbers for POWERBALL FIVE tonight are… 5… 17… 4… 28… and 12. Once again… 5… 17…4… 28… and 12. Thanks for playing POWERBALL FIVE this week.”
Lydia stared at Lawrence. Lawrence stared back at Lydia. Then they simultaneously leaped to their feet and squealed like little school girl’s at a sock hop.
They had all five numbers. Tonight was the night of their dreams.
Lawrence grabbed Lydia by the shoulders and somewhere in mid-hug they found themselves sitting back on the couch.
“We did it.”
“Can you believe it?”
“No more house payments.”
“A brand-new truck!”
“The college fund for Amanda is complete.”
“That hunting lodge is mine!”
“We can finish paying-off the debt on Grandma Sofia’s house.”
“The debt on Grandma Sofia’s house.”
“She has four children. Paying off our percentage is a great idea.”
“But we can afford it.”
“There are hundreds of other things we have always wanted to do. What about you always wanting to go to Paris?”
“You don’t want to go to Paris.”
“Take Amanda. Take two of your girlfriends.”
“So you are now planning to spend all the time at this new hunting lodge?”
“Not all the time… I should still work at the firm a day or two during the month.”
“You’re going to quit your job!”
“We can afford it.”
“What about putting some money away for a later years?”
“We should enjoy the money while we are still young enough to enjoy it.”
“Sometimes I think I don’t know you.”
“You’re always so careful with the budget. Live a little.”
“We haven’t even got a check and the money is already changing you.”
“No it’s not. I’m the same old boy you married fifteen years ago.”
“What about my mother?”
“I didn’t marry your mother.” As soon as those words came out of Lawrence’s mouth, he knew he had went too far.
“I think you are on the sofa today, dear.”
“Top shelf… cabinet right next to the refrigerator. That’s where you’ll find your honey tonight.”
WRITING PROMPT: Write a poem about the ocean. Or write a story about a character who finds a message in a bottle washed up on the beach. “Help me,” the message reads, and there’s a name and address…
Come and Rescue Me
Jeff and Maxwell were frantically trying to tie the Platypus Super 100 line around the bottom of the bottle and meticulously superglue it.
After three weeks of trials-and-many-errors, they had achieved near perfection with the stunt. This wasn’t any ordinary stunt. This stunt would change Maxwell’s life forever…. For the good… he hoped?
“Ok,” Jeff said. “You have your note?”
“Finished it last night. My best calligraphy. Shakespeare’s Romeo could have not set the scene better than I. Even soaked it in apple juice and toasted it over the fire to age the piece.”
“You are going all out.”
“I have to. I don’t want Martha to think anything is awry until she finishes reading the letter.”
“Well, roll it and stuff it. If we have this thing timed right, I toss it in the ocean when I see you guys approaching from the right. You will be keeping an eye out for the bottle as you tenderly walk hand-in-hand in the sunset.”
“Stop it…” Maxwell punches Jeff in the arm.
“Well, this is your set-up.”
“It has to work. She had always said that she dreamed of rescuing a prince hidden in the deepest, darkest dungeons. I only want for part of her dreams to be realized.”
“We have everything carefully calculated… I will continue to tug on the line until you see the bottle. You rescue the bottle, quickly removing the fishing line. Then you become shocked when you discover that there is a message in the bottle. You hand the bottle to Martha… You better hope that you are the frog she wants to kiss.”
That got another harder punch.
“Cork it, Jeff.” And he did.
“We’re off to the races…”Jeff screamed as he ran from the under patio and up the beachfront. Soon he was out of sight.
Maxwell suddenly felt an icy shiver run all the way down his spine. If this worked right… he would be proposing tonight to Martha just as the sun set over Buckroe Beach. He checked his pocket for the ring.
“We’re off to the races…” he chuckled and followed Maxwell’s footfalls left in the sand.
WRITING PROMPT: Write a poem about the sensations of running as fast as you can. Or write a story in which your character has to find a friend and warn her before the friend makes a terrible mistake (e.g., quitting a job, breaking up with a boyfriend over a misunderstanding, committing a crime, going on vacation with a new boyfriend who has a dark past, etc.). The friend’s cell phone is turned off, and the friend is nowhere to be found…
An Unresolved Rivalry
The air was filled with the anticipation of an ancient rivalry resolved. Vindication … after 50 years. It would taste great.
Many were making small wagers on the two combatants, even though gambling was frowned upon. This was an unsanctioned race, so in truth, it really wasn’t a sport’s bet.
Fredrick had his starter’s gun at hand. Freddy didn’t run. (Freddy didn’t do anything to cause sweat. Brains were made to overcome exertion was his life’s mantra… even as a teen.)
The course had been set, marked, and groomed- there was to be no visible reason that a foul should take place… again.
Medics were parked under the trees at the lower gate. Precautionary measures were complete. We weren’t as young as we used to be.
There was a slight breeze blowing; this could help me. It had been eons since this dispute began. It would be settled this morning.
I had received a certified challenge in the mail two weeks ago. My notice was marked #62. After signing for it, I had immediately called Fredrick. He had just received his: #61. I could not believe that Kevin had held a grudge for this long. Actually, that was easy to believe.
The misadventure (What else could you call it?) had happened during Senior Days at McPatton Institute. I had beaten Kevin in the 5K … by a mere breath… literally. Kevin had collapsed at the line – just before crossing- and I had passed him.
Kevin had always been a bit of a blowhard and a show-off. Just before crossing the finish line, He decided to add a handspring and a backflip to complete his run-away victory. His arms gave way… He went crashing to ground. I kept running. I passed him… trying not to laugh.
Apparently, Kevin did not take defeat well. We weren’t surprised. He jumped and demanded that ‘all concerned parties’ run the race again. It was really quite amusing. He had been winning by several yards, until his stunt.
The spectators were roaring at the comicalness at the completion of the race. Kevin was not especially well liked…He had gotten his comeuppance.
The race officials ruled that no misconduct had happened and the results of the race were made official.
“There will be a rematch… or you will all burn in Hell!” And with those words, Kevin cleared out his quarters and left the Institute. That was 50 years ago. We had seen neither hide-nor-hair of him…except for a few news briefs.
The three of us were friends from Gopher Springs, Georgia. Classmates since fifth grade. He entered the Institute together… Were commissioned together… And left the Institute together to pursue our various worldly ambitions. Well, Kevin left a few hours before we did.
At earlier reunions, the tenth, the twentieth, and so on… Kevin had not made an appearance. We had heard of a boating accident, but after that initial bit of knowledge… Kevin’s world was hush-hush.
Still, it did not catch me completely off-guard with the receiving of the rematch summons. But Certified Mail…It did make me chuckle. All 62 members of our Corp were invited… just like the original event. Another chuckle.
While I readied myself, not being in quite as good of shape as I had been fifty years earlier, I was accosted by Fredrick. He was breathing heavily and perspiration was dripping off his forehead. “Samson, don’t do this!” He panted.
I was in shock… I had never seen Fredrick sweat… except during our training drills. And that was FIFTY years ago!
“Of course, I’m going to run. I know that I am fifty years older… but so is Kevin. It will be fun. We’ll all get a few laughs.”
“No!” he was still panting. “The laughs have already started. All is not as it seems.”
The tittering was getting louder behind me. I turned to find the reason for the laughter and Fredrick’s stress.
Kevin was here. He was in a motorized wheelchair. And his wheelchair was spraying gravel in rapid donuts all along our well-manicured track.
I chuckled…Leave it to Kevin… Apparently one can do donuts and wheelies in Hell.
WRITING PROMPT: Write a poem with the title “Other People’s Children”. Or write a story about a character who agrees to take care of a friend’s teenager son or daughter while the friend goes on a trip. But the teenager is out of control, and your character soon finds himself/herself with a big problem on his/her hands.
“Lima beans, too.”
Bennie was using his spoon to build a small fort with his vegetables. I knew this was going to be a long weekend when Jerad had dropped Bennie off. Jerad went to hug his son good-bye and Bennie had ran to my car, slammed the backdoor, and stuck his tongue out at his father. “Boys, whataya do?” was Jared’s response as he drove off.
Bennie was mine to watch for the weekend. A favor that I had done off and on for Jerad since my sister had passed on. It had been fun, when Bennie was little. The rules were the same as for a puppy… Run him hard, and then he’d sleep. At eleven-years-old, the ‘tried and true’ did not seem to be working.
At supper this evening, suddenly Bennie did not like anything on the table.
First, pork barbeque and chunks of bread sprayed all over the table when Bennie had to cough. OK, that could have been purely an accident. But when I reminded him to cover his mouth, I got a smirky grin, then a reach for the napkin and a spill of massive proportions from his glass setting on his right.
Maybe nervousness? Anger issues at Jerad? But then the intensity of his laughter.
“Please use you napkin to true to sop up the Kool-Aid.” I reassuringly asked.
“Do it yourself. It’s your table.”
So maybe there are anger issues toward me, too?
Next came the picking of the nose.
“Please, Bennie. That is so impolite- especially at the table.”
Response… He places his well-rounded booger on the side of his plate and announces that he thinks he will keep this one to play with later.
There were no “Pleases” …Not a “Thank You” … Not even an “Excuse me”…. When we both knew that smell was not from my Boston terrier. Just a roiling of the eyes and a wave of the hand across his face.
Where was the little Bennie I knew?
Abruptly getting up from the table, Bennie left. “You are excused.” I responded. To which I got … “Whatever.”
I had taken Bennie’s things to the spare room. I was assuming that was where he was heading.
My spare room was in the basement. It doubled as a game room. I had figured that this would be heaven for an eleven-year-old. But when I went down to his room, Bennie was flopped on the pull-out, talking on his phone.
“Do ya mind?” Bennie yelled as soon as he saw me in the doorway. SLAM went the door.
“OK,” I thought. “This has gone on long enough. I will give him ten minutes… a cooling off period… then we will have a meeting of the minds. I will not tolerate this for the weekend.”
Ten minutes pass and I firmly knock on the door.
There is no answer.
I open the door and go to speak when I am met with the window curtains blowing wildly in the breeze… an opened window… and NO BENNIE.
Quickly I run outside to check the pool, the basketball courts, and the tennis courts.
Still NO BENNIE.
I get ready to go to the car to drive the neighborhood, but then I realize… I have no idea where to look.
So I call Jared.
“Oh, I bet he went to AnnaBeth’s. She lives several streets down from your place. He’ll be back later.”
“He’ll be back later!”
“Nothing to worry about. Bennie is always home by morning.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” was screaming through my mind. “He does this all the time?”
“Not all the time. Just when he’s mad at me. Relax. He’ll be back by 10 tonight. Betcha anything on it.”
“Thanks.” I hung up. Go my pillow from my bed and turned on the television in the living room. This is the last weekend I babysit.
WRITING PROMPT: Write a poem about a particular game or sport. Or write a story about a game or a sports match where your character is playing against someone who did something terrible to him/her in the past. Your character is determined to get revenge during the game.
“Ready whenever you are!” Kevin shouted from behind hos ice fort.
He and Eddie had been best friends for years and years. Being next-door-neighbors had sorta forced that to happen, in the beginning. But they had also being in the same classes in school for five straight years… until middle school.
Now, Eddie had new friends… And he was a star on the school’s wrestling team. There was no time for former best friends.
Kevin smiled. The snowstorm had changed things. Away from school for seven days in a row, Eddie had finally called and challenged him to a fort fight. Just likethe good ole days… Eddie had said.
“Well, Mr. Wrestler- Superstar,” Kevin smirked as he palmed a frozen snowball filled with pebbles. “The good ole days are about to change.”
EXERCISE: Think of at least 6 ways to complete this phrase: “If only s/he hadn’t _________…” Examples:- “If only she hadn’t stolen that money…”- “If only he hadn’t tried to flirt with his boss…”
Come up with 6 more possibilities, and write them here. You can use them as prompts for stories or poems.
This is the one that I chose for my story. The nursery rhyme, Georgie Porgie.
The Talk…. With Georgie Porgie
Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play
Georgie Porgie ran away.
If only Georgie would have obeyed his folks, the kids would not be taunting him.
The following brief conversation with Georgie’s mother might have turned out different.
“George Randolph, come here.”
It was never good when mother used his middle name.
“Why are you slithering around those bushes… and what is that infernal noise at the street? Do you have anything to do with that?”
“That is just what I was a peeping out to see, Mother.”
“A bunch of dumb kids whooping and dancing around.”
“Why are they at our fence, George?”
“How would I know, Mother?”
“I could hear them clearly, George. The entire neighborhood can. Hollering your name at the top of their lungs. And another thing, why aren’t you out there playing with them, instead of slinking around watching them play?”
“They don’t like me much, Mother. They’re not our kind of people.”
“Our kind of people. Who, pray tell, are our kind of people. Does this have anything to do with the conversation that Ms. Staidly had with me at the school conference last night.”
“What do you mean, Mother?”
“She said that I should ask you. Some kind of chasing game… or a tag game? What is this about?”
“I am friends with the girls.” Georgie declared boldly. “Besides, you know that I am not very good at stick ball.”
“Friends? For the last three days, after your games, several of the girls have been crying?”
“A skinned knee? Maybe?” A brief grin crossed George’s face.
“Skinned knees? Well, Father has asked to meet you in his study promptly after supper this evening.”
WRITING PROMPT: Write a story or poem based on a fairy-tale, folktale, or myth that changes the ending and other elements of the original story (e.g., Cinderella’s prince marries one of the wicked stepsisters, Snow White falls in love with one of the seven dwarves…)
The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
The beginning of this story is the Brothers Grimm: Rumpelstiltskin.
Once there was a miller who was poor, but who had a beautiful daughter. Now it happened that he had to go and speak to the king, and in order to make himself appear important he said to him, “I have a daughter who can spin straw into gold.”
The king said to the miller, “That is an art which pleases me well, if your daughter is as clever as you say, bring her to-morrow to my palace, and I will put her to the test.”
And when the girl was brought to him he took her into a room which was quite full of straw, gave her a spinning-wheel and a reel, and said, “Now set to work, and if by tomorrow morning early you have not spun this straw into gold during the night, you must die.”
Thereupon he himself locked up the room, and left her in it alone. So there sat the poor miller’s daughter, and for the life of her could not tell what to do, she had no idea how straw could be spun into gold, and she grew more and more frightened, until at last she began to weep.
But all at once the door opened, and in came a little man, and said, “Good evening, mistress miller, why are you crying so?”
“Alas,” answered the girl, “I have to spin straw into gold, and I do not know how to do it.”
“What will you give me,” said the manikin, “if I do it for you?”
“My necklace,” said the girl.
The little man took the necklace, seated himself in front of the wheel, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three turns, and the reel was full, then he put another on, and whirr, whirr, whirr, three times round, and the second was full too. And so it went on until the morning, when all the straw was spun, and all the reels were full of gold.
By daybreak the king was already there, and when he saw the gold he was astonished and delighted, but his heart became only greedier. He had the miller’s daughter taken into another room full of straw, which was much larger, and commanded her to spin that also in one night if she valued her life. The girl knew not how to help herself, and was crying, when the door opened again, and the little man appeared, and said, “What will you give me if I spin that straw into gold for you?”
“The ring on my finger,” answered the girl.
The little man took the ring, again began to turn the wheel, and by morning had spun all the straw into glittering gold.
The king rejoiced beyond measure at the sight, but still he had not gold enough, and he had the miller’s daughter taken into a still larger room full of straw, and said, “You must spin this, too, in the course of this night, but if you succeed, you shall be my wife.”
Even if she be a miller’s daughter, thought he, I could not find a richer wife in the whole world.
When the girl was alone the manikin came again for the third time, and said, “What will you give me if I spin the straw for you this time also?”
“I have nothing left that I could give,” answered the girl.
“Then promise me, if you should become queen, to give me your first child.”
Who knows whether that will ever happen, thought the miller’s daughter, and, not knowing how else to help herself in this strait, she promised the manikin what he wanted, and for that he once more spun the straw into gold.
And when the king came in the morning, and found all as he had wished, he took her in marriage, and the pretty miller’s daughter became a queen.
A year after, she brought a beautiful child into the world, and she never gave a thought to the manikin. But suddenly he came into her room, and said, “Now give me what you promised.”
The queen was horror-struck, and offered the manikin all the riches of the kingdom if he would leave her the child. But the manikin said, “No, something alive is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.”
Then the queen began to lament and cry, so that the manikin pitied her.
“I will give you three days, time,” said he, “if by that time you find out my name, then shall you keep your child.”
So the queen thought the whole night of all the names that she had ever heard, and she sent a messenger over the country to inquire, far and wide, for any other names that there might be. When the manikin came the next day, she began with Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, and said all the names she knew, one after another, but to everyone the little man said, “That is not my name.”
On the second day she had inquiries made in the neighborhood as to the names of the people there, and she repeated to the manikin the most uncommon and curious. Perhaps your name is Shortribs, or Sheepshanks, or Laceleg, but he always answered, “That is not my name.”
(The Altered Tale)
On the third day the messenger came back again, and said, “I have not been able to find a single new name, but as I came to a high mountain at the end of the forest, where the fox and the hare bid each other good night. There were signs posted forbidding entrance to the squalid, small hut, but I knew of the importance of this quest. I entered anyway. There I saw a little house, and before the house a fire was burning, and round about the fire quite a ridiculous little man was jumping, he hopped upon one leg, and shouted –
‘To-day I bake, to-morrow brew, the next I’ll have the young queen’s child. Ha, glad am I that no one knew that Rumpelstiltskin I am styled.'”
“I was spotted and I ran for my life. Behind, this horrid little creature bellowed, “Three will be consequences. There will be consequences. Then I came immediately to you, your majesty.”
You may imagine how glad the queen was when she heard the name. And when soon afterwards the little man came in, and asked, “Now, mistress queen, what is my name?”
At first she said, “Is your name Conrad?”
“Is your name Harry?”
“Perhaps your name is Rumpelstiltskin?”
“The devil had told. The devil has told you… The breaking of the rules will not go unpunished,” cried the little man.
“No rules were broken.”
In a fit of rage, he plunged his right foot so deep into the earth that his whole leg went in, and then he plunged his left. Raising both of his hands in the air, he bellowed, “By all the gods of the air and of the underworld. A deal is a deal. Let these words not return unheeded. The little girl is mine.” The young thing floated out of her mother’s arms and into this of the little man.
“But I did not break the rules. My manservant was overly zealous in his attempt to assist me.?”
“No matter. The girl is mine. But I will grant you a saving grace. At the age of fifteen, should she decide that life with her new father is not what pleases her, she may come and resume life with you… here in the castle. That is a far better option than your father granted you, Your Majesty.” The last words were said with a smirk.
“Agreed.” For what else was the queen to do?”
Years and years went by. The little man and the little girl continued to live happily as family. The little man named the little girl Esmeralda. Esmeralda became skilled in all manners of wood life and magical lore.
The Queen was broken-hearted and distraught. No amount of consoling from her ladies-in-waiting could soothe her troubled soul. After seeing many of the best of the kingdom’s physicians, she was confined to the upper towers of the castle for her own safety.
The King, after hearing the entirety of the tale from his messengers, unburdened the Queen of her duties and commanded her name never to be spoken in his presence again. The Queen’s miller-father was executed.
Esmeralda continued to grow into a beauty.
Soon, thereafter, the King once again marries. His new Queen had a beautiful baby boy.
(It would not be long before, on a hunting excursion, the lad spies a beautiful woodland princess…. But that is another story.)
Pick an animal or an object that you could write about.
WRITING EXERCISE: If you want, you can use one of these topics: shadows, the rain, dancing, a tree.
Gizmo was constantly a fixture of the shadow world. In the early morning, she would be behind the strawberry plants surveying the play of grasshoppers. The afternoon found her under the fronds of the ostrich fern, stalking the cardinals and blue jays as they flittered and fought for water rights at the bird bath. The evening found Gizmo sprawled in front of the patio doors awaiting recognition from Freddy, my five-year-old. Freddy was always good for an evening treat from our supper surpluses.
Gizmo was a self-made cat. Except for Freddy, Gizmo’s disregard for the world was absolute. There was one exception. Upon hearing heavy winds…. Just the beginning whispers of drizzle or a storm… Gizmo was at the patio door requesting a personal savior. I felt guilty, the number of times that I made Gizmo beg. He would begin by casually prancing and placing his paws at the window. After seeing me walk passed the window, but not acknowledge him, Gizmo would begin his song. Soon the neighborhood was aware that there was the full potential of a storm; Gizmo was howling would entice the entire dog population into a frenzy.
Once the door was open, Gizmo would dash though and find his way to Freddy’s bedroom. There Gizmo would remain, the entire evening- with Freddy or without- safely nuzzled between an enormous, corduroy teddy bear and an emerald, velveteen tree frog. Safe from the trials of the world. Gizmo would rumble and purr the night away… Until Freddy released him into the wild, after breakfast, the next morning.
WRITING EXERCISE: Start with two seemingly very different character ideas. For example, you could choose a kindergarten teacher and a professional assassin.
Make a character profile for each of them. You can use the character questionnaires in the Ideas and Resources section to make your profiles. When the profiles are finished, mix and match between them. Give your kindergarten teacher some aspects of the assassin, and vice-versa. This is a fun away to come up with surprising character and story ideas.
Doceo Pax of Arlington
Dear Aunt Georgia,
I just wanted to drop a quick line. Corresponding with our sponsors for the school is a requirement, as youknow, so this letter will be censored if I don’t do it right.
Ms. May is wonderful. She is so much cooler than my old second grade teacher. She knows how to balance just the right about of book learnin’ with the perfect about of play. Of course, always having to have a four-day bag packed for each class- just in case- causes us to love her more.
One day, we became really excited with this lonely cricket chirping in our classroom. Outa-the-blue, she said,” Grab your bags… Time for a trip.” We spend four days at Myerscough College in England studying cricket. We were shocked to find out cricket was a sport! We were on the pitch for mastering our cricket skills at morning sports and evening sports. We spend the afternoon with professors from The Abbey at Manchester for in-depth studies of insects in a great biology laboratory.
Last week, during our afternoon aerobic training, our class reacted to a backfire from a bus’s exhaust. Instantly, a new lesson when we returned to class. We were told to bring our safety night bags for classes tomorrow… and to notify our parents that we would be off-the-grid for approximately the next five days. How awesome is that! We found ourselves in Tactical Weapons Training at an undisclosed location. Do you know how much damage a …. Forgot, I can’t tell you about that.
I miss it when Ms. May has to take her own personal sabbaticals. She leaves us for usually two weeks a month- For classes we have computer-simulated tutorials, and our required reading, composition, and mathematics classes. Naturally, when Ms. May is away, we get a new instructor for our athletics program. This last sabbatical, or instructor gave us a three week tutorial in jujitsu and covert surveillance.
Doceo Pax of Arlington is an awesome school. Of course, I can’t tell any of my friends at home about it.
Tell Mom and Dad, I hope to be home at Christmas…. But you know how it is here?
Pulling this one off, will be the trick of a lifetime. I had been practicing this one last trick since my selection at the local auditions. I knew that at each new level- I had to up-the-ante … the wow factor… for each performance.
Now, sitting at the finals, I was as jittery as a cornered mouse in a kennel of kittens.
The audience’s fascination for my showmanship had to continue to mushroom; there were too many other great performers.
Round One: Encircling myself with 25 spinning plates. It had enough pizzazz to get me by.
Round Two: An innovative twist to the saw-in-half shtick. I had intermingled my two gorgeous assistants’ arms and legs, as well as their heads. The crowd was captivated. I received my first standing ovation.
Round Three: With the permission of the network, I caused the judges to disappear. It was great. The crowd chanted NOT to bring back Simeon.
The Finals: It was all arranged. It was a risk. PETA was already up-in-arms because someone had leaked the premise of the illusion. Apparently, fuzzy ducklings and a chainsaw was going to create an imminent risk factor to my furthering of my career.
Personally, I had no complaints. The commercial advertisement of my ‘ducky’ trick was tripling the estimated viewership from our previous episode… and we were already Number 1 in our time slot.
Famous or Infamous… my future was a lock!
No one believed the No Ducklings Were Harmed during this Presentation poster. I suspect that the roar of the chainsaw in the background was a bit unnerving?