Thursday, June 21, 2007

Writing Exercise - The Most Peculiar Gift Ever Given or Received

At my writers group on June 20th we did an exercise. We randomly drew prompts, then had about 45 minutes to write something. Here is my prompt and piece.

Prompt: Tell the story of the most peculiar gift ever given or received.

There are three kinds of gifts in the world. There are gifts that are bad – like a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue for a recovering alcoholic; there are gifts that are good – like cash; and there are gifts that are, for lack of a better term, peculiar.

Neither exactly good nor precisely bad, these peculiar gifts make the recipient, for further lack of a better term, confused. When the gift is opened there is a moment of hesitation – a “is that what I think it is?” fires across the synapses, and then, as confusion takes hold, the brain, if you are lucky and/or well-bred, switches to Appropriateness Auto-Pilot and the recipient says something non-committal like, “wow, look at that!”

In an effort to shed some light onto the world of peculiar gifts, to help you identify and avoid, or identify and purchase peculiar gifts, depending on your leanings, we have endeavored to create this guide, through helpful case studies.

A peculiar gift is one that is slightly out of synch with the receiver. It must be at least two, but no more than six shades from the receiver’s comfort zone. Anything less than two shades and the gift will either be an actual “good gift,” or a gift suitable for re-gifting. Anything more than six shades from the recipient and you risk setting off a psychotic break, ending a relationship, or, as in the now famous Chelsea Football Flag Incident of 1973 (BG-CS 54UT3GA), start a full on riot with the ensuing mayhem, destruction of personal property, and arrests.

The third most peculiar gift ever given was a handmade gift created between March 4, 1989 and July 28, 1989 by one Reginald M. Snapgrass of Fromage du Lac, Wisconsin. The gift, a 1/3 scale model of Mr. Snapgrass’s paramour, name redacted in a water skiing pose, was made entirely of Spam and locally acquired cheese curds. What Mr. Snapgrass lacked in sculpting ability he made up for in enthusiasm, however, when he began the project he anticipated a late March delivery to his lady friend. The project took considerably more time, and lacking any kind of walk-in refrigerator, the statue began to rot, so the end result was less an authentic representation of Mr. Snapgrasses’s soul mate and more an abstract performance art piece involving meat, cheese, mold, and several species of flies. What kept this gift from falling into the “bad gift” category were two facts, one that Mr. Snapgrass’s heart was in the right place, and two that his model accepted Mr. Snapgrass’s proposal of marriage after she stopped retching.

The second most peculiar gift ever recorded is a well documented gift that we will not delve into here. It was the ear of famed painter Vincent van Gogh, removed with a pen knife and boxed up for his paramour. We are all familiar with this scene, the box is opened, she says, “Oh, look at that!” To which the artist replies, “What?”

And the most peculiar gift ever received was done so by one Millicent T. Bovinghaminshire of Essex, England on October 14, 1912. The gift giver has, to this day remained a mystery, but the gift itself has lived on and upon Mrs. Bovinghaminshire’s passing in 1962 to a severe sneezing attack brought on by rabies, was donated to the British Museum where it can be viewed by appointment.

The gift was discovered by Mrs. Bovinghaminshire on her doorstep that brisk fall morning. The box contained what can only be described as a unique musical instrument – a cross between a French horn and a viola, made mostly of marble, but playable. The weight of the material makes the instrument almost impossible to lift for all but the most determined musician or body builder, groups neither of which Mrs. Bovinghaminshire counted herself as a member.

Further adding to the speculation surrounding this peculiar gift was that Mrs. Bovinghaminshire, even had she had the strength to lift the instrument, lacked a shoulder upon which to rest it, if in fact it was meant to be rested upon one’s shoulder. (Mrs. Bovinghaminshire had lost both shoulders in a freak accident while vacationing eight years earlier in Edinburgh.) However, never one to be discourteous or ungrateful, Mrs. Bovinghaminshire, with the help of several local farm hands and a passing Irish rugby squad, brought the gift into her home and displayed it prominently for years next to her hearth.