During one of the workshops I attended this fall, we had an assignment to write a scene with no dialogue. I wrote the following, and have always wondered if anybody in the world would be able to figure out what was actually happening in the scene. I don't think anybody in workshop did, but if you're game, tell me what you think the situation surrounding this scene might be and what brought you to that conclusion. Or, if this just seems like a completely jumbled and confusing mess, tell me that too.
This is just a raw snippet from a writing prompt, so you're not going to hurt my feelings a bit if you tell me it's completely incomprehensible.
Jeanne folded the invoice from the attorney, pushed it to the edge of the kitchen table past the plate of congealing chicken, mashed potatoes and canned peas, and ran her hands through her hair. Gunmetal streaks dominated either side of her center part for an inch or more, and abruptly transitioned to dark brown like a bad neighborhood divided from a good one. Dick drained the last of a tepid cup of coffee and checked his watch. A pile of black trash bags and a smaller pile of boxes, labeled Salvation Army sat in the middle of the floor, an accusation, a poor man’s shrine or perhaps, just the trash that it was. One bag remained open; a torn flannel shirt coiled around a broken Walkman, the stench of an ashtray and unwashed clothing hiding the burnt kitchen spoon underneath.
The phone in the middle of the table rang, ripping through the silence in the house that had until now been interrupted only by the sounds of the plow blades grinding against the street out front. Jeanne’s hands stopped ruffling and froze, still, as though she considered pulling her hair out by the roots. They both looked at the Caller ID. Department of Corrections. Jeanne’s right hand extended up and at an angle, hovering over the table and giving her the look of an uncertain student, offering the answer to a difficult question. Their eyes met and Dick picked up the phone and pressed the off button to silence the ringing. He set it down precisely, checked his watch again and pushed back from the table. He carried his plate and the chipped mug across the kitchen, stopped to scrape the chicken bones and cold peas into the open trash bag and then placed the dishes in the dishwasher.
Jeanne stared at the phone and dropped her hands to the table top. Dick pulled a heavy parka from a coat rack beside the back door, put it on and began gathering keys, wallet, and cigarettes and pocketed a heavy metal medallion with a triangle and Roman numeral inscribed in the center. He patted down his coat pockets. Jeanne stood, moved her chair to the front of the refrigerator and hesitated, staring at the snapshots of smiling faces held on with magnetic fruits and vegetables, a heavy magnet that said Korn, and one that said Visualize Whirled Peas. She reached out and touched a yellowing photo of the three of them and then climbed up. Dick stopped to watch as she took a dust covered bottle out of the cabinet above and stepped back down. He jammed his hands in his pockets and dipped his bearded chin inside the front of his coat. Her back turned to him, she filled a glass with amber liquid, took a long swallow, wiped her lips with the back of her hand and planted both fists on the edge of the counter in front of the sink. She tried to look beyond the reflection that stared back at her from the dark window. The sound of the clock ticking was interrupted by the compressor in the refrigerator, and the smell of roasted chicken lingered in the tiny kitchen.
The phone rang again as another plow passed by. Jeanne turned to face Dick and he looked away. He reached into his pockets and pulled his keys out, tucked the Big Book under his arm, grabbed the trash bags and walked out into the snow.