Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Picture Fiction Challenge - "All I Need"

One of my blogging buddies, Dana who writes at "Amid Life's Crises" wrote a story last month as part of a group participating in something called Picture Fiction Challange (PFC). It's a great writing exercise put together by R.E.H. of "Ramblings of a Madman". I enjoyed reading both of their stories as well as some others and decided I give it a go this month.

R.E.H. posts five random photographs from different catagories to be used in the authors story. The photos shown below are the ones that were selected for this month's addition. They also list the general peramiters for how they are to be used. For the complete rules on posting click here

Please enjoy.

"All I Need"

The lights went dark save for the dim red glow in the background. A few moments later the slow steady rhythm of a base drum pulsed from the stage.


The crowd, some fifteen thousand of them, began clapping their hands, while keeping time with the drummer as he increased the tempo with each succeeding beat.


It was the third and final New York performance for the band “Gypsy Heart” and the feeling in the arena was positively electric.


This was the band’s signature opening and the audience was going absolutely ballistic with anticipation. Everyone was waiting for the lead singer to make her patented grand entrance. The fog machines filled the stage area with a cool dense mist, adding to the overall ambience as the drummer continued his feverish pace.


The entire arena floor was shaking and pounding from the frenzied spectators stomping feet. And then, starting with the unmistakable rattle of the snare drum the percussionist rolled from one side of the drum kit to the other finishing with a CRASH of the cymbals. At that instant, the brilliant white lights from the front of the stage flashed on like lightning as Debbie Gamble leaped from one of the speaker towers to within feet of the ecstatic onlookers standing in the front row.

Wielding her Fender Flying V guitar and stroking a purposely distorted G-chord she kicked off the show with the song everyone had come to hear, “Generational Divide”. It was a raw, cutting edge number with lyrics that seemed to resonate with the under thirty crowd everywhere they went. The fast energetic music had come to the bass player and her one evening while they were hammering out some riffs at a late night jam session. The lyrics however, were purely Gamble’s emotions spilling out onto the stack of nearby cocktail napkins it was originally penned on.

A little over a year had passed since the band had recorded their first CD by the same name, and ever since its initial release into the mainstream, it had been an instant hit. Nearly every progressive radio station in the country was playing tracks off of it and they were all lining up to get on air interviews or in studio appearances with the now famous “Gypsy Heart” band, but more specifically, with Debbie Gamble.

The same success that was bringing her fame across the airwaves was also fueling sellouts in ninety-eight percent of the cities on this U.S. tour, but this portion of the whirlwind was rapidly approaching the end. After eight months of almost continuous nightly gigs, the tour was finally coming to a close here in New York City, only about an hour and a half away from her hometown. It was in this small town coincidently, where most of the inspiration for her music had come from.

Right now was a different story though, and that previous life was the furthest thing from her mind, because after a brief two week vacation from the hectic schedule of going from city to city, night after night, she and the rest of the band would be heading across the Atlantic to kick off their European tour. This engagement however, would be a much more relaxed pace for them, with the promise of no more than three shows per any given week and a couple of two week breaks during the four month run.

She was already envisioning zipping across snow-covered landscapes while driving the car from the “wrong side” of the road. (As most Americans like her would say) Taking in all the sights she’d either heard about or had seen in the movies was something she’d dreamed about ever since the dates had been announced a few months earlier.

The first stop would be in Munich, Germany and she could already taste the combination of sweet malted barley and the bitterness of roasted hops in one of their finely crafted beers. From there she and the band would be off to Italy, more specifically, Rome. They would have several days to explore the city and surrounding countryside before continuing on their journey.

That would all happen in good time, but first they had a show to close. The Band had played most of the crowd’s favorites such as “Bible Man Blues”, a stirring song that told of Gamble’s rebellion against her father and the religion he tried to steer her towards both at home and from the pulpit. They had also performed “Lonely Streets” another powerful tune that chronicled her two years of living on the streets of Hollywood and her dire circumstances during that dark period of her life.

There were others, but what the audience was now waiting for was the one they closed with every night, “All I Need”. This was a ballad that had it have been sung during the eighties would have been met with a sea of Bic lighters waving throughout the crowd. In present times, much to the liking of numerous fire marshals, they would be replaced with the illuminating glow of cell phone screens instead.

Piercing the air, she would cry out, “Like a bird taking flight, all I need is to be free.” and then the band would join in, playing every note as if it was pouring directly out of their souls. The song would go on to talk about the need to be accepted for who she was, and equally as important, who she wasn’t. One particular line, “All I need is a stuffed animal to squeeze.” Had become something of a phenomenon in itself. It was a silly line perhaps for a Rock N Roll song, but it portrayed a longing for the simple pleasures of her childhood. Times she remembered like mock tea parties with her mother on the back lawn during a hot summer afternoon, or being pulled on a sled by her father on a snowy New York winter’s day.

During the very first live performance of this song at a concert in Seattle, WA, and purely unrehearsed, a young teenage girl near the front row who had connected deeply with the message it revealed, threw a simple little stuffed animal onto the stage at Gamble’s feet.

The small fuzzy yellow bird that lay in front of the lead singer was originally intended to be a simple gesture of thanks for an artist’s ability to relate to a teenager’s plight. As it turned out though, it became much, much more extraordinary than that. After the song had finished, Gamble picked it up and announced, “Thank you. I’ll make sure a little one gets this!”

From that point on that one small act of kindness became an overnight trademark for the closing song. The next night the word got out and about a dozen stuffed animals of all types hit the stage during the finale. Within weeks the numbers of these “love offerings” was in the hundreds. Each time they would be collected by the stage crew and later distributed to troubled or needy kids throughout the city in which they were performing. By the second month of the tour the band had to hire a full time liaison to co-ordinate all of these donations with local non-profit groups.

The media ate it up too. Here was this hard, rough rocker chick that sang about living on the streets, addictions, religious rebellion and a host of other of life’s challenges, handing out thousands of cute and cuddly plush toys each week. There were of course the skeptics out there, but what some of the doubters labeled as a marketing ploy, Gamble and her loyal supporters saw as a real life portrayal of her song’s message.

As the band played the final notes of the last song, the stage lights faded to black except for a single spot that shown down on Debbie Gamble. Just as she did every other night, while the last of the gifts came to a rest on the front of the stage, she reached down into the assortment of animals and picked one up saying, “Thank you, I’ll make sure a little one gets this!”

Generally, she didn’t pay specific attention to any one particular critter she was holding, and any other night she’d have put it back down in the pile to be gathered up later, along with the amps, speakers and other related paraphernalia scattered about the stage, but tonight this one caught not only her eye, but her feel as well. It was decidedly different from the countless others she had been given over the past several months. She ran her long slender fingers over the rough, somewhat scratchy texture and then did a double take zooming in for a closer look.

The last light went dark and the audience erupted in a thunderous applause. As the other band members made there way to the backstage area on their way to what was sure to be an enormous blow out party, Gamble stopped and stood on the now completely darkened stage, straining to get a better glimpse of the seemingly familiar object.

“Go ahead,” she said to the group, “I’ll catch up with you in a minute.”

There she was standing in the middle of the post concert goings on, not seeing or hearing anything around her. Instead she was fixated on this small homemade creature in her hands.

“This just isn’t possible,” she thought, “it can’t be.”

But it could, and it was. The little coconut shaped animal she was holding was the very one she had cherished as a young girl; at least, “It has to be,” she thought. She quickly flipped it over to verify and sure enough, there on the bottom of his right foot was stitched in black thread “D G” which stood for Debra Gardner, her actual name.

Suddenly everything around her seemed to be narrowing in with the only thing remaining in focus, the precious little creature her mother had made for her nearly twenty-six years earlier.

Her legs felt rubbery both from the physical exhaustion of the concert she had just put on and from the emotional surge she was feeling from holding her favorite childhood toy again. Feeling the need to sit, she folded her legs and sat on the stage. It was still warm from the heat of all the intense lights that had be shining on it earlier in the evening and somehow this warmth, along with her “Wuzzle” (as she called him) brought back a thousand memories all washing over her in an instant.

“How can this be?” she whispered to herself, “What if…”

She wondered how this treasure from her childhood had come to be in her possession once again. Had her parents placed it in a box destined for Goodwill, only to be picked up by one of her adoring fans, and then thrown onto the stage at one of her concerts?

She quickly realized how absurd that sounded, but the only other explanation she could think of was as equally unlikely. For some reason her parents who she had not seen or spoken to in over a ten years had come to one of her shows and managed to “will her” to pick up this one little creature out of such a vast sea of stuffed animals. Either way there was no logical explanation and she knew it.

“Deb…Deb!” she heard as one of the roadies walked up to her, “I just got a page, security is looking for you.”

Still in a daze, she replied, “What? Oh ya, ok…tell them I’ll be right there.”

“You got it babe. Hey, by the way, kick ass show tonight!”

“Thanks.” She responded more by impulse than sincerity.

She got up and made her way to the back stage area where she was greeted by the last thing she could have imagined seeing. Standing next to a rather large guy in a bright yellow shirt that said, “S E C U R I T Y” were Ester and John Gardner. Debbie Gamble…that is, Debra Gardner’s parents.


She realized a new chapter in her life was about to unfold.

The End

Character- The name Debbie Gamble immediately came to mind. Don't know why, but it seemed to fit her look to me. Creating a story around her character didn't take too much imagination.

Objective- I may have stretched this one just a bit. By the position of the steering wheel I knew this had to be somewhere in Europe, hence the European tour. This may not have been the entire focus of the story, but hopefully it was used well enough.

Setting- I'm sure this isn't New York City, but I wanted a large city for the setting and figured it went against where her parents would likely turn up.

Item- My first thought was, "What am I supposed to do with this freaky little thing?" I actually started writing the story before I had figured out how to incorporate "Wuzzle" into it. He ended up being her childhood treasure.

Random- This one too didn't seem to fit in with the other pictures. The yellow color is what caught my eye, so I used it as a yellow stuffed bird, which kicked off the whole donation angle in the story.

Be sure to go by and visit R.E.H by clicking here. Besides finding another quality blog, you will be able to see a link to the other Autors of this month's PFC


Odat said...

What a wonderful story......I really enjoyed that!!!

Jay said...

Great story. Very heartwarming there at the end. And you did a great job of setting the scene at the beginning. I felt like I was there in the crowd.

katherine. said...

you are great at this type of writng!

like the new photo too....

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

You write so very well Jeff. You really have a gift with words. Enjoyable read as always. Very well done. Have a great day. :)

Bond said...


Farmer*swife said...

Great job! I like how it fell into the service to children....then it ended up helping herself and her family heal...full circle!!!

Really liked it!

leelee said...

I loved that...I really like your writing style..


Mel said...


......yup.....ALL of the above.

Bravo, sir!
Well done--it was an enjoyable read, indeed!

CrazyCath said...

Wow Jeff what a great story! You wove that very well. I really enjoyed it.

Newt said...

That was really wonderful. I loved it. You managed to pull heartstrings in all kinds of directions. Just when you didn't think the story could get deeper it did. I'm really enjoying this PFC thing. I love wrapping my brain around the pictures and deciding what they mean to me. And then the bigger treat is seeing where everyone else takes the same images.

Jo said...

That was a fun ride, Jeff, great job! The way you worked in riffs & g-chords brought authenticity to it...and I loved what you did with the stuffed animals. The scene where she finds her very own stuffy was so endearing.

P.S. Your profile pic cracks me up! :)

Raven said...

Awesome job! I was wondering how you were going to get that last item in... and then you brought in in brilliantly. You brought them so to life that I found myself wishing they were a real band so I could read those great lyrics.

Jeff B said...

Odat- Thanks I had fun with it.

Jay- I was hoping that would play off well. thanks.

Katherine- I'm glad REH put this together. The updated avatar is more true to form I think.

Sandee- Appreciate the kind words.

Bond- Why thank you good man.

Farmer*s Wife- Tjhanks for the input.

Leelee- Glad you liked it.

Mel- Thanks for the nod.

Crazycath- I was pleased with how it flowed. Thanks

Newt- This is a great venue for writing. Like you said, its fun to see how others interpet the photos.

Jo- As I write more I'm trying to use descriptions that will draw the reader into the story more. Thanks for coming by.

Raven- The little critter was a challeange at first, but it just seemed to fall into place once the story got going. Thanks

All- Now it's time to check out some of your stories.

Travis said...

This is a fantastic exercise and you created an excellent story.

Nice job!

Anonymous said...

Hey You rocked!! I love it love it love it!! we both are talking about life changes in our PFC!

Great Job!

VBF! said...

*GiGGLeS* I like you lots :-) *blushes* xx

CrystalChick said...

You always give us an enjoyable story, one we know you really thought out. Bravo!

Ron said...

You use your "gift" so well, Jeff!

When I read your words, I can always feel your passion behind them. You're amazing ability to "let go" and simply allow inspiration to flow!

Another awesome share, Jeff!

And thank you for inspiring!

Real Live Lesbian said...

Damnation, you're a great writer! And now you have me hooked on another one of your stories!!!!

Tell me you're going to finish this!

Sandi McBride said...

You really get into it, don't you Jeff? I really liked it...and I can still hear the thumping of my heart along with the thumping of the bass

Rhea said...

Wow, I'm impressed how well you were able to bring everything together. That's a challenging assignment!

Lady in red said...

Jeff I read this at lunch time at work but didn't have time to comment. I thought it was brilliant. I have written two pieces having first been shown a picture but those were just one picture and no rules.


R.E.H. said...

What a way to introduce yourself into the PFC! Absolutely wonderful story!

I was moved. Really I was, and I could really feel it as I was reading. The opening sequence with the thump-thump and all really did "set the stage" brilliantly.

And, I had no problem relating to the rock-band and the stuffed animals either - it made perfect sense the way it was presented.

The ending was powerful too.

Overall - stellar job! Thanks for playing!

the teach said...

Great story, Jeff! I realize I haven't been around in a little while! Sorry it won't happen again. Great writing challenge. Raven at Raven's reviews has something called Wordzzle you might like. Check it out here

Jeff B said...

Travis- It was a fun thing to participate in. You might give it a go next month. I know you'd have a good story to share.

Single- Thanks for coming by.

VBF- Thanks. I'll come by to visit in a bit.

Crystalchick- With three weeks to put this together it was nice to have the time to go back and tweak it a couple of times.

Ron- Thanks buddy. I try to feel the emotions of the characters as I'm writting. Helps me to visualize the big picture.

Real LL- I think I'm going to let this one rest where it is, but thanks for the encouragement.

Jeff B said...

Sandi- It has a catchy beat doesn't it?

Rhea- I was thinking about your suggestion to incorporate more of the senses in this one. Thanks for the suggestion.

LiR- Stories from random input can be a challenge, but fortunately this one fell into place.

REH- Thank you for puting this project together. I enjoyed participating and as a side benifit I've found some cool blogs to read. I'm already looking forward to next month.

Teach- No worries. We all get busy with things and stuff. Glad you're back and thanks for the lint to Raven's.

Roger said...

Awesome story Jeff!

Matt-Man said...

Just like the show put on in your story, your work here "kicked ass". Cheers Jeff!!

VBF! said...

OHH!!! When I first read this... the pictures of the 'storyline' weren't showing for me... so i was a little confused... but I loved the story!

But I just had another look now and realised the pictures were what made the challenge!! (I can see them now!)

That is SOOOOOO very clever!!! I am so impressed! :-) xx

Lady in red said...

Jeff a comment you made on one of your recent posts led me to think that you might find this post of mine amusing and of all my blog friends you will probably be able to work out what I was talking about.

Jeff B said...

Roger- Thanks

Matt- Glad you liked it.

VBF- I'm glad you were able to see the pictures along with the story. It definitely makes it make sense.

LiR- It was amusing, but I'm at a loss to what it is still. Arrrgh!

Dianne said...

I'm so behind in reading all the stories! I hope you still check your comments because I really want you to know how amazing I think your story is.

Touching and hopeful. I loved how you painted such a clear image for me of Debbie and it was astounding that you wrote song lyrics in the midst of an already challenging writing exercise.

I read it twice and still want more.

Jeff B said...

Dianne- Wow. Thanks for the nice review. I appreciate you coming by.

There have been some great stories put together by the others too. I'm looking forward to doing this again next month.

gypsy-heart said...

I came back to read your story.

First of all, you wrote the story very, very well! I love music (I always paint by it), and I was thinking I would have to look up gypsy-heart. Is there really such a band?

Secondly, you said you almost fell over when you saw gypsy-heart in the comments. Well, I almost fell over when I read your story!!

You have no idea! I don't want to go into a long story, but I will tell you a couple of things.

One my family on my Father's side did not speak to me for over seven years because I left the family religion.

Second, this line from your story:

“Like a bird taking flight, all I need is to be free.”

I can't tell you how many times I've said that!!!

Needless to say, I found your story and all the connections very intriguing! One of the mysteries of

Well, enough from me for now.
Keep writing you have a gift!

Jeff B said...

Gypsy-Heart- To my knowelge there isn't a band by that name. It just came to me as do all of the names I use in my stories. I never know why a particular name sounds right, but in this case it's starting to make sense. It somehow connected the two of us, and for the other details that parallel your life...that's just amazing.

Hope to see/hear from you again.

Kimmie said...

What a brilliant and touching story. It was very moving and I felt captivated from the very beginning with the thumping of the drums. You really do have a special gift. Keep up the great work, I look forward to your next one!

Jeff B said...

Kimmie- Thank you for your comment. Your kind words and those of others are an encouragement for me.