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Weekend Writing Prompt: The strangest thing you can give up for 40 days and nights

Categories: Traditional Prompts, Writing Prompts.


40 Days and 40 Nights
Feel
free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments
section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble
with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece an
d the prompt to me
at writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and
I’ll make sure it gets up.

For Lent, someone you live with is partaking in the tradition of giving something up for 40 days and 40 nights—and it’s one of the most bizarre things you’ve ever heard of anyone giving up.


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    Mike flung open his room door and headed straight for the coffeemaker.
    He gulped the scalding liquid and sighed with relief.
    He blushed when he noticed my raised eyebrows.

    “What about your annual token attempt to give up coffee for Lent?
    There’s usually at least a half-hour of obvious suffering before
    you cave.”

    He pulled out a chair and sat down, staring into his coffee mug.

    “I’m giving up something else this year,” he said,
    earnestly looking into my eyes. “I’m giving up my name.”

    Surely he was joking.

    “Well, that’s just stup….uh, stupendous. What shall I call you?”

    “Sinner seems appropriate,” he said with humility.

    I stifled a laugh.

    “Okay, Sinner it is.” I smiled graciously and finished my coffee.

    He left for church and I finished getting ready for work.
    The rest of the day passed normally. After work I
    stopped by the grocery store to find something for dinner.
    As I perused the offerings in the deli, I saw Mike over in
    the produce section. I remembered his new moniker and
    decided to try it out.

    “Hey, Sinner! Get over here.” I waved to get his attention.

    Suddenly the hum of commerce ground to a halt.
    People from all over the store left their carts and
    headed toward me. Some were crying openly,
    some came striking their chest, others looked at
    me with hope and expectation. I was shocked
    and embarrassed. What had I done? The store manager
    charged over to see what had happened. Mike made his
    way through the crowd and tried to explain the situation.
    It was a complete disaster.

    An hour later we finally got home.
    We were lucky they hadn’t called the police.
    I threw my keys on the kitchen table, glaring silently at Mike.

    “Will pizza do for dinner?”

    Needless to say, the grocery shopping hadn’t worked out.

    “Huh?”

    Mike was still dazed from the consequences of his Lenten sacrifice.

    “No, I’ll just make do with bread and water tonight.”
    He sighed and shook his head.
    “I think you can just call me Mike now.”

    I had another word in mind, but that could have opened up
    a whole new can of worms in public.

  8. Evelyn says:

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  9. On Fat Tuesday, some friends and I went out for drinks. We were all raised Catholic and discussed what we weren’t giving up for Lent. Collectively, we agreed to go out of our way to eat meat on Fridays. My roommate, Tommy, was eerily quiet.
    “Tommy, what’s going on? You’re quiet as balls,” I asked.
    He sipped his Guinness and wiped the distinctive cream foam from his moustache.
    “Well Joe…”He took another sip. “The Lord has put it upon me to take a journey this Lenten season.”
    We put down our beers and looked at each other. Tommy never said anything positive about religion in the 15 years we’d known each other, let alone giving in to the practices of the church.
    “For the next forty days and nights,” he continued, “I will sacrifice one of the essential elements of my life for the betterment of my eternal soul.”
    “And what element is that, Tommy?”
    “Walking.”
    We burst out laughing and continued with our celebration, figuring Tommy got us good. He returned to his beer and didn’t speak for the rest of the night.

    The next day, I woke up to the previous evening being a happy blur. The details of what happened weren’t as important as the good time I must have had. My headache was evidence of that. I opened my door to discover Tommy on the floor…reading a Bible.
    “Good morning, Joseph.” He turned to greet me, ashes on his forehead. The discussion about Lent started to return to me.
    “Hey…Tommy. I’m going to McDonalds for some grease. You want to join me?” He carefully closed the Bible as though it were the Dead Sea Scrolls.
    “Yes, Joseph. I believe I will. But I will have to catch up to you, I have some praying to do.”
    I nodded and headed out the door. Tommy was freaking me out. I kept piecing together the elements from the night before. I knew Tommy mentioned giving up something for Lent, but my memory skipped straight to laughing at whatever it was. Then I heard some very loud stomping coming from behind me, fast. I turned. Tommy was running towards me with a goofy smile on his face. His arms were flailing and his legs bounced around. He was like those Wacky Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men that are displayed in front of car dealerships. Tommy quickly caught up to me and began running circles around me.
    “Tommy, what the hell are you doing?”
    “I gave up walking for Lent, Joseph!” He was breathing heavily, but was still smiling. I just shook my head and continued.

    Tommy stuck with it. He ran everywhere. We would be on one end of the bar and he would dash over to the bathrooms. I learned quickly to bring him his drinks. He ended up losing twenty pounds. After Easter, he went back to normal, not mentioning Lent ever again. I’m still not sure what it was really all about.

  10. I placed my empty coffee mug on the kitchen counter next to the sink overflowing with cruddy plates and bowls of stuck-on Cheerios. A smile tugged at one side of my mouth as I took in the glorious sight. When I turned I was greeted by one raised eyebrow peeking from behind my daughter’s bangs.

    I raised my brows in return. "Were you going to say something?"

    She swept her gaze across the counters and stove where, I knew, a tower of pans from last night’s dinner stood. "No, not a thing."

    "Well, I am," came Mark’s deep voice, laced with concern. Okay, here we go. This oughtta be fun. He walked in, looked side to side, and waved his hand around the room in a lazy impression of Vanna White.

    I put on my sugar-face. "Yes, sweetie?"

    "What’s up with the kitchen? There’s dirty dishes everywhere. You feeling okay?" He sounded genuinely concerned! I refused the grin begging to come out.

    "I’m fine, honey. I’ve just given up doing dishes for Lent."

    "Wait, what?" He turned his eyes fully to me.

    "That’s right. For the next 40 days I’m not washing a single dish! Seriously. Not one." I relished the dazed look on my husband’s face and held back a belly-laugh. My daughter crossed her arms and shifted her weight in teenaged annoyance. I was having a ball.

    "…Why?"

    "Well, let’s see. Because I had to pick something meaningful to give up, something I do every day. Well, every day I scrub dishes for what seems like an eternity–we have too many kids, by the way, who have too many friends and eat too many snacks. Anyway, Jesus told Martha to stop worrying so much about housekeeping and just sit with Him, so I thought I should do the same." Can’t argue with that, right? Not to mention it was better than giving up chocolate or TV. He just blinked at me.

    "So… what are we supposed to do when it’s time to eat?"

    "Well I never said you had to give up washing dishes for Lent!"

    I pressed my lips together but a small giggle escape as I stepped past him and headed for the stairs.

    Time to just sit with Jesus.

  11. Casey says:

    "Your religion. For 40 days, in protest?" He asked.

    She nodded, saying, "The Son of God sacrificed himself for you and everyone, and you’re going to give up soda? Way to go. One of my classmates is giving up candy, another is giving up carbs. I’m sure Jesus is proud."

    He said, "Hey, I don’t really believe this stuff, I just thought it was a good excuse to test my will power. You’re the religious one, what point do you think you’re proving renouncing your beliefs?"

    "I’m not renouncing my beliefs, I’m just distancing myself from the stupid rituals."

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