I was recently invited to participate in a story swap exercise with a Twitch streamer I follow, ScottWritesStuff.
The exercise works like this: the viewers vote on a sentence to be used as the first sentence of the story. Then we each have 30 minutes to write the first half of a short story, with the viewers helping Scott write his. After that, we swap, each of us finishing the story that the other writer started within a 30 minute time limit.
It’s entertaining to see how two different writers can take the same story starter in wildly different directions. As you’ll see, Scott and Co gave mine a pretty dark and twisted ending, whereas I took a turn for the absurd at the end of his.
Our story prompt sentence was: “I want to buy a onesie, but I know it won’t suit me.” Here are our collaborative stories:
Twitch streamers: katrinahopes & ScottWritesStuff
I want to buy a onesie, but I know it won’t suit me.
Maybe Big Zack could get away with it, or Dragon. They’re big dudes. Wouldn’t nobody give them any flack, even if they showed up in the yard one day wearing fairy wings and a tutu.
Me, though? My 155 pounds of nerdflesh would end up in a smear on the dirty cafeteria floor if I did anything that ballsy. I already have a cell to myself, due to the unfortunate tendency of my face to attract the fists of my fellow inmates.
I don’t take it personally. They don’t hate me, really. They just can’t help themselves when they see my pale skin, my hunched shoulders, and my coke bottle glasses sliding off the end of my nose. These glasses are like a red cape in front of a bull.
Well, more like a room full of bulls.
So I keep my head down. And I dream about the things I’d buy if I could get out. That onesie, for starters. It’s cold in D Block; at night I rub my legs together like a cricket just to generate some heat under my scratchy wool blanket. If I had that onesie…
My computer time is almost up, and I have twelve Amazon tabs open. I click back over to the onesie. It looks like it came straight off a sheep—all white and fluffy and probably warm as all get out. I’ve got no money, and nobody on the outside to send me care packages, so I know I’m just working up a whole lotta wanting with no chance of getting.
Still. It would be nice.
I close out the browser window and let the guard know I’m ready to go back to my cage. Whistles and taunts follow me down the wing as he marches me to my six-by-eight-foot home, and I keep my eyes on the ground, grateful for the metal bars keeping all but the words at bay.
I wonder, not for the first time, what they would do if they knew why I’m really in here.
This morning, there’s a package at the foot of my bed. It’s wrapped up like a gift, in fancy gold paper and a big green bow made of stiff ribbon. It may as well be a space alien for how out of place it is among these cinderblocks and concrete floors. All I can do for a while is stare at it.
No one else would notice what that combination of colors meant, but I immediately understand the significance. The gold paper… just like the gold dress she’d been wearing. The green bow… just like the one in her hair that night. Whoever sent this, they know.
My hands are so sweaty I can barely hold on to the package as I set it in my lap. My heart pounding in my throat, I nearly choke as I slowly open it up.
Inside is the onesie I’ve been looking at online. The Gregory Goat one. He looks just like he did on the kids’ TV show, complete with the hoof-shaped feet and stuffed-cloth horns on the hood. I pull it out of the box. It is even softer than I imagined. Almost as soft as…. I hug it close to me. A note slips out from its pocket onto the concrete floor. I bend over, pick it up, and read it.
“Congratulations on a job well done,” it reads. “Here’s your first reward. I logged into your Amazon account and saw that you had this on your wishlist, you perverted bastard, you. That stupid Gregory Goat show; that was her favorite, wasn’t it? Was she watching it when you did it? That’s disgusting. But disgusting is exactly what I look for in my clients. When you get out of there, I’ll have another one lined up for you, ready to go.”
I smile. I bring the onesie to my face and inhale deeply. It is the second-sweetest thing I’ve ever smelled.
I’ll be sleeping very warmly from now on.
I want to buy a onesie… but know it won’t suit me. Being a Siamese twin has all kinds of problems. They don’t sell Siamese two-sies. But Karen and I still walk through the pajama section at Target every time we go, just to take a look. And so that we can lap up the hilarious stares from other customers.
“I love this Powerpuff Girl one,” I say to Karen as I longingly stroke a Blossom onesie. She sneers at it.
“No way. This shark one is much cooler!”
“But just think about how adorable we’d look in matching pink onesies!”
“Yeah, it’s so cute it makes me want to throw up… both of our lunches.”
It’s hard living with someone who has such different tastes than you. Especially when you’re conjoined at the side and have to share an arm and a bed and a surprising amount of senses. Whenever Karen touches something, I can vaguely feel it in the back of my head, like I’m experiencing a memory of touching it in the past.
“Why do you always have to pick the cute crap anyway?” Karen said. I could feel her frustration bubbling. It rumbled over to me, not as intensely, but kind of like when you know you should be worried or stressed about something, but you can’t remember exactly what it is.
“I don’t always pick the cute stuff,” I said. “Remember our twelfth birthday? I wanted My Little Pony but you wanted Transformers?”
Karen scoffed. “Yeah. So we compromised and dad made those horrible transforming ponies. I still remember that one girl who was in tears when the sparkling horse’s neck snapped back and turned into a windshield.”
“Yeah, so definitely not cute,” I said. “Plus, I go to all those horror movies you love. And when was the last time we saw an animated movie in theaters?”
Karen got on my nerves sometimes, but honestly, thinking about living without her was like thinking about living without legs. All of our lives, people have felt sorry for me and Karen. They think it’s horrible how we never have any privacy, how we always have to walk coordinated with each other or else we’ll fall down, how we need special cars and clothes made for us. But I don’t mind. This is how we were born. This is how we’ve lived our entire lives. I don’t know anything different. It’s like people who are born colorblind. Are they missing out on seeing certain colors? Maybe. But they can physically never know what they’re missing out on, so it doesn’t really matter.
Plus, we get to experience things that most people can only imagine.
For example, when I got detention for passing notes in Mrs. Granger’s class in the 8th grade, the principal decided it wasn’t fair to Karen to be stuck there, too, when she’d done nothing wrong, so I basically got off scot-free with just an apology.
And when Garrett Lundy asked Karen to the prom, she told him she’d only go if he had a friend who wanted to go with me. That’s how I met Luke, my boyfriend. Sure, it was a little weird trying to fit two enthusiastic makeout sessions into the back seat of a Prius, but it was definitely something none of the four of us would ever forget.
And texting and driving isn’t a problem for conjoined twins. One of us keeps her eyes on the road while the other types like mad to keep in touch with the Princess Pack, which is what we and our group of friends call ourselves.
Last week, Mom took us to see Dr. Artellis for our usual check-up.
The doctor was brimming with excitement. We barely made it into the exam room before she was thrusting a file under Mom’s nose triumphantly.
“He says he can do it!” she crowed. “Dr. Seymour Schmidt, the foremost vascular surgeon in the country, says he believes he can put together a team and separate the girls!”
“Really?” Mom gasped. “I didn’t even know you were working on this.”
“I know. I didn’t want to get your hopes up,” Dr. Artellis admitted. “As you know, when the girls were born, we didn’t believe it was possible. But surgical techniques have advanced significantly since then, thanks largely to the pioneering of Dr. Schmidt himself.” Moisture built in her eyes and threatened to overflow.
Mom turned to us. “What do you think, girls?”
I felt the tension of Karen’s muscles as a matching thrum in my own. What did we think? What would it be like to be separated? To sleep alone, to have private moments, to be able to turn around and walk in different directions from each other, physically and emotionally?
I turned my head to make eye contact with Karen. We had one of those long, wordless conversations that only twins can truly understand, then turned as one toward Dr. Artellis.
“We don’t want it,” I said firmly.
“WHAT?” Karen screeched. “Are you CRAZY? Doc, give me the papers! I’m ready to sign right now!”
Hurt and perplexed, I grasped Karen’s hand. “This is about the Powerpuff Girls, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is,” she huffed. “What else?”