I just love how the utterly mundane can so effectively open wide the doorway into creativity and imagination.
This week’s prompt had been simmering in my mind for a while, before I finally decided to give it a go last Friday. We had so much fun, so I’d like to share it with you.
It grew from the odd trip to the supermarket when I would find an old receipt in the trolley or basket, and glance at the items the anonymous shopper had bought. My mind would always immediately conjure up a picture of this unknown person, based on what they’d chosen to buy.
What about taking that one step further, and write a story based on a till receipt!
Having had neither the time, nor the sheer audacity, to go round collecting receipts discarded at tills, in trolleys, on the pavement etc I decided we’d create our own…
Step one: Everyone had three small pieces of paper, on which they were asked to write the name of a specific or generic place that would generate a till receipt, for example: Cafe, Bookshop OR Aldi, Mountain Warehouse etc etc…anything!
Step two: We then each picked ONE of these pieces of paper, now folded and jumbled up, and wrote an imaginary receipt, as if from that place. I gave people a couple of minutes to do this.
Step three: Those receipts were then jumbled up and shared out, one per person. Using that receipt as inspiration, the invitation then was to write a story including the before, during and after of that receipt….in ten minutes!
All these steps are making it sound a little dry perhaps, but it was so playful and fun, and the responses were so varied and so rich in detail…and all inspired by a humble receipt! Listening to the stories as people read them out, I was immediately immersed in a world, a life, a character that felt very real and tangible.
So, this is the receipt I was faced with:
And this is what I wrote:
He wrapped the scarf around her neck.
“It’s cold out love.”
She nods. He buttons up his coat, and they step outside into the frosty morning. She links her arm through his.
“Watch your step. Slippy.”
They make their way down the street wordlessly. He tips his hat at acquaintances who drive past. Slowly, but surely they get closer to their weekly treat at the corner cafe.
“Honestly, you could set your clock by them!” says Jane to the new boy on the grill. “Every Friday, 11.30.” She continues to watch their steady approach through the window fogged by greasy condensation, and let’s them open the door before offering a greeting.
“Morning Jack, Marge. Beautiful day.”
“It’s cold out,” responds Jack, as they take to their table, and Jane begins to prepare the tea for two and the sausage, egg and chips they never vary from. It’s dessert that changes. But not the tip. Jane realises, as they leave, that so much seems to be said, at that table, but there are very few words.
It’s almost 1pm when they get home, and Jack unwraps the scarf from around his wife’s neck.
“I’ll put the kettle on,” she says.
“Right you are.” He kisses her, and removes his coat, to make his way to the armchair that used to be his mother’s, god rest her soul. He hears Marge in the kitchen, then falls asleep briefly, only to be woken by the sound of Marge putting the tray down on the table between them. She pours.
The doorbell rings. He can’t remember the last time their afternoon tea was interrupted.
“I’ll go,” says Marge. He puts down his mug, disturbed. Listening.
So, next time you’re out shopping, keep an eye out. If you find a discarded receipt, have a read and see where your imagination takes you… 🙂
If you enjoyed this prompt, then you can find more here: