Writing Exercise - Sleight Of Hand

Write a brief story in which the major event or action is obscured— or easily overlooked— because of a splashier, more visible event. Sleight of hand, or the French phrase leger de main, means crafty or light hand. The magician captures the attention of the audience with one hand while performing the trick with the other hand. You should not necessarily be tricky or deceptive, but in this exercise you want to obscure the important processes you are working on in order to make readers surprised and happy when they uncover the mysteries of the story themselves.

Goal - 400 words

What did I like about this exercise?
So, I liked keeping things a little close to the vest on this one and trying to build some tension with the character, hopefully I succeeded at least a little bit :).

What was challenging about this one?
Figuring out how to weave in some hidden stuff into the story without it being too obvious - I hope.

What did I learn?
That I don’t have to spill the beans, as it were, right away in order to tell a story or a scene.


He could hear the tap-tap-tap on the window pane, that damn bird was back again, pesky sparrow. This was the third time this morning this stupid bird had come tapping at his window. He had repeatedly shooed it away, again and again and now here it was. Again. John walked over to the window where the bird stood and looked at it, the bird calmly looked back at him, through the window and then tapped three more times.

"Ahhhhhhh!" John screamed at the bird, flapping his arms wildly, causing the bird to flutter off to the nearby skeletal tree. The bird lit on a branch and turned around to look at him, at least that's what it felt like to John. John let out a huge sigh and tried to remember what the hell it was he was about to do, or in the middle of doing, he couldn't quite remember anymore.

Oh, right, he was going to make himself a sandwich for lunch. Right. John made his way into the kitchen and opened up the fridge and peered inside. Let's see, ham, turkey, chicken salad? Hmmm. John finally decided on a turkey sandwich with tomato, avocado and bacon and began to reach for the turkey when... Tap.Tap.Tap.

He jerked his head up, slammed the refrigerator door, and ran over to the window, but by the time he got there the sparrow had left, already flown back to his limb. John sighed again and quickly went back to the fridge and began to collect his ingredients. Just as he got everything out on the counter the phone rang. It took a second to register that it was the phone this time and not the sparrow so it rang at least three times before he was able to answer it.

John picked up the phone and turned towards the window again, the sparrow was sitting there, staring at him.

"Hello?"
"I'm officer Jay Thompson sir. Is this Mr. Anderson?" a brusk, commanding voice asked on the other end of the line.
"Uh, yes, this is Mr. Anderson."
"Is your wife..."
John actually didn't hear the rest of the question as all of the blood rushed out from his limbs and he seemed to lose all hearing briefly.
"I'm, I'm sorry. Could you repeat that again?" His lips felt numb saying those words.
"Is your wife Barbara Anderson?"
"Yes. Yes it is. What has happened? Is she hurt?" He knew the answer, or at least feared the answer that he thought he knew.
"I'm sorry sir. Your wife was killed in a car accident."

John struggled to get the information from the officer. His brain was all over the place, he couldn't remember where they kept the notepad, or the pens, or a pencil, but finally he was able to write down the location of the medical examiners office where they wanted him to go to identify his wife's body. Barbara's body.

---

John asked a friend of his, Dave, to drive him to the examiner's office and then to drive him back. He didn't say more than three words the whole time in the car. Finally back at home he walked into the living room and collapsed in chair. He fell asleep like that and woke about three hours later, still feeling exhausted. Slowly he got up and rubbed his eyes.

It dawned on him that he hadn't heard that damn sparrow since the phone rang. He looked over at the window and it was still sitting there. No way to know if it had been sitting there the whole time, but John had a feeling it had been. John felt an anger well up in him that he hadn't felt in a long time.
"Why aren't you fucking tapping now! Huh? Why not now?"
The sparrow just cocked its head, looking at him and then took off, not going back to its branch like it had before. Just gone.

John started to weep.