Annie got herself a gun,

blew a hole through his rear window:

crackling of spiders spread across the glass.

“Dang, woman. What you go and do that for?”

Everette feigned stupidity. Wasn’t hard. Pigs had more

frontal lobe sense than Everette ever would.

“Grandpa always said, ‘That Everett

Harley is a book you can judge by the cover.’

Indicating to me,” Annie paused. Pointed the gun at his

Junk. Cocked it. “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”

“Kill me? Is that what you gonna do?”

“Looks like.”

Months before, Everett’s old man had been found

naked, bull riding Annie’s lonely, widowed mother,

outraging Everette’s momma, of course, as according to

Pastor Regis, they (Everette’s parental pairing) had been torn asunder by Annie’s momma.

“Quaint how you and your daddy’s so much alike.”

Remembering her Josey Wales

she said, “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.” Followed by,

“Two-timing son-of-a -bitch!”

Unmoved by his puny ass excuses,

vindictive and hell bent, Annie started

waving her gun like a mallet, across the east to west to east distance of a


“Y’all better start dancing,” and pop pop pop.

Zig zagging, Everette dodged his fate. For now.


  1. Laurie Marshall

    Well done! Love the language “had been torn asunder by Annie’s momma.” and the references to Josey Wales. They feel creative but perfectly at home.

  2. sara lippmann

    Constance! I applaud your bold and brave confrontation of cliche. This is such an incredibly challenging exercise — to figure out how to use well trod phrases in startling and new ways. It becomes about resisting the easy idea — and pushing beyond to see if and how the language might become new again. One of the potential pitfalls of cliche is that it can play to stereotype or hew to a sort of default expectation, and so it becomes that much more challenging to separate the language from the associations with it. To mine that disconnect, and see what might emerge. A parallel exercise might be getting your characters talking in a language that utterly bucks all default associations — how else might Annie and Everette talk? Or — if you embrace cliche, how might you put them in the mouths of characters that break from type? I am struck by your language play and your structure — the zig zag. The dodge. Keep thinking about limit and language possibility! Thanks.

    • Constance Malloy

      Many thanks, Sara. You have offered me so much to think about. Both through the workshop and your feedback. Your notes on cliche are quite helpful. I had never written an Abecedarian before and found it to be quite fun and challenging, and now that I have that frame, I’m interested in going back in and working on your suggestions regarding Annie and Everette. Thanks again for a wonderful workshop. So glad to have participated in it.

    • sara lippmann

      Constance, I was so hung up on the challenge of your language — that I didn’t even NOTICE the abecedarian! (Which is testament to the strength of your abecedarian — the best ones are sly like that.) And of course, NOW I see your double whammy. Well done!
      I’m so glad you experimented with this form — stay with it — and if you want to see another example, here’s one by Elliott Holt (with a nod to Nabokov)

      • Constance Malloy

        Thanks, Sara! The abecedarian prompt was the most challenging prompt I’ve done in a workshop thus far because I really stepped outside of my comfort zone. And, thanks for the Elliott Holt example. (Love Nabokov)

  3. Al Kratz

    great exercise and i suspect good material for launching into a lot of different possibilities? cool how the restricted forms actually open up so much.

  4. John Steines

    Hello Connie – I love this back and forth. In a way it’s quite cartoonish, yet of a serious subject – anytime guns are firing. There is an absurdity that fits of a xylophone as measurement. I quite enjoyed this.

  5. Trent

    Hey Connie –
    Hard to do better with choice than spaghetti western style~!
    As Sara says, might be intriguing to see if the characters can be a bit self-aware, or “fourth wall” breakers somehow.
    Lots of gritty material with 70’s film!

  6. Francine Witte

    This is terrific. I love the voice here. And i didn’t notice the abecedarian so it’s very subtle and works well. A good story, too. Really good work.

  7. Suzanne van de Velde

    Hi Connie – also didn’t notice the abecedaraian angle, the flow felt like pure narrative-fueled language. (I imagined interludes of tobaccy spitting too). You’ve channeled this energy so perfectly.

    Did find there were a lot of characters to keep track off, and wondered if it might be possible to have fewer or keep more of them in the frame, rather than off stage.

    Thank you!

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