Writing exercise: if I’d known then…

We have a creative writing club at work, and we recently switched from talking about texts that we’re currently writing to doing little writing exercises and talking about those instead. I think it’s a good way to focus more on the craft and help each other out. Plus, this way, if somebody doesn’t care for my or somebody else’s longer text, they don’t have to keep reading it week after week.

We’ve got our first meeting in this new format tomorrow.

Anyway, the prompt this time around was 500 words on “if I’d known then what I know now, I never would have…”

This was mine.


If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have shot that damn squirrel. I wouldn’t say it was bad karma exactly—I don’t believe in that stuff—but sometimes things happen that make me question. Like, you give a bum a dollar, and then later that day some stranger buys you a round.

I can’t blame the squirrel. I wouldn’t’ve been out there in the yard with my pellet gun if I wasn’t in a foul mood to start. I have these cans strung up from this old scrub oak in the back. The plan wasn’t to do anything more than take a few plinks. Helps me relax. My hippie friend Jim says it’s something akin to to zen meditation. He’s a good guy. I’m crashing on his couch now. He doesn’t let me have the gun in his house. It’s in a storage locker along with everything else I packed. Not that Jim has any cans strung up out back to shoot at anyway.

So I’m there shooting at the cans. Each one I hit goes flying on its string with a nice pa-ting! sound. It’s like the sound in the old cartoons when they spit into a spittoon, only not. I’m focusing on a can off to the left when I see the squirrel in my periphery up on the fence. It looks like, well, a squirrel, no point describing.

I’ve only got a few pellets left. I figure I’ll try and hit it, and I’ll miss, and then I’ll head back inside and finish my episode of CSI . Except wouldn’t you know it, I hit the damn thing, and it goes running off. I winged it in I think the tail. I’m not a great shot, to be honest.

So it runs off trailing blood along the fence and scampers over the other side. The neighbor’s yappy dog goes nuts, barking its stupid little head off. Neighbor comes out, must see the dog barking at a bloody fence, peeks his head over the fence to see what’s up, but I’m already dashing back inside. The neighbor figures correctly that something’s happened and yells a nosy question at me.

But I don’t get a moment’s respite because my wife starts up the fight we were having again. Oh, now you’ve done it, she says, and goes on about me having anger issues and never taking responsibility for my actions. And here I am, spooked and staring a little wide-eyed, deserving maybe of some sympathy. I point at her. Look, I say, you’ve no business, and at a time like this, too! And she rolls her eyes, like I’m not even having an acute problem with the neighbor here, and jerks her thumb over her shoulder. Out. Just go.

So I pack a bag and I go. I text some friends for a place to stay, but where I actually go is to the bar. No stranger buys me a round. Jim, the hippie, gets back to me, says I can crash with him. And the rest I guess is history. Here I am, still in a foul mood, and no gun with me to shoot and no cans to shoot at anyway.

Damn squirrel.

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