When I think of reading in airports I think of Dan Brown novels, the latest thriller book, and very limited options when it comes to deciding what to pickup at the terminal’s book and magazine shop. Writers Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith are about to change all of that.
The two writers set up shop at what used to be a Hudson News kiosk in Terminal A of New York’s La Guardia Airport, offering flyers a writing nook stacked with books, decorated with wooden furniture and rugs, and adorned with a vintage typewriter. In their nooks, they’re writing short stories for fliers.
Image Via The New York Times
The writing initiative, named Landing Pages, is a part of a residency program by the Queens Council on the Arts and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Jacobs and Smith are just two out of many artists who have taken up residency at the terminal, taking over for three months to experiment and share their mediums.
To receive a story from the authors, passengers just have to provide their flight number and contact information. Jacobs and Smith then go to work while passengers are in the air, texting them their completed stories before they arrive at their destination.
Image Via Hyperallergic
Together, the duo write about six stories a day with a goal of completing fifty by the end of June. With the end goal in mind, they plan on compiling all the stories they’ve written and self-publish them in an anthology. Until then, all the stories they’ve written so far are available to read online.
A couple days ago I wrote an article about my favorite writing prompts on Reddit, and it got me thinking: it can’t be all that difficult to come up with my own, and I do have a handful of writers at my daily disposal. Because there are five of us and attention spans are generally not that attentive, I came up with a prompt and gave it a 500 word limit:
You’re watching Judge Judy reruns when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Nicolas Cage. He pushes past you, takes your spot on the couch, and says, “You know, I’ve always wanted to live here.”
Yesterday I bought a cake. It was a devil’s food cake. Nicolas Cage ate almost the entire thing. I was left only a slice. It’s typical Cage behavior.
The cake was bought to celebrate the five year anniversary of Nicolas Cage being my roommate. Five years ago, he knocked on my door, walked past me, sat on the couch, and said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to live here.”
“You’re Nicolas Cage,” I said.
He shook his head. “No.”
Ignored me, he started watching re-runs of Ghosthunters. He helped himself to my ham, which is my favorite cold cut. He slept on my floor. Eventually, he bought his own bed.
It’s been five years, and whenever I call him Nicolas Cage, he refuses to respond. I sometimes put on Con Air or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Speed or Face/Off. He’ll laugh along. He’ll even criticize Nicolas Cage’s performance.
Once, when watching National Treasure, I hit pause, stood up, and walked up to the TV. I pointed at Nicolas Cage’s face and I said, “This, right here, is your face. You have Nicolas Cage’s face.”
He nodded and said, “Yes, okay. Okay, sure. Please hit play.”
He only answers to Craig. He’s provided no last name. Just Craig. Craig got a job as a barista at Starbucks. He pays rent. He has no family, friends, or backstory. His name is Craig, and he is, I guess, my friend.
There I was again; it was a laid back Saturday night. I wasn’t really in the mood to go out after all those margaritas last week.
So with a carton of Lo Mein, I took over the couch and TV, not expecting anything more for the evening. I was in the middle of watching Judge Judy re-runs when there was a sturdy knock on the door. I got up hesitantly and moved slowly to open it but when I did, someone really tall pushed right by me.
It was Nicholas freaking Cage.
Oddly enough he planted himself right onto the middle of the couch. I couldn’t believe my eyes as he cracked open my only fortune cookies and blurted, “You know, I’ve always wanted to live here.”
What the frick frack was happening? I stood there in shock as I watched him try to pronounce ‘watermelon’ in Chinese off the small fortune paper, except he sounded all Nicholas Cage-y. He seemed to be right at home so I thought that maybe I could just go along with this.
I shut the door and walked right over to the table. “Listen,” I said sternly, “I don’t know who the hell you think you are or what you think you’re doing here in my house, but I’ve got one thing to say to you…”
He watched me closely with squinted eyes, pursed lips, and a quizzical brow. “And what’s that?”
“I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence.”
We both stayed silent for a second and kept eye contact for what seemed like ages.
“NICE!” He got up from the couch to high-five me, looking genuinely impressed and ecstatic.
“Yeah? You think so? Thanks, I mean I really tried!” I laughed awkwardly as I went in to joyously slap his palm.
“Next time just arch your brow a little more and say it like: ‘yeah, I’m doing this’, know what I mean? Otherwise it was very believable.” He critiqued my big line as he took his place back on the couch and began to channel surf.
“Alright, got it, that was a good one… Could you pass the Lo Mein please?” I sat back on the couch next to him and watched the television mindlessly. “By the way,” I mumbled as a noodle fell on my shirt, “my dad loves Con Air.”
“Nice. An excellent choice.”
The pungent smell of whiskey clouded the small distance between us as he barged in the entrance of my studio apartment. I had paused the television to answer the door, desperately hoping that I wouldn’t be met with the face of the pestering neighbor who continuously passed out pamphlets. It was worse; a random man who looked as if he hadn’t wash in days stood before me.
Before I had a chance to slam the door close, he stumbled in and made his way into the living room. As if his odor wasn’t enough of a telltale sign of his drunken state, his walk was. He wavered back and forth as he walked, as if he would tip over at any point.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to live here,” he said in a slurred voice. His clothes were tattered and apparent urine stains clung to his denim jeans. The hairs of his long beard were matted to his skin and engrossed in chunks of vomit.
What the fuck, I thought to myself. Abhorrent panic pinched my nerves as I anxiously glanced at this strange being half-passed out in front of me. My eyes scanned his face desperately, trying to arrive to an understanding as to who this stranger was and why he was here. Unable to identify him, I decided to try a direct approach.
“I don’t know who the fuck you are, but if you don’t leave now I’m calling the police” I yelled.
“You know me, I’m Nicholas Cage obviously,” he giggled manically. His head nuzzled one of the pillows on the couch in an oddly endearing way. I was struck by how jovial he appeared, given that his domineering height and weight gave him the look of a predator.
“Oh god,” I thought aloud. If I had to pick a drunken celebrity to barge into my apartment, I wouldn’t exactly pick him.
“To be honest, I really don’t give a shit who you are. I’m asking you to leave.” I continued to stand beside the door, unsure whether or not I wanted to make an escape myself. His still body remained unmoved on the couch.
As image after image of his films flicked through my mind like an old-time film reel, a thought occurred to me. I couldn’t help the smirk that made its way to my face as I realized a sure way to get him to leave.
“You know,” I began, “You actually came at the right time. I was just about to watch National Treasure. Would you like to join me?”
“Noooooo” he yelled. He shot up off of the sofa, his body swaying back and forth once more. Embarrassment nudged him towards the door, a mixture of sweat and shame trailing behind. My ears picked up his wails as he continued down the hallway of the apartment building.
I slammed the door shut behind him, and let out a sigh of relief. I never saw him again.
When I feel directionless, I watch Judge Judy reruns on the TV set I found on the street when my upstairs neighbor died and her wasteful children just put all of her crap out on the street. Stella was ninety six and was Judge Judy’s biggest fan. ‘I like a stong lady,’ she told me, the first I helped her carry her shopping up to her apartment. I thought she was referring to me and I looked down at the muscles of my arms, straining under the weight of the many, many tins of catfood that filled the plastic bags, feeling good about myself and my physique. However, upon stepping into the apartment, I realized I was mistaken. She was not referring to me, but to Judge Judy, whose no-nonsence face adorned every wall of Stella’s tiny living space. She glowered from frames and from cardboard cut-outs, from the TV set and from her cover of her autobiography ‘Don’t Piss on my Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining,’ which sat on the arm of Stella’s favorite chair. ‘I do,’ Stella said again. ‘I like a strong lady.’
I’d help Stella with her shopping at least once a week and have coffee with her afterwards, under watchful eyes of the many Judy’s. When she died and her shitty kids ransacked the apartment to sell it, I adopted her cat, Judy Jr., who would have been flung out on the street, too.
So it’s a few weeks after Stella croaked, and me and J.J. are sitting watching Judge Judy reruns in her honour when the doorbell rings. I stand up, draping J.J. around my shoulders like a stylish scarf and go to answer it. I’ve barely pulled the door open when a man bearing a striking resemblance to Nicolas Cage pushes passed me and dives straight on the couch.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to live here,” he declares.
“Nicolas Cage?” I ask. He doesn’t look up. Instead he wriggles into a more comfortable position on the couch and chuckles at the TV.
“I know it’s you,” I say. “I saw you once at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. My friend who works at the popcorn stand said you go in there all the time.”
Slowly he turns his head. “Y…you like Ripley’s too?”
“I mean, it’s okay,” I say. “I only–”
“Excellent, then you may stay.”
“I’m sorry, I may stay?”
“Yes.” He gets up and walks towards me. He takes J.J. from around my shoulders and sets her on his own. “This is my new apartment, but a fellow Ripley’s fan is always welcome, so you may stay. What’s your favorite Ripley’s piece? Mine is the shrunken heads.” He lies down on the sofa again, shifting J.J. to his chest.
“Nicolas, I think you’ve got the wrong apartment. It’s the one upstairs that was for sale.”
He looks at me, smiling and shakes his head slowly.
“Mine. Is. The. Shrunken. Heads.” he says.
Hilary (I wasn’t initially planning on participating, but they talked me into it.)
You’re home. Finally. After an overnight shift turned sixteen hour work day, you’re wiped. You pull all the curtains, shutting out the sun, which seems like it’s seven times brighter than usual. You crumple onto the couch and let the velour envelop your butt, flipping through channels before landing on Judge Judy, your favorite. Five, ten, twenty minutes go by and you’re becoming one with your couch.
Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. It’s barely 1 PM and everyone you know is at work. If it’s UPS or FedEx or USPS, they’ll just leave whatever you forgot you ordered at the door. You don’t have the disposable income to have ordered something you would have to sign for. You ignore it and turn up the volume.
Judy’s screaming at a seventeen year old that’s suing her mother for defamation, because her name made it too easy for bullies, but the knocking gets louder and louder until you can’t ignore it any more.
Grumbling, you get up, you answer the door, and its Nicolas Cage, in all his glory, standing before you.
“Um, hi? Can I help you?” you say.
He barrels past you, takes your seat on the couch, your perfectly broken in seat, and says, “Judge Judy? I love Judge Judy!”
You’re still at the doorway, stunned, understandably. You turn to look outside, searching for a camera crew. Maybe Ashton Kutcher’s bringing back Punk’D again. He isn’t, and there isn’t anybody.
“Got anything to eat?” he says. You’ve never been a great host, but you scrounge together something vaguely edible, placing it on your grandmother’s china she left you in the will, the nicest plate you own. By the time you turn to give it to him, Nicolas Cage has taken off both his shoes and his socks. His toenails are longer than your fingernails and his toes are longer than you’re comfortable with.
Your eyes grow wide, the smell of his feet has just hit your nose. They smell like cinnamon with vague citrus notes. It’s not necessarily unpleasant, it’s just… confusing.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to live here,” he says, removing his tie, rat-tail whipping you on the ass as you turn to walk away.
“I only have one bed,” you say.
He smiles at you, “That’s ok, I like to snuggle.” You don’t.
“Do you prefer the big spoon, or the little spoon?” he asks. You try to remember the last time you spooned with someone. Nothing comes to mind.
Nicolas Cage rifles through your coat closet, puts on a royal blue knit sweater adorned with your own smiling face, last year’s Christmas present from your prankster sister. It’s never been worn.
“What’s the rent?” he asks. “I’ll go in. Splitsies!”
You’re distracted by your own face, gracing Oscar winning actor Nicolas Cage’s chest. It takes you about three weeks to speak to him again, but by then he’s already started wearing all your clothes.
I’m a daydreamer. I’ll see something interesting, hear something interesting and end up spending the next twenty minutes to several hours creating a world based on what-if and what-could-be’s. That’s one of the reasons why I love writing prompts so much: someone else did the hard work, created an interesting moment to expand upon. Reddit’s r/WritingPrompts subreddit is one of my favorites, and I’m sure it’ll be one of your favorites in no time too.
I’ve put together a list of fifteen of my favorite writing prompts from the subreddit, just to tickle your fancy. Click through and read the best responses, maybe come up with one of your own, who knows.
I’m imagining a cross between Lord of the Rings‘ Dead Men of Dunharrow and Harry Potter’s giant spider Aragog. Or Lord of the Rings‘ giant spider Shelob. Or Wild Wild West‘s giant mechanical spider, because why not?