For a creative writing assignment, I had to create my own flash fiction using only and all of the words from a small section of Amy Hempel’s “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried”. Below I have included the original section by Amy Hempel, followed by my very different reworking of the same words.
“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” Segment by Amy Hempel
"Tell me things I won't mind forgetting," she said. "Make it useless stuff or skip it."
I began. I told her insects fly through rain, missing every drop, never getting wet. I told her no one in America owned a tape recorder before Bing Crosby did. I told her the shape of the moon is like a banana—you see it looking full, you're seeing it end-on.
The camera made me self-conscious and I stopped. It was trained on us from a ceiling mount—the kind of camera banks use to photograph robbers. It played us to the nurses down the hall in Intensive Care.
"Go on, girl," she said. "You get used to it."
I had my audience. I went on. Did she know that Tammy Wynette had changed her tune? Really. That now she sings "Stand by Your Friends"? That Paul Anka did it too, I said. Does "You're Having Our Baby." That he got sick of all that feminist bitching.
"What else?" she said. "Have you got something else?" Oh, yes.
For her I would always have something else.
“Stolen Words: That’s No Way to Make A Sex Tape With A Lady” By Emily Bress
“Bitching!” Anka sings, “getting wet, make it rain, baby! That Tammy Bing, She all of that! Mount it, stuff it...”
“Skip it,” Crosby said, “that girl did to feminist America what robbers did to banks.”
Did she know the hall camera was on you?
“Yes,” Paul told us, “she made us stand by it, said ‘go on you, drop that fly.” She had her audience, owned it, went down and played my banana like a recorder. She got me in tune too.”
“You’re full of it,” I said.
“Oh really?” He said, “I have it, our tape. You won’t mind seeing?”
“No, you’re sick,” I began, “every one does.”
I stopped missing her, in the end. I had told the kind nurses I trained that. I tell the moon something else.
I used to care before friends; the insects—see-through, useless things—got on her. Or I changed shape, forgetting the use of her, never having that camera looking from a self-conscious ceiling.