First Line Exercise–Sheila and the Dolphins

Seems I’m posting all sorts of late this week! 

This is an exercise I got from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  She got it from another writer, Russell Edson, and in one of my writing classes at Webster we expanded on it.  The idea is to write out a few sentences that could be could first lines for a story.  Then, after some time, go back, pick a line, and start a story.  Here are my sentences, and the beginning of a story I came up with from one of them.  I may come back with some expansions of the other lines.

Anyway, enjoy the post, and I’ll have something new this Sunday!

-I’m just saying, if you have a stomach strong enough to eat raw fish, does it really matter if the sushi cooler is two degrees warmer than it should be?

-Beating the health inspector to a pulp seemed like a good idea.

-I first questioned my sanity when the empty soda cans on my desk performed a musical number.

-Sheila didn’t trust rapists or dolphins.

-It seemed to Mark that all a lease really meant was that he was legally agreeing to be metaphorically screwed up the butthole—although he didn’t use those exact words when he confronted his landlord.

-Sensuality was too dangerous a topic for Americans—fortunately, Marie was French.


Shelia didn’t trust rapists or dolphins.  She didn’t trust rapists because they sexually violated others, and she didn’t trust dolphins for the same reason.  But, if she was in a situation where she was forced to pick on or the other, she’d pick dolphins.  Dolphins didn’t rape outside their species, and even if they did . . . well.  See those bastards try to get her on dry land.

It was because of this mindset that Sheila—now seventeen—was on the other side of the dock as her classmates, who were playing right into the dolphins’ fins.  Those idiots would get into a van with blacked-out windows driven by a Charlie Manson clone, if he did tricks in the water and made cute squeaky noises.

The teacher came over, once he noticed Sheila by herself and seemingly glaring at the other students (she was really glaring at the dolphins).  “Everything okay, Sheila?”


“Don’t you want to interact with the dolphins?  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“Probably because the dolphins ensure your ‘lifetime’ comes to an unseemly end.”

“Is this about the dolphin rape we saw at Sea World last year?”

“This is beyond the dolphin rape at Sea World.  Dolphins are the only creature we’re aware of that’s as smart or smarter than humans.  And what do they do with that intellect?”

“Sheila . . .”

“They rape each other.  Males and females both.  They beat up and drown sharks for fun.  They connive ways to earn our trust, keeping us weepy-eyed and blind to their actual nature.”

“Oh, honestly!”

“Seriously, Mr. Morris, if dolphins ever develop deposable thumbs, we are fucked.

At this, Mr. Morris just shook his head and went back to being connived by the dolphins.  “Don’t say I didn’t warn you when they murder your children and ravish your wife while forcing you to watch!”  Sheila shouted after him.  She knew she was exaggerating—the dolphins would just kill everybody.

She sighed, and that’s when she noticed a lone dolphin watching her.  She tensed.  Did it know she knew?


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