18 July 2014

Writing prompt 43

Ye ol' writing prompts are resurrected! Well, at least this week.

Today's writing prompt is inspired by some random thought train I was riding. I'm not sure where this line of thinking started; I only know that it ended in a mental image of some guy hitting Houdini in the stomach really hard.

For those who are not familiar, one of Houdini's tricks was to get the strongest person in the audience to sock him in the stomach and be unfazed by it. Apparently, one day an overly enthusiastic fan saw Houdini out and about and - perhaps as a joke? - walked up to the famous magician and...yep, punched him in the stomach as hard as he could. Unfortunately, Houdini wasn't prepared for it, and he suffered internal injuries and eventually died. (Okay, Wikipedia says it was a student in Houdini's dressing room who'd asked permission first and then delivered multiple blows while Houdini was lying down, but I like my version better.)

Which brings us to the prompt.

Write a short story or poem about and/or from the perspective of J. Gordon Whitehead, the guy who killed Houdini.

In my mind, I'm particularly fascinated with how other people might've treated Whitehead after Houdini died. I imagine there would've been a lot of pissed-off fans. Maybe his friends and fellow students shunned him. Or maybe no one shunned him but he spent the rest of his life self-isolating out of overwhelming regret and self-loathing. Or maybe it didn't faze him at all, which in itself would be interesting. Did he convince himself it was not his fault? Perhaps he didn't connect the punching incident with Houdini's ruptured appendix, but there were others who did and blamed him for it.

I leave it up to you. Go! Write! And I'd love to see what you come up with.

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