A Prologue: by Mariah Matthews
He was not a large man but he spoke with the confidence of a wise man, regulating the rhythm and spacing of his words through the flow of his breath, and the silences between rang as clear as the words.
“I am today,” he said in a voice as reedy as the wind passing between oak leaves. “I was yesterday. I will be tomorrow.”
He paused. Children stopped squirming. Old men stopped coughing. Mothers took their eyes off of their babies and stared at the speaker. They waited. The words--perhaps the string of words--puzzled them.
“You are today,” he continued. “You were yesterday. You will be tomorrow.”
Brows began to furl. They tried to wrap their minds around the meaning of his words. It seemed that they should understand.
“We are today,” he concluded. “We were yesterday. We will be tomorrow.”
“A great speech,” the men of Bickersville said, nodding to each other as they left the hall.
“Truly a gifted man,” the women said, regaining control of their children.
No one discussed what the speaker said for fear of sounding inadequate, but peace reigned in Bickersville for almost a month to the day after he left their village.
And then, pushed beyond reason, young Nels Andresen beat up his father who was the minister of the Zion Lutheran Church, nearly killing him, and neighbors began to take sides again.
In the final paragraph of this prologue, the young man and his victim could be anybody in the fictional town of Bickersville. Try creating your own version of this paragraph, changing name, relationship, occupation, town position, the degree of crime committed, and see how characters with different occupations, social connections, and different crimes or misdemeanors change the direction of the story that follows.
(Example) . . . And then, pushed beyond reason, young Joe Bowers shot his uncle--long-time proprietor of the town tavern--with a 30-06, killing him on the spot, and neighbors began to take sides again.
Or . . . And then Mayor Jones's young wife--a bride of three months--ran away with the gardener, and neighbors began to take sides again.