The things he took – after Salmon Rushdie

Last week I sat down with a writing friend to study a small piece of literature.  We met at a nearby coffee house.  Sitting across the table from each other, books open in front of us, surrounded by the high whine of the espresso machine, the peppered staccato of other patrons’ conversations, and the brace of our own thoughts and imaginings on the world of other people’s writing, we read over the first part of a recent Salmon Rushdie novel and talked about what we did, and did not, understand in his work.

Then we wrote.

This is what came out of my pen, and it was so strange and yet oddly fascinating, that I thought it would be fun to share with you.


“. . .  So she slipped out of history, he took it with him when he left.” – Salmon Rushdie, “Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights”

The things he took

the empty mayonnaise jar of receipts
a poem from her porch
the treasure of loneliness
his history dig
chocolate cake (he left her a slice)
the formality of loneliness
the good fortune in a Chinese coin
– that went bad after he carried it away
mercy to others
the parallel life of a transient philosopher
gambling addiction
pharmacy postcards
immaculate linen she saved for her wedding night
olive oil to make pesto
the paralysis of over-analyzed love
attraction to miracles
the safety of warm skin
imaginary ills in a pillowcase
forgotten birthdays
the red-orange of a setting sun
eternal sloth
paranoia, just enough to sour a life
wine she never cared for
his resumé and business cards
the last taste of summer.

She slipped out of the way and he left with no dust in his tracks
no unfinished meals
no canceled dentist appointments
no strangled crabgrass
no sparks on the 4th of July

and when he was gone she swept the floor with his ashes
and put out the garbage for the trash man to pick up
on Monday.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

It’s a little sad in places, sorry!  The original work was something of a lament for the character, a female jinn, who is abruptly left by a philosopher-historian when his career is reinstated … I thought about changing what I wrote to make it more cheerful, but I decided to include an explanation instead.

My favorite line might be “a poem from her porch.”  Such an interesting image!

Do you ever write down stream-of-consciousness thoughts?  Do you use stream-of-consciousness as fuel for your own writing?  Thanks for reading!

26 thoughts on “The things he took – after Salmon Rushdie

      1. Oh! thanks for asking, she would love that you asked the question. She is actually a friend from my M.F.A. program who also writes science fiction. We both write more “literary” SF, as opposed to space adventure or apocalyptic novels. A couple of years ago we launched a monthly reading series here in Seattle that includes 10 open mic reading slots and 2-3 featured readers, hoping to build a community that is open, tolerant, and diverse. We’ve had really wonderful response to our series, called “Two Hour Transport,” and in fact in October, our featured readers will be three well-established (and somewhat famous) female SF writers (Eileen Gunn, Nisi Shawl, and Vonda McIntyre). This is the third time we’ve had the pleasure of hearing their work in our series. But mostly we have ordinary Seattle (or beyond) writers who may or may not be “published,” but whose work we enjoy. 🙂 Thanks for asking! (

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      2. Teresa, that’s really involved. I’m sure when you meet with think alike folk, you’re more productive. I met with a writers group a while back. One person read his chapter of novel, anther person who was a columnist and read her column for the next day. That was interesting. But the location was too far away for me, so I discontinue going. I’ll bookmark your link and read it later. I’m all packed to go to Portland tomorrow for the arrival of my grandbaby!


    1. You know, it’s not that often we can have a meaningful discussion about ideas and ways of saying things in literature, with someone who can help us understand it better – both ways. It’s easy to get caught up in daily life and overlook the opportunity for studying another work. 🙂 Thank you for your kind comment! I can feel the supportive therapist in your thoughts. 🙂

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    1. Oh! didn’t think about that, Amy! Thanks! I really appreciate your mentioning that you liked it.

      I was thinking this morning, I intended “things he took” as in “took with him” (the coin, chocolate cake) OR “took away because of his relationship with her” (mercy to others, attention to miracles). Your comment reminded me of that. I appreciate knowing you liked it. 🙂

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    1. That’s so interesting, Dawn! We find ourselves editing, editing, editing, while we write, too often, I think. It’s an act of bravery to be willing to write down whatever comes into the brain. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 🙂


  1. An interesting and touching write Theresa. Reminds me of a popular Hindi song penned by a famous lyricist in India 🙂 A haunting song of a lost love, letters and of things left behind – dreams, hopes, thoughts. Thank you for sharing your process and allowing me to learn.

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  2. This is a great piece of writing and sharing of your thoughts, Theresa. You are being productive! 🙂 I do think that we should allow our thoughts to come alive on paper.

    There is a poetry contest at the moment here in SA sponsored by the biggest funeral homes: eleven best poems, one for each official language in the country, on the theme of, “I wish I’d said…” And, it doesn’t necessary have to be about death. On that same day I came across it, I registered and typed some words on my Word doc. I rearranged them a little but because life was happening, I had to leave it first. I think it has potential and I just need to be in the right frame of mind to get back to it to make is my best. 🙂

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  3. This is so beautiful Theresa – even the little bit sad in places. I actually love the opening paragraph of this post too! I felt like I was in the coffee shop with you and your friend by the way you described your meeting!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind message, Tami! I met with my friend Nicole again today. Funny thing was, when we got to writing, we both read what we wrote, each saying, “This isn’t anything, it isn’t very good,” and then we each said (about the other’s work) – “That WAS something, I liked the …” So much easier to see the value in the other person’s work. hah! A good lesson!

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