I’ve found several definitions for “Drabble,” none of which truly matched mine, but I’m going to use it anyway because that’s what I’ve always called bits of writing such as this. Here’s what the word means to me:
Drabbles are pieces of writing that I do for the sole purpose of learning more about my characters, and are not intended to be part of their actual stories. In this particular type of drabble, I put characters from different stories together, give them an activity (which may or may not make sense in their world), and observe how they interact.
I wrote this one (shocker!) while the Winter Olympics were on.
“When is the hockey game coming back?” Kaleb asked from the corner of the couch where he was sprawling in his nest of candy bar wrappers.
Lisa sent a minimal glare his way, but said nothing. She hoped that if she refused to fuel his need for attention maybe he’d leave. It wasn’t so much that she minded his presence; just his negative commentary. It was disruptive, and she was actually trying to watch the figure skaters.
The other boy sharing the television was much quieter company, almost to the point where Lisa wondered why Trevor was here at all. He surrounded himself with homework the way Kaleb did with junk food and comic books, and Lisa had only caught him actually looking at the screen a couple times.
“Ugh, that was the short program?” Kaleb complained.
Trevor surprised Lisa by speaking up. “If you don’t like it, why don’t you find something else to do?”
“I like sports,” Kaleb said, sitting forward and whipping red, unruly hair out of his face in ecstasy for finally having his efforts acknowledged. “Real sports. Anything that involves music needs to be on a different channel.”
“It’s not easy,” Trevor said, nodding to the screen, “what they’re doing. You couldn’t do that.”
Kaleb snorted. “I also can’t sing opera. That doesn’t mean it should be in the Olympics.”
Lisa watched with particular interest as the skaters received their scores and their coaches hugged them. She wondered what that would feel like: being a coach and finally seeing your student succeed on that level…
“What are you doing, anyway?” Kaleb said, getting up to nose around Trevor’s books. Blocking Lisa’s view. Making Lisa miss the post-score interviews, which were her favorite part.
“Sit down,” she demanded, and because she had said so little thus far, Kaleb was surprised enough to obey.
“No one has this much homework,” Kaleb insisted. He tried to flip through one of the books, but Trevor pulled it out of his reach.
“If you’re bored, leave,” Trevor said. “I’ll call you if Hockey comes back.”
Kaleb grinned. “No you wouldn’t.”
Trevor paused for a moment and then nodded. “Probably not. But only because you’re always talking about nothing.”
“Well, I’d talk about the games, but neither of you seem interested.”
Lisa found herself offended by this. “I like the Olympics. I just notice different things about them than most people. It’s more about who the athletes are than who did the most complicated half-pipe trick.”
“So, you like sports, except for the sport part?” Kaleb said, reiterating her words in the least intelligent possible way.
Lisa was trying to decide if it was worth it to get into an argument when Trevor pulled the conversation in a different direction by announcing, “I don’t really like sports.”
“Really?” Kaleb asked, though he had just accused him of that exactly thing. “Then why—”
“Opening and closing ceremonies, mostly,” Trevor said, flipping noisily back through a notebook. “There’s a lot that goes into them. It’s neat to imagine the type of planning to put together something like that.”
Kaleb didn’t seem to have a response for that, and wandered back to his seat, pouting that he hadn’t stirred up trouble as intended.
“Why are you watching?” Lisa found herself asking.
“Told you,” Kaleb said. “I like sports. I like talking to people about them. When I watch them alone and make comments to myself, it’s really…” He trailed off, leaving the understanding of I get lonely far too obvious in the silence. He cleared his throat and ended on an exaggeratedly gruff tone, “Anyway. You’re both so clammed up, I might as well be talking to myself anyway.”
Lisa thought back over the evening, and realized that she’d automatically assumed that Kaleb would stomp on any comment she tried to make, so she hadn’t bothered trying.
The next skater took the ice and there was the breathless moment of stillness before she began her program. Experimentally, she said, “It’s amazing how many jumps they’re required to have in their routines.”
Kaleb looked like he wanted to say, ‘Thanks for actually talking to me,’ but settled for the response of, “Yeah. I guess jumping on ice might be kind of hard.”