A vignette is a scene that is experienced, often without context. We don’t know the whole story, but what we see is compelling, interesting, or curious. Writing a vignette demands using all five senses and not trying to complete the story by adding what you didn’t see. Vignettes are experiences, and are not complete. We often don’t participate in the conclusion. Writing a vignette is hard if you often write project or incident reports.
Writing them requires close attention to detail and the ability to live with not knowing how it ends. It’s a good exercise to strengthen observation skills.
Sky Harbor, 5:30 a.m.
A metallic sound caught my ear in all that noise.
A waking airport, at 5:30 a.m. is not a place for quiet or reflection.
Mops and buckets, wax machines, servers calling out coffee orders.
The people mover grinds along; the bulky guy ahead of me slows my progress.
Still, I don’t shout, “On your left!” and charge on by. I hear the metallic sound and it tangles in my head for recognition.
It’s not my suitcase handle, that’s a different sound. And not my earrings, either. Heavier, more serious is this sound.
We’re off the people mover, and the big guy moves a bit. He’s blocking a slight, thin-boned kid, maybe 16. The kid is wearing pajama bottoms and a flapping T-shirt, too big for his slight frame. Flip-flops, flimsy for October, and then, the chain.
He is in shackles. He takes careful steps. Between his ankles and his waist hangs a heavy chain. His hands are held in manacles. They connect to the waist chain, too. His halting walk makes the metallic sound.
The boy is surrounded by police: local, state, and two transport guys. Six men and one young boy. And he is grinning.
His clothing makes me think this was a surprise extradition.
An hour before, was there a knock on a motel room, a house, or an apartment? Now, he’s at Gate 20. But there is no plane scheduled from Gate 20. There is from my Gate, 23, but who wants to see a prisoner being transported? Not business travelers. Not the hockey team noising up the concourse with their bags and backpacks, laughter, slaps and hoots. They must be the winners of this round.
Our flight is delayed. The gate agent says they need to load a special needs traveler. I spin around, and the boy and his unsmiling entourage is gone. What special needs must he have, shackled as he is? Small steps. Careful easing into the middle seat, someone snaps his seatbelt. Wouldn’t want to have him hurt at this point.
–-Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing in businesses and to creativity coaching clients.