Jimmy Crack Corn: An Accidental Writing Exercise

by Pierre C. Arseneault

May 9 , 2011

Wanting to write is one thing but doing it is another thing altogether. Many people like myself have dreams of writing, but as I, never really sat down to do it much over the years. In the past I was always finding a reason to put it off until tomorrow.

My most frequent excuse that I used was not having the time. When I finally made time to pursue my ambitions, cartooning came first. The desire to weave tales of intrigue, mystery and suspense would rear its head every so often over the years, only to be squashed by many excuses. I did write down notes on ideas, some story lines that I have been hanging onto for years now. Some of the stories we have done and others that we will be sharing with you in the future have been planned for years, but had never been written until now. Why is that, you must be wondering as you’re reading this article.

Well it was due to the lack of ability on my part, or so I convinced myself it was anyway. But what it really boils down to was that I never dedicated time and energy to honing my skills as a writer.

This is something I admire greatly in my collaboration partner Angella Jacob. Her ability to put the reader in the scene with vivid descriptions and scene portrayals are very impressive to say the least. Now don’t take this to mean that I am telling you she is the best as like me, she is also constantly looking for ways to improve. This is one of the things that I feel makes her a very good writer.

For anyone wanting to be a better writer one must write. It’s really that simple if you think about it. You were not a great driver the first time you got behind the wheel, now were you? You had to practice and hone your skills and this rule really applies to everything you do in life. Just remember there was a time you didn’t even know how to walk and had to learn that too.

Writing exercises are a great way for a writer to improve on the skills they feel are lacking. You can do simple ones like describing a scene or an object. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well try painting a picture with your words. It’s not easy I tell you and for some of us that part takes practice. Lots and lots of practice!

This leads me to the point of this article which is a writing exercise that came about accidentally. Those of you who know me know that I have a quirky sense of humour which explains my being a cartoonist. But recently, just for the sake of bad humour, I wrote a note on my Facebook wall that read: “If Jimmy was to break into a corn cracking frenzy, I simply wouldn’t care”. Which I thought was rather amusing, so I followed it up with this next tidbit which eventually turned into a prologue of a writing exercise.



Prologue: On a Dark Tuesday Night

The tension could be felt in the room on this Tuesday night in May. It had built up over the last hour and we both knew it. Other than sounds coming from the kitchen, the house was quiet. All you could hear was Jimmy, methodically cracking corn over the kitchen sink while I sat in my grandmother’s rocker in the living room all by myself. He knew instinctively that even though he had tried to get me interested in his quirky habit it had not worked. I sat quietly in the living room staring blankly at the walls without a care.


Now of course my strange sense of humour was not appeased just yet and so I had to write yet another, more elaborate follow-up to the previous post.



The End of Jimmy's Obsession

As I stood there barefoot on the cold tile floor, I could feel the blood quickly enveloping my feet. I felt it more than I could see it as the room was barely lit by the neighbour’s garage lights shinning through the kitchen windows.
The broken hang
ing light fixture, no longer glowing, was still swaying like a pendulum back and forth, back and forth hypnotically creaking as it did so.
On the floor lay Jimmy with his head cracked open as I stood above him, slowly coming to my senses. My breath was laboured as if I had been out running like I do in the mornings. I barely remembered what had happened.
That’s when I noticed the heavy cast iron skillet was still in my hand, dripping blood onto the floor next to Jimmy. It all started coming back to me now, the memories flooding my mind, making me dizzy.
I remember quietly walking up behind Jimmy as he stood at the kitchen sink and picking up the cast iron frying pan as if it weighed nothing. My fury gave me strength that I didn’t know I had. I swiftly hoisted it up and brought it down onto Jimmy’s skull, just as fast hitting the light fixture in the same swinging motion, sending shards of glass all over the room.
It only took one blow; with a loud crunch Jimmy crumpled to the floor at my feet, dragging down the giant pot he had his left hand in at the same time. Now there was blood, corn and corn husk all over the floor as well as on the kitchen counter and table. I had had enough with Jimmy’s corn cracking obsession and I must have snapped. As a feeling of anxiety came over me I realized that everyone knew about Jimmy’s corn cracking obsession and how it was driving me crazy.
I had to act fast. I quickly went out to the shed and gathered the shovel and wheel barrow and buried him in the back yard where we had planned to plant tomatoes until Jimmy began insisting on planting corn.
I think mostly just to spite him I got much satisfaction knowing that I would be planting tomatoes instead.
As I patted down the dirt over Jimmy I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief as I knew that Jimmy would crack corn no more.


By now this was turning into what I like to refer to as an accidental writing exercise. A mild obsession grew over this mini tale, even if it might never see the light of day other than on Facebook. That is until I decided to tell you about my writing exercise. So of course now I couldn’t leave it as is and had to do one more chapter in the tale of Jimmy and his corn cracking obsession.


Sleepless Nights

It was four AM and I was lying in bed tossing and turning trying desperately to go back to sleep. I just couldn’t stop my mind from reflecting on the events of the last few weeks. It had started suddenly when my boyfriend Jimmy and I had stopped at the local market to pick up some fresh vegetables.
I had spent months trying to get Jimmy to start eating better as he had always had the worst diet I had ever seen. It consisted mostly of fried foods, hot dogs and hamburgers.

Vegetables, they're good for you” I had to repeat to him over and over on the way there.

As the woman in the relationship, I was always the one making the grocery list. Lord knows I could never have left that to Jimmy or we would have been eating hot dogs for a week. I never knew I could hate hot dogs so much. After knowing Jimmy for a few months I loathed the smell of those damn unnatural things.

Living together now, I was convinced that I was going to change Jimmy’s diet and get him to eat healthier even if it killed me. Little did I know that it was Jimmy it would end up killing.

But now I had been struggling all week, trying to get some sleep. However, ever since last Sunday night when I bashed Jimmy’s skull in with a cast iron skillet I had not slept very well. It wasn’t the feelings of guilt because I had killed him that I couldn’t sleep but rather the efforts and constant scheming that went into not getting caught.

I had told the neighbour, Ted Wallowitts that my boyfriend was going away for a few weeks. Jimmy worked for his brother Frank Wallowitts as a security guard at the hospital. So in a panic when Ted asked why Jimmy didn’t come in and never called in sick on Monday I blurted out the first thing I could think of.

Jimmy was going to visit his folks for a few weeks” his dad hadn’t been well, I thought to myself and so this was the perfect excuse. Since then the lies have just been piling up and so trying to keep them straight was getting difficult.

Eventually I would tell them he left me for a farm girl out west who grew corn. That would make sense since he had recently developed the obsession with cracking corn.

I remembered when we got to the market Jimmy had seen the old lady cracking corn and whistling that damn song. She was getting some ready to cook right there at the market. There were rows of tables with butter and salt on them for the people who would buy the corn to eat right there.

Something must have snapped in Jimmy that day as he insisted on buying about fifty pounds of corn. That was the beginning of his corn cracking obsession and little did I know then that it would only get worse and worse and would drive me crazy.

Bang” I heard a loud noise, this time louder than the one that previously woke me up. Falling asleep had been so difficult that being awoken by a loud noise had made me a little angry. And now more noise, my blood started to boil as I sat up in bed.

Suddenly I heard a loud crashing sound, startled I jumped out of bed and reached for my robe. I have to be up to get to work in a few hours and so I was not happy to be woken up from what little sleep I had gotten so far tonight.

I hurried downstairs to find that the kitchen was lit pretty brightly by the sensor light in the back yard. I looked around and saw that the metal garbage cans that were next to the garage had been tipped over and dented.

Angry, I reached for the closest thing I could find, which coincidentally was the old heavy cast iron skillet still hanging in its old familiar spot over the stove top.

Skillet in hand I quickly stepped out into the back yard and exclaimed “Shooo raccoons shooo!” It had to be the raccoons again as we always had problems with them since we put in the compost bin. Many times we had found the garbage cans tipped over and garbage strewn about. They had gotten into the compost pile a few times too so we had invested in a large metal back yard compost bin.

I figured I must have scared them away as I couldn't hear anything now. That’s when I noticed that not far behind the tipped over garbage cans that the freshly planted tomatoes had been dug up. The dirt was spread out and raccoon tracks were everywhere. I could see the tiny foot prints leading over the cobble stones all the way to the compost bin.

Quietly I walked over towards it trying hard to not make a sound. I now held the skillet with both hands waiting to bash those damn raccoons to death. Standing next to the compost bin I looked all over, around and behind it but I couldn’t find any raccoons.

That’s when I heard a noise behind me that sounded much like a scrapping sound. I spun around like a top hoisting the skillet over my head, I momentarily froze in shock as standing before me was Jimmy, his arms outstretched before him.

How could this be, I thought as I hesitated, trying to wrap my mind around it. He stood there all covered in dirt and peat moss which I had used to get the tomatoes to grow. His face, what little I could see through the dirt, was as pale as a ghost. His eyes were just blank whites and his mouth was open and I could see dirt in it which didn’t appear to bother him any. Was I dreaming I asked myself?

In the short moment that I froze in disbelief, Jimmy took a step towards me and wrapped his hands around my throat. Again I froze in disbelief as I thought I was dreaming but the cold dead flesh felt very real against my skin.

His gripped quickly tightened and I panicked, I hoisted my right hand holding the skillet up and brought it down and hit Jimmy over the head with it. This time it didn’t seem to faze him one bit. If anything, his grip got tighter and now I was struggling to breathe.

Jimmy stumbled forward which made me stagger under his weight. This and stepping on the hem of my robe made me lose my balance and fall backwards. Hitting the ground made me lose my grip on the skillet and it bounced out of my reach and clambered against the compost bin making a very loud noise.

But Jimmy never let go. He had fallen on top of me and his grip was so tight now it took my focus off everything but breaking free. I clawed at his arms, feeling the cold flesh build up under my finger nails. I hit him as hard as I could but I was getting weak now and was seeing stars. Trying desperately to gasp, to breathe that precious air, yet I could not. The look on Jimmy’s face had not changed at all; it was like he was asleep.

My eyes were wide open but now all was going dark. I had no strength left in me as everything faded to black.

Suddenly lights came on at the Wallowitts’s place, first upstairs and now downstairs as Ted made his way down to see what all the noise was about. He stopped in his kitchen to reach for his giant flashlight he had gotten last Christmas. Walking outside barefoot he crossed the wood deck and one single step down, he now walked across his back yard towards the five foot high fence dividing the back yards.

Now standing at the fence, he flicked on his light and pointed it to the garbage cans right away knowing that they would be tipped over again and as he assumed they were exactly that. Catching his eye was the still opened back door which he thought was odd.

Peggy” he called out in a hushed voice not wanting to wake the whole neighbourhood.

That’s when he heard a sound coming from the opposite end of the small back yard. He shone his light toward the area and roamed for a quick moment until he found the compost bin and paused.

What the hell?” he caught himself saying aloud.

The compost bin was been broken open and tipped over, its contents spilled all over the ground. There amidst it all was a filthy looking Jimmy, a blank expression on his face, all hunched over in a kneeling position, before him was a large pile of corn.

Jimmy was not done cracking corn after all.


Now the point of me sharing all this with you is that a writing exercise can be anything. It can come in many shapes and sizes. For me, it was a line of a song that I remembered Bugs Bunny singing and it came about accidentally.

So I say if you want to be a writer, write, even if it’s just something silly that you will be simply posting on Facebook.