Author's Note: This, my friends, is an improv story. What is an improv story, you ask? I shall explain. Here's how it works. I write a chapter, and then at the end of each chapter I ask you for things, like an object, or an activity. You review and give me those things, and I write the next chapter using them. And yes, this story does actually have a plot. . .it just needs a little help along the way. The only rule is that I reserve the right to reject ideas. So you can give me whatever you want, but I may or may not use it. (Sorry, but I just can't work in every single little detail.) Anyway, here's what was used in this chapter.

Two Random Objects: paintbrush and toothpicks (contributed by subtly crazy)

An Activity: painting (contributed by Blackdiamond783)

Two Rent Characters: Mark and Maureen (contributed by Maureen the Drama Queen)

Time: December (contributed by subtly crazy)

First line: read on and find out ^_~ (contributed by subtly crazy)

Chapter 1: Paint, Toothpicks, and a Knock at the Door

December 14th

"What do you suppose it's like to be in a coma?" Mark asked drowsily, "Anything at all like death?"

Maureen gave him an odd look, then sloshed her paint roller through the tray of purple and smacked it against the wall harder than she'd meant to. Little droplets of paint ricocheted off in all directions, splattering Maureen's tight pink "princess" t-shirt, and leaving dark splotches throughout Mark's blond hair. Mark jumped in surprise, then turned and glared at her.

"What?" Maureen asked innocently.

"Ya think you could hit it a little harder?" Mark asked sarcastically.

"You're weird," Maureen muttered, "why were you talking about comas and death?"

"Oh, I don't know. I was just thinking that if I got really high off the paint fumes, I might pass out and be in a coma, and then started wondering what that would be like. Would you dream? Would you even know that you'd been out for such a long time?"

Maureen just shook her head.

"You're weird, Marky. Collins had better *love* his new paint job."

The gang had agreed to spend the weekend repainting Collins' apartment (rainbow at his request) as an early Christmas present to the professor.

"And proud of it," Mark quipped.

"What?" Maureen asked, confused.

"Weird and. . .oh, nevermind."

"Hey, guys, how's it going in here?" Roger greeted, entering with a bowl full of potato chips in hand.

"It's going good," Mark answered, "But Rog, I didn't see 'snack break' on Joanne's work schedule."

"Aw, screw Joanne's work schedule. I'm supervising." Roger answered, winking at Maureen.

"My God, what is up with you guys today?" Maureen asked, throwing up her hands in exasperation.

"What do you mean?" Mark asked defensively.

"I.M.S.," Mimi answered, coming in behind Roger.

Maureen nodded understandingly, causing the two men to look at one another and then shrug.

"I.M.S.?" Roger asked curiously.

"Irritable Male Syndrome," Maureen explained.

"It occurs when men are forced to do household work that exceeds the usual tasks of taking out the trash and doing the dishes when they run out of clean ones," Mimi added, wrapping her arms around Roger's waist from behind.

"Hey!" Mark protested, "I wouldn't talk if I were you, being that I do *Any* housework that goes on in the loft."

Maureen and Mimi burst into a fit of giggles at that, leaving Mark fuming.

"When do you guys discuss this stuff, anyway?" Roger asked, mystified.

""When we all take mass trips to the bathroom," Mimi answered proudly, "You always wanted to know what women do in there so. . .now you do."

"Lunch!" Joanne called from the other room.

"What, you mean we actually get a break?" Maureen called back.

"So are you a male now?" Mark asked snidely.

Maureen stared at him for a long moment, then slapped him across the face and walked out of the room. Mark sighed loudly and rushed out after her.

"Come on, Mo, I was just *kidding*."

"Yeah, right," she muttered going over to help Joanne set the table.

Roger and Mimi followed Mark out, and Roger immediately began surveying the food.

"Whoa. . .there's little toothpicks in the sandwiches," Roger marveled.

"Well," Joanne remarked, "Thank you for that astute observation."

"Big words," Maureen warned, earning her a first class eye roll from Joanne.

"Oh, toothpicks!" Collins exclaimed, appearing in the doorway. "I love you, Jo, where did you find these?"

"Umm. . .the grocery store?" Joanne answered, rather taken aback by his enthusiasm.

"We could build a pyramid with them," Roger suggested.

"Build another. . .pyramid. . ." Maureen sang.

"Mo, shut up."

"Sorry."

"Didn't you ever build toothpick pyramids when you were a kid?" Roger asked Mimi in response to the strange look she was giving him.

"Um. . .no, Rog, can't say that I did."

"Well, come on then. . .you're gonna build your first toothpick pyramid."

"Roger, no. . ." Mimi whined.

"Oh yes!"

"Oh nooo!" she squealed as Roger grabbed her and began tickling her. "Maureen, help!"

"I'll save you!" Maureen laughed, rolling up a piece of bread and using it as a trumpet. She ran into the other room, grabbed a handful of blue paint, and smeared it through Roger's hair.

"Oh, you did *not.*"

Roger scooped Mimi into his arms, carried her into the newly painted room, and dumped her in the middle of the tray of green.

"ROGER! OH MY GOD YOU ARE A DEAD MAN!"

Mark joined the fight, running through the pan of red and dragging Maureen with him.

Even Joanne got dragged in, after Maureen left a large yellow handprint on the seat of her jeans.

After a few minutes, everyone was covered in paint and had collapsed, giggling hysterically, to the floor.

"Okay, Roger, you have to admit that was much more fun than building a toothpick pyramid," Mimi gasped.

"Yeah, and I'll bet you had it planned all along, right?" he pouted.

"What can I say, Rog? I'm a scheming woman."

Just then, the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it," Mark called, "probably just Benny coming to crash our party."

Mark opened the door, then paused. A slender black girl stood on the doorstep, her arms wrapped around herself, shivering slightly. There were bandages across both her wrists, and dark circles under her eyes.

"Um. . .can I help you?" Mark asked uncertainly.

"I'm-I'm looking for Tom Collins." She answered him in a shaky, broken voice.

"Collins? There's someone here for you!" Mark called.

But Collins was already there, standing open mouthed behind Mark.

"Collins?" Mark prompted. "You okay? You know her?"

"She's. . .she's my sister." Collins answered.

Things I need for my next chapter:

Random objects Activity A quote A place