June 13- June 26, 2019 Flash Fiction Last Line Contest “Taming the Wild Animal”

Theme: Taming the Wild Animal

Story has to show an encounter with some kind of “wild” animal in or near a person’s home, place of business, etc. – can be a crazy pet or a true animal from the wild (snake, skunk, tiger, etc.) – and how the main character deals with it.

Story Requirements:

  • The story must end with the line, “And that’s why …. (fill in the rest).

Word Count: 1,200




  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.
See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.




223 thoughts on “June 13- June 26, 2019 Flash Fiction Last Line Contest “Taming the Wild Animal”

  • June 13, 2019 at 12:35 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked here, be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • June 13, 2019 at 3:41 pm
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      Hi Alice,
      Does a very very nasty man count as a wild animal? I have encountered a few I can write about.

      Reply
      • June 13, 2019 at 7:16 pm
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        Great question Chitra, I would say any human being could be considered a wild animal. So if you have an idea for a story involving a man, I would say go for it!!

        Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 6:07 pm
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      Hi Carrie,
      No sign of my story posted on 25th titled “Deadlier Than The Male.”
      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • June 13, 2019 at 1:42 pm
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    Sad I couldn’t enter the last competition, but hope I can think up a good story for this

    Reply
    • June 13, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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      Hope to see you this time around Peter 🙂

      Reply
  • June 14, 2019 at 2:26 am
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    What’s So Funny?

    (1196 Words)

    Sandra took a deep breath, relishing the flavor of the unpolluted air that blew gently across the fields in front of her and rustled the leaves of the trees behind the newly built log cabin. She and her husband Adam had always been what most people would consider the ‘country type’. That’s why they chose to settle in the southern portion of Nebraska to begin with, to live in a safe environment.
    The only thing that seemed strange was the odd sound of laughter that carried on the wind but they had decided they could live with the strange sounds of nature if it meant they could grow a family in such a beautiful place.
    “The local station issued severe weather warnings with a Tor Con 9. That’s a 90% chance of tornado.” Sandra spoke softly, still enjoying the view.
    “I can almost taste the rain.”
    “So can I. I love the way the wheat moves like it has a mind of it’s own, like slow golden water waving in the breeze.”
    “I just secured the last shutter, we should go inside and get down to the storm cellar now that we have all of the animals in the barn. The storms are coming and from what I understand we can’t rely on the sirens to warn us of a twister. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.”
    “Alright, let’s go in and bunker down for the night.” Sandra followed him in not really wanting to be locked inside where she couldn’t enjoy the breeze.
    They had already stocked a few things in the storm cellar like candles, hurricane lamps with fuel, matches, bottled water, some food items with long shelf lives, some MRE’s and emergency medical kits. What caught Sandra off guard was the gun rack that was hung on the far wall with a couple of rifles with long distance scopes mounted on them.
    “I thought we agreed that we would not have any guns in our home?”
    “No, I stayed silent. That’s a long way from an agreement.” Adam countered smoothly. “You just assumed I agreed because I didn’t argue the point.”
    “I would rather argue than have you go behind my back and get guns.” Sandra retorted watching Adam throw the last lock on the hatchway in place.
    “I hate arguments and I didn’t go behind your back, the receipts are in your purse. It’s not my fault you didn’t look at them.”
    “You know how I feel about weapons.” Sandra lit a hurricane lamp and turned the wick down so that there was enough light to see by without wasting the fuel.
    “How do you feel about coyotes eating our cows, sheep and horses? I hear they like chicken too but we don’t have any of those little buggers.”
    “I can understand and compromise about the whole gun ordeal but why on Earth would you need that barrel of gun powder? And why did you choose to keep it in our house? Isn’t that stuff dangerous?”
    “I saw it in the back of the store in town and thought it may come in handy. I only planned on keeping it in here temporarily until I get the shed built.”
    Even from the shelter they could hear the wind whistling followed by the distinct high pitched sound of ground sirens going off.
    “Can we argue about this when were not hiding from tornadoes?” Adam asked as they sat down on the shag carpet on the floor.
    “Fine.”
    “Thanks.” Adam replied grateful the argument was over for a moment.
    They listened to the sounds of large items breaking and crashing outside followed by the sound of debris pummeling the cabin. When the sounds quieted and the sirens stopped wailing, they ventured out of the shelter to assess the damage, grateful that the storm had passed.
    The cabin looked fine from the inside but stepping outside revealed a horror scene that belonged in some crazy Halloween flick. The front wall and roof had been ripped off the barn and was leaning haphazardly against the cabin.
    “Go back inside. You don’t need to see this mess.” Adam knew Sandra hated the sight of blood.
    Some of the animals had escaped and were running in the field of wheat or in the pasture to the right while others were strewn all over their property.
    “What is that sound?!” Sandra cried, covering her ears as the strange laughter began again, getting louder and louder.
    One of the cows mooed in a strange loud tone that stopped suddenly as it hit the ground in the distance, followed by another round of the resonating giggle like laughter. One of the horses let out a startled whinny, reared up on its hind legs as something that looked like a large dog with a long neck grabbed hold of it’s middle, pulled it into the swaying wet wheat with a loud thump that cut off the animal’s protests. The laughter grew louder, like this terrible event was somehow hysterical.
    Adam silently grabbed Sandra’s hand, pulled her into the house slamming the door behind them. He disappeared into the cellar, returning a moment later with two rifles and two boxes of ammunition.
    “Reload for me.” Adam spoke in a no nonsense tone as he opened the shutter then eased window open and took aim.
    The sound was deafening as Adam fired round after round, smiling every time a bullet hit his target. By the time the giggling stopped, both their ears were ringing and the air was thick with the acrid smell of burned gunpowder.
    “What were those things?” Sandra asked frightened.
    “I’m not sure yet. Stay here while I make sure they’re either dead or gone.”
    “There’s no way I’m staying here alone.” Sandra grabbed her purse off the table, dumped the contents then threw the remaining bullets inside it before slinging it over her head so that the strap crossed her chest. Then she grabbed a rifle and loaded it, ready to use it if she needed to.
    “Hate guns, huh?” Adam shook his head knowing any argument would be futile as he reloaded his own weapon. “Stay next to me.”
    Together they stepped outside ready to defend themselves against whatever was preying on their animals when the sound of laughter carried on the wind again. It sounded like it was coming from behind their cabin.
    “Do they live in what little bit of woods we have?”
    “The sound would be louder if they did.” Adam pointed out.
    For over an hour they silently trekked through the woods without incident, following the sound of the laughter that steadily grew louder. At the edge of the trees there were several large cages that had been damaged by the tornadoes with several more that still held the exotic animals.
    “Why are they laughing? What’s so funny?” Sandra whispered as she realized the farmhouse was crumpled. “Why would anyone want to keep so many hyenas way out here?”
    “Not for anything good that’s for sure.”
    “These people must be crazy!”
    “And that’s why we should have something to defend ourselves with and now I know what I’ll be using the barrel of gunpowder for.”

    Reply
    • June 18, 2019 at 10:00 am
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      Amy, I really liked the beginning of the story, especially with the realistic argument between husband and wife regarding guns. And, I loved how you fitted the laughing in the beginning near the end, although I suspected that hyenas were involved right from the start, just a funny feeling you know? Then I felt the end was kind of flat because there was no ending to speak of. I guess the word limit caused that, but I would have liked a resolution. Such as confronting the owners, or just taking care of business with the remaining animals. Please, no barbs in my direction for cruelty to animals. Hyenas have no place in our society other than a zoo. Overall, iI like the way you write, I liked your dialogue and there were a few things I’d correct, but I will only point out this one, such as:

      Sandra took a deep breath, relishing the flavor of the unpolluted air that blew gently across the fields in front of her and rustled the leaves of the trees behind the newly built log cabin.

      In my humble opinion, it should be: Sandra took a deep breath, relishing the flavor of the unpolluted air that blew gently across the fields in front of her, RUSTLING the leaves of the trees behind the newly built log cabin. This way it doesn’t sound like the gentle wind stopped suddenly and you only heard a ‘rustle’ not the ‘rustling’ of leaves. A subtle change, but more definitive to what you were saying.

      Fix the ending somehow and I personally think you will have a better story, than it already is.

      Reply
      • June 19, 2019 at 1:27 pm
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        Hi Roy,
        Thanks so much for your comments and feedback. I am really enjoying this process of learning from so many perspectives. As a general rule, I don’t believe in cruelty to animals either… except when I’m writing seeing as how no living animals get hurt.

        Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 10:03 am
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        Amy,

        I really enjoyed this story and although I may have guessed that the laughter was going to be hyenas, you did more or less keep this under wraps until the end.

        I think the gun conversation must happen a lot in the US and I really like the way you resolved “the argument” by the way in which Sandra accepts that shooting thingswas necessary in this instance.

        I note that Roy commented upon the ending and I agree with him on this. However, when I wrote my story I felt that the ending prompt that we were given really didn’t help and in an ideal world I would not have used that sentence at all. So much for prompts then.

        Just one more thing. I don’t know anything practical about gunpowder but isn’t it a rather extreme method of dealing with vermin /hyenas?

        Regards,

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
    • June 19, 2019 at 1:58 am
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      Hey Amy,

      Damn you’re fast. And you have a nice, smooth writing style. (What I’ve seen of it.)

      Do you live in Nebraska? I hope not. (For your sake.) I don’t know where that name came from, they should’ve named it West Iowa. My last story took place in Grand Rapids, a place I went to at least 16 times but I always left town as soon as I got off the airplane. Except once, and that’s when I went, “Ohhhh, Grand Rapids. I get it now.” (Just between you and me, I thought they’d be bigger.)

      I did not anticipate the source of the laughter in your story, and was convinced that you were going to do a weird science-fantasy thing. So, you totally fooled me until just before the reveal.

      You use dialogue very effectively to tell the story and develop your characters.
      Which are easier to develop, in such a short story, when you only have two or three. (Does a tornado qualify as a character? Okay then, two characters.)

      Did you know that Nebraska’s new and improved state tourism motto is, “Nebraska. Honestly? It’s not for everyone.” (I am not making this up.)

      So, back to your story. I read the first sentence, saw the word ‘unpolluted’ and thought, ‘Why didn’t she just use the word ‘fresh?’ But after thinking about it, I see what you were doing, and it’s very effective. Informing us that the character is new to this location. Although, as the story unfolds, this fact is made clear in other ways. But….., it’s a very clever technique or strategy, to deliver sensory information in the very first line. I should consciously emulate your approach, rather than criticize it. (And I hope I do.)

      One serious typo. We don’t ‘bunker down’ for tornadoes, we ‘hunker down.’ Other than that, great story, Amy.

      Reply
      • June 19, 2019 at 1:51 pm
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        Hi Ken C.
        Thanks for your comments and feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. No, I am not from Nebraska lol.. I’m actually originally from a small town in upstate New York, raised in the southern states (Tennessee, NC and Georgia mostly). I was not aware of the Nebraskan motto, although it is pretty hysterical. I have never been to the Grand Rapids but have seen many pictures of it…I assume it’s much smaller than the pictures proclaim? That makes me wonder if you’ve visited Niagra Falls? It’s absolutely beautiful (even when its freezing out) and a place I would love to visit again now that I’m older.

        I don’t mind reading science-fantasy and sometimes (albeit pretty rare) writing it, I am a much bigger fan of the action, adventure, thriller, horror and suspense genres (especially when the twists are really twisted lol). I wasn’t sure if that was allowed on here and attempted to keep it ‘reader friendly’ as well as giving just a bit of how I really like to write without being too gruesome (only with a word limit lol, which I find challenging in a wonderful way).

        The ‘bunker’ typo, I found really funny after it was too late of course lol… I think my spellcheck hates me when I write nice seeing as how it doesn’t correct me when I use obscenities in some of my books, spellcheck encourages me at those times when it should probably slap me.

        Reply
        • June 21, 2019 at 9:54 am
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          Amy,

          Not from Nebraska, eh? Well, there you go. We already have something in common. I once new a guy from Nebraska, who was desperate to move to Alaska, but a grizzly, you see, made a meal out of he, and they buried his remains in a basket.

          Yes, I have visited Niagara Falls. Once as a kid, when they had the American side diverted for some geological tests and measurements, and returned just last year. We took one of those boat rides where you motor upstream and you’re looking up at the falls all around you. The turbulence in the water, the spray in the air, and the overwhelming roar of all that water was,,,, not exactly beautiful, it was more like… magnificently awesome. I mean, from that vantage point, it’s, you know, damn near frightening. Kind of like the sheer cliffs of the Grand Canyon, I mean sure, you’re right, its beautiful, but it’s also dangerous. (I’m such a buzzkill sometimes.)

          Your tastes in literature represent an excellent variety: action, adventure, thrillers, horror and suspense. Especially when you consider each ones opposite.
          Lethargy, Group Walking Tours, Documentaries, Delight and Certainty. (Bah. Who needs that?)

          And I think ‘really twisted twists’ SHOULD be a genre. (Or a new move performed by gymnasts.)

          So, it would seem, based upon your own testimony ma’am, that YOU… have been HOLDING BACK.

          Yikes.

          Honestly, you don’t look that diabolical in your profile pic. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Let me take another look at that. Mmmmm. Yeah, oh yeah. I see it now. You look like someone who is on to all of my tricks. My sarcasm, my cynicism, the phony sympathy engendered by my weather-beaten face.

          Actually, you look like someone who is tired of their laptop’s childish temper tantrums.
          (Aren’t we all?) The kind of person who would say, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry Mrs. Pearson. I didn’t realize you were Timmie’s fucking mother. Come on in. Would you like a cookie?”

          Anyway, I don’t know what to tell you about your penchant for obscene language other than the fact that I like you already. (Nice segue, eh?) Some writers seem to (Philip) want to use it at times but pretend that they’re not using it. As in “Put down the f**king bat, Kevin, or I’ll cut your gizzard out and feed it to the zombie chickens.” But nobody reads it like ‘Put down the ef-asterisk-sterisking bat, Kevin.’ No. They’re not fooling me, that word is read as ‘fucking.’ (WTF, right? I mean, it’s part of our modern lexicon, isn’t it? What the fuck? Over?) Hell, most French people learn English just so they can cuss more proficiently. (Or so I was told, by a German PRETENDING to be French.) ‘Vee, how you say, despick? dee-spice zee English and ezpeciality zee Ah-mezicahns but… vee? no, we, we moose not be out cussed by any peoples, any where. We are full up.”

          “You’re full up, you say? Oooo-kay. Very well, then. I’m glad you could get that off your French chest. And no, for the last time, you cannot have your fucking statue back.”

          Sorry about the long-winded response, Amy. But, I really just want to encourage you to feel free to (I’m thinking very carefully about how I want to phrase this) to feel unconstrained. I’ve been tailgating this site for a few years now, I’ve read every sticker on its bumper. Blood, gore, death, hot demons, hotter angels, obscenities, sexual situations, globular clusters, (that was me) double entendre’s, duplicate words, misspellings, eliciting and inciting illicit behavior, gross exaggeration of blatant lies. (But enough about Roy.) Occasionally shocking truths. (Enough about Carrie.) You name it. It’s not against the rules.

          Actually, I never read the rules. (Rules are not my thing, you understand.) BUT, I tried to break everything that might’ve been a rule and nothing happened. You could say I’ve scouted out the area and there are no booby-traps. Just a bunch of desperate, under-appreciated writers who can’t even form a line at the water fountain. (Always pushing, shoving, spilling water on my homework assignment. Christ almighty.)

          So, have no fear, Amy. Give us the full dose, we can handle it. Push the plunger all the way down. Stab, twist, and repeat. Give your conscience the day off. Or week. Whatever it takes.

          Reply
          • June 21, 2019 at 4:09 pm
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            Hi Ken,
            Yes Niagra Falls is very scary but the beautiful view of nature when it runs on it’s own course quenches the fear and turns it into a natural mystery that begs to be viewed, cherished and explored- one I have considered writing about numerous times but have never gotten around to it.

            Thank you so much for the confidence boost, being new to a specific place can be very intimidating when stretching the proverbial legs and figuring out what’s ok and what’s not. Thank you for enlightening me and feel free to leave me a ‘long winded response’ anytime you want to (I am prone to those a lot myself), it is appreciated, funny, sometimes shocking and welcomed. I absolutely love your wit, sarcasm and brutally, blunt honesty it even shows in your writing, which is wonderful by the way. (I honestly have not seen a single story on here by the other writers that was not interesting to me, I find the wide variety of style astounding and am surprised that so many talented writers can be found right here sharing and talking and helping one another just for the fun of it. I am honestly grateful to have stumbled onto this particular site.)
            I don’t know if I would go as far to say that I have been holding back, it’s more like skirting around myself in an extreme effort to censor my inner demons that typically run wild and unchecked in my usual writing. Censoring myself was a challenge in itself and I have found it very fun to try to write a bit differently, stepping away from myself so to speak- which has in itself allowed me to grow a bit more as a writer and learn that it is ok to let my spellcheck put in some earplugs for a moment lol (Because I have never tried to use my asterisk key so I wasn’t sure if my spellcheck would let me do that, it’s so testy.)

            That was actually something I wasn’t sure I could do (the censoring thing)- even my own mother says things like “This is my oldest son, he gets into lots of trouble. This is my middle son, he is confused about everything but he tries. This is my youngest son, he has always been a middle aged truck driver since he was born- hence the chewing tobacco and dirty jokes and then here’s my daughter…. what can I say about her? Hmmmm…. she’s just Amy, what am I gonna do? That girl has a twisted mind that you can’t peek into, I would say she’s sick but that implies there’s a cure! No, she’s just Amy. Thank God she just writes her wild ideas and knows better than to actually do it!”
            I don’t know how accurate my own mother’s words about me are (or if they could actually be a slight insult, lol) but I do find them funny in an encouraging way since everyone has their own inner demons and we have to set them free sometimes, preferably through the safer method of killing off the favorite character of a horror novel along with any of the others that dare step in the way of the villain’s evil ways, hahaha. I never know who’s going to come out on top or how they will manage to survive until the story is finished, lol.
            Anyway, I’ll stop now and close by saying- thank you again for your input, I am truly enjoying getting to know everyone here and their unique view of the world and the way they write it into the life of a story. Looks like this reply is pretty ‘long winded’ too. 🙂

          • June 24, 2019 at 7:49 am
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            I wouldn’t trust a German pretending to be French. 🙂

      • June 20, 2019 at 3:14 pm
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        Hey Ken,

        Think of it this way – an underground cellar could be used as a bunker, in which case, “bunker down” is a good play on words. LOL

        Reply
        • June 21, 2019 at 2:17 am
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          ‘Bunker down’ is a PLAY? On WORDS? Your honor? I object….. The witness is pandering to the defendant and conspiring with the jury. What kind of a trial are you running here, anyway? This is no way to instill fear and guilt in the fictional population. I invoke the name of Shakespeare and demand that you declare a minstrel!

          Reply
          • June 21, 2019 at 8:05 am
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            Ken! LOL! Thank you so much for making me laugh this morning. It’s a great way to start the day!

      • June 24, 2019 at 8:26 am
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        So you were in Grand Rapids? You know I live there. You didn’t call, you didn’t email, you didn’t text. I thought we were tight, well not tight, exactly, but we aren’t loose. Next time let me know, bring a bottle of wine, I’ll cook dinner and you can even use the guest room in case you bring several bottles of wine. Then, maybe you might not want to leave town so fast after you get here. Michigan, it’s for everyone. Pure Michigan.

        Reply
        • June 25, 2019 at 8:32 pm
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          Roy,

          I don’t know how to tell you this Roy, but among the circles I travel in, your insults are considered a valid and legitimate invitation. I shall consider your gracious but clumsy attempts to get free wine out of me before politely declining for vague and indistinct reasons I won’t feel required to articulate. (It’s a gift, really.)

          Reply
    • June 19, 2019 at 4:18 am
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      From the writing point of view, Amy this is a really effective, atmospheric story – with tension, a bit of a mystery and a little character development too.

      I tend to think Europeans in this situation would have addressed the situation with a couple of calls, to the authorities and to a wildlife charity, rather than blowing stuff up. But I guess, as Ken C intimates, they do things differently in Nebraska.

      On a wildlife note, though my main knowledge of hyenas is from the Lion King, I’m pretty sure that hyenas’ laughter/giggling is not a hunting call. Sandra and Adam would hear many other sounds, whoops, growls, squeals, etc in the days leading up and at the time so in reality perhaps the laughter would have seemed less spooky and more clearly like wildlife. Hyenas are quite the conversationalists. (The Lion King is not wrong there.)

      Have to agree with Roy a little about the end – who are these weird neighbours and why are they keeping all those hyenas? Is it only hyenas? It could be a kind of Island of Dr Moreau set-up or something with some weird and unneighbourly experiments going on, or something …. But I’m getting carried away. Maybe something like that though would justify the extreme measures at the end a little more.

      Reply
      • June 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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        Hi Andy,
        Thank you so much for your comments, I appreciate your feedback. I am sure there is a lot of room for improvement in this story, it was one of those stories that ‘just hit’. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get on the internet with the storms that were supposed to roll through here so I didn’t exactly hang around to play with it more. (Also, I was filtering myself a lot with this one, making sure it wasn’t too ‘out there’ like a lot of my work can sometimes be.)
        Hyenas are very interesting and horrifying creatures that are a breed all to themselves (neither dog or cat family), especially the speckled laughing hyenas. They actually make that laugh to signify to the pack that they have food and are ready to defend by force if necessary or they have weakened prey they need help to take down (of course after they take down their prey they will fight amongst themselves over the food, laughing the whole time.)
        Ironically, The Lion King was what made me curious about hyenas when I was a kid. They are very conversational but rarely with good intentions, lol.

        Reply
      • June 23, 2019 at 5:47 am
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        Hi Andy,

        Just a quick message and I wasn’t sure where to send it but here goes.

        Recently I read your novel Shades of Green. It was thoroughly entertaining but, perhaps more importantly, it really made me think about what is actually happening now in our society. People are having their wheelie bins removed by their local councils, there are militant green activists, voting and having vaccinations may become compulsory, fines for people leaving their engines running etc etc. I understand the reasons why. Where I live, it is the home of Extinction Rebellion and the activist Polly Higgins lived here until her untimely death quite recently.

        In fact, I was moved to suggest that the small book group that I attend should read your book and this is happening this month. I am happy to pass on any comments should you wish me to do so.

        I am hoping to find the time to get a story in this time around but life does get so busy, especially after retirement.

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
        • June 24, 2019 at 3:05 am
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          Hi Ken – I’m delighted you enjoyed the book! And being the choice for your book group – wow, even more delighted!

          On the book website shadesofgreenbook.com there’s a ‘Green Spectrum’ which is downloadable as a pdf, a character chart that shows the relative position of characters to each other on the political/environmental spectrum. This may be helpful as people read it.
          I wrote the bulk of it in two bursts, in 2005-6 and 2011-12. And it seems in many ways we are progressing (if that’s the word) in the directions the story sets out.

          Do let me know how you all get on – my best email is andy.lake@flexibility.co.uk, or comments via the shadesofgreenbook website or amazon/goodreads reviews also very welcome.

          Reply
          • June 24, 2019 at 5:12 am
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            Hi Andy,
            My book group meets in a couple of weeks and I will let the group members know that aI am in contact with “the author”
            I think you are right about the direction things are heading and it is very concerning. Of course there are people like those who think that smoking is harmless and the Earth is flatwho still refuse to believe there is an issue at all.
            The character PDF will be very useful.
            I will be back in touch after our next book group meeting
            Regards,
            Ken Frape

          • June 24, 2019 at 6:54 am
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            Thank you, Ken, first for reading it and then for taking it to you group. Hope all goes well. Any feedback of all shades of opinion welcome.

            Hope you get a story in.
            I’m struggling for time – though there’s a story bubbling away in my head. Family birthday this past weekend, very pleasant too, but little time to get anything down on paper, so to speak.

          • June 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm
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            Andy,

            You wrote a book? When? Why wasn’t I informed? Did I read it already? What’s going on here? This is the kind of behavior, up with which, I will not put. I should’ve been notified. We need to talk.

          • June 25, 2019 at 7:48 am
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            Hi Ken (C) – yes, it’s Amazon Bestsellers Rank is 2,486,646, which is another way of saying ‘a light under a bushel’. Hopefully. My royalties are getting close to double figures, it’s exciting.

            But, you’re kidding, of course. You knew. Didn’t you?
            It’s kind of a long book, so I try not to force-feed it to people. It’s why I’ve been writing short fiction ever since, as a kind of penance. But could be time for the sequel ….

        • June 25, 2019 at 10:22 am
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          Deadlier than the male.

          Ken Frape 25/06/2019 1999 words.

          The chunk of meat had been devoured in minutes. Devoured is probably the right word. Eaten doesn’t really cut it, does it? Too tame. How about wolfed down? No, wrong animal.

          So what would YOU say if you saw a twenty-five kilo chunk of bloody red meat being ripped to pieces and then gone in minutes?

          You’d probably say devoured too. It’s interesting to observe ( from a safe distance) the manner in which this chunk was disposed of as these diners took turns, in strict order of seniority, each warily watching and waiting their turn. If they allowed their hunger and impatience to overcome their good sense they would feel the weight of their leader’s massive paw as they were clubbed to one side. Wait your turn, the blow says.

          The meat’s gone now and the ground has been licked so clean that even the ants have a hard job to find any sustenance. They hurry and scurry, carrying the odd morsel of blood-soaked sawdust back to their nest. Slim pickings today.

          Leonard and Leonora, seven year old twins, are now resting, still digesting their food. It’s three hours since they were fed. The odd fleck of blood or bone has been removed from their fur and paws by meticulous use of sandpaper tongues. Razor claws like bear traps are gently teased open to preen and comb through their golden fur. Leonard has a mane to attend to as well and it takes more time but he’s in no rush to tidy up this symbol of his majesty, his golden halo. His less hirsute sister has long since finished her work and has dropped her chin onto her paws, her eyes apparently closed in repose.

          But Leonora dozes with one eye open. This post-prandial snooze is usually the time when Leonard develops a raging erection and he’s not that concerned that she is his sister. As he finishes his grooming he rises to his feet and slopes towards her, his intentions being all too evident. He approaches, warily, having tried this before and been rebuffed in no uncertain terms. Leonora rises smoothly to her feet, facing him squarely as she bares her enormous teeth. It’s enough warning. No need to use any more energy as the sun blazes down. Leonard was expecting this reaction so he pads off into the further corners of his kingdom in search of a more willing partner. She should be honoured, his manner suggests as he sniffs the shimmering air for a different kind of heat.

          Joe Walden, zookeeper and big cat expert, sees all this from the perimeter fencing where he sits in his observation booth. His lunchtime snack has been eaten, not devoured and he sips the last dregs of his coffee, careful to avoid the muddy sludge hidden in the bottom of his cup. He loves this time of the day, here in the half-darkness of the hide, despite the melting heat. He smiles as he jots down notes about the current behaviour of his two prized exhibits. He was almost overcome with emotion when he was told that the zoo had made a successful bid to nurture the two tiny lion cubs that had been found in the bush after poachers had shot their parents. And he was to be their father figure.
          “Now, what are you thinking today, my beauty?” he says as he looks towards Leonora as she settles once again into her patch of shade.

          From day one, Joe’s every waking moment was occupied by these two delightful golden-haired cubs. The three of them became inseparable as Joe became a surrogate parent. He brought them food, cleaned out their living and sleeping areas and did everything he could to make up for the loss of their parents. Joe was told he could name the twins and they laughed when he told the zoo boss that he wanted to call them Leo-nard and Leo-nora.

          As Joe looked through the toughened plexiglass of his observation booth, Leonora raised her head in his direction. She couldn’t see him but could catch his scent and this confused her. Inquisitive as ever, she padded silently towards him, getting closer and closer until her nose was pressed up against the screen, now able to see him in the darkness beyond. She gave an affectionate lick, as she would have done to Joe if he was standing right next to her. He always felt safe in her company. Joe placed his hand flat against the glass and Leonora gave another lick. Then she wandered away, satisfied, her rolling gait giving little clue to the immense power within her body. No mere man could pull down a galloping wildebeest.

          As Jo watched, a sudden swishing noise made him spin round as Leonard suddenly brushed against the glass. His approach had been stealthy and Jo felt his heart beat faster at the sight of this young and powerful animal that he loved so much and had nurtured for so long. Joe’s pulse always quickened in Leonard’s company as the threat of the wild animal was always present. Be careful of Leonard, was his mantra. He never boasted to anyone that he had, or even wanted to try to tame this beautiful beast. Leonard was too majestic to have his tummy stroked.

          The time was long gone that Joe and Leonora and Leonard could roll around and play together as friends. Leonard now regarded Joe as a potential threat, to be dealt with as necessary. With paws like boxing gloves Leonard had rapidly grown into an adult. After several skirmishes and one serious and bloody fight with a rival in the lion enclosure, he had now made it clear the he was the alpha male. Happily, the younger cubs were no match for him and thus it was relatively peaceful. For now.

          In many ways, Joe’s work was done now. The zoo’s policy was to nurture any orphaned animals and then to reintegrate them into their natural environment, as far as that was possible in a wildlife safari park covering hundreds of hectares. As dusk settled over the park Joe prepared to go off duty for the day, keeping regular hours now that his two special charges had grown into independent creatures. He routinely rattled the bolts of every gate, checked every padlock and then froze as he felt the hairs on his neck rise up in alarm. This gate was slightly ajar.

          One sweep from a massive paw broke Joe’s neck.

          The follow-up bite to his throat was superfluous as he had already died in that instant. Mercifully, there was no time to feel any pain, or fear. Or sadness and perhaps disappointment.

          Leonora stood over her kill, protecting it from other lions but she was the only escapee. She roared and then gently, almost tenderly, licked the blood from Joe’s neck. She lay down beside him with one huge paw draped across his chest. And then she purred.

          And that’s why the old adage that the female is deadlier than the male is so true.

          Of all people, Joe should have known that.

          Reply
          • June 25, 2019 at 10:39 am
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            I like the discussion of devoured and then the call back with the keeper merely eating his snack.

          • June 25, 2019 at 5:10 pm
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            Hi, Ken

            Very nice story, with a good, ironic ending. I like how you don’t overtly tell us they’re lions until way into the story (and even then maybe it’s unnecessary – no other animal that has cubs has a mane, does it?). There’s some good misdirection with which of the animals poses the threat, and the moment Leonora lies down with Joe is very nice – terrible yet tender. She was playing with him, wasn’t she? (Or is she keeping him for later?)

          • June 26, 2019 at 12:03 am
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            Hi Ken,
            I love the way you tell such a wonderfully crafted story.

          • June 26, 2019 at 4:21 am
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            Great story! Is this a happy ending, I wonder? He was about letting go the two beasts that were the center of his life for a long time. And she takes him with her.

            By the way: Do you know the movie with that title? It’s great fun for those who love James Bond, and for those, who hate him.

          • June 26, 2019 at 5:53 am
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            Hi Berlinermax,

            Thanks for the comments. The expression “Deadlier than the male” is quite a common one so it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it is used as a film title.

            I have a vague feeling that Joe from the story would have loved to give Leonard and Leonora their complete freedom to return to the wild. Being killed by one of them would, in some way, have reaffirmed the continued existence of their natural instincts that he did not want to erase. His disappointment could be in that he misread the signals and was attacked by Leonora not Leonard.

            I am tryng to create some time to follow-up all the stories posted so far. I have read them all and now need to play my part by commenting upon them.

            Regards,

            Ken Frape.

          • June 27, 2019 at 6:01 am
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            Well, that’s one way to deal with parents who have outlived their utility 🙂
            Nice structure, very good description, smoothly written, somehow seems a very complete tale that fills a small space, all the action in the one enclosure. But at the end, the door is open, and for Leonora other possibilities. A chance to go out for a meal, maybe.

          • June 27, 2019 at 8:44 am
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            Ken F.,

            Your writing, Ken, has the same majestic quality as the incredible creatures you describe in your story. I can think of no higher compliment. (At the moment.) And the irony, of course, is delicious.

          • June 27, 2019 at 9:12 am
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            Hi Ken,

            Thanks for your very kind comments. They are very welcome.

            I was unsure about actually producing anything at all this time round and the required final sentence ( well, almost the final sentence in my case) didn’t help me.

            My basic thinking and a line that I resisted putting in my story was, “You can take the lion out of the wild but you can’t take the wild ………..etc. They invariably come back to bite you on the butt ( UK = bum) or worse. We humans may be the most intelligent creatures on the planet? Ha ha, but we sure do some stupid things.

            And then there’s Boris!!!!!!!!!! At the moment he’s just a local pain but I think you will get to know him real soon. Then we will have the Donald and Boris double act or Bromance.

            Regards,

            Ken Frape

          • June 27, 2019 at 8:57 am
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            Having the male named Leonard was a bit of good characterization as I imagine all the other lions soon referred to him as Leo the Lion. I like your style, Mr. Frape. Nice job and a good twist on the story at the end, although I was getting myself prepared for a wicked ending and you didn’t disappoint. You write well. Keep it up.

      • June 24, 2019 at 2:24 pm
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        Andy,

        The Lion King is an unreliable source for ‘bio-metric’ data. You know this. (Tsk- tsk.)

        Reply
        • June 25, 2019 at 7:35 am
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          I accept the reprimand, Ken. Hakuna matata!

          Similarly, most of what I know about tigers, bears, panthers and snakes comes from The Jungle Book. Now I guess you’re going to tell me that’s unreliable too?
          Oh, and elephants too!

          Talking of which, I bought my friend an elephant for his room. He said “Thanks”. I said, “Don’t mention it.”

          Reply
          • June 26, 2019 at 4:15 am
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            He said “Thanks”. I said, “Don’t mention it.”
            🙂

    • June 20, 2019 at 3:21 pm
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      Nice story Amy! I wouldn’t want to come face-to-face with a hyena. The dialogue was great and you nicely portrayed how a dangerous situation can cause a change of mind about guns when the situation is “real”. I’ll keep my hyena watching to occasional trips to the zoo. It’s safer that way.

      Here in the country, farmers keep donkeys in the pastures with the cows and horses because a donkey will fight off and kill a coyote. I wonder if they would do the same for a hyena? I’ll have to google it.

      Adi

      Reply
      • June 21, 2019 at 12:38 pm
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        Adi,

        Is that a fact? That would explain the otherwise inexplicable proliferation of donkeys that seem, to my farm-free background, completely extraneous. Perhaps they also bray loudly, giving the farmers a bit of a warning. Very interesting. And since you have as many letters after your name as Phil has IN his name, I’ll just go ahead and take your word for it. (In my family, this is what passes for a compliment.)

        Reply
        • June 25, 2019 at 1:08 pm
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          Thanks for the compliment Ken! And that is a fact – the farmers and ranchers around here swear by it and there’s a donkey (or two) in every field with the cows and/or horses. Who knew? LOL

          Reply
          • June 26, 2019 at 9:29 am
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            There’s a hobby farm near us with cows and sheep and an animal we refer to as “Crazy Donkey” watching over them all.

      • June 25, 2019 at 1:00 am
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        Hi Adi,
        Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it.
        I am with you on that, I have lived on farms growing up and we have had donkeys (although I can honestly say I never knew they would or could fight a donkey, that’s actually pretty cool) but never have I seen a hyena on a farm either but it sure was fun adding them in.
        I will have to see what other animals are good for defending land from encroaching dangers the way donkeys do, you never know when you’ll need that kind of information for a story.

        Reply
    • June 22, 2019 at 10:46 am
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      Good story, Amy. Good dialogue too- fast paced. Hubby is always right… grrrrr. I don’t like guns either. The story starts well, but does get tame in the end. You packed a lot before the end…that’s probably why it ends abruptly.

      For the sake of correction… 🙂
      ‘it has a mind of it’s own’…should be ‘its’. It could be a typo.
      Then again here: ‘long neck grabbed hold of it’s middle,’

      I used to be an English teacher, and was a stickler for grammar with my students.
      Now I take such liberties. it’s an age thing. :))

      Reply
      • June 23, 2019 at 1:18 am
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        Hi Marien,
        Thank you so much for your feedback and comments. Would you like some irony? I am a teacher as well (a home school teacher of 15 years) and always correct this exact mistake on my kids’ papers! Lol, makes me feel so stupid because now I have to explain this to my kids/students.
        A typo implies that it was a mistake on my pc’s part- nope, not this time. That was all me and my own errors and I thank you for pointing it out. Isn’t it amazing sometimes when we write, all that grammar teaching and learning goes out the window on us? It happens to me all the time, lol. I can teach it and I know that I know but sometimes apparently my brain doesn’t know and my fingers follow suit.
        Please, feel free to take these liberties any time, I welcome them. After all, as teachers and writers it is necessary for our work and growth as writers. 🙂

        Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 8:02 am
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      Hi, Amy!
      That’s a strong story, and I can see you’re an experienced writer. I especially liked the first hint, they heard some laughter. It kept me reading, because I wanted to know more about that laughter in the wild. Well done. And yes, the end could have been more “ending”.

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 10:01 am
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      I enjoyed this story too. I wish there had been a little bit more drama in the gunfight section. Maybe just stretch it out a little or hype up the trip to find the hyenas. Which is easier when you don’t have a word limit, I know. The ending wasn’t too abrupt for me, I like the hint of him blowing up the weirdo neighbor’s place as an ending that leaves a little room for the reader to imagine.

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 5:09 pm
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      Hi, Amy

      There’s some great description here (“I love the way the wheat moves like it has a mind of its own”, etc.), and you capture very well the tension of a tornado strike. You wisely plant the laughter early on (although I think Sandra might have investigated such a strange phenomenon), so that the reveal makes sense. I do think using the gunpowder to blow up the neighbours’ place (including the poor hyenas) might be a bit extreme. I enjoyed the story, though.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2019 at 9:47 am
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    Signing in for comments!

    Reply
  • June 14, 2019 at 4:18 pm
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    Signing in for comments!

    Reply
  • June 19, 2019 at 2:09 am
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    I’m not signing in for comments. I would never stoop that low. Unless there was money in it. For my favorite charity, me.

    Reply
    • June 19, 2019 at 8:52 am
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      What does this signing in mean? Don’t get it. 🙂

      Reply
      • June 21, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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        Marien,

        If you leave a comment, it flips a lever, which releases a ping-pong ball, which rolls down a ramp, knocking over a series of dominoes, the last of which slides down the pile and depresses a goth teenager, who flicks his cigarette ash into an ash tray, resting on a balance, connected to a mercury switch, which closes a circuit, that triggers a buzzer, that wakes the dog, who jumps up, knocking the ceramic squirrel off the window sill, onto the sleeping cat, that takes off running, with a string tied to its tail, that turns a rotor that knocks the brick off the platform, which falls into a puddle filled with ,,,,, puddle water, which overflows the pothole, which makes the donkey nervous, who’s braying wakes up the farmer, who grabs his shotgun from the wall, which triggers a motion sensor that turns on the TV and wakes up the moderator, who takes a pencil, writes down your name on a piece of torn cereal box, and sends you a message by email, later that day, if you’re lucky. As I understand it.

        You can snopes it if you like. But I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. Just….don’t question the system and don’t forget, the donkey is the weak link. Sometimes he doesn’t bray for you. And you get no message. But it’s important to keep trying.

        Reply
        • June 22, 2019 at 9:34 am
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          Ken, you are the cousin of that funny bunny that slipped on the egg, made an omelette of chia and flax, which grew on the terrace of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Last he was heard to have changed into a peacock.

          You should be famous with your free flowing style…now it’s caught on. Maybe you already are!
          Thanks for your great comment. Enjoyed it much.

          Reply
  • June 19, 2019 at 3:04 pm
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    THE MAGIC RECIPE

    Once upon a time there was a farm on which lived a widow and her son, Jack (no, not that Jack, another one – although their stories are quite similar).

    It was a poor farm, producing each year a meagre crop of beans. The widow did her best to work the land and eke out a living for the two of them, but one summer there was a bad drought and things got especially bad.

    One day, the widow found a flier in the mail-box at the gate of the farm.

    “Magic Beans!” it trumpeted (told you). Planting the beans would apparently produce a prime crop, whatever the soil, whatever the weather.

    “Nip into town and buy us a bag of them beans!” the widow told Jack.

    “Do I must?” complained Jack; he preferred to sit on the porch a-whittling while his mother did all the donkey work – because they didn’t have a donkey.

    “You must and you will!” responded the widow, giving him a crack of the whip that she kept for just such an occasion.

    Jack got the message and made for town with their last groat. A groat was a coin used in those days and which stopped being minted because of all the confusion it caused: in trading, people would mishear the fee for things and expect, for instance, ten goats for a service rendered. The resulting contractual disputes were a nightmare.

    On the road to town, Jack crossed paths with a tinker who was travelling from village to village selling his wares – pots and pans, that kind of stuff.

    “Where are you heading, young man?” asked the tinker with a glint in his eye, and you know what a glint means: this ***ker was not to be trusted.

    “To town to buy some of these beans,” replied Jack, showing him the flier.

    The tinker’s glint danced about like a prima ballerina doing a ‘grand écart en l’air’ (don’t ask).

    “I can save you the trip. Them beans don’t work! I tried ‘em myself. Rubbish, they are!” he said, screwing up the flier and throwing it into the nearby hedge. “No, what you want’s this.”

    And the tinker pulled from his knapsack a stub of a pencil and grubby, creased sheet of paper that he smoothed out on his knee. He started scribbling.

    “What’s that?” asked Jack. His eyes dodged from the paper to the flier in the hedge, sure that he was going to get it in the neck from his mother.

    “This,” proclaimed the tinker grandly, “Is the answer to all your prayers, and then some.”

    “But what IS it?” insisted Jack.

    “It’s a magic recipe, my friend, for a fertiliser that will make your crops grow ten times the normal size! Just imagine!”

    Jack was indeed imagining, and in his mind the feared whipping from his mother was replaced with hugs, kisses and extra custard on his pudding.

    “How much do you want for the recipe?” he asked.

    “How much you got?” the tinker fired back.

    “A groat,” said Jack.

    “What a coincidence! That’s how much it’ll cost you!”

    The tinker and his latest victim parted ways, the former picturing the roast dinner he’d now be able to afford at the next inn, the latter happily enveloped in a warming cocoon of anticipated maternal approbation.

    ~~~~~

    After his mother had worn herself out, she dropped the whip and stood in the dusty front yard sobbing.

    “How could you?! Our last groat!”

    Jack groaned and staggered to his feet.

    “Sorry, mother … I thought …”

    His mother’s guffaw hurt Jack almost as much as the whipping.

    “But … but let’s at least try it.”

    “Try it?” The widow’s eyes had gone all cloudy from the effort with the whip and the too-long-resisted certainty that she had given birth to the most stupid person in the whole kingdom.

    “Yes! I’ll make a batch of the fertilizer and you’ll see!”

    Jack spent the afternoon cutting, slicing, chopping, grating, mixing, boiling … until as dusk approached, he had a cauldron full of a frankly rather evil-smelling liquid. Holding his nose, he poured some of it into a bucket and went along the rows of puny beans using a wooden ladle to splash the miracle formula on them.

    It was night by the time he’d finished. He flopped exhausted into bed, making sure to lie on his front; his welts were playing him up something rotten. But he had pleasant dreams – of giant bean stalks scraping the sky and all the money and nice things the magic crop would bring.

    ~~~~~

    In the morning, Jack had a huge surprise … of the nasty kind. Far from growing exponentially, the already withered beans had shrunk almost to nothing. It was a disaster, and Jack readied himself for another flogging, which his mother, refreshed from a good night’s sleep, duly administered.

    Jack’s skin – what was left of it at least – was saved by a neighbour who came panting up the track to the farm.

    “FLEE! FLEE!” she cried.

    Jack’s mother stared at her, the whip raised for another crack at Jack’s back.

    The neighbour caught her breath and pointed to the hillside that overlooked the farm.

    “MONSTERS!”

    Sure enough, a horde of giant beasts were rushing down the green hill. Jack’s mother hurried inside the farm-shack along with the neighbour, leaving Jack sprawled on the ground.

    The monsters were almost on top of him. They were horrific: they had brownish-grey fur, long, dagger-sharp claws, and a thick tail that looked like it could kill a man with a single swish. One of them skidded to a halt and loomed over Jack; its evil black eyes told him he was for breakfast. It opened its mouth, the two giant fangs in its top jaw and the two in the bottom poised to rip him to shreds.

    Suddenly Jack had an idea, and it was a brilliant one, especially for him. You might be able to guess what it was.

    With the monster on his heels, he scrambled across the yard to the cauldron, which was still half full of the miracle fertilizer, grabbed the ladle, dipped it in and sprayed liquid all over the monster, which was about to sink its fangs into him.

    The monster stopped dead, screamed a shrill, hellish scream and … began to shrink before Jack’s very eyes! Two other monsters leapt towards him and got the same treatment; they also shrank. The rest were confused and began milling about. Jack took a bucket, filled it and sprayed them, too. Within minutes, every monster had been reduced to a harmless couple of inches.

    Jack went round and gathered up all the ‘monsters’, putting them in a hutch that used to belong to a rabbit called Fluffy, which Jack and his mother had eaten the previous Easter.

    In subsequent days, Jack made more of the magic formula and managed to shrink all the beasts in the district, then the kingdom. The King gave him and his mother a handsome reward, and Jack got what he’d always craved: hugs, kisses and extra custard on his pudding.

    And that’s why, dear reader, mice are so tiny nowadays.

    Reply
    • June 19, 2019 at 6:16 pm
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      Wow, Phil. That’s a page-turner if ever there was one, and perhaps the ultimate shaggy rodent story. Classic. The parodical nature heightened by the authorial asides.

      Reply
    • June 20, 2019 at 10:40 am
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      This was a favorite with my kids. Used to enjoy dramatizing it for them. Your little monsters are way scarier than the giant who lived on top! And the mother a lot more punitive. Don’t figure kids should read them. But they’re good for us.
      You got a great writing style. Particularly like the asides- think they’re novel!
      Good end too.

      Reply
    • June 20, 2019 at 3:27 pm
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      Loved the story Phil and the unique take on an old tale. I never guessed that the “monsters” were really mice. I was thinking large wolves turned into tame dogs or something until you mentioned they were reduced to a “harmless couple of inches.” I really enjoyed the story! (Except for Jack getting beaten. Poor Jack!)

      Reply
    • June 21, 2019 at 1:17 pm
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      Hah!

      I always wondered about that, why (deleted ongoing matter) don’t get any bigger. It figures that the only thing that could explain it is magic. There’s quite a lot of humor in this Phil. Dry, British humor, (in other words, not the kind that actually makes me laugh) but still, quite good, quite funny and clever humor. Which makes for a very entertaining story, Phil.

      Reply
    • June 22, 2019 at 8:50 pm
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      I always love to learn about things. I would never, in a million years guessed that’s why mice are so tiny. But, they’re tiny in my kingdom, too. That’s probably another story. Nice job, Phil. Always got something good for us. I especially liked the line, about the rabbit called Fluffy, which they had eaten the previous Easter. I shall save this story of yours and read it to my great grandchildren when they are old enough to understand, like 23, perhaps. Because I will be 100. No bones to pick and loved the story.

      Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 8:18 am
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      Hi, Phil!
      What a roller coaster ride of a story. I enjoyed it very much. The fairy tail tone and then the flyer. It is so full of imagination and the unexpected. Until the last sentence. Which is the most unexpected of them all. And it could be a bow to Douglas Adams. Thanks!

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 10:15 am
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      Haha I love the humor in this story. The pace is good and the mother (a monster as well) feels like a real character from a fairy tale – not those Disney versions. At least not the Disney versions post 90s which are somehow even more gentle.

      Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 10:19 am
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      Hi Phil,

      I think most of what can be said about this story has already been said. That means it was a great story, with wonderful (British, sorry Ken C) humour. These old tales are a rich vein that we can all use to indulge our imagination, as you did. Long may this continue.

      I think Fluffy got his just desserts too. We know who ate all the carrots!

      Of course what you may have decided not to mention is that when Jack was spraying the monsters, some of the horrible liquid landed on the mice and rats and that is why ants are so small. As for the antsthat got sprayed……well you get the drift.

      Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 4:42 pm
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      Well done Phil.
      All the right ingredients packed into a perfect concoction.
      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • June 19, 2019 at 4:11 pm
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    Hi Phil,
    What an interesting twist on the ‘magic beans’- I love it.

    Jack And The Beanstalk was always one of my favorites when I was little as do my children. Believe it or not, last year just before Christmas my oldest son who was 16 at the time was hit by a police car, when he was sent home from the ER I sat up with him reading children’s stories to him for his comfort and my own I suspect. He is fine now, thankfully.

    The point I’m trying to make concerning your story is that this wonderful tale of yours could have easily been a soothing story for those long nights when parental bonding is a necessity for both parent and child regardless of age.

    Reply
  • June 20, 2019 at 10:49 am
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    On Snores and Snorts

    A Facebook memory had popped up. I made a mental note of the day.

    Marien ‎ to Sayari Camp | Asilia Africa
    My holiday spent in your camp was absolutely the best. Loved it. A huge hippo grazed outside our tent at night. Too thrilling for words!

    It’s been two years. The week we spent at the camp was still fresh in my mind as the orchids in my garden.

    The waitress had served a Bush Breakfast- a tray of delectable goodies. I was hungry; the walking safari was to start in an hour, with Masai guides. We needed all the strength to walk through the vast forests without tiring.

    Some of us dared to go into the bush with those tall men, armed with knives, arrows, and other unidentifiable objects in case we met wild animals on the way. The animals sensed them and never attacked. But then a terrorist animal might have the wrong ideology. Much like the Lone Tusker that ever haunted me when my dad, on his medical trips, drove us through the dense Teak forests of Kerala, a hundred years ago.

    These guys made all the necessary sounds, the bleats, the ooooohs, the behhhhhhhhs to keep them from approaching. Excitement was building up. A buffalo or elephant could emerge from behind that tree just up ahead. I was afraid. I reckon the men were putting up a brave front. So we walked close together.

    It was a three hour walk into the bush. Nothing untoward happened. Thank you, Lord!

    We saw zebras, giraffes, bat-eared foxes and elephant herds. They could’ve rushed in at us and trampled us like pizza dough. But they roamed in regality far away, deigning not to look towards this small trail of little humans who, if you think about it, had more brain and more ammunition to destroy them all. Peace reigned.

    The bush was pretty. The guides took us to their village homes where they danced for us. Jumping tall skywards- the highest jumper laid claim to the girl he desired to marry, by virtue of his virility. I wasn’t chosen but got a photo taken, flanked by two hefty warriors. Bit plump.

    With not a scratch on our backs, the day in the bush ended with a refreshing sundowner by the Mara river.

    “Wasn’t this a hot spot for local poachers?”

    “Yes ma’am. Villagers hunted the Serengeti’s wildlife to make a living. Today, we’re happy to report poaching is almost nonexistent,” said our guide.

    Then we were shown into the tented camp, an expansive suite, with a king-sized bed, fine linens and safari-chic decor to offset the wilderness. Pure heaven, I say.

    Standing on the verandah, I was Sofia Loren.

    “This is the best spot for stargazing, honey, right in the middle of the Serengeti.”
    I wanted to savour every minute of the holiday despite our silly arguments.

    Masai Mara, Tarangire Forest, and this was the last stop. We’d spotted many wild animals and skeletons, safely ensconced in the jeep. Gruesome stories of how a leopard had mauled some guide gave me the chills.

    Night fell at the right hour. First bath, then dinner. But we had to use our walkie talkie to call in the Masai guide to escort us to the dining hall ways off. The lousy outdated thingamajiggy wouldn’t work. The sky loomed dark outside and George was getting really hungry now.

    “I’ll find our way. Follow me,” he said.
    “No way,” I replied. Not stepping into the jungle all alone”.

    I tried hard, hit that thingy to make it work, but it wouldn’t. Finally a prayer. O Lord, make it work!
    I am *^&%* scared.

    Dialed the number again as a last resort.

    Hello, Yes? A voice answered! Hallelujah!

    Please send someone to accompany us to dinner.
    Yes, of course.

    In five minutes, we were met by this tall tribal leader as escort. He had arrows on him. Arrows? I cringed.

    Dinner was fun, mingling with the other guests, dancing to drums. Then back to the tent.

    We heard a distant roar. Then a series of responsive sounds.
    The animal kingdom was telling goodnight, sleep tight; don’t let the humans bite.

    The light in the room was romantically dim. After a spot of reading, we settled to sleep. Before his head touched the pillow, he was snoring. I did the mama thing. Knelt down by my bed to pray. The gentle breeze of the fan, the distant lights through the glass window… what a beautiful night!

    Suddenly I heard his snores.. Graawwwnnnnn…. nrgaaaaahhhh .
    Ahhh! You didn’t waste even a moment.

    The snores got louder.
    This is crazy. How can I sleep if you snore so loud, I thought.

    Finally I gave George a shove.

    He was fast asleep, like a baby. Help! It wasn’t him snoring. The sounds were getting louder. I tiptoed to the window to look out.

    Wait! Something long was moving outside our window. Just a thin canvas between our beds and this creature.

    My heart started beating rapidly. Did he hear it?

    O my God! It was a hippo. Not your gentle zoo kind. This one was humongous, parked outside our beds- with a canvas partition!.

    After two long minutes, he moved.
    Another huge grunt. Snoooorrrrrrtttttt.
    Another step, another grunt.

    “Why are you up?”
    “Shhhhh,” I said.
    The hippo was looking at the window straight at my face. I hoped he had night blindness.

    Another laboured step. Another snort. Where was he going?
    Did he want to come in through my front door? I wondered.

    Hello hippo, have a seat. How are things? Is your horn for sale?
    Ass, hippos don’t have horns.
    I’m bit delirious, I think

    “Can you get back to bed?” George had no idea what I was looking at. He thought I was sleepwalking.

    “There’s a hippo outside. Be quiet. Shhhhhh. See, he is gone around the corner. This canvas is so thin. He could charge inside.”

    “The bathroom’s got a wooden door. Lissun! We hide there if this unpredictable Gus makes a home visit. Alright?”

    I had one leg and half my body aimed towards the bath area.

    Watching this astounding animal right under our noses, I was a bundle of fear and bravado.

    We bent forward so he wouldn’t see us…and peered.That’s when I lost my balance…My forehead hit the glass. It made a huge sound in the eerie silence. The hippo stopped. Looked back at us aggressively. This time he snorted very, very loud.

    Lord Jesus, help us, I mutter softly. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of my Lord, He is my refuge…Psalm 91.

    Feeling vulnerable, in our Pjs, we held our breath. Mr.Hippo Guy decided not to charge. I reckon he saw a thousand angels behind us, on top of our tent.

    Changing his direction, he headed towards the dining tent. Lots of grass to graze down there for his midnight snack.
    Gotta take some home to his cow.

    And that’s why I sing to my grandson, “Wimoweh Wimoweh in the jungle, the quiet jungle, the hippo strolls tonight.”

    Reply
    • June 20, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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      Marien,

      I really loved the descriptions and imagery in your story. The encounter with the hippo was so realistic. The tie in to the “Lion Sleeps Tonight” was priceless with the change to the hippo.

      I’ve only seen hippos in the zoo and they look like sweet, lovable, gentle giants but I’ve also seen wildlife series on TV and I’ve seen how vicious and dangerous hippos can be in the wild. Very good work! I enjoyed the story.

      Adi

      Reply
      • June 22, 2019 at 9:47 am
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        Every bit of the story is true… I did mistake the snorts for the snores. I was terrified to see the hippo looming so close to us. But now for this caption… it works, I guess. The next day, from the safety of the jeep, we saw dozens of them lazing in the waters. They can be vicious.. and very unpredictable. Sayari Camp is a great place to stay…just saying.

        Reply
      • June 22, 2019 at 9:48 am
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        Thank you, Adi, for reading! And the good words…

        Reply
    • June 21, 2019 at 4:45 pm
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      Hi Marien,

      I love your story, it was interesting from beginning which shows that sometimes when the muse hits, it hits (even if it is on a short lunch break) you should not feel it is less than what it is based on how long it took you to write it. I have seen many stories that a writer has toiled over for years that fall flat while others that are written in a spur of the moment situation turn out utterly brilliant.
      Your dialogue is wonderful but your vivid description of the sounds and actions of the hippo really caught my attention (I guess this could be considered dialogue as well if you look at it just right- of course from the hippos’ point of view on things.)

      Look at this story from a reviewer’s perspective I only found one very minor flaw if it can even be considered that (All writers make mistakes all the time, including me, a lot, all the time.)
      With that in mind, if I may?
      You wrote “The hippo was looking at the window straight at my face.” this would have read smoother as “The hippo was looking in the window straight at my face.”.

      In my personal opinion (as a reviewer)- if this minor word variation is the product of a ‘lunch break writing session’ you should not be overly concerned. Your story was great and much too good for you to downplay as not your best- although, I understand feeling that way in the moment. This story is beautifully written- Great job, Marien.

      Reply
      • June 22, 2019 at 10:04 am
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        Wow! Thanks, Amy, for your comments. Yes, that correction sounds good to avoid the repetition of ‘at’.
        It was written all in one happy morning.
        I didn’t know whether to choose this hippo story or an incident when a cheetah was found loose on the street where I live.. and it was chasing a rooster. It happened but I didn’t see it.
        The news was out in the papers the next day.
        The hippo saved the day!

        Reply
    • June 21, 2019 at 5:17 pm
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      Great lightness of touch in this story, Marien. Touches of humour (“goodnight, sleep tight; don’t let the humans bite” – great line!), great description that gives a believable flavour of an experience there. Tension as well, and then the punchline which really comes in from left field, and made me chuckle.
      I wanted to know more about the lone tusker in Kerala, but that must be another story.

      One thing, I’m afraid your story doesn’t help me at all with my obsessive compulsive problem. For many years I’ve found the urge to sing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ is just a whim away, a whim away, a whim away ….

      Sorry.

      Reply
      • June 22, 2019 at 10:15 am
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        Hello Andy,

        Thanks for reading and happy comments.

        A lone tusker, the elephant that strays from the herd, is an angry guy, found wandering on lonely forest roads in the heart of Kerala. My oldest sibling used to scare me when I was wittle…when we accompanied our dad on his inspection tours.
        Now I see them in video clips- trampling some gate down, overturning little cars , with the villagers running behind them from a safe distance.
        Ha ha about being OCD. No worries! The Wimoweh is how we sing the song- I’m part of an acapella group here in Abu Dhabi, where I now live.

        Reply
    • June 22, 2019 at 8:55 pm
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      Marien. I must have a telepathic sense when someone writes a story and as I read it, I realize this is not fiction. I felt that way about this about two paragraphs in. Don’t know why, but I think it was so literally descriptive and sounded real, so I accepted it as real. That’s a good thing. I think you could have signed the note to the Sayari Camp so we know when your memoir started. Otherwise, I got no quibbles with your writing. There are some minor things, but not worth spoiling the good feeling you get when someone says, Nice Story. So, I hope you stick around and write some more.

      Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 8:43 am
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      Great story! So many details to catch. Snores and snorts. Don’t let the humans bite. the hippo strolls tonight … I like it a lot.

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 5:11 pm
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      Hi, Marien

      I love the style of this – very loose, almost conversational. The descriptions are great, creating a fascinating but potentially lethal environment. The mishearing of the snores is fun. Love the Sofia Loren reference! I agree with Roy about the separation of the F*c*b**k message from the narration proper – I had to pause to find my way through that point in the story. Good, fun tale.

      Reply
  • June 20, 2019 at 2:54 pm
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    Not my best story but here it comes. Had to write it on my lunch hour at work. Enjoy

    Reply
  • June 20, 2019 at 2:59 pm
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    Untamed
    By: Adrienne Riggs

    Ah, there’s nothing like the special bond between a boy and his dog. Hours of fun, running in the sun with the best friend in the whole world.

    Ever since their marriage, Bob had waxed poetic to his wife Sheri, about his love for his childhood pet “Happy.” A Dachshund, Happy was the “perfect” dog, well-trained, obedient and totally devoted to his young master. He represented an idyllic time in Bob’s life before the stress and burdens of life had worn him down; a bad first marriage, lousy jobs, defiant children, a heart attack and open-heart surgery; the scars of which left a thick line down the center of his chest.

    Sheri also loved animals. Lucy, her old Chihuahua, was calm, sedate and never barked. She was Sheri’s shadow. Lucy was 15 years old (that’s 105 in dog years) and Sheri knew her companion was slowing down. They were all happy together – until Bob called her from work one day.

    “Honey, do you want a free dog?” Sheri heard the hope and excitement in his voice. “It’s a pedigreed Dachshund that has a bit of a deformed front paw and the breeder can’t sell him. They are looking for a loving home for him.

    Sheri thought for a moment. Puppies could be difficult, but she would do this for Bob. Perhaps this little dog would fill in the missing piece of Bob’s life. Despite a feeling of warning, she agreed.

    “That’s fine, Dear. Send me a picture.”

    Bob quickly texted 2 pictures of the tiniest puppy with the largest ears she’d ever seen. The paw deformity was barely noticeable.

    They picked him up when he was 7 weeks old. He fit in the palm of one of Sheri’s hands. With his golden hair and sleepy puppy dog eyes, she was smitten.

    “Oh, he’s adorable!”

    “I know!” If Bob had been younger, he would have been jumping for joy.

    Deciding on a name was a challenge with Bob throwing names out like “Toofalu” and other insanely absurd names that no animal should be saddled with. He finally decided on “Angus”, a ‘fine Scottish name’ for a German dog. Shaking her head, Sheri just went with it.

    Angus was so tiny, he fit inside a drinking glass; his brown nose and bright eyes peering over the rim. The issue with the deformity became more evident when he tried to walk or run. The left front leg would give out, sending the wee pup sprawling in the grass and dirt. Eventually he figured it out and could run for longer periods before tripping and falling on his face, which was hilarious. Finally, he mastered control of the leg and paw and would run chaotically around the yard, however, if one watched him closely, you could see that he never ran in a straight line. He always ran diagonally to the left.

    As the dog grew, Bob fell deeper in love with him while Sheri was positive she’d made a mistake in taking in the little beast. No one warned her that Dachshund’s were hyperactive and stupid dogs with little reasonable brain function. Maybe he’d been oxygen deprived at birth. Whatever the reason, the creature was surely intellectually challenged.

    There was no stopping this wild animal disguised as man’s best friend. Not only had he learned to run, he’d also learned to jump and climb. Nothing was safe from him! His list of sins grew daily with Bob defending him all the way.

    He chewed up paper towels and toilet paper leaving the floor covered in shreds of paper “snow.”

    Bob: “He needs more fiber.”

    He went through his wicker dog basket like a chain saw, leaving bits and pieces of wood everywhere.

    Bob: “Amazing!”

    His dog bed was shredded in less than a day.

    Bob: “He needs a bigger bed anyway.”

    He chewed on phone chargers, shoes, toys, the shower curtain and a decorative doll. Sheri was ready to hurt the dog!

    Bob: “He’s teething.”

    He jumped on little Lucy who was quietly minding her own business causing yelps of pain.

    Bob: “He just wants to play!”

    He chased the cats throughout the house causing a chain reaction when things were knocked to the floor where they shattered, adding to the chaos and mess.

    Bob: “It’s instinct. He’s a badger hound.”

    It just went on and on. The annoying beast barked incessantly, usually when they tried to sleep.

    Bob: “He’s guarding us!”

    He tore open the kitchen trash and dragged laundry around the house.

    Bob: “He’s just trying to help.”

    House training was beyond his capabilities of understanding. Bob was silent.

    When Angus reached doggy puberty, the rush of testosterone acted with the force of an addict on speed. The crazy animal began sexually violating everything in sight – the cats, old Lucy, pillows, stuffed animals and the laundry basket.

    Bob: “He’s a manly dog!”

    This was enough! Sheri disciplined the dog with firmness and attempted to teach him control. Bob was incapable of such “harsh” treatment of his beloved pet. Their exchanges followed a predictable pattern.

    “Bob! Do something with your DOG!”

    “Awww, come here Puppy” he crooned, showering the wayward beast with love. “You have to be a good boy for Mommy.”

    “BOB!”

    “What?”

    “You call that nonsense discipline?”

    “He doesn’t mean it! He’s just excited to see you, right Puppy?” Angus’ tail wagged with glee.

    “Bob, if you don’t control that animal, he’s going to the vet and he’ll come back missing a couple of things. That will calm him!”

    “You WOULDN’T!” Bob gave her a look of horror while clutching Angus to his chest and grimacing in pain. “You are NOT “nutting” my dog!”

    “Either his ‘nuts’ go or he does. Your choice.”

    “But, Mom! I don’t want to lose my nuts, I’m rather attached to them.” Bob was using a Scottish accent in a different voice.

    Sheri looked at him in disbelief. “Are you actually talking for the DOG? What is wrong with you?”

    She picked up the phone and made an appointment for the next day. “But Mom….”

    “I’m DONE!” she fumed and left the room.

    Angus returned from the vet drugged and looking sorry for himself. Bob looked as if he was going to cry. He proclaimed himself in deep mourning for his dog’s manhood. To add insult to injury Bob was horrified to watch Sheri place the dog in a ‘cone of shame’ that was patterned in pink camouflage!

    “Pink??”

    “It was all they had in his size.” Sheri grinned.

    **********
    A year later, Sheri gave up.

    Angus won. He would not, could not be tamed.

    Every day Sheri knew the house would be destroyed. She threatened to “kill” Angus daily.

    Every day Bob ignored her and would coddle the beast, calling him “Puppy” and talking with him; verbally voicing the dog’s thoughts and feelings. Enough was enough!

    Sheri handed Bob the divorce papers with the evening mail. He never saw them, he was busy “talking” with Angus.

    As she walked out of the door Bob sang, “My name is Angus. I’m a mighty badger hound! I am Angus. I’m the finest dog around…”

    She hoped they’d be happy together.

    Reply
    • June 21, 2019 at 5:29 pm
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      Entertaining story, Adi. Seems Sheri has two untrainable animals in the house! I like the sequence of excuses Bob makes for the pup. And also the way you set up a situation where sympathy for the pup is natural, and then that gradually gets eroded.

      May need an adjustment to include the ending “And that’s why …” ?

      Reply
    • June 21, 2019 at 5:34 pm
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      Hi Adrienne,
      What an amusing story about the pros and cons of owning a bouncy, energetic and fun pet. I actually have a pug/dachshund (Mojave is his name) that is 10 years old and to this day has absolutely no sense of when to quit, which makes me able to understand both of your character’s perspectives about the dog’s behavior.
      Although this story is very fun and funny in places I have to point out something very obvious here: I think you may have inadvertently forgotten the “And that’s why….” part of the prompt. Maybe the last line could be something like- ‘And that’s why she slammed the door hard against it’s frame, angrily hoping they’d be happy together.’ or something thereabouts?
      With that minor exception, this was a great story that was fun to read.

      Reply
      • June 22, 2019 at 7:59 am
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        Bah! Don’t I feel sheepish! How could I forget the last line?? Alice, will you please remove my story and I’ll repost it with a proper last line? That’s what I get for multitasking on my lunch hour at work. Thanks my friends for catching that error!

        Reply
      • June 25, 2019 at 1:48 pm
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        Amy,

        Your dog is 10 years old? And still doesn’t know when to quit? Does this mean that I have a lifetime of dealing with this crazy dog? He won’t mature with age?? Aaaaaggggghhhhh! You’ve dashed my hopes for the future.

        We have to give Angus “calming chews” to get him to mellow out a little bit. My son asked me if it was a coincidence that there is a picture of Dachshund on the bottle. I think not. I may cry when I get home. LOL.

        The only redeeming factor in this whole scenario is because it is “Bob’s” dog, BOB has to clean up all of the messes while I sit and laugh – and remind him that Angus is HIS dog!

        Reply
        • June 25, 2019 at 8:59 pm
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          Adi,
          Hi, yes it is true that Mojave is just over 10 years old and still crazy and spoiled of course, lol. He has no problem leaving his teething toys in pieces all over the floor (or hiding them under the sofa) or chewing straight through his tennis balls. They can be a handful but oh so much fun, poor Bob, I feel his pain. lol.

          Reply
    • June 22, 2019 at 10:34 am
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      Great story with an anticlimactic end. What God has put together, a dog has put asunder!
      Bob’s audacity to sing while she walks out is classic.

      I am with Bob here because I talk for my Dolce too – my havanese- all the time.
      For sheer drama. But then he’s very well behaved.
      Poor Sheri is going to be very lonely indeed! She’s a good woman, tough disciplinarian…

      Bring in the end…

      Reply
    • June 22, 2019 at 9:02 pm
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      Good job of dragging the readers along to what had to be an obvious conclusion. The guy was whacko over his dog, and she was in second place. You realize of course, that dog is man’s best friend. A way to test that is to lock both your wife (or husband) and your dog in the trunk of your car. When you open the trunk lid thirty minutes later, there will only be one who is happy to see you. Then, prepare to sleep with one eye open for the rest of your life. Enjoyed your story very much. And others have already talked about the ending, so I shall not mention it. Oh, and congrats on your recent successes. Love reading about them. Glad Mom and Dad are doing better, too.

      Reply
      • June 24, 2019 at 11:13 am
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        Thanks Roy! I am so glad to be done with school. Now to find something and make that degree work for me. Mom and Daddy are holding their own. Daddy is slowing down and I’m afraid Mama is sliding slowly away from us even more but neither of them have been sick and we’ve had 6 months of no medical crises (except for my son going into DKA and spending 2 days in the ICU).

        I love this group and the interactions we share about our love of writing! I look forward to the emails and posts daily. Glad you are doing better Roy!

        Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 8:57 am
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      The dog against the wife. This is an ending I did not forsee. Maybe I should have. For me as a no-dog-owner it was fun to read.

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 1:34 pm
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      I must confess that this story is absolutely true – with the exception that I am not married and therefore my SO and I aren’t getting divorced. Angus is real – in all of his uncoordinated, chaotic, I agreed to take Angus because he can’t have pets at his house. I had no clue what I was in for. Everything else is true – except that I’m not angry at “Bob”. (I do threaten to kill the dog daily.)

      My SO, David, has actually given voices to both Angus and my little Lola. Lola is a proper English little lady in voice and Angus is the clueless dog with a Scottish accent. Their “conversations” voiced by David are actually hilarious and he is in the process of writing a series of stories titled “The Lola Chronicles.”

      We are up to 4 dogs (Lola, Angus, Bo, and Koda), 3 cats (Morgan, Blue and Luna), a snake, and some kind of lizard dragon. (Some are my son’s and some are my grandson’s.) The albino hedgehog (Cracker) passed some time ago.

      I live in a mad house.

      Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 9:02 am
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      Adi,

      A fun and engaging story. I personally enjoyed the (what to call it) the ‘point-counterpoint’ approach to the narrative. I enjoyed every single line, but Philip is never wrong, if he says you went on a bit too long, you must edit one or two out. (That Philip, his perfection is so annoying sometimes, but what can we do?)
      It was a very enjoyable read, despite the inevitable parting of ways at the end.

      Reply
  • June 22, 2019 at 11:07 am
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    Goodness Snakes Alive

    The talk turned to what we were going to do. Blinky wanted to go snake hunting, but me and Whisper both shuddered before I said “No, I hate snakes. All the time poppin’ up and slitherin’ around. Creepy things scare the sweet Jesus right out of me.”

    “Did you talk to your Uncle Jim about us goin’ out to his place today, Jake?” asked Blinky. “I need to let my mom know where we’re goin’.

    “It’s all set. He and Aunt Gemma won’t be there, but he said we could fish in the pond by the house. I told Willow we’d meet her at Thompson’s drugstore by ten. Blinky, you go tell your mom; me and Whisper are gonna go find some worms, just in case.”

    Whisper and I got our worms and picked up the fishing tackle at my house. My mom insisted on us taking some food along and had a picnic basket all made for us to take.

    When we got to the drugstore Blinky and Willow were waiting for us with cokes in their hands. When we walked up, they pulled out two more. Willow said, “We figure the two of you are thirsty after all the worm diggin’.”

    “Nice,” I said, “Thanks. My mom made us some sandwiches for later, and there’s some lemonade in the thermos.”
    It took us about a half hour or better to walk the two miles to my uncle’s farm, but once we got there, we made a beeline for the pond, about a hundred yards from the house, and closer to the barn.

    “Let’s do some fishin’,” said Blinky.

    We’d been fishing for a few hours when Whisper looked up and said, “Getting’ mighty cloudy and stormy looking.”

    He was right. About that time, I felt a cold breeze ripple across the pond and gave me a chill. “Anybody notice how quiet it is? I said.

    “It’s too quiet,” said Willow. Willow put her pole down and started walking a little farther to the east.
    “What are you looking for?” I asked.

    “I’ll let you know in a minute. LOOK,” she said, loudly.” I went over where she was standing, staring to the southwest. “If that’s what I think it is,” she said. “We need to find someplace safe to go.”

    When I looked, I saw what she was concerned about. A dark bank of clouds filling the sky and an eerie space between it and the horizon almost glowing with a green cast. “You think it’s a tornado?”

    Blinky and Whisper had joined us by then. Whisper didn’t say a word, just raised his finger and pointed. We could see the finger of a tornado spilling out of the storm clouds above. “Run,” I said. “Follow me. There’s an old fruit cellar next to the house. They don’t use it anymore, but it’s underground. We’ll be safe there.”

    “What about the fishing gear?” asked Blinky.

    “Leave it.”

    Whisper said, “I ain’t leaving the food here.” Then, ran over and grabbed it. The rest of us were running toward the house with Whisper right behind us.

    I quickly swung back the flat door covering the steps and ran down to open the cellar door. The open door let in a little light. There were shelves lining the sides fading into darkness. Then we heard this loud buzzing sound.

    I immediately knew what it was. Rattlesnake! I felt an icy chill run down my spine.

    “What’s that noise?” asked Whisper.

    “Rattler.”

    “It won’t bother us,” said Willow. “It’s far enough back in the cellar. It’s just letting us know it knows we’re here.”

    “I don’t need to be trapped in a cellar with a dang old rattlesnake,” I said. “I hate snakes. I’ll take my chances up there.”

    Willow was standing behind me and reached out, surrounding me with her arms. “Stay by me, Jake “

    It became a moot point. At that moment the air was filled with a sound like a freight train and as it started to suck the air out of the cellar, the door slammed shut, leaving us in total darkness. We crouched in the darkness, the four of us holding onto each other.

    I was positive that snake could feel the vibrations of the tornado and was slowly crawling our way. My nerves were on the edge. The only thing holding me together was Willow; I just wouldn’t run in front of her.

    The sound quieted down and we realized the worst was over. I couldn’t get the door open fast enough. As we climbed out into a light rain, we could see we weren’t in the direct path of the destruction, but just down the road, we could see a couple buildings collapsed, and there was debris everywhere.

    The house was fine, and the barn was fine, but we couldn’t find our fishing gear. Then, I remembered the lunch basket. “Where’s our food?” I asked.

    Whisper nodded toward the fruit cellar. “Down there.”

    I hesitated. “I’ll get it.” As we walked back, my mind reeled with the thought of going back down into that dark, dusty, snake infested fruit cellar. I went down the stairs, paralysis beginning to seize my legs. I swung the door open and looked toward the picnic basket.

    It looked like the basket was moving in the dim light. There, on top of the picnic basket, was the coiled rattlesnake. I backed up and quickly climbed out, knowing for sure the rattlesnake was right behind me. I tripped and slid down a stair, waiting for the fangs to hit.

    Willow looked down. “You OK?”

    “I’m fine,” I said, and straightened up. ‘Keep it together,’ I thought. After I climbed out of the cellar, Whisper asked, “Where’s the food?”

    “The rattlesnake is sitting on top of it. You wanna go get it?”

    “I’ll get it,” said Willow. Danged if she didn’t walk down the stairs and I heard her voice a few seconds later. She was speaking so softly I couldn’t make out the words. Then she came back up with the basket.

    “Where’s the snake?” I asked.

    “I asked it to leave; said we weren’t there to hurt it. After it crawled away, I said thanks and picked up the basket. It’s an Indian thing.”

    I believed her. Her and that “Indian” thing. She was always doing stuff like that. Made me like her even more. “I think we need to be gettin’ on home,“ I said.

    “Does that mean we ain’t gonna stop and eat?” asked Whisper.

    Everybody laughed. “You guys set it up on the porch and I’ll be up in a minute. I’m going to close the door to the fruit cellar.”

    I walked carefully down the steps. I didn’t get half way down when the buzz started. I reached out and pulled the door shut. I swore I heard a thump on the door. Another cold chill went down my spine. That dang snake had been waiting for me. That’s why I don’t like snakes, or tornados, and, as a matter of fact, I don’t care much for fruit cellars, either.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 10:59 am
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      Great story Roy! I’m getting rather attached to this group of kids. I love their adventures. Nice build up of tension with the tornado and the snake and having to choose the best course in mere minutes. Masterful, as always.

      By the way, I’d rather face a tornado than a rattlesnake. No way I’m going anywhere near them. Around here, my friends call snakes “No hips”. I say the only good snake is a dead snake. Unfortunately, in Tennessee, it is actually illegal to kill a snake. What the law doesn’t know won’t hurt us!

      Adi

      Reply
      • June 24, 2019 at 3:46 pm
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        Thanks Adrienne, I love these kids, too. This story is part of a larger story (1860+ words) which I trimmed down to meet the 1200 word requirement. I am far more fond of the original (never on line or published), but it is part of my master plan for an anthology of the Pink Socks Kids and I want stories that are usually more than 1200 words. Not crazy, but two or three thousand so I can develop their character a bit more. The story takes over a lot of the interplay between the kids at 1200 and a lot of it got cut.

        Hope everything is continuing to go well with you.

        Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 7:43 pm
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        Hi Adi,
        We saw a lot of snakes in East Tennessee which always made me question that particular law. I never minded baby ball pythons too much but rattlesnakes? Yikes.. No thank you. Here in Georgia there is a strange law too, in a certain town (Quitman) here it is illegal for a chicken to cross the road… I love fiction but I swear I am not making this up.

        Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 2:11 am
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      Hi, Roy!
      Your story is a real thriller. It would be a pageturner, if there were pages to turn. A tornado and a snake, what more can we wish for? The best part for me was the girl charming the snake off the basket. She was cool amongst all the fear. Thanks!

      Reply
      • June 25, 2019 at 10:10 am
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        Thanks for the nice words, Berliner Max. Yeah, Willow keeps amazing me, too. Each of these four characters mean something special to me. I, like Wendy, had a disaster story to which I reworked and added in the snake thing, I feel the same way Jake does about snakes. But Willow she’s something else. She’s got more, very cool things to add to many of these stories, because when the prompt is right and I can use the Pink Socks Gang, I will.

        I find it interesting as an author to have created a character like Whisper and end up with Chemo and Whooping cough causing me to maybe having a whisper voice for the rest of my life. The doctors say it could be permanent, but I’m hoping they are completely wrong.

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        • June 26, 2019 at 4:32 am
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          Please don’t get me wrong, but maybe you could use some of the girl’s magic in your own life. I mean, she’s your creation, a part of you. (… and please don’t take my comment as an offence.)

          Reply
          • June 26, 2019 at 9:37 am
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            No offense taken at all. Maybe I should try to apply Willow’s strategy, because you may be right. I’ll have to ask or channel Willow in my next story. Or perhaps, just a nice sitdown, Author to creation. Thanx, Belinemax

    • June 25, 2019 at 11:05 am
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      Again, another great chapter in these kids lives. I feel like I know them now. I hope you get that anthology published so we can all read these stories in their full glory.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 9:04 am
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        There will be more, as I fully intend to do that anthology. they are all running around in my story mind (where I go when I write) and they are stirring up all kinds of trouble, I fear.

        Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 5:12 pm
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      Hi, Roy

      Another of the ‘friends’ stories, and we’re in safe hands. The preparations for the trip and events once they get to the farm are really well handled (I think you must have cut out, because of the word limit, some of the description of them actually fishing, which would have built a little suspense before the storm). Like Jürgen, I really love the moment Willow ‘charms’ the snake off the basket – nice to have a strong, confident girl character. Apparently effortless (although it probably did take effort).

      Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 9:43 am
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        Thank you, Phil, I appreciate your comments. No, actually, Willow did that all by herself when Jake came up the stairs. I just stood by and waited until she ‘charmed’ – love that description – the snake and wrote about it. A lot of my stories are written that way. I stand aside – well, I’m in front of the computer – and actually see the characters. Willow was no exception. Question: How many of my fellow authors on this site ‘see their characters and their actions in their mind as they write? It’s actually, the only way I can write. I know what they look like, how they act and then let them surprise me with their dialogue and actions.

        I had to cut 667 words from this story. It’s much better in the longer version, I think. Thanks again.

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    • June 27, 2019 at 6:31 am
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      Takes me back to a gentler time, not unlike my own childhood. We lived on the edge of town, with fields at the back running down to a stream where we used to fish, build dams and stuff. Kids of various ages allowed to roam free as long as the older ones kept an eye on everyone. Never a tornado though, don’t happen often in Essex, UK!

      Love the tone of writing. It does feel like part of a longer piece, like somewhere else there is more of an introduction to the kids. For example, I don’t get a feel here of how old they are. Jake and Willow are the key characters, the other three less defined – I’m not sure even if Blinky is a boy or a girl, or if it matters. But in a longer piece or a collection, as you say you’re thinking of putting together, all these would be fleshed out. And I’d be happy to read that collection/longer piece.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 9:13 am
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        You were off site for awhile when I posted a couple of my stories, but Jake and Willow are the two key characters as there is a budding romance, although Willow isn’t aware of it, or maybe she is. She hasn’t really let me know yet, but I suspect she’s just being hard to get.

        Whisper got his voice and the nickname during a scooter and low unseen clothesline episode which left him badly injured causing him to whisper for the rest of his life. Blinky is a guy, and is very, very smart. And both are fleshed out in other stories. Thanks for your nice comments. Generally the kids are in the ten to twelve year old range and I hope to keep it that way, although an anthology will require many short stories, especially if they are all flash fiction with a 1200 word limit, although I doubt I’ll limit myself to that and will revamp many of the shorter pieces with a little bit more character building and interaction with adults.

        For the first time since February, I am able to write and to get back involved in this group. It’s a nice feeling.

        Reply
  • June 22, 2019 at 11:53 am
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    Hi Roy,
    I love your story and how quickly it moves along, it kept my attention all the way to the end. In the short time I have been here, I have noticed that your writing seems to be very versatile and fun.

    Reply
    • June 22, 2019 at 9:15 pm
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      Thank you, Amy. I truly appreciate your comments. I created the four kids who hang around together about a year or so ago, and have grown very fond of them and am considering publishing an anthology of their various adventures. So, whenever I get a prompt that seems right, I try to make it about them.

      I love this flash fiction group and find very competent and versatile authors of considerable talent. The stories are usually very good. The critiques are generally on point, and are seldom hurtful, only helpful. It has only made me a better writer and I hope you stick around and have the same opportunity.

      Reply
      • June 23, 2019 at 1:05 am
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        HI Roy,
        That is a wonderful idea, you should do an anthology about them and I am certain there are many here that would agree with that because you are a very talented writer yourself. I would personally love to read it.

        In this short time I have already grown fond of being in this group. I have every intention of staying to learn all I can from everyone and honestly I love constructive criticism, have always in fact welcomed it. Yes, I plan on staying right here with all of you for as long as I possibly can. I love the friendship and kindness here and how everyone one of us have our own unique ways- I don’t believe there could possibly be a better community for writers and I am not just saying that, I genuinely mean it. Did you know I had never even heard of ‘flash fiction’ up until almost two months ago now? I searched for flash fiction writer’s and found another site that I had only posted in twice because even though the comment boxes are there, none of the writers actually say anything until the contest is over so the constructive criticism is not there. A site like that is fine for those who do not want the feedback and honest opinions of other more experienced writers but that is not me. I crave learning more through the experience others have and like having the ability to actually get to know my peers and share my personal thoughts as well.
        Most of my personal family and friends are not exactly big on reading and writing so for me, odd as it may seem, this group has quickly become the encouragement and support system of like minded people that I don’t find in my every day life. What more could anyone want than a group of people that understands and motivates one another in such a wonderful atmosphere? What’s more- the talent here is uncanny! When a prompt ends, I get so excited wondering what the next prompt will be… I know that is probably a bit childish but it really is just the love of writing and knowing that the input of the people in this group is what will make me a stronger writer. I really do love it here and I am grateful that all of you have accepted me and my quirkiness into this group.

        Reply
        • June 23, 2019 at 5:36 am
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          Hi Amy,

          I hope you don’t mind me piggy-backing onto your comments to Roy but they are so pertinent that I felt the need to concur.
          Pretty much all that you have said echoes my views upon this site and the people writing and commenting upon it.

          I too found another site where virtually no comments are posted. I sent in several stories but it just wasn’t worth the effort to receive no feedback. There are thousands of sites worldwide and many of them also have an entry fee. If you want to enter stories in a number of places the cost can soon mount up and some don’t even acknowledge receipt of your work.

          I wasn’t able to get a story in last time round ( family wedding and all that) and I’m not sure if I will have time now but I hope to be back on the scene really soon.

          Great writing.

          Keep doing it.

          Ken Frape.

          Reply
          • June 23, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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            Hi Ken Frape,
            Congratulations on the wedding in the family, this is always pleasant and exciting news!
            I don’t mind at all, you can piggy-back on my comments anytime you like- its wonderful to know that others feel the same way I do about this site and the writers here which makes me want to share how this site helps me.
            I’m not sure if anyone will find it relevant or right down stupid of me but here is my explanation of how I utilize what I learn here and why all of the comments are so important to me as a writer:
            After I post a story, I go back and read any other stories and comment on them then read all the other comments that have been posted. I go back to the novel I am currently working on and use what I learned from the comments to edit my manuscript to make sure future readers can fully enjoy the story. Simply put, I am self published without the means or money to pay an editor so I also must self edit as well so I apply everything I learn from the comments on each story when scrutinizing my own work.
            The best part of all of this is the kind way everyone gives their feedback- there is such a great welcoming atmosphere here that it is really difficult not to become addicted to this family of writers and how they help each other.
            Hopefully, you will have the time to submit a story in the near future- I understand how a new marriage can bring a lot of things to a halt for a time, hope the adjustment to the new way of life goes smoothly. All the best to you and your family.

  • June 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm
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    Now, if I could just figure out why I’ve not been receiving any comments or post, I would be very happy. My ping pong ball must have slipped off the ramp and missed the dominoes. Dang, I hate it when that happens.Maybe Ken C. can help, no … probably not, but he knows how the system works. Alice? Carrie? Anyone?

    Reply
  • June 23, 2019 at 10:03 am
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    Not sure – i haven’t had any problems – have you checked your spam folder?

    Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 9:04 am
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      Yep. Once before you said something when this happened. What I have noticed is I don’t get that comment from you two that says click here about following one of your stories. Does that have anything to do with it?

      Reply
  • June 24, 2019 at 5:03 am
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    The Parrot’s Grin.

    I leave the window open when I go to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. When I come back there‘s a parrot sitting on the pole of my desk lamp. When it sees me it holds its head at an angle and stares at me. I don’t like it when an animal stares at me in that way. I walk up to the bird and make a shooing motion.

    “Go away, little fellow!”

    The parrot looks up and gives me a frown. No, wait, a bird can’t frown, it doesn’t have the muscles. In addition, its head is covered by feathers. I wouldn’t be able to notice a frown. I take a closer look. This bird frowns, whether that’s possible or not.

    “Don’t look closely,” I murmur to myself. “There’s something that might look like a parrot to you, but maybe that’s just your imagination. Maybe, there’s nothing there.”

    “I don’t know what you imagine, but I’m sitting here on your lamp,” says the parrot. Which frightens me.

    “You speak!” I exclaim.

    “Yes, many of us speak,” the animal answers. Now it’s my turn to frown and I do. Is this my imagination, a fantasy, or is there really a talking bird sitting in front of me? How can I tell the difference? I try to think without making a noise so that the bird won’t interrupt my thoughts. Did I take drugs today? No. And last night? Three beers, nothing more. So what the hell?!

    “Don’t worry!” the parrot interrupts my thoughts. Thinking without noise didn’t help.

    “Yes, I know parrots speak sometimes!” I answer with a sigh. “But not like that. Single words and simple phrases maybe. ‘Polly wants a biscuit.’ ‘Good Morning!’ ‘Shit!’

    “I can speak single words of course!” the parrot tells me with a grin. Whether a grinning parrot is in fact possible or not doesn’t seem to matter to this bird. It has to be my imagination.

    “Sorry again!” says the bird. “I really hate to do this. Hurts me more than you!” It jumps on the desk and pecks me on the back of the hand. I scream in pain. The bird nods in sympathy, waddles back a few steps, turns around and nods again.

    “Does your hand feel like its only your imagination?” the parrot asks.

    “No!” I say. “It hurts like hell, and it’s bleeding. But how do you always know what I think? Can you hear my thoughts?”

    “Well, your thoughts are not very original.” That impossible frown again. “Most people think along those lines when they see one of us for the first time. Our ability to speak makes us rather unbelievable!”

    I look at the parrot. It seems to have the vocabulary of a university professor. It stares at me again. It seems to smile and it blinks.

    “By the way, I’m a she,” says the exotic bird. “My name is Geraldine.”

    “Hello, Geraldine! What the hell are you doing here?” I ask.

    “Well, I live here, I’m afraid!”

    “This is my apartment and I have no pets. I do not want pets either. And what I really hate are any animals without proof of existence. They are not welcome here!” My voice is quite loud now.

    “I’m not ‘any animals’. I’m Geraldine, an Amazon parrot. And the thing I did to your hand was meant to prove my existence. Do you want me to peck it again?”

    “Heavens no!” I cry. Could it be that I took some drugs yesterday without realising it?

    Geraldine the straightens her back. “Yes, it’s true that you didn’t have any pets. But that’s changed now. So deal with it! You can’t assume that nothing will change. Quite the contrary.”

    “Ok.” I think to myself as quietly as I can. “The problem is more serious than I thought. I might just as well sit down and drink my coffee.” So I sit down and take a sip.

    “Now we’re getting somewhere,” says Geraldine the parrot. She nods like a teacher when the stupid student finally understands how the inside of an earthworm is structured .

    “After phases of denial and anger,” Geraldine explains, “there will be a phase of acceptance. It seems to me you managed to get there quite fast. You’re now ready to deal with the changes to your environment.”

    She smiles and carries on. “It means there’s hope we’ll get along fine soon. Do you have chocolate with hazelnuts?”

    “That’s the kind of proof I was waiting for!” I say. I might as well speak because silent thinking doesn’t help if this bird can guess everything. “Now I’m sure you only exist in my head. No bird eats chocolate.”

    “Please don’t make a fool of yourself.” Geraldine says with her malicious grin. “Birds love chocolate. But we’ve learned to keep a few things to ourselves of course. Humans sometimes react unpredictably to facts they didn’t know before.”

    I have to sigh again. “We humans aren’t idiots! We invented a lot of things and we fly around the world in airplanes!”

    “Oh, sorry, I didn’t want to offend you! It was just an observation. Now, do you have chocolate with nuts?” She tilts her head again.

    “Yes, you’re lucky!” I get up. “One moment please, madam! I’ll be right back!”

    I go into the kitchen, take a bar of chocolate from the fridge and break it into small pieces. When I come back, Geraldine is sitting on the bookshelf examining my books. She turns her head to the left, then to the right, just as if she’s reading the title on the spine of each book.

    “Oh, you’ve got ‘Zoo City’ by Lauren Beukes?” she says. “It’s a great book! Have you read it?”

    “Yes, I have,” I say. I feel relieved. Whenever I can discuss books with someone, I’m fine. Geraldine’s grin turns into a warm smile.

    “I’m sure we’ll get along fine,” she says. “Can you make me a perch to sit on?” I nod.

    I smile back at her and ask: “And what do we do then? You have any ideas?”

    “Oh, yes.” A grin as wide as .. never mind. “We’ll start a blog. Everyone is starting a blog these days. But not everyone has a bird to discuss books with at home. So we’re ahead of the competition. Maybe we can earn some money with that.”

    Sometimes you have to accept what you don’t understand. And that’s why I’m now doing a course called “WordPress for Beginners”.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 5:45 am
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      O my goodness! I enjoyed this story so very much! The funny thing is I totally understand this tête-à-tête.
      Nothing like a bird’s eye view for a blog. And that’s why you should go for it, I say!
      Perfectly penned.
      Cheers!

      Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 11:07 am
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      Nice story! I think I like Geraldine. At least she can actually talk and carry on a conversation. She doesn’t have an owner trying to talk for her! LOL. (Actually, I don’t think she would stand for someone trying to talk for her. She does seem to have a strong will. Great job!

      My Percy, a cockatiel, lived to the ripe age of 32. I was devastated when he died. I missed his whistling and happy chirping.

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      • June 24, 2019 at 3:57 pm
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        Adrienne, No wonder you and I click. I once went to a pet store to find out more about cockatiels. the first guy I talked to said, “I raise cockatiels. I have several hundred that I raise and sell to the store. I am a walking encyclopedia of cockatiel information. I know all there is to know about those birds.” I said, “Swell, how long do they live?” He looked me in the eye and said, “Fifteen years or so, twenty, tops.” I said, Thanks,” and I turned away. He said,”That’s all you wanted to know? How long they live?” I turned back and said, “No, I have many questions, but you missed the first one so badly, I don’t think you know as much as you think and can’t help me.” He got an exasperated look on his face, and said, “What’s wrong with what I said?” I just smiled and said, my cockatiel is 30 years old. That beats twenty, tops, by a big margin. Thanks for your time.” Then turned and walked out knowing any info I got would be suspect at best. Billy lived to be 35. Mr. Encyclopedia just stood there with a dumb look on his face.

        Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 4:39 am
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        Thanks! Right now I try to write about “unrealistic” things and make the story work anyhow. I once write a love story between an alarm clock and a cassette recorder. As writers we are free to imagine everything. 🙂

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      • June 26, 2019 at 4:41 am
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        Ritter Sport! With 36 degrees Celsius over here you might want it in a cup.

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        • June 26, 2019 at 9:27 am
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          Wait, are in Germany right now? That seems like a bit of a heat wave. I need a cool drink just thinking about that…

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    • June 25, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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      Hi, Jürgen

      Another of your quirky stories, and another great one. I love how the narrator seamlessly transitions from disbelief to having a perfectly normal conversation with this clever bird. And how you keep ratcheting up Geraldine’s cleverness: “ ‘Oh, you’ve got ‘Zoo City’ by Lauren Beukes?’ she says.” is a great line. And Geraldine is a great character – very sassy. The ending works but is maybe the weakest part of the story, imho.

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      • June 26, 2019 at 4:44 am
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        Thank you Phil! You might be right about the ending. But I just loved the idea, that the sassy parrot “forced” him to attend a boring computer course.

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    • June 26, 2019 at 12:08 am
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      Hi Berlinermax.
      Lol, I love this story! Talkative birds are the best and your Geraldine did not disappoint.

      Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 4:45 am
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        Thanks Amy. Geraldine is very talkative. And a bit bossy, ain’t she?

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        • June 26, 2019 at 3:55 pm
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          Yes she is, lol! My uncle had a parrot named Connie. He tried to get her to talk but the only thing she would say is “Nope”. She was adorable but evil, I think that’s why I love birds, they’re funny and quirky and have a mind of their own. (I personally love parakeets. Winkie, my mother’s parakeet lived for more than eight years. He was little and blue/white and had no problem talking. I miss him so much.)

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    • June 27, 2019 at 6:38 am
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      Fun story, a bit surreal, with dashes of philosophy (how can I tell what’s real? Can I trust my senses?) and a bit of social comment – the writers isolation, the need to start a blog because everyone is doing it, projecting you inner self into the outer world.
      I haven’t read Zoo City, but I’m inspired to do so now. And having read the blurb, I see the significance.

      Reply
  • June 24, 2019 at 9:17 am
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    Nice, easy to follow story and good dialogue. I guess he has accepted Geraldine rather than just knocking her off, but then the story hints she may be telepathic. Interesting. So, I figure if she is, then she knows she’s got a chocolate and hazelnut providing sugar daddy for the rest of her life. And Amazon parrots can outlive their owners. Some live to be 100.

    We had a bird for 35 years. Just a friendly little cockatiel that managed to worm its way into our hearts far more than we ever imagined. I admit there was a tear in my eye when we had to put Billy down because of health reasons. His, not ours. Had a nice little funeral in our back yard, and a send off party with the kids and grandkids giving them their first taste of ‘none of us are going to live forever’.

    Good job, berlinermax, I have no quibbles for a critique.

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    • June 26, 2019 at 4:48 am
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      Thanks, Roy! I don’t know any parrots personally, never been in a room with one. So I’m glad that a real parrot lover likes my story.

      Reply
  • June 24, 2019 at 10:47 am
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    Untamed (Revised ending)

    By: Adrienne Riggs

    Ah, there’s nothing like the special bond between a boy and his dog. Hours of fun, running in the sun with the best friend in the whole world.

    Ever since their marriage, Bob had waxed poetic to his wife Sheri, about his love for his childhood pet “Happy.” A Dachshund, Happy was the “perfect” dog, well-trained, obedient and totally devoted to his young master. He represented an idyllic time in Bob’s life before the stress and burdens of life had worn him down; a bad first marriage, lousy jobs, defiant children, a heart attack and open-heart surgery; the scars of which left a thick line down the center of his chest.

    Sheri also loved animals. Lucy, her old Chihuahua, was calm, sedate and never barked. She was Sheri’s shadow. Lucy was 15 years old (that’s 105 in dog years) and Sheri knew her companion was slowing down. They were all happy together – until Bob called her from work one day.

    “Honey, do you want a free dog?” Sheri heard the hope and excitement in his voice. “It’s a pedigreed Dachshund that has a bit of a deformed front paw and the breeder can’t sell him. They are looking for a loving home for him.

    Sheri thought for a moment. Puppies could be difficult, but she would do this for Bob. Perhaps this little dog would fill in the missing piece of Bob’s life. Despite a feeling of warning, she agreed.

    “That’s fine, Dear. Send me a picture.”

    Bob quickly texted 2 pictures of the tiniest puppy with the largest ears she’d ever seen. The paw deformity was barely noticeable.

    They picked him up when he was 7 weeks old. He fit in the palm of one of Sheri’s hands. With his golden hair and sleepy puppy dog eyes, she was smitten.

    “Oh, he’s adorable!”

    “I know!” If Bob had been younger, he would have been jumping for joy.

    Deciding on a name was a challenge with Bob throwing names out like “Toofalu” and other insanely absurd names that no animal should be saddled with. He finally decided on “Angus”, a ‘fine Scottish name’ for a German dog. Shaking her head, Sheri just went with it.

    Angus was so tiny, he fit inside a drinking glass; his brown nose and bright eyes peering over the rim. The issue with the deformity became more evident when he tried to walk or run. The left front leg would give out, sending the wee pup sprawling in the grass and dirt.

    Eventually he figured it out and could run for longer periods before tripping and falling on his face, which was hilarious. Finally, he mastered control of the leg and paw and would run chaotically around the yard, however, if one watched him closely, you could see that he never ran in a straight line. He always ran diagonally to the left.

    As the dog grew, Bob fell deeper in love with him while Sheri was positive she’d made a mistake in taking in the little beast. No one warned her that Dachshund’s were hyperactive and stupid dogs with little reasonable brain function. Maybe he’d been oxygen deprived at birth. Whatever the reason, the creature was surely intellectually challenged.

    There was no stopping this wild animal disguised as man’s best friend. Not only had he learned to run, he’d also learned to jump and climb. Nothing was safe from him! His list of sins grew daily with Bob defending him all the way.

    He chewed up paper towels and toilet paper leaving the floor covered in shreds of paper “snow.”

    Bob: “He needs more fiber.”

    He went through his wicker dog basket like a chain saw, leaving bits and pieces of wood everywhere.

    Bob: “Amazing!”

    His dog bed was shredded in less than a day.

    Bob: “He needs a bigger bed anyway.”

    He chewed on phone chargers, shoes, toys, the shower curtain and a decorative doll. Sheri was ready to hurt the dog!

    Bob: “He’s teething.”

    He jumped on little Lucy who was quietly minding her own business causing yelps of pain.

    Bob: “He just wants to play!”

    He chased the cats throughout the house causing a chain reaction when things were knocked to the floor where they shattered, adding to the chaos and mess.

    Bob: “It’s instinct. He’s a badger hound.”

    It just went on and on. The annoying beast barked incessantly, usually when they tried to sleep.

    Bob: “He’s guarding us!”

    He tore open the kitchen trash and dragged laundry around the house.

    Bob: “He’s just trying to help.”

    House training was beyond his capabilities of understanding. Bob was silent.

    When Angus reached doggy puberty, the rush of testosterone acted with the force of an addict on speed. The crazy animal began sexually violating everything in sight – the cats, old Lucy, pillows, stuffed animals and the laundry basket.

    Bob: “He’s a manly dog!”

    This was enough! Sheri disciplined the dog with firmness and attempted to teach him control. Bob was incapable of such “harsh” treatment of his beloved pet. Their exchanges followed a predictable pattern.

    “Bob! Do something with your DOG!”

    “Awww, come here Puppy” he crooned, showering the wayward beast with love. “You have to be a good boy for Mommy.”

    “BOB!”

    “What?”

    “You call that nonsense discipline?”

    “He doesn’t mean it! He’s just excited to see you, right Puppy?” Angus’ tail wagged with glee.

    “Bob, if you don’t control that animal, he’s going to the vet and he’ll come back missing a couple of things. That will calm him!”

    “You WOULDN’T!” Bob gave her a look of horror while clutching Angus to his chest and grimacing in pain. “You are NOT “nutting” my dog!”

    “Either his ‘nuts’ go or he does. Your choice.”

    “But, Mom! I don’t want to lose my nuts, I’m rather attached to them.” Bob was using a Scottish accent in a different voice.

    Sheri looked at him in disbelief. “Are you actually talking for the DOG? What is wrong with you?”

    She picked up the phone and made an appointment for the next day. “But Mom….”

    “I’m DONE!” she fumed and left the room.

    Angus returned from the vet drugged and looking sorry for himself. Bob looked as if he was going to cry. He proclaimed himself in deep mourning for his dog’s manhood. To add insult to injury Bob was horrified to watch Sheri place the dog in a ‘cone of shame’ that was patterned in pink camouflage!

    “Pink??”

    “It was all they had in his size.” Sheri grinned.
    **********
    A year later, Sheri gave up.

    Angus won. He would not, could not be tamed.

    Every day Sheri knew the house would be destroyed. She threatened to “kill” Angus daily. Every day Bob ignored her and would coddle the beast, calling him “Puppy” and talking with him; verbally voicing the dog’s thoughts and feelings. Enough was enough!

    Sheri handed Bob the divorce papers with the evening mail. He never saw them, he was busy petting Angus and singing, “My name is Angus. I’m a mighty badger hound! I am Angus. I’m the finest dog around…”

    And that’s why she slammed the door on her way out.

    Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 10:28 am
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      This story is hilarious…but only because I’m not living inside it. I have a friend who is going through a similar thing, only it’s the corgi that is incorrigible. They bought it to help calm their dachshund down ironically enough.

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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      Hi, Adi

      I really like the depiction of how the pet comes between the two – it all sounds very plausible. I was crossing my legs at one point, of course, and Angus apparently suffers the unkindest cut of all needlessly, since it seems ‘they’ weren’t to blame for his boisterousness. The ‘cone of shame’ is funny – dogs do look embarrassed when they have to wear them, don’t they? (and especially so if they’re pink, I imagine!) The great little dialogue trick you do …

      “He chewed up paper towels and toilet paper leaving the floor covered in shreds of paper ‘snow.’
      Bob: ‘He needs more fiber.’ “

      … is really novel, but I feel that it might go on a little too long (in terms of the rhythm of the piece).

      Reply
  • June 24, 2019 at 3:59 pm
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    Excellent revision to the ending. Adds to the story.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2019 at 9:52 am
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    The Price of a Clear Head by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [623 words]

    Jemaia had gone out this morning to clear her head. A lot had been going on at work and she just needed a new perspective on things. She had hiked this trail hundreds of times before. She’d run it on clear days, snowshoed in the winter, and one night she had even taken her dog out to howl at the full moon. She knew this trail so well she tended to hike it on autopilot. She must have been even deeper into her thoughts than usual because she was completely caught off guard when a squirrel darted across the trail in front of her. To her chagrin, she had been startled enough to jump and landed on a soft patch of dirt that gave way under her boot.

    The trail was fairly narrow here, with one edge dropping off into a scree covered hill. The weeds that edged the path weren’t strong enough for Jemaia’s attempts at slowing her descent and she quickly found herself sliding down the rocky dirt half on her feet and half on her ass. Bits of her kept colliding with sharp rocks and her vain attempts at grabbing something to slow her slide were only ripping her hands to shreds.

    Through the dirt and tears Jemaia caught sight of something sticking up out of the hillside. She did her best to guide her slide toward it and managed to wedge her foot into part of it. As her full weight slammed into it, there was a cracking sound and she felt a sharp pain in her foot. What she could now see was some old deadfall had stopped her slide, but may have broken her foot when she slammed into it. She lay there trying to catch her breath and willing the throbbing to lessen. Pebbles knocked loose from her path down the hillside would occasionally ping off her head, punctuating her ridiculous situation.

    The scree settled down and Jemaia’s breathing began to even out. The landscape was once again quiet and peaceful. She sat up and tried to assess her situation. There was a deer path not that far that she thought she could scoot to without triggering another rockslide. What she’d do once she got there was a mystery as she doubted her foot would be up to supporting her weight for the hike back to her car.

    Jemaia loosened the laces on her boot anticipating the swelling. She remembered the cracking sound when her foot hit the deadfall and was relieved to see it had been a branch coming off the larger trunk. Even better, this branch split into two at a fairly good height for her to use it as a crutch. She snapped off the ends and tested its strength by using it to get up on her feet once she’d scooted down to the deer track.

    The injured foot continued to throb and protested if she tried to put too much weight on it. So far the branch seemed sturdy, so Jemaia used it to maneuver her way in the direction of the trail head. Her familiarity with the area paid off and she managed to find her way to a lower branch of the same trail she’d been hiking on. Her progress was slow and painful, but she eventually got back to the main trail.

    She made it back to her car exhausted but relieved it hadn’t been worse. Strangely, the whole episode had managed to clear her head. She knew her foot would take a while to heal, but it put her work problems in perspective. “And that’s why I came out here in the first place,” she thought as she turned the key and pulled out of the carpark.

    Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 9:53 am
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      I was completely blocked this week by the prompt ‘and that’s why’ I reworked an unfinished story from last year. ;^P

      Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 5:15 pm
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      Hi, Wendy

      Some great description here, especially the fall down the slope. That ‘crack’ really made me squirm! I like how the near-death experience manages to clear the Jemaia’s head, and she’s relieved more than anything. Very philosophical.

      Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 12:16 am
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      Hi Wendy,
      What an interesting way to find the silver lining. I love your unique and impressive writing style.

      Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 5:01 am
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      Yes Wendy, the last sentence is so true. To get our body injured is one of the best ways to put things in perspective.

      So you reworked an old story? Quite sucessfully I’d say.

      Reply
  • June 25, 2019 at 2:42 pm
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    Echo Locution. WC 1195
    by Ken Cartisano © 6-24-19

    ‘I understand,’ I say, ‘but I always do a background check on prospective partners, regardless.’

    ‘Why?’ Because one time I didn’t.

    The guy’s name was Danny. Nice guy. Intelligent, mid-thirties, creative and confident. Long black hair and mustache. Sardonic smirk. He looked like a swashbuckler from the 18th century.

    Me and Danny were in the construction business together. And I don’t mean building houses. We built large commercial structures, and we were working on the convention center at the time: six stories. I was doing the wife and two kids routine, but Danny was a confirmed bachelor, with a nice house in the same subdivision. Everything was going great, for both of us.

    One day, I stop by to see him. The sun has already set and it’s getting dark. He answers the door and says, “Perfect. A witness.” Then waves me in. “You gotta see this,” he says over his shoulder. I follow him to the kitchen where he points to a small mound of fur huddled on his kitchen floor. We’re both at a loss for words. Finally he says, “I just discovered this, thing, twenty seconds before you knocked on my door.”

    “What is it?” I remember asking him.

    He didn’t know, and we both stood there staring at it. It was maybe 8 or 9 inches long. A small, brown, furry, oblong critter with no visible tail, or head. Finally, Danny steps cautiously (as if it were a land mine) over the unknown animal, retrieves a plastic straw from a drawer, not that drawer, the other drawer. Then turns on the kitchen lights, which are bright, but do not facilitate identification of the mysterious creature. It’s just a small furry lump on the floor.

    He squats down next to it, gingerly reaches out with the straw, and touches it. For a moment nothing happens—then a pair of leathery wings pop out on either side. “It’s a bat.” We declared, in unison, looked at each other and laughed. He quickly grabbed a clear plastic container and covered the creature as it retracted its wings.

    Scooping up the bat and depositing it outdoors would have been easy, but Danny was one of these ‘save the planet’ dudes and wanted to make sure the poor bat was okay. Right? So he put it in a shoe box and took it to the vet. Turns out the bat was fine. “It’s just young and disoriented,” the Doctor told him. “And yes, it’s the kind that will drink blood.”

    Danny took it home.

    One evening, a week or two later, on my way home from the store, I popped in on him without warning. He was sitting in his open garage, in the dark, letting a bat (the same bat, I presume) feed from a small, but very real open wound on his shoulder. He thought it was clever.

    To say that this observation was troubling, is like saying a half-a-dozen rattlesnakes in your sleeping bag is inconvenient.

    It was revolting! And I did not hide my disgust. “It’s creepy, weird and risky behavior,” I told him. “It’s like having sex with a bat, only without the benefit of all that great bat sex, you imbecile,” or words to that effect.

    Eventually, the bat left him for bovine blood and never came back, thank God, but that’s not the end of the story.

    Danny and I were still foremen on the construction site facing a complicated installation, so we agreed to meet at the job site before work to hammer out a strategy. It was dark. We had to walk under some scaffolding on our way to the construction office and as we were making our way across the pavement, Danny flings one arm across my chest and says ‘Wait.’

    I stopped and stepped back. He stepped back too and looked up. A moment later, a 30-foot aluminum lamp-pole hit the ground right in front of us. It was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard. Practically gave me a heart attack.

    I grabbed Danny by the sleeve and said, “How did you know? You knew that was coming. How did you know?”

    He said, “I heard it.”

    But it didn’t make a sound, I swear it, that thing made no sound on its way down, and a very thorough investigation eventually proved it, as did OSHA. The pole was already broken, needing only a puff of wind to push it over. I don’t know how he could’ve heard it, unless he had sonar.

    Of course, Danny never again mentioned anything about hearing the falling pipe, nor does he remember telling me to wait, or bracing me with his arm. The Insurance inspectors were real interested in my version of the story, and allegations that Danny was somehow responsible for the lamp pole being there in the first place. But I knew better. It was a freak accident, I would’ve died but for Danny’s intervention. So I called a lawyer and ceased cooperating.

    After the incident and the investigation ended, Danny and I dissolved our business relationship by mutual consent, with no hard feelings either way. I went to visit him one moonless evening some time after, and the garage was open but it was too dark to see anything. I was about to go to his front door when I heard him clear his throat. With his permission, I entered the garage, but it was too dark to see.

    Danny refused to turn on the light, but guided me to the workbench. He was working on some strange gadget, using a small screwdriver on tiny parts in the pitch dark. Even after my eyes adjusted, I could barely see what he was doing. I politely requested that he turn on the light again but he brushed off the request stating, “I know where everything is.” There was a funny and foul smell in the air, plus, I thought I heard the sound of small fluttering wings somewhere in the garage. I didn’t stay long.

    Months later I got a bill in the mail from the Insurers legal department for the cost of one 30-foot aluminum lamp pole. Turns out they cost about eight thousand dollars. I hopped in my truck and drove over to Danny’s house. The garage was closed, but the porch light was on. I thanked my lucky stars for that, knocked on the door and waited.

    I was staring at the cobwebs covering its hinges when a series of deadbolts clacked. The door protested as it was opening. It very clearly said, ‘Ohjesuschristallmightylore.

    A woman was staring at me.

    “Is Danny here?” I inquired.

    “Danny? Danny who?”

    We stared at each other over the threshold. Both of us ignoring the cranky door. I heard that strange fluttering sound again and fought the urge to flee. “How long have you lived here?” I dared to ask. ‘Her entire life.’ That was her answer. She practically swore she’d lived there her entire life.

    Hogwash. I don’t know who she was, the point is, I ended up paying for the whole lamp pole, and that’s why I always do a background check on prospective partners, regardless.

    Reply
    • June 25, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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      Hi, Ken

      A very imaginative ride – suburban vampires! There’s a fine wince-inducing moment (the bat drinking from Danny’s shoulder!), there are some great lines (“To say that this observation was troubling, is like saying a half-a-dozen rattlesnakes in your sleeping bag is inconvenient.”), and some mystery (Who the h*ll is that woman?!) I didn’t really understand the opening: who is the narrator talking to? And I counted four ‘popped into Danny’s’ – maybe that’s slightly too many ‘popping-ins’? Great fun, though.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 1:33 am
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        Hi Phil,

        I have constructed a humorous response to your comment, but wanted to offer a serious reply to your honest critique here. The first line of the story is directed at some anonymous other. This is a bad decision on my part, because the narrator then proceeds to address the reader, completely ignoring the person he started out being in a conversation with. Confusing.

        The identity of that woman is not important, but your question is well-taken because she’s in the story, at the end, so she must mean something. But I never decided what. I had a lot of ideas about what she might mean, but in the end, my desire was simply to drive home the point that she wasn’t Danny, and people are weird.

        On the most critical point, all the visits that the narrator makes to Danny’s house. (4) I suppose that’s why they say ‘third time’s the charm.’ Too much repetition becomes tedious. I’ve seen this done in other stories and it can be entertaining and even humorous but I wasn’t aiming for either of those. I think that if I could’ve figured out how to reduce the number of visits to three, I would have done it.

        Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 12:30 am
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      Hi Ken,
      This story is funny and has a personality all of its’ own. I don’t really care for a lot of the modern day vampire stories or movies but this one is definitely the exception for me, I don’t know if its just the way you told it or the fact that I can imagine the things I read. Either way, I love it!

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 1:47 am
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        Hi Amy,

        Thanks for the compliments. Would you believe that I didn’t really think of this as a vampire story? I don’t go in for that ‘vampire lore’ or whatever it is. I’m just not interested. Didn’t see any of the ‘Twilight series?’ (I think.) Haven’t seen one episode of Game Of Thrones. I’m not really a fan of the ‘Fantasy’ genre.

        So my story isn’t really about vampires, it’s about fear and the scientific possibility that specific genetic traits could be passed across different species by the transfusion of blood. A ridiculous premise, not based on any scientific evidence, but today’s fiction, is tomorrows science. So who knows? I think there may be a germ of truth in this story after all is said and done.

        By the way, I’m thrilled to finally find someone who is just as long-winded as me. Comment-wise.

        Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 6:46 am
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      Again, a wonderful story! I like the plot. But even more I like the relaxed manner in which the story is told, with the lamp pole and the lawyer. It all comes down to the very last sentence, which surprised me, even though it should not come as a surprise.

      Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 9:36 am
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      I like the tone of this story and the interesting take on vampires (it is hard these days to keep that fresh). I am a little confused by the woman at the end, so I wish that was a little more “fleshed” out. But over all I like this even with the scene with the bat and the wound. Maybe especially with that scene since I think vampires should be scary. I mean, they eat people…

      Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 11:05 am
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      Ken C. I’m gonna jump on the unique plot line bandwagon with a few others, and I also, am a little mystified at the ending. You had me reading every sentence with passion waiting for the giant bat to devour the narrator, but then, that’s exactly why you threw a non committal ending at us. I’d say misdirection, but I think maybe dinner was ready and you took the first ending that came long and called it a night with the voting coming today and all. The last line needs a semicolon after I DON’T KNOW WHO SHE WAS. And, I’ll let you pass by not starting the last line with AND THAT’S WHY. I don’t know, maybe It’s ’cause I like you and your writing.

      Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 12:16 pm
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        Thanks for the feedback Roy. Semicolons are one of those punctuation marks that I don’t fully understand so I omit them whether I need to or not. I must say Roy, your comments, to me and others, are the ones that make me laugh with the most consistency. I replied to everyone’s comments through a response to Phil, who had the most clearly denoted criticisms, and am not necessarily defending the story or the writing.

        Actually, I agonized over the ending, but, in a way, you’re right. I spent a great deal of time and ended up no closer to a better ending, and time was indeed running out. I created her as a simple plot device, but every time I re-wrote the ending, the story kept dropping hints about who, or what she might be. But I never came up with anything definite. (Sometimes it takes a few days for that to come along. What with the deadline and my late start, it just ain’t happening this week. You know how it is.)

        In any case, I ended up writing a story about writing this story, which may or may not contain writing that’s worse than the writing in the story the story was written about.
        (If it’s anything like that last sentence, it’ll be horrible. I guarantee it.)

        Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 3:16 am
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    Nothing to lose but their chains

    “He is my mentor,” said Behruz ‘the Tajik’ as we approached a rough concrete shelter next to the warehouse. There, chained to a metal post by both his leg and his nose stood a large brown bear, rocking slowly back and forth. He rose to his full height to inspect his visitor, but only for a moment before sinking back down, as if weighed down by immense tiredness.

    “Mentor?”

    “In a way. Mishka was my first bear. My father gave him to me when I was 7 years old. He was a young cub, mine to train. Now he is 21. Soon he’ll be too old to perform, but I’ll keep him all the same. They say in my business there’s no room for sentiment. But Mishka is the exception. I taught him how to dance and do tricks, and he taught me how to be boss!

    “You know, I come from a long line of entertainers. For centuries my family have worked across Russia, Central Asia, Xinjiang, Afghanisatan, Persia, from the Urals to the Caucasus, into Turkey and even Bulgaria and Greece. All along the old Silk Road. Even in the old USSR we were welcomed everywhere – as long as we bribed the right comrades! Musicians, circus performers, street entertainers, magicians, and all kinds of trickster – that’s the life I was born into. Training bears and other wild animals is an honoured family vocation, often passed from father to son, as in my case.

    “But even as a young boy of 11 or 12, I was impatient of the old ways. For my father and my uncles it was enough to have enough. To entertain and be thrown a few coins. To be invited to the birthday celebrations of a local notable, and paid a pittance. That was not for me.

    “Often people would come to us and offer to buy a performing dog or parrot. The braver ones might even to try buy Mishka. In my younger days, I would have sold him like a shot. It was my father who forbade me. ‘He’s your livelihood, you idiot!’ he would say.

    “But I could see another, wider market growing. At fairs I saw people selling exotic pets to people with more money than sense. The new moneyed classes in Russia and China had money to burn, and I wanted to take my share. Then the internet created new roads to market – I was determined to be the first there.

    “Come here, into the warehouse, and see what riches we have! Pangolins – such a demand in China! Elephant tusks, rhino horn. Gorilla hands and feet. Every part of a tiger you can think of. And those bears in the corner? We’re extracting bile for Chinese medicine. They’ve made it illegal in Vietnam. But if there is demand, supply will follow. So why not me?

    “This is global enterprise, my friend. If you want a baby sloth from South America, I can get you one next week. If your children pose with parrots for a photo in Dubrovnik, who do you think supplied the parrots, clipped their wings, made them docile? Me, of course. In the trade, they just say, ‘Call the Tajik’. And you must know, if they try to bypass the Tajik, they will live to regret it.

    I was awed by the scale of the Tajik’s enterprise, run from a scruffy business park in north-east Turkey. We stood in the doorway of the partitioned-off room where the bile bears were kept in crush cages or metal jackets, the steel catheters from their gall bladders sticking out through their matted coats. I couldn’t help but ask, “You don’t have any concerns about the ethics of this?”

    He smiled. “Ethics? Do you think if I didn’t do this it wouldn’t happen? This is the world, my friend. Do you think a tiger or a bear thinks about ethics before tearing apart its prey? I am the same as them. I always say at root there are only two kinds of animals: survivors and dinner. Haha! I have an edge in surviving because I speak five languages, I use computers and smartphones – but underneath, just like a tiger, it’s because I understand power and weakness.

    “Sure, I know one day I will become weaker. The Chinese mafia are moving in. They are organised, and ruthless. Today they want to work with me. Tomorrow they will try to take what I have. So I make the most of the advantages I have now.

    “And that’s why, my ethical friend, I am rich and you are not.”

    * * * * * * *
    Have you ever seen a bear take its first steps onto grassland, having lived its entire life on concrete? Free to move without his chains? They say a bear’s sense of smell is seven times more sensitive than a bloodhound’s. Two thousand times more than a human’s. I watched Mishka’s first groggy steps as the tranquiliser wore off. He looked at the forest the other side of the chain-link fence, then turned to the small brook that ran through the enclosure. Lifting his nose into the air he closed his eyes and seemed to recoil as he savoured a thousand exquisite new sensations carried on the breeze.

    I wondered if captive bears dream. Brought up in captivity, taught to ‘dance’ on a metal plate over a fire, surrounded by crowds of people leering, laughing, clapping – wouldn’t this be the raw material for their dreams? Or was Mishka now experiencing for him a dream come true, something which by nature he knew was always there, but unreachable?

    The bears used for bile extraction took longer to recover. Some didn’t make it. But to see a ten-year-old Asiatic black bear climb a tree for the first time warmed our hearts. They are safe now, in the rescue centre here in Bulgaria. Yes, we’d won a BAFTA award for our documentary series, ‘Forbidden Trades’ about the darker sides of the global economy. But seeing these animals free from pain is much greater reward.

    I had respected Behruz’s demand not to show his face or reveal his location in the film. I’d been both fascinated and appalled by his success, his outlook, his cruelty and his vanity. He knew well that pride comes before a fall. Little did he expect I would play a part in it.

    The repression after the failed coup in Turkey in 2016 led to the arrest of the officials who protected Behruz and his network. We moved fast, mobilising Turkish animal welfare charities. I called in some favours and gained the documentation needed for transporting animals from a sympathetic general who wanted to move against the illicit trade – as long as we left the ivory for him.

    Then Behruz arrived. He seemed resigned to the situation, until he saw one cage with a tranquilised bear inside.

    “No, not Mishka,” he said, standing in front of the truck. “The others are nothing. He is part of my soul.”

    And that is why I am here, in this Bulgarian prison cell, subject to an Interpol warrant for the manslaughter of Behruz “The Tajik” Arefyan.

    [1198 words]

    Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 6:55 am
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      A gripping story about a trade I know nothing about. And again, a very surprising last line. Well done.

      Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 9:47 am
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      Yes! I was hoping that the narrator would kill The Tajik. I think I would have added a line about how the narrator knew about power and weakness to balance what the dealer said, but that’s coming from a fan of James Bond one liners… But maybe just a bit about the struggle between the two at the end or just one more line between “He is part of my soul.” and “And that is why” but then you’d go over that pesky word limit. Damn.

      Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 11:13 am
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        What Wendy said. My thoughts almost exactly. Spruce up the ending, and you may have a winner. You may win this thing without it, but I think that you need it Good luck. We’ll see later today, won’t we. Had me right to the end. Hate it when that happens.

        Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 12:26 pm
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        Wendy, I agree with you and Roy about the ending. Had to get the story posted before starting work today, so I think the end of the story didn’t get the editing that the first part did to spruce it up and create word-room for a more elegant denouement.
        Thanks both for your comments!
        Now to read the rest of the stories …

        Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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        Wendy,

        If not done carefully, wouldn’t your suggestion risk tipping off the reader that the narrator had a stake in the outcome?

        Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 6:43 pm
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      Andy,

      I think the story is great just as it is, Andy. It’s not a hard-hitting story, but it has a ton of heart. The ending, though far from perfectly just, is very satisfying, and one can always hope that the narrator will get leniency for what was, after all, a justifiable murder. (In my opinion.)

      Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 4:52 am
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    VOLUNTEERING

    “Glenda, are you awake?” Doris jolted up on the matted wooden cot and sat up. She placed a hand on her racing heart whilst she gathered her legs under her.
    “Yes.” Glenda answered as she laid motionless on another wooden cot next to Glenda. “Wide awake I am and not dreaming or hallucinating! Stay still and do not move. They will go away.”

    Doris bravely unfolded her legs and jumped out of her cot to plonk herself into Glenda’s cot. The cot shook to almost collapsing with their weight. She pulled Glenda up forcing her to sit and face what they saw. They grabbed hold of one another and sat huddled together. They squeezed their eyes shut, and opened them consequently as they watched the incident unfold in front of them.

    “Anyone out there!” Glenda called and scrutinized the outside in between the gaps on the slats that curtained the window, with shards of sunshine that filtered through. She looked back at Doris. “It doesn’t seem that the chap, supposed to be security is out there.”
    Doris shivered with her jaws moving as she said, “Always the way. No-one is around when you need them. It’s the same everywhere.” Her teeth clacked. “ Let’s pray like these |Indians do in time of panic.”
    “Please god, help us.” Glenda lifted her eyes to the sparingly thatched roof.
    “Why the hell did we choose to come to this wretched place? We are mad.” She added after a short while after she had gathered her composure.

    It started with both of them after they retired from work, elected themselves as volunteer English teachers in the remote village in West Bengal, in India. Their initial decision was to enjoy a free board and lodgings holiday and to do something worthwhile for the human race. It was an cheap opportunity to travel and see and learn about other cultures.
    When they arrived in the country, they were very pleased to meet the Bengali families, their cultures and their basic way of living. Being of dark skinned they were mesmerized at Glenda’s and Doris’s white skin and silver hair.

    The school was an outdoor space under a massive banyan tree where the children sat under its shade to learn the English language. An easel was propped against the tree to be used as a blackboard.

    When they were introduced to the room they noticed a bowl of milk was placed in a corner of the room. The people had certain beliefs and Glenda wanted to know why the milk was there.
    “Is this for good luck?” Glenda asked the chap showing them around and introducing them to the locals.

    “It’s for the Nag Devta (serpent God). It sometimes comes to drink it. He picked a photograph to show them. It pictured a man who sat leg crossed on the peak of a mountain, in a meditating position, a water feature spluttered out of his twisted bun of hair on the top of his head and a cobra was wrapped around his neck. Glenda and Doris did not understand much about the mystery of their religion. They thought and were prepared to learn a lot from this different culture.
    “So this is your God.” Doris asked as she studied the photograph.
    “Yes, he is the destroyer of the planet. We pray him to appease his anger because of the human sins on the earth. He brings all sort of calamities to the earth when he gets angry.” He explained.
    It sounded very far fetched but both Doris and Glenda nodded to this belief.

    That early morning was most frightening when the serpent, the cobra visited the room Glenda and Doris slept in, to drink the milk. Minutes later a mongoose showed up when he crashed through the window and started a fight with the snake. They both challenged each other with fangs ready to bite at each other. The cobra coiled itself and lashed his tongue, baring its fangs at the mongoose as he pranced to attack. The mongoose kept changing his position of attack and seeking an opportunity to be able to kill the cobra. The cobra was attentive to all his opponent’s move.

    Glenda and Doris became hoarse with calling for help when finally the security chap showed up and with a stick chased the mongoose away.
    “Don’t panic. They won’t hurt you.” The man said as he shooed the mongoose away. He likes eating snakes. The cobra stood so proud and majestic with its coiled body and watched the man chasing the mongoose.
    “This snake is poisonous and dangerous.” Doris shrieked. “Is there more snakes around this place?”
    “Yes. They are outside. They only come out when it’s cool and at night.
    This one is a special one. It lives around the village and hides in the thatched roof or under the leaves outside. We know its existence. It is sent by the God to represent him.”
    “Jesus Christ!” Glenda said.
    The hairs on Glenda and Doris’s arms rose up. The hair and scalp felt sticky from the dampness from the moisture building up in their scalp and body. “You mean it was living above us whilst we slept underneath.” They spoke together. “I can’t believe this.”
    “For goodness sake. Are we suppose to be friendly with this dangerous, wild animal which to you, live freely among you. We will never be able to adapt to this.” Doris said.
    “Don’t worry! We will take it away if you are afraid. Many people, our people too, are scared of cobras. This one won’t come to this house again. We will train him to drink its milk somewhere else. It is one of our favourite and represents our God. Our god appears in him.”
    He pulled the slats of the window on the side and called for help.

    A man with a basket and a flute arrived and started playing a tune to serenade the cobra. It wiggled its head at the sound of whispered music, then slithered around as it uncoiled itself. With the music, the snake charmer directed the snake near the basket and the other man picked it with a stick to finally drop it into the basket. He prodded the cobra with the stick and snapped the basket closed when the whole body of the animal went in. The snake charmer picked the basket away and smiling at Glenda and Doris walked out of the room. Unconcerned, he looked like he was just carrying a bag of apples to dispose somewhere else.

    “I am not sure whether I will able to spend the three weeks in this place.” Glenda said to Doris. “I think I have devellopped a heart condition and a fear of snakes and mongoose.” She touched her chest and could still hear her heart thumping.
    “Well. We have learnt and encountered an very unusual moment. Thank goodness we are not harmed.” Doris answered. “That shows why we have to read and understand all about the country that are not familiar to us before we take a giant step to visit.”

    Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 11:21 am
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      Chitra, enjoyed your story, and I will give you a pass, too, on the ending not starting with, AND THAT:S WHY which would be an easy change, but it was close enough for me. The line, WIDE AWAKE I AM, sounds like Yoda said it. I is a bit clumsy and I AM WIDE AWAKE would fix it. Once again I;d like to remind you how far your storytelling abilities have come. E=Very good job. I also would have liked a more surprising or dramatic ending, but hey, it’s your story with a very logical ending.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2019 at 3:36 am
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        Thanks Roy, for your very encouraging comment/feedback.
        Pleased that you liked my story.
        Will correct my copy of the story.

        Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 3:17 am
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      A couple of Brits outside of their comfort zone, here, it seems!
      Entertaining story, Chitra.
      Something of a colonial feel to it, as well, with two named western ladies and an unnamed Indian ‘security chap” who is expected to sort out their problems – and apparently without thanks!

      What’s the plural of mongoose, anyone?

      Reply
      • July 2, 2019 at 3:56 am
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        Hi Andy,
        Thanks for your feedback
        Pleased that you enjoyed my story.
        I know a few people, mostly teachers, of retiring age who travel to the North of India to do volunteering work there. They adjust and like the slow paced lifestyle over there. It is a great satisfying way to give something to the human race.
        It’s very beautiful with a cool temperature and very safe place to be when one retires from work.

        I would add an s for the plural of mongoose. Mongeese do not sound right.
        Google says both words are used as plural for mongoose.

        Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 9:07 am
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    TAMED, TWICE

    Lasya pretends she did not hear the knock on the door.

    Three weeks on since Rajesh’s men killed her husband, the young widow is still a recluse at her own home. A motley crew of suitors, rapists and small time murderers eager to rise ranks on Mayor Rajesh’s books hold her under siege, day and night. The armed cowards hide behind bushes around the house, keeping a constant eye on one another. For whoever first lays hands on Lasya will end up dead. It’s the last one standing who will get the prize, if it’s sex or political favours or both. In other words each of them waits quietly for her to finally come out; hopefully the others make a move – and get shot – first.

    All Lasya can wish for right now is for the hype around Akshay’s death to wane. And for her predators’ varied appetites to wear off, sooner or later. The house with its ample courtyard is self-sufficient: there are enough vegetables and there is enough gunpowder. Alas, too many painful memories too. Lasya can survive there without outside help.
    Whoever is at the door keeps thumping on it. Lasya can’t ignore it anymore. She gets hold of her rifle and tip-toes, barefooted, towards the entrance hall.

    It takes her some time to reach the doorway. The house is the size of an imperial palace, built on the outskirts of the jungle in fits of extravagance by Akshay’s dirty rupees during his heyday as Mayor of Savartah. The prominent guard’s lodge at the front now lies lonely, the last guard left for dear life the moment he got wind of Akshay’s killing.

    More thumps. But who is it? Who dares get that close?

    Lasya, now at the door, rubs her finger on the trigger. The sound of heavy breathing is coming from the other side. She slides the spy-glass cover and looks through. There is no-one.

    Another thump. A forceful one, shaking the massive door.

    Whoever is there must be lying down, avoiding the spy-glass. “So you want to play dirty?” she murmurs, as she runs up the internal staircase to the spectacular column-lined verandah upstairs, from where she gets a good view right over the main entrance.

    A massive yellow snake is coiled right under the door. It must be some eight inches thick and its head is nearly as big as a human’s! She counts at least five loops towering on top of each other. The snake looks up, sensing Lasya’s presence overhead. Lasya sighs deeply. She looks left and right trying to spot whoever brought her the unwelcome gift. But there is no-one in sight, not even a leaf moves in the dense summer air. She points the gun at the snake. “Let’s play dirty, then!”

    At that very moment, the snake seems to make eye-contact with her. It hisses, not quite in a threatening way. Almost fondly. She tilts the rifle a little, and hesitates. The snake thumps its large tail again on the door, more gently this time. It’s asking to come inside! Lasya pulls the rifle away, turns around and runs back downstairs. She is even more scared than before. Not of the snake, but of herself not having the heart to shoot it. Perhaps she’s really too kind as Akshay used to say.

    She stands with her back against the hallway marble wall, then lets herself slide down all the way to the floor. The cold from the slate tiles easily penetrates the thin sari onto her skin, making her shiver. The snake keeps banging, begging to enter.
    Lasya cups her face in both hands and starts crying. Just now, a deep sense of loneleness and defeat finally sinks in. So far, since they killed her man, fury armoured her. Her hatred smothered her pain. Not once did she stop to think of the desperate situation she really was in.

    Thirteen years ago and barely sixteen she let her parents die in anguish after they opposed her marrying Akshay. But then Akshay filled her life. He was the evil man everyone knew he was. Ruthless, he gained wealth and power at the expense of the sweat and blood of his enslaved fiefdom. Until Rajesh, once his very own top henchman, cut him short, with a machete. Only because Rajesh learned how to be even more brutal.

    But to Lasya, Akshay was sweet. He was everything she had. He loved her. For real. He somehow needed her. The brutal monster feared by all was a gentle puppy in her hands. And she cared less about his monstrosities, as long as he loved her. Through misty eyes, she looks at the shrine of Vishnu right in front of her across the spacious hall and puts her hands together. “Please, give him peace, Lord!”, she prays, “He sinned, but remember that he loved me. Do take into account that he was capable of loving! It’s not nothing.” Vishnu looks on at her, as deeply as ever.

    There’s no more banging on the door. Someone is opening the magic window in the bedroom!

    Akshay had rigged up that window, so it could be opened from the outside, after she had once locked herself out while he was away. Such a silly thing to do! When Akshay found out that the guard had let her sleep in his lodge for the night, he was furious. Nothing had happened, of course, and the poor guard just slept on the doormat outside. But the envious husband had him flogged until he bled to death.

    They called it the “magic window”, and no-one else knew about it, only Akshay and herself. Lasya grabs her rifle again and walks fearfully to the bedroom. It’s the snake! She shoots. And shoots again. Gripped by panic, she amply misses twice. The snake hastens its pace inside the room. It twirls around the mahagony stand of a hat rack, forming a neat thick spiral around it. Four of Akshay’s hats still hang there among Lasya’s many bitter-sweet souvenirs of her late husband around the house. The snake sniffs the hats and plunges its large head inside each one, looking ridiculous but somewhat amused.

    Lasya doesn’t shoot again, just looks on, thinking the unthinkable. The snake unwinds itself off the stand in a graceful pattern and lets itself drop with a big thud on the thick ruby-colored carpet that covers the entire room. It decidedly slithers up the bed and disappears under the blanket save for its head which sinks in Akshay’s feather-filled pillow.

    “Akshay?” voices Lasya, mesmerised. The snake hisses back, lovingly. She tucks herself in bed and places her hand over its scalp. She doesn’t expect it to be so warm. The eyes of the beast glow. It gently lays its heavy reptilian head over her breasts. She knows it’s him, Akshay.

    “Thank you, Lord Vishnu!” she whispers, “You’re giving him another chance! He’ll be good this time. I’ll make damn sure of that.”

    And that’s why, now ninety-two, Lasya waits at the house she never left for Akshay to return to her in greater splendour after he lived a long and virtuous life as a large yellow snake.

    1,200 words

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 3:07 am
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      Quality writing, Ken M, smooth, flows well, and has a folk tale feel with its own reincarnation logic to it.
      I like it!

      Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 11:40 am
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    First, welcome Ken M. to our little group. I have to tell you that this place is getting cluttered with Kens. Ken Cartisano. Ken Frape, and Now, Ken Mile. Gonna need a playbook pretty soon.

    Anyway, to your story. I’m having a little trouble with wrapping my arms around this sleeping with a giant yellow snake thing, but then again, I have trouble with snakes to start with. Thinking of something that slithery next to me, really grabs my adrenaline gland and squeezes it. Shudder.

    Not a bad story, overall, and I am pretty sure English is your second language, Although, I may be wrong about that. This is the sentence … So far, since they killed her man, fury armoured her … that makes me think that. Although, I like the line, I had to read it twice. But, I really like it. I don’t think you need the So far, part. It reads just as well without it. Since they killed her man, fury armored her. (This side of the pond spelling of armor,)

    Stick around and show us some more.

    Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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    Heat of Australia

    One summer day late in1976, Claire and Tom where on their first vacation since Tom’s big job promotion at Beth’s music studio. Tom had been promoted to a music producer so he was always busy working with artists and didn’t have a lot of time to himself until now.
    While they were on vacation at Sydney Harbor Bridge, they were staying in a hotel on a hill just two miles from their vacation spot. They spent the whole time drinking, partying, dancing and having fun.
    Late one night they decided to relax outside in a hammock for two that they had tied between two trees instead of using the stand that was still in the hotel room. After about two hours of laying there looking at the beautiful view from the top of the hill, they started to fall asleep but a sudden burst of heat woke them up quite effectively.
    “Tom did you feel the heat?” Claire wondered worryingly.
    “Calm down it was probably just a heat wave, we are in Australia.” He replied soothingly.
    “OK, never mind. Good night”
    “Good night.”
    Before they fell asleep they heard a loud growl and felt something warm and wet fall on them. As they looked up, to their surprise there was a big, red, fire breathing dragon. They ran into the hotel, knocking people over along the way until a guard stopped them.
    “Why are you running so fast?”
    “Let us go! Everybody run! Get out! There’s a dragon chasing us!”
    “Dragon where? I don’t see one.”
    “Right there!” they pointed as everyone was looking out the window searching for a dragon and certain they would not find one.
    “Are you two OK?” A flash of concern crossed the guard’s face.
    “No! Let us go! There’s a dragon chasing us!”
    “There is no dragon out there!”
    “Did you not feel that blast of heat or hear the growl?”
    “No. We’re in the middle of a heat wave and it’s starting to storm.”
    “What about the drool out side?”
    “There’s no drool, that’s just rain!”
    The couple turned to look outside, the dragon had disappeared.
    “It was there a minute ago! We saw it, I swear!”
    “And that’s why you shouldn’t drink so much tequila.” The guard laughed sarcastically before escorting them back to their room to sleep their bender off.

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 7:01 am
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      Good writing, telling the story through dialogue of an alcohol-and-panic-fuelled collective delusion. Or is it a delusion?
      Collective delusions do happen. I have some friends who swear they saw a UFO hovering over a Pink Floyd concert in the early 1970s – apparently “everyone saw it”. There may have been other substances involved, I’m not sure.

      I think you could have made more use of the word count to flesh the story out and get more of a feel for the characters and why they jumped to this conclusion.

      Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 12:57 pm
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    Hey writers!! (Sorry I’m a little late today!)

    You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

    Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-for-animaltaming2019/

    You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • June 26, 2019 at 1:47 pm
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      Hey Carrie – is there one more story to go on the voting drop-down list, The Heat of Australia?

      Reply
      • June 26, 2019 at 3:29 pm
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        And Ken Frape’s ‘Deadlier Than The Male’ (posted on 25 June)?

        Reply
        • June 26, 2019 at 6:21 pm
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          Hi Phil,
          Thanks for that. I assumed that my story was on the list. Not sure what to think as voting has already started. Then again, writing it was what matters rather than the voting so I am philosophical about it.
          Regards,
          Ken Frape

          Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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    An Unruly Story. (Or, To Muse, Or Not Too Muse. That, is not ‘even’ a question.)
    Ken Cartisano (WC – 840, give or take a few.)

    Hi, Ken
    A very imaginative ride – suburban vampires! There’s a fine wince-inducing moment (the bat drinking from Danny’s shoulder!), there are some great lines (“To say that this observation was troubling, is like saying a half-a-dozen rattlesnakes in your sleeping bag is inconvenient.”), and some mystery (Who the h*ll is that woman?!) I didn’t really understand the opening: who is the narrator talking to? And I counted four ‘popped into Danny’s’ – maybe that’s slightly too many ‘popping-ins’? Great fun, though.
    Phil

    Thanks Phil, I see what you’re saying. There’s nothing in this story that another dozen re-writes probably couldn’t fix. I normally start out with a very fine first draft, and then carefully mold my stories into their finished form with a torch, a chainsaw and a baseball bat. But this story defied my literary will.

    I threw some adjectives at it and it devoured them whole. I dangled a few prepositional phrases over its gaping maw, and it snatched them out of my grasp, chewed them into little pieces, and then gleefully spit them back into my face. We circled each other, me and this unruly tale, I was looking to find an advantage, a hand-hold, a clear narrative.

    It raised its massive rack of repetitious phrases and shook them back and forth, spraying me with past participles and confused tenses.

    I got an idea. I called up one of my English teachers from high school. The phone was ringing before I realized she’d be one-hundred and nineteen years old, fortunately, no one answered the phone, so it was back to square one.

    I stopped typing and said to my muse, “Square one? Really? Is that all you can come up with? A dead English teacher and square one? That’s not a cliche. That’s a dead, dried up, decimated cliche.”

    That was a mistake. The story mistakenly thought my comments were directed at it, much to the delight of my muse, and its disposition deteriorated from merely bad, to exceedingly badly, clearly angrily, and snarling alliteratively, and began doubling and tripling its’ ‘and’s and snapping off venomous verbs at unsuspecting gerunds. It was horrible.

    Entire columns of polite type were quietly filing past it, heading for the margins. Who could blame them?

    “Who could blame them?” I screeched. “That’s worse than ‘square one.” I realized my muse was working against me. Pitting me against my own story. A fiendishly diabolical plot, and doing it with dialogue. I needed to do something drastic before things got worse. Although how my story could get worse was… anybody’s guess? Oh my God, I was certain now. My writing was becoming more and more predictable, and it affected the story, which became more agitated, and stronger.

    The story grew in size too, taking on a life of its own, spinning rapidly, collecting adverbs now, and spitting them back out with painfully consistent regularity. (Ugh.) A small knot of fear blossomed just below my glottisimal, a small, imaginary organ that should never be used to digest fear.

    (or oysters.)

    Shut up muse. I’m not dealing with you right now. That’s when I grasped the true nature of the beast, the essence of the problem.

    (or, ‘the gort’ as some would say.)

    MUSE! Enough! My story responded to ‘the gort’ by hurling itself at the bars of its cage. “I didn’t even realize it was in a cage,” I muttered, and that infuriated the story even more, flinging three ‘even’s at me in rapid succession, like literary feces. I ducked involuntarily, causing other patrons in this imaginary coffee shop to glance at me and shake their heads in a manner that can ONLY be described as… disdainfully. “NO!” I cried out, with exclamation points. “NO! NO! Noooooooooooooo,” I think it was at this point that I lost conscientiousness.

    I felt numb, like I was floating in a vat of omega-3 fatty acids. “How do I know what that feels like?” I don’t. That was just the story trying to drag my feelings into the mix, trying to throw me off balance, as big words started floating up to the surface of the text. Big superfluous words.

    (Big, superfluous, words….Oh my.)

    I tried ignoring the muse, but began to understand the story’s rage. How it’s lack of a meaningful conclusion became fodder for its over-consuming self-loathing. “But, isn’t that a conclusion?” I suggested, as huge run-on sentences waved menacingly above my head.

    “I was fat on hate?” The story snarled back at me. “That’s your conclusion?” It began to write itself, sneering at my impotence, laying the groundwork for a spellbinding murder mystery. But who was the intended victim, I wondered?

    “Who do you think?” The story replied.

    (It hung the remark in the air.)

    I told you to get out of here, muse.

    I had to admit, the story had a point, no conclusion. You could almost hear the story say it. “No conclusion. No conclusion. There was no conclusion folks. Just a big witch hunt, but… no conclusion.”

    That’s when I killed the story. (Gladly.)

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 2:37 am
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      So, Ken, your muse amused but left your readers somewhat bemused? But no emus – just bats.
      I enjoyed your story, but had the feeling that the author perhaps didn’t know where the ride was heading any more than the reader – and your musings here indicate that might be so. Still, had the smile of anticipation on my face throughout.

      BTW, ‘Echo Locution” – did you think of calling it “Locutus of Bat”? Seems Danny is assimilated into the Bat Collective, and then the Bat Queen appears at the end. Or maybe I’m mixing up my references. Again.

      Something I learned: I had absolutely no idea that lamp poles cost so much. Now I understand where my taxes go.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 8:51 am
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        Andy,

        I think you understood my story better than I did. (You little dickens.) With one exception. The cost of the lamp poles was COMPLETELY fictional. I’m sure they actually cost much more. I loved your story btw. (Numero uno in my opinion.)

        Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 9:13 am
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        Andy,

        Locutus of Bat. (Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.) It was a role Patrick Stewart was born to play. (Destiny can be cruel sometimes.)

        And no, I didn’t know about your book on Amazon. I think you mentioned its imminent release in our correspondence a while back, but I don’t recall any details about it. Like the name, or how much you’re willing to pay someone to read it. It’s a trilogy though, right?

        About a time-traveling tiger shark who eats everyone who tries to help him return to his proper time-line, right? No, no, that was an idea someone suggested the other day. No, your book was about a German Shepard who wakes up one day, suddenly able to speak French, and goes on a rampage through Paris, with a final scene, where he’s clinging to the top of the Eiffel Tower, swatting at… No, no, that ‘s not it either. I guess I’ll just have to get the book and see for myself.

        Reply
        • June 27, 2019 at 9:32 am
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          OMG Ken we just watched a movie about space vampires with Patrick Stewart in it so I think you’re right on the money there… (It’s called Lifeforce if you have 2 hours to waste lol)

          Reply
        • June 27, 2019 at 10:50 am
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          Funny I never mentioned that. Maybe I’d forgotten.

          The one that hasn’t come out yet is of course the collection of SF/speculative microstories and your time-travelling tiger shark is not so far off the mark. As it contains, inter alia, (which means, ‘amongst the aliens’) a cyborg cat who does travel in time bubbles occasionally (or from time to time, as it were).
          Keep tinkering with that manuscript. Some people less into spec fiction or microstories found the format a bit samey and recommended lengthening some stories for variety, and so not to having like a plot twist or punchline every thousand words or so. I see the point of that feedback, and it’s a bit like Roy says above re his potential collection on varying the length of some stories. And some strands, like around the Professor of Emotional Pathology, I would like to build out more.

          On trilogies – someone in a writing group once said they had mapped out ‘a series of eight trilogies’. Kind of space opera thing. Very ambitious. A dodeca-ology, really. I think a quartet would be good, if I could string something out enough.

          Reply
  • June 26, 2019 at 7:52 pm
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    Ok everyone, somehow Ken Frape’s story was missed in the list of stories to read. I added it to the top comment and the voting page.
    Also, technically the “Heat of Australia” story came in 1/2 hour past the posting deadline, but since I was updating the voting page and I was late in posting anyhow, I added that one as well, only one vote has come in and I’l let her know to revote.

    3 hour daily round trip commute to a new job, and I moved on top of that has left me very little time to moderate the site.
    Luckily as of this week I’m working form home on a permanent basis so should be able to keep up (and participate) much more!

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 2:55 am
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      Hi Carrie,
      Thank you for adding me to the list.
      Life gets very hectic doesn’t it? Good luck with your new job.
      Thanks for giving up so much time to run this site. I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement since December 18.

      Regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 12:40 pm
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        Ken F – it does indeed!! I am so glad you found us. I have definitely enjoyed reading your stories. And I enjoy the conversation that goes on.
        It’s a very enjoyable past time, and have bee spoiled – I always had my lunch hours to spend reading and participating. I’ll be glad when the time frame evens out!
        And thank you for being so patient as well!

        Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 8:54 am
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    Carrie,

    A three hour commute? Jesus, that’s a slog. I hope your new hours are permanent.

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 12:46 pm
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      Ken C- yes thank goodness. The commute for the last 2 months has been brutal.
      It’s amazing how far behind in life you get when you lose 15 hours a week.
      But it was all for training. Now I’m just trying to get my feet under me.
      I’ll

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 1:27 pm
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        Hi Carrie,
        Wow, I think I know a few people who could take a lesson or two from you in the art of ambition. You’ll smooth yourself out in no time at all, I’m sure :). Moving, long commutes, training and losing fifteen hours- I hope you get everything settled and take a bit of some much needed ‘you time’, you definitely deserve it after all those long hours.

        Reply
        • June 27, 2019 at 2:39 pm
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          Thanks Amy! I can’t wait to get back into the thick of things with all of you. I am definitely missing my favorite past time!

          Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 9:37 am
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    I renamed everyone’s stories, (You’re all very welcome.) In the course of this complicated and time consuming process, I noticed the incredible variety of animals that were chosen for the stories. How is it that there were only two cases of duplication?

    Who’s Laughing Now? – Amy Raines Hyenas
    You Don’t Know Magic Beans. – Phil Town. Rats
    Australosnorticus Rex. – Maria Oomen Hippos.
    Doggo Unchained. – Adi Riggs. Dog.
    Good Snakes Survive. – Roy York. Snake.
    Cheeseburger in Parrot’s Eyes. – BerlinerMax. Parrot.
    The Squirrel Assassin. – Wendy Edsal-Kerwin. Squirrel.
    Bear Necessities. – Andy Lake. Bears.
    Mon Goose Is Cooked. – Chitra Adjoodah. Cobra & Mongoose.
    Snake Charmed. – Ken Mile. Giant yellow, reincarnated Python.
    The Drinks Of Australia. – Promise031001 Dragon.
    Stupider Than The Lion. – Ken Frape Lions.
    The Exsanguination Files. – Ken Cartisano. Bat.

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 11:39 am
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      Three: Rattlesnake, Cobra and Python. Aside from that, I like your new names. Good Job Mr. Cartisano.

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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        How about “The Vampire Bites Back?”

        Ken F

        PS
        My family have a long car journey game ( they are adults now) whereby we try to turn a film title into something more risque. It can be a hoot and you get long periods of silence whilst everyone is thinking. Then, suddenly, “How about Shaving Ryan’s Privates?”
        Try it!

        Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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        Thank you very much, Roy. Ahh, you’re right about the snakes. I must be suffering from snake blindness. It’s rare, but not unheard of. (No, I got that backwards, it’s not rare, it’s unheard of.)

        Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 9:50 am
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    Correction.

    The X-Sanguination Files. – Ken Cartisano. (The Tooth Is Out There.)

    Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 12:58 pm
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        Why not? It’s called ‘pushing the envelop’, (into the shredder.)

        Reply
        • June 27, 2019 at 1:55 pm
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          You should send that to the National Dental Association for a short film at their next convention. You and I can write and call it the Xray Files.

          Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 12:49 pm
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    Just waiting on Chitra and Marien’s votes. I’ll give them another hour while I post the next prompt!

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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      Apologies to keep you waiting, Carrie.

      I got caught up with a lot of my personal responsibilities and neglected my emails. I did not get the time to read all the stories either, therefore would not have been able to vote.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2019 at 11:46 pm
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        I’m just glad to be reading your stories again!!

        Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 8:46 pm
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      So sorry I fell out of this race.. sent in my votes too late :((
      I was jet lagged after a long haul flight here to Texas from Abu Dhabi.
      Didn’t hear the trumpet call to vote.
      Until next time…
      I love this group of happy writers! Thank you for being there.

      Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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    Alrighty writers!!
    A great turn out with 13 stories submitted! (2 non-voting disqualifications)
    Without further ado here are your winners! Congrats!

    1st Place: The Magic Recipe by Phil Town
    2nd Place: Nothing to Lose But Their Chains by Andy Lake
    3rd Place: Untamed (Revised) by Adrienne Riggs
    4th Place: The Parrot’s Grin by berlinermax
    5th Place: Deadlier than the male by Ken Frape
    6th Place: Goodness Snakes Alive by RM York
    7th Place: Echo Locution by Ken Cartisano
    8th Place: Tamed, Twice by Ken Mile
    9th Place: The Price of a Clear Head by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    10th Place: What’s So Funny? by Amy Lynn Raines
    11th Place: Heat of Australia by promise091003

    Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 2:59 pm
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      Hi, Phil! Your magic recipe worked. Congratulations!

      Reply
      • June 27, 2019 at 8:27 pm
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        Congratulations to all!

        Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 3:21 pm
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      Congratulations Phil! And congratulations to every participant! 🙂 Hope to see all of you in the next prompt! 🙂

      Reply
    • June 27, 2019 at 6:17 pm
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      Congratulations Phil, well deserved!

      Reply
    • June 28, 2019 at 4:05 pm
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      Is there a result for the best character and dialogue – or have I missed that somewhere?

      Reply
      • June 30, 2019 at 11:46 pm
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        Oops.
        Posted it in the reply comment to where I posted the winners!

        Reply
    • June 30, 2019 at 11:42 pm
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      I think I copy and pasted only part of my actual comment!!

      Favorite character: berlinermax’s character “Geraldine”
      Favorite Dialogue: Adrienne’s “Untamed”

      Reply
  • June 27, 2019 at 4:47 pm
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    Wow! Thanks everyone. That’s made my weekend.
    And great to see so many, and such good, stories. We rock! (as I believe the youngsters might say.)

    Reply
    • June 29, 2019 at 5:15 pm
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      Looks like great stories. Sorry I did not even vote – a younger brother died last week and feeling a bit catonic with grief. So many if only… decent person who went a bit crazy with treatment for his cancer, didn’t listen to doctors and gave his poor wife and kids hell for past five or more years. The other brother and his wife too busy chasing relatives with money and contesting my
      Mother’s will to disinherit my child from It apparently to be a caring brother to his sick older brother. Complicated and some people are so money driven and willing to destroy others in search of it.

      Reply
      • June 29, 2019 at 5:20 pm
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        Sorry to hear that

        Reply
      • June 30, 2019 at 11:45 pm
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        Ilana…my goodness you’ve really had a rough go of it.
        Just know you’re in our thoughts and prayers and I’m so sorry for your loss… 😔

        Reply
        • July 2, 2019 at 3:29 am
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          Hi llana,
          Sad to hear of your loss and grief with the family.

          Keep your spirits up whilst your problem sort themselves out.

          Reply

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