January 30 – February 12, 2020 First or Last Line Writing Prompt “A Hard Time”

Theme: A Hard Time

You must use the line:

it was a hard time for most of us...”

It must be a first line, last line or both. It can be added to, taken alone, or however the writer wishes to use it.

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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.





  • 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.

The writing prompt for January 16, 2020 will be chose by Carrie.




230 thoughts on “January 30 – February 12, 2020 First or Last Line Writing Prompt “A Hard Time”

  • January 30, 2020 at 3:05 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • February 3, 2020 at 10:02 am
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      Comments.

      Reply
    • February 14, 2020 at 3:20 am
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      Hi Carrie,
      Sometimes people are jealous and nasty and say the opposite of what they think.
      Believe me I have lived a lot , lot longer and weathered a lot of storms than you.

      Reply
      • February 14, 2020 at 2:43 pm
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        Liz, it’s just above you in the comments list. Scroll up until you find it. Alice won. I’ll let you look and see where you ended up. I will tell you that you are tied.

        Roy

        Reply
  • January 30, 2020 at 3:08 pm
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    Signing in for comments

    Reply
  • January 30, 2020 at 11:31 pm
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    Alice,
    Don’t mind me, I’m working on my comedy. It’s not getting any traction. It doesn’t seem to be producing the, well, anything. But I refuse to give up. You know what they say, ‘A complete lack of appreciation is not for the weak of heart.’

    So, All kidding aside, and regardless of any other considerations, that was an impressive achievement. To come from out of nowhere, after months and months of non-participation, and produce such a skillfully written story that even I’m forced to vote for it. (Oops, I still had a little leftover kidding in me.) Seriously, it’s more significant that it won, against a wide field of new and old competitors who, for the most part, are pretty creative and talented. (don’t tell anybody I said that.) My congratulations are sincere. You should be stoked, I know I would be.

    Reply
    • January 31, 2020 at 1:14 am
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      Ken, I love your joking, you know I can take it. Thank you sincerely for these very cool words, they mean a lot to me. I’ve been reading the stories of all these writers over the last few months and can’t believe the talent. I am stoked for the win, and surprised. Now I know the key to winning this contest, take 9 months off than people will be more willing to vote for your story. Thanks again Ken.

      Reply
      • January 31, 2020 at 5:01 am
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        Aha Alice I voted for your story because I believe it suited the prompt so admirably😅🙌❤️ Just a great story. Loved it! This is an interesting one. Got too
        Much experience to choose from …. great bunch of stories and really chuffed with my fourth congratulations to everyone!

        Reply
      • February 14, 2020 at 3:32 am
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        Did you really take nine months to cook up this story? I guess the language was hard going and did the trick. I knew that your story would hit the first prize. I almost congratulated you before the results came out., then remembered that I haven’t read the results.

        I took longer and it didn’t work for me.

        Reply
  • January 31, 2020 at 10:33 am
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    Hi All,

    Just signing in and adding a bit of background to my last story about no man’s land.

    There is a beautiful folk song, adopted by the Irish but actually written by Eric Bogle, a Scot, called “The Green Fields of France. ” The words ring true over one hundred years later.

    Try You Tube and the version sung by Irish duo Niall Hanna and Niamh Farrell. Beautiful in my humble opinion.

    Now, on to the next prompt.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2020 at 4:47 pm
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      Just checked out that video of “The Green Fields of France” on You Tube. Thank you for that, Ken F. I’m a sucker for Irish Ballads as it is, and love ‘O Danny Boy’, but this stands right up there. Thanks again. What a haunting song, and if it doesn’t bring a tear, then you’re a better man than I.

      Roy

      Reply
  • February 3, 2020 at 4:55 pm
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    Agent of Change
    By: Adrienne Riggs (1,194 words) Revised

    “It was a hard time for most of us….” Sandy’s words trailed off as tears fell. She huddled in the chair, arms around her knees pulled up to her chest.

    “Sandy, try to relax” Dr. Fier said softly. “Can you tell me more?”

    “Why?”

    “I know this is hard, but we must know … details … in order to enact change.”

    “Have … you… ever…been… there?” Sandy sobbed between words.

    “Yes” Dr. Fier’s voice was sober. “I can’t imagine what it was like for you, day after day.”

    “There are no words …” she trailed off again.

    “Sandy, please try?” The doctor was patient and soft-spoken. “You don’t mind that I’m recording our conversation?”

    “I don’t mind. I only want to have to tell this once. I relive it every night in my dreams!”

    “I understand. Talking about this may be cathartic for you.”

    “I doubt that” Sandy mumbled.

    “We can take it slow.”

    Sandy took a deep breath. “What do you want to know?”

    “Close your eyes.” The doctor waited until Sandy complied.

    “Tell me what you hear. Just let it spill out, you don’t have to frame sentences if you don’t want to.”

    Sandy placed her hands over her ears to block out the myriad of sounds she could hear in her mind.

    “I hear … crying, screams, keening, singing, chanting, groaning, moaning, whimpers, panting, and footsteps … pacing, always pacing. Always moving with nowhere to go. Nowhere to go” she sobbed. “It is an unending chaotic chorus, it ebbs and flows around me until I am deafened by the noise and defeated by the animal sounds. There is no distinguishing from whom the sounds come. The sounds rise and fall in volume, colliding in the putrid air. I hear whistles, clicks, growls, roars of rage, humming and rants. Some repeat the same words and phrases over and over; an unceasing word soup that defies understanding and grates on the nerves.”

    “Why do they cry?”

    “Why? WHY? They are … ‘feeble-minded’, alone, sick, scared, in pain and ignored. Most have no other voice.”

    “What about the other sounds?”

    “Are you kidding? They scream when they are kicked, slapped or ignored. Their bodies are twisted from disease, disability and neglect. They have contracted muscles and twisted limbs. They groan in agony until they recede into moans. There is no communication with them, no meaningful interactions, so each contents him or herself with the sounds they make best. There is no rhyme or reason for most of them. They whimper in distress and fear.” She whimpers herself as she stops speaking.

    Sandy doesn’t see Dr. Fier wince at her words.

    “Breathe, Sandy, breathe. You are doing well.” He waits until she takes a deep breath and slightly relaxs.

    “Now, tell me what you smell.”

    “I’m going to throw up!” she wails. “I can’t bear it. I smell vomit, sweat, urine and feces. I smell fear and neglect, sickness and death. I smell the stench of rancid sores and untreated open wounds.” She gags and breathes shallowly. “I smell the pervasive stench of body odor as bodies mill around me – too many bodies and not enough space. The windows provide little fresh air and no relief.” She groans, “I’m going to be sick.”

    Dr. Fier grabbed the small trash can near by and handed it to her. “Breathe, Sandy, you can stop.” He waits for her to calm down. He feels sick himself. “Just focus on breathing.”

    “I need some water.”

    He pours a glass of water from the pitcher resting on his desk, hands it to her and watches her drink. “Better?”

    Nodding, Sandy sits back again, taking deep breaths to calm herself.

    “Are you ready?”

    “Must we go on?”

    “I’m afraid so. You are only one of the few willing to tell us what really goes on inside. Consider yourself an agent of change.”

    She nods.

    “Now, close your eyes and go back to that room. Tell me what you see” he says gently. “How many are there?”

    Eyes closed, she moves her head back and forth. “Thirty or forty. Naked. Some in ragged clothing. They are dirty, sick, disabled, neglected, and diseased. There is nothing for them to do, nowhere to go. All they face are locked doors, dirty floors, and chairs and benches against the wall. There is no interaction, no teaching , no training, no care. The mass of bodies shrinks the room to a small space, sucking the air and life from those within. The fear is palpable.”

    She takes a breath, “Some of them shrink into a ball of wretchedness; curled tight, heads bowed and necks curved or lying in a fetal position until contracting muscles hold the positions. They look like rock statues on the floor, in the corners, huddled on benches yet they are not all still or silent. They roll around or rock back and forth unceasingly. They slap themselves or masturbate for stimulation. Some lay unmoving on the floor, are they dead? It was my fear.”

    “Sandy? It’s ok.”

    “IN WHAT WORLD IS THIS OK??” she screams.

    “I’m sorry.” The doctor wipes sweat from his brow. “What I meant is, you will be ok. Tell me about the staff.”

    Sandy gives a sound of disgust. “You mean the ones who were supposed to provide care and attention? Not many were like me. I TRIED!”

    “Please tell me.”

    “The ‘staff’ were untrained, ill-paid and undervalued for the work they were expected to do. Some were cruel or became cruel after constant exposure to the masses they were assigned to care for. Too many bodies, too little space, no structure, no routine, no supplies and no support. Some came in, ready to make a difference, to save the wretched creatures but too soon, the futility of their efforts in the face of the demands on them, turned them inside out. They wandered aimlessly around the vile rooms, dull-eyed from seeing too much and resentful of their assignments.”

    She pauses, “Doctor, is insanity contagious? They screamed at their charges, told them to ‘Shut up!’, slapping them if they didn’t. They pushed them away with their feet. If one grabbed them for attention, they got a well-placed kick for their efforts. Staff threw cold water on them and laughed as they gasped and flinched. They force fed them, laughing if they choked. Abuse is rampant and no one cares!”

    “I care.” He paused. “Is this treatment confined to the adults?”

    Sandy sobbed, “No, the children too.”

    Her eyes turned dull, tears falling unchecked. “It’s a place of torture. A beautiful façade hiding endless hallways of darkness leading to despair and dead ends. For many, the darkness leads nowhere and lucky are those who escape in death.”

    “Why did you leave?”

    “I was fired and called ‘insane’ when I reported the abuse. They tried to admit me to shut me up. Is that all?”

    Dr. Fier nodded. Sandy untangled her limbs and walked toward the door. “It is hell on earth and no one cares.”

    He wiped tears from his eyes as he reached to turn off the recorder. “I care.”

    Reply
    • February 4, 2020 at 4:50 pm
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      Good job, Adi. You seem to be on a roll, lately. Good writing must come easily to you when you are under great stress. It seems to bring out the best in you. For that reason, I hope your life slows down a bit, allows you to get a better grip, and then, maybe some of the other writers will have a chance. Like, me for instance. Love you, gal. Keep it up.

      Roy

      Reply
      • February 5, 2020 at 12:15 pm
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        Thanks Roy! I do work better under stress, which is good because my life is stress! LOL. I appreciate the comments and I’m so glad you are back with your strong writing! Love and hugs!

        Reply
    • February 6, 2020 at 10:15 am
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      Adi, Your descriptions were compelling. I felt like I was watching a video, it was so easy to conjure up the scenes you described. Very well done. I’d love to see you write a story actually set in one of those horrible asylums. I’m guessing you’d be able to bring the reader even closer to the horror of the situation with descriptions through the eyes & dialogue of the inmates. Very well done. PS – I prefer the “I care” ending too. 🙂

      Reply
      • February 6, 2020 at 10:23 am
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        Adi – just read in one of your comments below that you are actually writing a horror novel set in an asylum. Good on you! Love to read it when it gets published. 🙂

        Reply
        • February 7, 2020 at 10:13 am
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          Thanks Trish!

          Reply
    • February 8, 2020 at 5:20 am
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      I thought your imagery and descriptions of the inmates was great. However the ending escapes me. You lost power in your story there.Great writing however.

      Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 3:21 am
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      Great description of life in an asylum as it used to be, before the human rights brigade stepped in and brought changes. Sandy was one of them who felt for the inmates with mental illnesses when she experienced the treatments they received.
      The title is right for the story.
      At first I thought she was a patient.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 12:28 am
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      Now Adi,

      Let me just remind you, (mostly for the benefit of anyone else who accidentally reads this, I already have enough people who hate me, think I’m an asshole, or want to kill me), you know that when you write something fabulous, as you often do, I sing your praises without regard for the sound of my voice or who it disturbs.

      First off, I missed the significance of the Doctor’s name until well after the second read. ‘Dr. Fier.’ (Could be pronounced Fire, could be pronounced Fear.) I take full responsibility for not seeing that sooner. My bad.

      There’s an awful lot of grief in this story. My last impression is probably the most important. The organization of this story, and its litany of institutional abuse, is too clean and neat. I realize the list of abuses are answer driven, but they still come across as too neatly laid out. And it’s dialogue. Emotionally stressed people are rarely that skillful at relaying information. Think of how hard it is to get useful information out of people who have been in a tragic accident.

      This sentence.
      “You are only one of the few willing to tell us what really goes on inside.”
      You could leave ‘the few’ out, and just go with:
      ‘You’re the only one willing to tell us what’s going on inside.’

      Is the doctor an investigator or a therapist? His title made me wonder. It’s clear that he cares, because he says it twice. Just once at the end is enough. I think that was an unintentional error. The ending seems to come up rather suddenly too, although, to be honest, I was happy to see it. You have to admit, the story is pretty gruesome. Because of the subject matter. And there’s really no relief or resolution, just an assurance. (That someone cares. He doesn’t even promise to do anything.)

      They have a saying up in the Smokies, which I just made up. ‘At there’s a lotta swamp to wade through for such a small fishin’ hole.’

      There’s another few lines at the end when Dr. Fier says:
      “Why did you leave?”
      “I was fired and called ‘insane’ when I reported the abuse. They tried to admit me to shut me up. Is that all?”

      ‘Why did she leave?’ That sounds like a stupid question. How about: “Tell me the details of your departure.” Or, “And what happened when you reported the abuse?”
      “I was terminated. They tried to keep me from leaving, but they had no legal basis…”

      I feel like it needs another edit. Often, I find that when I, or other writers are working on something important to us, it needs extra work. We’re blinded by our desire and our passion, which makes it more difficult for us to be objective.

      If this is important to you. Keep working on it. If it isn’t, then don’t. That’s my honest opinion.

      ps. I realize that everybody else loves it, and they can all kiss my ass. (Or not. Totally optional.)

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 3:57 pm
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        Ken,

        Thanks for the comments! I love it when you make me laugh.

        Congrats! I believe you are the only one to pick up on the significance of the doctor’s name – Fier (pronounced ‘fear’). I thought it was appropriate for the topic and I believe it was similar to the doctor’s name interviewed in the ‘Suffer the Little Children’ expose of Pennhurst.

        Your comment about the content being “too clean and neat” for someone traumatized, is possible, had she just left the place. However, this woman had been out of the environment for an amount of time and had time to process a little. Also, I was trying to represent her just spitting out words as they came to her, but that is difficult to do in print.

        I totally agree with your comment – “You could leave ‘the few’ out, and just go with: ‘You’re the only one willing to tell us what’s going on inside.’ When I was cutting words to make the story fit the guidelines, these were some I thought about cutting.

        Dr. Fier was meant to be an investigative therapist, trained in dealing with people who had witnessed or experienced trauma. However, alas, the word limit forced me to shorten the story. I couldn’t figure a way to leave his description in and I placed hope that readers would know? assume? guess? wonder? if he was a therapist.

        It is ironic that you mentioned the part about her leaving the asylum. I had this spelled out in dialogue similar to what you suggested, but that nasty word limit kept popping up and I had to get the idea out with (dare I say it?) limited words.

        Rest assured that I have used a great deal of this in my current novel-in-progress (NIP) and I am free to be as wordy as I want! LOL

        The abuse and neglect in the asylums was horrific and it was difficult to write and I was afraid I would scare off some readers because of the topic and content. That’s why and how my NIP has turned into a horror story. (I’m scaring myself while writing it!).

        Thanks for taking the time to critique the story and give me valuable feedback and the laugh I needed! Hugs!

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 10:10 am
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      Adi, you paint that picture of the brutality those people were incurring very well, I could envision it all too clearly. I didn’t see the first ending, but this one seems to work nicely. Good job Adi.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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        Thanks Alice!

        Reply
  • February 4, 2020 at 7:10 am
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    Hi Adi,

    Well done for being the first to post in this round.

    I think that your descriptive writing about the experiences of the patients in the asylum is really very good. You paint a very vivid picture, an awful picture too. Man’s inhumanity to man at its worst and just when you think that you have heard it all you realise you haven’t and probably never will.

    The shocking element, apart from the way these people are treated, is the fact that the staff seemed to quickly become so complicit in the suffering of the patients. I wasn’t surprised to find that you were one of the staff as you referred to the patients as “them” and”they” rather than “us” and “we”.

    The ending was, for me, an anti-climax. The place sounded like a description of Hell and somehow, the asylum setting didn’t quite work. Not sure why but it is just my opinion. Thinking back to last week’s stories and various comments, perhaps the last sentence ( the coda?) could have been omitted and I like the idea of finishing the story with the doctor’s words,
    ” I care.” Thus, the prompt sentence would need to have been used elsewhere or at the beginning.

    A great start to the latest prompt, Adi.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape.

    Reply
    • February 4, 2020 at 12:47 pm
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      Thanks for comments Ken! I agree with you. After posting last night, I kept feeling that the ending was all wrong. I changed it and waited until this morning to re-post. Your comments validated the feeling I had.

      I am writing a horror/thriller novel about a haunted asylum and a lost journal. I have done extensive research into the old asylums and found some truly terrifying and real things that went on in those places. I watched videos of some of them. To write about it, I mentally put myself inside one of them to “experience” the atrocities that went on. As a champion and advocate for people with disabilities, it appalls me to know that this went on and on in so many places and abuse was rampant. Some of these places were literally hell on earth!

      Some of the staff were pure evil and some were faced with insurmountable expectations – too few of them to go around to take care of so many people. Unskilled, untrained and unsupported with a vulnerable population of people.

      If you want to see (and can handle it – its not easy to watch) what actually occurred in one asylum, watch “Suffer the Little Children” on YouTube. A news agency did a 5 night expose’ of Pennhurst in Pennsylvania. It is horrible. They even interviewed the physician and what he said he did to children to “degrade” them and punish them was inexcusable. The reporter was so traumatized, that he could not appear on the last night of the broadcast. It is unbelievable. Geraldo Rivera also did an expose’ at Willowbrook. He and his cameras were taken into the asylum without permission by a staff member, I believe. There was 1 staff for 50 children in one room. It is also on YouTube. Sad!

      This prompt was perfect for the telling of this type of story. Can’t wait to see what the others come up with!

      Adi

      Reply
      • February 4, 2020 at 12:59 pm
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        Hi Adi,

        Thanks for this info. I will watch it. Having spent my whole career looking after children it still shocks me to see how they used to be treated and not that long ago. For example, I qualified as a teacher in 1973 and corporal punishment in the UK was still legal.During a school trip, two eleven year old boys wandered off, strictly against instructions. When we found them I was asked to administer three wacks to each boy with my bare hand. I refused. In other places it was simply routine.

        Keep writing,

        PS You might like to read my very opening comment for this prompt where I signed in. The song I refer to is poignant but haunting, I think. “The Green Fields of France.”

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
        • February 5, 2020 at 12:17 pm
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          Ken,

          The song was beautiful and touching. I listened to it more than once. Thanks for sharing.

          Adi

          Reply
  • February 4, 2020 at 7:50 am
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    Carrie,

    I’m not happy with the ending of my story and I changed it last night. I’m going to post the revised version. Will you please delete the first one?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • February 4, 2020 at 8:00 am
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      I updated your story!

      Reply
      • February 4, 2020 at 12:27 pm
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        Thanks Carrie!

        Reply
  • February 4, 2020 at 10:27 am
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    Adrienne,

    I have to say that, for me at least, the change makes your story so much more powerful. The impact is immense!
    Great stuff.

    Are we the only ones awake so far?????

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
    • February 4, 2020 at 12:51 pm
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      Ken,

      I think we are the only ones awake! And Carrie. I hear our voices echoing in the emptiness.

      I suppose they are all busy composing killer stories to blow us out of the water. (Like Alice’s last week!) This prompt of Roy’s could go in so many directions!!

      I’m sure Ken C. is working on his next comedic response and/or satire. Can’t wait to read it!

      Let’s play a game. Tag! You’re it!

      Adi

      Reply
      • February 5, 2020 at 8:30 am
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        Hahahaha I’m trying to work on a story outside of my comfort zone. Trying a WW2 type story but you know, since I wasn’t there I’m struggling. It’s so damn easier to write fantasy…..maybe I’ll add a dragon to the war. I mean they added Wonder Woman to WW2, so I feel like I can take some Hollywood liberties as well… 🤔🤔

        Sooooo….. not it!!!!

        Reply
        • February 5, 2020 at 12:19 pm
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          Carrie,

          LOL! A dragon in the war sounds great to me. Its certainly challenging to write outside one’s comfort zone. I’m working on a horror novel, which is most definitely not my typical genre to write and it’s been a lesson in so many ways!

          Can’t wait to see your story!

          Reply
        • February 5, 2020 at 3:17 pm
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          Please put a dragon in WWII. Preferably a hungry, and angry dragon. That would be awesome, and I think you would be just the one to do it.

          Reply
        • February 7, 2020 at 1:02 am
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          Carrie,

          Once you start adding dragons to a story, they tend to take over, blowing smoke, breathing fire… they’re kind of like meteorologists in Kansas. They start hoarding the plot, towering over your other characters. The only thing that neutralizes dragons in a story, is two more dragons. (Or one delectably sensuous female dragon. This is a pretty sensitive subject among dragons, so I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it. Let’s just, let’s just forget the female dragons and focus on your plot. What’s your plot? Any dragons in it? Oh shit. You see there? It’s too late, they’ve taken over already. Goddamned dragons. And I LIKE THEM too!)

          Actually, putting a dragon in WWII is a great idea. I love it.

          I could say more but I’ll just shut up.

          Reply
  • February 4, 2020 at 4:35 pm
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    Nadine
    by Roy York
    Exactly 1198 words

    It was a hard time for most of us … those years after the war.

    It was especially hard on my sister, Nadine. Poor thing had been born two months premature, and only weighed 3 and a half pounds; no doubt the result of the stress on our mother, losing our dad, John, the way we did a few days before.

    He was coming home from France, in time to be back before Nadine’s birth, only to be killed in a hit and run accident in a taxicab just blocks from our home.

    Dad was the only one hurt, in the accident that is. The rest of us still hurt from that loss to this very day. The taxi had been t-boned on the passenger side in the rear of the taxi. Precisely where my father, John Carpenter, was sitting as the driver rammed through the intersection. It would be a great day – he was probably thinking – then, he wasn’t thinking at all. He was sprawled in the back seat of a dirty cab, his life crushed out of him.

    The driver of the other car had simply backed up and was able to drive around the accident, his radiator leaking profusely, to flee the scene, never to be seen again.

    The whole town turned out for the funeral. Our mother, Rose, stood during the entire service at the gravesite; a black veil covering her red, swollen eyes, the result of crying continuously for three days with little sleep.

    My Aunt Gini, God rest her soul, stood by her side. Mom just stood there, hands holding her swollen tummy on both sides, her fingers meeting in the middle underneath her shaking abdomen, sobbing her heart out – great gasping sobs. I remember Aunt Gini saying afterwards, “The way Rose was shaking so hard as she cried, it’s a wonder that Nadine didn’t fall out onto the ground. It’s a miracle she was even able to get home before she had the baby.”

    The pain had just begun for that unfortunate child. First grade was tough enough, with the fact she was the smallest of the children in her class, and was constantly out sick; a lung problem caused by her premature birth. Nadine could catch pneumonia by hearing about it on TV.

    She got measles in fourth grade and almost died, The doctor told Mom to bring all of us to the hospital, even though in those days they didn’t allow children to visit, not even during visiting hours. I was fifteen, and was able to go, but I had been staying home with my brother and sister, watching them while Mom was at the hospital with Nadine.

    I still remember the look on Mom’s face. The face she made as she tried not to cry, but wasn’t doing a very good job of, when she explained that Nadine probably wasn’t going to come home and this might be our last chance to ever see her again.

    Even Bobby, who was twelve, and a typical boy, who said he wouldn’t cry about that sort of thing, broke down and cried. He even promised Nadine at the hospital that he would take care of Thumbelina, a stray kitten she brought home, and he hated cats. But he loved Nadine. Loved her right up until he got killed in Viet Nam. I’d like to tell you he saved his platoon, but no, he died in some dumb helicopter crash going from one base to another. A freak accident was the way the men who came to see my mom put it.

    That broke Nadine’s heart, that still had problems because of some kind of complication that existed from when she was born.

    I forgot to tell you, right after we all visited her in the hospital, the doctors said Nadine was responding to the antibiotics she had been getting and would be home in three days. She was so weak she had to sleep downstairs because she couldn’t make it up the stairs on her own. Besides, the bathroom was downstairs.

    Somehow, Nadine managed to graduate high school, even though she had been put back two years because of being sick all the time. I’d like to say that Nadine had finally overcome all of her childhood obstacles and went on to college to graduate Magna cum Laude, but I can’t. She developed meningitis and went to the hospital again. Only, now she was twenty and there wasn’t any insurance, and mom couldn’t help her anymore. None of us could. She owed like a zillion dollars to the hospital.

    Nadine finally got a job at Galardi’s Italian Steak House as a waitress. She was there the night that Gino, Nick Galardi’s son who was working late, was shot and killed by two men that tried to rob the place. Gino got shot stepping in front of Nadine and saved her life. Gino and Nadine were an item, and there was even talk of an engagement ring in Nadine’s future. A misguided kid and a gun stopped all that. It stopped Gino from being a father, but it didn’t stop Nadine from being a mom, as we found out the next day when Nicky was born.

    The whole town turned out for Gino’s funeral. Nick Galardi, who sat next to Nadine at the funeral, never said a word. He sat there. steely eyed, not shedding a tear. Nadine and Laura, Nick’s wife, shed enough tears for everyone at the funeral. We were all invited to the restaurant after Gino was laid to rest.

    Word spread of the courageous act by Gino in saving Nadine’s life. There was even a reporter at the reception hoping for a story, when Nick Galardi asked for everyone’s attention. I still have the newspaper clipping that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. The report, which became front page news, told both Gino and Nadine’s life stories, and was picked up by NBC Nightly News.

    Nick announced that he was retiring and that he had picked up the tab for Nadine’s hospital bill. He then handed the keys from the restaurant to Nadine. He said he would help out when needed at the restaurant, but Galardi’s now belonged to Nicky, Nadine’s baby boy.

    We celebrated Nicky’s 3rd birthday yesterday. There were 13 of us, not counting Nadine. It was really a sight to see how we all managed to fit in that little hospital room. Nadine wasn’t there at the time, she was getting another X-ray of her lungs. The doctors said the smoke inhalation wasn’t as bad as they thought originally, and she and Nicky would both come home soon, although she would still have problems.

    Galardi’s Steak House is still there, and isn’t too badly damaged from the fire, but the insurance had lapsed. Nadine was lucky she and Nicky got out in time. The firemen all call her Lucky Nadine, and how she and Nicky must be blessed, which makes Nadine smile. Every time she picks up Nicky and holds him tight, she whispers to him, “I don’t just think I’m lucky, I know it.” It was a hard time for most of us …

    Reply
    • February 4, 2020 at 5:05 pm
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      Well, I was sucked into this story and kept reading to find out how awful Nadine was really going to turn out to be, maybe a mass murderer or have some horrible thing happen to Nicky so she would own restaurant… and then it was just a little more bad luck and no insurance payout…so I’m thinking Nadine was your sister or relative based on a true story…or maybe it’s just my warped expectation… but it was gripping in spite of everything…

      Reply
      • February 4, 2020 at 7:40 pm
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        Really appreciate your comments, Liz. My intention was to take everyone along for the ride, Originally the idea was to end it with Nadine overcoming everything by becoming a CEO or maybe President or president of a college, but finally realized that becoming a mom may just be the best job of all. No matter what kind of obstacles life throws in your path, there’s always a silver lining if you can recognize it. Nadine did.

        Reply
        • February 4, 2020 at 11:16 pm
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          oh my gosh,,it is me…I always thought so..you are such a good person…I’ll try harder

          Reply
          • February 5, 2020 at 10:55 am
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            If you are a mom, then you know, don’t you? A father can never have the attachment a mother has with her child, no matter how hard they try and no matter how much they want to. Please no letters and protests, I’m talking about being able to give birth, something a man, as yet, cannot do.

            I have my silver lining sitting next to me on the couch. She was always a better mother and wife than I have been a father and husband. I’m not a bad dad and hubby, but she just outshines me and certainly outworks me. I’m the dreamer, she’s the doer.

            Roy

    • February 6, 2020 at 8:50 am
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      Roy,

      I absolutely loved this story! I was immediately taken with Nadine and her journey through life with all of the trials she had to face. This was beautiful. I felt like I knew her. Great work!

      I was a little confused by this line “It stopped Gino from being a father, but it didn’t stop Nadine from being a mom, as we found out the next day when Nicky was born.” The family didn’t know she was pregnant? That section was not clear to me.

      I don’t really think you need the last line. (I had the same dilemma. I had it in my story and then decided to take it out.) I think you could end the story with Nadine’s last statement, “I don’t just think I’m lucky, I know it.” and it would be just as powerful.

      Adi

      Reply
      • February 8, 2020 at 5:29 am
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        A very gripping story as someone else said Roy. I have the same comment as Adi. That line about Gino not being a father and Nadine being pregnant and it sounded like the baby was born the next day. It makes the story doubly poignant that he sacrifices his life for his girl and their unborn child.
        I really wanted to see something better for her and no insurance – I could have cried.

        Reply
        • February 8, 2020 at 9:42 am
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          Ilana, i agree with you both. However, I do not change posted stories unless it’s an egregious error. I do change them on my computer, or if I rewrite them. I let them stand on their own on this site. Others have suggested I also eliminate the last line, and I may do that, also.

          I appreciate everyone’s comments and critiques more than you know. It will only help me be a better writer. I have watched the authors on this site seriously improve their skills. I’d like to think it’s because they listen and take
          those comments into account, try out their new found skills and realize the critics were spot on, in most instances.

          I’ve tried other sites from time to time. And, I seldom see improvement in author’s. If they were just fair to start with, they tend to remain fair. Not on this site. Those who use the critiques to their advantage show serious writing chops.

          I know i certainly have been rewarded.

          Nadine has already become a favorite character for me, and she may show up again. Maybe with some really good news. Who knows. Just Nadine and I and she hasn’t told me everything.

          Reply
        • February 8, 2020 at 12:10 pm
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          Ilana,

          Apology accepted regarding Trump even though I am a card carrying Republican. Sorry hon, but he dishonors the office of the presidency, and no longer deserves, nor will he get, my respect. Any man who will screw a porn star while the now First Lady was carrying his child, breaking the oath he took before God to honor and obey, will screw anyone who disagrees with him and most of those who do.

          I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

          Roy

          Reply
          • February 8, 2020 at 4:04 pm
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            Roy, Your comment is why this bleeding heart liberal Democrat says some of my best friends are Republicans…and everyone is human Dems and Reps and like any of us can be really stupid at times. However about Trump and respect for the President, I totally agree, the office is about respect except Trump gives absolutely no respect to anything and I do not respect anything about him.. just thinking about him and my BP is too high…
            Liz.

    • February 6, 2020 at 10:21 am
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      Roy – I felt like I was sitting at the dinner table next to a favorite Aunt who was telling me the story of her relatives. Very engaging. I agree with the suggestion written elsewhere of deleting the prompt at the end and finishing with “I know it.” Well done!

      Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 3:11 am
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      Such a sad story, Roy.
      Nadine is a proper fighter, a survivor and has a positive outlook in life. I enjoyed reading about her.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 1:02 am
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      Roy,

      I think you wrote this with the focus on the wrong thing. Nadine.
      I wouldn’t change the name of this story for anything. I knew a Nadine when I was in my twenties. She was quite a character. Lively, loud and energetic. Very different from the character in your story.

      This story’s got a fair number of clichés despite having your usual polish.

      ‘that unfortunate child.’ (What? Another one?)
      My aunt Gini, ‘God rest her soul,…’(Okay, I’ll give you this one.)
      The whole town turned out for the funeral… (Really? The whole town?) (Turns out this wasn’t a cliché either.)
      Even Bobby… ‘a typical boy’… (Typical? So he was a boyish boy?)
      A freak accident… (Those are the freakiest kinds.)

      A lot of these phrases don’t inform, they just take up space.
      Nah… I’m just messing with you Roy. Maybe one or two are clichés.

      I would get rid of the prompt line at the end. It isn’t needed and doesn’t work. Also, that line about the baby being born the next day is weird. You should’ve had Carrie fix that. You just delete, ‘as we found out the next day when Nicky was born.’

      The narration comes across as very casual, as if being told by a young person, who’s just retelling a tale to some friends. It’s very smooth.

      At the end, I didn’t feel like I knew much about Nadine though, her life, or even little Nicky’s, despite all the information you gave us, which, I’ll agree, doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know why, but it was as if there wasn’t really a main character. Which would have worked if you stated this was a story about a small town named ‘Gumption Falls’ or something. Because, really, this story was about the whole town, and her whole family. (See? It was no exaggeration, Ken. The whole town turned out for the funeral.) It was about more than just Nadine, I think. It was about life.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 10:30 am
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      I love the flow of this story Roy, it’s like we’re having coffee and you’re telling this story of your sister. You are always able to make your stories flow so wonderfully. I would agree with Ken C. that there are a few well-worn cliches in the story, but it still works. And that last line is totes unnecessary.

      This line here: ” There was even a reporter at the reception hoping for a story, when Nick Galardi asked for everyone’s attention.”

      Didn’t quite make sense to me, it seems as if you edited something to make it fit the word count. Still, nicely told story, and you made us feel for poor old Nadine. Good job my friend.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 4:58 am
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      Hi Roy,

      All the important men in Nadine’s life – her dad, brother, prospective husband – die in critical times, leaving her desolate, ill and in financial woes.

      Perhaps the heavy toll was some sort of fateful pre-indemnity to be paid for Nicky to finally come along, apparently healthy and lucky on the back of a very unfortunate male-line.

      In this sense, what strikes me most in this story is the game fate is playing with this family. I often look for something larger than life in stories (and in life itself!). Call it destiny. A puppeteer playing with our strings from somewhere up-high. A connection between us humans and the cosmic fabric. Whatever. Just something that makes more sense than our meagre day-by-day existence on this rock.

      Ok, I’ll come back down to my desk, now!

      The story has pathos, too, but it flows too quickly for us to assimilate too much with what happens to each unfortunate character. Except for Nadine, since she’s the one that stays on.

      The tragic events happen so rapidly in succession, like falling dominos, that there is an almost “comedic” effect. Not in the sense of being funny or slapstick, but in that “oh not again!” kinda thing. Not that this takes any of the tragic feel away; I just felt going up and down with Nadine’s rollercoaster life: every time things seem to look up, she immediately ends up in misery again in the next sentence.

      It works, though, for I expected the same to happen at the end. But, instead, you left us on that high note with Nadine’s optimism. Misdirection! Like others said, I’d stop with that last statement of hers. It’s, I think, the main takeaway from this story: life can be harsh, but all in all it’s our attitude to it that matters.

      Let me reply here to your question in the comment to my story, because the thread there has dried up – there’s no reply arrow!

      Do the characters take over my stories, sometimes?

      Well, it depends on whether I start with a strong character (based on someone I know or saw) or with a good plot. As I’m more of a plot person, it’s more often the latter. I pick out characters to do the things I want them to do in order for my plot to work.

      They are quite cardboard-like at first. In fact, in my first rough notes they are usually called X if it’s a guy or Y if it’s a gal. If I need more people X1, Y2, etc. or if its “Evil Character” E, the antagonist A, the other guy O… and so on. So impersonal, they don’t even have real names!

      As they get to talk and do things, express their feelings, strengths and especially weaknesses, I start to see them better. Names start coming (usually out of nowhere) and new character traits add on to make them more like real people. Sometimes the plot has to be dented here and there to fit their new personas.

      The dialogue has to be fixed to fit too.

      “We ain’t gonna get fokka’nothing outta that! I’d go to jail, you marked for life…Can’t undo what happened anyway!”

      But I’ve now decided that it was a priest who raped the child, not an alley punk… got to fix the words in his mouth…

      “That will not be of any good consequence for either of us, son. The parish will lose me, you will be frowned at…Let bygones be bygones.”

      That kind of thing.

      Sometimes, I end up feeling like I so much don’t know my characters that I lose my sense of eligibility to put words in their mouths or feelings in their hearts. That’s when I need to stop writing and continue another time.

      The eureka moments (character-wise but also plot-wise) usually come to me while I walk. I commute on foot every day, so there’s ample time for that. I sometimes walk longer than I need to, after arriving at my destination and if I have the time, if I’m in full swing with ideas pouring in. It’s a bit inconvenient, as I can’t really write while walking. And when I finally sit at my computer, the creative juices sort of come to a standstill. I sometimes stop a little, during my walks and type, at least a few notes or catchwords on my iPhone, so that I won’t lose those gems when I finally get to sit down.

      Another place of inspiration is while showering. Perhaps the negative ions of the flowing water also help the brain to loosen up. And that’s an even more inconvenient place! Yes, my iPhone is waterproof. But, no, I don’t really want it with me in the shower…

      Ken

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 6:23 am
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        “It would be a great day – he was thinking – then, he wasn’t thinking at all.”

        It doesn’t top Hemingway’s shortest-story-ever-written (what would?)… mere nine words longer… But here you’ve got a short short-story in its own right here, Roy… so much told in those few words.

        Reply
  • February 5, 2020 at 10:04 am
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    Gently Down the Stream
    (word count 1131)

    It was a hard time for most of us on the ship. Rudy had a toothache. Johnny had hiccups for weeks. Jean has been sick to his stomach ever since we launched. It’s been rough for everyone. But I jest.

    The really awful part is that we only get two shots out of the manacles each day. So one must hold one’s water as they say in the upper crusts (or so Jean tells me). The rowing isn’t so terrible, it’s just the monotony of it all. They discourage talking while we are rowing, but I’ve managed to work out a sort of staccato code with my seatmates. One grunt means yes, two grunts means no. A sniff is a vowel- we agreed to go in order ‘a-e-i-o-u’ with one sniff an a, two an e…well…you get the idea. The consonants were the hardest, but we first went with the letters we thought we’d use the most – L’s are fairly popular amongst us as it turns out. L’s are one huff of air forcefully exhaled through the mouth. R’s are another consonant we tend to like. R’s are two huffs of air. See, it isn’t hard, and we’ve got hours to practice. Communicating makes the time go faster.

    And that is why I’m communicating with you Dear Readers. For my writing practice, I’m taking up the edges of this bible with a scrap of coal I found in the deepest bowels of the ship. I don’t want to lose my abilities – I was once a schoolteacher. That is, until I fell into debt. Demon drink was my undoing. Well, that and a little snooker. OK, a lot of snooker. Debtors prison was hellish so would you believe I actually leapt at the chance to pay off my debts in this miserable fashion? Well, I’m better off than most of the men here – many are prisoners of war. Haven’t figured out Jean’s story yet. He sits on another row, so we don’t get the chance to do much conversating. I just have heard that he’s a fancypants. I have seen him get snooty with the food rations, so I reckon its true. I keep trying to conversate with him just before we’re locked into our night spots. Hasn’t worked yet, but I do believe this is a long journey so I believe I’ll have time later. Good night dear readers, I’ll try to keep this record up to date.

    Dear Readers, I heard from Johnny that Jean is planning to break us free from this hellhole of a ship. Jean seems to have some understanding of the ship’s itinerary and he believes we’ll be in port in a few days. Jean has asked that we all try to find – or make- weapons. I have not the foggiest idea how I’m to make a weapon out of my ragged clothing or sandals. I guess I could use a sandal as a sling and shoot off my coat buttons and bits of stray food, but I think that might annoy our jailors rather than cause any real damage. I’m a schoolteacher, not a fighter. I shall not fare well should it come to fisticuffs. Perhaps I can just stay in the back – shouting encouragement to the more raucous bunch on the front lines? Hmmm…we shall see…

    Well, dear readers, it turns out that most of our ragtag bunch of galley workers are much more clever than I am. In the brief time between locking into our rowers and locking into our night spots, Paul has managed to take an old manacle and break it into parts that will work as daggers. In the same timeframe Rudy took a piece of the floorboard and turned it into a stave of sorts. They all seem to have weapons. Paul has given me one of the daggers he produced and at night he taught me where to stab for best effect. I’m scared witless, as I do not think I have the strength of character to take another man’s life in full-on face-frontal combat. Actually, I do not think I could take another man’s life even at long distance combat. But at least I get to keep my sandals on my feet, and that is a blessing because I shall need them to protect my feet as we run off the ship into the new port. Which brings me to my next fear – how shall I get home? I have no money and no skills to speak of and cannot imagine how schoolteacher-ing would be useful in a foreign port. Although perhaps I could teach my native tongue to the heathens I meet. Oh well, another problem for another day, even if that day is drawing near very quickly.

    Dear Reader, it was awful! Blood and human parts strewn all over the ship. With Jean in charge, we attacked at the morning shift just prior to being placed in rowing manacles. Jean and my fellow galley-ists were perfectly horrible – screaming and yelling and wreaking havoc among the sailors and crew. I dare say that not a single sailor or regular crewman was left alive. I am embarrassed to admit that I sought refuge behind a barrel during the worst of it all. God knows how the people in the port didn’t react to the hullaballoo. I suppose it was because we hit so early in the morning just before the ship was due to dock. After the uprising proved successful, we rowed into the port and immediately left the ship before the local tax authorities could come to find us. This local city will have itself a new ship once it unloads the dead and decaying from its bowels.

    Now I shall have to find food, and shelter. At present I’m following Jean – he seems to speak the local language somehow and I suppose he is my best chance for survival. He doesn’t seem to mind too much and I think he appreciates that I am an educated man, just as he is. We’ll see how long our alliance shall last.

    ___________

    “That’s it,” said the antique store dealer. “The bible hasn’t got anything else in it, save a huge bloodstain through the first few pages of Revelations. It was 50 Euros, on account of the story, but I guess nobody wanted it because of the blood. It’s going in the rubbish bin unless I can find a taker.”

    “I”ll take it if its free,” I said.

    ___________

    And that, dear Readers, is how I came to find this strange tale. I hope it entertains you and finds many readers as I’m thinking the reprinting of it will help ease my debts…

    Reply
    • February 6, 2020 at 10:22 am
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      Enjoyed the story Trish! I wasn’t sure where it was going and was pleasantly surprised at the end. What a find! This could be a much longer story. I would love to find something like this and research to know more about the author of the tale and their fate. I love stories that leave me wanting to know more.

      This story is reminiscent of Anne Frank’s diary. Finds that relate to true events, reveal parts of history never before known. In fiction, you could take the story wherever you wanted using true history as a guide.

      I’m not sure you need the “Dear readers…” bit. If your character is writing in the margins of a Bible, there would not be much space and words would be at a premium. (I write notes from sermons in the margins of my Bible and space is tight.) He could state early that he is documenting his tale in the Bible for whatever his reasons, and go from there. Just a thought.

      Good work!

      Reply
      • February 6, 2020 at 10:28 am
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        Thanks, Adi. Roy wasn’t a big fan of the “Dear Readers” bit either. I was going for an old-timey feel for the piece when that sort of writing was in fashion. I guess it doesn’t wear well for today’s tastes, and you raise an excellent point about space considerations. Thank you for the feedback!

        Reply
    • February 6, 2020 at 10:43 pm
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      The first paragraph made me smile and I thought this was going to be a tale like a family camping trip with my two sons and their friends when they were teenagers…trips involving adventurers in camping and things going wrong creating the best memories but then your words took the turn into historical nightmare… but so interesting and horrific at the same.. kept my attention for sure… did you really find a bible with a story in an antique shop… have you done dna on the blood?

      Reply
      • February 7, 2020 at 8:14 am
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        Nope, Liz. It’s pure fiction. Thanks for the feedback!

        Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 3:55 am
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      Enjoyed reading your story, Ken
      You showed how war break up families, trust and have a long term impact on the mental state of surviving soldiers.

      Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 4:06 am
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      Enjoyed the story and the unusual take in telling the story.
      A reminder of how we’re in years gone by.

      Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 5:35 pm
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      Trish,
      Are you kidding me? This is FANTASTIC. This is Ben Hur, Indiana Jones and The Mummy all rolled into one. You should keep going with this, seriously. There’s some really good stuff in this. You gotta change the name though.

      Beautiful flow and rhythm to the writing, you paint such a detailed picture of a person, a time, and a place in history that, for all we know, it really existed.

      Your character is wonderfully ill-equipped for what he faces, but as a teacher, it’s natural that he would have the desire to keep a record of his travails.

      The description of the code, how the prisoners communicate, is a nifty means to convey the boredom, rigid rules, and it facilitates the means of mutiny. It could still be abbreviated.

      I didn’t concern myself with (or even notice) the details of where the scribing was located in the bible, assuming (irreverently and incorrectly) that the ancient scriber was writing right over the bible’s printed words. I think it would improve the story, it’s more believable. (Charcoal is a crude writing instrument. That’s why I thought…)

      Back when this story takes place, the only published work in general circulation would have been the bible, if that, and we don’t really know ‘when this story takes place.’ Which is great. That way, Andy can’t tell either one of us that this story is ‘technically’ unfeasible. No Andy, no you can’t. (Okay I shouldn’t have said that. Now Andy’s going to explain the timeline of the bible versus the development of Nordic Viking Longboats, and how their existence only overlaps by seven and a half years. So I suggest we just play it cool and let him get it out of his system and… I’ll just have one of these little cupcakes here. Mmmm, that’s good. Lemony. That’s actually very interesting Andy. A burnt shank of mutton started the first Peloponnesian War? Harmonicas were first introduced to Thessalonica by Pope Hanukah the Ninth? Who knew? Okay, so now we have a kind of backdrop to this story. Thanks, Andy.) I guess I was wrong about what Andy could or could not prove, Trish, but it doesn’t change a thing.

      We don’t know when this happened, or where. This could be the Western Mediterranean in 1020, or a place right around the corner from ‘Jason and the Argonauts.’ Or an alternate universe ruled by benevolent Cat Overlords. (These are all stories that Andy has already written, unfortunately.)

      My point is just that it’s believable and very entertaining.. The great writing makes it so.

      As for the ‘Dear Reader’. I think your instinct on this is good. (The idea of a heading for each entry of some kind.) But it doesn’t work, certainly not ‘Dear Reader.’ Something like it maybe, but more historically accurate. It’s probably best to lose it altogether except as a number or a date.

      The ending is cool too, where we learn that the story is ‘real’, was ‘discovered’ by chance, and is being ‘re-offered’ but… you’re missing out on a fabulous opportunity. So let me come back to that later.

      I think that the story is so entertaining it deserves a better ending.

      Would it be unthinkable to imagine (if you will) that the ancient ‘authorities’ (the guards) would be able to round up the escaped prisoners in short order? And the ship’s manifest reveals that only two prisoners are unaccounted for, Jean and the main character. Now what?

      Better yet, the ship’s manifest is off by one. The authorities grab Jean, but the MC intervenes and says, ‘I’m the missing sailor.’ So they release Jean and cart him, the narrator, back to the ship.

      He can’t explain or understand his altruistic act, but at least he still has his bible, and another piece of charcoal. When the boat pulls into the next harbor and they’re tying off the lines, he spots Jean on the wharf, despite a convincing disguise, and realizes he’s made the right decision. That could be the end, or chapter two in a much longer story. Trish. A much longer story. If you don’t do it, let me write chapter two. But then you’d have to write chapter three, and so on. Before you know it, we’d be married to your cat. I’d rather see you do it. Your writing is quite a bit better than mine. (But don’t say I didn’t offer.) It’s a great story, great premise, Christ, I wish I’d thought of it.

      This is why I love this so much.
      As for the aspect of this being a book, for sale, in the story—I like it, but it needs to be at the beginning, I think. Or better yet, You could elaborate on the books history, and sprinkle that history throughout the story, or from chapter to chapter. And I should think a book with this kind of history would be valuable if not cherished. So you’re making a mistake on that angle there. (I do that all the time. Make mistakes, not angles.) In this case, you’ve accidentally created something unique, ‘a blood-stained, charcoal inscribed bible with the story of an ancient teacher/slave who then becomes a fugitive in ancient Egypt or Carthage, or Morocco.’ Shit… that’s ten times better than anything Dan Brown dreamed up. (In his wildest dreams.) And if people say there were no bibles back then? You just point at them and say, very, very slowly… “Egg-zact-lee. Yer gittin’ it now, bubba.” And walk away.

      Reply
      • February 11, 2020 at 9:53 am
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        Thanks Ken, I really appreciate your feedback. You’ve given me loads of ideas to chew on, and I just might wrangle this into a longer piece. Thank you for your detailed critique. I really appreciate it. And apropos of nothing, back in the day when I used to write memos, I remember some wags who used to write “thanks for your fulsome advice” bc, they really were pissed and hoped the recipient wouldn’t know the real meaning of fulsome. (It does seem like it should mean detailed, doesn’t it?). At any rate, I do appreciate your advice very much. Keep smiling, Trish

        Reply
        • February 11, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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          Trish,

          I always thought fulsome meant complete, so yes, I guess that does sound detailed.

          No, I’m sure you realize I’m genuinely excited over your story and its potential. To the point of shamelessly asking you to let me collaborate with you. (Which we would both regret. And don’t forget the cat.) What shouldn’t get lost here is the quality of your writing. It’s… the best description that comes to mind is colorful. I could picture the sea, the boat, the oars, the filthy conditions, the manacles, the chains (did you even mention chains?) I know you didn’t mention rats.

          So, good writing.

          I’ve always found history fascinating, and recent technological advances have created a whole new field of forensic archaeology. It started with the Carbon-14 testing of the Shroud of Turin. Now, they’re able to identify the DNA of pre-historic people of the Americas tracing the ancestry of South American Indians and Polynesians back to the same original tribe in Eastern Siberia where they split up and went separate ways, ten thousand years ago. One group went south, to Australia, and then out into the Pacific and ended up on some isolated islands. (A dead end.) The other group discovered two new continents, traveling to Alaska, down through North America, Central America and South America. It was as if they knew the earth was round and if both groups kept going, they’d meet up again. But the span and the Prevailing Trade Winds prevented the Tahitians from going any further east. If they could’ve crossed that last stretch of ocean, they would’ve met up with their original tribal ancestors.

          Well, I’m sure you find this tremendously boring, if you’re not already asleep. I’m just saying, this is a good time to be into archaeology. Ancient cultures fascinate me. (All those words, to say so little.)

          You know, I was just thinking about writing styles a moment ago. When I said that yours is colorful. (At least in this piece.) I’ve been reading the work of some of the other writers for awhile now.

          This is just between you and me.

          Roy’s style is polished. He exemplifies the term wordsmith.
          Alice’s writing is beautiful, like a highly polished smooth black stone that reflects your image back at you, slightly altered.
          Ilana’s style is not so much colorful, as Vivid. Sometimes livid, or lurid. Never crude, but always vivid.
          Phil doesn’t have a style. He’s style-free. He did not take this observation gladly, but no slight is intended. His stories are always great, and memorable, to an extent that is much greater than he realizes.
          Adi’s style is also beautiful, but unlike Alice, Adi’s writing is coordinated to engage and entertain the reader through multiple sensory avenues at once, skipping from one to the other and back sometimes, it can have a musical quality.

          So you’re in good company with your colorful style.

          I feel qualified to make these characterizations because I’ve been reading their stories for five years. (They really owe me. It took a lot of stamina sometimes.) But it was probably worth it. At least I’m more patient than I used to be.

          Just wanted you to know I like your writing style and was not at all fulsomizing.

          Reply
          • February 11, 2020 at 3:23 pm
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            Well thank you Ken. I really was quite appreciative of your close review & suggestions for my story. In telling my snippet of memos from my past, I was trying to riff on what random thoughts came into my head. I honestly wasn’t making reference to your critique, would never to that to any critic. I’m grateful for input! Now as to collaborating on a book, you know I’ve never done that and have no idea how it works, but if you are serious- heck let’s try it!

          • February 12, 2020 at 4:06 pm
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            Ken, I loved the way you described my style of writing! You made my day. Thanks!!

            Sending love and big hugs (and the check is in the mail!)

            Adi

    • February 12, 2020 at 10:48 am
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      Trish, I really enjoyed this story! It had an old classic movie feel, I could see Errol Flynn in the lead role. I thought a very clever use of the prompt, great flow, and you managed to give all these characters such depth in a very short span of time. I happened to enjoy the use of “Dear Reader,” gave the story a bit of whimsy that added levity to a dire situation. And then the ending…loved it! What a great job!

      Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 6:15 am
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      Hi Trish,

      The story grew on me as I read on. At first, the long chunky paragraphs sort of discouraged me – stories with lots of dialogues and the resulting white breathing space are sort of more inviting to me. But as I read on, I slipped onto the edge of my chair (I’m reading this in the office, while on duty – shhh!) drawing myself closer to the screen, interest rising. The vivid wording made up for the heavy chunks of writing… and then the story began…

      Truth be told, the story, for me, really started with the following:

      “I heard from Johnny that Jean is planning to break us free from this hellhole of a ship. Jean seems to have some understanding of the ship’s itinerary and he believes we’ll be in port in a few days. Jean has asked that we all try to find – or make- weapons.”

      (that’s when I slipped further to the front of my seat, nearly slipped off completely…I could have hurt myself, do you realize?)

      I believe that that was the fourth paragraph already. The first three weren’t completely lost on me, and they contain important backstory (and nicely told too).

      And I wouldn’t apply what is now called “The Andy Lake Principle” of cutting out the first paragraph or two of a story (which is/are often redundant). Maybe you already did that with your first draft. What you wrote is all to remain, but I would have started with the (call for) action first (the fourth paragraph) and then fill in the backstory along the way.

      There is actually already a great deal of backstory in that call to action sentence or two: Jean-break free-hellhole of a ship-port-find/make weapons.

      I have mixed feelings about the dear reader thingy. I wouldn’t do it, myself. I’d keep the reader (and the writer) transparent enough, for the story itself to shine through. In this particular case, it isn’t even clear that the narrator is writing for a reader – I think it’s more for himself to stay sane, less bored and keep practicing the skill of writing (which you also say).

      But then, it’s a matter of style, and it does give that “historical feel” in some way. And you wanted to attach it to the final “Dear Reader” to make us doubt if the whole thing was after all some kind of money-spinning forgery. (Btw, I didn’t get that from the story, only from your comment – so perhaps more subtle clues need to be embedded if you want the reader to go down that road).

      As others have said, this could be a much longer tale, with chapters and sequels.

      What if the narrator wanted to send some cryptic message through his writing?

      What if the narration of the story on that bible was only a cover for something else written between the lines?

      Or if his words intermingle with the printed words on the actual bible to give new meanings to what he says? And perhaps to what the Bible itself says? (that would be big!)

      Someone in his own times, or in ours, finds out what the cryptic messages mean – and oh my good Lord, did he really mean that?

      Hints to a treasure hidden somewhere if it’s a story for kids, hints to a philosphical/political/religious message if it’s for adults…

      Ok some food for thought… there’s great potential when one finds a book with notes handwritten in its margins. Fascinating stuff, really.

      Ken

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 8:42 am
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        Ken- I love the plot lines you suggest. Thanks, you’ve given me much food for thought!

        Reply
  • February 5, 2020 at 10:42 am
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    Nicely told tale, Trish. One that leaves this ‘dear reader’ to believe it could (should?) be expanded so more can be found out about Jean and the narrator. Just one thing, I would leave the Dear Readers in the last paragraph out. It isn’t needed, and it also leads one to believe the narrator of the tale and the writer of the words in the bible are one and the same.

    Dear Reader itself is perfectly fine (with me) in the rest of the story as no less an authority than Stephen King, whom I consider a superb writer – he has his critics – certainly not me – does it. If he can do it, I can certainly do it. I had a couple of beta readers tell me a few years ago my writing would be better if I left that sort of thing out of my works, because no ‘real’ author’ who is making any money would do such a thing. I sent them several excerpts of King’s work and they said, “Well, that’s different, although when pressed, they couldn’t tell me why they thought that was different.

    Roy York

    Reply
    • February 6, 2020 at 10:35 am
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      Roy thank you for the feedback. By putting the “Dear Reader” at the end, combined with the comment about debts, I was trying to draw allusions to the manacled author of the first section to raise doubts in readers’ minds as to whether the Bible’s “purchaser” had engineered the whole margins-of-the-BIble story. Sounds like I’ll have to rework it if I want that to come through more strongly. I appreciate your comments that the other “Dear Readers” bits weren’t so bothersome, and perhaps I’ll exaggerate a bit and tell my husband that in one of the critiques my story was compared to Stephen King’s work. (Ha!) In all seriousness, thank you for the feedback!

      Reply
      • February 8, 2020 at 5:34 am
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        I liked the pace and ending of this story. Well done.

        Reply
        • February 13, 2020 at 6:18 am
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          (Trish, I wrote you a comment, but you’d need to look for it further up – it didn’t come at the bottom of your story-thread, for whatever reason)

          Reply
  • February 6, 2020 at 12:47 pm
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    Hard Resignation by Liz Fisher

    So Tuesday the guy in the Oval Office (GITOO) gave his State of the Union message to the Nation and to everyone’s surprise he announced his impending resignation as President.  He said he chose this option to spare his family and to spend more time with his children, especially Ethan and Talia who have been mostly shuttled aside from White House activities.

    The GITOO admitted it’s been “a hard time for most of us” . He continued saying he thinks Jahn has been doing all right having the opportunity to be a real Jew and Iris has increased her net worth demonstrating her ability to seize an opportunity and prosper.

    Then GITOO got a little side tracked riffing on how much he enjoyed State of the Union, as he wasn’t asked questions or bothered by the Press during the speech and he loved not being questioned.

    It did seem odd that Marilee seemed a little subdued, I asked someone who seems to know…and he said it’s pretty clear Marilee is reviewing the prenuptial agreement she had signed which included no other women in GITOO’s life during his potential Presidential life, now that he was no longer going to be the GITOO, that clause would be null. The one who knows said she shouldn’t worry as she had a competent STD physician on contract.

    It probably would be a good idea for her to return to Russia with her child and forget this chapter in her career. I know it’s been hard times for her but life will get better after she extricates herself… hopefully the whole nation realizes this (the resignation) is a good thing.

    GITOO said he realized Medicare for all is a good idea and a simple solution for an issue that has long been plaguing the nation. It would be paid for through taxes and contributions through payroll deductions and those unable to work or find employment would be enrolled in a Citizens Core and assigned jobs based on their abilities and at the same time learning trades skills and access to internships to assist finding gainful employment. It did sound a little Socialistic.

    GITOO eased that idea by saying, “as a wealthy elephant I didn’t quite understand government’s role in society, but it suddenly became very clear to me.” GITOO continued saying “our government was established for the people to prosper and have access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So what better way than assure basic necessities like health care is there for everyone and then you can focus on buying a sporty car or vacation trips to Mar A Lago.“

    Those last four words gave me a start as it took me back to the self involved, greedy, money, power hungry, mean, vicious, hateful, awful gitoo.. he doesn’t really deserve capital letters.

    The sudden “start” made me realize there was a voice droning on in the background.. a voice saying “I’ve done things wrong in my life…I’ve done things wrong ..and this is how it ended up..”

    I opened my eyes to see gitoo on my television talking to a cheering crowd.. an NBC Special Report “President Trump remarks following Senate Impeachment Acquittal”… his remarks sure are “special”…. wait a minute didn’t he say he was resigning during the SOU… I said it out loud to myself…

    Beth said, “what are you talking about… you’ve been twitching around and muttering all through your nap.”

    I didn’t even know Beth was in the room, but then I realized it had all been a dream and being brought back to reality, realized we’re still in the midst our long nation nightmare and it’s going to be hard times for humanity and our planet. 😢

    Reply
    • February 7, 2020 at 9:39 am
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      Liz, fun story! I particularly liked the title of GITOO.

      Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 4:15 am
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      A great rant, Liz . Unfortunelately, it was just a wishful thought in the subconscious, that was just a dream
      I am with you in that trail of thoughts.

      Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 11:52 am
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      Liz,

      I don’t know, this reads a little like a long, funny, complicated post-card. What confused me was that you used a fictitious acronym for the POTUS, (GITOO) and a fictitious name for his wife, or was it the Vice President, and then you used the current President’s real name. You switched from a hypothetical to a real world scenario in the middle of the scenario. I don’t think you meant to do that because it seems pretty obvious that you’d want to pick one approach and stick with it.

      I got the impression that you were dissatisfied with the Presidents performance, but not why. (Not that I need any reasons from anybody) I just think the story needed it, even if comically. Some specific final straw, or deal breaker.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 12:10 am
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        Liz,
        I re-read your story, and see now that it was a dream, this was why you changed all the names. When the character woke up, she was back in the real world, with the real President. I get it. It’s a dream spoof satire. However, you did not use the prompt in the first sentence.

        YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

        Oops, sorry. Wrong metaphor. ‘No tickee, no laundry.’

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 11:02 am
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      A fun story Liz, you did a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the main character’s dream. And I loved the GITOO acronym you used. This was a funny story, and lighthearted as well, considering your character’s dissatisfaction with the president. It’s hard to rant in a story and make it so enjoyable, that’s just good writing. You didn’t use the prompt at the beginning, but I think we all can forgive you 🙂

      Just one thing: You used the word “Seem” way too much in this sentence: “It did seem odd that Marilee seemed a little subdued, I asked someone who seems to know”

      You could’ve wrote: “It did seem odd that Marilee was a little subdued, I asked someone who should know…”

      Just something that took me out of the story a bit, other than that, good job!

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 12:35 pm
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        Thanks Alice, I missed it… sometimes it seems like I do use a word as often as I can deliberately but this time it was an inadvertent meander into repetition.

        Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 9:14 am
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      Hi Liz,

      We have stories, here, and especially in this prompt, from ancient times, to others well fast-forwarded into the future. You bring us back to the present “hard times” and made me wonder how not so much fiction has yet been written about the Trumpian world. Perhaps, because reality is already intriguing enough as it is. Stranger than fiction, as they say. We lost our magnetic North in what we hear in the news these days.

      I mean if one wrote Trump’s real story as a piece of pure fiction, it would have got lambasted as exaggerated, stretched, illogical. Not good fiction, in short. When all is said and done, perhaps we’ll find our feet again and there’ll be more stuff to be written about these crazy times, like we have from other interesting periods like the Kennedy or Nixon-Vietnam eras. We’ll see. You’re a pioneer in this field 🙂

      The story is funny in the way it satirizes the President, his impact on his family, his detour-filled way of speaking. It’s not easy, for the real thing seems to be a satire of itself.

      As an aside from your story, I personally have two views on Trump:

      1) Awful and vicious both as a person and in the way he carries out his duties and puts in motion his large facehole.

      2) The man who (almost) singlehandedly shattered the holy-cow of the socio-politico-cultural-establishment. That politburo of elites that for at least two generations ruled the country as if by entitlement and in turn heavily influenced the rest of the Free World with their pervasive liberal, politically-correct, urbane, progressive, whitewashed worldview that, no, I’m afraid hasn’t served everyone very well. The heavy toll of political correctness made us all afraid of one another. A man can’t speak to a child or he’d be branded pedophile (remember my Reggie?). We’ve attacked plastic drinking straws to save the planet, instead of the gas-guzzlers, the greedy factories and the meat industry. I try to reflect on these ironies of nowadays in some of my stories, whether through the eyes of a man trying to help a child and gets beaten up for it or through the eyes of sidelined dung beetles trying to make a crappy living. Anyway, what I’m saying is that although we made progress and minorities/former underdogs have gained power and respect (which is a good thing), we lost a lot of our traditional time-tested values along the way, like roles in the family, true success vs success-by-entitlement, and so on. Trump won’t bring these traditional values back for us (not him of all people!), but he brought about the change from the top (and apparently across the board) that may make a new start possible (a world in which nothing is to be taken for granted). Eventually. After much hurt and grief. After all the hidden divisions have come out in the open for all to see and deal with. Maybe even a war. There’s always a price-tag for real change.

      What I said just now might not be at the back (or front) of the mind of the masses voting for Trump. But I (trying to be as optimistic as ever!) I see some gain from all this pain and mayhem, in the medium or long term…

      Just sayin’…

      Ken

      Reply
    • February 7, 2020 at 7:42 am
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      No need to apologise, I loved it. A long national nightmare indeed. No matter which side of The Great Divide one is on, we are all a part of this ongoing saga of hate and decisiveness. Good story, Liz.

      Reply
  • February 6, 2020 at 4:12 pm
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    The Perfect House Call.
    Word count – 1197.
    K. Cartisano

    It was a hard time for most of us…on both sides, so I was receptive to the enemy invitation for a clandestine meeting. Especially since the request came from a distant cousin, a second Lieutenant named Rafe Sutter.

    We met just along the tree line on a hill overlooking my regiment’s encampment. A fallen old Chestnut tree was our rendezvous point. We shook hands, sat on the ground and used the tree as a backrest. This afforded us a prime view of the countryside as dusk gave way to darkness. The autumn air was brisk, and the tantalizing aroma of slow-roasted pig wafted over the entire valley.

    He sniffed the air. “Gawd, that smells good.”

    I barely recognized him. His features were drawn, no more chubby cheeks, and there was a haunted look in his eye. But what could I say? I couldn’t feed him unless he wanted to surrender, and Lord, to this day I don’t know how he could resist it.

    I pulled out a bent and badly rolled cigarette. “What’s on your mind, Lieutenant?”

    “Just call me Rafe, Major Millun.” From inside his jacket he pulled a small bundle, wrapped in dirty linen and handed it to me. Inside the cloth were a few photographs, a pocket knife, some tools… a whistle. I rolled it all back up and set it on the ground next to me. “Thanks. Just call me Lyle, Rafe.”

    He said, “That’s all I could get. Sorry. It was a military operation. They were looking for intel.”

    “They think I’m a spy, huh? And yet, here you are.”

    “It’s a crock, Lyle, they know you’re no spy, and my superiors have no idea I’m meeting you. This is a rogue operation. I saw Mrs. Millun a few weeks ago. She says Buster’s doing fine.”

    Buster, my dog, and June Millun, the best of women. “She say anything else?”

    “She said he seems confident that you’ll come back for him eventually.”

    I felt a sudden lump in my throat. “How’s she holding up? They still treating sympathizers like second class citizens?”

    “They don’t, we don’t treat people like second class citizens, Lyle.”

    “What do you call ransacking my goddamned house, a welcoming committee?”

    “I think they wanted to make an example of you, Lyle. I know it isn’t fair, but there wasn’t much I could do.”

    “Sure, I’m sure.” I said.

    As cousins go, we weren’t that close. But we weren’t strangers. We used to talk about the weather mostly, our cars, our wives. I remember praising him once for his reason and intellect. He was a changed man.

    “There’s a lot of stress, Lyle. Tension between the troops and the townspeople,” he said. “A lot of shortages, of necessities. We’re starving, slowly. It’s a hard thing what you’re doing to us.” As if it was me, personally. It was the blockade.

    ‘Can’t eat them bullets,’ I thought, but instead said, “Maybe General Trash-talk will throw in the towel.”

    I was grateful to Rafe for the news of my dog and woman, and the rules of engagement guaranteed his safe passage back to enemy lines, which I was prepared to honor. But fate had given me information that could save his life.

    I happened to know that his Generals were leading their main corps right into a military trap. A large ‘Blue’ army stood directly in their path to the west, three battalions of mobile cavalry were deployed to their north, an impenetrable swamp corralled them from the south, while General D. ‘Justice’ Hammer was poised to close the back door on the ‘Reds’ in a matter of days.

    Unfortunately for Rafe, I was not at liberty to share that information.

    I pulled a flask out of my breast pocket and offered him a swig. I leaned in close after taking one myself. “I’ve got a bad, bad feeling about this upcoming skirmish, Rafe. Have you seen your mother lately?”

    “She’s not doing well,” he said, “…not since you scoundrels shipped us that colossal gas bomb.”

    I frowned. “That wasn’t us, Rafe. Was she near it? What happened? Is she… Is she ill?”

    “No. She’s just heartsick is all. She lost some friends—it’s a hell of a way to go.”

    Our intel indicated it was a primitive mustard gas attack, a cruel and illegal weapon.

    “Rafe,” I said. “Rafe…” He looked up. “We didn’t ship that bomb, Rafe.”

    He seemed willing to accept that, but then he said, “Well, it wasn’t ours either, obviously, so, I don’t know…”

    Obviously?

    “Wait.” I blinked. “You don’t know? That wasn’t our bomb, Rafe. Maybe it was accidental, I can’t say, but your leadership is blaming it on us and we had nothing to do with it. Our sources say you bombed your own people.”

    “That’s not true,” he said. “That’s propaganda. Nobody believes that.”

    “That’s not propaganda Rafe, that’s logic. There are only two sides. If somebody puts a big hole in the ground and you can eliminate one of the principals, the conclusion is pretty obvious. At least, it is to us.”

    “There’s no proof of that,” he said.

    “Why don’t you go and visit your mother, Rafe. Give yourself a three-day pass. Believe me, you won’t regret it.”

    He just stared at me, chewing his lower lip.

    It occurred to me that my cousin Rafe’s best chance to avoid death or maiming, was for me to take him into custody right now… At least I could guarantee him a decent meal. Maybe save his life, and his mother a lot of heartache.

    I rose to my feet, brushing leaves from my pants, but it was too late. He was thinking along similar lines and I found myself staring at the business end of a charged taser, a stun-gun. “Sorry,” he said. “I can’t let you follow me back to my camp.”

    “Don’t be stupid, Rafe,” I told him. We already knew where his camp was. “You’ve been lied to, Rafe. Give me the taser. We’ll go have a hot meal.”

    “I don’t agree with everything the Generals do, Lyle, but I support the cause. Can you understand that?”

    “What cause?” I said.

    “Liberty from injustice.”

    “How will any of this, change that?”

    Rafe relaxed some. “We don’t have time to go into that right now.”

    “I do,’ I said, looking at the taser. “Let’s talk about it.”

    “Horse shit,” he said, leveling the weapon at my chest. “You’re all liars. Not a one of you can be trusted.”

    “Rafe, listen…”

    I felt the prongs hit me, heard the telltale clicking sound as the taser discharged, and remember the smell of dirt as I lay on the ground, immobilized for at least ten minutes. When I recovered enough strength to sit up, he was long gone.

    I looked him up after the war. His mother was bitter and resentful, even hateful, but not Rafe. He was glad to see me. Until I told him what his wonderful compatriots did to my dog, and my woman, as if they had them confused. I called his obdurate mother into the room and shot her first. At least I was merciful.

    Reply
    • February 6, 2020 at 11:00 pm
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      Ken C — So this story the first time I kind of scanned through and thought it was a Confederate Civil War old time history then I read it again and the car, tazer were clues this must be our future and the red elephants and blue donkeys….thinking about how bad the division is going to be and will we really be hungry…I can’t say I liked the story but then I kept reading…kinda like when you can’t stand a character in a movie but understand the actor is excellent to be able to convey that feeling… so good story but why did you have to kill the mother and son at the end…so much gun violence… I’m sorry about Buster the only innocent..

      Reply
    • February 7, 2020 at 7:58 am
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      Great line about how they treated his wife and dog as if they had them confused. It was a bright light in a dismal, yet, well written story. Honestly didn’t like how it ended, as I thought they should share a bottle of good Tennessee whiskey, instead of carrying old grudges.

      It’s an insight to the current wars going on in the Middle East. Their grudges go back thousands of years, while the young, comparitively, United States makes friends and partners with theirs,. Germany, Japan and Vietnam come to mind.

      Good story, Ken, you made me think.

      Reply
      • February 9, 2020 at 10:20 pm
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        Hi Roy,

        Regarding my ‘dismal’ story. If you think it’s dismal now, you should have seen the eighth draft.
        I’m not kidding.

        Regarding a different ending. I also wanted them to be reconciled. (Rafe and Lyle.) I really DID. Hell, they didn’t even dislike one another. I regret that I couldn’t come up with a more upbeat ending.

        But it felt really good to kill ‘em. They was itchin’ ta be kilt. So I d-d-d-dit-it. Now I stutter. But I d-d-d-d-d-don’t re-re-re-re-re- feel sorry one bit.

        You mention old grudges. I can’t believe you’ve mistaken old grudges for fresh new revenge.
        They’re two completely different things. GUILTY! I sentence you to read my story again. TWICE! Bailiff. Help this man into the alley. And don’t be gentle.
        Next case.

        As for the historical references you offered. Nam, Japs, Germs. Your examples are rather one-sided, as the countries you cited all lost to us, and we were very generous winners. Most of the victorious parties throughout history occupy what they invade. The Germans, the Gaul, the Huns, the Saxons, the Anglo-Saxons, the Anglo-Saxonettes, the Germans, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Hittites, The Miracles, The Boxtops, the Assyrians, the Sassafrassians, the Mousekateers, just to name a few. When they came, they stayed.

        Every rule has exceptions though, the American Indians, the Mongols (sort of) and the Danes. And the Americans. That’s my theory. Stickin’ with it.

        And my point, Roy, doesn’t matter, ‘cause neither of us can remember what the %$# it was. (If there was one.)

        Dammit. I do remember. The ending. I intended an upbeat ending. I think I started with a lot more scenery, and cut that away (at Kim’s insistence) till it was mostly the two characters, but in one of the last drafts I added the peripheral characters, the wife and the dog, and considered their fate as well as the mother’s. And it became clear that, even though they were barely mentioned, their stories affected the actions of the main characters. (I’m trying to think if that’s common or not.)

        Reply
        • February 11, 2020 at 2:08 pm
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          i wish to change my vote regarding it being a dismal story. The story itself wasn’t dismal until I got to the end. I would have liked to have seen a different ending. But, that’s your choice. Not mine.

          I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I once went to hear Stephen R. Donaldson talk. He of ‘The 1st and 2nd Chronicles of Thomas Covenant’ fame. After his talk, there was a question and answer session and one of the people there got all indignant and went Stephen King ‘Misery’ on him for killing off one of his characters. Really indignant. Donaldson sat there for a moment thinking, then said, “One of the nice things about being an author is the characters are yours to do with as you please. So, my advice is, become an author and you can create your own characters and kill them or save them or do whatever you want with them. My characters are mine and I choose to kill them off as I see fit. I hadn’t read or seen ‘Misery’ at that point, or I might have pointed out to Donaldson to make sure he had security go with him to his car.

          Reply
          • February 11, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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            Loved Stephen Donaldson’s books, but I swear they had different titles when I read the Thomas Covenant series. (But then again, Wikipedia tells me there are ten books in the series and I could swear there were only three.). I’ll have to re-read them. My latest joy was finding Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy- he managed to have his main character imitate Churchill’s famous never surrender speech and threw in a heap of subtly witty philosophizing- all in a young adult fantasy book trilogy. Great stuff!

          • February 11, 2020 at 6:28 pm
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            Trish, they are indeed two separate trilogies, but perhaps were broken up later by a different publisher. I have all six books signed by the author. I just checked.

            They were my children’s intro to fantasy and two of them (I have three) stayed in their room binge reading until they finished them. They LOVED them. I was so proud. The other child wasn’t interested. But she is an avid reader. Got her mom’s genes, I suppose. My wife is a reader, but no Fantasy or Scifi. I think I shall reread them. I loved the series and need a fantasy diversion at the moment..

          • February 12, 2020 at 1:19 am
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            Roy,

            I’m not familiar with that author, or the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I may give it a whirl, although I’ve got six books lying around, all waiting to be read. I just finished something called “The Bean Trees’ by Barbara Kingsolver. A short, easy read. Highly recommended reading for Republicans. (I dare you to read it.)

            I was not offended by the ‘dismal’ remark, Roy, as I understood it. Nothing cheerful about a civil war, past or future.

            As for killing our characters, even in that respect I sometimes feel a bit of predestination. Sometimes the story and the characters determine the outcome. It’s rare, but it happens.

    • February 7, 2020 at 9:45 am
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      Ken, great plot, terrific dialogue, and wickedly intriguing characters. The taser shot deliciously surprised me, and I loved the way you worded the ending. Great story!

      Reply
      • February 9, 2020 at 10:40 pm
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        Thanks Trish,
        Glad you liked it.
        I may as well warn you here that I liked your story very much and had a lot to say about it. I just haven’t posted it yet.

        Reply
    • February 7, 2020 at 11:11 am
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      Powerful story Ken.

      I, too, thought it was a civil war story until the taser was brought in. I hate war – all wars – but especially those that pit brother against brother, cousins against cousins, fathers against sons, etc. Here, a family (albeit extended family), was destroyed by hate from fighting for opposing sides.

      The hate I understand, having watched our country over the past few years. I have never seen a president so vilified as ours has been and so much vile hatred spewed by the media. It’s no wonder that the young adults in America feel entitled to do and say whatever they want when they have such pitiful, yet powerful “role models” in congress and the senate acting like spoiled children. There have been past presidents that I did not like or respect; BUT, I respected the office and the hard job they had in trying to keep the country going. I avoid talk of politics because of the extreme views of so many people and the corrupt mainstream media. I am, however, very fearful of the future for my grandchildren. Ok, mild rant over.

      Anyway, I enjoyed the story and it kept my attention to the very end. While I wasn’t happy about Rafe and his mother dying, I understood it. Based on the underlying emotions you portrayed so well in your story and dialogue, I understood why Lyle took the actions he did in the end.

      It made me think. How does a family let go of the rage and emotions tied to war? The psychological damage and emotional reactions would influence their actions for some time. Look at all of the soldiers returning home with PTSD. I have been friends with one family for years. He was a Vietnam vet injured in battle and lost his leg. The nurse who cared for him and his injuries became his wife. They have been married for many years and have 3 beautiful, grown daughters and grandchildren. He has a had a productive life but he still wakes some nights from recurring nightmares from the war. Your story is a good illustration of the deeper damage from war.

      Good story!

      Adi

      Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 10:18 am
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      Nicely written, loved it, Ken! It certainly has a Civil War feel (the one that passed, not the one coming). The tree line, the encampment, the fallen oak tree, your mention of cavalry… But then cars, a taser, come in. This is not the 19th Century, after all. Might come across as a little confusing for a mere moment, but I like the comparison you bring in between the two events in history – between which we’re now living – like they are one and the same story lived again, as history repeats itself.

      I won’t get lost in the morality of the story. Of course, we all agree war is awful, especially if fought between people of same kin. Or on whether Lyle was justified in what he did at the end of the story. He certainly wasn’t on moral grounds, but you’re telling us about the bubbling emotions that must have arisen in him by the time the war was over. And you do it well enough that I think most readers can understand and somewhat relate to his actions and his need to seek vengeance.

      There’s tense irony throughout the whole piece as the two men seek to reignite their old shallow friendship, deepen it perhaps, but are barred from doing so by the external circumstances. Still they had a personal choice to make, though, if they wanted to. I like the fine balance you created there. It could have gone either way. Or in a variety of different ways. That smell of pork nearly changed the course of the story. But Rafe resisted it. Too bad. A pig sacrificed its dear life for nothing.

      The dialogue and the language style is superb, Ken. Clear, realistic and fresh at the same time. But I say something like that almost every time I comment on your stories! What can I do? You never disappoint me on that front! Sometimes (not often) your plot didn’t work quite well with me, like your story for the other prompt of last week, but there’s always something striking about how you write. For me it’s also a learning experience.

      The Civil War 2 idea you sort of bring up here may soon become a popular theme, especially given the deep divisions that have been laid bare in the US over the past few years. The elephant in the room that now everyone is finally talking about. What if a war is really around the corner? Us writers ought to be writing about it, right? And perhaps our forewarnings will avoid it… (Although that rarely ever happens. Men with guns don’t often listen to men with pens. Alas.)

      It was about slavery the other time. What could it be about now? There’s a division-line about almost everything. And quite a clean line, cross-cutting various issues.

      I’m thinking of something, a story, along the lines of the Abortionists vs the Anti-Abortionists. But how can the Anti-Abortionists justify their war kills, then? Murder is always murder, ain’t it?

      Or Gun-Ownership-lobbyists against Anti-Gun-Ownership-lobbyist. But what are the Anti-Gun people going to fight their war with? Stones?

      The Climate-People against the Climate-WTF-People. But the Climate-People can’t, certainly, fire too many bullets. It would be bad for the ozone layer.

      The Me-Tooers against the Just-Fuck-The-Shut-Upers. Oh these will fight, earnestly! Guaranteed spectacle there. Historians of the future will be baffled.

      Anyway, it’s interesting times, we’re living in…

      Hmmm, looks like I found your story inspiring too, Ken, as you can see.

      Btw thanks for your glowing commentary on my story “The End of Forever” (war, there, too!). I wrote a longish reply to your comment, but you’ve got to look well for it – it decided to go wherever it wanted to. Below Chitra’s comment and my reply to her, I think. Anyway, it’s there somewhere. Search and you shall find 🙂

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 11:34 am
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      I liked the feel of this story, it had a gloom over it from the beginning that gave the story this underlying feeling that something awful was about to happen. The characterization felt real, and showed the ugliness of war.

      But I found some of the dialogue hard to follow, and had to go back and re-read parts to see which person was talking.

      And some things confused me. For instance initially Lyle says, “I barely recognized him,” giving the impression that they knew each other. But when the two meet, Rafe tells Lyle to call him by his first name, as if Lyle doesn’t know him at all, then later you say their cousins.

      Also, the end was quite abrupt,it seems odd because it comes out of nowhere. Maybe extend the ending leading up to the killing of Rafe and his mom, and remove some of the moments between Rafe and Lyle.

      Still, there was a lot good here, and I could see this as a longer story.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 5:26 pm
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        Well thank ye kindly ma’am. You being Alice. I see your point about the sudden ending. In review, I see where a few extra sentences toward the end could clarify the ‘ultimate’ ending.

        As for the names. I probably should take your advice on that as well. What I was thinking when I wrote it was, simply to portray the normal protocol of addressing each other formally because they were both in uniform. That would be easy to accomplish, but for the accursed word count. Thanks for the feedback Alice.

        I enjoyed your story for its skillful writing, as usual, and will confine further comments to the thread below it where I intend to leave my comments on it. I just haven’t done it yet. Glad to see that you’ve got the time to conjure up your magic storytelling skills.

        Toodles.

        Reply
  • February 8, 2020 at 5:50 am
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    Great story Ken. Really liked it even though I was not happy with Rafe and his mother’s fate. As Adi has put it so well, it is brilliant. Great dialogue.

    I must say, I am glad I am not American. The childishness that pervades the USA politics must be horrifying for many. As a commentator Ben Shapiro says, Trump is just being Trump and he is very outspoken and opinionated but he is what you see and even if you do not like him, he is still the President and holder of the highest office of the land. There are political leaders I do not like, but I will still act with dignity and respect if I have the occasion to meet one. Does not matter which side of the political divide they fall on, respect is a given.
    Nancy Pelosi looked kind of like a spoilt little girl and I am sorry, but it was laughable. She did not respect her office by doing what she did. We expect more of a person who holds the office of speaker of the house. I think Trump should have taken her hand and given it a squishy squeeze. He does not have to sink down to the level of the Democrats and I am sorry and will apologise in advance if you are a decent polite democrat. Trump is a fighter however and perhaps for the USA is a good thing. He believes in the USA and again that is a good thing. He does not do himself favours by going on about his enemies and he should rise above vindictiveness and revenge. Forgiveness is a great trait and a noble one. Trump needs to remember that.

    Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 10:23 am
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        (I’ve just written a comment about your story, Ken C. – and where does it go? Somewhere cosily nestled further up from here between other older comments…You gotta look for it! (it’s mostly positive, no worries!). I can’t get how this WordPress logic really works… Now, I’m going to press Post Comment for this one. It should come at the bottom of your story-thread, like the other one should have. But it may as well end up on Andromeda… Here comes…Go!)

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 5:14 pm
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      Carrie.

      Wow, I hope the motherland will see fit to reward you when your mission is completed, comrad Zylkster.

      As for Trump and your amazingly misinformed claims: I’ve reviewed them and added relevant comments. I hope you see this for what it is, a rebuttal to your list of personal and dubious reasons for supporting Donald J. Trump.
      Your point.
      (My response.)

      ‘He’s exactly what America needs,’
      (America needs global humiliation? Since when?)

      ‘He’s brutally honest…’
      (He lies about everything, in front of everyone. Where on earth have you been? He’s not honest, he’s just crude. Hell, anyone can be crude.)

      ‘His behavior ruffles so many feathers, which cracks me up…’
      (Actually, his behavior gets people thrown in jail, fired, prosecuted and bankrupted. You find that amusing?)

      ‘We all say… and do stupid stuff…’
      (Yeah, but WE ALL did not run for the Office of the goddamned President of The United States. The President should reflect our better selves, not amplify our natural, innate stupidity. Which seems to be spreading since he was elected.)

      ‘He doesn’t act like a career politician.’
      (That’s for sure, or even a human one. I would settle for someone who knew what they were doing.)

      ‘Pelosi is just above and beyond.’
      (Above and beyond what? This statement appears to originate from someone who knows little about English grammar. That does not describe you, so perhaps someone else created this list for you. Pelosi is the third highest ranking elected official in the country and Speaker of The House of Representatives. If Trump and Pence go missing, she becomes the President, of the United States. As Speaker of The House, her power is independent of, but equal to the power of the President of The United States as dictated by the Constitution. It does not put her above and beyond, it gives her separate but equal status.)

      Pelosi showboats ‘at the expense of our tax dollars.’ (Pelosi isn’t showboating. Tearing up Trump’s speech was a symbolic response to what he, and she both know he’s doing, tearing up the Constitution: Undermining our institutions. Showboating is when you stand in front of your multi-million-dollar helicopter and shout bullshit answers at cowed reporters. What does that cost the taxpayers? That’s showboating taken to the extreme.)

      (Pelosi stands in a briefing room with a dais and a microphone. That’s what Presidents used to do: hold press conferences. Not conduct shouting matches over the drone of turbo-jet engines on the White House lawn.)

      Pelosi has ‘…made it her life mission to spend millions of dollars trying to impeach me instead of actually doing her job and working for her constituents.’
      (A quote: Straight from the horse’s derriere. Statements like this blend falsehoods with inaccuracies creating an unflattering narrative about someone who is trying to protect the U.S. Constitution. Few if any extra funds were spent on the endeavor to impeach, and they didn’t just try, they succeeded. An impeachment is a political indictment. Which Trump then fought with everything at his disposal. And it has been anything but Pelosi’s life’s mission. Pelosi opposed, and avoided an impeachment inquiry for as long as possible until popular and internal demands to do so became overwhelming.)

      ‘It’s why I identify with him.’ (Trumps clumsy attacks on people who disagree with him are why I don’t identify with him.)

      ‘I don’t always find his behavior on a par with my own, nor do I always agree with my party’s actions.’
      (“I don’t agree with everything the Generals do, Lyle, but I support the cause.” That’s a line from my story. It’s uncannily prescient, don’t you think?)

      ‘But he’s doing really good things for our country as well as others.’
      (No, he’s not. I don’t know what site you went to to download these lame-ass talking points, but you, yes you, can’t name one accomplishment that isn’t an imaginary talking point from some right-wing propaganda outlet. The tax cut didn’t help anyone but millionaires, the wall is falling into Mexico, which hasn’t paid for it and never will, so they’re getting it for free, we have no resolution to DACA or the rest of the immigration problem, no trade deal with China, no inroads on the problems with North Korea, a resurgent movement toward developing nuclear weapons in Iran. No clear strategy on our dealings with Russia on Ukraine, or Saudi Arabia in Yemen, or Syria in Syria. No legislation to shore up and secure our election system. No infrastructure spending, no progress on affordable healthcare, or ‘replacing the Affordable Care Act with something better.’ We’re still in Afghanistan, and all this despite the fact that the Senate has a Republican majority and will do anything the President asks.)

      (But I’m sure you’re every bit as well-versed as me in the political issues that face our country at this critical juncture in history. Where global warming is a hoax, renewable energy is a boogieman, the environment can go fuck itself, and Vladimir Putin is really a great guy.)

      (What a richly aromatic surplus of equine fecal material. Maybe you’re thinking, with all that horse shit, there must be a pony in there somewhere. It’s a common misapprehension.)

      ‘He’ll get my vote in November without hesitation.’ (Dang, you sure do drive a hard bargain, could you throw a bag of chips in with that?)

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 1:02 am
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        Ken, I just found one of your Lengthy comments clearly demonstrating the difference between sanity and the inane.Not wanting to prolong the inane I’ll just say you are my hero . Thank you

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 6:19 pm
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      Ilana

      I’m so glad you liked the story Ilana. I wasn’t too happy about Rafe and his mother’s fate either. (Well, to be honest, I just feel bad about Rafe. His mother was a chronically unhappy bigot, so no big loss there. But Rafe was a good guy. Not bad at all. He did not deserve his fate.)

      Did you read the Mueller Report? Yeah? No? I did. That was some majorly boring shit. Trump broke the law at least seven times though, either obstruction of justice or witness tampering. It’s documented.

      Mueller didn’t exonerate him, he explicitly stated he was more than likely guilty and would be indicted under any other attorney general, and any other circumstances. He further stated that he didn’t charge President Trump because the President and the Attorney General, told him not to.

      Pretty good reason. That must have been an interesting conversation.

      “Well, here’s the report boss. It says you’re guilty, of multiple offenses. What would you like me to do with it?”

      “The report? Oh gee, that’s a tough one, Bob. Let me think about it for a minute. Hey, I know, why don’t we roll it into a ball and shove it up Rudy Giuliani’s ass? Then we’ll send him to Ukraine. When he asks what his mission is, I’ll just tell him to take a dump. Oh, you don’t work that way, Bob? Oh, okay. Just kidding, Bob. Why don’t we just file it for now. And you can just, oh, you know, run along, Bob. Go home and enjoy the rest of your slow descent into oblivion.”

      So he left it up to congress. When asked in a public hearing before congress if Trump could be charged with crimes after he left office, Mueller answered very succinctly in the affirmative.

      Legal experts confirm that assessment. As well as the fact that, U.S attorney general William Barr’s decision ‘that the evidence of obstruction is insufficient’ did ‘not reflect an accurate understanding of the law or the evidence…’

      As for commentator Ben Shapiro, and his erudite legal opinion, I’m convinced that… wait, who is Ben Shapiro? Doesn’t matter, I agree that Trump doesn’t do himself any favors by being petty and vindictive. But he doesn’t listen to anyone, Ilana. No one. Except Putin.

      It’s a real problem. And he needs, more than anything, to be re-elected. Whereas the world, and especially the U.S., needs to move on.

      Reply
  • February 9, 2020 at 6:29 pm
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    BREAD AND DRIPPING

    “It was a hard time for most of us.”

    We brothers rolled our eyes as Uncle Alf cranked open the flood gates of his memory. Again.

    It was the same every Christmas. My mother felt it her responsibility to invite the old boy to ours; we were the only family he had left, at least living locally. He was the husband of her long-gone sister, Philomena. He lived on his own now, retired and constantly sick, trundling towards the closing credits.

    I kicked Billy under the table and he yelped. I giggled. Mother shot us an I’ll-be-talking-to-you-later kind of look and smiled at Uncle Alf, encouraging him to carry on.

    “Oh yes. It were just after the war.”

    “Was,” Billy corrected, quite brazenly, but Uncle Alf took no notice; he was stone deaf. My mother gave Billy that look again.

    “My dad, well, he didn’t make it, see, so my mum had to bring us up – all seven of us. Joey were the youngest …” Billy opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it. “… and I were the oldest, but I were only 12, so there weren’t much I could do to help.”

    Uncle Alf took a sip of his rum while we waited. He needn’t have bothered to continue really – we knew the whole story, such as it was, inside out.

    “She went out to work all day, did our mum. She had a cleaning job in the morning, worked behind the counter at a butcher’s in the afternoon, and did sewing jobs in the evening. But even then …”

    On cue he took out his handkerchief – which, I noted, was already yellowy-green – and blew his nose, then dabbed at his rheumy eyes.

    “… even then it weren’t enough to give us proper meals. We had to get by on bread and dripping for our supper – nothing like this luxury.”

    He cast a hand over the table that had borne our Christmas lunch, the carcass of the tiny chicken sitting in the middle.

    “And clothes. You’ll never believe it …” We did, as we’d believed it the year before, and the year before that. “… but I were 13 before I got my first pair of shoes, and they were hand-me-downs.”

    “Foot-me-downs, you mean?” Billy again. I sniggered but stopped when my mother made a fist and shook it at us. Uncle Alf was oblivious to all of this, staring at the stripped chicken as if it were to blame for his poor childhood.

    “But we were happy!”

    Uncle Alf sat back in his chair and threw a glare around the table, as if challenging us to challenge him on his story.

    We had nothing to say to him. Billy and I were keen to escape the grey tedium of the old man’s recollections and play with the second-hand wooden train-set Santa had left for us.

    “PMILTT?” Billy asked my mother.

    She nodded and he scampered away from the table. I looked over at her expectantly, and she nodded at me too. Before I jumped down to follow Billy into the front room, I thought I saw tears welling in her eyes. I often think of those tears, and how I should have stayed and comforted her. But I was young, and to my shame, a wooden train-set trumped tears back then.

    I remembered those Christmas Days this afternoon, sitting at the table, a partially-carved turkey occupying a large part of it. What triggered the memory was something my three grand-children did. They didn’t see me notice, but I caught it – them rolling their eyes when I said:

    “It was a hard time for most of us.”

    Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 4:26 am
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      Great story, simple and easy to read and understand, Phil.

      We’re still, all guilty of repeating the same story as we get older. We don’t want to let go of our past. Our time were tougher than what it is today.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 5:53 pm
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        It seems that way, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s just nostalgia?

        Thanks, Chitra.

        Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 8:39 am
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      So true, Phil, and a great take on the prompt. I do not understand the PMILTT reference, but the rest of your descriptions rang so true.

      Reply
      • February 10, 2020 at 8:41 am
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        Oh, just got it. Please may I leave the table. Sorry for being a bit thick today.

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        • February 12, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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          Not at all thick, Trish – a bit of an obscure reference on my part.

          Thanks for your kind comment.

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    • February 10, 2020 at 9:26 am
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      Loved the story Phil! It was sentimental and illustrated a great moral. I, for one, loved to listen to the stories that my grandparents told. I wish now I had written them down, but I didn’t think about that then. Kids today rarely take the time to really stop and listen. So much history, so much living, and so many lessons will be lost by not listening to the older generation. Very well done!

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm
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        I’m like you, Adi – I wish I’d listened more to my grandmother (the only grandparent I really remember) – what stories she must have had! But it’s proof, maybe, that it’s not just todays’ kids …

        Thanks for the nice comment.

        Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 11:39 am
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      Phil,

      Very nice story Phil. A touching and succinct rendering of the human condition.

      I only have one tiny, insignificant complaint. The title, Bread and Dripping. I had no clue what that meant. I thought maybe it was the English way of saying ‘Turkey and Stuffing, or Stuffing and Gravy. I was totally misinformed by the title, thinking it meant ‘feast’ or some equivalent to ‘bangers and mash.’

      Other than the title and how confusing it was, I really enjoyed the story Phil. You have a light and subtle touch and conveyed the essence of your story with amazing brevity and quite excellent writing.

      Now that I think about it, we have an expression for meager rations over here, we call it ‘bread and water.’ Which makes sense, because that’s what you get, bread—and water.

      I’m not sure if it doesn’t take a deep and extensive knowledge of Britalian to know that ‘dripping’ meant ‘water.’

      I mean, who else would know that? Why can’t you Brittainians simply say what you mean? And call water what it is, water?

      We have something over here called pan-drippings. Pan-drippings are delicious, and common. And the reason we call them pan-drippings, is because they’re made of what drips off the food when you cook it, and lays in the pan when it’s done. It’s pretty straight-forward, but there’s no water involved. None. So you can imagine my amazement when I came to learn that dripping, by itself, was something so common as water.

      In Britain.

      Loved your story Phil. But your title sucks.

      Cheers.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 6:07 pm
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        Thanks for your full and thoughtful comment, Ken (as always).

        Yes, I can see why the title might be an issue. ‘Dripping’ is, in fact, what Roy and Ilana describe below. In Britain, it’s become quite trendy now (with the celeb. cooks), but traditionally it’s symbolic of ‘hard times’ … hence my use of it for the title (and Uncle Alf uses it as short-hand for his family’s hard times). It’s culturally a bit distancing for some readers, yes – soz.

        (Just never come at me with your ‘grits’ and ‘polk salad’, that’s all I have to say.)

        Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 2:19 pm
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      A really well told story, Phil. Really. Sometimes the simple stories like this are the best, and this is one of the best. No bones to pick at all.

      My step mother used to do the same thing every Christmas day, especially the part about the bread and drippings, as you called it. She would tell anyone in earshot how they cooked a piece of meat and it was given to their father while they sat there and ate pieces of bread with the gravy made from the meat, poured over the bread. Only there was 12 or 13 of them, or 14 or 15, depending on who many brothers and sisters she had on any particular day. So, your story brought back some memories for me, too.

      Now, my family is quick to remind me when I say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this, but”; and I don’t get much more out before I hear several exclamations of STOP!

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 3:07 am
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        Dripping is rendered fat from cooking meat usually mutton or beef. We used it when I was a kid. Made good fruit cakes and brownies with it

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        • February 12, 2020 at 6:10 pm
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          Exactly, Ilana.

          Reply
        • February 13, 2020 at 8:13 am
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          Ilana,

          You used fat from MEAT in cakes and brownies? I can’t even imagine that. My stomach protested at the very thought. That is something I would have to taste to understand. Wow. I learn something new everyday.

          Reply
          • February 13, 2020 at 9:01 am
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            Adi, as a child I remember relatives rendering fat to produce lard. This was all they used in making pie crusts, desserts and so on. About the time you were born, lard was replaced by Crisco and subsequently other oils. Lard was a ubiquitous and cheap source instead of butter.

            As a young woman from the South, I would have thought for sure you would use bacon grease to make biscuits. Same thing, darlin’.

          • February 13, 2020 at 9:31 am
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            Roy,

            I remember lard, I just don’t remember Mama ever using it. You were right, we used Crisco and other oils. I guess I never made the connection between lard and animal fat. I’ll bet my great-grandmother in Kentucky used lard but I was too young to remember that detail.

            I make homemade biscuits but I have never used bacon grease to make them. I’ll have to research that technique. My stomach has a mind of its own and it thoroughly rebels against anything with grease in it, so I don’t see myself trying it. Hmmm, something to think about. Thanks for the info!

          • February 13, 2020 at 1:24 pm
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            My lovely wife, Kathy, who is just like you when it comes to using bacon grease on anything, can’t wait for breakfast when we stay at my cousin’s house in Missouri. He makes his biscuits with bacon grease and, while she can hardly stand to watch him make his biscuits with rendered bacon fat, she eats them readily and says they are the best biscuits she has EVER eaten. But, she won’t make them herself. I just shake my head. She’s right about his biscuits. They are the best I’ve ever eaten.

      • February 12, 2020 at 6:09 pm
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        Ha! I bet your round-the-table stories are fascinating, Roy, and the “STOP!” is meant affectionately.

        Thanks for your positive words.

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 6:04 pm
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      A beautifully told story Phil. We often don’t appreciate the older generations, it’s a shame. These characters felt real, had depth, and I could imagine those rascally boys making fun of their poor Uncle Alf, only to be the victim of it in later years. It’s easy to say this is a simple story, but it is hard to write about things like this and hold the interest of the reader, it takes skillful writing makes stories about every day events interesting, and enjoyable.

      I love this line especially: “retired and constantly sick, trundling towards the closing credits.” So perfectly describes dying without using the usual cliches.

      Great job Phil!!

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 6:12 pm
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        Thanks, Alice – you’re very kind.

        Yes – as discussed above – kids, eh?

        Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 9:41 am
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    BETWEEN TWO DEVILS

    It was a hard time for most of us.

    1968 was the year when it started. We were a young generation, living at home, full of hopes and ambitions. We wanted to branch off as independent adults.

    But, we were stumped in our growth. The country was steeped with corruption. Bribery was the norm. Living in the village we did not know how to contact the human sharks, greedy for money and the good things in life.
    Our parents toiled the land from morning to night to provide us with an education so that we could have a better life than theirs. We achieved good academic qualifications. But, the jobs went to lesser qualified relatives and acquaintances of government officials and ministers. We were unemployed, at the mercy of the people at higher levels.

    It was depressing and oppressive. Powerless, we could not fight the system.

    Then, a new opening swung into our way. British officials arrived to interview prospective candidates to recruit, train as psychiatric nurses in the UK. They facilitated the move by offering loans and a salary whilst we train and work in hospitals. We bribed the officials working alongside the British recruiters and the officials issuing travelling passports and documents to get interviewed.

    We flocked in England in the winter months.

    To our disapointments and shock, England was cold, bleak and ghostly in that Febuary that we set foot on its soil. The psychiatric hospitals, mostly mansions types, were miles away from the general population, set up in vast acres of land scattered with skeleton, grey. lonely trees. Only the grass and few trees were green. We came from a hot and bright country where the sun shone from very early in the morning until late evening. Here, the weak sun seemed to play hide and seek for a short spell in the short day,

    The meals which we paid for, deducted from our measly salary were tasteless and bland. Semi vegetarians, used to spicy food and exotic fruits we had difficulties adjusting our palette to the sudden change.
    Most of us lived on boiled potatoes in the first couple of months until the West Indian cook took pity on us and put rice and vegetables stews on the menu. They were slightly better when eaten with black pepper. We gradually progressed to eating fish and chips on Fridays.
    Our parents sent us spices, pickles, tea and dried fish after we complained in writing to them. We could not speak to them as there were only public telephones in those days and it was almost unaffordable to use.
    So we started to experiment to cook and share food as a group of friends and workmates in the Nurses’ Home. The foreign student nurses became our family.
    We had problems with the accomodation manager. The other resident nurses and cleaners complained about the smell of cooking and garlic that permeated the premises. We were branded as messy, dirty and smelly people.

    We were caught between two devils.

    We were pleasantly surprised when Spring showed up with its burst of flowers followed by mildly hot summers and long evenings. We no longer shivered with the cold. With spirits perked up, grew happier and excited.
    We snapped pictures and sent them home to our parents to let them see how satisfied we have grown into. But, we still ached of going back home. All of us craved and planned to earn enough money and then return home.

    The change of weather and money in our pocket, and curiosity allowed us to venture out into the villages and cities. We moved around in groups, afraid of being attacked. We sensed we were not welcomed and felt the country was not ours, that we were only temporary residents. It was made clear to us when we came across black boards with bold, white chalk writings of “No blacks, No Irish and No dogs” were allowed in pubs, guests houses and restaurants. “Go back to your own country!” people shouted at us, “You’re taking our jobs, our housing and state benefits.” We would scuttled away and evade confrontations. We were second rate foreigners invading someone else space.
    We learnt to stir away from outbursts of insults and troubles.

    One horrible incidents still etched in my memory. Whilst attending an event in a community centre to relax and sample the English way of life, we heard a commotion as we settled on the bench with our drinks. Out of nowhere burst “The National Front”, a group of racists males. They blocked the main entrance, and brandished knives and cricket bats to attack us. We stumbled on each other, faltered and fell down as we ran to find a way out. The organiser and his friends shove some of us in the toilet to shelter us from the assaults. The men used their strengths to hold on to the door to stop the houligans reaching them. As we spilled out, my friend and I bolted to the nearest low, ground floor window and jumped out. We raced as fast as we could, holding on to our precious life, not looking behind us until we reached the entrance of the hospital. Luckily, the security guards were awake and chased our pursuants.
    It was so scary. The memory of it still gives me the jitters.

    We worked in such environment for around a decade. The patients hated us. Some screamed when we went near them. They believed we were brown because we were dirty and never washed.

    Still, that did not deter us from visiting the landmarks in the Uk.
    All of us became registered, trained nurses. The opportunities to earn more money, working overtime or through Nursing Agencies opened up to us. Some moved out, into other hospitals near other towns or villages and airports for work or further trainings. Few risk takers set up homes with Irish or other foreign nationals. Their in-laws mentored and supported them to buy their own homes through loans from the Building Societies. The Council and Hospital Housing Authority refused us rental housing. Some less fortunate carried on living in the Nurses’ Home. When children came along, they were sent back home to be cared by the grandparents. Eventually, all of us became house owners in paid employment.

    Our hard work paid off big when in the early 1980’s the hospital lands and properties were sold out to property developpers to build luxury homes and flats. The patients were evacuated into community homes and private houses. We took three to four patients into our home, gradually extending to accomodate more patients. Small Residential Care Homes mushroomed. A few grew into big Homes caring for the disabled or the elderly or people with learning disabilities.

    Our journey in life was long and tedious. Being away for so long, and adapted to the British way of life, our native home became foreign to us.We no longer belong to the country which rejected us. A few of us, now retired, still linger over with one foot in England and the other elsewhere.
    Despite the hard times we were fortunate to forge our way through and change our destiny.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm
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      Wow, this sounds like a real story Chitra. If it is, and true, then you must have much more to write about. I would, if I were you. Written well enough to keep me turning the page, so to speak. Good job.

      A couple of minor things:

      ‘One horrible incidents still etched in my memory’ should be written as ‘One horrible incident’s still etched in my memory’, and ‘Only the grass and few trees were green’ should be ‘Only the grass and a few trees were green’. but it’s not an egregious mistake. Some might say it isn’t at all, but I’m a bit of a stickler.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 2:54 am
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        Thanks for reading, commenting and pointing mistakes on my story, Roy
        The story is autobiographical. I wrote it as I remembered it, intended to mould it into a fictional story as the site. Is for fiction rather than autobiography, but was lazy to go through it again.
        Pleased you picked on it.

        Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 4:51 pm
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      Chitra, your story is bittersweetly beautiful and your writing exquisitely evocative in this piece. By describing the food that was eaten we readers get a more immediate sense of what it must have been like for the main characters. I loved so many of your descriptions- “the weak sun seemed to play hide and seek” is perfect. I am entirely smitten with this story. I thought Ken’s was the best, but I’m rooting for you to get top billing with this beauty. I also want to know more about your characters… I hope you continue this piece!

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 3:00 am
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        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story.
        Your and other. Writers’comments give me a boost in believing in myself, that I can write and people will read what I write.
        I will write more on the story if and when the opportunity arises.

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm
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      I’m here after a long break.
      I enjoyed this account of yours, Chitra. Sounds very real and it’s troubling how people are treated.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 3:11 am
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        I have been away too for two months. December and January are months that I get too busy what with the Christmas and birthdays celebrations. They are the two months that I give my time and myself to the family.

        Glad you enjoyed reading my story. Everything in there happened. It is a true story. It used to be like that in the sixties. Things have changed with government legislations against race and colour prejudice. People are more acceptable although there are covert prejudices. But, that’s life. You take it with a pinch of salt

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 6:51 pm
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      Chitra this is a fantastic story. If it’s what really happened, you have a book there ready to be written. Similar things happened to blacks here in the US, I was fortunate enough that I didn’t experience much of that myself, but people who came before me made the way for my generation.

      There were a few grammatical things that Roy pointed out, but all in all a great story.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 3:21 am
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        Thanks Alice for your comments, noticing my mistakes which makes me aware of my grammar when’re I write.
        It is my story and I am pleased that you notice that it is a true life story and enjoyed the accoint.
        You write on similar topics as I do. We have a common interest.
        I have enjoyed reading your story too., in fact all the stories on this site

        Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 2:19 am
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      Chitra,
      I understand what Roy is saying. This is very entertaining. It doesn’t really seem like a story so much as a history, but its enchanting, and it seems like an honest, unvarnished account of what it must be like to migrate to another country for the benefit of schooling or training. To trade the indignities of favoritism at home for the sting of racism abroad. It’s a harsh tale but you tell it with elegance and grace.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 3:28 am
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        Thanks a lot for reading and commenting on my story.
        Like you guessed, it is a memoir more than fiction. The piece is true. The piece is a minor part of the fabric of English history.
        I meant to fictionalise it but did not. It sounds like writers here enjoyed it as iI is. Next time I will make a better effort.

        Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 8:19 am
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      Powerful story Chitra! Your words depicting the reality were clear and effective. The struggles were real. Thank you very much for also mentioning the Irish. My family is Irish and many forget that they were treated just as badly (or worse) than some of the other immigrants were. All of my ancestors came from across the pond and there was not always a welcome here for them. I’m grateful they persevered and made a life for themselves in America. I’m proud of them. Great story!!

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 9:22 am
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        Thanks for the feedback Adi,
        Just to add – at that time, anybody who were not English were foreigners. We had Scottish doctors, Welsh,Irish ( U/k Nationals) nurses. West Indian as cleaners, nursing auxiliaries and orderlies. We were bunch up as foreigners.. Some of my predecessors held British passports as their country still belonged to the British Empire.
        Thinking back there were good and bad times.

        Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 8:19 am
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      Hi Chitra,

      This story has an authentic documentary feel, in the way it recounts not just the main events, but also rather minor but important details such as the awful food, the subtle (and not so subtle) reactions of some people, the initial shock with the weather, and so on. I had a hunch it may be (auto)biographical, and then confirmed that when I read the comments. I’m not sure if in the past I’ve come across anything much about Indian immigration to Britain, from an Indian perspective, considering the huge number of Indians in the country. Am I right, btw, to assume that the country of departure was India?

      I think you’ve got a near-obligation to develop this into a book, a docu-novel of sorts, also for the sake of others who went through similar experiences but don’t have the gift of writing. I’m sure you have a lot more to tell us.

      Fictionalize it, if you wish, to make it more accessible to the average reader, but not too much that it loses touch with what really happened and the things that were felt. Part of the fictionalizing process might be to include experiences of others you’ve heard about and merge them into yours, if and where fitting.

      1968 is a long time ago, and your piece ends on a rather positive note. Things have certainly improved, but I still sense a lot of racism, up to this day. And it comes from both sides, I think. The Indians in the UK are numerous enough to segregate themselves and live their own lives separately from the rest of society, if they want to. And some apparently do. It may be for “protection” or other “cultural” reasons, including a hurt sense of pride. I don’t think that, all being said, integration has been such a success story. There are exceptions of course, but that’s my overall feeling. To this end, perhaps you can extend your experiences (and experiences of others you know) into the present day, too and let us in on the authentic present-day feelings of the Indian community from within. I for one would be interested to read!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 10:57 am
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    THE END OF FOREVER
    by Ken Miles
    1,200 words (excluding titles and this line)

    It was a hard time for most of us. But the War was good to me.

    “When they’re here, no damn nonsense!” dad warned me, before the Stanleys arrived. They’re very important people, he said, live in a house with twenty rooms. Mr.Stanley was a shipbuilder in Lemmington, very wealthy.

    But the War was the great equalizer – the Stanleys left Lemmington, in 1942, when German bombardments intensified. Now refugees, they were allotted to our humble cottage, in quiet Barleyfields.

    By no stretch were Mr. and Mrs.Stanley nice people. They wore perpetually angry faces. Then, there was this other woman, their daughter’s tutor. Lips constantly pressed, nostrils flaring and eyes drawn together loaded with contempt at whoever she looked at. Humiliated by their predicament, they only gestured, hardly spoke, to us. We got extra food-rations for them, but mum gave them more than their entitlements. At our expense (and, boy, were we starving!). They’d raise eyebrows and growl, never a word of thanks.

    Didn’t I say the War was good to me?

    There was another Stanley. Vera. The daughter. Maybe because I’d never seen a girl my age so up close. Or because she was truly stunning, I was awestruck. Just months older than me, yet she already looked like a woman. Her bosom had swelled, her hips rounded.

    Her sad face made her even prettier. She never spoke. A mysterious book. I wondered why she was sad. I’d thought rich people just had to be happy. Her black hair made her the more interesting to me. In Barleyfields we were all straw-haired. She must’ve had some French in her. A book with many pages.

    I felt things I’d never felt before. I didn’t know it felt like that when you liked a girl. I guessed that’s what’s meant by ‘falling in love’.

    The Stanleys retreated in what used to be my room. So I slept in the closet, legs bent at the knees.

    I couldn’t tell if I’d been dreaming or really heard a knock on the closet-door that night. I rubbed sleepiness off my eyes and opened the door. I couldn’t see a thing. The air-raid curfew barred any nighttime light.

    I couldn’t see her, but I smelled her. Vera! She said softly, “Take me somewhere.”

    “Where?” I asked innocently.

    “Away from everyone.”

    I knew where to take her. There were deep ravines near Barleyfields. I’d hide on this rocky outcrop, protruding off the sheer cliff-face, quite like a little terrace, whenever I wanted no-one near me. It was difficult to reach, one bad foothold and you’re splattered on the dried-up riverbed, six-hundred feet below. But that’s what made it the perfect place.

    In the time it took to the ravine, Vera didn’t say another word. Neither did I.

    A faint glow announced daybreak. Now that I could see her face, I asked her why she wanted to leave.

    “I drank water from the lock, wished to get typhus,” she said, fearfully calm, “I want to die. I don’t like any of this…”

    “This? The war?” I tried to understand.

    “Not the war. My life,” she explained, “I like the war. I want the Germans to kill everyone around me. Set me free.”

    “Everyone around you?” I tried to fit what I’d just heard inside my head.

    “Not you!” she said.

    She cupped my face, and repeated, “Not you! Not you!” like I was some precious toy she didn’t want to lose.

    She wanted to say more. But didn’t. Couldn’t.

    The first rays of the sun bounced off the mighty white cliffs. Vera ran to the very edge, and looked down. I feared she might jump.

    She turned to me, “I won’t try to die again. But promise you’ll be with me forever.”

    “I will be with you!” I said feverishly. “Forever!”

    She stroked my full-head of blonde hair, till the bristles tickled my eyelids.

    We got to my terrace in one piece. I was working a way to declare what I felt for her. How, for days now, I thought of nothing but her. It was so clear in my mind, yet the words just wouldn’t come.

    An unusual rumble filled the ravine. A distant whir, then it got louder.

    Warplanes!

    The Germans had figured how to sneak unnoticed, flying low through the ravines that led from the deep countryside to the coastal industrial areas. The fearful Stukas flew by, their wing-tips mere feet from our noses. There was nowhere to hide. Nor did we try. We threw stones at them, missing mostly, causing no harm when we hit. They kept coming. We kept throwing stones.

    Bloody hell! A stone Vera threw clanked hard on the windshield of a plane. A lifetime of bottled up anguish.

    The plane dived deep in the ravine allowing the others behind it to pass. Then soared. It opened fire, raining bullets upon us, perched undefended on the cliff-face. I smelled the bruised vegetation, but we weren’t hit. In another full-swing within the breadth of the ravine the plane turned back towards us. So close I could see inside the machinegun-barrel. Trigger pulled, a spark flickered. A loud clack. I was dead.

    Seeing he was out of ammunition, the pilot jerked his arms and gave me the finger, letting go of the controls, the scorn in his eyes unmistakable. The plane swerved. A wing scraped the opposite cliff drawing a neat line in the chalk. In seconds, the Stuka hit the bottom of the ravine, in a huge ball of fire.

    I looked for Vera in the rising thick smoke.

    “I thought you said you’re with them Germans!” I said when I spotted her.

    “Not anymore!” she said. For the first time, I could catch a joyful hint in her voice.

    She embraced me, still shivering from the brush with death. I felt her young breasts pressing against my chest. I’d never felt like that. Or knew that one could feel like that.

    “Vera,” this was the first time I pronounced her name. A huge responsibility dawned upon me when I realized that.

    “I thought I died. I saw the flicker inside the barrel. I just wanted to see you for the last time. But there wasn’t time to turn around. Yet, I saw you, years from now, when all this folly’s over. Together, with a home of our own, children too.”

    “You thought so much in a split-second?”

    “When you don’t’ve much time left, you think quickly,” I said, not knowing where my words came from.

    “All I want to say is that I love you!” I surprised myself saying again.

    She cupped my face like before, but kissed me this time. Then again, and again, till the sun was high above the horizon, the Stukas had emptied their bowels over Lemmington and the surviving few flew past us again, giving us no trouble.

    “So, that’s how we met, 62 years ago,” I finish telling the curious congregation at the cemetery. The undertakers slide the slab over Vera’s grave. As the crowd breaks, I feel strange again. It’s the first time since the War I’ll walk back home without Vera by my side.

    Today’s the day when forever came to an end.

    Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 2:44 pm
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      This story was amazing …what about the rest of their lives..I want to know more..

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 5:44 am
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        Thanks Liz! Glad you enjoyed it.

        The rest of their lives? Pretty standard, considering the dramatic beginnings… So, they remained together and went on to have six kids. Their eldest daughter was my mum.

        I changed place names (to fictional ones) and personal names, for privacy’s sake. Embellished a few things too. But the most dramatic part of the story is true (the NAZI Stuka hiding in the ravine on its way to an air-raid that got hit by a stone, and only by miracle didn’t kill my young grandpa, the eye-contact with the enemy, the middle-finger and all really happened. But the plane didn’t actually crash.)

        Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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      Ken Miles,

      Amazing story, Ken. Beautiful, exciting, sad… sweet. Moving, but in a good and wonderful way. Even Kim thought it was good when I insisted on reading it to her. That’s what she said. ‘Good story.’ She’s a very harsh critic and painfully honest. (I would’ve said, ‘Good? Are you kidding me? This is great stuff!’ But I was too busy sobbing and blowing my nose to castigate her more strenuously.

      You have a great story here Ken. It’s got great dialogue. It shows your knack for turning a great phrase. The description of the Stanley’s, and their tutor, is marvelous for clarity and brevity. The two succeeding sentences comparing Vera to a book are brilliant, if you ask me. ‘She’s a mysterious book.’ And ‘A book with many pages.’ And if you’d done it one more time it would have ruined it. Twice was perfect. Like Joe Morello’s two rim shots in the middle of a Dave Brubeck song.

      This story’s in a class by itself Ken. I really like the title too. Smashing good job all around and through-out.

      It has a few errors, like ‘wipe the sleep off my eyes’ rather than ‘wipe the sleep from my eyes,’
      ‘Humiliated by their predicament, they only gestured, hardly spoke, to us.’ (or each other.) That extra comma looks like an editing error.

      ‘In the time it took to the ravine…’ (to get)

      and ‘…I saw you, years from now, after this folly’s over. Together, with a home of our own…’ You mean ‘I saw us, years from now…’

      I found this story to be really moving and enjoyed it very much, Ken.

      Perfect title. Perfect ending.

      Reply
      • February 10, 2020 at 8:18 pm
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        Glad to read that love , romance and compassion exist as shown in your story.
        Enjoyed reading oit

        Reply
        • February 12, 2020 at 6:14 am
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          Thanks Chitra, I’m pleased you enjoyed it! It’s romance on the very edge of a cliff – they survived together… yes I think it’s a nice thing.

          Btw welcome back! It’s been a while I think…

          Ken

          Reply
          • February 13, 2020 at 3:37 am
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            It is a lovely, good feeling story, despite all the horrible things happening around.

            Thanks for noticing my absence. Been busy with the family and took time off from using my grey cells constructing stories. I spent the time bonding with the family, especially the grandchildren.
            I enjoyed that and no longer feel guilty for neglecting them.They are used to my modus operandi.

      • February 12, 2020 at 6:11 am
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        Thanks Ken! I’m glad you enjoyed it… you know how much I appreciate that.

        And this time you so much loved my story you read it out to Kim. Loved to hear that too! It’s cool to know people are not only reading – and liking – my stuff, but reading it to their loved ones too. Really, no humor intended here – I consider it a pinnacle for me as a writer, to hear that!

        As to Kim’s appraisal, you warned she’s a tough critic, so I’ll go along with “Good story”. I suppose that’s flattering enough. Say “hi” to Kim from me, the writer 🙂

        I started working on this from a true story. Actually several true stories of the War I heard from both my long-gone grandfather, and my father, who experienced it at a much younger age. I ended up with 5,500 words (which I don’t regret – I think I compiled a good archive of things I remember them saying, which could have otherwise, in time, slipped out of my memory).

        But then came the challenge to slim this complex multi-story giant down to the contest’s 1,200 words. First off, from 5.5K to 2.5K was fairly easy – I cut out the main story I wanted to tell from the other backstories and interesting anecdotes that I had built it upon and surrounded it with.

        From 2.5K to 1.2K was brutal… I had to leave out so much I was quite pleased with – and relevant to the main plot.

        I made sure I left the “mysterious book”/”book with many pages” metaphors. I found out that writers and readers are (perhaps understandably) fond of metaphors of books and writing in stories. Like when I had the shadows casting a mysterious alphabet on the wall in “The Shadows” prompt story last year. I received loads of good feedback on that one.

        This time, I was tempted to add, “And for 62 years I’ve been turning her pages. Today I read her last page.” at the very end, but I realized it would have been too much, as you so wittingly also noted. A bit cheesy, perhaps, too. So I refrained. We’re on the same page here, dear Ken C.

        Same page? Oops…!!

        Thanks for pointing out the errors you spotted. Some were victims of the ruthless slimming down process to keep to the word limit, like when you’re trimming your nails and in not wanting to have to clip them again too soon, you cut too deep and then regret it. Others were victims of my stupidity.

        Glad too you liked the title, especially since you’re the self-declared (seconded by me) top title-man in here. I had stories you loved, in the past, but for their title (for which you suggested me a much better alternative(s) which I gladly accepted and would use next time). So this one can stay as it is. Forever.

        Cool Ken. Really, thanks!

        Ken (M.)

        Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 2:48 pm
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      Ken M. I liked the story. I thought it was a little fanciful, but in a good way.

      I didn’t care for the line, ‘The stukas had emptied their bowel over Lemmington’, as I think the image I have was not what you intended for most readers to have. And, that’s all I could think of, that it was raining ‘crap’ not bullets and bombs. Bullets and bombs may break my bones, but crap will never hurt me. You get my meaning. I thought it interrupted an otherwise beautiful love story.

      The last line was a bit dramatic because she left you. You held your promise. You stayed with her forever. Well, her forever, anyway. My wife and I have discussed that many times and she always gets pissed when I kill her off in one of my romantic stories that she knows is a take off on something we have done and she dies first, because she promised me she would never leave me. So, I know of which I speak.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 6:30 am
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        Hi Roy, I’m pleased you liked it!

        Yes, fanciful – but the incredible Stuka episode, for one thing, happened for real. Just that it didn’t really crash (I got it all from my own family’s extensive WW2 lore – have a look at my reply to Liz above (the first comment to my story), so that I won’t have to repeat here.

        About the bowel-incident, ok, I know what you mean…! I had either that or “the Stukas had done their special delivery to the naval yards of Lemmington” and then went along with the, literally, crappier solution. It does, though, look like warplanes, like giant birds, pooped their bombs on their enemies, back then, as we see in WW2 documentaries. Not like the videogame-like stuff we see in modern warfare…

        The last line is very moving to me too. I find it hard to comprehend how a life of love, achievement and great stories and memories together is interrupted forever by something as banal as an artery getting clogged by fatty substances. It’s just beyond me. But it makes life, the sad precious little thing it is, at the end of the day.

        But I certainly didn’t want to bring up again that sad feeling between you and your wife on this matter… Shhhh, don’t read her my story, like Cartisano did…

        Once again, thank you for your appreciation!

        Ken

        Btw there is a Roy York who gives advice to budding writers on Quora. Is that you?

        Reply
        • February 12, 2020 at 7:32 am
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          Ken M.,

          That would be me. It’s not dispensing advice as much as answering their questions, which I’ve observed, are in great need of an answer, and more often, it is common sense, a thing the questioners seem to lack in many instances. Such as “How do I write a novel? ” How would you answer that other than “Sit down and write?” Sometimes, depending on my time and/or my mood, I elaborate. Sometimes I give them facts and advise based on my own experiences. “Don’t expect to make money right away, if ever, so don’t quit your day job, unless, of course, you have some sort of income source other than employment.” Things like that. It’s funny, strange funny, not ha-ha funny, but I never, ever, expected anyone I knew to tell me they saw my name attached to an internet comment, other than those to whom the comment was directed. Especially someone across the globe. Thanks for noticing.

          Reply
          • February 12, 2020 at 8:04 am
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            It’s a global village, and the internet made it even more so! You never know who may see walking down the street…

            I devour anything to do with writing and writers on the WWW. Apart from having my inbox inundated with all those writing club memberships. So anyone writing about writing on the internet (and the bookshelves) is bound to be seen by me at some point or another!

            I’m giggling at what you said about the questions you get. Indeed, some people have no idea. They think it’s cool to be a writer. They’re right, there, of course. Then they just decide to become one. The freedom to work wherever you like. The millions you’d make when (they don’t ask if) you hit the bestsellers’ list jackpot. Lots of beautiful girls (or boys, depending on your gender) wanting selfies with you wherever you go. All the phone-calls from Hollywood you honestly have no time to answer about this and that story of yours they’re so keen to turn into a movie. Such pests, those film producers, right? I know. You know.

            So they come along to ask you the innocent first question “How do I write a novel?” Now that I learnt the alphabet, that is, I’ve got to do something with it, I suppose… Those who think of becoming writers as a way to get rich, in particular, are already non-writers to me. Even if they actually become writers, and do get rich. No, I wasn’t talking about you, Dan Brown. Of course not you of all people.

            But having said that, there are some good questions (and answers) too. Before we completely lose faith in the human race…

          • February 12, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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            Yep, Ken, you’re right. Occasionally there are some very good questions asked. Sometimes there’s a plot problem, or a character problem and I try to help them with that.

            When I write, my characters take on a life of their own. In Nadine’s story, for example, I knew when I sat down, it was a brother talking about his younger sister and after three or four paragraphs my character narrator nudged me and said, “I’m her sister, not her brother.”

            I had to go back and change that. Does that happen to you? It was Nadine’s sister who went unnamed, although at one point she did have one. Claire, I think it was, but it disappeared during a word count issue, and she went nameless. It could have been Emily, or even something else. It doesn’t matter; she doesn’t mind not having a name, as long as she can talk about Nadine. Does any of this make sense to you?

            I was once writing while my wife was painting (art type, not walls) and I suddenly exclaimed, “I can’t believe he did that.”

            “Who did what?”, asked my wife.

            I said, “My character just pulled out a knife and killed the other character in cold blood, for no apparent reason.”

            My wife looked at me strangely, backed up a bit as she considered her exit strategy, and said, “Who’s writing this story? You or your characters?”

            “Good question,” I said, “but hopefully, they are. It will be more real.” She got real quiet after that and went back to painting, but would look over at me every now and then, wondering, I suppose, if I’d stepped off the edge of sanity or not. She didn’t have any trouble sleeping next to me that night, so I guess she figured I was all right.

            Roy

    • February 11, 2020 at 5:00 pm
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      Very good story, Ken. I stumbled over the sentence fragments when the main character first recalls Vera. I wonder if a few more complete sentences might have made for smoother reader comprehension. I also wanted to know more about how Vera made the main character feel. I get that they were in love, but the ending didn’t quite tug at my heartstrings bc, for me, I didn’t feel enough of the main character’s emotions. But good writing, and a plot that kept my attention and made me want to know more. Good work! Keep smiling, Trish

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 7:46 am
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        Hi Trish, I’m glad you liked it!

        The fragmented sentences used to be whole, but got massacred in order to trim everything down to the word-limit. But then, I thought, this is an elderly man talking about events that happened 62 years before, possibly sobbing and pausing for reflection all along on that difficult day he buried his wife. Those torn down sentences might fit their purpose, I thought, broken as they are, like him. So, I went along with that. Of course, the reader doesn’t know in what circumstances the narrator is talking until the last paragraph, but I had to keep that surprise till the end, for the ending’s sake. I take your point, though – I may have gone overboard with the chiseling, with some of my sentences. Especially at that crucial point when Vera is presented to us.

        About exposing more of the narrator’s emotions, could you perhaps suggest something he could have said or I could have said about him to bring out more of his emotional texture to readers who felt like you? Let’s forget the word-limit for this one…

        I’m not too good at having my characters showing their emotions. They say and do things, then I sort of hope the readers make out what the characters must have been going through internally. But I suppose I could do more to get the readers under my characters’ skin. Again, any help and suggestions/examples are appreciated! From you Trish, but others reading this too, please 🙂

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 1:24 pm
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      Ken, you asked how to get more of your character’s feelings in your piece- I wonder how you’d feel about slowing the pace a bit and lingering on the main character’s inner world. EG. When he smells her at night what does he smell and why is that Association pleasant, what memories does it evoke. When he first meets her and feels things he’s never felt before- what sort of things is he feeling. Later he says he can’t stop thinking of Vera- I wonder if it’d be more powerful to look inside his head periodically to reinforce that idea using different words each time. I saw your piece as a love story- to fit all these emotions in perhaps you would shorten the intro about her family and tone down & abbreviate the German fighter plane bit. Just one gal’s opinion and remember you asked for suggestions. Hope this is what you were seeking. Keep smiling, Trish

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 5:12 am
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        Thank Trish – that’s very useful! In my thrill to tell my stories, I often overlook that a good writer should first and foremost show not tell. I’m familiar with that piece of advice, in theory, but don’t always apply it in practice.

        The advice you gave me based on my own story edifies that knowledge, imprinting it more clearly in my head with clear-cut examples.

        I’d use what you said in a rewrite of this story, and more importantly, in other stories too. Every story would benefit from a better use of the five senses (Vera’s smell, here, and its associations for the narrator) and a more illustrative picture of what goes in a character’s mind (when, in this case, I simply tell things like he’s into Vera and all that).

        Again, thanks – that’s what I like most about being here! The frank advice from a reader’s perspective.

        Ken

        Reply
        • February 13, 2020 at 12:09 pm
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          Ken Miles,

          My advice to you Ken, is to trust in your own instincts, which seem very sound to me. In fact, your comments and observations regarding other stories and plots is astonishingly instructive and useful. It’s all up to you of course.

          Reply
          • February 14, 2020 at 5:51 am
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            That’s good advice Ken… I do my best to believe in myself 🙂

            But I also try to get a feel of what works and doesn’t with my readers. Of course, what works with one doesn’t with someone else, it’s impossible to please everyone at all times. Especially men and women seem to have very different tastes, generally speaking… don’t you notice that?

            Btw. congrats for your bronze medal this time round! Your story was one of my faves too.

    • February 12, 2020 at 7:03 pm
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      Beautiful story Ken, I love the way it was written almost like a stream of thoughts just flowing unrestricted from the speaker. It sounded the way someone would when relaying an old story. It flowed so well and you made the reader feel as if they knew these two characters. I enjoyed it very much!

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 5:18 am
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        Thanks Alice! So glad you liked it 🙂

        I’m pleased to hear that it felt to you “like a stream of thoughts just flowing unrestricted from the speaker” I’ve been working on my dialogue techniques over the past year or so (read a book on that too!), as I used to feel that my dialogue is too “filtered” by me, the writer, by the time it appears in the story. Almost journalistic. I try hard, these days, to get under my characters’ skins and let them do the talking, with the least interference from me as possible…

        Ken

        Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 1:18 pm
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    Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns or gray towns, were all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States in the early to mid 20th century, that practiced a form of segregation by enforcing restrictions excluding non-whites via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.

    The Sundown Town
    By Alice Nelson ©2020
    (Word Count – 1198)

    “Was a hard time for most of us in 1953,” Grandma Mavis said, “Cept for Miss Jean who worked for the Kellers in they big ol’ white colonial up on Winston. But fo da rest a us in Fort Payne Alabama, jobs was scarce.”

    Mavis’ 11 year old granddaughter Inez sat quietly listening, she loved her grandmother’s stories.

    “Daddy come home one day and say, ‘Got me a job’. The way he say it, mama knew he wadn’t tellin’ her everything.”

    ‘What else you got to tell me Raymond?’ mama asked.”

    “Daddy paused, then he say, ‘Job’s in California, Lottie’.”

    “Mama sat quiet for a while, none of us dare say a word when she like dat. Then she say as if she resign herself to the fact that we movin’, ‘Guess we better start packin’.”

    Grandma Mavis was sitting on the porch, it was her favorite place to relax since coming to live with Inez and her family.

    “We was gone haf ta drive clear ‘cross country,” Mavis said “And back den, it wadn’t safe fo black folk to drive through some places. But they we was, mama, daddy, my big brother Ben, and my little sister Juno, headin’ down Alabama 35 North, on our way to California.”

    Mavis smiled down at Inez.

    “We was gone stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma and spend the night. They had places friendly to people with brown skin. But daddy’s car broke down near a place called Holdenville. The sign outside the town say Sundown Town, Whites Only within City Limits After Dark. I ain’t never seen daddy look so scared. And he nearly done shit his pants when a Holdenville Sheriff come up and pulled alongside us.”

    ‘Howdy folks’, the sheriff said. He seemed nice, but you could tell he was ready ta stir up some trouble, ‘Whatchyall doin’ out here this late?’” he axed.”

    ‘On our way to California for work’, daddy say, ‘Seems my radiator’s busted’.”

    ‘You know you in a sundown town boy?’ the sheriff say. He put his face so close to daddy’s, that they looks like they was ’bout to kiss.”

    Mavis’ face grew solemn as she continued.

    ‘Sign says Holdenville is a few miles west, so we ain’t in Holdenville proper’, daddy said.”

    ‘Well lookie here Jasper’, the sheriff said to a younger deputy dat stepped outta da car, ‘We got ourselves an educated nigger’.”

    ‘He’s right sheriff’, deputy Jasper said, ‘They ain’t really in Holdenville’.”

    ““‘Shut up Jasper’, the sheriff yelled, “’Just get these niggers in the back of my squad car, we gone take ‘em into town and settle things…legally’.”

    “Us kids started cryin’.”

    ‘Hush’, mama said, ‘You cryin’ is only gone make dem men madder’.”

    “We was shoved in the back a dat squad car and drove into town.” Mavis said. “Deputy Jasper kept glancing back at us, he looked all sorrowful, but mama and daddy just glared at him until he turn back around.

    “Sheriff put us in a jail cell, then let the whole town come gawk at us like we was animals in a zoo.”

    ‘Look at that one, hair like steel wool’, some old man say.”

    ‘And that baby, looks just like a little monkey’, this lady, big as house say ‘bout my baby sister.”

    “Then the sheriff started posturin’ in front of his audience, pointin’ to my daddy and saying, ‘This here nigger broke our sundown laws. What should the penalty be folks?’

    ‘Hang that nigger!’ they all yelled, laughin’ like we wadn’t even human.”

    “Tears was streamin’ down my face, but they was angry tears. And I ‘member what my own Grandmama Dottie showed me the last time I seen her.”

    Mavis leaned back in her chair and sighed. Inez thought she looked so tired.

    “Last time I saw Grandmama Dottie, we was shuckin’ green beans in her kitchen. Her husband, this no good nigga named James Hanratty who used to beat her jes ‘cause he felt like it, come home madder ‘n a hornet, who knows why.”

    “Dottie did her best to calm him, ‘Not in front of ya grandbaby James’, she say.”

    “But dis jes rile him up even more, and he slap grandmama so hard, her head flew back like it was ‘bout to tumble off her shoulders.

    Then Grandmama Dottie she got dem angry tears too, and look at him, like she he was a bug she was ‘bout to step on.”

    ‘Don’tchu look at me like that woman’, he say. But granny just kept a glarin’ at him.”

    ‘You ain’t hittin’ me no mo James’, she say.”

    “Then she start shakin’, and I hear this loud snappin’ sound, then I seen somethin’ I ain’t never gone forget, the bone in grandpa’s leg pushed clean through his skin. Granny just kept starin’ at him while he screamed, then his other leg snapped, then his arms, and finally his neck. I musta screamed or somethin’, cause she whipped around and looked at me, and I thought fo sho she was gone hurt me too. But granny jes took me in her arms and said, ‘Yo grandpa was a bad man, and I couldn’t put up with him no mo’.”

    ‘How you do dat to him granny?’ I axed.”

    “She hugged me and said, ‘My granny called it The Conjurin’, she say it’s somethin’ passed down to the women folk in our family. Only shows itself when the one who possessed it dies. My Aunt Judy had it, and she died few months back, now I gots it. You be next when I go, I’s as sure of this as anything in my life’,” granny said.

    “My granny died jes befoe we left for California,” Mavis said, “But she taught me how to do The Conjurin’ so’s I be ready when she was gone.”

    “I stood in that jail cell, thinking real hard, just like Grandmama taught me, and then the lock of dat jail door jes let loose.”

    “Sheriff and his men was draggin’ my daddy out da door when he sees me and say, ‘How that nigga girl get out’, then the sheriff says, ‘Boyd lock her back up’.”

    “Boyd’s legs broke like twigs before he took one step, he laid on that floor hollerin like a baby,” Mavis cackled.

    “Sherriff moved toward me and his whole body twisted like a pretzel from the Fort Payne County Fair.”

    The rest of dem men was starin’ at the sheriff, but when we walked out they didn’t try an stop us, they jes back away. I felt like Moses partin’ the Red Sea.” Mavis laughed. “Deputy Jasper was standin’ there too, but he didn’t try nothin’, just handed daddy the keys to his car and stepped aside.”

    “Mama and daddy never talked about it, they jes pretended it never happened. But they looked at me differently from that day on.”

    Grandma Mavis died a few months after telling her story, Inez was by her side.

    Mavis’ favorite blanket was folded over the chair near the window. Inez thought real hard, just like Mavis showed her, and the blanket lifted off the chair, and came to rest on granny’s lap one last time.

    Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 2:26 pm
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      👀

      Reply
    • February 10, 2020 at 2:28 pm
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      Sorry…. couldn’t help myself 😂😂

      Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 2:59 pm
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      My, my, my, Miss Alice. Good story. No, great story, but aren’t you a little worried about the ‘N’ word in stories these days? I’m truly interested in your answer, even though I know you use it in conjunction with telling a story from ‘back in the day’, when it was accepted as all right to do. Mark Twaining it, so to speak. Can I turn Mark Twain into a verb? Why not, I ask? Great dialogue darlin’, loved it.

      The reason I’m asking, is I wrote a story for a contest awhile back and used similar ‘southern’ dialogue and my beta readers climbed on me like I was a cheap ladder and told me to change the character’s color from black to white. Just wonderin’!

      Reply
      • February 11, 2020 at 4:13 pm
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        Thank you Roy!

        I thought when writing the story, if I should use the word, and decided I should because it’s real to the era. It’s how people talk, and still talk. It may make some people uncomfortable, but we don’t get passed the issue of race by ignoring the negative aspects of how people are treated because of the color of their skin. We have to be able to face our past and hear these words, and stop ignoring them as if they don’t exist.

        I think it gets a bit dicier when whites use the dialogue, but I wouldn’t have a problem with you putting it in a story if it is appropriate to the character. Again, saying thew word and using it to describe a situation, isn’t the same as calling someone by that name. It’s a sensitivity that I understand, but depending on the situation, I don’t necessarily agree with.

        Thanks again, I’m so glad you liked the story. I thought it would be appalling to people and they wouldn’t be able to get past the ‘N’ word.

        Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 5:07 pm
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      Alice- terrific dialogue, amazing plot and very well described characters. You will probably win again with this one. I keep thinking I’ve read the best story and then another one comes and blows me away. You should publish this. It’s powerful!

      Reply
      • February 11, 2020 at 6:24 pm
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        Wow, thanks Trish!! Lots of good stories this week, it’s anyone’s game. Thank you though, for your kind words. I was a bit insecure about this one, considering some of the language, but I’m glad I posted it. 🙂

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 4:05 am
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      Well written story, Alice.
      Take you back in that era, makes you feel you were there, witnessing it all.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 11:28 am
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      Alice,
      Excellent writing, great dialogue. (With one exception. The end of the third line. I don’t like it.)
      I’m familiar with the Green Book and the ‘Sundowner Towns.’ Yet another nasty scar on our nation’s morally misguided history. I was wondering where you were going to go with this, (I mean, stories like this can get ugly fast and turn into one-way streets.) So I was reading and wondering like, you know, like, ‘how’s she going to pull the McGuffin out the rabbit after the rabbit eats the hat?

      But you did it. It’s good. It’s clever idea for a story that gives rise to a number of different plot ideas and directions you could go in.

      So the introduction of some old—what. Shall we call this Voodoo technology? No. The conjuring. Good name for it, turns this into a supernatural tale. Cool. Referencing the behavior of white people in the past never looks very flattering, does it? I suppose one small consolation for blacks and other racial or ethnic groups is that when it comes right down to it, white buggers don’t treat anyone very well, even other white people, when it comes to gold, money, land or women.

      I can say this easily because I’m not white. I’m often mistaken for a white person, but I’m actually freckled. TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING. We freckled people know what it’s like to be treated differently.

      “Yo, dude. What’s with the spots?”

      “Oh FUCK you. Where’re my bullets?”

      “I’m just kidding you, man. Relax.”

      “Oh you were? I thought you were serious. And here I was just about to shoot you. As soon as I find my bullets.”

      “Man, you awful sensitive about yo’ spots. You ever think about talking wit’ a psychologist?”

      “I AM a psychologist. An angry one. Because of my freckles.”

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 11:56 am
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        Ken,

        I don’t know if you were joking or not but you are spot on about the freckles!

        Having strong Irish roots, I had fair skin, red/auburn hair and yes, freckles. Lots of freckles. I lived in Florida and besides facing instant sunburns with my fair skin, the sun seemed to call out more and more freckles. It was torture growing up which is how I became so good at becoming invisible around people.

        It didn’t help that the Kool-aid people came out during my childhood with these really “cool” names for their Kool-aid flavors – Choo Choo Cherry, Goofy Grape, Loud-mouth Lime, Jolly Olly Orange, Rootin’-Tootin Raspberry, Lefty Lemon and yes, “Freckle-face Strawberry.”

        Guess which one I got stuck with!! “Freckle-face Strawberry!” For YEARS that was what I was called (among other things – we won’t go there!). It was humiliating. Who ever thought those names were “fun” or “cool” made life a living he** for many kids. Their marketing manager should have been shot. If I ever see the Kool-Aid man, I just might have to kick him – for old times’ sake.

        I didn’t realize that Kool-aid was a traumatic thing for me until just now as my blood pressure rose just thinking about those years! Maybe that’s why I never gave/give it my kids (or grand-kids). LOL.

        Adi

        Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 2:38 pm
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    Ha Carrie, I was posting my story and accidentally hit post 🙂

    Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 6:02 pm
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    Reconciliation

    Written by Alyssa Daxson(Writer2019)

    “It was a hard time for most of us…”

    Cass scoffed as he read Meg’s message. “Damn straight it was,” he snarled, dropping the phone down on the stained, hardwood table in front of him. Grabbing the half empty bottle of beer beside him, Cass took a swing, grimacing as the cheap liquor flowed down his throat. Another bing prompted Cass to pick up his cellphone.

    Another text from Meg. “I can’t be in the same house with you. Not after what happened. I’m staying at a motel.” Cass stared, incredulous, at the phone screen. “At a motel? Yeah right?” He sneered, “that’s just a nice way of saying I’m staying at Mark’s.” Mark was a friend of Meg and his, until Cass had found him and Meg, his wife, bedded down in a motel.

    Cass has confronted Meg, and she denied everything, claiming Mark was just a friend. But he knew better. “We’ve been married for fifteen years! How could you?!” He’d cried at her that night. Meg had just pursed her lips and walked out the door, telling him that Mark had something that he would never have.

    That was two days ago. Cass had stayed back at their one story house, moping around, drinking beer after beer while his wife was cavorting with his best friend. She was right. It was hard for both of us. But Cass was pretty damn sure that he was hurting more.

    Taking another swing of the beer, Cass picked up his phone, typing furiously. “Where are you.”
    Three little dots appeared on the screen, bouncing up and down slowly.
    “Why?”
    Where are you.”
    There was a pause, as if Meg was hesitating.
    “Mark’s house.”
    “Mhm, some motel.”
    “Cass, stay away.”
    “No.”
    “Please.”
    Class slammed the phone down on the table, hearing the screen shatter. He whipped around and grabbed his dirty, smoky leather jacket off a couch. Swinging it over his shoulder, Cass grabbed two more beers, before marching out the door, slamming it angrily behind him.

    Going out into his driveway, Cass took a moment to admire his car. It was a 1969 Chevrolet Impala. A black beauty, as Meg called it. His face tightened at the thought of his wife, but Cass quickly brushed it aside.

    Opening the car door, Cass slid smoothly into the leather seat. Shifting slowly, he jammed the keys into the ignition and turned. The Impala started up with purr so smooth that any passerby became jealous. “That’s my baby,” Cass murmured, patting the dashboard smoothly.

    Shifting into reverse, Cass pulled out of his driveway, and sped down the road, heading towards his wife.

    Gravel crunched under the Impalas wheels as Cass pulled into the small driveway. He stared at the house before him, watching as two shadows danced in front of the big living room window. A tear escaped Cass, and he let it trickle down his face, eventually dropping into his lap. His memory flashed back to a time with Meg.

    It had been an important talk. Cass has wanted kids, Meg didn’t. She was adamant about that. They argued for hours, before Cass finally relented, agreeing to her terms. No kids. Ever.

    That pact held for fifteen years, Cass restraining his urge to have a son. Until now. His gaze drifted back to the house, watching as his wife and best friend flirted away. “What did I do to deserve this?…” he murmured, shaking his head slowly.

    “Nothing, you did nothing, it was all her fault,” the voice in his head whispered. Cass nodded, agreeing. “You’re right, it’s not my fault,” he murmured, getting out of the car. Walking up to the door, Cass knocked sharply on the polished wooden door.

    “Meg! Meg are you in there?” He yelled. There was a brief pause of silence, before the doorknob turned, and the door slowly opened. Meg stood there, Mark beside her, their arms entwined. Cass stared at them for a second, before clearing his throat awkwardly. “Hey Mark, can I talk to Meg?” He asked hesitantly.

    Meg exchanged a nervous glance with Mark, before detaching herself from him. “Honey, can you wait in the next room?” She asked, her voice soft. Mark gave Cass a fierce glare, before turning around and disappearing behind a door. “So, it’s Honey now?” Cass asked once Meg turned back to face him.

    Meg’s face pinched into a frown. “What I call him is none of your business,” she answered tartly. Cass swallowed, his throat working. “I don’t care Meg, that you’re with him,” he whispered, “I just want to know why.” Meg’s face softened, and she smiled softly, shaking his head.

    “You’ll never understand Castiel,” she said, “You never have, and never will.” Cass made a frustrated noise, throwing his hands up in the air. “Then explain to me!” He exclaimed. Meg took a step back, her eyes wide. “I gave everything up for you Meg! I laid myself at your feet, and you beat me down! You left me! That should deserve at least a simple explanation!” At the last part Cass’s voice cracked, and he exhaled slowly, struggling to hold back tears.

    Meg didn’t say anything, but stared at him, stunned. “I guess this is how it ends,” Cass finally said, his voice becoming stronger. “Me leaving you on the steps of my best friends house.” He laughed bitterly. “I never thought it would end this way. I thought we’d have kids or something along the lines of that.”

    And then, smiling softly at Meg, Cass started back towards his car. “Wait, Cass stop,” Meg suddenly called out, hurrying after him. Her arm grasped his, pulling him to a stop. “Can we talk about this more?” She asked, licking her lips.

    Class tilted his head. “Where exactly would we talk about this?” He questioned. Meg glanced up at him, biting her lip. “Your house?” She asked nervously. Class considered it for a second, before nodding slowly. “Okay, but before you go, tell Mark where your going,” he said.

    Meg smiled, before dashing back up the steps, opening the door and closing it softly behind her. Class walked the rest of the way to his car, and slid in, attentively watching the door. When it opened, a smile spread across his face. He watched as Meg came towards him, opening the passenger door of the car and sliding in.

    “I see you’ve kept this thing clean,” she observed, looking around at the various beer bottles. Class laughed, starting up the car with a rumble. Slowly pulling out of the driveway, he sped onto the pavement, tires squealing.

    There was a brief silence before Meg broke it. “So, I just want to apologize,” she said, shifting in the seat. “I never meant to hurt you.” Cass resisted the urge to scoff, and stayed silent. “I was only thinking about myself, and not you,” she continued. “I should’ve been less selfish.”

    Glancing to the side, Cass saw Meg staring at him, eyes wide. “I forgive you,” he murmured, leaning over, his eyes flicking off the road to meet Meg’s. She smiled, before puckering up her lips, and kissing him deeply. Cass let out a sigh, and closed his eyes blissfully.

    Neither of them noticed the large logging truck. It barreled towards the Impala, hitting the black beauty straight on and killing both the passengers inside.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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      I think your story is fairly well written, and besides what Ken C. noticed, there were a few other errors, one of which is ‘Gravel crunched under the Impalas wheels’ – Impalas should read Impala’s – signifying possession. The other thing is I had trouble believing she would come around that quickly, even if it had been the other way around and she was the one who wanted kids and he agreed, causing her change of heart.

      She just cuckolded him and when she says ‘let’s talk about this’, he folds like a cheap tent in a high wind. I have a little trouble with that and don’t know how you can fix it. But, you might. Come up with something better for the reconciliation and I can live with it.

      I think the final paragraph should read a little cleaner: Neither of them noticed the large logging truck barreling toward (not towards) the Impala, crushing it, and killing them both. Or, better yet, just stop after the word Impala. Let the readers decide the rest. I think it makes for a neater ending, IMHO.

      Reply
      • February 11, 2020 at 7:42 pm
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        Roy(this is Roy? Right?), thanks for your comment. I had trouble with this story, because this is my first story of that style. I was gonna go for a better last paragraph, but I ran out of words, and had to stop. But, as you pointed out, I could’ve cut it off sooner. I guess less is more…

        As for the reconciliation, that was hard. I had two alternate endings and couldn’t decide.

        Would’ve it been better for Cass to not reconcile with his wife, and as he is driving home angry(and drunk) a logging truck hits him head on?

        That was first plan, but if Cass died, sure Meg would’ve been sad, but I wanted something that would be very unexpected, or like heartbreaking.

        I was thinking that Meg would get mad at Cass, and tell him that she “Wish I could just forget you.” Then, as Cass is driving home, truck hits him, and he wakes up in the hospital with no recollection with his wife or previous life.

        Do think that would’ve been a better ending?

        Reply
        • February 11, 2020 at 8:40 pm
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          Alyssa, I enjoyed the characters you created. My initial vote for your possible rewrite discussion would be for them to argue and then Cass goes home dejected. A kind of low-key ending. But then I got to your second revision idea- where Cass gets hit, then wakes up with no memories. Yes, please, to the “Cass gets a fresh start” idea. Keep smiling- Trish

          Reply
          • February 12, 2020 at 12:38 am
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            Alyssa,

            Yeah. I like the “I wish you could forget that you ever met me.” He gets in an accident. Everyone knows about it. Months later they meet accidentally in the meat market and she approaches him to offer her sympathy over the accident.
            And of course he doesn’t know who the hell she is and reacts as if they’d never met. Which reminds her of how he was the first time they met.

    • February 12, 2020 at 4:31 am
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      Quite sad story. I was disappointed in that they did not resolve their problem.

      This is a story that my son in law went through. His ex didn’t want children and he went along with it. Their marriage ended with her having an affair with her gym instructor.
      She is broke now, lost her house and job. She has gone back to live in her mother’s house.
      He and my daughter have two lovely boys and he is a faultless family man now.

      I enjoyed reading your story, reminding me of my son in law’s experience.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 4:37 am
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      Hi Alyssa,

      This story worked very well with me, and I read it with great on-the-edge-of-my-seat passion and expectation. Until Meg got into Cass’s car and sort of solved everything with a mere kiss.

      Not that a kiss won’t do magic, sometimes, but this couple had deep-rooted issues that needed much more than just a deep snog to bring forth a reconciliation. I mean Cass had just picked his wife up from his male friend’s house. And she wasn’t there for coffee. She had just sent him some well-defined messages, from what I can gather. For fifteen years he wanted kids, she didn’t. This was never going to be so easy to turn around.

      I know, though, your allocated word-limit was knocking at your door, and you needed to wrap up the story! I know that feeling…

      I read the alternative endings suggested by yourself and some other commentators. I certainly won’t go for something low-key. A story ending has to slap the reader in the face.

      Of all the suggestions, I like the most your idea about Cass suffering memory loss – thus getting a fresh start in life. But then, the title “Reconciliation” has to go, I suppose. I also like Ken C.’s add-on to that – an accidental meeting between Cass and Meg (and Mark), some fifteen years later at the meat market (why the meat market? Ask Cartisano! I think he had something rather somber in mind). I’d also have Meg and Mark pulling along three kids of varying ages, to add more irony to the situation… But Cass has absolutely no clue who these guys are.

      May I also suggest another alternative solution to you? First of all, I want to know what Meg said Mark had that Cass could never have. Any male reader of your story, just wants – needs – to know! I thought of something along the lines of:

      “You want me as the mother of the kids we never had. Mark wants me for who I am. Period.”

      There’s a faint hint of some sense of guilt there, in Meg: she likes a man (Mark) who doesn’t pin her down for not having had kids. That means she has herself some regret about the issue. If she didn’t, why would it matter that much to her? I’m saddened/annoyed if I’m picked on about something I know I could have done better in life. But not if it’s something that, in all honesty, I don’t care at all about.

      But then, perhaps we find out that Meg does have a change of heart. In the car, she’d say something to the tune of:

      “Know what? Mark’s house’s as empty as ours. Emptier. Maybe you’ve been right all along, Cass…”

      At least that would prepare us to the otherwise all-so-sudden magic-kiss reconciliation. And it may be acceptable to Cass.

      It could have stopped there, but, if you, like me, love sad, dramatic (tragic, catastrophic, bloody…) endings, then have them get killed, as you did in your original.

      But I’d used an ironic tie-up to the overarching theme of the story. For example, in his ecstatic moment after Meg’s concession, Cass lets go of the wheel, turns to her and kisses her. They cross a pedestrian crossing red-traffic light. Out of the corner of her eye, Meg spots two kids crossing, grabs the wheel and swerves the Impala away from them and fatally into a traffic barrier. She never had kids of her own, but saved those two.

      So there’s a reconciliation with Cass, that lasts for mere seconds (but is still valid and important) – and a reconciliation with destiny within the grander scheme of things.

      I think that works better than the logging truck that, as usual, comes from nowhere – completely alien to the plot – to sort of complete the story for us.

      Besides, it’s a cliche’ often seen in films (as it makes for a great visual spectacle!). But really, all these logging truckers, can’t they just look where they’re going?

      Now that I tackled the ending for you, as best as I can (and forgive me if I intruded too far into your storyline!), let me say something about the other four-fifths of the story I loved so much!

      I think you’ve done a great job in getting under Cass’s skin in the way you express his exasperation. Brilliant, really! Although you’re a female writer, you portray extremely well the male character and feelings. He wants (and needs) to cry, yet he tries not to allow himself to. He strives to preserve his masculinity in the face of emotional injury. It’s an issue for most man.

      His feminine characteristics (every man has some “woman” in him, even The Rock, whatever Hollywood tries to feed us…) emerge beautifully and authentically in your writing: in his tear that does flow, and more long-term, in his plea to have kids. True, it’s more often that a woman wants kids and some husbands don’t than v.v. But the opposite can be true too, and your story really carves out a very believable character in the way you portray Cass.

      You give him the Impala as his alternative baby. He tears out of the driveway, crunching gravel, in the way a bruised man – pathetically perhaps – tries to patch-up his challenged masculinity (his wife had been more decisive than him, he’d came across as a “softie”). I thought he might beat up Mark to regain the upperhand. But only violent men do that. The average man would take it out on the gas-pedal.

      You’ve painted Cass very well, Alyssa. Really, it’s one of the best male portrayals I’ve seen in a long time. I wish I could portray my female characters that well! I often fail to make them that authentic. So I’m told, so I feel.

      Moreover, your writing style is very fluid and makes for very pleasant, vivid and exciting reading. I noticed this other times, even when, pressed for time, I didn’t comment. (When time is not on my side, I’d rather comment at length once in a while and to just a few stories, than very briefly to all at all times).

      Anyway, was saying that you’re certainly a very talented writer, and that’s what cuts it at the end of the day. Plots can be developed and fixed by revisiting them yourself or with a little bit of help from your friends as we do in here, the (alas rather numerous) orthographic issues (some of which the other commentators pointed out to you, so I won’t go over again) can be very easily ironed out with a thorough read-through or a second pair of eyes.

      But the kind of writing style you give us, well… I think that’s something one has to be born with. Like some are born with a paintbrush in their hand, others quick with numbers.

      So keep ’em coming, Alyssa – it’s one thing you do very well!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 1:06 pm
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        Ken, that comment was long, but very helpful!

        Your ending that you suggested, man, I should’ve thought of that! I was racking my brains when writing this, trying to find the perfect plot, and you, my good sir, just found it! I also really think that Ken’s idea with him meeting her later was really good too. You guys are like awesome plot making machines!

        I also want to thank you for your praises. They mean a lot. I just started writing about a year and half ago, and it’s been very chaotic. This writing prompt really helps, and I am so glad that I found it!

        Also, I shall ask Ken about the meat section… very curious 🤔

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 7:39 pm
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      Hi Alyssa,

      Initially, this is really an intriguing story. Seeing Cass struggle with his wife’s infidelity, questioning whether or not he should march over to his former friends house and confront them both, worked really well. For me however, the story loses focus near the end. That switch in Meg, made no sense. Moments before she was done with the marriage and then all of a sudden she changes her mind. It works maybe if she’s planning something, fooling Cass into believing her change of heart, then she does something to really hurt him. But it seems she flipped on a dime and wanted to get back with her husband, and it just didn’t work with what was previously written
      Then the end came out of nowhere, it felt like there were pieces missing that led up to that ending, important information that eased the reader into such a dramatic end.

      All in all, it was well written, and engaging, but I couldn’t suspend disbelief and buy that ending.

      A few things: “Cass has confronted Meg, and she denied everything…”, “Cass has wanted kids…” There are some tense problems here. You use “has” present tense, but the rest of the sentence in both cases ends using the past tense.

      This line: “Meg’s face softened, and she smiled softly, shaking his head.” Shaking his head, should’ve been shaking “her” head.

      “Class considered it for a second…” A few times you used “Class” instead of “Cass”

      Still, a nice job Alyssa.

      Reply
  • February 11, 2020 at 11:33 am
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    19,

    the only way this story could work, is if Meg wanted kids for 15 years, and Cass said no. Then, on the impending dissolution of their marriage, Cass realizes this is the sticking point, and relents.

    As it’s written, Cass wants kids but Meg doesn’t, and when he says, near the end of the story that he’d like to have kids, that’s no change of heart for him, so what makes Meg decide to reconcile? As far as the reader knows, she hasn’t changed her objection to having kids, so her capitulation at that point makes no sense. In fact, it’s far more common for women to want kids and men to want to postpone it. I think it was just a mental error on your part, but you need to fix that.

    Otherwise, this story’s pretty good, pretty well written, good dialogue, though it does have some obvious typos. Like: ‘…a swing of beer’ should be a ‘swig’ of beer. You spelled ‘Cass’ Class one time. Minor things. And there’s one section where you didn’t separate the dialogue between your two characters and it was a little confusing. Over all though, the writing is pretty good. I cried over the death of the Impala. Just so you know what touched me. (I kid you on that.)

    Good job, Alyssa.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2020 at 7:47 pm
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      Haha, Ken, the death of the Impala was sad. I love those types of car, especially the make and model that was in the story. It was truly heartbreaking.

      As for the not wanting kids problem, you are right, big mental blowout on me. I don’t know why I didn’t have Meg on Cass’s end. She wanted kids, Cass didn’t, but he eventually agreed. It would’ve made for a better story, with a more sensible plot line. Too bad I figured it out, after the story was posted…

      And the misspelling. Grrrr I put the blame of Grammarly. I would write Cass, it would “correct” it with Class. It was like playing a game of cat and mouse with me! And apparently it won… thanks for the feedback!

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 4:48 am
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        Hi again… Meg wants kids, Cass doesn’t… well, that would’ve certainly made life easier for you in writing that story. A more “typical” situation, as Ken C. said.

        But I like the more challenging “unusual” (but not unheard of – see Chitra’s real-life case in her comment above) situation you presented to us. It’s more difficult to turn around, but not impossible, as some commentators have mentioned above. I also chipped in with some suggestions about other ways you can go about to bring forth a more satisfying ending (perhaps for another contest that allows 1,500 words lol!) in my much longer comment above… (or wherever it went!)

        Reply
  • February 12, 2020 at 3:31 am
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    Earthly Contract

    “It was a hard time for most of us,” said John, putting the paper down purposefully. Every morning, he made his coffee, his novel way of following the book of Hebrews. Then he read the newspaper, full of the usual bad stuff, ready to start his work day.

    His face was getting that same distant look, which made its appearance, now and then, more often these days.
    Time for a memory pop up, Rachel thought to herself. Not again! What was it now? She had heard how tough his college life had been far away in a foreign country, learning German. Like a million times. Working on the weekends and studying the big stuff. He recalled the memories of the old Muttis (mothers) who would give them extra cream and sugar.

    Then while she brewed her coffee, lionlike, he wanted his share of it.
    Three big gulps from HER coffee, to make his morning complete. Whereupon her coffee was reduced to half which meant she had to face the day on half the required drive. Pretty hard on her, you’d say. But it gave her enough good reason to make her coffee surreptitiously .

    Today as Rachel brewed hers, he sent her on a wild goose mission to search for some bag he had lost. Never mind it was a golf bag. So she went, with a dance on her toes, hum in her voice, placing her piping hot coffee on the dining table.
    Half way upstairs, enlightenment dawned. She sneaked a glance backwards.

    There he was sipping HER coffee .. one gulp, two gulps, three gulps. He derived his strength from sharing hers. Wasn’t that the vow made in church some forty years ago?

    She raced back to the cup. He put the cup down guiltily, laughing like a schoolboy caught in some naughty act by some Convent nuns.

    “I knew it!” she said, “That’s why you are hovering around!”
    “It tastes okay! But it’s not coffee ☕️.” He pronounced his words like a Masterchef.

    “‘Coz I drop almonds and walnuts into it,” Rachel said.
    “That’s what I said. It’s not coffee.”

    Now this couple mindlessly watched cooking shows on telly. There the queen of butter overload, Ina Garten’s husband, Jeffrey, would’ve given her a hug, and say, “You make the most unusual coffee, my dear!”
    And she would’ve snuggled closer, giggling, “O, honey, you are so sweet!” So now you know. The hard knock real life, so vastly different from reel life.

    But just like her coffee, there was still an abundance of love, hyper caffeinated and nutty running wild in her veins.
    Rachel had recently heard at a Women’s Seminar about how to have an abundant life, being responsible to God for good works. She was more than a bride; she was also a worker in a field.

    Sharing her prized coffee was important for peace. Grace she had to exhibit. Grace had saved her through her simple faith. It is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man or woman should boast, she recalled.
    It is this contract of marriage that brings abundant life.

    Meanwhile outside in her garden, the neighbour’s cat, Juliet, was meowing mournful cries. She snuggled closer to the front door to inhale the raw freshness of his footprints. Not the master’s but the gentleman dog’s that romped within the walls of the home. Cat and dog had met in the garden just a few weeks ago and got to love each other’s quirks. The growls, the barks were second nature to her now.
    But Dolce, the posh dog within, knew it was destined for no good. An unusual relationship, is bound to end in disaster. Life was hard in the animal kingdom as well.

    Back to the human world.
    The day her man is in a loquacious mood, Rachel ticked as a good day. It was a reason to be thankful. People need to talk. Today they are so caught up with gizmos. They have no time for each other. It’s a different kind of ‘hard’.

    In the past, life must have been tough with no hot geysers, working in the fields, or catching the local bus to work. Today she had a BMW in her garage, a Gucci bag, and her Iphone. She did all her work from home.

    The week before, they’d been out for dinner and the hostess of the beautiful home was jocularly complaining that her man never had anything to say to her.

    “He returns from the office and plonks himself in front of the TV.”
    “How is your day,” she asks, eagerly wanting to hear juicy tidbits.
    He replies, “Ya good good, all well.”
    End of conversation.
    Then she goes upstairs to watch her serial, and he reaches for the remote. Nothing should come between him and Manchester United on a Saturday or Tuesday. Wednesday as well. Not even a wife.

    Apropos the study of MEN, done in Mars, by Doctor Sally SoWise, they fall into two categories.

    1: The strong silent types 2: The chattering types.

    Some men swing like a pendulum to either extreme depending on the day of the week.

    Closer home, Rachel found hers was either happily silent or nostalgically talkative.
    During these times, Wisdom told her to withhold her comments, opinions or factual reasoning that may arise in her head.

    (“Just lissun to his plaintive stories,” Said Wisdom.
    Much like Juliet, the crying cat outside.
    ‘O lend me your ear’, is their silent heart cry.
    ‘Though I’ll not lend you mine.’ The posh dog replies.)

    Pardon me, did you say ‘factual reasoning’?
    Gross error.
    Only men reason factually. Women can’t reason. It started in the Garden of Eden. Period.

    Today the kitchen grounds were ready. The Breakfast Battle was on how to poach the egg. The knives and forks were ready. Hollandaise too.
    Needless to say, Rachel was the Queen of Poached Eggs. But John had seen beautiful Nigella poaching an egg. And that had to be the right way.

    He filled the little pot with water, and broke an egg into the sieve.
    “A sieve? Why????? ‘Coz Nigaaaallllaah did it????”
    Then he squeezed lemon juice on it.
    “I put vinegar,” said Rachel. But it fell on deaf ears.

    To cut a long story short. John did it her way. While Rachel poached her egg her usual way.
    The net result was that Rachel’s poached egg looked far better.
    John had to have it. “Just one bite?”

    Grace stepped in and Rachel proffered the entire plate to him.
    Between Grace and Wisdom, Rachel had the best run for life ever.

    Thankfully there were more eggs in the refrigerator. These were organic too.
    It wasn’t like old times when eggs were found in hen coops, searching under the feathery butts of the female hens, fearing the cock would get you any time.

    Life is better now.
    With Grace and Wisdom as your buddies.

    (1155 words)

    Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 1:11 pm
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      Marine, I really like the theme of your story- the sacrifices we make for marital harmony. I liked the comparison of sharing coffee to sharing love, and appreciated the inclusion of animal relationships. (Reminded me that we are all animals, really.). I really liked your last line- life is indeed better now with grace and wisdom as your buddies. Keep smiling, Trish

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 1:13 pm
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        Marien- my apologies. I didn’t notice that the dreaded autocorrect mangled your name. My apologies!

        Reply
        • February 12, 2020 at 1:20 pm
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          That’s awwwrigh’, Trish.

          Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 1:25 pm
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        Trish, Thanks so much for reading and liking! I’m here after a long, long break- and I thought my late entry would go unnoticed.
        Makes me feel real good reading the stories, packed with such a fund of information and good humor. The comments are thought provoking.
        Though I don’t consider us humans as animals. I love my dog very much, but we are different 🙂
        Thanks, dear,
        Marien

        Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 1:13 pm
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      Marien,

      You have quite a style in this story, some of which confuses me, and then you have some spectacular bits which I thought were witty and clever, such as ‘the queen of butter overload”, which I assume you wanted to mean Ina Garten; but then, in spite of that clever line, you ungrammatically followed it with “Ina Garten’s husband Jeffrey, would’ve given her a hug, and say, “You make the most unusual coffee, my dear!” Ina is the subject of the phrase ‘the queen of butter overload,” and husband Jeffrey is also the subject of the phrase. You can’t have both since Jeffrey says something. At first I thought the tense was wrong in the ‘would’ve given her a hug. and say, “You make the most unusual coffee, my dear.’ phrase, but it isn’t. It’s just clumsy IMHO.

      However, having said that, I really liked the sing song approach to the story and felt satisfied with the ending. I liked the use of the two Muses, Grace and Wisdom as her conscience really well. And this phrase is one of my favorites, if not my favorite – ‘So now you know. The hard knock real life, so vastly different from reel life.’

      Well done, my dear, well done.

      Roy York

      Reply
      • February 12, 2020 at 1:34 pm
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        Hello Roy,
        I do appreciate your comment. Will check out that line again. It’s late night here where I am.
        I started on this story last night on an impulse and feeling very proud of myself that I could build on this prompt in such a short time.
        What did you mean by ‘sing song’? I’m curious. And smiling now.
        Hard times- we are seeing this more than ever in the world around us, so I’m determined to keep mine light and simple. Just for laughs.
        Thanks again.
        Marien

        Reply
        • February 13, 2020 at 6:52 am
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          Marien, your sentences and paragraphs, as I read, seemed more like song lyrics than story as I read. I enjoyed the melodic overtones. That’s what I meant. I was impressed by your writing ability to be jumping around IMHO and still make sense with your story.

          Roy

          Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 3:38 pm
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      Marien
      Enjoyed reading your story where you depict the humdrum of a longstanding married relationship.
      Most happy couples use Wisdom and Grace to achieve peace and keep the marriage going.
      I use Wisdom and Grace to keep a healthy relationship with my grown-up children.

      I was away for two months too. Caught up with the humdrum of life. Back in the fold now. Pleased everybody with the cooking and cleaning for Christmas and the birthdays.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 4:44 am
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        Chitra,
        Thank you for reading. So we both have been away. lol!
        Grace and Wisdom- much required in our world today.

        Reply
  • February 12, 2020 at 5:45 am
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    I would’ve loved to enter this prompt. But unfortunately I’m sport for choice of past experience plus a multiple number of scenarios, and I am just so totally not with it this week. Too much else on and I didn’t get the story I wanted or I should say I didn’t get the story to be as I wanted it and I change my mind halfway through. So I Decided rather than be mediocre in the extreme I have to just leave the draft for another time. I shall read and vote though and good luck everybody

    Reply
    • February 12, 2020 at 12:01 pm
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      Take care Ilana, hope to see you in the next round. Take care, my friend.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 8:27 am
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      I read all of the stories and they are wonderful! I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to comment on all of them. I’m at work (Shhhhhh!) and it is late when I get home. Many nights I don’t even want to look at a computer since I’m on one every day. I love this group and look forward to each and every story!

      Reply
  • February 12, 2020 at 5:52 pm
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    Very sorry, All … no time for critiques this round (me being disorganized …), but I’ve read and enjoyed the stories. Great range!

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 4:11 am
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    Editing/deleting my comment.
    Just a knee jerk reaction, probably a bit overboard to having what I thought was a somewhat light-hearted/positive comment attacked.

    This is not the place for politically inflammatory comments.

    It does nothing to move the writing group forward in a positive way.

    And my “I’m going to take my ball and go home” response was just as helpful as the ones that really hurt my feelings.

    I got caught up in my feelings and know better. 😊

    Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 8:34 am
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      Carrie? I can’t imagine anyone, especially in this group, using those words to describe you. I’m so sorry!

      You know, and we know, that you are intelligent, brilliant and far from inane. I was so looking forward to your WWII story with a dragon in it!

      We are all entitled to our beliefs and opinions, and if someone doesn’t like them, they should scroll on by. You know your talents and skills and we have faith in you. Without you and Alice, we would not have this wonderful place to write and expand our talents.

      Please don’t leave us. We love you!

      Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 8:58 am
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        Carrie, I’d hate to see you leave. This site has so many great writers and the writing critiques are so detailed- it really is a wonderful “place”. Perhaps if folks wrote fewer extraneous comments and we all focused more strictly on the writing there would be fewer opportunities for offense? Just a thought. I hope you’ll stay. Very kindly, Trish

        Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 12:10 pm
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      Hello Carrie, nice that you are still/back on board. I was terrified when I read your comment. Now I exhale.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 7:00 am
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    Carrie,

    I have been rather out of the picture this past two weeks and thus I am so sad and disappointed to read your comments about how you feel.

    I have been writing on this site for just over a year and I feel that I can say this. You have proved beyond doubt, with every piece of writing that you have submitted, that you are not stupid and unintelligent or inane.Quite the opposite, in fact.

    If you leave this group, I for one, will miss you so please don’t go.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 9:11 am
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    I second/third/fourth … etc. all of the above comments.

    Each to his own. As someone once said(-ish): “I would defend to the death a person’s right to have a different opinion from my own.”

    Hope this storm will pass, Carrie.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 9:54 am
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    Please don’t go, Carrie!

    I hope that those words were said in the heat of the moment and were not indeed meant to hurt you, and that the persons who made them get in touch with you with a sincere apology/clarification.

    With the political heat rising, we could perhaps add “political insults” the list of what’s not allowed in here together with racism, inflammatory comments and bullying. Not politically-oriented stories or political replies, just insults directed at particular persons.

    We think highly of you, Carrie. Those words that were said certainly don’t come to my mind when I think of you. I would add that you were brave to put your beliefs out in the open, without fear and in full honesty. Not always a common thing, these days.

    You’re a brilliant writer and podcaster (and huntress, too, I hear!). And we need you badly in here to sort us out. I once called you our school principal! We’re good kids. Usually…

    So, please do hang around…

    Ken

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 10:25 am
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    I edited my comment above but I’ll re-state it here.
    Because I love you guys and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you. Except be lonely and missing your stories that, while I don’t always comment, I ALWAYS read! ❤️

    “Editing/deleting my comment.
    Just a knee jerk reaction, probably a bit overboard to having what I thought was a somewhat light-hearted/positive comment attacked.

    This is not the place for politically inflammatory comments.

    It does nothing to move the writing group forward in a positive way.

    And my “I’m going to take my ball and go home” response was just as helpful as the ones that really hurt my feelings.

    I got caught up in my feelings and know better. 😊”

    Side note: I’m almost finished with my WW2 Dragon story, just ran out of time this week.
    Perhaps I’ll post it later just for fun! 🐉

    Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 11:36 am
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      Carrie,

      Please post the dragon story! I’ve been looking forward to reading it!

      Adi

      Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 3:23 pm
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      Phew 🙂

      You’d nearly given me a heartbreaking idea for the next prompt, Carrie!

      Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 10:56 am
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    Okay Ken Cartisano, you are the only voting hold out. You have exactly 1 hour (Insert Mission Impossible theme here).

    Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 11:41 am
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      I just woke up. did I miss something this morning? Okay, how many people did I piss off? Are we talking small groups, or dozens? Is everybody calm now. What’s going on? I don’t have time to read the comments until after I vote. I hope I don’t bestow one of my precious votes on someone who called me a pig or something. (did someone call me a pig? Or something worse?)

      Okay I’ll just have to operate in mystery mode until I get these votes in. The suspense is already killing me. I can’t imagine what I did.
      This time.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 11:36 am
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    What? we’re voting already? Crap. 10:56, that’s an hour and a half ago. You must be on Central Non-Standard Special People Time. Which gives me 26 minutes.
    Dunn, dunn, da-da, Dun, dun, do-do, Dunn, dunn, dee, dee, Dunn, Dunn, da, da . Dun, Dun, Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. E-o-e-o-e-o-e-o-ahhhhhhhhhhh. Pishhhhhhhh. (That was Mission Impossible music. In case you couldn’t tell..

    Okay, will vote now.

    Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 12:22 pm
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      Glad you cleared that up, because I did not know that was the Mission Impossible theme 🙂

      Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 12:21 pm
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    “A Hard Time” – February 13, 2020

    THE WINNER IS!!
    First Place: The Sundown Town by Alice Nelson

    2nd Place: Gently Down the Stream by Trish
    3rd Place: The Perfect House Call by Ken Cartisano
    4th Place: BREAD AND DRIPPING by Phil Town
    5th Place: The End of Forever by Ken Miles
    6th Place: Nadine by Roy York
    7th Place: Between Two Devilsby Chitra Adjoodah
    8th Place: Reconciliation by Alyssa Daxson
    9th Place: Agent of Change by Adrienne Riggs
    10th Place: Tied – Hard Resignation by Liz Fisher and Earthly Contract by Marien Oommen

    Favorite Character: “Vera” from The End of Forever by Ken Miles
    Character Dialogue: The Sundown Town by Alice Nelson

    Congratulations Alice!! Wow, you all are too kind. Thank you again, I am gobsmacked!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • February 13, 2020 at 5:57 pm
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      Well done, Alice! Great stuff!

      Reply
    • February 14, 2020 at 3:10 am
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      Congratulations Trish for coming second and everyone else for good effort.

      Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 2:11 pm
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    You know what I always say, comedy is risky business.

    ‘What a richly aromatic surplus of equine fecal material.’ (This is a literary masterpiece. I am so proud of this line. This has got to be the most beautifully worded description of horse shit ever conceived, and I created it… for one individual. I thought she would be flattered, that I would take such pains with my wording on her behalf. That she would place a hand on her bosom and say, ‘What a way to say horse shit.’ But she despised me for it. I will never understand women as long as I live.) K. Cartisano.

    Happy Valentines Day Ya’ll.
    And congrats to Alice and all the writers.

    Reply
      • February 13, 2020 at 4:47 pm
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        Congrats again – two in a row, Alice!

        Thank you all for the Best Character Oscar. Pity Vera is no longer with us – she’d have loved to hear about this…

        Reply
  • February 14, 2020 at 8:03 am
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    Way to go, Alice!! Congrats! Great stories this go around!

    Reply

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