January 2 – January 15, 2020 Writing Prompt – New Beginnings

Theme: New Beginnings

It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the new year/decade necessarily.

Word Count: 1,200



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  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
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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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 Trish.




210 thoughts on “January 2 – January 15, 2020 Writing Prompt – New Beginnings

  • January 3, 2020 at 10:02 am
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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
  • January 3, 2020 at 10:04 am
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    Signing in for comments

    Reply
    • January 5, 2020 at 8:17 am
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      Hello everybody!
      it’s me Jürgen signing in. Writing a story for this prompt will be a new beginning for me. I didn’t take part in the last contests. I’m still in the mountains celebrating the New Year, but as soon as I get to my desk, I`ll start to let my imagination work. 🙂

      Reply
      • January 6, 2020 at 4:16 pm
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        Happy New Year, Juergen. Enjoy the mountains. Looking forward to reading your piece. A fan – Take care. Dita.

        Reply
        • January 14, 2020 at 3:28 am
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          Happy New Year to you too. Looking forward to read your story!

          Reply
  • January 3, 2020 at 10:26 am
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    Signing in for comments. Happy New Year all!

    Reply
      • January 3, 2020 at 8:31 pm
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        You had two weeks, Phil. And you’re not even trying to feel guilty. There’s no guilt in that simple straight-forward ‘yes’. Is there?

        Reply
        • January 4, 2020 at 4:33 pm
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          Come on, Phil. Work with me here. All you have to do is say no. Is that so difficult? (I have no ideas Phil. This is how I get when I have no ideas. manic-defective.) New beginnings. Hmmm. Can it be depressing? That might help.

          Reply
          • January 6, 2020 at 10:40 am
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            “Work with me here.”

            Ok, here’s a bone: old beginnings were new beginnings once! 😉

            Does that help? No? Soz.

    • January 4, 2020 at 4:44 am
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      Signing in for commentary and story writing contributions hopefully. Happy Fiery New Year. Unfortunately there are some pretty raw new beginnings over here. 🙁

      Reply
      • January 5, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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        How you doing Ilana? Are you anywhere near the fires? Smoke? Or well away from the disaster area?

        We had something similar happen here about twenty years ago. Fires in every direction. Smoke so thick you couldn’t see the traffic lights until you were almost under them. And all we needed was one good soaking rain, but it wouldn’t come, for months and months. When it finally rained, people were so happy you’d think it was raining money.

        Hoping you, your loved ones and your other loved ones, (the animals) are out of harms way.

        Reply
        • January 10, 2020 at 1:51 am
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          Thanks Ken yes lots of smoke haze, but a long way from fires thank goodness. Been working on a story so hopefully finished soon. Now off to read others’ stories. 😬😊

          Reply
  • January 3, 2020 at 5:07 pm
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    Letting Go
    By: Adrienne Riggs (w-1,193)

    For every new beginning, there must be an ending of some kind. Some endings deserve celebration before a new beginning while others bring grief and making new beginnings challenging. Of course, Kenzie Mays knew nothing of such things.

    Gabriella silently watched the baby sleep, her golden hair gleaming in the lights of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When a grimace crossed the tiny face, she gently smoothed the child’s brow and the moment of discomfort would pass. She was a warrior, surrounded by wires and tubes attached to her body and the constant sound of monitors making a cacophony of noise around her. Gabriella was a constant presence at the child’s side, monitoring and soothing her.

    The baby’s dark eyelashes fanned her chubby cheeks as she slept and soft black curls framed her face. The NICU had been her home for 11 months since she had been born with a rare heart defect. She had barely survived several surgeries and suffered a respiratory crisis at 6 months resulting in long-term placement on a ventilator. She could not survive without machines sustaining her small body.

    Her mother, Makenna, had been engaged in battles for months with God and the hospital administrators in order to keep her baby alive. She begged and pleaded with God for a miracle recovery and fought to ensure her daughter survived every crisis as the doctors cared for the fragile child. The tiny girl at the center of the battles slept on with no understanding of the furor around her. Gabriella could feel the baby growing weaker from the pain in her body during routine care and treatment. She listened to Makenna’s prayers, anger, despair and ranting over Kenzie’s condition. She felt the mother’s raw emotional pain and stress of mothering a critically ill child she could not hold.

    Makenna’s heart was a mass of conflicting emotions that affected her abilities to make sense of her baby’s condition in order to make decisions. When hospital administrators and doctors met with Makenna, she was ready to fight.

    “Mrs. Mays, we have asked you here to discuss Kenzie’s care and prognosis.” Dr. Walden, Chief Administrator of the hospital began.

    “I know what you are going to say, and I don’t want to hear it!” Makenna could not stop her voice from breaking.

    “Mrs. Mays,” Dr. Davis, the Chief Neonatal physician spoke. “We have informed you over the course of the past 11 months that Kenzie’s prognosis was not optimal. We have listened to your pleas and believe me, we all understand your position; but you must understand ours. There is nothing else we can do for Kenzie.”

    “You want to kill my child!”

    “No, Ma’am.” Dr. Davis sighed. “That is not what we are saying. We are saying that Kenzie is in pain and her condition is incompatible with life. Without the machines breathing for her and doing the work of her heart, she cannot live.”

    “But she is alive!”

    “With the machines only” Dr. Walden said gently. “We truly care about Kenzie and it is painful to see her in pain when we treat her, even though we are careful and gentle. We must keep Kenzie sedated to prevent her fighting the equipment and for her to bear the pain. This is not the life we would wish for any baby.”

    Charlotte, the Director of Nursing for the NICU touched Makenna’s arm. “Makenna, you’ve seen Kenzie’s pain. You’ve seen how the smallest treatment can send her into a crisis. Do you really want her to exist this way?”

    “That doesn’t give you the right to kill her!” Makenna shouted in anger.

    “Mrs. Mays, we understand your distress.” Dr. Walden spoke gently. “We aren’t asking to ‘kill’ Kenzie, we are asking that you allow her to die naturally rather than keeping her alive artificially. We have invested our care, knowledge and resources into treating her for 11 months. There is nothing more we can do for her and we do not want her to continue to suffer.”

    The debate continued for some time. Finally, Dr. Walden spoke again.

    “Mrs. Mays, if you will not give your consent to let Kenzie die peacefully, we will have to petition a court for permission to turn off the life support. We have no other choice. We have taken an oath to do no further harm to our patients and Kenzie’s body is worn out from the surgeries and treatments she’s endured since birth. We cannot justify causing her more pain and harm when she cannot recover.”

    Makenna ran crying out of the room. How dare the hospital play God with her child’s life? The medical team stood wearily from the large table and gathered their files. Their hearts ached as each left the room.
    When Makenna won a small reprieve from the court, she slumped against the wall and sobbed in relief. Exhausted, she fell into uneasy sleep in the rocking chair next to Kenzie’s crib. Gabriella stroked the woman’s hair.

    “I feel your pain” Gabriella whispered to her. “I know your love for Kenzie. You have fought a good fight. I know you are tired of being strong.”

    Makenna sighed in her sleep.

    “There is something you must understand. Sometimes the greatest strength we have is not in fighting – but is found in letting go.”

    Makenna whimpered and a tear slipped down her cheek.

    “Listen” Gabriella continued, “God holds Kenzie in his arms. This is not your fight, it is Kenzie’s. You see it when you look at her even if you do not admit it. She is growing tired of fighting. You gave her life; now, the greatest gift you can give her is release from her pain and suffering. Kenzie deserves better than a life of painful existence with no hope of recovery.”

    “Noooo” Makenna moaned.

    “God is holding her Makenna.” Gabriella gently touched Makenna’s chest above her heart. “Let Him carry her home where she be waiting for you.”

    “I can’t.” Makenna shook her head with her eyes still closed. The nurses watched her curiously as they tended to the baby, cringing when they caused her pain.

    “Kenzie has family members waiting to meet her and hold her. Her body will be whole; no more pain, no more machines. She will be surrounded by angels singing as she plays at Jesus’ feet and is held safe in his arms.”

    Makenna sighed again.

    “You gave her a beginning here on earth. Be strong and let her go to a new beginning with God.”

    The loud sound of alarms rang out in the NICU as the nurses ran to Kenzie’s side. Makenna jumped up and burst into tears at the sight of the baby amid the chaos.

    “No!” she screamed. “Let her go.”

    Charlotte shot her a shocked look. “What?”

    “Let…her…go.”

    The alarms were silenced as Kenzie was quickly freed from the equipment and placed in her mother’s waiting arms. Makenna sobbed as the baby’s tiny heart stopped beating.

    Gabriella watched and smiling, she reached out to the happy baby with the outstretched arms and winged her way to heaven with the child in her arms.

    Reply
    • January 4, 2020 at 2:09 pm
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      Wow, Adi, this story is awful and beautiful at the same time. I mean the theme is awful, not your writing. You truly feel the mother’s and the doctors’ anguish at little Kenzie’s struggle. I admit that at first I wasn’t sure who Gabriella was. The mother (at least until Makenna was introduced) , a nurse, or what she ended up actually being. It was sad story with the happiest ending it could find in this horrible situation. Great job!

      Reply
      • January 5, 2020 at 8:51 pm
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        Thanks Wendy! I appreciate your words.

        Reply
    • January 5, 2020 at 1:54 pm
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      Adi,

      The nature of existence forces us to ponder the nature of existence.

      I think this story (if you’ll forgive any misperceptions) is about faith. And why people really need it. Atheists (not scientists, atheists) tend to perceive believers as weak minded people who can’t accept their own mortality, but that’s not true. Believers can’t accept the mortality of those they love.

      One wants to believe that we’ll see our departed loved ones again—somehow. Who cares how it happens, to be frank. There’s much else that we don’t understand, so we believe we will. I think that’s the real well-spring of faith.

      On the other hand, this story poses one of the most baffling aspects of creation. Why would nature create something so beautiful, innocent and loveable, (as newborn things are) only to mercilessly extinguish that manifestation within days, weeks or months?

      What depraved or indifferent supernatural reason could be behind such an unforgivable cosmic injustice? What kind of god would do that?

      That question leads to a lot of silence. (Not science, silence.) A silence that many choose to fill with their own personal faith.

      This story reminds me of William Blake’s ‘Tyger, Tyger.’

      This is a story not so much to be enjoyed, as to be understood.

      You had one typo but I overlooked it.

      Love ya.

      Reply
      • January 5, 2020 at 9:01 pm
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        Thanks Ken. Your words are true. I struggled with the whole “Why would God do this?” when I lost 3 babies in a year (over 30 years ago). My grief was at war with my faith. Talking with my doctor and learning the medical reasons that my babies died (before birth), helped with the grief. When my faith was attacked by an acquaintance, the words that freed me to grieve were the reminder that even “Jesus wept” when a friend died.

        I had to write this story. It is not about me or my life. I ripped it, if you will, from the pages of the news, a heartbreaking story I have been watching for a month or more. I’ve watched the real baby in the news, fighting for her life and have seen her suffering. In my opinion, this mother has fought so long for her baby that she is now blind to the baby’s suffering and is unwilling to let her go. She’s dragged the media and politics into the fight. Her focus is no longer the baby per say, it is about the fight.

        Anyway, I just felt the story needed to be written and told. It is what I would tell the mother if I could.

        Thanks for reading!

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        • January 5, 2020 at 9:11 pm
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          And thanks for overlooking the typo! I’m surprised there weren’t more considering how quickly I wrote this story.

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    • January 14, 2020 at 12:25 pm
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      Hi Adi,

      A very powerful and topical story. Only yesterday I saw in a news feed about a child who was refused treatment in her own hospital who has been moved and is now no longer in need of life support. It really happens.
      Having read the other comments I can see how close to home this is for you.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:10 am
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      A good story on a terrible subject. It can give a little comfort when it comes to a decision that is too big for a human being.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:28 pm
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      A difficult subject matter to read, but a powerful story. You’ve really captured the emotion of the scene.

      Reply
  • January 3, 2020 at 10:22 pm
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    gadzooks…I hope this wasn’t based on a personal event in your life.. such a heartrending tale… the fairytale ending makes one hope the mother is a believer… I know the emotional toll on me as I read it makes you a good writer to be able to evoke this kind of response…

    Reply
    • January 5, 2020 at 9:10 pm
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      Hi Liz,

      No, this isn’t from a personal event in my life (as you will see in my response to Ken.) Although I am facing somewhat of a similar situation with my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s. She is beginning to have more trouble eating and if she stops, it is only a matter of time. She has a living will that precludes us from prolonging her life with feeding tubes, etc. She believed that if she had no quality of life, she did not want to be kept alive artificially. She has had no quality of life for several years now (almost 10 years). She would not have wanted to live this long like this. There is no way that my father or I would try to keep her here. She deserves to be free of this disease that has robbed her of everything she was.

      Thank you for your comments!

      Reply
      • January 6, 2020 at 11:43 am
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        Um, you may wish to skip reading my story, Adi. I didn’t know your situation and I already posted it. I’m sorry.

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        • January 6, 2020 at 12:02 pm
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          Trish,

          I loved your story. You wrote about the mixed emotions of a caregiver very well! Care-giving is not easy and takes a toll on the person doing it. That’s why they stressed so much in the beginning of our Alzheimer’s journey and we had to take care of ourselves first, in order to take care of Mom. You did a great job of depicting the whole scene and the thoughts and emotions that go through a caregiver’s mind. Is this based on personal experience? If not, you caught the nuances extremely well in the play between Archie and his wife. Good job!

          I don’t expect to be overjoyed when my mother passes, but there will be a sense of relief and joy in knowing that her suffering and lingering will be over. She will be free of the disease and her useless mind and body here. My main worry is my father, not my mother. I know the destination of her journey even though we don’t know the time frame. Daddy doesn’t want to live without Mom and my brother and I aren’t sure what to do about that. It’s a day-by-day, step-by-step, journey.

          Adi

          Reply
          • January 12, 2020 at 5:04 am
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            Good story Adi well written, but not really my favourite genre. Not sure why, but really well written as per your usual standard. It might be the overtly religious tones and angels. That’s all. But well written and very tender.

  • January 4, 2020 at 4:37 am
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    That’s a really touching and also very well-constructed and well-written story, Adi, making great use of the theme – with more than one new beginning, it seems.

    I don’t want to say too much for fear of dropping a spoiler or two, but just to say the ethical dilemma is thought-provoking and the emotional journey brings it to life. Then the denouement I think works really well within the logic/values of the genre, in a way that is cleverly revealed as the story progresses. Great writing!

    (A couple of little things: “a cacophony of noise” is tautologous. It would just be cacophony, or a cacophony of particular noises perhaps.
    There’s also a point where the word ‘pain’ is perhaps repeated to much across a few paragraphs.)

    On the ethical dilemma – it’s often said about doctors and courts ‘playing God’ when taking decisions about whether to end treatment. But equally they play God on a daily basis, intervening to keep folks alive who would otherwise die. When they succeed, we usually approve of that. There are no easy answers to this, are there?

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    • January 5, 2020 at 1:57 pm
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      Ripping a story from the front pages again Adi? Well done, with perhaps the best writing I’ve seen from you in a long time. You kept Gabriella’s true persona hidden well until the end. Thoroughly enjoyed your story and have no critique to speak of.

      Reply
      • January 5, 2020 at 9:20 pm
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        LOL Roy!! I knew you would be the one to know this was from the headlines in the news. I’ve been watching this story for weeks and my heart aches for baby Tinslee (her real name). I know and feel the mother’s grief but she is not helping her baby (IMHO) by keeping her in this condition.

        Thanks for the comments!! I appreciate them and you!

        Reply
    • January 5, 2020 at 9:17 pm
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      Andy,

      Thanks for the feedback and comments! This story was important to me. It is an ethical dilemma and one filled with emotion on both sides of the debate. The only winner in this story will be the baby once she freed from an existence of being kept alive by machines. There are no easy answers.

      Thanks again,

      Adi

      Reply
      • January 6, 2020 at 11:45 am
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        Adi, Your story is beautiful and gripping. I’m still pondering it as I move about my day. Very well done.

        Reply
  • January 4, 2020 at 4:39 am
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    And wishing everyone here a happy, healthy, prosperous and successful-writing 2020!

    Reply
  • January 4, 2020 at 1:59 pm
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    Fresh Start by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [word count 1143]

    Hey guys! It’s the start of a new year and this one is going to be the best ever! #blessed I’m going to share my journey to be the best me right here on my Instaface page so you can track my progress #keepmeincheck

    OK it’s been a month and I’ve Marie Kondo-ed my apartment and started an online yoga class. I’m feeling so much better with less clutter. It leaves plenty of space for me to stretch out #dadjoke Let’s see if I can keep this up!

    So there is such a thing as too much yoga fyi. I’ve moved on to cleaning up my diet while my shoulders recover. I found this new cleanse that’s liquid veg for three days then cram whatever you can in for six hours then back on the liquid for three days. Hopefully this will kick my metabolism into fifth gear and I’ll start burning fat and flushing toxins out of my system. #bottomsup

    The doctors told me I have to eat like a normal person ever since that cleanse depleted my body of all it’s essential minerals or whatever. Turns out an all liquid diet leads to an all liquid… well you catch the drift. So now I’m going to try and follow my joy or something. I’ll let you know how the pottery make and take goes!

    Apparently it’s possible to blow up your pottery piece in a kiln destroying everything else that’s in there with it #themoreyouknow While I can’t ever go back to the art center, I have decided to try out this new escape room in town. They’re hosting a blind date night in conjunction with a local start-up matchmaking service. There were a lot of questions on the application, so I’m sure I’ll find my perfect match! #fingerscrossedlegswideopen jk but not

    I’m typing this from a new phone since I had to leave mine with the police as evidence. The matchmaking service forgot to do background checks and make sure there weren’t any people with extreme claustrophobia locked up in a room with a stranger for two hours #survivor #escapistasofinstaface

    I’ve got to confess something. I’ve started seeing a therapist since the escape room incident. It turns out I have ptsd. I mean she didn’t actually come out and say that, but I know that’s what she was implying when she said I needed to take things more seriously and look before I leap blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I think I’m going to take some time off from my screens and try out a retreat from the stresses of our modern society. #screenwithdrawl #hermitlyfe

    I’ve looked deep into the darkness of my soul and found a gaping void of nothingness that opens up into a giant web of strands that connect us all with each other and the planet and all the plants and animals and there’s a giant spider slowly wrapping me in a cocoon of safety and oh look a squirrel and ailhdiauwdiavfb

    Sorry for that last post friends, it turns out the retreat I booked was an ayahuasca experience that was with a bunch of ex military dudes and things got pretty intense. I also probably shouldn’t have smuggled my phone in with me. The good news is that I met Brian and we’re going to VEGAS TO GET MARRIED TODAY!!!! #tietheknot #whathappensinvegas #blushingbride

    OK, so Brian already has a wife that just got back from her tour of Afghanistan. (Tour of? Tour in?) Turns out they had met in the service but were “going through some stuff” when Brian and I met at the retreat and had mad monkey sex all over the mountain wilderness. Apparently that ayahuasca caused us to manufacture feelings for each other that weren’t really there. Anyway, that’s what his marriage counselor said according to him when he broke it off with me. Maybe it’s time that I try to channel my “frustrations” into a cause. I’ll look around and see what sort of protests are happening around town this weekend and brush up on my civics. #change

    Once again I am writing to you from a new phone since the old one was taken in as evidence in a police case. There had been a protest scheduled just down the street from me last weekend so I joined up and we were trying to get that guy to stop doing that thing to those people or whatever and then some counter protestors showed up and it turned into this whole thing and I was livestreaming it for the group I was with and the cops took my phone. My parents had to come pick me up from jail again and let me tell you they were not happy. #stayoffmycasemom

    So I decided to try out radical honesty as a way to be more #authentic. I learned that not everyone wants you to be honest with them. In fact, a surprising large number of people prefer that you lie to them. My boss is apparently one of those people. Long story short, I no longer work for them and I’ve decided that this is a sign for me to become an artist! I always like drawing when I was a kid, so I know that this is what I was meant to do with my life #artistsofinstaface

    OK remember that pottery incident that happened months ago? Well I didn’t and when I went to the art center to try and get a gallery show they laughed in my face and then said if I didn’t leave they would have to call security. I mean, who even knew that art centers had security? Now I need to come up with something else to improve myself this year. I only have like two more weeks to get my life in gear, so I better come up with something that gets results fast lol. #holidayrush #prayforme

    I finally came up with the perfect way to make me my best self. I’m starting over from scratch and building a new, better life from the ground up. So I hope you enjoy this video of me doing just that. It’s like a post modern homage to the yule log. I piled all my possessions into the living room, doused them with gasoline and there is now a roaring bonfire where my house used to be. Last of all I’ll throw this phone into the flames and I will be born again without all of the baggage of my life. Like a phoenix I will rise from the ashes and have a fresh start to be the best me I can be. Oops, I hear sirens heading this way, time to toss the phone in. This won’t be the last you hear of me #ttfn

    ###

    Reply
    • January 5, 2020 at 2:03 pm
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      My, you sure took me out of the somber but pleasant mood I was in after reading Adi’s story. Another well written story and I have to agree with Ken. I laughed out loud at several junctions and you pulled me in for a wild ride. Excellent job, young lady, just excellent.

      I may have posted that silly warning of mine way to soon.. I’m really gonna have to sharpen my quill to be in the running with this group.

      Reply
      • January 10, 2020 at 2:01 am
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        Loved it. Great story and your characterisation was brilliant. Great read.

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    • January 5, 2020 at 9:35 pm
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      Wendy,

      This was hilarious! It sounded too much like the chaos in my daily life (without the police involvement). Kudos to you for this series of incredible events and misadventures. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride through that “year”!

      Well done!

      Adi

      Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 11:48 am
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      Wendy, Hilarious, and a breath of fresh air after digesting Adi’s thought-provoker. I too loved the hashtag summaries. You made crazy sound fun.

      Reply
    • January 9, 2020 at 12:53 pm
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      Wendy, this story made me laugh so hard! I haven’t laughed like that in a long time. I thought it was going in a sorta, like how to improve your life story, but it took a completely different turn. You drove me through a highway of surprise and laughter. I absolutely loved your story. The #stayoffmycaseMom was a killer 😂 really good job on this one!-Alyssa(Writer2019)

      Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 12:38 pm
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      Hi,

      Look, I try to be original but….well you know how it is. As I was reading through the other comments I read Ken Cartisano’s and I thought….”I agree with every word he has said.”
      Those end of paragraph hashtags are glorious!
      Brilliant and so timely. Who doesn’t need a laugh at this time of year. Here, where I am in the UK, there is a furious storm blowing and, guess what? It’s raining again.

      Keep making me laugh and you will have a friend for life.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:16 am
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      Wendy, that’s the kind of story I love. Humorous. Funny. But also a description of a woman who seems familiar to me. This crazy idea that you can always start over if you want to. As often as you want.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:32 pm
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      Fresh Start by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin

      Hillarious and clever! I wish I’d writen this story. I love the idea of the story told by social media posts– brilliant. And the way that things escalate out of control was a great ending. Well done!

      Reply
  • January 5, 2020 at 12:29 pm
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    Wendy? This story is hilarious. This is one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read. I really did laugh right out loud numerous times. The ‘hash tags’ are brilliant little comedic flourishes at the end of every paragraph. #turnofevents.

    I love the way the story escalates to a final climactic event. #new beginnings

    Just the idea of a blind date/escape room is funny enough without the ensuing events. (Hash tag: stay off my case mom.)

    My favorite line: ‘I decided to try out radical honesty as a way to be more #authentic.’ (That’s just plain ingenious..)

    ‘…who even knew that art centers had security?’

    A very, very, very funny story. Maybe one error ‘…a surprising large number of people prefer that you lie to them.’ (surprisingly) ?

    Loved the story.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2020 at 12:33 pm
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    I’m back. Signing up for comments and unless something from my recent medical eventvrears its ugly head, I intend to stay back and try my best to become a contender. Consider yourself warned.

    Reply
    • January 5, 2020 at 11:23 pm
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      I like that attitude..

      Reply
  • January 6, 2020 at 11:12 am
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    A Second Chance
    (973 words)

    Marge shifted off her bad hip as she slowly uncrossed her ankles. She needed to get up. Almost time to make dinner, such as it was. Tonight, they would have salad, bread and butter, same as every night. She longed for the days when she felt safe turning on the oven and using the stove. Cooking meals hadn’t seemed like such a chore back then. She used to revel in the cornucopia of possibilities that had been the joy of creating dinner. Now food was merely sustenance. So many of the pleasures of life had gone as her body had grown decrepit. And it was doubly insulting that Archie had lost his mind just as her muscles had begun to wither.

    She quickly ran through her before-dinner list – get out Archie’s night-time medicines, make sure the floor was cleared so Archie wouldn’t trip, get Archie’s walker positioned by the bed. Even with the part-time nurse it seemed her life was a never-ending series of preparations for Archie’s comfort. The awful thing was, she could remember when she had found satisfaction in providing for her husband. But those feelings of contentment had slowly withered as Archie had slipped further into his dementia. He didn’t even know her now, but she remembered, even if he couldn’t. And she cared for him, now, and forever, not out of obligation, but out of the love she had nurtured and burnished to steely resoluteness over a lifetime of minor labors such as these.

    Marge went into the kitchen of their small apartment and called to Archie, “Dinner, honey!” Though why she did that escaped her. The nurse had explained that Archie was lately in his own world – he couldn’t really comprehend the sounds of speech anymore. So, she supposed she did it for herself. To maintain some semblance of normalcy. She tossed their salads, buttered their bread and carried the two plates to the dinner table, where Archie had been sitting patiently since the nurse had gone. “Honey, dinner’s ready. We’ve got salad and bread tonight – your favorites.”

    Archie took his plate and mechanically began eating. One bite, two. Then it happened. The food must have gotten stuck in his throat. Marge wasn’t sure. She watched for what seemed like an eternity as she debated internally whether or not she should try to dislodge the food from his airway. She couldn’t believe she was contemplating this, but really, would Archie have wanted to be returned to this miserable life of conscious-unconsciousness? After a few seconds she realized her basic decency would win out and she tried to Heimlich maneuver him. The food popped out, whether because of her maneuver or because Archie managed to dislodge it on his own she would never know. But it made her think. What would life be without Archie. Without his never-ending neediness, without having to be constantly monitoring him. She looked at him, wondering if he could imagine, somewhere in his head, the awful thoughts she was thinking.

    Archie, seemingly unaffected by his near-death experience as well as by Marge’s inner horrors, simply returned, silently, to chewing and swallowing his salad. Marge was left, once again, to her own thoughts. What if she put Archie into a home? They could do that, nowadays, they even had homes for couples with varying degrees of needs. So that Archie could be in a so-called “Memory Unit” and she could luxuriate in an apartment, knowing that Archie was being watched and monitored appropriately. It seemed like heaven. But Marge just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She loved their house, with all their memories and stuff. Moving would be such a hassle, and the change would be so hard to deal with. No, it was better as it was, she decided. She’d soldier on, resolutely.

    Just then, out of the corner of Marge’s eye she noticed Archie had begun to slump a little. Alarmed and breaking out of her reverie, she grabbed his shoulder just as he clutched his chest. Was she imagining it, or was he turning a bit blue? Thinking it was a heart attack, Marge quickly dialed and shouted their information to the 911 operators. Archie slumped further, his eyes shut, and he gasped for air. Marge couldn’t believe that he actually might die only moments after she’d possibly saved him from choking. And he didn’t seem to know the difference. Marge was crushed by this realization, even though it only reinforced information she’d had for a long time. She had truly loved him. But he had been gone for so long. Perhaps it was better this way.

    The 911 operator coached her in pumping Archie’s chest to the tune of Stayin’ Alive for the ten minutes it took for the EMT’s to arrive, and the EMT’s valiantly took over from her but Archie was long gone. As the EMT’s finished talking to Marge and began to move Archie out, Marge finally had time to reflect. With horror, she realized that during that ten-minute wait she had been unable to stop the corners of her mouth from turning, ever so slightly, upwards at the corners. To think her husband was dying, or maybe even had just died, and she couldn’t stop her mouth from moving into just the slightest hint of a smile. It was unthinkable.

    Marge closed the door after the EMT’s departed with Archie’s body, her mind whirring. For all the self-recrimination over her horrible thoughts during his last moments, she had to admit, he’d gone peacefully, and perhaps her emotions were forgivable as she’d missed him for eons, really. She decided she’d sort it out later, but the one thing she knew for sure – now it was her time, her time for a fresh start. And she didn’t plan to waste a minute.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2020 at 2:09 pm
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      trish,

      Second Chance. (I think the title is too obvious.) Describes a drab, a dreary existence for Marge. But it ends on a positive note. You convey her mixed emotions, her true feelings very realistically, (and honestly, I thought.) It’s a sensitive subject which I think you handled really well. The writing itself is excellent.

      Reply
      • January 8, 2020 at 2:17 pm
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        Thanks, Ken. I actually had called it “Fresh Start” but just as I went to post it noticed that Wendy’s was already so titled, so “Second Chance” was my hasty switcheroo. On reflection, I wish I’d named it Marge & Archie, or maybe just Marge. Thank you for the feedback! – Trish

        Reply
        • January 8, 2020 at 11:45 pm
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          Trish,

          Fresh start! Well, Wendy’s no good at naming her stories either. (Or maybe it just seems that way because I’m so stunningly good at naming stories. (If only my stories lived up to their names.) I didn’t notice or remember the name of her story.

          I would call your story: ‘Slightly Up, At The Corners.’

          Reply
          • January 9, 2020 at 6:11 am
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            Ken- Love it! Much better. Thx!

          • January 10, 2020 at 4:28 pm
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            What?! But Fresh Start was such an original title that we both came up with lol

        • January 12, 2020 at 5:28 am
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          A really great story with a dilemna that faces many today especially with people living longer than ever. In a way, I am glad that will not be mine as I am a single parent. My biggest issue is will my son be ok without me and who will look after him eventually when I go. My mother had severe deafness and dementia / alzheimers but the family cut me out of caring or having contact with her and also tried to cut my son out of his inheritance too with the other grandchildren. I mourned her ages before she died and family. I looked after a friend’s father with alzheimers and one of the problems with patients with Alzheimers is choking in the latter stages. They forget to swallow and it was explained you had to be careful what you fed them and they often forgot that they had eaten and would eat several breakfasts or lunches if left to their own devices. It’s a very cruel condition and harder for those who love them than for the people with dementia themselves who often do just drift in and out of a world that is locked into past events. You are often confused with people from their past. I did not believe my mother’s dementia was as bad as they said, because I remember how my friend’s father was and he was diagnosed with Alzheimers and it was quite different now I think about it in retrospect. I believe Mum’s dementia and deafness resulted in her being manipulated by my brother in the USA and she was forced into a home and she was shocked at his callousness. He is very cunning and mercenary both he and his wife.They told Mum that I would throw her out of a house that I had bought and was paying off for her and hence she would not move in nor would she let me arrange a package of home care which she could have gotten. I gave up as I had other battles to deal with in the end. Personally I found them so disgusting I will never speak to him again even though he is a blood relative. It is just horrible the way Mum was treated.

          Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 12:49 pm
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      Hi Trish,

      Been there and I have the tear-stained T-shirt to remind me of my Dad with Vascular Dementia, looked after at home and now my Mum with typical issues associated with being 96.

      The combination of love and duty and guilt are just awful.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 2:31 pm
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      Trish, very good story and I don’t have a lot of critique for it, either. Well written, and you seemed to have jumped on the ‘I’m gonna write a story that’s gonna drive everyone crazy trying to vote for the best one’ bandwagon. Fortunately, with no hands on experience and little contact with people with Alzheimer’s except for mild dementia with my father in law, I have never contemplated the what if’s of such an experience. You did very well in showing the caretaker’s side of the argument.

      Roy York

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:25 am
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      I admire your courage to take on such a difficult subject. The solution offered by the story is one that hardly anyone dares to utter aloud. That’s the good thing about such stories: they do not claim that it’s the only one, the right solution: they only tell how a certain person thinks and acts in a certain situation.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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      Second Chance- Trish
      Sad and a horrible dilemma. You really capture the horrible guilt of caregivers. Your writing was strong too, you painted a very clear (and sad) scene.

      Reply
  • January 6, 2020 at 11:13 am
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    Signing in for comments.

    Reply
    • January 6, 2020 at 1:57 pm
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      Such a roller coaster… the smile wasn’t good… for some reason I was thinking all the lettuce hadn’t really popped out and it was the choking that would end his ordeal and Marge would be consumed with guilt for not doing a good enough job but then she smiled..

      Reply
  • January 6, 2020 at 4:23 pm
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    Happy New Year All, –I am surprised to see so many comments and pieces posted already. Got to catch up. Here is mine:

    A New Beginning

    Mrs. Hicks had taken a challenge to declutter her life — her New Year’s resolution. She joined a FaceBook group where she had committed twenty-one days of non-stop cleaning for at least twenty-one minutes a day.

    Today, on the third day it was cleaning the hutch. Mrs. Hicks took out everything from it. Though the hutch meant to showcase her fine china, now it housed old photos in ugly boxes, Mother’s day gifts made by her children (who are parents now), and whatnot.

    Mrs. Hicks set the kitchen timer reminding her not to waste a single moment. She turned her face back and forth holding each piece, perplexed where to place, among the four labeled boxes – Throw away, Stow away, Give away and Honor. That was how her organization guru had taught her.

    “Be merciless. To be kind to the items, you really want to treasure you got to be ruthless, otherwise all would die a natural unceremonious death. Lost. We will lose them forever — the precious ones.” She had warned.

    “What a horrible pack rat I am, an awful organizer. Lazy bum. A hopeless procrastinator. Otherwise this would not have happened.” Mrs. Hicks murmured. Before she died, she wanted to take action so that her kids wouldn’t give her these bad names. Mrs. Hicks sniffled.

    A letter dropped on her lap. A blue translucent, onion skin letter written with a blue dot pen, neatly folded. She remembered this letter. It was her first love letter written by a silent admirer whose love or admiration didn’t bloom. Mrs. Hicks could vividly remember all the fine compliments and the adjectives he had bestowed on her. She imagined how she had trembled reading that letter fifty years ago when she was sixteen, running to the mirror glancing at her reflection with earlobes turned pink like flamingos.

    A smile beamed on her wrinkled face today. She took it close to the window for more light stretching it out. She adjusted her glasses, then took them off, brought a magnifying lens, but no, the lines were blurry. She couldn’t decipher a thing.

    Mrs. Hicks crumpled it into a ball, frustrated, with foggy eyes. She held it to her bosom sitting in the middle of a chaos of clutter meandering in memory lanes. Then wondered how could it survive all these years?
    ***
    Krr… the timer dinged.

    403 words.
    Jan, 5, 2020.

    Reply
    • January 8, 2020 at 11:38 pm
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      Anindita,

      This is a sad but touching story. You have a way of constructing plots about nothing much that are really about everything. Family, legacy, love, longing, frustration, regret, hope, sorrow, grief. Memories.

      One paragraph threw me off because of the placement of the commas. (I think.)

      “Be merciless. To be kind to the items, you really want to treasure you got to be ruthless, otherwise all would die a natural unceremonious death. Lost. We will lose them forever — the precious ones.” She had warned.

      Shouldn’t it be: ‘Be merciless. To be kind to the items you really want to treasure, you’ve got to be ruthless, (etc.)

      But the last few lines of your story, despite its flaws (and it does have flaws) I mean, if that doesn’t create a touching and sympathetic image, one that really makes you feel for that character, then I don’t know what does.

      Reply
    • January 9, 2020 at 12:28 pm
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      Anindita, I liked the way you conjured a picture of Mrs. Hicks. I was following her de-cluttering journey but almost felt cheated at the end. I wonder if your story might benefit from teasing out more information on Mrs. Hicks’ reaction to the onion-skin letter. Maybe a montage of memories that conflicted and corrected each other to underscore her frustration with not being able to read the letter? Just a thought.

      Reply
      • January 12, 2020 at 5:34 am
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        I agree with Wendy’s comment. It needed more space. Poor little story was cramped and in a box. It screamed “Let me out. Let me dance to the end of love. Let me dance and prance. I have much to tell, too much to tell. Don’t let me end here.”

        Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 4:35 pm
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      I agree with Trish, that I wish it were drawn out a little more, but this is actually a true story about how I end up cleaning lol. It is so sad though that the letter was lost to the ravages of time, but if you added just a little more, maybe about what else she found while going through or maybe a little more detail about what she remembered from the letter (or failed to remember from the letter) it would more like a complete thought and that timer would just ping us out of the reverie. I do love that as the last line though.

      Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 8:52 am
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      I like that story very much, though it might have been longer, als the others already wrote here. Short question: Why are the lines of the letter blurred? Ink? Or was she weeping? (I’m always afraid I might have overlooked something.)

      Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 2:42 pm
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      Anindita, I for one would have like a longer story. Good job, but I think it needed a bit more substance. I noticed something that interrupted the story for me. A misplaced comma. A little thing, but you need to know about this sort of thing.

      “Be merciless. To be kind to the items, you really want to treasure you got to be ruthless, otherwise all would die a natural unceremonious death.

      The comma behind ruthless, you want to be behind treasure. And after ruthless I think it should be a semi colon. Like this:

      “Be merciless. To be kind to the items you really want to treasure, you got to be ruthless; otherwise all would die a natural unceremonious death.

      The only other little thing was use a comma after dialogue instead of a period when transitioning to the speaker of the dialogue as in:

      “What a horrible pack rat I am, an awful organizer. Lazy bum. A hopeless procrastinator. Otherwise this would not have happened.” Mrs. Hicks murmured.

      Instead, this would be more correct:

      “What a horrible pack rat I am, an awful organizer. Lazy bum. A hopeless procrastinator. Otherwise this would not have happened,” Mrs. Hicks murmured.

      Your writing in English as a second language is superb. Liked the story, hope you understand the critique is meant to strengthen your writing.

      Roy York

      Reply
      • January 14, 2020 at 2:46 pm
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        Anindita, I didn’t realize I was being a parrot of Ken C. and others, but you get what I am saying, I hope.

        Roy

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:30 am
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      A nice story! Yes, it’s the same ovwer here. I live in a small apartment and often have to part with things. And then the memories always come. So cleaning up takes much, much longer than expected. But I didn’t know that there were groups on Facebook for this.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:35 pm
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      You’ve made me want to go tidy! Touching and emotional.

      Reply
  • January 7, 2020 at 1:31 pm
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    New Beginnings and New Year Resolutions – Liz Fisher -939 words

    Yeh, I have made New Year Resolutions in the past, usually stuff like exercise more…don’t interrupt when someone is talking, be patient etcetera and so forth..

    This year is different though I made a serious resolution and I’m going to do it.

    So two years ago or maybe three, I’m not exactly sure of the date although I should because it really made my brain go -bing bing bong bong – . My daughter-in-law (DIL), who loves my son, and who I love, gave me a book for my birthday,,, now that I think about it came from both of them…which absolutely makes sense but till now I just gave my DIL credit for the book.

    You must be wondering what the book is – well, it’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. The book has been on the table next to my easy chair since then. I’ve picked it up a few times but don’t recall going beyond the cover. I have talked about it a lot and joked with my friends about the thoughtful gift and yet have not taken any action towards the “gentle art”.

    I have two almost middle aged sons and three adult grandsons so I have to admit I am older, although I have no great-grandchildren yet so not really old old. In my head I’m 43, I upped it from 35 earlier this year just to be reasonable to my body.

    So during the Holiday Season I suddenly looked around the house and thought “omg I could probably qualify as a hoarder”. The need to take action became apparent.

    Now I just have to decide where to start. The kitchen, my bedroom, the walk-in closet, the living room, the dressers in the bedrooms, the 3 bookcases in the living room or the 3 bookcases in my bedroom?

    But first, I should check the book because it will give a clue how to proceed in an orderly fashion, at least that’s what I heard or maybe I just assume that’s how it works..

    I haven’t started yet cause I couldn’t find the book. While searching I did find the “Marlon Bundo” book by John Oliver, which reminded me when we could laugh about White House hijinks which has turned into fear whenever there’s another Tweet.

    Even more interesting I found “The Rocky Mountain Herald Reader” a compilation of newspaper articles from 1860 through March 1965. It seems the newspaper ended its’ reign in 1976. It hit home because our local newspaper The Mountain Messenger was almost closed/shutdown/lost this week after publishing nonstop since 1852 but thankfully community interest surged and someone stepped up to take charge and we have a reprieve.

    I posted on Facebook to see if anyone remembers borrowing my Swedish Death book, and received replies that made me rethink that decision.. including my son who said “I can bring my truck while someone else takes you for a long lunch!” I believe he means a very quick Swedish Death involving a trip to the dump with my precious keepsakes and collectibles in the truck bed.

    It’s January 6th and I haven’t found the book yet, didn’t really look yesterday, I really do want to get this done. I have a lot of shoes, not necessarily fashionable shoes but shoes that make it possible to not have issues walking. My used to be favorites Birkenstock sandals and Haflinger Clogs are very bad for Plantar Fasciitis, you have to have at least a 1” heel or it causes problems, but this isn’t about health issues…it’s about Swedish deaths..

    So now friends and neighbors are emailing, calling, stopping by and suggesting “micro cleaning or have you heard of Marie Kondo and “sparkles of joy”. So I Googled Marie Kondo and apparently she gives you about six months to complete her method… six months? That’s crazy. I think the key for Kondo is what gives you joy. I know what gives me joy… coffee in the morning for a start. It’s morning and it’s January 7th, maybe I haven’t had enough coffee.

    So my son, the one with the truck, suggested the best way to find the book is to order another one on Amazon and the missing one will immediately turn up… right..no wonder he has a truck to go to the Dump.

    I keep thinking the book of death is going to turn up any minute and it will just be one of those omg.. how did I not see it before…and then I have this vague memory of handing the book to a friend saying “yes you can borrow it but be sure to return it… my DIL gave it to me”. So why haven’t they returned it.. they must know I need it, everyone is talking about it…where is the damn book. I wonder if my DIL knows me so well she planned this… drive me crazy looking for a book…

    Okay… I just ordered the Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson from Amazon and then Amazon suggested I might be interested in Swedish Death Cleaning for Beginners by Sarah Hodges.
    You are not going to believe this – the next suggestion after I ordered the Beginners was Swedish Death Cleaning Workbook also by Sarah. Yes, I was able to use my Amazon reward points so it was a reasonable thing to do.

    The good news is delivery will be fast and I will soon, a few days at the most I believe, be able to begin my death preparation.

    Reply
    • January 7, 2020 at 2:19 pm
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      Liz, my husband found The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning at the library. It’s actually a cool concept- cleaning out your stuff so your loved ones won’t have to (whenever that may be.). But mostly the title made us giggle. Is your story this week true?

      Reply
      • January 7, 2020 at 10:44 pm
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        Pretty much true… with some embellishments.. I can barely wait to get the Workbook…

        Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 4:39 pm
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      I love the procrastination in this story. It seems perfect for a self-proclaimed semi-hoarder to keep putting off the cleaning because you can’t find the book.

      Reply
      • January 10, 2020 at 7:15 pm
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        I just need the Workbook as soon as it arrives I’m on it… thank you for the validation..😀

        Reply
      • January 12, 2020 at 3:15 pm
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        Great writing Trish. The build up is well done.

        Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 3:26 pm
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      Trish, Let’s get the good stuff out of the way, first. Clever, clever story, well written, believable, and incredibly funny. Laughed out loud at your line: In my head I’m 43, I upped it from 35 earlier this year just to be reasonable to my body. And then I found other lines I enjoyed and am contemplating stealing to use myself in some future story of mine; I thoroughly enjoyed the whole story.

      Now for the other stuff: I wrote a critique on one of your stories, in one of the last two prompts, I cannot remember which one. It was quite long and involved and when I tried to post it, something happened and the whole damn thing, which I had spent a considerable amount of time on, went to cyber space heaven. I had been working from my tablet, using hunt and peck and wasn’t sufficiently recovered from my illness enough to even begin to consider rewriting it. So, I let it go.

      Now, I cannot let this go by any longer.

      When we first started this thread back in 2013, there were several of us, Ilana was one, and Adi, was another. We had formed this thread calling it the Society for the Preservation of Perfect Punctuation. All in good fun, in which we would gleefully point out punctuation errors to those members who could handle gleeful critiques, and gentle reminders to those we felt might take exception to poking fun at their, in all probability, typo, rather than a gaff.

      You use dashes and ellipses haphazardly. There is no rhyme and reason to the way you use them. For example, in your story, you have this paragraph:

      So two years ago or maybe three, I’m not exactly sure of the date although I should because it really made my brain go -bing bing bong bong – . My daughter-in-law (DIL), who loves my son, and who I love, gave me a book for my birthday,,, now that I think about it came from both of them…which absolutely makes sense but till now I just gave my DIL credit for the book.

      The first dash needs a space on both sides of it. The second dash does not need to be in the story if it is at the end of a sentence. After birthday, you use three commas, instead of periods. (I’m chalking that up to the same problem I have – not being able to tell if they are periods or commas when I’m proof reading}, but in any event, you have no space following birthday, but a space before now. It should be birthday … now. Ellipses are three dots (periods, full stops, whatever you call them) preceded and followed by a space, which brings me to the last ellipse in the paragraph following ‘them’ with no space on either side. I haven’t read any of Phil’s story yet, but if there is an ellipse or two, I guarantee you they will be three dots preceded and followed by a space.

      If you go back and read your work, you will find several other examples of how not to treat an ellipse. If the ellipses of the world ever unite, you could be in serious trouble. Especially if they enlist the dashes to help.

      There, I’m glad I got that off my chest and I hope you take it in the manner I’m intending. I’m thinking no one has taken the time to point this out. Because you do it a lot. I think you are a very good writer and I look forward to reading your stories.

      If you think I got a little out of bounds, let me know, and I’ll let you skate. I appreciate it when others point these things out to me as it improves my writing habits and makes me a better writer. That’s the intention of this entire exercise. To help make you the best writer you can be. d

      Roy York

      Reply
      • January 14, 2020 at 11:09 pm
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        Oh. Roy.. Hey this Liz – not Trish- I just now realized your comment on eclipses and commas plus ….’s was about my Swedish Death.. yeh I have noticed the focus on punctuation in the various comments on stories and wondered about it… also felt like I was getting off scott-free.. recently the comments on all the stories include a lot of suggestions and writing tips and I wondered about that too… I think I thought A Place for Fiction was a relaxing place for rest and respite from the daily grind… and writing these short stories is fun for me… I am bad at punctuation- punctuation and grammar…. kinda like math, I had measles and mumps at the same time and missed the multiplication and division section on fractions… thank goodness for pocket calculators… I was the 4th grade spelling champ…loved to read… but I still suffer with odd numbers but fairly decent with 2,4,6,8. But I digress..I think I write like I talk or stream of consciousness just have an idea and start writing to see what happens. Whenever I have to do an interview, I struggle at first but have learned to find “the hook” for me. Even when I’m not particularly interested in the subject or the person if I can just kind of wander in a little preliminary conversation usually they will say something that grabs me and I have my hook and can find where the article will go…but I enjoy participating in this forum and joking with other writers and I do appreciate all the comments and the stories,..love the stories.. I don’t know where and when ……’s began but it really allowed me to be lazy and not worry about punctuation…. ummm so that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it…. should that be too?

        Reply
        • January 15, 2020 at 3:57 pm
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          Since you write strictly for fun, I will read your stories, remark whether or not I liked it from a reader’s POV and, in general, leave it at that. Just know it makes the story better when it isn’t interrupted with pesky punctuation errors.

          One of the things that makes this site as successful as it is, is because we made it a site that allows critiquing. We try to be helpful in our comments when we do critique other’s works. That’s pretty well spelled out in the rules. However, I’m flexible and won’t get on your case again about the nilly willy way you use ellipses and dashes. I’ll just smile as I notice them and move on … I guess some writers figure that’s what editors are for.

          If I came across as a cranky old writer, that was not my intention. Just trying to help you make your stories better.☺️

          Roy

          Reply
          • January 15, 2020 at 4:29 pm
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            Oh no, Roy, you’re not cranky and old.. that’s me. Darn it now I’m thinking about every comma and dot… I appreciate your comments. I’ve always been a writer and at times have written with editors checking on me…. man that is hard…having someone edit, chop up, discard when what I said/write was I wanted to say/write and how dare they edit my precious words and might distort my premise or meaning… then when I was in a position and had to edit I wave a very gentle pencil… cause I don’t want to hurt anyone’s intent in their words… while writing when I had to care about the publication I was grateful for the punctuation correction. Now I sometimes deliberately write very long sentences just to see if I can or if some word gets into the mix accidentally I occasionally will change the direction of the intent to leave the word in.. it’s fun… honest. Anyhow this is for fun and relaxing… I’m writing this to you and right now I’m on deadline!!!! 2 1/2 hours to get the Prospect up….aaaagggghhh ..gosh I am so wordy…
            Liz

    • January 15, 2020 at 3:36 am
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      Thanks for your story. ” The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning”, I will have a look at that book. For sure.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:39 pm
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      I want to get this book for my parents! I did mention it to my mum and she wasn’t overly impressed. The voice of this piece was chatty and breezy, although it felt a bit incidental as a story.

      Reply
  • January 7, 2020 at 3:17 pm
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    Happy New Year folks, looking forward to your stories for 2020!!

    Reply
  • January 8, 2020 at 2:14 pm
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    Signing into commenting and story writing!!!

    Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 11:56 am
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    Does anyone know how to add italics or bold to text in the comments? My story this time needs some text formatting.

    Reply
    • January 9, 2020 at 1:35 pm
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      Hi Amy,

      I’ll have to do that for you, there’s not a way to do it in the comment box. Post your story and send an email letting me know where you want the bold and italics. 🙂

      Reply
      • January 9, 2020 at 1:37 pm
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        Thank you!

        Reply
    • January 9, 2020 at 1:35 pm
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      *italics*
      **bold**
      _italics_

      Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 12:19 pm
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    Neha Neil
    Title:New Beginnings
    Word Count:1,176

    A new beginning, well, I haven’t felt them in quite a long time. It had always been the same in my life, all week I stayed at home with my mum helping her out with chores whilst she went to work in the evening. And then over the weekends I would stay with my dad, eating popcorn and watching movies all night whilst Tracey, dad’s new snobbish girlfriend, was out singing gigs in the pub. School wasn’t so bright either, especially with my worst bully on my track, Lily Wolf. I used to be bullied so much by her, mostly because I didn’t have friends, or I did but they never were there for me during tough times.

    But everything changed when I turned 12. Mum had got a promotion and was transferred from California to New York. She had already found a new school for me to move to and had already spoken to dad about what was going to happen. They had decided that I was better off living with mum, since both dad and Tracey would be working full time all week, and so I would have to live on my own, which I wasn’t ready to do yet. Although I had the offer of leaving a school I never really desired to go to, even if I had the ability to fled my bully and go to a new school that provided better opportunities for me, even if I had the power to overcome my fear of seeing dad leaving us for Tracey every step of the way, something had always told me that California would always be where my heart would stay!

    “Hattworthfolk High School!” I exclaimed as the cab turned a right towards the new school. It was my first day of school, a day after our plane landed in America. The scorching sun was shining brightly in the morning sky, cars horns honking with pride. Quietly I observed the amazing scene around me. Large apartments scintillated under the blue sky as people rushed from here and there, trying to reach their destination in time. Fountains spurted with glee as the beautiful greenery grew more lushes around its surroundings. My tummy flipped in nervousness as the cab drew closer and closer to the school…

    BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The car drew to a halt, almost tilting the cab towards the pavement. Silently, I got out and started gradually walking to the gate, turning back every few minutes to watch my cab turn a corner down the street. Once it had disappeared down the city square, I approached the gate, greeted the security guard that was ushering me inside, and walked the elongated pathways towards the grand school that stood before me.

    I was greeted by a sweet scent of perfume, which floated towards me as I silently walked past the beautiful flower beds. Children rushed as teachers hushed. Birds tweeted as children chorused throughout the whole morning. The grand appearance of the whole school made me shiver with fright, as I wondered what memories of this school, I would carry back with me every day.

    DING! DING! DING! Loudly the school bell rang, reminding us that the school day had already started and that registration would soon take place. I was making my own way through the winding corridors, when a girl rushed down the corridors and stopped in front of me.

    “Hi, my name is Rosie and you must be Maranda and a new student to our class. We must hurry up and go to class before Mrs Honey enters, and if not, then we would both be in big trouble!” With that Rosie grasped my hands and hurriedly dragged me across the corridors towards a class which was labelled,’8G.’ Then she hastily hung up her coat and bags and pointed towards the coat hanger on the opposite side of her for me to hang up my own stuff, before adjusting her hair and hurrying into class with her notebooks bulging out of her hands. For a moment I was speechless. What is going on?

    Cautiously I crept into the classroom, and then suddenly stopped motionless, eyes transfixed of the chaotic scene before me. Children screamed whilst pounding around the room like vigorous lions, as paint flew from one corner to the other. (Did I tell you that my classroom was an art room) Gum drooped down from desks as art supplies encircled the whole place. It was just like one of those scenes where you just sit at your desk awkwardly, waiting for your teacher to suddenly burst in and claim a detention for the whole class, even if you were not involved. Just then a paper aeroplane flew across the room towards the open door, missing the display board outside and instead hitting a beautiful woman by the name of Miss Honey.

    Her eyes sparkled with glee as she hushed everyone down and her red lipstick sparkled with a delicate smell of strawberry as she quietly greeted us. (I knew the smell of her lipstick very well as my mother had the same one as her in her own collection.) It was just like a magic spell. One by one, each child replied to her welcomes and sat down at their desks and within seconds it was as if nothing had ever happened!

    “Lily Croft!”

    “Yes miss!”

    “Daniel Riverton!”

    “Sup miss!”

    “Maranda Bellamy……!”

    Cautiously everyone turned their chairs and peered over to the corner of the classroom, where I sat. Nerve surged up my shaking spine as my voice trembled in return.

    “Y…….y……………Yes?”

    Mrs Honey smiled and closed the register, before walking to my desk. All eyes were still on me, and I felt the urge to rush out of the classroom and out of plane sight, escaping from the horrible consequences of my dreary life.

    Mrs Honey crouched before talking to me in a sweet and delicate voice.

    “You ok, don’t worry, you will get accustomed to this place and us very soon!” She silently brushed back her hair, her tender voice murmuring quietly, eyes glowing with wonder and fascination. Maybe school wasn’t bad after all?

    OK, I admit, school was awesome. I have made two new kind and caring friends: Kayla and Maya. They are cool, and probably look out for me more than my past best friends’. Our class is not too bad either, just a few rifts here and there, well we can’t blame them! Lessons were awesome, my favourite is art, having been an art scholar for the past few years. There are also lots of co-curriculum opportunities, basketball being my favourite sport.

    No bullies! I just feel the freedom in me from the tight chains that have been dreading me my whole life. And the best thing, is that dad is moving to New York! I will be able to see him every day, and you know what, maybe Tracey is amazing after all!

    I just feel a new me, a new beginning to my life, and I cannot wait to experience more!

    Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 10:05 pm
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      “You ok, don’t worry, you will get accustomed to this place and us very soon!” (a bit awkward – needs contractions.) She {silently} brushed back her hair, her tender voice murmuring quietly, (murmuring about what?) eyes glowing with wonder and fascination.

      “You okay?” She whispered. “You’ll get accustomed to this place in no time at all.” She brushed back her hair, her eyes sparkling with curiosity, and kindness

      Or:
      “You okay?” She whispered, brushing her hair back, her eyes sparkling with kindness and curiosity. “You’ll get accustomed to this place in no time at all.”

      Some words you used repeatedly, some in the same sentence. ‘corridors’, greeted, silently, sparkled, ‘… the grand school that stood before me.’
      In the next paragraph: ‘The grand appearance of the whole school made me shiver with fright,’

      The writing is a bit too luscious. But you convey the mixed array of emotions that would assault the senses of a youngster signing up at a new school. All in all, a pretty entertaining story.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 9:04 am
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        Neha, Ken has already hit on a few things. Here’s another one or two.

        I used to be bullied so much by her, mostly because I didn’t have friends, or I did but they never were there for me during tough times.

        But everything changed when I turned 12.

        You need a comma before the word ‘but’ in the first sentence, and you don’t need the word ‘But’ at all to start the next. Read it without and you’ll see.

        Also, the word lushes was probably meant to be luscious, which would be correct in how it is used. You don’t need an apostrophe after the word friends, and you mixed your present and past tenses in this sentence:

        Our class is not too bad either, just a few rifts here and there, well we can’t blame them! Lessons were awesome, my favourite is art, ‘Our class is’ indicates present, while ‘lessons were awesome’ indicates past tense. I would also have put a semi-colon after there, instead of a comma.

        All in all, you do nail the sense of a ‘new beginning’ very well. Your excitement factor is excellent in how you conveyed it from student/new girl to the reader. Well done.

        Work on not supplying too many extra words. In flash fiction, you need all the words you can get for important phrases, so don’t clutter up your story with words you don’t need. Don’t take it from me, but the words of Ernest Hemingway whose philosophy in writing was ‘the fewer words the better’. For example: “Hi, my name is Rosie and you must be Maranda and a new student to our class. Try this and see if it doesn’t make sense. “Hi, my name is Rosie and you must be Maranda, the new student. Saved 4 words out of 17, that’s almost 25%. Big difference when limited to writing 1200 words.

        I think critiquing is a critical part of what we do after reading a story on this forum. All in the effort to help writers become better. You have talent, and writing in English as a second language is not easy. I tried writing in Italian and in Russian, both of which I failed at miserably. My speaking was passable, but my writing was so bad even I had trouble translating it, and I wrote it. My hat is off to all writers who attempt this.

        Roy York

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:39 am
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      Oh yeah! A new school is a new beginning. And yes, usually you get used to the new conditions faster than you think. Good story, I like it.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:42 pm
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      New Beginnings by Neha Neil
      A fun and upbeat story. A bit too much exposition at the beginning, but when the story got started it was a sweet story.

      Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 12:37 pm
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    Neha, I loved your lush descriptions- the smell of perfume near the flower beds, the sound of school bells, etc. I did find myself wishing for more action/conflict in your story- maybe something hits Maranda in the face when the art class is disruptively flinging supplies about the room? maybe Maranda’s been led to the wrong room? –Just one gal’s opinion. Otherwise, you are dead-on to the theme and you imaginatively crafted and described your characters.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2020 at 5:44 am
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      The back story doesn’t gel with the second half. I thought she was moving from New York to California and then the taxi is dropping her at the school and she talks about landing in America which gives it an immigrant feel????
      Good descriptive writing but work needed on the plot line and details.

      Reply
  • January 9, 2020 at 1:46 pm
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    What are your new year’s resolutions?
    Oh, I don’t usually set any.
    But if you had to come up with a few?
    I haven’t really thought about it.
    Just tell me, would they be; long-term aspirations, or short-term targets?
    I’m not sure…
    I hate to press you for an answer, but–
    Well, like I say, goal-setting isn’t particularly my thing.
    Why not think of a couple now?
    Now? I don’t want—
    What if someone put a gun to your head and insisted on some objectives?
    I- I guess I would make something up.
    They’d know.
    They’d… What?
    We always know.
    Holy shit… Is that a gun? Stop — what are you doing?
    Your resolutions?
    Eat more vegetables and run every day.
    Thank you! See. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Hey, where are you going? Running, huh? What a great start on those resolutions.

    Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 11:31 am
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      Amy, I love this story. It made me laugh out loud…really it did.

      Reply
    • January 10, 2020 at 4:46 pm
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      I love that turn your story takes, it’s both funny and a little scary. I guess it would be scarier if they made You actually eat more veg and run everyday though lol

      Reply
    • January 12, 2020 at 5:46 am
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      Very cute Amy. Laughed,

      Reply
  • January 12, 2020 at 5:00 am
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    A Step into the Future

    He looked up. Her face was severe.

    “Well?” She said. He wanted to answer her. He wanted to give her some lengthy explanation. But his tongue froze. It felt as if it was glued into his mouth, jammed behind his bottom teeth. Instead he panted his grief and surprise and it came out as a long sigh.

    “You don’t have much to say for yourself, do you?” She turned from him and continued what she had been doing when he entered the room. She resumed folding the clothes into neat squares and packing them precisely into the open suitcase on the bed.

    “Marlene, please…” His voice rasped unsteadily. “Wait. Let’s talk this over. Let’s not be hasty. We can’t …” His voice trailed off.
    She did not pause in her packing.

    “We can’t WHAT? Bojorn?” Her tone not conciliatory.

    Bojorn flapped his hands as if to cool himself. He was sweating and his heart rate picked up speed. He stopped his hands flapping by pressing his palms against his chest over his racing heart.

    “You, I mean, we can’t throw away twenty-five years.”

    Marlene looked up from folding her lacy lingerie and packing them into a special bag for such. She snorted.

    “Twenty-five years of what? You tell me?”

    “Twenty-five years of marriage. Togetherness, family …” He fell silent. She threw the lingerie bag into the suitcase and then rammed it into a corner.

    “Twenty- five years of your shit, you mean? Don’t you? Twenty-five years of keeping house, raising OUR children, being there for them” she turned to face him, hands on hips and her face gathered into an angry scowl, “and you, you bloody loser. Listening to you, cooking your meals, waiting up for you when you were late home from the office. Putting up with your whining and NOT once, NOT ONE TIME did you offer praise for what I was doing. No compliments for meals cooked, but by hell, I knew if you were displeased. Or the kids were too noisy when they were little. Or you’d had a bad day and didn’t want to be bothered.”

    “Marlene, please darling listen to me. PLEASE. Can’t we talk?”

    “No.” She began closing the first suitcase on the bed. “The time for talk has passed. I’ve made my decision. Final!” She started to heave the suitcase off the bed and put it by the door. He went to assist her, but she brushed him off, pushing his outstretched hand aside.

    “You can’t be serious? Please listen to reason. You surely won’t, can’t finish twenty-five years like this? Please…” He sat on the bed and leaned over put his head in his hands.

    Marlene paused in her packing, observed him and almost felt sorry for him. Then she stated quietly. “Oh YES SIR, I am serious, very serious. It’s been like I’d just finished a good dump. Once I’d made up my mind. You know, being clogged for years, the toxins leaking into my body and mind; poisoning me. Then I gave myself this massive enema. You know, this gigantic shift of perspective. It was shit hot. I just shed things. The passing of all the shit was difficult. Because I’d been so blocked for years, but then I passed log after fat log – gigantic huge trunks of feces and it was a great feeling when it was all over. You’ve no idea the relief.”

    He looked at her in disbelief. “You’re comparing the end of our twenty-five year marriage to…” he grasped for the appropriate words “having a massive bowel movement?”

    She laughed outright at this. “Don’t pretend you’re so shocked and hurt, Bojorn. How often were you unfaithful to me, to the kids and our family? Tell me was it once, twice, three times or more than that? Maybe ten times?” She stared hard at him, the set in her jaw mean and sharp. “Don’t play the family man. You’re anything but…”

    He held up his spread hands wide in a conciliatory gesture, but she brushed him aside.

    “You keep your bullshit for your next sucker. I’m outa here.”

    “Which car are you taking?” She looked at him wryly.

    “Mine, of course.”

    “The new Nissan sedan?”

    “Of course. You bought it for me last year. Remember. When you thought I’d caught you out with that slag Brenda you hooked up with on your overseas trip.”

    “I told you, she was a business associate.”

    “That’s not what she said to me when she called. Said she was your fiancé. She said she was going to surprise you. She said you told her, I was your sister.”

    “Marlene, I’ve told you she’s a woman with problems. She must have misinterpreted something.”

    “She misinterpreted you shagging her for one night as something more, you mean?”

    “We’ve been over this. Darling please? Please?”

    “Don’t you ever darling me again!” She spat the words at him. “I was stupid enough to fall for your remorse and really thought she was unbalanced, but it takes two to tango.” She looked in her handbag on the bed and pulled out a key. “I need the spare key of the Nissan. Give it to me.”

    “But we have two cars. If you take the kids, you might want the Kluger.”

    “The Kluger’s your car. It’s five years old. You can have it. I’m taking the Nissan. And for your information, the kids’re both over eighteen. They know what you’ve been up to. They’ve known for years about Daddy’s business trips. You’re so bloody obvious. I thought you’d grow up eventually.”

    She pulled out a couple of flash drives from her bag and tossed them to him. “However, I was wrong!”

    Bojorn caught the USBs in his lap. He picked them up and looked up at her puzzled. “What the…?”

    She smiled a smile that did not reach her eyes.

    “It’s all there. Copies of sound files and videos of your latest shag. I’d hired a PI when I’d finally made up my mind what to do. Even caught the last moments of your little “romance” with her. She’s dumped you because she “sees no future with a married man.” All I can say is smart lady.”

    She hoisted her shoulder bag onto her shoulder. “Ok. Help me with the suitcases.”

    He looked at her, numb with shock. “But we’re going to have our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary next month, aren’t we? We sent out invitations, didn’t we? To all the family?”

    She laughed. “Yes, I did. Like I did everything else. But you didn’t see them, did you? Here.” She angled the bag around and dug out a silver envelope. She tossed it to him. He opened it with trembling hands.

    “Stepping Out After 25 years” was lettered in silver on a cream card. There were head portraits of him and Marlene atop two cartoon figures waving good bye to each other. The female was power dressed and stepping up the steps of a private jet with “New Beginnings” in emblazoned across its nose. The male was sitting in a gutter in a pile of confetti with different female names scattered among it.

    “I mailed them last night.” She smiled. “My new business venture.”

    Reply
    • January 12, 2020 at 11:16 am
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      Sharp writing Ilana. Particularly loved the invitation twist.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:46 am
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      A great story in which I feel great anger. This is the kind of story you make up when you have been treated unfairly and think about revenge. And the end with the invitation card is terrific!

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 9:15 am
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      My God, Ilana. I thought your dialogue was so true, that perhaps you took it from an actual recording of a wife finally finding the courage to leave her philandering husband. And the bit about comparing their marriage to a bowel movement was sheer poetry, even as vulgar as it came across. I found a few things to nitpick about, but shan’t, as it would detract from your story. Well done, girl. Your revenge is sweet.

      Roy

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:47 pm
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      A Step into the Future
      I liked your dialogue and there was a lot of conflict in the story. So much pushed down resentment! There were some points where you gave an explanation of her tone, as well as the dialogue which wasn’t needed: e.g.
      ‘ “We can’t WHAT? Bojorn?” Her tone not conciliatory.’
      A fun story overall.

      Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 1:43 pm
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      Ilana,

      I didn’t even see this story until just a few minutes ago. Had to read it before voting. A humdinger. Fantastic dialogue, great ending, really, really fine writing.

      Reply
  • January 13, 2020 at 3:29 pm
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    The Calypso

    Lt. Commander Robert Gallagher became aware.

    He knew it would take some time before he would be able to respond to the familiar feeling of life. It had been drummed into him in Deep Space Protocol Training. First, you are aware. Awareness isn’t elusive. Either you are aware, or you aren’t. It is also the only indication that allows you to understand that you are alive.

    He wondered what year it was and assumed the announcement of a spacecraft nearby was why he was being awakened. He would find out in all due course. Several minutes passed and the disembodied voice, so prevalent in the hallway, interrupted his thought process by its sudden presence over his speaker system. “Captain Gallagher, you are urgently needed on the main bridge.”

    ‘Captain Gallagher,’ he thought. He tried to speak aloud and found he could barely talk above a whisper. “Why are you addressing me as Captain?”

    “Captain Blaine no longer exists; therefore, you are the new Captain. There is a vessel nearby; no more than one light day away, and it will not identify itself. We are unauthorized to go any closer or take any action until authorized by the Captain – you, Captain Gallagher.”

    Gallagher realized the top of his life support pod had lifted and he could sit up. He felt his strength returning, although he was stiff. Even though the life pods stimulated his muscular and skeletal structure, there was nothing like moving to relieve the stiffness.

    “Your wife and daughter are being revived and will go to the Dining Hall when their awakening is complete. We have also activated a portion of the crew, according to Regulation L, Item 6, line 21 – ‘in times of contact with other vessels, the captain, his family and an Approach Team are to be awakened’.”

    “Very well,” responded Gallagher. His body responded, with the life support system running a complete metabolic and blood panel, along with a comprehensive study of all bodily functions. As he stepped down from the pod, he went through the litany of readings. Blood Pressure – 120/80; Pulse – 56, RBC and WBC within normal limits, Respiration – 14, and Blood Oxygen Level – 99.

    “Have you determined what happened to Blaine?”

    ‘Yes, Captain. Captain Blaine’s cabin and life pod were struck by a meteorite, causing all the oxygen in the pod and cabin to escape quickly. By the time the robot team responded and had sealed the leak from the rest of the ship, Captain Blaine’s life support was unable to restore Captain Blaine’s bodily process functions to acceptable levels. Captain Blaine did not regain consciousness.

    As he walked the hallway toward the command center, Gallagher thought about how long he had been doing this. In Earth Years, he was 38, Lacy was 34, and Aaliyah was 6. In Existence Years, they were over 3,000,000 years old. As they went to sleep ‘each night’ after a ‘day’ of being awake, he and Lacy knew thousands of years could pass, but to Aaliyah, it was simply waking up ‘the next day’.

    The entire crew was aware of the time differences. All were accustomed to the system they had signed up for. It was a chance to start a new world somewhere.

    The ship was powered by a Dunn-Levy Ionic Thrust Hyper Drive with a half life of over one half billion years. In such a controlled atomic reaction, the ship was capable of going to the edge of the known Universe and back, several times.

    In theory, no one knew if there was really an edge to the Universe, or if there was simply a time continuum and no edge at all, with all travelers eventually returning to their original starting point, a theory that had gained wide acceptance.

    The half life of Thorium and Bismuth, while measured as over one half billion years, is actually 1,446 times the one half billion years. Half life is just that, one half of the radium is dispersed, then half of what’s left, and so on. Once Dunn and Levy learned how to contain the release of the Thorium and controlling it with the Bismuth, it was a simple matter of putting the parts together.

    When he reached the bridge, Gallagher ordered the robot probes that had been sent to the nearby vessel to enter and send back vid cam results. One of the robots soon reached the command center of the vessel and was able to retrieve a file that was a record of what occurred.

    The ship was identified as The Caribbean – one of the sister ships that had left the Solar System the same time the Calypso had – Earth Year 2141. The Caribbean’s Dunn-Levy Drive had malfunctioned and during repairs, it leaked throughout the ship, killing the crew and passengers.

    “Damn,’ he thought. I hope they never knew what happened. They simply went to sleep one day, and then never awakened, nor would they.

    After viewing a few more reports, he ordered them to be processed, categorized and saved in storage, then Captain Gallagher reached a decision.

    “Console, order the robot probes to self destruct after transferring the vid reports.” This action eliminated the possibility of deadly radiation entering The Calypso. He left for the Dining Hall where his wife, Lacy, and daughter, Ali, were waiting.

    Lacy knew they were awakened only due to an event of some sort – the sighting of a habitable planet, a meteor storm, or, in the event of finding other life, something that had not yet happened. “Why were we awakened?”

    “I’ll tell you about it after we eat.” He then whispered to Lacy, “Blaine is dead. I don’t have many details. I’m the new Captain.”

    She looked at him solemnly. “How will we tell our daughter? She loves him like a grandfather?”

    “Does she have to find out today?”

    Gallagher no sooner had the words out of his mouth when Ali said, “Where’s Papa Blaine? He promised I could see some stars today. He told me so just before bedtime last night.”

    Gallagher hugged her close. “Captain Blaine isn’t doing too well this morning. I’ll be checking on him later and I’ll see what we can do about seeing those stars.”

    Gallagher put her down and took her hand as he led her into the room. He turned to his wife. “Let’s make it an ordinary day, avoid the Blaine thing if we can, let her see some stars, then get her down tonight.”

    “That’s a deal,” she said, “maybe when she wakes up next time, we’ll have good news.”

    That night, after he said good night to Ali and Lacy, he went to his sleep pod and lay there wondering if he should have told Lacy about a report from one of the robot droids. That the Caribbean had discovered a planet with Earth-like features – a planet they had named Eden. Gallagher felt the sensation of drifting away. As he drifted, his last aware thought was about the possibility of finding the same planet … a new beginning … then there was nothingness.

    Reply
    • January 13, 2020 at 4:08 pm
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      As a die hard Asimov/Heinlein fan, I loved your choice of setting. Your story drew me in and the science/tech explanations were fun. I really enjoyed this story. Great descriptions of characters & intriguing plot tied together with great writing. Well done!

      Reply
      • January 14, 2020 at 7:48 am
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        Trish, as a lover of Asimov and Heinlein myself, I really appreciate your comments. I have a significant collection of signed SciFi by authors including Asimov, Poul Anderson, Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear, Robert Silverberg, Stephen R. Donaldson, et al. From the time I was about ten until I was in my fifties, I read SF almost exclusively. Then, I started reading other genres and seldom went back to SF. I also have a collection of SF pulp magazines including the First Issue of Issac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.

        Funny, when I started writing I never delved into SF (as I originally learned to abbreviate it) but am glad I did this time, although this story is up against some stiff competition. Glad you enjoyed the story.

        Roy York

        Reply
    • January 13, 2020 at 4:11 pm
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      Hi Writing- what an interesting story. the details about Thorium and Bismuth are fascinating almost as fascinating as what 885018844 stands for/means, I’ve thought about those numbers almost as much as this story..kept going back to various sections trying to determine the possibility of reality mixed with fiction and how did you know all this and then the phrase “returning to their original starting point” was a tell but I never dreamed it would be the Garden.. great story…great characters and I sure hope they never discover the internal combustion machine or maybe it should be the wheel…destroy the Calypso and all memory as they enter Eden a real new beginning… and it certainly can’t be your SS#

      Reply
      • January 14, 2020 at 7:28 am
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        Liz, I probably should have put my name under the story title. I had been doing that. I need to fix that but not sure how.

        Thanks for your comments, and I did a little research on Thorium and Bismuth. Thorium has one of the longest half lives, and Bismuth is the most stable. The rest of the scientific stuff is made up, except about the length of the half lives. It’s part of the old conundrum of cutting anything in half, then in half again, each time until it gets so small, you cannot cut it again, or can you? Somebody figured out that 1446 is the number of times that can happen, and is probably only a supposition. About radiation, that is.

        I grew up reading SciFi but this was my first attempt at a true space story. I got the bug a few prompts back, but couldn’t pull the trigger on a plot, but New Beginnings sounded perfect. Glad you enjoyed it.

        It was much longer in its original writing, and was cut significantly. But, it captures what I was striving for.

        Roy York

        Reply
        • January 14, 2020 at 5:19 pm
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          I changed that crazy number to your actual name Roy, has a much smoother ring to it. 🙂

          Reply
          • January 15, 2020 at 9:17 am
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            Why, thank you, Alice. If I would have known to do that, I would have. Again, thank you.

          • January 15, 2020 at 12:11 pm
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            Also a Sci Fi fan from way back in the seventies Roy. There was a golden age of science fiction in the early to later 20 th century and I would spend the bulk of my disposable income on texts. Asimov, Heinlein, Donaldson, Silverberg and Bradbury to name a few.
            You hooked me in, reeled and landed me Roy. Enjoyed this story immensely.

    • January 15, 2020 at 3:57 am
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      A new earth? Well, that’s a great new beginning for sure. TWe can only hope that the new earth will be treated better than our old one.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 9:30 am
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      Wow, Roy, you got a hard sci-fi story with technical details into a flash format? I’m impressed! I like the amount of technical details balanced with the tidbits of the story, giving us just enough to make the science believable and to give us a start and hopefully a happy ending.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:57 pm
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      An intriguing story with a hopeful ending. You start us off with a bang with the death of the old captain and the sighting of the new ship. I wodered about the captain’s wife and children— did they have a job to do on the ship or were they there just to keep him company? A tiny bit of characterisation would have helped. And I didn’t understand why he didn’t tell his wife about the ‘Eden’ planet. But I’m nit picking- it was a great story.

      Reply
  • January 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm
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    X

    My parents moved from Manchester to London soon after I was born. It was because of my father’s work, my mother said, when she thought I was old enough to know. I believed her at the time, and I carried on believing her until I found the shoebox.

    When I was ten, my father disappeared. One day he was a violent presence in the house, the next it echoed with his absence. My mother told me to choose only my favourite toys and put them in a small suitcase. We took a train to Birmingham – I can still see the faces of the people in our compartment, staring at us.

    We ended up in rooms above a butcher’s shop; the smell of fresh meat pervaded the place. My mother took jobs as a cleaner, helped out sometimes in the shop downstairs, and had visitors. I was given sixpence and sent to the pictures on those occasions.

    I had few friends and dedicated myself to study. I did well and got the grades to go to university. In those days, the State gave you a grant if you didn’t have the means. We didn’t, and so I went. But I stayed at home; my mother wouldn’t have been able to afford the expenses involved with my living away from home.

    One day, in my second year, my mother was out, I was stuck on an essay, and I procrastinated by setting about cleaning up our rooms. That’s when I found the shoebox, stuck right at the back of a shelf in my mother’s wardrobe. I shouldn’t have been poking around in her wardrobe, I know.

    The news clippings were about a series of murders in Manchester. Horrible murders, of both women and men. I read the clippings with a growing sense of unease. They were all dated around the time of our move to London. The clippings ended chronologically without the police having found the perpetrator.

    I put everything back in the box and returned it to its place. I didn’t address the issue with my mother but carried on living my life as I had been doing: university classes, home to study, the occasional visit to the pictures; my mother was still receiving visitors.

    Then one evening, when I got home from the pictures, my mother was in the hall, pacing up and down, her suitcase at the door. She told me she was leaving, that I had to go with her. I protested: what about my classes? She said to hell with them. If I knew what was good for me, I’d go with her. Her behaviour reminded me of when we’d left London in a hurry ten years before.

    I could have refused, but I had no way of supporting myself and felt that I should somehow look after my mother in this crisis – whatever it was about. I said I would go with her, and asked for half an hour to get my things together. I went to enter the living room and she stepped in front of the door, shaking her head. So I got all the important things from my room and packed them into the same old suitcase I’d used the other time for what I now realised was, like this, an escape.

    We took a bus to Cardiff. It was raining when we arrived, and it felt like it rained for most of the ten years we were there. This time the rooms we found were above a greengrocer’s: a step up. My mother slipped into her old jobs, while I got work in a local factory. I found that I didn’t mind giving up my studies if I could help to provide for us both.

    It was about time I suppose, but I finally met someone: Jilly, a lovely clerk at the factory. We started ‘courting’ (as my mother would have it) and then we got married. The wedding was a simple registry office affair as neither of us had friends to speak of (it’s what attracted me to her, I suppose), and there was just my mother on my side, an aunt on hers. To save money, we set up home in the rooms above the greengrocer’s. My mother wasn’t keen, and nor was Jilly come to that; jealousy, I think, on both sides.

    On my 30th birthday, we had a cake and sparkling wine. My mother got a little tipsy and at one point she said something that was familiar. It took a few minutes to sink in, but when it did, I put two and two together. Manchester. The murders. My father had had help. And my mother had kept the clippings because of … pride.

    I got some sleeping tablets from Lilly’s drawer. I crushed them up and put them in my mother’s wine. The rest was easy. People would be horrified that I could do such a thing to my own mother, but it was a kind of justice. And Jilly had become the woman in my life now. She was surprisingly calm about the events of that evening – more evidence that she was ‘the one for me’, really. We packed quickly and took the train to Bristol.

    Bristol is a lovely town – young, vibrant, multi-cultural. We got a small flat that belonged to a distant cousin of Jilly’s, and we both found work in the same bar. It was good to be living together, just the two of us; we had something unspoken that fit perfectly – two halves of an orange, or something like that. I’d never felt more content. We got a dog – Spike. I loved that dog.

    But then – I suppose it was inevitable, given my parentage – the feet began to itch. I tried to convince Jilly to come away with me, but she told me she was the most content she’d ever been, too. The feet were stronger, though, much stronger than my love for her.

    I couldn’t, of course, leave her to anyone else; it would always be preying on my mind who she was with. And who’d be playing with Spike. I made sure it was painless, though; I loved them too much for it to be any other way.

    So in my 40th year, I’m on the move again. I like the idea of Scotland. Edinburgh. It’ll be cold, and I’m not a great fan of the cold, but I have a feeling in my bones that it will be an ideal place to make a new beginning.

    Reply
    • January 13, 2020 at 7:08 pm
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      Great writing Phil. Mum never came looking for her son and DIL. British discretion, I take it. Good story it kept me involved to the end which was tame and left me with a lot of questions.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:04 pm
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        Thanks, Ilana!
        Mother couldn’t really go looking for them because … well. (not clear, perhaps)

        Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 8:09 am
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      Phil, what a terrific story. It had the feel of a creepy tale from the 1850’s…

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:06 pm
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        Thanks, Trish!
        I had the 1950s (-ish) more in mind (‘sixpence’, etc.) … but your idea is valid, too.

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        • January 15, 2020 at 7:07 pm
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          (mid-20th century, anyway)

          Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 5:37 pm
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      I believe that Jurgen read your story before writing his own. (But that’s his problem.) You entice us with your warm lovable characters, and then set the hook with engaging dialogue. I don’t know how you… wait a minute. I’m thinking of someone else’s story. Never mind. I’ll get back to you on this.

      Just kidding you Phil. Good story. Cold and crazy as the characters you created for it.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:09 pm
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        Thanks, Ken!
        (Not sure I understand the Jürgen reference …. but that’s probably just me getting old …)

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 4:02 am
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      Another great dark creepy story from you, Phil. I sometimes wonder what it might look like in your head. But that’s the good thing about writing stories, it can clean your head. 😉

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:10 pm
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        Thanks, Jürgen!
        Freud would have an answer, I expect …

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 9:27 am
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      You leave me with the question of who was the real murderer? We have only the son’s supposition it was his father, while everything I read in your story indicates it was the mother. Only you have the answer to that. What is it with you Brit’s to have such a cool take on grisly serial killers? Like Berliner Max said: I’d like to look in your head, but then, again, no I wouldn’t. Not at all. Too afraid of what I would find.

      No critique, because Sir, you don’t leave room for critiques by us common folk.

      Well, there was this need of a question mark instead of a full stop after the sentence – And who’d be playing with Spike. Ha! There you go Ken C. Caught him red handed.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:20 pm
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        Thanks Roy! (and great to see you back’n’feisty!)

        The suggestion (maybe too vague) is that it was the father what dunnit, but with the mother’s help. Women tend not to be serial killers, but we had a famous couple in Britain – Fred and Rose West – and that was their MO. Later, mother does get a taste herself, though …

        Don’t you hate it when people argue with you about your critiques? It’s very annoying … but I have to do that here about your last comment re “And who’d be playing with Spike.” In fact no question mark is necessary because the question about Spike is an ‘indirect question’, i.e. “it would always be preying on my mind who she was with, and who’d be playing with Spike.” You could argue (and you’d be right) that there shouldn’t be a new sentence there, but I’ll be claiming ‘literary licence’ on that score.

        Just to compensate you for that, I can own up to mispelling Jilly’s name at one point – unforgiveable!

        Cheers

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:41 pm
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      Wow! Intrigue from start to finish. We get a whole life and I was totally hooked and drawn in and then… boom! Double murder! Brilliant.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:22 pm
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        Thanks, Amy!

        Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 3:16 am
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    Green.

    Dear Management Board, dear shareholders, ladies and gentlemen!

    We have called this meeting to inform you that our company will take the big step forward. It will be a great step forward to a brighter future. A new beginning is more necessary than ever! Because the world is no longer the one we used to know. Our planet is undergoing a profound process of change, and this change is happening ever faster. Those who do not immediately adapt to the new situation will become extinct like the dinosaurs. But if you have the courage and the ability to see a new situation as a challenge, you will not only survive, you will discover great opportunities. The key word here is “conquer new markets!”

    For example, think of the fish. A long time ago, some fish started crawling onto land. Oh yes, it took those fish some time to get a proper lung in addition to their gills. But these fish were what you call “game changers” in today’s business lingo. The water was not enough for them, they sought new shores. These fish were as future-oriented as today’s bravest entrepreneurs. They wanted to conquer new markets, whatever the cost. They knew exactly what the big step to be taken was, and lungs and legs would come after the step was taken.

    Our industry always has to identify new consumer needs and find the right answers. It is no longer enough to produce a shoehorn of the highest quality. Because the classic shoehorn is a product that has made no progress in decades. Consumer desires have evolved, but the classic shoehorn has remained the same. Ladies and gentlemen, let me make it perfectly clear: the classic shoehorn is a dinosaur. It will die out. It is just a matter of time.

    But do not worry, the end of the classic shoehorn will not be the end of our company. On the contrary, “Shoemaster Inc.” will grow and further expand its leading position in the shoehorn market segment. This is the merit of our very resourceful research and development department. Our marketing experts have predicted the challenge for years, and the product developers have debated day and night how we can respond with a real innovation. We were very successful, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you that much.

    Our research and development department has come up with a product for which a consumer need still has to be created. “Can such a thing be successful?” you may ask yourself. Think of the invention of the airplane. Did those brave men who flew through the air for a few seconds with home-made wings know what potential the new technology would have? No, of course not! Back then, people did not miss the fact that they could not fly through the air and drink tomato juice. These men were inventors, they had a vision. They wanted to make flying, an ancient dream of mankind since Daedalus and Icarus, possible for all of us.

    We searched for such a similar big dream of mankind and we found it. The environment. Climate change. Sustainability. The big trends of the new millennium. Each one of us has to change our consumption habits. Everyone has to make a statement. Everyone has to help mankind to survive. Without our effort we will become extinct like dinosaurs.

    Courage and determination are required in this situation. Courage and determination have always been the most important qualities of the entrepreneur, changing the world with his innovations. So today I would like to introduce the product that will make Shoemaster Inc. immortal.

    Our shoehorn “Shoemaster One” has been the leader in a competitive market for decades. Now the completely new, the exclusive, the innovative shoehorn “Shoemaster Green” will be put alongside it. It is the same model made of the same material as before. And yet it is something completely new: a green shoehorn. Because our new model “Shoemaster Green” will only be available in the new colors “grass green”, “melon green” and “agave green”. Three shades that appeal to a young, attractive target group.

    With the completely new “Shoemaster Green” we now give young people who are concerned about the future of our planet an opportunity to express their feelings by choosing their shoehorn. A shoehorn with an attitude, the perfect product for people who want to demonstrate their viewpoint. The three shades are all green. Nevertheless, we give the consumer the choice. We prove that sustainability and individuality do not have to contradict each other when choosing a shoehorn. Now it becomes so easy to show the world that you have a green consciousness wherever you want to put on your shoes.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the market researchers agree: this shoehorn will be a great success! In various studies, consumers have repeatedly confirmed that they want to show where they stand when they put on their shoes. With our top product “Shoemaster Green” you can do this without having to sacrifice the unique comfort and the great advantages of “Shoemaster One”. That is why we have chosen our slogan: “Shoemaster Green – the green future for putting on your shoes”.

    Now let me tell you this: Shoemaster Green needs you! Shoemaster Green needs all of us! Let us all together make this unique product a success the world has never seen before! This is a new beginning, the birth of a shoehorn manufacturer dedicated to sustainability!

    We have the courage! We are determined! We put on this shoe!

    Thank you for your attention!

    Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 9:42 am
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      Juergen this story is hilarious. The idea that a shoehorn being green is so silly especially when the management doesn’t even understand what that means. Another crazy romp.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 12:54 pm
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      Max, This sentence does not need the extra dear preceding shareholders: Dear Management Board, dear shareholders, ladies and gentlemen! But, like the rest of your narrative, it gives us a warning that your copywriter was up most of the night chugging copious amounts of coffee, Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy drinks while writing his copy for the shareholders.

      Assuming that repetition is the key to the company employees and stockholders, your copy writer did a bang up job.

      While it isn’t wrong, this first sentence gave me pause: For example, think of the fish. A long time ago, some fish started crawling onto land. Any particular fish I should think of? Did you have one in mind because in my humble opinion your sentence indicates a particular fish and by removing the word the in front of fish eliminates any doubt in the reader’s mind. For example, think of fish. Now, I’m not wondering if I should have Nemo in mind, but fish in general. A little thing, but I like to tidy things up a bit. Speaking of Nemo, my granddaughter and I discovered him in a sushi house right after seeing an ad for the movie, Where’s Nemo.

      Otherwise, my dear Max, I enjoyed the copywriter’s sense of urgency in selling such a non descript item as a shoehorn. Something, that most people take for granted, but, by golly, you made me go look for mine. (Silver, by the way, or, maybe metallic is a better description, for it certainly isn’t silver.)

      Interesting story. Good to see you back off holiday, but I’m willing to bet, you would rather still be on holiday.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 16, 2020 at 4:03 am
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        Thanks for your thoughts, Roy. This is a speech, and as such it has a certain rythm. I read this aloud and watched the pacing. Therefore the repetitions, therefore the second “dear”. And I have to say, the guy speaking ist not the smartest. I know it weren’t fish crawling, it was much more complicated. But I can’t help this guy, I’m just the writer.

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:08 pm
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      Funny, but I felt the writing was a little stodgy. A fun concept and I like the ‘green’ shoehorn.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 6:55 pm
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        Interesting. I’ll have to reread it for greater appreciation. Found some of it a bit hard to follow. Probably me too distracted by events surrounding us here. The smoke haze!

        Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 8:20 am
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      Hilarious… but tragic, at the same time, Juergen.

      If my reading is right, this is very much something I feel all the time around me – and which frustrates me (but also sometimes amuses me) quite a great deal: the climate change action debate!

      I mean a big fuss is kicked up about eliminating the likes of plastic forks and drinking straws, while cars, industry and farting cows keep spewing CO2 in immense quantities all over the world at all times!

      Plastic forks are not exactly ecological, but eliminating them is not going to help much (except help the politicians pretend they’re doing some great stuff).

      Or I have some colleagues, who come to work in gas-guzzlers and then tell me at the bottom of emails they send me “Think Green – Do Not Print This Email!”

      Yeah, right! And who the ffff prints emails, anyway!?

      So green shoehorns will now save the world. I’m at fault here. Mine is black. But I had no choice. I didn’t buy it. I just nicked it from a hotel room. So you can’t blame me. I’d have bought a green one, if it were up to me. I’m a good person. But you can’t always choose the color of what is available to lay your hands on, can you…?

      Cheers and do think green! (Think Ilana, koalas, kangaroos… what’s even going on down there? It’s beyond my comprehension what we’re coming to…)

      Ken

      Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 5:42 am
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    PERFECT STOCK
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words, excluding titles and this line)

    “Watch out!” Leonard Pruppet’s horrified.

    Too late. Blood splashes on the windshield. The woman they’ve just run over slides slowly down the glass. Her lips quiver, her eyes can still see, as life gets sucked out of her.

    Seething masses of frenzied people fill the streets of DC, like ants in a disturbed nest. As if there’s no tomorrow.

    For there really is no tomorrow.

    “Oops!” says Wayne, the driver, less perturbed than the President’s Man. “N’ver mind, she was soon gonna be toast anyway!” He waits for the body to fall off the hood, turns the wipers on to clear the blood and drives on.

    Pruppet checks on the President’s children at the back. Barker, 5 and his sister Beryl, 3 play in the expansive comfort of the presidential limousine, blackened windows separating them from the world outside.

    “It’s impossible! We’re never gonna make it!” Wayne’s exasperated. “I’ve got to do this!” he then adds, as he presses hard on the gas-pedal and drives heedlessly into the crowd, mowing countless people along the way.

    Not unlike a silent movie, Pruppett watches people screaming, but hearing nothing in the eerie hush of the soundproof vehicle. Wayne’s right. The clock’s ticking.

    “Can I take this doll to the Special Place?” asks Beryl. She knows the answer, but still tries. Pruppet reminds her: nothing can go inside the nuclear bunker – the “Special Place.”

    Beryl’s question rings a bell.

    “Fuck! The Bible!” Pruppet’s forgotten to bring along the disinfected copy of the Holy Bible the President sealed for him in a vacuum-bag to drop inside the bunker with the kids. This was Pruppet’s first mistake in six years of devout Presidential service. The frantic rush out of the White House and the mere fact that the city will be roasted in 30 minutes may’ve something to do with that.

    The President will be mad at him. He’s mad at himself. That’s how Pruppet’s made – haunted by the need to be correct. Shame overpowers him, even if there’ll really be no consequences for him – he’ll be dead before ever having to face the President again. And the President too.

    Everyone.

    Everyone except those two urchins at the back of the car. And the other 142 children, carefully handpicked from across the nation: the “Perfect Stock”. An undercover White House committee selected them through a secret program dubbed “Future”.

    The President saw it all coming, the nuclear holocaust; he grew obsessed with it. He could’ve perhaps calmed the world, but instead believed this was divine intervention – a call from above for a new beginning for the human race.

    The “Perfect Stock” are infants of Top-Models and Olympians, strong, healthy and beautiful. They’ve been living in the bunker for some months now, ever since international geopolitics took that ugly road of no return. They’ll eventually come of age in the bunker. Them and the President’s children will get to mate and restart human evolution on a good footing. From a superior stock.

    Pruppet glances at his newsfeed. The first missiles just hit the country.

    “Philly and New York are piles of rubble,” he announces to his driver. “Ten minutes and DC will be vaporized – hurry, please, hurry! The end’s nigh!”

    “Wasn’t it thirty minutes? How’s’t now already down to fuck’n ten?”

    “Miscalculation… the Sushis pressed the red-button quicker. No worries, our parcels are on their way too. They’ll soon be shadows in the dirt.”

    Wayne presses the gas-pedal all the way down, ploughing through more pedestrians. They’re close-by now. The bunker entrance’s some hundred yards away.

    “I’m going in too!” Wayne declares. That thought’s been growing inside him since he took this assignment.

    “No! Only the kids – President’s order!”

    “Fuck the President! He got us in this shit! You do what you like – I’m going in!”

    “You’re not!” Pruppet produces a pistol, shoots Wayne point-blank and takes over the wheel.

    “Eyepatches on, pirates – it’s the Special Place!” The kids must see nothing of how this old world’s ending, so they’ll start the new one from scratch.

    Three-minutes left. Pruppet carries both kids, wades through a river of people. A derelict TravelEx bureau serves as cover for the bunker entrance. Pruppet places his hand on the palm-reader of the fake defunct ATM, utters the passcode. A latch opens.

    The bunker’s enormous, spanning under Richmond and Baltimore on either end. Robotic farmers and child-carers are equipped with batteries to last fifteen-years. There’s enough space to bury the dead too, as many generations of occupants will live and die there for 10,000 years, the time it’ll take for surface radiation levels to return to normal. An automatic sixteen-foot-thick lead-alloy door to the outside world will then finally open.

    “Fuck’n gypsies!” Pruppet mumbles as he catches a glimpse of a homeless mother and son that’ve made the abandoned TravelEx shop-front inlet their home. No-one’s supposed to witness the President’s children’s escape, but there’s really no time to waste on that.

    The woman figures out something and throws her son in, just as Pruppet is about to shut the latch forever. The skinny boy – five-years old at most – holding on to his precious Superman comic-book he salvaged from a trash-can, vanishes in the camera-aperture-like hole.

    “Don’t!” yells Pruppet, out of his wits, “only special children go… in… there…!”

    “Melvin’s a special boy,” says the mother nonchalantly.

    A distant glow, brighter than the sun, announces the end. Pruppet locks the latch, twenty seconds left to think of his own soul.

    The three kids make their way deep inside the bunker. It looks like a palace. The President spared no dollars in creating this vast subterranean world for his kids and the future of humanity.

    “They let you get that!?” Barker complains to Melvin, pointing at the comic-book, “We couldn’t bring anything! Are you special or what?”

    They reach an endless marble-column-lined hall. There’re swarms of children, none older than five. Some observe the newcomers.

    “I’m the President’s son, so I’ll be boss here,” Barker asserts.

    “And I’ll do the Vice-Plesident,” Beryl adds.

    “Not so fast!” Melvin interrupts the solemn declaration, “I’ll be boss, because I have the Superman comic!”

    Melvin easily beats Barker in the fight that ensues. Many kids support Melvin, because he seems cooler. And they want a peek at his comic-book.

    12,000 YEARS ON

    The world’s a very different place now. After the massive fallout, life somehow pushed ahead, regenerating itself, in totally new forms. The one million descendants of the original 145 soon made the planet their own, asserting human authority on the brand-new lifeforms. Including the fearful giant but brainless hairy frogs.

    The bonetree hut-village of 2,000 years ago is now a thriving metropolis. They now use stone, stack houses up high, even up to five-stories!

    Right in the middle of the city rises the immense spire of the Great Temple of the Lord of the Skies. The Lord will one day fly down from the sky, they firmly believe, and save them from all evils.

    There’s, in the Temple, an ancient parchment from the time before time, for anyone who may occasionally harbor doubts. Holy scriptures, complete with pictures, prove the Truth: the Lord of the Skies is real.

    His name is Superman.

    Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 5:23 pm
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      Fortunately, the future stock of humanity was not left with a ‘Sponge-Bob Square-Pants’ or ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ comic. Then again, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered much after all. They couldn’t have fared much worse than a ‘bone-tree village’ or a ‘metropolis’ with five story ‘sky-scrapers.’ Cool story Ken.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 6:44 am
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        Hi Ken,

        Yes, it could’ve been worse for them, Supermanists!

        (although, come to think of it, Sponge Bob would’ve been more fun than Superman, I think… He certainly wouldn’t augur salvation, but at least some much needed humorous mischief would be guaranteed. “Much needed” in the world of today, I mean. I don’t know in 12K years’ time… but it looks like they are very much in the same predicament like us).

        My story, to me, is very much about us. I mean, the “Current Stock” (you and I and the many [imperfect] others around us). We have been left with that Snakeman comic since time immemorial. That old story has influenced almost everything that happened to us since we replaced the dinosaurs… It’s an allegory about us and the absurdity of blind faith (ok, not totally blind, but supported by an ancient parchment. If that helps…).

        Actually, I’d been thinking of you specifically, Ken, and that I should ask for your help. Not on matters of salvation (!), but with finding a more suitable title for my piece. You are the self-crowned Title Genius in here (with a good proven track-record, I must add).

        I started off with “Children Of The Future”, then just “Future”, then “Project Future”, then settled for “Perfect Stock”. Well, not really settled, but got tired of looking for anything better…

        The thing is that I want the title to reflect my real focus for this story: ie. not so much the nuclear holocaust, presidential abuses, or the fact humanity got to start afresh, but the absurdity of religion based simply on ancient documents and popular superstitions.

        (Religion based on spiritual awakenings and a genuine search for what lies beyond our five senses is ok with me, but most of organized religion is very much the Superman/Snakeman comic kind, right?).

        The title should be about that, but falling short of possibly spoiling the ending. I had “The Origins of Faith” or “The Superman Cult” in mind, but those would be obvious spoilers…

        So, anyway, if you come up with something cool for me, let me know! (Anyone else reading this, too, of course. Bill me later.).

        I may not change the title in here (there’s going to be no time for that anyway), but I’ll keep it for later use. And as a masterclass on how to come up with a good title…

        Thanks!
        Ken

        Reply
        • January 16, 2020 at 2:17 am
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          Ken M

          Right off the bat, the name is ‘Lord Of The Skies.’ It just jumps right out at me. But it doesn’t convey that much.
          You could also go with, ‘Bonetree Temple’ or ‘Metropolis.’ Or ‘Fly In The Ointment.; Super-race’

          I like ‘Lord Of The Skies.’ Or should it be Lord Of The Sky?

          Sorry that my comments have been so brief this week, but I’ve been busy with some projects and of course dealing with my lifelong ambition to live like a pampered poodle.

          As for the story, I think you devoted too many words to the beginning escape to the bunker, and too few on the conclusion and point. I don’t think you need all that mayhem at the front of the story. A little is fine, then you could condense with some exposition(?) and that would leave you more room to expand the second half of the story.
          (I like exposition. I don’t care what Ilana says.)
          Did you mention robots to take care of the first children?
          “Lord Of The Skies.’
          I have more to say about this story but i must go to bed.

          Reply
          • January 16, 2020 at 8:00 am
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            ‘Lord Of The Skies’ – bingo! I like it…that’s the one! It sums up my Superman, but no-one will suspect anything too soon.

            Or ‘Lord Of The Sky’ is good too. There’s already one ‘Lord Of The Flies’ out there (a book I loved reading in my childhood), but my story has not spun off that in any way, so I’d avoid making unnecessary bells ring…

            So, once again you prove to be our club’s master titlemonger. Thank you 🙂

            Oh yes, I mentioned robots… looking…after… the… children… for the first few years till they can fend for themselves. Sorry! They are well-behaved robots, these ones, trust me. But I know you’re sort of allergic to anything robotic coming from me. I just had a dilemma. How are such young kids going to survive all alone? I mean some still had diapers on, I suppose.

            I couldn’t drop a couple of adults in the bunker, on the other hand. I’d have solved one problem and created another one. With an adult around, it’d be less believable that everything that’s known (religion, politics, etc.) of our world gets completely lost in the people of bunkerkind, making them susceptible to faith in Supermanism, That’s the only reason why I got the robots in. I never mentioned cucumbers and cherries this time. I didn’t stoop that low.

            About the long-drawn ride to get the children to the bunker, I have the same feeling as you. The story is really in the second (short) part, set in the distant future. The rest just builds up towards it. I would have preferred if the two parts were more balanced in length, but that was the best I could come up with. As you suspected, most of the first part is there to mold the story background through dialogue and action rather than exposition. I lost a point or two with you in doing so (but, one never knows, I may have got them back from Ilana!).

            And it’s really who you ask, in the end. Roy actually suggested to me to add more intrigue, trouble and obstacles on the way to the bunker, and that the way I wrote that part seems to him that they got to the bunker too easily…

            Hope you had a good night’s sleep. No bad dreams with hairy frogs (or robots). If you’re up (well you have to be, if you’re reading this!), and have time for it, I’d like to hear the other things you said you have to say about this story.

            I also gave you some more of my feedback on ‘Harry’s First Date – Almost’, in the meantime.

            Ken

    • January 15, 2020 at 4:06 am
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      What I found most scary is the idea of spending 12,000 years in a bunker. And what the earth may look like after 12,000 years. So a Superman religion is a smaller shock for me than that. Great writing. I liked the bloody scenes in the beginning.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 7:59 am
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        Hi Juergen,

        Back North? Me too! Alas.

        It was actually 200,000 years, originally! That’s the more scientifically precise time it would take for the surplus radiation levels to clear. At least that’s when the experts said Fukushima will be safe again, following the 2011 nuclear disaster. So we’ll have an Asahi together at a bar on the Fukushima Pacific promenade in the year 202,011 AD, if you’re free, ok? Just to celebrate the New Beginning. Put it on your Outlook Calendar, mate. March, 11th, 8:45pm.

        I reduced it to the less viable but more manageable 10,000 years (the other 2,000 years were out of the bunker at Bonetree), because, like you, I found that notion of so many thousands of years living like a mole rather scary (till you get used to, don’t worry!).

        Nobody, of course, lived that long down there. It was different generations succeeding one another. And I tried to make it as palatable as possible – designed like a subterranean palace with all amenities and luxuries and it’s very, very large (stretching from Richmond to Baltimore – that’s a very long distance for an underground complex). But still, yes, I know….

        To me the scariest bit is not even inside the story. (Except perhaps the giant hairy frogs). What I find the scariest is that us today, as ever, are caught up in ancient comic-like stories that dictate the very way we lead our lives. Not even the less religious amongst us are spared. I mean, I know many so-called atheists who don’t go to work on Sundays…

        Thanks for your comment, Juergen, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

        Ken

        Reply
      • January 16, 2020 at 6:43 am
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        “Superman will fly down from the heavens and save the world!” I once read.

        It sort of reminded me of someone else… That’s how this story was born!

        I’m glad you found it amusing, Wendy 🙂
        Ken

        Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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      Ken, first, nice story. And, pretty well written, although I think you made it too easy for Pruppet to get the kids to where they needed to be. I think he would have ha a much harder time. Especially clogging up the wheels of the limo with dead bodies before the crowd simply turned it over stopping it in its tracks.

      Reminds me of a story I did a year or two back with a similar ending plot line. Far in the future they find a centuries old theater that still works and the movie running is The Ten Commandments, proving their long held theory that their ancient religion is right, There is a God of all things.

      I do, however, have a critique or two. First paragraph:“Watch out!” Leonard Pruppet’s horrified. Thinking in the possessive, I’m thinking immediately – Pruppet’s what? Might have been better to write, “Watch out!” Pruppet is horrified. Sometimes a contraction doesn’t work.I personally think this is one of those times.

      Then, at the end, this sentence fragment:

      There’s, in the Temple, an ancient parchment from the time before time, – maybe it’s just me, but – In the Temple, there is an ancient parchment from the time before time – seems to work better. It interrupted the flow of the story, and I was so near the end when I had to go back and reread that.

      Otherwise, I liked where the story eventually wound up, although it’s a story that needs more words. Wrapping up 12,000 years later is a difficult feat at best. What you did was OK, but this is a story screaming for more words.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 1:32 pm
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        After reading your comments to Jurgen, I note that, on a weekend TV show recently, one of the correspondents was touring Fukushima and discussing the fact it was getting to the point that it was safe to travel the streets and be there for short periods of time. And, it’s been what? 5 years and we are already back there. Same for Chernobyl. People are back there all the time, and the animals are thriving. Scientists can only guess and warn, but nature is pretty invincible. People will be back there long before 200,000 years. So, if you can make it, I’ll have that cocktail with you at the Fukushima Pavillion, whenever you’re ready. Make mine a double. You’ll be buying. At least the first one.

        Reply
        • January 16, 2020 at 6:40 am
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          Hi Roy, thanks for commenting, and Happy New Year!

          Well, more words would have come in handy, as you say… but the diktat is 1,200!

          I started off with 1,600+, and then started the great trim-down… A lot of what I cast off was good to see going, of course. But when I got down to about 1,350, I really had to start nipping at some things I would have honestly liked to keep.

          I also switched the story from the past into the present tense (which was a good thing in and of itself, I think), because the present tense gives more opportunities for contractions (and therefore fewer words!). I may have gone a little overboard with that, and there are some contractions I could have done without (like the one you mentioned in the first line), but it was all part of the great effort to fit into this site’s word limit.

          I took note of the other things you said too, and, as always I appreciate your advice and will try to apply it in future writings.

          About Fukushima, I think the scientists were talking about the nuclear-reactor site itself, not perhaps the whole city or prefecture. Still, though, I don’t want to risk joining those visitors you’ve seen strolling about there…

          Let’s keep the 200,000 year appointment, shall we? Better be on the safe side. And what’s the hurry anyway? So, there’ll be Juergen, you and I so far. Anyone else coming? The Asahi is on me, no prob.! I’d have accumulated some wealth by then (I hope!).

          Cheers!
          Ken

          Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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      Perfect Stock
      A funny and disturbing vision of the future! I like the idea of superman disrupting the ‘utopia’ thats been planned for the special kids.

      Reply
      • January 16, 2020 at 6:48 am
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        Hi Amy,

        Disturbing, true… but he gave them something to believe in! It seems like it’s a human need…

        We’re more or less in the same predicament, also at present (as always, in history)… clinging to some belief or another. Even some really outlandish ones!

        Ken

        Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 12:16 pm
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    Turning Over A new Leaf by Ken Frape 1199 words ( without title)

    “In!”

    The Headmaster’s voice thundered as he gestured to the four teenage boys to enter the palatial suite of offices. They slouched in, eyes downturned towards the heavily patterned and expensive Axminster carpet that covered every square inch of the room. Two of them had their hands behind their backs, as if they were tethered by their wrists. One held his hands protectively in front of his genitals. The fourth lifted his head and was clearly scrutinising the honours boards, eying up the space where he was determined that his name would eventually take its place as Head Boy. All were wearing the same school uniform but they were still, nonetheless, a far from homogeneous collection.

    Once the boys were lined up, Dr. Theodore Wigginson-Gore, (Twiggy) Headmaster of the prestigious Future Leaders’ International Academy, gently closed the door and slid into his leather seat. He tapped his pipe into the ashtray and cleaned out the ash with the penknife he kept on his desk. He meticulously refilled with Mathesson’s Old Flake tobacco, struck a match and then appeared to make every effort to create a cloud of noxious smoke to separate him from his pupils.

    “I really was hoping, nay, expecting that the dressing down you received before Christmas would have been sufficient deterrent. “ He paused for effect. “But apparently not.”

    Three of the boys continued to look at the carpet.

    “Well, have you anything to say for yourselves? If nothing else, surely my esteemed Academy staff have taught you to speak for yourselves?”

    The biggest boy, already grown to mansize but largely puppyfat proportions, finally looked up. His face was a quaint shade of orange from holidays spent in the Florida sun and British school terms spent under a sun lamp, every Saturday morning. He took no part in Saturday sport claiming a congenital ailment. A large lock of his blonde hair angled across his face as he looked up. He carefully teased it back into place.

    “Yes, Donny? You have something to say?”

    “I don’t know what you have been told sir, but it wasn’t me, whatever it was. It was probably him.” He glanced towards the youngest boy in the room, Kimmy, a round-faced blob of a boy sporting a haircut rarely seen other than as a dare or a punishment.

    “If you do not know what I have been told then how do you know it wasn’t you, Donny?”

    “People are always making things up to get me into trouble, sir, like in the school mag. It’s all made-up stuff. ”

    “I am referring to young Anwar’s broken nose which is very much the real thing,” retorted the Headmaster. “As indeed is the bloodstain on the dining room floor! The caretaker said there was nothing made up about that.”

    “But it wasn’t me, sir,” whined Donny.

    “Yes, Donny, I know it wasn’t you who struck the blow but I know it WAS you who instigated this cowardly ambush.”

    Donny then made a wise decision to refrain from further protests as his eyes slid towards the slim young man standing next to him.

    “How about you, Vladdy? Do you have any pearls of wisdom to add to this conversation?”Asked the Headmaster.

    Vladdy looked up slightly and looked at the Headmaster between wolfish eyelids. If animal cunning had been distributed in the maternity ward at birth, this young man had taken far more than his fair share.

    “Вы слабый человек, и однажды вы будете устранены … “ he replied.

    “Speak English, Vladdy. English! How many times must I tell you?”

    “I have nothing further to add,” Vladdy finished, in heavily accented English.

    “Well, I am very concerned,” the Headmaster went on. “I am hearing tales of bullying. I have also had several reports that you have interfered with several other pupils’ bank accounts and that you exerted some malign influence in the recent online voting for Head Boy. Do you still have nothing to say?”

    Vladdy continued to stand there. He gave a slight shake of his head.

    “Were you involved in any of this nonsense, Borry?” The Headmaster turned his attention to the third boy, a burly, tousle-haired blonde with rounded shoulders, scuffed shoes and shirt tail hanging out of his trousers. The pattern on his tie sported an addition in the form of a dollop of plum jam.

    “This clearly has all the hallmarks of a classical Greek tragedy, Headmaster, if I may be permitted to offer my opinion. In times such as these, surely one must ask oneself it one has entered into the semantic process in full possession of the true and accurate facts of the matter……….”

    “Was that a yes or a no then, Borry? Was that actually an answer to my question? “

    “If I may refer you to my previous response, Headmaster…..”

    “No you may not, Borry. I should have known better than to ask you a simple question in the first place.”

    “Thank you very much, Headmaster,” Borry replied with a smirk upon his face, chalking up another minor moral and intellectual victory by giving a very erudite response that completely avoided the original question and any implication of impropriety.

    “So, Kimmy,” the Headmaster turned to the fourth boy, the short, chubby one with the unfortunate haircut. “Your housemaster has reported to me that you seem to have caused something of a rift in your dormitory. A pillow fight turned nasty, I gather and now your side of the dorm has acquired all of the pillows and quilts. Is that correct?”

    A single crocodile tear was squeezed out to run down Kimmy’s round face as he nodded.

    “They started it, sir,” he explained.

    “They started it!” Stormed the Headteacher. “How old are you, boy? You are supposed to be a student at the Future Leaders’ International Academy. Future leaders! This kind of behaviour, Kimmy, would lead to…to….to…to civil war. Is that what you want when you become a leader? Eh? A civil war!”

    He turned away and missed the tiny smile on Kimmy’s face.

    “Right, these are your punishments, gentlemen. I will expect to see you here tomorrow morning after breakfast with your work completed. Now, get out!”

    He ignored the mumbling and moaning as the boys filed out, concentrating instead upon sending out more clouds of life-shortening tobacco smoke.

    “Close the door behind you, “he barked as Kimmy reached the door.

    The Headmaster waited until the door was closed and then lifted the phone, putting in a call to Dev, the Chair of Governors.
    “How are my proteges coming along, Twiggy? “ Dev asked as he sat in his flaming chair, his gnarled and twisted horns glinting in the light from the flames.

    “Really well, Master. They will soon be ready to carry on your good work on the world stage.”

    “Excellent news. You have done well and you will be rewarded. ”

    “ Thank you, Master. I gave them some pretty severe and unreasonable punishments just now, to stoke up their fires. They all feel hard done by so that should really gee them up! I wonder what they will do next?”

    “Can’t wait,” said Dev., rubbing his cloven hooves together.

    Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 4:08 am
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      Yes, it makes sense that the devil has his hand in our educational system. What a nice idea!

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm
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      Nice story, Ken F. I enjoyed the similarities of your writing with our current world wide political situation and to suggest that they are all influenced by your sinister contentions that “The Devil made me do it”, is simply too, too marvelous to think about. Especially with the Conservative Christian Right element in this country as spurring on the works of the Devil gives it even more meaning. Nice job.

      Found some typo’s and I’ll just point one out, so as to keep my streak going. Didn’t want to leave you off my ‘Hit’ Parade. Dev in the last sentence has a period, when it doesn’t anywhere else.

      This next note is for clarification. You wrote: He meticulously refilled with Mathesson’s Old Flake tobacco, – I would have written – He meticulously refilled his pipe – or – He meticulously refilled it – instead of he meticulously refilled. Is it common to write that way across the pond?

      I really enjoyed the story and loved, loved, loved the implications of it. Good job.

      Roy

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:26 pm
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      I got about half way through— to ‘Borry’ before I caught on! Brilliant. Funny and depressing. I could see it being a sketch on a comedy show.

      Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 2:36 pm
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    Harry’s First Date…Almost wc 927
    By Ken Cartisano 1-14-2020

    Her perfumed scent preceded her arrival by a split-second, giving Harry no time to think, of something clever to do or say, a daunting task for many a man, let alone a 14 year-old boy.

    She was chewing a hapless piece of gum, as she assessed him with deep blue, slightly wild looking eyes. “What’s yer name, fella?” Chomp, chomp, chomp.

    “Harry,” he muttered.

    “Harry?” She exclaimed, as if catching him in some colossal lie. “You don’t look like a Harry.”

    “No? Then what do I look like?” He gazed out the window, adopting a pointed air of indifference.

    “You look like a man who could use a piece of gum.” She held out a stick of spearmint, still in the striped paper wrapper.

    He accepted the offering, albeit cautiously.

    The clacking of the train tracks was augmented by the crinkling of paper, the bending of the gum; those first hardy chews.

    “May I sit down then? Harry?”

    He jumped to his feet and apologized. “Of course, of course.” He said.

    Surely he should say something more. Something clever, or this lovely bird would flit away as suddenly as she had come.

    But she didn’t agree. “So where you headed on this gloomy day, Gus?”

    “My name’s not—oh, I get it.”

    “A little slow on the uptake, are we?” She teased. “How old are you?”

    This time his hesitation was deliberate. “Old enough.”

    “Old enough to what?” She scoffed.

    “Old enough to hit on older women,” he replied.

    She nearly shrieked with delight, quite shamelessly.

    “So what’s your name then?” He asked.

    “Elizabeth, but everyone calls me Lizzie. I suppose you could too.”

    “Are you traveling by yourself then?” He inquired.

    “Well, you can’t get away from yourself, can you? No matter where you go.” She replied.

    “No, what I meant was…”

    “I know what you meant. No I’m not alone. I just wish…” Her demeanor softened quite suddenly. “I’m NOT old enough yet, if you catch my meaning.” Then she winked.

    That was when Harry noticed a young couple seated across the passenger car, watching he and Lizzie surreptitiously. They looked to be in their early thirties: A slim, handsome, hearty couple, stealing occasional glances at Harry and his mysterious female marauder.

    For some reason this emboldened Harry to gaze at Lizzie more directly himself, long enough to take in her appearance, while she prattled on about Conductors; and train schedules; and junctions. ‘She sure knew a lot about trains,’ he thought, ‘for someone so pretty.’ She had long black hair bound in complex braids, fair skin and rich dark eyebrows. Her lips… were always moving it seemed. Until they stopped moving, and she was looking at him.

    “Are you listening to me? Hello? Is anybody in there?”

    “Yeah I…”

    “It’s alright. I talk too much.” She admitted. “That’s what everybody says. So I know it’s true. So what’s up with you? Are you running away?”

    Harry recoiled visibly. ‘How could she know that?’

    “Oh it’s okay,” she said, leaning her shoulder into his. “Your secret is safe with me. Do you have a place to stay?”

    Harry nodded, barely. “I have an uncle.”

    “In Chicago?”

    “Yeah.”

    “So you’re making a fresh start?”

    “Yup. Hope to.”

    “Me too,” she said. “Does he know you’re coming?”

    “No. Not really. But he invited me…”

    “A blanket invitation.”

    “Mm, yeah.”

    Lizzie rolled her eyes. “Why don’t you come and stay with me? I mean us. I’m sure my parents won’t mind. Much.”

    “Well… I’d better not.” Harry kept glancing at the young man across from them. Without saying anything, he somehow conveyed the impression, as Harry understood it, that this pretty young woman was ‘persona non grata.’

    But Harry was captivated already, he’d like nothing more than to have her join him for the rest of the trip. That’s why he felt like kicking himself when she said, “Well, suit yourself then, but don’t say I didn’t offer…”

    They were interrupted by the train’s stern looking Conductor, “Good afternoon, sir, and Miss…”

    Lizzie ignored him.

    “Your parents have requested your presence in the dining car, Miss, repeatedly. Could you please comply for once? They’re perfectly miserable without your loving companionship.”

    The last sentence, Harry noted, was sarcastic.

    “Go away.” She said. Just like that, she dismissed the conductor. The Train Conductor.

    Harry was…well, somewhat astonished and slightly aghast. ‘What else could this young woman do?’ “So, uh, you say you’re starting over too?”

    She seemed genuinely surprised at his interest, but was unwilling to divulge details about that one thing, her family. She was willing to admit the basics though: that her father had remarried and was doling out his fortune to everyone but her and her sister, that she despised her father and her stepmother and that she’d be surprised if she didn’t end up killing them within a fortnight. Then she summed it all up with a frivolous cliché and a light-hearted laugh. Harry didn’t give it a second thought.

    Just then the conductor returned, and this time he was adamant. “Miss Borden, I must insist now. Your parents are ruining dinner for everyone in the dining car in lieu of your absence.”

    She glared at the conductor but it didn’t work this time, so she finally relented. “Oh all right.” She looked at Harry, and rose from her seat. “I don’t think this will end well—but it was a pleasure talking to you Harry.”

    She never did catch his last name, and perhaps, for Harry, it’s just as well.

    Reply
    • January 14, 2020 at 3:51 pm
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      Ken, shame on you- you left me hanging! I was all caught up in the drama you so expertly described and then, just when I was good and hooked, bam.., it’s over. Wish you’d written more…

      Reply
      • January 16, 2020 at 12:39 am
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        Trish,

        I could send you my resume. It’s longer, just as exciting, and even more fictional.

        Reply
        • January 16, 2020 at 12:00 pm
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          Ha! I’m just sorry I didn’t catch the prequel joke. But I guess you’ve heard the old classical music joke in that vein… what do you get when Emmanuel Axe, Yo-yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter play together? The Lizzie Borden Trio! (Axe-Ma-Mutter)

          Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 4:12 am
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      Your story reads like the beginning of something longer. There are so many questions, soI would have liked to read more. These two will meet again, I’m sure. And you will be one of the favorites for the best dialogue. 😉

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 9:13 am
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      Come on, Harry… your chance of a lifetime and you’re blowing it! was my initial reaction. Almost one of frustration. After all, this boy was escaping from home, willing to start a new life – and low hanging fruit in the form of Lizzie just falls from the sky right beside him.

      So, it was difficult going to be difficult for you to convince me, by the end of the story, that his reticence would pay off. But convince me you did.

      Unlike some other commentators, I don’t think there should be more said to the story, or even a sequel. Lizzie is a femme fatale, with the emphasis on “fatal(e)”. Harry did well to proceed on his way to his Uncle in Chicago without getting entangled with her. There’ll be other new adventures awaiting him there. Instead of wasting himself with a girl who’s planning to kill her parents (and possibly assist her in doing so) and then she’ll probably kill him one day. (Ok, admittedly, all these things would make good story for us writers, if not for Harry).

      Or perhaps worse, she doesn’t kill them and he’d have to put up with them (they don’t seem nice, as their behavior in the dining car suggests).

      “It’s just as well” (your parting shot) closes the story very tightly to me.

      The dialogue is very realistic and what one expects of teenagers. I was very much in the picture without you having to tell me much of what went on, as I could get a lot out of what the kids were saying.

      I’d prefer shorter, simpler sentences, sometimes. Such as your first paragraph:

      “Her perfumed scent preceded her arrival by a split-second, giving Harry no time to think, of something clever to do or say, a daunting task for many a man, let alone a 14 year-old boy.”

      “Her perfumed scent preceded her arrival by a split-second. Harry had no time to think of something clever to say. A daunting task for many a man, let alone a 14 year-old boy.”

      But that’s just me. You may get someone else telling you the opposite!

      Loved it, Ken. Now don’t delete it.

      Ken

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 10:35 pm
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        Thank you Ken (M.).

        Personally, I felt like there were enough clues for the readers to divine the identity of my female character, but based upon the comments of the other readers in this group, (I won’t name names) you and Roy were the only two readers to make the connection so, I suspect the story misses the mark. (In the original version, she carries the axe in a holster like a side-arm.)

        I felt the story was a little short on description. Like, I knew from the outset that the story had a historical setting and the characters were on a train. (No special place, just the past, to eliminate the complexities of modern life.) But I didn’t actively try to convey that.

        I took your rewrite of my first paragraph and pasted it right into my story. (Not really, I typed it in, word for word.) It reads much better than mine, Ken. Much better. Thank you. I think the first paragraph is as important as the last and I just couldn’t get those first few phrases quite right.

        What’s funny about the story (to me) is the totally contemporary dialogue between two late 19th century characters. (For instance, the phrase, ‘…hit on older women.’ would not have made any sense in the late 1800’s.)

        I was aware of that, and other blemishes in the piece, but I waited until Tuesday to write something and had other obligations so I could only devote a few hours to the story this week. I may go back and remove the most egregious violations of that era’s typical speech patterns? But truly, I just didn’t have the time to raise the story to a more refined level.

        I don’t know if this is interesting or not, but, when I sat down to begin writing, the only idea I had was a kid, a boy who has run away from home, and he’s on a train. So I wrote that.

        So what happens next? And I thought, ‘a girl!’ And she must be older than him. Because, that’s an obstacle. So I created a girl, who inserts herself into his world.

        But then I wondered, what kind of girl is she? And thought, ‘Well, she must be gregarious, she should be interesting, and maybe a bit of a renegade. So she became a bit of a renegade.

        But she would not be traveling alone. She must have parents on the train, (in part because it’s a hundred years ago,) but also because parents would serve as another convenient and realistic obstacle somehow.

        And it occurred to me that the parents should be demanding at least, and then downright unpleasant. And that’s when her identity ‘revealed’ itself. As it happens, Harry was just about to ask after her name. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s Lizzy (fucking) Borden! (Luckily, I learned my lesson with ‘Santa Clause’, Googled her, checked my facts, and found out that her name was spelled Lizzie.)

        As for Roy’s comments: To me, it seemed clear that ‘Lizzie’ was flattering/teasing the boy by referring to him as ‘a man who could use a stick of gum.’ But it’s worth changing that if it causes confusion.

        I really appreciate your comments Ken, and bless you for ‘splaining’ my story for those who were mystified, but intrigued.

        And don’t worry Ken, I won’t delete the story, I’ll just let it fade into oblivion. My own ultimate destination. (Save a seat for me, Harry. I’ll catch up with you later.)

        Reply
        • January 16, 2020 at 6:22 am
          Permalink

          Hi Ken, so she IS Lizzie Borden…

          This time round, we both borrowed from popular culture, Borden for you and Superman for me.

          I also had to Google his name to avoid a Santa Clause-type gaffe. I’d been sure it was Souperman. Or Soupman. Soapman? Or Supperman? Turned out it’s spelled “Superman”, phew!

          (Supperman, incidentally, was a character in some unmentionable 1980s porn flick. Good, then, they didn’t make THAT one the new post-nuclear-apocalypse Jesus!).

          The issue with cultural icon references is that perhaps not all readers are familiar with what is being referred to. Especially with a global (and also inter-generational) audience. I debated this point with Carrie over the Halloween story the other time.

          I once used to teach English to foreigners from, just about literally, the world over. I had Turks who had never heard of Laurel and Hardy, Chinese that had no idea of Jesus, Libyans who didn’t know who Michael Jackson or Elvis were, a Chechen who knew Washington was a place but didn’t know he was also a person, and so on.

          I did a survey, over time, and found out that there is only ONE cultural icon that is commonly known by virtually every living member of the human race (and believe me, I really had students from just about everywhere – even two brothers from a Sahara oasis who first in their lives saw the rain while in class with me and got ecstatic when it suddenly started pouring outside! Also two young Polish women who dipped their fingers in the sea and then in their mouths, to check if it’s really salty, as they had been told).

          And this one and only cultural icon everybody in the world seems to recognize is… hold your breath… are you seated?…is there someone with you just in case you suddenly feel unwell?… Mr. Bean! Even the Oasis guys knew who he was. And also two extremely shady Serbian prostitutes who occasionally attended school just to keep their student-visa going. I used to bring Mr. Bean up in class to explain the confusing (to foreigners) difference between “fun” and “funny” – Mr. Bean stood for funny, of course – and I never got it wrong with him).

          So, hmmm, the common denominator of humanity in our times is Mr. Bean! It goes to say something, perhaps. (My survey was in 2002-2003, so could be things have changed by now).

          Btw. you’ve heard of Mr. Bean, right? Ken? Now, don’t shatter my thesis…

          Back to Borden, in your story, I think you should have left that axe in to convince the infidels that Harry did the right thing after all. Maybe he just catches a glint of something sharp and shiny protruding out of her handbag. Some would have thought Bobbitt (but never mind, it would still have worked towards the same end).

          I don’t have a problem with your contemporary conversation style. Actually I like it very much. It doesn’t have to be the real Borden of the 19th Century. She’s your Lizzie (and trains are still in use – and are a very viable means for a 14-year old to escape his hometown). Like what West Side Story did to ole Romeo and Juliet, sorta thing, you know.

          Otherwise, even the chewing gum may have to go. Although I’m not sure when gum was invented in the form we know it today. “Julius Caesar bit hard into the gum, wrapped it around his tongue and blew one huge final bubble. He then spat the gum in the Belgian mud. Let’s cross the Rubicon, he said.”

          I stopped for a mere millisecond on hearing Lizzie referring to Harry as a “man”, like Roy also said he did. But the narrator had told us that he was a 14-year old lad. If it came from a character, I’d have had my doubts, but I usually trust the narrator. So, I immediately thought that Lizzie was teasing poor Harry, raising the boy to the sexual ranks of “man.” Again, no problem there, for this reader….

          I’m glad you found my critique useful (and here you’ve got some more). And the important revelation that we are living in the Mrbeanian geological era of our planet’s history!.

          Cya later,
          Ken

          Reply
          • January 16, 2020 at 3:57 pm
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            Kennn, Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken.

            I don’t believe a lot of what you say. You had no trouble spelling ‘superman.’ You’re just trying to make me feel less inept.

            Speaking of 1980’s porn flicks, (You brought it up.) Kim is always retelling the plot of one such memorable flick from the 80’s, ‘Flesh Gordon.’ This was before I knew her but the story always cracks me up. Kim never tires of telling that story. Apparently the movie mimics Star Trek, or something. (But you never know with Kim, her memory is not too good. She might actually be thinking of her High School Prom Dance or something. I don’t know. Don’t care.)

            The issue with cultural references is a constant challenge to me on this site. Despite my massive brain, indelible memory, extensive travels around the globe, and practically infinite modesty, I sometimes have trouble interpreting the terms used by all you damned foreigners, (and a few of the other Americans as well.) (Azz way-ell.)

            Like ‘maths.’ He was good at maths.’ I’m told that this how it is pronounced in Europe. “No wonder the Brits want to leave the EU.” But then I found out the British say it the same way. So there must be some other reason for Brexit.

            Perhaps the British have a similar problem as we have here in the US. We recently took an official nationwide, scientific, and traditional poll a few years back (2016), and sadly, we found out that there are (allegedly) 63 million meatheads in our country. (At least.) That’s a lot of meatheads. And these are bona fide meatheads because they identify as meatheads.

            Get a group of people together, of varying socio-economic levels, and ask them, “If you’re a meathead, raise your hand.” Not everyone who raises their hand is a meathead. Some people are just having a bad day, don’t care, or are just fucking around. No. The meatheads are the ones who ask, “Which hand?”

            Imagine living in a country where every other person you meet, is one of these ‘which handers’.
            Preeeeetty frightening isn’t it?

            Speaking of which-handers: Have you ever met a creationist? I have. This is someone who smirks at you when you bring up the topic of fossils or the cretaceous period. (The crustaceans pyramid? Hell, you sign-tists shore believe in some weird sheee-it.)

            But seriously, the cultural reference is a pitfall. One I try to avoid. Ken Frapes did that a few months back, and I’m still trying to get over it. He made a reference to some popular gay singer that he said would be blaring from the speakers of every grote and festule. “Everybody’s heard of him Ken. Nolan Gordon.” He said, Or “Norton Golan, or Gorno Cooper.” That’s what he said, every gorte and fistibule. Go figure.

            As for the common denominator, yes I know Bean. I’ve viewed a bit of Bean. He’s okay, for your British intellectual humor, but if you want humor for the masses, I’d have to go with Boris Johnson. To be honest, I thought it was going to be either Michael Jackson, or Abe Lincoln. But it’s Mr. Bean. That’s kind of amazing.

          • January 16, 2020 at 4:36 pm
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            Jesus, Ken! You’re old enough to remember Flash Gordon and Emperor Ming, from the planet Mongo; his daughter, Princess Aura,who always tried to help Gordon escape from the clutches of her father, and Gordon’s beautiful blond girlfriend, Dale Arden.

            WTF Star Trek? Come on, man, you’re better than that!

    • January 15, 2020 at 2:17 pm
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      Your writing has been so good lately, and so well written, i feel like I shouldn’t do this, but I was a bit confused at first. Perhaps that was your intention. You write – let alone, for a 14 year old boy – then a few paragraphs later the young lady (which took me half way through the story to realize she was young – instead of the marauding cougar I first imagined her to be) says, You look like a man who could use a stick of gum. I had to go back and reread it since I had lost all reasoning as to who was what and how old. I eventually realized where you were going, but I must admit, I was confused.

      I do really, really like the fact you just wrote a prequel to the Lizzie Borden Story and did it very well, I might add. I’m just glad you didn’t use the obvious 40 whacks in the story someplace. Although telling you in the first paragraph how confused I was, maybe you should have, with me being so slow on the uptake.

      In any event, I couldn’t find any typos or critical grammatical errors to rattle on about, so that leaves you in better shape than I left Phil in. He actually had a punctuation error. I know you are always on the look out for that, so I thought I’d give you a heads up. I’m surprised you didn’t catch it.

      Roy

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 3:28 pm
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      Harry’s First Date…Almost
      Well writen and intriguing, but I agree with some of the others that it felt like the beginning of a longer story.

      Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 12:36 pm
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      Hi Ken,

      I didn’t have time to add much in the way of comments this time round but I did read everything.

      I must say I was completely baffled by the discussions around the identity of your female character. As suggested, I looked up Lizzie Borden and I have now educated myself, so thanks for that.

      Additionally, I now know a lot more than I did previously and much more than I need to know about exploding pig farms.

      Happy writing in 2020

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 6:34 pm
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    Ah Ken good one. Intriguing and held my interest. Good dialogue building up the characters. But you let yourself tell, rather than use dialogue at the end to show.

    Reply
  • January 14, 2020 at 9:04 pm
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    Thirty seconds
    Written by Alyssa Daxson(Writer2019)

    “Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.” Dion Boucicault

    35… 34… 33… 32… “Grab my hand!” Sam cried, tears streaming down his face. He watched, distraught, as the fingers brushed his hand, before disappearing into the deep abyss below. “You failed me!” A voice screamed, echoing in his ears, reverberating through his whole body. A timer flashed across his eyes, showing thirty seconds left. “You failed!” The woman screamed again, her voice painfully high. Heat built up, and there was a shrill shrieking sound, before the whole building exploded into one massive fireball.

    Sam gasped, surging upwards, a strangled cry leaving his mouth. It took him a minute or two to realize that he was in bed, not in that factory. Tossing aside his sweat soaked sheets, Sam got out of bed, pacing his hardwood floor. Two months ago Sam had been working in a nuclear factory. That factory had exploded. Sam had been inside, trying to save a woman. He glanced down at his hands, seeing the thick, still recent scars running all over his forearms. He’d gotten away with just these injuries. The woman had died. Every night since then Sam had been having nightmares.

    The woman would always below him, trying to grasp his outstretched hand. Every single time she’d fall, her featureless face screaming at him. Sam had tried therapy, sleeping pills, everything. Nothing had helped. He’d been diagnosed with severe PSTD, or Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Every night would be the same. Wake up screaming. Pacing the floor for the rest of the night, the memories fresh in his mind. It was taxing. He’d been fired from his recent, part-time job, because he’d been showing up late. Red eyes, trembling hands, no sleep. His co-workers thought that he’d been on drugs. His life was a wreck, and all because of that one night.

    “Yes, I’m still having the nightmares,” Sam said tiredly, looking into the soft face of his therapist. She smiled back at him. “Do you want to talk about?” She asked. Sam licked his lips, nodding slowly. “It’s always thirty seconds, I can see the time, ticking down. And then, the woman’s hands miss my own, and she falls down, screaming that I failed. And the building explodes.” Sam choked up at the last part, inhaling shakily. He held his composure, fighting back the tears. The therapist nodded slowly, her lips set in a firm line. “Have you tried confronting your fears?” She asked, raising a brown eyebrow. Sam looked at her, confused and angry. Face his fears? What the heck did she mean? That woman dying wasn’t a fear. It’s already happened. Stupid therapists, they’re all the same. “Hey look, I’ve got an important event today, so I gotta go,” Sam said, hastily looking at his watch. The therapist pursed her lips, but nodded curtly.

    “Fine. Just remember what I said,” she said. Sam nodded. “Yeah, face me fears. Got it,” he muttered, getting out of the soft, plush chair. Throwing a wave over is shoulder, Sam marched out of the office he was in. He paid the bill, before slipping out the door, making sure to slam it behind. It was a petty move, but right now Sam didn’t care. He was mad. No way past it. “Face my fears,” he mocked, scoffing as he headed back to his car. Opening the door to his red suburban, Sam slid in, jamming the key into the ignition. The car roared to life, the engine spluttering slightly. “Don’t you go dying on me,” Sam muttered. He choked up on those words for a split second, the woman’s terrified face coming to mind.

    “Damn it,” he cursed, switching on the radio, trying to distract himself. Music blared forth, filling the car. “Thirty seconds! Thirty seconds and then you’re goneeee!” The woman on the radio sang, her voice shrill. Sam jerked, a cry escaping his lips. He slammed the radio, turning it off. The music faded away, but not the lyrics. Thirty seconds, thirty seconds and then you’re gone. “No, no, no,” Sam muttered, squeezing his eyes shut. The woman’s face flashed before his eyes. “You failed me!” She screamed, disappearing into the dark abyss below her. “SHUT UP!!!” Sam screamed, slamming his fist into the steering wheel. The horn blared out, loud and long, scaring passerby’s, and unknowingly covering up the sounds of Sam’s heaving sobs.

    That night Sam decided to take a piece of advice. Sliding into bed, cautiously lifting the sheets up to his chin, Sam lay there, eyes unblinking. He would face his fears tonight. End this cycle of madness. He silently begged for strength, before his eyes slowly dropped shut, transporting him into not-so-distant past.

    The heat blistered Sam’s face as he stared down at the woman, seeing her bright red lipgloss and wavy brown hair. “Help me!” She screamed, her one hand slipping from the handrail. Sam leaned down, his hand reaching out. He saw the woman’s fingertips brush his own, grasping nothing but empty air. “You failed me!” The woman cried, eyes burning. “No! No I didn’t!” Sam yelled, shaking his head vigorously. “Reach again.” He stuck his hand out further, grunting. The woman tried again, this time her hand grasping his palm for a split second, before slipping off, slick with sweat.

    “Again!” Sam urged, sticking his trembling hand out even more. The woman’s hand swung round, missing his by mere inches. “AGAIN!” Sam screamed, growing desperate. He stuck his hand as far out as it could go, grunting with the strain. The woman hesitated, and for a second Sam thought it was all over. He’d wake up in a cold sweat. Nothing would’ve changed. But then the woman let out a shriek, her hand lunging forward and grasping Sam’s. Sam let a whoop, jubilant. He locked gazes with the woman, smiling softly. “I didn’t fail you this time,” he whispered. The woman smiled, nodding slowly. “Face your fears,” she said, reciting the therapists words. Then, with a large grin, the woman let go, letting herself drop away into the darkness below. Except this time there was no screaming, the accusations. Just a perfect, peaceful, blissful silence.

    Sam gasped, his eyes flying open. Slowly sitting up, he glanced around, seeing his dark room. Tears stained his face, but they weren’t out of sadness. They were joyful. Sam was done. He’d faced his fears. The time for fearing sleep was over. It was time for a new beginning. And all thanks to a simple piece of advice. “Man,” Sam sighed, wiping the tears off his cheeks. “That therapist is getting one hell of a tip.”

    Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 4:16 am
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      He’ll tip his therapist? This is something completely new for me. I like the idea of writing a story about fears. And it seems to work really well for that man, that he faces his fears. Getting rid of it in just one night, I guess a lot of people would tip their therapists after that.

      Reply
    • January 15, 2020 at 2:32 pm
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      Alyssa, First, although you simplified it, your story was fairly well written, but I did notice a few things you might ant to work on. For example: Two months ago Sam had been working in a nuclear factory. That factory had exploded. I think if you had written this sentence instead it would flow better. Two months ago Sam had been working in a nuclear factory that had exploded. Normally, I am a shorter sentence is better kind of guy, but not in this case.

      Another line – The woman would always below him – should read The woman would always be below him. It’s funny, strange funny, not ha ha funny, but when writers proofread their own work, they know what they actually meant to write and miss things like this time after time. So, they read what they know that would have written and miss it. I go over my works line by line, and no matter how hard I try, I hand my work to my beta reading wife and she marks up my stories like my fifth grade teacher did during english correcting my work.

      Liked your story, but if therapists like the one in your story were that good, they would be out of work in no time. Everybody would be cured and we’d have no need for them. We could just pick up their book, “Face Your Fears”, and we’d be fixed.

      In any case, good job.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 15, 2020 at 6:19 pm
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        Thanks Roy. And yeah, once I saw your comments, I noticed I did make a couple mistakes. Some people describe my writing style as choppy, which looking at my books, makes sense. I tend to use periods to make it more forceful. Which, in some cases(like this one) doesn’t work out well.

        And the proof reading, it is my poison. I was going to have a friend read it, and look out for mistakes, but it was around like 1 am when I wrote this, and I didn’t want to disturb them. It those explain the mistakes though, my mind was mush at that time of night.

        Again, thank you for the advice- Alyssa

        Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 12:32 am
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      Alyssa, Writer 2019

      The first two paragraphs are EXCELLENT. Especially the first one.

      And then:
      ‘The woman would always below him.’ (Say what?) How do you have two brilliant paragraphs, and then that? (Okay, sure, I do it myself sometimes. You’ve got me there.)

      Okay, I’m going back to the story.

      Third paragraph, still great, one thing. No need to spell out PTSD. Or abbreviate it. In other words, pick one, don’t do both. (Everyone knows what PTSD is. Don’t they?)

      I love the plot, the premise and the exposition.

      Okay, full stop. The dialogue is overwritten, but it’s just a word here and a phrase there. In the fourth paragraph (for instance) you should delete (shit-can) the following words and phrases. They’re either unnecessary or redundant. When you remove these unnecessary words, your story flows better. (Yes ma’am, you have too many rocks in your stream. You need to remove some of these rocks here if you want less turbulence.)

      tiredly, soft
      back at him.
      nodding slowly.
      inhaling shakily.
      slowly, her lips set in a firm line.
      brown
      confused and angry.
      so
      hastily
      The therapist pursed her lips, but nodded curtly.

      Some free (and worthless) advice:

      Look at how other writers present their dialogue. It’s parsed out according to who is talking. Each character’s voice gets its own paragraph. Your writing is so good, that your dialogue is easy to follow despite this. But you must do it. You must follow certain basic rules of structure for the sake of your readers. (You’ll violate, break and forget them all the time, like the rest of us, (except for Phil) but you must at least try.)

      See below for how it would look and read in a proper format and without these and other useless, frivolous, not-worth-the-pixels-they’re-using words.

      I love the story and the writing. It’s exciting and entertaining, but there were a few details that stuck out. The nuclear factory. (What—is that? Exactly.) And ‘her featureless face.’ No, the features of her face are exactly what he sees every night. The horror in her expression, not the fact that she blames him. She’s dead. He blames himself, and he must somehow allow her to forgive him. The ending, where she lets go of his hand is brilliant and beautifully describes that process.

      As for the ‘nuclear factory’, well, nuclear plants rarely explode, and when they do, everyone dies. Everyone. Sometimes slowly. Overkill.

      So when you’ve got an explosion in your story, scale it back, Grasshopper. Go for the chemical plant, the refinery, the distillery or the pig farm. If you don’t like pigs. Or if you do. I do. I’m a pig fan. A big, pig fan. And a big fan of big pigs too. You’ve heard of exploding pig farms?

      Well they do. Pig farms do explode. Go ahead, Google it. I’ll wait. What’s really impressive about me Alyssa, (this is just casual banter while I’m waiting) what’s really impressive about me, is that I’ve known about exploding pig farms for years. YEARS! And never written one word about them, until now.

      Okay, where was I?

      Ah so. Never blow up a nuclear bacon facility. That’s my point. Never ever do that. (In your stories, I mean. I don’t care what you do for a living.)

      You have arrived at below.

      And this is the format for dialogue that I mentioned above:

      “Yes, I’m still having nightmares,” Sam said, staring into the familiar face of his therapist.

      She nodded. “You want to talk about it?”

      Sam licked his lips. “It’s always thirty seconds, I can see the time, ticking down. And then, the woman’s hands miss my own, and she falls down, screaming that I failed. And the building explodes.” Sam choked up at the last part but held his composure, fighting back the tears.

      The therapist studied him. “Have you tried confronting your fears?”

      Sam balked. (Or blanched.) Face his fears? What the heck did she mean? That woman’s death wasn’t a fear. It’s already happened. Stupid therapists, they’re all the same. “I gotta go,” Sam said, looking at his watch.

      Get rid of them adverbs and descriptive phrases. They clutter up good writing and an excellent story.

      Reply
      • January 16, 2020 at 12:58 am
        Permalink

        Ken, when I started to write this story in the early early EARLY hours of the mornings, I had a lot of mixed feelings. There was something off, but I couldn’t just put my finger on it. My brother said it was good, and he liked it, so I decided to throw caution to the wind. You and Roy’s comments were exactly what I was looking for. I felt something was off, and you guys showed me what was wrong with this story. Thank you for that!

        Exploding pig farms? I’ve never heard about those, thank you for showing me a whole new view of the world. Maybe I’ll go and research exploding pig farms for the next 3 hours!

        Your point with the nuclear factory was a very good one. I’ve been writing a book that involves a certain nuclear factory, and I’m afraid that was what was on my mind on the time I was writing this story. Next time I’ll make sure to slap any nuclear plant exploding ideas in the face! I’ll use exploding pig farms instead!

        On a side note, the king fu show about this dude, who’s master keeps saying “patience my young grasshopper.” Do you know that one? As I recall, you called me a Grasshopper. Which, I happen to use all the time. My siblings have grown very tired of it 😉

        Anyways, before I go off into a gigantic rant, like someone who’s name I just can’t recall….(it started with a K? Maybe Ken?), I would like to thank both you and Roy for you critiques. Have a Merry January!- Alyssa

        Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 5:58 am
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    So hard to vote this time around. I kept wanting to print hard copies and reading and rereading throwing into piles
    Excellent
    Brilliant
    Good very good and …. yeah very hard to choose top 5

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 11:30 am
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    Waiting on votes from:
    Adrienne Riggs
    Anindita Basu
    Liz Fisher
    and of course Ken Cartisano

    It’s almost the end of the voting cycle, please get your votes in.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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    Will post the results in an hour or so, give time for Adrienne, Anindita, Liz, and Ken C. to send in their votes.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 1:13 pm
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    Working on my votes now, Alice. Will have ’em posted in ten minutes. Thanks for waiting. Had to work this morning. Kim didn’t get the memo. She said, ‘What memo?’
    I said, “The one where it says I’m retired?”
    “Oh that one. Yeah that was funny.”
    “No. I was serious.”
    “Yeah,” she says, “that’s why it was so funny.”

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 1:50 pm
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    Sorry, I’ve been sick. Voting now.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 1:58 pm
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    I’ve voted. Hope it’s not too late. Going back to bed now. UGH.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 2:20 pm
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    Here are this week’s results!

    “New Beginnings” – January 16, 2020

    THE WINNER IS!!
    First Place: Fresh Start by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin

    2nd Place: The Calypso by Roy York
    3rd Place: X by Phil Town
    4th Place: A Step into the Future by Ilana Leeds
    5th Place: A Second Chance by Trish
    6th Place: Turning Over a New Leaf by Ken Frape
    7th Place: Harry’s First Date…Almost by Ken Cartisano
    8th Place: Letting Go by Adrienne Riggs
    9th Place: New Beginnings and New Year Resolutions by Liz Fisher
    10th Place: Perfect Stock by Ken Miles
    11th Place: Green by berlinermax
    12th Place: New Year’s Resolution by Amy Meyer
    13th Place: Thirty seconds by Alyssa Daxon
    14th Place: New Beginnings by Neha Neil
    *Aninidita Basu did not vote

    Favorite Character: “Narrator” from Fresh Start by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    Character Dialogue: Harry’s First Date…Almost by Ken Cartisano

    Congratulations Wendy!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 3:10 pm
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      Congratulations, Wendy! Well deserved – a very funny, very different story.
      And congratulations all.

      Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 4:51 pm
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      There is one very surprised author here, thanking everyone for your votes and giving my space adventure second place. Wendy, I thought your story deserved its first place finish. Well done and I thought it was extremely funny.

      Roy

      Reply
      • January 16, 2020 at 6:44 pm
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        A big congratulations Wendy. Great story and yep, difficult voting this time so many good stories. Thank you for voting for my story surprise 4 th. 😊

        Reply
    • January 16, 2020 at 9:28 pm
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      Congratulations Wenders! Great story. Congrats to all. What a slew of sagacious scribes.

      Reply
    • January 17, 2020 at 5:56 pm
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      OMG thank you everyone! I was busy working yesterday and didn’t get a chance to check until now! I feel like I started this year off right for once lol.

      Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 9:31 pm
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    Way to go Wendy!! Congrats all!

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 9:41 pm
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    For my own personal growth – what factors played into rating my work this go around? I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing and I’m looking forward to your feedback!

    The overwhelming talent and wealth of writing skill in the group? (This one I can’t deny!!)
    The topic?
    The writing?
    The timing of the piece?
    The talk of faith and angels?
    The ethical dilemma?

    I almost felt like apologizing after posting it because it was a topic not easy to discuss or discuss because it is a true ethical dilemma. I was so grateful Wendy’s story followed mine because her excellent story boosted the spirits of everyone. I loved her story and the others. Way to go Roy for, pardon the pun, rocketing to the top of the voting with your SF story!

    Love to all, Adi

    Reply
    • January 17, 2020 at 7:51 am
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      Adi, first, I certainly hope you start feeling better.

      Regarding your questions, in a group like this, it’s very difficult to winnow out a top story as generally the majority are well written. Sometimes it comes down to subject matter, and personal choice of subjects and plot lines. What truly stuck out for me with your story was the surprise I received when I realized who Gabriella was at the end. I’m not an angels kind of guy, but your writing was so good I thoroughly enjoyed being taken for the ride.

      Then I read Wendy’s story, which was laugh out loud good, to me, and I soon discovered, not only the only person to make that distinction.

      My comments at the time on this site reflects how well written the first two stories were. Both using the same theme and yet so spectacularly far apart. I even told my wife at the time to read them as an example of what good writers can do with a prompt.

      I have always maintained that a well written story with only a fair plot, will beat a not so well written story with a great plot. So, what does one do with two or three that are both well written and have great plots? Eenie meanie minie moe? Several writers, Ilana comes to mind, agonized over this dilemma as well.

      My story getting a second place vote was a surprise to me, even though one of my beta reader’s told me they thought it was one of my best, because the science seemed so realistic and believable, when most of it was made up, with just the barest of scientific fact. Maybe that’s the secret. Believability. Or, maybe it was a safe choice for some voters.

      I won’t divulge my vote, but my top three stories were, in no particular order, Ilana’s, Wendy’s and yours. All because they were well written, with good plots and, if this is a factor, WANTING to believe each was a true story and the author was an eyewitness and simply relating what they saw.

      Let’s face it. There are only so many plots and eventually it comes down to the quality of the writing, the story subject, and grabbing the reader, somehow.

      Roy

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    • January 17, 2020 at 8:51 am
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      Adults, can only speak for myself- I rated your story very positively. I thought it was well written and handled a difficult subject well. I did rate others higher than you because I just thought some of the other pieces were even more smoothly written with even more subtlety. I think on a different day with different inputs your piece could have won first- it was very good!

      Reply
  • January 17, 2020 at 9:12 am
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    Thanks for the feedback!! I just like to know if there are areas where I can hone my writing skills. Although it is nice to place high in the rankings, technically I’m not “In it to win it”. I write for fun and these contests keep me on my toes. My 8th place did not upset me in the least. Like Roy said, it continually still amazes me how many different ways the prompts can be taken by our elite group! This group is something great to look forward to and I love to see the comments, critiques, and variations on the themes.

    If I choose to enter other writing contests, I like to keep an idea of what attracts readers, what topics do better than others, and how judges may view each piece. Each contest is different and they look for different things. This group is excellent in that we can write freely and not have to conform to a different set of “judging rules” each time (other than the requirements for each prompt.) That, and I love all of my fellow “judges” in this group!

    I hope all of this is making sense. I’m not totally sure enough oxygen is getting to my foggy brain at the moment. I’m off to do another breathing treatment before I have to join a Webex meeting for work. And this is all after a night of literally NO sleep due to the coughing and breathing issues. Then its back to bed and I’ll catch up with you later on the new thread!!

    Reply
    • January 17, 2020 at 4:53 pm
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      Adi, I’m so happy you started writing again. Good luck, listen to your doctors, take your medicine, and get some rest. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Don’t remember where I heard that, it’s just running through my head, but, what the heck, nothing else seems to be working for you. It’s worth a shot. Me, I put scotch in a tumbler and sip it until I get better or pass out, whichever comes first. Dang, girl, you live in Tennessee, home to some of the finest bourbon known to mankind. Trust me, if works.

      Reply

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