June 18 – July 1, 2020 Writing Prompt “A Plan Gone Horribly Wrong”

Theme: A plan gone horribly wrong.

Requirement: Story should include a Top Hat and an Astrological Sign.

Word Count: 1,200


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274 thoughts on “June 18 – July 1, 2020 Writing Prompt “A Plan Gone Horribly Wrong”

  • June 19, 2020 at 8:08 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
    • June 24, 2020 at 12:19 pm
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      Hi everyone! It’s been a while. I’m not sure if I’ll get to get a story in for this prompt, but just wanted to stop in and say hello!

      Reply
      • June 24, 2020 at 2:41 pm
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        Hi Amy, welcome back! I remember you from a year ago, more or less, when I myself joined this site. As it happens, I’ve just had a look at who was here back then, in the first prompt I took part in, and included (in some way or another) a reference to their names in my current story. So you’re there too… 🙂

        Ken

        Reply
      • June 25, 2020 at 6:27 am
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        Hi Amy, Write something. Looking forward to it.

        Reply
        • June 25, 2020 at 4:16 pm
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          Hi Roy! How have you been?
          I will do my best to come up with something, that is if my muse decides to drop some sweet inspiration.
          I have missed talking to all of you here and look forward to getting reacquainted with my all of dear friends here.

          Amy

          Reply
          • June 25, 2020 at 7:58 pm
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            Couldn’t be better, Amy. My health team tells me my cancer is in remission and I’m kicking ass and taking names. Hope your muse is listening because I want to read one of your stories. Where ya been?

            I should have a story up tomorrow. My muse has been paying attention.

            Roy

        • June 26, 2020 at 1:24 pm
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          Hi Roy, for some reason the reply button is not showing on your response so I’m replying to your first response 🙂 .
          I am so glad to hear you’re in remission and your health is doing better. That is definitely wonderful news to hear (or read) right now. How are things in your corner of the world?

          To answer your question about where I’ve been…
          These past months (closer to a year and a half) have been spent preparing my oldest son for graduation after the accident he was in set him back. He attempted to graduate in 2019 but wasn’t ready due to the some problems caused by his head injury. (I am not certain if I posted anything here about it, but he was hit by a sheriff’s cruiser while out checking on applications for a job. Somehow he survived even though he was thrown more than 11 yards after being struck in the face by the mirror.) It was a very trying time that removed a lot of things from my life, including the joy of being here.

          This past school year got really hectic when my daughter Promise (she has written on here a time or two and is getting ready to come back too), was informed she could graduate along with JT. She was well prepared as JT was prior to his wreck but needless to say they both successfully graduated this year. We have been celebrating these past few weeks since their last day of school. Homeschooling has always been our way of education here which put a burr in a lot of paws. Either way, the silver lining for us is JT and Promise graduated (Class of 2020), and life has smoothed out again. I do have one more child (Gabriel) left in the classroom for the next five years and can only hope they go as smoothly as the years did before the wreck that flipped everything over for us.

          I can’t wait to read your story, your muse always has something up his or her sleeve! 🙂 I hope mine does too, especially since I checked out the bonus prompt, which is just as interesting as this one.

          Amy

          Reply
          • June 27, 2020 at 3:11 pm
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            OK, Amers, the ball is in your court. My story is posted and I really think my muse was good to me. I got the left shoulder muse (the naughty one) this time instead of the right shoulder muse.

            BTW, when my now 53 year old son was 10, he was hit by a car and thrown 109 feet, landing on the hood of a parked car, then sliding to the ground. Two subdural concussions with fractures of the skull, a broken tibia and fibula (lower leg) and 8 days in critical condition, he is now a computer IT expert and EX VP in a company he partly owns with only a small hearing loss. He came through it slowly, but completely. Hang in there, it gets better and better for everyone as they get farther and farther from the trauma. Glad things are settling down. And, no, I don’t remember you sharing that with us. Welcome back with open arms.

            Roy

      • June 26, 2020 at 5:24 pm
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        Hey Amy, welcome back! Hope the muse rears it’s head before the contest ends.

        Reply
        • June 26, 2020 at 7:38 pm
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          Hey Alice,
          Thanks! There’s an idea brewing that might just work out for this prompt and the bonus prompt. How have you been?
          Amy

          Reply
          • June 26, 2020 at 7:46 pm
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            Amy doing well, thanks for asking. Just submitted my first story for the group in months, feels good to be back!

    • June 25, 2020 at 6:25 am
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      Sitting around wondering why I hadn’t seen any chatter, then realize that I hadn’t signed up for comments. Old age and memory lapse strikes again. To be fair to myself, I have spent a lot of time contemplating reorganizing my sock drawer by color, not all white socks match, you know, and of course, my clothes closet, 95% of which, I never wear.

      Roy

      Reply
      • June 25, 2020 at 8:45 am
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        Sounds like a plan, Roy.
        I wonder if anything could go horribly wrong with that?

        Reply
        • June 25, 2020 at 10:53 am
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          Andy,

          See, to get comments, ya gotta sign up.

          If I didn’t have a story already written, you might have an excellent point. If you haven’t written one yet, take a shot at it. I’m beginning to warm up to the idea of what could horribly go wrong contemplating organizing one’s sock drawer. So much. I’m almost afraid to open my drawer now wondering what I might find.

          Reply
          • June 25, 2020 at 4:00 pm
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            Wait…I’ve already commandeered the sock drawer Roy…thank you…Fiz

          • June 25, 2020 at 7:36 pm
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            Doing my best to help out, Diz.

            Roy

          • June 26, 2020 at 5:35 pm
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            Look forward to reading your story, with or without socks.

            Not sure I’ll get one done – I tend to struggle to produce two stories in a month, but look forward to reading everyone else’s.

  • June 19, 2020 at 8:29 am
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    Signing in!

    Reply
  • June 19, 2020 at 9:55 am
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    Signing in

    Reply
  • June 19, 2020 at 11:32 am
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    Signing in

    Reply
  • June 19, 2020 at 12:18 pm
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    You want the story of my life? In 1200 words? Okay. I’ll get right on it. I may have to leave out some details. Just sayin’.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2020 at 3:45 pm
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      Hello there Ken C.!

      I have missed being here and enjoying our fun conversations along with the reading and writing of stories. I hope everything is going good for you in your corner of the world. As always, I’m certain that whatever you come up with for this prompt will be as unforgettable as our camaraderie was when I was here last.

      Your Friend,
      Amy Raines

      Reply
      • June 26, 2020 at 9:35 pm
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        Hi Amy,

        I love your profile pic, (You are so proud of that forehead of yours.— I would be too!) I missed you. And wondered what you were up to. And what I had done to drive you away. And exactly how far away I had driven you. (This is totally normal for me.) I was going to mention it, (your disappearance) but I knew it would make (let’s see, whose name shall I slander next?) I was afraid it would make Trish’s cat jealous as all hell. (The tabby, of course, doesn’t it always figure?) So, I didn’t want to bring you up when ‘the cat’ was around. And of course, ‘the cat’ is ‘always around.’ (Around what, I don’t know, but always around.) And then of course, let’s not forget about *********. She has a thing for weather beaten, I guess.

        Anyway, all kidding aside, it’s great to see you on the thread, young lady.

        It almost seems as though you and I could simply write about our lives and it would sound a bit like fiction. Why don’t we both just do that? Take some aspect of our existence that really happened (to some extent) and then extrapolate, and don’t forget to create a fictional character for the story.

        Or… we could go full-bore fiction. Like the time I accidentally let the dragon out before fall. When they don’t blend in so well and somebody called the police. And you had a pet alien, didn’t you? From alpha centauri? Broke his glasses during a hard landing in your backyard, and then recruited you to help him figure out which button was which. Only problem was, you don’t speak Alpha, or Centauri. It was a real [wei[qert. Which, it turns out, is Centaurian for quagmire.

        Speaking of Centaurs, (you brought them up, didn’t you?) You must be good for my mojo, because five minutes ago I had no ideas, and now I have two silly ones. That’s a step in the right direction. I’m not sure I’ve got the desire to write a story this week.

        It’s nice to hear from you, though, Amy. Maybe I’ll write a story and withhold it until you post yours. I know it’s Blackmail, or extortion. But is it so wrong?

        Write a story.

        Reply
        • June 27, 2020 at 3:09 am
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          Hi Ken C.,
          Thank you for the kind words, it’s sure good to finally be back. No worries, you didn’t drive me away, nor did that crazy Tabby cat.
          I totally agree, we could make one great novel about our lives. Of course, we would have to make them fictional with characters that are definitely different than us. What fun would it be if we didn’t?
          The only problem is, the damn cat chased away my pet alien and replaced it with a T-Rex. The T-Rex broke it’s chains and headed to my basement. The poor thing had no idea what I had locked up in there. He got a look at the pictures of the waterfalls and ran off into the sunset with my turtle, Bob. Thankfully, my lion, Jasper, is still in the attic watching cartoons that have been outdated for decades. I hope he doesn’t mind the cobwebs that have accumulated since the hyenas lived up there. What do you think?

          Anyway, I have accepted your blackmail. I got it started and finished fairly quickly. It is not exactly my best work but it was a lot of fun. I will be waiting patiently (tapping the toe of my shoe very sharply) for your story to appear on this thread. There’s no shame in extortion when its for a good purpose, hopefully I can blackmail you into the bonus prompt with me? I have a couple crazy ideas brewing for that one. What do you say, dear friend? Go for round two in the bonus?

          Amy

          Reply
          • June 29, 2020 at 2:36 am
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            Amy, lol
            You sound like you’re going off the animal deep end.

            You probably know that nice people make me nervous. (And suspicious.) That’s my Achilles Tendon. I see that you’ve posted a story AND challenged me to another one. I suppose I should act tough, do some John Wayne stuff. “Pretty strong words…(nods head)…………….. pilgrim.

            Okay, well I’m working on the first one right now, it’s called, ‘No Cats, No Aliens, And Just A Touch Of T. (Rex.) This story is so powerful Amy, it may very well break the insomnia barrier. (Keep this under your hat, I’m still working on it,) and trying to figure out where or how I can insert a @#%$%% top hat. Wait till I get to pick the prompt Amy, somebody’s gonna pay. Somebody’s gonna pay for their prompts, Amy. They’re gonna pay. They’re gonna pay, they’ll rue the day, when I get to pick the prompt.

            Something like: The Virgin Mary: Story must contain the following three elements; Oakland, California; The H-bomb; and Lichen. You see what I’m saying Amy? There’ll be no tophats. No hats at all, in fact. Just bombs and lichen.

            No?

          • June 30, 2020 at 2:20 pm
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            Hmm, I leave for a week and half to defeat my writing course, and this is what I come back too… wow Ken C, you’ve really outdone yourself

            And greetings Amy! So you’ve been here before? That’s cool! I would warn you about Ken C and his inherent ability to create the most(and when I say most, I mean MOST) ridiculous and funny comments possible, but it seems you already know about it, in fact you seem to match his ability. Wonders will never cease I guess.

            I wonder if Ken C scares people off… it wouldn’t surprise me. (No offense Ken😉)

  • June 19, 2020 at 3:34 pm
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    Hello, it’s me. A Leo like me wearing a top hat: That’s a plan gone horribly wrong for sure. 🙂

    Reply
    • June 20, 2020 at 5:20 pm
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      A Leo you say? Well well well, hello fellow astrological sign(still not exactly sure to what those are, except August people have them. I think. 90% sure…)

      Reply
      • June 25, 2020 at 8:51 am
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        I self-identify as a Leo too. (Many of the best people do.)

        Luckily, the cosmos agrees with that and has a plan in store for me …

        Reply
        • June 30, 2020 at 8:49 am
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          I’m a Leo and everyone knows we are the best and the most creative. I am also fierce when I have to be. LOL

          Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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        Hi Alyssa,

        Yes, I have been here before. Quite a while back. Circumstances beyond my control kept me from participating. It’s great to see you here on the thread, as well. I find it very sweet that you wanted to warn me about Ken C’s fun quirkiness, lol. I was not forewarned when I first wrote on here but quickly made an interesting discovery, apparently I am not the only one with a twisted quirkiness. That fact made me so very happy.

        Have you ever spoke with or met someone that you just clicked with? Someone you are certain should have been in your family tree somewhere? For me, that’s Ken C. in a nutshell (Ken, if you read this, don’t laugh at my honesty 🙂 )
        Growing up, my family was a bit crude. If I were to ever have a father figure or an uncle that actually cared, I would like to think they would be a lot like him, crazy quirkiness and all. I am one of those lucky people on the planet that has discovered a friend who should have been family but somehow missed the entire orchard of fruit trees, lol. I wonder if this makes any sense at all?

        Anyway, I’m happy to see you here and look forward to writing again and getting to know you. I hope your writing course went well, I look forward to seeing your work here. 🙂 It’s great to be back.

        Amy Raines

        Reply
  • June 19, 2020 at 6:48 pm
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    Alyssa,

    I read with interest Ken Mile’s comments and advice on your last story, and your response that you couldn’t seem to figure out how to banish the dreaded ‘had’ word from your story.

    I found a passage that has quite a cluster of them. As you can see from the example below, sometimes you can simply omit the word ‘had’ and it works just fine. In other instances, you can substitute ‘was’, in some cases you have no choice but to rephrase the sentence.

    You wrote:
    Two weeks in the harsh northern woods, barely holding on. When the rescue party found him, he was thin, leathery skin hanging off a trembling frame.
    I (had) thrown up when I heard the news. My great-grandfather, trembling with the cold, half mad. It (had) been almost too much to bear.
    Then came other news.
    The rest of the hiking group (had) yet to be found. It (had) seemed that my grandfather was the only survivor. But there (had) been something off, something that kept me up at night, eyes staring vacantly at the dark ceiling.
    And when grandfather (had) finally come over, my suspicions were confirmed.
    At first I (had)n’t noticed. He’d walked up, a smile plastered across his face, greetings spilling out from his lips.
    But then whenever he was alone, his smile would drop off, and his eyes would seem to sink in, a haunted look chasing away the joy that (had) been there.

    Two weeks in the harsh northern woods, barely holding on. When the rescue party found him, he was thin, his leathery skin hanging off of a trembling frame. (Unchanged.)
    I threw up when I heard the news of my great-grandfather, trembling with the cold, half mad. It was almost too much to bear.
    Then came other news.
    The rest of the hiking group was still unaccounted for. It seemed that my GGF was the only survivor. But something was off. Something that kept me up at night, eyes staring vacantly at the darkened ceiling.
    And when my GGF finally made up his mind to see me, my suspicions were confirmed.
    It completely escaped my notice, at first. He walked up, a smile plastered across his face, greetings spilling out from his lips. But then, whenever he was alone, his smile would fade, his eyes would seem to sink into his skull, a haunted look chasing away the joy I’d seen there just moments before.

    While the word ‘had’ shows up 8 times in your passage and 2 times in my comment to you, it is banished from the revised version of your passage. I hope this helps you to see how to go about removing those pesky ‘had’s.

    Ken Miles,
    Did you catch the post with my title suggestions for your story? ‘Una Verita Musketball Eata.’?

    Reply
    • June 20, 2020 at 9:08 am
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      Hi Ken,

      I went back and found your suggestions. ‘Bloodlines’, yes, that fits the story in many ways… I like that one most.

      ’23, Not Me’? Hmmm, come again?

      So you’re half-Irish, half-Italian (Irate, lol!). Quite a creative mix, you are. Spaghetti with mashed potatoes? How do you eat that? I mean with a fork or with a spoon?

      I’m some Italian, some Greek (those two are sure) and maybe some Slavonic too and some other things. Like blue hippo. In the mob? Close, very close. But I try to keep clean. For practical reasons only. So you’re welcome anytime.

      PS. I read your email. Thanks! Made my day! Loved the laughs… But more on that, later, and not here.

      I’ve posted my story for this prompt, already, I’m the first one, this time round! And it’s a very special one for me as you will see from the intro. It’s my birthday in here… I joined for the Wild Animal prompt, a year ago. Do you remember that one?

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • June 21, 2020 at 4:00 am
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        Ken (M),

        The one about the Indian crime-boss widow whose dead husband returns to her as a giant yellow snake? That was you? It says it was written by Ken Mile. The similarities in names are unmistakeable, but how can I be sure you two are the same person?

        I suppose I could trust you. I mean, it isn’t as if you tried to give me free writing advice, or anything crazy like that. You know? So you’ve been with us a year, eh? Grass-hoppah?

        Yeah I remember that story about the snake, and the hot vietnamese chick, long black hair, wearing a sari, holding an old British Enfield rifle, rattling around alone in an enormous compound with a secret entrance, somewhere in India, where they worship Vishnu. I never really understood why she was vietnamese. Doesn’t matter.. I said terrible things about it. ‘The writing is beautiful. Is that your real name? Are you a famous writer, contributing under a pseudo-nymph? (I actually said that.) No I didn’t. No. No I didn’t. I didn’t say ‘nymph.’

        Okay I gotta go to sleep. I’ll read your story tomorrow. Must have a lot of characters. A complex plot. I hope you didn’t forget the stupid tophat. How the hell am I going to work a tophat into a story, without a magician? Or Abraham Lincoln? Who’s prompt is this anyhow? I’d like to contact the complaint registry department. I feel very complaintive, suddenly. Extremely complaintive. Thank God I’m too tired.

        Reply
        • June 21, 2020 at 5:56 am
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          Well you found me out… I’m really John Grisham seeking new pastures. I’m almost ashamed to say who I am now that I’ve reached such new heights in my writing here. In some places they’re already asking “John Grisham, who?” They tell them “It’s Ken Miles’s pseudo.” “Ah! All right.”

          But, really, was she actually Vietnamese, are you sure? What would I know, I only wrote what they told me. With a few embellishments. I didn’t know someone like you would actually go there to check. Was she as beautiful as they told me she was? Even in her old age? Did the snake-husband finally return? In human form? Or as a giant pangolin? To keep abreast of the news. [Since you and Kim were out in the wilderness with a radio with just two channels, let me inform you that the pangolin is the new bat, and is now being blamed for the C-word paindemonic.]

          Yes, it’s been a year, already! And, know what? I didn’t miss a single prompt, not even the bonus ones. I know Phil has done that for many years. But Phil is Phil. I’m never going to be as good as him. And I also have to keep up with all that fan mail, you know.

          A top hat? Yes, I do have one in my story. It wasn’t that difficult to throw in a hat. Quite more challenging was slipping in my story all the names (in some form of another) of the writers who were here a year ago when I joined. But they’re all there. Funnily enough, yours (an Italian name, forchrissake!) was the easiest to slip in – and I included you not once, not twice, but three times! So good name hunting! I hope you’ll enjoy the game. Beware you’re only hunting down yourself, though! And watch Carrie won’t hunt you down first. She’s experienced.

          Cheers!
          Ken

          Reply
    • June 20, 2020 at 5:19 pm
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      Thanks Ken C! That was very helpful!
      Completely taking out the heads/and or replacing them worked very well! Now I hopefully won’t have to use the pesky h.a.d. word so much….

      As they say, I just gotta believe! (Even tho it sounds like a cat poster, it’s true.)

      Reply
      • June 21, 2020 at 3:26 am
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        Alyssa,

        Reading both versions of your story a day later, I’d say your version was harder to read, but it made more sense. It seems like when I took the ‘had’s out, it reduced the definition of the sentences, watered them down. I don’t know. All I can say is, be very suspicious of people who offer writing advice for free. Like me. Very, suspicious. And whatever you do, don’t write a story about an evil editor. That’s my idea. (I just came up with it.) Okay I can’t really stop you, I suppose your lawyers will tell you that sooner or later. Philip will probably say it’s already been done, and Andy will name the author and the date of its last printing.
        Nah! I take it back. It’s a terrible idea. You can have it. I’m going with the evil publisher. Makes way more sense. Okay, well, that’s all I’ve got to say, Alyssa.
        Ta-ta.

        Reply
  • June 20, 2020 at 4:07 am
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    Hey Guys! With this prompt I am celebrating one year here! And to celebrate this wonderful year with you, I have a surprise: I have inserted, in some way or another (some easily found, others less so) the names of all the writers who were here when I joined a year ago. Most are still active and a couple have disappeared along the way, but I still included them in case they still visit to read our stories. Perhaps they’ll return to active service! So enjoy the story, and while at it, if you were here a year ago, do try to spot your name somewhere hidden inside my words!


    IN THE PALM OF THEIR HANDS
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    The Cartesian diver dipping and rising rather unexpectedly inside a flask hanging atop ‘Yuri Nal’s Palm Reading Services’’ tent entertains the long line of people eagerly waiting for their fortunes to be read. But it’s all getting on Damon’s nerves. It’s cold and breezy and he feels like an idiot waiting there.

    Sweet whiffs from freshly made churros compete with the permeating smell of mulled wine in the wintry air. Leeds Lane, once a thriving market, is now an impromptu fairground teeming with fortune tellers and magicians. ‘P.Soff Tarot Cards & Magick Services’, ‘The Carthaginian Luck & Omen Reader’, ‘Know Your Future With U.Fakov’. Tent after tent, set up on the sidewalk, there are ample ways to have your future told these days.

    Yuri Nal’s, in particular, has become a local sensation. Word has spread that their readings are accurate and do materialize, no matter how whimsical or bizarre. Their reputation is evident in the long queues at their tent, while other witches and wizards nearby watch with envy.

    How could so many people believe in such crap? Damon can’t help thinking.

    “Do you really want to do this, honey?” he asks Sarah, knowing very well she’s a sucker for these things. “I’m dying for some churros and a frappé!”

    Sarah cuddles up to him to get warmer and puts on her usual puppy face she makes when she wants things her way. She’s too sweet to be told off. Damon bites his tongue and sucks it up quietly.

    Yuri Nal finally re-emerges, dressed in a long golden robe and a ridiculously tall top hat. He ignores the queueing order and instead, with a raspy mystical voice declares, “Ayse has a message for an Aquarius, she senses an Aquarius here.”

    Ayse Huell is Yuri Nal’s wife and the real celebrity palm-reader. Although most others in line have been waiting longer, Sarah puts up a finger, like a school kid, and with beaming eyes signals to Yuri Nal that she’s an Aquarius. She’s excited, she believes that Ayse Huell will announce her big wish, that she’ll be getting pregnant soon. That’s why she wants Damon with her, her husband isn’t as convinced as herself that they should go for a baby.

    The tent seems larger on the inside than it looked from the outside. On stepping in, before their eyes even adjust, Sarah and Damon feel the soft fine sand covering the floor beneath their feet. The strong intoxicating smell of incense overwhelms their senses. Yuri Nal himself sits far back in a meditative posture. Ayse Huell’s in the middle, in the least lit part of the tent, not quite clear if she’s crouched down or sitting on a small stool. Eyes rolled up, she doesn’t acknowledge the clients and instead keeps murmuring something.

    A minute or so and she requests Sarah’s palm, almost with a sense of urgency. Sarah obliges, and the middle-aged woman stutters incomprehensible utterings, probably in another language, as she runs her fingers wildly across Sarah’s hand. Then she does say something.

    “You’re being cheated upon, darling! You’re being very badly cheated upon…” She keeps repeating.

    Sarah looks at Damon, confounded. Uneasy, he shakes his head.

    “Let’s get out of here!” he tells his wife.

    “Let me see your palm!” the woman demands Damon. He refuses to hand it over to her.

    A tear rolls down Sarah’s cheek. Damon insists they should leave. He stands up, with difficulty, pressing his hand on the floor to regain his balance, and gets out of the tent. The cold air outside cuts like a knife, but is refreshing after having been inside that tent. Sarah follows him, but then remembers she has to pay her palm-reader and goes back in.

    “It never rains, but it pours! Something terrible’s going to happen to him!” Ayse Huell warns Sarah.

    “To him?” Sarah doesn’t understand.

    “To your husband!”

    “But you didn’t see his palm. How can you tell?”

    Ayse Huell points at the palm-print on the sand.

    “There’s his palm! I can see the most horrible thing happening to him. That’s all I have for you, darling,” she then briefly concludes the sitting.

    Sarah, now shaking, hands her a hundred-pound note, but Ayse Huell lifts two fingers up. Two hundred? She points her head at the the palm-print. Yes, of course, two readings. Two-hundred pounds. Sarah’s in no mood of bickering over that.

    ***

    “The fortune-teller said something horrible will be happening to him,” Sarah informs the inspector, “maybe you should speak to her.”

    Inspector Carty Sano glimpses at Constables Romeo Surrey and ‘Admiral Nelson’, as Jason Nelly was known, and would’ve chuckled.

    “Them gypsies fill town after town with their tents these days, reading people’s fortunes. Like we’re back in the Middle Ages!”

    He turns back to Sarah. “Don’t worry. We’ll find Damon,” he tells her reassuringly, “we’ll comb the whole town – it’s not big here – and miles around it too if need be. We’ll find your husband, promise.”

    “And the lake?” Admiral Nelson steps in.

    “I’m not thinking along those lines,” Carty Sano tells him, sensitive to the fact that Sarah’s listening and he doesn’t want to unduly worry her.

    “I’d add Judah to the assignment, if I were you, he’s got twenty years under his belt with a Mossad scuba-team. Handy, in case Damon Linney drowned.” Sarah’s petrified. Admiral Nelson still doesn’t get it.

    As soon as Sarah steps out of the police-station, a journalist from the Royal York Tribune, who’s been sitting inside the waiting-room, approaches her.

    “I heard you say you had a premonition of this, a fortune-teller told you something bad would happen. Could you please tell me more?” The paper’s been running some sell-out headlines on this theme.

    Carty Sano recognizes the guy. He’d often hang around there trying to pick a sensation, and he can’t stand him. He gets out and taps the man on the back.

    “Leave the lady alone, will you? And tell your rag to stop sending you here. This fortune-telling stuff you write about, it’s a waste of ink and paper if you ask me, rigged stuff, gypsy thieves stealing money from good people. And you keep pumping it up,” he doesn’t give the reporter a chance to speak, “leave Miss Linney alone, keep calm and carry on with your day. Or get flustered all you want, but still carry on, somewhere else! I’ve got my eyes on you, Mister. And, remember, I can arrest people. When d’ya idiots get it! If you think you’re gaining anything hanging ’round here, you’re gonna regret it one of these days!”

    The reporter leaves and when he turns around a corner and is no longer visible casts a middle finger at the Inspector. He waits to catch up with Sarah along the way. He needs to get this story out of her.

    ***

    As Judah’s diving team extracts Damon’s decaying corpse out of the lake, and the photographer from the Royal York Tribune happily snaps away at the macabre scene, far above them, hidden in the woods, Yuri Nal observes with great satisfaction.

    This is going to be another clamorous prediction for his enterprise. These are the things that keep the business going strong.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm
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      Hi Ken M.
      I love the palm reading thing and the way you have familiar names strung through in your entertaining story. The good natured suspense drew me in and kept me going. Very nicely done!
      I am so glad I found a chance to stop by. I have missed all of you and your wonderful writing styles!

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 6:32 pm
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        Thanks Amy, I’m pleased you liked it.

        It’s nice to have you back, too. You were quite successful, if I remember well – one of your first stories won this contest, right?Quite a feat!

        You returned here the moment when I’d just thought of you again, and of all the others who were here a year ago. For the name thingy.

        I see that author “Promise”, another one from a year ago who then disappeared is back here with a comment precisely for this anniversary prompt! There’s certainly some magic in the air! Top hats and all…

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
        • June 30, 2020 at 7:00 pm
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          Hi Ken M.,
          Promise is my daughter. She graduated this past year. When I told her I was going to come back here, she wanted to join back in now that life has smoothed out.
          I’m so glad we got here in time for your anniversary and am so sorry to have missed so much.
          Promise is trying to get into writing fan fiction as a hobby, what better way to stretch the proverbial creative legs than to write here amongst all these amazing writers?

          I believe you may be right, there’s magic in the air 😊.

          Reply
          • July 1, 2020 at 4:46 am
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            Wow! So it’s less of a coincidence that you two returned here at the same time, but still quite a coincidence that you’re back right on time to see your names hidden somewhere in my story!

            Congrats to Promise on her graduation and good luck with fan fiction. Yes a good way to start off. Some have gone far, starting from fan fiction. But she should still take the plunge here from time to time… do tell her!

            Cheers!
            Ken

    • June 27, 2020 at 3:20 pm
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      Very interesting, Mr. Miles. Very. Well told tale, even if I did have to read it twice. But the second time I was looking for things (like errors of omission and so on, plus names). Not enough mistakes to talk about. No real gaffs. You kept me looking the entire time for everyone’s name. Mine was easy, along with a few others, but you may have to post a score card for some people. And, congratulations on a year. You’ve been a welcome addition.

      Roy

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 11:25 am
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        Loved it Ken M. Great story and well told.

        Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 4:57 am
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          Thanks Trish, I’m pleased you like my story, and also the way I told it. This one flowed quite nicely, while I was writing it, in spite of the additional “stress” to insert the names. (Sorry you’re not in there, as I only put the ones that were here when I joined. Maybe next year, for my second anniversary celebration. Although I ought to do that with a cake, liquour and finger food, next year 😉

          Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 4:53 am
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        Thanks Roy, and I’m glad you liked it.

        Was there some point in my story that was confusing to you as a reader? I mean, for requiring you to read it twice. I’m pleased readers here do take the time to read a story twice (or multiple times, sometimes). I do it too. But I’m not sure if “readers out there” would bother with that. I’d prefer my stories to cut deep the first time, so to speak… Anyway, if you can advice me on this aspect I’d appreciate that.

        Well, yes your name was easy to find: in capital first letters too! Some others are much more disguised. I’ll post the story again, when all is said and done, with the hidden names fully exposed.

        It’s been a year well-spent in here! I felt like celebrating that in some way 🙂

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 1:51 pm
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      Hello Ken Miles,
      You certainly had fun with the naming! There’s more than meets the eye surely and it’s funny.
      Your story telling is done very well.
      One question: Did that stinky Yurinal have anything to do with the drowning of Damon?
      Enjoyed this.

      Marien

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 5:02 am
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        Thanks Marien!

        Yes, the name thingy was quite fun. Although it made things more difficult for me. It was like a prompt with two dozen requirements… Some elements in my story were added simply to accomodate some of the names. Although most fitted well enough, in the end, I suppose.

        Yuri Nal? (yes, you smelled his name well!) I think he had very much to do with Damon’s demise. I mean, who knows? it’s just something I very, very much suspect, given the circumstances. I’m not sure if Inspector Carty Sano will follow through on that trail, though… I hope he would.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 7:40 pm
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        Marien, and Ken (M.),

        That Yuri Nal went right over my dopey little head. Now I’m wondering what else I missed. I think I’d better have another read of Ken’s story. And I didn’t find twenty names either. More like six.

        Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 7:03 pm
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      Ken, happy one year anniversary. It’s been a pleasure having you here and reading your stories.

      This is a nicely written story, I too love the palm reading angle. Like Roy I had to read it twice, but the second time was a charm. I liked the characters of Damon and Sarah, the things we do for those we love. And I loved the idea of using the names of the writers in the group in your story. Let us know afterward the location of all the names 🙂

      I enjoyed the first half of the story very much, but the second half is where things felt cluttered. I know how hard it is to write a story using only 1200 words, but I wonder if you needed the part with the intrusive press, I don’t think it would’ve hurt the story to exclude that and maybe spend more time on the investigation, and the con artist fortune tellers.

      There was another thing that stuck out to me, the very first paragraph:

      “The Cartesian diver dipping and rising rather unexpectedly inside a flask hanging atop ‘Yuri Nal’s Palm Reading Services’’ tent entertains the long line of people eagerly waiting for their fortunes to be read. But it’s all getting on Damon’s nerves. It’s cold and breezy and he feels like an idiot waiting there.”

      Usually you draw me in right away with your openings, but here that first sentence is long, and I had to read it several times before getting into the story.

      Here’s a suggestion, and take it for what it’s worth. I hope it doesn’t offend you in any way.

      “The Cartesian diver, dipping and rising rather unexpectedly inside a flask hanging atop the tent, entertains the long line of people eagerly waiting for their fortunes to be read. But the scene outside of Yuri Nal’s Palm Reading Services, was getting on Damon’s nerves…”

      All in all it was a fun story, and again Happy one year anniversary. I hope you remain for years to come.

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 5:17 am
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        Hi Alice and thanks for your nice comments on my story and your congratulations on my first anniversary here. It’s been a great year I spent with you here. I think I learned a lot and improved my craft by leaps and bounds. And made some nice friendships too.

        I didn’t miss a single prompt, in this whole year, not even the bonus ones. So I’m quite proud of that achievement, in and of itself. It was hard to find the time, sometimes, but I made sure I did each and every time.

        Thanks also for your suggestions to improve my story. That’s perhaps the most precious bit of being in here, besides the friendships: when readers take the time to suggest improvements. I agree with your suggestions and will incorporate them if I were to use the story again somewhere else in the future. Some things (like the Royal York Tribune), I brought them in as part of the name challenge. I mean how was I going to fit in Roy York, otherwise?LOL The story, as you say, could do without that intrusive media part.

        I will repeat to you the same question I asked Roy. Was there some point in my story that was confusing to you as a reader? I mean, for requiring you to read it twice. I’m pleased readers here do take the time to read a story twice (or multiple times, sometimes). I do it too. But I’m not sure if “readers out there” would bother with that. I’d prefer my stories to cut deep the first time, so to speak… Anyway, if you can advice me on that aspect I’d appreciate it. I mean, how could my story have flowed more clearly to be fully enjoyed in one first reading.

        Even though, with almost any story, a second reading (for those who have the time and patience for it) would always bring out some more things that may have been missed the first time, I still think that the essential plot and the main “aha! moment” should fully emerge with just one reading. That’s what I usually aim for 🙂

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 9:02 am
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      Ken,

      I really enjoyed your story! It was fun looking for the names of the writers in our group. I knew the fortune tellers/gypsies were up to something fake but never expected murder. I’ve never been to a fortune teller but your story aligned with my imaginings of what it would be like to see one. Great job!

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 5:25 am
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        Thanks Adi and I’m pleased you enjoyed my story.

        I’ve never seen a fortune teller, either, but I sort of imagine that many of them are such charlatans like the ones in my story. Especially if they do it for money. I suppose (and hope!) few or none of them would go to such lengths (murder), to justify their predictions and improve business, but there were people I heard of who committed suicide, fell into depression or ended up in some very remorseful situation after having given too much credence to fortune telling.

        Nothwithstanding that, I’m not saying that there is nothing of value in psychic phenomena. But one doesn’t go looking for an answer to his or her great life questions in a tent or caravan inhabited by persons in strange costumes in some amusement park. That’s just for a bit of fun, if that. And hopefully one doesn’t come across someone like Ayse Huell or Yuri Nal…

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 3:33 pm
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      Ken M. This is a very clever bit of writing. You have a knack for creating interesting characters and interesting locales. You make the relationship between the characters seem so important that the mechanics, shall we say, of the situation become lost in the details. It’s a very entertaining story, even without the reveal. The reveal gives it a nice little extra kick.

      Not sure about the names, I only found a couple of dozen and they were all misspelled. It was a bit like an Easter egg hunt in Antarctica. If the eggs were white, that is. (If the eggs were brown or multicolored, that would be easy. Except for the blizzard. Blizzards make everything difficult.) Is their anyway you could rewrite this to give my character a more prestigious role? Just wondering.

      (The good news Ken, is this story also craps all over my story.)

      But don’t worry, I hope to make a comeback in the bonus prompt. (Hey! What’s this doing here? Who left this kryptonite laying around right by my desk? Pardon me Ken, this is some pretty sloppy housekeeping. I’ll have to have a word with the help. Talk to you later.)

      You shall consider yourself lucky if I don’t come back and leave more comments on this story. I’ll bet. The names. I haven’t crosschecked the names with the list. For realism, and accuracy.

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 5:53 am
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        Hi Ken and thanks, as ever, for your nice words about my story. I won’t disagre with anything you said 🙂

        This story was quite easy for me to write, compared to some others in the recent past. Somehow this prompt inspired me right away. And even with the extra work to fit in all those names, things sort of fell in place quite easily. The main thing is that I didn’t overshoot to my usual 1,800 words on first draft. I was just a little over, which made things much easier than usual to trim down to the word-limit.

        You found a couple of dozen names already? Were there even that many? I will post my story again with all the names exposed, after all is said and done. But I guess you alread found them all!

        Well, the names *had to* be misspelled, otherwise the hunt would have been too easy! What about: “Phil Town and his girlfriend Ilana Leeds went to a fortunte-teller by the name of Andy Lake who told them they’ll be having triplets. All boys. And all to be named ‘Ken’…” I mean, that would have been too easy. And I don’t know what Phil and Ilana would have said. Never mind Andy…

        One name was spelled correctly, though: “Nelson”. And mine too. Just sayin’, for the sake of correctness.

        A more prestigious role for your name? Inspector Carty Sano is not too bad, if you ask me. True, he’s somewhat incompetent, but he’s a good person (you see how he didn’t want to unduly worry Sarah about the possibility of her husband having drowned, and how he descended upon the reporter pestering her. He’s nice to women. That can’t be bad.). Well, I have no better roles in that story that I could have given you. You don’t want to be a criminally-minded fortune teller. Or a drowned man. Or Admiral Nelson. Or Sarah? Maybe in the next prompt? Something wicked…sorry, Cartisano, no good roles there either, in the piece I have in mind.

        If you’re not too happy with Inspector Carty Sano, there are also the Cartesian diver and tha Carthaginian for you to associate yourself with, if you like. They’re also inspired by your nice Italian surname. And I didn’t want to mess around with your Christian name. That wouldn’t have been in my interest!

        Although I’m also in the story, but in a different way. Did you find me?

        Yes, do come back with more if you have more to say. Which you sure have!

        And you know where to find me after office hours, too…

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
  • June 20, 2020 at 6:10 pm
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    Loose Ends
    by Peter Holmes (1199 words)

    “It’s taking place on Friday.” Both men donned trench coats like they’d just come out of a Mafia movie, holding up newspapers to cover their insignificant faces.

    One of them lifted his eyes off of the newspaper. “After he gets home from the gym?”

    “Yes.” The man went by Joe, although his birth certificate said Joseph. He sat on one end of the city bench, splinters coming dangerously close to piercing his pants. On the other end sat his colleague and friend, Ken. It seemed he’d gotten the splinter-free end of the bench (lucky son of a bitch). “I’ll text you the details.” Joe grunted as he hoisted himself up off the bench, turning left to leave the plaza. He was stopped in his tracks as he saw a familiar face approaching. He attempted to hide his face by bringing the coat’s collar so close his beard crumpled against it.

    Although, as any rational person would know, hiding your face in a trench coat only brings more attention to you. Surprisingly, it’s not a common sight. The man started to approach faster. Not jogging, not walking, right in the middle between the two. A speed that can best be described as that fast walk you do when someone is holding the door open for you but they’re a bit far away, so you have to speed up, but you don’t want to seem childish and run at them. Once the man arrived at the bench, where Joe and Ken were now sat very awkwardly, still hoping they hadn’t been noticed, he smiled at them both.

    “Fancy seeing you here! How are you guys doing? It’s been so long!”

    “Ohhh, hiii Dave.” They said in unison.

    “What are you talking about, can I join in? And why are you dressed like that?”

    “We’re discussing…” Joe’s voice faded off as he began to mumble.

    “You’re discussing what?”

    “We’re discussing mhmhmhm”

    “I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch that Joey.”

    “WE’RE DISCUSSING MIKE’S BIRTHDAY YOU BLITHERING IDIOT!”

    “JOE!” Ken turned to face his friend, mouth open sort of like a shocked fish.

    “I’M SORRY KEN HE JUST-” Joe was visibly agitated. “He really annoys me. No offense Dave.”

    “None taken.” Dave kept smiling, unfazed by the insult.

    For a reason that is still unknown to this day, Dave took this conversation as an invitation to sit on the bench with them. “Why are you being so secretive about Mike’s party? And why are you wearing top hats?”

    “We’re undercover, moron, because it’s a surprise party. We can’t let anyone hear about it.”

    “But Mike knows like, twenty people, and you could’ve just texted each other.”

    Ken chuckled. “Oh Dave, no offense, but this is serious stuff, it’s not like your murder mystery dinner party.”

    Ken looked at Joe with a look on his face that said “get a load of this dumbass”.

    Dave let the murder mystery dinner party comment get to him. He did, in fact, take offense this time. He stood up to leave, not wanting his friends to see him upset.

    “Hey Dave.”

    “Yeah?” Dave turned around, hoping Joe was about to apologise.

    “Don’t tell anybody. We’ve spent a lot of time tying up loose ends to make this a good prank. We want to scare the pants off of Mike. Finally get some revenge for the surprise party he threw together for Ken last year.” Ken nodded along to Joe’s words, all while intently staring at Dave, as if he were about to tell Mike right in front of them. They both then shooed Dave away, apparently done with him. Leaving the plaza, the plotters hopped onto the bus, to further discuss their plan.

    They arrived at Joe’s apartment, and a blueprint was subsequently rolled out onto the table. “What’s that?” Ken inquired, falling for Joe’s overly theatrical bait.

    “This, my friend, is the exact layout of Mike’s house.”

    “No way! How’d you score this?”

    “Just a little bit of reconnaissance last night.” Ken high-fived him at this comment, seemingly endorsing stalkers. “We infiltrate the premises through here.” Joe continued, pointing at the door (which was, by the way, the only way to enter Mike’s house, but Ken was too excited to think about this).

    “Along with a few friends from his company, and his old school mates, we’ll hide in various strategic positions.” He proceeded to list the ‘strategic positions’, which included mastermind ideas such as ‘behind the sofa’ and ‘in the bathroom’. This list was also constantly interrupted by Ken’s approbative comments like ‘genius’ and ‘inspired’ every time Joe paused.

    They deliberated all night about the positions, the scariest thing to shout when Mike walked through the door, even the most tactically advantageous times to go for a wee. They were taking it seriously. Way. Too. Seriously.

    *****

    (Friday – The Big Day)

    “Paula! Stop eating the cocktail sausages!” Joe whispered the words, but his desperate need for the night to be perfect twisted the words into angry hisses. Paula stopped eating the aforementioned cocktail sausages, taken aback by the man’s tone. To be fair to Paula, they were good cocktail sausages.

    Ken was stood in a bath in the adjacent room with two strangers (people from Mike’s company, he presumed). Just to be clear, this was an empty bath. They were merely hiding behind the shower curtain, nobody was engaging in any bathing with strangers.

    An hour later, Mike was still a no-show. Ken carefully stepped out the bath, not before trying out Mike’s fancy, zesty, lemon-scented soap. He called out for Joe, having forgotten where his friend was hiding. Joe popped up from behind the leather sofas and gestured “where the hell is this guy?”. Ken instantly understood and gestured back “I don’t know, traffic?”.

    They hid themselves back into place, deciding to give it a bit longer. Fortunately, Mike walked through the door after about five minutes had passed. With Dave right behind him.

    Everyone in hiding jumped up (nobody was on cue, some were late, some were early). For the people in the adjacent rooms, it was more of an amble into the main room. Some shouted “SURPRISE!” and some shouted “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”. Despite Joe and Ken’s meticulously thought out plan, everyone was completely out of sync. It was an utter disaster.

    “Hey guys!” Mike smiled at them all, waving hi to numerous people. To the heavy disappointment of Ken and Joe, he showed no sign of surprise.

    “Why aren’t you surprised?” Ken frowned like a child who’d just been told grass wasn’t edible.

    “Dave caught me after my workout and explained your plan. We went to the pub and had a drink together instead. You know he’s a Pisces too? We’re seventeen days apart.”

    Ken and Joe were not impressed with this.

    “Rather childish of you, don’t you think? Plotting revenge on me?”

    For a brief second, Mike thought he saw forgiveness in them. “Nahhh, peace out!” Ken stuck his middle finger in Mike’s face as Joe attempted to push the dinner table over.

    “It’s nailed down.” said Mike.

    “Whatever.” They both stormed out the room, and Mike began to enjoy an evening with his real friends, with Dave right by his side.

    Reply
    • June 20, 2020 at 6:13 pm
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      I’d like to quickly thank Phil Town for introducing me to the concept of using separators in my story, I think I used them correctly in here. This is the first story I’ve entered where I’ve been one of the first few to post so woohoo, hope you all enjoy it 🙂

      Reply
    • June 26, 2020 at 2:06 pm
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      Hi Peter, it was a joy to read your story.

      (No spoilers)- I love the sneaky friends and how the situation was handled.
      Amy

      Reply
      • June 27, 2020 at 8:25 am
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        Much appreciated Amy

        Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 12:36 am
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      This is a really fun and funny story about four strange friends(?) Every aspect of this story is funny, the exposition, the dialogue, the plot, the characters. It was like being towed on a kneeboard behind a boat. Kind of farcical but, a big part of the fun was in the way the story was written. I especially loved the status of the kitchen table. Really entertaining story Peter.

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 5:32 am
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        Kind words Ken (maybe your new nickname…)

        Reply
        • June 28, 2020 at 11:29 am
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          Peter – very fun story with sarcastic asides that added to the enjoyment. It did seem like the two plotters were not the type of friends one would want. Kinda glad they got their commupance at the end.

          Reply
          • June 28, 2020 at 2:40 pm
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            I do like adding my snarky personality to the narrator when possible

    • June 28, 2020 at 2:12 pm
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      Who need friends in trench coats, plotting, hiding their faces? ‘Twas hilarious though.
      When they could just text… right?

      Amusing delineation of speed in this line: two handclaps.
      ….’A speed that can best be described as that fast walk you do when someone is holding the door open for you but they’re a bit far away, so you have to speed up, but you don’t want to seem childish and run at them.

      They deliberated all night! Didn’t work out.
      Good one,
      marien

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm
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        Thanks Marien, glad you enjoyed it

        Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm
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        Thanks Marien, glad you liked my humour

        Reply
        • June 28, 2020 at 2:43 pm
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          I can’t believe it posted both replies even when I clicked cancel on one of them, this website is out to get me

          Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 7:29 pm
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      Peter a fun story. And as the old adage goes, with friends like this…well you know the rest. Ken and Joe were far too serious about their surprise party, and if they didn’t want Dave to spill the beans, they should’ve been nicer to him.

      Although there were a few oddly worded parts like:

      “He was stopped in his tracks as he saw a familiar face approaching.” ( He stopped in his tracks, when he saw…)

      “Once the man arrived at the bench, where Joe and Ken were now sat very awkwardly, still hoping they hadn’t been noticed, he smiled at them both.” (Joe and Ken still hoped they hadn’t been recognized, but the man stopped at the bench and smiled at both of them.)

      and

      “Ken was stood in a bath in the adjacent room with two strangers” (Ken stood…)

      Still a fun story, and I’m sure Mike had a better time with Ken and Joe not there.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 1:30 pm
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        “With Friends Like These” would actually be an amazing title!

        And your adjustments make a lot more sense, I’ll quickly edit my copy on Word

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 9:06 am
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      Peter,
      Fun story! I laughed picturing these two guys dressing up spy style to plan a party that went hilariously wrong in spite of all their “careful” planning. I love your sense of humor.

      Adi

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 1:35 pm
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        I imagine my style of humour is due to me being a teenager, I’m still thinking of all these ridiculous ideas

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 1:50 pm
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      Peter, It’s me, Roy to tell you I enjoyed your story. I really didn’t understand the animosity, and you sort of explain it throughout, but these two went to a lot of trouble to throw a party for someone they didn’t like.

      You do have a tendency to intrude on your readers, as I have pointed out before, but I’m getting used to it. I don’t see you changing anytime soon, however, I think you need to hear it for your own good, so I will continue, unless you tell me not to. This is a critique site, and I think it helps authors of all stripes. I know it certainly helps me when people point out the error of my ways. I have plenty, believe me.

      You wrote: Both men donned trench coats like they’d just come out of a Mafia movie, holding up newspapers to cover their insignificant faces. It’s little things you do. You use donned as a verb, but the meaning is skewed. slightly. No big thing, but maybe, as you grow in stature with your writing, you will want to not use terms even a little bit incorrectly, IMHO.

      What you wrote says they put them on. Both men donned trench coats, instead of both men wore trench coats. Both men were donning trench coats would have been more correct. Like I said, not a big deal but I think incorrect. I also noticed the men held up newspapers to cover their insignificant faces. If they are insignificant, why did they do that? Little things.

      Anytime you think I’m being picky, just let me know. And feel free to accept or reject my critiques as you please.

      You wrote: Once the man arrived at the bench, where Joe and Ken were now sat very awkwardly, still hoping they hadn’t been noticed, he smiled at them both. ‘Where Joe and Ken now sat’ is better. Or, to save a word, ‘where Joe and Ken sat.’ Don’t need either ‘were’ or ‘now’.

      Ken was stood in a bath in the adjacent room with two strangers (people from Mike’s company, he presumed). Just to be clear, this was an empty bath. They were merely hiding behind the shower curtain, nobody was engaging in any bathing with strangers.

      Do you really need the parentheses? I notice you use them in other places where they really don’t add anything. Give your readers a chance to make up their own minds. Why did you add they were merely hiding behind the shower curtain, nobody was engaging in bathing with strangers. I’d truly like to know. I assumed that they were hiding (Alice already told you about was stood) – see that’s a good place for parentheses – when you are using them as an aside; but you had to point out nobody was doing anything you may have felt we might take wrong. Why, I ask, why? You’re the author, not the moral police.

      Borderline author intrusion – To be fair to Paula, they were good cocktail sausages – perhaps the line ‘He understood why she was eating them, because they are rather good, he thought.’ would avoid that. However, as I say, I’m getting more used to the way you write. I write this because I think you can be an even better author.

      Overall, you kept me wondering what the eventual outcome of their planning was and how it went awry. But if I were either Ken or Joe, I would have taken the cocktail sausages with me.

      Roy

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:16 pm
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        Roy it’s me, Peter, to respond to your comment. First of all, my general idea was that these two characters are stupid and immature, so devoting a lot of time to something so silly is their idea of fun.

        I welcome all criticism, I expect a lot of it for someone of my skill level. So please still reminding me and who knows, maybe one day this brain will take a hint…

        Completely reasonable with the “don” situation, the fact that I used it wrong had slipped my mind (this is a wake-up call to search definitions of words more often). With the “insignificant faces” line, I was trying to suggest that they don’t think that they’re insignificant, because (as I said before) they are stupid. They believe a little revenge party will be heavily contested and there might be spies and random people eavesdropping. Hence the trench coats and such.

        I don’t think you’re being picky, you always have reasonable ideas. Plus, if there’s anything I disagree with (or if there’s simply something I need to explain to you), then I’m happy to reply and discuss.

        This line was already proven to be wrong (by the lovely Alice Nelson) so I’m not surprised someone else brought it up too. I am glad to say it has been fixed now.

        I don’t want to heavily delve into the bath part because I know some of my writing is just questionable, it’s even difficult to explain after I’ve written it. Sometimes I let the brain do the work without thinking too much about it. I must stop forgetting that relying on only my brain is a dodgy idea. This is something else I’ll add to the list of Biggest Weaknesses, along with “bad at socialising” and “not good with spicy food”.

        I see what you’re saying about the author intrusion with the cocktail sausages part. I’m not sure whether to agree. You and I both know that is my style of writing, I’m a little sarcastic sometimes. If I’m being honest, I’ve heard both good and bad things about that. I think I like my sarcasm, but I also agree that author intrusion can make a story worse. Like I said, I’m torn. I think you might see me using it occasionally, whenever I deem necessary, but I’ll definitely use it less often.

        Maybe when I have some spare time I’ll look back at it and make the story longer, flesh out certain parts (mostly the planning and the actual party).

        As always, thank you very much for your contribution. See you next time 🙂

        Reply
  • June 20, 2020 at 9:10 pm
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    TOP HAT AND VIRGO

    “The top hat? Again!?”

    “The old boot? Again!?”

    “It’s because I AM an old boot.”

    The two burst out laughing like teenagers, George pausing to enjoy the moment before continuing to count out the money, passing Martha her share.

    “You said it.”

    “Hey!”

    Martha’s feigned offence sets them laughing again.

    George picks up the dice and shakes them in his hand, preparing to throw.

    “Ready?” he asks.

    “Erm … so you’re going first, are you?”

    George stops shaking the dice and offers them to Martha.

    “Sorry, darling. You’re right. Age before beauty.”

    “Oh, quite the gentleman.”

    Martha takes the dice, shakes them briefly and throws.

    “Six. One two three four five six. The Angel, Islington. I’ll buy it.”

    “Already, angel?”

    “I like the shade of blue.”

    “As good a reason as any, I suppose. Ok, give me the cash. Here’s the card. Me to go. Seven. One after you so … bugger. Chance!”

    “Might be good.”

    “Suppose so … let’s take a look. Bugger, bugger! ‘Go to Jail. Go directly to Jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect £200.’ “

    George places his top hat on the Jail square, a little too aggressively. Martha picks up the dice, struggling to conceal a smile. George gets up from the table.

    “Want a drink?” he asks, heading for the kitchen.

    “Okay. A glass of wine.”

    Martha puts the dice down; she knows George won’t accept her throw if he’s not there to see it.

    “You always win this,” George calls from the kitchen.

    “We’ve only just started!” Martha replies, wondering if George will hear. He does.

    “Yes, but you and I know that you’re going to win. ‘Twas ever thus.”

    George returns with a white wine for Martha and a bourbon for himself.

    He sits and reaches his hand over the board. Martha takes it and they gaze into each other’s eyes.

    “Remember the first time we played this?” George says – half a question, half a statement.

    “Every time we play it you say the same thing.”

    “I like to remember. So arrest me!”

    Martha smiles and points to where George’s top hat is sitting.

    “Oh, very funny,” he laughs and takes back his hand.

    Martha raises hers to George’s silver hair and gently strokes it.

    “Forty years,” she whispers, her voice sweet and warm.

    “And it don’t seem a day too much,” George sings, off key. Martha winces.

    “You never could hit a note!”

    “What do you mean?” George looks offended. “I’m a great singer!”

    “That’s right. A regular Pavarotti.”

    “I could teach him a thing or two!”

    “Uhuh.”

    George takes Martha’s hand and kisses it.

    “Remember that year?” his face suddenly solemn.

    “You always bring this up, too.”

    “Because it still frightens me – what the repercussions could have been.” George picks up the dice and rolls them round absentmindedly in his hand.

    “My fault … as we always agree.”

    “Well, you DID suggest it!” George sits back, inviting Martha to detail her defence.

    “I couldn’t help it. I was all tied up with that … astrological thing.”

    “Your sister.”

    “She got me into it, yes. But I didn’t have to get SO MUCH into it.”

    “Pisces and Virgo.”

    “The dreamer and the pragmatist.”

    “Me and you.”

    “The top hat and the old boot.”

    They smile ruefully.

    “Nine months apart. What a plan!” George shakes his head.

    “We had to see how strong it was between us.”

    “By breaking us first?”

    “We bent. We didn’t break.”

    “Okay … but by the time we realised what we’d done, I was in Brazil and you were still here. I was missing you so much! But I was just about to give up – there’s no way I could have gone the whole year.”

    “I know, I know. It was a terrible plan, you’re right.”

    “Thank God for your cousin!” George picks up a wad of cash and ruffles it with a finger.

    “That’s the only reason you came back! For the money!”

    “Yeah – the only reason.” George winks.

    “But that job offer … you could hardly refuse it.”

    “I would have done if it hadn’t meant I’d be coming back to be close to you.”

    “Really?!”

    George thinks for a moment and bursts out laughing.

    “No, probably not. It really was a good offer.”

    “I’m so glad the plan collapsed, though.”

    Now George reaches over and touches Martha’s hair – auburn with silver threads.

    “You and me both, darling.”

    Martha nods, her eyes sparkling.

    “Okay, so … it’s my turn, isn’t it?”

    She holds her hand out for the dice, but George keeps them.

    “Tell you what,” he says. “A double, and …”

    “And?”

    George throws the dice: double six!

    “Ha!”

    “What?” Martha’s quizzical look becomes a grin as George gets up and holds out his hand. She takes it and gets up herself.

    “We can finish the game later,” George says, leading Martha away from the table.

    “Or not,” laughs Martha.

    .

    Reply
    • June 21, 2020 at 7:01 am
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      I really love your dialogues Phil they are very true to life and you draw out your characters through the dialogue so well. Great story.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 12:29 pm
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        Thanks, Ilana!

        Reply
    • June 26, 2020 at 2:16 pm
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      Hi Phil! It’s been a while, hope you are doing well?

      (No spoilers) I love how you lead me through to the end with the playful banter. I love how the dialogue carries the story and the characters all the way through. Wonderful job! 🙂

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 11:31 am
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        I agree with Ilana Phil- your dialogue is fantastic and you really do draw your characters well through your dialogue. I loved your story of comfortable love. Made me feel all good and gushy inside. 🙂

        Reply
        • July 2, 2020 at 1:22 pm
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          Thanks, Trish. ‘Good and gushy’ is good!

          Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 12:30 pm
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        Thanks, Amy. Glad you got something from it!

        Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 2:25 pm
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      A neat love story, there’s cheerful banter, building up through a game.
      The romantic touches.. all good!
      Auburn hair with silver threads…reminds me of this oldie.
      ‘O she will never grow old, while there’s love in her heart,
      Time may silver her golden hair, as she sat on her ol’ rocking chair.’
      You write with such ease, wunderbah!

      Marien

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:26 pm
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        Thank you, Marien. I had to google that lyric … very nice!

        Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 8:02 pm
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      Lovely story Phil, and I just have to repeat what everyone is saying, great dialogue. It felt real, George and Martha felt real. I like how you show that they had a bit of a hiccup in their marriage, but you don’t get in the weeds with the details. We don’t need to know, we just get to see what 40 years and a lot of hard work looks like in a healthy relationship. Nice work my friend.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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        “40 years and a lot of hard work” … I guess that’s the secret, isn’t it? Putting in a shift.

        Thanks for the kind words, Alice!

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 2:07 pm
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      Hi Phil, So this is what the Washington’s do in their spare time? Play Monopoly? Ummm – Washington’s – George and Martha – that’s all I could think of while I was reading your story. Once I got over that, I had to decide which character I liked best in case I vote that way, and so far, I have chosen Martha. The fact she has a twinkle in her eye when he throws a double is the reason. We know what’s going through his mind – he’s a guy.

      I feel the tenderness they show and have for each other, without getting all swoony (a real word). Your dialogue is spot on, and I truly enjoyed the give and take. Although I’m trying to figure out how the plan went ‘horribly’ wrong. Seems to me it went horribly right.

      I think there’s a word or two missing in this sentence.“I would have done if it hadn’t meant I’d be coming back to be close to you.” Even so, I truly do not understand what he told her. Maybe you can ‘splain it.

      Anyway, I really liked the story and other than what I’ve pointed out, I don’t have any quibbles with the writing. I hardly ever do. Good job, stay safe.

      Roy

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:33 pm
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        Thanks for your careful critique, Roy, and the positive words.

        Just to respond to some of your observations:

        – as I’m not American, the ‘Washington’ reference just didn’t cross my mind. Thanks;
        – the plan (separation) was horribly wrong until they came to their senses, helped by the job offer;
        – he would have refused the job offer if not for the fact that it would bring him back to her – but I agree that the sentence is very awkward.

        Cheers!

        Reply
  • June 21, 2020 at 4:37 am
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    The extraordinary ordinary

    There was a thing or two to be said about shopping trolleys as a safety hazard and an all-around unsafe mode of transport, but as of that morning, Maggie had neither the energy nor the time. All she could do was stare balefully from the side of the road as the shopping trolley she had just been in possession of whizzed past her down the road, screaming children and overpriced bread aboard.
    All she had wanted to do – needed to do – was get to work. With as little hassles or inconveniences as possible.
    Obviously, it wasn’t Maggie’s day. The fact had been clear the minute she had woken up and promptly fell out of bed. The fact remained clear when she successively bruised her shin, spilled water all over her clothes, cursed herself for forgetting to do the laundry, almost stepped on the neighbour’s cat who had managed to sneak in her house again, tried to shoo out said cat as she fought the onslaught of her hateful cat allergies, realised she was out of bread and almost forgot her house keys on her way out to pick up bread before work because she just knew she’d be too tired to remember to do it after work. Her piles of dirty clothes spoke for themselves.
    All in all she was… downright pissed at the universe and wanted to tell it to go screw itself because this wasn’t just a bad day, it was a bad week, hell, a whole black year for her and she-
    -she should probably stay on track. Mental rants at the universe helped no one but the devil to lure sinners through hatred. Said no one ever but her mother. Which had not been too convincing when she’d seen her mother have her own mental breakdown when Maggie was ten… but that wasn’t important right now.
    What was important was that, on getting to the supermarket, she had come across some random kids while she had been looking for bread, no parent in sight. Which, okay, fine, totally not her business but then again, they were kids and she couldn’t just… what? Leave them there?
    Of course, she had tried to ask them where their parents were and if they were okay by themselves. But the kids looked to be about five – there were three of them in total and there looked to be about a years difference in age between them all – so of course they naturally did what kids that young do, ignore adult authority and do whatever the hell they wanted. Which, as it seemed to be, was caper around while giggling, fighting over a hot pink top hat. Maggie did not question the top hat, just dragged the kids to the front counter and interrogated the sleepy-eyed and chain-caffein inhaling cashier who shrugged at her in between sips of the Virgo star sign bearing thermal flask cradled protectively in his hands. His tag read Miles.
    “Sorry, miss, I just got here. The kids were here before me.” Miles took an irritatingly long sip. “I’d say ask Sherry, but she already left. Probably asleep by now.” Sip. “Don’t know what to tell you.”
    The kids shrieked, tugging on Maggie like monkeys with their sticky fingers and knocked over a magazine stand in their whirlwind movements under the tired stares of both Maggie and the cashier. They gave an energetic cheer as the metal stand hid the ground with a loud clang, magazines slipping across the dully shining floor. Miles offered her some coffee, chugging it when she just shook her head resignedly.
    “Alright then,” she sighed. “I guess I’ll take them down to… the police station.” She glanced at her watch. “Hopefully, it’ll be quick so I can ditch the kids there and get to work on time. With bread.”
    She remembered the bread she had managed to grab on the way to the cashier, dumping it on the counter. Miles looked relieved, eagerly ringing it up and taking her money, probably glad to get rid of her and the kids.
    “You going to take that?” he asked hesitantly, gesturing with his cup to the shopping trolley she had grabbed on arrival at the supermarket out of habit and exhaustion. Maggie nodded in embarrassment and grabbed the trolley, dropping the bread in there and then the kids too when they clamoured around it excitedly, begging and pleading.
    Maggie left the supermarket with a whole lot more to do and a great deal less time.
    When she got the trolley bay, she swore she only turned around for a few seconds to fix the carelessness of a few lazy jerks who couldn’t be bothered to actually put the shopping trolley’s back in their proper place. Of course, when she turned around the trolley, kids, bread and all, were rolling away, quickly picking up speed along the asphalt as the kids jumped and leaned forward hollering, effectively escalating the situation as they whizzed out of the carpark and down the road.
    Maggie stared balefully after them, of course, barely comprehending but already knowing she would be cursing the day over a strong drink later. For now, her annoying conscience dictated she run after the troublesome kids and her now-squashed bread with the speed she didn’t possess and save the kids, preferably before her boss started throwing a fit.
    As she ran, a pink top hat flew at her and hit her in the face. She almost threw it aside in anger but forced herself to keep it to save unnecessary future tears. Tears of a grieving child, and tears of an exhausted, overworked adult. On arriving at the end of the street, however, Maggie discovered that the situation had already been de-escalated.
    The trolley had caught on the edge of the road, toppling over and sending the kids tumbling to the ground. They were grazed, battered, and shaken, but two were already recovering as they munched on Maggie’s bread, offering some to their wailing third member.
    As it was, Maggie didn’t end up making it to work on time. Not that it had looked very likely from the very beginning. After the ‘incident’, the kids were hastily escorted to the police station, the trolly kindly returned to the supermarket by a pitying police officer, and Maggie sent on her way with the promise to call her when the kids were safely home.
    The rest of Maggie’s day wasn’t much better than the start of it, what with a less than impressed boss and a hungry stomach from missing breakfast, but Maggie did manage a smile when she got a call a little after lunchtime with the troublesome trio of kids on the other end who chattered happily to her before passing the phone to their grateful parents.
    Maggie sighed as she leant back in her office chair, the smile still on her lips as she thought of her hectic morning. She flinched when at a sharp yell from across the office, wiping the smile off her face as she got back to her computer with a groan.
    The day was far from over.

    Reply
    • June 26, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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      Hi Amelie,
      I love your story (very fast paced- no spoilers here). The way your characters and plot rounded out so quickly through both dialogue and narration was awesome. Great job!
      Amy

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 11:34 am
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        Amelie – I loved the way you spun a quick story about a bad day into a wonderful tale. I really commiserated with your narrator as she navigated her circumstances. We’ve all had days like that. Well done.

        Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 2:16 pm
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      Definitely fast paced and had to keep up with the tempo. The trolley flew away once from me at an underground parking. It narrowly missed hitting an oncoming car.
      One with kids ruffles up the ‘magination!
      Interesting read.
      Marien

      Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 8:13 pm
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      Amelie, I loved this story. It is beautifully written, and you had me from beginning to end. We can all relate to days that don’t quite go our way, luckily mine never involved 3 lost kids. I loved the flow of the story, the details of it, everything fit and was necessary, nothing superfluous.

      The only suggestion I would make is to leave spaces in between the paragraphs, it makes the stories much easier on the eyes, and easier to read.

      Other than that, this is a fabulous story!

      Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 9:23 am
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      Amelie,

      Fun story! I was a day-care Mom when my children were young and I regularly took 6 children ages 4 and under to the grocery store. Luckily, they were mostly well-behaved but it was definitely an adventure! I had 4 in the shopping cart and two walking. With kids, things can quickly go wrong and it is usually hysterical.

      I loved the story and I’ve had those types of days. Thanks for sharing! Adi

      Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 1:37 pm
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      Amelie,
      Fun story, fast paced. Almost too fast. I think it’s just the lack of paragraph breaks. That would slow the story down.

      I think you muffed the second to the last sentence. Everything else sounds wonderful to me except for two phrases and the next to the last line. Either there’s too much in it. She flinched, she wiped the smile off her face, she got back to her computer, she groaned. Or, it needs to be re-written. And it’s the second to the last line, so it’s important.

      The last sentence is perfect.

      I like the way you describe the ‘Miles’ character. Mixing dialogue and description to give us a picture of him. The first two paragraphs are hilarious, like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, but in the middle of the story, the lack of spacing crams everything into too small a space. Although, as I said, the miles character sticks out well despite that. (So good writing can overcome poor spacing.) (We knew that.)

      Here are those two phrases: ‘the dully shining floor.’ And: ‘…sleepy-eyed and chain-caffein inhaling cashier.’ Too many syllables. How about a caffein chugging cashier?

      Well, that’s all I got to offer. Fun story.

      Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 2:31 pm
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      I don’t know, Amelie, piling three 5 year olds (or so) into your car – even just in taking them to a police station – sounds like something that just wouldn’t happen in this day and age. Technically, it’s kidnapping. Better the police come to you. Even though it did turn out OK.

      I think the word ‘few’ instead of ‘little’ would be better in this sentence: With as little hassles or inconveniences as possible. I also think your starting sentence would be better with ‘is’ instead of ‘was’ – There is a thing or two, rather than there was a thing or two. But I don’t know if that’s a thing with England (I gather England with the use of the word trolley instead of grocery cart, or just cart – or some English speaking country other that American) or not? Or, are you the young lady from south mid america wanting to go on the hike in the Smokey mountains? In which case, why did you call it a trolley?

      You’re gonna have to explain this paragraph to me: As she ran, a pink top hat flew at her and hit her in the face. She almost threw it aside in anger but forced herself to keep it to save unnecessary future tears. Tears of a grieving child, and tears of an exhausted, overworked adult. Gratuitous use of the prompt to cover your butt?

      If she takes it home with her, who’s gonna know she’s got it? Truly didn’t understand the sentence. I’m finding a lot of that today. Maybe it’s me.

      Anyway, there are some truly great lines such as: All in all she was… downright pissed at the universe and wanted to tell it to go screw itself … enjoyed that immensely. I’ve had days like that myself, although they are few and far between nowadays. Although I do have a few words for the universe and this corona virus screwing things up.

      Still, wanting to know if you escaped a jail sentence or not kept me reading. Overall, a fairly good story even though the plot was a bit thin.

      Roy

      Reply
  • June 26, 2020 at 5:31 pm
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    It’s Better to Scream
    By Alice Nelson ©2020
    (Word Count 1199)

    “Everyone has a story to tell,” Professor Fulton told us on the first day of his English Composition class.

    “And I want to hear your story,” he said to the freshman faces at Hayward University. “We are going to read and discuss, Against the Wind, the semi-autobiographical book by Marie Duplane. The novel she wrote just before her untimely death,” Fulton concluded.

    And by untimely death, he meant her suicide in 1971. The only note Marie left behind was scribbled inside the manuscript for Against the Wind, which was found next to her body. ‘It’s all here’, she wrote, ‘You’ll figure out why’.

    “Then,” the professor continued, “You will write a chapter of your own autobiography, which you will read in front of the class at the end of the semester.”

    There was a collective groan.

    Fulton chuckled quietly at the reaction. He was a popular teacher at the university, and the entire front row was occupied by Fulton devotees. They laughed loudly because he did, hoping he would acknowledge their presence. They were the only ones excited about the project.

    **********

    The discussion of Marie’s book was both infuriating and a waste of time. It was as if everyone had forgotten how Marie had died, as if they purposely chose to ignore what sat beside her when she turned the key in that ignition, what her hand rested on before taking that last breath.

    One idiot stood up and actually said Against the Wind was an erotic fantasy, where DuPlane was a dominatrix.

    I know Professor Fulton told the class that any idea was worth considering, but after hearing that stupidity, I begged to differ.

    I said nothing, why contribute to this mockery of Duplane’s novel. Then on the final day of discussions the professor called on me, “What are your thoughts young lady? You’ve been rather quiet this whole time.”

    Everyone turned to stare at the unfortunate soul the professor had singled out. The bootlickers looked at me suspiciously.
    I stared at Fulton. I didn’t want to say anything, maybe my ideas were just as stupid as everyone else’s.

    Fuck it, I thought, Why do I care what these morons think?

    “The book,” I said, “Was Marie’s middle finger to her parents, her psychiatrist, even her pastor, everyone who knew she needed help, but refused to listen because it made them uncomfortable. The manuscript contained things Marie could only say through Sally. So she used her protagonist to tell the world to go fuck itself. Then by taking her own life, Marie did the one thing Sally could never do.”

    The whole room was silent. The kiss asses in front looked at Fulton to see if I should be ridiculed or praised.

    Fulton just stared at me, and I thought this meant he would crucify me. Finally he spoke, “Brilliant, just brilliant, young lady,” he actually beamed at me.

    As I left class, I heard the bootlickers in their little bubble discussing me. Their leader, a small Asian kid wearing a top hat said, “Great job,” then gave me two thumbs up.”

    I smiled and headed to my next class, but I could hear them quacking like a team of ducks, each claiming to have assessed my supposed brilliance even before the professor had.

    **********

    Having an idea about what to write, and actually writing are two completely different things. I sat for days in front of my laptop, and what did I have as a result? Just one poorly worded sentence.

    Then on Saturday afternoon, my mother called.

    “Hello honey,” she said using that voice, the voice with the ulterior motive. “Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing?”

    “I’m fine mom, just working on a big English assignment.”

    “Mm, hmm,” mom said, but she wasn’t listening. She was waiting for me to finish so she could get to the point of her call.

    “Honey, your sister Abby needs to move back home, but your father is dead set against it. Talk some sense into him please, he listens to you.”

    “Mom…” I began, but she interrupted.

    “He wants me to abandon my baby, he said she needs to learn to take care of herself. He’s being unreasonable, Jessie.”

    She paused, Oh, guess it’s my turn now.

    Slowly I said, “Mom…I think dad’s right.”

    Her response was predictable, “So you’d rather see your sister sleeping in the streets than safe at home, is that it?”

    “Mom…”

    “Fine Jessie, I’ll handle this myself. Good luck on your History exam.”

    She hung up before I could say another word.

    **********
    The end of the semester came around quickly. I finished my story, despite mom calling every other day to complain about Abigail’s behavior since she moved back home.

    I listened, but said nothing. What was the point, she wouldn’t hear me anyway.

    “I’m a wreck Jessie, I don’t know how much more I can take,” her voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard.

    Shouldn’t have let her move in, I thought, but didn’t dare say.

    ***
    Writing the chapter for English was hard on me, I hadn’t expected that, and mom’s calls didn’t help. But I thought my story was good, and real, in the way Marie’s story had been.

    I was heading into class when Professor Fulton stopped me, “I want to save your story for last.”

    “Sure, alright,” I said.

    “It’s good enough to be published, you know.”

    I should’ve been nervous…but I wasn’t.

    **********
    Leo read first, he was the nitwit who thought Marie’s book was a work of erotica. So, no surprise that his story was a first-rate piece of shit.

    By the time I stood in front of the class, they were restless and bored after having heard dozens of empty fictional accounts of lives never lived. But Fulton nodded for me to proceed.

    ‘My mother only listened to the words she wanted to hear’, I began, ‘It was easier for her to do this because I wasn’t my sister’.

    The class grew quiet.

    ‘She phoned me again, pretending to be interested in my life so she could then burden me with all of her problems; problems she created, then wanted me to solve’.

    All eyes were on me, even the Professor stopped glancing at his phone as he had with other students.

    Then I was at the end of my story, and I knew I had achieved what I’d set out to do when I heard the room gasp, and the Asian kid screamed, “Blood!”

    But I finished my performance with this final line, “…Now my mother might hear me.”

    Then collapsed at the feet of the professor’s front row admirers.

    **********
    My father stood at the edge of the hospital room, as if being near me might infect him with whatever it was he thought I had.

    Mom sat in a chair next to the bed, fiddling with these ugly tassels on her sweater, neither could look at the bandages on my wrists.

    I waited for mom to speak, she was never comfortable with silence.

    “That sister of yours is nothing but trouble…” mom began.

    And I knew she hadn’t heard me after all.

    Reply
    • June 26, 2020 at 6:53 pm
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      Wow… I’ll buy your book…

      Reply
        • June 26, 2020 at 11:30 pm
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          Alice – I think I should elaborate more on the Wow aspect of my reply…. somewhere in the midst of the story I forgot I was reading a prompt story and became immersed in the tale… so wow

          Reply
          • June 26, 2020 at 11:46 pm
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            Liz, dude!! You are making my day. Thank you again, I truly appreciate your kind words.

          • June 30, 2020 at 7:08 pm
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            Alice loved your story. Dude must we have a top hat or an astrological sign? That’s what was freezing me. You did not have those did you?

          • June 30, 2020 at 7:10 pm
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            Sorry Asian kid had the top hat. That was subtle. Great.

    • June 28, 2020 at 9:33 pm
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      Alice,

      I don’t even know what to really say about this brilliant story. I did not expect it to go the way it did.
      You nailed every bit of the prompt in a way that so many people can identify with on a very real level.

      Amy

      Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 4:57 am
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      Wow! This is a lovely story, evocative to the end. The sad story of mothers who don’t listen to kids, yet assume they’re doing a great job.
      Everyone wants to be heard!

      Also because just this last week, my (script writer) daughter was ‘interviewed’ by an ‘actress’ -to write a movie script about the life of -Donyale Luna (August 31, 1945 – May 17, 1979) an American model/ actress. Generally cited as “the first black supermodel” who died of overdose.
      She was thrilled to be chosen to be interviewed!

      Your story reminded me of this.

      But didn’t quite see the top hat thingy and the stars! Did I miss it?
      Best,
      Marien

      Reply
      • June 29, 2020 at 8:19 pm
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        Marien, thank you so much!! And wow, your daughter interviewed for such a wonderful position. I hope she gets the job. I had never heard of Donyale Luna, looked her up after I read your comments, and am interested in a story of her life. Such a sad ending.

        And thank you for the reminder. I forgot to add the story requirements but went back and changed things. Now the story has the top hat thingy and the astrological sign.

        Thanks again for your kind words.

        Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 10:25 am
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      Hi Alice,

      This is superb.

      That’s all I want and need to say on a theme that I am not planning to take part in, this time round.

      If anyone can beat this it will have to be a really amazing piece of writing.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • June 29, 2020 at 8:25 pm
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        Ken, wow!! All I can say is Thank you! I wish you had a story in this time around, I always love reading them. You are too kind, thank you again.

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 2:06 pm
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      Pretty fabulous writing, Alice.

      Kind of depressing. Not the story, the fact that you write so well. And yet, you hardly write, so there’s your silver lining. I’m just kidding, don’t worry, the story is depressing too.

      Reminds me of my family, we don’t have the suicidal tendencies, though. Just the annoying, repititive, habitual behaviors of aging idiots. Let me see if I can digress a little further.

      This certainly shits all over my story, but I’m not feeling that creative lately. (But even if I was, this would still shit on it.) — Glad I didn’t give my best this week. (Girlfriend.) And the writing, damn Alice, that’s some damned good goddamned writing there. (I’m paraphrasing Ilana, of course.) Fabulous writing, fabulous dialogue, fabulosimo story. (That’s low-grade fabulous, but still technically, fabulous.)

      Impressive, powerful writing.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 2:55 pm
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        Alice – terrific! Your stories are amazing because you start with a small nugget and blow it into a larger theme of universal impact. Simply brilliant.

        Reply
        • June 30, 2020 at 8:48 pm
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          Trish thank you!! Using the word “brilliant” alongside one of my stories, is wonderful and humbling. Thank you so very much!

          Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 8:47 pm
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        Ken my friend, thank you so much dude! It’s good to be back in the fold.

        I do have one beef with one part of your statement. “…And yet, you hardly write”

        I am writing all the time, on other projects, I just haven’t put in the time here, so take that bucko!

        But seriously, thanks again, your comments made my day 🙂

        Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 12:55 am
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          Alice,
          Oh really. Mm hmm. Other proje… Did you just call me bucko? You did not just call me bucko. You did call me bucko. I can see it, it’s right above this comment. Okay. Well… could you at least capitalize it? It would mean so much to me. (And put a comma in front of it while you’re at it.) Is it any wonder I don’t get any respect around here? Jesus. Bucko? Speaking of which: You know they called Amadeus, ‘Voofie?’ That’s right, a musical genius and they called him ‘Voofie.’ The neighbors called Jesus, ‘Mommy’s Little Miracle. So, I guess when I consider what they called Mozart and the alleged son of God, Bucko’s not so bad. I’ll just self-de-escalate. No, no. I’m fine. I don’t need any help. I’m good.

          Seriously though. that’s some sweet writing.

          Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 8:04 am
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      All of us who encourage you to write more, and I’m one of them, sometimes have tiny pangs of regret, because more often than not, you then write a story that kicks our ass … like this one. Brilliant and well written. Great last line, and I know it’s prompt necessity, but the Asian kid wearing the top hat just seemed to stick out. No mind, your writing is excellent.

      Roy

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 11:21 am
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        Thank you very much Roy, ❤ And I totally agree with you about the Asian kid in a top hat line. But I had forgotten to add the story requirements, until the lovely Marien reminded me. So the addition was a bit clumsy. But I so appreciate your comments my ftiend.

        Reply
  • June 26, 2020 at 6:34 pm
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    Not so Horrible by Liz Fisher – 618 (why can I never reach 1200)

    OMG… why hadn’t I thought about my sock drawer… Roy’s comments on arranging his sock drawer by color was a moment of elation slowly ebbing into a feeling of almost complete worthlessness.

    I knew it would never happen for me, the off chance there were even two matching socks in my jumbled crammed sock drawer plunged me even deeper in acceptance of my dismal incompetence as a sock sorter.

    I put that plan on the back burner, along with buying my two sons Top Hats for their graduations. It thought like a good idea but quickly realized they had their own ideas about impressive attire, board shorts and a No Nukes sign.

    Sometimes I wish for the good old days when a plan goes awry but ends up with unexpected good feelings and hilarity.

    You would think planning a ski trip to Tahoe in two vehicles with two Mom’s and five young people would be simple, a usual trip with usual stopping, eating and bathroom breaks. Everything was fine and going according to schedule, from San Luis Obispo to King’s Beach where a rented Condo awaited for the 3 day weekend, minor detail it was in the days before everyone had cellphones, not many even knew of “mobile” phones.

    We arrived in Auburn on Interstate 80 at lunchtime and stopped at the usual diner. We ate and decided to continue our journey, my car in the lead and David, my oldest son, a Taurus, following, except when we pulled out of the parking lot, David was first onto the frontage road and I was stopped by oncoming traffic and when we pulled out David had disappeared. We were all going to the same place King’s Beach, so why worry… there was a slight flaw in the ointment… I was the only one with the address of the condo, a place we’d never stayed before.

    I didn’t panic at first, of course we would find them, as we circled the possible routes to the freeway onramp… no sight of them. We got on I 80 an drove a short way then pulled over in a wide spot and waited… after five minutes we developed a plan, Mark, youngest son, a Libra, would drive back through Auburn looking for David’s car and I would stay in the pullout, standing alone on Interstate 80 in case they missed each other.

    In about 6 minutes I began to feel foolish, wondering what kind of idiot would think this was a good idea while staring at oncoming cars hoping no one would pull over thinking I might need help and then moving on to wondering how all these people could just drive blithely by a lone woman standing on the side of a major busy interstate highway. Then the car appeared I jumped up and down and waved my arms…It was David and crew…he suddenly slowed and pulled over …it was David.

    They had stopped for gas, and since he pulled out of the restaurant parking lot ahead of us was certain we’d notice him entering the gas station. Later he said in his confused state of wondering where we went and checking around he decided the best course was to continue the trek to Tahoe and allow the fates… and then suddenly the appearance of his Mom, a Scorpio, standing alone on the side of the freeway was surreal to say the least.

    I was so happy the freeway plan, which could have gone horribly wrong, succeeded despite the odds. We waited for Mark to return and continued our journey to the Kings Beach condo with everyone having the address, phone number and directions.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm
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      Your story wants me to get back on the highway driving with my family to a holiday home once more.
      But it seems distant and far away now 🙁
      I was wondering why the star signs of each had to be mentioned in the car hunt?
      I know that’s a requirement..
      Oh they are car names, of course!! Penny dropped now as I write…
      That’s clever!

      Marien

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 9:46 pm
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        Liz,
        I enjoyed your story. It was a bit of a slow starter that could have used a higher word count, but it turned out nicely none the less. Great job. 🙂 🙂

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 2:22 pm
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      Liz, nice story. I can totally relate to the chaos of road trips, our family takes one at least twice a year. I enjoyed the story when it delved into the trip, and the worry of the main character when she lost sight of her sons car.

      I’m just not sure you needed the scene at the beginning with the sock drawer. Like Amy said, that was a slow starter. Maybe getting right into the trip would’ve gotten the reader into the story intiially, but we had to read a few paragraphs before getting into the meat of the story.

      Still I loved the personal nature of the tale, and still enjoyed reading it. Nice job!

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 2:59 pm
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        Liz- your story reminds me of a road trip I took way back when… We were the last car in the convoy and we’d dragged a bit behind. We ended up packing all our friends into our car after we saw them on the side of the road trying to deal with a flat tire. Car trips with the gang or family – always fun. I thought your writing was clear and made for an enjoyable story,

        Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 1:15 am
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      The mom getting detained for attempted prostitution would make this story no more interesting than it already is, (once you get past the socks) but you might finally get to use up all them extra words. Interesting side note: I once forgot how to spell sox. It happened years ago so I know it wasn’t dementia. And it only lasted a few weeks. And I’m not a baseball fan so that makes it even more peculiar. The last word in the fifth line should be ‘seemed.’

      This story would have to have taken place before cell phones were commonplace, obviously. I think you could have mentioned it. I think it would have clarified things. As it was I wondered about it while I was reading the story. (Why don’t they have a cell phone?)

      Kim has a similar (and true) story about her move to Florida, driving the moving van, in the pouring rain, trying to follow her husband in the car with the kids. She got separated. (Don’t repeat this, okay? But she’s told that story a million times. But I’m a good guy, I just stand there and hold my drink. Play with the little umbrella. See if the Sox are playing on the tube. (Get it? Sox, tube?)

      Reply
          • July 2, 2020 at 7:06 am
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            Keep it up, bro. You are a bright light in a world becoming more and more humorless. I truly meant it as a compliment. From one facetious guy to another.

            Roy

      • July 1, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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        KC- but are the Sox Red?…. oooh oh… Tube Sox ..clever… yes are you saying I went into too much detail about lack of cellphone? and the prostitution issue…not that happened in Las Vegas…fiz

        Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 8:19 pm
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          Fliz,
          What? Yes. No. Definitely probable. I’m not sure I comprehended your response to my shameless (but successful) ploy to besmirch your ‘enriched flour’ tortilla with prostitution issues. But now, having succeeded in my satyrical endeavors, I think, you are very selfish with your words. You don’t share words easily. You hoard them, substituting dots and elipses, (or is it elipsises?) I pick up on things like this. Being somewhat ‘soothy.’ I’m not bragging. Not a lot of sooth. Just somewhat soothy. So I say (sooth-like) you have more words, Lizza fiz. You have many, many more words in your head. (Perhaps even a few in your mouth right now.) I feel that, on the cosmic plane of physical spirituality, if I were to guess your astrological sign… I’d say you were… probably an Elipsis. With a moon in Horticulture.
          Am I right?
          It’s amazing isn’t it? How wrong I can be? And I’m not even trying to be wrong. It just comes naturally.
          I think Roy has me figured out, Liz. Which should create, in me, a little concern.

          Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 8:07 am
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      Short but sweet and very to the point. I liked this. Nice job. Nothing like a true story (no embellishments, right) to speak louder than fiction.

      Roy

      Reply
  • June 27, 2020 at 2:49 am
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    Bad Timing
    By Amy Lynn Raines
    (1199 Words)

    “Hey Adam, I have a job that I could use your help with.” His best friend stated as he strode into the garage where he had been restoring a Model-T Ford back to it’s original condition.
    “What kind of job are we talking about here?” Adam stood up and grabbed a shop towel to wipe the oil from his hands.
    “One that pays you so well that you won’t need to worry about planning too far ahead for a very long time.” Drake smiled greedily.
    “I don’t know, Drake. Last time you lined up a job we wound up tied to the crow’s nest of some ass-hat’s deep-sea fishing boat in nothing but our underwear!” Adam countered.
    “I’m sorry… I know that golden top hat wasn’t that important, but you have to admit that it was pretty awesome with that diamond setting around the brim of the Cancer and Leo signs.”
    “It was cool, alright, but not worth dying for.” Adam added pointedly, “I’m not doing anything that requires water, boats, treasure or fishing. Those are the makings of the worst laid plans.”
    “This is different… no fishermen, no boats, no deep-sea crap… just a good old fashioned job that will pay some bills for a good portion of time if we do it right.”
    “Then, what is it?”
    “Just trust me on this and come with me.” Drake pointed to his awaiting car.
    “Nope. Not unless you tell me exactly where we’re going and what we’ll be doing when we get there.”
    “You don’t trust me?”
    “Under normal circumstances? No, not really. You have crazy ideas that have a way of turning into a horrible cluster-f…” Drake stormed off before Adam could finish his crude sentiment.
    Adam felt bad about denying his friend some help and went after him, trying to catch him before he could get into his car.
    “Drake! Wait!” He yelled at the rolled up window.
    Drake flipped him a bird, dropped the car into gear and sped away.
    Adam cursed under his breath wondering what Drake could be onto that was so big that he didn’t want to explain it. The guilt he felt for rejecting his friend ate at him. It took him less than five minutes after watching Drake speed away to get in his car and go the only place he knew to look for answers.
    He pulled into Drake’s driveway, not surprised to find his car was not there.
    He killed the engine, pulled the keys, located the spare house-key that Drake had given him back when they stayed together and went inside his friend’s house.
    It felt strange to be in Drake’s house after so many years had passed, but Adam thought it necessary to fix whatever had gone so wrong since the last time they had worked together.
    There was nothing in the kitchen, living room or dining room to give away what job Drake could possibly be doing or where he might have gone. Adam remembered Drake telling him that his old room was now his office, so he checked in there.
    Adam saw something shiny sitting on top of the small desk next to an open laptop. Shock ran through him as he recognized the golden top hat. Adam was sure Drake had gone back and stolen it from the fishermen after they had escaped.
    The laptop’s screen showed an email that Drake had left open.
    “There’s no way he’s gone this crazy!” Adam yelled at the response Drake had replied with to the sender.
    Cold sweat slithered down Adam’s back, sending him on a dead run to his car.
    Adam slammed the key into the ignition, spun the car around and headed for the outskirts of town. Knowing exactly where he was going didn’t make him feel any better.
    He pulled onto a dirt road that led to the old mines that had gone out of service long ago. He spotted Drake’s car alongside another and parked beside them.
    Not knowing exactly what he’d find, he got out and looked for Drake. Shouting from inside the mouth of the mine told him exactly where his friend was. As silently as he could and without anything for light, Adam followed the sound until he was in the dimly lit cavern. He could see flashlight beams and the glint of a gun, but couldn’t tell who was holding what or why.
    “Where is it?” A somewhat familiar voice demanded.
    “I told you, it’s buried in here.” Drake replied.
    “You better get to un-burying it, my friend.” Another familiar voice warned.
    “I’m not even sure that’s a word.” Adam spoke, hoping to distract the angry man long enough for Drake to make a move to save himself from the gunman he recognized now that he was closer to them.
    To Drake’s credit, he tried. He swung his foot low, knocking the gunman to the ground.
    “You stupid son-of-a-…” The other man yelled angrily as he pulled out a pistol that had been tucked in the back of his jeans. He aimed at Drake as his fallen friend stood back up, aiming his gun at Adam.
    “Strip down gentlemen, give me your keys.” The man growled.
    Knowing there was nothing else to do but what they were told, Drake and Adam tossed their key rings in front of the gunmen and stripped down to their underwear.
    “No fishermen, huh?” Adam said angrily.
    “I lied about that…” Drake shrugged, “but at least there’s no boat.”
    “That’s oh so helpful.” Adam countered sarcastically. “We’re gonna die, but at least we won’t drown, right?”
    “Shut up and walk.” The fisherman stated as he nudged the gun into Drake’s bare back.
    “What did you do?” Adam asked Drake.
    “He took our find from the last hunt. He said it was buried in here.” The other man informed him.
    “Why would you do something so stupid?” Adam glanced at his friend in irritation.
    “I couldn’t help myself.” Drake admitted as they stepped out of the mine.
    The men guided them to the trunks, unlocked them and made Drake and Adam climb inside.
    The gunmen drove both cars, single file, into the open mouth of the mine and left them there.
    “You did bring the TNT, didn’t you, Frank?”
    “Of course, Billy. I thought we might need it for the mine.”
    “I guess you were right.”
    Billy opened the trunk of his car. The men grabbed the explosives, and placed the TNT behind the car inside.
    Frank rolled out the fuse until it reached the front of the car and lit the end. The fishermen slipped into the car and drove away.
    “Shouldn’t we have heard an explosion by now, Frank?” Billy asked after a few minutes. “Maybe it was a dud… I don’t know much about TNT.”
    “Me neither, I’m just a fisherman.” Frank spun the car around and headed back to the mine.
    He pulled the car to the edge of the mine with the headlights on.
    The slow burning fuse had finally reached it’s destination. The explosion sent chunks of rocks flying through the mine and the air.
    When the explosions finally stopped, the mine was sealed. No cars could be seen.

    Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 2:52 pm
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      Amy,

      Wait, where’s the McGuffin? You blew up the McGuffin? the whole… Good fourth of July story. Very clever the way you lead the reader along. We know that you’re doing it but your method makes it irresistable. A touch of zany and a really fun story.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:07 pm
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        Amy, I really enjoyed your tale. You zipped us along until bam – literally- the big ending. One teeny tiny thing – I had to read this line several times: “Adam spoke, hoping to distract the angry man long enough for Drake to make a move to save himself from the gunman he recognized now that he was closer to them.” I think you could stop after gunman – it would save a few words and have just about the same impact I think. Just one gal’s opinion – really enjoyed your story.

        Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 4:34 am
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          Thanks Trish 😊,

          I am so glad you enjoyed the story. It was far from my best work. Some of the sentences did seem a bit wordy to me, too.

          Amy

          Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 4:31 am
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        Thanks Ken C. :),

        It was really fun to get a nice explosive story out of my system lol. Usually, I have way too much fun with dialogue but am trying to practice a different skill set for a story my brother and I are working on.

        I am so glad you enjoyed this, and even more glad that you played the blackmail card (or was it extortion?) Lol 😊 . This prompt and the bonus really got my ideas going, which have been relatively dry over these past few months. I was beginning to think my craft was losing it’s spark. Coming back to this thread might prove to be exactly slap the muse needed to wake up.
        Either way, hopefully I can hang around for good this time.
        Looking forward to it, in fact 😊.

        Amy

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 7:48 pm
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      Amy, whoa, that is some ending. I liked the way you told the story, I couldn’t wait to see how things ended. And boy did it end, looks like no one got out of that mess alive.

      There were a few awkwardly worded sentences. The one that Trish commented on and this one:

      “He aimed at Drake as his fallen friend stood back up, aiming his gun at Adam…” (Not sure of the logistics here. The fisherman aimed at Drake as Adam stood back up??)

      Regardless, this was a fun story with one of those European endings where everyone dies. Nice job Amy, and glad to have you back.

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 4:40 am
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        Thanks Alice,

        I am glad you enjoyed the story and really glad to be back. With any luck, it will be permanent this time.

        I totally agree, some of the sentences are in need of some fine tuning. The ending was a lot of fun lol. I didn’t even know it was going to go there until I typed the words (sometimes my thoughts go faster than my hands, sometimes it’s backwards lol).

        Thank you for your kind words,

        Amy

        Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 9:27 am
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      See Amy, this is where you need to be. Glad you’re back. And, look. Now we have even more – Promise. You didn’t leave anybody wondering about the ending. I’ll give you that. Cleaned things up very messily. Other’s have pointed out what caught my eye, but all in all, a fun story and the two moron ‘fishermen’ obviously never held a firecracker in their hands at any point in their lifetime or they would have had first ‘hand’ experience with slow and fast fuses.

      Welcome back,

      Roy

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 3:27 pm
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        Thank you Roy! 🙂

        It was a lot of fun, even with my less than shiny sentences in the mix. Typically, I write more dialogue than narration. A habit I am trying to mix rather than reverse, for future book and stories.

        Promise (my daughter) is wanting to learn to write fan fiction. She tried her hand here once or twice last year, something I am very proud of. Especially knowing she wants to keep going with her writing.

        See you next prompt (perhaps in the bonus?),

        Amy

        Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 5:18 pm
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          Amy,

          Not sure I’ll be in the bonus as we are throwing the corona virus dice and visiting a couple of my wife’s sisters and family celebrating the removal of King George III’s hands around our throats back in 1776. Rest assured I will be masked like the old Lone Ranger, and keeping a social distance, all the while washing my hands until they are chapped.

          Tell Promise I’m looking forward to her stories. I’ve got a 17 year old granddaughter that can truly write well, and I’m trying to encourage her to enter something. If Promise puts something in, along with Peter and Alyssa, I’ve got ammunition in my fight.

          Glad you’re around Amy.

          Roy

          Reply
  • June 27, 2020 at 10:42 am
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    Zoey
    1200 Words
    by Roy York

    “My name is Zoastra, but call me Zoey.” She told me that the night we met by the ocean in a small protected cove near my home. It’s the quiet place I often go when I want to be alone and reflect on my lonely life. It’s one of life’s paradoxes: lonely people not wanting to be alone; then spending their time by themselves wondering why they were alone.

    I didn’t see her at first. I was absorbed by the promise a full moon makes. Even though the sun had disappeared, the moon would light my way, and always be there for me. It was it’s wonderful old self, sending out it’s shimmering light, it’s reflection, bobbing and weaving on the ocean’s surface. I heard her voice above the waves lightly slapping the shore line.

    I heard what sounded like a whisper being swallowed by the waves. A sweet, delightful voice, calling from the ocean itself. I half expected to see a mermaid sitting on one of the rocks close to where I was standing. “There’s magic in the moon’s light. A true and healing magic,” the voice said.

    I turned toward the voice. She was at the water’s edge. Moonlight reflected in her eyes, that made them appear to glow. She smiled and her teeth glimmered in the pale mystical light. I was afraid to say anything, thinking it would make the magic disappear.

    “Would you rather be alone?” she asked.

    “Not at all,” I replied. “I was afraid I’d break the spell. You are a mermaid, aren’t you? Getting ready to shed your human legs and return to the sea – mermaids can do that, you know.”

    Her laugh was musical. “A mermaid, huh? Actually, I came here to be alone and thought I was. Then I saw you and the way you were looking at the moon. You were looking at it like I look at it.”

    “And how would that be?” I asked.

    “That the moon is keeping it’s promise it would light my way and always be there for me. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Saying that the moon made me a promise.”

    I must have looked startled and I said, “It’s like you can read my mind.”

    “Not really, but you are wondering what my ‘sign’ is, aren’t you?”

    My mind was whirling. “Yes, I am.”

    “Gemini,” she said. “One of the moon signs. What’s yours?”

    “Gemini, like you.” I laughed.” Can you step a little closer?” I asked. “I can’t really see you that clearly, and I’d like to see the real you.”

    “Do any of us ever see the ‘real you” in other people? Do we ever really ‘see’ ourselves?”

    “That’s a pretty deep question. Do you live close by?” I asked.

    She pointed down the beach toward the North Shore Pier. “I live over there,” she said.

    “Well, I live in the house on that hill, there,” I said, pointing toward a large house.

    “Of course you do.” She stepped closer and as she did the blackness of her hair separated itself from the night sky. It had a blue shine, a reflection from the moon, I thought. “I know that,” she said.

    “You know who I am and where I live?”

    “No, it just seems to fit.”

    I may never get another moment like this, I thought – a moonlit night; a beautiful woman. “Would you like to come up to the house?” Her eyes widened, perhaps at my boldness. “Maybe a cup of coffee. Just to talk you understand; I’m not looking for anything more.”

    “It would be a shame to waste a night like this drinking coffee. I was thinking a nice glass of Madeira, something on the sweeter side. It’s far too cool for a dry version.”

    “It so happens I have a nice ’77 Madeira called Rainwater and I’m suddenly dying to try it.”

    She grabbed my arm. “So am I.”
    ***

    We were inseparable after that night. She was even more beautiful in the light of day. We were only apart for the time it took her to pick up her things that all fit neatly into a laundry basket. “What about the apartment?” I asked. She looked back on it, wistfully perhaps, and said, “it will all sort itself out. I don’t need much.”

    I discovered she was a gifted artist. She spent hours in the study overlooking the ocean painting imaginary creatures – and an occasional mermaid. “Self portrait?” I asked once. It was the wrong thing to say, apparently, as she turned away with a small pout on her lip. When I went to kiss it away, there were tears in her eyes.

    “What have I said?” I asked.

    “It’s nothing … something … a … a lifetime ago. I’ll get over it.” She smiled, her dazzling teeth shining through lips that never wore lipstick, yet, were as blush red as a rose. She kissed me on the cheek. “Why don’t you put on some music.” she said, “while I put on something more comfortable …” she paused for a moment, her smile now impish as she finished …”that will be easier to take off … later.”

    Our plan was to have a small wedding. Just the two of us and a few friends: white wedding dress, and veil for her – top hat and tails for me. We were married Christmas Day in Southeast Asia, 2004, on the beach at sunset. Money was no problem. I am financially well off – extremely well off. I know what you’re thinking – top hat and tails at the beach. Tell me about it. It was perfect. The pictures bear me out.

    The next morning we had just walked down to the beach as Mr. and Mrs. James Thatcher – around eight, I think. You can look it up. It made every newspaper, television and radio station in the world – when the coast of Southeast Asia was swallowed by a tsunami. Three hundred thousand people gone – they will never know how many for sure. Zoey was one of them.

    I was washed ashore and managed to grab a railing above the water and hung on until the water subsided. I looked for Zoey for weeks. I finally came home. Alone.

    I unexplainably find myself at the cove again. I can’t get Zoey out of my mind. I swear I hear her and when I look, there’s nothing – that musical laugh still hanging in the air. I can hear a familiar faint whisper calling. “Here, I’m over here.” I know it’s Zoey. There, in the moonlight, I can see her on the rocks. Am I going crazy? Has my grief finally driven me insane?

    “Zoey, it’s you,” My heart jumps. It is her. She smiles, waves, and motions to me. She flips into the water, splashing it with her tail. I am suddenly in the water. I will do anything to be with Zoey. I follow her.

    “Special report. Police have closed the case of missing, well known financier, James Thatcher, whose clothing was found on the beach near his home one year ago today. He is presumed drowned. More at six, this is Emily Moran, Spotlight News.”

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 9:58 pm
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      Roy,
      Wow, what a beautiful story. I absolutely love this one. So sweet, romantic, endearing, yet tragic. I love the stories you paint with your words, that is an art in itself. 🙂

      Amy

      P.S.
      Thank you for clarifying what I hope will be a bright future for my son in your comments above. I am so sorry you had to deal with such a true tragic event as I did. However, your return comment has made me feel a lot less alone and a lot more faithful in the way a young man can bounce back from trauma. Thank you, dear friend. You have no idea how much that meant to me.

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 4:25 am
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        Amy and Roy,
        I read your sad stories. Your boys are blessed they are still with you:)
        To God be the glory. Great things He will do in their lives.

        My 24 year old son was thrown out of a recklessly driven car, thrice turned over. And he met His Maker immediately in a cornfield in Kansas City, in 2005. Three months into his new job, he was sitting behind without a seat belt. His driver friend had one drink too many. While the memory still hurts, I know it’s Jesus who changed our sorrow into gladness. I’m glad I knew Him before the tragedy. Resurrection is for real.

        That’s my Romans 8:28

        Rejoice in all circumstances. And again I say rejoice.

        Marien

        Reply
        • June 30, 2020 at 4:47 am
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          Marien,

          My heart breaks for the loss of your son, I am so sorry my dear. He was blessed to have had a mother as loving as you in his time here on Earth.
          Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean so much. The terror of what could have been has been such a horrible darkness in my life since it happened. It has taken such a long time, or so it seems to me, to finally realize that it’s okay to talk about it and try to get some semblance of normalcy back.
          I know it’s not the same thing and I won’t pretend to know how you feel about such a tragedy. I know your son is in peaceful surroundings, watching over you.

          Amy

          Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 10:09 am
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          Sorry for your loss, Marien. I was one of the lucky parents and I’ve never forgotten that fact. Ever.

          Roy

          Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:12 pm
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        Roy – your story starts out with a lovely dreamy quality. You captured the essence of a loving relationship in very few words. I loved how you added that the narrator kissed away the tears of his love. Almost brought a tear to my eye. You then took your story into tragedy territory very skillfully and ended with a twist. I loved it. Thanks for sharing this piece.

        Reply
        • July 1, 2020 at 9:53 am
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          Ahhh, it only ‘almost’ brought a tear to your eye. I was hoping for real big crocodile tears as you sniffed into your handkerchief. Dang, I gotta sharpen my game.

          All kidding aside, thanks, Trish. Appreciate the comments.

          Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 9:49 am
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        Glad I could help, if only a little bit. I’ve found that people who share similar experiences do find a common bond, and it helps to know someone else has felt your pain and walked in your shoes and had a happy ending. Mine is very happy, because there is a lot more to that story. Murder, kidnappings, and so on, and yet, I keep a positive attitude. There’s a reason for that. Happiness is a choice. One day I will tell it. I’ve not had a hum drum life.

        However, I digress, Thank you so much for your kind words, I like to write these kinds of stories, and this one has any kind of ending the reader wants. Was Zoey a mermaid? Is that how she escaped the tsunami and came back for JT? Did he drown? I’d like to think he’s on the ocean floor watching a couple of little boy and girl mer-children swimming around causing havoc in the seaweed just offshore of his house and they all look like Zoey. Well, except for the one that looks like him.

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 4:10 am
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      O this totally tugs the heart strings. Touching, beautiful … such a joy to read. Of course, JT had to follow the call.
      Loved every bit of it.

      Everything’s perfect… except that you got the possessive case mixed up with the abbreviated form of ‘it is’
      Surely they’re overriding typos, thank you Apple.

      Like here:
      ‘ it’s wonderful old self, sending out it’s shimmering light, it’s reflection…..,’

      Is it awlrigh’ to tell the Master?

      Best,
      Marien

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 9:57 am
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        Marien,

        It’s always alright to point out those pesky little things in my story I think I’ve covered. That’s a common mistake for me, even though I know the possessive and contraction versions well. Thanks for that, and thanks for your comments.

        Roy

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 8:02 pm
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      I love this fairy tale love story. I’m hoping James and Zoey are together, living under the ocean. The flow of the story is wonderful, and like the way you make James seem so alone at the beginning of the story, and even after Zoey was washed away, he didn’t seem as alone after having been with her.

      You know me, a little nit-picky, this sentence was the only one that stood out to me, “I unexplainably find myself at the cove again. ” (I think it would be I “inexplicably” find myself…)

      But that’s it, a wonderfully romantic tale, from an old romantic. 🙂

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 10:03 am
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        Alice,

        Until I read your sentence, I thought I had written ‘inexplicably’. Funny how the mind works. When I was proof reading my published story, my editor advised me to read the story backwards sentence for sentence. Last sentence, then so on until you end up with the very first sentence in the book being the last sentence you read. He was right, I found several errors that way. It seems when you read it the way your wrote it, your mind knows what you ‘think’ you have written and you will read the sentence without finding the error(s).

        Thanks for your critique, spot on as usual.

        Roy

        Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 1:26 am
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      Roy,
      I think you should have used a separator (a row of asterisks?) between the last two paragraphs. Other than that I think it’s very well written and arranged. It has that Twilight Zone kind of feel that can disregard science on behalf of the story. I think this has been done with various minor variations, (mermaid stories) although perhaps the ending has never been done quite this way before, which would prompt you to give it that particular twist.

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 10:05 am
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        Right on the money, Mr. Cartisano. I should have used the separators. Thanks for your very kind words.

        Roy

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 11:24 am
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      Roy,
      I loved, loved, loved this story! I’m glad that James found his Zoey, in whatever form worked for him. This is a sweet and tragic love story but I prefer to believe that they found the magic they needed to be together forever at the end, underneath the sea. Definitely a top contender!
      Adi

      Reply
  • June 28, 2020 at 1:20 am
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    HI how is everyone. It’s been a while but this year I graduated and well now I’m back.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 10:37 am
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      Welcome back. Congrats on graduating, but graduating what? I’m gonna guess High School or College. Are you going to write something?

      Roy

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 10:55 pm
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        Thank you, and you guessed right I graduated high school. I’m going to try to wright something I can’t guarantee i’ll get a story in but i’ll try.

        Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 10:54 am
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      Marien, liked your story. The syntax could be better in a couple of spots, such as this line: The pandemic had got economies muddled, and brains addled. You don’t need ‘had’, but even with that change it would, IMHO, read better this way: The pandemic had muddled economies and addled brains.

      On the plus side, I love this line: To breathe or not to breathe that was the question. Especially in the context of a respiratory viral illness. Truly loved it.

      The other thing I noticed was there were three distinct stories, but you did manage to pull them together. Kept my interest and gives me even more insight into the thinking of an Indian Bride in an arranged marriage – “I’m gonna be forced to marry somebody, and if I’ve never met them, that’s OK. One’s gonna be as good (or as bad) as the other. It is what it is.”

      Roy

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 4:38 am
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        Thanks, Roy, for this lovely comment. True what you say. The ‘had’ is superfluous.
        That was me trying to get some rhyme in the scheme.
        Didn’t work though! 🙂

        There are Indian couples who marry knowing zilch about each other. It’s crazy that it still exists.
        However in the real life story, the bride said NO and bravely bade her guests good tiding till they met again.

        The story of the teen thieves actually took place in the area I used to live long time ago.
        The guy was caught and the mom said he was sleep walking to save him from the wrath of the cops.
        They were asked to leave the gated community.

        Thanks for reading.

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 2:33 pm
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      Welcome back Promise, and congratulations on graduating! Hope you can get a story in, if not maybe next time.

      Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 10:14 am
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      Commas, I have found, help sentences make more sense. So, you’ve graduated well, and now you are back? Or, you’ve graduated, and well, now you are back. You’ll find I’m pesky sometimes. Like cheeky grammar police. Looking forward to more stories from you and Mom.

      Roy

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 11:17 am
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      Congratulations Promise!! Welcome back! We are looking forward to some great stories from you.

      Reply
  • June 28, 2020 at 6:01 am
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    FACE THE MUSIC

    By Marien Oommen
    (1197 words)

    Christine looked radiant. Brides do that.

    Any moment now she’d be driven to church to marry the man, handpicked for her by her family. She knew precious little of him but this was what was expected of her. You’d say she wasn’t dying of excitement.
    Circa 1979.

    Her ancient uncles and aunts had checked out his family background. That’s what mattered. No hard feelings here, but she did want a life of her own, not be under her parents’ thumbs all year long. In the photograph, Yoyo looked handsome which was a plus. His automobile degree assured her she’d have a fancy car at least. Or so she figured. On that logic, an aeronautical degree should get her a plane. Christine was naive that way. But that was because she harboured grandiose delusions of being a princess some days.

    The telephone rang and Papa picked up the phone. Something had happened. The groom’s parents wanted to talk. They drove quickly to the town centre, an hour before the ceremony. By the time they returned, Christine, cool as a cucumber, had got her hair done. Poker-faced and tense, they got everyone to leave the room, after which mom tearfully told her the groom had disappeared- was nowhere to be seen.
    Under the pretext of getting suited, leaving a note, the scoundrel had vamoosed.
    The note said: “I’m not ready for marriage, Nate can take my place.” He was ready to toss Christine over to his younger sibling, like a discarded queen of hearts.
    A charitable scoundrel.

    You bet society’s tongues would wag like crazy now. Only she could save her family from scandal. Her only choice was to go on with the wedding, not call it off. A bride left at the altar meant no future alliances. If she quietly agreed to the switch, nobody would know.

    She envisioned how life would be in Tahiti with this absolute stranger whom she’d never set eyes on.
    “Yes, Papa, I’ll go ahead, take the plunge.” It’s not that I KNEW Yoyo.
    Nate will be just as novel. So why not? Life is anyways a mystery.”

    She hummed rather loud, dabbing some blush on her cheeks. ‘Take me to the church on time. I’m getting married in the afternoon.’
    She thanked her lucky Pisces, the blighter had a brother.

    The final walk down the aisle, every woman’s dream, was like a line in a ticket booth at DisneyLand. Correcting her momentary misplaced arrogance, after all it was she who had condescended to save the day, she greeted the tall stranger in a top hat, standing at the entrance with a namaskar.

    Who wears a top-hat at a wedding?

    But she smiled, then nodded, walking down the aisle to the tune of Pachelbel’s Canon. The ceremony went well except the moment when Nate sat on his top hat he had left on the chair during the vows. Christine muffled her grin.

    Thereafter the couple began their life of absolute discovery of each other.
    The differences showed up sooner than later. While he was slow in speech, preferring solitude, she was a social chatterbox. The equation fitted in perfect, each filling the missing groove.

    Clever Nate landed a plumb job with his mastery of the art of negotiation of great big orders, meeting the deadlines. Needless to say, he was a star at work, a disaster at home. When he argued, he neighed a bit, reminding her of a horse.
    But Nate was grateful she was in his life while she was content he let her be.

    “Mama, Nate is a great guy but sometimes I can’t figure him out,” said Christine on the phone. “I never know whether I married a saint or a Machiavelli.”

    Fast Forward 40 years.
    Then came the virus. What started in Wuhan should have stayed there but it ventured out to uncharted territories.
    People were dropping down dead or that’s what the media said.

    Nate was shaken like never before. One night, as Christine lay awake, she found him sleepwalking. She would’ve laughed out loud had she not been petrified. He was walking strangely as if holding some vital document.

    Her teenaged boy was sleeping upstairs, or so she assumed. From the time he plopped onto earth, that sunny day in December, Christine had raised Micel well, teaching him to be selfless, striving towards the greater good of man.

    But outside, a new brand of media gurus had sprouted, beset by the calamitous effects of the complex virus that jumped from animals to human beings, triggering a flare of disease.
    To breathe or not to breathe that was the question..
    The pandemic had got economies muddled, and brains addled. Psyches being shaken from the spate of tragic happenings with schools and offices closing.
    There was a human in every room, peering into laptops and computers.

    Micel went to the best school in town. Now, at lockdown, these teenagers with hormones jumping wild, bereft of their kick, got restless. They wanted their shots, their booze, their gizmos. The big six hit on a devious plan to break into six select homes one night, forming a safe net for themselves. It was a dare and they decided to execute their plan on a perfect starry evening. Most of the happy families were on the beach, enjoying the warmth after three months in lockdown.

    Micel truly wanted to have no part in this villainy, but was forced by peer pressure to show up with some booty,
    thereby establish his manhood.

    Late evening, he crept into Liza’s home to hide, while Mr. Ivan and the family were in the garden. Liza’s mom left some figs drying on the counter and he toppled the whole lot on the floor. Ivan heard the noise and rushed indoors. He cornered Micel, the boy next door, crouching by the TV.

    “What are you doing here?”

    “I came to meet Liz.”

    “At this time? Through the backdoor? Why didn’t you ring the bell? I’m gonna call the cops.”

    “Please, sir,” Micel held his hands…

    “Don’t touch me, boy. Get away. God knows what germs you bring.”

    Micel had tears. Big grownup boy. He had muffled up the entire plan.

    The next day all the homes were in uproar. Things were missing from five other homes. A laptop, some jewelry, a bike, some money, stuff that lay around. An antique jug. The maids, nannies and drivers were placed under suspicion, when the true suspects were the rich boys.

    Cops flooded the compound. Micel was taken to the station in spite of Christine’s weak defence of him.
    She claimed he was sleepwalking, like his dad, who had once walked out his window.

    Little did she realize her cover up would get him in a deeper pit, in the years ahead.

    It was ol’ uncle Ivan who finally sat him down, making Micel confess the truth. How he could escape condemnation
    if he did the right thing by repenting.

    Micel helped to hand his friends over to justice.
    Their nefarious plan turned out horribly wrong.

    As for Micel, he got to understand the mercy packed in Romans 8:28 and walked out that dark season, fiercely strong.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 11:49 am
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      Marien – I read this caught up in the story right up to 40 years later and then I got confused not quite getting the gist of what was going on (‘m old} almost gave up …and then determined to figure it out reread from the start to make sense of the 2nd half…. looked up Romans 8:28 to see it that helped and wondered why his mother’s attempt to help made it worse in the future …and then thought does this mean he became a Jihadist in the name of G-d …so your story absolutely evoked a lot of thinking…or was I over thinking.. and Liza where did she come in… I think you need more than 1197 words for this tale… but thinking is good for fiction..

      Reply
      • June 28, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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        Hello Liz,
        Thanks for reading. Sorry it confused you 🙂
        Rarely do I write hardcore serious stuff.

        The mother, Christine’s planned wedding didn’t work out.. but she survived and worked it out the best she could.
        Her son, however, did fall into bad company, and was coerced to do wrong.
        No Jihad element here! Where did that come in? 🙂

        Yes, it is churning out into a longer story… you guessed right.
        Thank you..

        Reply
        • June 28, 2020 at 1:51 pm
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          Marien – Jihad just came from the biblical quote.. Jihadists have used religious sayings in a manner to justify horrible acts… the statement of future “deeper pit” .. I guess the arranged marriage put me in the mode of Middle East.. I don’t know why… but I’m thinking it’s a deeper pit of me jumping to obscure reasons based on prejudicial stuff imbedded in my brain and I apologize… and try to be better … when we think we never have a racist thought… hopefully we learn how easy it is to fall in the pit and stop ourselves…

          Reply
          • June 29, 2020 at 2:41 pm
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            I reckon Ji -hads will never use biblical quotes!

            My take on the ‘deeper pit’ is that parents should advise their kids right, not defend their acts with a lie.
            If not corrected in time, they fall into deep trouble later on.

            It was the neighbour Ivan, Liza’s dad who showed Micel the hard lesson of mercy and love.
            Hope it’s clearer now.

            Yes, there are arranged marriages still happening in these areas- which works out well!
            My story is purely imaginary and far fetched. No woman would agree to a last minute switch if in her proper senses.
            But then there might be some.
            As for prejudices, it sure is difficult to understand the whole earth. But we try. Stories like these reveal our minds too, and we learn from each other.

            So we are blessed.

    • June 28, 2020 at 10:20 pm
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      Marien,

      Your story is very interesting and good, although I do agree that it needs much more added or filled in. Possibly both.
      I loved how you added in the requirements for the prompt. Great Job. 🙂

      Amy

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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        Marien – another intriguing story told as though it were a fairy tale. Your stories always seem to have a lovely rhythm to them and this one was no exception. Quite lovely.

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 8:34 pm
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      Hi Marien, interesting story, but it felt like two different stories. The beginning was the narrator in an arranged marriage, then the story shifts quite abruptly from the married couple to the virus, and their teenage son caught up in a terrible plan.

      Maybe if you had more space, you could have fleshed out the parts so they blend into a cohesive tale. Or you could’ve just written one or the other, either a story about this arranged marriage, or a story about the wayward son.

      You have some great ideas, that just need to be fleshed out a little more. Thanks Marien.

      Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 9:05 pm
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      Marien,

      Wail, (that’s southeren fer ‘well.’ Wayal is even more southeren.) Okay good. That stops everyone else from reading this. (A little word-spell I picked up in the French Quarter.)
      I’m surprised at the faint praise this story’s receiving. The writing is excellent. The proposition is phenomenal. What a concept for a plot. A woman on the precipice of an arranged marriage, settles for a substitute. In fact, I was disappointed to find that the story was about their son. I don’t give a crap about their son. I LIKE THEM. I want to know about the forty years. At the very least, Nate could’ve proved his worth, (after forty, long, tedious, loveless years) by straightening out his own son. Who the hell is Uncle Ivan? Nate’s other brother? The younger one? What happened to the older one? The scoundrel?

      I don’t know, I was disappointed in where you decided to take this story, but your writing is fabulous. And frankly, at the end, when you spell everything out, he betrayed his friends to become more Godly? It’s a specious, pedantic and unnecessary flourish. Especially adding the Book and verse. No?

      To be clear, I mean the story is the point. (When the nail is flush with the wood you can stop hammering.) To put it another way, the ending is like a sign, pointing at another sign, that says, read the signs. Too much sugah in that pie, honey.

      But I love your writing, the plot, your characters. I like the way you assembled the story. I did not like the ending.

      BTW, (no offense to Lizza fiz, but) at no time did this story confuse me. I thought the writing was very clear. Perhaps I should start calling Lizza Fiz, Fuzzi Liz. (But I like Lizza fiz so I’m going to stick with that for now.)

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 2:12 pm
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        For the simple joy of reading your comments, I will strive to write and write again.
        Thanks for the praise words.. I’m thriving in them. That’s more than enough.

        It matters little if I I am way down in the vote list. Rank 12 seems to hold a fascination for me.

        But I do want it to end that way… a man’s gotta change. It’s all about choice. He shouldn’t be coaxed to follow the crowd.
        Thanks for saying you loved the writing. Enuf for me, like I said earlier.
        Lizza is fine with her fiz too 🙂

        You’ve got such a unique brand of humor…:)

        Marien

        Reply
  • June 28, 2020 at 11:22 am
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    Living the Dream By Trish

    “I’m done with ya’ll. We are over,” said Billy to his now suddenly former pals Jamal and Eric.

    “Oh c’mon. We’re just joshin’ ya. We don’t mean it,” said Jamal as he poked a stick against his sneakers.

    “You know we don’t care if you are a Virgo,” added Eric.

    “Virgin,” corrected Jamal while elbowing Eric.

    “Am not,” said Billy as he ran inside.

    Billy was really, truly embarrassed. He’d trusted his best pals to understand why he hadn’t made a move on Lizzie-beth yet. And Jamal and Eric had teased him mercilessly. He’d show them. In fact, he’d start by asking Lizzie-beth to prom. Right now.

    Billy picked up the phone and hesitated. What would he say? He’d never actually talked up close and personal to Lizzie-beth, so calling her on the phone to ask her out on a date might be a bit of a reach. In fact, Billy realized he didn’t even know her number.

    And that got him to thinking. How could he get to know her better? Maybe his Mom had Lizzie-beth’s Mom’s number, or would that be too sneaky? He could always ask her out at school, but that would be so public, and totally embarrassing if Lizzie-beth turned him down. Billy threw himself on his bed and stared at the ceiling. Going through his Mom – now that would be embarrassing too! He shut his eyes and tried to contemplate how he’d ask his Mom, and before he knew it, he was fast asleep. Dreams came to him quickly.

    “Hey Lizzie-beth,” he called out in his dream.

    “Hey Billy! What’cha doin’ at school so early,” asked Lizzie-beth.

    “Checking out the beautiful scenery,” he tried before even his very sleepy brain realized that was a bit cheesy.

    “Wanted to catch up with you,” he tried again.

    “Would this be about prom,” asked Lizzie-beth, with a huge smile on her face.

    “Uh…yeah…wanna go? I mean with me?”

    “Sure! What time’ll you pick me up?”

    “7 sharp”

    “Okay, bye now.”

    Billy rolled over in a dream-drenched fog and smiled. This dream was going well! He wanted to see what happened next. He settled back in…

    In his now semi-directed dream, Billy put on his tux. (Of course he didn’t really have one, but he was outfitting himself nicely in his dream.) As he put the finishing pull to the knot of his honest to goodness real bow tie he realized he needed something else. He looked into the recesses of his somehow huge closet and found it – a top hat. He placed it cockeyed on his head and winked at his reflection. This would go very well!

    He sauntered downstairs and found his parents reading the newspaper with the tv on.

    “Hey Mom and Dad, I’m off to prom with Lizzie-beth tonight. Mind if I take the car?”

    (Now Billy knew very well that as a 15 year old freshman he wasn’t even legal to drive a car, but this was his dream and he was going to direct it well.)

    “Sure, Bill! Be home by midnight,” said dream-Dad as he tossed the keys to Billy.

    Billy sped through the driving part, partly because he didn’t have a clue how cars worked. He figured he’d jump to where he pulled up to Lizzie-beth’s house.

    He started to blow on the horn to call her outside and then reconsidered. Why not go for broke? He turned the key like he’d seen his Dad do, opened the door and got out. Oops, he’d forgotten his top hat! He reached back into the passenger seat where he’d placed it and put it back on his head.

    He ambled up her front walk and arrived at her front door. Because this was his dream, he wasn’t even nervous, just eager to see her. She opened the door before he even had a chance to knock. Wowza! She looked terrific! Her hair was curled to perfection, and she had on shiny pink lipstick and a shiny pink dress. She wasn’t wearing heels of course, so he was even just a smidge taller than her. Jamal and Eric were gonna be so jealous!

    He opened his mouth to say hello and willed a corsage into his hand.

    “Here Lizzie-beth, I got this for you. You look beautiful!”

    In response, Lizzie-beth put both arms around him and pulled her head in close. Billy just knew she was gonna kiss him. Just then he startled at the sound of his mother’s voice…

    “Billy! Time for supper. You’ve got three minutes to wash up and take a seat.”

    Why then? Why did Mom have to wake him up just then right as dream Lizzie-beth was going to kiss him?

    Billy rolled over, washed up and went downstairs.

    “Uh, Mom, do you know Lizzie-beth Jenkins?”

    “Oh, you mean Peter and Belinda Jenkins’ daughter? Why yes, I’ve seen her at your sister’s gymnastics competitions. She’s quite the competitor. Why?”

    “No reason. Any chance you have Mrs. Jenkins’ number?”

    “Sure, its on the gymnastics roster. Why do you need to reach Mrs. Jenkins?”

    “Uh…I’m trying to reach Lizzie-beth. I’m gonna ask her to prom.”

    “Oh honey that’s so sweet…”

    “Aw Mom, stop it, you’re embarrassing me…”

    Billy then managed to change the subject and somehow got through dinner. After he was excused from the table, he ran to Dad’s study to look up Mom’s gymnastics roster. There is was…Lizzie-beth’s number. Could he do it? Should he do it? Well, why the…why the HELL not!

    He picked up the phone and paused again. What if she didn’t know him? So many things could go wrong? But then again in his dream it had all gone so well…And he had to show up Jamal and Eric somehow. They’d been so mean today when he confessed his feelings for Lizzie-beth. He’d show them what kind of man he was when he showed up at Prom with Lizzie-beth on his arm.

    He started to dial. Welp, here goes nuthin…

    The phone rang. And rang. And then, just like that, click, “Hello,” asked a young female voice.

    “Lizzie-beth?”

    “Yes, who is this?”

    “It’s Billy Johnson. I’m calling to ask you to prom.”

    The silence was soul-crushing. Billy could hear his breath going in and out as he waited for Lizzie-beth’s reply. The silence seemed endless. And he wished that this was his dream.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 10:33 pm
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      Hi Trish,

      Your story carried me all the way to the end (no spoilers) with the hormonal behavior. However, it was hard to tell of the plan went horribly wrong or right in the final lines. Otherwise, a very entertaining story. Great Job. 🙂

      Amy

      Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 9:11 pm
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      Trish!!! We have to know how this ends 🙂 But we don’t know if or what plan went horribly wrong, but you gotta think a kid who acts on a dream impulse, might be in for a rude awakening. You tell the story nicely, but it’s a bit inconclusive. Still I liked the characterizations, and the dialogue, sounds like something a 15 year old would say and do.

      Just a few nit-picky things: These sentences were a bit awkward.

      “Checking out the beautiful scenery,” he tried before even his very sleepy brain realized that was a bit cheesy.” ( I would just leave out the “he tried before..” part. That made the sentence a bit confusing.

      “He started to blow on the horn to call her outside and then reconsidered.” (Probably “honking” the horn works better.)

      “Just then he startled at the sound of his mother’s voice…” (Just then he was awoken by the sound of his mother’s voice.)

      This is a fun story, flowed nicely, and I enjoyed reading it very much. I just need to know what went horribly wrong. 🙂

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 8:54 am
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        Alice- thank you for the close read and detailed suggestions. I think your advice is well said and I liked your improvements on my wording. Getting critiques is such a wonderful part of this site and I’m always grateful to those who take the time to offer input. As for the ending, I originally had Lizziebeth turn Billy down because she had just minutes before agreed to go to Prom with Billy’s friend Jamal. But then I took advice I’d been given by Ken M last week about cutting off the last paragraph. I think Ken M called it the Andy Lake principle- or maybe it was the Ken Frape theory. At any rate, I decided I liked the story better to end with Billy’s uncertainty about what comes next. I hoped the long silence would be enough of a clue for the reader to think that Lizzie-beth’s response wouldn’t be good. Maybe I should have made the impending doom feeling more clear… Thank you again for reading and commenting.

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 6:53 am
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      The youngster’s dream turned out good, but reality sucked.
      The dream was pretty detailed.. how does one remember it all?

      ‘The silence was soul-crushing’. Good line.
      How many teenage crushes woulda felt the pain of this line?

      Good one, Trish.

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 11:30 am
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      Trish,
      This is a sweet, young love story. It is frustrating sometimes when our dreams don’t fit our reality. (Of course, I have frequent nightmares so I am very grateful they don’t become reality!)
      Loved the story.
      Adi

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 11:41 am
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      Very nicely written story, Trish. I was 15 once, and the end of this story is pretty clear, no need to spell it out for us. The silence speaks volumes. Most likely. (If he’s smart, he hangs up on Liz-beth, and calls Mary Lou who, maybe not a gymnast, or his dream-girl, is less of a player and more fun to be with.

      My one major impression from this story was the characterization of the 15 year old main character. At times his behavior seemed to be that of an eleven-year-old. And yet, I thought prom’s, real prom’s were for graduating High School seniors. In which case he would be eighteen. Clearly, this was his first date, and I think it would be less constricting to mold the story around a simple (and a bit dated) dance, or simply a date. (That could be old-fashioned too, these days.) But the point is, I don’t think you really nailed the mentality of a fifteen year-old boy.

      For instance, the fear and anxiety of rejection is very real at that age. Unless the boy is a jerk. (Very common, unfortunately.)
      But boys don’t need peer pressure to ask a girl out, I dont’ think. In any case, I don’t feel like the age of the boy was quite the same throughout the story.

      I agree with Alice’s nitpicks, except for the horn thing. But all things considered, this is a very trim and well-written story. I like your writing. It’s very clear and concise. You don’t use obscure or unnecessary words. (Like ‘catemenia’ in Sarig’s story.) Don’t tell Sarig I said that. That’s just between you and I, but I sometimes need a dictionary to fully comprehend some of his exposition. (Of course, that’s my problem, not his.) But still, catemenia? I’ve never even HEARD of the word. Course, he may have made it up, for all I know. My spell checker checked out. I’ve certainly heard of quetzacotyl, even if I can’t spell it. But catemenia? Never heard of it. (I gave his story a fairly substantial position in my vote tally, so I don’t feel any guilt at critisizing his vocabulary at all. In case you were wondering. Or even if you weren’t.)

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 2:39 pm
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        Thanks Ken C. for your close read & detailed comments. On reflection, I see what you mean about Billy’s age shifts. That I missed the essence of young teenager is a fair critique. Thanks- I’ll know to focus more on consistency and believability in my characters as I write more. Very helpful comment- thanks!

        Reply
  • June 28, 2020 at 2:21 pm
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    Out of Spite
    by Sarig Levin

    The ancient Aztec legend of creation has it that the Cosmos began with a single yet geminated God named Ometeotl; a hermaphroditic being – feminine as well as masculine, both simultaneously and at the very same time.

    After eons of mere existence, Ometeotl became bored out of mind and spirit and began quarrelling within itself. Its female side began finding more and more of His habits annoying, while Her perpetual nagging was finally getting on His incorporeal nerves.

    In order to ease the growing inner-tension, the Universe was then created in the form of a massive sea-monster, part fish and part crocodile, as big as all things that now are and as sheer means of celestial beguilement. The divine creator, however, soon grew tired of infinite jaws, fins and scales, and had that initial design torn into pieces, from which various worlds came into being, floating around vast, watery space.

    One world in particular caught His fancy – an altogether indistinctive world of boggy earth, which nevertheless showed a lively potentiality. Consequently, He started spending much of His time down in the cosmic garage, breathing life into various forms of being, so they could amuse Him by walking that Earth.

    Becoming increasingly frustrated by His lack of attention, the Missus grabbed this new world of His and flashed it down the toilet, destroying all forms of life in a great flood. This, however, only served to increase His devotion to that strange blue globe, and once He meticulously dried parts of it up, He began breathing life into it once again.

    Feeling ever so neglected, She then seized this tender orb of His and smashed its earthy crust into tiny bits in a great quack of scorn. The lord of creation, however, refused to give in, and after having methodically superglued all the bits back together, He resumed breathing a new cycle of life onto this love-hate child of theirs.

    In an outright outburst of wrath, She grabbed a torch and set fire to his little recreational world, this time destroying all lifeforms in a catamenia of scorching lava, but He would simply not give in. Only once She assailed with the vacuum cleaner, producing epic hurricanes that sucked all the life out of His world, bringing the poor little planet’s forth epoch to yet another apocalyptic conclusion, did He finally buckle under and reluctantly returned to Their celestial bedroom.

    Out of Their makeup inner-course, a race of imbecilic giants was spawned – beefy idiots, with sprawling limbs and the mental faculty of a retarded eggplant. Out of spite, She insisted they’d be nestled on His pet planet of all places. Henceforth, having adequately procreated, She completely forgot all about Him and began devoting all Her attention to nursing these half-witted offspring of His incestuous union with Herself.

    Ometeotl, now feeling Himself neglected and frustrated, would occasionally relieve Himself onto that very same planet, which had become the center of an inner feud on the part of the creator of the Universe for no fault of its own. These spilled drops of celestial seed sprouted a new race of little creatures He decided to name Humans. These humans would feed on yellowish cobs created especially for them, which they called maize, while the giants would feed on this feeble race of humans, and everyone was happy, more or less.

    However, being of divine origin, the humans soon proved quite prudent and resourceful, and by hiding in small caves, they managed to avoid the rumbling stomachs of giants. Growing ever dumber with hunger, the giants then turned on themselves for nourishment, bringing cannibalism into being.

    Appalled by this atrocity, Ometeotl sent down from the heavens the archangelic saber-toothed jaguars; enormous beasts of retributive ferocity, which feasted on the flesh of the helpless giants, eliminating all trace of that abomination. Once the giants were wiped out, these juristic felines began to feed on the humans.

    It was then that Quetzalcoatl, a giant midget and the last of his kind, who had come to befriend the humans and had found refuge in their caves, was sent to plead with the God. Nevertheless, as retribution for the fate of his own race, instead of pleading, the young titan went ahead and stole the secret of popcorn from the heavens, bringing it back down to earth and giving it to the humans.

    Now able to feed on dried corn in its poppy state, the humans seldom had to leave the safety of their caves in search of food anymore. And thus, deprived of their own nourishment, the great jaguars began to diminish, eventually becoming pats to the humans and catchers of mice.

    Both furious and scornful, Ometeotl punished the thief for his crime. However, while He intended to turn him into an eagle that is to be bitten by a serpent, She wanted him turned into a serpent that is to be snatched by an eagle. And so, poor Quetzalcoatl was turned into both eagle and serpent, and is to be bitten and snatched by its very own self until the end of time.

    Deprived of Their source of entertainment, the domestic situation within Ometeotl became unbearable. Then, one fine day, He finally decided to move out, packed His few belongings, left a note on the fridge and pulled Himself out of the Top Hat of Creation.

    In a mighty blast, the almighty Ometeotl finally broke up, with His masculine part shining so brightly the humans decided to name it the Sun, and Her feminine side so gloomy and bitter it was named the Moon. Until this very day, He can be seen, constantly attempting to get away from She who persists in following Him wherever He goes.

    Reply
    • June 29, 2020 at 4:59 pm
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      Hi Sarig,

      I truly enjoyed this bumpy road through creation in your entertaining story. Great Job!

      Amy

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:18 pm
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        Sarig – what a fantastic entry! I thought your creation tale was amazing. I loved the imagery you described in the gods’ battles, and thought your explanations for the history of the earth were quite clever. I really enjoyed your piece. One teeny thing – the jaguars became “pets” not “pats” I think. But who’s gonna let an itty bitty typo get in the way of enjoying such a fabulous piece. Just wonderful.

        Reply
        • July 2, 2020 at 1:01 pm
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          Thanks, Trish. Ever so loosely based on the actual Aztec story of creation 😉

          Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 12:59 pm
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        Thanks, Amy 🙂

        Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 1:15 pm
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      Sarig, Sarig, Sarig. What are we going to do with you? Another twisted tale from that obviously twisted mind of yours. Good job, I enjoyed it immensely and love how you explain stealing the secret of popcorn so humans can feed on dried corn in its poppy state. Great line. Your unseriousness (rather than your silliness) is unmatched.

      Even this line, which I thought at first was an error, I now see was intended: feminine as well as masculine, both simultaneously and at the very same time.

      It reminds me of when my son was about 5 and his 2 yr old sister toppled over striking her head on our coffee table. It wasn’t bad, but bad enough to cause bleeding and an awful lot of tears and sobbing. Trying to find out what had happened, I asked my 5 year old, “Were you a witness?” He looked at me for a long minute his face serious and said, “Yeah, and I saw it happen, too.” I still crack up over that.

      Anyway, great job.

      Roy

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:12 pm
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        Thanks, Roy. I thought your Zoey was fabulous as well. I’m a bit ashamed that i didn’t get to comment on your story, or anyone else’s story this time around. Wouldn’t say I’ve been overly-busy. More like out-of-focus, i guess…

        Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 3:30 pm
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      Sarig, I loved this new take on creation. It was so very entertaining, and the characterization of the hermaphroditic pair was wonderfully done. I enjoyed every minute of it.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:19 pm
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        Thanks, Alice. I appreciate it. I thought your It’s Better to Scream was wonderful. I’ve noticed (might be mistaken) that you don’t often post a story, but apparently, when you do, it’s a real gem.

        Reply
        • July 3, 2020 at 7:01 pm
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          Thank you Sarig. You are not mistaken, I don’t post as much as I’d like because I write for the podcast I do with Carrie, and that takes up a yon of my time. Again, loved your story.

          Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 11:07 am
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      Sarig,

      This is so unbelievably original, creative and fascinating, that it too, along with nine or ten other stories, absolutely belongs in the top tier. First, second, third? I don’t know. But it’s one of the better stories this week. I found your ability, and strategy of making God a two-gendered being as beguiling as it is instrumental in explaining the dichotomy of life on earth, as well as the nature of the cosmos. And, it has the additional effect of injecting the story with humor, irony and conflict. (All in one fell swoop, as they say.) There is one other typo along with ‘pats’, as Her great Dietyness ‘flushed’ not flashed the earth down the toilet.

      Fabulously zany story, Sarig. A tip of the old top hat, too you.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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        Thanks, Ken. I’m glad you liked it. I felt like a lighthearted tale of the absurd, after having mostly written heavier, somewhat melancholic stories. Thanks for pointing out the typos and a tip of the old top hat back at ya’ 🙂

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 11:14 am
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      Sarig,
      I love your story telling and truly enjoyed this story!! The ending was spectacular!
      Adi

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 1:30 pm
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        Thanks, Adi 🙂

        Reply
  • June 28, 2020 at 10:44 pm
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    Aw Christ, I thought this contest was over already, but now I see I have two more days. What chance do I have to compete against this gang of unscrupulous word-fiends with something I have to concoct in twenty-four hours? This is, as some would say, ‘a cause de hope, les no?’ (Love those crazy French sayings. Can also be used to get slapped in the face.

    I just don’t know if I have time to lavish a story with my creative wetness. (I mean juices.) Or, to devote my spiritual attention to you lot o’ devils. I’ll flip something that has two distinct sides. Perhaps a coin, or a piece of jagged metal from the propellor housing, or better yet, the turbine.

    Reply
    • June 28, 2020 at 11:26 pm
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      Drawing straws could work like a charm. However, you would have to remember not to peek when you cut one or draw against yourself. Either way- coin or straws, you got this! Go ahead, Ken C. get those lavish, creative juices flowing. Hopefully that old ram, (shall we call him Taurus?) will inspire some wild idea with the moon glinting off his star studded horns? After all, what muse can resist something bright and shiny? 🙂

      Amy

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 12:43 am
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        VEry poetic, Amy.

        Say, listen, if you’re trying to hypnotize me with you portrait pic, I’m happy to tell you it won’t work. Don’t even think about it. I got a story done Amy. And I blame you for it. (It sucks. I give it a C+.) At least now I feel comfortable reading the other stories.

        Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 3:49 pm
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    Mayhem and Murder
    By: Adrienne Riggs (w = 1,196 including title)

    “Shoot him.”

    Tom looked the uniformed officer straight in the eye and nodded.

    “Yes, sir.”

    Tom watched the officers in the yard get into their patrol cars and drive away. Shaking his head, he closed the door, retrieved his gun from the bedroom and headed out the back door.

    *******

    “No!” Joy was firm.

    “Mom! I want one! Please??”

    “Ann, I have been very clear. No.”

    “But Grandma said I could!”

    “Grandma doesn’t live here and had no right to tell you that.”

    “Mom! You are so mean!”

    The 13-year-old girl dramatically stomped up the wooden stairs and slammed the door to her room. Joy shook her head; it was a horrible idea.

    *******
    “Happy Birthday Sweetheart!” Joy hugged her daughter and placed the gaudy birthday hat, shaped like a top hat with pink sequins, on her daughter’s dark hair.

    “Thanks Mom!” Ann radiated happiness at the sight of her birthday cake and presents.

    Born under the sign of Cancer, Joy’s daughter had the quality of great sensitivity and was supposed to have “emotional understanding.” Joy wasn’t sure of the understanding part, but Ann definitely had the over-the-top emotions of a young teen. Ann should go into acting, Joy thought, she was most definitely a drama queen.

    After the birthday party, Ann’s grandmother, Nancy, took her to her home in country for the weekend. As the first grandchild, Nancy had spoiled the child since birth. It was a frequent source of conflict between Joy and her mother.

    Ann ran excitedly inside the house after her visit, holding a bundle close to her body.

    “Look what Grandma gave me!”

    Joy turned around with a smile that quickly vanished.

    “No!”

    “Isn’t he cute?”

    “No! Where is Grandma?”

    “She left.” Ann cooed at the bundle.

    “I’ll bet she did!” Joy fumed under her breath.

    What?”

    “Never mind. You cannot keep it.” Joy stated firmly.

    Ann held up the tiny animal who looked at Joy with long eyelashes framing brown eyes. It was covered in brown hair with a tiny pink snout.

    “Ann! We cannot have a PIG in the city!”

    Her daughter gave a sound of disgust. “This is no city! We live in the country Mom! You made us move to this tiny rural town, why can’t I have my pig?”

    Joy struggled for calm.

    “Ann. We live in the city limits! The main highway runs right in front of our house. We are NOT going to keep a pig in the house! You wait until I talk to your grandmother!”
    An
    n laughed. “Grandma’s already gone. I’m going to make him a bed. I think I’ll call him ‘Babe.’” Holding the pig, she ran up the stairs.

    When Tom got home, Joy told him what happened.

    “Are we going to let her keep it?” Tom looked at her.

    “Are you kidding? What are we going to do with a pig?”

    “I’ve heard pot-bellied pigs are rather smart and can be trained like dogs.”

    “You have got to be kidding! Who is going to train that thing?”

    Tom kissed Joy. “It will be alright. It will teach Ann some responsibility.”

    “I’m telling you; this is a bad idea. Mark my words.”

    Ann named the pig ‘Babe’ and carried it around like a baby. The piglet had a piercing squeal and was reluctant to be paper trained.

    Tom insisted on calling the thing “Hamlet”, “Bacon” and “Pork chop” which made Ann angry and made Joy laugh.

    One hot Sunday night the piglet got loose in the yard. Ann rushed outside to catch her beloved pet. Babe either didn’t yet know his name or refused to answer to it. Ann’s attempts to catch Babe soon failed with the tiny pig having the advantage. He ran under the hedges and fences thwarting any efforts to catch him. The neighborhood children soon joined the chase, laughing and screaming. After two hours, the pig disappeared into the gathering dusk, and the search ended. A heartbroken Ann returned to her room alone.

    The family searched for another week and Joy hoped he would stay away from the highway. After a long, sweaty week, they gave up. Joy was secretly glad he was gone. Ann was devastated until four months later, there was a knock on the door.

    “Your pig is in my backyard” a neighbor boy said.

    Incredulous, the family rushed outside and were shocked at the sight that greeted them. The cute little piglet was now a fully grown, fat bellied, 70-pound pig! Who knew that pigs grew so fast?

    The chase this time ended quickly when the pig was quickly pinned against a fence, it’s blood-curdling squeals echoing throughout the neighborhood. Joy knew they would never live this down, especially in a small town where gossip was the prime social activity among its residents.

    Ann happily took Babe home and bought a harness for walking him. After dinner, she would go down to the laundry room where he had been banished, give him her dinner scraps and talk to him as he ate.

    Ann’s joy at Babe’s return was short-lived. While walking her precious pet, the harness slipped off and Babe was off again. Evidently pigs could learn and this time, he would not be caught. He was content to hang around the yard but would not let anyone near him or he would run.

    In the course of her work, Joy drove by her house and was embarrassed to see the huge pig, standing in the front yard, much to the delight of the people passing on the highway.

    She called Tom. “Do something!”

    Calls to the Humane Society, local vets, and animal control officers garnered the same response:

    “We don’t do pigs!”

    Tom finally called the police. “Can I shoot the pig?”

    An officer came to the house to check out the situation, thinking it was a joke.

    “You cannot discharge a gun in the city limits. Let me see what we can do.”

    Shortly after that, Joy received a frantic call at work from a friend who worked down the block from Joy’s home.

    “Joy!” Melanie said, “I don’t know what is going on but there are cop cars all over your house!”

    Joy rolled her eyes. “It’s ok, Mel. They are just chasing the pig.”

    Apparently, every cop in the county came out to catch Babe. Joy prayed this didn’t end up on the front page of the local paper.

    After 3 hours, the officers were frustrated and exhausted. Tom watched them from the front porch. Finally, the chief of police approached him. He had two words.

    “Shoot him.”

    Tom, gun in hand, walked into the back yard and watched his daughter’s pig, casually rooting around in the grass. He waited until the roar of a semi-truck on the highway muffled all sound and he shot the pig.

    When Joy got home, Ann was crying, Tom was subdued, and the body of the ill-fated pig was encased in a large garbage bag in the family van waiting for disposal. Story over. Joy was relieved.

    But was it really over? Things could still go horribly wrong. Stay tuned …

    Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 3:42 pm
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      Nice job Adi, glad to have you back writing. I liked this story, it starts off as a cute animal story, but that end took a dark turn. I could see this as a horror story, but that’s just me. Nice flow, and there’s hope of a follow up story.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 8:28 am
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        Thanks Alice! Loved your story as well! You knocked it out of the park as usual! We all miss your stories and then you write one that raises the bar so high, the rest of have to work harder! That’s your plan, isn’t it? LOL

        Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 9:26 pm
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      I don’t know, Adi. This is a little like Marien’s story. Great concept, wonderful plot, fabulous writing. But in the end, you ******** the *****. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it. Once you ***** the ***, your story is actually over. Unless they take the **** to the butcher’s, and suddenly Joy is cooking a lot of *** quiches and ***’s for breakfast and lunch. I really enjoyed this until the ending. Seems to me there’s a lot more potential if the *** lives.

      Not too high on the title either. ‘Murder and Mayhem.’ (?) I would go with something like, ‘Fat Lives Matter.’ Something that shows a little more sensitivity. To **** that is.

      I don’t know. Just one idiot’s opinion.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 4:36 am
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        Fat Lives Matter is perfect. I do love reading your comments, KC.

        Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 8:52 am
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        Thanks for the laughs Ken! You never disappoint me! Believe me, Joy won’t be cooking any part of the ***. I couldn’t think of a good title. I’ll take Fat Lives Matter and will give it some consideration. LOL. Maybe the country folks will give up their gossiping and Sunday-after-meeting socials and riot at the local feed store for pig rights! I’ll have to consider that part as well. Looting the Co-Op wouldn’t garner much in the form of loot unless you are after hay, fences for your corral or gardening things. Of course, we are smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. Rioting would not go well and we would be holding prayer vigils for the poor ***.

        Reply
        • July 2, 2020 at 10:37 am
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          Good Lord Adi,

          You have a novelette in the making there, a hilarious one. I’m just picturing a bunch of Sunday church-goers rioting at a feed store for pig rights. All you have to do is put that on the cover of the book and you—– are gold, baby. Your comment is one of the funniest things I’ve read all week. I’m still chuckling over it. I swear, I’m not exaggerating. ‘riot at the local feed store for pig rights.’

          That’s priceless.

          Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 4:33 am
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      Adrienne,
      I loved the Piggy Babe story very much and was sad to see him die. Wicked mama, I say!

      There were some loose ends… like the piggy that got away. And a few punctuations that shoulda been eased the flow.

      “The chase this time ended……” Did this paragraph belong here?

      The shooting was real sad. Or did he? Maybe he had a vest on? Now CNN will blow it out o’ proportion.
      Good read.

      Marien

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 11:09 am
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        Thanks Marien! I better keep this away from CNN! Who knows what they would turn this into! LOL

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 7:53 am
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      Ahhh … a cliff hanger. Maybe you should have rewritten the last two paragraphs along the lines of:

      Is it really going to be over? What could possibly go wrong? Tom walked into the back yard, gun in hand, and waited for the the roar of a passing semi-truck to muffle the sound. Tom aimed his gun … stay tuned.

      Good story – sounds too good to be made up. This is plucked directly out of family history, isn’t it? I’d bet on it. Got no quibbles with your writing. Didn’t see anything nit-picky, but then, I didn’t look hard.

      Roy

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 9:02 am
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        Roy,
        You always have me figured out! This is a distant part of family history. It was funny, embarrassing and tragic. If the word limit were higher I could have added to the funny parts – like the sight of all these grown men in uniform literally chasing a pig down the main street of town. Or how the piglet, during his absence, had been availing himself of a neighbor’s garden and this resulted in him literally, “making a pig of himself.” Or how my daughter’s pig was the source of laughter and gossip for weeks. Or how absolutely devastated she was when she lost the pig and then, when it became embarrassing when we couldn’t catch this animal, she was resigned to losing him. Of course, that didn’t stop her from becoming angry after the fact or the fact that she still hasn’t forgiven us for what happened next. Stay tuned…

        Reply
  • June 29, 2020 at 5:07 pm
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    Hi Adrienne,

    I have missed reading your stories in my absence. Your fast paced, funny, and semi-sad story was not a disappointment. I love how you incorporated the requirements. Wonderful job!

    Amy

    Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 3:21 pm
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      Adi – I liked your piece a lot. Your descriptions of the little piggy running around were so vivid I developed quite the picture in my head. I also liked how you started your story with the ending. The first time I read it I* got so caught up in the pig-story that I forgot the intro so I was surprised at the end. The second time you got my attention and your ending felt like a smoothly correct stoppage. Nicely done!

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 9:05 am
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        Thanks Trish! I really loved your story as well! Great job!

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 9:04 am
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      Thanks Amy!

      Reply
  • June 30, 2020 at 1:00 am
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    Battery
    Ken Cartisano.
    Wc 1155

    Jones owned one of those outdoorsy sporty cars, the Lincoln Backtrack. A good-looking car, rugged, but gender neutral. It featured a Top Hat hood ornament, and they only came in black, which suited Jones just fine.

    His impetus to buy the car was a very specific horoscope in the newspapers cartoon section. “Aries, you need a new car to jump-start your pointless existence.” It said. (Maybe those were his girlfriend’s parting words. He bought a car.)

    It was a good car, despite its branding problems, and Jones was fond of it. He had good credit and he never missed a payment. In fact, the car was only four years old when it failed to start one morning. He was still making payments and took it to the dealership, who listened to his entire story and replaced the battery, at considerable cost to Mr. Jones. The labor alone was 95 dollars.

    Forty-four months later, that battery died too. Jones now owned the car when he called the dealership and explained the circumstances to the Service Manager. He’d purchased the battery from a different Lincoln dealership, but the battery had the Lincoln branding, so it figures they would stand behind it. “That’s not a problem, is it?”

    The Service Manager sighed, “You’ll have to call Lincoln.”

    “You are Lincoln.” Jones said.

    “I mean corporate, you’ll have to call corporate.”

    “Over a battery? With your name on it? You’re kidding, right?”

    “Well, how old is it?”

    “It’s not even four years old and it’s got a seven-year warranty.”

    “Well, we could pro-rate it, but you’d need the receipt, or some proof of purchase.”

    Jones was sure he could find the receipt, but the request was annoying. For one thing: Why should he need a proof of purchase? He was in their database. The man just didn’t look. And for another, this was the second bad battery with their company name on it. “No problem. Look,” he said, “how much money are we talking about?”

    The Service Manager replied, “With the number of months you had left? About 30 percent. So…”

    Jones did the math out loud, “The battery was a hundred and twenty-five. What’s one third of that? Thirty-six bucks? Hardly seems worth making the hour’s drive. I’m assuming the warranty is strictly on the battery, not the labor.”

    “That’s correct. I don’t mean to sound rude, but we close at noon.”

    “Your website says you close at two.”

    “Well, the hours have changed, due to the, uh…”

    “The virus.” Jones said, and decided he couldn’t make it there by noon, and said so.

    “Right, well, we couldn’t squeeze you in, so…”

    “So I’ll bring it by next week,” Jones suggested, “maybe.”

    “Yes sir. You do that.”

    By the end of the call, Jones had lost all faith in receiving fair treatment from that dealership, or even the Lincoln Motor Company.

    So he went to one of those nationwide auto parts stores, Top Notch. Three employees on duty wearing red shirts and one asks, “Can I help you?”

    He’s a bright looking kid, and Jones explains the problem. “I’ll have a look,” he says, cheerfully.

    When he does, he looks at the battery, “Oh my, you should bring this back to Lincoln,” he says with the charming innocence of youth. “It’s well under the warranty period.”

    “Yeah, I know,” Jones says, “how much for a new battery?”

    “A decent one? One thirty-five, plus tax.”

    “How much to install it?”

    “Well, nothing. But…””

    “It’s free?”

    “Yes sir, it’s free.”

    It took him five minutes to switch batteries, and Jones asked to keep the old one. “I’m gonna return it to Lincoln.”

    It was unorthodox, but Jones intended to use what was left of the warranty towards a smaller battery for a lawn tractor, willing to make up the difference from out of his own pocket.

    After a hectic afternoon a few days later, Jones was in the vicinity of the dealership and arrived just after closing time. He pulled up under a large overhang facing three garage doors, the nearest one was still open as a service technician stepped outside, noticed Jones parked in the service area and ducked back into the garage. Just as Jones was thinking of leaving, the man came back outside and cautiously approached. “Can I help you?” He said. He was wearing a red shirt too, Jones noticed.

    “I got this battery I’d like to return…”

    “Yeah, well…”

    “…its got your company name on it.”

    “…we’re. Our company name?”

    “Uh huh.” Jones confirmed. “Lincoln.”

    “Well, we’re closed. As you can see.”

    Jones pointed to the open door. “You look open to me.”

    “What are you hoping to do?” The young man asked, simply changing the subject. “We only warranty batteries that are still in the car. We can’t give you money for any old battery you bring in.”

    Jones was momentarily stung by this comment. His manner turned brusque and pointed. “I don’t want any money,” he said. “I just want to give you back your lousy battery.”

    “You can’t do that sir. You can’t just leave a battery in our service lot. There are forms you have to fill out and we’re closed…”

    “I’ll just set it right here then,” Jones said. Getting out of his car and pointing to a spot.

    “Sir, we cannot give you any money. It doesn’t work like that. We’re closed.”

    “I don’t want any money. You understand? You can keep the money, I don’t give a crap about your warranty, I just wanna give you your fuckin’ battery back.”

    “Sir, I’m trying to help you, but we can’t…”

    “You wanna help me? Take this battery back.” Jones had fetched the battery from the rear of the car and was lugging it toward the open garage door.

    “Sir, sir, sir!” The young man said, “I think you ought to leave, mister.

    Jones paused and looked down at the persistent young man in the red shirt. “I’m leaving. But I ain’t leaving with this fuckin’ battery. Is that clear?” Jones ignored the man’s fading objections, swearing as he staggered toward the door, nor did he notice the camera’s which recorded the arrival of two patrol cars, uniformed policeman springing from their vehicles and opening fire on him as he stumbled into the garage and out of the line of fire.

    Fortunately for Jones, a door into the sales department opened, he scooted in and he and the manager watched as several rounds from Sgt. Overkill’s weapon missed their targets, but one missed by just enough to hit some acetylene tanks. The explosions that followed were memorable. In all the commotion, Jones was able to slip into his surprisingly intact, non-gender car and head home.

    When the Fire Marshal arrived to examine the scene, the first question out of his mouth was: “Whose goddamned battery is this, and what in the hell is it doing way over here?”

    Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 1:26 am
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      Ken C.,

      You really do not disappoint. Your story is fun, entertaining, and really deserves a lot more than the C+ you graded yourself with. This one is definitely in the A territory. It seems that you are your own worst critic, this really is a great story that is really funny. Especially during the last couple paragraphs. 😊

      I’m glad I didn’t hypnotize you with my forehead lol.

      Amy

      Reply
      • June 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm
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        Ken – Your story of Jones’ frustrations line up exactly with how I feel every time I go to a car shop. Accordingly, I loved your ending. Serves ’em right! Fun story,

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 6:44 am
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      This is such an androgen filled story. Garages, battery, dealership, not my favorite place to be…. but still highly readable.

      Well written… you don’t need to be told. Carrying coal to NC.

      I don’t understand why these cops must shoot though. Wish they’d stop.
      Time now for them to learn ahimsa( do google check) and non violence from the exotic east.
      That non-gender car is hilarious though. Can it make for the best character prize?

      Marien

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 8:11 am
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      Ken C.,

      Good, well told story, and one with which I am familiar. Had a PT Cruiser I took in for a new battery and the labor was $300.00. Boy was I pissed. About a year later it went out again and I took it to one of the Auto Parts places and bought a more expensive battery and they changed it for free. I was even more pissed when I realized how badly I had been screwed. Struck a nerve Ken.

      Found a little typo in the third paragraph from the bottom. The possessive ‘camera’s’ should by plural ‘cameras’.

      Nice bit of writing and I truly enjoyed the story and the revenge factor. Especially in this day and age to see Sgt. Overkill show up. Good job,, Ken.

      Roy

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 9:08 am
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      Very funny Ken! I’ve known people just like Jones. I loved the story, you never disappoint!

      Reply
  • June 30, 2020 at 6:50 am
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    Oops!
    By Robt. Emmett ©2020
    [1200 words]

    Warning, foreign words.
    Mudak = asshole; Nyt der’ma! = No shit!; Vot der’mo! = Oh shit!; Ponyat? = Understand?;
    Da = yes; Nyt = no

    July 1, 2020, 1130, the Sagittarius Club
    “Glad you could meet with me. I have an idea of stunning proportions.”
    “Lyuda, no, not again. Do you not remember what happened after your last…?”
    “It wasn’t my fault.”
    “And the time before.…”
    “Misha, shut up, and listen.” He rolled his eyes. “We rig the American fall election.”
    “Vot der’ma!”
    “Don’t ‘Oh shit’ me, Misha. It is a great idea, and the glorious leader will reward us.”
    “Have you forgotten what Vladimir said after your last.…”
    “Our last! if you had done what I told you, we would have succeeded.” Mikhail shrugged. “The plan is so simple.”
    “Please, explain this simple plan of yours.”
    “Do you understand the American voting method?”
    “Yes, one vote per person. Right?”
    “Ah, no. Okay, sort of. It is a crazy system. A voter votes for an elector in the Electoral College, who votes for the candidate the voter voted for.”
    “Why so complicated? Could not Americans just vote like we do?”
    “Yes, voting as suggested by the party is simple and can keep the voter out of a gulag.”
    “Da! So your plan, Lyuda, explain it to me.”
    “There are ten counties that will decide the 2020 election. And.…”
    “How do you know that?”
    “CNN said so, and they are never wrong.” She looked over the tops of her glasses. “To continue. By controlling the elections in a few, select, precincts in those ten counties, we will control the outcome in the Congressional district those counties are in. You see?”
    Nodding his head, “Da! so far. What will you have me do?”
    “You will have your people hack into the voter rolls, in the county clerk’s office, in those counties.”
    “Why? That will take huge resources and enormous risks.”
    “It is important to obtain the name of those who haven’t voted in the last two national elections: the last two. You can do that?”
    Nodding his head, “Da! Then what?”
    “Have your people register in the name of the slackers. Also, I will need one complete copy of an absentee ballot: the ballot envelope: everything from each of the ten counties. Ponyat?”
    “Yes, I understand completely. What will you be doing while my people and I are doing all the heavy lifting?”
    “I will take the ballots to my chemists. They will duplicate the paper and ink. Then I will have enough of each kind of ballot printed to ensure the vote in the critical counties goes our way. They will be so perfect they will pass the closest scrutiny.” Leaning back, smiling, “Perfect copies.”
    “Printed, where?”
    Lyudmila removed her glasses. “Really, Misha?”
    “You cannot have them printed here, you know.”
    “Nyt der’ma, Misha! You think I’m an idiot?”
    “Of course not, but you cannot have them printed in America. And if they are printed in the homeland, how will you get them into the United States?”
    “I will print at home and have them delivered to our embassy in the diplomatic courier’s pouch. I will collect them and send them to you, and you will distribute them to your people to sign and send it to the county clerk’s office. Simple, yes?”
    “Simple – yes, but…” Rewinding and replaying the conversation in his head, Mikhail nodded. “Yes, on the surface, the plan is doable. However, there is a myriad of possible things that could go wrong.”
    “Not if you follow my instructions.” Looking him in the eye, she demanded, “Are you with me or not?”
    “Of course I am with you, Lyuda. It is a shot in the dark, as the Americans say. I will do my utmost to ensure the plan works to perfection. I must tell you; however, I do not believe we can get your chosen candidate elected.
    “I do.”
    “Fine. If this plan succeeds, I’ll eat my top hat.”
    “I will provide the salt.”

    The Sagittarius Club, Tuesday, November 3, 2020

    Mikhail sipped his beer and eyed the clock behind the bar. “What time does the news media start announcing the returns?”
    “They should be on about now.” Lyudmila waves at the barkeep. “Will you please turn on CNN?”
    “Shure, lady, after the game’s ova.”
    “Mudak! Typical American asshole who focuses on trivia rather than the important things of this world.”
    Mikhail drank two more beers. Lyudmila chewed the fingernails of her left hand to the quick.
    “Eh, lady, the games ova. What channel did yous want to watch?”
    “CNN. Ah, please.” The word burned the back of her throat.
    “Yous know what numba?”
    “Try channel 13.”
    “The Genus of the African Tsetse fly.…”
    “Try channel 21.”
    A ditzy blond on America’s Got Talent tittered uncontrollably.
    “Try channel 23.”
    “… percent of Maines ballots are in. Fox News, therefore, declares the states three Electoral votes go to.…” Half the people at the bar glare at the half who are jumping around like water droplets on a hot griddle, shouting and spilling their drinks.
    “Lyuda, how did we do in Abraham County?”
    She holds up a finger. “In a minute, Misha, the crawl should show us.” She nibbles on her little fingernail.
    “What’s a crawl?” another nail snack.
    “Ah there. Misha – we did it. Our work swung the county, and the district, which won the state’s electors. Wonderful.”
    Mikhail wipes beer foam from his mustache. Lyudmila dabs at the drop of blood on the end of her pinkie finger.
    The pretty face with the dark pompadour flashes his 100-watt smile, “This just in from Election Central, the bean counters are giving New Hampshire’s four votes to …”
    Pandemonium two.
    “Misha – we did it – again.”
    “Georgia is ours because of the Peach County write-in ballots. Sixteen more electoral votes in the bag. Misha, we are three for three.”
    Pandemonium three.
    Ernie County, Pa. contributes 20 electors, and
    New Hamburg County, N.C. contributes 15 electors, and
    Muskie County, Mich. contributes 16 electors, and
    George County, Minn. contributes 10 electors, and
    Sasuke County, Wis. contributes 10 electors, and
    Currant County, Texas, contributes 38 electors.

    The Sagittarius Club, Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 0325

    By the time the Tapioca County, Ariz. results were announced, the glaring half at the bar were long gone home. The other half, who’d ordered a new round of drink every time their candidate won a state, were passed out — some at the bar, some at the tables, and of course, some under the tables. Lyudmila had no fingernails. These eleven electors weren’t needed to obtain the required 270 to win.
    Lyudmila’s cell phone rang. “Da. Da. Da!”
    Mikhail, who also over celebrated, shakes his aching head and squinting out of a blood-shot eye. “Was that who we hoped it would be?”
    “Yes.”
    “Do I need to eat my hat now?”
    “Later, we need to catch our flight for home. Vladimir called and is planning a celebration for us.”

    The inner sanctum of the Supreme Ruler

    “Mikhail and Lyudmila, your plan worked exactly as you designed it. Congratulations should be in order. However, since the wrong candidate was elected, I have little choice.” Val shrugged, “Guards!”
    — Ԙ —

    Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 3:25 pm
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      Robert – I loved your story primarily for the twist ending. I did not see that happening, despite the prompt, so I got quite the belly laugh out of it. Nicely done.

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 4:32 am
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        Thanks, Trish, I got the idea for the story from a comment in the news. There was one tell very early on.. I’m glad you had a laugh. We all need them nowadays. Robt.

        Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 5:40 pm
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      Robert,

      It has been a while since I’ve been here. I am sorry to say this is the first time I have read one of your stories. Your writing style is very interesting and entertaining. I enjoyed every bit of this fun story that had me laughing. Great job! 🙂 I look forward to reading more of your unique handiwork.

      Amy

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 6:48 am
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        Thanks for the comment, Amy. We need more humor in our lives. Glad you’ve returned. Robt.

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 2:35 am
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      Robert,
      Too funny! I enjoyed reading this… but said those unmentionable words out loud couple o’ times much to the disdain of one around. Now me go wash me mouth.

      Nail ravaged ending!
      Those podletsovs will never learn.

      Marien

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 8:14 am
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      Nice ending, Robt., and this is one of your better pieces of fiction I’ve read since you’ve come on board and has earned its place in my top five votes, so far. Well done, well written and follows the prompt well. I mean, what could go wrong with such a well devised plan.

      Roy

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 9:10 am
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      Robert,
      Loved your story and the ending was perfect! The twist was just what was needed. All that work for the wrong outcome. Funny!
      Adi

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 10:10 am
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      Fun story Robert. Tapioca County? I really feel like you got the essence of a Russian/English accent that benefits the story quite well. But the ending, though certainly a surprise left me a bit mystified. I guess I must be suffering from sudden density issues. If their plan worked perfectly, why did the wrong candidate win? I suppose I should re-read it, but not sure I’ll have time. I feel certain that I’m missing some essential and obvious factor that others are getting with ease.

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 11:10 am
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        However, since the wrong candidate, in Vladimir’s opinion, and that’s the only one that counts, it’s Golag time for the intrepid duo.

        Reply
        • July 2, 2020 at 11:16 am
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          Also, the names 10 counties that will most influence the 2020 election are very close to the ones i’ve listed. I’ve called Maricopa County Tapioca County. Just a 2 letter change.

          Reply
  • June 30, 2020 at 2:06 pm
    Permalink


    Red Ambrosia
    Written by Alyssa Daxson
    Word count- 1200(not including title)

    “Stay. Don’t go anywhere.”

    Those words were imprinted in my brain, running among my thoughts as I paced along the dirt floor, my sneakers kicking up puffs of dust.
    My family had left an hour ago, and yes, I know it’s only been an hour, but still…

    I was hungry.
    And last time I was hungry it was horrible.
    The agonizing gut cramps that wracked my body, the uncontrollable shivering and the hunger.
    The urge that had filled my fevered body.
    The need to feed.

    I shivered at the memory, wiping my sweaty palms on my worn down jeans. I couldn’t go through that again.

    Stopping my furious pacing, I took a deep breath, inhaling the musty smell of the old warehouse I was in. My family would be back soon. They would bring me food, and the nausea that was broiling in my gut would fade.

    I smiled at the thought of that sweet red liquid pouring down my throat, staining my teeth, giving me life.
    The hunger in my chest grew stronger, and a moan slipped out as I stumbled to my knees.

    It was too much.

    The world swimming before my eyes, I pushed myself to my feet, staggering over to the warehouse door. My hands fumbled clumsily as I undid the lock around the two handle, and with a grunt, I pushed the doors open, wincing at the loud creak of rust covered hinges.

    The sky was dark as I stepped out into the abandoned parking lot, stars glimmering above.
    Good. I hated sunlight. It always burned.
    Licking my lips, I strode forward, my legs still trembling, the hunger growing even fiercer.
    Inhaling deeply, I wrinkled my nose at the dank smell of humans.
    They smelled like sweat and money.
    Gross.

    Heading down a dark ally way, I kept my eyes down as I passed several people, their heartbeats thrumming like a drum.
    The alleyway ended very quickly, emerging into a street that was bustling with people, vendors, and food trucks.
    My senses were overwhelmed in a whirlwind of scents, hormones and noises, and I stumbled slightly, only just managing to catch myself.

    A shoulder slammed into me, and I growled, my eyes flashing as I confronted the idiot who hit me.
    A tall, broad shouldered man stared back at me, his hazel eyes seemingly looking straight into my soul. I shifted, unnerved.
    “Sorry,” I muttered, the words slipping out before I could help myself.
    The man’s face spilt into a smirk. “No problem,” he said, tipping the bowling hat that was perched on top of his head, brown hair peeking out from the brim.

    I turned around, and shuffled forward, slipping my way through the crowd, determined to get away as fast as I could.
    That man was nothing but trouble, and if I wanted to stay alive, then I needed to go.
    Now.

    After a couple minutes, my hurried pace slowed down, and I stopped, certain that I had lost that man. I glanced at the sea of bodies around me, and inhaled deeply, concentrating on the scents before me.

    Sweat.
    Food.
    S— oh dear lord, nope. Not that.
    Gun powder.
    Cologne.
    Sweet— oh.

    Oh…

    My eyes snapped open, and the hunger clawing at my abdomen increased. That smell… it was intoxicating.

    It was like a melody of desire. The red ambrosia calling out to me, filling my mouth with saliva.
    It was like a song. A song of life, thrumming with youth.
    Unable to resist, I tracked the scent, weaving through the crowds, dodging people’s various bodies.
    It lead to a store, and I took a quick glance, checking out the sign.

    ‘Find Out Your Astrological Sign Today!
    Leo’s Luck!
    Aquarius’s Astonishment!
    Scorpio’s Steal!
    And Many More!’

    I managed at least to roll my eyes, before the scent blew over me again, and the hunger took over, urging me to go faster.
    I dashed through the store, only half aware of the managers dubious stares as I followed a confusing path, weaving in between shelves, and then finally finding the exit.

    Bursting out into the streets, I smelt the scent, and moaned in desire.

    I needed it.

    It was getting stronger as I followed the cobbled paths, my sneakers slapping against the stone. There was a flash of blonde hair, and I picked up the pace, my body thrumming in time with my heartbeat.

    I was so close.

    The blonde hair turned down a alleyway, and I almost cried with joy. The perfect place!
    Slowing down my desperate dash, I approached the alleyway, feeling my body call out for the red liquid.
    The blonde haired person, which, as they stepped out was revealed to be a petite woman, was slumped against the grimy walls, a cigarette dangling loosely from her hands.

    My body trembled in anticipation, the hunger coursing through my veins.
    I was so close.
    The scent coming from the woman was making it hard to think, and as I stumbled into the alleyway, swallowing back a mouthful of saliva, I found a moan slipping from my lips.
    The lady looked up, and alarm flitted across her face. “Hello?” She asked, backing away slowly.
    My mind, as sluggish as it was, knew that she was about to bolt, and that wasn’t an option.
    With a growl I leapt towards the woman, my body colliding with her own, both of us tumbling to the ground.

    The lady let out a brief cry, before my mouth found her neck and I clamped down, feeling my fangs break the skin.

    And… oh my god was it wonderful.
    The sweet nectar pooled into my mouth and down my throat, the metallic tang pure heaven.
    I felt the hunger reside, a warm, full belly feeling taking me over, drowning me in its wonderful depths.
    It was like I was high, but so so much more better.

    The woman below stopped twitching long ago, and I briefly caught a glimpse of dull, lifeless eyes, before I was sucked back into the euphoria of her blood.
    A groan of pleasure parted my bloodied mouth, and I sunk down low, my body relaxing, the warm blood soothing me like a lullaby.

    So engrossed in the pleasure, I barely noticed the scuff of boots against pavement.
    My sharpened senses should’ve warned me, but all I could think of was the blood flowing down my throat, filling me with life.
    A whoosh was heard, a glimmer of a blade, before blinding pain erupted in my neck, and I was dragged down into eternal darkness.

    The man stared disgusted, at the beheaded body.
    “Damn vampires,” he growled, swallowing the bile that was threatening to come up.
    The hat he was wearing toppled off his head, and the man paused, glaring at the loathed hat.
    “Damn disguises,” he cursed again, kicking the bowling hat into the alleyway.
    Grabbing the head of the vampire, the man felt a brief flash of sympathy, before his eyes caught the sight of the mutilated body of the woman.

    A rumble of a car distracted him, and the man quickly threw the head into a nearby dumpster.
    He watched as a black muscle car pulled up, and grin spread across his face.
    Jogging to it, the man opened the door and slipped in.
    The car idled for a second, before slowly pulling away, fading away into the foggy night.

    Reply
    • June 30, 2020 at 11:51 pm
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      Alyssa,

      I love this vampiric story of yours and how you incorporated the prompt requirements. I love your very eerie, yet fun style in this story. Wonderful Job!

      Amy

      Reply
      • July 1, 2020 at 10:01 am
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        Thanks Amy!

        Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 2:42 am
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      Great writing style, Alyssa! Kept this for a morning read though.

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 8:25 am
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      Alyssa,

      I was totally engrossed in your story and thought it well written, but was a little let down at the end. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought you needed to end the story so you did. It didn’t end badly, but I still have that sense of it being unfinished and you wanted a different ending, but settled. No matter, for the most part your writing is good. I don’t have a lot of quibbles and don’t want to just nitpick. I’ve probably said enough.

      Loved the ‘red ambrosia’ and sweet nectar descriptions. We had a young, new writer quite a while back who wrote a vampire story but kept referring to blood as ‘red juice’, and ‘red juice’ only. More times than was necessary and it was distracting. I pointed that out and he kindly informed me it was his story, he’d write it any way he wanted, and he would continue to use red juice in his upcoming blockbuster novel as often as he wanted. He never appeared on the site again, and while I often wonder what happened, I know for sure his ‘red juice’ was not going to give him the acclaim he felt his originality deserved.

      Good story, Alyssa and keep writing.

      Roy

      Reply
  • June 30, 2020 at 3:29 pm
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    Alyssa – fantastic story, There are several top notch pieces this go ’round so it will be very difficult to pick the top one. I thought your descriptions of the vampire’s urge to feed were gruesomely wonderful. I also liked how you slowly unveil the narrator as a vampire. I wonder if you needed the last bit about the disguised man reviewing the crime scene and jumping into the car. I think your story had a terrific ending when the vampire died. I think this one is a contender for the top spot.

    Reply
    • July 1, 2020 at 9:59 am
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      Hey Trish! Thanks for reading it! I’m glad that you liked the slow unveiling of the vampire. I didn’t know if I succeeded on that.

      For the ending scene with the man, I didn’t actually want to put that there, but you were right about giving the little extra boost that the character was actually a vampire.
      Another little thing was, I added the man with the bowling hat, and I was originally gonna just have him exist so I could get the bowling hat requirement.
      But after a little thought I decided to add him in the end, because I didn’t just want him as an afterthought.

      There was gonna be a fight scene, but it was too long 🙁

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 2:18 am
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        Alyssa,

        Great story. Very intense and gritty. A gripping narrative. The slow reveal works very well. At first I wondered if the narrator was a rat, then a cat, the a dog, but once he had sneakers on, I felt pretty sure it was vampire time. One minor thing, (which I’m sure we can all excuse, as you followed the spirit of the prompt,) it was a top hat. Not a bowler.

        I only had one minor grammatical grievance. ‘…much more better.’ That’s like–an elevated rise in the landscape.

        Still– a powerful story that is very well written.

        Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 6:30 am
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    IN THE PALM OF THEIR HANDS
    – Here is where your* names have been hiding all this time…
    (*the names of the participants in this contest exactly a year ago)

    The CARTESIAN [Ken CARTISANO] diver dipping and rising rather unexpectedly inside a flask hanging atop ‘Yuri Nal’s Palm Reading Services’’ tent entertains the long line of people eagerly waiting for their fortunes to be read. But it’s all getting on Damon’s nerves. It’s cold and breezy and he feels like an idiot waiting there.

    Sweet whiffs from freshly made churros compete with the permeating smell of mulled wine in the wintry air. LEEDS LANE [ILANA LEEDS], once a thriving market, is now an impromptu fairground teeming with fortune tellers and magicians. ‘P.Soff Tarot Cards & Magick Services’, ‘The CARTHIGINIAN [Ken CARTISANO again] Luck & OMEN [Marien OOMMEN] Reader’, ‘Know Your Future With U.Fakov’. Tent after tent, set up on the sidewalk, there are ample ways to have your future told these days.

    Yuri Nal’s, in particular, has become a local sensation. Word has spread that their readings are accurate and do materialize, no matter how whimsical or bizarre. Their reputation is evident in the long queues at their tent, while other witches and wizards nearby watch with envy.

    How could so many people believe in such crap? Damon can’t help thinking.

    “Do you really want to do this, honey?” he asks Sarah, knowing very well she’s a sucker for these things. “I’m dying for some churros and a FRAPPÉ [Ken FRAPE]!”

    Sarah cuddles up to him to get warmer and puts on her usual puppy face she makes when she wants things her way. She’s too sweet to be told off. Damon bites his tongue and sucks it up quietly.

    Yuri Nal finally re-emerges, dressed in a long golden robe and a ridiculously tall top hat. He ignores the queueing order and instead, with a raspy mystical voice declares, “Ayse has a message for an Aquarius, she senses an Aquarius here.”

    Ayse Huell is Yuri Nal’s wife and the real celebrity palm-reader. Although most others in line have been waiting longer, Sarah puts up a finger, like a school kid, and with beaming eyes signals to Yuri Nal that she’s an Aquarius. She’s excited, she believes that Ayse Huell will announce her big wish, that she’ll be getting pregnant soon. That’s why she wants Damon with her, her husband isn’t as convinced as herself that they should go for a baby.

    The tent seems larger on the inside than it looked from the outside. On stepping in, before their eyes even adjust, Sarah and Damon feel the soft fine sand covering the floor beneath their feet. The strong intoxicating smell of incense overwhelms their senses. Yuri Nal himself sits far back in a meditative posture. Ayse Huell’s in the middle, in the least lit part of the tent, not quite clear if she’s crouched down or sitting on a small stool. Eyes rolled up, she doesn’t acknowledge the clients and instead keeps murmuring something.

    A minute or so and she requests Sarah’s palm, almost with a sense of urgency. Sarah obliges, and the middle-aged woman stutters incomprehensible utterings, probably in another language, as she runs her fingers wildly across Sarah’s hand. Then she does say something.

    “You’re being cheated upon, darling! You’re being very badly cheated upon…” She keeps repeating.

    Sarah looks at Damon, confounded. Uneasy, he shakes his head.

    “Let’s get out of here!” he tells his wife.

    “Let me see your palm!” the woman demands Damon. He refuses to hand it over to her.

    A tear rolls down Sarah’s cheek. Damon insists they should leave. He stands up, with difficulty, pressing his hand on the floor to regain his balance, and gets out of the tent. The cold air outside cuts like a knife, but is refreshing after having been inside that tent. Sarah follows him, but then remembers she has to pay her palm-reader and goes back in.

    “It never RAINS [Amy Lynn RAINES], but it pours! Something terrible’s going to happen to him!” Ayse Huell warns Sarah.

    “To him?” Sarah doesn’t understand.

    “To your husband!”

    “But you didn’t see his palm. How can you tell?”

    Ayse Huell points at the palm-print on the sand.

    “There’s his palm! I can see the most horrible thing happening to him. That’s all I have for you, darling,” she then briefly concludes the sitting.

    Sarah, now shaking, hands her a hundred-pound note, but Ayse Huell lifts two fingers up. Two hundred? She points her head at the the palm-print. Yes, of course, two readings. Two-hundred pounds. Sarah’s in no mood of bickering over that.

    ***

    “The fortune-teller said something horrible will be happening to him,” Sarah informs the inspector, “maybe you should speak to her.”

    Inspector CARTY SANO [yet again Ken CARTISANO] glimpses at Constables Romeo Surrey and ‘Admiral NELSON [Alice NELSON]’, as Jason Nelly was known, and would’ve chuckled.

    “Them gypsies FILL TOWN [PHIL TOWN] after town with their tents these days, reading people’s fortunes. Like we’re back in the Middle Ages!”

    He turns back to Sarah. “Don’t worry. We’ll find Damon,” he tells her reassuringly, “we’ll comb the whole town – it’s not big here – and MILES [Ken MILES] around it too if need be. We’ll find your husband, PROMISE [PROMISE-091003].”

    “AND THE LAKE [ANDY LAKE]?” Admiral Nelson steps in.

    “I’m not thinking along those lines,” Carty Sano tells him, sensitive to the fact that Sarah’s listening and he doesn’t want to unduly worry her.

    “I’d ADD JUDAH [Chitra ADJOODAH] to the assignment, if I were you, he’s got twenty years under his belt with a Mossad scuba-team. Handy, in case Damon Linney drowned.” Sarah’s petrified. Admiral Nelson still doesn’t get it.

    As soon as Sarah steps out of the police-station, a journalist from the ROYal YORK [ROY YORK] Tribune, who’s been sitting inside the waiting-room, approaches her.

    “I heard you say you had a premonition of this, a fortune-teller told you something bad would happen. Could you please tell me more?” The paper’s been running some sell-out headlines on this theme.

    Carty Sano recognizes the guy. He’d often hang around there trying to pick a sensation, and he can’t stand him. He gets out and taps the man on the back.

    “Leave the lady alone, will you? And tell your rag to stop sending you here. This fortune-telling stuff you write about, it’s a waste of ink and paper if you ask me, RIGGed [Adrienne RIGGs] stuff, gypsy thieves stealing money from good people. And you keep pumping it up,” he doesn’t give the reporter a chance to speak, “leave Miss Linney alone, keep calm and CARRY [CARRIE Zylka] on with your day. Or get flustered all you want, but still carry on, somewhere else! I’ve got my eyes on you, Mister. And, remember, I can arrest people. WHEN D’Ya [WENDY Edsall-Kerwin] idiots get it! If you think YOU’RE GAINing [JÜRGEN, Berlinermax] anything, hanging ’round here, you’re gonna regret it one of these days!”

    The reporter leaves and when he turns around a corner and is no longer visible casts a middle finger at the Inspector. He waits to catch up with Sarah along the way. He needs to get this story out of her.

    ***
    As Judah’s diving team extracts Damon’s decaying corpse out of the lake, and the photographer from the Royal York Tribune happily snaps away at the macabre scene, far above them, hidden in the woods, Yuri Nal observes with great satisfaction.

    This is going to be another clamorous prediction for his enterprise. These are the things that keep the business going strong.

    Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 1:50 pm
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      I spent half a day trying to work out if Yuri Nal was an anagram of a contestant, would you believe.

      Then the penny dropped. Somewhat p*ssed at that … 🙂

      Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 3:47 pm
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        Haha… no not a contestant! But yes one to p*ss at 🙂

        Did you find your name, btw?

        Reply
        • July 3, 2020 at 9:42 am
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          I did indeed. That one was luckily hiding in plain sight.
          The ones I didn’t find were Wendy and Juergen.

          Next time I think you should reference all the titles of the stories from that month. Accept the challenge?

          Reply
          • July 4, 2020 at 4:05 am
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            Hi Andy,

            So you did very well with the name hunt! I don’t think anybody found Juergen’s name. When d’y, maybe…

            Some names forced me to lengthen the story unnecessarily, in order to fit them in. Yours, however, brought in the lake into the picture, which then gave me the idea of Damon’s drowning.

            A more realistic ending than the one in my first draft, in which Damon is transformed into a white fluffy rabbit by Yuri Nal.

            “Just shut up in there, and stop pulling my hair, will you? She’s never gonna believe it’s really you, anyway!” Yuri tells the bunny in his top-hat.

            I’ll keep that for the under-6 kids’ edition of the story 🙂

            Ok, I’ll take your challenge for next year’s anniversary – a reference to the titles of that month… It’s only two per month, though. Shouldn’t be so difficult. Taming the wild animal and when she was five she swallowed her name.

            Oh now I get it, the titles of the STORIES, not the prompts! Hmmm I’ll see what I can do. Now that’s what I call a challenge!

            Ken

      • July 2, 2020 at 4:27 pm
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        Andy,

        I did exactly the same thing! I just knew that the character had to be one of us. Glad I wasn’t alone! LOL

        Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 9:15 am
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    Hi, Alice

    I’m running a little late … but i’m going to finish reading the stories and then vote. Please wait for me!

    Thanks.

    Reply
      • July 2, 2020 at 12:27 pm
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        Thanks, Alice … all done now.

        (One day I’m going to get organisized.)

        Reply
        • July 2, 2020 at 2:40 pm
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          I’ve been hearing your desire to get organized for years Phil. We love your disorder 🙂

          Reply
        • July 2, 2020 at 3:44 pm
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          Don’t get organized as yet… wait till after the next prompt… chaos…

          Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 10:55 am
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    I need a little more time too. Somehow I missed Trish’s and Sarig’s stories in the small avalanche of literature that was posted this week. For some reason, my spellchecker isn’t working anymore. Need prooof? Neeb moor prooves? There it is. (Weird.) Okay I’m off to vote now.

    Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 12:00 pm
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    Waiting on votes from Amelie, Robert, and Alyssa (Phil is in the process). Will have the totals later today.

    Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 1:00 pm
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      Sorry! Voting right now, had unexpected work

      Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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    Voted.

    Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 6:02 pm
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    THE WINNER IS!!
    First Place: It’s Better to Scream by Alice Nelson

    2nd Place: Out of Spite by Sarig Levin
    3rd Place: Zoey by Roy York
    4th Place: TOP HAT AND VIRGO by Phil Town
    5th Place: N THE PALM OF THEIR HANDS by Ken Miles
    6th Place: Red Ambrosia by Alyssa Daxson
    7th Place: Battery by Ken Cartisano
    8th Place: Oops! by Robert Emmett
    9th Place: Living the Dream by Trish
    10th Place: Loose Ends by Peter Holmes
    11th Place: Bad Timing by Amy Raines
    12th Place: Mayhem and Murder by Adrienne Riggs
    13th Place: Tied: Not so Horrible by Liz Fisher and Face the Music by Marien Oommen
    **Amelie did not vote and was not included in the final tally

    Favorite Character: “Ometeotl” from Out of Spite by Sarig Levin
    Character Dialogue: TOP HAT AND VIRGO by Phil Town

    Congratulations Alice!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 6:18 pm
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      Congratulations on first place Alice! And congratulations to everyone who participated. It was really hard to vote in this round, Wow!

      Amy

      Reply
    • July 2, 2020 at 6:34 pm
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      Congrats Alice! Great job everyone!

      It’s seems none of the Ken’s are in first, second or third place… I thought I’d never live to see the day….

      Reply
      • July 3, 2020 at 9:15 am
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        Hmmm, this world is a strange place. Such unusual things happen sometimes! It was a hard one, this time, Alyssa… so many good stories this time round.

        Did I say good? B.r.i.l.l.i.a.n.t. is the word! As for us Kens, I’m quite satisfied with fifth place, to tell the truth, Cartisano is there, nearby too… and Frape had better things to do. You did well, too, and deservedly so.

        I’m afraid I didn’t have time to comment this time. When I do, I go into some lengths with my critiques, as you know, but time is not always a friend of mine.

        Congrats to Alice, Sarig, Roy and Phil and to everyone who posted, really!

        Ken

        Reply
    • July 3, 2020 at 9:43 am
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      Congratulations, Alice!

      And to Sarig and Phil!

      And to all the placees! (if that’s a word…?)

      Reply
      • July 3, 2020 at 10:11 am
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        Skip right over the third placee, huh. Still bitter about that 1776 thing?

        Roy

        Reply
        • July 4, 2020 at 7:06 am
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          Oops – not intentional, of course, Roy! I was congratulating the overall winner and category champeens. But I think being the Top Placee Who Otherwise Didn’t Win A Category Prize does indeed deserve a special gold medal, to go alongside the formal bronze one.
          Really nice, elegant writing and a touching story, btw.

          As for 1776 – it’s one of those regrettable moments, like when the kids leave home prematurely because they know everything. Ah well, I guess it happens and they have to make their own mistakes … 😉

          And – Happy 4th July everyone!!

          Reply
          • July 4, 2020 at 9:27 am
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            Yeah, we’re (America) certainly making our share of mistakes these days. Thanks, Andy, I liked your answer. Stay safe.

            Roy

          • July 5, 2020 at 7:41 am
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            Roy, your 1776 ref has lodged in my mind, and set me off on the track for my story in the chaos prompt.

          • July 5, 2020 at 7:53 am
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            Glad I could help. Looking forward to it.

  • July 2, 2020 at 7:20 pm
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    Alice – Mazel Tov it did Wow everyone… Aliz

    Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 8:37 pm
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    Congratulations, Alice – terrific story! (You should post more often, you know?)

    And congratulations everyone!

    And thanks for the ‘dialogue’ votes!

    Reply
  • July 2, 2020 at 9:17 pm
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    Thanks everyone!! Some great stories, it was hard to know who to vote for, so I truly appreciate the vote of confidence this week. And Phil, I’ll post more, if you promise to get organized. 🙂

    Reply
  • July 3, 2020 at 7:30 am
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    It didn’t come as a surprise that you won, Alice my dear. Great plot, excellent writing and a compelling subject matter.will tend towards a great outcome. Congrats.

    Roy

    Reply
  • July 3, 2020 at 2:20 pm
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    Sorry I’m late to the party on congratulating everyone, I was helping with the construction of a bed. Unfortunately I didn’t have time this week to read everyone’s stories, but I bet they were all bloody good.

    Reply
  • July 3, 2020 at 3:01 pm
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    Top story, Alice. Well deserving of first place. And well done all.

    Reply
  • July 6, 2020 at 8:22 am
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    Congrats Alice and all!!

    Reply

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