May 14 – May 27, 2020 Writing Prompt “Somewhere Else”

Theme: Somewhere Else. A character has to be in (or go to) a place quite different from their normal environment.

Requirement: A moment of realization.

Word Count: 1,200





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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

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The writing prompt for May 28, 2020 will be chose by Ilana Leed.




162 thoughts on “May 14 – May 27, 2020 Writing Prompt “Somewhere Else”

  • May 14, 2020 at 1:49 pm
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    Read the stories here:

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

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

    Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 10:51 pm
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      My surname is missing an s it is Leeds not Leed. Sorry but I love my last name.

      Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 1:51 pm
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    Signing in for comments

    Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 2:27 pm
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    Signing in

    Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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    Just curious, how do we change our picture?

    Reply
    • May 15, 2020 at 12:35 pm
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      Adi,
      You’d make a great straight-man in a comedy routine.
      ‘Just curious, how do we change our picture?’
      1. Picture Changer Wizard.
      2. Step one, take a picture. Do you have a picture?
      3. What’s wrong with the one you’re using? I think it’s cute.
      4. That’s how it starts. a little curiosity. Then we want to change our picture. Then our name, then our gender. Where does it end? Centipede orgies? In the middle of a hurricane? (This is why we liberals don’t trust you conservatives.)_

      Reply
      • May 21, 2020 at 9:14 am
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        Thanks Ken! You are so funny.

        Reply
        • May 22, 2020 at 6:31 am
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          Centipede orgies? Then I must be in the right place. I was worried for a minute.

          Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 5:39 pm
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    Oh, goodie, signing up for comments. What works best to get notices?
    Checking the box that says, “Notify me of new comments via email”.
    Or the one that says, “Notify me of new posts via email.”
    Neither have worked in the past and I’m wonder if anything has changed.
    Or not.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2020 at 12:25 pm
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    I’m just checking in for comments, but you know, now that I’m here, I might as well say what’s on my mind… (Not that anyone cares, I get that. No problem.)

    Well, congratulations everyone. Congratulations. I leave you all alone for five minutes and this is what you do? Another Ken? in first place? Just like that.

    Let’s just, let’s take a quick look at your favorite story. ‘Dateline: 77.’

    A 77 year-old grandmother on a date? That was your favorite story.
    Come on people. Snap out of it. (Sorry Ken, this has to be done.)
    Snap out of it. Come on, come on, come on. Wake up. Hello. Good morning. Coffee anyone?

    I’m sure you all expect a lecture now. And believe me, you all deserve one. (Except for Alice and Carrie.) (And hey, I’m already up here, in my speech-tower. Looking down on everyone, with a lecture dancing on the tips of my mental fingers. Just waiting for a quanta of interest, or less. (A half a quanta. A quarter quanta.)) (You guys have speech-towers? No?) I feel like some of you would accept a lecture, would welcome one, at this point, especially if it was about not falling for the ole-77-year-old-grandmother-on-a-date trick.

    Unfortunately, I’m in agreement with the majority on the top five stories, based upon the voting.

    I’ll let that sink in for a second.
    Yes I – I agree with the majority. Not in the specific placement of each individual cockamamie story. (I’m immune to grandmothers,) but still… this is a ‘seminole’ moment, a significant crack in the maitrex‘d.)

    And certainly no cause for celebration.
    I can expect a spate of soul-searching somewhere down the road. (If I find that I have one, I’ll let you all know. If anyone’s interested.) But it raises questions. Should I even be a Buddhist anymore? Could Liz change her name to Zen? Questions that don’t concern me in the least, but they’re good questions.

    I had Carrie’s story in fifth at first, and then I remembered Trish’s diabolical demons and they edged out the ‘Cleansing Fire’ by a nose. Then Ilana’s story was nipping at the heels of the angels. Vying for attention with the demons. (Even though it had no twist. But Alyssa’s plot was very funny and potentially hilarious, …but she didn’t quite pull it all together in the end. Both great stories, but I didn’t feel like they were finished yet.

    One area of divergence from the group is in the categories of ‘favorite character’ and Dialogue. I thought that those two things were what made Amelie’s story so entertaining.

    And then there’s Marien.
    Marien,
    The real mystery that remains here, is how did ‘The Oomenator’ come in sixth with that annoying, (and unforgettable) story about that damned gate? What was that called? ‘Just Shut The Gate.’ ‘Just shut the gate?’ That was the whole story, Marien. You gave away the whole story in the title and you expect me not to notice? I don’t know who you think you’re dealing with Marien, but you’ll have to do better than that.

    (What’s that? You say you came in sixth? )

    Oh. Yeah. That’s right. I forgot about that. Sixth place. That was my original question, wasn’t it? That’s what I wanted to know. How did that story come in sixth? (Nice try Marien. You almost outwitted me there.) When you gave away the story in the title, Is it possible that people liked it? (Did it save them time?) Maybe people have gate issues. Or is it possible that people simply like being annoyed? I don’t. But everyone says I’m weird, so maybe that’s why, because I don’t like being annoyed. I don’t know. But I don’t have gate issues either. I’m sure about that.

    It’s a mystery.
    It’s like centipede invasions, orgies, or hurricanes. You never know when you’re going to get one, or how many will participate, or how long it’ll last.
    You just have to wait it out. The main thing, is to avoid getting any of them mixed up. That’s my advice, for what it’s worth.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2020 at 12:31 pm
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      So we can be good writers, but only sometimes and apparently not so much this time, but we’re certainly not very good voters, right? This centipede orgie thing is worrying me now. Where else did I hear of it? I mean, it almost sounds silly, but also shutting down a whole planet because of a mere virus sounds absurd enough, and it did happen. I know, I know, it’s only one planet. Just one of zillions of planets in the universe. Why am I even kicking up a fuss? But still, it’s one planet some of us feel quite attached to, that one that has been shut down. And the centipede orgie? It may be great for someone with a foot fetish. Do centi-pedes really have a hundred feet? And millipedes, a thousand? I doubt it, but still they have lots of feet. I’m getting ticklish just thinking about it. Next time we promise we’ll vote more carefully, Ken. Give us another chance, please. No centipedes yet, ok? Or maybe I got a few of the things you said mixed up. This French wine…

      Reply
      • May 20, 2020 at 3:46 am
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        Not at all Ken M. I was just teasing. This is a fine bunch of writers, and good voters, as far as I know, but what are the odds that almost every one of them would be the ‘strong, silent type?’ Your solitary comment, infers that you’re the only person that forced themselves to read my previous remarks. If they did, they were not entertained. Or worse yet, ‘disentertained.’ But I DIGRESS. Yes, the total lack of any response, to my comment, by a bunch of Writers, indicates that for once, finally, I may h’ve gone too far.

        But I don’t want to jump to premature conclusions.

        I’ve seen some strange things, but I’ve never seen such a bad reaction to centipedes. Or non-reaction. I confess that I resort to ‘the pedes’ a little too quickly these days. I often pull them out whenever things get dicey, (as you British blokes like to say.) They’re a wonderful distraction. They lighten the mood. (The ones I get are brown, with bright yellow legs—festive.)

        I’m surprised at the lack of effect, as if the writers were inoculated against imaginary centipedes. But how? How could someone do that? They’d have to be a mind reader, as well as a centipede herder. But again, why jump to conclusions when I can speculate wildly? This non-reaction to centipedes, this ‘desensicentipediness’ could be the result of any number of things.

        Like what kinds of things, you say? Well… A sophisticated audience? (Oh please.) Insect activists? (Nah. Too easy.) You’re all secretly planning a Zoom surprise party in my honor? (Yeah, right. Over everyone’s dead body.) Unanimous dissent? (Wait, what?) I give up.

        So Ken M. All these other people just left me hanging there, slowly spinning in the wind, Out to Dry… except you. All these other people that I’ve been competing against for eight long years. Dragging the rock down the stairs every morning, clunk, clink, clunk, clink, clunk, and back up the stairs every night. Clunk, scrape, clunk, scrape, clunk… Every night, tormenting them with my wit, and devilish charm. (Needless to say, they’ve had it up to here with me.) Still……. It’s a harsh social rebuke that I can hardly ignore. (Although one never knows until one tries.)

        But before I unleash my new charm offensive, ‘Tea with One of the Ken’s,’ I just wanted to take a moment and say, ‘Thanks Ken. You’re a good fellow. Alas, you Should be a fellow, at one of those institutions of high-add learning, with all associated benefits and honors. You deserve a reward for your good-fellowship, Ken. (I shall try not to annoy you for two, no three more months. That’s the best I can do.)

        There’s a lesson to be learned here. This episode reminds me of my birth, Ken, an extremely traumatic phase of my life. (There was a lot blood, and fluid. I thought I was drowning.) But the upshot? I got spanked and I survived. I think I went to school too, at some point. Details are fuzzy.

        Cheers, Ken.

        Reply
  • May 16, 2020 at 7:27 am
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    The Program
    by Robt. Emmett ©2020
    [1165 words]

    The other night, at oh-dark-hundred, as they say in the thriller novels, my older brother, Dave, had me accompany him. We met at the filling station. He had his AGN military grade 3000 lumens LED 5 mode flashlight. I bought a buck ninety-eight jobbie at the filling station after we’d met. We entered a deserted building somewhere on the Eastside. The stairway down to the sub-sub-basement was a crumbling mess and definitely not safe. The darkness sucked the light from my small flashlight as we traveled the stinking, winding subterranean maze. His flashlight did a little better. He didn’t tell me where we were going or why. After walking for about fifteen minutes, we stopped. He told me to stay behind the corner and not come out or make a sound for any reason. I did exactly as he said. Which is the reason I’m alive to tell his story.
    * * *
    “Did you come alone?” Dave asked.
    The new voice replied, “Yes, as you instructed. Why are we meeting in such a dark place, anyway?”
    “I don’t know if I can trust you.”
    “Not to worry. You know me, Jeff Haffner, the host of the Real Truth. Hell, half the world watches my syndicated TV show every Thursday evening. People come to me with their stories. It’s my job to check them out. If they’re real – on the air they go. If you can’t trust me with your story, who do you think you can?”
    “Okay, okay, it’s just what I have to tell you is so darn unbelievable. I sometimes think it never happened.”
    “But it did, right?”
    “Oh, hell yeah, it did.”
    “Okay, start at the beginning. Ah, you mind if I record your statement.”
    “Is that necessary?”
    “Hey, I can’t remember everything, and it’s too dark to take notes. So…”
    “Fine. Turn the recorder on.”
    “It’s on. You can start your story whenever you’re ready.”
    “Well, ‘bout four years ago, I graduated from Huntington college and …”
    “Huntington college, down in Alabama?”
    “That’s the one. In my senior year, I was recruited by the CIA. I was assigned to keep track of a group of seven men. I was told they had some kind of personality disorder. The job was simple. They’d receive an injection. An hour later, all I had to do was ask each subject a few simple, multiple-choice questions and note their answers. It was a fun gig. In school, I’d never been concerned with psychology. But now, having been connected to this first group for over a year, I was motivated and asked to become more involved.”
    “How so?”
    “Next, I was given a group of five volunteers: four men and a woman. They were all about my age. I was to monitor them for any long-term personality changes caused by the injection. At first, there were no changes. However, about three months in, they started to change the way they pronounced the words. I first noticed the difference in the woman. A few weeks later, the first man began to change. Within the week, all the men’s pronunciations changed. I continued with these people for another six months. The strange part is the men’s voices sounded familiar. Like they sounded to be some famous people. I couldn’t identify just who, but they sure seemed like people I knew. The woman’s voice changed the most. It had a hollow quality to it. Then, oh, I don’t know maybe a month later, she was gone. I asked. All I was told was she’d been taken to the infirmary. She never returned. The work continued. During this time, they were given injections of various other drugs along with the speech altering drug.
    “My superiors were pleased with my work. I was promoted. I now had four groups to control. All under the acronym SABE. It stood for Speech, Appearance, Body, and Emotion modification. The test subjects, again, all volunteers, were given drugs to alter those four areas. The work couldn’t have been more exciting.”
    “How so?”
    “I changed. My work became my life. Rather than being a couch-potato. I stopped dating. And if you can believe it – I stopped carousing to all hours of the night. A frat brother stopped by six months, ah no, it was over a year and a half ago. He said if someone told him I’d change so much, he’d not believe it. I’d work long into the night. It was fascinating watching the modifications taking effect. I couldn’t get enough of it.”
    “That’s all well and good, but you got me hanging here. What’s this great story the world needs to know? It sounds like you’ve been wasting my time. World-famous talk show hosts like me just can’t hang around in dark, dank basements looking for a story. That’s not where the money is. So if that’s all you got … I’m leaving.”
    “No, wait! I’m getting to the guts of my story. Two weeks ago, I discovered the real truth behind my work.”
    “And it is?”
    “It is the most diabolical scheme imaginable. Even the top echelons of our own government don’t know what the CIA is doing and planning.”
    “Spill it now, or I’m leaving.”
    “Those people we, I’ve been modifying. They were normal, everyday people just like you and me. God forgive me, but I’ve changed them into …, into other people.”
    “Other people? Wait a minute. Let me turn on my flashlight.”
    “Oh, my God! You’re not Jeff Haffner, and there’s two of you, I mean of me.”
    “That’s right, Dave. Yours was not the on
    ly group doing manipulative work on people. There were two other groups. We are the control groups. Our first purpose was as a check to make sure your work was honest and correct. Also, to be ready to preserve the secret should outside people discover the real purpose of the modifications. In short, it’s our responsibility to eliminate leakers. You have become a liability because you have chosen to go public with your knowledge of the necessary work being done on behalf of world peace.”
    “You don’t need that gun.”
    “Yes, I do, Dave. Because of your act of disobedience, you’re to be terminated. To paraphrase Dickens, ‘It is a far better place you go than you’ve ever known.’ Goodbye, Dave.”
    “So, boss, what do we do with the body?”
    “Leave it. This building will be demolished tomorrow.”
    “To bad about him.”
    “Not really. We’re Dave now and programmed not to tell outsiders about this secret CIA mission. By this time next year, the project will be finished. First, all the undependable elected officials in our government will be replaced with identical-looking SABE people. After that, the unfriendly heads of foreign governments will be substituted. Eventually, all world leaders will be SABEs. Then we’ll have world peace for real.”
    “Great! Ah, didn’t they teach you to always point a gun in a safe direction?”
    “They did. But you’re also redundant. Goodbye, Dave.”
    — Ԙ —

    Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 3:25 pm
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      Robert – WoW! What an inventive ride you took me on. I thought your story was very creative, and I particularly liked the way you set up the narrator so he could live to tell the tale. Well done.

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 7:54 am
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        Trish, this is the style of short stories I used to write, but I had gotten away from it. I think the style needs to e revisited. Thank you, Trish.

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    • May 23, 2020 at 10:39 pm
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      A creepy story, Robert, in the vein of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (kinda). The opening is great – the descent into the darkness. And the description by ‘Dave’ is really well done, piling on the mystery: the changes in the subjects, and the diappearance of the woman. And the scale of the plot is pretty scary.

      I found the ending a bit of a mystery, too. The one doing the interview has the gun, right? And he shoots the third ‘Dave’? But at the end of the first paragraph you tell us: “He told me to stay behind the corner and not come out or make a sound for any reason. I did exactly as he said. Which is the reason I’m alive to tell his story.” (?)

      I think there should perhaps be a separator after the first “Good bye, Dave.”

      Enjoyed this, though.

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 7:56 am
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        Phil, there are two Daves. The original, who tells his brother to, “Stay behind the corner and not come out or make a sound for any reason.” The brother, the opening narrator, is not named.
        Then, there is Jeff Haffner, the host of the Real Truth. He brings a manufactured Dave to the interview, not seen by the original Dave, because it is dark.
        The manufactured Dave is killed at the end of the story.
        The story’s genesis is an old “Outer Limits” story I watched the other evening at Oh dark hundred.

        Reply
    • May 25, 2020 at 10:58 am
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      Great story. Phil already mentioned the Manchurian Candidate. I was thinkings about the stepford wives too. Good work!

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 7:56 am
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        Ah, yes, Max, the Stepford wives. Think about that – “Yes, women.” Ha, not happening.

        Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 6:02 am
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      Hi Robt.,

      A really inventive story. It is a piece of fiction but a bit too close for comfort as I am sure there are and have been, clandestine arms of government that have that done this kind of thing to their own people.

      The story runs along nicely. I wanted the story to be explained more quickly when Dave met the “new voice” in the dark. It was a bit like, “come on , get on with it or I’m leaving now.” If that was a deliberate slow unveiling, then it was very effective.

      I agree with Phil’s questions as I felt a similar feeling as I read the story. Phil’s suggestions for dealing with this seem pretty sensible too.

      Good stuff, Rob.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 7:57 am
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        Ken, it was a deliberate ploy to slow the story. I was short 350 words and had no clue how to finish the story.

        Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 7:53 am
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      I have not been in contact, because I’m at the extreme limit of contact via Internet space. I have the world record holder for the slowest coffee maker. Yet, I’m well into my first cup of coffee before my laptop connects with the rest of the world. I’ll tell you why the Internet is so slow – don’t laugh.
      The internet redirect link is atop a silo four miles away. It gets its signal from another silo located somewhere closer to the single signal stop-n-go light town over to the horizon.
      Actually, it’s nice out here. And due to the slowness of the Internet, I seldom log-on. At night, away from the lighted compound, it is so black, I can’t see my Standard black Poodle seated at my feet. In places, the frog croaking is nearly deafening. In other areas, I can hear the night creature’s footfalls as they make their night rounds. And now the pair of Robin, in the bend of the roof drain, are letting me know the day is starting.
      Also, I don’t have the time. I could make the time, but I’d rather play with the puppies. They are the reason I’m at the far end of the Internet. My daughter breeds, raises, and sells a limited number of one type of high demand dog. [Not standard Poodles] In short – they need help.
      So, that’s my lame excuse for not monitoring my story. Robt.

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 9:01 am
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      Robt.

      I enjoyed the opening and the nature of the story. Then the mystery and suspense start in the next paragraph. I was confused about who was who though at the end. After a little consideration, it seemed pretty easy to sort out who was who, but I wanted to know while I was reading it. So, I think that’s on you. It’s a clever story and that point is crucial to the plot. The whole story concept is wild and you do a great job with it. But it could use some clarity at that specific point.

      I enjoy your sense of humor and style so it was a fun read, in any case. Classic last couple of lines. All in all a fun and engaging story.

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 12:27 pm
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      One of your better stories, Robert. Haven’t seen much from you lately, and it”s nice to see you back. The only thing I would point out is a couple of ‘who said what’ would have helped me through the story a little better, but nice twist.

      Roy

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 1:48 pm
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      I don’t often like stories told through narrative (i.e. I would’ve preferred to read a story about the man’s time doing the project rather than the man recounting the story) but I acknowledge that the dialogue is key to the whole “interview” scenario, and ultimately I was surprised by the ending. Great story Robert

      Reply
  • May 17, 2020 at 6:13 am
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    At His Majesty’s Pleasure.

    A short play by Ken Frape.

    1536, London, England.

    An ante-room, outside a rancid prison cell in The Tower of London. There is a rough wooden table and several three-legged stools. On the table is some writing paper, an ink pot and a quill pen. The floor is covered in filthy straw.

    A blood-spattered, hooded man is standing by the door beside a giant axe dripping with blood. He is holding a tankard and munching on a piece of dry bread. He is on his break.

    One woman is already seated, wearing ankle cuffs. She is very expensively attired, obviously a woman from the upper classes.

    Another woman arrives similarly manacled and attired like a member of the nobility.

    From outside, periodically, a loud thud followed by cheers can be heard in the background. Sometimes the cheers are stifled, followed by a groan, then a second thud and then cheers, etc.

    Characters: Lady Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Seymour, erstwhile paramours of King Henry VIII of England.

    Time: 6.50a.m. ( roughly, sundial time on a cloudy day is never exact!)

    Lady Jane Seymour ( looking up from her writing in surprise)

    “ Lady Anne! Didn’t expect to see you here.”

    Lady Anne Boleyn

    “Hi, Lady Jane. Nor me, but it’s the third time this month I have been summoned here.”

    Lady Jane

    “Three times? Why?”

    Lady Anne (shrugging)

    “I’ve no idea. Every time I get here they say my appointment has been cancelled. Staff shortages, they say. “

    Lady Jane

    “I know, the whole thing is getting out of hand. They’re providing a 15th century service. Don’t they know it’s the 16th. century now?”

    Lady Anne

    “My sister Lady Mary’s a good example. She went to see Dr. Cromwell and he asked her a lot of very personal questions and then….”

    Lady Jane

    “What sort of personal questions?”

    Lady Anne ( leaning forward, conspiratorily)

    “He wanted to know who she was sleeping with and he wanted to know all about her religious beliefs too. It’s really not on. If you ask me, I think he’s got it in for the Boleyn family.”

    Lady Jane

    “So what happened to her then?”

    Lady Anne

    “After all that she got a letter saying, “No further action required. Your next appointment will be in 6 months.”

    Lady Jane

    “So how come you’re here then?”

    Lady Anne

    “All I know is I received a letter instructing me to be here at dawn. They even sent some lovely soldiers to make sure I didn’t get lost. Well, it’s already well past dawn so whatever happens I’ll be late. Typical. You?”

    Lady Jane

    “Much the same. My appointment’s at 7. I must be straight after you. Hope they get a move on, I’m starving, just couldn’t face breakfast this morning. Not at dawn. It’s far too early for me.”

    A dull thud and more cheers in the background.

    Beat.

    Lady Anne

    “Any plans for Christmas?”

    Lady Jane

    “Not really, thought I’d better wait and see. At this rate we’ll both still be here on New Year’s Day. ( They both laugh.) Don’t want people to waste money on presents for me, you know, just in case.”

    Lady Anne

    “I was wondering about what to buy for Henry. I mean, what do you give to the man who has everything?”

    Lady Jane

    “I know, it’s a real dilemma and if you don’t get him something he likes he has a temper tantrum. Between you and me, he behaves like a spoilt brat. Kings, eh?” ( She tuts.)

    Lady Anne

    “Tell me about it. Last year I gave him the biggest necklace I’ve ever seen, full of precious gems and the like. He’s hardly worn it. Says it clashes with ermine. So what did you get him, by the way?”

    Lady Jane

    “I had this enormous codpiece specially made for him. It was embroidered all over with French silk thread and studded with precious stones.”

    Lady Anne

    “Nice. How did he receive it?”

    Lady Jane

    “He took one look at it and said he wouldn’t wear it because the Earl of Warwick’s codpiece was bigger!”

    Lady Anne

    “That’s true but then his needs to be bigger. Such a gorgeous man, Warwick. No wonder they call him the Kingmaker. I’d lower my drawbridge for him any time he likes! Of course we both know that all Henry really wants is the one thing we haven’t given him. A son, an heir, a future King. “

    Lady Jane

    “Well, I haven’t given up on that one yet. I’ll just have to keep on trying on one of the three night’s a month His Majesty deigns to spend with me.”

    Tannoy announcement:

    “Lady Anne Boleyn to Scaffold number 4 please. Scaffold number 4. Lady Anne Boleyn.”

    A guard arrives and takes Jane by the arm.

    Lady Anne.

    “About bloody time too. I was beginning to think the NHS was completely messed up. It’s really not good enough.”

    Lady Jane

    “I know. Since they nationalised the NHS and rebranded it The National Headchopping Service, “a government department, strictly not for profit,” or so they say, it has become a complete basket case.”

    Lady Anne

    “Basket! Ha! Same place as our heads then! ( They both laugh) Gotta laugh, haven’t you?”

    Lady Anne

    ( being hurried up by the guard. )

    “Ok, ok, hands off! Peasant!”

    “Better be going now, can’t hang around. Well, not since they did away with hangings anyway! Bye, dear. See you.”

    Lady Jane

    “Well, probably not but I’ll listen out for the crowd. If there’s only one cheer I’ll know it came off in one blow. That’s always a blessing. Fingers crossed, eh?”

    Anne exits with guard taking her by the arm.

    Moments later a messenger arrives, breathlessly.

    Messenger

    “Message for Lady Anne Boleyn. “

    (Silence. He repeats the name )

    ( Sees Jane)

    “It’s her reprieve! I hope I’m not too late. I did my best to get here but the traffic around The Tower this morning was a shocker. These public executions are a right bloody pain in the neck, if you ask me!”

    Lady Jane ( very sternly, feeling her neck.)

    “I didn’t!

    Messenger

    “What?”

    Lady Jane

    “I didn’t ask you!”

    Messenger shrinks back in shock.

    ( Jane stands up, suddenly very alert. )

    “Did you say Lady Anne Boleyn? A reprieve? Oh thank God. I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening. Just in time. Thank you. Thank you.”

    (She takes the piece of paper.)

    Messenger

    “Sign here, please, my Lady.”

    The messenger rushes off. Lady Jane turns and takes one step towards the door to the scaffold. She hears a loud thud. Cheering is heard. Just the one cheer.

    Lady Jane

    “Damn!! Just too late.” (Thinking.) “For her perhaps but maybe not for me. It would be such a shame to waste it.”

    (She looks round furtively and then, using a crust of stale bread as a rubber, she scrubs out Lady Anne’s name and puts in her own, using the quill on the table.)

    Tannoy announcement:

    “Lady Jane Seymour to Scaffold number 2 please. Scaffold number 2. Lady Jane Seymour.”

    Lady Jane smiles and goes through the door, waving the reprieve.

    Ken Frape
    15/05/2020

    Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 3:27 pm
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      Bloody hell, Ken. Your piece seemed to be in the style and humor of a Monty Python skit. Loved it!

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 8:45 am
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        Shame on you for mocking royalty. snicker.

        Reply
    • May 23, 2020 at 10:55 pm
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      Very clever sketch, Ken. I love the modern vernacular, at odds with the context and funny for that. Some great lines (‘lowering the drawbridge”!) And crafty Jane Seymour … great get-out!

      Just a couple of observations: ‘Jane’ and ‘Anne’ are very similar on the page, so I often had to check who was speaking (if you’d used their full names every time?)

      This line is a bit ‘on-the-nose’ for me:
      Lady Jane: “Damn!! Just too late.” (Thinking.) “For her perhaps but maybe not for me. It would be such a shame to waste it.” Just the “looks round furtively” would have been enough, I think.

      Great fun!

      Reply
      • May 25, 2020 at 7:17 am
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        Bit nasty there Frapey. Hope you don’t mind the nickname, but to save confusion, I am calling you Frapey and Ken Miles has become Smilok. I just can’t cope with this Ken 1 and Ken 2 and Ken 3 stuff. Puts me all out of sorts so there you go. It is far more individual than a number old chap. You don’t want to be stamped like a gas bottle in a factory. Don’t you want to retain some individual dignity and uniqueness? Be glad it was not Flappy. Ken remains Ken as I have no desire to further inflate his ego by calling him Cartisanto Kardistany. Giving him a double banger name would increase his level of importance to astonishing heights that would not allow us to pull him down to touch the terra firma occasionally..
        I hope I have not insulted you. I am perfectly willing to allow you to insult me and chop off my head and anything else you desire metaphorically of course and I shall return the favour.
        Bloody nasty story. But….
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        I loved it. Don’t tell anyone.

        Reply
        • May 25, 2020 at 7:23 am
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          Plus the inter action through dialogue between the characters was well done and you built up the suspense beautifully.

          Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 6:21 am
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        Hi Phil,

        Thanks for those pointers. I agree that the ladies’ names are a little close when reading the script. I didn’t think of just using their surnames or even their full names but it’s a well made point.

        Historical note ( one that you probably already know) The ruse to change the names on the reprieve obviously worked ( I’m mixing my fiction with historical facts here) as Jane Seymour actually died the following year in October 1537, about twelve days after giving birth to a son for Henry VIII, Edward.VI.
        Obviously, Jane was not sent to the scaffold except in my febrile imagination and this is the kind of conversation I would like them to have had.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
    • May 25, 2020 at 11:09 am
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      That’s the stuff I like to read! Agree with the other (more intelligent) commentators on the details!

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 9:03 am
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      Ken The Frapenator.

      I’m not sure what’s gained by presenting a story in the form of a play, but I suppose it’s a kind of experimentation or literary exercise. I don’t know about you but I found Phil’s observations and comments especially eye-opening as he pointed out aspects of your story I hadn’t even noticed. (The medieval historical setting using modern vernacular, for instance.) That eluded me completely and I’m afraid I feel a little embarrassed about that. Phil’s point that the ending seems on-the-nose seems apt.

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 12:39 pm
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      Very tricky, Lady Jane. A nod to your character, when it comes to your head, I guess it’s all about saving one’s own, head, that is. There’s an old poem I thought I would remember about the six wives of Henry the VIII. One beheaded, one divorced and so on … I know two were beheaded, but how many died?

      Anyway, I digress. An interesting tack to use a screen play in under 1200 words, but, you handled it well. Nice experiment that worked. It made me laugh. Henry was quite unforgiving it appears when it came to his wives. Enjoyed the ride.

      Roy

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 1:52 pm
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      I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story laid out like this, but I enjoyed reading it Ken

      Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 10:33 am
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      I enjoyed it, Ken! Had to go up and down to check who said what, sometimes, especially when things got tangled up with the repriever and it was crucial to know which lady was saying what. The modern rendering of the historical “events” is quite a fresh approach, adding another level of humour to the piece. I also liked the many instances of playing with words: “a bloody pain in the neck”, “no hanging around”, the new meaning of “NHS” and so on. “I’d lower my drawbridge for him any time”, on the other hand, takes us back in history, something the ladies of back then may have said. A great mixture of made up linguistic expressions, old and new.

      Cheers 🙂
      Ken

      Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 11:22 am
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    TOO FAR AWAY THE WIND BLEW
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    “Nothing’s clinically wrong with Dennis,” Dr.Borne confirms what the doctors back home said.

    “He’s simply made that way, the melancholic type, people come with different temperaments, it’s like hair-color. Dennis’s not autistic, dyslexic or depressive, has no learning disabilities. I’ve run every possible test and he’s a fine 8-year-old lad.”

    Mom Sam isn’t convinced. How could she be? Nothing would make Dennis smile. He’d wake up early and stare at the sun rising beyond the vast view afforded by their suburban house in a leafy hillside neighborhood. Like he belonged somewhere else in that distance.

    “I’ve read, Doctor, on the Internet, you know, they say all sorts of things on the Internet, that children born on 29th February are not really themselves, but old souls, people who’s life’d been cut short… I mean, it sounds absurd, but I just…” Sam spits out the words defensively, knowing very well that the doctor will have nothing to do with that.

    Used to hearing such nonsense, Dr.Borne signals the end of their time together, gets to his feet and pats John, Dennis’s dad’s shoulder. He tells both of them, “you came all the way to New York. Give your boy a treat. Take him on a Hudson River cruise, up the Empire State, something’s gotta move him in this city. I myself remember the boredom of growing up on a ranch in Iowa. Give him some excitement, and he’ll be perfectly fine.”

    John doesn’t need any encouragement. He never thought anything was wrong with Dennis: he’s just a quiet, introverted child, that’s all. It’s Sam that won’t get it. They’ve been not to one, but three successive doctors back home. It was John’s idea to come to New York, to the leading expert in pediatric psychiatry. Not for Dennis. But for Sam to close this chapter once and for all. There was nowhere further to go after Dr.Borne.

    “Why would you utter such nonsense to the doctor!” John admonishes his wife on their way to pick Dennis up from the playroom.

    “Maybe it’s something only a mom can feel! Not you. Not any doctor!” She’s in tears.

    ***

    Dennis looks up high as the Statue of Liberty majestically rises out of nowhere upon the tourist boat they’re on. He then quickly retreats back to his world.

    “Nothing impresses kids these days!” laments John. Indeed, the city of superlatives doesn’t do much to Dennis.

    John’s holding Sam’s hand and Sam her son’s, walking down Seventh Avenue, when Dennis without warning pulls both parents to a shop-window. So unexpectedly, they nearly topple over.

    “I like that place!” Dennis proclaims, pointing at a full-window poster of a lake surrounded by lush exotic greenery. It’s a travel-agency and the poster simply says “Your Asia Travel Specialist” under the logo of the tour operator.

    Sam looks at John, perplexed. Then at Dennis, excited.

    “Do you like the… the.. lake?” she attempts to penetrate her son’s head, “we can go to a lake one day!”

    “I want to go THERE!” Dennis implores.

    John sees it coming. Sam’s going to find out where that godforsaken place is and will want to take Dennis there. Next thing he knows they’re inside the agency, and the travel-agent’s shaking her head at Sam’s peculiar question.

    “Must be somewhere in Asia!” she says, “or who knows? They photoshop everything these days!”

    Sam isn’t going to let her off with just that. This is the first thing to ever fire Dennis up. Soon enough – and now getting grumpy – the agent’s calling the tour operator in question.

    “Yes, the picture on your large poster… I KNOW it’s in Asia, but the clients wish to know EXACTLY where…!”

    The person on the line says he’ll call his marketing agent, who in turn says he’ll trace the phographer.

    “Vietnam!” the exhausted travel-agent finally reads out of an SMS, three hours later, “a jungle village called Laothiệt. In Điện-Biên province, if that helps.”

    “Three air-tickets to get there, please!” Sam doesn’t even consult her husband, “we’ll leave tomorrow, right in time for Dennis’s birthday!”

    ***

    The taxi drops them on a dusty road where the the map says Laothiệt should be. The driver points at a footpath, leading to a shimmering body of water, probably the lake in the photo. John hasn’t taken a leak since the airport six hours earlier, and it’s now urgent.

    “Don’t suppose they’ve toilets here…”, he heads off into the bushes, mumbling.

    He’s hardly finished when a man as old as bark on a tree, but as firm as a log grabs him by the shirt.

    “I hate Americans – you killed our children!”

    “Hands off me… I killed no-one!”

    “If not you, your father did!”

    “Not! My father rubbed shoulders with enough men in suits to avoid conscription… just let go of me!”

    “Why did you come here?”

    “Good fucking question! Ask them!” John points at where he left his family.

    The silhouette of mother and son in the dusty sunset somewhat commoves the Vietnamese. Calling out “Đắnhs! Đắnhs!” he hastens towards them and embraces Dennis.

    “Khuykhuy? It’s you, Khuykhuy!!” Dennis lets out happily.

    The man speaks in Vietnamese and Dennis nods along excitedly.

    “What’s even going on here?” It’s all going over John’s head.

    “It’s really him – my Đắnhs!” the man explains, “I immediately recognized his gait, the way he holds his head. Only Đắnhs calls me Grandpa Khuykhuy! It’s his secret nickname for me. Come to my hut…”

    John whispers into Sam’s ear, “This nutcase hates Americans. He manhandled me. Don’t put anything he offers in your mouth!”

    “The Americans gassed our village,” the old man recounts on the way, “Đắnhs took his last breath in my arms. I brought his body to his parents, but their hut was ablaze, they’d already burned to death. So I asked Mother Tree, that’d stood right here for a thousand years, to adopt Đắnhs’s spirit. Seeing this, an American then gassed the tree too.”

    He wipes a tear, then continues, “the soldier wouldn’t waste gas on me, he said, that I’d suffer more if I was left to live. I’m now 105, I refused to go before seeing Đắnhs again. When the tree withered, I implored Đắnhs’s spirit to ride the wind instead. They can’t kill the wind! Leave this place, I told him, only come back when the madness is over. So that I’ll be able to die. I never thought that so far away the wind would blow!”

    “They’re here too”, says Denis, “mom and dad!”

    “Of course, we’re here, sweetheart, we’d never leave you alone!” mom says, not knowing what to make of the old man’s crazy story, but happy that Dennis is finally smiling, talking.

    “No, I mean them – ”

    “Nguyên and Nhu?” Khuykhuy’s puzzled. Đắnhs’s parents were charred. It isn’t known if burned souls could ever return to the earth plane.

    That very moment, a young man from a nearby village hops off his van. He speaks fast, excitedly.

    “His wife gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl,” the old man explains to the tourists, “he said you’re also invited to his hut to celebrate…”

    “Gosh, John!” Sam figures out everything, “the 29th February thingy… it’s today!”

    Reply
    • May 20, 2020 at 3:30 pm
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      Ken- very amusing and creative story. I liked the way you described the soft conflict between the parents over Dennis’ “affliction”. It added a nice texture of reality into your fantastical tale.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2020 at 11:18 am
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        Thanks Trish!

        One just never knows. Perhaps those fantastical elements, like life continuing on other planes, are the true nature of our existence, and our mundane “real” life on earth is just a detail in a much bigger picture. Like the Vietnamese chap, I like to think of it that way.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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        This is about as fantastic as it gets without going supernatural, or did you? I guess you did. I had a little trouble figuring out how Dennis knew his parents (vietnamese) were there before the man in the van arrived, but I’ll just chalk it up to magic.

        Kind reminds me of an old story I tell about a young boy who has never talked and every doctor the parents take the child to says there’s nothing wrong with him and when he’s ready, he will talk. One day when he was about seven and sitting at the dinner table, the young boy looks up at his parents and says, “The peas are cold.” His mother drops her fork and says, “What did you say?” ‘The peas are cold,” the boy repeats. HIs father looks at him and says, “For seven years you haven’t spoken a word and the first thing you say is, ‘The peas are cold’?” “Up until now,” the boy says, “everything’s been OK.”

        I learned a new word today, commoves. Not sure you used it exactly right, but it was close. I had to look it up. Between you Ken F, and Phil, I learn a new words just about every two weeks. And, you add to the supernatural with an old wive’s tale about the 29th of February, which really, is just another day. Had we never given those 24 four hour periods a name and divided them into months with different day amounts, February 29 would be nothing more than a 24 hour period. I give no stock to astrologers, or adding significance to ‘special’ days. But, it makes for great writing. Personally, I think we should divide the months up into thirteen with each having 28 days and the extra day each year becomes ‘solar’ day, and every four years we have two ‘solar days’ in a row. Of course, on the second solar day every four years two thousand years from now, if we adopted it, that second solar day would have ‘supernatural’ significance. Bet on it.

        Your story was interesting, I’ll give you that, if a bit choppy, and once again, full to the 1200 word level, causing you to make adjustments. I see you didn’t try writing an 800 word story and adding too it, but a 2000 word story and then subtracting. Makes it tough. But, you’re a good writer – you’ll figure it out.

        Roy

        Reply
        • May 28, 2020 at 6:25 am
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          Thanks Roy!

          I wouldn’t call it “magic” – that’s for those writing in the “fantasy genre”, which I never really mastered (which is a pity, since it’s all the rage on the bookshelves, apparently, these days!). I thought of this Dennis boy as having a sixth sense kind of perception. He’s absent in the present, but perceptive of things other people are not aware of. Apparently there are children like that. I’m a bit like that sometimes, too. Or so I wish to think 🙂

          That little story of the boy and the cold peas, I found it really amusing. Yes, that kind of boy too…

          I was a bit luckier with the story length, this time round. My freely-written first draft amounted to “just” 1450-ish words. My usual first shot is at around 1,800. It’s like I can’t escape that predicament. So, this time, I had less to chop off. You nevertheless noticed some choppy bits, where my scalpel marks still showed… Could you please indicate a couple of examples to me? I take note of such advice and learn a lot from it, especially if specific examples are brought up to my attention. Just copy-paste a couple of such “choppy bits” from my story for me, if you have time. Thanks in advance!

          I’ve been eyeing some really mini-flash fiction contests (300 or 500 words max) lately, to try to write something for them. Just as practice, if nothing else. 1,200 is better – gives room for some character and plot development, and even there, rather tightly. As you often say, though, brevity is a skill to be admired, and hard to master. Those baby shoes for sale… I have that immense story imprinted in my head!

          Cheers!
          Ken

          Reply
    • May 23, 2020 at 11:17 pm
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      A lovely, involving tale, Ken. You set it all up beautifully – Dennis’s ‘ailment’, the visit to the doctor, the trip around New York, the poster … All three main characters are very clearly defined, with little or no description: Sam the worried mother, John the long-suffering husband/father, Dennis the mysterious son. The denouement is well seeded from Sam’s Internet search.

      A couple of observations: The newly-born twins are Dennis’s parents? So they’re going to be younger than Dennis? What if the US Army had killed Đắnhs’ little brother and sister, not his parents?

      Sam can be a woman’s name, but here you have to say “Mom Sam” early on for us to know it’s a woman. Could have just given her a uniquely female name?

      Very satisfying read!

      Reply
      • May 24, 2020 at 8:25 am
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        Thanks Phil, I’m pleased you enjoyed it!

        Yes, mom Sam could have had a uniquely female name instead, and I’d have saved a precious word there. Don’t know why, but names often fall from the sky for my characters, it’s like I know what they’re called, sometimes, before I even know who they are… There must be something subconscious in that process. Reflecting on my choice of name, right now while writing this, perhaps I had one Aunt Sam hiding in some corner of my mind, waiting for her go in Vietnam to fix some of the damage inflicted there by Uncle Sam? Just a theory…

        On the newly born twins possibly being the returned spirits of Đắnhs’s long-gone parents, it’s quite funny, true, that the parents are now going to be younger than their son. I threw that in as a provocation to “Western” readers, who typically (myself included) view life rather linearly. Perhaps spirits, in their pure form and in the grander scheme of things, are just spirits, independent of age and time, and pure loving relationships between people could happen independently of the generational (or other) connections between them. But, indeed, having the returning parents replaced by younger siblings instead, as you suggest, would make the story less strange to most audiences, I suppose. The uncertainty about the reincarnation-ibility of charred persons can still remain. And with no returning parents, John and Sam will still have a role in parenting their newly self-discovered son Đắnhs/Dennis.

        Thanks again, also for the thought provoking suggestions.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 9:19 am
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        Thanks Juergen! Yes, an Asian ghost-story of sorts. In this globalised world, even ghosts learned to travel far and wide 🙂

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 6:29 am
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      Hi Ken M,

      A great story and one that kept me interested throughout the reading. Enjoyed the way the venue was changed from one country and culture, to another. This was very well executed.

      Also the point was made that in spite of medical evidence, or rather, the lack of it, a parent knows and who is better placed to know? There is also that conflict between the emotional response of the mother with the more pragmatic approach of the father that you so clearly set out. As a former teacher, I have seen this on quite a few occasions.

      Well done Ken. Great stuff.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 9:36 am
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        Thanks Ken, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

        At first I had them guys watching a Vietnam War movie, which sort of rang a bell with Dennis. Then, another time, the family was eating out at a Vietnamese restaurant and Dennis knew the names of the dishes already. Mom added one and one and understood something… But I soon left the 1,200 word-limit mark behind me and it was going to get too long that way, so I then had them end up at that travel agency straight away. While there, they end up booking the trip to Vietnam. I think it worked out just the same, as you also kindly noted.

        Yes, parents (and teachers, sometimes too, I suppose) may understand better than a doctor that there is something unusual with their kids. I also wanted to bring up the point that not everything can be explained away by science, medicine and reason. Until we know absolutely everything there is to know (which I don’t think we ever will), there’s always room to speculate. I sometimes like to have a go at exploring the possibility of life going on beyond the life we know of, as what seems to have happened in this story.

        I initially worked into the story the conflict between mom Sam and dad John simply to let some mild humour come out of it. The way it turned out seems to have struck a chord with you and other readers who commented, which is not a bad thing 🙂

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 9:18 am
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      Miles, (Ken.)

      Running out of time here so will have to be brief.
      This is a very subtle story about the intersection of two diametrically opposite cultures with a tragic historical past that neither side can brag about. The finest aspect of this story is that all of the principle characters found reasons to set aside their prejudices to arrive at a common understanding that ultimately benefited everyone. There was no room to flesh out the consequences, conveniently. (If my critique sounds like it was written by a depressed zoologist and part-time beekeeper, I apologize. It has nothing to do with the story, which is quite good.) This is another one of your complex plots, and one that blends harsh reality with a light-hearted supernatural twist. (I would say more, and would like to, but I’m scheduled to leave town at noon. Was supposed to leave yesterday.) I haven’t been able to read others comments either. No time. I especially miss yours, Ken.

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 1:18 pm
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        Hi Ken, thanks 😉

        I had that story coming for a while, then it fitted nicely for this prompt. I mean, it was just some crude notes about this boy that got reincarnated in another culture and felt somewhat off, and he had no idea why.

        Who knows, maybe all the odd people around us are not as crazy, autistic or whatever we may label them as we think – maybe they’re just a little out of place in their present lives. Not that I personally believe in reincarnation and such things, but why should we always believe so blindly in unfinished science? In doctors and shrinks that only understand 1% of what there is to understand…?

        I hope you made it to your scheduled out-of-town trip at noon, in spite of taking your time to comment to my story. Since you said you have more to say, don’t hesitate to drop by again and write more, if you have the time! I’ll be looking for you again, just in case…

        I saw your centipede reply to me further up. Still no-one else joined in that conversation. Not even the ones who were themselves implied in your original comment. A pity. But well, perhaps everyone has been busy writing their stories. And now the marathon reads. Also the feather prompt, it just died there. I still had a question lingering in there, but no-one answered…

        And btw, where’s your story? You’ve got one coming, right? Oh that’s why you left town today at noon. Getting *somewhere else*. When a story doesn’t come to you, you gotta go look for it!

        Cya later!
        Ken

        Reply
        • May 27, 2020 at 11:26 pm
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          1009 words. As long as some stories.

          Well gee, Ken Miles I hadn’t seen your response to Roy’s critique on the feather thread. But I agree with you completely. When you say, ‘I’ve come to notice that people don’t talk (and less so think) in sentences, but in outbursts of words. Even educated people.’

          This is true. Short snappy dialogue adds realism to a story too, especially when action is involved. I’m impressed that you know this. (Not surprised—impressed.) Do you always go around blurting out the great secrets of writing whenever you feel like it? In front of everyone? You should charge for that information, especially around here.

          Long-winded explanations for a character’s motives contained within the dialogue is all too common. (Not in this group, of course, but everywhere else on the planet.) It doesn’t work. It’s much easier and more believable to simply pause and explain what everyone is doing and why, if you must, then drop back into dialogue. (Just like the old Disney movies about mischievous racoons. It’s formulaic.)

          Phil does it all the time, masterfully. That’s who I try to emulate when it comes to exposition and how to blend it into a story.

          As for your most recent story, Ken, I wanted to add that the interplay between the parents is wonderfully realistic. I have to admire the depth you have to add such a subtle nuance to their characters. One parent seeks to cure the child at all costs, while the other parent doesn’t really see anything wrong with him. And neither parent is particularly dominant. This is very clever characterization on your part Ken, and if you are not doing this deliberately, then you should, by all means, continue to do this accidentally.

          I share your belief that apparently imperfect people are not necessarily ill, just better at something that as yet remains unclear. Individuals whose talent is yet to be revealed. That’s my bleaf. (You’re welcome.)

          On the other hand, you asked, ‘why should we believe so blindly in unfinished science?’
          Trust me Ken, we don’t. Look around you, trust in science is what we are lacking. (At least, here in the USA.) Oh yes, everyone loves engineering, but that’s not science. That’s engineering.

          I postponed our trip until tomorrow. Therefore I can vote, ponder and pontificate until the cows come home and defecate. (I have permission, from Kim, that is, to postpone our trip.) We’ve lost the element of surprise anyhow, so everyone will have gone underground by the time we arrive. Which is just as well, since we’ll probably be riddled with covids by the time we get there, even if we don’t have them now. (Which we don’t.) So we’ll have to self-isolate our isolated selves in near total isolation for even longer than the trip is supposed to last. How about that? So we’ll be heading home while we’re still self-isolating. (Wait. How can you be leaving town, and self-isolating at the same time?)
          We have a trailer.

          So. No story. (This is one of the first times I’ve skipped a prompt since they changed the spelling of Neandertals. I keep track of things like that.) I can’t believe nobody bit on the centipede tirade. What a crew. Here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking about making this whole writing site a business. With you and Phil being the exceptions, I think everyone else would make a fine group of silent partners. (That should sting a little.) And basically, the way it works is we rent them out. For a fee. This way, we make some money on all that silence they’re producing. (Oh yeah, I forgot about Roy and Ilana, they’ve got to be in on it. Roy’s kind of mouthy and Ilana? Well, let’s just say she’s anything but silent.)

          If we can get those two onboard and conspire-friendly, we could actually make some money. The only question we have to resolve is, do we want to become a church? Make weapons of mass destruction? Or both?

          Now normally Ken, (and by inference I also mean Phil, Roy and Ilana,) I would not discuss my plans so openly on the internet, but I recently learned that Elon Musk just named his kid X @A Xii, and, I’m pretty sure that, even without a worldwide pandemic, that name means, we are officially in the end times, and pretty much anything goes.

          Speaking of Phil. Phil, I finally saw your reply to my congratulatory fusillade, (let’s call it what it was) complete with four-part harmony, 8 by 10 glossy photos, with circles and arrows, etc. And you state, ‘pretty’ unequivocally, that the point of your story was contained within the title: Fear. (Where have I encountered this before?) As you put it yourself; ‘So we can surmise that KC gets off on the fear (see the title of the story)…’

          So, in essence, the key to your story was fear. The Crow King, (whose initials are CK,) was in search of fear? So where does the KC come in? Who’s KC? You haven’t explained anything, you’ve merely made me more irritable than I was before. (You come highly recommended Inspector Town, and yet you’re stepping on the evidence. Would you like a glove or something?)

          Roy, you still awake? Thanks for the corrections on my bird feather story Roy. I made the changes and saved it to the cloud. For posterity. You’re probably not going to believe this, any more than you believe in the moon landing, but it’s pretty flattering to learn that someone is vindictive enough to remember your words of advice for five years, just waiting for the opportunity to throw them back in your face, in front of the entire restaurant. Well played, sir. Well played.

          I’m still flattered though. There’s no getting around that fact, buddy boy. I’m still flattered. (It’s good advice, too. Are you sure it was me? I don’t remember it.)

          Okay that’s it I’m outta here for now.

          Reply
  • May 19, 2020 at 5:04 pm
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    ON ZE BEACH

    Oh, zat feels nice. A bit of sun on meinen feet. Wriggle wriggle. Sand betveen meinen toes. Ahhh. I might even take meine long-johns off in a minute. Haf got to be careful, zough. Too much sun ist nicht gut. I got meinen head all red just gettink across ze sand to zis spot. Zen it vas parasol up, deck-chair unfolded, flop down und … phew! I can feel all ze stress leakink avay.

    Nice und secluded, zis spot. Not too near ze cliff, am I? In case of fallink rocks? Nein, should be all right. Lean back. Soak it all up. Sand betveen meinen toes, ja. Vat else?

    Luffly little breeze, comink off ze sea. Just ze right temperature. Coolink but not too blowy. Mmm. Ze lip-lappink of ze vaves. Vheesh as zey come in, und crickle-crackle as zey go out over zem little stones, zen vheesh again. Ooh, I could listen to zat all day. Hypnotic almost. Sendink me dozink … but I do not vant to go yet. I vant do some more soakink up.

    Kark! Kark! Zem seagulls. I hope zey do not decide to unload somesink ven zey are right abuff me! Ha ha! But vat are zey flyink about for? Zere are not fish up zere in ze sky, after all. Maybe zey are just haffink fun. Maybe zey haf fun flyink, like ze Kinder haf fun runnink und jumpink und skippink all over ze place. ‘Kark’ to you, meine lufflies. But go und glide over zere, if you do not mind, just in case…

    Some nice flowers here on ze cliff, too. How do zey get zere? How do zey grow zere? Zere ist hardly anysink for zem to grab a hold of. Perseverance, I suppose you vould call zat. Und a bit of luck, as vell. But congratulations, little flowers – makink a life from almost nussink. You could teach us all eine lesson.

    Und now zere ist eine bee zat hass found you. Bizzy-buzzy-busy. Dippink seine nose in. What haf you found zere, little vun? A bit of nectar? Zere ist not much in zem tiny flowers, nicht wahr? But little by little, I suppose. Go on zen, avay you go, up ze cliff. Zere vill be better pickinks up zere on ze top, I bet.

    Zis ist ze life. Zis ist so … oh, but vait! Sheisse! People! Just ven I vas gettink all settled. Maybe zey vill valk past und move furzer along ze beach. Let us hope so. Let us hope. Let us … verdammt! Zey are puttink zeir towels down. Bang goes mein bit of seclusion.

    I do not mind people, it ist nicht zat. It ist just … vell, I vanted some time für mich! Und here zey are, laffink und jokink und makink ein noise. Und blimey if zey are not pointink over here und gigglink. Vat? Haf you neffer seen einen man in long johns before?

    Vell, zat takes ze Brötchen, zat does. Haf to put up viz zem. But I suppose I could haf zat snooze now – to escape ze noise. Yes, zat ist vat I vill do. Just drift off. Drift … off. Drif …

    ~~~~~~

    Mmm, zat vas nice. I do luff a good snooze. Now, vat about … oh, zey haf gone! Zat ist eine relief. So, back to meinen musink.

    Vat vas I sayink to mir? Zat’s right: ‘Zis ist ze life’. All zat hustle und bustle back in ze Vaterland. All ze decision-makink. It vears me out, it does really. But here ist ein sought.

    Vat if I gafe it all up? Vat if I gafe it all up und moved here? To ze sun. I mean, ze vinters are so cold up zere … it gets on meine Nerven after a vhile. I vonder vat Eva vould say? Hmmm. Vell, actually, she might velcome it, to be honest. She hass to suffer ven I get angry because of all ze stress, so she must be just as veary und fed up as me.

    It vould be a big move, und I vould haf to square it mit her. Of course, zere vould be lots of generals disappointed mit ze decision, but I am sure sure zey vould find someone to take up ze slack. Und at least zey vould be spared meine rages!

    Anyvay, sinks are nicht goink so vell on ze fronts, und it could be eine gute Idee to … somehow disappear soon. Mysteriouslich.

    Yes. I could get used to zis life. But I vould haf to take better precautions; I sink I haf burned meine feet.

    .

    Reply
    • May 25, 2020 at 10:33 am
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      Hey Phil! You do more than one accent, right? You should be an impersonator! Great story!

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 12:06 am
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        Oui, monsieur, I can … but I’m not sure I’d want to – I’m not sure this works particularly well (as Ken says below – it maybe gets a bit tedious). But thanks for the encouragement!

        Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 6:35 am
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      Hi Phil,

      What a super, entertaining piece of writing. It really comes to life, even more so than on the paper, when read out loud. Really made me laugh then. I don’t know how you did it. Were you modelling this on anyone in particular?????? Let me guess.

      Great fun and a good way to use the prompt.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 12:07 am
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        Thanks as always, Ken, for your kind support. Glad you got something from it.

        Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 11:09 am
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      Hi Filip, erm Phil… erm, isn’t there a condition stories gotta be in English in here? Oh it is English (no, not a thousand-and-one Phil Town spelling mistakes to feast on, either, Ken Cartisano!)…and oh it’s him, Big H, in the end, right? He should’ve moved, really, live the life. Although, from what I gather it was already a bit too late (nicht goink so vell on ze fronts – it had got to that point already!). But, things would have finished a year or two quicker, perhaps.

      If they got him at the Vienna Academy of Arts (if those art guys just turned a blind eye for that one time only, and accept a mediocre but passionate younger painter within their ranks!), perhaps he could have fulfilled his life cravings splashing colours on canvas instead, before any harm was even caused. But they rejected his application…

      I wondered where this piece was going in the first part. I thought it’s some German tourist somewhere in Majorca, one with a keen sense to observe things around him, a lonesome one too, pressing home the feel-good factor of being there. Not much happened there really. But the second part elevates this story to history-altering potential! Was it Eva who said “Nicht! Absolutischt nicht!”, when he proposed to her the big relocation southward? One doesn’t get anywhere with Eva’s. Just ask Adam.

      I was just wondering, did Big H actually speak any English at all? I’ve never thought of that. Hess did, and used it. I once read that Goebels encouraged Germans to fight on for (among other bitter fruits of defeat), if they were to lose the War they’d all have to learn that “unbearably difficult English language” that would be shoved down their throats by the victors across the sea. Well, he wasn’t totally wrong there. Only the French never accepted that new reality.

      Tschüss!
      Ken

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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        Phil – You were very consistent with your creative use of accent in your piece. Not sure why I didn’t have a problem with Ken C.’s story last time which contained lots of complainin’ and talkin’, but I took exception to Ken M.’s use of “Fedel” for the word feather when spoken by a Chinese person. I’m not sure where I stand on your accents in your story. On the one hand, it certainly provides a bit of a caricature of what a German person sounds like (even though none of the native German speakers I know speak English like that), but on the other hand it is funny. I’ll have to ponder that for a bit I suppose. In the meantime, I’ll just say your story made me laugh. Thanks, in these coronavirus times I can use a laugh. Keep smiling, Trish

        Reply
        • May 28, 2020 at 12:14 am
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          Thanks, Trish. You’re right – your German friends apparently (and Jürgen) don’t have the heavy features reproduced here – it’s as you say a caricature of the German accent, for effect. (See the Germans in the British sitcom ‘Alô Alô!’ (which I don’t actually like very much).

          Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 12:09 am
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        Thanks, Ken. Yes – it might have been better to have the beach seduce him away from the path of evil … but it didn’t, sadly. If he spoke English, I’m sure it would have been as bad or worse than here.

        Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 9:21 am
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      Phil?

      I’ll give you my honest opinion. (Are you sitting down?) I was not surprised. I found the German ‘spritchenhimmel’ tedious. I wonder what readers would make of it if you dropped the German altogether? I mean, seriously, halfway through the story I was already asking myself, ‘what is the point of writing this in this way? This tormented German-English.’ And the answer, of course, is because this is a famous, or infamous German figure. And that, of course, was exactly the case.

      I totally liked the concept, not sure about the execution. (It’s possible I’m just a little grumpier than usual. Who knows?) I see that all other comments are positive so you must take into consideration that my criticism is the exception.

      If you wish to take part in the destruction of modern literature in this way, please, be my guest. I won’t stand in your way. (Now honestly, does that really make me sound grumpy?)

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 12:20 am
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        Thanks, Ken (as always) for your honesty. Yes, I can see how it might be a bit tedious … but it’s pretty short, so if you grit your teeth and just go for it (maybe reading aloud, as KenF suggests)…

        Yes, you do seem a bit ‘grumpy’, but that’s ok – we all have our off days/times … I hope it’s nothing serious. Maybe just that darn wiper?

        Come back next time a new man!

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 12:54 pm
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      Phil,

      This story must have been a humdinger to write, with all the meine and meinen, V instead of W, F instead of V, Z instead of Th and so on. Which brings me to my comment. It, for me, was difficult to read, just trying to make sure I captured each word and that it made sense. Once I did, and reread it pronouncing the words in English in my mind, I enjoyed it much more and thought it was a pretty good tale of one of the most infamous men in history. But, I’m in the same camp as my old pal, Ken C., on this one. I did enjoy it though. And, I really have no quibbles with your tale, except what I’ve pointed out and that’s just my opinion.

      It seems a lot of people were experimenting this literary trip, Trish, you, Ken F., and myself a little, although I have tried second person before, this seemed to fit for it, even though the womenfolk couldn’t pick up on getting carried along (which was a calculated risk), but as I said, I think I’ve learned my lesson.

      I’d also like to point out how much I appreciate, and I think others do too, the fact that you almost always read and comment on every story and follow up on comments made by others on your stories. And, you are alvays generous mit your praise and kind mit your critiques, in addition to being correct in what you point out. Just thought I would point that out about you.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 3:43 pm
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        Thanks for that, Roy (and for the ‘aside’ comment about my comments. I actually enjoy critiquing; I don’t always hit the spot, but hopefully it at least prompts some thinking.)

        Actually, I wrote this story in English first, and the person on the beach was … Santa Claus! But then I realised that the idea was very similar to a picture book by Raymond Briggs (I don’t know if you know him – excellent!), so I thought I’d make sure I avoided any suggestion of plagiarism and went for another ‘character’ out of his normal space … found the character and decided that he needed to have an accent … then I got a bit carried away! 🙁 )

        Well done again on your thoroughly-deserved win.

        Reply
  • May 22, 2020 at 8:31 am
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    Reality Bites.
    By Trish (Word Count 213)

    “SHUT UP! I CAN’T THINK!”

    “You look fat in that outfit. You should change.”

    “They all hate you. Everybody hates you.”

    “What’s he doing? I can’t see him, but I think he’s evil.”

    “Now Mrs. Sacarillo, please look at me, you need to take your medicine.”

    “What? What? What medicine?”

    “Why did you wear the red one? You should have worn the black. Black makes you thinner.”

    “The evil one – he’s coming closer. Run away! Run away!”

    “What are they talking about? Are they talking about me?”

    “Where am I? Why am I here? I don’t belong here!”

    “SHUT UP! I CAN’T THINK!”

    “Mrs. Sacarillo, do you remember me? You’ve been here for a while now. You aren’t getting better. Mrs. Sacarillo? I need you to focus.”

    “Who are you? What’s going on?”

    “Mrs. Sacarillo, this will make you feel better. Open your mouth, please…”
    “Yuck! This tastes awful!”

    “Now swallow. That’s right, it should take effect immediately.”

    “Will it make them go away? I can’t stand it!”

    “They’re getting quieter… I can barely hear them now.”

    “OK, I think they’re gone – now may I leave?”

    “What do you mean I have to stay until you are sure they’re gone. I’m telling you, they’re gone!”

    “Nurse!”

    Reply
    • May 23, 2020 at 11:24 pm
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      This is a great experiment, Trish. At first it was tricky to figure out who was speaking, then I realised … I’m not supposed to know precisely. The chaos of the dialogue is a reflection of the chaos in Mrs. Sacarillo’s mind – the voices. Very disorienting. Very neat.

      Reply
      • May 25, 2020 at 11:36 am
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        Oh shoot! I was hoping I made crazy seem clear. I was trying to write the story from inside the head of a crazy person. So all the reader sees is what the crazy person hears. Sounds like Phil picked it up, but it wasn’t clear enough for you. Oh well, experiments don’t always work…

        Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 6:54 am
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      Hi Trish,

      As mentioned by the others, a curious piece. I have had the luxury of reading the other comments and your responses, so I now know what your intention was. I think it worked partially but would like to make a suggestion.

      Several of the lines of writing ( I was going to say dialogue but I’m not sure that it is intended to be dialogue) are unclear to me.

      I think that if every line was spoken by Mrs. Sacarillo and it was clear that only she is speaking, then it would be more powerful. I am referring to the 5th line “Now Mrs. Sacarillo……,” the 12th line “Mrs Sacarillo, do you remember me….” then the 14th. “Mrs Sacarillo, this will make you feel better…” and 16th. “Now swallow….” You could leave these lines out or rewrite then so that it is clear that they are spoken by Mrs. Sacarillo.

      If this was just this woman speaking, a sort of stream of consciousness outpouring, then I think it would really work. It’s close to working and I applaud your intention.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 7:48 am
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        Thanks Ken for the close read and suggestions. I’ll have to chew on your words a bit more, but my first reaction was that the lines you suggest I remove were important in my mind bc they were supposed to be the doctor trying to give Mrs. Sacarillo medicine to knock her out of her crazy. I had hoped the doctor’s words would signal that she was in a medical situation… based on your comment I’d say my experiment was a fail with you… oh well- was fun to try… I really wanted to incorporate more conflict into Mrs. S’s thoughts, but I deleted that portion bc it got too confusing I thought. Champagne dreams with beer skills apparently. Thanks again for the good advice.

        Reply
        • May 27, 2020 at 9:42 am
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          I got it, more or less, Trish. I also, at first, tried to figure out who’s Person A and who’s Person B, with little success (as you intended, also more or less!). Reading the comments elucidated me further. Though a story should stand on its own too feet, I suppose.

          Perhaps you can still incorporate all the info, and at the same time follow Ken F.’s useful advice, in the following manner:

          “You’re right – Mrs Sacarillo should most definitely take her medicines! What medicines? Where’s Mrs Sacarillo now?”

          “Just what do you mean I’m Mrs Sacarillo?”

          “No way I’m Mrs Sacarillo! Now, what’s my name? I’m Mrs Sacarillo, dumbo! I told you so!”

          I’m not suggesting to you the wording as much (that’s up to you), but just the method of how you can eliminate the voice addressing Mrs Sacarillo directly and replace it by Mrs Sacarillo’s own mental response on the receiving end, thus not losing the critical info you wanted to convey about medicines, etc.

          I’m not sure if this keeps the story where you wanted it to be. Or if it took it somewhere else. I feel a little bit crazy right now. So there you are, something worked!

          Ken (yes that’s it) (not Mrs Sacarillo) (I told you so)

          Reply
          • May 27, 2020 at 11:39 am
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            Oh thank you Ken M! I hadn’t thought of it that way. Once you spelled it out I got it and agree that would have been much more clear. This is why I truly enjoy this site- even when I come in last In the contest I still get terrific feedback! Thanks all for the close reads and solid advice! Keep smiling, Trish

    • May 27, 2020 at 9:24 am
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      Trish,

      So that’s what it’s like to be crazy. I’m glad you kept it short. That made it more effective and in a sense was the clincher. I thought it was clear that the narrator was speaking and was obviously crazy. The title was a clue as well.

      I’ve noticed how sometimes what one writer, and other readers think is obvious, sometimes other people don’t seem to get at all. It happens. I got it. Since I’ve read several of your stories before, and your comments, I was equipped with the knowledge that you’re an excellent writer, and the images you invoke are vivid and absolutely intentional. So, that tipped me off that you wrote exactly what it sounded like, a psychotic person talking to themself while being medicated.

      (That does raise the question of how you know what it’s like to be this kind of crazy?) Actually, it doesn’t. You’re a writer.

      That’s another thing I’ve noticed, if you write about a murder, no one assumes you’ve murdered people, but if you write about surviving a mudslide, everyone wants to know, ‘did this really happen to you at one time? It sounds so realistic, as if you were really there.’ (Thank you.)

      People can be funny. (Just make sure you don’t forget to laugh.)

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 9:52 am
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        “if you write about a murder, no one assumes you’ve murdered people, but if you write about surviving a mudslide, everyone wants to know, ‘did this really happen to you at one time?”

        So that’s why everyone keeps asking whether I ever had sex on a moving train. And nobody, if I ever punched an ungrateful reader and nearly killed him (which may be more important to know).

        Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 2:08 pm
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        Hilarious Ken. But you are so right – on a few of my better written stories I’ve gotten comments asking if what I wrote was true. As you said, I’ll take that as a compliment, but, um, really? It’s a fiction site for gawd’s sake!

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 1:30 pm
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      Trish, It took me awhile, but I think I figured it out. At first I thought it was multiple personalities, but, I think it’s just the one person with a couple of comments from a doctor. And, you just copied down what everyone (mostly Mrs. Sacarillo) was saying. Others, I see, think it’s just her talking out loud, but at any rate, I liked it for what it was. Short and sweet. I got no quibbles with the grammar and punctuation, although I would have liked a couple of qualifiers as to who’s speaking, but then, if that wasn’t your intention, I’m totally off base with that request. It’s your story.

      Own it. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Not everyone is going to be in love with what everyone else writes. For years my two daughters have read ‘bodice rippers’ by the library full, including forking over some hard earned money. Enough probably, to buy a small sports car. I, personally, can’t see what theysee, because, in my humble opinion, if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all, just with name, location and time changes. There are some very rich authors out there writing stuff I wouldn’t read if I were locked on a doctor’s office for life and that’s all that was on the shelves. Well, if that’s all there was, maybe I’d try one or two to see if they’ve gotten any better.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 1:46 pm
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        Thanks Roy for reading & commenting. I tried to imagine a crazy person who heard voices- and the crazy person was unable to tell where the voices came from. And was also unable to distinguish between real voices- the Dr- and the voices in head. Hence no attributions. But the voices on this site are letting me know it was confusing. Oh well- it was a fun experiment for me- I learned a lot!

        Reply
  • May 23, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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    Worth It For You
    (Peter Holmes – 1196 words)

    The world is ending, and I don’t give a single shit because I know you’re out there somewhere, and that alone keeps me going. So even as our world is turned upside down, with meteors falling as fast as the bodies, I want you to know that I am coming for you.
    Smoke taunted him as he marched through the forest, trying to blindly place his foot on the ground below. This was a place he’d never explored before. Ironically, he always prided himself as an ‘outdoorsy’ man, but he’d never visited the huge forest ten miles from his home. Over the last few days, Ray had grown to regret choosing the forest path. His rash decisions had led him to ignore the glaringly obvious dangers. Meteors in a forest? Instant forest fire, he should’ve known, but he’d recklessly let his emotions get in the way. When the first meteor attacked, making a brutal crash landing through the Washington Monument, the world sank into full panic mode. Most had hidden themselves away, vowing never to leave their homes, whether it be out of fear, safety, or for love. Ray and Kate had also opted for this, foolishly believing they could avoid reality. Once it became clear they needed to stock up on food and such other necessities, they agreed to venture outside. After all, the news said the meteors weren’t constantly wreaking havoc, with scientists even theorising a routine the meteor storm, as if it was a normal weather report.
    A stroke of bad luck split them up. They drove home from the store together, with Ray nervously behind the wheel. He went as fast as their compact car allowed, reluctantly welcoming the risk of burning up their brakes. A meteor came into view above them. Only a small one, but easily big enough to kill the both of them if it landed on them (the shockwave of landing alone could rupture a few organs). Kate had been the first of the two to notice it, as Ray was sweating with fear, too focused on the road ahead. She smacked his leg, causing him to swerve the car off to the side, unfortunately unaware of the ditch running alongside the dirt road. They were both knocked (smashed) unconscious.
    Awaking with a sluggish stare at his leg, he noticed his jeans had been discoloured by the blood. Although the cut had clotted over, he still struggled to move his leg. His first mistake was noticing the blood, instead of the absence of his wife. Once his senses had been restored, he slowly turned his neck to the side, and immediately screamed her name.
    “KATE!” No reply. “KATE!” He screamed again, this time emphasising the ‘a’ in her name as if it would make a difference. The wind cruised past him, whistling as it passed, although Ray could’ve sworn it was laughing at him. Drawing blanks as to what to do next, he sat down, proceeding to cry for five minutes. Instead of sobbing over and over again like they do in the movies, Ray ran out of tears. He’d ripped through so much raw emotion in these five minutes, no more tears could manifest. Ray began to walk home, hoping she’d already regained consciousness, and had decided to find haven at their home.
    He searched the entire neighbourhood, all while crying her name, but she never appeared. His neighbours (who had an impressive record of not leaving their house in three weeks) suggested the government funded bunker that was built about thirty miles north of their town. The bunkers, 10km underground and placed in various strategical points across the country, were part of a project designed to protect civilians by providing a supposedly invincible sanctuary. Ray decided looking for her there was a good idea, but it’s not like he had much choice, as the other option was to declare her dead.
    And she couldn’t be dead.
    She just couldn’t.
    Which brings us to the start of our story – with Ray finding his way through the blazing forest, 1 mile away from the bunker. He had done well to come this far, only sleeping every 48 hours. The hope, the faith, the belief that his wife was still alive – it kept him going. The idea sat in his mind, originally bouncing around like a ball. It was more deflated now.
    As he approached the bunker in the far distance, he heard a voice shouting. Kate? No. It was deep. Gravelly. Masculine. “Come here!” it repeated. A silhouette became a body as the man ran through the smoke towards Ray. Once within reaching distance, the man positioned himself alongside Ray, like Ray was a wounded soldier in need of someone to lean on. He introduced himself as Winston, another man in pursuit of the bunker. Ray tried to thank him but choked on the lack of saliva. Understanding the silence from Ray, Winston began to explain how he too was in search of a woman. Ray nodded his head, attempting humble murmurs as Winston told his story. Someone he “hadn’t seen in a few weeks”, he said. “A freak in the sheets”, he said. Ray could tell his new pal was a man of class… But truthfully, Ray appreciated the company, even if it was only until they reached the bunker ahead. He stumbled along, occasionally fully resting his head on Winston’s arm, placing trust in him to get them to their destination.
    As they approached the bunker entrance, they were welcomed by two soldiers. It seemed odd that they’d been assigned to defend a bunker, when the only threat to civilian safety was meteors. Ray couldn’t complain, they somehow brought a warm feeling that everything was going to be okay. Winston carried Ray down into the bunker with him, where they were once again welcomed by two soldiers. And an extremely crowded room of severely stressed people. Winston eagerly left to find his woman. Ray figured he should let himself hydrate and revitalise before he tried to search for his wife. He’d seen the movies, he knew that a classic mix-up in which he kissed another woman would occur.
    However, this seemed unnecessary, as Ray saw Kate standing at the front of the crowd, conversing with what seemed to be a family. He began to place one foot in front of the other, very slowly, until he witnessed his wife leaning in to kiss another man.
    Winston.
    “Oh my god. You never cared about me. I have been searching-”
    “Ray, Ray I can explain.”
    “How dare you interrupt me. I endured complete shit for you.”
    “Ray-”
    “I COULD’VE DIED KATE.”
    Kate didn’t have any more to say. She felt bad, but she felt even worse when she realised that she didn’t regret anything.
    “But you don’t care about that, do you? Well I’ll fix your problem for you, as always.”
    Ray walked away, refusing to look back at his wife. He walked past the soldiers. Then he walked past the other soldiers. Then he walked back out into the forest.
    And then he ran. He kept running north. He didn’t stop until he found the next bunker.

    Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 7:09 am
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      Hi Peter,

      As others have mentioned, a most intriguing story that seems to hit a note of tension that is a bit too close to home, in these strange days.

      I have just the one niggling concern. After the car crash, when Ray woke up, why had his wife left? Surely she didn’t think he was dead, did she? I raise this as the whole story, thereafter rests upon his quest for her.

      A really good read, Peter.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 2:53 pm
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        I agree, we are reaching a point in Earth’s timeline (which has been reached before by various other events) where stories seem to mirror the madness of reality.

        And yes, I imagined she left because she thought he was dead (and she obviously didn’t put too much effort into the marriage).

        I should’ve mentioned that, my mistake (I think it was because I was focusing on Ray’s thoughts, and he would have never imagined his wife to leave him like that, because he loves her more than she loves him).

        Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 9:52 am
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      Holmes,

      I thought the ending did not live up to the build-up. You ‘con-twined’ an apocalyptic end-times scenario with a jilted lover ‘first-responder’ plot line, which is fine. But I would be tempted to name this story, ‘Escape To A Different Bunker.’

      Skewed though my thinking may be, I was more intrigued by the notion that earth was having periodic meteoric impacts and the mention that the weather report was now REALLY about meteorology. I thought the story should have focused on or revolved around that fantastic concept, and perhaps how the main character gauged his escape to the shelter by ‘reading’ the ‘weather report’ correctly. I don’t know. It seems like you came up with a great idea for a story, but didn’t build on the idea and went with the jilted lover angle instead. I was disappointed.

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 1:39 pm
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        I’m surprised that it took someone this long to comment on the odd mix of the scenario and the plot, but I suspect you were just the first person to say it out loud (or virtually out loud, rather).

        I’ve never been great at titles – if I’m being honest, a good idea usually reaches my mind a month after I’ve written the story (I like your title).

        A very fair idea about my plot, even I wasn’t super proud of it. Unfortunately, before I could make adjustments, something a bit upsetting happened that forced me to slip away from writing (which isn’t an excuse, merely a reason for why I was cooped up in my room instead of on the computer). Your honesty is much appreciated Ken.

        Reply
        • May 27, 2020 at 11:45 pm
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          You’ve been here before Peter and I’m familiar with your name. It associates with good stories and competent writing. I wish all of my stories were great too. I couldn’t even come up with one solid idea worth more than 300 words, so you’ve exceeded my achievement this week just by writing and posting a story. But I do feel like you could revisit this story and change the plot. Play with it. Put it on the back burner and let it simmer, then see what you get.
          Okay I’m really outta here now.

          Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 2:27 pm
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      Peter, you start in 1st person, then switch to 3rd person in the second paragraph. And, in the first paragraph you are signaling you are going to kick the living shit out of someone. Then, we learn the guy who you buddied up with is bopping your wife (with a great line ‘A freak in the sheets) at least that’s the way I read it, but in the final paragraph Ray’s not kicking the living anything out of anyone because he ran away from not only his wife, but the guy who was cuckolding him. I don’t understand.

      Once again, and I think we discussed something similar to this before, there was a bit of author intrusion on your part as if you think you need to inform your readers where we are in the story with this line – Which brings us to the start of our story.

      Don’t you have any faith that we readers will pick up pretty much where you want us to be without sending a telegram. DEAR READER: WE ARE GOING BACK TO THE START OF THE STORY. STOP. MORE TO FOLLOW. STOP. TRY TO KEEP UP.

      In trying to help you along with your writing, as is the intent of this site, because I do think there’s some definite talent lurking around in the Holmes Brain Storage Locker, you need to pay a bit more attention to paragraph breaks, separation spaces between paragraphs and all dialogue is always separated from the other paragraphs unless pertinent, and that isn’t always the case in your story. Go look, I’ll wait.

      Finally, Ray’s dialogue with his wife left me laughing. Not sure any man would say what Ray said:

      “Oh my god. You never cared about me. I have been searching-”
      “Ray, Ray I can explain.”
      “How dare you interrupt me. I endured complete shit for you.”
      “Ray-”
      “I COULD’VE DIED KATE.”

      Really? How dare you interrupt me? Should be more like “Shut the fuck up.” Then – “I endured complete shit for you.

      “I’ve always wondered why, when a wife (or husband for that matter) when caught with their pants down, say stuff like “I can explain.” I have to believe it’s said a lot, because so many writers use the line. Just once I’d like the wife or husband say something along the lines of, “Really? You can explain? Well, then, I’ve got time. This I’ve gotta hear.”

      When my wife and I were going together, she said, “What would you do if you came home and found me in bed with another man?” I said, “Probably kill you.” “Me?” she said. “Why not him?” and I said, “Because I don’t want to have to kill a different guy each week.” I found out later her motivation was her best friend was spending a lot of time in other beds than her husband’s and she wanted my reaction. And, maybe used my own words as thinking material in case I was thinking about her best friend’s habits and what that would be like. Her best friend was a total knockout, by the way.

      And, Peter, I do truly think you have talent. Work on your stories a bit more and clean them up a bit. Say dialogue out loud. In fact, read the story out loud as if you were reading it to someone else. I’m willing to bet, you will stop mid sentence or mid paragraph and rewrite things on the spot. Try it, it’s an old trick. The other little bit is to read each paragraph’s last sentence and read each other sentence backwards; first starting with the end of the story to not get caught up in knowing what you wanted to write, and missing mistakes and typos because your mind will read what you wanted to write, not necessarily what you actually wrote.

      For example: He didn’t stop until he found the next bunker. He kept running north. And then he ran. Then he walked back out into the forest. Then he walked past the other soldiers. He walked past the soldiers. Ray walked away, refusing to look back at his wife.

      Do you understand? I’m not sure I made it clear. You’ll read each sentence one at a time backwards and it truly helps. You also have a lot of ‘then’ use in the last paragraph. Too many, I think.

      As always, find my critiques are to be taken as constructive, but feel free to discard any advice given, and if you do like some, well, that’s just great.

      Roy

      Reply
  • May 23, 2020 at 11:38 pm
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    An intriguing story, Peter. The meteor storms are a very effective threat and give the story a good sci-fi feel. Then Ray’s quest to find his wife – classically heroic. Then the ‘mundane’ reality of a lover – the reveal of this is very neat.

    I’m not sure why he ends up running to the next bunker (maybe it’s staring me in the face).

    I think there could be a separator after “I am coming for you.”, and then another after “She just couldn’t.” (losing “Which brings us to the start of our story”, imho).

    A good read.

    Reply
    • May 24, 2020 at 10:07 am
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      I love sci-fi stories, and I haven’t written anything in the same genre for a while, so I guess I wanted to bring it back a bit. I had him run to the bunker in a sort of “I never want to see you again” style – after being cheated on, I felt it would be appropriate for him to risk his life again just to find another bunker where he didn’t have to be in the same room as the woman who just broke his heart. I’m not fully sure on what you mean about the separator, can you elaborate?

      Reply
      • May 24, 2020 at 11:55 am
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        Got it, re the bunker.

        Separators (when there are abrupt and significant changes in time (or place)):

        “I am coming for you.

        *****

        Smoke taunted him as he marched through the forest,”

        (and)

        “She just couldn’t.

        *****

        (Which brings us to the start of our story – with) Ray [was making] his way through the blazing forest, 1 mile away from the bunker.”

        (Just a suggestion.)

        Reply
        • May 25, 2020 at 12:02 pm
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          Ohhh, I understand what you mean. I’ve never used them before (I usually go for a straightforward chronological story) so they completely slipped my mind. But that’s a really good idea, I’ll make an edit to the Word document (obviously I’ll just leave my entry as is).

          Reply
          • May 26, 2020 at 5:36 pm
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            Peter- your story zipped me along for a good ride. I too was a little puzzled at first as to why the wife left the scene of the accident, but once she started kissing Winston it all made sense to me. I thought you set an inventive scene and created some interesting conflict that was interestingly resolved. Well done!

          • May 27, 2020 at 1:41 pm
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            Thanks Trish, glad you liked it 🙂

  • May 25, 2020 at 10:05 am
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    Whatsapp messages from Paris.

    *
    Hello Michael! Greetings from Paris! What a wonderful city! The flight was good, no turbulence, edible food. The transfer worked out well, too. Here we are in the Hotel “Avenue”. Our room is small and there’s a wall outside the window. On the roof a cat is sitting and making strange sounds. On our first evening we went for a walk and found a nice little restaurant. It’s called “Chez Szczepan”. We don’t speak the language, but the chef himself recommended a very tasty dish. We don’t know what we ate, but it was delicious! Tomorrow we’ll visit the Eiffel Tower. Julia is already very excited. She wants us to go to the top, but she’s afraid that the tower might be swaying and she’ll get seasick!

    *
    Greetings from your globetrotters! Paris is such a great sight! The wide boulevards, the cosy cafés, the many, many people. It seems to be always rush hour! Over here people have a completely different attitude to life than back home. It’s a cosmopolitan city! High glass towers right next to small cafés on cobblestone streets. Julia has bought new shoes, the latest Paris fashion! She spent a fortune. We’ve been down to the river too, but we didn’t find any bookstores in boxes there. What was even stranger: we couldn’t find the Eiffel Tower. Maybe we looked for it in the wrong part of town. On the other hand, the tower is quite high, it should be visible. Julia thinks maybe they had to take it down because it’s rusted. In the evening we sat in that little restaurant again. We had dumplings; they were very tasty.

    *
    Today we went to one of the beautiful parks and had a picnic. We bought bread, cheese and red wine, and a plaid tea towel which we put on the grass. We drank the wine from the bottle. The guidebook says having a “pique nique” is an old French tradition. It was beautiful in that park. We sat in the shade of a tree and watched the children playing in the sun. We felt like we were in this one painting where they were having breakfast on thelawn. But Julia didn’t want to sit naked in the park, although I would have liked to talk her into it. Only when it got dark did we remember that we’d forgotten to look for the Eiffel Tower. For dinner we went back to our favourite restaurant and were greeted joyfully by the host. We ate very well. We think it was some kind of stew made with beetroot. When we asked the chef about the Eiffel Tower, he didn’t understand. Julia thought the locals might be embarrassed, if they’d had to dismantle the tower because of rust.

    *
    Today we found this church on the hill, which is said to be so famous. In reality it looked quite different from the photos. But it was a very beautiful church. After we visited it, we stood in front and looked across the city. Many, many buildings, but no Eiffel Tower. On the other hand, there were a lot of skyscrapers in the cityscape, so maybe the tower is somehow hidden. In the evening we were back in our restaurant. We had a dish that seemed to consist mainly of white cabbage and sauerkraut. A very extraordinary taste! Julia took our guidebook with her and showed the host a picture of the Eiffel Tower. The man took a good look at the guide, then he laughed and shook his head. He put the book back on the table and walked away to laugh even more. We thought that was a bit rude. Obviously, the inhabitants are not embarrassed about the absent tower.

    *
    Our last day. We asked several people on the street about the Eiffel Tower. Nobody could help us. But a young man took us by the hand and led us to a building that looked very strange. It stood there all alone on a large square. It looked a bit like the Empire State Building in New York, but maybe a little smaller and wider. Julia thinks that it reminded her of Russian architecture. Yes, Paris is a very international city. In front of the building there were some buses and lots of tourists. There was a long queue in front of the entrance; everybody wanted to visit the building. So we also visited it. It seemed to be one of the lesser known sights, because we didn’t find it in our travel guide. In the evening we went back to our little restaurant. The chef was in a very good mood and made us “Coq au Vin”, the French national dish. We found it in the travel guide. It tasted wonderful.

    *
    Today we headed home. The bus picked us up on time from the hotel and brought us to the airport. There we experienced the surprise of our lives. A big sign said “Welcome to Warszawa”. It turned out that we were not in Paris at all, but in the Polish capital Warsaw. At first we were quite disappointed. Julia had been looking forward to Paris so much. But we had a good time in Warsaw; the people were very friendly and the city is a real metropolis. The best thing was our little restaurant. We now understand why the chef had to laugh so much when we showed him the photo of the Eiffel Tower. Oh yes, we missed that tower. Next year we want to go see the “real” Paris. Let’s find out if we like it as much as we liked Warsaw!

    Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 7:15 am
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      Hi Berlinermax,

      A typically oddball story from you! As entertaining and thought-provoking as ever. Like, how could this have happened? How could anyone be that stupid as to not know where they were? How could the Eiffel Tower has rusted away and been dismantled? Etc.

      You have such a unique talent for the absurd BMax. I love it.

      Nicely written and good descriptions too.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 10:05 am
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        Thanks for your comments, Ken Frape! It’s satire of course. But if you look at cruise passengers: Do they really know if they are in Athens, Istanbul or Cairo? Can they tell Osaka from Seoul? Just asking.

        Reply
        • May 26, 2020 at 5:39 pm
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          Hi BerlinerMax – enjoyed your story. Funny, I am studying French for fun nowadays and thought that you’d chosen an odd name at first when I read the name of the café Chez Szczepan. Didn’t sound at all French to me! Then as the wife continued to think odd thoughts about the Eiffel Tower I started to wonder if your story was set in some odd future world. So I was quite amused by your ending. Very prosaic, yet fun. Made for quite a quirky and enjoyable read.

          Reply
        • May 28, 2020 at 7:01 am
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          Loved the story, Jurgen.
          Perfectly formed for a microstory, with the mystery gradually emerging. Is it an alternative Paris? If not, where? Then rounded off with the reveal that made me chuckle.

          A couple of years ago, I stayed on the beautiful Greek island of Santorini, and the owners of the small cliffside hotel warned us not to go into town on a Tuesday or Thursday, because that’s when the cruise ships come in. More than a thousand passengers disgorge into a small island town for a few hours, then onwards to the next island. I met someone months later who went on such a cruise, and didn’t like Santorini – too tacky and touristy, apparently. I wondered if on such a cruise they can actually tell one island from another.

          Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 9:53 am
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      Jurgen—You crack me up.

      Wonderful story, beautifully told, perfect ending.

      Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 11:23 pm
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      Trademark Jürgen! The main part of the text is so (intentionally) mundane that the strange absence of the Tower gains extra weight, and we cast around as we read, trying to come up with a rationale. And like Trish, I was thinking that it might be some kind of alternative reality. But then we get the reveal and it’s so simple yet so well hidden … you just have to smile.

      I think this is maybe supefrluous – it’s you just making sure that the reader has got it: “It turned out that we were not in Paris at all, but in the Polish capital Warsaw.” But I think the “Welcome to Warszawa” sign alone did the job just as well, and more subtly.

      Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 9:55 am
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      Hi Juergen!

      Don’t bet on it being merely a satire. I was once on an organised tour (very, too organised!) of some place in Japan. We were given all the detailed history of this beautiful old city we stopped by. There was nothing we didn’t know about it. Until someone had to put up the finger and ask the guide what the city we were in was called. Because we hadn’t been told that yet…

      Your story also reminded me of an Italian comedy in which these pilots were supposed to fly into Frankfurt am Main, but instead ended up in Casablanca. Took them some time to realise. But the comparison stops there. The rest of the film is as silly as it gets.

      I almost right from the start realised that we were in Poland. The spelling of Chez Szczepan had to be Polish. But then, maybe a Polish restaurant in Paris. No Eifel Tower? I thought that it’s going to be a more classic BerlinerMax tale of really, but really weird things happening. It wasn’t that weird, in the end. Given the title of the prompt “Somewhere Else”, I added one and one rather early in the piece, but still enjoyed the funny ride till the end. I’d have dropped the last entry. I think every reader would have figured out what happened by then. I’d just keep the very last line out of that last entry, and finish off with it:

      “Next year we want to go see the “real” Paris. Let’s find out if we like it as much as we liked Warsaw!”

      Cheers!
      Ken

      PS. You’re a Berliner living in Hamburg, right? I lived in Germany for some time, and there was a place called Homburg not too far from us, in the Saarland. Some newcomers used to think it’s “the famous Hamburg” and one would hear “So there’s a direct train to Hamburg from here?” kinda things… Yes, in real life!

      Reply
      • June 2, 2020 at 7:05 am
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        Thanks for your comment. Yes, I live in Hamburg not in Homburg. And mixing up Warsaw with Paris might be hard to believe. But Tourists not knowing where they are … I wonder how many people know that Gran Canaria is not so close to Mallorca, that in fact it’s a part of Africa. 🙂

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 2:36 pm
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      Max – you always come out of the blue with your stories. I look forward for the ride when I see you’ve posted one. This one is no exception, although at first I had a bit of trouble believing people would walk around Poland thinking it’s France, but I put that aside. Once I did, I was fine.

      My problem originally, was with the smoothness and nasal qualities of the French language and the coarseness and rougher sounds of the Polish language. No matter the mix up on landing or in booking, I would think they would have picked up on the harsh differences between the two languages and thought something was up with their first conversation. But, then I’ve learned, there are people in this world who are truly stupid and do stupid things, such as drinking disinfectant thinking it’s going to cure Corona virus, so I guess that idiot and his wife would wander around Poland with his wife thinking they were in France.

      No quibbles with the writing, grammar or punctuation to pick on.

      Roy

      Reply
  • May 25, 2020 at 7:24 pm
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    Sweet as Wine
    by Roy York
    1179 words

    The room is dimly lit and you turn your head to get your bearings. You have suddenly become aware, but with no concept of time. Is it day or night? Your back is stiff from lying in a prolonged position, but you can’t muster the strength to move your shoulders and hips to get more comfortable.

    You aren’t at home, that’s for sure. The walls are hospital green, that otherwise indescribable color between army khaki and faded lime. It’s night you discover, as you look through a window that is closed, industrial lace curtains hang limply on either side. Not something pretty like your Aunt Grace used to make – more like leftover gauze from a hospital storeroom.

    Aunt Grace; what made you think of her? The lace curtains? She’s been dead since 1960. You remember her death like it was yesterday.. Her loss was devastating. Is that important? Your mind is swirling.

    There’s a sound to your left and you swing your head toward it. The door is partially open and the sound has stopped. Probably just air conditioning currents causing unequal pressure forcing the door open. Why did you think that?

    Your mind tries to unravel just exactly where you are. There’s clearly nothing wrong with your thought process, or is there? Your name for example. What is it? Why are you in a bed unable to move anything but your head. Are you in a hospital? A nursing home?

    You glance over at your right arm; the arm of an old man, and attempt to raise it. Good, you can. Now, you shift your shoulders slightly. Ahh … that’s much better. You seem to be gathering some strength. Your left arm. You try raising it. Not yet. What did they say? A stroke?

    Suddenly the door opens and a woman with short grey hair walks in. “Hi,” she says.

    You nod. “Hi,” you say, but nothing comes out but a small cough. You try again. “Hi,” and you raise your hand in recognition. You hear the word escape your lips and you sigh softly, out of breath.

    “I’m Sherry.” she says. “Like the wine.”

    You instantly think of an old line you used to say whenever you met a girl named Sherry. “Are you sweet or dry?” you ask. She smiles.

    “I’d like to think I’m sweet. All the boys used to tell me that. ‘Sherry,’ they would say, ‘You are the sweetest thing ever,’ or was that my daddy?” A frown crosses her face as she ponders her own question.

    “Do you mind if I sit down?” she asks, and then does so, right next to your bed, before you can answer.

    “Why don’t you sit down?” you say.

    “I did, thanks. What’s your name? Mine’s Sherry, like the wine.”

    “I know,” you say. “And I bet the boys would tell you that you were the sweetest thing ever.”

    “Not all of them. But one of them did; Russell was his name.”

    You had been looking at her and you suddenly snap your head back toward the ceiling. Russell … that’s your name.

    “We were quite the thing, me and Russell. It was a long time ago. He was in the military. I took a train once to see him when he was stationed in Florida. He was on one of those big airplane ships.”

    “A carrier,” you say. You don’t know how you know it, but you do..

    “Yes, that’s it, a carrier. I never got to see it. Russell met me at the train station and we spent the whole weekend at a tiny motel except for when we were on the beach getting the most glorious sunburns. A little old sunburn didn’t stop us from spending most of our time making love.”

    You glance over at Sherry. “Are you sure that’s something you want to share?”you ask. Meanwhile, your mind is racing a mile a minute. Flashbacks of sunburned memories and a cheap motel with a beautiful, dark haired woman. Moments of ecstasy, her soft lips on yours and her wild abandon.

    A midnight ocean swim naked as jaybirds and hiding behind a sand dune when a patrol car swung by. You could have been court-martialed had you been arrested. You remember her giggling the entire time almost giving your presence away. Her name wasn’t Sherry though. Wait … was it?

    There are noises coming down the hallway; you hear voices. Sherry stands and says, “I need to use the bathroom. You don’t mind, do you?”

    You nod your head in the direction of the bathroom door. “A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”

    “Russell used to say that.” She glides into the bathroom leaving the door slightly ajar.

    The door to the room opens and a man in a short sleeved white shirt sticks his head around the door. “Everything OK in here? Thought I heard you talking to someone. You know you’re not allowed to have visitors these days.”

    “Nobody here but me and the chick I got stashed in the bathroom,” you say. Your voice is weak. The words are hard to form. “Take a look it you want.”

    “Cut it out, Russ, or I might have to check it out for real.”

    “Whatever.”

    The door closes behind him and Sherry walks out of the bathroom. She sits back down. “You’re kinda cute,” she says. What did you say your name was?”

    “I didn’t,” you answer.

    “I wrote and told Russell he was going to be a father, but I didn’t get any letters back. I was sure he loved me. You can’t call people on boats, you know. Then, I found out my mom was keeping the letters from me. That sure changed things – boy, and how.”

    “How did you get in my room?” you ask.

    “Through the door, silly. You watched me walk in. I should probably be going,” she says. “You look tired.”

    You’re too tired to argue and weakly wave goodbye.

    She walks to the door. “My name is Sherry,” she says. “In case you want to know.”

    “Like the wine,” you say.

    She nods. “Like the wine,” and walks out the door.

    You try to sit up in bed and find you can’t. You need to go to the bathroom. Then, you know it’s too late. So you lay there knowing there’s nothing you can do about it except enjoy the relief it brings. The door opens and the guy from before sticks his head back in. “You OK?” he asks.

    How did he miss Sherry walking out of the room? You nod your head, your breathing coming in slow gasps.

    The man waves back. “Maybe tomorrow we’ll have your wife call you from her room. We’ll set it up on Apple TV for you.”

    You nod again as the man leaves. The bed is wet and cold. You realize, too late, you should have had the guy change your bed. You wish you were someplace else. Maybe at the motel with that girl, the one sweeter than wine.

    Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 7:28 am
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      Hi Roy,

      This is a most poignant and beautiful piece of writing. So well written, it brought tears to my eyes as it put me in mind of my parents, my father’s dementia and my mother’s undying devotion over 70 years of marriage. It evokes such emotions as we remember that our parents, old people now, or just a collection of memories, also used to swim naked and make love until dawn and laugh in the face of discovery.

      I find it hard to believe that any of the other stories in this round will be able to top this. In fact, I hope they don’t.

      Beautiful writing, Roy.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 1:48 pm
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        Ken, I was originally coming on to read all the stories getting ready for tomorrow’s vote. I like to make notes as I read them so I can compare. And, I don’t like to read them until I’ve posted mine to avoid preconceived ideas or stories that affect my writing.

        Most of the time the stories are so good it’s hard to pick single out stories that lead the pack. Yours lately have been an exception. (For leading the pack, while mine have been dragging in the middle or like last week, almost on the bottom.) Then, I read your critique regarding my story and have to say you’ve made my day. I might even print it out and post it above my computer to remind me there is a spark of talent in these fingers.

        Thank you for your generous praise, and I’m glad I reached your emotional switch. I love it when that happens to me – tears, laughing out loud, even sometimes anger. All good.

        The writer part of me was worried about the ending where my character relieves himself uncontrollably, and wondering if I had gone to far, while the reality part of me said stubbornly, this is what happens in real life, don’t sugar coat it. I always wonder about stories where I am living a minute by minute thriller of some sort and they never eat or answer the call of nature.

        I remember once watching Paladin, one of my favorite shows at the time, starring Richard Boone (and I recall this moment as if it were yesterday) with my father in the late 50’s. Paladin is crawling up to a well in the middle of nowhere having run out of water and is so thirsty and exhausted from no food and water, for apparently days, he is hardly able to get the bucket to the top and start to drink out of a dipper when a shot rings out shooting the dipper out of his hand before he can drink. He is surrounded by several cowboys but somehow manages to get up and kicks the living crap out of all of them. Then picks up the dipper and gets his drink. My father said, “Well, that does it for me for this show. How he could do that is unbelievable.” He never watched another episode. I never forgot that moment, obviously, and it is always in the back of my mind when I write. Would this character be able to do this, or will the character do this? (If I do exceed the boundaries, I always try to include how, such as in my kid’s series, it’s the use of magic.)

        Thanks for making my day, and I look forward to seeing what magic you’ve applied yourself, this week.

        Roy

        Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 5:47 am
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        A very well done story Roy. Just right. My mother passed on the fifth of August 2017 at around 1 am in the morning. It was a Saturday. She had dementia and Alzhiemers too.
        The last time I saw her she remembered me in fits and starts. It was not long enough. We were only there for just a week.
        It was also the last time I saw my younger brother. He died last year on the 22nd of June 2019 around 11pm at night. A saturday night. That is the trouble with getting older. People die. When you least expect them to die. Several more relatives are as if dead. Too.
        Brilliant story but brings back so many sad memories for me. It will be on my list though despite the sadness.

        Reply
        • May 28, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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          Ilana, If I can evoke emotion from writers, I’ve accomplished something. Thanks for the words. Sorry I brought up so much sadness, but at the same time, I’m sure you can glean the happy moments, too, just as easily.

          Roy

          Reply
    • May 26, 2020 at 5:45 pm
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      Roy – simply beautiful. I think you handled the wistfulness of dementia very capably and sagely. I love the interplay between the couple as they remind each other of various facts of their history. The one thing I simply am not a fan of is the second person focus. I think I stand alone on this front in this group of writers, but there’s got to be a reason few people publish using that take. For me, I immediately am distanced from your writing with each “you” as it creates cognitive dissonance in my head. So many others on this site praise this style, so I think I’m spitting in the wind here, but I just had to say it. Had you only used “I” statements for the man’s recollections, I think I would have called your piece simply perfect. Just one gal’s opinion…

      Reply
      • May 26, 2020 at 6:13 pm
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        Trish, I accept that, and as I wrote it, I said, Trish isn’t going to buy into this, although I wish she would put her feminity aside and buy into this, regardless of gender. I tried. Truly, I felt this story was second person. I tried first, and it didn’t work. But thank you for your comments. They were taken as what they were meant. A solid, heartfelt, critique.

        Roy

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        • May 27, 2020 at 2:37 pm
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          I believe he’s joking Trish. I really do.
          You funny Roy.

          Interesting narrative, Mr. York, with the tantalizing hint of something more. Regrets and guilt coming back to haunt this fellow on his death bed was my thought. I prefer the way Trish put it, ‘the interplay between the two people as they remind each other of their shared history.’ (I still think he felt guilty about something. Hell, who doesn’t?) Really nice writing, very clear and precise. I was not especially moved but felt like this was a great first half of a story.
          Because I want to know more about this couple, and my past. The story is about me, after all, isn’t it? You. you, you. What did I do? I want to know. You’ve introduced me to an intriguing character because of what he may have done, you drop hints in the form of his delusions, and then you leave us to wonder whether his visions and ‘conversations’ ever really had any significance or basis in reality. If not, that’s a shame. That would mean your intention was to leave the reader wondering what he had done, but never remembering (or finding out.) Which is not too surprising because the character has dementia. But not very satisfying either. (If you think about it. Before you forget.)

          Reply
          • May 28, 2020 at 3:57 pm
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            Ken,

            You’re pretty close to what I was worried about with this story, not having a real purpose, but I write a lot of stories like that. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but I was happy with this one when I got done. It took a bit of editing and I had to change something that was a glaring error, but in the end, it all worked out. Not only for Russell, but Sherry, and for me, too, I guess. I’m hoping that both Sherry and Russ fill their nights with those old memories, and through the magic of memory loss, each time they relive it, it’s a new experience. That, my friend, would be a solid definition of Heaven.

            By the way, Trish mentioned during my last second person attempt that she wasn’t a fan. I did remember that, but forged ahead anyway, because, well, I’m the damn author and my stories are what I want them to be. Now that I’ve done it a few times, I may write one from a woman’s POV and see if I get a different reaction. My favorite beta reader will let me know, since she’s spent 56 years with me and is also of the feminine gender. She doesn’t hold back, so we’ll see what happens in the future. Not for a while, though.

            Roy

      • May 27, 2020 at 5:10 am
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        I agree that the second person is not as effective as a first person narrative. You the reader are pushed back so to speak.

        Reply
        • May 27, 2020 at 7:07 am
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          Ilana,

          That’s a major problem with 2nd person stories. Gender specific. Just look at the small sampling here. Two gals vote NO and the one guy votes YES. I was hoping the quality of the writing would overcome the feminine negativity, but have learned my lesson. So, do me a favor and go back and try to read it from an older person’s POV. Then, come back and tell me what you thought of it. I was also wondering what our youth group, Peter and Alyssa thought of reading a story from an old POV. Looks like a lot of people experimented this time around. Good luck to all today.

          Roy

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          • May 28, 2020 at 5:59 am
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            Roy I loved the story. For me, it’s not about gender, but the you of the you, In this case, it works as a testament to your writing. It is a brilliant story and for me with no insult to other writers, the best I have read here in this week and many other weeks. Could be that it touched a chord in me.
            A long time ago I was drowning, coping with a young baby and a mother who was increasingly mentally frail and relatives who were just about money. The latter won and she was put in a home and stripped of her possessions I cannot go on. Too painful to talk about. I had to make a decision to leave it in God’s hands as I had to save myself and my son and did not have the energy to fight with my brother and his USA wife to keep Mum in her home with support. I carry a burden of guilt to this day as she died at 95 nearly 96 in a home in a place called Charleville in Queensland and I could not save her. I did not have the financial means nor the support nor could I live in that Godforsaken place where I suffered a bike accident and a smashed leg after being raped and then after I came out of hospital set up and ws raped again by a friend of the first rapist.Long story but my last year in that place is burned into my brain and I could never go back. Hate the place. But Mum had nearly 50 years of marriage there with my dad and she felt comfortable there. I left there when I was 23 and never wanted to ever spend a lot of time there if I could help it. They are a different breed of people for sure.
            Yes your story worked here and I never said it did not. I just know that as a rule it often does not work as well as a first person account. Here it did work. 🙂

    • May 27, 2020 at 9:40 am
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      Roy,

      I really loved this story. You captured Russell’s confusion and lack of control perfectly. I remember Mama’s early days after the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Those were heartbreaking days as she quickly lost the skills she’d once had. Excellent story and writing my friend.

      Adi

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      • May 28, 2020 at 4:11 pm
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        Adi, I know it’s fresh for you, so thank you for your kind words. I had my experience with my father who had a major stroke, yet had complete control of language, the ability to speak and interesting recall of various events. He didn’t know who I was when I asked him if he knew, but he thought a moment, then said, “I don’t know your name, but I know you.” Then a moment later he said, “I know who you are. You’re ‘son’.” I guess it doesn’t get any better than that as a memory to take away if you don’t get the one you’re looking for.

        I remember he told me the last time I saw him when I asked him if he had any children. He said, “I have an older son, and don’t know his name, but I remember his younger brother, Richard.”

        My brother Richard died in 1943 when he was six days old. following the death of my mother from Eclampsia. He also knew the name of his dead wife, Lula, but couldn’t remember the name of his second wife that he was married to for forty five years. Strokes, dementia, alzheimer’s are all emotion stealers. Not from the patients, but from people like you and I, who visit. And, I know why we visit. Our loved ones might not know who we are, but we certainly know who THEY are.

        Roy

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        • May 28, 2020 at 4:37 pm
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          Roy,

          You are so right! Mama didn’t recognize us, but we knew who she was and what she meant to us and that’s what kept Daddy and I by her side constantly.

          I liked your words, “I guess it doesn’t get any better than that as a memory to take away if you don’t get the one you’re looking for.” That’s exactly what I did. A few years ago, when Mama’s decline was more noticeable, I became overwhelmed focusing on what she had lost and was losing and what we were losing in interactions with her.

          That’s when I changed my thinking about it. I decided to focus on what memories I could get and find joy in them. Alzheimer’s was like a shell slowly closing around her and the beautiful gem that she was, became more difficult over time to reach or to see. To me, that made Mama a pearl and I began collecting “Pearl memories.” From that moment on, I counted every positive interaction as a “pearl.” If she said a word, smiled, made eye contact, held our hands, or reacted to us in any way, it was another pearl. Talking about my pearl memories with Mama on Facebook became very popular. Focusing on the joy in the little things helped me get through the sadness of losing more of her every day, week, month and year. In the last 2 years, the pearls became fewer and rarer and therefore, more valuable.

          I’m so grateful that I have those memories to keep me going right now.

          Your story was top-notch and congratulations on your win!! You definitely had my vote! In fact, all five of my top picks made it into the top 5.

          Hopefully I will be back to writing soon. I’m still struggling to adjust to my new normal without Mama to care for. I make it through work and taking care of Daddy but not much else. It’s been more of a struggle than I anticipated. This too will pass – so they say.

          Reply
          • May 28, 2020 at 4:59 pm
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            Adi, emotional trauma truly f***s with your thought process. I just learned I am visibly cancer free and don’t go back for another colonoscopy for three years. The emotional release was intense and I felt like I could write again, and look, validation today that I can. I’ll be looking for your next story, soon, you can do this.

            Roy

    • May 27, 2020 at 12:53 pm
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      An excellent piece, Roy. Almost all show, no tell. The way stories should be. I saw it, felt it all the way.

      The happy memories are lovingly portrayed, but the contrast between them and the narrator’s present predicament make those memories all the more sadder to bring back, in a way. Although it’s better to have lived it up, and then aged, than getting old and regretting having wasted your best times, I suppose. I am going to try and enjoy life as much as possible now, while I still can, after reading this! Never put off the good times till later… you convinced me, man! Oh there’s the coronavirus thingy right now, in the way of fun. I nearly forgot about that. But I’ll see what I can do, just the same!

      The second person narration worked very well with me. I don’t think a first person POV would have drawn me in as much. I know what the gals have said, so it may really be a gender thing. Now, if someone writes a female-based “you”-story, I’ll check out how I feel about it. I don’t think I ever read one like that.

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 4:13 pm
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        Thanks, Ken M. Thank you for your comments. Well taken. And, I will look at your story and see if I can’t pinpoint why I think it was a bit choppy.

        Roy

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    • May 27, 2020 at 11:10 pm
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      A simply beautiful story, Roy. Human and very touching. One of your best, I think. The 2nd-person narration works well for me, as does the present tense. The only thing I’d change … “What did they say? A stroke?” You didn’t need to specify (and in fact the line before this suggests the condition very nicely).

      Really great stuff.

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      • May 28, 2020 at 4:16 pm
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        See, Phil, that’s how good you are. Those two lines were a last minute add in. Guess I didn’t need them when I went back and looked at the fact I had Russell unsuccessfully pick up his left arm. Thanks for your words, they are greatly appreciated.

        Roy

        Reply
  • May 27, 2020 at 4:57 am
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    It’s All in Your Head

    Sleep came quickly that night. Strangely so. Almost as soon as I lay down, my insomniac mind was shutting down and the gentle darkness of my bedroom was quickly banished from my stuttering thoughts. A fluttering of my eyelashes and a twitch of my hand, and I was gone.
    The next thing I knew, I was blearily stumbling into a frightening Something with no knowledge as to whether I was awake or trapped in a disturbingly realistic pocket of some unpredictable dream. I quickly realised I wouldn’t really know until I woke up or died.
    This Something I had floundered into gripped me with cold claws of fear and I could barely see more than a few hand-flails in front of me for a thick fog that shrouded my vision and blocked most of my senses. It was chilling to feel the water-heavy air caress my goose-bumped skin and soon I was hugging my bare arms to my body as I shivered and shook in my thin pyjamas. I swore I could feel the fog seep into my gasping mouth and sniffing nose, clinging to the back of my mouth, coating my throat, sinking into my lungs. My breathing started to come out in short, quick puffs from the almost-suffocating feeling and my rising panic, disturbing the fog swirling grey and sinister around me.
    I had no idea where I was, dream or not. I didn’t usually have such creepy and realistic dreams, nor could I remember any place that had such a disturbing atmosphere as wherever I found myself now. It was all so strange. I just wanted to go home, back to bed, and sleep in peaceful unconsciousness. I’d even rather stay awake and fight insomnia than be here.
    Blinking past the suspended water droplets that made my eyes sting, I took a few hesitant steps forward. I couldn’t bear to just stand still while the fog slowly stole the breath from my lungs and the opportunity for anything to creep up on me. I was almost immediately cursing myself for the thoughtless act as I suddenly found myself at the edge of a precipice and teetering over it. My heart beat pounded in my chest, my racing pulse deafening me further in the unnatural silence as terror had me flinging myself back away from the edge that appeared as if out of nowhere. It could have been a twist in a nightmarish dream, or it could have been my limited vision cutting me off from things like this that I thought I would much like to be able to see before I was almost tripping on- or down- them. It was more than a little hazardous in my opinion.
    On the ground, I could barely bring myself to peel my shivering body from the solid surface as I fought to control my fear.
    “What are you doing here?”
    I jumped as the voice that cracked through the silence like thunder, twisting my head so fast it almost fell right off in the process of glancing over my shoulder.
    “My-I… wha… who?”
    The nonsense string of sounds were forced out of my clumsy mouth as I stared at who the voice belonged to.
    It was a… a stork. I wasn’t all too familiar with ornithology but I was pretty sure that’s what it was. Not only did it happen to be a talking stork but it also was wearing a scarlet robe that stood out like a blood stain in a wedding dress. The fog seemed to part around it, giving me a clear view of the absurd sight and making it clear I was the only one it was intent on suffocating. Squinting, I tried to see if there happened to be a person behind the stork but no, it seemed that I would have to accept the oddly low-pitched voice belonging to the bird.
    At the half-words, the stork looked as unimpressed as a bird without eyebrows or an expressive mouth could. It seemed to be in the eyes.
    My mouth dropped open in shock as the bird opened its beak and words spilled out.
    “If the question you are in fact asking is who am I, I’m afraid to tell you I cannot say. You already know who I am.
    “I… I do?” I frowned. That made no sense. I was getting the feeling that this was a dream.
    The bird hummed, as bizarre as that sounded.
    “You do. Not that that is very important. What is important, however, is that you need to go.”
    It took a graceful step forward and I scrambled to my feet, uncomfortable with the idea of the bird getting any closer to me.
    “W-what do you mean, go? This is a dream, isn’t it? I just need to wake up. Actually, waking up seems like a good idea right now”
    My voice hitched nervously as the bird took another step towards me and I took one very hurriedly backwards.
    The bird made a funny noise in its throat and I realised it was laughing at me.
    “Oh, is that what you think this is? Yes, yes, go ahead and wake up already. I don’t need you bumbling around up here. I have enough trouble managing things here without you making a surprise ‘visit’. Go, go.”
    The words only confused me further. It was a dream, wasn’t it…?
    A half-step backwards and I felt the edge under my foot. The sole of my foot tingled as I remembered the emptiness I had stared into before, promising a long fall down.
    Something sinister glinted in the stork’s liquid eyes and I realised that maybe it was the time to panic.
    “Wait, what are you doing? I’m going to…! I’m going to fall! Stop it.”
    A shiver traced my spine with cold fingers as I realised I had nowhere to go and the bloody bird was still taking threatening steps towards me.
    “It was a pleasure and all, but I must insist you leave. Just remember that you really should start filling this place with more… things. It is a little empty.”
    I frowned. “This place…?”
    The bird lifted a wing and tapped a pointed feather to it’s head like a finger with a smug look on it’s stupid face.
    “Toodle-oo!” With a cheery wave of its wing, a wave of fog was suddenly swirling towards me, pressing on me with the slightest weight but just enough to push me to lose my balance and send me tumbling over that cursed edge.
    The darkness below engulfed me, carrying me far away where I could no longer see the eerie fog, the smug bird or that sheer edge.
    I woke with a start in my bed, gasping as my skin continued to crawl with the terrifying feeling of falling endlessly. I clutched at my sheets for reassurance but found little as my thoughts danced and skittered confusedly. What had that been about?
    I swore I could still feel moisture in my lungs and my clothes felt damp, my hair clung to my forehead as I couldn’t fight the cold that seemed to be all over me.
    That had been a dream. Right?

    Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 5:16 am
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      Amelie
      Great descriptions and imagery I thought, but the weakness was the plot. I kept thinking, the narrator would all of a sudden realise he /she is dead and then the stork is carrying him / her to a chimney. Was not sure what was going to happen.
      Lovely writing though.

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 12:58 am
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        Thank you for the feedback, I’ve been busy and didn’t have a lot of time to give this one much work so I totally agree with you about the plot!

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    • May 27, 2020 at 10:12 am
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      Hello Amelie,

      A very interesting, if puzzling, piece of writing.

      There is enough lack of clarity, or fuzziness to suggest a dream and thus anything can happen. You allude to dreaming fairly early on but continue to have “conscious” thoughts. That was a little confusing but, I sense, this was your intention. Being aware whilst actually dreaming is a feeling that we have all experienced. Dreams are just so real, so vivid, is it any wonder we think they are real?

      I didn’t really get the point of the stork but that’s probably just my lack of imagination. Does there have to be a point, in a dream? Probably not. The events that take place are very much Salvador Daliesque and thus, surreal. The talking stork in the blood-red robe could easily be in a Dali scene along with the precipice, the fog and the sense of not knowing.

      Well done, Amelie. Another good piece of writing.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 1:43 am
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        Thank you!
        For me, the stork was just a bit of fun for me and to add a kind of absurdity to the dream that I enjoyed writing 🙂

        Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 2:07 pm
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      As Ken F commented, the point of the stork evaded me, but that’s actually the kind of stuff I love to read. The stork’s dialogue was a solid mix of “wise mentor” and “wisecracking mentor”, in the sense that it was quite thought-provoking, but also made me laugh at times. I was enthralled by your description and detail, a few of my favourites –
      “my insomniac mind was shutting down”
      “it also was wearing a scarlet robe that stood out like a blood stain in a wedding dress”
      “The bird made a funny noise in its throat and I realised it was laughing at me”

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 2:12 pm
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        Amelie – you write atmospheric pieces like nobody’s business! I got all caught up in your slightly creepy mood, and then that doggone stork popped in. Like others, I was a bit confused by the stork, but I suppose that is what you were going for. Creepy and curious- but well written.

        Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 1:45 am
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        If my writing managed to make you smile in any way then my work is complete

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        • May 28, 2020 at 1:47 am
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          oops comment in response to peter holmes but thank you!

          Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 2:38 pm
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      Amelie,

      Lucid dreaming.

      I like the concepts you presented in the story, the fog, the precipice, the sense of self and self-preservation. Nice writing. Clever story, because of the writing. It’s the delivery. (No stork pun intended.)

      The central question raised by the narrator is, ‘Am I dreaming?’ Having read the story, knowing full well that storks never wear red, I was convinced at the end that the narrator was indeed dreaming, even if he or she wasn’t quite convinced herself. (But only because of my knowledge of storks, and how difficult it is to impress them. But it’s possible that the storks are dealing in bad faith. In which case, this may not be a dream at all.)

      An additional question raised by this story is, ‘Is it possible the stork is dreaming?’

      Another question raised might be, ‘What, exactly, are dreams?’

      Questions, but no answers.

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 1:50 am
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        I have to say those two questions of yours were not my intention to raise and certainly gave me a pause but I’m glad you found my story clever

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 12:00 am
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      A thought-provoking story, Amelie. At the end, we’re left with the same question as the narrator: What was that all about? Freud would have an answer, I expect. You have a nice way with words (I liked this: “…the stork looked as unimpressed as a bird without eyebrows or an expressive mouth could.”) and a wide range of vocabulary. I’d be wary not to pile it on too thickly, though: there’s a very high adjective/adverb count here, and while the theme calls for a lot of description, it does feel a bit heavy in that respect. Also, you kind of turn the volume up to 11 from the get-go … maybe you could have paced the story a little to build up to the climax (the fall). But you certainly have a way with the language.

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 1:54 am
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        I did kind of what to give the effect of plunging the reader into something they didn’t understand and to share the character’s confusion, kind of like they were being assaulted by these sensations but I see that it was a little much. Thank you for the feedback! I’ll try on work on the build for next time

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 3:31 pm
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      Amelie,

      Like the others I enjoyed the imagery, but as Phil pointed out, be careful you don’t lay it on too thick.

      This Something I had floundered into gripped me with cold claws of fear and I could barely see more than a few hand-flails in front of me for a thick fog that shrouded my vision and blocked most of my senses. It was chilling to feel the water-heavy air caress my goose-bumped skin and soon I was hugging my bare arms to my body as I shivered and shook in my thin pyjamas. I swore I could feel the fog seep into my gasping mouth and sniffing nose, clinging to the back of my mouth, coating my throat, sinking into my lungs. My breathing started to come out in short, quick puffs from the almost-suffocating feeling and my rising panic, disturbing the fog swirling grey and sinister around me. (I think we all understand.) It’s like you’re being paid by the word.

      It’s called blue prose and in my early writing days I was guilty of it on a constant basis. It was like trying on shoes. Oh, this pair of 8 1/2’s feels great and this pair of 9’s feel even better, so why don’t I buy the 9 1/2’s. Suddenly, you’ve gone too far. I’m not sure this is a classic case of blue prose, but it’s pretty close.

      But, I liked what you did and, in fact, voted for your story in the top five. Really, I think, because you took a ‘dream’ story and I actually enjoyed it. Maybe, it was this line: Not only did it happen to be a talking stork but it also was wearing a scarlet robe that stood out like a blood stain in a wedding dress.

      That bit of starkness splattered across my consciousness like being hit by a hammer. I think it’s more than red on white, it’s almost a play on purity, but perhaps I read to much into it. In any event, good job.

      Roy

      Reply
  • May 27, 2020 at 5:08 am
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    Another Place, Another Space.

    Sunday Morning May 1965

    There are a few things essential to life. The rest is luxury.
    Here, there is routine. It calms me. There will be no surprises until the end. Perhaps. I say perhaps because at the end, I do not know what to expect. If religious people are right, then I am in for a surprise. Maybe a big one, maybe a small one. Will it be heaven and a divine deity, or will I be sent to the other place, the place of eternal torment for judgment? If the atheists are right, then no surprises, simply the end. A darkening of the consciousness and I will slide into decay and eventually dust. I will become one with the soil, nourishing the earth with my blood, abet a bit clotted and foul at first, but good for the garden and my bones will seep into the sands and rocks to become one with the universe.

    The walls are a greenish grey. They paint them fresh after each resident has gone to their other space. When I came here, eight years ago now, the smell of raw fresh paint persisted for some weeks. It was quite heady. I would wake up with a splitting headache. There was however no point in complaining. Once, on the second day there, I had asked for something to mask the smell.

    “Schmidt, you don’t like the smell?” Gary, the guard leaned in closer to the bars of my room.

    “I’ve got a headache from the paint smell.” I said as politely as I could to this ape with his big hairy belly threatening to burst through the straining buttons on his blue grey regulation guard shirt. He smelt too. Raw garlic and rotten meat.

    He chuckled, not magnanimously. An evil snigger. His hair reminded me of the UK prime minister’s, Boris Johnson. Badly in need of a fine-toothed comb and some hair spray.

    “Hey, Joe!” he called to the other guard dozing at the desk with his feet up. “Joe, Shitty here is upset about the fresh paint smell. Imagine that. A man who can kill and cut up seven women; then dump their bodies in freezer for later, can’t stand a little fresh paint smell.” He pushed his jowly face closer into the bars of the small window of my cell. I remained polite, but silently willed him to come closer. “Poke your stupid snotty nose in here,” I thought to myself. I tensed and readied myself to spring forward and bite the bulbous red protuberance. Unfortunately, I never got the chance.

    Joe dragged his feet off the desk, folded his paper which he had been pretending to read. Functionally illiterate, I doubt he could read anything but the sports pages. He shuffled over to peer into my cell. He pulled Gary back, grabbing a bunch of shirt on his back. A button popped.

    “You asshole! Look whatcha done!”

    “Well, you were so bloody close to that mongrel’s cell window, he coulda had yer snout for hors d’oerves. Idiot!”

    I smiled politely at them both. Joe bought his truncheon up and poked it through the window and banged.

    “Move back! Now SHIT FACE!” I winced but did as he asked. Joe wasn’t nice at all.

    “Has he had breakfast yet?”

    “Naw.”

    “Go get his breakfast.”

    Gary ambled off. The missing button on his gaping shirt front allowed dark hair to poke through. Gawd, that guy must have been the missing link. He had such a hairy belly. I would have loved to have seen all of it. Lots of fat. I could imagine it sizzling in a frypan and turning to a crispy tasty morsel. Better than pork belly.

    Joe on the other hand was a bony miserable man. He would have not made much more than soup bones.

    When Gary returned with my plate of grey porridge and a slice of dry toast smeared lightly with vegemite, Joe stopped him. He then dipped his finger in the porridge after he had poked into his ear and scratched around. He glanced towards the cell window.

    “Yessir, just checkin’ its warm and won’t burn his liddle tongue.” He smirked. Then he picked up the toast and breathed on it and made burbling noises so spittle flecked the vegemite. Vegemite is this disgusting black tarry substance that Australians like. When the prison authorities discovered it was a good source of vitamin B and also that most prisoners loathed the taste, they started using it instead of peanut butter on the slice of toast we got for our breakfast.

    He then opened the slot and poked the breakfast tray through to my cell. They were both watching me as I took the tray, walked over to my bed and sat on it with the tray on my lap. I ate my breakfast as though I did not have a care in the world. I smiled as I saw them watching me. Their faces wreathed in disappointment. Truth to tell, there was little they could do to disgust me. They were pitiful. I was, however, all powerful. I had proved that seven times.

    Four days later. Thursday

    The last appeal failed. They would inject me at 10 pm that night. A lethal cocktail of poisons to end my time here. It was almost thrilling to anticipate. I had ended the lives of others and for me, there was an element of curiosity involved.

    “Well Shitty Schmidtee, your last meal? What would you like?” Gary was almost jocular. I shook my head.

    “What? Scum bag doesn’t want his last feast on earth?” Joe taunted me. I looked at them both and smiled a quiet and what I believed dignified smile.

    “You are unable to bring me what I want.” I told them quietly.

    “So”, try me?” Gary smiled a nasty smirk. “Maccas. KFC or a Wendy’s burger? Kentucky steak and chips?”

    I sighed. “No. It was in the freezer at my home. Doubt the FBI will let you have it. Though. They might have buried it now.” I grinned at them. “It’s sweet. Tastes tender and there is nothing else like it in the world.”

    Then they caught on and Joe threw up in the rubbish bin besides his desk.

    10.02 pm Thursday

    The room is quiet. They have given me the first injection. Now the second has started. It was then, I saw her. She was the first of the seven. She was laughing. I do not remember her teeth being so sharp. Her head thrown back, and she was laughing fit to kill. I sensed others in the background coming forward.

    A fog enveloped the room. I floated. Nothing was visible, except a body thrashing on a metal table. It seemed familiar. I felt a throbbing fear invade my senses.

    Seven figures surrounded me.

    “We’ve been waiting for you. We’ve waited so long.” The first one said. They surrounded me smiling and then moved in to tear my flesh from my limbs again and again. Their teeth razor sharp ripped and tore.

    “Is this hell?” I cried.

    “No”, the first one whispered “for you maybe. But for us, it’s heaven.”

    Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 6:32 am
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      Hi Ilana,

      Brilliant story!!!.

      I am not going to say anymore now. No need. I’m going to go away and have a good think about the vote. You have made things very difficult now with this wonderful piece of writing.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • May 27, 2020 at 2:14 pm
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        Ilana – fantastic story. I was constantly – and deliciously – surprised by the twists and turns. I thought I was sure about how I was voting but you’ve really thrown a wrench in the works. Very well done!

        Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 11:15 pm
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      Great stuff, Ilana! The ‘Hannibal’ character is, like him, a monster, cool-headed, lethal. The interaction with the guards at the door is very well done – the bitten-off nose just a split-second away.

      A couple of things … it would seem I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about them this week, but I think separators rather than the dates? And also, the last section would have worked better, imho, in the present tense.

      But it’s a very good piece of writing, I reckon.

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 5:36 am
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        Thanks Phil High praise from you and yes, agree totally. I did write in a hurry and in retrospect, I do think the last section should have been written in present tense. That would make it far more effective as a story.
        I haven’t quite decided about the separators though, LOL. Still in reflection on that aspect. I can see areas for improvement though. I did cut it down quite a bit. The character was waffling on at one stage about the paint on the walls and having him want to leave his own twisted message for posterity to have it painted over eventually. Strange how characters sometimes write their own little ramblings. The good part about a short story is being able to cut out the ramblings that might be allowable in a novel.
        Now I best be off to finish reading and vote. Thank you for the feed back, much appreciated.

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 3:44 pm
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      Ilana, I’ve been dueling with you since 2013, and you certainly haven’t lost your touch. Great writing with a great plot and a smashing ending will keep you on top for a very long time. Your story got my first place vote, and I was surprised I prevailed. I’ll bet the difference was only a point or two. My hat is off to you, M’lady. Nice job.

      BTW, I happen to like Vegemite. Love is too strong a word, but like covers it pretty well for me. Or Marmite as it’s called in Jolly Old. I not only like it spread thinly on toast, I use a half teaspoon or so in various savory dishes I make, such as Sirloin Tips, Bolognese, and so on when cooking.

      Great job, Ilana. Keep the goats happy and good luck next time. Not that you’ll need it with your talent.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 8:59 pm
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        Thanks Roy. I also had your story in first place and Russell was my fave character. 🙂 Love your stories. Not all americans love vegemite. 😀
        I am glad your story won and thank you for praise. I really value it and respect your skilful writing.

        Reply
  • May 27, 2020 at 5:38 am
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    Though I have half a story, I’ve been flat out with other work and won’t be able to finish in time.

    Good luck everyone!

    Reply
  • May 27, 2020 at 9:36 am
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    Another two weeks – gone. Where does the time go? I had such great ideas for a story. Oh well.

    I’ve read all of the stories and they are great! Reading these stories are one of the highlights of my days. I wish I had time to comment specifically on all them.

    Voting will be difficult.

    Adi

    Reply
  • May 27, 2020 at 10:13 am
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    Alice & Carrie; et al:

    (Did I do that right Roy? Probably not.)

    I’m not sure I can finish reading all the stories let alone vote this week. I’m waiting for a wiper part for my car, so that I can drive into a tropical storm. The reason for this, is because I made my plans. And nothing so coincindental as a broken wiper motor and a tropical storm can make me postpone my plans. Right?

    I will download the rest of the stories to one of my devices for further reading, (perhaps while stranded in a ditch) but I’m not sure that I’ll be in a position to vote on them by tomorrow so I wouldn’t delay the vote tally on my behalf. If I can vote I will, but it won’t be a high priority for the next two days.

    I really had no good solid fixed ideas for a story this week, a lot of half-assed ideas, but no single entire and complete assed idea. I blame it on the prompt. And too much other shit to do.

    Good luck y’all.

    Reply
    • May 27, 2020 at 12:01 pm
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      Thanks Ken for the heads up, if I don’t see a vote from you by the deadline, I’ll go ahead and post the winners. Hope you get that wiper fixed, and stay safe.

      Reply
  • May 28, 2020 at 12:25 pm
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    “SOMEWHERE ELSE” – May 28, 2020

    THE WINNER IS!!
    First Place: Sweet as Wine by Roy York

    2nd Place: Another Place, Another Space by Ilana Leeds
    3rd Place: At His Majesty’s Pleasure by Ken Frape
    4th Place: Whatsapp messages from Paris by berlinermax
    5th Place: TOO FAR AWAY THE WIND BLEW by Ken Miles
    6th Place: ON ZE BEACH by Phil Town
    7th Place: It’s All in Your Head by Amelie
    8th Place: The Program by Robt. Emmett
    9th Place: Worth It For You by Peter Holmes
    10th Place: Reality Bites by Trish

    Favorite Character: “Russell” from Sweet as Wine by Roy York
    Character Dialogue: At His Majesty’s Pleasure by Ken Frape

    Congratulations Roy, Great Story!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 1:00 pm
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      Congratulations, Roy! Fully deserved – a lovely story.

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 1:05 pm
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        Thanks, Phil. I was just commenting on your story. Ze one you wrote. Appreciate it. (It was loosely based on real events in my life – very loosely – maybe based more on how I wanted some of the events to turn out, (especially the motel bit). Those are just fading memories now, I’m afraid.

        Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 2:53 pm
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      Congratulations, Roy! My top choice too. And also Ilana and Ken F. for the other two podium spots.

      Oh, I placed one slot ahead of Phil Town! I’m taking that as an achievement in and of itself! Doesn’t happen often, does it?

      Ken

      Reply
      • May 28, 2020 at 3:31 pm
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        Richly deserved, KenM!

        Reply
  • May 28, 2020 at 1:01 pm
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    Just trying to catch up on commenting on all the stories and saw the post. i’m tickled pink, especially to have beaten out the story that I voted for first place, Ilana Leads. I thought hers was a shoo in for sure. She’s been writing some crackerjack stuff lately, and I’m still thinking about her buildings ‘bleeding vines’ from a few weeks ago.

    Anyway, thanks everyone, appreciate the support. Now, on to the new project.

    Roy

    Reply
    • May 28, 2020 at 1:59 pm
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      Hi Roy and Ilana,

      I think my earlier comment about Roy’s story indicates where my first vote went but Ilana you also made a wonderful effort to catch the champagne bottle.

      Two beautiful pieces of writing. In other weeks they could both easily have taken first place.

      Well done to you both,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • May 28, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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    Congratulations Roy. I had your story first and was sure it would win. Lovely story. The second person does work at times with the pen of a skilful storyteller. Well done and well deserved win. 😊👍🏻

    Reply
  • May 28, 2020 at 11:20 pm
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    Congratulations to Roy! And thanks to all of you who voted me into the “upper half” again at last!

    Reply
  • May 29, 2020 at 6:18 am
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    Well done, Roy.
    Varied and interesting stories again from everyone!

    Reply
    • May 29, 2020 at 3:45 pm
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      Thanks Andy, I just wish you had entered a story so I could have said, ha!,, But I’m careful what I wish for now and just might have been a bridesmaid once again to a story of yours had you entered one.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 31, 2020 at 9:33 am
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        I had half a story, but was never going to get there in time. And if I had done I’m pretty sure it would have been well down the list with the quality of the stories here.
        I expect you to make it two in a row now!

        Reply
        • May 31, 2020 at 9:59 am
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          Gonna give it my best shot, see you there.

          Reply

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