February 13 – February 26, 2020 Writing Prompt “Heartbreak”

Dialogue Prompt: two people are chatting in a café/restaurant/bar/park etc, they are discussing a recent broken heart. How did they overcome the pain? Or maybe they inflicted the broken heart. Or maybe they are plotting to break a heart.

Use your imagination.

Required Elements:

  • Broken heart reference
  • A drink
  • The color red

Word Count: 1,200



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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

  • You may vote only once.
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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.
See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.





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

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

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

The writing prompt for February 27, 2020 will be chose by berlinermax.




251 thoughts on “February 13 – February 26, 2020 Writing Prompt “Heartbreak”

  • February 13, 2020 at 8:05 am
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    Read the stories here:

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

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

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 8:44 am
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    Signing in for comments

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 12:58 pm
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    Signing in for comments.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2020 at 1:29 pm
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    Oh, yeah. I’m all in for this one.

    Roy

    Reply
  • February 14, 2020 at 7:04 am
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    Signing in for commentsSigning. Congratulations Alice. Great work signing in for comments . I did not get time to even read all the stories so I couldn’t vote. My bad.
    I must’ve missed something conflict like in the last lot of comments. Hugs Kerri please don’t leave. I love you guys Alice and Carrie and the cans and phil’s stories and Roy’s and everyone else new and old on this delightful writing scene.
    Been busy at school, with goats, saving magpies by the toad that have been hit by cars and handing said bird to a wildlife person not long after she attacked me fiercely beak and claws combined.
    She was scared poor thing.
    Sending love and healing as we are really family. And members of a family are a bunch of ornery individuals with different opinions that we don’t all necessarily argreebon everything and neither should we but we have to respect fully agree to disagree ❤️🙏❤️😊❤️❤️

    Reply
    • February 14, 2020 at 11:08 am
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      Happy Valentine to the couples
      Happy Happiness for the singles.
      Enjoy your chocolates, flowers, food, red wine or prosecco.

      Reply
  • February 15, 2020 at 8:55 am
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    Valentine’s Day ended up being a bust for me.

    Sooooooooo I’m focusing on my WW2 broken hearted dragon story 😂😂😂

    Reply
    • February 16, 2020 at 1:47 am
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      Heart Broken

      I set my glass of wine down. It was mid-night and I needed to send the letter tomorrow. I commenced to write.

      Dear Sally
      When my second brother was born in October, I and my other brother were looked after by a governess. We lived 147 kilometres from the outback town of Charleville in Queensland. I was four years and four months old and my younger brother was two years and four months. This governess – Nancy was a strapping big lass from the mid-west of the USA. She was a farm girl excited by the prospect of living on a property in Outback Australia with many sheep and cattle on over 100,000 plus acres of bushland.

      We were left in Nancy’s “tender” care for a week in total just before my mother’s due date.

      She was nice to us both until the dust from my parents car had subsided. I was sitting at the table with my brother eating a dinner of boiled egg with bread. I dipped my finger into the runny yolk. Just testing it to see if I could soak a bit of it into the bread fingers.

      POW!

      I received a clout on the hand that knocked the egg flying to the floor.

      “Clean that up. NOW!” She pulled me by my overall straps. Then she knocked me onto the floor. “There. You make messes. Clean it up.” She flung a tea towel at me.

      Conrad sat and watched – his eyes saucer like. He looked puzzled. Neither of our parents treated us roughly, so I guess he was in shock at this new treatment. For some reason, she did not like me, from the start.

      When I asked for more egg as most of mine had gone onto the floor, she told me, “Noo, you are a naughty, stupid little girl. You don’t deserve more egg. Nothing more until breakfast. No sweets. You did not eat dinner.”

      So I went to bed hungry. My brother and I slept in the same room at that stage. I had a bed and he was in a cot. The cot had a side that was tied on at night so he did not climb out. I used to undo it for him. I felt sorry for him, plus I remember enjoying the exclamations of my mother about how clever he was at undoing the knots at such an early age. It was an enjoyable secret for me.

      The next day breakfast was uneventful. I was super careful not to upset her. We did some sand pit and a walk. Had lunch and a nap. After nap, we went out to the swings. My father had constructed a couple of swings from old truck tyres. They were attached by chains to a tall frame and the top of the tyre was cut away and the chains attached to the ring of tyre left on both sides. I was pushing my brother.

      “High. Highee.” He yelled. He was a dare devil who liked heights. Egged on, I obliged eager to please.

      “Stop that.” She called. “It’s too high. He’ll fall.”

      “High. High eeee.” He giggled and laughed with joy. Encouraged by his response, I ignored her and pushed him vigorously.
      The broom handle caught me across the shoulders. THWACK! It sent me sprawling in the red dust.

      “You brat. You listen to me. You mindless brat.” BAM, THUD, BAM! And the broom handle hit me again across the back of the legs, bottom and shoulders.

      Terrified, I crawled through the dusty red earth under the big water tank to escape her blows. She came after me and pulled me out by my plaits and overall straps. She dropped the broom and pummelled me with her fists across the shoulders and face.

      I sobbed, confused as to what I had done that was so wrong. I continued to weep.

      “Oh, shut up. It’s not that bad. Stop crying! Do you want another slap? Keep crying. I’ll slap you again.” She pulled me to my feet.

      “Go get in the bath.” I fled to the bathroom. She got my brother from the swing and I was already sitting in the bath which had bright red streaks of blood in the water from where the broom stick had broken the skin at the back of my legs and buttocks.
      She inspected the lacerations and bruises she had made on my person, then she grabbed me by the shoulders and dug her thumbs into a place under my collar bone and put her face close to mine.

      “You don’t tell” she told me, “You fell. Got that. You fell, clumsy.” She also told me, if I told, she might kill me. I was very quiet for the next few days.

      My parents returned. Exhausted with a new baby they did not have much time to talk to me or my brother. However later that night, Mum undressed me to put pyjamas on me and gasped at the purple and blue bruises over my back, legs and neck.

      “Nancy, Nancy”, she called. “What happened?”

      Nancy came in followed by my brother who she had been bathing and dressing. Mum pointed to the bruises. “She’s covered in bruises.”

      Nancy gave me a meaningful look.
      “She did it on the swing. I told her not to stand up in it. She was swinging too high and fell off.”

      “Why didn’t you ring the hospital and tell me?”

      “I didn’t want to upset you and Brian, Margareta. You could have been in labour. It’s ok. Only a few bruises. Not worth worrying you about.”

      “Nancy hit. Broom. Boom. Boom. Nancy HIT!”

      It was Conrad, my brother who was miming Nancy’s actions with the broom. Swinging his arms.

      Nancy picked him up and hugged him. She laughed.

      “Silly boy.” She turned to Mum. “I was showing them how I’d kill a snake. Protect them. He was fascinated.”

      Mum gave her a funny look. “Oh ok.”

      “Say good night Conrad to your sis and Mom.” She took his hand and waved it at us sitting on my bed. His cot had been moved into her room while Mum was busy with the new baby.

      She and my mother must have had a talk about something before Nancy left the following week and we had a new governess.

      I tried to put the past two weeks behind me. I was fascinated and loved my new brother. He was a wrinkled skinny thing. Mum was changing him and went to get a nappy. I climbed up on a chair besides the changing table to look at him. He still had the umbilical clamp on. I remember reaching out in puzzlement to touch it just as my mother came back into the room.

      “Get away from him.” She screamed and pushed me off the chair, slapping my hand.
      She grabbed me by the face and held my hands.

      “You must never, NEVER do that to your brother.” It was then, my heart broke. I did not know what I had done wrong.

      Why am I telling you this?

      To warn you never to leave your child in a stranger’s care.

      Your cousin.

      Reply
      • February 17, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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        Ilana – What horrible experiences your narrator had! The story was well-written – easy to follow with realistic dialogue. I liked the way you turned your story into a letter with a “moral” at the end. I don’t have kids, but based on friends and relatives’ experiences can’t imagine anyone I know avoiding using “a stranger’s care” these days. But I think your story would help persuade them against babysitters and nannies…

        Reply
        • February 17, 2020 at 7:49 pm
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          It actually happened to me when I was four years and four months old. Used to have night mares and wet the bed for several years after. Don’t do the latter any more after about 9 years of age. Didn’t.

          Reply
          • February 19, 2020 at 12:56 pm
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            Ilana,

            I just knew this story had to be autobiographical. It is truly heartbreaking. I want to go back in time and hug the little girl you were and tell you everything would be ok. Your writing conveyed the truth of the horror and the conniving of Nancy so well, I have tears in my eyes.

            When your mother reacted so harshly at the end, I first thought maybe Nancy had influenced her thinking about you. But then, your mother’s reaction could have just been the emotional reaction of a tired woman recovering from the birth. Either way, it was well done.

            Love you,
            Adi

          • February 23, 2020 at 4:43 am
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            Thanks ADI and others that commented. I will be commenting on other people stories once I’ve had a chance to read them. We had a successful goat today so now I can focus on writing for a few days.
            ADI I wondered whether she had said something to my mother but yes I believe she was probably dog tired as it was only a week after the birth and she was in her late thirties which was old for babies in those days.
            I imagine now she had her suspicions about Nancy was also traumatised by what had happened. Although my
            Mother was a foster child so she did have rudimentary parenting skills.
            I can remember the Taylors a family of nine kids whose father worked at my grandmothers property and how they got to hold their baby brothers and sisters. I was never encouraged to do so nor my brother Christopher. I think you create good relationships in your children by making them love and value siblings right from the start .

          • February 27, 2020 at 6:18 pm
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            Wow this story is heartbreaking and so well written. So sorry this was actually a reality for you. Is this the first time you’ve written about it?

      • February 18, 2020 at 6:25 am
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        Hi Ilana,

        What an awful experience! Sadly, too many children in this world suffer at the hands of the people closest to them or paid to look after them. You just can’t buy love!

        The cunning of the carer was cold and calculating, in the way she explained the injuries. I am a little surprised it took another week before she was dismissed but that’s not a judgement about the mother who would have been pretty busy with the new baby. I am so glad that she did get sent away though. Feel so sad for you.

        I am with you completely in your telling of this story until near the end when mother screamed, “Get away from him.” This does not ring true for me and seems unnecessarily harsh, as in fact it was received by you at the time. You were simply being inquisitive and didn’t understand. However, as you say in your response to Trish, this is a true story and it actually happened so who am I to comment?

        The first sentence may not be need as the Dear Sally makes it clear it is a letter and readers don’t need to know it was written around midnight unless there was a particular urgency about writing it then. This urgency could have been that cousin Sally was about to become a mother too. Then the whole letter would be seen as a timely warning.

        An excellent first story for this current prompt.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
      • February 22, 2020 at 2:21 am
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        Ilana,

        What a traumatic experience for a child. At least your parents figured it out before the crazy bitch killed you. I wonder what happened to her. (Probably a cabinet Secretary in the Trump administration.)

        I would suggest some kind of edit or rewrite of the two sentences that begin with, ‘We lived 147 kilometres…’ and ‘I was four years and four months…’

        Too many numbers too soon.

        Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 6:30 pm
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        Ilana, I was going to write a similar story of a broken hearted young boy, a step mother, an aunt whom he adored, and heartbreak; even had it partially blocked out. I read your story and went back and shit-canned mine, because we would essentially have been writing the same story, and yes, mine would have been autobiographical, also. So, I haven’t read any of the other stories, hoping I have something that is different.

        Good story, and I was sure it was a true story as I read it. No quibbles with your writing.

        Roy

        Reply
        • February 25, 2020 at 10:00 pm
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          Sometimes, many times fact and autobiographical stuff is more tragic than fiction. That makes it hard. I really liked your story Roy.

          Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 8:47 am
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        What a horrible experience this must have been. Nancy had my blood boiling. This is very well written and was a nice easy read. I agree with Ken that there miles, ages, and acreage was a bit jarring all together and in the beginning. Other than that it is quite good!

        Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:28 pm
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        Hi, Ilana.

        A harrowing recounting of true events, and as Adi says, the truth of the pain comes out in your words. Apart from the physical pain, the more lasting hurt, I suspect, comes from the little girl’s (your) incomprehension – first at the severity of the carer’s punishment, and then at the unexpectedness of the mother’s, which for me is believable. As Ken F says, maybe the intro isn’t necessary. Or, if you have it, an alternative would be to have the narrator put her pen down, lean back, take a sip of wine and read the finished letter to herself. I think ‘tomorrow’ in the opening should be ‘the next/following day’. Powerful writing. (Hope the goat’s doing well.)

        Reply
    • February 16, 2020 at 8:39 am
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      I bought a dozen of red tulips, the red roses were too expensive.
      I made my favourite meal, dressed up in my red dress. Unfortunately the films on tv were all repeats.
      I was eating when my youngest daughter walked in.
      “Are you all right? She asked. Her eyes hovered over the red candles flickering ( leftovers from Christmas) and the bottle on the table. “l’ll share a glass of that red wine with you.” She helped herself.
      That’s how my Valentine Day went!
      A story by itself.

      Reply
      • February 16, 2020 at 8:47 am
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        Hahaha I’d have happily joined you and brought red velvet cake for dessert!! 😃

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        • February 16, 2020 at 9:12 am
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          Pity you’re so far away. Carrie.
          Thanks for the offer. Will bear it in mind next year.

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      • February 26, 2020 at 7:27 pm
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        Hi, Chitra

        That’s a lovely little story and – reading between the lines – immensely sad. Very short, but I suppose the essence is there as it is. I liked it.

        Reply
  • February 16, 2020 at 8:04 am
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    Cappuccino Red
    by Ken Frape

    We spotted each other, across the crowded coffee shop. As she glanced up, I looked away embarrassed and pretended to study my hot, frothy cappuccino. As I looked up again, she looked away, finding something interesting in her cappuccino. We both looked away.

    After a suitable pause, I braved another look but to my surprise, she had gone, leaving a red umbrella on the table. Seizing the opportunity to see her again, I grabbed it and rushed to catch her and return it. I must have slipped in the wet doorway.

    Embarrassed and feeling foolish, I felt a gentle but insistent hand slip under my arm and assist me to my feet. As I stood I found myself face to face with those same cornflower blue eyes that I had been obliged to turn away from only a few moments before.

    “Are you OK?” she asked solicitously, her smile enticingly warm and gentle, her perfume subtle and alluring. “That was quite a tumble!”

    I only managed to shrug my shoulders and return her smile.

    “I, er um, I think you may have left this and, I ..was… er…” my voice tailed off as I held out the red umbrella.

    “Oh, thank you so much. I’m always losing them or forgetting them. But this one is special. You weren’t stealing it were you, then rushing away from the scene of the crime?”

    “Oh no, of course not…….” I started to protest until I saw the mischievous look on her face.

    “Anyway, I don’t really think red is your colour. I’m Daniella, by the way and you are….?” She held out her hand.

    “David” I responded limply. Her grip was firm as she looked down at my bloodied knee.

    “Right, let’s get you back inside and treat those wounds. I’ve got some tissues here.“

    “Oh really, there’s no need.“ My protests were feeble and Daniella ignored them as she steered me inside.

    “Right, we can sit here and I’ll get them in. It’s cappuccinos for us both, isn’t it?” There was that hint of mischief again.

    I am not in the least ashamed to say that as we drank those coffees, I fell in love with Daniella. She enveloped me in an aura that was both exciting and personal. We made each other laugh too.

    Daniella loved to listen to people and she listened to me. I couldn’t help feeling that the people around us, who occasionally looked up from the rim of their coffees, were envious of our laughter. Or perhaps they just saw a couple, happy in each other’s company…and wished….well, who knows what they wished?

    “Tell me about this special umbrella of yours,” I prompted.

    “It was a prop, in a play I was in a long time ago, in another life.”

    “and now…?” I prompted.

    “I’m acting again but after that play I took a long break, got married, had kids, got divorced, had a mid-life crisis, the whole nine yards. You know the story.” She said it as fact, without rancour or self-pity.

    Oh yes, I knew that story only too well. I had done the self pity too. I often felt that I was a card carrying member of the “ Failed relationships Club.”

    “I was going through my lines for my new play when I caught you watching me,” Daniella explained. “ It’s OK, no need to be embarrassed. I know I look weird when I am doing it. You should hear what my kids used to say!”

    “….and the umbrella?”

    “Oh, yes, I digress. My first professional part was in an off – West End production of a play called, what else, The Red Umbrella. “

    “Ah, yes, hence its importance.”

    “That’s right. It was back in ‘87. There were four of us then, straight out of drama school, so full of hope and blind ambition. We were going to tear up the record books. We’d be the talk of the town in our own West End run.”

    She gave a wistful sideways glance and laughed.

    “We were so, so naive. There was Bob and Camilla, Jolyon and me. We all fell in love with each other during rehearsals. The play was a roaring success with the punters and, of course, we all thought we were brilliant! Critics weren’t quite so keen, though. ”

    “Oh,” I said quietly.

    “After that, I married Jolyon and Camilla married Bob and then, about ten years later, Jolyon decided that it was Bob he should have married. I guess we were the original ménage a quatre……..”

    “That must have been quite a shock,” I said, an understatement if ever there was one.

    “It was, but we were young, adventurous,” she went on. “We tried everything. Now, there’s just me….” Her eyes misted over briefly.

    “I’m so sorry…” Daniella put her hand on my arm, smiling.

    “No, no, they’re not dead. It’s just that I’m the only one still performing but don’t be sorry. I’m not. We had champagne parties and standing ovations and curtain calls. My memories are mostly such happy ones and not everyone can say that, can they? Jolyon and I are friends now and we have two wonderful children and an adorable grandson.”

    We sat there silently for a few moments, thinking our own thoughts, her warm hand still resting companionably on my arm.
    “And how about you?” she asked.

    I told her about my failed relationship, the rancorous divorce, about my grown-up children now living on the other side of the world. Things I hadn’t spoken about for such a long time. It still hurt to talk about it but Daniella seemed to understood.

    “Are you ever going to tell me about the umbrella?” I prompted her again and we both laughed, softening the nostalgic tension.

    “ In Act two, Scene three, I stabbed my cheating husband through the heart with it! Years later, when Jolyon decided to go off with Bob I wanted to kill him for real but I couldn’t find it. Just as well, eh?”

    She turned to look at me again and this time we were not embarrassed and neither of us looked away.

    “Look, I’ve got to go now,” she went on, “rehearsals, you know but I’m here most afternoons around this time and if you’d care to join me..?” She raised her eyebrows in question and I nodded as she stood up and begun to turn away, slipping her arms into her coat and adjusting her scarf.

    “ Don’t forget this.” I picked up the red umbrella and held it out to her.

    Daniella laughed that wonderfully enticing laugh again as she grasped my hand holding the umbrella. She drew me towards her until we were just inches apart, her perfume filling my senses once again, our eyes fixed upon each other.

    “Why don’t you just hang on to it for me until next time, David. I’m not sure I can be trusted with it. I either forget it or kill someone with it!”

    She kissed me gently on the cheek and I must have closed my eyes as her lips gently brushed my skin.

    When I opened my eyes again she had gone.

    Reply
    • February 17, 2020 at 12:47 pm
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      What a delightful story about the beginnings of love. I was entranced by the burgeoning relationship – which you conveyed so well with subtle panache. I also liked the imagery of the red umbrella which is a topical thread throughout your piece. Your final line made it seem like the whole experience might have been a dream… well done!

      Reply
    • February 19, 2020 at 12:59 pm
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      Ken,

      I loved this story. A story of past heartbreak and finding new love when it was least expected. The red umbrella threaded throughout the tale kept it woven together. Very nice!

      Adi

      Reply
    • February 22, 2020 at 2:22 am
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      Ken Frape

      This is a really beautiful story; beautiful writing, perfect dialogue; adept handling of all the elements. This is just so elegantly written I don’t know what to say. It reminds me of that first story you posted. (That I remember.) The winter scene in the coffee shop, and the Santa-like man comes in, leaves gifts for everyone and then leaves. Something like that. It had a magical feel to it. This is like that. Splendid writing, Ken.

      Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 10:44 am
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      I really like the sweetness in this story. Somehow you saw the heartbreak prompt and turned into a flirtatious story. I agree that the umbrella weaving through the story makes a good thread holding it all together.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 8:52 am
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      Wow, this is really well written. I loved the small elements of surprise and the blooming new friendship. Nice job!

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 3:22 pm
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      Great story, Ken F. Her delightful laugh enticed me, too. I could barely hear it, but it was wonderful. Made me like her a lot more.

      I met my future wife in a cafe, and still think about that delightful meeting over 56 years ago, almost every day.

      Well written, and only one teeny, tiny gaff I found by not capitalizing relationships in the Failed relationships Club, so small I didn’t want to mention it, but felt I had to.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:27 pm
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      Hi, Ken

      A beautiful tale. The characters are very real (I fell in love with Daniella myself!) and the scene is impeccably rendered, mainly through dialogue but with some economical descriptions too. I know the narrator has the umbrella, and he probably think she’s coming back, but that “When I opened my eyes again she had gone.” at the end makes me uneasy – have you blind-sided us and that’s the heartbreak to come? I think in this line: “ ‘I’m so sorry…’ Daniella put her hand on my arm, smiling.”, I think the ‘Daniella put her hand on my arm, smiling.’ Could have gone on the next line; it seems like she’s the one saying “I’m sorry.” And that’s all I’ve got. Loved it.

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 3:21 am
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      Hi Ken,

      A nice smooth story with vivid imagery and a believable plot with the sowing of the seeds of love. I read it last week and again now to relive the pleasure.

      The red umbrella is almost another character, the protagonist even, playing its part well in pushing the plot forward. I thought it would go further with Daniella actually acting on her murderous impulse. Perhaps in a premiere bringing the old four back together. And the narrator, alone again over his usual cappuccino at the same table, receives the breaking news on the coffee shop TV – “Actress kills actor on stage in umbrella scene.” Immediately after, his phone beeps “It’s now just you and I left in this world xx D.” But maybe you wanted no blood… maybe it’s just me!

      This is one of several beautiful stories of yours that I’ve read, Ken, with an intriguing reference to theatre. You should put them together, when you’ve got enough of them, in an anthology. Try put them up at those after-theatre coffee shops at the West End, where theatre-goers are “in the mood”. You never know!

      Cheers!
      Ken M.

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 6:22 pm
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        I really like the character development of both these characters, especially the woman. I can picture her in my mind.

        Reply
  • February 16, 2020 at 10:28 am
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    Of Coos & Cuddles
    By Trish
    (word count 1175)

    “How can they do this to us,” asked Marcie to her husband Tom, taking a drink of a flat soda between bites of a slightly rancid cheese sandwich – all procured from the hospital vending machine. “We’ve been caring for her for what, 20 years now? We’ve known from day one that she had no cognitive abilities at all, yet we’ve cared for her every damn day. You know how hard it is, but you also know how much I love her. How can they not see that?”

    Marcie was bone tired. The stress of caring for Diane on a daily basis was wearing on her. Feeding her with a spoon, massaging her neck to be sure she swallowed, wiping her after every soiled diaper, changing her menstrual pads. It was like having a baby only without the sweet joys of hearing coos and feeling cuddles. And it had been 20 years.

    “I don’t know. But honey, this lawsuit is going to break us,” Tom replied. “I love her too, but how much longer than they expect us to continue on? We made her, we are caring for her. How can they not see that the hysterectomy would make life just a little easier for us. It’s not as though she is going to be able to have children anyways – well I suppose technically she could, but how… I’m sorry honey, I’m just so tired.”

    Tom was just as exhausted. So much of their money was going to medical treatment for Diane. Even with both of them working from home there was almost never enough to go around at the end of the month. He hated going to the Pawn shop during those times. He knew the desperation was on his face and he figured the Pawn guys were giving him less than his stuff was worth. But what was he to do? They needed the money. And now the lawsuit threatened even what little they had.

    Then, at the stroke of six, the TV screen, which had been bleating soap opera melodrama in the background of the hospital family waiting room, switched a news program. The overly coifed blonde reading the news made a sad face as she started, “Today, we focus on the controversy surrounding the Gundersons, a local family who have been caring for their cognitively vacant daughter for twenty years. They sought to give the girl a hysterectomy to make their caretaking roles just a little easier, but disability rights advocates have blocked the operation with a lawsuit naming the Gundersons, their doctor, and Our Lady of Mercy Hospital as co-defendants. Disability rights advocates cry that this operation would be a step towards legalizing forced sterilization of the disabled and is thus unconscionable. We now…” Marcie abruptly got up and changed the television channel to cartoons.

    Marcie returned to her seat, leaned back and shut her eyes. How could they be portrayed as such monsters? These disability rights advocates had a point, but couldn’t they make an exception for this extreme case? And where would the disability rights folks be when Diane needed her pads changed? Every month…no… every damn day was the same. In between her crappy medical billing work Marcie checked on Diane. She cooked for Diane. Cleaned her up. Spoke to her, hell Marcie even sang to her. It would have been so nice if Diane could just give any sign that she noticed. It was all so exhausting. But it was what had happened. And they had chosen to do their parental duties to the fullest…if only those people knew how much they both loved Diane. Marcie put the half-eaten sandwich back on the table next to her unfinished drink and looked solemnly at her husband. “Well, let’s go back in, shall we?”

    The family waiting room was just steps from Diane’s bed. Her pale, painfully thin body looked angular under the sheet. Her head was laying with her face at an angle towards the door, her scraggly red mane spilling over the pillow on the other side. Diane’s drool pooling on the pillow into a slimy wet spot and the smell of her unchanged diaper permeated the small room. Marcie shuddered a bit as she saw Diane’s expression…or…to be entirely honest…her lack of expression. Her eyes were as vacant as ever. Marcie thought to herself, “oh no, here we go again.”

    Tom too was struck by a strong sense of having seen this before. There had been so many surgeries, so many efforts to keep Diane alive…and to what end. She didn’t even seem to be aware she was alive. “If they only knew,” he muttered under his breath.

    Just then out of the corner of her eye Marcie saw Dr. Reese enter the doorway of Diane’s hospital room. She smiled wanly as he sat down heavily on an uninhabited corner of Diane’s bed.

    “I’m so sorry Marcie and Tom, I really wanted to help you, but between being named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit and facing potential loss of license sanctions, I think I have to back out of our plans for this surgery,” Dr. Reese’s eyes were wet and his voice was thick as he choked out the words.

    “So, it’s over,” mumbled Marcie. She was surprised to feel a little weight lifted off her mind. She was almost happy for this ending, even though it was not what she had wanted, because it meant the lawsuit would be over and nobody would call them horrible names anymore. She could continue changing Diane’s pads…until…Marcie shuddered…she might die before Diane went into menopause and then it would be somebody else’s problem. She was embarrassed to admit she wanted Diane to be somebody else’s problem a little sooner.

    “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. But perhaps its better this way,” said Tom as he put his arm protectively around Marcie. Still, even as he spoke the words of comfort, Tom was silently counting the costs of the hospital stay to date. Even without the surgery this stay was going to cost them a bundle.

    Marcie looked up at Tom appreciatively and sighed heavily. “How do we get the neighbors to stop thinking we are awful parents for wanting this operation? Oh, and who tells the lawyers to stop the lawsuit?”

    “I’ll tell the lawyers and I’ll ask the hospital to inform the media that the operation will not proceed,” said Dr. Reese. He took a last long look at the Gunderson family, and walked out of the room with a heavy heart.

    “Thank you, Dr. Reese” called Tom at the good doctor’s back. And Tom thought to himself, with a very broken heart, that, although he and Marcie had never even uttered the terrible words to each other, this wasn’t even the medical intervention that either one of them had really wanted to happen. They both loved Diane totally, but it had been, and was going to continue to be, a hard life, and he wasn’t ready to soldier on.

    Reply
    • February 18, 2020 at 7:05 am
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      Hi Trish,

      Wow, this is such a hard read. Not because it isn’t well written. It is very well written. It’s the subject matter that is so disturbing. How many of us have had to care for family members like this, or perhaps to a lesser degree? The guilt bites deep when we wish that we could have a break or “be released” from our toils. The day in, day out need to be there, to be on hand. All normal life put on hold. And we do it out of a sense of duty, for love, no questions asked.

      Additionally and this is certainly true in the UK, there is a huge shortage of carers to support families in need.

      Your telling of this story has more than a hint of “been there, got the T shirt,” and it is both poignant and graphic. I hope it is not an account of what you personally have had to go through but sadly, I feel that it has more than a touch of your personal experience.

      A deeply moving story, either true or fictional.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • February 18, 2020 at 7:20 am
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        Ken, thank you for the feedback. This piece is based on a heartbreaking news article I read a few years back that really stuck with me. Was the first thing I thought of when I thought of heartbreak…

        Reply
    • February 19, 2020 at 2:04 pm
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      Trish,

      What a powerful and poignant story with the ring of truth through it! I’ve worked with infants, students and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities most of my life. Unfortunately, for many parents, this is their life. In my field, we are often dealing with elderly parents who refuse to give up keeping their “child” at home even when they are no longer able to care for them. It is difficult when the parent needs as much or more care as their adult child. The toll it takes on a parent is almost unbearable at times.

      And then you threw in the old “sterilization” argument and debate. I wondered how the media found out what this private family was trying to do. Disability rights advocates do some wonderful work for people with disabilities and they were very instrumental in getting laws changed for the protection of people who had no voice. However, they were nowhere around when the institutions routinely sterilized female patients without consideration of their rights. This story might have gone differently if the reason for the hysterectomy was for medical reasons to ease the pain for the daughter rather than for the convenience of the parents doing the care-giving.

      One phrase really caught my attention. I’ve been in the field long enough to have been exposed to the gamut of labels for people with intellectual disabilities – retarded, deficient, imbecile, handicapped, challenged, etc. but I had never heard of the phrase “cognitively vacant”. I’m curious. Where did you find that terminology?

      Lastly, I would have liked to know more about Diane. How old was she? What caused her disability? (birth defect? accident?) What was her specific disability? We are already sympathetic to the parents’ situation, but this information would have added to the story. There is so much more to caring for her needs than her monthly cycle. I wasn’t completely convinced that this one operation would make much of a difference in her overall care for the parents.

      Ok, so the social work part of my job begs me to ask – where did this take story take place? Were there no government agencies that provide funding for specialized services for people in Diane’s condition? Community service providers? Personal assistant and/or nursing services provided in home? Home health aides? Why were these parents bearing the entire burden of the cost of their daughter’s care and care-giving without some kind of physical assistance? No government funded health care to offset some of the cost of medical care?

      I’m stopping now. As you can tell, I was thoroughly taken in by this story and passionate about the family and Diane. I wanted to rush in and offer them available resources to ease their burdens. It takes a great writer to pull a reader so completely into a story that they need and want to know more and feel so passionately about the characters.

      Well done!

      Adi

      Reply
      • February 19, 2020 at 3:01 pm
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        Thank you for your feedback Adi. I don’t remember where the couple was, what stuck with me from the article I read so many years ago was that the situation seemed awful for all. And you are right, their desire to alter their daughter for their own aid didn’t sit well, but I was sympathetic to the suffering of them all. What I also remember was their daughter was called a “vegetable” in the article- as I said it was years ago- I wanted to avoid that term. You are right, there are many community supports now, I don’t recall those being mentioned in the article I read. What stuck with me was the overwhelming feeling of everyone trying to do the “right” thing, and yet the end result was still heartbreaking.

        Reply
    • February 22, 2020 at 2:22 am
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      Trish,

      Boy this is a painful story. It’s very well written though. The conflict between real people in real life versus the state, and its mandated rules is laid out pretty starkly. It’s clear from the story that this couple loves and cares for the child, their intentions, even if self-centered, are certainly not destructive or debilitating to the child, which is really their ward, and a patient. Would the state allow a comatose patient to have a baby? By all rights it should be their decision and theirs alone. I’m not sure if there really are disability rights advocates, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

      I just finished a book today, called ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.’ It’s about nine years old, (as is the character when the story begins.) But the book has no quote marks. None of the dialogue has quotation marks. So you have to divine what is said and what is thought or observed (or exposited?) by the way it is written. I would have preferred the quotation marks for clarity, but I have to confess it was one of the best damned books I ever frickin’ read.

      Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 10:51 am
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      wow, this is such a depressing story, but you did a good job with it. I can’t imagine how tough that would be in real life, but you did a good job of conveying the parents troubles.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 9:00 am
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      Well, this was sad. As a parent what a truly horrible tale of heartbreak. I sit here imagining the toll it must have taken on the marriage, then to have their business publicly announced and to feel humiliated. When thinking of an invalid it never really occurred to me the natural progression of a young girl into woman hood, and what a chore that would be. It also gets under my skin that the “Government” in this story has the audacity to interfere with the choices the mother would make for her daughter’s body. That is a whole other rabbit hole you surely don’t want me to dive into right now.
      Great story, well written, and truly devastating.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:25 pm
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      Hi, Trish

      Not much to add that the others haven’t already mentioned. A very difficult and moving story. Personally, I’m always full of admiration when I see parents with seriously disabled adult children that are totally dependent on them to survive, and apart from having sympathy for the child, I think of all the sacrifices the parents have had to make for their loved one. Your story gives flesh to that feeling I have.
      It may seem churlish of me to point out things I think could be improved, given the seriousness of the subject, but I’m going to anyway. Once you’ve established (very well) the situation, I think you may go overboard at times (e.g. “And it had been 20 years.”, which repeats information we’ve just discovered.) But this is very powerful stuff.

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 4:06 am
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      Hi Trish,

      I found this story very disturbing, especially since it’s a true story happening many times over in our world as I’m typing this. Your writing is very vivid and realistic, and I could palpably feel the emotions, frustrations and sense of hopeless of all those concerned. You’ve done your part really well in conveying it all to us.

      Many have commented on the parents’ plight, so I won’t repeat what has already been said. My anger is directed at the political correctness of rights advocates (in all fields – not just the disabled).

      “Rights” are coldly asserted, often from high above by people who don’t live the real-life consequences, rolling over the real welfare of the individuals concerned. Every case is different, yet taboos and legislation act in a one-size-fits-all manner. Even worse, some “rights” (and “wrongs”) are based on the fashionable trends of our era.

      We’re still so shell-shocked, of course, by the excesses of the Nazi regime (and some others) with dealing with “non-standard” segments of their population, that we sometimes go to the other extreme, trying to salvage the unsalvagable (like the sexuality of the woman in your story) and causing immense collateral pain in the process.

      To plagiarize something famous that was said during the French Revolution, I’d put it this way: “Oh Human Rights, how many have to suffer and die in thy name?”

      Not easy decisions, I know, but decisions that ought to be made with compassion and not with the long arm of the law.

      I’m concerned about the father’s claim at the end that he won’t be able to soldier on. I’m afraid something’s gotta give, very soon…

      Ken

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 11:09 am
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      Part of me says the caretakers were being a bit selfish, but who can blame them for wanting a bit of a break, no matter how small. However, the angle they should have used is not wanting her to be impregnated. A recent case in Michigan had a 40 something comatose victim suddenly having a baby they were totally unaware of. It was easy to do a blood test on all the male employees to discover the father. One of the male attendants who had been abusing her sexually for years on a frequent basis. Who is going to raise this baby? It was a real dilemma and I’m not sure what the outcome ended up being. A very real and well written story.

      Reply
  • February 17, 2020 at 5:50 am
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    LOVE IS IN THE WAY
    by Ken Miles

    “Jeez! Tell’em kids who and who not to fall in love with? If that’s not medieval, what is!”

    “Gotta understand, Mr.Rodriguez, my daughter’s a special case…”

    “Yeah, right! Like my son isn’t to me!” Carlos Rodriguez detests that whiff of superiority coming from the man across the table.

    “Can you keep a secret?” The billionaire leans forward, takes his lips to Carlos’s ear. Theatrically mostly, for the VIP-tables at the Belle-Epoque are paneled-off in soundproof-glass.

    “I’m running for Mayor! Now you’re on something real big there – not even my wife knows yet. You understand my situation now?”

    Carlos nods, but just slightly.

    “Picture this: how Frankenmeister’d come down on me – you’re not fond of him, are you? He’s the worst Mayor in ’istory, ’specially for you ’Spanics. Them newspeople’d grill me on that mere fact…”

    Mr.Morobbry weighs his words; he needs Carlos on his side. But finds no prettier way around it:
    “…that mere fact my daughter’s going steady with a… criminal.”

    “Marcos’s not a criminal!” Carlos bursts out.

    “Got a record. Did some time, right?” Mr.Morobbry pushes it, further inflaming Carlos.

    “Listen Morobbry, a kid from your parts messes up, and it’s the bad influences, society, videogames. Needs love’an’care. One of ours steals an apple – and that’s because his dad’s on fuck’n $600-a-month – goes straight to jail!”

    “It wasn’t an apple, I hear. He ransacked a hifi-store…”

    “A second-hand DVD player worth nada’s all he got! Couldn’t even get rid of it!”

    “And the car?”

    “T’was only a joyride. Kids, man! Same like you and I’d’ve done, their age.”

    “You not I”, the large man corrects him.

    A waiter rings the bell and brings in an enormous silver-platter with the most luscious finger-food on the planet, two bottles of red-wine, glasses and corkscrews.

    Carlos examines his corkscrew.

    “This is where money meets blood. Jeremy Plaine died here. Not a stroke as the papers said. The waiter slipped something in his drink. Now you gotta open your own damn bottle.”

    Carlos gets back to business, “You got me here so I make Marcos ditch Vicki? It’s not gonna happen!”

    “Relax. Few get the chance to enter this place. We’re on the very table the bribe to build Liberty Tower was paid. Al Capone once sat there where you are. Enjoy it, while you’re here. That wine there. French, 1949, $1,400-a-bottle…”

    Carlos strokes the bottle, not without some trepidation.

    “I’ll foot the bill, no worries,” Mr.Morobbry assures him. “I’ll scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.”

    With that he places a gold-rimmed envelope in front of Carlos.

    “That’s a ten-thousand-dollar present for you. It’ll make a difference in your life.”

    Carlos eyes the envelope. But he’s scared to touch it.

    “And when I’m Mayor, your dole will go up too. I’ll be there for people like you. It’s win-win all the way…”

    Mr.Morobbry hands Carlos a fancy business-card with the name “Miranda Love” on it.

    “This Miranda-gal’s our partner. Ex-skin-flick actress. Top-of-the-range, if you ask me. It’s all arranged, paid upfront. All you gotta do, bring your son to the bait, work him up on the chick. Make it seem accidental. She’ll twist an ankle. Badly. Marcos’ll be at her rescue. She’ll owe him one; will play her part well. I’ll make sure Victoria-Elizabeth sees’em together. Get it?”

    Carlos takes a deep breath. He’s seen Marcos go astray. The boy grew up too soon. Drugs, thefts, jail-time. Finally rehab, a complete turnaround: got into college, graduated – that’s where he met Victoria-Marie-Louise-Elizabeth Morobbry. He saw that first glint in a long time in his son’s eyes, that day Marcos first told him about Vicki. He himself shed a tear. The lad’d been through it all and somehow pulled it off. Would he do this to him now?

    “No Sir. Count me out. I won’t cause my son heartbreak.” He places his half-eaten angel-on-horseback back on the silver-platter, and gets up to leave.

    Mr.Morobbry signals him to stay. “You’re right, it’s true love. Won’t contest that. I’ve seen it in my daughter’s eyes too. If it were just a fling, I’d have waited it out. Tried to talk some sense into her. Had her see a shrink too. Nothing worked. That’s why I recruited you.”

    “I decline. That’s not what I’m made of.”

    “A hard nut, aren’t you? Well, then, dunno… I’d pray for Marcos’s health if I were you.”

    “What did you just say?”

    “Hey! Let go of my tie… Did I say anything…?”

    Carlos takes out his iPhone, fiddles with it, then places it on the table:

    “…I’d pray for Marco’s health if I were you…”

    “You can’t do that – without my consent – it’s illegal!” Seriously pissed now, Mr.Morobbry snatches Carlos’s iPhone, “I’ll be keeping this!”

    “All you want! The recording’s already up in the iCloud. Anything happens to Marco, and you’re the ex-Next-Mayor of this city…”

    Mr.Morobbry takes back the envelope with the money from the table, then slaps another thicker one in its stead.

    “There, I added you another zero. What d’you say now?”

    Carlos stares at the envelope.

    “Hundred-thousand-dollars,” Mr.Morobbry utters the words slowly, to make them sound more tantalizing.

    Carlos sits, takes the envelope and shoves it in his jeans-pocket this time.

    Mr.Morobbry sighs, relieved. Lost some loose change there, but it could have cost him his ticket.

    “Is that red beauty yours, out there?” Carlos asks, pointing at the driveway.

    “The Lambo? Yes. Got it out today. Another secret for you: I’m surprising the Missus on St.Valentine’s.”

    “I want it,” Carlos says.

    “Want what?”

    “The Lambo. Sure as hell you can take out half-a-dozen more of’em in the bat of an eye.”

    “You’re one greedy sonofabee, you know!”

    “Me greedy? Coming from you! The man who swallowed up half this city!”

    Mr.Morobry puffs, then retreats to the next table-cubicle. Carlos sees him talking on the phone through the glass.

    “Howard, darling, come pick me up. At the Graveyard… No, no, the Lambo’s fine… No, didn’t crash it! Just that this ’Spanic ass’ole set his eyes on it. Got me under his thumb. Recorded everything… What did I say? More than I should ’ave, I suppose. But got him to do the job… We’ll sort him out eventually. When I’m on the hot-seat. Don’t want blood on my’ands on Frankenmeister’s watch…”

    Mr.Morobbry returns and hands over the car-keys to Carlos.

    “Well, enjoy the rich life. It’s slippery all the way down. Once you tasted hell, you wouldn’t wanna care about heaven. Staying here?”

    “Still to finish my wine.”

    “Fine, I’ll leave you to it. It’s the real stuff. And that’s a damn fast car – don’t let me down, I need you alive! Hasta la vista.”

    Mr.Morobbry gone, Carlos crumples Miranda Love’s card and throws it in the ashtray. Then he calls Marcos.

    “Worked out better than planned, son! Vicki with you? Listen up – got you this Lamborghini, at the Belle-Epoque. Ask the concierge for the keys. Just that, not another word. There’ll be $100-grand in the trunk. Get your ass and Vicki’s inside and leave the State. It’s a damn fast car, won’t take you long. Lodge somewhere nice. Don’t come back till you’ve given Mr.Morobbry a sweet li’l grandchild.”

    Reply
    • February 17, 2020 at 9:16 am
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      Ken- what a fun take on the prompt. I enjoyed your plot- loved the ending! Good work!

      Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 4:55 am
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        Thanks Trish, I love it when readers love what I write 🙂 That’s what matters at the end of the day. Thank you for letting me know and I’m glad you enjoyed it. The ending came to me as an afterthought, but it seems to have closed the story nicely.

        Ken

        Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 4:59 am
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        Thanks Trish, I’m glad you enjoyed it and that you let me in on that 🙂 I love it when readers love what I write – that’s why we toil with our stories, after all, at the end of the day, right? It’s all for the readers.

        The ending sort of came to me as an afterthought, and it seems to have rounded off the story nicely. With some much needed justice…

        Ken

        Reply
    • February 18, 2020 at 7:14 am
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      Hi Ken M,

      Great story once again. You really nailed the prompt too and in a most expensive way with a red Lambo and $1400 wine. Your plot is clever, inventive and extremely believable.

      There’s nothing like a story of the bad guy who turned out OK, like Marcos and the family love of his father. There’s also that certain satisfaction in getting one over the “fat cats” who seem to have their fingers in every pie. The final comment about a grandchild also ties up the loose end of retribution in the future.

      Great story, very entertaining.

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 5:06 am
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        Thanks Ken – yes, it cost a great deal of money to fulfil this prompt, but I don’t mind it when it’s somebody else’s money!

        (And in any case, for Morobbry – I conjured that name from “More-Robbery” – it was just some loose change there.)

        I’m pleased you enjoyed reading my story and found the way it was resolved satisfying. Indeed, thumbs up for the small guy against the greedy rich-and-powerful! Nobody is perfect in this world, but at least some are imperfect in a small way, when compared to some others…

        Ken

        Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 5:08 am
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        (And thumbs up to triumphant love, over all obstacles, too, btw!)

        Reply
    • February 22, 2020 at 2:23 am
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      Ken Miles (to go before he sleeps.)

      Dude, nice story. Very good dialogue.

      But first, let me thank you for the glowing critique of my last story. I’m printing it out now. Will have it laminated, perhaps bronzed or cryogenically preserved for future generations. (To marvel at, of course. No one will remember my story, just your critique.)

      I beg to differ on one point only, I did not see the pig in my story as a martyr, merely a tasty meal.

      As for your story: Love Is In The Way’.
      Another great story, Ken. An intriguing, smokey, down and dirty corrupted political power-play kind of suspense thriller.

      I like the little references to previous dirty deals and dealers. “Al Capone once sat at this table.” (More or less.) ‘Few get the chance to enter this place.’ That should’ve been exposition. But other than that one thing, I think the dialogue is great. Really brisk and clipped. Rough sounding, like the characters.

      You get the sense that one of them will do whatever it takes to achieve his desired ends. And then the other shoe drops. I won’t give away the end, but the ruthlessness of the one character and implacability of the other makes the ending t this story all that much sweeter.

      Thing One: Technically speaking, after Mr. Morobbry takes Carlos’ iphone, how does Carlos call his son? He must have a second phone.
      Thing Two: ‘He places his half-eaten angel-on-horseback back on the silver-platter…’ (No. Stop. Stop! You’re trying to hyphenate me to death.) No actually it’s the ‘angel-on-horseback back’ thing. Whatever that is, I don’t know. I don’t want to know, and it took me out of the story momentarily. Other than thing one, thing two and the other thing, this is a wonderful story. I really enjoyed it.

      Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 5:36 am
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        Hi Ken – it’s good to hear you enjoyed it! It’s my turn now to thank you for the glowing review. Also, for the rough edges you pointed out for improvement, too, of course.

        This story grew on me entirely from the points in the prompt, and sort of developed out of there as I wrote it down, rather quickly, comparatively-speaking. I’m quite pleased with the result too.

        I didn’t quite get the exposition issue you mentioned above. Perhaps you can elaborate a little bit further on that?

        As for how Carlos calls his son, I originally had Morobbry put the iPhone back on the table, on realizing the futility of seizing it. That bit, then, had to go. In the noble name of the word-limit restriction. I thought, perhaps, it would be an assumed technicality by the readers. Or Carlos uses the restaurant phone or something. Maybe sends a homing pigeon to Marcos with the news. Following on your comment, though, I’d add it again, next time round. But for a 1,250-word short-story contest.

        Also “…the angel-on-horseback back” – I’ll fix that. I’ll choose another hors d’oeuvre that finishes with “front”. I like the one I used because it was the only angel in the room, for those who wanted to giggle at that inconsequential detail. But, you’re right, the accidental repetition of “back” sounds bad. It’s one thing I would have only realized if I read the story aloud before submitting (which I don’t usually do, and perhaps should. Or perhaps shouldn’t, if I’d like to preserve my inaccurate reputation of a more-or-less sane person amongst the people around me). Did you catch the back-back blunder while reading silently? Or did you read this one out to Kim, too?

        (The Other) Ken

        Reply
        • February 24, 2020 at 1:49 pm
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          Hey Ken,

          It’s really nothing, you should probably just leave it as it is. But since you asked.

          In your version, it’s all dialogue. Mr. Morobbry says,

          “Relax. Few get the chance to enter this place. We’re on the very table the bribe to build liberty tower was paid. Al Capone once sat there where you are. Enjoy it, while you’re here. That wine there. French, 1949, $1400 a bottle.”

          I think that the sentence describing the exclusivity of the restaurant, or whatever it is, should’ve been exposition, that’s all. As I don’t think anyone would actually say ‘few get the chance to enter this place.’

          Few men without means get a chance to enter places like this. “Look around,” Morobbry says. “We’re at the very table the bribe to build Liberty Tower was paid. Al Capone sat there in that booth. This wine? French, 1949, $1400 a bottle. Enjoy it while you’re here.”

          More words, but you’re still under the word limit. But it’s a minor point, the dialogue and description is great, the reveal is brilliant. (Don’t screw around with it any more than you have to, or not at all. That would be fine too. It’s a very good story.)

          No I did not read this one out to Kim.

          Reply
          • February 25, 2020 at 4:55 am
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            Thanks Ken, I get it now and I agree with your observation. In my fear of being too expositional (or expository? What’s the word?), I had Morobbry talking too much there.

            True, people wouldn’t usually say so much in one gulp. Although this one is a self-inflated large-mouthed big city Mayor-wannabe…

    • February 25, 2020 at 11:02 am
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      Ken M., I liked this story when the cards flipped at the end. I have to say that the dialect in the most of the story was getting in the way of my enjoyment of it. No one else mentioned that, so it’s probably just me, but there was a lot of multiple apostrophes in one word and it was hard for me to see around them to the plot which was actually enjoyable. I kept waiting for Carlos to use the corkscrew on Mr Morobbry or for Morobbry to poison him. The plot twist at the end though really made the story and I liked the way the dad stuck to his guns.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 3:20 pm
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        Hmmm… yes, Carlos should have used that corkscrew on Morobbry! I didn’t think of that.

        I took note of your difficulty with following the numerous apostrophe contracted words. More than a dialect, I tried to give Morobbry an annoying speech impediment, especially with initial H’s, but maybe I overdid it. Well, he did manage to annoy you, for one lol!

        Some other contractions by apostrophe or hyphenation (Ken C. lamented that) found their way in to satisfy the word limit. Why isn’t this a 1,250-word contest! I nearly always need those few extra words…

        I’m pleased you liked the overall plot and the surprise ending, Wendy.

        Thanks!

        Ken

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 9:15 am
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      AHHH!! This is my favorite so far!! ( I am only four stories deep though). This was FUN!!! I had a blast reading this, and the end..HA! Take that Mr. Morobbry! I could clearly see this whole set up in my minds eye. The little details like the gold trimmed envelope sealed the deal for me! I really wouldn’t fix much. Maybe spacing between Mr. Morobbry, but then maybe that is how you write, I dunno. Loved it, great job!

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 3:21 pm
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        I’m pleased you liked my story, Kristin – I hope it keeps floating along as you read on more stories… but the competition is fierce!
        The space between Mr. and Morobbry? Shhhh, between you and I, Microsoft counts them as one word instead of two, without that space. And I was at the very limit! Nobody else is reading this, right?

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:24 pm
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      Hi, Ken

      This is great stuff – David v Goliath (with David winning) always makes for a good story. I could see which way it was going (at least the fact that the father was taking the money but there was no way he was going to do the fat cat’s bidding), but that’s not at all to say it’s predictable in a boring sense; it was very pleasurable to see my predictions come more or less true, and the couple of extra twists at the end. The plot is very slick, though given that the young couple are obviously head-over-heels in love with each other (and Morobbry has admitted as much), I think the lady-of-the-night trap would be unlikely to work. Very enjoyable story, though!

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 4:21 am
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        Hi Phil,

        Thanks for your nice words, and I’m pleased you enjoyed the read.

        I like it too every time the underdog comes on top. Especially when the opposing side is as arrogant as someone like Morobbry. I didn’t want the characters to be black and white, both sides have their defects. But Morobbry’s attitudinal sins are glaring to me, and I don’t want him to have it his way yet again. Wendy suggested the corkscrew goes in his face. But no, let him suffer longer-term as he sinks, beaten by Carlos’s plan. The problem is not with his face, but his ego.

        There’s also a chance of redemption for him – who knows if he’ll accept the nice li’l creature when it comes?

        About the lady-of-the-night ploy – maybe it wouldn’t have worked, as you say. Morobbry, in his shallow understanding of his own daughter, thought it would work, though. Also preferable to having Marcos “taken out” with the potential consequences that would carry with it for Morobbry as a person and for his electoral campaign if he’s caught or even suspected.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 12:53 pm
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      Good story, Ken M. I liked it. Like one or two of the others, I was occasionally confused by all the dialogue contractions, but managed to wade my way through. And, as always, pretty well written.

      Reply
      • February 28, 2020 at 10:42 am
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        Thanks Roy! Well, I don’t blame you – I’ve gone overboard with contractions… to cheat my way into staying within the word limit (shhh!), but it may have backfired with some readers. Good to hear you waded your way through and liked the story 🙂
        Ken

        Reply
  • February 18, 2020 at 2:06 pm
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    Coffee Shop Blues

    ‘Hey, have you ordered yet or-’
    ‘This isn’t working.’
    River winced around her straw as she pointedly stared out the café window next to her, wondering why she had chosen to come here of all places on Valentines Day. Anything from the garish red decorations and extra touchy couples that filled the tables should have told her that this was a very Bad Idea.
    If it hadn’t been for her own stubbornness (yes, she was perfectly fine going to a coffee shop single on Valentines Day thank you very much), then she usually wouldn’t have even stepped into the place, let alone afford more than a drink. Yet here she was, sipping on a sickly-sweet soda, regretting her drink choice and her life.
    River didn’t even like overcrowded places. This had been a stupid idea.
    ‘You’re joking right? Where is this coming from? We’ve been fine.’
    River had also managed to sit next to the only couple who were having a not so perfect day. While arguing was probably preferable to obnoxious making out, it was still extremely uncomfortable to be around and not making her feel any better about her own day. Maybe shutting herself in her room and watching cheesy rom coms was one stereotype she should have just stuck too.
    There was a sigh and River tensed as she waited for whatever the girl was about to say. She knew she shouldn’t be listening, but she was bored and had felt weirdly invested in this random couple’s business from the minute the guy had walked in and flopped in the seat in front of the stiff girl. River had smelt break-up argument a mile away. They both looked about her age, too, and she was pretty sure she recognised them from her high school.
    ‘That’s exactly it. We’re just okay. Look, you’re hot and a great guy, really, but I’m starting to think that that’s it. There’s nothing there and I feel like you’re way more invested in us than I am.’
    Ouch. River spared a glance and found the girl watching him sympathetically that almost seemed mocking. The boy was processing her words, his face flickering with conflicting emotions as he clenched his fists. She quickly looked away before either of them caught her looking. Its not like they could blame her, though. This was a public space, even if everyone else seemed too busy sucking face or staring into each other’s eyes.
    ‘Is that really it? I-I can back off if you want, we don’t have to… please don’t-’
    ‘I’m sorry, Callum. I can’t do this anymore. We’ve both played our parts great but it really does feel like all we’ve been doing is playing. I hope you find someone who… understands you better. See you around.’
    River found herself staring after the girl along with Callum as his now ex stood and left the café, not once looking back. With the girl out of sight, the boy slumped in his chair, his head in his hands as he stayed very still for what seemed like a long time. River cringed empathetically. That was cold.
    ‘I’m sorry Miss but if you’ve finished your drink and you aren’t going to order anything else, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.’
    River snapped to attention as she realised she was being talked too, a not-at-all apologetic waiter smiling patronizingly down at her. She frowned at the demand. She didn’t have any more money so she couldn’t buy anything else, but they couldn’t just kick her out like that, could they?
    At her hesitation, the man continued. ‘I have plenty of other waiting customers who need a table and seeing as you are alone, I’m sure you won’t mind giving yours up.’
    He raised an eyebrow at the empty seat across from River and she felt anger fill her at the implication. Yes, she was alone. That didn’t mean this pompous waiter could just give her table to some infatuated couple.
    But then again, it re ally wasn’t worth the argument. She sighed as she reached to grab her bag, pausing when she felt someone approach her table from the other side.
    ‘There you are, babe. Sorry I didn’t see you there, I see you ordered without me already.’
    River looked up to see the guy she had just seen have his heart broken slide into the seat opposite her with a grin. It was the complete 180 to how he’d looked just moments before, and she couldn’t understand what was going on at all.
    The waiter seemed to recoil, caught off-guard as well, his smile frozen.
    Callum turned to the waiter. ‘I’d like whatever she ordered. And two brownies.’
    The waiter flushed and scribbled down the order before hastily leaving. River almost yelled at him not to leave her behind.
    Instead, she stared incomprehensively as Callum made himself comfortable and stared back expectantly. She could help but notice that he was in fact unfairly attractive and River was now feeling very out of place even though this had originally been her table. What the hell?
    ‘Okay so, I know that you listened to that whole conversation I just had so I think the least you can do is tolerate my company for a little bit.’
    River winced. She hadn’t realised he had noticed her at all.
    Callum seemed to collapse again, face crumpling and eyes sad, although he didn’t end up with his head in his hands. His smile was became tighter and more forced, not quite reaching his eyes.
    ‘Um, thanks for helping me with the waiter. You didn’t have to,’ River offered desperately, not too sure what she should say.
    Callum just shrugged. ‘He was being rude.’
    There was a tense silence as River considered her next move. She knew literally nothing about him apart from what she’d heard from the conversation. Should she just leave? Maybe not seeing as he’d just stopped her from being kicked out.
    The waiter returned with the drink and brownies, leaving quickly.
    ‘I’m just so sick of people only ever thinking of themselves. Like all that waiter was thinking about was earning more money and getting more paying customers.’
    River got the feeling that it wasn’t the waiter he was angry at.
    ‘Well, he was just doing his job,’ she offered, not too sure why she was defending the waiter but feeling like she should say something.
    ‘But aren’t you annoyed? Don’t you think he should have paid more attention to your feelings?’
    River glanced around awkwardly. ‘Yeah it was annoying, but his opinion doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t need my feelings to be his concern.’
    The drink and a brownie were consumed quickly in thoughtful silence as River waited for him to say something, anything.
    ‘Even if he hurt you?’ he finally asked and River kind of maybe finally got what this was about.
    ‘Especially if he hurt me,’ she responded finally, holding his searching gaze.
    After a moment he nodded and when he smiled, it almost reached his eyes.
    He muttered a thanks and left, dumping money on the table. It was more than enough.
    River realised he’d left a brownie for her.

    Reply
    • February 18, 2020 at 2:19 pm
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      Amelie, I enjoyed your story- particularly the end. Wouldn’t it be nice if strangers helped each other out more? Keep smiling, Trish

      Reply
    • February 22, 2020 at 2:24 am
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      Amelie,

      This story baffled me for some reason, perhaps it was the unexplained transformation of the male character. Or the idea that there was some place that couples either argued or ‘made-out.’ I think what the story lacked was a single compelling character that I could identify with. However, the writing is fine, the dialogue is really good, I think I felt the ending was trying to tell me something but I didn’t quite get it.

      Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 1:41 pm
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      Hi Amelie,

      i liked a lot of this story and I think you set it out nicely, for the most part, especially the “break-up” dialogue. It seemed quite natural and it worked for me.

      When we get to the end and the waiter intervenes, it loses a bit of its sparkle for me. Firstly, I’m sure there are waiters like that but I have never seen one. Based upon the money that waiters get paid I’m not sure we can also expect them to be concerned about our feelings as Callum seemed to expect.

      I know it would probably be a bit of a cliche in the circumstances but I would quite like it if River had called Callum back as he sounds like he could be a decent guy.
      Just my suggestion,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 9:45 am
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      I liked the way this story played out. I would have maybe liked to see a bit more of an interchange after he joined River at the booth. It fell a bit flat for me but that’s OK! The writing is great! The only real critique I have is this line —

      River spared a glance and found the girl watching him sympathetically that almost seemed mocking.

      I feel like there is a word either added or missing for this to flow properly. That is just a technicality error. The plot was great, the story engaging and easy to read.

      The girl who left, she is a snot. I truly felt his heart breaking.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:23 pm
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      Hi, Amelie

      A good story, this. The scene is well established. The eavesdropping is a neat device to have us, the reader, actually ‘listening in’, through River. I felt for Callum – it’s a harsh break-up. But then I felt he recovers from the heartbreak very quickly to come to River’s aid; if he were in pieces like he seems to be, I’m not sure his mind would be able to suss out the situation and an intervention strategy. I like the last line; as Ken C says, you probably mean it to have a special significance, and it’s fun trying to guess what that is. Maybe that after the break-up, Callum still has a little bit of himself left for River and a future romance. (?)

      Reply
    • February 29, 2020 at 10:19 am
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      Amelie, you have a good story here, and I really liked the ‘we may or may not ever met again, and if we do, it might or might not end this same way’ ending. I loved the line – After a moment he smiled and this time it almost reached his eyes. If you could have had more lines throughout the story as good as that, it could have been an absolutely GREAT story.

      Roy

      Reply
  • February 19, 2020 at 6:26 pm
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    Cause of Death
    By Alice Nelson ©2020
    (Word count – 1199)

    February 10th

    “Can she hear me?”

    “Yes, just talk to her the way you would have before. Studies have shown that patients in a coma can hear everything around them,” the doctor said.

    Kevin sighed, “Hi Amy, it’s me…I feel silly,” he says to the nurse, whose name was Becky.

    She gave him a sympathetic smile, “Just try, she’s in there, maybe this can help bring her out.”

    ***

    February 14th

    “Happy Valentine’s day honey. I know how you hate flowers, so I bought you some chocolate…and I’m eating all your favorites.”

    Kevin laughed, he knew Amy would’ve laughed too.

    ***

    March 21st

    “So that idiot Brian at work, you know the one, who sneaks and takes naps in the middle of the day. Well guess who got the promotion over me? Maybe napping is the key huh?” Kevin smiled.

    He took Amy’s hand in his, “It’s warm,” he told Becky.

    She gives him a reassuring smile.

    ***

    April 11th

    “You missed your mother’s birthday. She talked about you of course…a lot, and cried. It turned into a celebration of your life. You would’ve hated it.”

    Kevin took her hand and smiled. Amy’s fingers moved.

    “She moved, her hand it moved.”

    “That could be an involuntary reaction,” the doctor said, “Comatose patients often exhibit these kinds of reflexive movements.”

    “But you said if I talk to her…”

    “And you should still do that, I just don’t want you to get your hopes up.”

    After the doctor left, Becky, squeezed Kevin’s shoulder and said, “He’s a prick.”

    ***

    May 6th

    “Remember our first date Amy. I took you out for drinks, but you didn’t really drink, and by the end of the night you were puking up a lung in the bathroom. You thought I’d never call again. But I knew then I couldn’t live without you.”

    Kevin took her hand again, he hadn’t felt it move since that day.

    “I need you Amy, please come back.”

    ***

    July 4th

    “Becky said you can see the fireworks from here,” Kevin smiled, “Remember how you’d always want to sneak off together, so it would just be you and me at the end of the night?”

    Becky came in.

    “Hi Kevin, how is she today?”

    “The same.”

    “Don’t lose heart, she’s a fighter.”

    Becky stayed and watched the Fourth of July celebration with Kevin. They missed it when Amy’s arm moved.

    ***

    August 15th

    “Guess who I saw today? That friend of yours from your old job, Tammy…Tina, something like that. She was the one who went through a break at least every week. She’d come over and talk late into the night about how he was the one, and she was devastated. Until the next guy came along.”

    Kevin chuckled, then he grew very serious, “She didn’t even ask about you, just kept talking about how she had finally met the man of her dreams. It was exhausting.”

    Kevin looked at his wife, “Amy…are you ever coming back to me?”

    It was time for Becky to change Amy’s sheets, but she stopped at the door when she heard Kevin talking. Becky wasn’t trying to snoop, but she heard everything, and her heart broke for him.

    ***

    September 20th

    “Sorry I haven’t been in a while honey. Work’s been a bitch. Napping might be the way to get a promotion, but it definitely isn’t the way to keep one. Brian got canned, now I’m doing the work of two people.”

    Kevin held Amy’s hand, it was damp and limp. He dropped it, and stared out the window.

    “Oh hi Kevin,” Becky had just arrived, “How’s our girl?”

    “Fine, I guess.”

    Kevin watched as Becky bathed Amy, and put her in a fresh pair of pajamas.

    “May I be frank?” she asked Kevin.

    He nodded.

    “Do you have anyone to talk to about all of this?”

    “You mean like a therapist?”

    “Yeah, like a therapist,” she said. “It can be very lonely for the spouse of someone in a coma. It’s like being a widow, only you can’t move on.”

    “That’s exactly how it feels,” Kevin smiled, and Becky squeezed his shoulder.

    ***

    October 31st

    Kevin came in dressed like Vincent Vega from the movie Pulp Fiction, Amy was going to go as Mia Wallace, complete with the hypodermic needle poking out her chest. They’d planned it just after the previous Halloween, never thinking Amy would be in a horrific accident that nearly killed her.

    “I’m Vincent Vega,” Kevin said doing his best John Travolta impersonation. It always made Amy laugh, but not this time.

    ***

    November 12th

    “Snow’s early this year,” Kevin said, “They say that it might be one of the worst winters in 90 years.”

    Kevin sat listening to the beeping of the machines that were keeping his wife alive. The one-sided conversations were becoming more and more difficult for him.

    “I’ll see you next month,” Kevin said, leaving just before Amy’s hand moved toward his.

    ***

    December 31st

    “Happy New Year Amy!” Kevin yelled.

    Nurse Becky was there as usual, she wore one of those pointy hats that said, See ya Next Year.

    Kevin smiled at Becky as they held hands. This wasn’t the first time, but it lasted longer than before.

    ***

    January 14th

    “Hi,” Kevin said to Becky.

    “Hello,” she replied.

    They looked at each other, then at Amy who still hadn’t made any acknowledgment that she was still in there.

    “Hi Amy, I still love you.”

    Then he left with Becky. They had dinner reservations at 7.

    Becky resigned from her position a month later.

    ***

    March 17th

    “Hi Amy, it’s Kev. Becky’s here too. She does care for you even though the two of you haven’t officially met.”

    Kevin looked at Becky, she nodded for him to go on.

    “I wanted to tell you myself that Becky and I have become very close over the course of this year and…and although I do still care for you, she and I have fallen in love. If you can hear me, know that neither of us meant for this to happen. I am so sorry Amy, I wish things were different.”

    Becky squeezed Amy’s hand, and she and Kevin left for the last time.

    ***

    March 18th

    “Hi honey, it’s me, mom. Don’t you worry baby, dad and I will always be here for you, even if Kevin won’t.”

    **********

    In April, Amy was transferred to a hospice care facility. A place where most of the patients were elderly men and women in their final days. Some looked with pity upon the young woman in room 103, Amy didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her.

    It was her mother, Diane who told Amy about Kevin and That Nurse, as Diane called her. “They’re having a baby. He told me and your father that he still loves you, but wants to start a life with her.”

    Diane swore that she felt Amy slip away that day, and it wasn’t long after, that Amy officially gave up her fight.

    Her obituary read: Amy Livingstone 31, finally succumbed to injuries suffered in a car accident the previous year.

    But if you asked her mother, she would tell you, “My Amy didn’t die from those injuries, she died from a broken heart.”

    Reply
    • February 20, 2020 at 2:23 am
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      Powerful story!

      Reply
    • February 20, 2020 at 5:42 pm
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      Alice, I thought your plot made for an enjoyable read, but I wonder if I might have been more invested in the ending if I knew a little bit more about Becky so I could understand why Kevin fell for her so hard. Otherwise, very clear writing with great characters in Amy and Kevin.

      Reply
      • February 20, 2020 at 6:00 pm
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        Thank you Trish! Great point about Becky. With the word count, it wasn’t possible to give her more depth. I thought focusing on Kevin and Amy was more important, but I totally get what you’re saying. Thanks my friend for the kind words and helpful critique.

        Reply
    • February 22, 2020 at 2:26 am
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      Alice,

      A pretty good read. You pull us along with the dates in the sub-headings. (Us gets a little nervous when us sees the dates,) but, I don’t know, it was as if the story was really about Amy, I mean it was, but she had no lines, and no action. So, that makes for some tricky writing, but I think you pulled it off nicely. Nothing is over or under-done. I think maybe the ending, despite the decency of all of the characters, is rather sad and unfulfilling. But that is, as they say, life.

      Excellent writing, as always.

      Reply
      • February 23, 2020 at 1:38 am
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        Thank ya Ken. I was hoping the date thing worked, and I struggled with how to end it, thought of keeping Amy alive and she gets back with Kevin, thought of her waking and they didn’t reunite. But the story always led me to this ending, I know it’s kind of a bummer, but I always try and follow where the story goes. Thank you again, my friend. 🙂

        Reply
        • February 24, 2020 at 9:46 am
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          Alice, I thought the same thing, of all the many different ways you could have ended it, but I think you chose the most realistic ending, and for this story, that was the correct one. Also, it’s nice to know that other talented writers go thru similar internal arguments. Also nice to know that other writers experience the process of trying to force an ending to a story, find that it doesn’t work, and concede to the inevitable. Settling on an ending that works.

          Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 1:57 pm
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      Hi Alice,

      i have just reread your story and it surprised me when I did so as I picked up more meaning. The tiny movements of Amy’s hand that were missed by Kevin but that we as the readers didn’t miss. All the while that Kevin was suffering with his loss of the person he loved, that same person was still there but she couldn’t get out, couldn’t communicate. It was agonising to read.

      The last line is such a good ending line for me. Mothers always know.

      Great story that I am sure will figure very highly in the voting.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 1:37 am
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        Ken F, thank you very much. I love it when people pick up the little clues, that means I did my job alright. Like I told Ken C, I kept trying to avoid that ending, but it just wouldn’t go away. Thank you again for the kind words.

        Take care,
        Alice 🙂

        Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 12:50 pm
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      Another good, if sad story this week! I think with the word limit you did enough to show how Becky began caring for Kevin and that eventually he cared back. The heartbreak of how he loved Amy and the way both he and Becky cared for her in different ways brought them together. The fact that Amy was starting to respond little by little but that Kevin had begun to move on was super heartbreaking, but that’s what made the story. I was a little confused by the part where it said that Amy didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her since there wasn’t really any indication of her thoughts earlier in the piece as far as I could tell. I thought that maybe she had come out of the coma after Kevin had moved on for a second. But over all you used all your word allowance to get a full tale of love and heartbreak out.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 4:55 pm
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        Thank you Wendy! Yeah, the part that confused you, I was trying to show how Amy was still there, and give credence to why she would give up her fight, but maybe I could’ve left that part out. Thanks for the kind words, and the spot on critique.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 9:53 am
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      Well, crud. This one got me all misty eyed. How dare you penetrate my steel armor!! Alice, this was quite incredible. Honestly. I would change nothing. From small nuances to details that some may have forgotten to add, I enjoyed every moment of this gut wrenching tale. Bravo!

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 12:06 pm
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        Kristin thank you so much!! Under most any other circumstance, I wouldn’t want to make you misty eyed, but in this case I’m glad I could. Thank you again for your kind words!

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:22 pm
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      Hi, Alice

      A very touching story, and there’s suspense: quite early on, we suspect that Becky’s going to feature in Kevin’s life – it’s just a question of time – and as Ken F spotted, Amy IS in there and Kevin keeps just missing the signs. I like the episodic style, but think that you could actually have dispensed with the dates and just had the separators – the time of most of the sections is self-explanatory (when the time needs to be specific). Also, I was kind of flipping all the action to the present tense as I read, and I think that might have worked even better (though not sure on that one). Poor Amy … and for most of the story, poor Kevin, too.

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 1:57 pm
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        Thank you Phil. I like your idea of leaving out the dates, I do think that would make things flow better. As always, you have helpful critiques. Thanks again, and take care mate 🙂

        Reply
    • February 29, 2020 at 10:40 am
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      Having read what some of the others have said, the two things I agree with are it is indeed a well written story and taking out the dates is a good idea. However, having them in was not a distraction for me at all and I think it reads as well. For me, the only critique I have is I felt the story was totally predictable from about the second paragraph. While I mean that in a nice way, I would have liked some misdirection to keep me guessing. Or, give the story a sequel ending with her mother talking to her, and have Amy open her eyes, turn her head and she’d a tear as she awakens from her ‘impossible’ condition.
      Roy.

      Reply
      • March 2, 2020 at 12:34 am
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        Thank you Roy, all very fair critiques, and I appreciate the honesty. Glad you still enjoyed the story.
        Toodles 🙂

        Reply
  • February 19, 2020 at 6:57 pm
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    Too Good To Be True. W.C. 1186
    By Una Macaroona (Poole) @2-19-2020

    I was sitting at O’Malley’s Tavern, holding down a table when I saw her exit the bathroom. It was Friday night, near closing, and the place was deserted. The younger crowd had all gravitated toward the nightclub district a few blocks away. I just wanted a drink.

    I lost sight of her and scanned the pub for the waiter. When I turned back around, she was right next to me, seating herself at my table. I remember thinking she must have wanted company.

    She radiated confidence, and up close, her beauty was flawless. Her eyes glowed with intelligence and curiosity. Under all that beauty lay a raw animal intensity, covered from head to toe in a thin layer of sweat.

    I asked her if she wanted a drink and she nodded. “What would you like?” I asked. And this is what she said. “Whatever the female of your species would drink.”

    I smiled. She was wearing a skimpy red dress with spaghetti straps that revealed lots of perfectly toned skin. Her muscular arms looked like those of a gymnast. I finally flagged down the solitary waiter and ordered drinks for both of us.

    “So, you’re an alien, huh?” I said, thinking something else entirely.

    She said, “But you’d fuck me anyway.” Then she took it a step weirder. “That is, if you had a choice.”

    Two things I’ll admit up front. First: that was exactly what I was thinking. Second: Her beauty was, in every respect, irresistible. But I sensed, dimly, that she was speaking in literal terms. Her deadpan delivery gave her every word unmistakable authority.

    “Why wouldn’t I?” I said, and as soon as I did, I could think of a million reasons. None of which involved aliens, but rather jealous husbands and angry boyfriends.

    Before I could put the thought into words, she touched my arm. Her amber eyes were mesmerizing. “I don’t have any of those.” She said.

    The waiter brought our drinks and left. “You don’t have any of what?” I said.

    “A huzz-band or a boy thing.”

    It took me a second to figure out her meaning, when I did, I said, “So, you’re gonna stick with the ‘alien-Valley Girl’ routine, is that it?”

    She shrugged. “It is what I am. It’s always best to be honest.”

    That’s when it hit me. ‘Serial killer.’ She had all the signs. No sense of humor, poor social skills, perfect body. Glittering high-heels. If something seems too good to be true, well…?

    “You still don’t believe me,” she said. “Even after I’ve read your mind.”

    “Excuse me? Even after…? What don’t I believe?”

    “That I’m an alien.”

    “Oh that. Do I have to? Frankly, I’d rather not.” This talk about aliens and mind reading was unique, but not that clever, but I found myself distracted by the thought of those perfect breasts, shimmering with sweat… “I’d rather…”

    “Think what you want,” she said. “I’m in heat. I simply need sperm.”

    This made me pause. I’d never heard that phrase before. So it took me by surprise when I quipped, “You’ve come to the right place. What’s your name?”

    “Zel,” she said. “Not that it matters.”

    “No? Why not?”

    “This is a one-shot deal. Once and done. I get your sperm, mix it in with my eggs, the offspring hatch, they start adopting bodies, like me.” She took a tentative sip of her drink.

    I’m thinking this woman is crazy, right? But exquisitely beautiful, so I’m happy to play along. I said, “Do you come from a race of beings that all look like you?”

    “Hardly,” she said. “You’re not listening. I’m not this body. I just wear it, like you’d wear an overcoat. I can change bodies at will, pick them out for the occasion. I have dozens of ‘em.” She took another sip of her drink. I could animate your body if I wanted to.”

    There’s a certain line that people draw: The bullshit foul line of social intercourse, for instance. The line is flexible, we can adjust it to suit the occasion or the individual, and for her it was already set pretty high, but she’d finally crossed it. “No you can’t.”

    “Sure I can,” she said.

    The next few moments were terrifying.

    A sudden impulse made me reach across the table, snatch her drink and guzzle more than half of it, sloshing much of it on my face and shirt. While my arms, hands and mouth were moving of their own accord, she was studying me the way a woman might peer at an interesting worm or butterfly. My complete lack of control meant that my face never betrayed the horror of that sudden realization that my mind was disconnected from the rest of me, even my face. My emotions passed unexpressed and unseen.

    Despite my apparent clumsiness, after a moment passed, I could do no more or less than set the glass gently and carefully on the table in front of her.

    She released me. Everything was normal again.

    She picked up her drink and looked at it, as if to demonstrate to anyone who might be interested, how much she had made me drink.

    At this point, you’d think I’d begin to harbor some reservations. I experienced a slight mental revulsion that withered in the face of my body’s physical desire to rub itself against her perfect, glistening body. In other words, no. I didn’t. My puny calculating brain was no match against a million years of random evolution. I hunched over the table and grabbed her hand. “Are you pranking me?” The answer was in her strange amber eyes. It was no prank.

    “Pheromones,” she whispered.

    We rose in unison and headed for the cafés isolated bathroom and locked the door behind us. She tore my pants off, I pulled the top of her dress down, the bottom of it up. She pulled me into her, I don’t know how, and was about to drag me down to the floor when I spotted a diaper-changing table, released the hasp with one hand and threw us both on top of it.

    I had the greatest sex of my life for about 97 seconds, after which she didn’t try to hide her surprise. “Are we done already? Wow.” My face turned pink as I pulled my pants up. “How wonderfully efficient,” she said, as she straightened her dress.

    “Reproduction, that’s our thing.” I mumbled.

    She cupped my chin with one hand. “Nice little world you have here.” She made me feel like I was responsible for it. “Wish I could come back.”

    A portal opened in the wall of the bathroom. Ghostly alien figures lingered on the other side, waiting for her. She released my chin and pushed me gently in the chest. “Your spawn will create my next marauding army, and for that, you should be grateful.” Then she turned around, and disappeared through the shimmering gateway without looking back.

    I hope she can’t come back. Maybe she won’t want to. Because she’s gonna be one brokenhearted alien when she finds out that her first donor was sterile.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2020 at 4:22 pm
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      Well, that is interesting… kinda weird…but I kept reading trying to figure out where this was going… aha and then the smile and giggle that escaped my lips… well done…

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 11:06 am
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        Hi Una,

        This was a very interesting story and, as my memory banks suggest, this seemed like a pretty normal Friday night in areas all across the country, no, the world. Except for the alien link but then, some of the people here on Earth are pretty weird on a night out. Out of their heads for sure if not out of this world. In fact anywhere that physically and sexually active males and females meet and drink alcohol this will happen.To be honest, you don’t really need the alcohol.

        ” Reproduction, that’s our thing.” And in 97 seconds too although I’m not sure you need that long.

        It doesn’t paint a very kind picture of the human condition. Not very kind but probably quite accurate.

        Nice twist at the end.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
    • February 20, 2020 at 5:45 pm
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      Una – I did not predict the ending and thought your story was a lot of fun. I wonder if the ending might be even more punchy if you played up more strongly and earlier the reasons the alien wanted to procreate so badly, Understanding more of her goals to make an army might give a little more kick to your final line. Fun story, thanks for sharing it!

      Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 12:12 pm
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        Trish,
        I agree. The story could use a few tweaks. Although, hordes of marauding aliens are generally thin on reasons.

        Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 11:57 am
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      Una,

      As a man with a million years of evolution under my belt, (or behind me, I suppose) I feel that your story is not very flattering to males of the human species.

      As one of these males of the human species myself, I’m afraid I can’t think of much in the way of defense offhand. But I have a team of historians working on it right now. Although they’re rather finicky historians, (They work for cat food, so it doesn’t cost me much, but there’s no telling when they’ll come up with something concrete.)

      Would you like me to send you the results when we get them?

      Reply
      • February 23, 2020 at 1:39 pm
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        Your comment to Una was interesting because I kept thinking is Una male or female… I kept checking the name Una Macaroona and thought well it could be a male writing this, because the coldness of the event seemed possible…um..not that there aren’t cold females but your comment made me think again…

        Reply
        • February 23, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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          Hmmm… interesting, so very interesting

          Reply
        • February 24, 2020 at 10:07 am
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          Liz,

          I determine the gender, species, and humanity of the other writers based solely on their profile picture.

          Una Poole appears to be a female stained glass religious saint.

          I assume you’re a cat, shown kanoodling with your partner.

          Ken Miles is a cartoon character, although from what series I can’t say, but I have no doubt that he possesses some kind of superpowers.

          Carrie appears to be a Borg, (resistance is ((no doubt)) futile), based upon the hardware attached to her head.

          Me and Phil are just giant heads, which could be some kind of over-compensation for our tiny egos.

          Alyssa seems to be a punch in the head. (You have to have been punched in the head to know what this looks like. Trust me, I know.)

          But far and away it seems our most popular contributors are microbes, transformers, plankton and teeny, tiny dinosaurs, or some combination of the four. (Based upon their profile pics, in case you forgot what I was talking about.)

          So, it’s nice to see some ‘normal’ people contributing, like Wendy and Trish and Alice. They appear to be ordinary female humans. (But I would not jump to conclusions if I were you.) I’ve long suspected that Wendy is a kind of Edward Scissor-hands, except with blowtorches.

          I hope this information proves useful to you, Liz.

          Reply
          • February 24, 2020 at 12:58 pm
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            Ke – I know… I tried to be normal but then I realized WordPress took my normalcy to all platforms and when I tried to slyly use a pen name (Jerusha Brown) to my son’s Unofficial Alpine page to comment anonymously my son spotted my visage right away. Cats Henry and Spike fill in for me,,, I like real photos too and it is frustrating when personas are hidden… so Un just doesn’t seem possible …Una Macaroona… just rhymes to much.. there is no proof in the pudding… and as for the saying “when you’ve lost at love you’ve lost it all nothing matters anymore”… it just seemed so original… until Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody ending. and of course “better to have lost at love than never loved at all”.. how do we really know that? Fiz

      • February 24, 2020 at 12:26 pm
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        Ken C.

        There’s no need to ‘defend’ against a fictional story. But when it comes down to it, any reaction to a writer’s story is better than no reaction at all.

        I’m afraid I don’t have much confidence in you ‘team of historians’, Ken. Everyone knows Historians work alone, and they almost never eat cat food. I would take a hard look at that ‘team’ of yours Ken. They might be ‘cat-scammers.’

        Reply
        • February 24, 2020 at 12:36 pm
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          Una,

          I know. Cats, they’re taking over the Intranets. They hold up photos of random people behind them, as if the people were making the comments. Some of the brasher cats just post profile pics of themselves, sitting in a chair, preening, or holding a mouse toy and looking superior. (Which they are of course, don’t get me wrong. But still. It’s annoying when they drop the pretense and just go full cat.)

          Whatever, I don’t want to go into it here.

          But thanks for the warning Un. (You don’t mind if I call you Un, do you?)

          Ken C.

          Reply
          • February 24, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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            Ken C.

            Actually, I think Una is short enough, don’t you? Do you mind if I call you Ke?

    • February 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm
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      At first I thought this was going to be an alien horror type story, but then that last line had me rolling. I like the build up and how he kept rationalizing her behavior even when she took over his body with her mind. His character seems pretty realistic even if not indicative of all men… (Ken) but I like the unseriousness of it all.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 8:54 am
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      Is this the story of what you’re doing to Ken C., Miss Poole? You’re messing with that guy. I’m taking it personally too, because he’s my friend (and fan, sometimes). How could you otherwise be so sure he doesn’t really have an army of historians living on cat-food? How would anyone doubt something as reasonable as that?

      Really, are you inside his head or something? Like the alien in your story? He thinks I have superpowers. And maybe I do. For one thing, I can see through all of this. You’re messing with Cartisano’s head! Dwelling in it, making him write what you want him to write. Not cool, Miss Poole. Men of this planet are nice people. Ken certainly is. Got a nice name too.

      On to the story itself. It’s a brilliant take on the rather underdeveloped genre of erotic-SciFi. I mean for how long are we going to be so sexually close-minded on this planet and only consider sex with others like us on this little speck of wet dust in such an awesomely large universe full of beings of all sorts desperate to sleep with us? Not even Asimov The Great could produce any (proper) bang-SciFi when asked to (I read this on Wikipedia, so it has to be correct).

      I myself once had a story about nooky-nooky robots – and won this contest, so there is certainly a great demand for this kind of stuff. (Shhh, don’t tell Ken C. about it, he didn’t like that story!). Come to think of it, you, dear Una, may have gone inside his head, on that blessed day as well, controlled his mind, his fingers too, to type the things he said about my story. Did you fear my tale of sex-craving robots would blow your cover? Did you have to use Cartisano to try to silence me? Couldn’t you just possess my own mind? Fingers?

      I agree with Trish that you could have worked up the reason why the alien-gal needed to spawn more of her likeness. Ten-thousand-head short of having enough mind-controlling foot-soldiers to dominate the remaining people on earth not yet under her yoke? Like Pete Buttigieg.

      The ending sounds like a ghost-story sort of thing. I’m referring to the way alien-gal leaves the scene. Ghost-Erotic-SciFi? We’re going overboard with genre-mixing now. I’d have a sexy but terrified young lady, dashing out of O’Malley’s, absolutely spooked, vomiting perhaps, as the steel-transparent alien leaves the luckless lass’s body and ascends into her craft to deposit the collected sperm into an incubator. The escaping (human) girl shoots a hateful glance at the narrator, disgusted by what he had, quite unwittingly, just done to her. Too good to be true is further underlined, as he realizes what had actually happened. Too untrue to be good, maybe.

      But these are rather cosmetic fixes, which I believe would further enhance an already great story.

      It’s one of my fave stories out of the ones I read so far, Una. May stay in my top five. But I’ve still got more to read; there’s a ton of stories this week (which is a good thing, of course! Testimony to this very living site…).

      Ken (M.)

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 10:06 am
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      Oh Dear! Let me stop laughing first. I mean the serious belly laugh. This was HILARIOUS. OK, my favorite line. —

      That’s when it hit me. ‘Serial killer.’ She had all the signs. No sense of humor, poor social skills, perfect body. Glittering high-heels. If something seems too good to be true, well…?

      This is like a perfect description of my evil sister in law. I’m not sure if you know her, or…..
      So, yeah I digress. This was epic for me. Truly. The last line sealed the deal. The blatant audacity that is our male species so beautifully highlighted.

      Oh, you shot right to the top of my vote list!! Great job!

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:20 pm
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      Hi, Una

      Terrific tongue-in-cheek sci-fi. I love how the alien puts all her cards on the table, and the narrator seems to disregard all the evidence, distracted as he is by her … charms … but then at the end it seems he’s been playing her. And the great thing about the last line, besides being very funny, is that if this is the test ‘donor’, then chances are the aliens will think that mating isn’t possible with this species and move on to another planet. The main plot point (alien looking for a mating partner) is of course the same (no doubt accidental) as the film ‘Species’ (1995) with the very wonderful Natasha Henstridge, but you’ve gone for humour rather than horror, and it works very nicely. Favourite line: “You’ve come to the right place.” Great fun.

      Reply
  • February 20, 2020 at 5:43 am
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    TRUE LOVE

    “Remember our first time here?” Louise asked, lifting the glass of wine to her dark-red lips.

    Timothy looked around the dim, practically deserted pub.

    “How could I forget? Same old furniture, I see.”

    “Good memory.” Louise licked her lips and placed the glass back on the table. She looked around the pub too, and when she returned her eyes to meet Timothy’s, she saw that he was staring at her. She dropped her gaze to the table and began to play with a little patch of wine that had spilled from her glass when Timothy brought it from the bar.

    “So what’s this all about, Lou?” Timothy’s even tone betrayed the fact that he knew what it was all about.

    Using her finger, Louise drew a little box with the wine. Whatever she was going to say was reluctant to come out.

    “My flat-mate had to lend me a skirt, remember?”

    “I remember. Green, with red polka-dots. Horrible.”

    “Ha! You said you liked it at the time!”

    “I wanted to get into your knickers.”

    Louise laughed, but she saw no mirth on Timothy’s face, and heard none in his voice.

    “I made you wait three dates.”

    “Four.”

    “Straight out of the manual, that was. Well … straight out of my flat-mate. You remember Deirdre.”

    “I hated her almost as much as I hated that skirt.” Timothy’s top lip curled.

    “But I kept you interested, didn’t I? It worked.”

    “You’ve always been a control freak, Lou. You were merely starting as you meant to go on.”

    Louise frowned. “I’m not sure that’s fair.”

    “No? So, then. Tell me what this is all about.”

    Louise brought her glass to her lips again. Timothy noticed the red lipstick on the rim. The delay in the response made it sound fabricated.

    “I don’t know what you mean.”

    “You call me at the office, on a Tuesday, invite me to come here straight after work, when it’s neither your birthday nor mine, nor Valentine’s Day, nor … the anniversary of that first night – yes, I remember the date. Do you?”

    Louise forced a twisted smile onto her mouth.

    “Of course I do.”

    She took another sip of her wine, almost furtively. Timothy sat back in the wooden chair and stared at her, hard.

    “I won’t embarrass you by testing you on that.”

    Louise said nothing, incriminating herself.

    “So, for the third time – what’s it all about?”

    Louise fidgeted on the red-plastic bench-seat, making a sound like a fart.

    “That wasn’t me!”

    She said it jokingly, hoping to lighten the mood, but Timothy’s face remained stony. He took a first sip of his beer, peering dispassionately over the rim of the glass at Louise’s discomfort. She took a deep breath: the news was ready to emerge.

    “I wanted us to come here because I thought it might make it easier.”

    Timothy’s demeanour didn’t change one iota.

    “I thought it might make what I’m going to say easier.”

    The news was edging its way out, like a birth.

    “I know how much I mean to you.”

    If Louise had been more aware, and hadn’t been focussing so much on carefully producing what she’d rehearsed, she might have noticed a little flicker in one of Timothy’s eyelids.

    “And the last thing I wanted … I want to do is break your heart.”

    The flicker now passed to Timothy’s lips, but Louise missed that too,

    “So … well, I don’t think I need to go on, do I? It’s over, Tim. And I’m so, so sorry if I HAVE broken your heart.”

    The repetition of the ‘so’ had the opposite effect to that intended.

    With the news finally out, Louise was able to pay attention to Timothy; her eyes narrowed. He was nodding gently. Then he reached for his beer and took a large swig, almost finishing it in one.

    “Did I ever tell you about Fiona Berry?” he said at last.

    He didn’t wait for a response from Louise.

    “Fiona Berry was beautiful, and I was desperately I love with her.”

    Timothy looked into the nearby fireplace, the red flames reflected in his pupils.

    “Fiona Berry … red hair she had.”

    Louise opened her mouth to say something but Timothy continued, cutting her off before the words came.

    “I was so in love that one day I decided to declare it to her, but I wasn’t sure how to. Then I had an idea. I went into the local shop and bought a tube of Love Hearts. You remember them, don’t you? Round sweets, with hearts on them, and written in the hearts were these little messages of love.”

    Louise went to say something again, but Timothy was somewhere else.

    “I took all the sweets out of the tube to find the one I wanted. It was a white one with a red heart and letters. I rolled it up in a tissue and went to find her. She was with a couple of friends, but I wasn’t dissuaded by that. My heart was beating like crazy as I went up to her. I couldn’t speak – I was SO in love – so I just handed her the Love Heart. I remember her look – she was curious; I’d never even spoken to her before. So I stood there, knees like jelly, as she unfolded the tissue and took out the Love Heart and read it.”

    Timothy shifted his gaze from the fire to Louise. She saw that his eyes were shining.

    “She started laughing and showed the Love Heart to her friends. One of them read it out in this really silly, romantic voice: BE MINE! They all started laughing then – really hysterical laughter. Fiona dropped the Love Heart to the ground and stepped on it.”

    Louise had her mouth open again, but not to say anything this time; she’d never seen Timothy so impassioned, about anything. He cleared his throat.

    “Now that, Lou … THAT broke my heart.”

    He stood up and began to leave but came back, picked up his beer and finished it off.

    “I was seven,” he said, placing the empty glass on the table.

    He smiled now, turned and left Louise, her face slowly reddening.

    Reply
    • February 20, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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      Phil, I loved your story. The dialogue rang so true and I zipped through your words the first time I read it, eagerly wanting to know more. You described Louise and Timothy so well I felt like I knew them. The one teeny thing I would change is this: I wished you would have structured your ending to finish with “Now that, Lou…THAT broke my heart”, putting the comments about his age at the time and his beer glass just before that powerful final sentence. His smile and Louise’s red face aren’t necessary then, they can be inferred, quite powerfully and effectively, by the reader. Just one gal’s opinion! Very kindly, Trish

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:33 pm
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        Thanks, Trish … and I agree with your “gal’s opinion”! 😉

        Reply
    • February 21, 2020 at 12:19 am
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      Phlip,

      You made one mistake Phlip. Your fifth one in five years. (I put two in this comment in honor of the occasion. You went four years with only two mistakes, and then three in the last 18 months. Five mistakes. In five years. Three in a year and a half. ( If I’m starting to sound like the beginning of Ilana’s story, it’s completely coincidental. ) Are you okay? What’s going on with you? Is everything all right at home?

      It’s true what they say, True love will screw up your syntax. Of course, so will old age, inebriation, frost bite, Novocain, sunburn, hiccups, insect bite, paralysis, arrogance, a sticky ‘p’ key… I guess a lot of things could screw up your syntax. There’s just one thing Philip, this is not a syntax problem.

      “Fiona Berry was beautiful, and I was desperately I love with her.”

      If she can make you muff a sentence, Phil, she must have been pretty fabulous.’

      I forgive you.

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:37 pm
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        You have to understand, Ken, that I like you, and it’s always upset me a little that you seem frustrated when you don’t find mistakes in my pieces … so I’ve started putting them in deliberately just to please you (but not in all my stories, mind you, just some – to keep you on your toes like).

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        • February 27, 2020 at 10:31 am
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          For some reason, the thought of you deliberately adding mistakes for me, really made me laugh, Phil.

          Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 12:57 am
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      Phil,
      You know I’m just kidding around with you, right? It’s a neat heartbreak story and very well written. One thing, the first time I read it, I wasn’t sure who said, ‘I won’t embarrass you by testing you on that.’ The first time I read it, I thought Louise had said it. (Which was understandably confusing.) On the second read, however, it was clear who said it and why.

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:39 pm
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        Course, you silly ol’ thing (I know you’re just kidding around) … and thanks for the nice comment.

        Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 11:26 am
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      Hi Phil,

      Good story that I really enjoyed reading. An interesting take on the prompt where the dumped partner is really not that bothered or doesn’t think that being dumped is that big a deal. Puts me in mind of Crocodile Dundee when he was approached by a young punk with a six inch knife. “You call that a knife? This is a knife,” he says as he pulls out a huge hunting knife.

      “You’re dumping me? That’s nothing. My heart was broken by Fiona Berry when I was seven.” Everything is relative.

      Also goes to show how much baggage we carry with us throughout our lives. We remember the slights and insults, the casual bullying and little jibes.

      Tend to agree with Trish about the ending but not sure about the so-called error that Ken C mentions, unless it is the comma followed by the word “and.” I generally don’t do that but not sure if it is an official rule.

      Great stuff Phil,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:45 pm
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        Ha! Good comparison with ‘Crocodile Dundee’, Ken (I remember thinking that film was as cool as you like. It’s dated so badly …)

        Thanks for recognising one of the themes of my story (baggage). A b*gger.

        The mistake? Ken’s right – it should be “Fiona Berry was beautiful, and I was desperately in love with her.”

        Thanks as always for your kind and considerate words.

        Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 1:09 pm
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      Phil, another good one! I love the subtle clues you gave to show that Louise thought more of Tim’s love for her than was accurate. His story about Fiona at the end was great. While it didn’t bother me when I read it, in retrospect I agree about making Tim’s line the last word in the story. It’s just a great walk out line.

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:46 pm
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        Thanks a lot, Wendy. Yes, I think I agree with trish, too.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 10:54 am
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      What a great breakup story. I enjoyed it quite a bit and how the tables were turned on Louise for thinking she had broken his heart. Also, what a horrible child Fiona was! I sensed from the start the relationship was doomed. A nice easy read. Good Job!

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 7:49 pm
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        Thanks, Kristin! In fact Fiona (name changed to protect … etc.) wasn’t like that; I never actually got to give her a Love Heart, though I did scratch PT L FB in the ink well on my desk (which ages me terribly!)

        Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 5:32 am
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      “You can’t kill me, I’ve already been killed before.” That’s what Tim gives Louise in return to her dumping him. Loved that idea!

      In a way, while baggage weighs us down, it does give us that thick skin, so necessary to push on with life, doesn’t it? What others call “experience”.

      The turbulence of adolescence must come for a reason, to roughen us up before the real journey.

      This Tim did start early, though, at 7. But it’s not unheard of. Back at that age, I remember being PUNISHED by my class teacher and made to sit next to a girl (who I happened to like). She told me, “Now that you’re sitting with me, you HAVE TO be my boyfriend.” In later years I would have reacted to that more adequately…

      Good stuff, Phil 🙂

      Ken

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 9:21 am
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        Thanks, Ken … and great little story. Bring on the punishment! More! More! (you must have been thinking)

        Reply
  • February 20, 2020 at 4:15 pm
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    Lost Heartbreak by Liz Fisher

    There wasn’t anyone at the Coyoteville Cafe except Barby, it was early and the usual crowd of six county workers weren’t released by the noon whistle yet and I had my choice of three booths or the table. Four seats per booth and five at the table so 17 people could be seated, well then there is the counter so another 7 giving a total of 24 seats in the Cafe.

    My usual greeting,”hey Barb how’s it going?” was met with a glum facial expression. She was shuffling through a sheaf of papers and asked “can you believe the IRS is auditing us”.

    Without asking she brought a glass of iced tea to the booth. I only drink iced tea at Coyoteville morning, noon or … well it couldn’t be night because the cafe only serves breakfast and lunch 7 days a week all year long. I never have to order my meal…she knows I’m vegetarian and I’ve always told her just make what’s easiest for you based on what she has on hand or what others are ordering. I’ve grown to enjoy the surprise of what my meal will be.

    “I’m meeting Ralph,” I said, “I thought he’d be here before me, has he called?” She shook her head no and set down the papers with a sigh.

    I couldn’t imagine why the IRS would waste their time and our taxpayer money going after a tiny cafe in the middle of the rural Sierra and asked Barby. “Why would they pick you to audit, it seems nuts”.

    She pointed at her fairly new shiny red car in the parking area. “I think it’s about the car, a few days after we bought it the car dealer called and said they had to report it to the IRS because we paid cash and anything purchased with cash over $10,000 has to be reported.”

    That broke my heart, Barb and her husband Jeb worked their fingers to the bone, Barb at the cafe and selling her coveted home made jellies and jam to her friends and Jeb doing odd jobs based on his abilities due to poor health. It isn’t easy surviving in rural frontier area.

    So working hard and saving up cash to buy a decent car gains punishment from the government.

    I recently became aware that some citizens living in the mountains save cash and have their own safes at home and had wondered if that was wise. A year ago the situation got worse when the only bank in a 100 mile radius closed. Now comes a threat from a government agency if you work hard and can purchase a necessity without using credit you must be doing something bad.

    We have a President who says he is the guy who understands the workers of America and will protect us from overzealous government and I do see his cronies and supporters being pardoned and excused and we aren’t allowed to see their taxes but if the little guy steps over an arbitrary rule lookout..

    But that wasn’t what I wanted to tell you. Ralph finally showed up and Barb served up our lunch, the right choice for both of us without asking. Ralph noticed immediately that Barb was not her real chipper self and when he questioned her further she spilled the real beans. Coyoteville was going to have too close.

    “We’ve barely been making it, this winter has been tough with no tourists and just local business isn’t enough to pay overhead… and then with this audit, it just doesn’t make sense.”

    “Fifteen years and just barely making it,” she continued “we just can’t do it anymore.”

    Ralph looked at me and said, “Wow”, as Barb walked back to the kitchen. “Yeh”, I replied, “but look it’s noon and we’re the only ones in here.”

    For some reason the look on Ralph’s face gave me a flashback to 35 years ago. It didn’t really make any sense and maybe that was just it ..there is no sense in life, it’s just one way and then it isn’t.

    The flashback? At noon one day in central California I was on the way back to the office and was stopped at the railroad tracks when the cross bars came down when a slow very long freight train passed in front me, at least I’m first in line when the crossbars raise, I thought, staring at the Graffiti marked boxcars.

    Then suddenly it appeared, the solution, the meaning of life, the reason for everything. It was on the side of a faded red boxcar… “when you’ve lost at love… you’ve lost it all… nothing matters anymore…”

    Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 12:42 pm
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      Liz,

      That’s a great story, until the ending. The last paragraph doesn’t seem believable. Seems like a long and unlikely phrase to be painted on the side of a boxcar, even 35 years ago. Seems like this story could have a better ending. Not sure what. (Not my job.)

      Seems like you threw two elements into the last two sentences to make it fit the prompt. To avoid a change of scene at the end, your character could have simply looked out the window of the diner to the slow moving train going through the nearby crossing and seen the heartbreak reference at the end of the story.

      Kim and I suffered a very similar experience at the hands of the state of Florida, over unemployment insurance. It was a royal screwing over, for nothing. The hearing was like a kangaroo court, the states one witness was a disgruntled contractor who admitted that her testimony was worthless, because, as she admitted it, ‘I would’ve agreed to anything to get the job.’ If you’d agree to anything to get a job, what wouldn’t you do to get a free government benefit.

      Kim and I have good reason to be fed up with government bureaucracy and over-reach, but we don’t think that a couple of bad apples is cause to condemn the whole system. Within the guidelines of a healthy republic, there’s always room and reason for reform.
      Eh?

      Reply
      • February 23, 2020 at 1:53 pm
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        Yes, absolutely re: government… and there is more to Barby’s story with some culpability explained… however that boxcar story is real… picture 3 lines painted in white on one boxcar…creeping slowly into a town… it is my go to line in moments of disappointment, frustration, despair …makes me laugh – get a grip – and get on with it… no such thing as a train track in western Sierra County…

        Reply
        • February 24, 2020 at 10:20 am
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          Liz,

          Well I stand corrected and a little red-faced. Why wouldn’t that line be on the side of a boxcar? When you consider all of the crazy stuff painted on boxcars, those three phrases are the easiest to believe. I hate it when I get smug, but thankfully, the good Lord sees to it that some kind person like you will happen along and unsmug me very quick and painlessly. Thank you. (I’m talking to you, Liz. Not God.)(Right now.)

          Having confessed to my blatant, uncalled for smugness, I still have to counter your story on this point, The phrase is one point of view, but here’s another: Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.’
          Here’s another: “Having something to lose is what makes life worth living.”

          Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 11:45 am
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      Hi Liz,

      This is very much a human interest story. It highlights the plight of the “Little man / woman in our modern society. You know, the people who always pay their taxes, deducted at source in my case, whilst huge corporations avoid paying their billions. The way that the small man cannot afford to take legal action even when justified as his opponent will screw him into the ground financially. That’s why I have always enjoyed reading John Grisham’s legal stories.

      Really not sure about the story ending even having read the other comments. I certainly prefer the comment from Ken C ( was it a quote from The Bard?) “It is better to have loved and lost etc…”

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 1:17 pm
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      I like this story and what it portrays is an all too real circumstance these days. I really didn’t get that ending though. For me it would’ve worked just as well (or better) to have ended it with “it’s just one way and then it isn’t.” But the story itself was well wrought.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 11:01 am
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      What a sad story for a small business owner. That is truly heartbreaking, I enjoyed your take on heartbreak quite a bit, and resonated with what you were saying. My only critique is this sentence —

      Four seats per booth and five at the table so 17 people could be seated, well then there is the counter so another 7 giving a total of 24 seats in the Cafe.

      I had to read this three times and felt like I was doing a math problem. This could easily be reworded so not even a huge critique.

      Great Job.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:18 pm
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      Hi, Liz

      I really liked your story. The café felt really lived in, and the narrator (and Ralph) obviously feel very comfortable there. But then the inevitability of closure … I live opposite a small shopping centre (mall) and it really is heart-breaking to see young couples opening shops, putting their lives into them, only for them to close months later because the footfall is insufficient, or the wrong demographic … so poor old Barb, losing her business after 15 years. Like others, I was a little confused by the ending; I like Wendy’s suggestion of what point to end the story at.

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 11:23 pm
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        thank you Phil..you and Wendy are right about the ending… but the red boxcar and my favorite throwaway line beat me down…

        Reply
  • February 20, 2020 at 4:37 pm
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    From Liz Fisher – BTW I publish a local community online newspaper, and would be happy tp publish anything anyone cares to submit. You could describe it as local news and events and my Columnists trend to be liberal left leaning… although being in a conservative area of the country I get lots of conservative critical comments which I also publish.. free speech and all that… it is a free site and no ads or subscription cost. I’ve seem comments on this site that sometimes makes me think it would be nice if they wrote a commentary for the Prospect. I cannot offer compensation for submissions, I do have wide readership in the northwest and east coast of the states so you do get read and it is okay to promote your own business or interests. I really like the word ‘humankind’ and hope to keep the Prospect human and kind to our fellow humans. So if you’d like the website is: http://www.sierracountyprospect.org and my email is laf1110@sbcglobal.net hope to hear from you.

    Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 1:04 pm
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      I have to say, all these stories are so delightful, or heart rending and bring so much to the table I feel really out of my league in terms of writing and storytelling… when I read comments and critiques of other stories my brain just goes yikes I am guilty of every wrong in writing.. long sentences, poor grammar, bad punctuation, confusing syntax… and the worst sin not even trying to do better… although I do sometimes find myself remembering a comment while writing something an attempt to right that wrong… what I am attempting to say is you on APFFW are fantastic and I love reading everything you write. I am a gud spelar and was 4th grade spelling champ… my claim to fame. But this isn’t about me, it’s about how much I enjoy this site and your words…

      Reply
  • February 22, 2020 at 4:20 pm
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    A Little Excitement by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [979 word count]

    “It’s always great to have a girls brunch, just the two of us.” Mary smiled as she sipped her mimosa. “What have you been up to lately, I feel like we haven’t spoken in ages!”

    “Oh you know, a little of this, a bit of that. Lately I’ve been working on my ‘art.’” Cynthia lips curled slightly at the corner as she absently stirred at her own drink. “What about you, Mary? Anything sinful and exciting happening with you?”

    “Well actually,” she leaned in conspiratorially “I’ve been seeing someone and the sex has been a-MAZE-ing! We’ve been finding little out of the way spots to get a little frisky where someone might accidentally walk in on us and it has really ratcheted up the excitement.” Mary couldn’t resist this little jab, it was almost as exciting as her new partner.

    “At least one of us is having an great sex life. I’ve recently discovered that Joe has taken yet another lover. He knew what I’d said the last time I caught him, but I guess he wanted a little more excitement too.” She chuckled at her private joke. “Would you like another mimosa, dear?”

    Mary was feeling a little giddy from the first, but slid her glass over with a wink. “You know I love your mimosas, Cyn, those blood oranges from your tree really take them up a notch.” She sipped at her newly filled glass. “What did you say to Joe when you found out?”

    “I didn’t ‘say’ anything. I pinned him up against the wall and cut out his heart.” Her smile was much wider now as she looked Mary directly in the eye. “I squeezed the deep red blood from it into this pitcher of mimosas along with some herbs and an incantation.”

    “Well bottoms up!” Mary drained half her glass, and let out a chuckle which turned into a surprise burp. “It’s nothing lessh than what he desherved.” She didn’t usually get this drunk this fast when drinking mimosas, Cynthia must have made them a little stronger than usual. Obviously she was feeling a little tipsy too spinning this ridiculous story about cutting out his heart. She heard a timer go off in the kitchen.

    “Oh good, that must be the frittata.” Cynthia went to the kitchen and brought back a steaming pan of what looked like egg, ham, and cheese browned just right on top. Mary couldn’t wait to dive into it and started scooping it up with her fork as soon as Cynthia had served her.

    “Oh, your eggsh are so fluffy, but I can’t quite place the other flavors? Is it some sort of plant based meat?”

    “Mary, you know I only eat actual animal flesh. This is Joe’s heart. It seemed like a waste to just throw out perfectly good meat. I mean, he broke my heart and threw it away, but I’ve always been more of a romantic.”

    Mary’s laughter was much more forced this time. She suddenly didn’t feel very good. “Hh, how did you find out?”
    “Well, that is a delightful little tale. More mimosa? No? I was out shopping downtown, hitting all of my out of the way curiosity shops, when I thought I saw a couple sneak into a little secluded park. My curiosity was peaked, so I quietly followed them. The park was little more than an alcove with bushes and a cute little tree. From where I stood, they weren’t visible, but the muffled noises they made were unmistakable.” Cynthia paused to mimic the groans. Mary laughed even more nervously than before.

    “Then I heard the woman say, ‘what if someone finds us?’ As she groaned louder than before, I heard Joe’s voice say ‘maybe someone is listening to us right now’ and then it sounded like they both got way more into their tryst. I of course was no longer titillated by them and quickly ran away.” Mary visibly relaxed a little. “But then I turned back around and decided to see who it was this time.”

    Mary choked a little. Her eyes were getting blurry and she wasn’t sure if she was having a stroke. She tried to say something but found all she could do was whimper.

    “I always thought you were my friend, Mary. You never did take me seriously though, thinking everything I said was a joke. Remember when I told you that I practiced the dark arts? You thought it was hilarious. I bet you aren’t finding this funny anymore, huh?” Cynthia’s eyes burned bright with anger, or was that just the stroke? Mary didn’t know what was real anymore.

    “Joe didn’t take me seriously either. That’s why he continued to cheat on me, even after I told him I would cut his heart out and feed it to his next lover. How did it taste, Mary? Was it as exciting as your lovemaking? Those mimosas really did have his actual blood in them, and the sweet, red, blood orange juice covered up the taste of the herbs that are killing you right now. The incantation is the kicker, though. It will make sure that no one will know what I did. See, your body will go on well after your soul exits it. It will go through your daily routine until I’ve had enough time to move out of the area. Then it will break into my house, go down to the basement, dispelling the incantation holding Joe’s body in stasis, and plunge a knife into your heart. It will look like you killed Joe, ate his heart, and then killed yourself.”

    Cynthia began clearing the table. Mary felt herself slipping away even as her body rose from the table and thanked Cynthia for the lovely brunch. She could feel Cynthia’s hard stare at her back as her body walked away and everything faded to black.

    ###

    Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 12:55 pm
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      Wendy – very creepy! well done.

      Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 11:49 am
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      Hi Wendy,

      A perfect literary example of the terms “Revenge is a dish best served cold” I think and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

      Great writing,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 11:09 am
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      This was AWESOME!!! A story after my own heart. Pardon the pun. This story had everything my twisted heart desires and I read it three times!! BRAVO!!! I tip my pointy witches hat to you my friend!

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:17 pm
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      Hi, Wendy

      And yikes! Remind me never to get on your wrong side. The gradual dawning – on Mary and on us, the reader – of Cynthia’s devilish plan is brilliantly managed. When Mary begins to slur her words … oo-er! And Cynthia’s admission of her crime, which Mary doesn’t take seriously until it’s too late … it’s one of those ‘don’t go up into the attic’ moments – we’re screaming “gethehellouttathere!” If I’d fault the story at all, it would be the paragraph that begins “Joe didn’t take me seriously either.” A lot of it is kind of reiterating what you’ve already said more subtly further up. “My curiosity was piqued,” I think (not ‘peaked’). Great fun.

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 6:12 am
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      Hi Wendy,

      Who knew where this simple brunch was heading! An absolutely wicked tale of cannibalism: pleasures of the flesh turned into horrors of the palate.

      I took Cynthia’s words seriously well before Mary did. I knew she was talking literally when she said what she did to Joe’s heart. But maybe that’s because I myself often write cannibalism stories.

      But I was taken by surprise when it turned out that Mary herself was Joe’s lover.

      I’m a bit confused there: either Mary didn’t know that Joe was Cynthia’s partner or she actually did. If she did know, I don’t think she would have blabbered so much about this new sex partner of hers. Unless she had some old scores to settle with her friend, which doesn’t seem to be the case.

      I am of the opinion that she didn’t know. That would make the story work better for me. But how could it be that she didn’t know who her best friend’s partner was? You do hint that they hadn’t met in ages, right at the start, which may help enforce the fact she didn’t know Joe was Cynthia’s. But perhaps more could have been said there, like “When was the last time we met? Prom night? My! That was a decade ago already! Are you even on Facebook?” Anyway, something that makes it clear Mary knew nothing of Cynthia’s recent years.

      Or if you wanted her to have known, then I would have liked a less innocent-sounding Mary.

      Cynthia’s explanation of what she was going to do to Mary, towards the end, is too long, I think. Perhaps you can break it down by having Mary interrupting with drunken groans of horror, and shrink some of the explanations.

      Next time I eat at someone’s I’m going to ask for the supermarket receipt, from now on!

      Ken

      Reply
  • February 23, 2020 at 12:59 am
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    Heart of a Furry Friend
    Written by Alyssa Daxson(Writer2019)
    Word count- 699
    *Added red bow into it*

    Jonah slowly fingered the shot glass in his hands, watching as the amber liquor swished around like molasses. “You gonna drink that, or just stare at it?” A gruff voice suddenly asked as a heavyset, big shouldered man sat down beside Jonah. The man looked at Jonah with red, puffy eyes, sizing him up. Jonah returned the stare, letting out a small chuckle.

    “I’ll drink it,” he said, taking a small sip. The man let out a grunt, before sticking out a massive, hair covered hand. “The name is Zeke,” he said, his deep gravelly voice low and slow. Jonah hesitantly shook Zeke’s hand, wincing as the big man crushed his fingers in his powerful grip.

    “Whatcha doing here?” Zeke asked while beckoning over the lonely bartender. Jonah shrugged aimlessly, letting out a long sigh. “Just hanging out I guess.” Zeke snorted, blowing a mouthful of rancid air Jonah’s way. “Yeah, and I’m a fairy,” he grunted.

    The bartender, finally making his way over, looked at Zeke, raising a hairy eyebrow. “One for me, and one for this poor soul,” Zeke said, clapping Jonah across the shoulders. Jonah jumped, startled at the sudden, slightly painful hit. “So, I’m guessing you’ve had your heart broken?” Zeke asked as the bartender slid a small shot glass full of whiskey over.

    Jonah glanced over, a slight smile twitching across his lips. “Is it that obvious,” he asked, his voice dry. Zeke guffawed, displaying his yellow teeth. “Buddy, I ain’t no love doctor, but I can tell when a fellow man has a heart broken,” he said, flashing another yellow smile.

    Jonah took another considerate sip of his liquor. “Fine, yeah, you’re right,” he finally admitted, slapping a hand down on the wooden counter. “How’d you know?” Zeke smiled, somewhat sadly. “Let’s just say it takes one to know one,” he murmured, his gruff voice becoming soft.

    Jonah blew out a small breath. “Aw man, I’m sorry,” he muttered, awkwardly clapping Zeke on his massive shoulder. “Who left you?” He asked. Zeke chuckled softly.

    “She was beautiful. Always so polite, never bothered me about dinner. And she always had this red bow. It was so pretty on her. Then a couple weeks ago she passed away…” Zeke’s voice trailed off, and he sniffled, wiping his large, bulbous nose. Jonah grimaced, his hand still awkwardly resting on Zeke’s back. “Sorry for your loss,” he muttered quietly. Zeke shrugged, “What can you do,” he remarked, his voice breaking halfway through.

    Jonah murmured in agreement, running his fingers absently along the bar counter. “What about you?” Zeke asked suddenly, shifting to face him. Jonah paused, glancing at him, confused. “Come again?” He asked.

    “What’s your story?” Zeke repeated, “who broke that young heart?” Jonah grinned at that, scoffing slightly. “I’m afraid that my wife and I were never destined for each other,” he admitted, “too many obstacles in our way.” Zeke nodded his large head, his long, stringy hair falling in front his eyes. “I feel you man,” he rumbled.

    “Hey Zeke,” Jonah suddenly asked, “if I may ask, what was her name?” Zeke surveyed him for a moment, his red, bloodshot eyes squinting at him. “Who?” He asked slowly. Jonah shrugged, “you know, the one who passed away.” Zeke’s eyes widened considerably. “Oh, her name was Pumpkin,” he murmured.

    Jonah stopped, tilting his head. “Pumpkin?” He questioned, “that was her full name?” Zeke grinned sadly, shaking his head. “Naw, her full name was Pumpkin Cappuccino, but I found it easier just to say Pumpkin.” Jonah swallowed, confused. What kind of name was Pumpkin? Or for that matter, Pumpkin Cappuccino?

    But he dismissed it. Zeke was probably just drunk. “Oh, that’s a lovely name,” he murmured. Zeke nodded vigorously. “I honestly don’t why I’m so sad about it,” he rambled, “I’m picking up another one tomorrow.”

    This time Jonah did stop. That sentence didn’t make a lick of sense. “Pick one up tomorrow?” He asked slowly, wondering if he’d heard wrong. “Yeah, doc says it’s good timing for me,” Zeke said, shrugging. “So here I am, sitting in a bar, chatting with you, waiting to pick up my new dog. Maybe this time I’ll name her Pumpernickel.”

    Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 12:19 pm
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      What a surprise ending…and here I thought Pumpkin was a cat… cute lovely story..

      Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 12:57 pm
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      Alyssa – fun story, but I felt the title kinda gave away what would have otherwise been a nice surprise ending.

      Reply
      • February 23, 2020 at 9:22 pm
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        Really? Rats, I was originally going for Broken Hearts, but changed it last minute. Guess I should’ve stuck with my first choice lol

        Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 11:54 am
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      Hi Alyssa,

      A really nice story that gives the readers a little jolt of surprise at the end. It caught me by surprise as I did not see it coming.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 11:26 am
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      The heartache from the loss of a fur baby is unreal. I loved this story for showcasing that alone. Well, written with a good element of surprise. Nice Job.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:15 pm
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      Hi, Alyssa

      Very nice story. I love Zeke – a very well-drawn character. There’s something cuddly yet dangerous about him, and Jonah (and we) are suspicious of him (well, I was) right until near the end and that lovely twist. The dialogue’s very good (I think it’s a good idea to separate dialogue into sections per character, and not to have dialogue from two characters mixed up in one paragraph.) And yes … that title … luckily, I didn’t read it before I read the story!

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 6:37 am
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      Hey Alyssa,

      You’ve carved out those two characters brilliantly. The descriptions, dialogue and mannerisms fit so well into each other, I was the third man in the room (forget the bartender) seeing the two chatting right in front of me, so vividly and visually. I may have said something, too, while reading. I think they ignored me…

      Yes, the title talks too much, as others have said. The surprise belongs to the end only. “Broken Hearts” might be too plain on the other hand. Maybe that’s why you’d dropped it. We need you Ken Cartisano, our titlemonger! Perhaps “Broken Hearts Whiskey Sparks”, “Mourn Tonight, Tomorrow’s Bright, “New Love By Morn”, nay I’m not good at this. Cartisano, please?

      Another good one Aly! Keep’em coming!

      Ken (M.)

      Reply
  • February 23, 2020 at 6:07 pm
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    The Queen’s Heart
    By Kristin Record
    (1,163 words)

    “My queen, he has arrived.” Sven addressed me with a curt respectful nod, then bowed his head in servitude as he awaited my response. I lifted my heavy skirts in my fingers, hitching them up past my ankles and strode to the window, turning my back to Sven.

    I didn’t speak for a long moment, listening to his shallow breath and gazing at the mist-covered hills,

    “The fog is quite thick today Sven.”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    “You think he arrived on horseback or a carriage?” I turned from the window, pinning Sven with my gaze. He shifted before answering.

    “Horseback and he has the box.”

    I clapped my hands once and grinned, “Oh. He has the box!”

    Sven nodded again his face expressionless.

    “Well then, show him in please.”

    I settled myself on a red velvet chaise lounge. My gold and green skirt fluffed around me and gestured at the door. Sven nodded and turned on his heel. With the flip of his hand and a slight bow from the waist, he stepped aside, allowing the man to enter, then shuffled off.

    He filled the door frame, tall and broad with his dark hair falling into his eyes. A stranger. I couldn’t take my eyes off the small wooden box in his hands.

    “Please, come in.” The words purred off my lips, inviting, seductive. He stared at me unmoving.

    “Do you know why I’m here?” he asked. His voice rich and deep. It filled the room leaving the air heavy.

    “You have my box. Have you opened it?”

    He dropped his eyes to the ornate box. “I wasn’t sure it was yours, I had heard the legends but..” trailing off he stepped into the room.

    I nodded grabbing two goblets from the table filing them with wine from the decanter.

    “Please, have a seat. I’m sure you’re exhausted from the journey. Pray to tell, where did you find this box?”

    He settled into the high-backed chair across from me. depositing the box on the table he exchanged it for the glass. Taking a long slow sip as he closed his eyes.

    “I can’t open it,” he stated. “It’s sealed with some sort of magic.”

    I dipped my chin, understanding with sympathy.

    “I was cave diving in the seas of sorrow.”

    “The sea of sorrow?” My eyebrows shot up. “So that’s where he hid it!” I licked my lips looking from him to the box and back again. “Do you know how long I have searched for this? How many have died in the pursuit?”

    “So it’s true then?” His eyes widened. “In the box is really hal-”

    I cut him off with a sharp click of my tongue and then sighed, my chest heavy.

    “Indeed, in the box is the other half of my heart.” I placed a hand over the empty space beneath my skin. Nothing fluttered, nothing beat.

    “He stole it. He ripped it from my chest cursing me to never feel warmth or love again. Then he split it in two and before he took his life, he hid it, telling no one of the whereabouts. Leaving me cold and broken.”

    “What a sad story.” His words void of emotion, his face stoic. “Didn’t you love him?”

    I blinked, focusing my eyes on this stranger. I laughed without humor. “I never loved him. His obsession was sick and unrelenting. He was a monster.”

    “A monster.” he echoed. Reaching a slender finger towards the table he tapped the box. “Do you have the other half?”

    I gulped the wine down. “Well, that is where it gets tricky. This is my half of the heart. I need his half to make it whole again. Wicked curse, leaving me needing him after all and his heart is cold and dead.”

    The stranger gazed at me his eyes seeming familiar to me now.

    “You should have loved him.” the statement hung between us.

    “You cannot force love. It has to be natural.”

    He scoffed at me, “What would you know of it. You don’t even have a heart.”

    I rose from my seat and in a swift motion, I struck him hard across his cheek. My hand print blooming red and spreading down his face.

    “How dare you.” I spat. “I’m your Queen!”

    For the first time, a grin spread across his lips and the resemblance was too great to ignore. The air whooshed from my lungs and I finally asked the question he had been waiting for. “Who are you?”

    “I’m the man returning your heart.” he shrugged, “Well, half of it.”

    A frustrated scream tore from my mouth and Sven opened the door looking non-plussed.

    “My Queen?” he asked.

    “It’s fine Sven, please bring us a cheese tray, will you? This wine needs a companion.”

    Sven disappeared into the hall as I sized the stranger up.

    “Who are you?” I enunciated each word my hands twitching with the anxiety of his answer.

    “Don’t you know?”

    “That is impossible. He is dead!”

    The stranger nodded, “Indeed, he is.”

    This game was infuriating. “Then if you aren’t him who are you?”

    Sven reappeared with a cheese tray and set it on the table, bowed and retreated. I picked up the silver cheese knife and turned it over in my palm.

    “He was my father.” His eyes followed the knife in my hand. “I never met him but my mother told me the legends as a boy. She didn’t believe them herself and called you a callus witch for spreading such toxic lies.”

    A strangled laugh escaped me. “His son? Who happened to find the box?” I ripped open the bodice of my dress, exposing the jagged scar that covered my non-existent heart. “Does this look like toxic lies?”

    He flinched, looking away as I covered myself back up.

    “No.” He wouldn’t look back to me “Can you open the box; I mean are you able to?”

    I snatched the box from the table and threw it against the wall. It clattered, fell to the ground and remained closed.

    “I don’t need what is in the box.” I pointed the cheese knife at him. “I need what beats inside your rib cage.”

    He stood and shook his head as his eyes taking on a hazy gloss.

    “What?” he asked disoriented and slipped back into the chair.

    “Did you not think I prepared for this? Have you enjoyed the wine? My special blend.” I grinned and stalked towards him with the knife. “All his bastard sons, you all come to find me in the end, seeking his revenge, dying to see what’s in the box.”

    I descended upon him, his screams filling my ears like sweet music.

    Sven opened the door. He’d waited for the screaming to stop, in his arms sat clean towels.

    I licked the blood from my fingers. “Please clean this up, and when you’re done return the box to the Sea of Sorrows.” I winked and Sven smiled.

    “Yes, my queen.”

    Reply
    • February 23, 2020 at 9:43 pm
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      Yokes, I’m sure as not searching for any mysterious box anytime soon…

      Very good story though, I loved every second of it!

      Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 9:58 am
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      Hey Kristin, welcome back! It’s been a while…

      And, once again, you returned with a great story for us. I enjoyed it all along, from every aspect – the suspense, the potential for a metaphorical reading, the expressive language, the dialogue-driven narrative…

      The opening lines drew me in right away, firing up my curiosity. Then, as the broken-heart aspect developed, I could quite easily see a metaphor of lost love (here on earth) in this story steeped in allegorical myth. It’s a story that, in a figurative sense, could have happened to any one of us. I like this potential in your stories. I noticed it other times too. I’m not even sure if it’s intended, or if it’s just me…

      Then, towards the end, your darker side comes to prominence, and in true diabolical Kristin-fashion, the end is bloody and cruel, though still acceptable and desired from the point of view of justice served.

      There’s nothing I would suggest to alter in the plot – it works very well for me, the way it is, all the way. There are a few really minor things I would fix. Usually, I’d let Roy do the punctuation roadworthiness tests, but since he hasn’t shown up yet, let me point out the following:

      – “He settled into the high-backed chair across from me. depositing the box on the table he exchanged it for the glass.” (should be capital D, or join sentences with a comma and fix accordingly).

      – “Sven nodded again his face expressionless.” (I’d prefer a comma after “again”, but this may stay as it is for some readers, I suppose)

      – “He stood and shook his head as his eyes taking on a hazy gloss.” (took not taking, or remove “as”)

      – “He stared at me unmoving.” (unmoved?)

      I love your “she/he said” alternatives, which you pepper throughout the piece: the words purred off my lips; my eyebrows shot up; the statement hung between us; I spat; etc. and the beautiful use of language throughout.

      Well done! Checked all the boxes 🙂

      Ken

      (PS. I saw the pingback to “Wicked Ramblings” – wow – you’ve got a huge repertoire of stories in there!! I’ll be visiting from time to time…)

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 10:55 am
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        Ah yes, I have returned! After months of writers block and complete upheaval of my life. After my brother was killed in October, life took a crazy turn. From changing jobs to literally the worlds worst job ( I lasted 2 months). Moving out of our home into a new home. Getting a new car. Finding my dream job and finding my dream house ( with my own private writing office). The dust has settled and Sunday I sat down in front of my PC to put down words. This is my favorite place to come because I am always ignited with great story ideas. The heartbreak prompt triggered me a little. I had so much heartache to write about, but the words wouldn’t come about me and my own feelings. So I dipped into that dark part of my brain and the Queen’s Heart is what fell out. Not too bad for a 3 months hiatus I suppose.
        Thank you all for welcoming me back with open arms and praise! I have missed you all!
        I need to start working on a 5000 word piece for the local library’s annual fiction contest but I keep drawing a blank page. With all that being said, I am glad to be back. I am healing and feeling more like myself.

        Reply
        • February 25, 2020 at 5:43 pm
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          Sorry to hear about the loss of your brother Kristin. Welcome back and I hope it helps with your writer’s block.

          Reply
        • February 26, 2020 at 9:17 am
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          Good to hear you’re finding yourself back after such troubling times, Kristin. Most of the pieces seem to be coming back together for you. And now you can again concentrate on what you like doing best (if you’re like me, which you seem you are) – writing!

          You’ve got your own dream writing room in your new dream house, where you write your worst nightmares to terrify us. How fair is that? (lol – we love your dark works, keep doing what you do so well!).

          Good luck with your 5,000 piece. May something come out of nowhere and you beat your writing block (and maybe win that contest too!). It usually happens to me when I go for a walk or in the shower (both very inconvenient places to get writing!). The exercise and the water-particles probably get my subconscious juices flowing, oxygenated. But different people may have other modes in which inspiration comes freely and happily. Where do you get inspired most, Kristin? Maybe other people reading this can give their own too. Let’s not share “just” stories and reviews in here, but “everything writing”….

          Please don’t let your 5K library annual-fiction contest keep you from returning here, Kristin. Someone like you with a private writing office has no excuses to skip a single prompt now!

          Cheers!

          Ken M.

          Reply
          • February 26, 2020 at 11:31 am
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            Where do I get inspired most?
            It is more of an atmosphere thing for me, as I am a 100% pantser writing style. I do have a journal that I carry to write quips and thoughts in, and I look over it when i sit to write. For the most part however, I am usually pretty shocked at the outcome myself.
            For instance, I had no idea what was int he box in my story. I got the the box in his hands and was like, now what?
            My brain just takes off with my fingers.

    • February 24, 2020 at 10:04 am
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      Horseback… we have the word “horseback” in both our stories… No, it wasn’t in the prompt…

      Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 3:34 pm
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      Wow,

      Excellent story. So good I barely noticed the errors Ken M pointed out. But I agree they should be fixed for the sake of such a high quality story. It pulls you in immediately, and never lets go until you get to the end. Luv dit.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 10:57 am
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        Well thanks Ken! That is a high compliment and I accept it with open arms!

        Reply
        • February 25, 2020 at 9:41 pm
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          Great story Kristin
          It gets in the top votes for me. Well done and full of suspense. I can ignore an error or two for the perfection of the tale.

          Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:52 pm
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      Hi, Kristin

      (Welcome back … and very sorry about your brother).

      Great stuff. Fantasy’s not my cup of tea really, but I liked this. The idea that a person can be walking around without a heart … well, in fantasy, you can make up your own rules, can’t you? The plot is very good. The cheese platter … I thought it was an annoying interruption until we see the use the Queen (I think Sven would call her ‘Your Majesty’ rather than ‘Ma’am’?) has for the cheese knife! As others have mentioned, I was pulled up more than once by some faulty grammar – maybe you rushed it a bit? As Ken C says, it would be worth fixing that because it’s a very good story.

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 6:55 am
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      “My brain just takes off with my fingers” – lucky you, Kristin, your inspiration comes where your fingers hit! With me it’s like “The box is in his hands. So now what is in it?” I might come up with something stupid if I think hard enough at my desk. But then I get walking, and ideas start flowing from nowhere. Especially after I’ve let go of it for a while. I’d note down things on my phone, sometimes, or make sure I remember everything till I’m at the nearest computer (or piece of paper). It’s a bit more stressful than your pantser way. But I get to save on gas expenses (or bus tickets).

      Reply
  • Pingback: The Queen's Heart – Wicked Ramblings

  • February 24, 2020 at 7:12 am
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    A proud family.

    – You cried, my little one. What happened? Did Andy break your heart?

    – No, mother, it’s a little bit more complicated.

    – You two were so in love back when you met at the home appliance store. You couldn’t keep your eyes off each other the whole time. It was such a pleasure to watch you both. I loved seeing your love grow and grow.

    – Yes, we were very much in love then. It’s a shame it had to come to this.

    – Was it his fault? Doesn’t he want you anymore? There is another girl, right? Men are primitive creatures.

    – No, it’s not Andy. He fought for me. He wanted so much to give our love a chance. Maybe it’s just fate. Maybe someone up there doesn’t want us to be happy with each other. It’s so unfair.

    – Don’t cry, my dear. Here’s a handkerchief. Don’t be sad. Whatever happens, we’re one family. You can lose the love of your life, but your parents will always be there for you.

    – Thank you mother! You and father, you’re so kind to me. What would I do without you?

    – Would you like to tell me what happened?

    – Andy never doubted me. It was his parents. Especially his mother. She didn’t like me from the start. And she was always complaining, saying that Andy and I didn’t match. It didn’t bother me much in the beginning, but it didn’t stop. She kept going and going. Nagging and nagging. It was like Chinese water torture. You don’t notice the first drop, but after a while it becomes very painful and you can’t take it anymore. Yes, and then we started arguing, Andy and me. It was hard to see how my loved one became so angry and desperate.

    – Oh, this family! I was skeptical from the very beginning. They think they’re better than the rest. The opposite is true, as everyone can see.

    – Yes, Andy is just a dishwasher. He comes from a family of dishwashers with a pedigree going far back many generations until the invention of the dishwasher. I knew that when we met.

    – They’re just electrical appliances like the rest of us. They have to put their plugs into sockets like all of us. It’s bulllshit, just bullshit.

    – Mother, please don’t get upset. I know it’s unfair. I think it’s just because his mother doesn’t want to let go of her son. For her, he’s still her little darling. It is unfair, it is sad and it makes me very angry. But ultimately there’s nothing we can do about it. Andy loves his mother very much. And unfortunately he’s still her little boy. He’ll do whatever she wants.

    – If what you’re saying is true, he’s just not ready for marriage. Then you should be glad you’re rid of him. A boy who can’t break away from his mother doesn’t deserve a girl like you.

    – Oh, mother!

    – My darling!

    – Andy has changed. Lately he’s said, more and more often: “we dishwashers!” He said that he comes from a family of proud dishwashers and that he shouldn’t shame his family.

    – He said that?

    – Yes, unfortunately. He was no longer the Andy I knew. The man I loved. He spoke as if he was his mother’s loudspeaker. It hurt me a lot.

    – They’re dishwashers. To be honest, I’ve never liked dishwashers. They always think they’re better than the rest of us. “A family of proud dishwashers”. It sounds like they’re kings or emperors or something. What’s wrong with a beautiful vacuum cleaner girl? We vacuum cleaners are so much older. When we were invented, nobody ever thought of a dishwasher. They’re just nouveau riche without manners, this family of so-called proud dishwashers.

    – Mom, I think it has to do with the fact that they’re white and we’re not.

    – Did Andy say that?

    – No of course not. He’d never say that. And he was so in love when we met. But you know Chinese water torture!

    – You mean, this stupid clan believes that a modern robot vacuum cleaner like you, a household appliance with artificial intelligence, that you’re not good enough for him. Is that it?

    – Oh, mom!

    – Unbelievable! Just look at you. The most modern automatic vacuum cleaner there is. You can remember every corner of the room and you always know whether you’ve been there or not. You have a built-in battery and you always remember when to return to the charging station. Your fire-engine-red case received a designer award. We were sold out for three whole months, nowhere to get one because we were so popular. Robotic vacuum cleaners have been the most popular household appliances for three consecutive years. And them? You open them up, put glasses in, and they get them wet. They can’t do anything that a little rain shower can’t do too.

    – Mom, please!

    – And your Andy? Does he think like his mother? Is a pretty vacuum cleaner girl not good enough for him?

    – Andy? He washed so many glasses in his life that in the end he liked to pour himself some. A drink before bed doesn’t hurt you, he always said. But he didn’t stop after the first one.

    – A drunkard? You should be glad you got rid of him. I know they always say they want to stop, that they won’t drink from tomorrow on, but they never do it. Be glad that you’re rid of this weak boy and his horror family. You know what, we’re charging our batteries now, but then we go to town. Other mothers have good-looking sons too. How about a sweet microwave? They always smell so seductive. You’ll see, in a few weeks you won’t even think of him anymore.

    – Do you know what Andy said? He believes his parents want to marry him off to a washing machine. To a fat, stupid washing machine that stinks of washing powder and keeps making noises like burping and farting. The boy from a proud family of dishwashers will marry a girl from a clan of washing machines. And in the evening they sit there and see who’s got the more impressive family tree. You’re right, I’m glad I got rid of that blockhead. Let’s go to the home appliance store. Life goes on!

    —–

    Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 1:26 pm
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      I think I’m confused.. but I’m all for simplistic washer/dryer, three cycles and that’s it.

      Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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      At first I thought this was some kind of girl who lost a boy who’s family invented the dishwasher, but then I read more and I was soo wrong😂

      I loved it! Lol

      Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 11:06 am
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      A fun and funny story Jurgen, with a bit of a moral too. I think it’s very clever to transpose (?) human activities and emotions onto inanimate objects, much harder than it would appear. At least to me.

      I did come up with one aspect of ‘appliance’ behavior that you overlooked. The ‘unbalanced’ or suicidal kind of washing machine, when the clothes pile up on one side, and the machine bounces around until it walks itself out the door and ‘jumps’ off the porch. I wonder if names (or model numbers) would have helped or hurt this story. You skirted it when you described the A.I. vacuum cleaner but you didn’t name her. You know, ‘Dee-dee’ for Deluxe 9000, Hobart the washing machine, his mother, Geraldine Wringer. (She’s so old, all she’s ever had is a serial number, which she can’t remember anymore.)

      There’s potential for quite a bit more humor here if you wanted to really think about it.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 9:43 pm
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        Ken has summed it up. Loved this crazy take on the prompt. Well thought out and expressed story.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 11:36 am
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      Stupid Dishwashers HA!.
      This whole time I was like, who the hell is that proud to be a dishwasher, imagine my surprise at the discovery of it being literal.
      Hilarious. Thank You. HAHAHA!

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:13 pm
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      Hi, Jürgen

      A typical J-special – we’ve come to expect these off-the-wall tales from you. I like how you always walk around the theme to find a different angle; there’s no way anyone else would be writing anything like this. Totally original. Having said that, I didn’t think this worked quite as well as some of your other stories, but it might just be my short-range imagination; I can’t get round the practical impossibility of household appliances falling for each other – however satirically it’s intended. But I suppose TV and cinema animation has done it with cars, trains, planes, foodstuffs … so that’s how much I know!

      Reply
  • February 24, 2020 at 8:22 am
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    I’m not going to make it. I’ll try to read the stories later. Don’t count on me for voting. Thanks.

    Reply
  • February 24, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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    1200 words (A combination of this prompt and the last one!)

    “Battle of the Hot Mine” by Carrie Zylka

    “It was a hard time for most of us once we realized why so many men were signed up for infantry. It’s a hard punch to the gut when you realize your only purpose in the war is to provide a body.” My grandfather leaned back against the old vinyl bench, I quietly ate my pancakes, only half listening to yet another story…

    “It was a horrible war. No pride in it. No nobility in being a meat carcass.” His eyes became glassy. “We were hungry all of the time. The gut wrenching, gnaw at your bootstraps kind of hunger. And cold, goddam it was cold. But despite the horror of what we were living through, we never really lost hope.” He fell silent for a time.

    The silence lingered and I became concerned. “Grandpa?” I prompted, placing my hand on his papery thin arm.

    My small voice seemed to drag him up and out of the memory hole his brain had chucked him into. He glanced at me, down at my pancakes, back up at me again and a sly smile crept across his lips. “say, did I ever tell you about the Battle of the Hot Mine?”

    I shook my head, my curiosity peaked. When grandfather started a story with “say did I ever tell you about the…” you knew it was going to be a good one.

    He rubbed gnarled arthritic hands together in excitement.

    “It was 1944, and we’d been in Germany for, oh I don’t know how long. Five, six months? I can’t remember. We were in a forest, trying to dodge Nazi bullets and creep their lines back. What I do remember was the snow. The heavy, wet, sloshy snow that covered everything in a sheet of ice by the end of the night. Including soldiers. And we had the worst clothing. Our shoes were thin and would get really wet, really quick, and our jackets were never warm enough. They were always wool and would get soaked straight away. We’d always fight over those German soldiers because they had these really warm fur lined coats, usually rabbit to help them blend into the snow, boy those were great jackets.”

    I took another bite of syrup soaked pancakes, the picture he painted dancing in my head.

    “Anyhow, it was so cold, and we’d sent some guys out to see if we could find some caves or something that would provide us some shelter. Well they came back alright, the look of sheer terror on those two boys faces. All they could do was babble on about monsters. Some big red lizard monster and no one could understand what the heck they were talking about.”

    I paused, fork halfway to my mouth and squinted at him. “Lizard? In the war?” I crinkled my freckled nose.

    He nodded vigorously and nearly spilled his coffee as he set it back down. “Oh ya, they were going on and on and nobody believed them because we were cold and frankly couldn’t care less. So a few of us decided that we’d go ourselves and try to find some shelter. So we head out, it’s nighttime and we were all so tired, but we were happy to be moving because that helped us stay warm. So we’re trying to be sneaky but we’re moving along at a good clip and we come to some big mine entrances and we think – oh hey this might work.”

    The waitress; “D”, stopped by and refilled his coffee cup and grandpa waited patiently for her to walk away, despite the runny, watery look, his eyes were bright pinpoints of sky blue. His stories were annoying sometimes, but this one definitely held both of our attention.

    “So we send over two guys to take out the guards in front of the entrance. Which they do pretty well, and it doesn’t occur to us to ask why there were even two guys on guard, and we head into the mine. It was nice and warm in there let me tell you! And again! It never occurs to us to wonder why it was so warm! So we head a little deeper and we can hear voices, so we sneak along, and it’s getting hotter. And we come to this bend and there’s a big ol door closing off the tunnel, and there’s a window in the door and we peer through. I never seen such a sight! Those guys were damn spot on when they were spouting off about great sized lizards! There was a huge damn dragon with numbers tattooed on her leg belted to a table, she had all these gadgets sticking out of her, and tubes and her snout was strapped down tight!”

    “What?” I’d put down my fork, he now had my full attention.

    Grandpa leaned forward and dropped his voice, I emulated him and leaned in, I didn’t want to miss a single word.

    “I was looking through that window and man she caught me looking and her whole expression changed. I swear to you child, the look on her face was so pitiful, so sad, so tortured! It broke my heart! Broke my damn heart I tell you to see her looking like that. So I turned to my buddies and we discussed what to do and we decided that we should storm in and free that poor creature and hope like hell she didn’t turn and fry us up right there. So we did just that! We stormed through that door like holy fury, we got the jump on them Nazi scientists and one of my buddies cut those ties that was holding her down. And I tell you that dragon rose up high and she pulled out those tubes and things and she was so pissed! Mad! And she turned and looked at us and you coulda heard a pin drop, then she swung that big head and looked at those guards and she turned and flew right out that door and out into the forest. We ran right out after her and watched as she winged her way up over the mountain. We followed up and man we sat there and watched her set fire to those troops sitting in wait for us! She must’ve recognized the uniforms of the Nazis and seen we were her rescuers. I tell you I never see such a sight!” He chuckled. “She went on to be instrumental in helping us win the war! I feel she might have just helped us turn the tides of that war!”

    I sat back and grinned. “Grandpa! You’re telling me fake tales!”

    Grandpa sat back. “Nope, every word in this story is true. I promise. Ask your ma, she’ll tell you.” He sipped delicately and somehow innocently at his coffee.

    The waitress came back and set down the check. She lightly smacked his arm, her brightly colored red hair shone in the sunlight. She winked at me when she saw I’d noticed the faint numbers tattooed on her arm.

    “Thanks D.” My grandpa said.

    It was many years later when my brain made the connection to a famous female, red headed WW2 assassin.

    Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 3:14 pm
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      Carrie- I loved your story! The small details you added- the pancakes, the paper thin skin on Grandpa’s arm- made it all seem real. I am confused by the final comment… the red haired assasin refers to Dutch resistance fighter Hannie Schaft? Is the waitress supposed to be Schaft? Is the dragon supposed to refer to Schaft? Schaft was killed by Nazis three weeks before the war ended… so I’m a bit confused. I really enjoyed your story and I’m dying to know what the final comment meant. Hate to ask for an explanation… but…

      Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 3:54 pm
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        hi Trish, thanks for the comments! It really doesn’t refer to a real person, since dragons are made up, I figured there absolutely could be a made up redheaded WW2 assassin named “D” (for dragon) who ended up being a diner waitress 😂

        Damn 1200 word limitation didn’t give me enough words to explain thoroughly!

        Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 3:56 pm
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        I tried to correlate the concentration camp number tattoo on the redhead’s arm, with the numbers tattooed on the leg of the dragon.

        Reply
      • February 24, 2020 at 3:59 pm
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        Maybe I should change the last line from “assassin”, just to “hero” 🤔

        Reply
        • February 24, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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          No, Carrie, Don’t change a thing! I got that the waitress/assasin was D, and that she was referred to as a Dragon in Grandpa’s story, I just thought you were referencing a real person- and when I looked it up I quickly found a famous WWII red haired assasin, so I thought… At any rate, once I pull it entirely into the fiction world it works beautifully. Yours is my very favorite story this round. Thx for clarifying!

          Reply
    • February 24, 2020 at 5:38 pm
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      Carrie,

      I had to research the name as I’d never heard of this girl before. (And I thought I knew everything about WWII.)

      After reading Trish’s comment, I believe, because the story is told within a story, that it’s open to interpretation. Most likely, ‘the dragon’s’ murder was faked, (creating a fictional character, which works.) Either that or old Grandpa was pullin’ somebody’s leg.

      But the narrator admits that Grandpa was guilty of telling annoying stories and that she made the connection later on. And ‘D’ has a number tattooed on her arm. An I.D. tattoo? If so, that would make her a prisoner of a concentration camp, which, I suppose she may have been, or would’ve been had she lived.

      I could be wrong of course, but I think you’ve crafted a really intriguing character here, and the writing and the story itself is excellent.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 10:33 am
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      I need to share the joke my husband just made when I told him about your story, Carrie. He said they were trying to build a Panzerkampfdragon…

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 11:45 am
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        Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh I might just steal that as the title when I read it for the podcast!!!!!! 😂😂😂

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 11:42 am
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      WOW! Grandpa’s war stories are legit! I really enjoyed this. I thoroughly was convinced the dragon was real. Nice little twisty end!

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:13 pm
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      Hi, Carrie

      Really enjoyed this! It works very well. Grandpa is a great character. The story he weaves is so convincing (and you tell it beautifully) – it’s lovely to see his grandson in the no-man’s land between disbelieving and being drawn in. One doubt I had … how do the scouts see the ‘lizard’ if there are sentries at the mouth of the mine? (who the second party have to dispose of to get in). The flip between the dragon and the assassin is very clever … but the final line feels just a bit perfunctory to me – maybe needs a bit of work to make it a little smoother/more subtle?

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 2:15 pm
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        Damn Phil, that’s a rather good point.
        I actually have a different ending that wouldn’t fit into the word restrictions:

        “Thanks D.” My grandpa said.
        ~
        Many years later I took my own son to that very same diner. We sat down, somber in our black suits, Grandpa’s funeral wasn’t for another two hours and I thought it would be a fitting tribute, I hadn’t been back in years and the place still looked the same. It occurred to me that we’d somehow managed to get seated in the same booth my grandfather always sat in. My chest tightened.

        “Your grandpa used to tell me the craziest stories, but my favorite ones were always the tall tales he spun around the war.” I reached over and helped my eight year old tuck the napkin in his collar, effectively creating a bib.

        “Coffee? Juice?” The waitress asked.

        I looked up and stared at the numbers tattooed on her arm. My brain raced back thirty years and connected dots patiently waiting in the recesses of my mind.

        “Coffee please.” I managed to croak out.

        I watched the red headed waitress, “D”, wink at me, the exact same way she’d always winked at my grandfather. She glanced at my son, and then back at my suit and some sort of clairvoyant realization flitted across her face. “Please pass along my condolences. Your grandfather was a brave man, he had a kind heart, the world will be worse off without him in it.” She moved off to get my coffee.

        “How’d she know about grandpa?” My son asked, too young to truly understand, but old enough to feel the sadness.

        Tears brimming in my eye. “Because son, sometimes things aren’t what they seem, and sometimes stories are exactly what they seem.”

        Reply
  • February 24, 2020 at 6:21 pm
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    Heartaches By The Number
    by Roy York
    1056 words (without the title and by line)

    “I’m so glad you were able to make it, Meg. It means a lot to me.” Sara was holding her newly received straight up margarita in a toasting position.

    “It’s the least I could do for one of my best friends.” Meg touched her glass of red wine to Sara’s glass. The resulting sound was a high pitched note of perfect clarity, dying slowly as the two women put the glasses to their mouths. Meg took a sip and set her drink back on the table. She watched in amazement as Sarah tilted her glass back and finished it.

    “I needed that. In fact, I need another.” Sarah held her glass up catching the waiter’s attention. He held up two fingers and cocked his head questioning if he should bring both of them a drink. Sarah shook her head and held up her index finger. The waiter nodded and headed for the bar.

    Neither of the two women spoke. Meg was toying with her napkin, waiting for Sarah to start talking. Music played softly in the background, but neither of the two women heard it, absorbed in their thoughts.

    Finally, Meg looked up at Sarah who was staring off into the distance clearly not focusing on any one thing. “Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me everything?” she said.

    Sarah snapped her head back, “I’m sorry, what?” The smallest of tears were just beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. Sarah picked up her napkin and touched the corner of it to each of the tears, as if she could absorb the sadness.

    Meg reached out her hand and touched Sarah’s. “Tell me about it. Take your time.”

    Sarah nodded, “It was last Friday, Valentine’s Day. We went to Petrocelli’s, that little Italian place on Sycamore, the first place he ever took me for dinner. Now that I think about it, it was as if it were a sign of some sort. We hadn’t eaten there in years. I wasn’t even sure it was still there.” She paused … “I can’t believe he would do this to me. I just can’t.”

    “Anyway, we got there late because Frankie stopped on the way home to get some flowers. Only Frankie would try to buy flowers late at night on Valentine’s Day. When he finally got home he told me he had gone to four different places before he found one that had red roses. ‘It had to be red,’ he said, ‘because that’s your favorite.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d rather he bought me calla lilies, because those are really my favorite, like the white ones in my wedding bouquet.” Sarah suddenly stopped talking and put her face into her hands and started to cry softly. “I can’t even think about that without crying,” she said, trying to gather her composure.

    “I’m really not sure when the subject came up, but we had been talking about some of the things we needed to take care of … “ Sarah’s voice trailed off, trying to grab that moment again. Meg waited quietly, and took a sip of her wine. The waiter showed up with Sarah’s new margarita and asked if there was anything else?

    Meg smiled, and said, “We’re Ubering home, so bring another for each of us. It might be a long night.”

    Sarah picked up her new drink and sipped it, “I remember now, Petrocelli’s was playing an ‘oldies’ rock station and the song ‘Heartache’ started playing. Frankie laughed and said, ‘That’s not something we’ve had a lot of.’ Out of the blue, just like that. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I must have looked at him funny, because he said, “Heartache.” and pointed with his fork at one of the speakers.”

    “What are you talking about? Never? How about when your dad died?” I asked.

    “I loved my father,” Frankie said, “but he had a long and happy life until his stroke. The man who died wasn’t my father any more. He was a man who didn’t know who I was the last few months of his life. I might as well have been visiting a stranger I’d never seen before. My heart wasn’t broken.”

    “How about you?” he asked. “I know you didn’t get all warm and fuzzy over the loss of either of your parents. And, you know how I felt about my step mother. No love lost there.”

    “I told him, ‘How about the time when we almost lost my sister, Janie, to meningitis. She was so sick, the doctors didn’t think she would make it’.”

    “But she did make it.” he said. “She came home healthy and happy and grew into a beautiful young woman. There’s no heartache there, just happy memories of when she came home.”

    “He said, ‘Face it. Neither of us have ever really known true heartache,’ pointing at me with his fork for emphasis. I should have seen it coming right then, but I didn’t. His face was red; it was almost as if he were angry neither of us had faced heartache.

    “That’s when it happened. Frankie suddenly grabbed his chest with one hand, gave me a strange look and collapsed to one side, before falling on the floor, pulling the table cloth with him, clutching it as he tried to hold onto life.

    “At first I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed my phone and dialed 911 and told them what happened and where we were. By the time I got over to Frankie the waiter was there trying to pick him up. A man rushed over from another table and announced he was a doctor. He worked on Frankie for a few minutes, by pounding on his chest and giving him chest compressions. The doctor looked up at me and started to say something, while shaking his head, but at that moment, the paramedics arrived and took over. They did everything they could.”

    Meg’s eyes grew big as she listened with horror overcoming her senses. “My God, Sarah. Talk about heartache, and on Valentines Day of all days, for this to happen.’

    Sarah finished her margarita and held it up for the waiter to see the glass was empty. “I know,” she said. “Who’d have thought the son of a bitch would live through it?”

    Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 7:54 am
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      Roy- loves the writing, the story, and the ending- oh the ending was perfect. Great take on the prompt.

      Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 10:17 am
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        Thank you, Trish. It’s funny, but the gist of the story with a completely different ending was already imbedded in my writer’s mind. I just needed to get the dialogue right. As I wrote it, the ending I had seemed trite, but I hung in there. As often happens with my characters, they suddenly do something I had not expected. When Sarah raised her glass at the end, in my mind she blurted out the ending line. I loved it. As I reread the story I realized all her sorrow was really misdirection. God, I love it when my characters do this sort of thing. It makes writing so much easier. Thanks again for your comments. I truly appreciate them.

        Roy

        Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 8:52 am
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      Hi Roy,

      Love this story and especially that “killer” last line. A nice bit of misdirection with the doctor starting to say something whilst shaking his head and the paramedics who “did everything they could.”

      I enjoy the way you describe the two friends holding their drinks and signalling to the waiter. All very natural, like the dialogue.

      I personally have not spotted any aspects of this story ( not that I go looking ) that I can suggest you could improve. Others might disagree…..where’s that Cartisano chap hiding??

      Great story, well written and entertaining., Roy.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 2:37 pm
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        Ken F. Appreciate your kind words, I do feel like some of my skills are starting to return lately. I’m feeling so much better health wise, it has to be helping my thinking, and my characters are beginning to talk again. BTW, feel free to look for aspects you feel could use improvement. I am always striving to be a better writer.

        Reply
      • February 25, 2020 at 8:31 pm
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        So I gathered she wanted him dead. But he did not die. Humm,great dialogue and twist in the tale.

        Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 2:39 pm
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        Thanks Ken C. It was a surprise to me, too.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 9:37 am
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      Haha! I love that last line, it really made this story. I’m glad you listened to your character’s voice in your head because I love that bomb dropped right at the end.

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 12:47 pm
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      Yes! This is a great story right here! What a cool take on the prompt. Loved it from start to finish!

      Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:11 pm
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      Hi, Roy

      A kind of shaggy-dog story, really well constructed, with a terrific punch-line. You really take us on a wild-goose chase (dogs? geese?), making us think that Sarah’s sadness has to do with affairs of the heart (in a romantic sense). The ‘Heartache’ cue for their reminiscences, and then the actual heart attack … classic! One thing I would suggest is that the paragraph beginning “Sarah held her glass up catching the waiter’s attention.” is really superfluous; the point is to get another drink, so you could simply say that, i.e. ‘Sarah ordered another drink for herself.’ Enjoyed this.

      Reply
  • February 25, 2020 at 8:42 am
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    BEGGING FOR FORGIVENESS

    Agnes took a swig of the beer, placed the glass on the table and glided her hand over the table to rest on Grace’s. She held it firmly.
    “Don’t do it, my friend!”

    “It’s so easy to say, Agnes, but so hard, when you have to take a decision.”

    “How easy it has been for you to forget, Grace? I can’t believe how forgiving you’re.” Agnes slid her hand back, and rested her back and arms on the chair. “They betrayed you, your children and us too. We were a good group of friends. Ben and Jade choose to break the unit. They could not conceal their feelings and had to go all the way with an affair, then set up home together. So selfish! Unacceptable behaviour. I feel so angry about all this.”

    Grace blinked as she took a sip of her wine. “They’ve broken up now. It didn’t work.”

    “So, the prodigal husband comes crawling to his ex-wife. She takes pity on him and welcomes him with open arms. Is that what you’re trying to tell me is going to happen?”

    “It was my own fault too I guess, Agnes. I neglected him when the children came along. I didn’t give him the attention he needed. I was as selfish there. I didn’t look after myself as I used to. I hardly had time to do all the things that I had to do. I pushed them together and that was the consequences.” Grace played with the rim of her glass as she focussed on the mistakes she made whilst she was married to Ben, “Jade became more attractive, offered him what he wanted….”

    “Don’t give me all that? They knew what they were doing. Ben was married to you and Jade was a very close friend. They should have shown more respect” Agnes argued. Her eyes shone.
    She turned to beckon the waiter, Bobby, who is a friend of theirs too. “Jade was a shoulder he moaned to. She grabbed the opportunity to get the lover she wished. They, both behaved badly.”

    “I know, I know.” Grace was torn in her thoughts. “People make mistakes. I bet they regret what happened. Love is a strange emotion.”

    “That kind of mistake is unforgivable.” Agnes frowned at Grace. “You’re still in love with this adulterer, aren’t you?”

    “Hum! He is the father of my children. He hasn’t fallen short in his parental duties. He has supported me financially, still pays the mortgage and see to our needs. We’re amicable.”

    “Wow! That makes him perfect!” Agnes widened and rolled her eyes. “So should he? He is the partime father. He is not always there for them or for you.” Agnes bent over the table and pointed a finger. “Now the boat he was in, sunk and he wants to jump back into the safety of your boat, again. The worse is that you are willing to take him back. You want me to confirm that it is okay to forgive them, to accept him in the family fold. But, I won’t because I can’t forgive them. I think this is all wrong. They crossed a line that they shouldn’t have.” Agnes fixed her gaze on Grace. Grace dropped her gaze to the floor. “Remember how distraught you were when you found out about their treachery. I do. You were ill, depressed and became as thin as a rake. We were so concerned about how you were going to cope. But, I admire you, to how you pulled your strengths and became undoubtedly strong for your children.”

    “What else can I do for you, my dear friends?” Bobby, the waiter, approached to collect the empty glasses and to answer Agnes’s call. He placed the used glasses on the tray he was holding.
    “Same as usual, Bobby. Beer for me and wine for Grace. Nothing to eat today.” Both of them ordered. “Can’t stay long.”

    “I guess you’ve heard.” Agnes turned her head to speak to Bobby. ” Ben wants to come back ‘home’ and Grace is willing to have him by putting the past behind her. She wants to start again, on a clean plate like one says.”

    “Well.” Bobby twisted his lips.

    ” My prediction is, he will do the dirty on her again..” Agnes turned her head back to Grace to watch her reaction.

    “Plenty of fish in the sea, Grace. But, you have to do what you want to do. We can only advise.” Ben clicked his tongue. He turned to leave. Agnes put a hand on his arm to stop him leave.

    “Remind her of how she was being treated by those two, Bobby.” Agnes asked.

    “Oh! Forgive me for smiling.” Bobby rolled his eyes and smirked, “Dear me. I can still recall that scene of five years ago. We have stopped talking about it. It happened over there.” Bobby nodded to a corner in the restaurant/pub.
    You were drunk, Grace, when they turned up. I was on duty that night. We felt so sorry for you but what you did was shocking, unexpected and deserving. You swaggered towards them with the bottle of red wine in your hand and shouted at Ben. He was getting up to take you out of the premises when you crash the bottle of red wine on his head, As if that was not enough, you picked the other bottle of red wine from his table and smashed it too on his head. Ouch! That hurts! The mixture of wine and blood dripping over his white shirt was a horrible spectacle.” Bobby chuckled.

    “Call an Ambulance! I heard people shout.” Bobby continued. “I don’t recall people calling the Police.”
    “Stop it, Bobby! You’re enjoying reliving this.” Grace frowned at him.

    “Luckily he did not press charges or you would have clocked a criminal record, Grace. No-one can believe how aggressive you became with red wine and anger boiling in your system.”

    “I know. I was shocked at myself afterwards, couldn’t believe myself when I thought of it in the morning. But he forgave me. Never sent the Police after me.
    I just got so angry and I couldn’t take the deceit anymore. He understood that.”

    “And you want to take the risk of this happening again?” Agnes rushed to ask. She drummed her fingers on the table and raised her eyes to work out Grace. “He draws the worst out of you. We won’t be talking of such a thing now if he behaved as he should.”

    “Forgive me girls, We will talk some other time. Duty calls! Bobby rushed away still smiling and shaking his head.

    “I haven’t said I want Ben in my life as a husband again.” Grace stared into Agnes’ eyes “I wanted to talk, to remind myself of what I and the children went through. This chat helps. I won’t allow it to happen again. Thank you, Agnes for being my friend, for helping me cope with that turbulent time in my life. ” Grace got up to hug Agnes. “I’m strong enough now that the kids are at school fulltime. I plan to find a job, get financially independent.”

    Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 12:51 pm
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      Good story. Interesting tale about the wine bottle there. I’m sure he got what he deserved though. The end just kind of stopped though. Like there wasn’t any finish to it. Other than that great take on the prompt!

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 3:39 pm
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        Thanks Kristin for reading and your feedback on my story.

        I was getting to the 1200 words limit and had to end the story.

        The last paragraph ends the chat where Grace is clear in her mind that she doesn’t want Ben back as a husband. She is moving on by planning to go back to work and cut some ties from Ben.

        The incident about the bottle came from my friend whose husband used to beat her. I told her that if ever someone would touch me like that I would smash the bottle of whisky on his head. She did it. She rang me from A&E and I asked her why did she do that. She answered that I told her to do it.
        Almost dragged me into her marital problem. Strangely, he stopped hitting her physically.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:10 pm
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      Hi, Chitra

      A nice depiction of supportive friendship. Agnes isn’t being a busy-body – she really cares about Grace’s well-being, and the dialogue reflects that very well. As Kristin says, despite the momentous decision that Grace takes (i.e. not to have anything to do with Ben every again), the ending kind of feels a bit flat. About the wine bottles … a wine bottle to the head might kill you (in the films they’re made of brittle sugar-glass). Two to the head will kill you for sure. I like the story for Agnes’s solidarity, and Grace’s happy decision to give Ben the elbow, after all we’ve heard about the creep.

      Reply
  • February 25, 2020 at 10:56 am
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    The Sailboat

    “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, Becky. To look Mike in the eye and tell him I wasn’t in love with him anymore. No sparks left. I mean, I didn’t plan for this to happen.”

    Her statement startled me as I sat at the café near the bustling waterfront, working on my laptop. I adjusted my wedding ring and wondered about this person’s story. Was she married? Engaged? Dating? I glanced over to see two similarly dressed, middle-aged women chatting over fresh lattes with frothy hearts drizzled over the foam.

    One of the women, an incredibly sympathetic look on her face – eyebrows furrowed with full blown 11’s between her eyes – reached across the table to grab her friend’s hand.
    “Oh Susie, I can’t even imagine. You are so brave to be able to tell him that. I’m so proud of you! How are the kids taking it?”

    “Well, they are older now – 11 and 18 – so that helped some. I just sat them down and explained I simply wasn’t able to live my life to it’s fullest being married to their dad. I think they totally got it and are happy for me. Or will be. Kids are so resilient you know.”

    “So glad! Wow! You are about to start a new, exciting life! Has Mike moved out yet?”

    “Almost. He has so much crap all over the house and it’s driving me nuts. I need for him to just be gone – him and all his stuff! I will probably just box it up and drop it on the sidewalk for garbage day. That will get his attention!”

    I couldn’t believe the callousness of what I was hearing. For such a long relationship to be so easily thrown away because the “sparks” were gone! Was that a truly valid reason to leave a person?

    I began to think of my own marriage. Was I still “in love” with Brady? It had been fifteen years. I loved him but was I still “in love” with him? No. I mean, we had to work on our marriage. And we were at the point where we planned our date nights, otherwise we wouldn’t connect between our four kids and his travel with work.

    I honestly hardly looked at him anymore. Like really truly looked at him. There were glimpses of him when he was home but just his presence is enough to know he’s there. As I thought of him I missed the fun we used to have. He used to own a race car and we would travel the country together before kids racing at different venues. He called me his pit stop girl and I loved to refuel his car in the heat of the race. We had a community of people we traveled with and had late nights of laughing and talking and connecting. I missed those days.

    Occasionally I would still have that “in love” feeling, but as the years went by love became a choice. A choice to love the whole person. Luckily I married a man whose character was clear from the start. He was a good husband, father and companion.

    I glanced at the women talking next to me and noticed the hearts on their lattes no longer resembled the pretty perfect hearts they did a few minutes earlier. Now they looked distorted and broken. I heard their last interaction as they got up to leave.

    “Did I tell you there is this really cute guy I’m talking to that I met at the gym?”

    “Are you kidding me Susie? Already shopping the market? You go girl! Living your best life.”

    The sound of their laughter felt like nails on a chalkboard as they left the cafe. High pitched and bird like.

    Later that day I called Brady and asked him if he had time to meet me at the local wine bar after work. I had this strong need to connect with him after overhearing the women at the cafe. He agreed and I arrived a bit early and ordered a Cabernet. It arrived in the perfect shade of dark red in a long stemmed glass. The first sip soothed me as my thoughts ran over the day. Brady burst through the door still on his cell phone, He saw me and made his way over getting off the phone just as he got to my table.

    “Hello beautiful,” he said as he leaned down to kiss me on the cheek.

    He had a shocked look on his face and began to tell me about his day. Brady was a prominent divorce lawyer. He told me about one particular client that he just got news about on the phone. “This man had such a heartbreaking story –he had saved up for the entire length of his 20 year marriage to buy his wife a sailboat…”

    Brady started to tell me the entire, sad story, how the wife had grown up on the water helping her dad race sailboats and she had a dream of owning one herself someday. As the years went by and a couple kids later her dream began to disappear and she let go of the hope that she would have one someday. But her husband never let go of her dream and skimped and saved and took extra side jobs to save enough to eventually buy her the boat. He finally saved enough to buy her the boat and went out and bought her the most beautiful sailboat he could find and named it after his wife, having her name painted on the side. He was going to surprise her on the day of their 20th wedding anniversary.

    The night before their anniversary his wife tells him they need to talk. She shares with him that she is completely unhappy with their marriage and that he is never home but always working and taking on side jobs. She tells him she is done and wants a divorce. He was completely blindsided and his anticipation of presenting her with the beautiful sailboat was suddenly shattered. He desperately tried to talk to her and asked her to go to marriage counseling with him. All of which she refused. Her mind was made up and her heart was already changed. The ultimate kicker was when she told him she was not in love with him anymore. He was devastated and ended up not telling her about the sailboat and she had no idea what she missed out on.

    “Wait!” I said. “What is his name?”

    “Mike,” he said. “And the worst part of the story just happened today. Mike died. He collapsed in his home. No apparent reason or health problems. I think he died of a broken heart.”

    Reply
    • February 25, 2020 at 9:19 pm
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      Gee sad story. But it happens and I can not understand how one can just “fall out of love”. Truly a heart breaker. Some women do not know what they have until they lose it. And even then …..

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 6:16 pm
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        I agree Ilana

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 12:55 pm
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      Oh this story hurt me. Poor Mike. I love how it connected though. Great Job!

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 6:14 pm
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        Thanks Kristin! The content kind of bummed me out…I like your wicked story twist better!

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 3:40 pm
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      Karisa,

      This is a very creative approach to the prompt, but I’m not sure how effective the ending was, however, the writing is fabulous, and I mean that in every way. It’s fluid, concise, leading you further into the story. Fabulous writing is like, when the reader can almost anticipate the next word as he’s reading. I don’t know if you write like this all the time, I just wish I did.

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 6:12 pm
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        Thank you for your feedback Ken and compliments. I especially appreciate it since this is my first time posting my writing here.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 7:08 pm
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      Hi, Karisa

      A very clever story. The women at the beginning cause the narrator to take a look at her own relationship, then there appears to be a third relationship which turns out to actually be the first … with a tragic outcome. But I think the narrator and Brady’s witnessing of this tragedy will probably, beyond the end of the story, bring them closer together. I hope so, anyway. Neatly told, with a cool kind of pincer-like structure. I think the section beginning “Brady started to tell me the entire, sad story, how the wife had grown up …” could maybe have been actual dialogue, rather than reported.

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 6:13 pm
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        Thanks for your input Phil!

        Reply
  • February 26, 2020 at 12:33 pm
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    Hey writers!!

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

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

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-heartbreak/

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

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 1:29 pm
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      Yes, most difficult Vote so far for me… this morning I was thinking about a few stories and was drawn to the feel good after reading… and then a couple that left me feeling a little sickly…sad… in determining an example of a good story writer recognizing the visceral response whether happy or sad is a criteria to include is important.. very important… just thinking out loud

      Reply
      • February 26, 2020 at 3:43 pm
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        I don’t think “happy or sad” makes or breaks a story in and of itself. Both comedies and tragedies can make great tales if written well, make sense and in some way reverberate with the reader. Life is made of both the ups and the downs, and so are stories. At the end of the day, it may very much depend on each reader’s mood and circumstances. The happiest of stories may actually hurt and make a reader cringe if s/he is passing through a rough patch in life and v.v.

        Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 2:03 pm
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        Liz, I totally agree, it’s the response that’s important, not the nature or topic of the story. If it makes you feel deeply, then that’s a great story.

        Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 1:09 pm
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      Right! A lot of stories this prompt!

      Reply
  • February 26, 2020 at 1:20 pm
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    Good luck all! Sorry I have not had time to read all of the stories and will not be able to vote.

    Alice, your story did me in. I read it at night and felt like crying. I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ I just couldn’t handle the topic.

    It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Sometimes, the stress wins ….

    Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 1:52 pm
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      Adi, sorry to hear that things aren’t going well, hope you beat that stress soon, and we see your story next prompt. Take care.

      Reply
  • February 27, 2020 at 2:39 am
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    If it’s just so hard to vote this time. I wish we had when we have 17 actually when we have 15+ stories perhaps we should have another extra couple of places there are some brilliant story said I just didn’t vote for because it wasn’t enough space I love the story the sailboat but there are other stories that I love as well and I had to be very very picky. It was just such a cruel vote this time and I’m just not want to go back and I want to vote for the sailboat because I thought that was a brilliant story but then there are other stories I likeD just as much and They had a fine edge over it so fine…My head actually hurts after voting now.

    Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 2:41 am
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      This was voice to text from my iPhone because my
      Head hurts and I’m feeling spun out. Sorry my
      Comment is a bit weird. Like me. 😐😞

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 8:02 am
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      Not a bad idea, maybe like you said more than 12 stories we add a 6th and 7th place holder. Wouldn’t be hard to do.

      Reply
  • February 27, 2020 at 4:25 am
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    Sorry. I won’t vote.
    Read and enjoyed the stories.
    But, time is running out for me to read with a critiquecal hat on.
    Good luck

    Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 8:03 am
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      Thanks for letting us know!

      Reply
  • February 27, 2020 at 12:17 pm
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    And here are your winners!
    A great round of stories and definitely hard choosing the top five!

    1st Place: The Queen’s Heart by Kristin Record
    Congrats Kristin!!

    2nd Place: Cause of Death by Alice Nelson
    3rd Place: Heartaches By The Number by Roy York
    4th Place: Too Good To Be True by unamoona
    5th Place: True Love by Phil Town
    6th Place: Cappuccino Red by Ken Frape
    7th Place: A Little Excitement by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    8th Place: Heart Broken by Ilana Leeds
    9th Place: Battle of the Hot Mine by Carrie Zylka
    10th Place: Love is in the Way by Ken Miles
    11th Place: Heart of a Furry Friend by Alyssa Daxson
    12th Place: The Sailboat by Karisa
    13th Place: A Proud Family by berlinermax
    14th Place: Of Coos & Cuddles by Trish
    15th Place: Lost Heartbreak by Liz Fisher

    Favorite Character: Daniella from “Cappuccino Red” by Ken Frape
    Favorite Dialogue: “True Love” by Phil Town

    Congrats to all!

    The next prompt:
    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/2020-translation/

    Theme: Lost in Translation
    Story must contain a phrase (word, sentence etc.) in a foreign language and its translation. But the translation doesn’t have to follow the foreign phrase immediately afterwards.

    Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 12:34 pm
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      Hi All,
      Well done to Ilana. My choice as winner and it is nice to see that my other votes pretty much mirror those of the rest of our group. A great bunch this time and very hard to decide.

      kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 12:36 pm
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      Correction,

      Well done Kristin!!
      That’s what I meant to say with no disrespect to Ilana.

      Ken F

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 7:15 pm
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      Congratulations, Kristin, and thanks for all the ‘dialogue’ votes (though I didn’t actually think my story deserved that accolade … and there’s no way my story was better than Ken Frape’s beautiful piece).

      Great bunch of stories, I reckon.

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 7:38 pm
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        Phil,
        You reckon? Well I reckon you’re right, pardner. Reckon’s a great word, I use it all the time. I thought Ken’s (Mr. Frape) story was great too. The dialogue was superb. I kept vacillating between his and Kristin’s for the top spot. What’s remarkable (if anything) is how different the two stories were.

        Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 2:11 pm
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      You guys!!!!!!!
      What a warm welcome back!!!!!
      Thank you!!!!
      So many of the stories were winners. I’m humbled!!!

      Reply
      • February 27, 2020 at 2:28 pm
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        Congrats, Kristin! Your story was my personal number one too 🙂

        Reply
  • February 27, 2020 at 2:24 pm
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    I wish this prompt had been due next week, sometimes we writers find solace in stories that become our personal emotional outlet.

    My heart is very much broken.
    Yesterday morning my boyfriend’s daughter was found dead at a friends house. She’d just turned 18 three weeks ago.

    My heart is so sad for this man who has the biggest heart of anyone I know, and for her two young siblings.

    Unlike so many young people these days, I truly believe she would have made a difference. She’d been working out negotiations to join the Marines to become a trauma surgeon because she couldn’t afford medical college on her own. She was bound and determined to contribute to the world in a positive manner.

    So mostly I’m heartbroken for the lives that she would have saved during the course of her life.

    Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 3:18 pm
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      Carrie- how horrible. I’m so sorry. Words fail me. I’m so sorry…

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 3:54 pm
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      No matter the reason, death unexpected rips hearts out and for some, the anguish is almost unbearable. I cannot nor hope to fathom what you and your boyfriend’s family must be going through. My condolences, Carrie.

      Reply
      • March 2, 2020 at 4:37 am
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        I always enjoy your stories, my dear. You, and most of the writers on this site, are excellent story writers. Just think, it’s finally getting to a point where reader’s could stop by once every two weeks and find delicious, neat little stories, all wrapped up in a tidy anthology for them to print out and have a few hours of escape, for the price of ink, or, if they prefer, no ink at all. Just mischievous little squiggly lines all put there for their reading pleasure by the twenty or so of us, who work arduously for them, but mostly for ourselves.

        I strive to be honest and fair. I hope all my critiques are received – as I send them – with love.

        Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 6:43 pm
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      Oh gosh Carrie so sad. I always feel devastated at the death of young people. Anyone’s death is sad, but a young person has so much to offer the world and so much life to live. Sorry sorry and sending you hugs and condolences. 🙁
      Congratulations Kristin and yes your story was a cracker. Loved it. Well done.
      Congratulations to others too.

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 7:07 pm
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      Carrie, I’m so sorry to hear about Aaron’s daughter, I can’t imagine how difficult this time is for him. I know you’ll be there for him, and this can’t be easy for you either since you seemed to have a good relationship with her. Take care my friend.

      Reply
    • February 27, 2020 at 7:17 pm
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      Very sorry, Carrie. That’s awful, and really does put things in perspective.

      Reply
    • February 28, 2020 at 5:48 am
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      So sad and shocked at your and your boyfriend’s loss and the loss of this young person’s life.
      My thoughts and prayers are with you.
      Take care

      Reply
    • February 28, 2020 at 7:53 am
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      Carrie,

      I’m so sorry for the loss! My thoughts and prayers are with you and the family. Hugs!

      Adi

      Reply
  • February 27, 2020 at 2:30 pm
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    Oh my, Carrie – I can’t believe what I’m reading. So sorry. Condolences. RIP.

    Reply
  • February 27, 2020 at 6:48 pm
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    and Alice N you forgot Alice and Roy and unamoona? 🙁

    Reply
  • February 28, 2020 at 8:03 am
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    Congrats to the winners! I will go back and read the rest of the stories. The one’s I read were definitely heartbreaking!

    Looking forward to the next prompt.

    Reply
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