August 22 – September 4, 2019 Writing Prompt “Sometimes some things are better left unsaid.”

1st line contest: “Sometimes some things are better left unsaid.”

*The first line can be finite as above, or there could be a comma after “unsaid” and forms part of a longer sentence.

Story Requirements:

None

Word Count: 1,200



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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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184 thoughts on “August 22 – September 4, 2019 Writing Prompt “Sometimes some things are better left unsaid.”

  • August 22, 2019 at 12:50 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.
    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 1:11 pm
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      Note to the reader: Try to read this out loud using a traditional Gielgud or Olivier style Royal Shakespearian voice. Two people reading the two main parts works even better and it’s more fun.

      A Roman Affair by Ken Frape.1198 words in story itself.

      “…. And so, my dear Tittiania, some things are best left unsaid.” With that Emperor Pontificus, played by Sir Arthur Milton, the famed but rapidly fading Shakespearian actor, added a generous flourish of his hand and pranced across the stage in London’s West End, his white robes billowing behind him, his Roman sandals flip-flopping in time.

      Those words and that hand gesture were his usual, “I cannot remember my line” signal.

      “Of fuck, he forgotten his lines again,” sighed Henry Sledgecombe, director, from the wings as he watched his latest production being performed in its West End run. It had been a real coup when he had announced the cast for the famous tragedy, “A Roman Affair” but now he was not so sure as Sir Arthur forgot something almost every night and twice on Saturdays. Henry had a reputation to maintain after a dazzling run of West End and Broadway productions going back over the past decade or more. Now, he felt on the verge of a daily heart attack.

      “But darling,” said an unphased Dame Emilia Askwith, his fellow co-star and by now, a seasoned ad libber in plays featuring Sir Arthur, “surely this doesn’t mean… does it..?” Her clipped Shakespearian voice broke with emotion as she manufactured a real tear from the corner of her eye. She took a deep breath and pushed her breasts forward to give the audience a glimpse of her considerable décolletage, creating a momentary pause in the hope that this gap would jog Sir Arthur’s memory or at least give the front row something to talk about on their way home.

      Sir Arthur spun on his heel as he remembered his line and without missing a further beat he strutted across the stage to take Tittiana’s hand in his, kneeling before the couch as he raised her delicate fingers to his lips.

      “Yes, I’m afraid it does,” he said, back on cue.
      “So it’s come to that, has it, after all these years?” Her face crumpled with emotion as she pulled her hand from his and turned away from him, rising and advancing towards the front of the stage. “I knew something was amiss but this…..this is beyond anything I could have ever imagined.” She sobbed then and pulled a silken handkerchief from the neck of her gown.
      “Did you have no inkling?” he asked, struggling to straighten his aging knees, before moving forward to place a hand upon her shoulder. Tittiania stepped away from him and his hand dropped away, uselessly. “Surely you must have guessed, did you not?”
      “I wondered, yes, of course I did. How could a wife not but I kept telling myself that it could not be true, that it was just my imagination.”
      “I did my best to protect you, my dear Tittiania, really I did.”
      “But your best just wasn’t good enough, was it? Perhaps my feelings were not important enough for such an important man to consider. Hm?”
      “Well, it’s true that our Roman armies are engaged on four fronts at this time and there is unrest in The Senate and then there are The Gauls …..well you know what they are like. And every day I have to read reports from my generals and attend war cabinet meetings and Senate hearings. It’s no picnic being Emperor, I can tell you.”
      “So I was right then,” Tittiania went on. “ My feelings are not that important when compared to affairs of state. “
      “And not forgetting the Roman Games too. They don’t just organise themselves, you know.” Pontificus went on.
      “I thought you had a team of people, all eager to please you, and stay alive, to organise the Games.”
      “Yes, that’s true of course but there are still decisions to be made. They constantly come to me asking questions, questions, questions. I’m worn out. They’re like children.”
      “And what are these decisions you have to make all the time…..?”
      “Well, for a start, how many lions do we need for The Games? Do I want elephants this year? And how many? How many gladiators do I want? Is it a fight to kill policy this time or can the winners be allowed to live? Of course it’s cheaper if they don’t all die but then the public will be disappointed. They love blood. All that kind of thing.” He sighed deeply and sank down onto the couch, picking a large grape from a bowl as he did so.
      “It must be so hard for you,” Tittiania said with sarcasm heavy upon her voice. “So many decisions to make whilst I, your wife have so little to occupy me.”

      The audience caught a glimmer of a smile on her face as they saw for the first time that the slip of silk she had withdrawn from her bodice was concealing a thin very sharp knife.

      “Why don’t you let me peel that grape for you? At least that’s something I CAN do.” Tittiania glided across the stage and perched on the couch beside her husband. He held out the grape in his hand and as he did so, Tittiania slid the knife blade between his ribs and into his heart. Pontificus’ eyes opened wide in surprise, then he writhed in agony for a few moments as a thin trickle of blood ran down his chin. He grasped Tittiania’s hand and attempted to speak but only a gurgle left his lips and then he lay still, his dead hand hanging over the side of the couch.

      Let no one say that Sir Arthur Milton, longtime doyen of The Royal Shakespeare Company, doesn’t know how to die on stage.

      Tittiania clapped her hands and a centurion ran in, the long awaited moment having finally arrived.
      “He is dead,” she announced with blunt directness.
      “My lady..,” he gave a curt nod to his new mistress.
      “No need for that when we are alone,” she scolded him gently before embracing him and they kissed long and passionately. Tittiania eventually, reluctantly broke free.
      “Think of the victories we shall have now,” she told her lover as he stood before her.
      “It is done. Send for my son, the new Emperor, your new master. And get rid of the body. It offends me, as he did in life.”

      Cue fanfare and coronation of new boy Emperor.

      Cue curtain to thunderous applause that only came to a climax when the two stars stepped to the curtain. There were multiple curtain calls before the audience finally allowed the stars to leave the stage.

      Of course the critics are harder to please. Giles Cochrane of The Telegraph Arts Page had long been a critic of Sir Arthur Milton and had been watching his recent decline and frequent pauses as he tried to remember his lines or waited for a junior member of the cast to bail him out, as they did, eagerly and willingly. Retirement beckoned but Sir Arthur refused to countenance it.

      The headline said it all the following morning in The Telegraph Arts,

      A Roman Affair, West End Theatre,

      “Some things are best left unsaid.”

      Ken Frape August 2019< \font color>

      Reply
      • August 30, 2019 at 7:34 pm
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        Brilliant Ken, I really enjoyed this. Your writing is superb in this story.

        Reply
        • August 31, 2019 at 6:01 am
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          Hi Dennis,
          Thanks for your comment. I was beginning to get a bit concerned as I posted five days ago and my story still didn’t appear in the list.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape.

          Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 6:39 am
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        Hi Ken,

        I love this beautiful weave of theatre and real life! Unfortunately, I found out I’ve got nowhere decent enough to read the piece aloud without having someone or another asking questions about what got to me. Reading it aloud would certainly give this story a third dimension, given its theatrical setting. Alice, Carrie, are you reading this? Podcast material, here?

        I’m a bit confused by the ending. I think it’s as macabre as I suppose it is. Dame Emilia Askwith did a great job in finally putting an end to Henry Sledgcombe’s daily ‘heart attacks’, didn’t she? But then Sir Thomas does appear at the curtain, even after he had died very well this time. I know you said the junior cast members were keen to bail him out when it came to his missing lines. But I’m not sure how believable it would be for an audience if they actually appeared on his behalf. But then actors are actors, and they have costumes and make-up and all… Perhaps it’s fine and I’m being picky… I’m almost converted, but I had to think about it quite a bit… Maybe some other firmer cue on the “bailing out” could help, without making it too obvious? Or something to the tune of “Tittiania stepped back, the blood smelled horrible, of real blood.” Maybe not. After all we’re on the theme of what ought to remain unsaid.

        Hey, as other times, your use of the English language is so remarkable – such a pleasure to read and re-read. Even in silence.

        Cheers and thanks!
        Ken M.

        Reply
        • September 4, 2019 at 7:51 am
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          Hi Ken M,

          it’s nice to see another Ken in the group, although you may have been involved before me and been having a break. I posted my first story last December.

          Your comments have really given me pause for thought. I had not intended that Sir Forgetmylines would actually be killed off. It’s just a play, after all, where the audience are encouraged to suspend their disbelief. The blood running out of his mouth would be from a theatrical blood capsule. Actors die in plays all the time and Hamlet, for example, always takes a curtain call not long after his “death” along with Romeo and Juliet et al. The dead shall rise!

          However and this is the twist, perhaps his co-star was so pissed off with getting him out of trouble time after time that she really did the business.
          “I’m really sorry,” she might say to the investigating police officer. “The stage knife with the blade that slides into the handle must have been mixed up with a real knife.” She would cry real tears and sob convincingly.

          In which case, the younger actors would have had to have taken his bow ( in his costume) or perhaps supported his limp and lifeless corpse at the curtain call. “That’s OK,” they would think, as they had been “carrying him” for weeks anyway and it was an honour and a privilege to do so.

          I can now think of a number of potential alternative plot lines. Mine was that it was a simple stage death.

          Perhaps my readers are more devious than I am!

          Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape.

          Reply
          • September 4, 2019 at 10:07 am
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            I was hoping for the real death too, I’m not gonna lie, but your ending works for the less macabre readers ;^)

          • September 5, 2019 at 2:41 am
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            Hi Ken, no, you’ve been around in here well before me, then – I only joined some six prompts ago. Was that in May, I think? The wild animal prompt was my first. And three Kens on the scene since then!

            Well, I do think you should kill (for real) your Sir Thomas. I mean, nothing personal, just that it would add considerable drama to the story. And there is also that real life-theatre life mix-up/overlap that I find quite fascinating. Blurring the border between fiction and fact, so to speak. Maybe no stage is ever really just a stage, it’s also real life in many ways; “the stage is the world”, to sort of turn the Bard’s words around and more or less still keep to what he may have meant. Your story has a lot of potential in digging into that realm. But you gotta kill’im! Sorry Sir Arthur… condolences to family and all, he was a brilliant actor. Was.

            Inside acting circles, I’d assume that a scathing review by Giles Cochrane of The Telegraph Arts would have been devastating enough, even fatal, career-wise. But for us the laity, I think blood is necessary to give the story that spiky bit. The sobbing Dame’s excuse in your comment about the knife-mix-up to the investigating officer might be satisfactory. You can also throw in something to the tune of: “My reflexes, are not what they used to be, Officer, I’m getting on a bit, you know, got the Big P paying me frequent visits these days, look at ’em hands shaking, can’t keep ’em still. I couldn’t stop that knife even when (if!) I wanted to…” A wink at that from Henry Sledgecombe might close the story, leaving no doubt as to who was behind all this.

            Oh, and the word count…? 1,500 shhhh….

            Ken

          • September 5, 2019 at 10:18 am
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            Ken F.

            Ken M. is definitely more devious than any of us thought. Or would suspect, with his innocent looking gravitars. Improving on our plots is something of a pastime for him, and I really enjoy it. Of course, he seems to think that he ‘owns’ the improvements but, that ain’t gonna happen. I enjoyed the story as it was, but… Ken M. is onto something with an actual murder taking place. He always provides ample food for thought. (I think Kristin could give him a run for his money, though.)

      • September 4, 2019 at 4:23 pm
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        Having done a bit of AmDram, and suffering from Sir-Arthur-like forgetfulness more often than I would have liked, this struck a chord with me, Ken. Tittiana’s (*titter*) helping hand with “surely this doesn’t mean… does it..?” is expertly done – both by her and of course you. The dialogue is great throughout (is Sir Arthur ad-libbing – badly – in the middle part, when he’s talking about the Games. It sounds a bit like he’s making it up as he goes along: “… not forgetting the Roman Games too. They don’t just organise themselves, you know.” etc.). I would have left off the ‘instructions to the reader’ personally, but I really enjoyed this.

        Reply
    • August 29, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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      Hi Carrie,
      Posted my story four or five days ago, admittedly in the wrong space but you sait it would be ok to leave it there anyway. It still doesn’t appear in the list.
      Should I repost it?
      Ken Frape

      Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 12:58 pm
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    The common phrase is, ‘…some things are better left unsaid…’ The ‘sometimes’ qualifier you’ve attached to the front will sound redundant. It’s unnecessary. The intent that this is an exception rather than a rule is already conferred by the words ‘some things.’

    Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm
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    There is actually a discrepancy between the title and the instructions. I think we can accept “Sometimes some things are better left unsaid” (redundancy and all) and/or “Some things are better left unsaid.” But “Sometimes things are better left unsaid” sounds a bit strange to me. If you agree, Carrie, and it’s not that much of a hassle, could you perhaps tweak it? It’s called flash fiction, ok, but I don’t think anyone has finished his/her story in such record time yet!

    Reply
    • August 22, 2019 at 2:31 pm
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      Sorry, not sure how I missed the word some. Fixed the title!

      Reply
      • August 22, 2019 at 2:46 pm
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        Thanks Carrie! There is still the title on the graphic, but that may be quite bothersome to fix, I suppose.

        On reading Ken C.’s comment I’d say we accept both:

        “Sometimes some things are better left unsaid”

        and

        “Some things are better left unsaid”

        as possible first lines.

        This won’t usually be negotiable, but there is really no difference in meaning, only in emphasis. What do you think?

        Reply
        • August 22, 2019 at 2:53 pm
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          I can fix the image but that will have to wait as at this very moment I’m on a party bus heading to Chicago to see Iron Maiden!!!!! 🤘🤘🎶🎶

          Reply
          • August 22, 2019 at 4:15 pm
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            Ah ok – lucky you! If that doesn’t rock, what does!? Enjoy

      • August 26, 2019 at 1:17 pm
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        Hi Carrie,
        I’m never quite sure where to post my story but I have just done so and hope that’s OK wherever it went!

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
        • August 26, 2019 at 1:31 pm
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          Rule of thumb is to always scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and post it where it says “Copy and paste your story in the comment box below.” 😊

          Reply
          • August 27, 2019 at 4:01 pm
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            Hey Carrie, I sent an email yesterday to have my story “Unspoken Truths” deleted because of several typos and included an attachment with the corrected version. Just wondering what the turn around is on that?

          • August 27, 2019 at 4:05 pm
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            Hey there, I didn’t see it just yet but I’ve been under the weather.
            I’ll update it tonight when I get home from work. 😊

        • August 26, 2019 at 1:32 pm
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          But you can leave it where it is too.
          That’s fine as well.
          But it’s really supposed to be its own stand alone comment so people can reply to your story.

          You replied to my comment with the story links in it.

          Reply
  • August 22, 2019 at 2:20 pm
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    And thumbs up for Alexis – our freshman and *already a winner* in The Shadows contest!! Well done!

    Of course well done to all the rest too, for some memorable pieces out there.

    I’d also like to thank you for voting my story into second position. This is the best placing I’ve got so far. I was sort of getting to feel cosy in 8th/9th place!

    Reply
    • August 23, 2019 at 2:01 am
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      Hey Ken,
      (I had your story in first place dude. It was killer.) I had Dennis’s story in second place but he finished tenth. That’s how it goes sometimes. I think his writing is quite good, but no one else seems to see it yet. (Sometimes I just want to shake you people. Shake some Gah-damned sense into ya. All a ya. Gah-dammit. What was I talking about?)

      Oh yeah. Good to see you got your regular face back, your gravitar? Is that what that is? It looks like he needs a shave now. I never noticed that before. He’s aged. Did you notice that? Maybe after that cute baby hippo, how can I put this politely? I’m starting to see flaws in the facade? But hey, you know how it is, you get used to seeing something, a familiar, albeit totally fabrique face and one starts to wonder, ‘What’s his wife look like? Is she sort of cartoony too?’ (This is what I think about when the moon throws the shadows of the trees on the wall. Scary huh?)

      Just kiddin around Ken. Priming the old poop pump, as it were. Or not. I could be distracting you. Giving you other things to think and wonder about, rather than your story. Like a Poop pump. Don’t think about that, Ken. Do not THINK ABOUT THAT. Once you’re good and distracted (by a possible poop pump) me, and Una, will have delivered the top two stories in the competition. (Assuming nobody else posts any stories, of course. A big if.)

      Poop pump.

      Reply
      • August 23, 2019 at 5:53 am
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        I was tempted to keep that super-cute baby hippo gravatar, but then I thought it might break the visual continuity of my presence here… It’s like what must have happened to the Jenner kids when dad turned up home transformed into an aged bombshell (the bombshell bit is VERY much debatable, of course). I did not want that to happen to you folks. And then again, I wouldn’t know if people would vote for my stories or just for being such an irresistible baby hippo! So it had to go. As for the usual avatar and the shave, it’s exactly the same picture as before, I can assure you. So, maybe you had a computer resolution upgrade or something since yesterday and you didn’t realise? I mean they do those things for us even while we’re sleeping and then bad people slam Bill Gates for having got rich for nothing. In any case, I don’t think cartoons grow beards over time, but I may be wrong… do you feel a story coming up here? If you do, sorry, it’s mine!

        Thanks for giving me your Number One for “Shadow Acres”. And even more so for enjoying the read and letting me know about it – that’s much appreciated and a good boost. I share your frustration about Dennis’s story “Shadow Queen” – I personally had it in for both the “Best Dialogue” and “Fave Character” Oscars. But, wait – do those two criteria actually count as points for the contest? I’m not too sure now how the marking goes exactly. Also, I don’t think I’ve seen the Dialogue/Characters result yet. Carrie was busy yesterday. I don’t blame her, it doesn’t happen everyday that Iron Maiden are playing somewhere just a bus ride away.

        Kristin’s “The Tower” is another story I personally felt should have ranked higher. There were some little issues with pesky technicalities, as I explained in my comment just after I had read the story, including stuff to do with italics disappearing on WordPress and such. But I don’t think we should vote so much for said “technicalities”, not even spelling mistakes – just point them out for the writer’s sake, and that’s it. I vote first and foremost according to what my “enjoyability-meter” tells me while reading a story. After all, if we ultimately aim to put our stories out there for regular readers, that’s what they’d want from us – some good fun. The moral lessons, if any, the metaphorical nuances and the prosaic language come in as pleasant side-effects of an enjoyable story one maniacally pursues from beginning to end without being able to let go of. And, if it is that good, possibly remember for life.

        Oh you’re distracting me… that’s the point of all this… so that you (and Una) slip by and I’m still struggling with my first draft two weeks from now… It won’t work – I’ve already got one in the works… I had a head-start this time, after all!

        Reply
        • August 23, 2019 at 4:42 pm
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          Ken! Thanks for the marks on my small tale, I was actually impressed it came in 8th! I am excited to dive into this prompt this week. Due to the feedback I received it will improve my writing and my usage of quotations since the italics do not appear. The feedback is truly what I look for to improve as a writer. I want to put out a novel of short stories eventually, but need to up my level. This site was an amazing treasure to stumble upon because I am actually getting real feedback on how to improve! Thanks to you all! Good luck this week!

          Reply
          • August 23, 2019 at 5:49 pm
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            kristin.
            I had your story in second place if you want to know.
            I like the plot and enjoyed reading it. I still remember it and for that it deserve second place in my humble opinion.

          • August 24, 2019 at 9:24 am
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            Hi Kristin,

            As it happens I was also thinking of a short story collection in book form the other day!

            I thought of calling it “One Thousand Two Hundred” to lure readers in – most people don’t have much time on their hands these days. Many would welcome the fact these short stories are really that short – no longer than 9-minute “damn-I-just-missed-the-bus”/“this-coffee-is-going-to-take-ages-to-cool-down”/“I-hate-having-nothing-to-do-while-waiting-for-the-dentist” reads.

            But, like you also said about yourself, I’d need to amass enough stories and get some reactions first. Most of my usual work is around 4,000 words-a-piece. Not all these stories can be so easily cut down to 1,200 words without losing quite a lot of their layering.

            So, any great ideas yet with this week’s prompt? I see there is already one story in. I’m having a go at it right now (no, I’m not at the dentist’s. Thankfully. It’s just an easy Saturday morn).

            Cheers!
            Ken

          • August 24, 2019 at 12:42 pm
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            Ken!
            My thought process for my short stories – I am thinking of doing a series of stories that retell the mythology of Gods and Goddesses. I have written 2 short stories so far on the subject and it is really fun to retell the story the way I imagine it went down. I love your idea too!
            As for this weeks prompt, I have been working ona piece for a week or so now that I had no idea what to do with, it works well with the prompt, the problem is I am stuck at the halfway point and have no idea where to go from there. So the struggle is fairly real at the moment.

        • August 26, 2019 at 1:34 am
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          Ken M.,

          I had a brilliant response written up, then, I moved my hand to brush a crumb off my pants, (no crumbs allowed, I said aloud,) accidentally touched the mouse with my elbow, which moved over an ad for a Chinese electric wok, which clicked, switching me to another page, and I lost nearly four paragraphs of incredible, literary brilliance. (I had not mentioned poop even once.) Looking back, and forward, I think we all owe my elbow a debt of sincere gratitude for deleting that aforementioned brilliance.

          You said you couldn’t be distracted anyway, so it doesn’t matter, Ken. But this is the thing with computers, they don’t delete your old knockwurst recipes, they delete your most recent resume.

          You wrote:
          I vote first and foremost according to what my “enjoyability-meter” tells me while reading a story. After all, if we ultimately aim to put our stories out there for regular readers, that’s what they’d want from us – some good fun. The moral lessons, if any, the metaphorical nuances and the prosaic language come in as pleasant side-effects of an enjoyable story one maniacally pursues from beginning to end without being able to let go of. And, if it is that good, possibly remember for life.

          I totally agree Ken. I like the term ‘enjoyability-meter.’

          Favorite character and dialogue get no points. I never got no points from them. No points for nobody’s character. It didn’t occur to anyone until you mentioned it. (I’ll bet.)

          You were right about the Gravitar, I put it through my Gravitar Security Checkpoint 5.1, strip-searched him, and determined, among other things, that he does, and did in fact have a beard all along.

          Una sends her regards. (I assume.)

          Reply
          • August 29, 2019 at 10:06 am
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            Wow, Ken, for someone who usually uploads his writings telepathically, I can’t believe you could accidentally lose your story by hitting the mouse with your elbow. But then again, a baby hippo once escaped under your watch… I hope at least the Chinese electric wok is going to be worth it, if you decided to go for it. When you get it, invite me over for some of your flied lies!

            Distracting me, again, right? But I’ve got a story more or less baked. I’m just letting it cool down a little before I have another look at it with fresh eyes of another day. I’ll probably post it tomorrow if I find some time. So, Coming Soon to a Computer Near You.

            I had to come up with the term enjoyibility- meter. Enjoyment is not good enough. That’s just about how much a story pleases me. Which is often hard. I look at stories’ ability to also please others, as many others as possible… thus “enjoyibility”. Just sayin’

      • August 23, 2019 at 11:18 am
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        Hi Ken,

        Just a quickie. In rural farming counties such as Lincolnshire in the Uk we do have large, tractor-sized machines that do indeed pump poop onto the land.
        So there.

        Have lost my writing mojo at this time and not (yet) feeling it for this prompt. Being away on holiday, also interrupts the flow, enjoyable as was my time in France. Will get back to it soon I hope.

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
        • August 24, 2019 at 8:38 am
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          My countryside vacation in ole quaint Lincolnshire… I’m not so sure anymore.

          Reply
        • August 26, 2019 at 1:12 am
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          Ken F,

          Great to hear from you, even if it is about poop-pumpers. I was wondering where you were. France, it turns out. I would never have thought to look there. And in fact, I did not look there. I looked for you here in Florida, because it was the easiest place to look for you. I was already here. Sorry to hear about your bout of uninspiration. Don’t know what to tell you about that. (Have you tried looking at pictures of Keira Knightly? It probably won’t inspire you, but it couldn’t hurt either.)

          I’ve done a bit of research on septic pumping trucks. How they work, how much they carry, where they get it, what they do with it. What regulations they have to conform to. But I didn’t know they had trucks that shoot it onto English fields. I’m not sure there is such a thing. In fact, I think you’re making that up. YOU are shooting the shit, not the truck.

          But enough about that shit, glad to see you’re back Ken. And not a moment too soon. I need help with this other Ken, Ken. He’s a handful. He’s analyzing my stories, explaining them back to me, showing me how neurotic my other personalities are; divining my Freudian fear of gray squirrels on account of the abuse… at the orphanage… the details are not important. My point is, it’s a little unsettling to be confronted with someone that’s so honest and straightforward about squirrels.

          But once you get over the shock, it’s like cold water, you get used to it. In fact, it’s so refreshing you don’t mind sharing it. That’s Ken M. This is his prompt. He’s already had a head start on it. I have a microscopic germ of an amoebic-sized idea. I’m going to give it a shot, Ken. (I hope Ken reads this and gets confused.)

          Talk to you later.

          Reply
          • August 29, 2019 at 7:44 am
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            I have to let you know, from the edge of Lincoln, that this past week they have been pumping the poop, and also various other aromatic fertilizy things it seems, on the fields around the county.
            Wind direction is all, I would say.
            Kens 1, 2, and 3 – you’re all welcome to book your holidays here, but maybe best to choose your time of year!

            June’s a good time, when you can drop by the annual Faldingworth Scarecrow festival. Like 100 themed scarecrows popping up in pretty much the middle of nowhere.
            Why? Some things are better left unsaid …
            http://lincolnshirecam.blogspot.com/2017/06/scarecrow-festival-at-faldingworth.html

  • August 22, 2019 at 4:40 pm
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    Signing in for comments!! Congrats Alexis again…let’s see what shouldn’t be said this week!!!!

    Reply
  • August 23, 2019 at 7:00 am
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    Can’t wait to start writing!!!

    Reply
  • August 23, 2019 at 7:52 am
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    I am here. Will try to get a story in this time. I need my life to slow down a bit. Probably not this weekend, 2 of the grands will be at the house and chasing after a 1 and 2 year old can be exhausting – especially since the 1 year old is walking now. I so look forward to nap time! Here’s to another round of great stories!

    Alexis, welcome and congrats!!

    Reply
    • August 23, 2019 at 5:45 pm
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      Signing in to comment.😊

      Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 6:51 am
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      Hi Writer 2019,

      You have fulfilled the requirements of the prompt although I personally am not keen on first line prompts as I feel they can dictate the direction of the story. I have a writer friend who suggests removing the last line or even paragraph from a story and then seeing if it still works. I’m not so sure about removing the first line but it is good to get into the action early on in the telling.

      I understand the premise of this story but I have to agree with another Ken ( Ken M yes there are three of us now!) ) who set the prompt in that there are a number of issues with the language of this story that prevented me, as the reader, from enjoying the reading experience as much I could have.

      I can give a couple of example that for me at least, highlight this issue as I see it.

      “I was deathly serious” should, in my opinion be “I was deadly serious.” Small and pedantic point I accept.

      It’s a huge chunk of writing from “my eyes flew open” to ” before I completely disappeared.” this needs breaking down I feel into smaller paragraphs.

      “I realized that how fell into that what and how department.” This sentence completely baffled me.

      The plot as I see it suggests that you refused steadfastly to tell your mother your dream. You followed the rule and kept it to yourself and she strangled you? Right? And yet you state that you learned this rule the hard way. Am I missing something here?

      I think there is the basis of a good story in here but some confusion regarding the direction. You may not agree as you will know exactly what you mean.

      I am looking forward to reading more of your work so please don’t feel that my comments are in any way meant to be negative criticism. They are not.

      Kind regards,

      Ken F

      Reply
      • August 26, 2019 at 7:28 am
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        Hi Ken F! Wow! Three Kens now! This is gonna be confusing!

        Thank you for the advice! I’m a new writer so everything helps! My brother was also very confused by the sentence you mentioned above. I have a tendency to write very confusing sentences that only i understand(unfortunately that can get me into some trouble…)

        Your feedback wasn’t negative whatsoever, the next time I write a short story I’ll apply that to it. The story I wrote here was very confusing, and I noticed that after the second draft I sent.

        My first storyline, instead of his mother strangling him(which was very weird once again) was that he actually spoke the dream at the end. Throughout the day he is urged and threatened by people to speak and he eventually does, and the universe falls apart, etc etc etc. alas I tried it and exceeded the word count by quite a bit… I did not want to cut it down, and make it seemed rushed and fast paced.

        Are you allowed to make a third draft?(for I already made a second one) if so I might try and apply my first idea first, and follow both yours and Ken Ms advice. Thanks for the comments!

        Reply
  • August 24, 2019 at 10:06 am
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    You indeed told us all. Your dream. I just looked out of the window to check if the rest of the universe is still there, intact. It somehow is. There are defects, but they were there before. Phew!

    A harrowing nightmarish tale of life and dreams overlapping with disastrous consequences. I’m not sure if I understood all the hues of your story. And perhaps I shouldn’t have, to keep to its dreamlike nature.

    Alas, there are also too many orthographic and structural mistakes in the way. I’m not going to point them out as they are really too numerous. I think you’ll spot most of them yourself if you read through the story again after you’ve let it cool down a bit. Did you know, you can post a revised second draft here and still be eligible for the contest?

    Some more paragraph breaks could also help. This may also be a case of applying the “Andy Lake Rule” (I heard it from Ken Cartisano, but he said he got it from Andy), ie removing your first paragraph. The chunk from “My name is Stephen” till “You see” can go, IMO. I’m sure that info can be brought in naturally elsewhere within the weave of the story. Continue, after the compulsory first line and the one that immediately follows it, with “In my world, dreams…” so that you take us straight into the heart of the matter. Just an opinion, of course. Some (not Andy!) might like intros. I prefer to go straight into the action.

    Thanks for being the first to post!
    Ken

    Reply
    • August 24, 2019 at 10:17 am
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      Thanks for the advice! I realized that and have been working on the second draft. I did indeed tell you my dream… who said the universe doesn’t take a little while to fall apart?… you might wanna keep looking out that window! 😉

      Reply
      • August 24, 2019 at 10:30 am
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        Oh… I’m really getting nervous now. I’m looking out the window every five minutes. No. Every three minutes.

        Reply
        • August 24, 2019 at 10:56 am
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          Haha, don’t worry, the universe isn’t going to fail. Yet..

          I just posted my second draft, and have made a few changes, that I hope will make it more clear. Like you said above, I’ve left somethings vague, I want to have a dreamlike quality. You know what’s going on, but can you really look at from all angles and understand it completely? That’s what I’m going for. Hopefully I’ll succeed. If not. The. Try, try, try and try again! Thank you again for all the advice you’ve given me! Best of luck for writing a story(if you are going to do one)

          Reply
        • August 26, 2019 at 1:40 am
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          Let me know if you see a cute little, blue, baby hippo wandering around out there.

          Reply
          • August 26, 2019 at 7:32 am
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            I shall contact you immediately…. unless I decide to keep it, it’s a baby blue hippo wandering around after all……. what can I say? \_(•~•)_/

      • August 24, 2019 at 10:44 am
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        (Second draft, and hopefully the last)

        Rule Of Dreams
        Written by Writer2019

        Sometimes, things are better left unsaid…

        And let me explain what that means.

        In my world, dreams aren’t just your vivid imagination. They’re gateways to other worlds, to other reality’s. Maybe even your future. And there’s a saying here. Sometimes things are best left unsaid. That basically means, when you have a dream, DONT TELL ANYONE ELSE! Period. And yes, I’m completely serious. There are specific set of rules when you dream, preventing you from blabbing about a super cool dream you had, and ruining the universe. (Yes that can happen). We call it The Rule Of Dreams. It’s kinda cliche yes, but it’s important. And when you break that rule, bad things happen. Terrible things. And like I said before, I learned that the hard way. I was stupid, and what happened changed my life. And not in the best way. And it all starts four years ago….

        Lights sprang up around me, bursting into the sky like fireworks. Vibrant and full of color, they were by far the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Glancing down at my hands, I started with surprise. My eyes widened slightly. The very hands I was looking at. My hands. They were totally transparent. I could barely see them. Glancing at down my clothes, I realized that they were the same. Almost totally transparent. “What in the world” I muttered, clenching my hands. Confused. I started to pinch myself, the signal for when I wanted to wake up. But then I heard a slight whisper. Even more confused then before, I stopped, my fingers wrapped around my forearm, grabbing a small piece of skin. The whisper grew in volume, becoming angry. Curious, I tried to step forward, but I suddenly stopped. It wasn’t me being cautious, or getting some warning instinct. No. I was frozen. No matter how hard I tried, my body wouldn’t obey me. It was like someone was controlling me.. a rustling in my ear put a stop to my train of thought. “Hey Stephen” a voice whispered, the harsh voice hurting my ear canals. Wincing, I tried to catch a glimpse of the mysterious figure, but was only able to see a very vague shadow. “Hello? How do you know my name?” I called out, hoping for a answer. I didn’t get any. My words died right on my lips, suffocated. “Hello? Who are you? What do you want?” I tried again, this time my voice more louder, insistent even. And this time, there was a answer. “What I want, you can’t give me” the voice answered, grating like gravel. I swallowed nervously, fear rising up in my chest. “Who are you?” I asked, my voice shaking. There was a hoarse chuckle. “I’m your worst nightmare” the voice said, becoming deep and menacing. The fear inside my chest built up, threatening to choke me. Forcing it back down, I tried another question, staying away from who and what questions. “How can I help you” I asked, cursing under my breath when I realized that how fell into that what and who department. There was a brief pause, and I could almost imagine some evil being scratching his stubby chin. “Tell them all, that’s how you can help me” the voice suddenly said, becoming soft and supple. “What?” I inquired, confused. “TELL THEM ALL!” The voice reverberated throughout the whole space, shaking me to the core. “Tell them all Stephen, tell them all. Spread the word, let my kingdom rise.” And then with a faint sucking sound, I was whisked out of my dream, the air compressing my head. And right before I left the dream, I realized something. The man knew my name. He’d said my name not once, but twice. And in no instances do I ever remember telling him.

        My eyes flew open, my body automatically surging upwards. I clutched at my head, a pounding headache banging on the inside. Groaning, I flopped out of bed. Landing on my hardwood floor. “Stephen? You alright?” A voice called up the stairs. “I’m fine Mom” I yelled back. Wincing as the headache flared up. I paused, and then sighed, irritated, as I heard my mom start to come up the stairs. She just couldn’t take no for an answer. My mom slowly opened his door, peering hesitantly inside. Fear flashed through her eyes when she saw me, laying stretched out across the floor. “Stephen! She exclaimed, rushing over. Fretting like a mother hen, she helped me to my feet, her eyes wild with panic. “What were you doing on the floor?!” she said, scolding me. Shrugging my shoulder, I pretended to have a nonchalant air around me. “I just had a bad— I suddenly cut off. Clapping my hands around my mouth. Mom let inhaled sharply, staring at me fearfully. “Remember Stephen” She said, “Sometimes things are better left unsaid.” I nodded mutely, my mind whirling. I’d come so close to tell someone my dream. To ending the world. Nobody has come that close in.. Actually nobody has ever done that. And even now, my closed tightly, I had a urge to tell. To blurt out my whole dream. Feeling sick, I pushed past my mom, ignored her fretting. Tromping down the stairs, I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I smelled the pancakes. My stomach rumbled, signaling me, saying it was time to eat. Grabbing a paper plate, I loaded it up with pancakes. I was famished. Soon enough, I’d devoured almost three stacks of pancakes. Only then was I full. Stuffed more like it. But still, the lingering of what I had almost done stayed with me. I needed to talk to someone. “Mom?” I called out, just noticing her absence. Nobody answered. Confused, I slowly got up, wondering if this was a joke. “Mom?” I called again, my voice hesitant. “Yes?” Her voice rang out, filled with weariness. I cocked my head, more confused then relieved. What was my mom doing up in my room? Suspicious, I slowly tromped up the stairs again, sketched out. Reaching my door, I pushed it open, peering inside. My mom was sitting upright on my bed, her eyes fixed straight on me. A shiver ran up my back, and I swallowed nervously. “Hey mom” I murmured, “Whatcha doing?” She smiled widely, and I restrained a shudder. “Come here Stephen” She whispered. Unnerved, I sat down next to her, the bed springs creaking. “Tell me about your dream Stephen” my mom murmured. I stared at her, shocked. “Mom, what’s going on? Is this a joke?” I asked, “You’re freaking me out.” “Nothing” my mom said, “I just want to hear your dream.” Her voice this time became hard, a edge coming into it. I swallowed my fear, and tried to think rationally. This wasn’t my mom, this was something else. “Mom, I can’t, you know the rules” I said softly, taking her hand. “That’s rubbish” my mom snarled, her startling change in behavior making me jump. “Tell me your dream Stephen!” She shouted, her voice harsh and angry. I stared at her distraught. “Mom!” I yelled, “what the heck is going on!” Then the next words she said will haunt me for the rest of my life. “Tell them all Stephen, Tell them all. Let my kingdom rise again.” I caught my breath. Those were the same words in my dream. “How do you know those?!” I yelled at her, grabbing her shoulders and shaking. My mom just let out a cackling laugh, repeating those words over again. “Tell them all!!” She screamed, her eyes wild. And then I started to wonder, could’ve that mysterious voice in my dream done something to my mom? Scrambling backwards, I grabbed the doorknob, shouting for help. “Just tell them Stephen!” My mom yelled again. I shook my head doggedly. “I can’t mom! It’s against the rules!” I yelled, panic creeping into my voice. “I would kill everyone! I’d rather die then do that!” At my words, my moms face turned dark, her eyes creasing together. “So be it then” she snarled. And then with a growl, she launched herself at me. Her hands wrapped around my throat, and started to squeeze. I thrashed around, screaming until my voice grew hoarse. I being strangled. By my own mother. If I could’ve breathed, I would’ve cried. But all I could do was thrash weakly, which didn’t help at all. Because no matter what I did I couldn’t break my moms grip. My vision faded to black, and several bursts of color flashed across my vision. With a thrill of shock, I realized those were the bursts of colors I saw in my dream. The first time I saw them, they were bright and vibrant, full of color. But now they were dark and menacing, bringing a cold clutch of fear to my chest. My dream was the future, I was destined to die. I felt my heart throbbing, beating slowly, trying to circulate blood. But soon enough it came to a shuddering halt, like an old machine that’s broken down. And then that’s when I knew. I was dead. My dream was right. Glancing down, I saw my hands, transparent. I wasn’t surprised. It was once again from my dream. I felt my body rise into the sky, going higher. Before I dissolved, I saw my sister enter my room. There was a faint scream, and a cackling of laughter. That was the last thing I heard before I completely disappeared.

        There it is. That was four years ago. When my mother was possessed, when I foolishly didn’t wake up, instead waiting to see what would happen. I now haunt my sister, watching as she goes along with her life. I’m what you would call a ghost, although I prefer the term spirit. Sounds cooler. My moms in a mental institution, her brain scrambled from what she’d been through. She’d been controlled by whatever had infiltrated my dream. I never found out what that thing was. I don’t I actually want to tho. But no matter what happened to me, I’m glad I never told anyone about my dream. I was deathly serious(oops, excuse that pun). I would and did die rather then destroy everyone else’s life. And that’s what I’m telling you. Resist the urge, because you never know when you might doom yourself to an existence of being like me. Sometimes, some things are better left unsaid……

        Reply
        • August 24, 2019 at 11:04 am
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          Wow this story is awsome!!!

          Reply
          • August 24, 2019 at 11:16 am
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            Thank you so much! 🙂

        • August 31, 2019 at 12:59 pm
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          Hi, ‘Writer’

          This is a very claustrophobic story, a kind of dream-within-a-dream, which also get a bit psychedelic at times (the colours). Like the protagonist, we want to get out (that’s a good thing – it means you’ve messed with our minds). As others have said further up, there are quite a few mistakes of English, which is a bit distracting. And the long paragraphs – especially the bits with dialogue – could be split up to make it easier on the eye. Finally … it felt long, and in fact is over 1,700 words long. That doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t need that many words, but one of the rules of the comp is a limit of 1,200 …

          Reply
          • September 2, 2019 at 12:12 pm
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            oh my, I did not see that at all, my phone glitches a lot, as it is nearing its last mile. It must’ve not shown up or my phone screen blanked it out. So sorry, I’ll remember next time!

        • September 1, 2019 at 8:14 am
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          Very entertaining. Suffocated by a possessive mother, now ghosting the sister. Great!

          Reply
  • August 25, 2019 at 8:16 am
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    SEEDS

    Some things are better left unsaid. And some words are like innocent-looking seeds that sit in the soil, germinate after a time, and gradually grow into something massive and poisonous.

    Helen lies beside me. Her head is turned my way, her mouth slightly open, her snores most unladylike, her breath as foul as mine probably is – but then I’m not blowing it in her direction, and I’m not asleep and oblivious to hers. But however horrible this scene might be, it’s preferable to the daytime.

    Helen’s a teacher. She may be a very good one, I don’t know. I do know what her students think of her, though. I was waiting for her outside the school one afternoon and overheard a couple of girls as they were leaving.

    “She’s such a bitch, old Slater,” hissed one. I wouldn’t have said Helen was so old, but I imagine that her teacherly manner probably puts years on her in class.

    “Yeah, making you stand in the corner. That’s well out of order,” agreed her friend.

    “I can’t wait till the end of the year to change class,” mused the first.

    “Anyone but her, yeah,” dreamed the second.

    Now, of course I shouldn’t simply swallow the words spouted by adolescent girls as a reliable reference of anyone’s character, especially since these two obviously had a bitter grievance against “old Slater”. And who’s to say that the first hadn’t deserved her punishment. But I have to say that their opinion of my wife – the “bitch” part anyway – certainly chimed with mine.

    That ‘teacherly manner’ must be insufferable for her kids, but maybe it’s what they need – to learn, I mean. Maybe 13-year-olds need a firm hand to guide them (or drag them) towards the grail that is ‘learning’. Maybe. Trouble is, Helen doesn’t leave the manner at the school gates.

    Her Top 5 things to say to me:

    – I thought we might spend the weekend at my parents’.
    – I wish you’d keep your socks/shirts/shoes tidy.
    – Are you really going out looking like that?
    – I think that’s enough beer, don’t you?
    – Football? Again?

    I could forgive the manner perhaps if we had something in common, anything at all. I might be able to tolerate her if we could happily share an experience, but there’s nothing. Her preferred holiday destination: cities, with their noise and hordes of tourists and bloody cathedrals. Mine: a nice beach somewhere to relax, godammit! My preferred TV viewing: the news, a good series, and yes, football. Hers: soap operas and bloody cooking programmes. And who clings onto the remote control as if it were a veritable lifesaver?

    Then there’s the sex. Well, I must admit that my appetite for it – with her, at least – plummeted after we got married. We’d slept together before our wedding, like most modern couples, and it had been acceptable. I don’t know why I might have entertained the notion that it would improve after we’d tied the knot, but the truth is that it only got worse, in terms of both quality and frequency.

    In fact the quality, or rather the lack of it, is such that the reduced frequency is more my doing than hers. It isn’t that she’s opposed to experimentation, but her submission and lack of initiative and enthusiasm are very disappointing, to the point that my tank, so to speak, often ignores the orders of the field marshal on the battlefield that is our bed – the only place that I wish she’d bring her teacherly manner sometimes.

    So what am I doing with Helen? How did I get here? I blame it partly on Barbara, a mutual friend of ours who match-made for us, one fateful February evening five years ago. I was drinking more then and came to our blind date a little the worse for wear, but drink used to make me more voluble and fun, and on that night Helen didn’t seem to mind. In fact she seemed to rather like that I did all the work. The evening went off quite well, we arranged to meet again, and soon we were dating.

    It was one of those relationships that people fall rather than climb into, at least on my side. I was free, I had nothing better to do, Helen was quite attractive then, and I think I was flattered that anyone might enjoy my company. From her side, I now know that she was desperate; she’d been with very few men, had been single for some time, and was beginning to fear that the boat might sail without her. So I – not the ugliest bloke in the shop window, with a steady job and what she obviously foresaw as manageable bad habits – was a reasonable catch.

    But it was me, and drink, that provided the rod, line and hook that would enable Helen to yank me up onto her deck.

    We’d been going out for a few months when one night I met her after watching a football match with some mates. We’d had a few drinks, as we always did when our team was playing – it eased the pain – and I arrived at the restaurant well gone. I was late and Helen was fuming.

    “What time do you call this?” she said, exposing the ‘manner’ that she normally kept under wraps during this phase of our courtship.

    “Sorry,” I slurred, slobbering her with a kiss that she squirmed away from.

    “You’re drunk,” she sniffed, stating the obvious.

    “And you’re incredibly beautiful,” I lied.

    She ignored that and proceeded to give me the silent treatment. I tried incoherently to engage her in conversation, but nothing.

    Then – and I shudder every time I think about it – I said those words that I didn’t mean, that should just have stayed in my mouth, on my tongue, on my lips, that should never have crossed the air between us and entered Helen’s ears. The words whose repercussions I was too weak to control. Those three seeds that grew irrepressibly into this: me in bed, with a woman I don’t love blowing morning breath into my face.

    “I love you.”

    Reply
    • August 30, 2019 at 6:30 am
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      Hi Phil,

      Just five years did so much harm! But then we steadily get to learn how things had very much got off on the wrong foot right from the start and these guys were never really “happy ever after” since tying the knot.

      I feared, here and there, that the story might sink below the worn-out clichès waterline. You know, the sex-before vs sex-after-marriage thingy, women and beer, women and football, the TV remote-control wars, what-men-wear-and-don’t-give-a-damn-about-and-women-vehemently-disaprove-of… Those kinds of things that we’ve had quite enough of hearing people quip about all our lives.

      But, each time, you managed to keep your ship above the crest with refreshing angles at looking at this relationship, eg. the husband getting to know what the pupils think of his teacher-wife (loved that!), his existential philosophizing under the Joycesque spell of her foul morning breath (funny I’m putting this under the title “refreshing”!), the “manner”, the seeds idea… all quite memorable and original ways of describing what is otherwise, and unfortunately, quite mundane circumstances for so many people on this planet.

      Cheers!
      Ken M.

      Reply
      • August 31, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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        Thanks very much for your careful critique, Ken. Appreciate it!

        (Story not to be confused with my experience, of course – indeed, all the relationships I’ve ever had have been perfect …)

        Reply
    • September 1, 2019 at 8:25 am
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      “not the ugliest bloke in the shop window” I just love your descriptions! And you always have a little surprise for us in the end. Who would image, that the words better left unsaid are those that most people love to hear more than anything else. Great idea well executed!

      Reply
      • September 2, 2019 at 5:50 pm
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        Thanks very much for that, Jürgen!

        (Those words, though, can really be dangerous … as here.)

        Reply
  • August 25, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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    The Breakup
    By Kristin Record
    (1,167 words)

    Sometimes some things are better left unsaid, and when it comes to a breakup knowing what to say is of the utmost importance.

    “Hey, sit down. We need to talk” I stare at myself in the mirror and examine my face for any trace of emotion. Dead Pan. I close my eyes; my reflection vanishing and draw a deep breath. Opening them, I echo the phrase again. I take notice of the steadiness in my gaze. I have performed this so many times, that I no longer find it eerie how I can just shut off my face. Like the small flip of a switch. Now she feels, now she doesn’t.

    I am a serial killer of sorts, in the nature that I murder any relationship that even shows a glimmer of commitment. I kill at least three times a month. Therapists all over Manhattan are making a fortune off of me.

    Heading for my front door, I pluck my handbag from the counter. Hesitant, I take one last peek in the mirror, a striking yet void image looks back. Screwing on a phony grin I throw myself a wink. “Let’s make this snappy, Kelly.”

    Squeezed into a small booth in the corner of “Bean Here Before”, is Ryan. He rises when he sees me a big dopey grin taking over his face. Striding towards him I groan. I can see a flicker of dismay in his eyes as he notes my no-nonsense approach and I am aware my face is laying the groundwork for the breakup at hand.

    “Hey, Kelly!” Ryan embraces me a bit too hard. I know he is expecting me to return the vigor of the hug but I pat at his shoulder instead. We both sit, the cracked vinyl of the booth pinching at my naked thigh as I scoot in. Ryan’s smile wavers. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asks taking in my stony expression.

    “Look, Ryan, we need to talk.” I glide into my breakup monologue and by the conclusion, he looks weathered and aged.

    “Wow,” he exhales, “okay,” he rises to leave his eyes swimming with tears.

    “Kelly,” he states, thrusting one arm into his leather jacket, his voice chilly.

    “Two weeks!” He twists his other arm in and shrugs it over his shoulders. “You didn’t even let this get off the ground floor, with time this could have been something unbelievable.”

    I nod as if contemplating his words and respond, “No, I don’t think so, but hey try to enjoy the rest of your evening, okay?”

    Ryan produces an unpleasant snort at this, “Sure, whatever you say.” He stalks out of the shop, the bell on the door clanging behind him.

    I shrug and experience the wave of satisfaction that floods over me. It strikes like a “rad wave” surfers hunt down to ride. Crashing over my head and washing out past my toes as if to cleanse me. Ah, the high of a breakup.

    My phone jingles, surprising me, I roll my eyes, heaven forbid I have a moment here. I stare at the screen in fascination. A text from Ryan flashes onto the screen. ‘Kel, hey sorry I am running late. Be there in a minute.’

    ‘Be there in a minute?’ Bewildered. I shake my head struggling to understand the text. Perhaps it had been sent before and only now being delivered?

    The bell from the door jingles, I glance up and Ryan striding towards me, that goofy grin on his face.

    ‘What the hell?’ I shut my eyes and when I open them, he is standing in front of me, removing his jacket. Leaning to kiss me he says, “Hey babe sorry I am late, have you been waiting long?” I am gaping at him, my mouth flapping open in complete confusion.

    “Ryan,” I stammer as he sits across from me. “We just saw each other, what are you doing?”

    I am furious; it hits me like a heatwave. “Why are you messing with my head?”

    Ryan gives me an incredulous stare. “What are you talking about, Kelly?” his expression changes to worry and he reaches for my hand.

    Snatching it away I hiss, “I dumped you. You left. What are you doing?”

    Eyes going wide Ryan leans back, he looks hurt. “You dumped me? What like over text?” he asks, pulling his phone from his pocket.

    “No!” I say an octave too loud. “A few moments ago, right here!” I gesture at the table.

    “You are unbelievable.” He mumbles standing to leave. “This is some elaborate breakup, Kelly.” He is bitter, his smile now a harsh grimace. “You’re wicked.” He spits these words at me. When he reaches the door, he flips me the bird.

    “What just happened?” I am speaking out loud and notice several people turning to stare at me. I take a deep breath; my heart is racing and I am trying to comprehend what’s happening.

    I rest my face in my hands for a moment, then say aloud, ” Well, that was creepy.”

    I reach for my purse as a text alert goes off on my phone. I seize it, anxiety gripping my throat

    My vision goes cloudy at the text “Hey sexy, got stuck in traffic. Be right there!” A roar fills my ears. I am rocked into left field. I bolt from the booth and head for the door, it opens and Ryan strolls in his face lighting up when he sees me.

    “What in the actual hell is this Ryan?” I shriek at him. Shoving at his shoulders I push him out the door. Hard. It takes a minute for him to comprehend I assaulted him and he lifts his hands up in defense.

    “Kelly, what are you doing?” he hollers out when I push him backward again.

    “How many times are we going to do this?” my cries are subdued by the cars passing by.

    “Do what? Have you lost your mind?” He looks alarmed and I keep yelling at him.

    “This is sick! Whatever you are doing is just wrong!” I shove him again my palms against his chest. He stumbles back losing his balance on the curb wobbling into the street.

    “Kelly!” he calls out to me and takes a stride forward, “Please tell me-” the bus hit him with such force, his shoe lands beside me. A pink mist sprays my face like a water sprinkler. I vomit.

    “BRIAN!” I am screaming his name as I drop to my knees, my body rigid with shock.

    My phone chimes and my stomach heaves with horror.

    “Hey, I will be there in a second. Sorry to keep you waiting”

    The phone falls from my hand clattering on the ground. I stare down the sidewalk in terror. Brian in perfect form appears to be loping around the corner, he sees me and starts waving. My world spins into tunnel vision and then darkness. Before I pass out, I can hear him hollering, “Hey Kelly! Sorry I am late!”

    Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 7:06 am
      Permalink

      Hi Kristin,

      Loved this story and the surreal nature of it. Poor Ryan (Bryan) or should it be poor Kelly? Who is messing with who in this story? Would you want to have a partner like Kelly or a friend like Ryan who may be into psychological games? You cleverly leave us wondering.

      On the developmental side of things I think that Ken C has highlighted all the things I feel need another look but these don’t detract from the story itself.

      Good stuff, Kristin.

      Kind regards,

      Ken F

      Reply
    • September 1, 2019 at 8:45 am
      Permalink

      Sounds like you should never break up on Groundhog day. 😉 This is a great story. For some time I believed they were actors rehearsing a scene. But when the bus came I learned I was wrong. Now I believe fate is punishing a woman who split up once too often.

      Reply
  • August 25, 2019 at 6:37 pm
    Permalink

    Great story. But you changed the Ryan into a Brian at the critical moment of the reveal. You need to fix that. Also, in the dialogue, there are numerous instances where contractions would sound much more realistic. This is a really cool story. Clean it up, fix it. It’s worth it.

    Reply
    • August 25, 2019 at 8:40 pm
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      Yeah I totally didn’t catch the name change in editing. Can you give me some examples of where you think some contractions would work? Then I will submit a 2nd draft! Thanks for the feedback.

      Reply
      • August 26, 2019 at 2:07 am
        Permalink

        Yeah sure, Kristin. Here’s a few examples.

        The last line, for starters. ‘Hey Kelly! Sorry I am late!’ (Hey Kelly! Sorry I’m late!)

        ‘This is sick. Whatever you are doing is just wrong.’ (“This is sick. Whatever you’re doing is just wrong.”)

        ‘Hey, I will be there in a second. Sorry to keep you waiting.’ (“Hey, I’ll be there in a second.”)

        Leaning to kiss me he says, “Hey babe sorry I am late, have you been waiting long?”

        (Leaning toward me he says, “Hey babe, sorry I’m late. Been waiting long?”)

        There are a few more lines that could use them, and a few places in the exposition where ‘I think’ (very, very humbly) you could use additional contractions but these that I’ve posted are critical because they’re all close to the end.

        I’ve accidentally changed my characters names many times. For no reason at all. That’s nothing.
        I really like the story Kristen. It’s clever as hell.

        Reply
  • August 25, 2019 at 7:21 pm
    Permalink

    Really great story! I loved it!

    Reply
      • August 27, 2019 at 12:59 am
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        Great story Kristin. Very well crafted and as Ken says just a bit of tweaking and you will smooth out the rough patches. Otherwise brilliant.

        Reply
      • August 29, 2019 at 11:29 am
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        Haha.I was away from here for some time (“to the mountains”, Ken C. would say!), so I didn’t get to meet this Brian fella at all – I went straight for the second draft…

        Reply
  • August 25, 2019 at 8:15 pm
    Permalink


    Unspoken Truths (2nd draft)
    1198 words
    Dennis Wagers

    Somethings are better left unsaid; a lesson I learned early.

    Momma has a bottle of liquor hidden under a loose board on the back porch. Daddy has another woman down at the pool hall, and he sees her on the weekends. Momma sends me down there plenty, to fetch Daddy or to tell him she needs money for groceries before he gambles and drinks it away. I see her there sometimes, that woman with the dyed hair and glossy red lips. Sometimes she’s sitting right in his lap.

    I don’t say anything about Momma’s liquor to Daddy, nor anything about Daddy’s friend to Momma. I’m no fool, I’m ten years old now. I’ve got enough sense to know that either of those things would throw them into a rage and cause a big fight, and it’s scary when they fight. Somehow though, I feel that Momma knows about that other woman, and I hate her for letting it go on. I also believe Daddy knows about the liquor, and I hate him for not caring.

    Something else I learned early on is… bad things always happen on Mondays. My School starts on Mondays. Mrs. Smiths’s math tests are on Mondays, and on a Monday, July 7th, 1969, Daddy broke Momma.

    We were in the kitchen, Momma, and me. I sat at the table, eating Fruit Loops, peeling laminate from the cheap tabletop. There wasn’t enough milk to cover my cereal, so I added some water. Momma’s at the stained sink doing what appears to be, at first glance, washing dishes. But I can see she’s just using her hands to stir the suds around in the greasy greywater, staring out the window in a sad, absent way while smoking a Lucky Strike.

    The grimy green phone, which hung on the dirty paneled wall, suddenly rang harsh and urgent. Moma and I just look at it. “Who’s calling at this time of the morning?” She says aloud in a high-pitch voice, a grain of worry beginning to grow. We both know that no one has a reason to call us unless it’s bill collectors and they never start this early.

    I watch her take two steps from the sink and answer the phone on the third ring. Daddy comes through the kitchen just then with his lunch pale and miner’s hat, glancing wary eyes at Moma. She says hello to the phone, a moment passes, and nothing else escapes from Moma’s lips. She stands there with the phone to her ear, her back to us, listening. She seems to slump slightly and become smaller, withering as if the phone was leaking poison into her system. Finally, she takes the phone from her ear in a halting way as if she wasn’t sure what to do with it. She manages to hang it up but waits for a moment with her back to us.

    “Who was it?” I ask in my ten-year-old innocence.

    Turning in a dreadful slow way, she looks straight at daddy. “You’re whore’s pregnant.” She says in a dead voice, pausing to take a draw from her cigarette, which she holds between two trembling fingers.

    Daddy doesn’t speak. His eyes go to the floor.
    She lets out a breath in disgust. “You don’t even have the damn decency to deny it, do ya?” She hisses, her words hard. Bitter tears glisten in her angry brown eyes. Daddy just looks away, toward me in a weary way.

    “You’re a sorry son-of-a-bitch.” She spits out, and then without another word, she reaches over and takes a coke bottle from the sink, with a strength that equals the hate in her heart, she draws back and lets loose that bottle at Daddy’s head.

    Daddy had read her intentions, however, and is gone, the screen door slamming behind him. The bottle hits the doorframe and shatters into shards, splattering in my cereal and cutting me on the forehead. Mom’s face twists into an ugly mask of anger and bitter sadness as she runs from the room, making little whimpering noises in her throat.

    I sit there with wide eyes, rivulets of watery milk streaming down my cheeks, a spot of blood-forming on my forehead then trickling down between my eyes.

    That night, Daddy doesn’t come home.

    The next morning, Momma packs our clothes and her bottle of whiskey and me and her, we go to live with Granny Simms in a three-room shack by the train tracks on the other end of town. We walk all the way there and have pinto beans and cornbread for supper.

    At Granny Simms’, Mommy takes to her bed. She drinks her whiskey, she cries and drinks some more. Me and Granny Simms stay mostly on the porch or work in the garden outback. I ask Granny Simms if she thinks Mommy would get back with Daddy.

    She takes a deep breath. “Well Boy, she always seems to find a reason to.”

    Granny Simms calls me boy, never my given name, Travis, the same as my dad’s, but he’s given her plenty of reasons not to like that name.

    One quiet evening, after the train sounded its whistle and chugs by the last time for the day, Momma comes and sits by me on the bed, where I’m reading Old Yeller. Her nightgown is askew on her body, and I can smell the whiskey on her breath. “Travis, Travis honey, I think we need to go back home.” Her tone thick and sweet. “Back to ya daddy, he’s probably lonely without us.” Her tongue seems thick from the liquor as she slurs her words while rubbing at her temple as if she has a headache. She must have seen the look of confoundment on my face.

    “Don’t look at me like that Travis, we should be home. It’s where we…I need to be. She looks at my face, and I look into her misty eyes. It’s like I can see the hurt simmering there. There seems to be an ache glowing back at me. A tear breaks free, rolling down her cheek.

    “I can’t stand being here not knowing what he’s doing.” She insists. “But I can’t stand being there either, the whole time thinking he wants someone else.” Her hand goes feebly to her face as she wipes away the tear. “That man’s got my soul.” She whispers, more to herself than to me. Then she squeezes my shoulder. “We might wait another day or two.” She says in a brittle voice and pats my arm, remaining quietly on the bed beside me.

    I want to tell Momma that we should stay here, that it’s a bad idea to go back home, back to Daddy. Daddy would never change. He can’t, it’s like he is hooked on hurting her and he will never settle for just one woman. I am baffled why my ten-year-old mind could see and comprehend this, and she didn’t. It was then I realize that it wasn’t that she couldn’t, it was she just wouldn’t, wouldn’t let herself admit it. So I don’t tell her all the things I desperately want to, cause sometimes somethings are better left unsaid.

    Reply
    • August 25, 2019 at 8:59 pm
      Permalink

      I’ve still got work to do on this one.

      Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 7:15 am
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      Hi Dennis,

      I really enjoyed reading this story. It is well-written and flows nicely. Whilst the subject matter is not unusual ( fueding parents seen through the eyes of children and downtrodden partners getting back together,) your writing gives it a fresh touch.

      It also points to the question, “should things be left unsaid?”. I suppose there is no yes or no answer to this as it depends upon the situation.

      One small point regarding the age of the child Travis. Is he 9 or 10 or is he ten now and was nine when the main incident happened?

      Keep writing.

      kind regards,

      Ken F

      Reply
      • August 27, 2019 at 1:06 am
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        Yes the time shift in the narrator’s age jars. You need to reread and make sure those loose ends are tied up neatly before posting as Carrie states. Good story with a lot of reader appeal but you need to do a little more work on the hook for the reader. I kind of get the what’s best left unsaid, but you need to bring it out in clearer definition. Good story and but sad. I do feel sorry for the mother though and the kid. There you have succeeded.

        Reply
        • August 27, 2019 at 4:17 pm
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          Thanks for your suggestions IIana, I agree that the age things is a brick wall, but that is an oversight on my part, the correct age is 10 years old. I would like to clarify that it’s not my intention to post my story without polishing them, however I am notorious for typo’s and carless errors. I am just not able to pick up on them while editing and I really do make a conscious effort to catch them, sorry, I’ll try harder.

          Reply
      • August 27, 2019 at 4:50 pm
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        Thanks Ken, the change in age was unintentional. Travis is Ten years old.

        Reply
    • September 3, 2019 at 6:29 pm
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      Really like this, Dennis. It’s very atmospheric, recalling all those films and TV shows with trailer parks and the like. The narrator is a very faithful observer of the scenes, and wise beyond his years (“I want to tell Momma that we should stay here, that it’s a bad idea to go back home…” – but at times I think the language he uses is maybe a little beyond his years, too). The mother’s compulsion (“That man’s got my soul.”) to return to a bad ‘un is very sad but quite authentic, I think (not all women would, of course, but there are those that would). One thing I found distracting was the swinging between the past tense and the ‘historical’ present. I think this could have been more consistent. But that’s a cosmetic thing; your story has heart and is affecting.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2019 at 7:10 pm
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        Thanks for reading my story Phil. I see what you mean with the tense problems. I’ll look out for that next time.

        Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 8:06 am
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      Hi Dennis,

      “Unspoken Truths” is told in a very authentic and atmospheric way – well done! We’re introduced to the socioeconomic landscape in which the story takes place very much by you showing, rather than telling us what goes on:

      “Momma has a bottle of liquor hidden under a loose board on the back porch. Daddy has another woman down at the pool hall.” – we already know what kind of couple this is. No pretty adjectives – just pictures you paint very well for us to see it all in front of our eyes, the way it is.

      You don’t tell us anywhere that they are poor, and desolate. But just look at this “…peeling laminate from the cheap tabletop.” I just love the way I can see it happening! “There wasn’t enough milk to cover my cereal, so I added some water.” And so many more such instances of Caravaggio-in-words.

      Again here. We can “hear” the tragedy in the phone-call by just looking at Momma: “She seems to slump slightly and become smaller, withering as if the phone was leaking poison into her system.”

      I would tighten that up a little bit more for a bolder brushstroke, removing the qualifiers “seems to” and “as if”:
      “She slumps slightly and becomes smaller, the phone leaking poison into her system.”

      Some other commentators mentioned some issues with the spelling and other details, which I’m not going into myself. Things that can easily be fixed. It’s difficult to see such stuff just after writing a story, as you also said. If you have no-one else near to proofread your stories, one trick would be to let your piece sleep for two nights. Then have another look at it with fresh eyes. The obvious errors will be easy to spot.

      Perhaps, of more importance to me than that, is to give the story more of a final punch. You don’t need to add or take anything away from it; you’ve already got it all in there. But some restructuring may help. I think the climax comes with the announcement of the girlfriend’s pregnancy to the wife. From then on it’s sort of facing the consequences.

      I would somehow put that climax at the end, not in the middle. As story-tellers we are in no way bound by any requirement to follow a chronological order. If you watched ‘Pulp Fiction’, you know what I mean. That film is a kind of easy-to-remember reference point for me when I feel I’m being too chronological in my writings.

      With your story, you can perhaps take mother and son to Granny and let them have their poignant discussions, allowing us readers to wonder why they are there exactly, even if we may have our suspicions. Then at the end blow it in our face. The boy tells us how he can’t believe why his mother wants to return to home and dad, as he recounts to us why they had left in the first place (the crucial phone call episode). I think that would keep us on our toes till the very end. Just to shatter us, before we go.

      But even as it stands, with less punch at the end, it is still a very enjoyable read, thanks to your talented ways with graphically creating and exposing atmosphere. In its current chronological format, it’s more of a life snap-shot docudrama rather than a traditional edge-of-your-seat beginning-middle-surprise ending story. It’s ok, either way. I just have my personal preferences for the latter. Perhaps there are many of us, but who’s to say? 🙂

      Cheers!
      Ken M.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2019 at 7:17 pm
        Permalink

        Thanks Ken for taking the time to give me feedback. I can see the value in your suggestions. I took a stab at re-structuring the story. I’ll repost what I managed to come up with later.

        Reply
        • September 5, 2019 at 7:36 pm
          Permalink

          “Sometimes, some things are better left unsaid.” Granny Simms’ voice is gritty. “Is your telling gonna help either of them?” She asks.

          I just shake my head and wonder.

          Momma has a bottle of liquor hidden under a loose board on the back porch. Daddy has another woman down at the pool hall, and he sees her on the weekends. Momma sends me down there plenty, to fetch Daddy or to tell him she needs money for groceries before he gambles and drinks it away. I see her there sometimes, that woman with the dyed hair and glossy red lips. Sometimes she’s sitting right in his lap.

          I don’t say anything about Momma’s liquor to Daddy, nor anything about Daddy’s friend to Momma. I’m no fool, I’m ten years old now. I’ve got enough sense to know that either of those things would throw them into a rage and cause a big fight, and it’s scary when they fight. Somehow though, I feel that Momma knows about that other woman, and I hate her for letting it go on. I also believe Daddy knows about the liquor, and I hate him for not caring.

          This morning, after fighting with Daddy all night, Momma packs our clothes, and her bottle of whiskey and me and her, we go to live with Granny Sims in a three-room shack by the train tracks on the other end of town. We walk all the way there and have pinto beans and cornbread for supper.

          At Granny Simms’, Momma takes to her bed. She drinks her whiskey, she cries and drinks some more. Me and Granny Simms stay mostly on the porch or work in the garden outback. I ask Granny Simms if she thinks Momma would get back with Daddy.

          She takes a deep breath. “Well Boy, she always seems to find a reason to.”

          Granny Simms calls me Boy, never my given name, Travis, the same as my dad’s, but he’s given her plenty of reasons not to like that name.

          One quiet evening, after the train sounded its whistle and chugs by the last time for the day, Momma comes and sits by me on the bed, where I’m reading Old Yeller. Her nightgown is twisted on her body, and I can smell the whiskey on her breath. “Travis, Travis honey, I think we need to go back home.” Her tone light and sweet. “Back to ya daddy, he’s probably lonely without us.” Her tongue is thick from the liquor as she slurs her words while rubbing at her temple as if she has a headache. She noticed the look of confoundment on my face.

          “Don’t look at me like that Travis, we should be home. It’s where we…I need to be.

          I look into her misty eyes; I see the hurt simmering there. There seems to be an ache glowing back at me. A tear breaks free, rolling down her cheek. “I can’t stand being here not knowing what he’s doing.” She insists, her voice rising, “But I can’t stand being there either, the whole time thinking he wants someone else.” Her hand goes feebly to her face as she wipes away the tear. “That man’s got my soul.” She whispers, more to herself than to me. Then she squeezes my shoulder. “We might wait another day or two.” She says, patting my arm, remaining quietly on the bed beside me.

          I want to tell Momma that we should stay here, that it’s a bad idea to go back home, back to Daddy. Daddy would never change. He can’t, it’s like he is hooked on hurting her and he will never settle for just one woman. I am baffled that my ten-year-old mind can see and comprehend this, and she doesn’t. It’s then I realize that it isn’t that she can’t see it; it’s she just won’t, will not let herself admit it. So I don’t tell her all the things I desperately want to, cause sometimes somethings are better left unsaid.

          Something else Granny Simms says… bad things always happen on Mondays. My School starts on Mondays. Mrs. Smiths’ math tests are on Mondays, and on a Monday, July 7th, 1969, the day after we came home, Daddy breaks Momma.

          We are in the kitchen, Momma, and me. I’m sitting at the table, eating Fruit Loops, peeling laminate from the cheap tabletop. There isn’t enough milk to cover my cereal, so I add some water. Momma’s at the stained sink doing what appears to be, at first glance, washing dishes. But I can see she’s just using her hands to stir the suds around in the greasy greywater, staring out the window in a sad absent way, smoking a Lucky Strike.

          The grimy green phone, hanging on the dirty paneled wall, suddenly rings harsh and urgent. Momma and I just look at it. “Who’s calling at this time of the morning?” She says aloud in a high-pitch voice, a grain of worry beginning to grow. We both know that no one has a reason to call us unless it’s bill collectors and they never start this early.

          I watch her take two steps from the sink and answer the phone on the third ring. Daddy comes through the kitchen just then with his lunch pale and miner’s hat, glancing wary eyes at Momma. She says hello to the phone, a moment passes, and nothing else escapes from Momma’s lips. She stands there with the phone to her ear, her back to us, listening. She slumps slightly, becoming smaller, the phone leaking poison into her system. Finally, she takes the phone from her ear in a halting way as if she isn’t sure what to do with it. She manages to hang it up but waits for a moment with her back to us.

          “Who was it?” I ask in my ten-year-old innocence.

          Turning in a dreadful slow way, she looks straight at daddy. “You’re whore’s pregnant.” She says in a dead voice, pausing to take a draw from her cigarette, which she holds between two trembling fingers.

          Daddy doesn’t speak. His eyes go to the floor.

          She lets out a breath in disgust. “You don’t even have the damn decency to deny it, do ya?” She hisses, her words hard. Bitter tears glisten in her angry brown eyes. Daddy just looks away, toward me in a weary way.

          “You’re a sorry son-of-a-bitch.” She spits out, and then without another word, she reaches over and takes a coke bottle from the sink, with a strength that equals the hate in her heart, she draws back and lets loose that bottle at Daddy’s head.

          Daddy has read her intentions, however, and is gone, the screen door slamming behind him. The bottle hits the doorframe shattering into shards, splattering in my cereal and cutting me on the forehead. Mom’s face twists into an ugly mask of anger and bitter sadness as she runs from the room, making little whimpering noises in her throat.

          I sit there with wide eyes, rivulets of watery milk streaming down my cheeks, a spot of blood-forming on my forehead then trickling down between my eyes.

          Reply
  • August 26, 2019 at 8:06 am
    Permalink

    Hi all,
    I certainly don’t want to discourage you as the point of this group is to grow as writers.
    But – it is a contest. We are putting our best foot forward amongst our peers,

    In the past it has proven that people don’t want to re-reading the same story over an over again.
    Second and third drafts tend to do poorly in the voting process because some do not read the re-posted version – they go off the first one they read.

    It is also more work for the admins as we have to go in and update code in two different places every time a new story is posted.

    That being said – we don’t mind that you post a second or third version if it’s in response to feedback or critiques.

    But I would suggest you post the polished, final version from the start as it would knock down the voluntary work we have to do as well as increase your chances at voting time.

    Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 8:09 am
      Permalink

      The Breakup
      by Kristin Record
      Second draft – 1161 words

      Sometimes some things are better left unsaid, and when it comes to a breakup knowing what to say is of the utmost importance.
      “Hey, sit down. We need to talk” I stare at myself in the mirror and examine my face for any trace of emotion. Dead Pan. I close my eyes; my reflection vanishing and draw a deep breath. Opening them, I echo the phrase again. I take notice of the steadiness in my gaze. I have performed this so many times, that I no longer find it eerie how I can just shut off my face. Like the small flip of a switch. Now she feels, now she doesn’t.
      I am a serial killer of sorts, in the nature that I murder any relationship that even shows a glimmer of commitment. I kill at least three times a month. Therapists all over Manhattan are making a fortune off of me.
      Heading for my front door, I pluck my handbag from the counter. Hesitant, I take one last peek in the mirror, a striking yet void image looks back. Screwing on a phony grin I throw myself a wink. “Let’s make this snappy, Kelly.”
      Squeezed into a small booth in the corner of “Bean here before”, is Ryan. He rises when he sees me a big dopey grin taking over his face. Striding towards him I groan. I can see a flicker of dismay in his eyes as he notes my no-nonsense approach and I am aware my face is laying the groundwork for the breakup at hand.
      “Hey, Kel!” Ryan embraces me a bit too hard. I know he is expecting me to return the vigor of the hug but I pat at his shoulder instead. We both sit, the cracked vinyl of the booth pinching at my naked thigh as I scoot in. Ryan’s smile wavers. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asks.
      I peer at him, stone-faced.
      “Look, Ryan, we need to talk.” I glide into my breakup monologue and by the conclusion, he looks weathered and aged.
      “Wow,” he exhales, “Ok,” he rises to leave his eyes swimming with tears.
      “Kelly,” he states, thrusting one arm into his leather jacket, his voice chilly.
      “Two weeks!” He twists his other arm in and shrugs it over his shoulders. “You didn’t even let this get off the ground floor, with time this could have been something unbelievable.”
      I nod as if contemplating his words and respond, “No, I don’t think so, but hey try to enjoy the rest of your evening, ok?”
      Ryan produces an unpleasant snort at this, “Sure, whatever you say” and stalks out of the shop, the bell on the door clanging behind him.
      I shrug and experience the wave of satisfaction that floods over me. It strikes like a “rad wave” surfers hunt down to ride. Crashing over my head and washing out past my toes as if to cleanse me. Ah, the high of a breakup.
      My phone jingles, surprising me, I roll my eyes, heaven forbid I have a moment here. I stare at the screen in fascination. A text from Ryan flashes onto the screen. ‘Kel, hey sorry I’m running late. Be there in a minute.’
      ‘Be there in a minute?’ Bewildered. I shake my head struggling to understand the text. Perhaps it had been sent before and only now being delivered?
      The bell from the door jingles, I glance up and Ryan striding towards me, that goofy grin on his face.
      ‘What the hell?’ I shut my eyes and when I open them, he is standing in front of me, removing his jacket. Leaning to kiss me he says, “Hey babe sorry I’m late, have you been waiting long?” I am gaping at him, my mouth flapping open in complete confusion.
      “Ryan,” I stammer as he sits across from me. “We just saw each other, what are you doing?”
      I am furious; it hits me like a heatwave. “Why are you messing with my head?”
      Ryan gives me an incredulous stare. “What are you talking about, Kelly?” his expression changes to worry and he reaches for my hand.
      Snatching it away I hiss, “I dumped you. You left. What is this nonsense?”
      Eyes going wide Ryan leans back, he looks hurt. “You dumped me? What like over text?” he asks, pulling his phone from his pocket.
      “No!” I say an octave too loud. “A few moments ago, right here!” I gesture at the table.
      “You’re unbelievable.” He mumbles standing to leave. “This is some elaborate breakup, Kelly.” He is bitter, his smile now a harsh grimace. “You’re wicked.” He spits these words at me. When he reaches the door, he flips me the bird.
      “What just happened?” I am speaking out loud and notice several people turning to stare at me. I take a deep breath; my heart is racing and I am trying to comprehend what’s happening. I rest my face in my hands for a moment, then say aloud, ” Well, that was creepy.”
      I reach for my purse as a text alert goes off on my phone. I seize it, anxiety gripping my throat
      My vision goes cloudy at the text “Hey sexy, got stuck in traffic. Be right there!” A roar fills my ears. I’m rocked into left field. I bolt from the booth and head for the door, it opens and Ryan strolls in his face lighting up when he sees me.
      “What in the actual hell is this Ryan?” I shriek at him. Shoving at his shoulders I push him out the door. Hard. It takes a minute for him to comprehend I assaulted him and he lifts his hands up in defense.
      “Kelly, what are you doing?” he hollers out when I push him backward again.
      “How many times are we going to do this?” my cries are subdued by the cars passing by.
      “Do what? Have you lost your mind?” He looks alarmed and I keep yelling at him.
      “This is sick! Whatever you’re doing is just wrong!” I shove him again my palms against his chest. He stumbles back losing his balance on the curb wobbling into the street.
      “Kelly!” he calls out to me and takes a stride forward, “Please tell me-” the bus hit him with such force, his shoe lands beside me. A pink mist sprays my face like a water sprinkler. I vomit.
      “Ryan!” I am screaming his name as I drop to my knees, my body rigid with shock.
      My phone chimes and my stomach heaves with horror.
      “Hey, I will be there in a second. Sorry to keep you waiting”
      The phone falls from my hand clattering on the ground. I stare down the sidewalk in terror. Ryan in perfect form appears to be loping around the corner, he sees me and starts waving. My world spins into tunnel vision and then darkness. Before I pass out, I can hear him hollering, “Hey Kelly! Sorry I’m late”!< \font color>

      Reply
      • August 29, 2019 at 11:07 am
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        What a haunting story, Kristin!

        Kelly is gonna have to pour some more of her money to those Manhattan shrinks after this one. If she was a real serial killer, this latest victim of hers just keeps coming back. (I’m itching to semi-plagiarize your idea, and write something along those lines!). But this may be worse: a charming young guy might be more difficult than a reappearing severed corpse to get rid off…

        I’m trying to give it a psychological reading, as I believe there are more layers to your story than what immediately meets the eye. I’m tempted to think that a lot of what goes on happens in Kelly’s head. It’s not just Ryan but her own phobia of commitment repeatedly catching up with her.

        But there’s no need to try and rationalize it – the mystery makes your story even more hauntingly appealing.

        I’m not sure if this is one of those ancient tales you’ve ingeniously reworked for nowadays, in the context of that project you told me about the other day. But, if it is, I’m not familiar with the original classic. Probably it’s not, since in a previous comment you said you were stuck at some point of the plot, so it must be something you cooked from fresh ingredients. I see you solved that problem very effectively while I wasn’t looking! I’m proud to have been your accomplice, in writing the first seven words of this remarkable story 🙂

        Btw. I couldn’t answer your previous comment further up, as, for whatever reason, there isn’t the usual reply button under it! I wanted to say that retelling those tales of Gods and Goddesses in a contemporary dress sounds like a great idea to me. I have an ongoing half-baked project from several years ago in which I retell “The Odyssey”, much like James Joyce did with his “Ulysses” a century or so ago, but for our times. (And certainly not half a percent as good as James Joyce’s work, no delusions there!) Quite along the same lines to what you’re doing, I suppose.

        My story for this prompt? Got one almost ready. Well, ready, really. One final read-through and I’ll post it…

        Cheers!

        Ken M.

        Reply
        • August 30, 2019 at 11:05 am
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          Ken!
          Thanks for the feedback on this story. This is a Kristin original and not a re spun myth, and this was difficult to write I cannot deny that. I had no idea where the story was going to go, I sat down and wrote all the way to the first break up and hit a wall. So I pulled in my two best people and had them read it and we played the ” What If” game. Until we hit on him reappearing. Then what? right? I was still stuck at the then what. So I sat down and started watching some TV and it came to me. I can honestly say I have not struggled on a piece so much before so I am very happy to hear it was not only entertaining but thought provoking.
          I did write a 750 word story on the Myth of Morrigan recently that felt rushed, I am going to need an expansive word count for those tales!
          Side note – is it really semi plagiarism if you borrow and tweak a plot line? Doubtful considering there are only like 9 true plot lines anyway – or so the internet says,
          Off to read your story! Cheers Friend!

          Reply
      • September 3, 2019 at 2:52 am
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        This is a terrific story, Kristin. It shifts from the mundane to the unexpected to the horrific with such fluidity … I kept thinking “No, she isn’t going to repeat it, is she? Wha-!?” I think the shrinks you mention are for Kelly’s ‘victims’, is that right? Then maybe this is a ‘simple’ (not so simple really) story of karma, the bitch. Or maybe it’s a nightmare Kelly’s having. Whatever, it’s a really fresh and startling story. Really enjoyed it. My only observation: I’m not sure the opening line makes much sense (pure nitpicking, though).

        Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 9:16 am
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      I totally get this! I did submit a second draft because my brain somehow changed my characters name in the last part of my story and it was not caught in editing. However, it was a learning experience to go over it with a fine tooth comb before submitting!

      Reply
      • August 26, 2019 at 11:57 am
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        Ha! I totally get that!
        If it’s just a small edit or a few little things you can always send us a message through the contact page and we can update a comment.
        Or you can even copy and paste the second draft with the edits in the email and we can just replace the story for you.
        That’s a lot easier than having to update redirecting urls in two places and font colors etc. 🙂

        Reply
    • August 26, 2019 at 3:30 pm
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      Point taken. That makes sense. I noticed several typo’s after I posted my story, so if you will be so kind to delete the first draft of Unspoken Truths, I will repost. Sorry, I will do better next time.l

      Reply
  • August 27, 2019 at 11:51 am
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    Signing on for stories and comments. Hope to have a story, but just started my last chemo and it’s always tough for the first week or so to put thoughts together. It really affects my writing. I wrote two different stories for the Shadow theme and after rereading them, found them both lacking in suspense, so I file 13’d them both.

    Let’s hope this attempt goes better.

    Reply
    • August 29, 2019 at 11:24 am
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      Is this you, Roy? You’ve been missed in here… I hope all goes well with your last chemo session and you’ll soon be able to put all of that behind you.

      Also hoping for a story from you this time round, if you manage to put one together, in spite of all adversity. It would have double value in these circumstances.

      Good luck!

      Ken M.

      Reply
      • September 1, 2019 at 12:09 pm
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        Yeah, it’s me, alright. What’s left of me. I gotta tell ya, cancer sucks. All the stuff they put you through, (which you go through willingly, mind you), robs you of desire. It sucks the will out of you. And those are the good days.

        I’ve written at least ten first paragraphs and have one yet that makes me think, “Well. I might have something here.” Not going to give up though. Thanks for the encouragement, Ken M., I appreciate it. Now, where was I? Oh yeah, Sometimes some things are better left unsaid …

        Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 6:48 pm
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      Hi, Roy. Glad to hear that the treatment is coming to a close. I hope it does its work. Look forward to a story from you … next time now.

      Reply
  • August 28, 2019 at 3:11 pm
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    Looks like we are off to a good start. I’d better get writing soon!

    Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 5:52 am
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    A Stranger In Need
    by Ken Miles ©

    Some things are better left unsaid. I mean, she poured it out all over me. You don’t do that to a stranger. I mean, we weren’t total strangers. Acquaintances, at best. Still, an ordinary ‘Fine, thanks’ would have done. People say ‘Fine, thanks’ if they’re running from a nuclear explosion. I went ‘Fine, thanks’ when Mike dumped me. Even when I saw him with Trisha. Someone might venture into ‘Not very well today, a bit under the weather.’ But that’s easy. I mean, ‘Keep cosy Mel, it’ll pass!’ does it.

    But this woman, Judith, Juliet, whatever her name was, dropped pancreatic cancer at my feet! Just picture this: I’m rushing from the multistory carpark to my boss’s all-important meeting with this new big client. Can’t be late. I’m taking the minutes, got to be there first. Like most mornings, I see this woman I sort of know, greet her as usual. ‘How are you?’ Nothing nosy, just ordinary courtesy. As one expects of a nice person. I anticipate her usual answer. So I’d declare I’m fine too and we’d both go on with our day.

    But, what again? Pancreatic cancer! Damn. I couldn’t just quip ‘No worries Ju-Ju, it’ll pass’. I mean, that’s a deadly one. My great-uncle had it. The doctors said ‘three months.’ And three months to the day he was gone. I mean, if it was diabetes or something, I could’ve let her in on that internet herbalist. Eat a kilo-and-a-half of artichokes every two hours while standing on one leg, day and night. Religiously. Fifty-percent chance you’ll heal. You may end up in the wrong fifty-percent, but what’s there to lose? I mean you just try it and keep positive. That’s it! Positivity! It does magic. But pancreatic cancer, the very Steve Jobs couldn’t shake that one off! I mean, he was very rich. Sure he could get the best doctors, best hospital, tons of artichokes.

    What could I tell her? I’d usually wisecrack something, you know. ‘Oh pancreatic, think of it as headache-of-the-tummy, no worries, I get those all the time – they come and go!’ But this was way too serious. As bad as it gets.

    Instead, I offered: “Well, we all’ve gotta go down that unfortunate road one day!” I giggled. And found it rude she didn’t giggle back. I mean, you make an effort to help people, but some just don’t appreciate anything. Instead she dropped her head on my shoulders and started crying.

    “I’m sorry, dear”, I said, trying in vain to get a glimpse of my wrist-watch. The “dear” was because I couldn’t remember her exact name. I mean, I didn’t even really know this person. We had met, talked maybe once, at a cookery course I’d been to. I was lonely when Mike left, I read on the internet that doing something new was one way to cope. I did hook up with the teacher. He prepared me buttered toast, at his apartment, which I thought was inapt for a cookery teacher. But the wine was good, we were soon on top of each other. The condom snapped, my OCD kicked in. A womanizer! A history of one-night-stands! HIV! I spent weeks Googling statistics, analyzing graphs, scouring medical articles I didn’t quite fully understand, looking into my chances of being infected. I mean, when do symptoms show? Is “low risk” better than “mild risk”?

    I only met him another time, for the lesson. He touched my bum and the others gave me such a look as if it was MY fault. I unfriended him on Facebook, stopped going, avoided that street. That was the last I’d seen Judith, Juliet. That’s all I knew of her.

    And yet, there I was, in public, with her all over me. Like we’d been old friends or something. Her tears moistened my shoulder. Cancer isn’t contagious. Or is it? How was I going to show up at the meeting soaked all over? She seemed she wanted to spend the rest of what remained of her life on my shoulder.

    What was I going to tell the boss? ‘I’m late because I bumped into someone I hardly know and she happened to have cancer?’ Giggle, giggle.

    I mean, like he’d really give a damn! Mr Bernstein is all about punctuality. And that’s on normal workdays. Late is late. You fucked up. Period. And that was one hell of a wrong day to be late! All because of her!

    ‘But it’s not your ordinary kind of cancer, you know, Mr Bernstein. I mean, pancreatic. Incurable and all. I mean, she’s gonna die, Mr Bernstein.’

    ‘And you’re gonna get fired!’ Those words already rang in my ears. This was cruel, not fair at all. And all her fault.

    I mean, I understand she may not have friends. She may’ve had to take it out on the first passerby. That’s it! That’s her biggest problem – no friends! But she should have thought of it before. Too late now. I mean, with only three months left! How many friends can you make in just three months? She hi-jacked me. I mean, sort of pretended we’d been friends. She could’ve ruined my life. Doesn’t she even care about others?

    Thinking of it, I don’t really have friends either. I mean, proper friends. Everyone sort of falls in different categories of people I don’t really know. There are those I really, really don’t know. I mean someone I never met. Then there are people I see often but never talk to, faces on legs. Then those I may’ve shared something with, maybe not really shared, but there’s something unimportant we have in common. People I have to work with. Those at the cookery course. Hi-and-bye friends. Even Mike and Trisha, by now.

    Friends only happen at school. I mean, I can’t moan, I’ve over eight-thousand friends on Facebook. Some say eight-thousand isn’t that many, but I think it’s ok. Some of them, I do actually know a little. I mean, they send me loads of memes, jokes, you know. I ‘like’ them, even when they’re lame. They sure get a blast out of ‘likes’. I do!

    That’s my friend-scene. Not so easy anymore. Like, when we were kids, we’d hang out for hours watching Beverly Hills 90210, then for hours more talking about it. That’s it! People who watch TV together stay together. Now it’s all on demand. Everyone doing it their own way.

    Judith-Juliet finally let go of me. Phew, the important client was late himself. I wasn’t fired. From then on, I left the multistory by the backdoor. It’s an extra five-minute walk, and junkies hang around there. I could’ve got assaulted or something. But no-way would I risk meeting that woman again. It’s only for three months, I told myself. Then she’d be gone forever. My nightmare will be over.

    Now, three months later, I’m shocked! I’ve just spotted her. I mean, if not dead, shouldn’t she at least be bedridden by now? I feel bad thinking like that, because deep down I’m a good person. But I can’t help it. Some people bring out the worst in me. I mean, I’m really a very nice person, usually.

    1,200 words (excluding the title and this line)

    Reply
    • August 30, 2019 at 11:38 am
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      Ken,
      This story..
      Oh man, I FELT this story!! Like I live this story, I run a store and I cannot begin to tell you how many times this kind of crap has happened to me. On another note, I am also kind of this person too. For instance, yesterday I woke up and my truck had been stolen from my driveway. This was traumatic for me and I spent the day in a daze but was doing stuff as well. I found myself telling perfect strangers how messed up it was that my truck had been stolen, when a simple ” Fine, thank you” would have sufficed.
      I am not the best when reviewing grammatical errors. Honestly, I free write and then pop my words into an editing program, so if your are looking for that kind of feedback ask the other Ken for sure as we was quite helpful for me!
      I like to judge on on where a story takes me, how it makes me feel, and the readability. I connected with this story, it took me into my own self loathing, and I found it easy and fun to read! Good Job!

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 3:48 am
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        Hi Kristin, you did the right thing, letting people – even perfect strangers – in on your anguish! True, many people won’t give a damn, or if they do won’t show it. Some may be genuinely empathic, though. We should treasure those people! But first of all we ought to at least make an attempt to make contact, express ourselves, like you did. If you’re the type of person for whom “Fine, thank you” doesn’t always suffice, then you’re with me 🙂 If there is a message in my story, I think it might be that one – that it’s a sad world indeed the one in which “fine, thank yous” are the only words people exchange. And then many of us just feel fulfilled enough by clicking mindlessly on Facebook ‘likes’. I didn’t set out to give anybody any life lessons – just wrote the story that happened to pop up in my head for the fun of it, as always! But perhaps something along those lines has come out. With or without my intent…

        That really sucks, about your truck! Have you had any news so far? Suspects, maybe? If not that, I hope you at least recovered from the trauma and somehow got over the practical nuisance of having lost your truck. You probably need it desperately, since you run a store. What kind of store is it, btw? I’m curious… 🙂 You probably get to meet lots of people, which must be nice (in spite of the crappy situations you mentioned in your comment. Some of them must be good guys!). A store may also be a fertile ground for hearing stories, I suppose, which can be inspirational for a writer… (at least compared to someone like me who works in an office within four walls that never speak!). But it depends on what kind of store it is and how long people may hang out in there.

        Thank you for you nice words about my story, and I’m glad it somehow entertained you, although it’s better for one not to have to connect with it! But alas, this is very much the world we’re living in! Perhaps realizing the annoying things in our lives, is the first step in somehow addressing them, or at least reckoning with them.

        Like you said about yourself, I also free write first and then fine-tune later. It’s the entertainment/connection value for the reader that matters most to me, not so much the linguistic perfection and literary value (although it’s nice to have both aspects, when they’re not mutually exclusive of each other, as sometimes happens!). Having said that, yes, Ken C. and others might find some grammatical issues they may wish to point out to me, about which I’d be very grateful.

        Since my first draft is often well over 1,200 words, I end up having to chisel off so much of my original write-up that I might sometimes end up compromising the grammatical integrity of the whole piece. Although removing redundancies is generally beneficial, of course. I am very interested in any criticism about parts of my writing that sound odd or labored because they are not usually said that way in the given context: overly intellectualized, foreign-sounding bits and such. So, if there is anything like that this time or in the future, please do point it out to me! That’s always precious feedback.

        I’ll now get reading the newly arrived stories – there are lots coming in, which is a good thing!

        Hear from you soon!
        Ken M.

        Reply
    • August 30, 2019 at 4:58 pm
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      Great story Ken! really well
      written!

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 3:50 am
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        Thanks Dennis, much appreciated!
        I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

        Reply
    • September 1, 2019 at 10:29 am
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      A good person is often someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to be a bad person. That’s what this story shows like a textbook. I think it’s horrifying when the reader wonders how he/she would have acted. And if he/she can’t say it. Well done!

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 3:57 am
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        Hi Jürgen, thank you! I’m very pleased you liked it.

        “A good person is often someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to be a bad person” – I like the way you’ve put this, true indeed. So many “do-gooders” are such as long as they are comfortable and don’t have to go out of their way, even by an inch…

        The woman in my story loses every opportunity to be a good person, although every time she has what seems to her a valid reason to keep to her old selfish ways that are actually not doing any good to her either. She has an opportunity to forge a deep friendship with Ju-Ju, but blatantly and repeatedly refuses the “offer”.

        Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 11:06 am
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      Ken Miles,

      (I thought I posted this already, if it appears twice, well, then read it twice. Can’t believe I have to explain this stuff.)

      This is an amazing, thought provoking story Ken. It replicates the bi-polar conflict of human nature. And human nature is the kind of thing that most people can relate to and identify with. (Hahaha.)

      And it’s quite ironic. In a way, rather than seeing this as a normal person behaving badly, we should see her as a mentally deranged person in a highly functional state.

      I think, and hope it was your intention to depict a fairly shallow, ego-centric woman to illustrate this dichotomy. (I hope that’s the right word.) This was a character who possessed a whole host of altruistic shortcomings. (Which is good Ken, I would have taken the same approach.)

      Some behavior, (by some people, sometimes, for a while,) can be excused. Many people who are faced with unusual social behavior don’t respond in a useful way because they don’t know what to do or say in strange situations. Not to mention a lot of general social pressures to ‘mind your own business’; ‘don’t get involved’; etc.

      I feel that most people, unlike your character, feel bad about their inaction, or lack of appropriate reaction in such situations.

      When we behave in this self-centered way, I think most of us deplore our own lack of courage (or wisdom) for awhile, but self-preservation is a very strong motivator and an essential survival skill. (Losing one’s job over a casual acquaintances medical prognosis is not considered intelligent at all. And yet, so is trust and cooperation.)

      So, I hope I’m correct in the opinion that you portrayed a very shallow, very self-centered person whose behavior is the extreme, (to the point of traversing an alley full of drug-addicts every day just to avoid any further contact with this person who stubbornly refuses to die.) Clearly, this is not very intelligent behavior. I hope no one sees this as a sad story because it was actually very funny, especially since the ‘pancreatic woman’ doesn’t even die. I read it twice and enjoyed it even more the second time through.

      Great story Ken. I really enjoyed it.

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 5:02 am
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        Hi Ken,

        I’m very pleased you enjoyed my story, Ken! You know, I somehow see you as the “commentator of reference” in here – so that makes it doubly important to me! And you read the story twice too 😉 So, fourfold…

        Hmmm… “a normal person behaving badly” or “a mentally deranged person in a highly functional state.” I don’t know. I didn’t set out to portray any particular type of personality or ring any moral alarms, just wrote what came into my head, which may (or may not) be influenced by reality.

        I’m afraid (on studying my own story the way you and others may be digging into its possible meaning), that the narrator lady is… unfortunately… quite a normal person behaving quite normally in this stressful “boxed” world we’ve created for ourselves in which direct human connection has become almost taboo for some. Especially in large cities, in colder climes. Where the “mind your own business” frame of mind prevails.

        I hope I have depicted a rather extreme case in my story, but I’m not even too sure of that. The other times I wrote about a child-abusing priest, and a werewolf that kills (and offers for dinner) uncaring overweight husbands, time-travelling history adjusters, a heavy metal band that goes totally berserk with sex and drugs, a penitent reincarnated snake, and a prostitution Czar at Ellis Island… I think those were the extremes. So extreme, they’re almost fun for us writing/reading about them at a distance.

        This time I thought of writing (well didn’t think much, really, it just popped in my head!) about something much closer to most of us. It’s almost a mediocre mundane situation we probably all face sometimes. And I think the horror is even more pronounced as it exposes the potential monster in all of us. More effectively than any werewolf might. (Although even werewolves might represent something hidden in us). The more commonplace something like the “fine, thank you (‘and now piss off and get on with your day’)” thingy is, the more tragic it is. Something has been lost along the way in the history of human development that is very valuable. In times of crisis, we might find it back, and cling more genuinely to each other.

        But my character fails to capitalize on that, even when, rather untypically for a stranger, Ju-Ju opens up to her in a very human way. The narrating lady fails to see a potential meaningful friendship in Ju-Ju. She may be shallow, of course, but does reckon what is going on, so she’s not the shallowest of persons either. She even laments, in her own way, that making true friends has become so difficult these days. Yet, an invitation to friendship comes her way served on a platter, and she vehemently (but I suppose, believably, given the pressures of the crazy world we live in) pushes it away. Towards the end she does say she feels bad about the way she handles the situation, but shows no intention in changing her ways nonetheless.

        Yes, there are certainly several funny bits as well, which I’m quite fond of. Because, after all there is something humorous in everything, even the most tragic circumstances. It’s actually in tragedy where the ironies come out strongest. I’m pleased you appreciated that aspect too. I actually wanted it to be a very funny story, after all. I mean, for a Martian Discovery Channel TV series called “The Silly Ways of Earthlings”, this story is nothing but a very funny episode about one ludicrous aspect of the strange ape-like species that inhabits the nearby planet.

        A side-note: “(I thought I posted this already, if it appears twice, well, then read it twice. Can’t believe I have to explain this stuff.)” Lol! Anyone here who doesn’t just love Ken C’s wicked humor? (even if so, which is unlikely, don’t put up your finger, or you might be featured on a future episode of that Martian TV series!).

        Ken M.

        Reply
        • September 5, 2019 at 10:42 am
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          Ken M.

          Your point is well taken. ‘a normal person behaving quite normally.’ (In a very screwed up world.) Your skill at describing your character is so complete, that one can hardly avoid psychoanalyzing her. (Or oneself, when it comes down to it.) I like the comment, (not sure who made it) ‘I’m a writer, not a psychologist.’ That’s a wonderful sentiment worth repeating and remembering. We’re entertaining people, not trying to fix or save the world. (I mean, if that should accidentally result from one of Phil’s stories, so much the better, but no one, I think, is writing with that goal in mind. I know I’m not,) and neither are you. But your story does beg us to look a little more closely at our own behavior and actions, or inactions, and that was my point, in its essence.

          I sometimes think how odd it is, when I’m driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour, that the people in the next car are just a few feet away, and yet, our metal car-cannisters keep us safely insulated from any interaction, despite the fact that we’re going the same way, at the same speed, on the same road, and just a few feet apart.

          Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 5:46 pm
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      That’s an excellent story, Ken. It’s funny and kind of tragic – but not Judith-Juliet. The narrator is a very sad figure. We can see that hers is a very shallow life, without real friends, and without the prospect of making any in the near future. At one point, I was thinking that maybe she’d hook up with JJ platonically and find friendship, and that would be like a catalyst to making more friends and creating a social life … but the chance at demonstrating empathy comes and goes, and is lost, probably forever. A lonely existence awaits … but then she seems oblivious to opportunities, so maybe, in her own little world, she’s ok. Maybe. Great, funny-sad story, then, with a very interesting, complex protagonist. I like the “I mean”s. I wonder if JJ really was ill – maybe just seeking attention?

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 5:29 am
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        Hi Phil,

        Thank you, I’m pleased you liked my story! Indeed, I tried to weave funny and tragic elements into one another (I go into more detail about this point, in my reply to Ken C’s comment above). Irony and tragedy seem to be bedfellows…

        Yes, the narrating first-person exposes to us her lonely life – and to some degree laments about it – yet, she is disturbed by the possibility of developing a meaningful friendships with Ju-Ju. She’d rather risk getting assaulted, by changing her usual safe path to the carpark, rather than “risking” bumping into Ju-Ju again! But I don’t think that this would be such an extreme situation in many parts of the world today, unfortunately, where people are almost afraid of committing to each other and personal independence is paramount.

        I had this lady very often starting her statements with “I mean…” and sometimes with “That’s it!”. To tell you the truth, that’s how her voice came into my head, I didn’t actually “think it out” or anything. Maybe these statement modifiers reflect something in her feeble character, but I don’t know exactly what. As someone else once said in here “I’m a writer, not a psychologist!”. So, that’s all I can say. But I’m glad that, like me, you also noticed and liked the “I mean”s as an element that in some way form and define this rather complex character.

        About Ju-Ju possibly just trying to seek attention and not really being ill, you may be right. I personally think she really had that diagnosis and wasn’t faking it. The fact that she doesn’t die when the narrator thought she would doesn’t mean she wasn’t actually ill. Just a misjudgement. But, yes, your hypothesis may be correct. I didn’t delve much into Ju-Ju’s character. The story is not so much about her. That could be a theme for another story – the lengths to which some people would go just to seek attention… Ok, if the next prompt theme is “Seeking Attention”, let’s see who is going to be faster with this one – you or I!! Both of us can claim rightful ownership over this idea, I suppose 🙂

        Ken M.

        Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 8:02 am
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    Some things said
    By Neha Neil
    Word count:1,198 words

    Sometimes some things are better left unsaid. Although I still recall the wrongs I had did many years ago, guilt still surges up my spine. Sometimes I think to my self why I had did such awful things. Especially to someone who had cared for me all these past years….

    The sweltering sun scintillated in the sizzling sky as posies of pulchritudinous violets and roses spurted with alleviation. My eyes shimmered like shimmering stars in the starry sky as my hair waltzed in the scorching daylight. Yes, this is me Lucy Hampton. Me and mother lived in a small countryside just at the outskirts off the big city, where we used to own a small farm. Father had left us when I was just only four months old, leaving mum looking after the profits of the farm. Of course I was only young then and so thought of mum as my own father, never hurting her tender heart- until now!

    “Mother, I am going to feed the chickens!” I shouted from outside, hurrying off to the chicken coop with my basket in hand. It was just an ordinary summer day, me, feeding chickens food as I had always done. Instead of going to school like other kids did, I stayed back at the farm, helping mother do her daily job. I was taught by my mother at home, but it wasn’t the same! I hoped that one day I could take over the farm and look after the profits just like my mother had done before me.

    “How are you today, Lilly?” Lilly, my rooster, shaked its’ golden feathers and clucked in reply. I giggled with delectation. Since I didn’t go to school or hanged around outside the farm fences, I usually talked to the chickens, or mooed with the cows!

    Just as I was going to collect the last eggs, I heard a car pull up at the farm gate. Cautiously, I crept towards the window and peered out to see a cloaked man in a business suit step out from his black limousine. My heart pounded vigorously, as I recognised the person that had stepped out of his car! His reddish hair shone under the blistering sun as his grey freckles showed signs of exhaust. Although, I hadn’t seen him for almost twelve years, I still had seen him in many pictures laid out on our mantel piece at the fireplace. It was father! But what was he doing here?

    Swiftly, I dashed out of the chicken coop and across the lawn towards the house. I had to get there, I had to know what was going on! I rushed into the living room as if a lion pounding after its’ piquant prey, dropping the basket of eggs on the kitchen counter. Quietly, I crept towards the living room door and hid, listening to what they were saying. At first, I only made out blubbers of words, then everything soon became clear. Mr Hampton (my own father) had stolen the farm from us and is using this land to build his own business. He had only given us two weeks to move out!

    For a moment I attempted to barge in and tell him that he was the worst dad I had ever had, but then I couldn’t. All of a sudden I heard blubbering of forlornness from the living room, making me burst into tears too. All these years I had been in this farm with no friends and no father. All these years mum had hidden away her tears just to raise me into a perfect little girls, but now everything would be ruined, just because of father!

    I had so many questions for father like,’ Why did you leave me and mother behind?,’ or like,’ I missed you so much! Just then, I heard an angry voice raise, and then, pinned drop silence. It was mother. Thoughts whirled around my head like a tormenting tornado capturing me in its’ malicious grasp, as swet of exasperation trickled down my forehead. I couldn’t let him take over our farm. It was ours forever!

    Ferociously, I stumbled into the dim living room, roaring with anger.

    “Its’ your fault, all your fault!” I screamed, throwing back my fists. I screamed and screamed until my neck throbbed, father startled of my sudden appearance.

    “I wish you were never even part of my life in the first place!” I shrieked. Suddenly, I stopped and stared. My fathers solemn eyes stared at me with grief as his face dimmed. Startled, mother stared at me with soreness.

    “Lucy Hampton, go to your room now!” shouted mother.

    “Well maybe you should forget about this stupid farm in the first place!” I boomed, leaving the room with the door slamming with a thud. The last thing I heard was the sobbing of mother.

    CLUCK! CLUCK! Silently, I wept with despondency, Lucy clutched tight against my chest. What did I ever do to upset them? It was the first time I had ever been shouted at!

    “Oh Lucy, what did I ever do!” I sobbed with anguish. Well, if mother did love father, than why roar at me for no reason. It took a long time until I finally decided to get back up into the house. Quietly I scurried into our house and into the living room.

    “Tea or coffee?” My dad’s pale face dimmed as I entered the room. I almost regretted scowling him, but then, it was his fault! If he had just left us in peace (me and mother) we would have happily lived on the farm with no trouble at all! Mother entered, leaving me with shock.

    Her dreary, sullied eyes dimmed as her golden, reddish hair dulled. Carefully she balanced the tea and coffee tray on the table and sat down beside father, patting his back reassuringly. Guilt surged up my head as I sat down on a couch at the far side of room. Mother looked up and glared at me, making me shiver. What have I done?

    From that day after I had regretted everything I said. After all, father is father! Soon mother had decided to move into the city, with father of course, and I soon enrolled at high school. Of course I knew nothing about studies, but managed to work hard enough to get a job as a business women in America. Soon, life was going great with Ken( my husband) and our four children. However, after what had happened at our farm, I did not dare visit my family again.

    Back then it was clear that mother really did love father and, that I was wrong! But now I cannot change the past, but I hope my children’s future will not be the same. Soon after I moved from the countryside to the city, mother had told me everything. In Fact he was not going to sell the farm for his own good, he was going to bring us to the city and use the money sold to give me good education. But there was something I would never ever forget.

    Mother told me that,” Sometimes some things are better left unsaid!”

    Reply
    • September 1, 2019 at 10:45 am
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      Good idea to mislead the reader first. And then it turns out that everything is very different from what we thought. And there is even a kind of happy ending. Good story.

      Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 4:41 pm
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      A brisk story, Neha – we know very quickly what the situation is, so that the appearance of the father and the misunderstanding can be introduced smoothly. I wasn’t quite sure why the protagonist should be so ashamed of her behaviour that she exiles herself from the family – maybe because it’s a very traditional family in which the father cannot be contested? You provide some good description … which sometimes gets a bit over-the-top, I think: “The sweltering sun scintillated in the sizzling sky as posies of pulchritudinous violets and roses spurted with alleviation.” A rooster is a male bird, so ‘Lilly’ … ? I like the misunderstanding, and its resolution – making for a welcome ‘happy ending’.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2019 at 1:39 pm
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        Thx for the comments and I can see why there may be some misunderstandings. Of course I should have mentioned and made stuff more clear. The mother of Lucy Hampton is still in love with her husband even though they had broken up, or so she thought. Although I did not go into too much detail ‘Lilly’ (as descripted as the roosters name) is the name she has chose for the rooster as to resemble the rooster as a ‘teddy bear’ to talk to when ever she is sad. Thanks for expressing your doubts as answering them helps me improve my writing skills.

        Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 2:50 pm
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    I am not receiving the comments or posts. I’m trying again. UGH.

    Reply
  • August 30, 2019 at 6:54 pm
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    FAMILY SPLITTING

    Sometimes, some things are better left unsaid when greed and envy take hold of people and make them bite the hands that feed them.

    “We’re not going! We’re not leaving our country to go somewhere weird, unfamiliar, dangerous as South Africa with its wild animals, poisonous snakes, ferocious and horrible people! Ain’t you scared, little sister?” Donna turned on her side on the double bed which the three of them shared. She search out for the arm of her brother, Matthew as she spoke.

    “I’m. A lot of people are emigrating over there and they say it’s good. You earn a lot of money. You’re never go hungry or cold because it is hot out there and there are plenty of food and fruits.
    When I reach there and work I will send you money to help you buy nice clothes and food. The other people do. Ireland is getting poorer and poorer and people don’t want to live here. We could all die from famine and hypothermia here. The crops are not doing well. The weather is wet, wet, wet all the time. The rain never stops. The weather is warm all the time in South Africa. The sceneries are gorgeous. People are rich or become rich when they move there. That is where fortunes can be made I was told.” Cathy explained as she snuggled into bed next to Donna and Matthew

    A week later, Cathy joined a group of people sailing to South Africa.
    She hugged her parents and siblings and walked away without looking back at them. Her heart felt heavy with sadness, tears sprang into her eyes as she heard her mother crying her heart out. She did not want to let her family notice how torn she was at the separation.

    As the years crawled by, she worked hard, met her husband, a diamond dealer and had two children of her own. Like all migrants she settled into her new life.

    She never forgot her family she left behind. She sent them money, food parcels, shoes, cotton clothes, jewelries with precious stones, funded her brother’s and sister’s vocational training, cleared the debts and mortgage on the house the family shared.
    She could not get them to visit South Africa. They were scared of the sea voyage and the country itself.

    Cathy visited them back a few times. On one occasion, Donna remarked, “Cathy, by establishing yourself in this foreign land, you struck lucky. You bagged a rich husband and is now a very rich woman. We haven’t moved on.”
    “In a simple way. You have too. You’ve risen from poverty. You have a fairly ordinary but happy life. Our path diverted in a different way.” Cathy answered. She bit her tongue and refrained from adding that they could have been in the same position if they took the gamble she did. She wished they did and she would have her family with her out there. She did not want to upset them by saying too much.

    “You have an astonishing life. Jetseting, having servants to do your chores. We have to do everything. Mum and dad are getting old and we are the ones who look after or care for her. You don’t have this obligation. They’re getting frailer and frailer as time goes by. We don’t go anywhere because of them.” Donna turned to look at their parents to moan.
    Her mother pulled her face and said, “We won’t go to South Africa. We love Ireland.
    we won’t swop it for anything in the World.”

    “ I’ll always be there if anyone needs any financial help. But, sadly I cannot be here in person.” Cathy pointed out for them to acknowledge what she contributed.

    But, her parents were very thankful.
    “Take the jewelries back. You’ve got your own family to pass them on. I don’t know how long I’ll live.” Cathy’s mother pulled her to one side at the funeral of her father. She had all the precious jewelries in a cosmetic bag which she handed to Cathy.
    Cathy had a peep in the bag and gave it back to her. “No. Enjoy wearing them while you can. I will take them back after you’re gone if so you wish.” She turned back to follow her mother’s stare. Donna and Matthew walked towards them and stared at their mother and the cosmetic bag. They were listening to the conversation.
    Cathy nodded at them and turning back to her mother, continued, “You might need them more than we do. One never knows. You can turn them into cash if you need to sell them in an emergency. Keep them.”
    “Why this transaction behind our back?” Donna snarled at her mother. She raised her face. It went red. “You did not discuss this with us.” She looked at Matthew for support.
    “No.” Matthew bit his lips as he spoke.
    Cathy’s mother looked away and shove the cosmetic bag into her handbag.
    Donna looked at her, shaking her head and pointing to her mother’s bag, added, “So, that is why you insisted of carrying a bigger bag. You had plans – handing over stuffs to your favourite daughter.”
    Who have been looking after you whilst your best child was too busy carving a life of her own.”
    Donna changed topic.

    “I think you’ve said enough.” Cathy steered her mother away by holding her arm and moving along to talk to the guests.

    Three years later, her mother died.
    Cathy was surprised when Donna and Matthew revealed. “She sold everything. God knows who she gave all her belongings to. You weren’t here to watch her decline into a senile old woman.”

    They would not look her in the eyes. “She sold everything. She didn’t want or need them. What would you know? You were not here for her. She hated going to the post office to wait and answer your call. You went away and deserted us. In a will she drew, she gave the house to us, the ones who have been there for their parents all the time. ”
    Cathy shook her head and nodded at the same time . There was no point reminding them how much she supported them financially and mostly paid for what they owned. There were times in the past when she cut herself short so that she could send them money and gifts, she reflected.

    The next day, Cathy and her family boarded the plane back home with not even a single pin inherited from her deceased parents.
    That was the last time she made contact with her siblings.

    “Not inheriting anything to remind me of my parents upsets me.” She wrote in her diary, “The way Donna and Matthew treated me is upsetting and disappointing. I am sad they did not involve me when the will/transaction was drawn. I know my parents would never take such actions unless they were pressurized into it. It is so obvious they manipulated my parents. I forgive them.
    But, I am not going to keep in touch or say anything.
    Sometimes, some things are better left unsaid.”

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 1:59 am
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      Sad family splitting! A good illustration of how family members alienate from each other because they have made different choices. After a few years, the decisions are forgotten. Then there is only greed. A sad truth!

      Reply
      • September 3, 2019 at 3:16 am
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        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story.
        I have seen so many families spoiling their relationship over their inheritance.
        I have come across older siblings go out of their way to help family members who are oblivious of the support they receive

        Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 8:39 am
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      Hi Chitra,

      It’s sad how geographical location tore this family apart, and then it all boiled down in the end to who gets what when the parents perished. It’s sadly also a very typical tale of first-generation emigrant populations: people who do not fully belong either to the nation that hosted them, nor anymore to the society (and even family, in some cases such as this) they originally came from.

      I don’t think Cathy really needed anything material from her parents. Just a token, something symbolical to confirm her sense of belonging to this family, if nothing else.

      Both sides acted recklessly, IMO – Cathy carved her own life elsewhere, which was a good thing, but she didn’t take enough time out to reconnect in person with the rest of the family. I think this story happened very long ago (famine etc. in Ireland), so traveling must have been difficult. But still, in a whole life-time either side could have visited each other. Donna and Matthew (and also the parents) weren’t appreciative enough of Cathy’s financial support and quite obviously envious of her “jet-set lifestyle”. (NB. There may be a bit of a leap in history hear – famine in Ireland of centuries past, traveling by ship to South Africa, and at the same time talking of [late 20th century] jet-setting”).

      There are several instances of rather overly formal wording put in the characters’ mouths. Like, for instance, few people would say “financial support”, in an actual discussion. More likely “I gave you money”. Perhaps followed by an expletive, although that’s optional and depending on the nature of the character in question. Or this one: “involve me when the will-transaction was drawn” would sound more natural as “they didn’t leave me a single [damn] penny!” Especially when people are angry, their language gets snappier, doesn’t it?

      Btw, I, like Cathy, also live away from where I was born, and more or less for the same reasons… Thankfully we’ve got low-cost airlines these days, so the world has really got smaller!

      Cheers!
      Ken M.

      Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 4:51 pm
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        Thanks Ken for reading and commenting on my story.
        You seem to identitify with the theme.
        .
        I appreciate you pointing out the weakness/oversights. I didn’t think of them until you pointed them out. I will endeavour to make some corrections to as I believe they will make the story better.

        I set the story in Ireland with just basic knowledge of Ireland and its people. I was chuffed to discover that you’re Irish and know more about its history. Got caught there ( smiles).

        Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 4:59 pm
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      You’ve created a very believable scenario, Chitra. This kind of feud can arise even if the geographical distances are negligible. I like the mother (very grateful), and dislike Donna and Mathew, of course; their kind of narrow-mindedness and lack of gratitude is quite common, it seems to me. I like Cathy (a very altruistic person), but maybe to make her even more so, you could, at the end, have her hoping for a reconciliation … but then again, you’d lose the reference to the theme of the story, I suppose. In the third, long paragraph, we don’t know who’s speaking until right at the end (I thought it was Mathew). So maybe you could do something like his: “I am,” Cathy said as she snuggled into bed next to Donna and Matthew. “A lot of people are emigrating …”

      Reply
      • September 16, 2019 at 5:02 pm
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        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story. I am very pleased you like the story. I appreciate your critiques.

        Thanks for suggesting the bits that you saw, needs more work on. I missed nthat. I will correct them in my copy.

        Reply
  • September 1, 2019 at 2:31 am
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    How To Kill A Finch. (ver 4.5)
    9-1-19
    by Ken Cartisano
    (1180 words.)

    “Some things are better left unsaid, Mr. McCloud.”

    “You’re not going to tell me why?”

    “No,” I said.

    “Am I interrupting?” It was Finch, the subject of our conversation. He must have been walking through the woods along the lake and come up behind us. I was hoping he’d ignore us and keep on going, but he stopped short, turning his round, bearded face toward me. “Everything all right, turd?”

    “Private conversation, Finch. Doesn’t concern you.”

    “Oh. Want me to mind my own business?”

    When I didn’t respond, he turned his attention to McCloud. “What’s your business around here?”

    Unlike me, McCloud was not intimidated by Finch. “I’m interested in some property just outside of town,” McCloud explained. “Not that it’s any of your business.”

    Finch scoffed, “Property? What property? What for? What do you do?”

    “Depends on what people need,” McCloud replied, “I’m a jack-of-all-trades, Mr…?”

    Finch ignored his friendly overture. In fact, he took off his hat, a crisp, new John Deere cap, turned his back to us, leaned against the table and started bending the bill of the cap back and forth, shaping it. “Jack of all trades, huh? Any one in particular that you prefer?”

    A trace of confusion softened McCloud’s hard features. “What’s that?”

    “Trades. You said you’re a jack-of-all-trades. Do you have a particular skill or trade that you prefer?”

    McCloud quietly pulled a chrome-plated revolver out from under the table. He leveled the weapon at Finch’s back. “I don’t know, arc-welding?” He said. “But I’ll do just about anything that pays decent money.” McCloud pretended he was firing the gun into Finch’s back, silently, one bullet at a time.

    “Is that a fact?” Finch said, examining his hat, unaware of the pistol pointed at his back.
    “I don’t reckon you’ll find much of that kind of work around these parts.”

    “Is that a promise or a threat?” McCloud said, in a cheerful tone.

    “You can take it any way you like, peckerwood.” With that, Finch put his hat on, adjusted it, then strode off without another word.

    As soon as Finch was out of earshot, I leaned forward and hissed. “Are you crazy? You could’ve killed him by accident.”

    “Would that be so bad?”

    I took a deep breath. “You don’t really want to do this. Really, you don’t.”

    McCloud said, “Actually, I do. But it doesn’t matter. It’s just business. No sentiment involved here.”

    “Good,” I said. “We appreciate all you’ve done McCloud, but the client has changed their mind.” After all the time he’d invested, I didn’t expect him to take this news gladly. I watched in silence as he loaded six rounds into what I now realized had been an empty revolver, then he snapped the cylinder closed and returned the gun to its unseen holster. After that, he seemed very receptive, for a contract killer.

    “There are things about Finch that you probably don’t know.”

    “I know all I need to know,” he replied, and it was no idle boast. He’d been quite explicit in describing how much time and money was required to measure and assess a target for murder.

    “Finch is a force of nature, McCloud. Or maybe he controls the forces, I don’t know. I’m sure you know that there’s a price on Finch’s head. So you’re not the first, uh—bounty hunter to come strolling into town. We’re all too familiar with your type.”

    At least McCloud was listening. The first two hit men stopped to take a piss under a bridge that had been standing for one-hundred and fifteen years. It squashed them flat. What are the odds? The next two died in a fiery crash on the interstate. The next three men all died in a plane crash. I told him as much.

    McCloud’s demeanor betrayed no fear or hesitation. He was well aware of these bizarre prior incidents and remained unfazed. He made that clear and asked, “Are you done?”

    “No!” I said. “That’s just the beginning. It’s seems that things get worse when these people are actually in town, like you are now.”

    He looked bored, but I continued anyway. “Mudslides took out a trio of probable killers from New Jersey.”

    “Probably clumsy.” He said.

    “A flood took out two more killers a month later, unfortunately it also took most of the train station with them; then, three guys from Montana were trampled to death—by stampeding milk cows up on Sutter’s Ridge. Their vehicle was found nearby with two sniper rifles in it and a trove of related gear. Their estates have filed suit anyway.”

    “Sometimes the milk gets you.” McCloud said, pulling a toothpick out of his top pocket. He began to pick at his big white teeth, pausing once to comment. “So, what is he, some kind of freak?”

    “Can a freak summon a flood? Or cause a bridge to collapse? I don’t know. I only know that it isn’t working and we just want to cancel the contract. All contracts. We’d like our money back as well—minus expenses.”

    He smiled. “I don’t do refunds. What you paid, is what you owe if you back out. Once the problem is eliminated, you pay the balance. It’s okay, people cancel and back-out all the time, but they don’t get a refund. But I might make an exception in this case, on one condition. I want an answer to my question.”

    “Why? Oh he’s an evil man, Mr. McCloud. He makes the rest of us look like saints.”

    “So, the whole town is in on it?”

    “Everyone who is anyone. The Town Council voted on it.”

    “So you were in on it too?” He grinned, showing off those big white teeth.

    It’s not often you get complimented by a cold-blooded killer. I nodded, and smiled sheepishly. “I was.”

    “You were? From the beginning?” He seemed doubtful, which hurt a little.

    “From the beginning,” I confessed. “I would say I was instrumental.”

    That’s when he showed me his badge. He was a U.S. Marshal and was wearing a wire. Two of his deputies stepped out of the foliage behind me, in case I tried to run.

    “Thanks for clarifying your part in the conspiracy, but it doesn’t tell me what I wanted to know,” McCloud said. “Why’d you all decide to cancel the hit?”

    Apparently, those were his last words.

    I woke up in a hospital bed three days later. The Marshal had been struck by lightning that killed him instantly, his two deputies survived but suffered complete and permanent memory loss. The rest of the deadly amperage went through the table and into the ground. That’s why I survived.

    A critical surveillance vehicle was also damaged in all the confusion of the storm: the lightning; the injuries; the doors were left open; everything was exposed to the weather; even recovered evidence could not be admissible. The entire investigation was left in chaos and eventually suspended. No charges were ever filed.

    The reason we canceled the hit? The new Mayor thinks we can kill Finch ourselves. I’ve hired a realtor.< \font color>

    Reply
    • September 1, 2019 at 7:18 pm
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      Nice!!! Ken C., Enjoyed your story, especially the end.

      Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 2:56 am
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      That’s a real Ken C. story: entertaining, surprising, masterfully narrated.

      Reply
    • September 3, 2019 at 4:14 am
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      Hi Ken,

      It’s nice to be able to sit down and try to work my way through this latest batch of stories. But best of all, I really love this story you have created. It really tells a story and we all know that takes real skill in 1200 words, includes a bit of back story.

      It has an interesting last line which puzzled me on first reading. I was pretty sure that a realtor is what we call an estate agent so then I think the ending becomes clear. The narrator ( named only as “turd” by Finch) is not going to stay in town to wait and see what happens. He’s going to get out. Fast.

      The dialogue is spot on. Although I have never had a conversation regarding the hiring or firing of a hit man, it felt right. There was tension and suspicion in the words which really should be there. It was a clever “sting” by the US Marshal wearing a wire.

      You leave your readers dangling too as we never really find out much about Finch and why the whole town wanted him dead.

      (I am just going to read the story again to see if I have missed any breadcrumbs. Hold on a minute, I’ll be back.)

      Back again. No, I can’t see any real answers to who Finch is apart from the comment that he is an evil man who makes the rest of the town look like saints.

      So, great story, good characters, excellent dialogue. This will be hard to beat Ken.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 12:23 am
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        Thanks Ken,

        That’s a very thorough and highly appreciated critique. Sorry I haven’t commented on your story yet, or many stories at all. It’s a tropical thing. I live on the east coast of Florida. The weather’s been a bit dicey the past few days. We battened, boarded and secured everything we could, have left town, and I can read and comment as long as I can find Internet service.

        Reply
        • September 4, 2019 at 5:26 am
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          Hi Ken C,

          Sorry to hear about the situation where you are. Hope you can get back home soon and find everything just as you left it. We hear about this on the UK news but unless you are actually experiencing it, you cannot really comprehend.

          When my wife and I lived in Lincolnshire back in 2012 we had a freak storm that flooded our little rural cottage and then, several months later, two days after we had new carpets laid and new furniture in place, we had another flood. The second one was far worse and we both literally sat down and cried. It had a far more devastating impact upon us than the first one. We thought that we would never be able to sell the house and would have to stay put. Things turned out OK in the end, thank goodness.

          I’m not sure what has happened to the stories this time around. I haven’t found the time to comment upon all the stories and have had virtually no comments upon mine. Perhaps we are all otherwise occupied. Reading the stories is fine but adding serious comments really takes up a lot of time and energy.

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
        • September 5, 2019 at 2:40 am
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          Hope it’s passed and hasn’t affected you too much, Ken. Take care.

          Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 5:44 pm
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      Good story, Ken – good for the plot, good for the dialogue (I never get tired of praising you for that – “Sometimes the milk gets you.”!! – but I’m not sure why the section beginning ‘The first two hit men stopped to take a piss…’ is not in the form of dialogue …), good for the ending, good for the title (great title!), and good for Finch. He’s an extremely scary character – in person, and indirectly, through the impact he has on those around him. I’m trying to find a story I read once (I thought it was a Bradbury, but I can’t find it) of a family who are terrified of their son because of a strange, deadly, cruel and indiscriminate power he has; your story reminded me of that. Very good.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2019 at 9:29 am
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        Phil,
        thanks for the praise. Can’t get enough of that. Too much? Yes. Enough? Never. Yes, the story you’re thinking of, I know it, and read it a long time ago. Can’t remember the author offhand. (Probably because I never read it. Read on for explanation.) But the story is contained, in its entirety, in the movie ‘The Twilight Zone.’ (I’ll try and find the author in a minute.) Found it, it was originally written by Rod Serling as one of the episodes of the Twilight Zone television series, and then brilliantly turned into a movie sequence in the cinematic edition of the same name.

        Revisiting the original, my story seems almost like a prequel to that one. Maybe if, let’s just say, my character Finch, had a son one day. A very bad son with ‘a strange, deadly,’ power and a cruel and indiscriminate sense of justice.

        By the way, things are good. The storm spared us, (The entire state in fact.) But not those poor people in The Bahamas.

        Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 3:47 am
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      Hi Ken,

      Your story gripped me from the start and the tension never left me till the last line.

      Your talent in exposing nearly everything – from backstory to ongoing events, to people’s characters, suspicions, weaknesses and moods and overall atmosphere – almost exclusively through dialogue is awesome.

      I think I had said something along those lines for “A Mother’s Love”, but got to repeat here, for you’ve done it again! Just don’t take this one down, this time! It’s a masterclass in dialogue-driven fiction we can all refer to. Well, once bitten twice shy, I have just nicked a copy-paste of your story on my computer in case you decide to vanish it, like the other time!

      Seriously, I strive hard in my stories to expose as much as possible through dialogue – I know that it keeps readers reading without getting bored. As in life, we talk in direct speech not chunky paragraphs. Yet, I keep getting those chunky paragraphs in the way of my writing. I only manage to trim them down in my maniacal chiseling operation to get the whole thing under the 1,200 word limit.

      But I wish I could say so much by saying so little and let my characters do most of the talking for me, the way you seem to do so naturally.

      This is not a fast moving story like “A Mother’s Love”, and the slow pace is what one expects in a conversation dealing with plans to cold-bloodedly kill someone. The slowness actually builds up the tension in pretty much the same way fast-talking does in a story driven by urgency.

      I would have expected some more colorful language, given the kind of men we have in front of us. I mean some profanities peppering the tense dialogue. But then we discover that the calm killer is actually a Marshall doing his job. And “turd” is close to government circles. So that may have kept a tab on the language front.

      The Marshall bit comes as a very believable surprise. We feel that our narrator is done in, but then the Marshall and his aides (and recording equipment) are almost literally vaporized in very unusual circumstances. It would have been unbelievable elsewhere, but you had cleverly prepared us for this. With Finch, these strange things happen: we know that as a fact of life by the time the Marshall et al leave this world in such an extraordinary way. I had some issue, if you remember,

      Like Ken F. also said, I was somewhat confused about the realtor bit at the end. [It can’t be just a “Ken thing”. I mean you’re also…] But then I got it (I think). Perhaps you can add something else to the realtor. The truck is fully-laden with supplies to last well into the Mexican border, maybe even all the way down to Colombia, for good measure. Non-stop, one-way.

      I hope, Ken, you and your family fared through the storms without damage or injuries. Oh, reality, now! I think Florida has been spared the worst beating from Dorian, right? Fingers tightly crossed for the Carolinas…

      Really, hope you’re fine. Let us know please, as soon as you can.

      Ken M.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2019 at 9:44 am
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        Ken M.

        Thanks Ken. Yes, we’re fine. Spared, (until the next one.)

        Thank you very much for your lavish praise. Which, I should ‘nick a copy-paste’ and hang on my, on my wall, or somewhere where I can read it when I need encouragement.

        I must state, for the record, that your comments are incredibly insightful, usually funny, always positive and great fun to read. I mean all of your comments on all of the stories. You’re right up there with Phil in your level of acumen. (And that is no small compliment, let me tell you.) Plus, as a bonus, your comments are longer, so, more fun.

        I wanted to add that I too spend inordinate amounts of time chiseling my excessive prose, and dialogue down into short, digestible, believable chunks of copy. So it’s nice to hear that I’ve succeeded in achieving some degree of success from time to time. Again, thank you for the praise, Ken.

        Reply
  • September 1, 2019 at 5:35 am
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    Mishap.

    > Sometimes some things are better left unsaid. You should learn to control your tongue.

    >> Yes, my dear wife! Thank you! Just what I need, some clever remarks! You see, I’m trying to help you!

    > Hey, don’t complain! If anyone has the right to complain, it would be me, you moron! Without your carelessness, I wouldn’t be in this position.

    >> You always like to complain. I know that. Remember you started screaming when your little toe …

    > … when you dropped a Christmas tree stand on my little toe, you mean. Because you were too stupid to fix the tree in the stand. I remember.

    >> I’m more the intellectual type, interested in the big picture. Details don’t appeal to me.

    > For an intellectual, you are sometimes amazingly stupid, my dear husband. You never think! And I have to suffer when you don’t.

    >> Yes, let your anger out! Say anything you like! Scold me if that makes you feel better!

    > I would feel better if you could fix the mess you made. I don’t want to sit on this table all my life.

    >> Yes, I’m trying. And if I had a few minutes to think, then perhaps I’d find a solution.

    > When do you think you’ll find a solution? I can’t stand this much longer.

    >> Don’t worry! I’ll come up with something. I always find a way out, you know that. I’ve already googled the problem.

    > And? Found something?

    >> Not yet, unfortunately!

    > I can’t imagine that you’ll find such formulas on Google. Isn’t that a secret or something?

    >> Yeah, it’s considered secret knowledge and reserved for trained magicians. You have to have ten years of training, the guy told me.

    > Great! But you aren’t a magician, and you don’t have ten years of training either. You’re a wholesale merchant and there’s nothing magical in that, if you ask me.

    >> Yes, yes, I know! You’re right!

    > So how the hell did you manage to work a spell only trained magicians are allowed to know and use?

    >> We bet.

    > What?! You bet?

    >> Yes, we bet. In the bar. The guy didn’t believe I could recite all the Roman emperors in the right order. You know, most people think I’m stupid. But of course he lost.

    > Oh God! Not again with the Roman emperors! What is less important than Roman emperors in the right order!

    >> People just think they could easily win against me. But of course he lost. We’d bet for a bottle of Single Malt. He had to buy it for me. Then he realized that he didn’t have enough money. He was so embarrassed.

    > And then he gave you the spell instead?

    >> Yes he did. He said if I ever had problems with a quarrelsome wife …

    > Quarrelsome wife? He said that? Did you tell him about us?

    >> No I didn’t! Uh, well … yes, I did! Unfortunately! We were drunk. And that’s what you do in a bar. You moan a bit.

    > You were drunk and full of self-pity, dear! You’re an idiot! You told that strange man you had a quarrelsome wife at home. I won’t let you get away with this!

    >> It wasn’t like that!

    > That’s exactly how it was, I think. I know you, my dear! I’ve known you for over 30 long years! And then this man gave you a spell?

    >> Yes, I’m afraid. I’m so sorry. He wrote it down on a beer-mat.

    > And you, you dumbass, have nothing better to do than pick it up at breakfast the next morning and try out the spell?

    >> I’m sorry. It was a mistake! It was a mishap!

    > And now you’ve put a spell on me, and shrunk me until I’m no bigger than a Barbie doll. And then you remember that the guy gave you no spell to undo it?

    >> Yes, I didn’t think of that! I’m so sorry. I want to apologize for that!

    > Say, was it just stupidity? Or was that intentional? Even you can’t be that stupid!

    >> My dear! If you want me to help you, you could try to be a bit nicer to me. Friendly, you know! Otherwise I could lose the desire to find a solution.

    > So, what do you plan to do now?

    >> I thought I’d go back to the bar tonight. Maybe he’ll come, then I could ask him.

    > And if he doesn’t come?

    >> Well, we still have all the toys from our daughter. You could live in Barbie’s dream home or in Barbie’s camper. We also have all the clothes, the evening dresses and Barbie’s bridal gown. And the horse, of course!

    > You bastard! You can’t do that!

    >> And please, beware of the cat, my dear! It hasn’t been fed today.< \font color>

    Reply
    • September 2, 2019 at 6:07 pm
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      Another entertaining story from you, Jürgen – pure dialogue, but we get the scene and the action very clearly. I like the ultra-formal way the couple speak to each other (‘dear wife’, etc.); I can imagine they’re saying things through clenched teeth. (It could be the fantasy endgame for ‘The War of the Roses’ [film with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner?]).You invariably take us into fantasy situations alongside ‘real’ ones, and this is no exception; it works well. I have to suspend disbelief, but I can still imagine the husband winning the spell down the pub. Favourite line: “Oh God! Not again with the Roman emperors!” Great fun.

      Reply
    • September 3, 2019 at 4:22 am
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      Hi jurgen,

      Another fine example of your off beat style which is so very entertaining.
      It is also skilfully written as you keep back what has happened to the wife until near the end. It was not something I could see coming.
      Killer last line, or perhaps it will be if the cat comes in.

      Clever use of dialogue without the he said, she saids.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 12:42 am
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      I love the dialogue. It’s a fun, fast moving story–like watching a ping-pong, or tennis match. Very nicely done, you also manage to maintain the illusion of his genuine concern until the very last line. ‘It hasn’t been fed today.’ Once again, you’ve come up with an exquisitely unique creative fiction.

      Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 10:06 am
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      In short, an enjoyable story you have there. Cleverly brought in the element of magic…”I don’t want to sit ON this table all my life.”
      And then the cat..Wicked husband, I tellya!
      His magnanimity of suggesting all the Barbie home and clothes. There’s a song “I am a barbie doll”. he coulda sung!
      Funny yet wicked.

      Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 4:35 am
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      “I could lose the desire to find a solution”

      Nice one Jürgen! Comical and tragic at the same time. I suspected at some point along the story that he doesn’t really want to find a solution. This situation fits him perfectly fine. It had been thirty years in the coming…

      Then the cat at the end confirmed my suspicion. I mean he could have just fed the cat. It doesn’t take googling to find how!

      A story told fully in dialogue is a worthwhile challenge, and you do it beautifully. Sometimes the dialogue gets a little “heavy” – I mean, very complete formal-sounding sentences. It may be because you had, of course, to bring out all the information, atmosphere, etc. through what these two people say. But it’s also believable that their conversation is somewhat stilted because of what is quite obviously a tense, dysfunctional couple that we’ve got here. They sometimes talk at each other, not to each other. In these specific circumstances, it fits the bill.

      Ken M.

      Reply
  • September 1, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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    Like Golden Apples on Silver Trays

    Sometimes some things are better left unsaid. But Rita had to be firm.
    “Mother, I’m coming early tomorrow to pick you up, okay?”

    “You don’t have to, Rita. I’m fine here. I like MY fridge and I know where to find yogurt and eggs. I know where the toilet is, where my toothbrush is. When I come to your home, I forget everything. It’s confusing.“

    “Mother, just listen to me. I heard you’re giving your cash away to any Tom, Dick and Harry who comes home.”

    “It’s my cash, right? I can do what I want with it. You can’t stop me. Besides, I know all of them. They help me whenever I call them. You are far away, Rita. What can you do?”

    Mama, my sister said, had somehow sneaked out to the bank on Monday, withdrawn a large chunk of her savings and taken a taxi home. She wasn’t supposed to go anywhere without a chaperon.

    It isn’t safe for an 85 year old to wander out all by herself. But Mama’s skin was still taut, her hair thick and black, bordering on grey, and could have easily passed for 75.

    When she got home, she should’ve just gone about her daily tasks. But she called some folks up from her telephone book that she still remembered and asked them if they needed ‘money’. Of course, that scoundrel Thoma was the first one to reach her door. He got a gift of 5000 Rupees. It was his goodness; he decided that landed him this windfall.

    “Remember those times I used to carry your provisions from the store to the car, Mamajee?

    She had always tipped him well. Never mind she didn’t see that he hid some in his bag.

    Then came the servants, one after the other, who had served her in her heyday, the ironing man down the road, the car cleaner, the fish guy… she summoned all of them one after the other and handed them large chunks of money. Needless to say they were thrilled.

    They said, “May the gods bless you, Mamajee. You are so kind.” These people had a thousand gods in every nook and cranny.

    “Here, Hari, take 4000 for your daughter. Let her go to college.”

    “Would you like a 1000 to buy food, Tariq?”

    “Go, get your father a new pickaxe. Here’s 400 Rupees, Latha.”

    Some things are better left unsaid. But Mama was on a mission possible to raise the downtrodden. Before she left for the golden shore, she had to accomplish this task.

    She felt important, still worth something. She hadn’t felt this way for a long time since retiring at sixty. Until this ingenious plan, she was of no consequence. Not even at church did anybody come to say hello to her. So she stopped going to church altogether.

    “Who cares for old folks now?” she said bluntly to Reverend Jacob when he visited her once. They were starting a retirement home. A donation collection was what brought him to her home.

    The next day was Wednesday. Rita arrived by the morning train since could spare few hours away from her hectic work. She quietly packed Mama’s suitcases and hailed an Uber, back to the train station.

    Mama was down to her last 2000 Rupees.

    She sat silent as a dormouse, knowing better not to argue with Rita. They read their respective books all through the three-hour train ride home, catching short naps in between.

    The room was kept ready for her and Mama went straight to bed. Mama and daughter didn’t talk much. Neither felt bad about it.

    Rita had to check out stuff for her bank meeting the next day. She needed the quiet hour to think and plan.

    In the big city, a night’s journey away, Sam, her younger brother, was watching a movie with his pretty wife, Allie.
    Mama never ever stayed with them. Not wanting to be a burden on her daughter-in-law, she said.

    “Besides, she was born in another woman’s womb. How can she feel for me, the way my own blood can?”

    Where in the world does this in-law dilemma not exist?

    Sam’s mother was not the easiest person to have around. Allie was relieved to be spared her company. Often criticized heavily for her choice of clothes, her makeup, even her shoes, her inability to have kids, and her chubby figure.
    The list was endless.

    Some things are better left unsaid, but this mother made it a point to drive it all home at varying intervals.

    “O no! I hope you don’t think I’m being harsh, Allie. Just stating facts,” she said.

    Sam pretended he didn’t hear.

    Naturally for Allie, these ‘facts’ were hurtful. With each cruel jab, Allie distanced herself from this family she had married into.

    Whenever Allie was alone with her, Mama would wet the bed refusing to wear diapers. Those moments she didn’t want Allie anywhere near her. Everything stank and the entire home smelt awful. Friends stopped coming.

    “You gotta keep your mind clear from negative thoughts. Don’t allow them to take hold of you, no matter what,” Allie’s own dear mother had once told her.

    With her mind playing such havoc, Allie broke out in a rash. Her stomach churned after every meal. She would break out in a cold sweat suddenly out of the blue. Medical tests came out fine for that she was grateful.

    It was Monica who introduced her to church. Allie used to go there as a child with her grandma. After grandma passed on, nobody cared if she went or not.

    That Sunday evening, the choir was singing:
    ‘Are you weak and heavy-laden?
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Jesus, still my refuge,
    Take it to the Lord in prayer…’

    So Allie knelt down and did. She sought the Lord in prayer as a last resort. If Sam could see her way half the battle was won. But there he was, torn between two women. So he dunk deep into his laptop. All Allie needed was a firewall of protection and strangely enough, after she knelt down and said her prayers, she felt secure and loved.

    Rising like an eagle from doubts, despair and feelings of scorn towards this old woman- a contradiction of sorts- who to the outside world, was an angel of mercy giving away all her savings to help the poor, Allie started seeing her in new light.

    “It’s only the Lord,” Monica whispered, when Allie confided in her. “He’s changed you, Allie.”

    A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

    This month, Allie braced herself to visit the old lady who had now moved to the retirement facility. She was lying on her side; her finger and toenails were painted bright red. Her hair was white, fashionably short. Her skin glowed, being fed well and cared for. There was nobody she could rant to.

    “O it’s you, Allie. Come closer. Show me your face. Your eyebrows look dark and scratched. What’s happened? Did you fall on your face?”

    Some things are just better left unsaid.

    So Allie just smiled.

    (1199 )< \font color>

    Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 4:02 am
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        Thanks for reading, Berlinermax, which I’m sure aint your real name:)
        Yes,I agree. It’s the only answer to a difficult world.

        Reply
        • September 4, 2019 at 7:16 am
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          🙂 My real name is Jürgen, or Juergen, if your computer doesn’t know how to make these little dots. berlinermax is my online-personality.

          Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 6:00 pm
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      A complex web of relationships, spun in very few words. I really like how the perspective changes from Rita and her mother, via Sam to Allie and her mother-in-law (I’m not sure whether this change is technically kosher or not, but it works for me). I also like how you weaved several instances of the prompt into the story. And the examples of Mama’s generosity in the middle of the story are well presented. A question: is the suggestion at the end that Allie is the object of abuse from Sam? If so, that comes a little out of left field perhaps. Nice story though, Marien.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2019 at 1:13 am
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        I’m honored you read my story and for these valuable comments, Phil. It takes me back to class with good professors.
        I’ve read your stories in Short Fiction Break too. Shoulder taps to you!

        You are all master story tellers here. Grateful for this forum.

        Reply
  • September 1, 2019 at 11:51 pm
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    The People We Love the Most
    by C.N. Wilder
    1200 words

    Some things are better left unsaid, thought Abby as she boarded the bus. Her movements, her surroundings, felt surreal as she walked the aisle and found a seat near the back.

    Her sister’s death had been shocking, but not unexpected. More surprising was that Becca had left a will, and she’d named Abby guardian of the boys. She wondered, had Becca written the will before or after their fight. Or because of their fight.

    Abby’s stomach turned at the memory of what she’d said to Becca. The ring of her voice was imprinted in her mind like an ugly scar. “It would be easier for everyone if you had died.” But you can never take back words once they’re out, not really. And now it was too late for even an apology.

    She remembered the stunned silence on the other end of the line, the weight of her words hitting her, and the next word on her lips, “Becc—” being cut off with a click.

    Abby hadn’t accepted the guardianship. She didn’t want it. The boys were staying with their grandparents for now, not ideal with Mom’s dementia, but better than foster care. I had a good life, Becca. I made good decisions. I was happy. But you don’t want me to be happy, and before you left you made sure to screw up my life, too.

    A baby’s cry startled Abby from her thoughts. Her jaw ached from clenching. She rubbed the muscles on either side of her face.

    Shadows played on the seat-back in front of her, the streetlights growing farther apart as the bus retreated from the city. The baby still cried, and Abby hunkered lower in her seat futilely trying to escape the noise.

    Perhaps she slept then, but her dreams were barely distinguishable from her thoughts, angry thoughts about her life being ripped away through no fault of her own. Mournful thoughts about the sister she’d once had, but lost years ago.

    Abby never wanted kids, and Becca had known it. Why would she make Abby guardian of the boys when she knew Abby didn’t want that life? Had Becca wanted that life? Who knows what Becca had wanted, really wanted, for herself. As a kid Becca had been good at everything. She could have done anything, been anything, but she was too weak when things got hard and ended up dead at 29 with two orphaned boys. They were better off without her. It sounded cruel, but Abby thought it anyway, even if she didn’t fully believe it. Thoughts didn’t hurt like words did, but then Becca wasn’t here to be hurt by Abby anymore.

    The baby cried; its mother paced the aisle making shushing sounds, which did nothing to quiet the child. Its face was red and tear-streaked, a mirror of what Abby felt inside. The crying filled her awareness, agitating. Abby reached in her backpack for her headphones. Her fingertips brushed paper — an envelope. Becca must have sent the letter before the overdose, but by the time it arrived she was already gone. Abby had been on her way out the door when she’d seen the letter in the mailbox and stuffed it in her bag. Then she’d gotten the call and had to drop everything to pack and catch a bus back home for the funeral.

    She put on her headphones and switched on her music, which only slightly muffled the baby’s screams. She held the letter in her lap and ran her fingers over the writing on the front. Despite her flaws, Becca’s handwriting was perfect, unlike Abby’s. Drawing a breath, Abby slowly, carefully, opened the letter and read.

    Dear Sister,
    This letter is hard to write. I know you don’t think much of me anymore, but I remember a time when we were close. I hope you still feel some of the bond we once shared. I’ve been thinking about my future, Abby. I’m doing things right from now on, for Harper and Ollie. I’m clean now. I won’t lie, it’s hard to stay that way, but every time I think about taking a hit, I look at a picture of the boys. They deserve to have at least one good parent, and it won’t be Daniel, so it has to be me.

    What you said to me — you were right. I don’t want to be that person anymore, Abby, so after coming home from the hospital I vowed to get my life together. I got a job. Did Mom tell you? Probably not. I don’t think she knows who I am half the time. It’s nice in a way though, because when she forgets I’m still her innocent little girl.

    I’m doing things right this time, which means thinking about the future. I spoke with Legal Aid and the lawyer said if something happens to me Daniel will get custody of the boys. I can’t let that happen. The lawyer said to get a last will and testament and name a guardian. I’d like to name you, Abby. It would mean the world to me to know you had my back if the worst were to happen.

    Remember when we were little and played by the lake? We could do anything then. We were free. The world was ours. I want the boys to have that, a childhood without worries, just the freedom to be children and know they’re safe. I’m doing my best to give them that, but I struggle every day, Abby. Think about it and let me know. I’ll call you in a few days.
    Love, with all my heart,
    Becca

    Abby wiped her cheeks with her sleeve, folded the letter and stuffed it back in its envelope.

    The baby still cried, invading Abby’s mind with shrill noise.

    She wanted to scream at the mother, control your kid! But she didn’t. Why could she hold her tongue for a stranger but not her own sister? It’s the people we love the most who we hurt the most. Abby thought of her nephews. Her parents. Her family. The people she loved the most.

    The bus exited the highway and turned toward Abby’s home town. “Christ, Becca,” she whispered, it isn’t easier with you gone. Of course it’s not. She wondered, if she’d kept those wretched words locked in her mind, would Becca still be here? Would Harper and Ollie still have a mother?

    The child’s cries eased. The mother stopped pacing and sat across the aisle in front of Abby. She swayed, rubbing his back. Dark curls matted in sweat stuck to one of his cheeks, the other pressed into his mother’s neck. His brown eyes locked on Abby.

    Her face softened. She brought Becca’s letter up, pressing the beautifully formed letters of her name to her chest, all the while watching the boy’s eyes droop and then close until sleep finally won.

    Abby couldn’t turn her back on Harper and Ollie. She would take them, and when they asked about their mother Abby would do her best to be honest, but also kind. Abby’s feelings were irrelevant as far as Harper and Ollie were concerned, and, sometimes, some things are better left unsaid.< \font color>

    Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 6:16 pm
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      A lovely story, CN – forgiveness making things better or everyone: Abby, Harper & Ollie, Becca’s memory. (But what was the original row about? Becca’s addiction? I think it might have been better to know.) The letter is perhaps a bit of a cliché, but it works well here (although how it ends up in Abby’s bag is maybe a little contrived. She could, say, have had the letter in her bag from ages ago and held back from opening it because she was still so angry with Becca, but now the bus trip to the funeral is the ideal moment to let bygones be bygones…). This change of perspective is a little awkward: “I had a good life, Becca…” etc.). Nice ending.

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 6:17 pm
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        “… better FOR everyone …”

        Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 7:52 pm
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        Phil, thanks for the feedback!

        Reply
  • September 3, 2019 at 8:49 am
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    We witness a Shakespearian tragedy turning into another kind of tragedy, one of the very enjoyable kind. I didn’t have a co-star at hand, but I imagined the theatrical voices quite well.

    Reply
  • September 3, 2019 at 12:45 pm
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    Unspoken by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [432 word count]

    Dear D.

    Sometimes, some things are better left unsaid. You taught me that. I learned that once you say something, you can’t take it back. Those words don’t belong just to you anymore. You wear them like a yoke, like a collar, like a scarlet “A.” So I sat there saying nothing. My thoughts are full, clogging my mind with all the unsaid things.

    I want to tell you that I hate you, that I loved you, that I’m where I am because of you. All the good, all the bad, it’s because you treated me the way you did. You pushed me to be better than I was, then punished me for being better than you. So I learned to not say anything. I chose to sit in silence, all the scars you gave me sealing my mouth shut.

    The weight of all these words has worn me down. A life lived in small talk and platitudes is much too small for me. Don’t worry; the words won’t come tumbling out in a rush breaking through the levees you’ve built around your shallow ego. I won’t drown you in all I never said. I’ll just flow past you, leaving you in my wake. (All this silence has driven me to beat a dead metaphor I guess.)

    I remember a garden I saw once at a monastery in Kyoto. The monks had tended it for four or five hundred years. It was beautiful in its way; every stone, every branch, every small bit of moss was there because the monks wanted it just so. But that isn’t nature, not really. The beauty of the forest is its wildness, its surprises. Growth can’t happen without change, without conflict, without something to challenge it. I can’t be your bonsai anymore.

    I write you this last letter by the light of our burning house. My final gift to you is to challenge your stagnation – to spur your growth. Running after me or trying to punish me is something the old you would do. Break free and become a new man. You broke and remade me, I’m confident you can become a better version of yourself just the same.

    I hope you come to realize that I’m not leaving to punish you, but to set myself free. I’ll always remember you – sometimes fondly, sometimes with sadness, but if I don’t leave now I can never look back without regret.

    XX
    M.

    PS I emptied the safe so don’t worry, all your important papers didn’t burn.

    PPS I took the dog, so don’t look for her either< \font color>

    Reply
    • September 3, 2019 at 12:47 pm
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      I know it’s another short one. I just really struggled with this prompt. I could only come up with really dark scenarios and not in a good way lol.

      Reply
    • September 4, 2019 at 8:55 am
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      Hi Wendy,

      Oh, so she really burned down the house! I thought it was a metaphorical fire, at first… Well, it was too.

      There is a poetic quality to this piece. So much happens (on the inside and the outside) in so little space. There are also several little big gems I took out from it, to keep:

      “Once you say something, you can’t take it back. Those words don’t belong just to you anymore.” – this is my fave take on the better left unsaid prompt stories I read so far. So true!

      “The beauty of the forest is its wildness, its surprises. Growth can’t happen… without conflict, without something to challenge it. I can’t be your bonsai anymore.”

      “A life lived in small talk… is much too small for me.”

      Great stuff. Poetic and philosophical. But she didn’t forget to empty the safe either.

      Well done, I like it!

      Ken M.

      Reply
      • September 4, 2019 at 11:27 am
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        Thank you Ken M. I started the story a couple times and kept some of those lines from the first attempt because I liked them and built from there. I guess it worked out alright but it was a struggle this time.

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    • September 4, 2019 at 6:29 pm
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      Brief but very effective, Wendy. You’ve encapsulated all of M’s contradictions (“I want to tell you that I hate you, that I loved you …”) with some very striking language (and here I refer to Ken M’s comments, where he lists some beautiful lines). A lot of what happened in the relationship is hidden, but enough is suggested to let us know why M is leaving. It’s heartening, though, that despite her bitterness, she hasn’t dropped entirely to D’s level (yes, she burns the house down, but isn’t so petty that she destroys important documents of his at the same time). And in the end the dog gets saved; what more could you want?

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      • September 9, 2019 at 1:36 pm
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        Haha, I like how you discount her burning the house down. I see you’re on her side lol.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 8:53 pm
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    “Her Eyes”

    “Sometimes some things are better left unsaid”.
    Hmm. Who said that? I know I heard it somewhere. Like it even mattered.
    I traced the ornate design. My dull and lifeless eyes studied it for the millionth time that day. It truly was beautiful.
    CRASH!
    I slowly walked over to where the mirror now lay in broken fragments. I started picking up the pieces.

    “I’m always hearing how the boys think your eyes are so pretty,” I sighed wistfully. “I wish I had eyes people would compliment.”
    “Maybe I’ll let you have them when I die,” she said jokingly.
    “You make weird jokes.”

    I glanced at my reflection. It was hers as well.

    “Why didn’t you go?!” I cried. “You could’ve seen the Golden Gate!”
    “Yeah, but Ethan was there.”
    “Who cares about your ex? You would’ve seen it in all its glory! You had the chance to see something amazing, but you didn’t take it!” I clenched my fists. “You don’t even realize what you’ve got, and because of that, you’re wasting them.” Then I yelled, “If you’re not going to use your eyes, you shouldn’t even have them!”

    I looked at myself in the mirror. An ocean of blue. That’s what the guys had said to her. What they now said to me. I watched as something trickled down my cheek. A tear. The first time I’ve ever cried one. Or seen one.
    The phone rang. I picked it up from the counter and answered it. “How are you doing?” Richard, my friend, asked, concern clearly in his voice. I didn’t reply and instead hung up.
    I ignored the phone as it started ringing again.
    They’d found her body drifting down the river. She had gone to the doctor three days ago. She’d told me it was just a regular checkup. But then the doctor said that she’d gone there to register as an organ donor if she were to ever die. Three days later, she was stabbed in the chest.
    And guess who got the eyes?

    Reply
    • September 3, 2019 at 9:02 pm
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      I forgot to put the title: it’s “Her Eyes”. Also, the word count’s 338

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      • September 3, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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        Fixed!

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    • September 4, 2019 at 11:08 am
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      Welcome Taylor, glad to have you with us!

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    • September 4, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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      (Welcome, Taylor!) A puzzle, this – like the shards of the shattered mirror. So the narrator got his friend’s/lover’s/wife’s eyes? Was the narrator blind before (I imagine so, he way he/she stares fascinatedly at the design of the mirror). I don’t think I’ve solved all the puzzle, though. I’m tempted to ask you what it’s all about, in fact … but that would spoil the fun, I suppose. One technical point: if the police found the body floating down the river, would the eyes have been usable?

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      • September 4, 2019 at 6:42 pm
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        Oh, and did the narrator kill the eye-donor?

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  • September 4, 2019 at 7:56 am
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    I got nothin’ this round.
    I really hope now that summer is over and maybe I can get my stuff together and get some stories knocked out!

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    • September 4, 2019 at 9:01 am
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      I think that’s a winner – you indeed left it all unsaid 🙂

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      • September 4, 2019 at 9:45 am
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        This gets my vote for best comment!

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    • September 5, 2019 at 5:49 am
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      Me also. I’ll just vote. Want to comment but very very depressed at the moment. Black dog biting hard…

      Reply
  • September 4, 2019 at 12:18 pm
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    Okay folks, this story thread is now closed and it is time to vote. For those of you new to the group, I will post a link below that will take you to a voting page where you can choose 5 of your favorite stories. You must vote in order for your story to count, and you Can Not vote for yourself. Good luck peeps, and thank you for your participation.

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-for-august-22-september-4-2019-writing-prompt-sometimes-some-things-are-better-left-unsaid/

    Reply
  • September 5, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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    I’ll have the results soon. Still waiting on votes from Chitra, C.N. and Taylor.

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    • September 5, 2019 at 12:20 pm
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      Sorry Alice, I won’t vote this time. I am away on holiday and Internet connection is not very good here. I am struggling to read all stories. I don’t wish to delay the voting process.please go ahead without me.
      Thanks

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      • September 5, 2019 at 12:40 pm
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        Okay Chitra, have a great time, hope we see you next time. I’ll have the new prompt up later today 🙂

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  • September 5, 2019 at 1:46 pm
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    “Things Better Left Unsaid” – September 05, 2019

    THE WINNER IS!!

    First Place: The Breakup by Kristin Record

    2nd Place: How To Kill A Finch by Ken Cartisano
    3rd Place: Mishap by berlinermax
    4th Place: Seeds by Phil Town
    5th Place: A Stranger In Need by Ken Miles
    6th Place: A Roman Affair by Ken Frape
    7th Place: Unspoken Truths by Dennis Wagers
    8th Place: Rule Of Dreams by Writer2019
    9th Place: Unspoken by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    10th Place: Like Golden Apples on Silver Trays by Marien Oommen
    11the Place: Some Things Said by Neha Neil

    **Chitra Adjoodah, Taylor Crosby, and C.N. Wilder did not vote

    Favorite Character: “Finch” from How To Kill A Finch by Ken Cartisano
    Character Dialogue: (TIE): Mishap by berlinermax, and A Roman Affair by Ken Frape

    Congratulations Kristin and Welcome to the Writer’s Group!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 5:41 pm
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      Congratulations, Kristin! That really was a great story.

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    • September 5, 2019 at 7:39 pm
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      Congratulations Kristin! Great writing!

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    • September 5, 2019 at 9:06 pm
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      Darn, I missed the voting. But congratulations Kristin! I loved your story.

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  • September 6, 2019 at 7:12 pm
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    Congratulations Kristin…. (On preventing three Ken’s from finishing in the top five. We were — that— close. –> < (How close? See space between arrows.) Oh well, maybe next time.) Wonderful story though, Kristin. I think the appropriate word here is, 'diabolical.'

    Reply

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