January 31 – February 13, 2019 Flash Fiction Contest “The Goodbye Letter”

Theme: The Goodbye Letter

Your story should be a goodbye letter written from one character to another. It can be a break up letter, the end of a friendship, or someone dying writing a letter to a loved one.

Word Count: 1,200




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

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

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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207 thoughts on “January 31 – February 13, 2019 Flash Fiction Contest “The Goodbye Letter”

  • January 31, 2019 at 1:43 pm
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked here within 24 hours after your posted it, please let us know as we may have missed the comment.)

    Reply
    • February 4, 2019 at 1:56 pm
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      Can’t wait to see the stories and comments!

      Reply
    • February 6, 2019 at 10:06 am
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      Do You Remember?
      Adrienne Riggs
      (1020 Words)
      Hey You,

      Yes, YOU. Remember me? I was only 8 the night you changed my life in 1969. Perhaps you remember that little girl that I once was – tiny, with long red hair and freckles. Ring a bell? Do you remember the pink pajamas that I wore as I slept deeply in innocent sleep in your sister’s bedroom? I remember them. I remember that night. Those pink pajamas are seared into my brain and that was the last night I would ever sleep again in safety and security. It was the last night I would dream without nightmares because I woke up to a nightmare that never went away.

      My life was a journey and in one night you changed the course of my life, you changed Me. I would never be the same again. You were a thief. Do you want to know what you stole from me? Do you even care? You stole my ability to sleep peacefully. You stole my belief that the world was a great place. You stole my trust, my security, and my peace of mind. From the moment I woke up to find myself in your bed, with you holding my body down and your hand over my mouth, I was shattered. I was broken and I would never be whole again.
      You taught me some things as well. You taught me that there are people in the world that can’t be trusted.

      You taught me that monsters were real and the biggest monster was you. You taught me fear. Correction, you taught me what terror was! Do you remember telling me that I was “bad” and I would get into trouble if I told what you had done? Do you remember digging the big, deep hole in the lot across the street from your house the next day? You told me it was a “grave” and only “bad people” go into graves. Do you remember picking me up and throwing me into the “grave” as I screamed and screamed in terror? You made me believe I was “bad”. You made me fear death and darkness and falling.

      There was one thing that you couldn’t take from me that night. You couldn’t take my faith in God. After I escaped your room and you sent me back to bed, I stood in the dim hallway outside your parent’s room. My body was cold and hot tears ran down my face but I held on to that one thing. Do you remember the Serenity prayer hanging on the wall in the hallway? I didn’t understand all of the words but I hung onto to the words, ‘God grant me’ and ‘courage’.

      For you, it must have seemed like a night of fun and exploration and power. For me, it was a devastating life-changing event. Time stopped that night and created a log jam in my mind that I had great difficulty trying to get past. I had always been quiet and shy. After that night, I mastered the art of becoming invisible. I learned how to shrink into corners, blend in with the furniture and escape the notice of others. I developed stomach aches that never went away and I could not eat food like I wanted. I choked and gagged and my mother called me a “picky eater”. If only she knew the truth. I learned to avoid food and skip meals. I learned how to stealthily feed the dog under the table so the folks would think I’d eaten. I learned the art of disassociation. I only knew it as the ability to “fly away” in my mind when bad things were happening to the poor little girl with red hair and freckles.

      I tried to bury the pain, thoughts and feelings from that night. With my love of reading, I buried myself in books where I could escape into other worlds and places and make friends with characters who could never hurt me. I learned to write stories and poetry. My natural artistic talent came out and I drew pictures of happy places and pretty things. All of these were solitary activities which reinforced my isolation from the cruel places in a dark world. This was the world that you introduced me to that fateful night.

      I wondered over the years, did you also touch your sister? Did you destroy the worlds of other girls? Did you ever realize what you had done? Were you ever haunted by the thoughts of your depravity? I’ve learned to move on although I still can’t eat and I still have nightmares and I never really trust anyone. Your parents died. Did they know who you really were and the depths of your evil mind? I used to hunger and thirst for justice but that was never to be. Or was it? It’s over 40 years later and the word is that you are lying in your death bed, riddled with cancer. As the cancer eats away at your body, do the thoughts of what you did eat at your soul and mind? Do you feel terror? Do you fear death?

      I no longer feel hatred for you. I had visions of actually sending this letter to you and imagining how you would react to my words. Would you remember or was that night just another night to you? I don’t have the energy for anger, hatred or revenge any more. I just want to free of the ghosts of the past. I wrote this letter at the advice of my counselor. As a writer, I know that words have power and releasing them has freed me. So, I will not be sending this missive to you. Why destroy the lives of your family who may not be aware of the monster you truly are and were?

      I have the letter and a box of matches in my hand. I’m headed outside to burn it and the memories associated with that night. Soon you will be dead from cancer but you are already dead to me.

      Goodbye.

      Reply
      • February 8, 2019 at 2:22 pm
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        One heck of a story, Adrienne. So real I have to assume this is autobiographical with poetic license. Well done, and I hope it helped to write it. If it’s not real, then, girl, you deserve a medal for putting this kind of pain down on paper for others to read and see themselves in your words.

        Reply
        • February 11, 2019 at 10:32 am
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          Roy, you always seem to know me so well and you are very astute. Thanks for the comments! Adi

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          • February 12, 2019 at 9:51 am
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            You were a good listener to my critiques when you first started. It’s good to see you back writing, and I’m glad your Mom and Dad are doing better. You, however, seem to catch every single germ related condition that happens inside the midwest. What’s up with that? Keep on writing, darlin’, I’ll be reading.

        • February 17, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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          Roy,

          You stated that I seem to catch every single germ related condition that happens inside the midwest and you wanted to know what’s up with that. I can tell you it’s because I moved to wonderful west Tennessee 23 years ago and I am “blessed” to live near the Tennessee river and the Hatchie river bottom which, according to the locals is rife with all types of bacteria and allergens. After we moved here, my son (who was an infant) developed spasmodic croup and asthma. I also developed asthma and other breathing problems. I also have Reactive Airway Disorder and vocal chord dysfunction. Sooo, the bottom line is – whenever I get a cold, my allergies flare up, or sinus problems, they ALWAYS end up in my chest and then I’m fighting bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, pleurisy, or pneumonia. Lots of fun. I just live with it. LOL

          Reply
          • February 18, 2019 at 8:52 am
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            So, I was right then. Have you considered moving, are just too many grandbabies around where you are to leave? Plus, well, duh, there’s your mom and dad, too, I suppose. Just keep on having lots of fun, I guess.

      • February 10, 2019 at 6:32 pm
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        Seems a convincing portrait of a victim of abuse, Adi.
        And a neat, somewhat challenging touch, that instead of cancer being an affliction for a sympathetic character (as it usually is in fiction) it’s here as the just deserts for an abuser.

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        • February 11, 2019 at 10:31 am
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          Thanks Andy!

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      • February 10, 2019 at 8:54 pm
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        A powerful message, Adi, laden with pain. The probing questioning (especially the repeated “Do you remember …”) is an effective device; it’s basically a way for the victim to remember once again the horror of that night but at the same time to pass it on to the perpetrator, although he will never see it. I doubt, unfortunately, that he will remember it all on his deathbed – as the writer hopes he will. From what’s been said in the body of the letter, I don’t really believe the last line, to tell you the truth: “you are already dead to me”. I fear the writer will continue to remember, long after the perpetrator has gone. (Intentionally) uncomfortable reading.

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        • February 11, 2019 at 10:31 am
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          Thanks for the kind words Phil! I guess you have a point about the ending. At the time someone would write this letter, they might not have totally moved on yet.

          There were not enough words left (in the word count) to convey the positive changes in the writer and I thought that writing about the pain and abuse would be powerful enough to get the point across of the long-term effects of sexual abuse. I wanted the letter to be something that conveyed all of the aspects of abuse after it occurs.

          Thank you for reading it!

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      • February 11, 2019 at 12:25 am
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        Adi,

        Your story is compelling and disturbingly familiar. Whether it’s true or not is beside the point. It’s factual enough for too many women and children. Like most victims in real life, there is no happy ending, no heroics, just an ordinary person coping with a great wrong. Many of life’s victims, denied justice, deprived of solace, still manage to endure despite the grief inflicted by their loss of innocence.

        Having said that, your writing is so exquisitely fine, balanced and elegant, that even terrible stories like this one are bestowed with a divine-like shimmering aura. Your writing is too beautiful to convincingly convey horror, but failing in that, you’ve successfully conveyed hope, patience, intelligence, beauty and kindness.

        And that stubborn endurance, in a strange way, is the ultimate victory of good over evil.

        Reply
        • February 11, 2019 at 10:41 am
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          Ken,

          Thanks for the beautiful comments! I almost blushed with pleasure over your words about my writing. i love your last line because it is so true – stubborn endurance is the ultimate victory of good over evil.

          Now, about your statement that my writing is “too beautiful to convincingly convey horror” is concerning. LOL! Let me explain why. I am currently in the middle of writing a novel that takes place in a haunted asylum where some very awful things took place and how these horrors came to be known. There is present day horror at the dilapidated old asylum as well. I’ve never written a horror/thriller story and I wanted to challenge myself. I’ve scared myself with some of the things I’ve written (but then, I’m easy to scare). What a dismal failure it will be if my novel does not convey the horror I’m aiming for. I may have to send you portions to read so you can judge my horror writing ability!

          Thanks again for the comments!

          Adi

          Reply
          • February 12, 2019 at 1:21 am
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            Adi,

            A haunted asylum? That sounds fabulous. I would be happy to give you feedback any time. And when it comes to writing horror, in my opinion, Ilana is the current reigning champion in that area. Perhaps you might seek her feedback as well.

            It’s always a pleasure when you post here too. (If you ain’t too busy.) Hint, hint.

      • February 11, 2019 at 4:48 am
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        Hi Adrienne,
        What a powerful piece of writing. I can only guess at the source of your inspiration and it is so sad to think that many children must have been put through this kind of trauma.
        Your writing is wonderful as you describe things that are so bleak. I think the other comments that you have received from the other writers really sum things up.
        Well done1
        Ken Frape ( Ken 2)

        Reply
      • February 11, 2019 at 7:32 am
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        Hello Adrienne,
        Your story awakens feelings of fear and anger in me. I like stories that arouse strong emotions. The biggest scare is that the plot is so close to reality. What kind of person digs a grave to scare a child?

        Reply
      • February 11, 2019 at 10:02 am
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        Thank you all, for reading my story and for your kind comments! This story is part autobiographical and part fiction as Roy so astutely determined. I actually wrote a letter very similar to this one years ago. It began, “Dear Pervert”.

        My counselor was designated to facilitate a weekly group for court ordered sex offenders. He was concerned that these creeps (my word, not his) do not or would not ever think about the long-term effects on their young victims. He wanted them to know the damage that they inflict on the children they groom, molest and attack so he asked if I would be willing to write a letter about my experience. That letter was filled with a great deal of anger and I let them have it all. Everything I felt about my experience, I unleashed on them. It was very rewarding and healing. My counselor later told me that my letter was so powerful, a few of the men cried. That gave me a sense of power.

        The fiction? I don’t know where my abuser is, nor do I care to know. I wouldn’t know if he had cancer or not. He truly is dead to me. I do know his parents died because they were friends with my parents. I survived, overcame, triumphed and moved on with my life. I am no longer invisible, quiet or shy. (Just ask my friends and co-workers!) He holds no power over me. For the writing of this story, I just had to pull up the emotions of that time but they no longer control me. Please note that I did not write that he took my innocence. He did not take it. I was still innocent in spite of what he had done.

        The truth? Unfortunately, the rest of the story is primarily true with poetic license. (Yes, I was thrown into a “grave” and laughed at as I screamed.) He had a sick mind for a teenager.

        That night did change my life. I am now more powerful, I am a staunch fighter against child abuse and domestic violence. I offered support for women who were victims of domestic assault and abuse for several years at a domestic abuse shelter. I am a fierce advocate for any vulnerable population (children, people with disabilities, the elderly, etc.) who may be at risk of harm, abuse or worse. I speak for those who don’t have a voice. I don’t see myself as a victim. I am a SURVIVOR.

        Thanks again!!

        Adi

        Reply
        • February 12, 2019 at 4:02 am
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          Hello Survivor! Thanks for sharing your comment with us. It’s as powerful as your story. At least.

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      • February 12, 2019 at 4:18 pm
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        Adrienne – what a well written and hard to read letter. It was sobering, sad but encouraging all at once. I could feel the pain of the writer as well as her strength and survival instincts. I smiled at the “cancer” and the last line was quite satisfying, Great.

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      • February 13, 2019 at 10:06 am
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        A gripping letter, indeed. It seem to be addressing three entities simultaneously, i.e. the abuser, the writer seeking closure and the general reader. The exposure of information, internal or external, is different depending on the recipient. Real powerful stuff.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 5:20 am
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      Hi! It’s me. I am late, but I’ll have a story tomorrow morning.

      Reply
  • January 31, 2019 at 2:37 pm
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    Just posting to receive all those wonderful stories and comments. See ya.

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  • January 31, 2019 at 3:14 pm
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    Dear Mom,
    I’ve been asked to write a letter to you but I don’t know what to say. You were a horrible mother and probably never should have had children and yet I must be grateful you did, because here I am 78 years later. Alcohol was your balm.

    I understand you were left in an orphanage by your father after your mother died and so really didn’t get to learn how to be a mother. You left a brother and a half sister and half brother for me and they all suffered under your hand.

    My brother became submissive and compliant and an alcoholic although he always had a job built a home, raised his daughters and lived with his saintly wife until sudden death by stroke at the age of 73. I became a survivor, defiant with the knowledge no one was watching out for me and it was up to me to be in charge of my life. My half brother died in a car crash as a teenager, my half sister although not an alcoholic learned to be a survivor but a meeker version and accepted her lot in life married had children and appears to be happy in her later years.

    You left with another man when I was 3. My brother and I lived with our grandmother and an alcoholic grandfather and father until Gramma died when I was 9, we were sent to live with our father’s sister and an uncle who resented being saddled with us, there’s not a whole lot I remember about the next two years except I was not an easy child who demanded to be treated fairly and so at the age of 11, I was sent to live with my mother who had two children I could babysit for, I think that was why you agreed to take me.

    I learned how not to be a parent by watching the examples of people around me in my various living arrangements during my juvenile years. I am an observer, a trait I cannot quit. Wherever I am in any situation when another person appears I instantly make an assessment – is this danger – is there motive – what do they do why are they here what is their background can they be trusted.. not necessarily in that order but it is rapid fire and if they enter into my frame at some point I will become the interrogator.

    When I had my first child I considered reaching out to you to let you know you were a grandparent. I wanted too, I think I reverted to being a child thinking maybe this would make you love me… I didn’t know it as a child that I was always trying to please you to make you love me and want me.. It wasn’t till I was 13 laying on the kitchen floor after you had slapped my face so hard so many times it knocked me down.. this time the beating was particularly vicious and I cracked I screamed and I screamed and the scream turned into a plea for her to tell my stepfather to keep his hands off of me and the beating turned more vicious with
    you kicking me.. the difference was this time I tried to protect my self and grabbed one of your legs and just kept screaming, you bent down and yanked me to my feet and I still screamed you dragged me into the laundry room and ran the water filling the sink and held my head under water when you released me for a moment I lifted my head and screamed for help, you pushed me under the water again and I knew this was it I was dying under your hands. Suddenly I was released and fell to my knees as you backed away… you didn’t back away…my stepfather had come home and pulled you off of me. You were fighting with him trying to get back to finish me… I got up and ran past you as he held your arms and out the door to a neighbors apartment.

    The police returned me to your custody the same day, you had called me in as a runaway… I told them if they brought me back I would runaway… times were different in the 50’s they took me back and told you they would be interviewing the neighbors. You locked me in a room, the next morning you told me to get dressed and packed my few belongings in a bag, both of my eyes were black, there were bruises all over my body and fingerprints on my neck from being held under water. My stepfather took me to the car and told me he was putting me on the train to take me back to my aunt. He said you had called my aunt and told her you were sending me back and what train I would be on and you could pick me up or not it didn’t matter to you where I went but you didn’t want me. He asked me to go back with him and apologize to you, he pled saying his children needed me to take care of them, to protect them from you, you didn’t know that did you. I was 13. I got on the train.

    So why am I writing you this letter? I don’t know. Someone asked me too. There’s more to my life but I don’t really want to tell you and you are dead so it really doesn’t matter.

    Love, Betty

    Reply
    • February 10, 2019 at 6:41 pm
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      “They fuck you up, your mum and dad…” (Philip Larkin)

      A poignant letter, Liz, with a ring of psychological authenticity, especially about the child becoming and observer rather than a participant in her own life.
      On first read I got a little confused about who was going in which direction when, starting with the sentence “My stepfather took me to the car …” but I think I worked it out in the end.
      However, the story is written with pace and is both visually and emotionally gripping. Good stuff.

      Reply
      • February 10, 2019 at 8:47 pm
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        Whew.. nobody’s said anything so was kind of holding my breath so thanks Andy.. meanwhile there is that little like star under the stories and comments but how do you like something… if you click on the star is it liked somewhere?

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        • February 11, 2019 at 3:03 am
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          The little star – if you click on ‘like’ it should change to ‘liked by you’. And displays as ‘liked by 1 person/2 people’ (etc) to others.

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    • February 10, 2019 at 8:56 pm
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      Hi, scp. An honest letter: that opening line is great: “You were a horrible mother and probably never should have had children.”, ‘bookended’ with an equally candid last line: “There’s more to my life but I don’t really want to tell you and you are dead so it really doesn’t matter.” In between, there’s some graphic description of abuse which justifies the ‘horrible’ description, and a refreshingly ‘good’ stepfather for a change. There’s quite a lot of ‘family tree’ detail in the first third that I found it a little hard to wade through – not sure that it’s totally necessary. But the abuse and the writer’s reaction to it are very well rendered.

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    • February 11, 2019 at 7:44 am
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      Hello Liz,
      Your text absorbed me. It trapped me in an atmosphere of alcohol, violence and despair. And I am glad that all this has not happened in my life. Thanks for this story.

      Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 10:48 am
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      Wow. Powerful read. I’ve known some very dysfunctional families and this is an excellent portrayal of dysfunction and the struggle to survive and move on. Your writing brought out a familiar trait of children of abuse; they often refer to their lives as something that they observed rather than participated in because the thoughts and memories of the abuse become too much to bear psychologically. I was drawn in to the pain conveyed by “Betty”.

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    • February 12, 2019 at 10:08 am
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      Gripping story, and my only criticism would be to edit it to make it even more powerful. It seems more stream of consciousness than author driven, and I think your writer persona should show more. that makes the ending flat. If I try to change anything it feels like I’m tampering with your writing ability. You can clean this up and make it far more powerful.

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    • February 12, 2019 at 4:25 pm
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      A vivid description of a horrible upbringing full of abuse. Very powerful scenes, but I would like to know a little more about what happened to Betty later in life. How she dealt with being born to someone who should never have had children. Clearly her distrust shows she’s damaged, but more detail as to what came next. I think you have a gift for painting a picture, as hard as it may be to look at. Very well done. Thank you.

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    • February 13, 2019 at 10:24 am
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      Honest and gripping, Betty, though somewhat confusing at times. Sometimes it’s hard to follow it chronologically for the anger and pain, while at other times it’s too focused on narration to allow the emotional reaction to seep in. Fascinating letter, nevertheless.

      Reply
  • February 1, 2019 at 3:11 am
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    I couldn’t believe that you would do it. I had never read a suicide note before and I never want to read another one, although I know that it will not be from you.
    I knew that things were getting bad but not that bad. I agree that you shouldhave been fired without a channce to question your bad appraisal.Their loss is more than yours.
    I hope that I was no more responsible than as set out in the letter.
    You will probably neve read this or at least not before we meet.

    Forever yours
    Your eternal optimist
    Love and kisses

    Hubby

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    • February 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm
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      Her husband is the person who fired her? (Have I got that right?)

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    • February 10, 2019 at 8:58 pm
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      Hi, Alan. Short but (not so) sweet. The brief letter leaves a lot to be filled in by us from the few clues you’ve given. Wife – discarded from work – committed suicide – loving husband feeling remorse for perhaps not helping enough – convinced they will meet again (?) Should this line have read differently?: “I agree that you should (not?) have been fired.” Maybe you could have expanded on their relationship a bit (the word limit is 1,200), but it’s an interesting piece all the same.

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    • February 12, 2019 at 10:50 am
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      Far too short of a story, and you need to edit a little bit more. Welcome to the group. If your goal is to be a better writer, we’re here to help. Hope to see you and your writing again.It doesn’t need much, but a little character development so we can either fall in love with, or hate your characters a bit more than what we see of them now.

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    • February 12, 2019 at 4:31 pm
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      I think the husband and wife worked at the same place, she was fired and then killed herself, correct? I would like to have known a bit more. Also, the husband doesn’t see too broken up (unless that was intentional). His signature seemed a little flippant, but I’d need more to know for sure.

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  • February 1, 2019 at 9:54 am
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    I believe you, kayak boy. I truly do. Well written.

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    • February 2, 2019 at 4:24 am
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      Sure, I believe you too, Buzz Lightyear.

      You missed out one thing to keep us entertained – the link to your/not-your profile 🙂

      And please go easy on the ‘blond idiots’ of this world. When I see those words together, I feel a need to run to a safe space ….

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      • February 2, 2019 at 1:38 pm
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        Andy,

        That story was cathartic, man. Sorry about the blonde idiot reference. I forgot you were… wait a minute. What was I saying? Oh yeah, you’re blondeness. (Actually, I have a theory, only bleached blondes are idiots. Natural blondes are just like everyone else.) Goes with my other theory, when backed into a corner, come up with a new theory.

        (Now I’m going to get hate mail from ‘bleachedblondesmatter.org.) (Christ.)

        As for the link? Man, its been a few years since this happened. You have no idea how reluctant I am to go anywhere near that site. One of those sites was sued a few years ago, in fact, I think it was the same company, they stole the photos of a serviceman who had died in Iraq, and his wife discovered it online. And it was, just like mine, a dummy account. Part of the pulling power of these dating sites is to have a large data base of potential ‘dates’ so clearly, it is in their interests to have as many names and pictures as possible. But the behavior is highly unethical, much like a lot of social platforms these days. It seems that unethical behavior is the new norm.

        went to the movies with Kim last night. Saw ‘Serenity.’ The new Mathew McConauhey movie. Stunk on ice. I like him. He’s a great actor, but the movie was baloney. As I told Kim while we were leaving. It was like, Old Man and The Sea, meets ‘Field Of Dreams.’ The just replaced the corn in ‘Fields’ with Rum. Seriously, one of the worst movies I’ve seen since ‘Murder On the Orient Express.’ (2017)

        Okay, I’ll read your story now. I’m all blathered out.

        By the way, I can tell that you and Roy don’t believe my story either.

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        • February 3, 2019 at 6:33 am
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          Well, of course I believe you. Especially the part about the online stalking of “Kath’s two girlfriends” 🙂
          All plausible. Maybe you should demand payment for use of your image rights. And be flattered at being chosen as an adventurous and desirable male model. Actually, could you make a career of this?

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        • February 3, 2019 at 12:43 pm
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          I just told you I believe you. Man, you underestimate your own talent. If that story isn’t about you and a real life flame, I’ll … ummm … I’ll .. I’ll … I tell you what, I won’t tell you what I would do on the off chance it isn’t a really true story. Didja ever notice when people are writing a ‘true’ story, they always use the first letter of the real person’s name and then go with a different name? Just sayin …

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        • February 4, 2019 at 2:15 pm
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          Ken,

          Sorry, but this was too funny. I believe you. Believe it or not, I joined one of those sites years ago because a friend of mine was talking with and meeting men and I was concerned about her safety. (Especially after some dude wanted to meet her in a hotel and she nearly went to meet him.) Anyway, I digress.

          I had fun with my profile. I wrote all about my deep Christian faith, my father who was a preacher, how I taught Sunday school, etc. I then waxed poetic about being a VERY busy mother and grandmother to all of my beautiful little ones. (All true.) I then made it clear that I was not looking for dates (or anything else the crazies might think up). Stated I wanted “friendship” only. That’s it. Friendship. Nothing else. No romance, no dates, no sex, no online chats, etc.

          Would you believe that I only received responses from 2 men?? I laughed until I cried. It was so funny! When my friend decided to think rationally and got off the site, I deleted my account. Can you believe that no one even missed me? HA!

          Adi

          Reply
  • February 1, 2019 at 5:44 pm
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    Us and Them

    “Now, children, I want you to take time to read these two letters on the wall in glass cases, side by side. Here at the Museum of Reconstruction, we think it’s important that you understand how people felt a hundred years ago, when we were reaching the point of no return …”

    The young students gathered forward, some eagerly, some sheepishly, to read the ‘Goodbye Letters’.
    – – –

    ‘Letter 1 (published in the Times newspaper as an opinion piece, 29th March 2019):’

    “Dear Europe

    It seems the clock has been run down, and our time together is over. My heart is heavy, full of sadness at what I have lost. Forces beyond our control drive us apart. The barriers are going up, borders reinstated that I can no longer cross, or not easily so. My country is growing smaller, and I am diminished.

    I think back to the days I have spent in your embrace. Days when I worked in the beautiful cities of Paris, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Maastricht, Prague, Budapest, Frankfurt and Tallinn. I remember working with multinational colleagues on that European Union and World Bank project in Moscow and Tula, in those days of hope when, perhaps hopelessly, we sought to rebuild Russia in our own image. Back then, we knew who we were – Europeans all.

    I met my wife when she was working for French and German companies, after her MBA at Reims. We romanced in Paris, wandering the streets of Montmartre and the banks of the Seine, then in the beautiful timeless towns of Alsace and the Rhineland. We’ve travelled the continent from Helsingborg to Crete. Rejoicing in both our ancient heritage and the vibrant new, we found everywhere both the similarities and differences that make us distinctively European.

    Now my European identity is wrested from me, along with my right to live and work in 27 countries. The home we were planning to buy in Italy will fade forlorn from memory like a distant dream. The collapse of our currency means we cannot come except, perhaps, as refugees. And I know it is us, not you, who are responsible for the parting of the ways.

    Borders are what too many seem to crave. Isolated, irrelevant, cut adrift, the remnants of Britain will take solace in the empty slogans of “Taking back control” and “They need us more than we need them.” Building a wall to keep out the rest of the world, rejecting the values we once shared, there is no future here, except on of steep descent.

    And then I think, perhaps there is there still a chance? These are, for sure, the last days of a united United Kingdom. Does my Scots ancestry offer a way back, once independence is complete? Will you take Scotland back under your wing? Wiser than their southern cousins, the Scots voted to stay yet were ignored.

    Even with that glimmer of hope, I am saddened by another division, forced to choose again between different parts of myself. Can we not be more than one narrowly-defined identity? Can we not transcend boundaries in who we are? I fear the walls being built in peoples minds will be even more impregnable than the ones being built at the borders.

    So it is with heavy heart I say goodbye to you, Europe. The same dark forces isolating our country and tearing it apart are at work across your continent. Nationalist demagogues stir discontent, make fantastical promises and demonise people they do not know. Hold firm to the peace and unity that bind you!

    Though my heart is still with you, I know we can no longer be together. But I wish you ‘God speed’ in these times of trial, that once again (to quote the European Anthem) “North and South will work together / Just as friends and neighbours should / East and West will grow together / Brotherhood and sisterhood!”

    Until we meet again

    Martin ”
    – – – – –

    ‘Letter 2 (published on the Times’ letters page in response, 30th March, 2019):’

    “Dear Europe

    Ha! We won, you lost. Get over it!

    You tried to lock us into being a vassal state, but failed. We’ve taken back control!

    So you can keep your tartiflettes and sachertorte along with your over-weening bureaucracy and centralising super-state. Before long you’ll be crawling back to us when you want to sell your BMWs and Château Lafite Rothschild over here. You’ll be knocking on our door for a deal for sure!

    Till then – so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu and up yours!

    Boris ”

    Reply
    • February 8, 2019 at 2:01 pm
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      Andy,

      At the risk of sounding even stupider than I am, (Oh, it’s possible,) your story seems to be a subtle means to express your disappointment with the growing geopolitical tensions between the east and the west. What you seem to be hinting at, is a clear reversal of trends and fortunes that is setting the stage for an increasingly xenophobic and nationalistic world that, considering the global challenges we face as a goddamned species, needs to work together now, more than ever before.

      Did I read that right? Or, not?

      Reply
    • February 8, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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      Well now, each letter starts with ‘Dear Europe.’ So the east and west comparison doesn’t really fit, does it? You’re referring to the break up of the EU? It’s the name ‘Boris.’ Stereotypically Russian. Are you referring to an Eastern and Western Europe? (See? I told you I could look stupider than I am.) I guess we could just wait and see what Philip thinks.

      Reply
      • February 8, 2019 at 4:58 pm
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        Hi Ken – In response to both your comments:
        First off, don’t think the story overall is very good! Not really one for an international audience. Though Europe is international in its own way 🙂

        The context is Britain exiting the EU on March 29th. Hence the dates on the letters. A referendum voted 52% to 48% to do this. No one actually knows what will happening in practice, as the UK is integrated at many levels into Europe, with freedom of movement and trade, and many businesses having integrated supply chains across the continent. At present, there is no plan over the future relationship and the government is completed divided. With only 50 friggin’ days to go.

        There are 2 letters, representing different and somewhat over-the-top viewpoints. The first is from someone whose life and work is heavily integrated into Europe – perhaps a romanticised view. The second is an English nationalist viewpoint (and it is English rather than British, as Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU) – language typical of the Leave Europe campaign: high on tub-thumping anti-foreigner rhetoric, low on practical detail.

        And a couple of phrases in the second letter are borrowed from the former mayor of London and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. (Who was born in New York, btw, and once said he could in principle become President of the USA. Not now, though – he’s renounced citizenship so he doesn’t have to pay US tax – you’ve been spared. But maybe you’ve got your own leadership issues there even so …) When asked about the potential problems for business if we left the EU without a free trade deal, he said, and I quote, “F*ck business”.
        So maybe that’s who the Boris is writing the second letter …. (Actually it’s not such an uncommon name in Britain, amongst the wealthier classes.)

        But yes, the story as a whole i a cri de coeur against the growth of an angry nationalism that habitually demonises the other. So when you say: “What you seem to be hinting at, is a clear reversal of trends and fortunes that is setting the stage for an increasingly xenophobic and nationalistic world that, considering the global challenges we face as a goddamned species, needs to work together now, more than ever before” – you’re absolutely right.

        So, one person with internationalist outlook, one with nationalist. But if the story has to be explained, it hasn’t worked.

        Reply
        • February 9, 2019 at 9:10 pm
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          Andy,

          Thank you so much for the explanation. (I think we Americans are fixated on Russians. Can you blame us? They own our President. As well as half the Senate.) I’ve been following the Brexit debacle although I can’t claim much sophistication about it. I don’t see how they can implement this exit in less than two months either, if they can’t even figure out how to handle border crossings between England and Scotland.

          The EEU is 50 years old. Clearly, the various member nations have been willing to make it work, despite certain deadbeat countries clearly not pulling their own weight. (Greece, Italy. Spain?) I don’t understand why Theresa May won’t allow another referendum on the issue, especially since many people admit to casting an irresponsible protest vote the first time around.

          I can’t help but wonder if certain foreign oligarchs aren’t meddling in Europe’s affairs too.

          Reply
    • February 10, 2019 at 1:14 pm
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      Hi Andy,

      Great job and you have succinctly shown the state of our nation (the UK) at this time. If it wasn’t so true ( and so desperately sad) it would have to be written by a comedy scriptwriter. Try looking out for Mark Steele, comedy standup, who writes similarly satirical pieces in the I paper.

      Confusion to the left of us, confusion to the right of us! ” Infamy! Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” Carry On film, don’t know which one but it must have been about Julius Caesar.

      On a more serious note, I wonder how we will reunite a country that is split almost down the middle.

      Great final sentence that sums it up perfectly.

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • February 10, 2019 at 6:51 pm
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        Thanks, Ken.
        I haven’t read any of Mark Steele’s pieces. But I hear him on the radio sometimes when he’s doing those amiable hatchet jobs on a place he is visiting and involves the local people in celebrating thier idiosyncrasies – those are pretty funny.

        How to reunite the country? As extremes are the norm now, I’ve been pondering starting my own extremist party. Based on extreme moderation and extreme kindness and sympathy. The M Party.
        M for moderation. And extreme devotion to evidence and rationality. Anyone for joining?

        Reply
        • February 11, 2019 at 4:50 am
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          Hi Andy,
          Count me in.
          Ken F

          Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 7:57 am
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      Hello Andy,
      what can I say? I write this in Hamburg in the EU. My fears are Brexit is only the first step. Nationalists are becoming stronger in many EU countries. And cardboard heads like Boris and Donald are suddenly in power. People no longer believe in vaccinating, in the globe. I rub my eyes. What’s next?

      Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 10:57 am
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      Andy,

      What a unique way to express the view of both sides of the fence. I have been marginally aware of the Brexit conflict over the pond, but your post made me woefully aware of how out of touch I really am with current news and foreign affairs. I really need to read more about it to understand the full impact of what the controversy is about. I am so consumed with the (barely) controlled chaos of my personal life, I don’t have much time for TV or the news. I briefly saw some article about the royal family preparing for evacuation if needed.

      Anyway, good writing and expression. I’m now off to do some research on Brexit so I can understand it better.

      Adi

      Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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      Hi, Andy. A bleak look at what is already happening and many are predicting, through letters in the ‘Museum of Reconstruction’ (I hope that’s an optimistic conceit, though how many decades/centuries in the future?). Your personal position is clear through the tone of each letter, which is a valid stance. You might have been a little more balanced/sympathetic to Brexiteers perhaps, but then that was probably not your objective. The situation makes my blood boil, and you’ve pinpointed very well various ways in which this impending disaster (as many predict) will affect a once decent country, now split and foaming at the mouth. I just hope that the foreseen effects are not quite as extreme as most fear. Good stuff.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 11:04 am
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      It seems to me this letter could have been written by an American, and just substitute American cities and states. You made me think, Andy, about this whole stinking mess which is caused by people taking sides and be damned with the issues, and worse, be damned with the truth. Meddling from outside forces on both sides does not help. The pendulum is swinging to the right, and hopefully, those who have embraced nationalism and isolation will come to understand that the power brokers like it just the way it is. Keep the masses from the gates, but I see glimpses of hope. Our serial liar of a president cannot distinguish fact from fiction, and neither can his so called ‘base’. a recent development is airline flight attendants said they will call a strike of all airlines if the President shuts down the government. Finally, someone is fighting back. I think he learned his lesson in the losses handed to him by the people who voted to take the House of Representatives back, the people who are finally standing up to him Now, if his own party will get some goddamned backbone and tell him he’s not King, we might be able to work our way out of the fine mess he’s gotten us into. I need to get off my soapbox. I like your story, but, I’m not sure it worked as a goodbye letter. Your writing skills are fine, it was just the wrong medium for your message, IMHO.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 4:42 pm
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      Ok, I did know while reading the first letter you were referencing Brexit. When I first read about it a couple of years ago I did a better job following. With things in my country now mirroring your letter with splits and angry points of view, I sort of lost touch. As with all of your writing it is easy to read (I know that isn’t easy to do and please don’t take offense – some writers don’t like that description) and become immersed. This made me want to go back and research and refresh myself on the facts, which you captured. The method of teaching complex ideas and situations that have two or more sides, by writing letters from each side, has been effective in certain grades (mainly upper classes). But, back to your writing – enjoyable as always. I had to smile at that last paragraph of the second letter and the last line! Perfect.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2019 at 7:00 pm
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        Hi Susan – When you write: “As with all of your writing it is easy to read (I know that isn’t easy to do and please don’t take offense – some writers don’t like that description) and become immersed” …. no worries, I take it very much as a compliment.

        A lot of what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years or so is take complex ideas and information and try to communicate it in straightforward and motivating language. And I’m glad if the fiction-writing too is easy-to-read. So many thanks! 🙂

        Reply
    • February 13, 2019 at 10:30 am
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      Bet I could guess which of these letter you would have preferred to write, Andy 🙂

      Reply
      • February 13, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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        Well, Sarig – I’m more like the first one as you’ve surely guessed!

        Some little bits of my life history in the story, a little fictionalised and overblown perhaps. From a very international family, married to a (non-EU) foreigner – I am perhaps, as our Prime Minister calls people like me, “a citizen of nowhere”. A charming description, for sure.
        I’d prefer to be a citizen of everywhere, if I had the choice!

        “Take down the flags that just separate the people
        Take down the wire on the boundary
        Take back the words that were spoken in anger
        You’ve got to live just like a family” (Arlo Guthrie)

        Reply
        • February 15, 2019 at 11:04 pm
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          Andy, I too am a citizen of everywhere. Or as I call it, ‘a citizen of the world.’.

          Reply
  • February 3, 2019 at 11:45 pm
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    Sure, I’ll delete it on Thursday.

    Reply
    • February 5, 2019 at 12:07 pm
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      I can’t reply to the short list of witty and humorous comments on my tale of woe-ness, so I’m putting them here.

      Adi,
      Your experience IS kind of funny AND relevant to my experience. Almost like the behavioral opposite. Your honesty created a manic lack of interest, while my absurdist fantasy character created an equally manic attraction. However, in all fairness, you can’t really expect much response on a dating site, when you eliminate any possibility of romance, dating, chatting, or (especially) sex. Which, I think half of the men are looking for. (And are willing to say anything to get it.)

      I tried a couple of ‘personal ads’ back in the 80’s or 90’s. Before the internet. Interesting experience, but not productive, because everyone lies.

      One time, (I’m not making this up, either) I spoke with a woman on the phone a few times, met her for lunch and a movie. She was not great looking, but she was my age, nice, reasonably intelligent, and personally and financially stable. Conversation was easy and I enjoyed her companionship.

      We agreed to go on a second date, (at night) and the day of the scheduled date, she called and explained how another guy had called and he could only manage to meet her on the night we had scheduled our date. She felt ‘obligated’ to accommodate this other guy at my expense. I was very polite and I assured her that I was not angry or upset. And I wasn’t. I was ‘informed.’

      When she called me the next day, she explained that the guy had to bring a friend with him because his license was suspended, no doubt from Drunk Driving because he and his friend proceeded to drink until they passed out on her living room floor. And the bedraggled pair left the next morning with raging hangovers.

      After an extended silence she asked me if I was still willing to honor the rain check I’d given her. At which point I had to (again, politely) point out that I’d never given her a rain check. Unless you look like Halle Berry, or you are, in fact, Sally Fields. (I love Sally Fields, and I always will.) You break a date with me to go out with another guy and you don’t get a second chance. That’s it. Game over. There were no histrionics. This ain’t baseball honey, this is life. Bye-bye.

      To put it another way, there are too many fish out there in the deep-blue to settle for a fuckin’ eel. I tossed it back.

      As for my response to the other two comedians on this site.

      Roy,
      The names were changed to protect the indifferent. And you sir, (lucky you) because you hit a home run on the first pitch, haven’t dated a single woman in over 50 or 60 years, so you have no idea of the stress and angst involved in dating as an adult.

      Andy,
      Stalking? I wasn’t stalking her (Kath’s) girlfriends. I was trying to figure out if one of them was gay. (Duh.) I know you were kidding. I love your sense of humor.

      Anyway, I’m impressed with how many people commented on the story. (Three.) Obviously, it doesn’t take much to impress me. (Either that, or I’m being sarcastic.)

      I crack open my chest, rip my heart out and throw it on the table, and everyone just keeps on eating their string beans. (If it was chocolate pie it would be understandable. But string beans? Pah! What’s the use?) I write to entertain, and I feel like I’m failing miserably.

      Reply
      • February 8, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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        So Adi,

        I remember this one gal who invited me to a Black Baptist Gospel Revival. We were the only two white-people in the church. It was a fairly moving experience. (Not nearly as scary as a biker bar. Still, a church! Pretty scary.) I was impressed with her open mindedness and sense of adventure so I asked her out on a second date.

        I took her to a café for a couple of drinks before dinner. Wishing to convey a sense of sophistication, while paying for the first drinks, I took all the money out of my wallet and stuffed it into the front pocket of my very tight jeans. (Because, when it’s time to tip someone, it’s very tacky to make everyone stand around while you extricate your wallet, fish around through your old gas receipts, by-pass the one or two 50’s and 20’s, thumb past the fives, and laboriously ‘pinch’ out two or three one’s to hand it to the guy. NO. You just want to reach in your pocket, pull out a wad, and peel two or three ones off the top. It’s a totally different feel.)

        Well, I had a hole in my front pocket. When I ordered the second pair of drinks, I reached into my pocket and there was no money!

        I had a hole in my pocket.

        I had to softly, while screaming over the music, and diplomatically ask her to pay for the second pair of drinks, and then assured her that I could, would and did make good on the money from a nearby ATM. On the way home, I was regaling her with old ‘war stories’ when I used the word ‘chicks’ in the process.

        “Chicks?” She said?

        “Yeah,” I said. “Chicks. Women.”

        “That’s a demeaning term,” she said.

        “No—no, no.” I assured her.

        “Yes,” she said. Sounding like a boot crushing a cigarette butt. “I think it is.”

        “Nooo,” I said. Sounding a little like a cow. “Really, it’s not at all derogatory. It’s just a bit of slang.”

        She had this look. A fierce, angry, self-righteous flaring flush. An electrical generational, ‘I’m live and not grounded to anything,’ look about her.

        I was feeling like a conduit. Like a lightning rod. Like a guy on a golf course in a thunder storm, holding a three iron and feeling lucky. I would have jumped out of the car, but I was driving.

        “No. Seriously, I, I, I…” I’m sure I stuttered. “It’s no more derogatory than…” Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait. My brain finally kicked in. “It certainly wasn’t meant to be derogatory.”

        We drove the rest of the way in relative silence. I waited until she was up the stairs and safely into her two-story hovel before I drove away singing very softly, ‘another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust, and another one’s gone, and another one’s gone….’ It was a popular song at the time.

        What nerve I had, going around calling women ‘chicks!’ What a pig! (At least I was a free-range pig!)

        Reply
  • February 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm
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    .

    DEAR ME

    This is going to be hard. My therapist’s idea. Stalled in my progress – wasn’t budging. But it’s going to be hard … and weird. I’ve got half an hour before I have to get back to my desk. I can get started, at least.

    She suggested I write a letter, not to be too careful about the grammar or the mistakes or the repetition or anything, just write. I asked her what the point was. She said it was to get things off my chest. I said I thought that’s what I’d been doing for 18 months at 60 quid an hour. She said it was a strategy. To write a letter to myself, as I’m the person I most trust. I didn’t tell her, but I think I trust my mum more than I trust myself.

    “What shall I write about?” I asked her. Just write, she said – free-flow. Let it all out. “And I don’t need to see it,” she said. She said it was for my consumption only. “But where do I start?” I said. She said “Try to say ‘goodbye’ to all the things we’ve been talking about, to the pain, the humiliation, the regret, etcetera.” I said I didn’t feel too comfortable about putting all of that down on paper. I mean, what if someone found it, someone I know? She said why should I worry about what other people think of me? I suppose she’s right. But she’s not the one with the hang-ups.

    Anyway, half a page and I haven’t addressed any of the issues yet. What shall I talk about first? What should I say ‘goodbye’ to first?

    What the hell, let’s give it a go. Maybe if I talk to myself as if I was another person – as if I was talking to a good friend. So ‘you’, then. Yes. Okay. Here goes.

    Your shyness. There you are. The way that, when you walk in a room, you think that everyone’s watching you, and you feel pressed down into the floor, or against a wall, and you can’t move, and you just mumble if anyone speaks to you, and if you see someone you fancy, which is often, you can’t speak to them, or if you do, a load of incoherent rubbish comes out. And that’s why you’re sitting on your own here in the office kitchen, with your colleagues chatting away to each other and laughing. Yes, bloody shyness. Goodbye, shyness.

    Hmm. That’s odd. That feels kind of nice. I feel a bit lighter – ever so slightly. Let’s try another thing. What I mentioned before. Regret.

    Living in the past. We’ve talked about this a lot. I know it’s stupid. Things that have happened, that you can’t change, but they hang around your neck like an albatross. Things that you said, that embarrassed you – that time you tried to make a pun on ‘idiom’ and called a bloke ‘a Spanish idiot’. And the things you didn’t say. Those times that you were certain someone was interested in you, but you held off and held off – there’s that shyness again – till she got fed up waiting and lost interest. And not helping your dad out more, and then it was too late. All embarrassing and sad and frustrating events, but gone! Like the waters of a stream – past, miles away, irrelevant to the now. Yes, regret. Farewell, regret!

    Wow! I think this is actually working. That tension I was feeling in my temples – fading now. Something else.

    Not standing up for yourself. I suppose that comes from your shyness, too, but it’s also weakness. Weakness of spirit, and a lack of self-esteem. So that when anyone argues with a position you have – like at work, for example – then you just fold. Take Mr Rogers. You bloody hate that bloke, don’t you? Okay, he’s your boss and all that, but he always has to be right, and he always has to have the last word. And you just let him have full rein. In meetings, he takes the floor, spouts on about something or other – usually a load of rubbish – and … that’s it! Because of his forcefulness, he holds people’s attention. And he bats away any opposing arguments, like from you, for example – if you have the nerve to respond at all, which doesn’t happen very often. So yeah, weakness. That can go. So long, weakness.

    What else? Holding off … procrastination! Yes! Blimey, that’s the bane of your life. The things you could have achieved (hang on – ‘regret’ … I’ve said goodbye to you – piss off out of it!) So, action, then. Regret takes you back. Procrastination binds you to the present. Action takes you forward. Choose action! Cheerio, procrastination!

    I’m getting into the rhythm now. This is great! One more before I have to get back to work.

    Being nice. What’s that all about?! Wanting to please, afraid of offending, excessive generosity. Oh, you’re that nice shy bloke in the corner. No one has a bad word to say about you – except maybe Rogers. You caught him laying into you behind your back that time in the corridor. What did you do? Just passed by him and smiled. Yes, they must all think you’re a lovely man. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, Mr Nice Guy no more. Goodbye to you!

    Aah! That’s a load off my chest and mind. I can’t wait to see my therapist and tell her how it went. Maybe I can keep doing this. I certainly feel better. Really quite different.

    Blimey! Is that the time? I’ll have to stop writing … I’m missing it already! But I can take it up again later. I’ll be late, though. Rogers will be on my back. Bloody Rogers! Him and his ego. Brash bastard. Tiresome fool. If he … hang on. That small kitchen knife I was using for my apple. Perhaps if I take that with me …

    .

    Reply
    • February 10, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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      Hi Phil,
      This story is just packed with apt comments although I have not seen a therapist …….yet. £60 and hour? My acupuncturist only charges £15 and I never leave feeling like I want to kill people, although I sometimes feel like that when I go in.
      I loved the tone of the story. It has a down-to-earth sense to it, offhand, matter-of-fact. I wonder if many people ever actually go through this process of setting down on paper how they are really feeling? I do know of one suggestion of writing a problem down on paper then burning the paper and flushing the ashes down the toilet.
      i hope you had as much fun writing this as I did in reading it.
      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:15 pm
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        Thanks, Ken! Yes, I had fun … and £60 is cheap! 😉

        Reply
    • February 10, 2019 at 6:53 pm
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      The mouse that roared. On paper, anyway. Unless … he really has turned and takes the knife. Has the unburdening worked too well?
      Good stuff, as always.

      Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:17 pm
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        Thanks, Andy!

        (I think he’s a different person by the end of the letter, let’s just say that …)

        Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 11:07 am
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      Another creative story Phil! I loved the back and forth the writer had in his own mind. The tone of the story was perfect and then the teaser at the end. Does he take the knife? Will he use it? Has the effort of letting things go really worked or pushed him over some invisible line? The quiet mouse becomes a roaring lion when cornered. We see it all the time in school shooters and other criminals. They seem socially inept and isolated, bullied, and more. Nobody suspects a thing – then Bam!

      Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:21 pm
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        Thanks, Adi! I think over the line … We hear stories seemingly every week from the US of disgruntled employees going into work with their assault rifles and letting colleagues pay, so it’s not too far-fetched, I don’t think, that my protagonist might use that knife …

        Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 3:58 am
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      Reframing seems to work fast for you and it works pretty well. 🙂

      But seriously: This new story reminds me of your New Year’s Eve text. You do something that I like to do too: Do not describe your character, but let him describe himself. Draw a figure by language. It works very well and I especially like that about your writing.

      Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:25 pm
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        Thanks, Jürgen! You have a better memory than me! (“the NYE text” …). I’m not sure I understand the first line of your comment, though.

        (I think when it’s a first-person narrative, you can’t do anything else but let the character’s actions and thoughts describe him/herself.)

        Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 11:12 am
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      Nice ending, and I love the line – ‘she said not to be too careful about the grammar or the mistakes or the repetition or anything, just write’; because now no one can critique grammar, punctuation, and repetition (not that there was any, but if there were, you’ve got the perfect out.) Well done, I need to try that. Didn’t think anyone would spot that little cover up did you? Ha. I did. I’m sure Ken was too involved in his own story, or he would have seen it too.

      Good story, as always – I never get tired of saying that – and I enjoyed it.

      Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:27 pm
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        You’re very kind, Roy … and well spotted!

        Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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      I love the premise of this. And so well done! It was great how the writer described himself by pointing out flaws and being encouraging at the same time. I always love a dark ending or a hint of one and yours was terrific. I wish I’d thought to start my letter with an apology for typos, grammar etc, as I am prone to those! Brilliant! Enjoyed the language as well. I absolutely loved this story. I think it was perfect and wouldn’t change a thing.

      Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:29 pm
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        Thanks very much, Susan! Yes – the get-out clause. I was quite pleased with that! 😉

        Reply
    • February 13, 2019 at 10:44 am
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      Charming and an enjoyable read as always, Phil. I’m wondering, though – why did you feel what the story needed (or lacked) was the little twist/punch with the kitchen knife at the very end?

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      • February 14, 2019 at 8:32 pm
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        Thanks, Sarig! Yes, I wasn’t sure about the ending … In retrospect, I might have suggested that the narrator had a Glock in his desk drawer … or he could just have gone back to the office a stronger, more confident person (?)

        Reply
  • February 7, 2019 at 3:15 pm
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    Nice story Philip. Great stream of consciousness style writing. And such a fond dream, that the Walter Mitty’s of this world could rid themselves of the bloviating blowhards that vex them. The theme here, that psychotherapy has its risks, is so deftly handled, one hardly notices it. Nice job. One mistake though. The word Blimey. Isn’t that supposed to be Bligh me? (I kid you.) I’m still waiting for your second mistake. It’s been four years Phil, four years since your first, last and only mistake.

    I’m just letting that sink in with everyone who reads this. (Oh, no one’s reading it? Oh. Okay. Well, whatever.) I must say Phil. Four years, eighty or ninety stories, no mistakes. Hmmm. I think you deserve some kind of special thingy for that. A commendation, a certificate of obsessive compulsion or something. Mmm, I’ll give it some thought. (Not much, granted, but some.)

    Reply
      • February 8, 2019 at 2:51 pm
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        Liz Fisher,

        You’re welcome. (For saving you from Serenity.)
        You should see ‘The Green Book’ instead. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It tells a great story. It’s relevant and uplifting. And sobering.

        Am I jealous of Phil? I suppose so, sometimes. I admire him and I love his stories. I look forward to his critiques and comments as well. I’ve been reading Phil’s stories since September or October of 2014. So I feel like I know him well enough to tease him a little. In fact, Phil never really has made a mistake in all those years. In my opinion, Phil’s creativity and talent are unassailable, and his devotion to grammar and punctuation is equal to, or above and beyond any other writer I’ve ever encountered, published or not.

        AND on top of all of that. HE’S MODEST! My God! How much can I take? (How can I not be jealous? Seriously, he really IS modest.)

        I don’t think I ever considered bleaching my hair. I was advised to, but, well, if I did consider it, it wasn’t for very long. Do you think I should? It would keep me away from the keyboard. Can’t type and bleach at the same time, can you? Is that what you’re after? I suppose I should Google it.

        Reply
        • February 12, 2019 at 11:30 am
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          OK, OK, as everyone is now saying the story is error-free, I feel duty bound to point out there are some missing quotation marks. Yes, indeed.

          > Just write, she said – free-flow.

          …. Should be: “Just write,” she said, “free-flow”.
          The other nearby sentences are written as direct speech, and this sort of sticks out as an anomaly. It’s not constructed as indirect speech either. It needs the quotes 🙂

          So, it can happen.
          Or it’s the deliberate mistake, like in an otherwise perfect Persian rug.

          Reply
          • February 14, 2019 at 8:41 pm
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            Well spotted, Andy! I did cover myself at the beginning of the letter, though … 😉

        • February 14, 2019 at 8:39 pm
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          I really appreciate all of those lovely words, Ken. Thank you.

          Reply
      • February 14, 2019 at 8:36 pm
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        Liz – it is I who am envious of Ken and his funny bones.

        Reply
    • February 14, 2019 at 8:34 pm
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      Thanks, Ken! Tere must have ben more mistakes, shurely.

      Reply
  • February 8, 2019 at 10:40 am
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    Goodbyes don’t have to be difficult

    Well, it’s time to say goodbye. The doctors and nurses have prepared me and I have certainly appreciated their constant attention to detail. This day has been a long time coming, but is finally here, and they are really speeding up my medications. Family members and friends have gathered; hopefully, they are as prepared as I am for this moment. No long farewell speeches, clutching tissues, eyes filled with tears as they do their best to suppress their emotions.

    I’m not passing any blame. There’s none to go around. It’s my own fault this happened. I put off getting a colonoscopy simply because I didn’t want to go through the unpleasantness of the bowel cleansing prep; an unsightly and messy business to say the least.

    My wife kept telling me to do it, but I was confident that not having any history of cancer in my family exempted me from this sort of thing. I’m only human and like all of us, who somehow manage to find reasons to justify our actions, I procrastinated. I had put it off until I could no longer stand my wife nagging. To keep her quiet I scheduled the colonoscopy.

    There were no symptoms; no pain, bloody discharges, and other associated signs of distress. Over the years, I did thorough exams, blood tests, the mail-in package thing, and even had a lower GI series done with no signs of what the doctor found this time.

    The prep wasn’t anything like I feared. Drink some stuff, get rid of it through the other end, and drink some more. Repeat until everything was clear. I was a champ. This is a piece of cake, I thought. Why in hell hadn’t I done this earlier? Too late now, to have regrets, isn’t it old boy?

    They told me I would be knocked out for the procedure and so groggy afterwards it was likely I wouldn’t remember any conversation with the doctor. As it turned out that wasn’t the case. I was awake for the last few minutes of the procedure and could feel the instruments being removed from my body.

    I remember the trip to the recovery room and my wife waiting for me. The doctor, however, spent his time talking to my wife, explaining I wouldn’t remember the conversation. Ha! Fooled ‘em. I was wide awake, hanging on every word. He showed her the pictures identifying polyps and then she pointed to another picture and said, “What’s this?”

    In an everyday tone, the doctor said, “That’s cancer.” I didn’t even flinch. There were no heart palpitations, no sudden rush of adrenalin as I heard the doctor say the word. Cancer. Not just cancer, but colon cancer. Number 4 on the cancer list, following breast, lung, and prostate. Second highest on the mortality rate list following lung cancer. Over one out of every three people with colon cancer die, even with early detection.

    “You’re sure?” she asked.

    “I see a lot of this. That’s cancer.”

    My wife turned and gave me that – I told you so – look.

    I said, “Cancer, huh? How does my immediate future look?” He made a doctor face which told me I wasn’t going to learn much.

    “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “Let’s run some tests, and then we’ll know exactly what we’re dealing with.” Things moved fast. An immediate blood test on our way home, followed by the results of the biopsies taken during the colonoscopy, a few days later, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. Then a full blown CT Scan which pinpointed the area while looking for other signs, such as highlighted lymph nodes, other hot spots, metastasizing and abnormal growths in other organs.They then informed me that radiation and chemo wouldn’t do any good in this case. Unexpected news.

    Which all leads to where we are now and this goodbye letter. While I never expected this to happen, I realize now how foolish I was. I’m not only writing this for me, I’m writing this knowing others will read it and it will hopefully spur those idiots who think they are immune from this sort of thing to realize, “No, you’re not.” It doesn’t just happen to other people, it happens to you.

    So this is it. Understand I’m not saying goodbye to my family and friends, I’m saying goodbye to you, stage 1 cancer. In about four hours my surgeon will have removed you, you insidious little bastard, and thrown you into the scrap heap of discarded body parts heading to the medical wasteland. Yep, removal by surgery is all that is needed.

    So, Goodbye, Cancer! And, oh yeah, before I forget – FUCK YOU!

    Sincerely,

    Roy

    Reply
    • February 10, 2019 at 12:51 pm
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      Hey Roy,
      Uncomfortable to say the least and I’m not just referring to the colonoscopy ( which was Ok really although it’s a rather intrusive thing for a doctor to do to someone he has only just met. We didn’t even shake hands!)
      I can only agree with the advice to bite the bullet and have the tests. I did.
      Great ending though that catches the reader ( well me anyway) by surprise.
      when it comes to choosing the best character and dialogue it will be between you and the big C. Not a hard choice.
      Great, as ever.
      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • February 11, 2019 at 10:21 am
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        I had written another story (which also had a twist ending) and was very happy with it, but as I was refining it, the goodbye to cancer story started crawling through my mind and I ended up writing it. It was very cathartic, and I gave it to my beta readers and it won over the other story Spoiler alert, they are all family members, so there was an emotional attatchement for them. What I liked, was, they were surprised, too.

        Anyway, Ken, thank you for your comments, and thoughtful appraisal of the story. I am still mystified as to how your story ended up third last time around, no offense to the other authors ahead of you, but apparently your story pushed all of my buttons. I’ve gone back and read it again and enjoyed it as much, if not more, as the first three or four times.

        Reply
        • February 11, 2019 at 10:32 am
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          Hi Roy,

          It is always nice to hear positive comments about the stories we dream up and then write down. I think the level and depth of critique on this site is extremely high and it is really helping me. The notion of producing something new and fresh every two weeks is a big challenge but one that is really worth the effort.
          Thanks,

          Ken Frape

          Reply
          • February 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm
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            You’re welcome Ken. When we first came up with this idea in 2013, we did a story a week, (they were only 800 words long then, that’s all you could put in a comment box), but that seemed too much, so we did one a month, and that drove everyone crazy, even more so than once a week with all that extra time, and we finally ended up with a fortnight, which it has been pretty much ever since. Originally, this was just a thread of topics that a bunch of writers got on and chatted about, then it turned into putting up the first page of a published story, or, one that was going to be published. We even fooled around with writing 15 lines of story. One of my favorite stories, ‘The Walk’, is a fleshed out version of a 15 line story, and one that got lots of attention on another site that I used to be on and is probably still there: Short Fiction Break. Phil and Alice both write for it, too. I probably have over 200 short stories I’ve written, none of them even close to being the same, so yeah, this is a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. Stretches you as a writer.

    • February 11, 2019 at 11:35 am
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      Roy,

      I love stories that trigger strong emotions and you had me scared! I worried that this was autobiographical and I was apprehensive for the end. I remembered my sister’s battle with breast cancer – found at Stage 4 and she lived only 9 more months afterward. What a powerful read and then the twist at the end. Thank you for that! The feeling of sweet relief was wonderful. Let us know how it goes?

      Reply
      • February 12, 2019 at 2:02 pm
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        I’m just glad it was a real letter of goodbye. We’ll see if they find anything different when they get in there, but my doctor, who is highly respected, thinks it’s just stage one based on what he’s seen and the tests so far. If not, then, I guess I’ll start composing the other letter of goodbye. Monday is the day, and as soon as I get home I will let everyone know how things are. Thanks for your comments.

        Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 11:56 am
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      Like the story, Roy, and was with you (narrator, and author) all the way.

      Clever touch not to have an addressee, because that’s the reveal at the end. So we go with you through the traumas and are both relived and happy at the upbeat ending.

      Good messaging too for us of, shall we say, advancing years who put off having medical checks!

      Reply
      • February 12, 2019 at 2:08 pm
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        Thanks Andy, love to hear that stuff from you. When I sat down to write it, I knew I couldn’t say Goodbye Cancer or Goodbye Family, so I tried a bit of misdirection and it seemed to work, so I stayed with it. Almost gave it away a couple times and had to go back and fix it.

        A real point in your last sentence is one that I am going to direct a bit of attention to. I don’t know about England’s medical system, but with Medicare, our version for seniors, they recommend no more colonoscopies after the age of 75, and say after 70, most people with no family history of cancer, or not having a specific reason DON’T NEED TO HAVE ONE. Had I followed their advice, my goodbye letter may have been addressed to my family instead of cancer.

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        • February 12, 2019 at 4:58 pm
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          Don’t think there’s anything quite like that over here, Roy. Though there are issues around different things being available – or not available – in different NHS areas.

          On the age front, my mother was offered all kinds of procedures in her last years, despite being in her mid-eighties. Which she turned down as she felt they were too rigorous for her state of health. But age was certainly not an issue.

          The NHS is quite proactive with screening programmes, though. We’re sent reminders for routine screening, and I’ve been sent a home bowel cancer testing kit though the post. (Don’t ask!)

          Actually a few years back I went thorough some investigative processes including a colonoscopy, as I had some suspicious symptoms. Didn’t put me to sleep for that, though. Then a few weeks later went back for endoscopy, from the other end. I hope they cleaned the camera in the interim. (Or maybe it was a different instrument.) I think the latter procedure was the more uncomfortable. In each case I could watch the camera travel through my insides. I’m sure you could make a virtual reality ride out of that. Probably someone already has.

          Reply
          • February 13, 2019 at 12:22 pm
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            That bowel cancer kit is done over here, also, as I referred to in my story with the mail in package thingy. It was negative and wasn’t that long ago, so I don’t know how reliable it is, now that I think about it.

    • February 11, 2019 at 5:52 pm
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      Hi, Roy. I spent most of the story saying to myself ‘but this isn’t a goodbye letter’, despite the loved ones being around, then you hit us with the BIG goodbye – a great twist. And the profanities are well deserved. As Andy says, it also serves as an effective reminder to us of a certain age … and most importantly, good luck for the 18th!
      Sobering stuff.

      Reply
      • February 12, 2019 at 2:11 pm
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        Nice to know I made you talk to yourself. I’m pleased. Pleased you said what you said, and pleased that my idea turned out the way I wanted. Thanks, Phil.

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    • February 12, 2019 at 4:18 am
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      That’s a gutsy goodbye letter. I hope it’s a goodbye for good. Good luck!

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      • February 13, 2019 at 9:45 am
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        Thank you, and you and I both hope it’s for good. I know that out there somewhere, there’s a bullet with my name on it, but not this time. I’ll be finishing my critiques here in a minute, had some stuff to do yesterday. Like shoveling out a driveway, and then again this morning. Not too bad, just about a foot or so on the ground, about 8″ or so that’s new. Thanks Max

        Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 5:05 pm
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      This started to feel too real to me as it was a little familiar. So I confess that I jumped ahead as I do when the suspense and suspicion becomes a bit too much for me to read all the words. I breathed a sigh of relief, laughed at the ending and then went back and reread it again. Very clever! Great story with a great ending.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2019 at 10:51 am
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      Sincerely is definitely the right way to end it, Roy, and I would imagine also the right way to describe this address to the fiend called cancer, with an encouraging twist in the end that allows us to come out smiling 🙂

      Reply
    • February 17, 2019 at 6:11 am
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      Hi Roy,
      My thoughts and best wishes are with you for 18th.

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • February 18, 2019 at 8:50 am
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        Thanks Ken 2, appreciate it very much. I will be heading for the hospital in about 30 minutes, and it should be over by 4:00PM US EST – the cancer that is. I got this.

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  • February 9, 2019 at 9:57 am
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    Thanks for your thoughts. I was hoping it would be a surprise ending for most people. Yeah, true autobiographical story except the surgery doesn’t take place until the 18th. It was easy to write, and I hope if someone has been putting something like this off, DON’T. And, ignore all the Medicare and Medical journals telling people you don’t need a colonoscopy after 75. I’m 76. If I would have heeded that bit of what I now consider ‘nonsense’ advice, the story would have a much, much different ending and I wouldn’t be nearly as happy as I am now. In a few years, I’d probably be dead, or deathly ill from chemo.

    Reply
  • February 9, 2019 at 10:29 am
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    I couldn’t write a goodbye letter ’cause it’s goodbye to the letter.

    Reply
  • February 10, 2019 at 1:28 pm
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    Goodbye Margery by Ken Frape

    When Grandad Bert died in November 1978, Grandma Margery was heartbroken. Margery and Bert had been together as husband and wife for 64 years, childhood sweethearts and class mates for years before that. It was rumoured that Grandpa Bert even took a real beating when he was 15 after another lad, bigger and stronger than Bert, took a fancy to the comely, flame-haired Margery. If Bert had not been so madly in love or so brave, the whole family history could have been different.

    Bert and Margery were married in October 1914 when they were both 19. Born in 1895, they believed in doing things without undue haste, so a two year engagement was perfectly acceptable, they said. They must have been very strong willed to have resisted the physical temptations that nowadays seem not to be resisted at all.

    “Gives us time to save up, get a few pennies behind us,” Margery said. “Then we can look for a place of our own with more than just a few sticks of second-hand furniture.” Bert was probably standing beside Margery nodding his head when she said that as he always was in every family portrait. They never seemed to disagree over anything.

    The date set for their wedding was Christmas Day 1914. When war broke out and Bert signed up to do his duty for his country he refused to believe all the talk about “home by Christmas,” so he and Margery moved things forward so they could marry before Bert went off to war. He explained years later, that he didn’t want to go off to war and maybe never return without first having made love to a woman, his wife. Margery also stated that she did not want to die an old spinster and if Bert was killed that’s what she would become as she would never be able to look at another man so long as she lived.

    All those years later, in 1978 Margery was sitting at Bert’s bedside as he grew daily weaker and weaker. Nonetheless he was still able to surprise her.
    “There’s a small black case at the bottom of my wardrobe,” he told her. “Can you get it for me, Margery?”
    She complied, her aged knees protesting as she delved into the wardrobe and brought out the battered old leather case.
    “Can you sit me up a bit? A couple more pillows should do it. That’s lovely, thanks, love.”

    Bert flicked open the catch on the case. Inside were bundles of letters. Not many soldiers made it through the whole of the horrendous four years of World War 1. Inside the case there were dozens and dozens of letters tied up with carefully knotted strings. All from Margery.

    Tears streamed down Margery’s cheeks as she recognised the contents of the case. Bert had never shared this piece of information, not once, since he returned home at the end of 1918. He simply turned his back on the war and got on with his life but he never forgot those letters that had helped him endure some of the bleakest moments of that bloody and barbaric conflict.

    “Look at the bottom,” Bert instructed, “under the bundles. There’s one special letter there, just for you.”
    The letter was from Bert, written in 1914. The envelope had been properly addressed and sealed ready for collection by Bert’s unit commander for safekeeping. It had only recently been opened again but was now resealed with a strip of sticky tape.

    “I’m really glad this letter is late,” Bert chuckled briefly. “You wouldn’t have wanted to get this one. Not back then. But now, I’m afraid it’s time to be delivered. Just one thing, though, love….”
    “What’s that then, Bert?”
    “Take it with you to bed tonight. Don’t read it now. Read it then.”
    “But I’ll be sleeping here, beside you, silly ” Margery protested.
    “OK, wait until I’m asleep then.”
    She nodded.

    Later that night, Bert was snoring, his breath uneven and ragged as Margery carefully opened the envelope with trembling fingers. Their whole lifetime together seemed to pass before her eyes as she read her beloved 19 year old husband’s words, written in a muddy trench in Belgium all those years ago.

    November 29th. 1914 Somewhere in Belgium

    My Darling Margery,

    The very thought of you ever reading this letter nearly breaks my heart but we have all been ordered to write them. They are only to be sent in the event of our death. It seems like a strange practice and a wasteful use of ink, if you ask me.
    It took me several weeks to work out how to even start to write this letter but here goes.

    Please don’t worry about me. I feel very strongly that you will never see this letter as I am going to be alright. Trust me and God that we will prevail in this war and I will return home to you and Mum and Dad and Harry and little Angela. Is your sister still knitting those socks for me? Tell her to hurry up as some of the officers here keep telling us we’ll be home by Christmas. I think they are wrong but hope they are right.

    It was such a busy and exciting last few months, Margery dear. What with moving the wedding forward and all that, then my enlistment and getting sent here. It seems strange to say that joining up was exciting but it really was. Now, it’s mainly boredom, not excitement. Who’d have thought it? Me, just an ordinary bank clerk from Gloucestershire digging trenches in a foreign country eh?

    Look darling, you know I’m not good with words but I know how we feel about each other and have done since we first sat together in Miss Harrison’s class. Remember that day? I got the ruler across my knuckles because I was looking at you and not the blackboard? It was worth it! So, anyway, you know I love you and miss you dreadfully. I can’t wait to be home again, with you. I can’t imagine ever being with anybody else. I am really looking forward to a long and happy future together when all this fighting is over. A couple of kids would be nice too. I know you would like that and I know you will be a good mother to them.

    It’s not something that’s easy to speak of but those three days after we got hitched were the happiest three days of my life. I never knew how wonderful it could be to love a woman in that way. I’m blushing with embarrassment now so I am going to have to finish and then write one of my usual begging letters, demanding socks and chocolate!

    Your ever loving husband Bert.
    Xxxxxxx

    (And in fresh handwriting Bert had written, )

    PS
    Gloucester November 23rd. 1978
    My darling Margery,
    Every word is as true now as it was then.
    Love you so much.
    Goodbye my darling,
    Your ever loving husband,
    Bert xxx

    As Margery looked up, she knew that Bert was gone.
    “Goodbye, my love,” she sighed as a tear dropped onto Bert’s letter.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 12:13 pm
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      Ken, I like the set-up which jumps out of the letter format and frames it, so we can get insights into two periods of history and the relationship. You also cleverly prefigured the recently added postscript with an early mention of the resealed enveloped. Very nicely done, and a moving portrait of a happy couple.

      I’ve noticed in the stories of yours that I’ve read in that you specialise in positive/happy stories, in which you create a believable and well-described context. This is not easy to do, conjuring up this kind of magic. The old wisdom is that effective stories require conflict – I’ve never agreed with that. Here though there is not conflict as such (certainly not between the main characters), but there is a theme of potential loss and actual loss, all wrapped up in that letter. I like it.

      (- One little thing, a pet hobby-horse of mine: I’ve read so many stories online and by self-published authors now, and one phrase that recurs again and again and again is “Tears streamed down [his/her/name’s] cheeks”. Personally I think this phrase should be retired – there are many other ways for sure to engage the reader’s emotions. It can be kind of saying, “Cry now, my character is crying”. I think the bitter-sweetness of the moment can be moving enough, as it is in your story, without the visual cue.)

      Reply
      • February 11, 2019 at 1:05 pm
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        Hi Andy,

        As always, thanks for your well thought-out comments. I’m not sure that I agree that my stories always have positive / happy content but then, as you say, you’ve only had the opportunity to read the three or four that I have posted. You should see the one about the spider!

        You are right though that I think there is a recogniseable style to much of my writing, even though I’m not sure I can actually describe it. It is interesting that you see them as positive / happy as several of my own stories have made me cry when I have read them to my wife ( my captive audience!) for the first time. I have written one about the death of my father in a nursing home four years ago that I still can’t read out loud and certainly not to an audience.

        My wife says I have done a lot about relationships, anger, death and the afterlife and a healthy dose of magical realism, with touches of humour.

        I am always trying to avoid the terrible curse of the cliche and the overused phrase. You are right to point this out and it is certainly something I will amend into something more original. Just give me a moment…………….did I say I was going to be original? Drat!

        I was aware of the letters to sweethearts that soldiers were asked to write. New archives have been opened in recent years and a huge number of these poignant messages home have been released. Some of the most tragic speak of future hopes, children and families and they give heartaching testimony to the sadness and fear mixed with pride of the soldiers at The Front in 1914-18. Many of those soldiers never returned but many did and I wanted to explore the idea of what those returning soldiers did with those unnecessary letters. My story is one answer to that question and there will, no doubt, be many others.
        You may have seen a play in Lincoln a few years ago in The Drill Hall about the Beechey family who lost most of their boys to WW1. This play was put on by The Lincoln Mystery Plays company, of which I was a member when I lived there but it may have been before you moved there and it took place a few months after I moved away. The letter made a lot of use of archives and letters home. It was a wonderful piece of drama directed by my good friend Gaynor Little, bless her.

        Regards,

        Ken F ( Ken 2)

        Reply
    • February 11, 2019 at 12:41 pm
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      Ken 2,

      This was beautiful! Even though I knew where the story was going, I still almost cried. I’m a sucker for those old love stories that tug on the heartstrings where love was forever and everyone was faithful. (If I weren’t sitting at work right now, I would be crying.)

      My parents have been married over 58 years. My mother is in end-stage Alzheimer’s and has been in a nursing home for the past 9 years. Daddy still goes everyday to sit with her and hold her hand. It is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Your story reminded me of them. Great use of dialogue and the writing of the last letter Bert wrote.

      Adi

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      • February 11, 2019 at 1:13 pm
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        Hi Adi,
        Thanks for your lovely comments. My Dad was in the RAF in the second world war and married to my mum for just over 70 years. Dad died with vascular dementia four months after they celebrated their 70th. wedding anniversary. Mum is still hanging on in there (96 this year) but missing Dad every day. She still has his letters home. I still can’t read the piece I wrote about them, at least, not out loud.
        I cry more now than when I was younger.
        Regards,

        Ken Frape (Ken 2)

        Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 4:37 am
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      Thank you for this beautiful love story. I saw the two old people alive in front of me, and the young bride and groom as well. A love story in which death is just a part that fits in harmoniously.

      By the way: Thanks for mentioning Gloucestershire. Until then I thought Granddad was an American.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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      This is so touching and sad. But so good. I kinda knew where it was going, but the journey was fantastic. The flashback within a letter is awesome and very well done. Another great read by you. Thank you.

      Reply
    • February 12, 2019 at 7:17 pm
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      A beautiful story, Ken. The reader really gets a sense of the depth of Bert and Margery’s love. The structure is really good, too, and it’s a very creative and effective use of the prompt. I’m not sure how the narrator knows this little bit of dialogue: “ ‘Gives us time to save up, get a few pennies behind us,’ Margery said.”, especially when it’s followed up by “Bert was probably standing beside Margery.” And I think I have to agree with Andy about the tears. Bert’s contemporary letter almost had me welling up, but my tears were stopped with the last line. So I think the ending could perhaps be re-worked (imho), but overall this is a very touching story.

      Reply
      • February 13, 2019 at 5:03 am
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        Hi Phil,

        Some very useful comments that I can take on board