Last Line Writing Prompt August 6 – August 19, 2020

Last Line: Your story must end with the line, “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

But it can be the ending to a larger sentence. For example: Jake watched McFarland take his last breath then said, “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

Word Count: 1,200





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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

The writing prompt for August  20, 2020 will be chosen by berlinermax.




230 thoughts on “Last Line Writing Prompt August 6 – August 19, 2020

  • August 6, 2020 at 2:01 pm
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    Read the stories here:

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

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

    Reply
    • August 8, 2020 at 12:29 pm
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      Signing in.

      Reply
    • August 13, 2020 at 10:33 am
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      Hi Alice /Carrie,

      My story is meant to be called “Brett Maddison is leaving town.” I can see why it is entitled “My Story”, that’s my bad.

      I’ve also picked up on an error in the young woman’s name.

      Therefore, can you please take it down and I will repost before the deadline/

      Thanks,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 11:16 am
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      Dear Alice,
      As per my understanding, voting must have started by 11.30 PM last night but I am yet to receive any notification to that effect. Will you please send me the link so that I can take part in it as well.
      Dying to hear from you. I’ve just one and half hours more. Love and best wishes,
      Rathin

      Reply
  • August 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm
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    I’m all in on this one.

    Roy

    Reply
  • August 6, 2020 at 3:36 pm
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    Signing in …

    Reply
    • August 6, 2020 at 7:07 pm
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      Ken the character’s name was Rosie. I didn’t remember the actress Nancy Walker from any TV commercial, I just looked it up after your statement. I only remember her from that old show Rhoda.

      Reply
    • August 6, 2020 at 8:14 pm
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      Flo? Not sure who it is. Gotta love waitresses everywhere.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 8, 2020 at 5:45 am
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    AFTER THE COFFEE
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    Only yesterday, I turned hundred.

    The nurses at the Home gifted me a deluxe coffee-machine for my room. It’s about time they gave up dissuading me from my love for coffee. It hasn’t killed me in a hundred years. It won’t hurt me now!

    But my most special present came a day later, today.

    We’re treated like kindergarten kids at Bethsaida. After yesterday’s birthday silliness, blowing whistles and donning paper crowns, this morning, at breakfast, they got us paper and crayons so we make welcome drawings for a new arrival due today, one Mrs. Harrimann.

    My favorite nurse, Jenny, filled me in on this Mrs. Harrimann: “She’s wealthy, childless, and long widowed. She’s horrible too. Not one nurse lasted a week at her mansion! That’s why she’s coming here.”

    “My, my! Keep her away from me, then!”

    In spite of what I’d just heard, I resolved to draw something really nice for this sad lady. I’m not good at all at drawing, but I have a knack for drawing real wicked balloons. I somehow get them right, like they’re about to leap off the paper. So I wrote, ‘Welcome Mrs. Harriman’, each letter in a different color, and drew balloons all around. I wasn’t sure if her name’s spelled with one or two ‘n’s. But seeing how Charles Lewisham next to me wrote it, ‘Mrs. Hurry Man’, I didn’t bother ask Jenny.

    But I was talking about a special present, wasn’t I? Let me say that the Lord’s grace has no bounds. When I saw the new girl on the block, it felt like I’d rewound an old movie. She must be 98 now, I thought, for she was 16 the last time I saw her, and I was 18 then. Save for some carefully fixed wrinkles, her face’s still the same. Her auburn-dyed hair’s long and wavy like when I last caressed it. She’s dressed to kill, red tight-fitting dress and a stylish waistcoat. Red like that day when they snatched her from me forever – or so they thought – back in the summer of ’38.

    CAFÈ ART NOUVEAU, JULY 1938

    “Take me to the tunnel!” she begged me.

    “Dunno… it’s not a good place for girls.”

    I regretted having even told her about that tunnel. But she was from the upper crust, I had to come up with something to impress her. I said I was an espionage insider, mentioned this secret tunnel bunker, dug up in the midst of rising fears that Nazi Germany might one day start a war. I only knew about it because my dad had worked in it, until the Great Depression dried up the funds and the whole project stalled.

    “Let’s drink our coffee first!” I deliberately changed the subject.

    My family had nothing to eat, and people here drank coffees that cost a laborer’s daily wage. Simply scandalous. But I had to keep up appearances if I wanted to rub shoulders with her. We met fortuitously, at the cemetery, both of us momentarily straying from our herds, disinterested in the last rites for relatives we cared little about. I’d a borrowed sharp suit on, she couldn’t tell that I was from a totally different world, not her wealthy kind. Fortunately, she was equally smitten with me as I was with her.

    “You come here often?” she asked me, at the Cafè Art Nouveau.

    “Well, sometimes,” I lied. I’d never even tasted coffee!

    “I don’t like it here!” she said, almost hurtingly. I’d pawned my grandfather’s watch, the only thing I still had from him, to treat her to that date.

    “Why? It’s the best in town!” I really had no clue, just that people went ‘ooh-la-la’ to the mere mention of Cafè Art Nouveau.

    “That’s why!” she explained, “I’ve had enough of best this, best that… I just wanna be normal. Have normal people as friends. Hang out. Laugh out loudly…”

    “I think of us as fortunate. At least we get to eat every day!” That clearly went over her head. I’d no idea how I was ever going to break it to her, that I wasn’t of her order.

    “So, will you take me to your secret tunnel, Sherlock?”

    She just wouldn’t let go of it! I really knew a way down, by an air-vent from a public lavatory. Dad once gave me a tour of the tunnel, where he spent his rodent years. The workers slept there, and weren’t supposed to disclose the secret.

    “Let’s finish our coffee first, shall we? Why d’you want so much to see the tunnel?”

    “I want to explore it alone with you. It’s now untended, you said. I’ve never been all alone with a boy…” A slant to her voice hinted at more than what she actually said. She preferred me to read her mind instead.

    I knew very well the trouble I’d be in, back then, if I took away the virginity of a girl of her standing. Even just luring her to that date was a very dangerous idea. But I was young, took risks. Indomitable excitement took hold of me. A quiver worked its way up my legs all the way to my stomach. I now wanted to go inside the tunnel too!

    Damn coffee, it was still too hot to drink.

    Without warning, two men in identical black suits, got inside and scanned the cafè. Before I could even take it all in, they were upon us. One picked her handbag from the floor and the other grabbed her. They were her dad’s men.

    The man with the handbag turned to me, “Don’t y’dare again! Unless you want a round in your chest! Enjoy your coffee.”

    But I’d lost my appetite.

    BETHSAIDA HOME FOR THE ELDERLY, FEBRUARY 2020

    “Tina!”

    That’s how she wanted to be called. She didn’t like her name, Martina. Less so her middle-name, Engelbertha. Wealthy people called their children such horrendous names.

    The fine old lass in the lobby turns around, visibly annoyed by the half-witted women in pajamas wheeled up to her, waving their welcome drawings gleefully at her.

    She hesitates for a moment, but I know she’s recognized me. Her eyes twinkle, her lips curl up but a little. I know that smile, and I can tell it hasn’t appeared for nearly a century. The nurses let her approach me. They’re relieved! She’s been a monster since she arrived.

    I walk her to my room.

    “Harrimann’s with two n’s,” she reprimands me on seeing the drawing, “but don’t worry, he’s long dead and I thank the good Lord for it.”

    While I make coffee, she throws her waistcoat on the couch with the air of a careless teenager. She’s remained that way, or perhaps it’s the effect I have on her. She then abandons herself wantonly on my bed.

    “You never took me to see that tunnel!” she groans.

    “You didn’t drink your coffee! I did say, after the coffee.”

    “Will you take me?” That’s not what hundred-year-olds do, but I nod.

    I place a cuppa on my bedside-table for her. And sit down next to her, holding mine.

    “Take me today!”

    “We’ll go! But you and I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina!”

    Reply
    • August 8, 2020 at 6:39 am
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      Ken Miles,

      Nice use of the prompt. A well written and engaging story. And, even though you used all 1200 words, there’s no sense of rushed editing and forced contractions to make things fit. I haven’t had a chance to read your last two stories, but I can see why you are in the winner’s circle. Well done Ken.

      I laughed when you ended the story with the anticipation of finally getting to the tunnel. It reminded me of an old joke. Two senior citizens, late in age, were reminiscing over several drinks. “My goodness,” she said. “We better be getting to our bedroom and take care of business. I’m getting pretty tight.” “I agree,” said he. “I’m a bit stiff myself.” Turned out they were both wrong.

      Nicely done.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 8, 2020 at 8:01 am
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        Hi Roy, thanks for your nice words (and the joke!).

        With this one I didn’t overshoot the word limit by much in the first draft, so it was fairly easy to squeeze it to its essence. I had the narrator getting conscribed to WW2, at first, to reinforce his separation from his love interest, but then took all that out as it was more of a distraction than anything else.

        I don’t know where the tunnel came from. I must have had THAT at the back of my mind too… and then it all fell into place! There’s also the tunnel some say connects this life to the next. Maybe the two will spend their next hundred years together there… But your interpretation is better! They both seem to be in good health, after all, in spite of their age.

        I knew of a guy who used to JOG outdoors daily at the age of 104. Or maybe, it’s the other way round: he lived to 104 because he used to jog daily.

        You didn’t read my last two stories? Drop whatever you’ve got in your hands and…

        I hope you’re now better, Roy, with your heart ailment and that you’ll be in good hands.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • August 11, 2020 at 11:30 am
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      That’s a lovely story, Ken – how love (lust?) can survive so long and be re-awoken. The tone is very nice – light, happy … despite the years. There’s a clever bit of ambiguity at the end: the symbolic meaning of the tunnel, and the ‘take me’. The set-up is great: the drawing of pictures for the newcomer. I wonder if it’s really possible to recognise someone 80 years later (?) Maybe the recognition could have come from a tic they both had (?). Uplifting story, this.

      (For my story further down, I had the idea of setting it in an old-people’s home too, but I had it in mind before I saw yours – honest, guv! The approach is different, so I hope you don’t mind me stepping on your toes just a little.)

      Reply
      • August 11, 2020 at 2:15 pm
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        Thanks, Phil! It’s indeed an uplifting ‘never too late’ tale… Funny what can come to mind when starting from the end-point of a story which involves coffee and then roll it back in time!

        The tic idea is interesting as a signature that lasts a lifetime. It could also add another dimension of humour and of ‘bonding’ between the two otherwise very different protagonists. I tried to rely on the fact that Tina really kept herself in tip-top condition at the incredible age of 98, which sort of contributes to the description of her character in its own right. And she may have recognised him as nobody else, in 2020, would have called her out by her teenage name ‘Tina’. But, indeed it was quite an incredible rendezvous. Having said that, one could still tell, right off, that for instance the old guy in “Dynasty” (yes I remember, that!) was the same Charlton Heston of old… just the way he held himself, his crossed arms, penetrating gaze and all. I imagined my narrator and Tina as people of that kind of “immortal” charisma.

        What is with you and I and old-people’s homes this week? Should we worry? I think it’s the coffee thing. If the prompt was “I’ll now have that shot of vodka’ or ‘…that one last ecstacy”, I’m sure we’d have ended up some other place. It’s the prompt, not us. Repeat. it’s the prompt, not us. We’re fine. We’re fine.

        I haven’t read your story yet, and will let you know what I think once I’ve done that. But I’m sure you didn’t copy from me, no worries about that. Neither did I, with my mind-reading powers. Trust me.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • August 14, 2020 at 10:56 am
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      Dear Ken,
      I have finished reading your story. The eternal romantic in me, can never have enough of such sweet stories of love and romance! This is the first story of yours I have read I believe, and has not my craving for many more of such stuff been just about aroused? Before I get any further, let me tell you that I wanted to make a short comment on your story but what are we but mere pawns in the hands of The Almighty?
      I like the characterization of both Mrs. Harriman and Sherlock, the protagonist or does your story have two protagonists for a change? Whatever it may be, one thing is clear from the very first time we are introduced to her straying away from the other mourners in a cemetery in 1938 – the fact that she is anything but a pretentious, blabbering, big-mouthed spoilt brat. Inspite of what people might think about her, there is a certain grace about the way she conducts herself. She didn’t change a wee bit till the end, but for the few wrinkles. She could still recognize the sharp-suited lad she had met years back and remind him of his unfulfilled promise of taking her to the forbidden land some eight decades later! What is more encouraging is, how, without bothering much about the reactions of the other inmates of the Old Age Home, holding those welcoming placards with balloons and all, she heads straight to his room! Goes to show that she had a thing for him from the first time they met.
      I have a question for you here though. If they met in 1938, and if Harriman was only 16 at the time, how old was she when they met again some 82 years down the line at the Home? One doesn’t have to be a mathematcian to tell that she was 98. How could she remember her conversation with him in the cafe down to the last bit even after nearly 82 years?
      “You promised to take me to see that tunnel!”is the first question she asks him, on entering his room and lying down in his bed! This makes me think that she might have had a failed marriage as she didn’t seem to regret the loss of her husband all that much. Can we conclude then that she had lost her heart to the dashing youth at their first encounter? Was it a case of love at first sight for both of them?
      The questions are endless and that’s what happens to the reader after reading a good story. I can’t comment on your usage of the language in the story. Makes me wonder why I think I caught you somewhere expressing something about your English!
      I failed to comprehend the symbolic meaning of the tunnel in the context of the story. Does it stand for the insatiable curiosity of the youth for exploring the unexplored, for tasting the forbidden apple from the perspective of the twosome?
      You coclude your story with the protagonist,Sherlock promising to take her on a trip to the tunnel after the coffee. Could the tunnel then possibly stand for the unrequited love of two teenagers, who wanted to break away from the shackles of the restrictions imposed on them by the society, have fun and experience the sheer joy and blissfulness of being in love?

      It will take me another lifetime to have the kind of English that most of you possess. I can’t express every single thing I feel about your story. So, forgive me if my English is flowerey. Even then, let me tell you that your story is not only a good read, it also leaves me satisfied. The lad and the lass loved one another and it was only right that they should find their way back to one another, despite the mountain of years between them.

      Now to come back to your comments about my story – I just included the conversation between Tina and the protagonist towards the end of my story relating to the first person to happen to submit his/her story to The Place proving unlucky, as an added attack or insult, call it what you will, on the prevailing scenario, you know. But there are some who beat the rest in submitting their stories and were declared as the winners too!
      So, there is no reason why yours can’t win the contest this time around. But let me tell you something else in this connection. There are no special points for those writers who submit their stories within 24 – 48 hours of the prompt being out! Problem is, there doesn’t seem to be any set criteria for selecting the winners. Speaking from the past experience, what I have seen is that the master story-tellers wait till the end for a clear grasp of the situation and competition before submitting their stories at the eleventh hour, just hours before the expiry of the deadline! As they have finished reading most of the other stories by then, they have a clear advantage over the other contenders for the top position or place. No wonder then, that they are the ones declared as the winners most often than not!
      Anyway, I may be writing in this manner because of the proverbial “grapes are sour” concept as I could never end up on the winners’ podium ever. As far as you are concerned, dear friend, there is no reason to despair. Your mother tongue, after all, is English and the story is very enthralling, to say the least. Let your story do the talking on your behalf. I wish you and your story the very best of luck and success.
      Stay safe, Ken. Stay blessed.

      Reply
      • August 15, 2020 at 11:37 am
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        HI Rathin and thanks for your detailed elogy of ‘After The Coffee’.

        I think you very much caught the spirit in which the story was written. Yes, the tunnel indeed represents the forbidden fruit, a place the two lovers are not allowed to go to, yet which they desire to visit so very desperately. First her, then him too. It’s also the tunnel of life, along which they travel for a whole century, together for a brief moment in their youth, then separated by life’s brute forces for decades upon decades, but then again re-united by destiny for another brief moment before their lease on earth is up. Some people speak of the tunnel continuing after death, with light appearing at the end of it. Maybe we can take the symbolism that far too. So, indeed, there’s a lot that can be extrapolated out of the idea of the tunnel. Or it’s just an abandoned pre-WW2 bunker, for anyone in not much of a romantic mood today…

        You asked me: ‘How could she remember her conversation with him in the cafe down to the last bit even after nearly 82 years?’ Incredible, isn’t it? That’s why I wrote this story. I mean, why write about mundane things? We do hear of old people, even some badly afflicted by dementia, who can still remember very well what they experienced half a century earlier, in full detail, and yet can’t remember if they’ve had lunch or not today. So I’m not too surprised that those two old kids remembered that brief but defining time they spent together in their teenage years. The first cut is the deepest.

        I had a Romeo and Juliet sort of plot in mind, when I set out to write this story. The Capulets and the Montagues, this time round, are the Upper Crust and the Working Class of some American city* in the first half of the 20th century. Social norms did, once again – like in the original Romeo and Juliet – split the lovers, but instead of having them killed, I had them meet once again this very year 2020, in February, before COVID-2 social-distanced them once again… A Romeo-and-Juliet-Plus tale, less heart-wrenching in the end.

        (*About the historical details of a tunnel/bunker being dug out under an American city before WW2, there’s indeed footage of Nazi submarines viewing, for example the New York skyline prior to WW2 and there were fears that Germany might physically attack America, although that didn’t actually take place. Cities on the East Coast were getting prepared for this eventuality, boarding up windows and digging up underground shelters.)

        One little thing. I don’t think that the narrator is really called Sherlock. I think Mar(Tina) is pulling his leg, when she refers to him as Sherlock (a reference to Sherlock Holmes), perhaps hinting at her being just somewhat suspicious of his pretending being an ‘espionage insider’ to impress her. Especially since he was still so young. She’s probably a very smart gal, as you also noticed.

        I didn’t quite understand this sentence of yours: ‘Makes me wonder why I think I caught you somewhere expressing something about your English!’ If you spotted something that you think is in error, or that sound somewhat funny, do please let me know! That’s one big reason I’m in here, to have extra pairs of eyes scrutinizing what I write. Thanks to that, I may improve my story-telling skills and also my mastery of the language. Unlike what you say towards the end, English is not my mother tongue. So please do report to me any linguistic slip or inconsistency you may have noticed in my use of the language. Please!

        Back to the argument about The Place, I don’t usually (ever) read the other stories before I post mine, even when I’m late to post. Otherwise I’d probably get influenced by what I read, and it would then be difficult to shake it all off and come up with my truly original piece. I don’t know about the effect of the timing of the posts on the votes. Those who post early enough may have their stories read more than once, and a second reading often brings out more subtle aspects of the story, that are hidden between the lines, that at first reading one may quite easily miss. Late posts may not afford that luxury. But then, as you said, some may be able to season their stories better, by waiting a bit and posting late, bringing their pieces up to scratch to match the competition. So no hard and fast rule there, I suppose. What if someone conducted a scientific study and found out, say, that, statistically, whoever posts their story on the second Monday of the prompt at exactly 12:37 pm Eastern Time is certainly set to win the contest! Well, whatever, I’m going to keep posting whenever I feel I’m ready (or had enough) of writing my story. And may the best story then win!

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
        • August 15, 2020 at 12:58 pm
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          Dear Ken M (I think I’ll go by Ken the Original’s way of addressing you, if you don’t mind. )
          I am left stunned, speechless, overwhelmed by your letters! (Are they letters or just comments?) How do you write such letters? Do you write them on the go or make the draft somewhere else first before posting? Whatever, you are a fantastic letter writer, nay, you seem to be a complete writer.
          Thank you for your detailed explanations of the nitty-gritty of your story. I enjoyed going through it. It taught me to value Love and those seemingly insignificant, immature moments that turn out to be precious in the end. You also caught me off guard by detailing how you came by the idea of the present story based on Shakespeare’s immortal classic “Romeo and Juliet”.What I found most interesting was how you let your lovers reunite and live for the happily-ever-after! This is what every fan of Romeo-Juliet must have wanted. This is what makes your story so unique, so special.

          I am sorry about not getting the name of the hero properly. I could have easily scrolled back up to the introductory part of the story for that but I liked Mrs. Harriman calling him by the name of “Sherlock”. You are right that Mar(tina) is a smart gal and that’s why she was trying to pull his legs but calling him by that name. It just about sums up for me the essence, the sharpness of the man. “Sherlock” seems to fit onto him like glue, don’t you agree?

          Now coming back to your query about the meaning of one of my sentences, let me make this clarification. If my memory serves me right, in your first letter to me, I saw you writing something about your English. What was it that you stated therein? Sorry I can’t recollect your exact words. Anyway, I thought you expressed some doubt about your English. I may not be the right person to comment on your English, mate, but I do think you have excellent English.
          I am surprised that English is not your mother tongue! That is something hard to believe! I don’t know how you will react to my suggestion that you should try writing a novel or something similar without wasting any more time. You have it in you to be a voluminous yet interesting writer like Dickens or Tolstoy, for the matter. This is no flattery, man, for, let me repeat it, you are a wonderful writer.

          I also like your attitude of asking someone like me to point out your mistakes. I even used to ask my students the sale to talk about my mistakes at the end of each lesson. That reminds me, if you ever find me making some silly as well as serious mistakes, do please point them out to me. I’ll really appreciate that very much.
          Normally, the critic in me is very alert while reading anything written in English but I was so engrossed in your story that even if there was a mistake or two that didn’t matter. The narrative took the upper hand and the mistakes became secondary in nature.
          Finally, I can’t agree with you more when you write, and let me reproduce your words here :
          “Well, whatever, I’m going to keep posting whenever I feel I’m ready (or had enough) of writing my story. And may the best story then win.”
          That’s the spirit, Mr. Ken M. That’s the attitude that cuts out a winner from the ordinary contestants. Here is winding up my note by wishing and praying for your success and happiness.
          May the best story win the contest not only this time but every time henceforth.
          Stay safe and happy.
          Rathin

          Reply
          • August 18, 2020 at 9:59 am
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            Wow, thanks Raithin for your many nice words! And for including my name in the same paragraphs with Dickens’s, Shakespeare’s and Tolstoy’s… well, now, you did raise the bar high for me, mate!

            I feel quite comfortable with this short story format. Indeed, a novel, seems to be the jewel in the crown for any writer. But I may run out of steam, if I were to try to write one… I actually started working on one, once, but I ended up exhausted, physically, mentally and creatively. Maybe it wasn’t the right time for me. I’d never say never… I also need to read more novels, before I attempt to write one. You may be surprised that I actually read very little, unfortunately, due to reasons of time and laziness.

            Thanks again and do hang around 🙂
            Ken

          • August 18, 2020 at 11:18 am
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            Thank you, Ken M. You are such a gifted writer. If you can write the stories so well, writing novels shouldn’t pose you a big problem.
            Anyway, it is your choice finally, I guess. Let me take you in on a secret here, friend. I want to write at least one novel before I bid “Good Bye”. I don’t know if this long cherished dream of mine, will ever turn out to be a reality.
            Take care and stay safe. God bless.

    • August 15, 2020 at 2:03 am
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      Ken M.

      That’s a great story Ken. Truly. But you have a mistake in the first line. Carrie or Alice could fix it, if they cared. If they weren’t so busy with their so-called lives. I can’t fix it. I can’t do it from here. I’d need a satellite or something. And tweezers. No, you’ll have to ask the moderators for help on that first line. Everything else looks good, and it’s a very clever story.

      Reply
      • August 15, 2020 at 10:12 am
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        Thanks Ken, I’m pleased you liked it. I’ll get back to you on your more fundemental proposals for changes that you sent me – I clearly see some merits in your alternative plotline, but I’ll write back to you in more details on that, when I have some time…

        The first line? Do you mean that comma should go? I think so, too. Or is it something else right in my face that I’m not even seeing?

        If it’s the comma and Alice/Carrie choose not to take it away, I’ll be putting it up on auction. Starting bidding price of $200. Not bad for a comma, if you think about it. I’m sure it will go for much more, once some serious offers start coming in. Some rich writer might take his masterpiece to new heights with the addition of a much needed but forgotten comma in a critical sentence. ‘He killed his son because he was drunk.’ ‘He killed his son, because he was drunk.’ ‘He, killed his son, because he was drunk.’ Damn… just who was drunk, Mr. King?

        COMMA FOR SALE. USED ONCE. BADLY.

        Hurry! Going! Going! Go..n…e!

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
        • August 17, 2020 at 2:45 am
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          Ken, M.
          Okay, this is what I am seeing as your first line. I copied and pasted it below.
          Only yesterday, I turned hundred.

          That reads, to me as, ‘Only yesterday, I turned hundred.’ You see it now? Now that I’ve typed it?

          You either turned ‘a hundred’ or ‘one-hundred’. Not hundred.
          Only yesterday, I turned one-hundred.

          I would say the comma is required.

          The story is great though, Ken. (Notwithstanding the comments I made to you privately.) This is, as it stands, a wonderful story, and pretty excellent writing. The whole concept of the story is brilliant. (You know, Lord Frape’s is very similar to yours, as is Phil’s.) I hearby renounce myself and retract my comment calling you a copycat, (or imposter, whichever one you weren’t.) I was just trying to impress Rasputin.

          I hope you believe me when I say, this story has an economy of plot details that is absolutely brilliant. They meet, they go for coffee, they connect, she’s taken away. That’s your story, and we don’t know what happened to either of them in the interim, and we don’t care. That’s why it’s brilliant.
          And then the reader finds himself at the end., the payoff.

          I’ll have to look at those suggestions I sent you, I didn’t think I suggested any serious plot changes. More like changing the wall-paper, or the dialogue. This story wins on two levels, the plot, and the execution. So I certainly wouldn’t want to change the plot, just character motivations, and who does what where. They go to her flat instead of his, and therefore she makes the coffee. (These changes are irrelevant to your version, but I think they allow for a more complex and nuanced ending,

          Reply
          • August 18, 2020 at 6:55 am
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            Hi Ken!

            Oh, yes, ‘one-hundred’ (‘a hundred’ would add me an extra word I can ill-afford!) – that was conspicuous enough, and, instead, I picked on that poor comma, the other day! Good thing no bids came in and nobody bought it off me. Incredible as that may be! Just picture it, a second-hand comma for only $200. Tell me of a better bargain than that! Even for a broken wiper they charged you double that.

            I’m pleased you loved my story, Ken, both execution- and plot-wise. I sometimes get one right at the expense of the other. A poorly executed great plot (like my Nazi-in-the-Amazon tell-not-show piece) or a nicely executed silly plot (like my college-boys-causing-havoc-in-Italy flop). So, I may have done well in both departments here. Thanks for pointing that out to me. It’s good to know when something is right, as it’s imperative to know when something is wrong. If there are any language bloopers, please let me know, too, here or privately.

            I was going to reply to your alternative plot-line by email, but I may as well say it here, while at it. What you suggest is quite a general overhaul, which I think it would bring about some major improvements. Certainly so with the vivid expressions you threw in for me, like “time was kind to her” and others.

            But also plot-wise.

            In my story, as posted, and in your alternative version, we both struggle with the problem of how an elderly lady of 98 can still be sexy. “There’s an inherent grace in all women”, “there’s something beautiful in the way a woman moves”, you wrote (i.e. irrespective of age). On my part I emphasized the fact she still so much looks like her younger self and has a teenage demeanor in the way she does things (so much so that the narrator recognize her after all those many years). Maybe it’s all in his brain: something about her presses the right buttons in his head. And maybe that something is ageless. (I mentioned, I think to Raithin, Charlton Heston’s age-proof grace that doesn’t change from Ben-Hur to his appearance in Dynasty, decades later. Not all people have it, of course.)

            But what I like most about your version, which makes it superior to mine, is that you kill the lie. In your version, the narrator is himself and doesn’t need to hide it. She knows he’s poor, offers him the coffee deal (for a trip to the tunnel) and likes/loves him for what he is. He doesn’t need to pretend to be what he isn’t. It’s not nice for the premise of a story to be based on a lie (although in real life, this happens all the time). Little white lies are ok, but perhaps not a fundamentally pivotal lie on which the story relies. I try to blame it (his lie) on the socioeconomic hypocrisy of those times, but you remove it altogether and still create a possibility for the two to connect. In my version Tina says she wants to be ‘normal’ (= poor? Part of the majority?), but he, the narrator, is unable to capitalize on that (and, to be fair to him, is given little time and opportunity to do so). It’s interesting, though, how, fast forward to 2020 and the social differences of the 1930s don’t mean anything anymore. Although, we now certainly have other new social divisions of our own.

            Your idea of having the narrator, in the second part of the story, being moved to her home for the elderly, instead of her arriving at his, is also a possibility, but I don’t see any big advantage with that change. It’s just a change of scenario. I actually like the idea of myself having been taken along by the prompt: starting with the coffee-machine gift he receives from the nurses, that sets coffee as the running theme of the story. Then comes the dramatic first-coffee-of-his-life-that-was-not-meant-to-be scene at the café and eventually the final line, requested by the prompt, that compensates for what had been brutally taken away from the protagonists’ a lifetime earlier.

            Your proposal of brining on a discussion on coffee choices on the Cafe as a metaphor of life choices to be made is a very philosophically titillating one. I don’t know, as yet, how to build on that, right now, but I’m sure this is going to remain stuck in my head. It might emerge in some future story. So be ready with a ‘You’re welcome’, when I thank you for it!

            Btw, I also commented on your story further down, in case you haven’t seen that yet.

            Cheers!
            Ken

    • August 17, 2020 at 10:02 am
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      Hi Ken M,

      Lovely story. Really enjoyed reading it as it was both evocative and engaging.

      I would be so pleased if, at the age of ONE hundred (see Ken C’s comment) I was still interested and able enough to take a female friend into a tunnel! A very naughty hint here.

      Excellent notion regarding the two people from different levels in the social strata. It’s almost like the imposter syndrome…”What am I doing here?” Or, “I don’t belong here.”

      Several great phrases:
      ..momentarily straying from our herds, disinterested……
      people went oo la la at the mere mention…
      a slant to her voice…(nudge nudge, wink, wink)

      Well done,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • August 18, 2020 at 9:48 am
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        Hi Ken,

        Thanks for reading my story and I’m pleased to hear that you found it enjoyable, evocative and engaging. Scored on all the three E’s 🙂

        Thanks, also for pointing out the phrases that worked well with you. They are my favorite bits too, but it’s still good to be able to gauge what strikes a chord or doesn’t with other people. Sometimes I write things that I’m sort of fond of, only to find out that they’ve come across as either ambiguous or uninspired to other people. More so with readers from a different cultural background, where the sense of humour may vary to some extent. And also where readers are not necessarily always called Ken like me.

        Yes, that tunnel took a life of its own! I had some sort of escape tunnel in mind, and with WW2 approaching, a bunker-type tunnel came to mind. I had Status Quo playing ‘Down The Dustpipe’ on Spotify (which I used to think is some kind of pipe down somewhere underground, to a dusty mine or a tunnel, which reinforced the whole idea. Although ‘dustpipe’ actually means an unpaved road, but I didn’t know that and the image of a tunnel/mine keeps coming to my mind whenever I hear that track). Then, given the context of the story, and as many here understood it, the tunnel became an euphemism for ‘vagina’, making the ending, in particular, rather naughty. Then there is the tunnel connecting this life to the next, of course. My narrator and Tina are a hundred and 98 years old resepectively, after all. Got to think of that too…

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 4:38 am
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      Another story that I love very much, Ken Tunnel.

      There is class differences here, good writing style. In two reads, I get the whole scenario.

      The fact that at 98 she could remember what she longed for- the tunnel walk- during her tender youthful days, speaks more.

      The digger must have done well for himself in the end to be able to afford nursing care.
      Or did he sell his spy stuff.

      Great writers all!

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 8:50 am
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        Hi Marien! Thanks and I’m pleased you enjoyed it… the way things are going The Tunnel is going to get the best character prize! lol

        I prefer when one read of a story is sort of enough to grasp the main plotline… But then a second read often yields new info that hides between the lines on first reading.

        At 98 she still remembered… (both did)… the events at the cafè. It must have been one of those big moments in life that remain with a person forever. My old man often recounts things of long ago in great, vivid detail. Even if he may forget where he’s just been half an hour ago!

        In my first draft I had the young poverty stricken narrator enlisting in the army, surviving WW2 and all that. Fortunes then changed in the new world after the War, and he pulled himself out of poverty. But I had no space to keep all that in the final 1.2 K story.

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
  • August 10, 2020 at 1:36 pm
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    Hey Rathin, welcome back! It’s so good to see you submitting to the contest again. However, I had to delete your story because you submitted it as a reply to Ken Miles’ story. Please re-post yours as a separate comment.

    Reply
    • August 10, 2020 at 8:34 pm
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      Hi, Alice. Feels good to be back home. Will do your bidding at the earliest. Stay safe and blessed. Love and best wishes.

      Reply
      • August 11, 2020 at 3:03 pm
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        Hey there Rathin,
        Where the heck ya been you mongrel sheepherder? Counting flowers on the wall? I often reminisce about your accidental insults, a talent that I thought I alone possessed. I read your story already, and would make a suggestion. Re-write it, and spell my name correctly throughout. (Or I will begin calling you Rasputin.) One other thing, it is not kosher to use the contraction I’s. (Except in redneck dialogue.) “Yo Jimmy-Bob, I’s goin’ to the store to get us some beers, you wanna go with?” Otherwise, it is strictly, I was. (Oddly, you can contract I am; I will; I would; I did; probably a few others, but not ‘I was.’
        To wit:
        Is there a contraction for I was?
        No…. there is no contraction for it. ‘Twas is an old contraction of..it was.

        Welcome back my friend.

        Ken C.
        p.s. Try not to get me confused with the other two Kens. (impostor 1, and copycat 2.) But be nice to them as they both worship me and that is a very endearing quality. I am currently working on the first paragraph of a story so boring, that my computer keeps going to sleep in the middle of the second and third sentence.

        It’s a story about a biker who decides to have his wife’s ass tattooed on the side of mount Rushmore, which causes an ink shortage that prevents the signing of a treaty between Earth, Middle Earth, and Birther Earth. (Which is really just a large, networked trailer park in the mid-west. But we humor them.) It has the solid foundational plot-conglomeration of a new Stephen King novel, and the glacial pacing of a Jim Patterson ‘Murder spree mystery.) Keep that last bit under your hat. Nice to have you back, Rath. (If that’s your real name.)

        Reply
        • August 11, 2020 at 7:27 pm
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          Dear Ken,
          It is 5 in the morning. Habitually an early-riser, I woke up, despite having gone to bed quite late by my standard last night. I picked up my mobile (something I’ve been asking my daughter not to do for the last 21 years and the only thing she seems to have come to this world for ) and there flashes your name on the screen!
          I went through our comments amidst laughing and crying and thought of sharing your welcome note with the loved ones. Now, if I tell you that I could make out every single thing you wrote, you will easily see through my pretentious nature. But let me tell you, dear Ken the Original, that you have the gift of the garb.
          Ken, I realized why I ran away from this gem of a site was not my repeated failures but it had to be your English! In spite of English being not my mother tongue, I have always had a thing for the language, decided to major in it, was the only one, out of 19, not to have secured the pass marks, and ended up being a high school teacher in a country where English was the first language!
          I am telling you all this because of your wrong notions about me ( By the way, Rathin is indeed my christened name but you can still call me Ruffin as there is a manly feel about the name). It is the fact that you seem to think that I belong to your pedestal. Truth is, buddy, I need a dicktionary, nay an encyclopedia to make out even half of your well intentional notes! It is like what I told my Australian sister-in-law once. If she didn’t want to take me for the lout I really wasn’t, she had to reduce the speed while talking to me! She followed my advice and stopped coming to India from then on!
          Anyway, Ken, sorry for misspeling your name. It was an unintentional slip. Thank you for your note though. For only you can accord a welcome note like the one you have written.(I’ll share it with the rest of the waking world, once I have your consent. I also promise to spend the rest of my day going through your note at least half a dozen times more. I caught I thought the names of two authors at the end, I never heard about, Ken!)
          God bless you, my friend, for you being what you are. A rustic Ramputstikin or whatever his name was, who spoke his mind always and was known for his rumbustious, hearty laughs. Keep correcting me so that by the time I am eighty, English won’t be a constant worry.
          I will wind up on a note of discord though. I think even Roy told me repeatedly that ‘I was’ cannot be contracted to ‘I’s but I must have picked it up from Wren and Martin where there was something on contractions. I’ve for I have; I’ll for both I shall and I will, I’m for I am and I’s for I was! Why both you and Roy seem to take such a strong objection to the usage as such, is beyond me, but like it or not, my saviour, and despite all your good intentions and advice, I’ll go on using it so long as I like the sound, smell and look of it.
          Take care, mate. It feels good to hear from you.

          Reply
          • August 12, 2020 at 9:49 am
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            Hi Rathin, and nice to meet you!

            I’m one of the other two Kens, introduced to you with such gusto as “the Imposter” and “the Copycat” by Captain Cartisano. So I’m one of those two, don’t really know which exactly, and in any case, by those titles he bestowed upon us, he only meant that he’s been around longer and is therefore older and has more wrinkles. The other Ken, btw, is Mr. Frape (Lord Frape, for some) from the United Kingdom. I’m sure you’re going to be very pleased to meet him too when he shows up.

            I joined The Place over a year ago, and never missed a prompt ever since. I agree with you that there is some very fine writing going on in here and that it is an overall enjoyable experience.

            I know you were here before. Before I took the leap, last year, I did have a look at the old prompts to see what goes on on this site, and I remember seeing your picture and some of your past contributions. Welcome back to the fold!

            So you live in Bhutan! Wow. That’s one of very few remaining places that sound legendary enough (to me) in this small world of ours (and that really exist). The others being (for me) Borneo, Mongolia, N. Korea and the inner reaches of the Amazon. Bhutan may be special in the way people have learned how to organize themselves, from what I hear. Is it true that it abounds with happiness? Now don’t break my heart and crush my sense of awe – say it does!

            I never heard or read the contraction ‘I’s’. But I like your attitude and jealousy guarded poetic license about it.

            I sometimes have a problem with English. The spread of the language is such that it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific target audience. That’s difficult enough language-wise, and even more so culture-wise. It’s not a cosy language in the sense of, for example, if I write something in Italian, another language I know, whose target readership hails totally from a monocultural umbrella with a single collective consciousness. So I deliberately chose America as my target audience and I try to tailor my writings with that demographic in mind (with varying levels of success, given that I don’t live there). I need that subconscious orientation for my writing. Even if my stories happen anywhere in the world, my reader is either American or someone who consumes American culture or is somewhat familiar with it.

            But that’s just me. I’m sure others can do better that. Like sprinkling their writings with their own homespun peppering language gems like ‘I’s’, and worry less than I do about target audience. I’s might become your trademark word. There might be a Wikipedia article about it and it’s obscure origins, one day, and you’ll be mentioned in it.

            But someone might call you a redneck. I’m sure you won’t mind.

            Cheers!
            Ken

          • August 12, 2020 at 11:30 am
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            Dear Ken,
            Let me tell you why it has taken me so long to reply to your comments. Let me start with the last line first (it took me close to half hour to find out the meaning of a redneck. I referred to Cambridge Dictionary and what I found out, made me anything but happy. I learnt that a redneck is a country bumpkin with prejudiced ideas and beliefs.
            Now, believe you me, my dear friend, when I say that I’s is not my invention. In fact, I have been using it for as long as I can remember. (No wonder I failed in English everytime there’s a test. I’s so terrified of the language that I used my mother tongue while answering a question in the final examination. It’s probably the first and last time something like that happened. So, if my name finally makes it to Wikipedia, it may not be such a big deal for me.
            Let me share a secret with you, in this context, Ken. I’ve always been a rebel, delighting in doing things thoroughly unconventional. So, when people consider it sacrilegious to use any other term with Christmas other than ‘Merry”, I would happily wishing friends using ‘Happy’s before it, A kind of liberty that might seem preposterous to you. But who sets all these practices and conventions for us?
            Anyway, Mr. Ken, despite your apparent annoyance with me for contracting I was to I’s, I like the tone of your comments, especially the part that concerns Bhutan. I had the good fortune of working there for close to 3 decades. I got superannuated last year. I have already written a lot about this god-blessed country, The Last Shangrila in the world. If you haven’t been there already, grab a heart and head straight away for The Happiness Country. You won’t regret the experience, Ken.
            Thanks for the welcome note. I have very seldom been accorded such a grand welcome, if know you must.
            P. S : I want to read your story tonight. The story has to be good, based on what Roy and Phil had to say about it. Keep shining and spreading happiness around, my friend. Glad to meet you too.

  • August 10, 2020 at 7:36 pm
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    “Hi Tina, I’m home, and dying of thirst, any chance of a coffee?”

    “Where the bloody hell have you been? I’ve been waiting all afternoon for you. I was worried, as if I don’t have enough to do today. And yes I just made a fresh pot of coffee.”

    “Great hon, you really are the best.”

    “Did you deliver the cake to the hall in time?”

    “I’ll tell you everything in a sec but I would really love that cup of coffee first.”

    “Just tell me I don’t have to worry about that damn cake anymore.”

    “Tina it’s okay. Well kinda okay”

    “What? What does kinda mean?”

    “I guess I’ll have to show you, just come outside for a minute.”

    “Jim I don’t have time for games right now, just tell me.”

    “Honey, honestly it’s better if you come outside and let me show you. It’s in the trunk of my car.”

    “OMG, the cake? The cake is in your trunk? What the hell happened?”

    “Just open the cake box and you can see what happened.”

    “ Oh god, there’s a huge dent in the middle of the cake. Jim, this is beyond repair. It’s our daughter’s wedding tomorrow, she’s expecting a beautiful wedding cake, a perfect wedding cake.”

    “I’m sorry, really sorry. I don’t know what else to say. Can’t you kinda fix it a bit, you know, smooth out the icing, put something over the big dent in the middle. People will never notice.”

    “Put something over the dent? The whole cake is caved in. Really James, I cannot believe you are that stupid.”

    “You only call me James when you’re really angry. Are you really angry?”

    “Oh yes James, I am really angry. What did you expect? Did you really think I wouldn’t notice the cake was destroyed? Why didn’t you have them deliver it to the hall like I asked you? The delivery was part of the horrendous cost of this thing.”

    “Cause you said you needed it there by 5:00 and the bakery closed at 3:00 today. They had some kind of family emergency and called me on my cell to come pick it up. Then the back seat of my car was full, so I thought it would be better in the trunk.”

    “You mean you’ve been driving around with our daughter’s wedding cake in the trunk of your car for two hours. OH MY GOD!! You really are totally insane”

    “Honey, please let me explain. You know I had to pick up my tux. You explicitly told me not to forget to do that, and I didn’t. You should be happy about that.”

    “James, you are not a child. Why would I be happy that you finally remembered to do something I asked of you? Honestly, you are the most frustrating man I have ever known. But go on please, I can’t wait to hear the rest of your excuse.”

    “Okay, so after I picked up my tux I went for a quick drink with Jake at the sports bar. He’s in a bad way you know. His wife Stacy left him two days ago, right out of the blue. He’s devastated. The poor guy doesn’t know what to do. So I thought I would try and cheer him up a bit.”

    “Why the hell would you be concerned with Jake a day before our daughter’s wedding? You know how much I have left to do. You said you would help with the running around. Instead you go for a drink with him?”

    “I thought, just one drink, then I would leave. So I start telling Jake about the wedding. You know he always had a soft spot in his heart for Lana. By the way, can we send him an invitation, he says he didn’t get one?”

    “No we can’t send him an invitation James, the wedding is tomorrow you idiot. But go on, I can’t wait to hear the rest.”

    “Oh, okay. So then I tell him I have the wedding cake in the trunk and would he like to see it. I kinda thought it would cheer him up a bit. He had been drinking ever since she left him and was really feeling sorry for himself. But in my defense I really didn’t think he was that drunk. You know, maybe a little tipsy, but definitely not drunk.”

    “So you take a man, who was ‘a little tipsy’ as you say, ignoring the fact that he had been drinking most of the last two days, out to your car to show him a wedding cake. Of course, only you would have done such an asinine thing.”

    “I thought it was a great idea at the time. Then when I opened the trunk I forgot the cake was inside a box and he couldn’t see it. So I lifted the lid, and he started to bend over to take a closer look, and..and..”

    “And what James?”

    “And that’s when he overbalanced and fell into the cake. Face first, before I could catch him. But he said the icing tasted good, he thinks it’s ganache, his favorite type of chocolate icing.”

    “Holy god, I don’t believe it, how could this happen a day before the wedding.”

    “Oh come on honey, it’s not that bad, I’ll take it into the house – you can do that magic thing you always do. You are so good at things like this.”

    “Don’t try and butter me up James, this is beyond repair. I really don’t know if I can save the cake, or at least make it look like someone didn’t fall head first into the damn thing.”

    “I’m sure you’ll think of something, you always do, just let me carry it into the house and you can make it all better.”

    “Well, do you think you can carry it into the house without dropping it?”

    “Oh it’s sarcasm now, first you’re angry at me now your usual sarcasm. Give me a break here Tina I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. Just go open the door for me.”

    “Okay, but watch out for the bloody cat, he just ran in right under your feet. How did you ever miss him?”

    “Guess my lucky streak has started, better late than never huh? So here you go, one wedding cake, safe and sound on the kitchen table. I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

    Reply
    • August 10, 2020 at 8:40 pm
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      Madam Sandra,
      The first story I happen to return after my self-imposed hibernation and I realize what I have missed! Nice story. I am happy that the cake was still serviceable (?).
      I also like your sense of wit and humour. The conversation between the husband and wife has been written very deftly.
      Thanks for the story. Stay safe.

      Reply
      • August 11, 2020 at 3:24 am
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        thanks so much for your kind words. I will always wonder if anyone ate that cake. lol

        Reply
    • August 14, 2020 at 11:17 am
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      This is a hilarious story, Sandra. The dialogue had me laughing right out loud. It well typifies the good-natured friction between a typical husband and wife. A fun and very well-crafted story.

      Reply
      • August 14, 2020 at 1:19 pm
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        HI Ken, thanks so much for your kind words. Humor is so personal, I never know if I crack it on the head or not. But if you laughed out loud, that’s all the encouragement I need. thanks again!!
        Sandra

        Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 1:10 pm
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        Good-natured??? That last line coming at the end of the dialogue makes me wonder if the wedding won’t be overshadowed by the bride’s father’s funeral.

        Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 11:11 pm
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      This is great fun, Sandra! The tension between the couple is really well established – she all stress, he all exasperating (and possibly tipsy) calmness. My favourite line: “But he said the icing tasted good, he thinks it’s ganache, his favorite type of chocolate icing.” (as if this makes everything ok). Very good use of the last line! I like the dialogue without tags – we’re never lost, and it gives the story good pace.

      A couple of observations:

      – Near the beginning, the wife asks: “Did you deliver the cake to the hall in time?” But later: “Why didn’t you have them deliver it to the hall like I asked you?”

      – Sometimes the dialogue is a little expository, e.g.: “I went for a quick drink with Jake at the sports bar. He’s in a bad way you know. His wife Stacy left him two days ago.” Jim’s wife knows Jake, so she knows that Stacy is Jake’s wife. Here, it could have been just: “He’s in a bad way you know. Stacy left him two days ago.”

      But it’s a very enjoyable story.

      Reply
      • August 16, 2020 at 11:51 am
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        Thank you for your comments Phil, your “observations” were very helpful. Seems no matter how many times you re-read your own writing you seem to miss something. Your two points were very helpful, thanks. I seem to be able to write conversations easily, they just flow out of me. But I have a hard time with descriptions of things and places, so much so that I almost gave up writing this summer. But this exercise with all of you, every month or so, has spurred me on to continue. So thanks again for taking the time to read my story.

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 7:29 am
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      Hi Sandra,

      What a great take on the prompt and so much fun to read. I guess not much fun if you ever have to go through such an ordeal for real.

      Loved the way James seems to have no real understanding of just how seriously he has messed up. Apart from dragging his daughter’s wedding dress through a puddle, there’s not much he could have done that would have been worse.

      Men, eh?

      Only small crit. I might have wanted to ramp up Tina’s anger a little. These kind of things can lead to murder, or divorce or, at the very least, some very serious shouting. Tina must be a saint.

      An all round great read. Lovely stuff, Sandra.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 6:55 am
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      Sandra,

      That’s your first story I’m reading. It’s absolutely hilarious. Patience or Disquiet must be Tina’s middle name.
      I
      I can visualize the guy.. he does utter some classic lines.

      His last resort at flattery.. you can do magic bit.. ( haven’t I heard that!!)
      ‘Oh it’s sarcasm now, first you’re angry at me now your usual sarcasm…
      The ganache bit.

      I can’t decide who I like better.
      High strung Tina is not my cuppa. But her man may raise her BP, but he will never suffer from ulcers, I tellya.

      Loved it.. made me laugh.

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 8:48 am
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      Sandra,

      You’ve taken a perfectly good slice of life and told a tale of misadventure with a never may care husband and a long suffering wife. And, you did it believably. Good job, enjoyed the tale. I think the husband’s line, “Give me a break here, Tina, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.” says it all about how people who end up doing stupid things think what just happened wasn’t their fault. So much truth in that sentence. Well done. That sentence needed the commas I added, by the way, and there were a few more things I picked up, but nothing to write home about.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 11, 2020 at 11:37 am
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    GOOD SPIRITS

    The doctor came to reception to meet me.

    “I’m sorry, what was your name again?” she asked.

    “Jean Peters,” I said. I thought she should have known it as I’d called ahead.

    “Ah, yes. Well, Ms Peters– “

    “Jean, please. And you’re Doctor Sinclair, is that right?”

    “Yes, but you can call me Dorothy.”

    “So … Dorothy. I understand my uncle’s doing okay.”

    “Yes,” she said, taking me by the arm and leading me down a corridor. “He seems to have taken … it surprisingly well.”

    “That IS surprising. They’d been married for, what, 58 … no, 59 years. And they’d never been apart for a single day in all that time.”

    “I know,” she said, shaking her head gently. “It was lucky that they could spend all but a few of those last days together here.”

    “Very lucky. You don’t normally allow couples, do you?”

    “Actually we do have two suites for married couples, but they’re very much in demand.”

    I kept pace with her as she walked, her rubber shoes squeaking on the polished floor. The corridors were bright with natural light coming in from the glass ceilings, reflecting off the white walls. It gave the place a sterile look, and the ambient smell was of disinfectant, with an occasional faint suggestion of urine or vomit as we passed the open doorways to the guests’ rooms. The overall impression I had, though, was one of cleanliness and order, which reassured me that Aunt Tina and Uncle Albert had been well looked after.

    “But I suppose that my uncle will have to make way for another couple now?”

    “I’m afraid so, but we’re giving him a few days more before we move him.”

    We carried on in silence for a while. The corridors seemed to go on forever; it was a very large establishment. I sensed the doctor looking at me as we walked.

    “You know, you have some of your aunt’s features – the nose, the eyes.”

    “She was my mother’s sister. I was the spitting image of my mother.”

    “And you’re the only relative they … your uncle has left?”

    “Yes. I live and work in Spain – that’s why I couldn’t get over for the funeral.” I felt guilty about it and wanted to pre-empt any comment from her.

    “Of course.”

    “Was it … quick?”

    “She was fine then she had a fall – it was in the kitchen, actually.”

    She pointed it out as we passed.

    “Poor thing.”

    “Yes. She just deteriorated very fast from then on.”

    We walked on in respectful silence for a few moments.

    “And when was the last time you saw them?” the doctor asked.

    “Two or three years ago, just before they came here. They were doing so well looking after themselves, then almost overnight my uncle got too weak and poorly to manage at home. They could have got someone to live in, I suppose, but I think they decided that things weren’t going to get any better, so this was the best place for them. And as they could afford it …”

    “Yes, that’s a definite concern normally. This place isn’t cheap.”

    I was surprised at her candour.

    “But tell me, doc– Dorothy, how is he really?”

    “He’s okay, all things considered! And he seems in good spirits.”

    “That’s reassuring to know,” I smiled.

    “Excuse me a moment,” the doctor said, stopping to speak to a man in a suit who opened a folder to show her something.

    As they talked, I poked my head in one of the bedrooms, which had the curtains closed. Classical music played softly on a radio in the corner. A shape in the bed moved.

    “I want my lawn mower back,” came a slurred voice. “Then ice-cream. Here boy! Good dog.”

    I shuddered. I wouldn’t wish that state on my worst enemy, I thought.

    “I’m sorry about that,” the doctor said, taking my arm again. “Admin! Can’t live with it, can’t live without it! Now, it’s just along here.”

    We came near the end of a corridor. Through the emergency doors ahead I could see the impeccable garden, bathed in autumn sunlight. On the left, a door was open and we entered.

    Uncle Albert was looking out onto the garden, the movement at the doorway causing him to turn towards us. His face was almost as white as the pillow on which his head rested.

    He smiled faintly – a reflex smile.

    “Look who’s here!” announced the doctor cheerfully, guiding me in front of her with a gentle hand on my back.

    Before I could say anything, Uncle Albert’s smile broadened, genuine now.

    “Oh, how beautiful you are!” he said. I must admit it made me blush.

    I went to his side and took his cold, bony hand. His eyes – grey, indistinct – were filling with tears and something else, which I now know was love. Eternal, unwavering, unconditional love.

    “Well,” he said, “I’ve been thinking. What if I do the living room first? That way it’ll be ready for Christmas. I can do the other rooms in the spring – no rush. And I’ve finished off the garden – look.”

    He pointed out of the window at the vast lawns and flower beds.

    “But you know what? All that thinking and working’s tired my brain out. Didn’t you say you were going to the kitchen? If you are …

    And here he squeezed my hand and winked.

    “… I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

    .

    Reply
    • August 11, 2020 at 1:11 pm
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      Hi, Phil. Writing for the third time to say “Hello” to you. Every time I read one of yours, I start suffering from some kinda complex. This is how good stories are meant to be written, something inside my head tells me. This is how great writers write their stories, I conclude.
      Your language has always been one of your special. appeals. As are your classy endings. They are always so full of twists and turns. Take the ending of the present story, for example. I had to read it twice to really get to the bottom of it, to really appreciate it fully. Uncle Albert took (mistook?) the niece for her aunt thereby lending an added charm to the story. Keep churning out such beauties, my dear friend.
      I consider myself lucky to be writing alongside someone of your class and merit. Stay safe. God bless.

      Reply
      • August 15, 2020 at 11:13 pm
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        Thanks, Rathin! (but much too kind)

        Good to have you back!

        Reply
    • August 17, 2020 at 12:45 pm
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      Phil,

      This is an odd story, Phil. Touching, but at the same time, a bit macabre, because of where you ended it, which, I’m guessing you didn’t necessarily intend. I read it three times, mainly because of the beginning, the casual approach of the doctor, the names of the characters. I kept wondering if any of that detail at the beginning was relevant to the ending. I realize that the main character’s relationship and resemblance to her aunt is a key element, but other than that, I’m left to conclude that the other details were just setting the scene.

      What’s relevant, is that Uncle Albert seems frozen in that instant in time, when his wife went to get something from the kitchen. That’s the reveal, isn’t it?

      Reply
      • August 17, 2020 at 2:59 pm
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        Thanks for the three reads, KenC (you trooper!). Not sure about ‘macabre’ really (“disturbing because concerned with or causing a fear of death”, according to my Dick’n’Harry). The walk through the corridors is to give time for a bit of back-story to evolve, and to allow Jean to have a peek at a case of – probably – dementia, which is supposed to foreshadow Uncle Albert’s actual state (which hasn’t been picked up by the doc., therefore the atttempted irony of ‘Good Spirits’).

        All a bit too obscure, obviously …

        Reply
        • August 18, 2020 at 12:34 pm
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          Phil,

          RE: Three reads.

          That sounds labor intensive and discouraging. (I hate to hear that my own self, now that I think about it.) But you mustn’t see it that way. It was no work at all on my part, more like examining a puzzle that someone else is working on. And your stories, Phil, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but they always stick to my synapses. Rarely do your stories fade from memory or blink out of existence altogether. (Mentally speaking.) And this is independent of how much I may have enjoyed them. This story is no exception.

          As for ‘macabre’. Such a poor choice of words on my part. I think ‘eerie’ or ‘disturbing’ is more accurate. (And sad. For many, our collective fate.) I didn’t read any sexual connotations into the story, (as Ken M. did), what I missed, was the fact that the doctor wasn’t aware of his condition, and therefore the irony. (A bit odd, since I expected him to be in that state before it was shown: No doubt due to the breadcrumb, which planted the seed of dementia without me knowing it.)

          If only the doctor was a damned writer, she would’ve figured it out so much sooner!

          In all other respects, Ken’s comments were, as usual, ‘mind-expanding.’

          Which reminds me of another thing. I noticed that you have quietly, (some would say, stealthily, if they could spell it) begun CAPITALIZING all the letters in your TITLES. Yeah, that’s right, I notice these things, along with BLATANT mistakes in the first sentence. (Unless I wrote it myself.) So now both you and Ken M. are using all caps in your titles.
          (BTW, I brought titles to this contest. Hard to believe, I know, but none of the writers titled their work until I showed them how to do it. You remember, you were there. (Of course, you remember it differently, because you were there.)
          Anyway…
          This CAP thing puts me in an awkward position, the position of having to decide whether I want to succumb immediately to this creeping CAPITALIZATION, or fight it, with all the little letters at my disposal.

          To CAP? Or not to cap? That is the new question. Whether t’is nobler on the page, to err on the side of humility, or, to throw caution to the wind and let that title strut across the top of the page, fists raised, a bold exclamation point on a flat tenement rooftop. I AM ALL OF ME THAT I NEED.

          (Like I needed this, with everything else going on.) In any case, you’ve nothing to worry about. I blame Ken Miles.

          Cheerz.
          KC

          Reply
          • August 18, 2020 at 2:01 pm
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            Hi Ken, I’ve been capitalizing my titles for some time now. And the reason behind this is simple.

            In the United States, it’s customary to Capitalize The First Letter Of All The Words In A Title.

            But in the United Kingdom, by orders of His Majesty Henry VIII (who doesn’t take a no for an answer) one should Only Capitalise the First Letter of the Words that Carry Meaning and not of Articles, Prepositions and every other Silly Particle Except when the said Artichokes, Potatoes and Silly Partridges Come at the Beginning of the Title.

            So, whichever way I was going to do it, I was gonna get frowns from either side of the Atlantic. So I found the legendary Third Way: I CAPITALIZE JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING.

            Now that’s my reason. I don’t know why Phil is doing it too. Maybe after he read something important in the Bible.

            Cherries!
            Ken

          • August 21, 2020 at 5:37 pm
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            Thanks, Ken. I’m pleased that it seems some of my stories ar memorable for you.

            The capitals … I just use them to make the title stand out from the story proper. I’d prefer it if Alice/Carrie put the title in lower case in the index, but I think they probably copy/paste to avoid unnecessary typos.

    • August 18, 2020 at 4:48 am
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      Hi Phil,

      This story builds up slowly, things seem pretty positive (in good spirits and all), in spite of the recent loss. But I could feel the tension building – it just can’t be THAT good – this is the calm before the storm. The calm corridors of this edifice (the building is almost another character in the story) and the calm, gentle demeanor of the doctor made me nervous, knowing very well that something just beneath the surface surely wasn’t quite right. At all.

      That breadcrumb you threw in, of the demented patient along the way, does plant a clue to what was to come. As does the doctor’s observation that Jean looks like her aunt. But it’s when the uncle tells Jean “How beautiful you are”, that it all came together, for me, and the story built up to an exciting climax. Macabre, Ken C. called it. Perhaps, because it hints to thoughts of incest (even though the demented uncle is not to accused of anything, of course, given his poor mental state).

      I thought it would go wilder, that he’d insist his niece (= “wife”) joined him in bed and that the doctor left the room, or something like that. Or he’d remind her of some saucy experience they had together (“that night the guard found us naked in the hotel elevator…”), instead of just how he’s going to do up the rooms. He does squeeze her hand and wink. What if he wouldn’t let go of her hand? “Dorothy will bring the coffee, no worries, dear..!” No Doctor Dorothy, will have to call security…

      But it works very well as it is, too. Retaining a PG rating. The very fact you let my imagination run in those directions shows that the story has worked very well with me!

      There is just one thing I would definitely re-inforce. When the doctor says that the aunt fell in the kitchen, I think it would tighten the story further if she added ‘coffee’ to what she said.

      “She was fixing the two of them some coffee, in the kitchen, when she slipped. Never recovered…”

      With the prompt being as it is, that hint to coffee, that I’m suggesting, may (just may) give away a little too much too soon. But readers elsewhere, wouldn’t have any knowledge of the prompt. (I’m always thinking of where our stories could go beyond this “workshop” here…).

      You gave us a memorable, gentle and yet very sad story, Phil. No monsters and werewolves, just the much bigger horrors of getting old and loosing one’s loved ones – and one’s own mind.

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 8:49 pm
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        Thanks, KenM! For the nice comments and good suggestions.

        (The alternative version you were thinking about sounds like a ‘Carry On’ film, with Charles Hawtrey in bed and Barbara Windsor as Jean. Maybe another time …)

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 10:27 am
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      Hi Phil,

      Such a lovely story. So puts me in mind of my father’s last few weeks in a Care Home. He and my mum had been married for 70 years in the January and he died with vascular dementia in the May. They hardly spent a day apart like Albert and Tina here.

      I felt real emotion when I read this. You really hit the nail on the head with your writing.

      The final sentence, the one we all knew was coming, was actually a surprise as I was so engrossed in the story.

      Masterful writing Phil. As ever.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 8:52 pm
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        Thanks, KenF, for your encouraging words (as ever!). Sorry that it made sad memories re-surface for you.

        (I did comment on the first version of your story, which I liked, but I’m afraid time ran out for me to comment on the last-posted stories.)

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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      Alzheimer’s is so heartbreaking. 🙁 A very understated and touching story.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 8:54 pm
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        Thanks, Vicki!

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 4:13 am
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      What a soul stirring, lovely story, steeped in the sad reality of dementia. So many suffer this way. I know many tales.

      At least Albert knew his true love all through his life. The end is touching. He lives for that moment his wife will return with coffee from the kitchen.
      Today what’s called Alzheimers or dementia.. was in the old novels, talked of as ‘madness’.
      Another medical cure is so needed for this illness.

      Albert is the hero.

      Reply
      • August 21, 2020 at 5:32 pm
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        Thanks, Marien!

        It would be great to have a cure asap; we’re all getting older …

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 8:52 am
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      Phil,

      Good job, and you made a beautiful story from a scene that probably happens everyday (well, they used to pre-covid) in nursing and convalescent homes all over the world, into a wonderful love story. Loved it. Good job, as always, Phil. No problems noted. (And I looked for them.)

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 21, 2020 at 5:33 pm
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        Thanks for the kind words, Roy.

        Reply
  • August 11, 2020 at 2:32 pm
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    A Lovey-Dovey Affair

    I caught Tina watching me intently with those probing eyes.

    “Have the coffee first. It’s getting cold. Mind telling me what took you so long?” She blurted out all at once.

    I cleared my throat and said,” I realized what I’d missed staying away from you all. Being with you, even If I can’t be a great writer, at least I won’t die an unfulfilled man. The coffee may wait as I’ve a lot of catching up to do. How is Roy? I hope the old man’s still going great guns.”

    “Roy’s fine. He’s a fighter to the core. He doesn’t give up so easily like the way people half his age, do.” She replied with a cutting edge in her voice.

    “I know I’ve never been much of a fighter. When your life is full of the downs, hope for the ups barely surfaces, you know.”

    Then I saw Sam, the old hand, near the Reception, looking around, taking his time before heading our way with the sanitizer.

    “How’s my Canadian buddy? I never knew I’d such feelings for him. You know your true friends when you’re away from them for sometime, right?”

    I fixed my eyes on hers in the magical light as she looked directly at me.

    “Is this why you agreed to meet me here? To enquire about your old buddies? To drive home to me how much you missed all of us?” She sounded fatigued.

    A middle-aged lady at the next table, got up just then to pat a whining child, sitting beside his mother. She somehow reminded me of another dear friend, Anindita. I looked at the lady first before letting my eyes rest on the sordid-looking coffee mug in front. I withdrew my eyes from the mug.

    “Just tell me about that dear lady, Anindita. The last I saw of her was a comment she made to you, Tina. Through it, she offered to help, remember?”

    Anindita, like Roy, Phil, Castiano, I reminsced briefly, always tried to help me grow up. Within a short span of time, she became more of a sister to me. How could I be so mean?

    I shot a furtive glance at Tina nodding her head, looking preoccupied.

    “I haven’t heard from Anindita for long. The grapevine’s it though that they are thinking of moving back to India.”

    “To….WHERE?” The pretty receptionist shook her head and cast a disapproving look in my direction at the sudden outburst. I didn’t care. “India? What the hell is she going there for? Didn’t I read in The ToI today itself that India accounted for 29% of all new Covid-19 cases and 21% of all deaths reported on Sunday – the largest share in the world? Why is she heading home at such a precaurious time?”

    Tina didn’t bother answering my question, while I carried on, “The reality may be far more menacing than what’s being reported.They’re just eyewashing people like us.”

    “Who isn’t? Weren’t you when you’re quoted remarking on a popular channel about the high-handed attitude of the West? Your ‘pathetic’ experiences and how you’re MADE to stay at the bottom half of our contest every time you participated in it?”

    She grasped the mug so tightly in her gloved fist that some coffee spilled over. .

    I’s stunned. Two things sprang up to my mind at that instant. My casual acceptance of one Tina Nelson as a Facebook friend and the words of Ken after I’d vented out my frustrarion at being bypassed by all and sundry once again to the top spot. He’d comforted me saying that it had taken him 6 years to secure the first position. What tenacity the man had along with his mastery of English!

    “Tell me how’d you have reacted in my place? Wasn’t a single story of mine worth something? I’m an ordinary mortal, Tina, no saint.” I hissed out.

    “How about those talented writers who keep contributing to our site and don’t even get any feedbacks at times?” She held her ground.

    For the first time since I met her, I’d the urge to take her in my arms. She looked gorgeous as always. Her no-nonsensical, amicable nature was what’d drawn me to her at first.
    The gold chain with the cross-shaped pendent hanging beneath the V of her neck, kept distracting me.

    “I don’t know about you all. How you feel about being overlooked time and again, rejected outright as second-grade writers! But I find the rejections hard to digest. There’re times when I simply can’t help feeling that the whole thing is a cover-up, a tell-tale brainwash! While those in the know of things are secretly being rewarded somehow, I don’t mean how, but they’re probably finding their way to some magazines or something…..”

    If I’d expected something akin to a look of remorse on her face, I’s wrong. Tina held my eyes in a gazelock. I noticed a muscle around her left eye twitch. Did I catch a sharp rebuke in those eyes as well?

    “What are you trying to imply? That the whole contest is a hoax? That it’s manipulated?” There’s a tremble in her voice.

    “I didn’t say that, Tina. But if you insist, let me tell you this that things can’t go on the way they have so far. They’ve to change. That’s all I meant.”

    Leaning over, she signalled to Sam for two fresh coffees before catching me off guard with, “What do you mean by things have to change? Like how?”

    Once the fresh coffee was placed before us, she pushed my cup towards me. I thought I could catch the outline of a smile on her face. I still kept the cup at a distance and uttered:

    “Like, things can be more transpafent. Like outsiders like me, can be oriented on how the site is run and managed. Like by informing if the winner of the weekly contest gets rewarded financially or not? Like, what happens to the other stories? Are they discarded, dumped down the drain? Why can’t you bring out a half-yearly or a quarterly online magazine with some of those stories?”

    In spite of my temper rising, I noticed that she let me hold her hand in mine Indulgently. When she spoke next, she sounded more like herself.

    “I’m just a part of the admin. I don’t have any say in anything, you understand? But I’ve this gut feeling that things’re bound to change gradually.” She murmured, fetching her cup towards herself, “Just one final request?”

    I tried disengaging my gaze from the area around the pendent and quipped, “What?”

    “Don’t be the first one to send your story. There’s a belief that the first person to send a story, is always UNLUCKY!”

    “You don’t really mean that?”

    “Welcome back to where you belong, Ron.” She removed her mask for a sip of her coffee before proceeding to ask me. “Dinner at my place?”

    “Wherever you want it, ” I replied, happy to see the familiar smile back on her face. I pulled the cup towards me with my right hand and removed the mask gleefully.

    *I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

    The end

    Reply
    • August 13, 2020 at 9:52 am
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      Hi again Rathin,

      That’s one hell of a comeback, Sir, with a thinly-veiled down and dirty critique of the rampant corruption and nepotism that takes place at The Place! 🙂

      But let me start with your writing style, mate. I personally find it breezy and enjoyable, with well-placed idiomatic turns of phrase (not always, but most times). The first thing I look for in a story is enjoyment. And you’ve got it! With every line, you got me looking forward to the next. Not once to look at my watch.

      There were moments where your dialogue goes somewhat overboard with exposition. Let me say itat the outset (before I get you worrying too much about it!) – yours is not a very serious case of this ugly phenomenon, that plagues most writers, also some otherwise brilliant ones (and not least myself, sometimes). I’m talking about those parts of your dialogue where the narrator was supposed to be talking to Tina, but it was quite evident that he was instead talking to *me*, the reader. I’ll stop blabbering and give you a couple of cases (since you seem to be a good person and I wish you well ):

      Your narrator said:

      “Who isn’t? Weren’t you when you’re quoted remarking on a popular channel about the high-handed attitude of the West?”

      Now, here you’re clearly trying to put the reader into the picture of who Tina is, that her word somehow carries or so the narrator thinks (she’s sometimes ‘on a popular channel’, no less). That’s important info for me as a reader to know. But if you’re passing that info to me through what the narrator is saying to Tina, it has to really sound the way a person would speak to another person.

      One little change already makes a huge improvement, IMO:

      “on THAT popular channel”

      instead of

      “on A popular channel.”

      Tina and the narrator both know what channel they’re talking about, so it’s got to be in a definitive form. The indefinite article “a”, unfortunately, blows your cover: that your narrator is not really talking to Tina, but you, the writer, are exposing info to me, the reader. Of course, I had no idea on what popular channel Tina spoke and you’re telling me about it for the first time to fill me in. Make it sound natural, as if the narrator is really talking to Tina, and I’ll still get it…

      I’d go further with this. If Tina spoke on CNN, I don’t think the narrator, or you and I, would say “on that/a popular channel”, but something like:

      “Wasn’t that you on CNN, lashing out at the high-handed attitude of the West?”

      If it’s indeed a popular channel, I don’t think the narrator would have forgotten what it’s called, and it’s only natural that he’d mention it by name.

      Then there is, of course, that bloody political correctness issue. Maybe CNN will sue you for mentioning their name in vain. I don’t think they would. But if they do, lucky you. That will be your ticket to stardom, all the newspapers in the land running headlines ‘Writer sued by CNN’. Everyone would of course want to read your stuff after that. Remember what made one Mr. Rushdie a huge hit?).

      You must have noticed that I also changed some more things in your sentence, to make it more naturally-sounding, like removing the quoting bit. He’s already quoting her saying what she said on the popular channel. To say that he’s quoting what she was quoted saying on the popular channel, is adding an unnecessary extra layer. Unless this was actually needed to create some ambiguity in the reader’s mind. Like when I say that John told me what Peter told him what Mike said Reuben had said. And of course a bell rings in my head: Chinese telephone! But it’s not the case here, with your story: you do want us to believe what the narrator is saying. So, those words “quoted saying”, you’re better off without.

      I also replaced the neutral word “remarking” with the more emotionally-laden “lashed out at”. I think your narrator is quite a bit worked up. But then again, you live in Buthan, the land of bliss. Maybe people there don’t get mad at one another. If that’s so, forgive me, for not being very well versed in your culture. That’s what I was trying to say yesterday, that there may sometimes be cultural differences between writers and readers from different parts of the world that could come in the way. Not everything has a universal tag attached to it…

      Another example:

      “Just tell me about that dear lady, Anindita. The last I saw of her was a comment she made to you, Tina. Through it, she offered to help, remember?”

      “Just tell me about that dear lady, Anindita. The last I saw of her was a comment she made to you, Tina. She offered to help, remember?”

      Simple, this one. I just removed that “through it”. I don’t think most people would speak in such a “complete” manner to one another. Which again makes the narrator sound like he’s telling me, the reader, something, and not truly talking to Tina.

      Now, I’ve got to say something on the subject matter of your tale, since it’s not about something not too far from home. To start off, I don’t believe in your narrator’s wild conspiracy theory. At least not about The Place. I think there are biases. Like a bias in favour of the kind of language one is used to (even British English is sometimes penalized. You see? Out of utter fear of this happening to me, I wrote penalized with a “zed”, oh sorry, I should say “zee”, not with an “s” as in penalised, like Her Majesty Queen of English would write it). There’s also, methinks, a rather strong bias in favor (favour) of beautiful writing, even when this comes at the expense of a damn good plot. Sometimes it’s A Place For Wordsmiths rather than Fiction Writers. I noticed that. But it’s not that rampant. It just happens.

      The voting system is not perfect, of course. I mean I can get all my friends, uncles and aunts, and seventh cousins all the way from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe to enrol and vote for my story no matter what, and I’ll win every time. But I think our motherators would see through that. Still, though, it’s possible.

      But I can empathize with your narrator. I took part in every contest here for over a year. And the results were very confusing, to put it mildly. Sometimes I placed well, sometimes less so. (And this in no direct relation to how fond I was of my stories. I won when I least expected it and I even came last with a story I was (and still am) very fond of). Where one places in the contest is a bit of fun, although it’s also a fair indicator of the marketability of a story. But it’s, at the end of the day, what fellow writers think of your stories, not what the ‘average reader out there’ would think – which is an important distinction.

      More important than the placing, is the feedback one gets (or doesn’t). As your Tina mentions, too, no feedback is the worst thing that can happen. People don’t usually like to be negative to friends, and some may therefore refrain from giving feedback on a story they didn’t really quite like. Most times, though, it’s because one simply didn’t have the time to comment. So I wouldn’t try to read too much into these things, if I were you.

      Oh… and then your Tina says: “Don’t be the first one to send your story. There’s a belief that the first person to send a story, is always UNLUCKY!”

      Damn… I was the first one to post this time round! Prove Tina wrong, guys! Do prove her totally and absolutely and in every other way wrong!

      Btw, I also had a story, not long ago, that featured the names of the writers in The Place. Although in a very different manner, to celebrate my first anniversary here. If you’d like to have a look at it, it’s in the prompt A PLAN GONE HORRIBLY WRONG of a few weeks ago. For the key to that piece (the answers to the guessing game as to where all the writers’ names are), scroll further down the thread, towards the bottom, where I posted the story again with all the names exposed.

      Also, Rathin, I read your reply to my comment, yesterday. I couldn’t answer you there, because that thread ran dry (the reply arrow button disappeared). I wanted to say that it wasn’t me who disliked your “I’s”. It was another Ken. I only praised your for your poetic/literary license. About Bhutan, I was going to keep it for later in life, after everywhere else on this planet will have become boring to me. As my final and ultimate (re)treat. But, yes, sure I’d love to visit! I think the authorities there keep tabs on the number of tourists entering the country and one is lucky to be amongst those selected, right? Or is my Bhutan database outdated?

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • August 13, 2020 at 11:01 am
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        Dear Mr. Ken
        I was busy in the afternoon. Picking up the mobile on my return home, I came across the email with your critique.
        Now, Mr. Ken, I am not sure if you know anything about my emotional nature. I am a very emotional person, Mr. Ken – someone who has for his life motto those immortal lines from Wordsworth’s “Immortality Ode” :
        My heart leaps up when I behold
        A rainbow in the sky:
        So was it when my life began;
        So is it now I am a man;
        So be it when I shall grow old,
        Or let me die!
        I can’t tell you how affected I’s by your comments. I liked your honest feedback so much that went to one of my FB pages and posted your letter, Mr. Ken (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3436288159743489&id=100000870176627) I don’t know how you will take it, my friend, but your comments were the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I found it hard to believe that someone has taken so much trouble to critique my story! Thank you for that.
        I want to go through it once more at least before I can really write a befitting reply to it. I liked the parts that showed and taught me how I can improve on my language, writing skills and so on. All I can tell you right now is that I will go through the comments and try to keep some of your suggestions in mind. I feel bad that I won’t be able to share my views with you about your critique here after the second reading. I just feel that sharing my feelings here for the second time, may not be the right thing to do.
        I am glad that you want to visit the gorgeous, glorious, glamorous country called Bhutan. I can tell you that you won’t regret the decision ever. My only regret is that I won’t be there to receive you, my friend. I left Bhutan on the last day of the year, 2018. A heart-breaming day that I am not likely to forget for long.
        I am sorry to be taking your leave as my wife is getting into one of her loving moods, finding me still fiddling with the mobile while t is past dinner time!
        Keep encouraging and inspiring people, my friend, thereby spreading happiness all around. Stay safe. Stay blessed.

        Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 11:49 pm
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      I liked, this, Rathin, though I don’t agree with your character’s (your?) suspicions about the contest (fictional suspicions or actual ones?). Why not? Because (and this is all subjective of course) the rankings pretty much match my own most weeks. One thing that could happen (I think Roy tried it once when he was running the contest … oh so many years ago!) is we could try a ‘blind’ competition once in a while, i.e. we send our stories to Alice/Carrie, they post them here without names, and we vote based solely on the story. But that’s easy to say; it would imply much more work for them, and it might be abusing their generosity of time (they don’t have to run this, and I for one am very grateful that they do, and so well).

      There’s some great to-ing and fro-ing with the dialogue here, and it moves briskly along. I really liked this line: “Tina held my eyes in a gazelock.” Did you know there are just two instances of “a gazelock” on the whole Internet?, and one of them is from your story! (now there’ll be more instances because of my comment). There are other versions (‘gaze lock’ and gaze-lock), but I like that your version is almost exclusive.

      Ken M has addressed some relevant questions. Just a small grammar note: ‘I was’ can’t be contracted to ‘I’s’, I don’t think.

      Once again, good to have you back!

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 10:32 am
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      First things first. Where is Rathin and what have you done with him? This was obviously written by someone else. It took me a zillion paragraphs before I reached Rathin syntax, and even then it didn’t sound like the old Rathin that I knew and loved.

      Here’s the paragraph that convinced me it was, indeed, my old pal Rathin:Two things sprang up to my mind at that instant. My casual acceptance of one Tina Nelson as a Facebook friend and the words of Ken after I’d vented out my frustrarion at being bypassed by all and sundry once again to the top spot. He’d comforted me saying that it had taken him 6 years to secure the first position. What tenacity the man had along with his mastery of English!

      Otherwise I would have suspected you had someone else write this and submit it, as always, trying to gain a top spot. Well, my friend, I give you high marks indeed. I think this is one of the best stories you’ve ever submitted and it will be in my top five, just because I think it belongs there.

      Good descriptive writing. (I won’t go over the I’s thing as Ken did.) He’s right, you know, and it could also me I is instead of I was as a contraction. Either way it is incorrect and the old Roy is going to come out now and tell you to put aside the foolish notion of using it anyway to separate yourself from us ‘run of the mill’ writers who prefer correct English. And you did misspell precarious and frustration, but I’ll call them typos.

      It was a surprise to see you Rathin, and I’m glad you’re back. Hope you stick around for awhile this time. Stay safe.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 11:07 am
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        Thank you, Roy. Hope you are doing good. Take care and stay safe. Love and regards.

        Reply
  • August 11, 2020 at 2:34 pm
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    Dear Alice,
    I hope to have posted my story correctly this time. Thanks for the help. Stay happy.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2020 at 8:19 pm
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      Thank you Rathin, you have posted it correctly. And again, it’s great to have you back.

      Reply
      • August 11, 2020 at 8:30 pm
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        Thank you, Alice, for the soothing words. Have a great day ahead. Stay safe and sound.

        Reply
  • August 12, 2020 at 8:15 pm
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    THIS THREAD IS IN REGARDS TO KEN FRAPE ENDING HIS STORY WITH A NAME OTHER THAN “TINA.”

    Ken, I’m fine with the change if the other writers are. You’re still basically following the prompt requirements, the name has only been changed.

    Reply
    • August 12, 2020 at 8:28 pm
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      I’m personally fine with that, Alice and Ken.

      Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 12:57 pm
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      Alice, Ken, Ken, et. al., El-Alamein, Ali baba, and Air Al Italia; To wit. I’m calling in my legal team for a consultation, they’re all on the floor in the kitchen as we speak, discussing their fee, as usual. I’ll get back to you after we ‘kibbitz.’

      Reply
      • August 17, 2020 at 1:02 pm
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        Alice, Ken, et. al.,

        Well, my crack team of legal consultants has come back with a pretty weighty decision and they have determined, and informed me that this issue, as complex as it it, is going to require an increase in their annual retainer. So, thanks for that, Ken. On the exact question of exchanging one name, for the name REQUIRED in the prompt, this left them a bit exasperated. Since, we all knew someone, all of us, who brought us our coffee, (or tea, if you insist), but for most of us, her name wasn’t Tina. (Thank God, imagine the confusion.)

        As you can see from my story, I didn’t even bother to change my own name. I didn’t need to. It’s fiction. (Except my name, and a few other things.) However, I’m not a stickler for convention, I played fast and loose with the prompt myself, so I’m in no position to be critical. And, I feel like I did what you did, I posted the story exactly the way I intended to, rules be damned, and I’ll accept the consequences, whatever they are. (Sirens, crickets, flashing lights, balloons, tear gas, cake with icing, fire hoses, beatings, a shower of ice cold Gatorade. Whatever.)

        It’s okay with me.

        Reply
  • August 15, 2020 at 1:21 pm
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    Her supportive but disappointed ( in Chuck) parents refurbished a house on family land and Megan simply moved in, home and free.
    You mean …her supportive but disappointed parents (in Chuck), refurbished a house on family land and ‘Meryl’ simply moved in, free and clear.

    Other than that? This is excellent, Ken. A wonderful story, beautifully told. (What are ya tryin’ to pull, here?)

    What about Tina? How do you think she feels? This was her story and she wasn’t even mentioned.

    I modeled my waitress after a young woman I worked with, and I worked with QUITE A LOT of them over the years. Good and Bad. But Cathy was the best, and brightest. I was crazy about her.

    I had a picture of her sitting on the sink, legs tastefully crossed, holding a rolling pin, (not suggestively) covered in every conceivable donut flavoring, and I kept that picture through one marriage and at least a dozen relationships over two decades before it mysteriously disappeared from my possession. I think I still love her. And I never even kissed her.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2020 at 1:30 pm
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    All in my Brain
    Ken Cartisano
    1196 Words

    To be clear, this was back in the 1970’s, and I was tripping on acid at the time.

    I was working the night shift with a gal named Tina, banging out donuts in a cloud of flour, ‘Purple Haze’ blasting from the speaker of an old plastic radio, loud enough to be heard over the industrial mixer at the other end of the kitchen. A clock above the door showed three minutes past three.

    My workbench sat behind a big picture window, designed to let customers see for themselves that we really did make them by hand. But to be honest, very few people noticed me, much less showed any interest in what I was doing.

    Tina’s job was to fill and dress the donuts, frosting them, covering them with sugar or cinnamon, arranging them neatly in trays, and carrying them out to the display case.

    She was thin, married, hardworking, a small mole on her cheek marring an otherwise perfect face. Beautiful black wavy hair. She really got into her work, and by the end of her shift she’d be covered in sugar, grease, cinnamon, sweat. I used to call her Tuna. I know, that makes me an asshole, but she knew I was kidding.

    So it’s three a.m, very little business at that time of night. A few cops, some drunks, the occasional nut-job. Amazing how they all stop at the same watering hole without ever bumping into each other. I remember thinking that exact fucking thing, as three sheriffs who’d been sitting there for an hour, finally got up and left when Tuna—I mean Tina, comes rushing into the kitchen and closes the door behind her.

    I had a perfect view of the entire store, the counter; the prep area; two dozen empty swivel stools bolted to the floor. I don’t see anyone. Through a wall of plate-glass windows on the right I could see the parking lot, and a nearby intersection. The streets were deserted.

    I turned the radio down. “What’s up?” I said, and she says, “Did you see that customer, Ken? He’s really creepy. I’m not waiting on that.”

    She was scared. When I glanced through the picture window, there he was, three stools from the cash register. Hunched over on the counter, wearing a frock or something, even his head was shielded from view. He was definitely odd and impossible to miss. But creepy? I don’t know, plus, I was probably hallucinating, so I didn’t want to go out there either. But she was adamant.
    I made a joke of it as I brushed past her, “You owe me a coffee for this.”

    The man was lavender, with pale green eyes. Even under the bright fluorescent lights, designed to make things look appetizing, he looked ‘plague-ridden.’ Despite his hunched posture and soiled frock, he had a dangerously feral vibe. I was determined to carry out our transaction as quickly as possible. “Coffee?” I asked.

    He declined.

    I moved closer to the display case, “You want a donut?”

    The radio stopped abruptly.

    He extended one finger from under his jacket, pointed it at a glass jar on the counter and said, “This, I need—this.” He picked it up with a hand that looked spider-like, at least three long spindly digits. “What do you call this?” He says.

    “Sugar?” I croaked, taking a step back.

    “Are you not certain?” He asks.

    “No. I mean yeah. It’s sugar. You just need sugar? We have packets, or we could put some in a cup, or you could…”

    “I’ll take three hundred and thirty pounds,” he says.

    I remember wishing it was a joke. But he didn’t look like a guy who joked. Then he asks me if we have that much sugar on hand.

    I felt like he already knew the answer. Like it was a test, an easy one. I mean hell, we were a donut shop. And I don’t like to lie if I don’t have to. “Yeah.” I said. “We do. But…” Was it wise to tell him that it wasn’t for sale? Certainly not that much of it.

    “Is that a problem?” He asks.

    “Yeah,” I said. “Normally, you would just wait until morning and go to the grocery store,” as if giving travel tips to a wayward alien. I felt compelled to add that my boss wouldn’t approve of me selling that much sugar all at once. It wasn’t the money. All our supplies were delivered by truck. If we ran out before the next delivery, that would be bad.

    “Yes, I understand that, of course. But I need the sugar tonight,” he said through clenched and pointy teeth.

    I took a breath, and hesitated. This request begged for an explanation. Begged for it. ‘You need twice my weight in sugar, tonight? Are you baking a 500-pound cake? Do you want to disable all the cars in a three-mile radius? Just curious.’ The possibilities were endless. I know, for a fact, that he was just about to tell me, when Tina says, “Give him the sugar, Ken.”

    For a moment, I wanted to throw a donut at her, but the customer said, “I can pay you for it.”

    Well, we didn’t know what sugar was worth, and no way of finding out right away. Not back then. Tina guessed around 15 cents a pound. We calculated the cost at about 56 dollars, more than I made in three days, and I told him that. I worked half a week to make the money it cost for that much sugar. He reached under his frock thing and pulled out three crisp twenties and laid them on the counter.

    Told us to keep the change.

    I offered to help him carry the bags out to his car, since he didn’t seem to have one, but he insisted I leave the bags on the back porch, close the door and he would take care of it. Which he did.

    The boss didn’t believe our story, but tripled his money on the transaction. I think that helped him forgive us.

    *****

    I’d nearly forgotten about that entire incident, until I got a registered letter from a Manhattan Law firm, airfare, for one, reservations at a swanky hotel, the whole deal. They spent a lot of money.

    Once they had me seated at their 30-foot long conference table, they informed me that they’d been holding an account in trust for me for thirty-five years. While my mouth was hanging open, they told me the benefactor wished to remain anonymous, but was referred to, in company correspondence, as Mr. Sweet, if that helped any.

    I took the red-eye home and came in the back door just as my wife was frying up some eggs for breakfast. I laid the bank statement on the kitchen counter, the balance thoughtfully circled in bright yellow marker. It was a lot of zeros. Way more than three. She would notice it eventually.

    “Hi there. Want a cup? Fresh pot,” she said, “or you wanna go straight to bed?”

    I kissed her on the cheek and said, “No, I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tuna.”

    Reply
    • August 16, 2020 at 7:46 pm
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      Cracking story, Ken. Back to your favourite territory, I think? (‘Twilight Zone’-ish … though some details are also reminiscent of the first ‘Men In Black’ film, in which the alien Edgar also craves sugar … lots of it, and of course ‘Great Expectations’). The atmosphere of the semi-deserted diner at night is great. The tension, and then lack of real jeopardy (we only find that out at the end of the first scene) is handled well. The decision to change the name works really well for that last line (but you didn’t use ‘Tuna’ throughout?). Love the ending, and the way the narrator just leaves the bank statement on the counter for ‘Tuna’ to have the surprise later.

      There are a couple of lapses into the present tense for the narrating (“he says”, “she asks”, etc. and “I don’t see anyone.”) which wouldn’t be a problem if you were consistent. I understand this line but it isn’t grammatically correct: “He picked it up with a hand that looked spider-like, at least three long spindly digits.” I think there should be a colon after this, not a comma: “… until I got a registered letter from a Manhattan Law firm:”

      You can see that I’m fishing for things to ‘observe’. All just details in a story I really enjoyed.

      Reply
      • August 17, 2020 at 1:30 pm
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        Phil,

        Thanks for the feedback Phil. (Twilight Zone’ish.) It never occurred to me before but I think you’re right, that’s my preferred territory.

        I’ve seen Men In Black, but I don’t consciously remember ‘Edgar’ or his craving. I don’t think I copied it subconsciously though, because at that point in the story, I had to stop, for quite some time, and consider exactly what this strange character would want from us. And finally realized that it would have to be either sugar, or flour. Originally, when I conceived the story, the draw was going to be coffee itself. But alas, the story morphed into something different as I wrote it, and coffee became irrelevant except as a condition of the prompt.

        Again with the tenses, this was not so much an oversight as maybe bad judgement. (Or a lack of expertise.) I agonized over them. Almost literally. Since it’s a story being told, it starts out in past tense, and that was how I began telling the story, I gradually shifted into present tense, which is always more dramatic, and then at the end, reverted back to past tense. Eventually, I decided that past tense would work throughout the story. I went over it again and again, changing everything to past tense, except for those few lines that I left in present tense, they just seemed to work better that way. But if it takes the reader out of the story then I should figure out how to rewrite it in the appropriate tense, I suppose.

        Thanks for pointing that out Phil. I think I speak for everyone when I say your exemplary scrutiny is worth more than you can ever be compensated for.

        Reply
        • August 17, 2020 at 3:08 pm
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          Sorry, Ken – didn’t mean to imply the sugar idea was copied … just musing really.

          Reply
          • August 18, 2020 at 11:31 am
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            No offense taken Phil, not at all. I was just trying to say that despite seeing the film, I don’t remember the Edgar character, or the sugar. (It’s been years since I’ve seen it, and I’m assuming you’re referring to the first one.) I love those movies, btw. I’ll have to watch it again and see this crazy character for myself. I may well have borrowed it subconsciously. I do plenty of borrowing consciously, no copying, but scads of borrowing. (Anything to meet the deadline.)

            KC

      • August 18, 2020 at 5:52 am
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        And I’ve been deleting all those emails saying I’ve been awarded this or that amount from relatives of dead princes, African government ministers or deceased executives of secretive business organization! I need, from now on, to keep a note of who I’ve given extra sugar to…

        Hi Ken, your story hooked me till the very end (from the second paragraph on). Yes, it works better with Tuna, an added touch of humor there – and it still counts as Tina. No need to call my lawyers on that one.

        The atmosphere of Dunkin’ By Night is very evocative. You capture the essence of how the same place that by day may look lively, by night takes a totally different creepy-ish nature. And your narrator has acid inside his system to complete an even more surreal picture (although, in spite of being under the effect of drugs, he still seems to reason things out very well. I know, it’s acid, not alcohol, but still.)

        I would remove that first paragraph, the one liner. Apply the Andy Lake Principle. The second paragraph is a better hook, I think, and that info on when the story happened and the acid, can be easily fused into the narrative a bit later.

        The title, All In My Brain, hints at the whole experience being imagined by the narrator. But then the multi-zero is very real, in the end. It’s a bit of ambiguity that plays well with MY brain… Twilight-zone-ish, as has already been said.

        I would have liked to know more about the sugar-man, Mr. Sweety, but then again, it’s his mysterious allure that makes him (and the story) so fascinating. Really, this story keeps growing on me, NOW, after I’ve read it, even more so than while I was reading it. Which is, I suppose, a marker of a job done very well on your part.

        I agree with Phil on that colon. I stopped there, too, on the word airfare, and had to read again. Nothing big. Got it the second time, but a colon would solve the issue.

        Good story, I enjoyed it very much, Ken. With a great ending too, this time. With some help from Roy, of course. This is his prompt, right?

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
        • August 18, 2020 at 1:00 pm
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          KM,
          Great advice. I agree about the first line. It was actually one of the last things I added to the story, but yes, it should be folded into the story, somewhere else a little later on. I hate to say this, but a lot of these damned stories are great, (yours, mine, everybody’s,) but could be a little bit better with some tweaking. I think I mentioned once before that the deadline sometimes forces a posting before a story is fully rendered. But hey, that’s show business.

          KC

          Reply
          • August 18, 2020 at 2:13 pm
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            Well, if you give me enough time to keep tweaking, you may as well give me eternity. There’s no end to it. This time, I’ve decided to let go of my story soon after I’d drafted it. Bradbury told us to do that in that article I’d sent you (I don’t often follow that advice). If anything, one should revisit a story after six months. After the eyes have settled, and the story has almost got forgotten…

    • August 18, 2020 at 3:40 am
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      Dear Ken,
      Last night I spent nearly an hour commenting on your story. I posted it even but I don’t see it anywhere! It must have been lost.
      I don’t want to repeat myself and having gone through Phil’s comments, I realize that there is not much I could have added.
      Just for the record – I like all three characters including the creepy one. I also find the ending of the story fascinating. Your language is always top class and though I copy-pasted two lines from the story, I think you mixed the tenses for a reason.
      Finally, we all like stories with happy endings, don’t we? The cheque with more than three zeroes, bequeathed to the couple by one Mr. Sweet, actually the creepy customer, gladdened my heart.
      Keep writing, Boss for I’ve always enjoyed the vivacity, the ruthlessness, the uniqeness of your stories.
      Stay safe.

      Reply
      • August 18, 2020 at 12:51 pm
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        Wow. Thanks, Raffin. As for ‘…stories with happy endings…’ Yes. We do like them, but they too often fall into the category of fairy tales. It can’t be helped.
        Stay safe yourself.
        If you can.

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 5:15 am
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      Hi Ken,

      Just love this story. It has elements of mystery and hard-to-believe storytelling.

      Who else could think of a story where an alien -looking creature comes into a donut diner asking for sugar? A brilliant premise. The sort of thing I wished I had thought of myself. Dammit!

      As Phil says, twilight zoneish.

      I really approve of the notion that you changed Tina’s name, albeit only slightly, to Tuna and married the gal for good measure. It added a tiny touch of individualism to this prompt.

      My personal thoughts on this prompt was that it was like telling a joke where the listener already knew the punch line and everything was just leading inevitably to that predictable end. Your story engaged my interest to such a degree that I forgot all about the final line until I read it.

      Not too sure about the line about the spider-like hand but it’s neither here nor there and not a criticism. To be honest, I can’t find anything to add that would improve the story. It’s great exactly as it is. If Phil can’t find it, then it’s not there! Also, I find critiquing work really challenging. I tend to read things and then decide if I liked it. Going back over books, stories and films with a finetoothed comb, dissecting and analysing other people’s work is still something I am coming to terms with.

      This was great, Ken.

      Really looking forward to our Three Kens’ story next time round.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 2:06 pm
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      All in the Brain indicates the story is from memory? Good one!

      Tina > Tuna is a smart take.

      That description of the donut place is excellent. Cops do eat a lot of donuts 🙂
      Didn’t quite get why the man wanted so much sugar.
      Enjoyed this.

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 10:43 am
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      Ken,

      Enjoyed the story, but cannot make the connection why selling a man sugar would put you in the man’s will. If I suspend belief, I can get there. Tuna didn’t get any mention in the will, and she was a part of it. In fact, she was the one who told you to do give him the sugar. So, I think she should have gotten the free trip to New York City, (or at least both of you). But, as I said in the beginning. Your descriptive paragraphs (minus the first sentence) to start the story were superb and really sucked me in. While it did fall off a bit, I don’t think you could have maintained that level, anyway. That was Hemingway and Steinbeck worthy in my view. But, that’s just me. I think you could have come up with a better ending. And, I’ll bet you had a few in mind. I noticed in one of your comments you said the story changed as it was being written. Welcome to the club. When I plan a story, it seldom works out the way I thought it should. One of the characters says or does something I didn’t expect and everything changes. But, again, that’s just me. Good story Ken, and I got no other picky things.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 15, 2020 at 4:23 pm
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    Misdirection
    By Robt. Emmett ©2020

    A lie is described as a deliberate choice to mislead a target without giving notification of intent to do so. The essential facts are that deception is intentional and that it affects the goal of misleading.
    Almost all persons lie in their public and private lives. Some lies are altruistic or protective in that their purpose is to protect another from hurt feelings. An example may be the doctor who lies to a patient or the parent who lies to a child. Other lies are social and minor, such as the boss who asks, “how are you?” and the employee responds with “Fine” even though they are not.
    Lies by public officials may be for the purpose of national security or to accomplish public policy. Sometimes, the lies have consequences that are so great that they make people question their elected officials. It’s not unheard of for the government to tell one lie to cover for another.
    – ※ –
    Tina twisted her wet hankie and dabbed at the corner of her left eye. “Your dad, he was a wonderful old guy.” She cracked a smile. “But cheap. I’ve worked here at Jim’s Café for nearly forty years, and in all that time he’s never tipped me anything but a dime for his coffee. Say, speaking of coffee, you want a cup?”
    “Thanks, but I’ll pass for now.”
    Dad and I shared a secret. Now, because of his passing, I was the only one left who knew: outside of the government, of course. I needed to tell someone. The secret must not die. Could I and should I tell Tina? I’d ordered my first cup of coffee here at Jim’s as a teen. She’d served it. Over the decades, we’d come to trust and confide with one another.
    It was late, and except for the two of us, Jim’s was deserted. “Tina, I need to tell you …”
    “Rob, I didn’t know your dad was in the Navy until I saw the American flag on his coffin.”
    “Ah, yeah, he joined the Navy Cadets when he was fourteen. He loved tinkering with radios and became a radioman. Five years later, on December 8, he applied to Naval Officer Candidate School. And.”
    “Yeah, and what?”
    “Tina, there’s something I need to share – about my father.”
    “So share.”
    Have you ever heard of the Philadelphia Experiment or the USS Eldridge?”
    She smiled, get you that coffee now?”
    “Ah, no.”
    She shrugged. “Okay, later. Continue about your dad.”
    “In response to the on-going sea battle raging in the North Atlantic between American destroyers escorting convoys and the Nazi U-boats, the Navy had an idea. In the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, a newly commissioned destroyer called the USS Eldridge was being equipped with several large generators for a top-secret Atlantic mission. The rumor was that the generators were designed to power a new kind of magnetic field that would make the warship invisible. With the full crew on board, in broad daylight, and in plain sight of nearby ships, the switches were thrown on the power generators. The Eldridge disappeared. Or so the story went.
    “The thing is, the story is false. Almost everything we know about the Philadelphia Experiment and the alleged teleportation of the USS Eldridge emerged from the mind and pen of a science fiction writer named Carl M. Allen, under the pseudonym of Carlos Miguel Allende.
    “A private detective, named Jessup, attempted to investigate Allende’s claims but grew frustrated with the mysterious lack of physical evidence. Jessup was ready to drop the investigation entirely when he was contacted by two officers from the Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
    “The two officers were responding to a strange package they received. It contained handwritten notes claiming advanced physics knowledge that linked breakthroughs in unified field theory and cloaking of metal objects.
    “Although the scrawled notes were meant to look like they came from different authors, Jessup instantly recognized the handwriting as all belonging to Carlos Allende. Then, for unexplained reasons, the ONR ordered Jessup to immediately cease his investigation.
    “Sadly, Jessup’s story took a tragic turn, Jessup committed suicide or so said the coroner’s inquest. Carlos Allende was never located. His fantastical tale of the Philadelphia Experiment has never been verified.
    “So what did this Carlos fella say happened?”
    “According to him, the witnesses describe an eerie green-blue glow surrounding the hull of the ship. Then, instantaneously, and inexplicably, the Eldridge disappeared. Not just invisible to Radar, but gone – vanished into thin air! Hours later, there were reports of the Eldridge appearing in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia. Then, suddenly, it’s back in Philadelphia. Rumors said that members of the Eldridge crew suffered from terrible burns and disorientation. Most shockingly, a few crewmen were found partially embedded in the steel hull of the ship, still alive, but with legs or arms sealed to the deck.
    “So goes the Philadelphia Experiment Hoax story, perhaps the most famous and widely retold example of secret government experiments with teleportation and time travel. Now, more than seventy-seven years later, despite the absence of any physical evidence or corroborating testimony, the Philadelphia Experiment survives as “fact” in the minds of amateur paranormalists and conspiracy theorists.
    “Was your dad involved in that, the ship disappearing, I mean?”
    “Sort of. Dad was an officer on the Destroyer Escort USS Elden, a sister ship to the Eldridge, and was docked at the West Patuxent River Basin. A new secret Navy facility on the east coast. A storm damaged the ship’s Radar. It needed re-calibrating before heading to New York to join Convoy SC 94-6 in June. A slow convoy headed to Liverpool, England. The entire crew was given shore leave, All except one Lieutenant JG – Dad. He was the Officer of the Deck, stationed on the quarterdeck.
    “He had an excellent view of the North dock on the other side of the Basin. Another Destroyer Escort, the USS Edmore Johnson, arrived at sunset and tied up. Dad watched as large high-voltage electric cables were run from the three generator buildings to the Johnson. The operation lasted most of the night under the dock lights. Dad stood in the bridge’s starboard door and watched as the last of the cables were fastened to the Edmore Johnson. The crew re-boarded the ship.
    “An eerie blue-greenish fog surrounded the ship’s hull, rendering it nearly invisible. Then, a blinding flash, like a bolt of lightning, instantaneously, and inexplicably, the Edmore Johnson disappeared. Dad flipped the ship’s Radar switch from standby to active. Nothing! The Edmore Johnson was gone – vanished into thin air!
    “The U.S. Navy maintains that no such experiment was ever conducted on the USS Eldridge or any other ship or airplane. The Navy further stated, ‘The details in such a story contradict well-established facts about the USS Eldridge, and that the alleged idea does not conform to known laws of physics.’”
    “Vanished? That’s too bad.” She sighed. “Just think of all the lives that could have been saved if that cloaking idea had worked.”
    I winked at her. “What makes you think it didn’t?”
    Raising an eyebrow. “Rob, are you saying that …”
    “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

    — Ԙ —

    Reply
    • August 16, 2020 at 8:12 pm
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      Fascinating theory, Robert! (I presume that everything here is faithful to the actual legend?). I really like the opening; it feels like the intro to a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode. All the facts are smoothly and clearly arranged and delivered. And the last line is incorporated seamlessly.

      The only thing I would suggest is that I don’t think the things that Rob says sound like something he would say to a waitress in a café – however well they know each other. This, for example: “It contained handwritten notes claiming advanced physics knowledge that linked breakthroughs in unified field theory and cloaking of metal objects.” I would expect Tina at this point to go cloudy-eyed and say “Whoah! Hold up! Rewind that for me!” or something. So I reckon either you could incorporate the details into the dialogue/narration by giving a dumbed-down version for Tina, then filling in the technical aspects for the reader in the narration. Or you could simply dumb-down the whole dialogue (and narration), once you establish that Tina is getting lost.

      Fascinating stuff, though.

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 12:13 am
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      Robert,
      The writing is good and the story is intriguing and you utilize the prompt perfectly. But I think there is too much detail here. Essentially, you tell us of the Eldridge, and then you tell the same story in abbreviated form of the U.S.S Johnson. Just keeping the names of the ships straight is not easy. The Eldridge, The Eldmore Johnson, The Destroyer Escort Elden. (They all begin with Eld.) Then you got Carl Allen, A.K.A. Carlos Miguel Allende, Jessup (who seems like an unnecessary character) and Dad.

      I love the concept. I’m quite familiar with the (aptly named) Philadelphia Story, and it’s a great story. You don’t need to retell a well-known story. I would suggest that you tell the story of Dad and the Eldmore Johnson, and trim the original Eldridge (The Philadelphia) story to brief references.

      I love that next to last line. “What makes you think it didn’t?”

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 6:07 am
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        Hi Robert,

        A really interesting and intriguing story.

        I have never heard about the Philadelphia Story, even though it is apparently a well-known tale in the United States.

        As a result of my lack of prior knowledge, telling the story was necessary for me. So thus I would not be in agreement with Ken C on this. As for Phil’s comments about simplifying the technical details for the waitress ( dare I say dumbing down? No, best not to she may have been a PhD student paying her way through college) I can see that this makes sense. I read the story and understood what it was all about but I have never been a waitress.

        Good penultimate line too.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 12:16 am
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      I love your story, Mr. Robt. I love historical stories, if there is any such terms for such stories as yours just like historical or periodical novels. There is a problem though, from the reader’s perspective. They are so full of facts and drab details that they bore the reader to death, more often than not. Your story does anything but.
      I also like the way the narrator started off with a vivid intent and purposes of lies or deceptions. I will go through your story once more for a proper appreciation of it.
      Thanks for sharing. Stay safe and God bless.

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 2:45 pm
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      One of your better stories Robert. Easily and well written. Like a couple of others, I think you could have tightened it up and shortened it, but it didn’t matter in the long run. I absolutely loved the ending. Your dialogue (when it was dialogue, not narration) is excellent. You have a hand at being able to write dialogue. And, you’ve gotten even better over the years. I saw the movie and it was good, but I think it could have been even better. If they had done more what you did. Told the story, and then left it where you did. If I recall in the movie (and I could be wrong) they ended up showing up years later, without aging.

      I liked the story. And, I liked what you did by making it seem so real. You left it to the reader to decide. Loved that.

      For the young people reading this, don’t confuse the Philadelphia Experiment (this story) with Philadelphia (a Tom Hanks movie about AIDS) or the Philadelphia story, an old love story with a couple of unknown actors, Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 16, 2020 at 12:11 am
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    Great stuff, Ken. A sweeping tale that covers nearly three decades in the blink of an eye. The significant plot points are clear and punched home with great skill. And we end with a lovely reunion (but sad that so many years of their love have been lost).

    So is the title ‘My Story’ or ‘Brett Madison Is Leaving Town’? If it isn’t the latter, then that line threw me a bit at the beginning: it’s in the present, but the hands ‘wrestled’ in the past. If it’s ‘My Story’, then is it really? And if it is, then wow! (Possibly the time frame is the same as you and your wife’s? But you were never a Chief of Police, were you?) Is Meryl your wife, and that’s why you wanted to change it from Tina?

    And did this really happen?: Meryl is the beloved daughter of Boss Johnson, the wealthiest man locally, but he has her working, or lets her work, as a waitress?

    But these doubts only detracted slightly from what was, for me, a very enjoyable story.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2020 at 10:46 am
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    Nice story, Mr. Ken F. This heck of a man, Brett fell for Meryl, got a thrashing, left the town only to be reunited with his lady-love after a long time. What I find intriguing is how he stayed a bachelor while Meryl got married, mothered two daughters, got finally divorced after 21 years, and walked straight back into the life of Bret, the Chief of Police by then.
    You have delineated the characters of both Bret Maddison and Meryl very well. If I were to choose between these two characters, I would be lost not knowing who to choose – whether to choose Meryl or Bret though Bret hasn’t really been given much space in the story.
    I don’t know why you insisted on calling her Meryl. Would calling her Tina have made much difference? Though I agree with Alice that it doesn’t take the credit away from your story as you have fulfilled the other requirements.
    Keep writing and sharing your stories, Sir. God bless.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2020 at 12:20 pm
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    Spiders.

    >> Hello Harry, coffee as usual?

    > Everything was spiders! And spider webs!

    >> Spiders? Where?

    > I was sitting at my desk trying to write a poem.

    >> Yeah, so?

    > So then the pencil fell out of my hand and I bent down to pick it up.

    >> Don’t make it so exciting, Harry! There was a spider under the table, right!

    > Just one, Tina? No! There were thousands. There could have been millions. Between the four legs of the table they’d made thousands of cobwebs, so many cobwebs that it looked like dark grey cotton candy. And little black spiders raced back and forth between the webs. When I sat back up, my legs partially destroyed the web structure. So the spiders ran up my trouser legs as well.

    >> At your place, Harry? Then you should call the exterminator. That sounds serious.

    > No, I had a dream. The spiders were in a dream. A very realistic dream.

    >> A dream! I see. Then of course you don’t need to call the exterminator.

    > Then I woke up in horror and ran out of the room. There were no spiders in the kitchen. I smoked a cigarette there and when I’d calmed down a bit I crept cautiously back into the bedroom, but there were no spiders there either. Not under the table and not in the bed. I didn’t find a single spider, nor did I see any remains of their webs.

    >> That was just a bad dream, Harry! It feels so real, a bad dream. I had a nightmare, where my ex came–

    > But where are all the spiders now, Tina? They can’t just disappear into nothing.

    >> Harry, really! Haven’t you ever had a dream? It doesn’t really happen. It’s not reality. A nightmare like that only happens in your head.

    > You mean the spiders are in my head?

    >> Sort of.

    > I have a million spiders in my head! That’s terrifying! They probably got in through my ears. I would have noticed them on my tongue. They were in my room when I was dreaming and just before the end of the dream they all crawled into my head, into my mouth, into my nose and then into my brain. You know, a human brain has so many twists and turns, where spiders can hide.

    >> Harry! Take it easy, please! They’re not really in your head. I meant they were just made up by you. They’re not alive. They only exist in your dream.

    > Spiders in my head! How cruel! I’ve always believed that my head belongs exclusively to me. I thought my head was the only thing where there was no one in there but me. Now I find out that my head is a city for millions of spiders. A Tokyo full of spiders. Are they going away? What can I do?

    >> Harry …, what are you thinking about?

    > Spiders in my head of course.

    >> Okay! That’s how you can tell. Now just check what you’re thinking about every five minutes. And then you should see a doctor. No, wait a minute: With spiders in your head, you should go to the vet. Spiders are creatures.

    > Oh God! And if I don’t go to the vet, what will happen then?

    >> Then you’re obsessed with spiders! They multiply in your head and change your thoughts. They take over the controls. Then you become a spider monster. You look like a human, but actually you’re a city full of spiders.

    > A city full of spiders? I, Harry Hausen, am a metropolis full of spiders.

    >> Hey, Harry, can’t you see I’m making fun of you. Go out, read a book, watch women in the park. It was just a dream! Everybody has dreams like that.

    >> Everyone’s a spider monster!? … The world is going to end! … I think I’ll have that coffee now, Tina!

    Reply
    • August 16, 2020 at 8:22 pm
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      As Alice says, welcome back Jürgen! I for one (but I know there are others) have missed your little forays into a world just on the other side of ‘normality’.

      This has the BM trademark clearly stamped on the bottom. It goes from an uncomfortable ‘reality’, which transforms into a dream, which transforms into … madness? And I like the way that escalates. Tina is a little cruel – she maintains the fun-making long after it’s become uncomfortable. But I think Harry would probably have got to where he gets here anyway, without her help. Good dialogue (I personally think the >>s work, but others may disagree).

      Reply
      • August 17, 2020 at 3:51 am
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        Let me see if I got the gist of the story all right, Mr. Berlinermax.
        Harry Hausen dreamt of himself sitting at a desk, the underneath of which was covered with millions of spiders. Frightened, he ran to the kitchen first before retiring to his bedroom.

        Tina, most probably, his wife or girlfriend or mistress called him from down for coffee. Harry learnt from her about the monstrous spiders residing in his dream, nay, head. He felt that he was like ‘a Tokyo full of spiders’ (great phase being employed here)
        The story ended with Tina suggesting that Harry go visit a doctor (psychiatrist?) or a vet for a cure of his brain full of spiderly thoughts!

        Though at the surface level, “Spiders” is a simple story of a man’s disturbed mental state due to the dread of the insect, the story has a hidden message as well. Is it something like – we humans, being the sum total of our thoughts or something like that?

        Not much is written about the other character, Tina. She spoke about a nightmare in which her ex had appeared, only to be cut short by Harry. That makes it clear that Harry was either a possessive or a jealous husband. A jovial snd fun-loving woman, Tina tells Harry to visit the doc less for a mental check up and more for some relief of sort.
        All in all, it is a nice story with a smooth flow about it. The dialogues are crisp and the characters, entertaining.
        Keep writing and entertaining, Sir. God bless.

        Reply
    • August 18, 2020 at 10:27 am
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      Welcome back Juergen!

      Where’ve you been – sunseeking down south again? That’s while the sun shone mercilessly upon Hamburg anyway? I don’t live too far away from you, and it’s been Sahara-like here up north too… And, know what? Scorpions – yes f’ckin scorpions – have invaded us! It got THAT desert-like hot! And we have foxes roaming the streets after Corona cleared them of people for them… And now you come up with spiders! Is this really a dream?

      So here you are, mate, back with your trademark Kafkaesque writing style. I thought there was something missing these past weeks.

      So, this Harry Hausen goes from having to call the exterminator, to calling his shrink, or, no – his vet. I tried to dig up some symbolism in your story, but then read Raithin’s idea that “We humans are the total sum of our thoughts” and if one’s thoughts are nothing but spiders and more spiders, then Harry is done in, I’m afraid. I don’t think I can come up with anything better than Raithin’s explanation to Harry’s predicament. But maybe, you didn’t want us to look for an explanation, but just scare us.

      Tina’s not very kind, I must say, or perhaps she thinks she can fix Harry’s obsessive mind by throwing in some humour. It may work sometimes, but Mr. Hausen is well beyond repair.

      Wait.

      Maybe the coffee will work.

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
    • August 18, 2020 at 1:12 pm
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      Max Jurgen! You’re back! Vith schpiders. You’re really pushing the limits of the favorite character aspect of the contest. (No you’re not.) Great story.

      I didn’t even notice the arrows as designations for who was speaking until Phil mentioned it. It was crystal clear to me without them.

      What wasn’t clear, by design, was who the main character was talking to until the end of the story. Someone who didn’t really know, or care, how crazy he was. We’re just as much in the dark until that point too. It’s a very funny story, not as funny as Sandra’s wedding cake story, but right behind it.

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 6:15 am
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      Hi Berlinermax,

      Can I add my welcome back to the others. We have certainly missed your unique take on the prompts.

      Perhaps this story gives us the answer to our question: “What goes on inside Berlinermax’s head?” Now perhaps we know and you have painted a brilliant picture inside our heads. A city full of Berlinermax’s spiders.

      Just loved this story.

      Well done,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 1:35 pm
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      That was some story!

      A creepy flow of the arachnophobic stream of spiderconsciousness.
      This Harry guy probably wants to write his poems as a relief and then the spiders crawl in.

      Tina isn’t being a friend. Seriously now.
      Harry coulda changed from being this besotted spider infested guy to a real Spiderman had his Tina told him the right things.

      How would a cuppa solve the end of the world crisis?
      Search me.

      Web out 🙂

      Reply
    • August 21, 2020 at 12:52 pm
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      Berliner Max,

      I join the chorus of writers welcoming you back. You and that interesting brain of yours that captures the avant garde whimsically and always, always, interestingly. This story was no exception. I didn’t mind the quote markers, but you need to do them correctly when doing them. Your markers indicates that Tina says the last line, when we know for sure it’s Harry Hausen. Otherwise, my friend, I have no quibbles.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 17, 2020 at 9:14 am
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    REPOSTED STORY. I HAVE REQUESTED THAT THE PREVIOUS VERSION SHOULD BE TAKEN DOWN.


    “Brett Maddison Is Leaving Town.”
    By Ken Frape

    The hands that dragged Brett Maddison to the floor of the diner were not gentle hands. Their intentions were malign; to hurt, to bruise and to damage. The baseball bat was there to emphasise those intentions. Six hands, three pairs of fists, three people paid to find the man who was sniffing round Boss Johnson’s daughter Meryl, who picked up three shifts a week at Ned’s Diner and teach him a lesson. Run him out of town.

    Brett Maddison had no idea that this was to be his last day in town. He was a casual worker, digging pools, gardening, just passing through. That was, until he set eyes on Meryl. Now he planned to stay a little longer, drink some more coffee.
    ————————————————–

    Boss Johnson was one of the biggest ranchers in the state and he had big plans for his daughter Meryl’s future. Allowing her to hook up with a drifter was not one of them. He had earned every cent of his fortune by hard graft and working at the diner was part of his daughter’s education. You work and you earn. A hard life lesson.

    Now it was Brett Maddison’s turn to learn his lesson.

    Three men were barely sufficient for the task. At six two and 200 pounds, Brett was used to hard, physical labour. His biceps were bulging, his shoulders were broad and lean, his stomach a hard slab of muscle. Defending himself against three local guys was not on his agenda that day. If it had been, three men would have been in need of a hospital stay and then Brett would have finished his coffee whilst he awaited the inevitable arrival of the cops. Brett believed in the rule of law so he would have hung around for the police.

    In a fair fight Brett was a match for any man in town but this was not a fair fight, it was an ambush. The baseball bat cracked his collar bone, the second blow knocked him senseless. Within seconds he was hog-tied and bundled into the trunk of a big old estate wagon. The vehicle left the parking lot in a cloud of dust and gravel.

    Brett Maddison was leaving town.

    At the counter, seventeen year old Meryl screamed as the attack took place. Her hand was still tingling from Brett’s “accidental” touch as she had poured a refill into his coffee cup and their eyes met. She rushed towards the door but a restraining hand blocked her passage as her father’s ranch manager, Artie, stepped out from his window seat. He was a loyal employee and Boss Johnson was a decent enough man. He had worked for worse.

    Meryl’s shoulders slumped as Artie led her back to the counter, tears tracking down her face, pooling onto the worktop. She dabbed her face with her greasy apron.

    “He ‘aint worth it, darlin’. You know your Daddy don’t want him hanging round here.” Artie told her.

    “But you don’t even know him,” Meryl blurted out. “He’s real kind and gentle too. There was no need to beat on him like that, Artie.”

    “It’s done now, Meryl. Best get used to it being this way. Forget him. That’s my advice. Forget him.”

    But she could never do that.
    ————————————————

    The church bells were ringing in town as Meryl Johnson walked down the aisle and became Mrs. Charles Peterson. Her dress cost five thousand dollars and it set off her natural grace and beauty. She looked radiant and her new husband Charles “Chuck” Wilbur Peterson was still pinching himself that he had just married the brightest and the most beautiful girl in college.

    The Peterson family was one of the leading families in the state and Chuck was already making a name for himself as a hotshot young lawyer. Several newsworthy trial successes had begun his rise to prominence. The right college, the right suits, clubs and friends were already well established. Now, he had finally answered his parents’ frequent plea to “find the right gal and settle down.” Meryl was that “gal.”

    Every news journal in the state carried a full array of photographs of the happy couple. Only careful scrutiny by a very keen eye with a certain understanding would have spotted the faintest tinge of some unfathomable emotion on the face of the “happy” bride that day.
    ———————————
    It took Meryl Peterson twenty four years to divorce Chuck..

    As a successful lawyer with many influential contacts, Chuck Peterson was determined that his wife would not divorce him but he dropped his pants just too often in the wrong bedrooms. His first affair was hushed and cash changed hands and a young woman was “encouraged” to leave town. A tried and tested tactic. But Chuck did not learn from his mistake and his further indiscretions tested his marriage to destruction.

    The Peterson children, two beautiful, smart girls, had just finished college when Meryl finally left the family home. She made no secret of her reasons for leaving and her daughters were right behind her. She knew that Chuck would fight her every move and deny her access to any financial settlement in order to bleed her dry, financially. In court, he had developed a reputation as a smooth talking, mean bastard and that’s exactly what he was.

    Meryl decided to catch her husband with his pants down. When filing for divorce, she made no financial demands that he could counter and bluster. Her supportive but disappointed parents refurbished a house on family land and Meryl simply moved in, home and free. At that same time, to Chuck’s fury, gossip regarding his infidelities started to circulate, accompanied by some explicit photographs. Worse still, his law firm lost clients.

    With his wife making no demands, except for her freedom and with Chuck’s reputation rapidly deteriorating, exposing him as a cheat and a liar, he reluctantly agreed to the divorce. It was damage limitation.
    ——————————————————-

    Meryl turned her attention back to her neglected charity work after her divorce. The biggest event of the year in town was the Annual Cattle Ranchers’ Ball, hosted by her parents, which raised thousands of dollars for local charities.

    On the night of the Grand Gala, Meryl set herself up in the refreshments marquee. She could flip a burger and pour a coffee with the best of them, she was telling her fellow volunteers as she poured a mugful of coffee and held it up.

    Mayor Harvey approached, gladhanding all and sundry as he progressed through the crowd, heading straight for Meryl.
    “Evening, Meryl,” he said.

    “Evening Mayor,” Meryl replied but her eyes were no longer looking at him. “I’d like to introduce you to the town’s new Chief of Police, Brett Maddison,” he said.

    Meryl’s smile faltered as she saw the tall, powerfully built man standing there. In his eyes she saw a sadness and a longing that nearly broke her heart.

    She felt that same jolt as all those years before as their hands touched once again and the voice she remembered so well said,

    “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Meryl.”

    Ken Frape

    August 17/2020

    Reply
    • August 17, 2020 at 9:26 am
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      Lovely story Mr. Ken F. I glanced through the story and found it more or less not much different from the previous version. I liked the ending with a crafty use of the last line prompt.
      Good luck with your story.

      Reply
      • August 17, 2020 at 10:18 am
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        Hi,

        You’re right, there wasn’t much difference but there were several things that irked me. The title was wrong, it should have been “Brett Maddison is leaving town” and Meryl’s name was written incorrectly as Megan in one place. I also wanted to make a few changes that are apparently minor to the reader but were important to me, the author.

        I felt constrained by the last line and having to use the name Tina. Hence, I checked with Carrie if it was OK to change the name. I chose Meryl. I felt that all the way through the story readers would wonder where Tina was and thus, it would give a little bit of a misdirection to the readers.

        Thanks for reading it again. Much appreciated.

        I will be commenting on your lovely story before this thread closes.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
        • August 19, 2020 at 2:08 am
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          KF,

          Having read KM’s suggestions and opinions, I can’t say that I agree with him. I thought the story unfolded nicely, if predictably, and could easily imagine a rich man’s very young daughter helping out at the diner. (I don’t intend to spoil the girl either.) And even though the ‘Boss’ isn’t mentioned in part two, his influence is implied. Other than that one sentence I pointed out in the previous version, I didn’t find anything wrong with the story at all, except that it was, as I said, predictable.

          But, it occurred to me that the story of Meryl and her unhappy marriage, is really the meat of the tale. And the other parts are the icing and the cream.

          Perhaps this story should start with her going to a charity ball that she knew would be boring. Mention her diivorce. Perhaps she asks about the new Police Chief, “Did you say he lived here a long time ago? When was that? (Or something.)

          And then, your first flashback to the man she married and how that all went to hell. (The meat of the story.) And how she ended the marriage and started over.

          Then, you go further back, recalling the beating and abduction of her first love.

          Then you return to the present, I don’t know. Perhaps the fact that the story is so easily and neatly divided that it lends itself to rearrangement.

          Reply
    • August 18, 2020 at 9:18 am
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      Hi Ken,

      I enjoyed reading this story and the injustices incurred by Brett and Meryl struck a chord with me. That nicely fitted clue about Brett being an admirer of the police – that seems significant enough but not critical when brought up – does tie nicely with the successful career we get to know he chose for himself by the end of the story. I hope he’s also still single. His visible ‘sadness and longing’ may suggest that.

      I had a few problems with the division of the story into its various temporal components. I know that time had passed and things change, but it seemed as if each story segment was a different story in its own right. I didn’t quite recognize the same characters as we moved on through the years. I mean we start with a rather almighty rancher (you called him ‘boss’ – reminiscent of a mafia boss, and who behaves like one) and a very violent event within a rough, rural setting. Quite suddenly we’re transferred to a wedding of two college/university (lawyer) graduates, which seems to be the work of the Petersen’s. And almighty Boss Johnson’s hand seems to disappear.

      Then we’re taken into the rough ride of the life-story of a woman who’s continually betrayed by her lawyer husband who’s used to having it his way (but where did this character come from? Wasn’t it a boy who had to prick himself to believe he’s marrying Meryl?). I knew she was going to end up again with Brett, at that point. The divorce is an important device that would hand Meryl back to Brett (justice rightfully done), but too much went into recounting it that it took me out of the main story. To redeem that, all is so very nicely narrated – a real pleasure to read. Just that this “other story” took too much space. If it was a novel, Charles and Meryl’s story could have been a chapter or two, out of so and so many chapters. But here it takes 442 words out of a total of 1,181. More than a third of what is indeed Brett and Meryl’s story. It’s just that: a matter of quantitative balance in relation to the main story, otherwise a beautifully told sub-plot.

      Meryl, in the last segment, returns to her neglected charity work. It would have been good if there was an indication, a clue to her involvement with charity earlier on. As it is, it took me by surprise. So, the rich “mafia-like” boss’s daughter, who also works at a diner (ok, justified by her father’s no-nonsense approach to success-through-hard-work), then graduates and gets married in high society, then threatened to end up in financial ruin by her ex-husband (but isn’t she the daughter of a rich dad?), is now a do-gooder of sorts… Too many jolts, if you ask me, in this character’s life-story. Perhaps things could be made tighter by having her marrying one of her dad’s henchmen, at her dad’s orders, then having her kill him not divorce him, her father uses his clout to hide her crime (and the charity he gets her involved in is just a cover to quieten voices about town), and in the end Brett, the new head of the police is pleased to meet the love of his life again, but also knowing very well what had happened. And that’s quite a dilemma for a good cop… That’s less sweet a story than yours is, of course, and just an alternative suggestion (out of so many other possibilities) for the sole purpose of illustrating my point. Point being that I would have stayed with the “mafia-like” theme you started with throughout, without so many background changes occurring each time some years have rolled by.

      And Boss Johnson…. the first time I saw that name, for a moment I thought I’d read Boris Johnson! Ok, now that could have really been another totally different story!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      PS. I’m fine with Meryl instead of Tina, and (without even consulting my lawyer) I commented in favour of your choice, when Alice asked. But, just out of curiosity, why did it have to be Meryl? I mean what’s wrong with Tina? Perhaps Andy told you that ranch bosses for whatever reason never call their daughters ‘Tina’? Really, I’m just curious, nothing else…

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 7:05 am
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        Hi Ken M,

        Some good points raised but don’t expect me to agree with them all!! That’s why this element of our group is so important as we, the writers, actually get to hear what readers took from our writing.

        Firstly, we only have 1200 words. Brett could and should, have his own story. It’s already written in my head. Ditto for the Peterson family, well healed, prominent in society but not faithful in marriage. Sounds familiar? Same for Meryl’s father. This could certainly become a novel with so many potential threads to weave together.

        The notion of a Godfather kind of figure ( Boss Johnson in this case but to a less scary degree as I don’t have him down as a murderer) is very well used in literary fiction. He rules and he controls but his henchman, his capo, does the dirty work and then the family goes to church on Sunday.

        Marriages are business events, mergers into other wealth. Good marriages are crucial in these circles as they consolidate wealth and power and influence. A small number of powerful family run the world, I have heard. The right marriage is a worldwide phenomenon, clearly illustrated currently in BBC TV drama, “A Suitable Boy.”

        A criminal family making a good marriage is like laundering money, cleaning it up, legitimising the family activity. Lots of so-called good deeds are done by the clever wives of prominent citizens…how else to use up the endless hours of their days? Many brilliant women, college educated but a career is a no no, doing charity work, good deeds etc. Another well-worn theme. And thus Meryl’s charity work has been much neglected whilst she was fighting the divorce, but I bet she was on this or that committee whilst her girls went through school. It was always there.

        Financial ruin? Your words, not mine. But not far from the intention on Chuck’s part. He is arrogant enough to think that Meryl’s only money is given to her at his whim. But she didn’t need it. You’re right, her Dad is wealthy but he doesn’t give away his wealth easily, having hard-earned it. Meryl wants her freedom and she wants her independence too.Hates to have to ask.

        Why did she have to be Meryl? She didn’t. She just didn’t want to be Tina. She wanted to be an individual, not a prompt. I hope people read the story and thought, “Where the fuck is Tina?” Rather than the inevitable ending of that last line that we all knew was coming. The punch line given away at the beginning. (By the way, my wife says that I am being an arse for wanting to change Tina’s name. Other people went along with it and wrote great stories, she says.)

        The sadness in Brett’s eyes is a reflection of the sum total of his life. Whoever he hooked up with in the intervening years is no longer there. Was it a car crash, or illness or divorce? But he is alone now and her never forgot the unattainable Meryl.

        So there we have it. An insight into some of my thinking.

        Looking forward to the Three Ken’s story.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • August 19, 2020 at 9:48 am
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          Hi Ken,

          On reading your comment I’m quite convinced, now, of the feasibility of the story as you told it, without my suggestion to raise the level of violence into a more complete noir piece.

          But, yes, that’s now the story plus the extra background offered in your comment. With some of the elements in the comment well folded into the story, it would have probably worked more smoothly for me. For example, Meryl’s charitable work could have been brought in while she was still married (a bored housewife?) to Charles (what a contrast to his ‘charitable work’ in other women’s bedrooms!). I’d have also liked to see Boss Johnson around again, feeling defeated in some way, and having to face the man he’d once had beaten. But it’s a relative defeat, for I think Boss is a man of honour that can rise back, not least by admitting his past mistakes. I loved to see Meryl meeting Brett again. But, even more so, I’d have loved to see Boss receiving Brett in his arms and apologising to him. Perhaps even taking some pride in the whole thing. “One solid man, Brett, you are… that beating wasn’t for nothing. Didn’t kill you,. made you stronger!” Such a heavyweight character like Boss suddenly disappearing completely from the story left me somewhat disappointed, as a reader.

          My main issue, all in all, was that each temporal segment of the story gave me a sudden jolt, with new characters and a rather complete change of scenery every time. Some continuity editing between the segments (essentially bringing in some of the elements you mentioned to me in your comment) can greatly improve this story, IMHO.

          I know, I know – there’s then that unbendable Ayyotallah’s decree: the 1.2K word-limit. Anything that is added has to be folded into the existing story so neatly as to not blow up the damn word count. As you also hinted at, you probably have material for a longer story here. Most family sagas usually require a longer format than flash fiction. So considering everything, it’s quite a miracle that you fitted it all that in so few words!

          About the Tina thingy, well yes, sometimes some names are more fitting than others or the characters we have in our heads are simply called something else. Not what the prompt says. I also disliked Tina and even pointed out in my story that it’s actually short for Martina. Also because I don’t think Tina was a common baby name back in the 1930s. In your story, Brett and Meryl sound like great names for countryfolk. Tina may be a little bit too urbane, perhaps.

          So, it looks like we’re all in (Cartisano too! You saw the emails, I suppose) for the next prompt… looking forward to whatever it’s going to be – this is a new challenge, I never before wrote anything with others…

          Cheers!
          Ken

          Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 1:49 pm
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      Ooooh now that’s a great love story, Ken Frape. Who wouldn’t want it to end this way?

      Well written and easily understood. With a touch of the Bollywood mashup. From casual worker to Chief of Police. A noble man who remains true to his first love.

      Meryl is a good daughter, no doubt. Admirable that she works in a diner to learn the ropes of making it on her own. But it took her 24 years to fight the system.

      Good one!

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 2:01 pm
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      Hi Ken,

      Kudos on fitting a whole decades-long family saga into 1,200 words (or less)!

      Some things, though, don’t feel feasible to me, or leave unanswered questions, eg:

      – It seems to me that a man like Boss Johnston, who got to where he is through hard work, and has his daughter work a mundane job so that she doesn’t become a spoilt rich brat, wouldn’t be quite so harsh to Brett – a good, hardworking guy, even if not the ‘right’ match for Meryl. He might give the guy a chance, or say ‘come back when you’ve made it’, or something. Unless he thought Brett was a deadbeat, or had dishonourable intentions towards Meryl?

      – You mention that Chuck was ‘determined that his wife would not divorce him’, but it’s not clear how he succeeded in that for 20 years. We only get a glimpse of his dirty tactics during the divorce proceedings, and the hushing up of the first affair… but you also imply that word of his affairs got out, and 20 years is a long time for Meryl to put up with this crap. Also on the subject of Chuck, if he’s an entitled arsehole that he comes across as, and comes from money, it’s a bit hard to believe that he is ‘pinching himself’ that a girl like Meryl would marry him. More likely Chuck took her for granted from the start, or even believed he was doing *her* a favour.

      Finally, I had a problem with the sentence ““Evening Mayor,” Meryl replied but her eyes were no longer looking at him. “I’d like to introduce you to the town’s new Chief of Police, Brett Maddison,” he said.” The syntax suggests it was all said by one person, while it’s obviously two different people talking (Meryl, followed by the mayor). Perhaps better to move the mayor’s introduction of Brett to a new line.

      Reply
    • August 21, 2020 at 1:18 pm
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      Ken F.,

      Nice, folksy little story, of riches to rags, which may be even sweeter, with life left to enjoy with the right person. Not everybody gets it right the first time around. You told it well.

      I can see there’s a lot more story involved with the Petersons and Maddisons, because it’s very difficult to tell a family saga in two words. And there were some juicy tidbits iwth Mr Peterson that were left out that might have been interesting.

      In Ken Miles story this week, his epic begins 85 years earlier and some people took Ken just a little bit to task (in a nice way, of course) remarking how well his protagonists remembered each other when they were close to or at the century mark of their lives.

      You allude inYOUR last line that:

      She felt that same jolt as all those years before as their hands touched once again and the voice she remembered so well said, “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Meryl.”

      When my son was five which would be 1971-72, I asked him if he wanted to go with me to pick up a brake part for my Plymouth Barracuda – which he eagerly did. That’s why I remember this next part so well. I called the auto parts store and asked about the part and the price. We chatted for a minute when the auto store sales person said, “By the way, is this Roy York, by any chance, I’m talking to?” I was startled – there was no caller ID on phones in those days – and said, “Yes, how did you know?” He said, This is Paul Talbot, I recognized your voice. Here’s the rub. He and I went to 7th grade together and that was the last time I saw Paul. I was in seventh grade in 1954-55. I thought Wow, after 17 years.

      But wait, there’s more, in 1994 I was standing in a restaurant in Las Vegas chatting with my wife and some friends, when a man standing near by with friends, approached me and asked if I was Roy York. I said, I was, and he held out his hand. “Ron Goodwin,” he said. I shook it and said, Refresh my memory. He said, “High school.” Think about this. I graduated high school 34 years earlier in 1960. And he and I didn’t even hang around together. I asked, “How did you recognize me,” as I was older, less hair, gained weight, and so on. He said, “I recognized your voice, thought it was you and when your wife asked you something by calling your name, Roy, I knew it was you.”

      So, just reaffirming your line, ‘That voice she remembered so well,’ because it happens every day somewhere in the world. A lot of things may change, but the voice, seldom.

      Enjoyed the story, Ken and don’t have a lot of criticism.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 21, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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        Ken, M.,

        1200 words, not two words. Don’t know where the old brain cells were when writing the above.

        Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 10:32 am
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    The Coffee & Dark Chocolate Couple
    Marien Oommen

    Aarush was sleeping, his mouth open, head slung back on the sofa. His coffee cup was empty. A plate of date seeds was by his side, some silver strips on it – what remained of the 70% dark chocolate, he savored after his lunch. His routine dessert, nothing excessive, but rather a dignified sweet craving.

    His speed nap being done, his voice, now deeper than the rolling sea, penetrated through the walls.
    Nita Lotus, busy tapping at her laptop, looked up.

    “Over here, come, look at the news. A plane just split in two. 18 dead. Wheels skidded on the rain soaked tabletop landing. Unbelievable! It’s happening for a second time.”

    Before long, the news media was flashing interviews with those who hurried to the site to help.
    Sounds of sirens blasted all around.
    The supermen rushed to help, forgetting their covid masks which lay low below their chins, as they talked to the camera, as they rushed into the broken pit of the plane. They had waited for ten long minutes just in case the plane exploded in flames.
    Some of the masks had descended further, adorning their necks now. Then throwing caution to the wind, they rushed in to save. Here was a baby on the floor; there a mother, holding onto a blood stained dead husband. Some crying kids, some bewildered old men.

    Blood on their faces.

    The captain was slung over the wheel.
    The younger pilot was just about to become a dad. Now his newborn will be posthumous. The pit of the plane looked like a uterus with its foetus wrenched out.
    Bloodied and worn out.

    The rescuers didn’t stop to ask religion or political affinities. They didn’t care for color nor caste. Neither did they think of Covid 19. The quintessence of Humanity 20 had stepped in and all they wanted was to save the desperate soul. They didn’t loot the belongings, break glass or grab what was not theirs. A holy sense of God watching over them filled the minds of the simple townsfolk with their lungis pinned and shirt sleeves rolled up for action.

    Abdul, the welder, called out from the ground zero. His friend, Kasim, the baker, dialled furiously, standing atop the hill.
    “Call all the men, friends with cars, trucks, vans, rickshaws, bullock carts whatever.” In an hour the airport was filled with vehicles moving the bloody bodies to the hospitals. Nobody worried about their plush leather seats getting stained forever.

    ****Happenings From the Heartland of Kerala*****
    -A small beautiful state, in the south of India-

    Lotus reread the news brief, she had just penned, for the national paper because people everywhere needed to know.
    Hour after hour, these ordinary super beings continued loading their cars with the wounded and distraught, driving them to the hospitals, clinics, dispensaries.

    Whither went social distancing?

    The Malayalee camaraderie and their helpful nature was well worth a verse.

    ‘The shadows of death linger over our souls,
    For our sakes, you left your throne above,
    Hear my prayer, O Lord, as we kneel at your throne of grace.
    Every step we take, every move we make,
    Be thou on earth, our dear Father God…’

    Nita Lotus’ eyes skipped from the song video back to her laptop.

    Happy Freedom Day, Dearest India!
    Truly you’re the best country in the world.

    A place where one billion people of different ideologies live in harmony.
    Where traffic is crazy, but people still get to their offices on time.
    A place where the rich learn to coexist with the poor, taking care of them too, and nobody needing guns for protection.
    Where if somebody has a problem, the whole village rises up to solve the issue.
    Where your business is everybody else’s business.
    (Sounds weird? Nita Lotus lingered over this line. Definitely won’t get in the Financial Times .. you know the English man’s home being his castle and all that jazz.)
    Where you can buy the best silks, soaps and spices.
    Where schooling is based on strict discipline, respecting teachers who impart their very best.
    Where animals can stroll free on roads, where parents are loved and cared for.
    (How can you put parents and animals on the same line?)
    Where medicines are cheap and health care is affordable.
    Where ancient builders had great mathematical skills and let’s not talk about what was happening elsewhere during the same period.
    Where issues are settled quickly with everyone adjusting, compromising, levelling, living.
    I could say a billion good things.
    For you, my homeland, sitting far away in this cozy corner of a luxurious desert country.
    ( O dear! That shouldn’t sound ironic!)

    Nita Lotus finished her final submission for the thesis. She heaved a huge sigh of relief.

    Kuhmala, Kaamlahh… the TV was blaring this name, breaking her out of her reverie. They never pronounce anything right.

    “Hey! That’s my other name,” said Nita Lotus, raising her left shoulder. “Now everybody wants to know what I am about.”

    “Aarush, dya’ really think they’ll tolerate a woman at the helm? You can’t. I’ve been your running mate for 40 years. Don’t I know?”
    Nita Lotus muttered under her breath.

    “How I gotta deal with a 1000 innuendos about being the lesser? Ya’ think an entire nation will approve of a woman at the helm? I think not. Conservatives don’t like female smarty-boots.”

    “The curse- goes back to Eden. Forever will she serve her man.” Aarush enjoyed this biblical tidbit. “And submit.”

    “But we are free of the curse now, Rushhh. Man, woman.. both on equal footing. There’s no distinction of color or race. All are equal before God.”

    It was time for their late evening espresso, with dark chocolate dipped in, which when slurped makes it last longer.

    Aarush got in a reminiscing frame of mind.

    “I remember the time I was seventeen, travelling by train back to my dorm. Some hoodlums came up to me – coz I was foreign and this huge guy started harassing me. I didn’t answer. He flicked his knife at me. But then he saw my face.”

    “Hey junge, wherrr you from?”
    “Indien,” I said.
    “Land of holy cows! Hey, leave this fellar alone. Nobody touch him, ja?”
    His voice boomed to the end of the carriage.
    “Jeder leave this Indisch alone.”

    Being dark coffee brown saved my skin that day.
    Then they proceeded to harass a simple turk sitting in the corner. Nobody got killed.

    But that morning, far away in her home, Aarush’s mom was muttering a random prayer: “Dear Father, Keep my children safe. Amen.”
    A casual prayer which she didn’t spice with repetitive words. After which she went to the kitchen to make dosais and coconut chutney.

    But that simple mama’s prayer pierced the clouds, shot through the sound barrier, and hit the throne room of grace.
    Nita Lotus wondered about this.

    “Your mama must have been praying, Aarush!”
    He smirked.
    “There is surely some truth in prayer.”
    She dared say it aloud even though some men prefer to disagree. They diss everything as mere coincidences.

    “Arooo, wanna eat cake? It’s an upside down world. Who understands anyway?”

    “Naaah, just chocolate. And I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Topus Tina.”

    Reply
    • August 18, 2020 at 11:18 am
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      Thank you, Ken M. You are such a gifted writer. If you can write the stories so well, writing novels shouldn’t pose you a big problem.
      Anyway, it is your choice finally, I guess. Let me take you in on a secret here, friend. I want to write at least one novel before I bid “Good Bye”. I don’t know if this long cherished dream of mine, will ever turn out to be a reality.
      Take care and stay safe. God bless.

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 11:41 am
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      Hi Marien,

      Wow, this is a most complex piece of writing. I cannot pretend to understand everything in it but I can offer an insight.

      Imagine I am sitting in my house looking out through my open window, across the garden, across the road and into the distance. The curtains are billowing in a gently, warm breeze. People and cars and bicycles are passing by but I only catch glimpses of them through the curtains. Now I see things, now I don’t.

      This is how I see your story.

      You use some beautiful language, such as, “Surely there is some truth in prayer.”….”hit the throne room of grace”…..”which when slurped makes it last longer”….etc.

      Enjoyed the part about everybody helping out after the plane crash, regardless of creed or colour. A very nice thought.

      The poem was thought provoking with some nice lines too.

      Finally, my feeling is that you have a number of parts to this story and I am unclear how they all join up, if indeed they are supposed to.

      Your writing is uniquely quirky, Marien and makes me want to visit the places you mention and meet your people.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 12:51 pm
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        Wow! Ken Frape- That’s a great analogy right there, your view from the window. Brilliant!

        Uniquely quirky and complex writing sound appealing right now.:))
        My way of beating the horrible times.
        Thanks so much for reading and the comment. I wanted to reply before this becomes old hat and we sail into that summer time.

        Please do visit India- Kerala in particular. After Covid.
        Best,
        marien

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 2:16 pm
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      Hi Marien,

      This is only the second or third story of yours that I’ve read, and all were permeated by spirituality and a unique voice/ way of seeing the world – the hallmarks of your style, by the looks of it.

      I’m confused by the characters of Aarush and Nita, though. Who are they – politicians? journalists? What is their relationship to each other – a couple, colleagues, friends? Are they in India, or expatriates living in some other country? I’m also confused by Nita’s nickname in the last line, “Topus Tina”; perhaps it’s some cultural reference I’ve missed? IMO, the story would benefit from clarifying these points.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 2:41 pm
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        They are a happy expat couple who gotten used to each other through the years.
        The wife Nita Lotus is a journalist. Initially I had named her Lotus and then for Tina’s sake had to put in both the names to bring in the relevance of the other Kamala. Coz the TV was actually blaring her name out…
        I think I may have confused you further here … chuckle chuckle.

        She offers him cake instead of chocolate, his fave dessert… and says it’s an upside down world.
        So he calls her exactly that… makes her name sound upside down.
        Lotus, Potus, Topus…. Nita Tina.

        Nothing cultural. Just plain silly.

        Right now the world does seem a lot upside down.. I tried to bring in a bit of racism here, a bitty bit of women power being scorned, a large bit of India… and of course faith always steps in for me.
        Just mere ramblings of a pleasant afternoon…

        Thanks for reading. 🙂

        Reply
        • August 21, 2020 at 7:57 am
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          Thanks for the clarification.

          The play on names makes sense for an ‘old’ couple, although in-jokes like these are likely to sail over the heads of any outsiders (like they did over mine :)). I entirely missed the connection between ‘Lotus’ and ‘Kamala’, just assumed that Kamala may have been Nita’s middle name, not mentioned elsewhere in the story.

          Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 2:49 pm
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      Marien,

      The first half of this story, about the plane crash, is absolutely wonderful. Not just the writing, but what it conveyed, about people, humanity and Indians in particular. This part could stand on its own.
      But,
      In the second section, we are informed that what we just read was a news summary that she had just written, which, she then felt was worth reciting some lyrics to celebrate it.

      Section three, ‘Happy Freedom Day, Dearest India!’ Reads like a ballad, or a poem. Quite stirring, a lovely ode.

      Section four: ‘Kuhmala, Kaamlahh… the TV was blaring this name… They never pronounce anything right.’
      This section left me flummoxed. “Hey. That’s my other name,” said Nita Lotus, raising her left shoulder. “Now everybody wants to know what I am about.” (Honestly, I have no clue what that is supposed to mean. No clue! And the following dialogue does nothing to clarify it. My best uneducated guess is that this is a discussion about the fitness of women for leadership, (in a country that has already elected a woman as Prime Minister, no?)

      A quick Google search informs me that there was only one female PM, and despite contrary appearances, many strong female political leaders ascended to their roles by proxy or directly through the men in their lives. (Okay, so, this is a discussion on the role of women in positions of leadership, until Aarush ‘got in a reminiscing frame of mind.’ Which brings us to an incident in his past, in which he attributes his salvation to the color of his skin, (ironic, that is) but she ‘Nita Lotus’ feels that it is just as likely that a prayer by his mother had more to do with it. Which leads to that beautiful description of how prayers work. (piercing the clouds, breaking the sound barrier and hitting the throne room of grace.) Nice.

      So, the upshot is, this is a convoluted story, with much grace, lovely writing, the power to intrigue the reader, but the fourth section broke the spell, leaving me bewildered and lost. But perhaps, that’s because I’m not your target audience.

      More’s the pity if that is so.

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 1:19 pm
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        O gooness gwacious! This is the best. If only I could go back in time, have a professori telling me all this.. life woulda been so cool!
        Sorry for confusing the whole lot of you. It’s just that I assumed you guys are all in the US, neck deep in the race to Nov. The nominations were blaring on the telly as I was writing 🙂

        In India, women can stand as big chief if they want to. There’s no hassle. In fact they’ll garner a huge following too. There’s been a couple of women on the forefront.

        Other than Kuhmala, you got everything right.
        So I hereby declare you as my target audience….Sword tap on right shoulder.

        Lotus- the flower- is the English version of the Indian name Kamala.
        Nita is her first name.. added for the sole purpose of turning it topsy for Tina at the end.

        I’m enjoying this… so much.
        Take care, looking forward to the next critique.
        Take care meanwhile,
        Marien

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 10:09 pm
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      Marien,

      Please accept my apologies, Marien. I misread your story, and then compounded the misunderstanding with stupidity. (I’m a man, I excel at this.) I re-read the story and I am even more impressed than I was the first time through.

      When you wrote: ‘Kuhmala, Kaamlahh…the TV was blaring this name…’ I misread it as:
      ‘Kuhmala, Kaamlahh… the TV was blaring ‘his’ name…’

      So I assumed you were referring to some Indian politician, whose names (I’ll exaggerate here) either sound identical or unpronounceable, I thought, this passage involved Indian politics, something that I know nothing about. (I said I was going to exaggerate.)

      Now here comes the idiot part. (No, that was not the idiot part, I swear, that was just the misunderstanding.) Four hours later, as I was editing a comment that I had already posted, (that was kind of stupid, too) and realized that you wrote: ‘the TV was blaring THIS name…’ I realized you were referring to Kamala Harris, the U.S. Vice Presidential nominee, who is half-Indian. (And I knew this.) This puts your story in a whole new,

      yet still incomprehensible light. (You’re going to have to meet me half way on this, Marien. One-fourth of the way? Okay, all right. I’m coming over there. Just let me get my cup of worms. Hold on a second.)

      So, the fourth section begins with a reference to Kamala Harris, which understandably leads to the discussion of women and leadership. But I still don’t understand the “Hey, that’s my other name,” said Nita Lotus. (Two sentences later.) “Now everyone wants to know what I am about.” Is this just a sarcastic remark? It totally threw me for a loop. More distressing for me that that was that, even though I was able to get the gist of the discussion that followed between the two characters, I wasn’t sure who was saying what. Which, I think, possibly would make a difference to me. This last bit of dialogue puts everything in perspective, and that’s the only part of the story that lacked clarity. (To me.)

      See what I mean?

      Your writing is odd, but undeniably magnificent. But that doesn’t always make it clear. (To idiots like me.)

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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        Is this just a sarcastic remark? Totally!
        Was a bit tickled that an Indian name is being articulated on CNN constantly!

        ‘Your writing is odd, but undeniably magnificent.’ Love this. Goal achieved.

        .Your line..’then compounded the misunderstanding with stupidity. (I’m a man, I excel at this.)’
        You’re either very humble to say this or you’re from Neptune. Truly, truly, there’s no need to apologize.

        Your remarks are always a pleasure to read.
        Thanks, and be blessed.

        Onward, good Knights of the Pen,
        Marching onto the Summer of 2020,
        God knows what will transpire,
        Will be two weeks then.

        Marien

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 9:36 am
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      Hi Marien!

      Your style is imbued with mystery, and this story is no exception… Not the kind of mystery as in suspense stories, but deliberately (I think) lacking clarity to do justice to the ambiguity-ridden worlds you write about. So I didn’t set out believing I’m gonna understand every single sentence that I was about to read. Instead, I put my seatbelt on and let your rollercoaster roll: some things I saw them well, some others less so, others I just felt them but can’t describe them… A special, different experience in its own right.

      The singing of praises to India, Indians and their virtues (and even their shortcomings) is very well done and has spoken volumes to me about how this country still functions at a human level, with all the problems that entails, but also the vividness, humanity, carefree-carelessness and spontaneity that make life there more livable than it is in the sterile (= boring) West. It’s almost an apetizing invitation to pack up and move to India or some other similar place in the so-called “Third World” and live life to the full, warts and all.

      Beautiful stuff, Marien, somewhat odd, but beautiful.

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 7:03 am
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        Thank you, Ken Miles, for your reading and terrific comments.

        Loved this particularly- ‘Beautiful stuff, Marien, somewhat odd, but beautiful.’ It’s my prize.

        I fully understand your roller coaster ride with my tales. It’s my mind.. even I can’t control it at times 🙂
        I don’t live in India now, but visit often. It’s very, very vibrant. With lots of honking.

        Onto the next one then. No idea now what’s ticking.

        Reply
    • August 22, 2020 at 10:36 am
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      Marien,

      I really, really liked the poetic nature of your opus and placed it in my top echelon for voting. Getting used to your style of writing has been a challenge; it’s so different and it took me awhile to realize how different. And, I am a believer in different isn’t wrong, just different. You tend to write in lyrical sentences and paragraphs, sometimes in a stream of consciousness and it works. And, you write with a sense of belief in goodness that overpowers your dark side and makes everything rosy. Good job on the story in my humble opinion.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 7:14 am
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        Another good word on my tale from you. Thank you so much, Roy! My cup overflows.

        I knew I have confused many along the road. Sorry about that 🙂
        But still sticking to what I’m familiar with.

        If I ever get to the top, it might cause a problem in that I may stop writing.. coz of self imposed new standards.
        There I go again with some convoluted thinking.

        I realize that God’s goodness does overcome evil forces and prayer works in manifold ways. So it spills out.

        Be blessed, Roy, in health and everything that matters. With God nothing is impossible.

        Marien

        Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 3:22 pm
    Permalink


    Coffee Break
    by Roy York
    1179 words

    The waitress looked up as she heard the tinkle of the door chime letting her know someone was entering the cafe. Light from a glaring sun poured in and reflected off the glass leaving the entrant silhouetted in the doorway. Tina smiled as she slowly recognized Kevin Maklin.

    She’d had a crush on him since high school but she never let him know and, as affairs of the heart work when intentions are unknown, each had ended up with someone else. Kevin gave her a little wave as the door closed behind him.

    “The usual?” she asked. She said it saucily, with a more than exaggerated wiggle of her hips as she walked toward the coffee pot. He nodded. “You’re going to have to wait a minute,” she said.

    “You need one of those new-fangled coffee makers that make individual cups. Then I wouldn’t have to be waiting around for a cup of coffee. Maybe I should take my business down the street to Betty’s Uptown Grill when I get a break?”

    “Maybe you should. I’m sure Betty would be glad to see you.” She knew he wouldn’t do it. It was a game they played. She knew that Betty and he had been an item in high school, but they had fizzled.

    Kevin sat down on a stool at the counter and said, “How long do you think it’s going to take? I was thinking about having a piece of that blueberry pie I see in the pie stand. A man can’t eat blueberry pie without a cup of coffee.”

    “By the time I dish up that piece of pie, the coffee will be ready. Let me take Mr. Hennessy and his wife their dinner. Besides, they were here before you.” She called over to Mr. Hennessy, “It’s coming right up, Wilbur. Dinner will be there in a jiffy.”

    She had her back to the door when she heard the tinkle of the door chime and didn’t turn around. The voice was high pitched and wavering. “Don’t anybody do anything stupid. This is a holdup.”

    The waitress turned. Kevin already had his hands in the air. She couldn’t see Mr. Hennessy’s face. His hands were slowly coming up, too. She raised hers.

    “All right,” said the taller of the two young men standing in the doorway, “If we get what we want, nobody gets hurt.” Both had guns in their hands. Neither could have been more than sixteen.

    Kevin studied the two boys carefully. He could tell the taller one of the young men was the leader. The shorter one, as Kevin looked closer, was younger. “You two can just walk out of here and it will be like nothing ever happened. Why don’t you do that and leave us alone.”

    “You shut the hell up!” screamed the tall kid “You just keep you mouth shut and tell your girlfriend there, to clean out the cash drawer.”

    “Can’t do both.” said Kevin.

    The boy looked confused. “What do you mean?”

    “I can’t shut up and also tell her to do something. Which one do you want me to do?” Kevin could see he had unnerved the boy with his question.

    The smaller boy said “Tommy, why don’t we just leave. This is stupid. Someone is going to get hurt.”

    “I told you no names, you stupid little weasel.” Tommy waved the gun in the waitresses’ direction. “Go get the money from the cash drawer. All of it. No tricks.”

    She looked at Kevin. He nodded. “Go ahead. They aren’t going to get very far. There’s no sense getting shot.”

    By then, Hennessy had turned in the booth to see the two boys still framed in the doorway. “He’s right, you know. You two aren’t going to get far. While you were busy chatting with the guy at the counter, I dialed 911. I suspect the police will be here any minute.”

    “You’re lying. You probably don’t even have a phone, old man.” By then, Tommy had regained his composure.” He turned toward the waitress. Go get the money and bring it here … now.” He waved the gun again for emphasis.

    “Go get it. It’ll be alright.” She did as Kevin directed and pulled the money out of the cash register and started bringing it over.

    “Stop,” said Tommy. “Put it in a paper bag. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

    “You could have fooled me,” said Wilbur Hennessy. ‘You’re acting like a 5 year old. Thinking you’re Jesse James.”

    Tommy could see things were starting to go downhill. His younger companion was ready to give up, but Tommy wasn’t going to have any of it. He strode quickly to the old man in the booth. Using the gun as a club he hit the old man hard on the shoulder. “One more word out of you or anybody else and I’ll kill you. He turned back toward the girl. “Get me the Goddamn money.”

    The room was absolutely still. No one moved. “”I mean it,” he said, and put the gun to Hennessy’s head. The shot was deafening and for a moment, everyone thought for sure Tommy had killed Mr. Hennessy. Tommy slowly crumpled to the ground, his gun hitting the floor and clattering as it made it’s way along the tile.

    “Shit,” Tommy said. “I been shot,” holding onto his knee.

    Kevin jumped up and walked over to the other boy. “Give me your gun. There isn’t any reason for anyone else to get shot.” The boy complied. Then Kevin turned and looked at Jane Hennessy cooly holding a small .38 Special that was still smoking.

    “I only shot him in the knee. He won’t walk for awhile, but he isn’t hurt bad. She turned to her husband. “Now, you can call 911.”

    “When you call 911, Wilbur,” said Maklin, “tell the dispatcher to just send an ambulance. I’ll take care of everything else. In the meantime, use some of that FBI paramedic training the two of you got and see if this one needs any attention,” He pointed toward Tommy who was holding his knee cursing in pain. Macklin picked up the fallen gun.

    Kevin waved toward the other boy, to come over by his partner in crime. “You set yourself down in this booth right here, and don’t move. If you do, I give this nice lady permission to shoot you in the leg, too. Got it?”

    The boy nodded, tears streaming down his face. “Am I going to go to prison?”

    “That’s not up to me, that’s up to the judge. You sit here while we wait for the ambulance.”

    Kevin reached into his shirt pocket and took out his sheriff badge and hung it over his belt. “Somedays things just work themselves out,” he said. Hennessy chuckled.

    “Sheriff, I’ll just hold on to this until forensic gets here.” Jane held up her gun. Kevin smiled and nodded in agreement.

    Maklin walked back over to his seat and sat down, swiveling on the stool toward the waitress, “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 1:33 am
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      Great use of the prompt, but, towards the end of the story, the last eight or nine paragraphs, you alternate between the mc’s first and last name. Kevin, Kevin, Maklin Maklin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Maklin. It’s confusiing.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 6:21 am
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        Ken C,

        With so many males in the final scenes I felt ‘he’ would not be an identifying moniker, and I couldn’t call him sheriff until the last paragraph or so. But thanks, you have a solution for that? Or anyone else, always willing to learn and improve?

        Roy

        Reply
        • August 19, 2020 at 7:06 pm
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          Roy,

          Well, yeah. His name is Kevin Maklin. You, the narrator, alternate between Kevin and Maklin. Clearly, you should decide which name you’ll use for your character, and stick with it, (as you did throughout the first two-thirds of the story.) Kevin, or Maklin. Either his first name, or his last. This is not complicated, and it has nothing to do with pronouns, like ‘his’. This is an unforced error, Roy. Something you already know, and just didn’t notice, I presume.

          (Unlike ‘spider-like fingers’, which is not erroneous, just wrong.)

          Reply
          • August 19, 2020 at 9:13 pm
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            Ken C.,

            I see what you’re saying and don’t really have a good argument against it, but in the long run, it really shouldn’t affect what I thought was a pretty straight forward and fairly well written story.

            But I will endeavour to avoid that sort of thing in the future, as I see how it might be a distraction.

            By the way, and I’ll be paying more attention to this matter tomorrow, I thought the beginning of YOUR story was some of the best descriptive writing I had seen in a long time. It fell off a bit, which is the downside of coming out so strong, but still, my congratulations.

            Roy

    • August 19, 2020 at 12:00 pm
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      Hi Roy,

      Can’t say I noticed the use of the names changing back and forth at the end. Not saying it didn’t happen, just that I didn’t notice if it did. What I did see was one darned good story, full of nice little twists and turns, like looking into a packet of that twisty pasta. I can see why you had to keep the sheriff’s badge hidden until the end.

      Great little old lady carrying a miniature ( but effective) pistol. Hints of the right to carry arms in the USA. The fear in the way the kids tried the “hold up” was expertly done too. I can see them in my head, scared half to death about what they are doing but doing it anyway. Desperate.

      Also great notion the way people stay in their home towns, growing up there, going to school with each other, having relationships and looking back over the years. I moved home too many times to have that sense of roots, of belonging in one place.

      The dialogue is spot on and it drives the action.

      You crammed one helluva story into our allocated 1200 words.

      Well done, Roy.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 2:13 pm
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        Ken F.,

        Thanks for your seriously sincere autopsy of my story. I appreciate the attentiveness you gave it as you saw the small town atmosphere I was trying to evoke with the home town feel of it. I do tend to write stories with that in the back of my head. I promise you I will give yours the same attention when I critique yours later on today, or tomorrow morning. Depending on wha my current medication allows me to do. My blood pressure is jumping around like a kangaroo on it’s 6th cup of coffee and it’s difficult to concentrate.

        I went back after I answered Ken C.’s comment and looked and didn’t see what he saw, but figured it might be the breaks in paragraphs that sometimes throw words near each other and they stand out more. But, I take it all with the intent of the critiquer. Ken saw it, and I would fix it if I could.

        And,as long as I’ve got the floor, this was my prompt and I should have left it as “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, ______________ (fill in the blank with a character’s name). Should have, perhaps, and I didn’t have any problem with anyone changing it, but I did see that quite a few used it masterfully, such as Phil. Part of me said, use the prompt as written, and the other part said, you shouldn’t have had everyone have a character named Tina, so it all worked out. After all, tomorrow is another __________. (Fill in the blank with your favorite noun.)

        Reply
        • August 19, 2020 at 11:05 pm
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          Roy,

          My story ‘fell off a bit’? Why I oughta… Oh, I see what you mean there, those two sentences, the workbench, the people, nobody notices. That IS kind of boring. Okay, whatever. It could be better. I’m glad you like the beginning. Ken Miles suggested I ditch the very first line too. I think he’s right, as well. No octopuses. I’m cured of that at least. (Although no one noticed the the theme of threes. Three of everything throughout the story. Who cares? Right? I should have named it, ‘Three Who Cares, Right?’.)

          Your story’s great Roy, the name thing is the only thing wrong with it. Like you said, ‘it’s a pretty straight forward and fairly well written story.’ Until the last nine paragraphs where you start changing The Main Character’s tag. Is he Kevin? Or is he Maklin? I’ve given you the problem, and the solution at the same time. No need to assemble a posse or fire line. I mean hell, Roy, this is pretty basic. And you haven’t even admitted that you SEE it, let alone admit that it’s confusing. You act like I’ve presented you with a four-dimensional toilet bowl or something.

          I’m just going to assume you’re on some fairly potent drugs, or scotch, and in a few days you will come out of it, go back to being your normal self, and I’ll still be on drugs, (my normal self), wondering what the hell you were talking about! But, as Marien Oomen says, that’s the upside down of it. (I think it means ‘Hatuna makata.) No fish worries. No scales. No weight problems. Something like that.
          All you have to do, is decide what name you want to stick with.
          So, what’s it gonna be Roy? Kevin? Or Mackerel?

          Reply
          • August 20, 2020 at 10:50 am
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            It’s drugs, but they’re not the right – mind altering kind – just the kind that make you stupid and lazy, not wanting to take care of business. I’m getting used to them. They are supposed to relax my blood vessels, and maybe they are and my brain is just getting so much blood that it’s not used to this past year and a half, I don’t know how to react. Or write well, for that matter. I’m trying. I’ll get there.

            Roy

    • August 20, 2020 at 2:05 am
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      Hi, Roy,
      I re-read your story and what a story it has turned out to be! The very first paragraph is reminiscent of Literature Classical and sets the tone of the story. The glaring sunlight reflecting off the glass and having the entrant silhouetted at the door, hinted at what was to follow was not to be all that sunshiny!
      The story picks up from the time the boys came in. What surprised me was how cool everyone inside the room, including Jane Hennessy seemed to be! Something doesn’t fit in here, I kept telling myself. Where is the panic? The dread of the impending gloom and doom?
      For that I’d to wait till the end, like it happens in most of the stories that leave us pondering over the conclusion time and again. Let me also not forget to write about the build-up to the climax. You have done it masterfully, man.
      “He put the gun to Hennessy’s head. The shot was deafening. ” At this precise point, I thought the old man was a goner as a result of the knaivity and fear of the boy. The suspence till this point was killing me and I just raved through the next sentence praying silently for Mr. Hennessy’s life. What a relief it was when my fear proved to be unfounded.
      As I hurried through the end, I realized what a pot-boiler of a story you have authored again, my dear friend. It was just the boys’ bad luck that they decided to rob the wrong place, a place where the sheriff himself was present! Then everything seemed to fall into place, all my doubts were dispelled. I realized why the few people present inside looked so cool and unfazzled. They had absolute faith in the sheriff. As long as he was there nothing could go wrong. And their belief was not at all ungrounded or unfounded.
      Lovely story, Master. Now there is another name listed down along with the other five for The Best Character, that is, Kevin the Sheriff.
      Hope you are in good health now. Take care and keep churning out many more of such heart-warming stories. God bless. Prayers for your long life and warm regards.

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 8:29 am
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        Thanks, Rathin. Flowery words of praise, but I’ll take ’em. I enjoyed writing the story, but I admit it needed a bit more of a twist, but I like writing in that style, so surprises are harder to come by. Thanks for your kind words, and it’s good to see you back.

        In true Roy fashion, I expect you to spend a little more time this time around polishing your stories and taking heed of the people who are pointing out how you can become better. For example, by not using the contraction ‘I’s’ which is not recognized anywhere in the English speaking word as a contraction for I was or I is, except in dialogue trying to imitate a southern accent of a slave in a civil war era story such as – I’s coming, Masta – and, if used today would provoke rebuke from the politically correct folks.

        Roy

        Reply
        • August 23, 2020 at 10:28 am
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          Thanks Roy for your thoughtful advice, as always. I don’t know why you seem to ake a strong exception to my use of the contraction I’s for I was. I must have picked up from a grammar book and have been using it for ages!
          Now, we all know I’s can’t stand for I’s, which is grammatically wrong. But let’s look at the contractions below :
          He’s for he is or he was; she’s for she is or she was; they’re for either they are or they were, we’re for we are or we were, and finally I’s for I was.
          Let me give you some examples as well –
          She’s looking glamorous last night.
          He’s amazingly athletic at his age!
          I’s stunned by the hue and cry you people’ve raised regarding my use of the contraction I’s for I was.
          Anyway, Roy as a mark of respect to a senior like you, I’d try not to use it while corresponding with you. At the same time because I like the look of it, I’ll keep on using it while writing on other platforms.
          Hope you will take it in the right spirit and forgive me for my apparent ignorance, arrogance, audacity, call it what you will.
          Love you, Roy. Take care. Stay fit for all of us. I for one, have learnt a lot from you, benefitted from your considerate opinions and generosity. God bless you.

          Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 10:27 am
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      Hi Roy,

      I have one question. Tina, knew that Kevin was the Sheriff, right? Or was that a surprise he kept under wraps from her, till the right moment came to prove his worth and play the hero who’d save this damsel from distress? If this is the small town I’m inclined to believe it is, I don’t think anyone could be kept in the dark as to the identity of the local sheriff. But, maybe, just maybe it’s not such a small town, after all. I live in a small city of 100,000 people and I have absolutely no idea of who runs the police force here… (because I’ve been good and didn’t ever need to get to know!).

      Anyway, the Sherif’s badge coming out of his pocket, closes off nicely this quiet-little-story-turned-dramatic. Tommy and friend, inexperienced as they were in the trade of theft, didn’t do their research well. Don’t plan a hold-up at the watering hole where the Sheriff usually has his cuppa, should be on the first page of any Newbie DIY Thief Handbook. Neither, for good measure, where the Sheriff’s High-School sweetheart works. Or retired FBI operatives have lunch. You messed up badly, dear Tommy. Very.

      Thanks for an enjoyable read, Roy. Easy to manouevre through (unlike some other stories that have been offered for this prompt, with much more to chew – and maybe choke – on), yet with at least three twists that I didn’t see coming (a quiet romantic tale turned dramatic, a hold-up turned on its head, and the long arm of the law being much closer to the crime scene than anyone would have thought).

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 2:27 pm
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        Congratulations, Phil. Congrats to the other top five and to all the other winners. Actually, congratulations to all the writers in this group. It’s not easy writing a compact story every two weeks. Well, except for Phil. I think when he gets up in the morning after a prompt, there’s a nice little story all neatly printed out on his desk. Maybe Andy is on to something with the leprechaun thing.

        Roy

        Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 9:13 am
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        Tina knew. I didn’t even know Maklin was sheriff until he took the gun away from the young boy. Until then, he was just a guy in a cafe on his coffee break (thinking about starting up his romance with Tina0 – but that never got in the story. So it was easier to have him put on his sheriff’s badge and take care of business. I also think it added a bit to the last line. But, that’s just me. Personally, I thought the story would do a little better than 6th place, but with this group of writers, there are days I’m just happy I’m not in last place. This time was one of them.

        I like my stories to be easy reads. Sort of like literary sweetness. Easy to read, but hard to resist. Thanks for your comments, Ken M., I’m always glad to read them. Sometimes you see things I’ve missed and never thought of. Such as don’t plan holdups in the local sheriff’s watering hole. I wanted their inexperience and naivete to be crucial to their complete lack of planning such as ‘what if something goes wrong’ and the older one insisting he involve his younger partner in his scheme – who was his younger brother – but it was never part of the story. My beta reader wife said something about the brothers and I corrected her and said that wasn’t in the story. She had the story in her hand and I had her reread it. She said, “I could have sworn it said brother. Wow,” she said.”That’s a good thing when you write like that.”

        Stay safe,

        Roy

        Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 3:37 pm
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    Hi, I hope it’s not too late to post a story… I had trouble with mine, sorry for the late post.

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 2:33 am
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      It’s not too late Vicki, the deadline is Wednesday 11am CST. Glad you could make it 🙂

      Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 3:39 pm
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    Shaping Up
    By Victoria Chvatal
    (1,170 words)

    Half an hour into her first day at a finishing school for executives’ wives, Tina already hated it, and the teacher. Mrs. Carmichael, with her old-fashioned, expensive hairdo and her posh English accent, had greeted the younger woman right off the bat with a disapproving, “You look very… bright, dear.”
    “It’s all the rage in London, you know,” Tina shot right back with a fake-sweet smile. “Why, I saw pictures of Princess Margaret in something just like this, only in yellow.” That shut the snooty cow right up. Tina grinned to herself: thank the Madonna for the perfect excuse not to wear the pale, boring rags most company wives called clothes.

    Mrs. Carmichael kept picking on her all day for talking too loud, gesticulating too much, and generally not being an insipid little ladylike blonde called Betty, more or less. The classes were godawful boring, just as expected. By the end of the day, Tina’d had enough of balancing a stupid box on her head and trying to talk in a genteel half-whisper. And tomorrow they’d be setting tables and pouring out drinks – oh joy.

    The idea of the finishing school had come from her husband’s boss, Mr. Parker. Apparently, the smarmy bastard had said: “Your wife is pretty enough, but she just lacks that polish. You should send her to a finishing school, you know, if you want to get ahead. Your career’s dead if she can’t host parties for our clients, or if you can’t bring her along to some formal do. And if she doesn’t shape up – well, you can just trade up, can’t you?” Of course, George took his boss’s words as the holy Bible, and expected no less from his wife. In any case, he’d do anything to get ahead – even changed his name from a perfectly lovely Guido, to fit in better with the Aussies. Tina had argued with him for form’s sake, but she knew she didn’t stand a chance.

    The next morning, while trudging through a shabby lane to the bloody finishing school, she spotted a small sign for a course for women on how to run a business. Without a second thought, Tina tossed back her long black hair and went to have a look. The course was run by a woman called Norma Shears, a feminist – or next thing to the devil for most people Tina knew; her family and neighbours would all but cross themselves and spit to the side, if one crossed their path. The woman was tall and flat, wearing what looked like shapeless mens’ castoffs – not helped by the fact that she didn’t wear a bra – but Tina liked her much more than Mrs. Carmichael. Norma was down to earth and taught things that were actually useful, like overheads, taxes, advertising, and how to be more assertive when talking to men.
    “That will lose you business,” Suzy, a mousy-blonde girl sitting next to Tina, offered in an uncertain little voice, following one of Norma’s examples of assertiveness. Tina giggled: Suzy had a point there.

    After class, neither Tina nor Suzy felt like going home just yet, so they headed to Collins Street for a coffee. As they chatted and people-watched through the cafe’s lovely mullioned windows, it turned out that Suzy already had a business of sorts.
    “I’m an interior designer, you know, for hotels. I buy furnishings, draperies, carpets and all that.”
    “Sweet,” Tina nodded appreciatively. “How’d you get the gig?”
    “My Mum’s uncle is a manager at the Southern Cross; he got me an interview. They didn’t want to hire a woman at first, but they I said you’d trust a woman to furnish your home with style, so why not a hotel. And that commission led to a few others…”
    “You must be raking it in,” offered Tina, wondering why Suzy went to the course at all.
    The other girl’s face fell. “Everything’s so expensive to buy,” she sighed, “I just can’t break even!”
    “Where do you buy your stuff – Myer’s?”
    “Of course. They’ve got the best…”
    That got Suzy an incredulous stare, followed by “Who buys retail for a business, you galah! You gotta go wholesale, but. Straight from factories. Look, I’ll take you to Carlton – my uncle Bruno’s got one, been making furniture since before the war. And cousin Tony’s just opened an import business… And there’s heaps of others – just pick and choose!”
    “But that furniture’s too…”
    “What?”
    “… well, Italian…”
    “So? That’s European. Everyone’s crazy for European, right? Uncle Bruno trained back in Italy, with the best. And cousin Tony’s furniture comes straight from Europe. You can tell the clients you’re getting best quality European products – and that’ll be the truth – and save a bundle, too.”

    Tina’s speech got faster and voice louder as she warmed to her subject; and her hand, punctuating her words for emphasis, almost knocked over Suzy’s coffee cup. Some of the other patrons were giving her the stink-eye, but she was too excited to care.

    “And for draperies and that… I know some Jews in Flinders Lane. Let’s go see if they can give us a good price. And if you don’t like what they got – I could ask Uncle Bruno where he gets fabric for upholstery…”
    Of course, she would have to ask Uncle Bruno without letting him know what she was up to… but that was a problem for another day.

    A month later, Tina was feeling like a million bucks. The course had been a blast, and Suzy and her were going places. Suzy didn’t have a clue about many things, but she wasn’t a bad sort – and she did have a good eye. They had a couple more hotels lined up… of course, there were only so many hotels in town, but why stop there? They could go to the fancier sort of clubs, restaurants…

    The young woman grinned at her thoughts, tapping her foot to Daddy Cool’s Eagle Rock on the radio. Daddy Cool looked like Ocker fools, but they were fun fools. Unlike George – he was just a fool for believing she enjoyed the finishing school, or had ever gone back after that one day. When he bothered to ask at all.

    Tina didn’t even mind that her husband had come home early. He grabbed the paper and plonked himself in front of the telly, throwing over his shoulder: “Hey Tin, let’s see what you learned. Make me a coffee, will ya? You know that party at ours is on in a fortnight? Hope I won’t have to trade you in before then.”

    Trade me in, will you, you waste of space? Scowled Tina as she tinkered in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll trade *you* in first. Find someone more useful. Soon as Suzy’n’me hit our straps… Perhaps she’d have to prove he was sleeping with the secretary, she thought, to get a divorce. How do you go about that, anyway?…

    George’s voice interrupted her thoughts: “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, Tina.”

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 1:15 am
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      Great story Vicki. That Tina there in your story’s a real quick study. This reads like something I’m familiar with, but can’t put a name to it. Like a soap-opera or serial. I can almost hear the ‘…to be continued.’ voice over.

      A fun read with a likable character. That last sentence is so much more ominous in your story than in any of the others.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 2:26 pm
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        Thanks for your comment, Ken!

        I didn’t have any particular soap in mind with the plot, but there probably are some. There are also some real-life stories of successful businesswomen who started off in the 1960s or 70s (my story takes place in the early ’70s), when it wasn’t a ‘done’ thing yet for women to have a career.

        And if you think the last line sounds ominous… at first I toyed with the idea of Tina poisoning her arsehole boss’s coffee. *L*

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 12:12 pm
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      Hi Vicki,

      Loved this. Made me think about the world and the place of men and women in it.

      Can’t wait for Tina to trade in her hubby. It’s no more than he deserves.

      I remember when I was a young teacher looking for promotion back in the 70s and there was some expectation that senior teachers ( heads and deputy heads) should involve their wives in school functions. My wife and I, quite rightly we felt, soon put that notion to bed.

      Good dialogue too that works well to carry the story along. You created a number of very real people and all in 1200 words.

      Great work,

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 2:39 pm
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        Thanks for your comment, Ken!

        Now I’m very curious about what you and your wife did. I hope you’ll base a story of your own on the events. It’s interesting that senior teachers back then were male; I’m so used to teachers being almost exclusively female. Were senior female teachers (if any) expected to involve their husbands as well? 🙂

        The idea came from a 1971 news story that Ilana shared a while ago, about an actual finishing school for executives’ wives (although the school in question was based in Sydney; I don’t know if there was a counterpart in Melbourne, but I just used creative licence…) It sounds so awful to our modern sensibilities.

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 2:26 pm
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      Good story line and George wants a finished product along with his cup of coffee. Not a helpmate.

      I fully understand Tina’s repulsion of those wannabes. But she will do anything now to incriminate her husband. That aint good. But then it’s a story.

      I saw Suzy as a Chinese woman somehow… maybe the spelling 🙂 Then noticed she has blonde hair.
      Then the speed at which they talk… was funny!

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 3:00 pm
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        Thanks for your comment, Marien!

        The story takes place in early 1970s Australia, when white and British was seen as the ideal. Tina’s an Italian-Australian, and she not only doesn’t fit this ideal, but also resents the idea of being ‘second best’ because of what she is. She’s also starting to question the accepted wisdoms that men have a career, and women are housewives who have to get married early (so as not to be ‘left on the shelf’), be housewives, and hang on to their husbands (no matter how bad or useless) at all costs, lest they be ‘replaced’ if they don’t ‘measure up’.

        It took me a while to understand your comment about Tina incriminating her husband. The story takes place a few years before the no-fault divorce was introduced in Australia, so the only way for her to get a divorce is by proving that her husband is at fault – such as if he’s having an affair.

        I believe the spelling ‘Suzy’ was more common a few decades ago; if that’s incorrect – the mistake is all mine.

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 7:43 am
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      One or two very minor grammatical glitches but l loved the story. Great work Vicki. You have the pace and timing of events and dialogue just right.

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 2:46 pm
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        Thanks, Ilana!
        I was worried if some of the turns of phrase I used were anachronistic, & if anyone caught that it would be you (as I’m not aware of any other Aussies in the group); but looks like I’ve passed :).
        Hope you feeling better, & will contribute your stories in the coming rounds.

        Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 3:09 pm
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        Almost forgot: I owe you thanks for the inspiration – a while ago, you shared a video of an actual news story about a finishing school for executives’ wives (in Sydney, though), and it just begged to be put in a story. The concept has that train-wreck quality to my modern sensibilities: awful and fascinating at the same time. 🙂

        Reply
    • August 22, 2020 at 10:57 am
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      Absolutely loved how you ended your story with a long suffering wife and her predictably difficult husband. It was the way business and husbands thought years ago. Fewer today, but it still goes on in every facet of our society. We’ll see if American men are ready for a strong woman in a position of power in government. For Christians and Jews it started out in the Bible with God making Eve out of clay and Adam’s rib, and therefore, to many men’s thinking, subservient, or lesser in some way.

      In reference to your last paragraphs; I had an uncle who, on the occasion of his wife’s 40th birthday, thought he was being funny with this sarcastic remark as we lit the candles on her cake, “Now that you’re 40, I’m gonna have to trade you in for two twenty year olds.” There was an awkward silence as she looked up from the cake, smiled sweetly and said, “Won’t do you any good, Charles, you’re not wired for 220.” The look on his face was priceless and the rest of us laughed ourselves silly.

      I don’t share that particular philosophy, but I observe it a lot. It took a very understanding wife who slowly changed my own way of thinking regarding that matter. I digress, I liked your story and how your characters come to life when they are presented with a problem.

      Good story, Victoria, I don’t have too much to critique. Saw a couple of mistakes, one, where you ended a sentence with the word ‘but, although I think it was an editing error, not a typo nor intentional. Otherwise, a decent job of writing.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 6:08 pm
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    The Beat Remains Same
    Written by Alyssa Daxson
    Word count-1112

    “I’ll have that cup of tea now, Tina.”
    The deep voice snapped me out of the brooding thoughts, and looking up I saw honey brown eyes looking at me. “Peter will have herbal tea, fruit with some kinda sweeter. I’ll have nothing,” I rattled off, only sparing my boss, Peter a glance. The petite waitress looked at me worriedly, but did as I asked, her hips swinging as she sauntered away.

    “Wow. Taking charge?” The southern voice rumbled. I finally faced Peter, and sent him a sardonic smile. “You wanted an assistant,” I said, the words rolling off my tongue, like they had been doing for what felt like years.
    Peter, as I knew, didn’t reply, but raised an eyebrow. I sighed internally. Still the same.
    Usually if the most dangerous drug dealer in the state of Illinois is silent, I would have a reason to fear. But not now. Ever since I walked through that damn door, this day had been repeating itself over and over again.

    Every. Single. Damn. Day.

    I don’t know how long I’d been stuck in this hellish time loop. At first I’d freaked out, ranting to Peter, any one who would listen. That hadn’t been a good idea.
    I winced, remembering when Peter had dragged me out behind an alleyway and slit my throat.
    That memory had not been my best, too say the least.
    Now? Now I just try to find out how to break this damn time loop.
    An internal timer binged, and I felt my finger tapping out the numbers.

    3
    Tap.
    2
    Tap.
    1
    Tap.

    “Hey!” The sharp voice barked out, breaking through my internal thoughts. Normally I’d flinch, but not after hearing that voice bark the same word every day.
    “Yes, nope, nope,” I said, my eyes fixed on the now familiar wood counter top.
    There was a silence(dammit that hasn’t changed yet) before Peter managed to force out one word.
    “What?”
    “Yes, I’m paying attention. No, I don’t know who Marco is. No, I don’t think we should meet up in place like this,” at those last words, I gestured wildly in the air, trying to convey my feeling about this coffee shop.
    “Like this?” Peter questioned, repeating my gesture lamely, which I found funny(If he hadn’t been doing that for the last 237 days)
    “Y’know, these shops that you have in your pocket. Paying them to keep everything under wraps. It’s kinda risky,” I said, shrugging.

    “Hm, you have a good point.”
    Those nonchalant words made my whole world freeze.
    Those were the wrong damn words.
    Peter never once even hinted at taking my suggestion into consideration.
    Something had changed.
    The torturous loop that had gone on for who knows how long was broken.

    A maniacal laugh burst out of my mouth, and I dimly felt tears running down my face.
    “Finally!” I shouted, my fists punching the air, a joyful whoop leaving my mouth. Peter jerked back, and his cup of tea fell to the floor, shattering upon impact, the tinkle of chia glass breaking music upon my ears.
    “What the hell is wrong with you?!” He shouted, surging to his feet, a knife instantly appearing in his calloused hands.
    Desperately trying to control my elation, I smiled weakly at him.
    “Just excited,” I said, wincing internally at the lame excuse.
    Wether Peter believed me or not, I never found out. My eyes briefly caught the time on the clock that was hanging above the door, and the joy that had held me tight was immediately banished, fear replacing it.

    The sudden change in the loop had distracted me, and the most critical moment in this day had arrived.
    “Get down!” I yelled at Peter, shoving to the floor as I caught sight of a black muzzle, peeking through a dull, unused window that sat innocently in the back of the store.
    Anybody, except me who’d lived through the exact same scenario for hundreds of times, would’ve completely missed that gun.
    Immediately the small coffee shop exploded into chaos, gunfire ringing through the air, small puffs of dust blowing upwards from strayed bullets.
    The bystanders cowered to the ground, small gasps of fear leaving their slightly parted mouths. Scuttling to the side, I motioned to one of the men on the ground, silently asking for the gun that I knew was strapped to a holster on his side.

    There was a brief flicker of confusion in the man’s eye, as if he was asking how I knew. An ironic smile was all I offered in return as I bent down to catch the gun that was slid across the floor.
    Taking a deep breath, I stood up, moving forward swiftly, the gun held steady.
    Inhale.
    Bang.
    Exhale.
    Bang.
    Inhale.
    Bang.

    Time moved in slow motion as I aimed and shot at the hidden figures outside the shop, my hands moving by muscle memory.
    I knew where every single one was.
    When to shoot, and when they would shoot.
    I had been in this scene countless times, but I still sent you a prayer of thanks as I moved with ruthless efficiency.

    ——

    As the last bang faded away, I heaved in a breath, and glanced around, seeing the shattered interior, with people glancing at me cautiously.
    Peter was crouched on the floor, Tina, the waitress cowering beside him.
    He stared at me with calculating eyes, and I met his searching gaze evenly.
    “Are they dead?” He asked, pushing himself to his feet. I nodded shortly, not bothering to answer.
    “Good job Zack,” he said, giving me a brief, albeit hesitant nod. “Let’s get these burned.”

    ——

    As I pulled the bodies into a pile, I could barely keep my happiness from bursting outward.
    I was free.
    After what felt likes years of the same damn thing playing over and over again, I was finally set loose.
    I whooped, long and loud, unable to contain my joy any longer.
    Peter immediately glowered at me, his lips set into a thin line. “Quiet! The police could be here minute! We can only stall them for so long!” He hissed angrily. Ducking my head in a silent apology, I hurried away, heading towards another prone body.
    Grabbing the dead man’s feet, I started pulling with a grunt.
    There was a slight shift, before I was staring down a barrel of a gun, absolutely no clue on what had just occurred.
    The supposed dead man stared at me, blood coating his face, bloody teeth painted in a sick smile.
    “Oh shi—“
    Bang.

    ——

    “I think I’ll have that cup of tea now Tina.”

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 12:23 pm
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      Hi Alyssa,

      Yet another totally unique take on a prompt. You certainly take the prize for inventiveness. I love the notion of a time loop , going round and round and you are aware of it but just can’t get off the bus, so to speak.

      I now have a new mantra to get me through tough situations,
      Inhale
      Bang
      Exhale
      Bang
      Inhale
      Bang
      plus a bit of muscle memory to know where the nasties are hiding.

      You’ve really got me thinking now!

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 3:25 pm
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      Brilliant plot, Alyssa!
      I feel for Zack, the poor bastard. Wonder what got him into this loop, and if he’ll ever get out.

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 11:46 am
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      Hi!

      An exciting story, you’ve got there, Alyssa, packed with masterfully deployed twists and that wraps itself well by the time it ends. The dialogue is succinct, and perfectly laid out to convey the feeling in the coffee shop and in Zack’s head.

      Unlike Ken C, who took exception to your rather elaborate dialogue qualifiers (I think that’s what he was referring to), I must say that I love them. To me, they add more color to the scenes and emotions you portray, and I think you do that very well. I’m talking about things like:

      – I said, the words rolling off my tongue,
      – I said, shrugging.
      – Peter questioned, repeating my gesture lamely
      – “Wow. Taking charge?” The southern voice rumbled.
      – I said, wincing internally at the lame excuse.
      – and many more…

      These work very well with me: I can see those faces and hand gestures happening right in front of me, as I read, as if I’m watching a film. Or I’m there in the midst of it all inside that unfortunate coffee shop (thanks, but no thanks!).

      Many of those dialogue qualifiers communicate to me the internal feelings, joys, frustrations and fears of the characters, as externalized through their expressions and movements. I know, some people may find them a bit cliché. There are even books with lists of them, and one may quite easily go overboard with them. But I think you’ve got a talent in using them very maturely in the right places, ticking the right emotions in me.

      Now, maybe Ken C. wasn’t even talking about THOSE and I misunderstood what he was referring to. But if he was, it goes to show how different readers (even readers with the same name! D’you believe that?) react differently to the same thing. We can’t do anything about that. It’s like some people like cabbage, others don’t. In Britain the expression is “it’s like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it.” (Marmite is a spread some find horrendous while others just love it. Apparently at a rate of 50-50%). So, it’s up to you, now, which Ken you’re gonna please!

      Still on dialogue qualifiers, you had, however, two instances where they seemed repetitive to me, and I think one should go (or is expressed differently). Here, this:

      – The deep voice snapped me out of the brooding thoughts.
      – The sharp voice barked out, breaking through my internal thoughts.

      At first (perhaps because you’re a female writer), I thought the first-person narrator, the assistant, was a woman, which sort of made the drama even more… how can I put it? Unusual. Only the mention of the name Zack took me out of that spell. Perhaps next time…

      Well done, Aly – this one is certainly a contender for the Cup this time round.

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
    • August 23, 2020 at 9:20 am
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      Bloody well done, Alyssa. Good story and a very nice rendition of Groundhog Day revisited with a horror twist. Your writing was impeccable and one day I hope, I’ll be able to point out one of your works somewhere and casually remark, “Oh yeah, I was in a writing group with her when she was just starting out.” Of course, I’d like it to be at a book signing of my own, but that boat has more than likely sailed. Maybe not, but I have to get off my lazy rear end and do something about it. Books don’t write themselves.

      Very good take on the prompt and a surprise ending. I’ll even let you sneak in the work think in the last line without rancor because you didn’t stick it in the first line.

      I don’t have any quibbles with the writing.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 18, 2020 at 6:27 pm
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    Alyssa- so many terrific stories this go round but your takes the cake for inventiveness. You had me on the edge of my seat as I read along. I loved the way you kicked off with the final line, and I thought your story arc was very well thought out. I had trouble with this prompt myself, but clearly a lot of others did not judging by the crop of very good stories. Yours, however, gets my vote for the win. Great work!

    Reply
  • August 19, 2020 at 1:02 am
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    Alyssa!
    You’re back.
    With a story. A funny, action packed story. Dark humor of course, your speciality. This has a Casino Royale flavor, but on illegal amphetamines, and steroids. Very creative and imaginative. Still a few too many words describing your dialogue but a fun read all the same.

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 8:14 pm
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      I have returned! I really struggled with this prompt, I had three alternate endings/plots for the story I wrote, and it took me a week to figure out which one I should use, and then another week to actually write it. I’m glad it turned out well! That darned dialogue is still getting me, maybe next prompt I’ll have better luck

      Reply
  • August 19, 2020 at 9:07 am
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    Well, I have a story that’s just a bit of fun – if anyone takes exception to any of it I’ll have it removed.

    But mostly it’s a tribute to people I’ve missed over the past few weeks…

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 9:47 am
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      … that’s all you folks, every one of you, btw …

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 10:24 am
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        Andy,

        Uncle Roy loved it. Nicely done, well written and a total paragraph chaser. Couldn’t wait to see what was next. Welcome back Andy, glad you’re feeling better.

        I just found out my original fears of a bad ticker were countered by my cardiologist, who felt my failed stress test was misread and I DO NOT have a heart abnormality, nor a pulmonary problem.

        Loved the story so much I think I’ll reread it and try to pick up on how to fill my blank pages. Maybe there’s something in there. Especially now that I know I don’t have a widow maker beating in my chest just waiting for the right time …

        Roy

        Reply
        • August 19, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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          Thanks, glad you liked it, Uncle Roy 🙂

          And good news too about your ticker, must be a big relief for sure.

          Yep, I’m feeling better l’m glad to say – though still waiting for one more scan as something’s still not entirely as it should be. But I’m here, happy and otherwise healthy!

          Reply
  • August 19, 2020 at 9:15 am
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    [Title:] “You can get anything you want …”

    Pleasant environment, friendly and interesting people, excellent coffee. Half coffee shop, half writers coworking centre. I spent a lot time there, despite my problems. More specifically, my blank page problem.

    The co-owners, Alice and Carrie, made everyone welcome and kept everything running smoothly. And they were almost endlessly tolerant. There’d be folks nursing a single cup of coffee for hours on end, fully absorbed in their work. Or maybe stretching out the insufficient rewards for quality writing, who knows.

    Carrie came over to my table, scrutinising the blank page in front of me. “Another coffee? Something to eat?”

    “Ah, not just yet, thanks.”

    She looked at me though slightly narrowed eyes.

    “I’m reducing my coffee consumption by observing a strict refreshment schedule. Next cup is due in 37 minutes,” I explained.

    “37 minutes, OK … Tell me, y’think a café’s the best place to cut down your coffee consumption?”

    She had a point, which I pondered as she walked back to the bar.

    Carrie liked everyone to get along. Even the Angels and Demons in her stories worked together. Though I suspected she could hurl the odd thunderbolt, like her fantasy characters, if push came to shove. Maybe the crossbow on the wall behind the bar wasn’t only for decoration.

    But the only thing I’d known to rile her was when customers played that old Arlo Guthrie song on the jukebox. You know, ‘Alice’s Restaurant’. Anyone choosing that risked getting their coffee served without a cup.

    Apart from this, we rarely saw any sibling rivalry between Alice and Carrie since their Uncle Roy offered them the café in this out-of-the-way town. For Alice, the eccentric, shady or unfortunate townsfolk made great source material. Her stories are full of local color, plus a dark twist or two. Somehow the stories match the incongruity of her bright welcoming smile above her alarming “Hell Is For Puppies” apron.

    Anyhow, the main reason I go there is for inspiration. Well, I call it inspiration, but others might call it something else. I’d jot notes while listening attentively to the evening readings, did my best to overhear conversations while other writers discussed their ideas, and occasionally looked over someone’s shoulder at work in progress.

    I studied the techniques of other writers too. There was one Ken (50% of the guys were called Ken in this town, btw), who had his own model railway in the back room. I’d study as he positioned characters on the platforms, and marvel at how suddenly inspiration would come and he’d set to on his laptop.

    Then there was Andy, a strange fish who always wheeled in a barrowful of history books, encyclopaedias and atlases. Has he heard of Google, I wonder? He does everything s…l…o…w…l…y but he gets there in the end. Or not. I want more instant results!

    I could fashion pen portraits of all the writers, but on this particular day something happened that brought me an intimate close-up of their work.

    It started when Phil, the prize-winning master of one-person dialogue, was at the bar chatting to the twins. I sauntered past his table, surreptitiously glancing at the words in his notebook. Spotting the word “leprechaun”, I realised he was writing one of his special quirky folk tales.

    As I looked, the word morphed into a shape, then the shape into a person, and a live leprechaun climbed out of the page. He stood on the table beside me, arms folded and a twinkle in his eye.

    “Well don’t stand there with yer mouth hanging open, ye feckin’ eejit,” said the leprechaun. “Just tell me what ye want!”

    I looked around to see if anyone was looking at us. It appeared not.

    “I’m over here, yer gobshite. And look at ye, yer’ve got a face like a smacked arse!”

    I could indeed feel my face colouring up

    “So ye should be ashamed an’ all! I know yers up to mischief. But meself, I’m not averse to that at all. So, being as how yer’ve been so good as to notice me, I‘ll grant ye one wish. Now do it quickly, before I changes my mind! Hurry up now!”

    “Okay!” I said. “I wish … I could have characters and settings that come alive out of my pages, just like these writers.”

    “Done!” said the leprechaun, hopping onto the windowsill with a crafty smile.

    Instantly the room began to change. The floor undulated and rose, tipping tables aside as Himalayan landscapes emerged, and below that scenes from Kerala, with an Indian woman clutching a cushion that spilled coins on the floor.

    Murderers, serial killers, fighting families, star-crossed lovers, elderly folk with dementia and talking animals now piled into the room. Zombies and vampires burst in from the darkness of the storeroom.

    Out of Roy’s notebook stepped children from the 1950s, swaddled in innocence, while a child abductor sneaked out of another Ken’s iPad. Revolutionary war soldiers charged a World War 1 battlefield as Israeli officers arrested an over-enthusiastic landlord . A scene from a nursing home appeared by the bar, which was now covered in bric-a-brac and strange antiques.

    I looked to the leprechaun. He shrugged. “It’s what you wished for!”

    Zombies surrounded several writer-customers trapped in an east European ghetto, until an angel dispersed the attackers with a lightning-bolt. A young goatherd lost control of his goats, which joined Ilana’s companion goats to chase headless dolls around the tables.

    “Go on, gather them up and put ’em in yer book!” shouted the leprechaun impatiently, pointing to my notebook which had quadrupled its size. As I opened the book it sucked in nearby fictional characters with huge gulping sounds.

    Suddenly the building began to shake with a huge roaring noise. Moments later a tsunami burst through the back wall, sweeping all before it. Opening my book wider, a vortex of mermaids, hapless divers, sea monsters with dragon’s teeth, octopuses, boats, coral reefs, a pirate ship, and more slammed with huge force into the pages, sending me reeling backwards. Then the remaining landscapes and characters swirled into a tornado and followed them into my book.

    The writers stood there, soaked to the bone and not a little traumatised. One by one, they turned to stare at me. The last piece of roof collapsed, jolting the jukebox back into action with that song:

    “You can get anything you want
    In Alice’s Restaurant …”

    Then the sound of hoovering – someone was clearing up already? I guessed the man with a Hitler moustache and a vintage vacuum-cleaner must be one of the odd-bod locals – the alternative was just too strange even for fiction …

    Pretty much all that was left of the café now was the bar and the door, its frame holding up the last piece of wall. Someone flung the door open, and in walked another Ken, looking somewhat weather-beaten. “Did I miss anything?” he asked cheerily. “Hey, is the internet working?”

    I picked up a bar-stool and climbed wearily onto it. I looked at Alice and Carrie, who looked back at me. Although I knew it wouldn’t end well, I had an inexplicable, irresistible urge to say it: “I’ll have that cup of coffee now, gals!”

    Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 11:15 am
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      Ha ha.. love this tale, Andy!
      More so ‘coz there’s a mention of a woman with a cushion! She reckoned she was invisible.
      You’ve got a fantastic memory or did your research really well!
      Quite enjoyed the sequence of events.
      But puppies belong to Rainbow Bridge, let me remind you!
      For originality- A++

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm
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        Many thanks, Marien. I remember that story of yours well, and there was a song that went with it too, wasn’t there?

        As for the puppies, I’m sure you’re right. That reference is to the title of Alice’s collection of short stories. I guess the apron is a good way of marketing it to the customers in the cafe!

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 12:03 pm
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      Hi, Andy. Glad to have gone through your story. One of your finest, I guess.
      The setting, characters, the leprechaun (What is it? Never heard of it! – amost everything about the story is masterfully thought of, well written.
      I’d have loved to go through the story once more. Unfortunately, I can’t due to the time constraint.
      Keep writing, buddy. Stay safe and all the best.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 6:03 pm
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        Many thanks, Rathin. Great to see you back here.

        Now a leprechaun is a little Irish fellow, crops up a lot in folk tales and children’s stories. Kind of like a mischievous fairy or goblin playing tricks on people.
        So he’s speaking a kind of Irish English too.
        “They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. In later times, they have been depicted as shoe-makers who have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” So says Wikipedia 🙂

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 12:28 pm
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      Hi Andy,

      Nice to be back in touch.

      This story hits the heights usually expected of you. First class writing based upon a good memory and / or a bit of looking back at previous posts. Clever, creative and funny.

      You are onto a winner when you tell us that we are all in the story because we all start looking. I wasn’t disappointed.

      I’m sure this story will be very well received. It was for me.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 6:09 pm
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        Hi Ken – good to be back.

        It was nearly all from memory, as it happens – just checked back on names to see who’d been taking part lately. I wanted to get in as many specific references as possible to writers or stories, but space limits meant some references were a bit generic covering a couple of bases.
        Actually at one stage I had Wendy with an eye patch and a wooden leg on the pirate ship, but that would have been to mix up the fictional and the real a step too far, if they’d both ended up in the narrator’s book..

        All the best, Andy

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 12:31 pm
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      Oh Andy… you look like you’re back in form and in good spirits too 🙂

      This should go on the back cover of “An Anthology of Great Short Stories From The Place”!

      You and your leprechaun did a great roundup of what went on in here, at Alice and Carrie’s, in a whole year of magic, suspense, fun, fear and dread. You brought to life this motley crew of characters that somehow fit together, if only on paper… in their common mission to entertain readers.

      Got me laughing at things like “Anyone choosing that risked getting their coffee served without a cup.” Ouch! ” The man with a Hitler moustache… must be one of the odd-bod locals – the alternative was just too strange even for fiction.” And Ken’s “Did I miss anything?” he asked cheerily. “Hey, is the internet working?”, ‘Phil, the prize-winning master of one-person dialogue.’ And many more!

      Does Andy really wheelbarrow reference books around? I thought it was all fully memorized, already…

      Headless dolls? I had one-eared ones, once. But maybe you’re referring to some other incident… I mean story… that happened here…

      Well done! Loved it, Andy!

      And I hope you’ve sorted out your recent health scare, and you’re as good as you sound!

      Cheers!
      Ken

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 6:19 pm
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        Yes, I’m doing OK – many thanks, Ken.

        And glad you like the story too 🙂

        Yes, you’re earless dolls – somehow I felt that headless ones chased by goats would be more graphic in this instance, but it was your story I was referencing there if a little obliquely.

        And yes, Andy has been mocked by his offspring as ‘dictionary man’ or ‘atlas man’, for always checking things up and offering other morsels of useful (?) related information. And for doing things slowly, like the sloths in Zootropolis (Zootopia), if you’ve seen that!

        SO as you see, the story is entirely based on fact!

        Reply
        • August 20, 2020 at 8:55 am
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          Yes, that sloth of Zootopia… who gets a speeding ticket in the end!

          Andy does that?

          lol

          Reply
          • August 20, 2020 at 9:25 am
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            haha!
            He is slightly quicker to the brakes than that 🙂
            But he does speed up towards a deadline …

    • August 19, 2020 at 1:26 pm
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      Andy, I just love your story! A great way to come back into the fold. 🙂

      Reply
      • August 19, 2020 at 6:22 pm
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        Thanks, and thanks, Alice!

        Glad you like the story, and your star casting in it!

        All written with respect and affection for the group and the work that you and Carrie do to keep us going 🙂

        Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 11:48 pm
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      Andy,

      I was only going to read it up until you mentioned my name, so it was really smart of you to put my name at the end. FORCING ME, to read the whole story. That is truly diabolical of you.

      I noticed, in your story, how you never see old weather-beaten Ken, and the leprechaun at the same time. Everybody else is there except Ken, until the leprechaun leaves. And then, he flings what’s left of the door out of his way, and strolls in acting like everything’s normal. Pretty suspicious behavior if you ask me. Or even if you don’t. And I’m pretty sure you didn’t. (That’s why I brought it up.)

      It’s a very funny story, Andy. Borderline hilarious. Fantastic writing, absolutely amazing what you got away with. Pulling a character out of a book with literal ease, then flushing everything into the book with a tsunami, a vortex and a tornado. Very entertaining.

      My most significant current wife of twenty years, Kim (the dangerous one,) got some kind of sciatica attack last week, with a pinched nerve and a touch of shingles. Her back is out. She can just about make it to the mailbox and back. We were watching the DNC and they had some young new (weird-ish) singer on, (Busty Eyelash, or something) and she was making a bit of fun of her and started swaying to the music, and I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Be careful.’

      And she said, ‘Why? I don’t have anything left to throw out.’

      When people say to ME, ‘we’re all in this together.’ I think, “You have no idea, child, how right you are.”

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 3:20 am
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        Thanks, Ken. I was a tad worried I wouldn’t get away with some things!

        My best wishes to Kim, and sympathies for not only the sciatica and shingles, but for living for 20 years with a covert leprechaun. Life must be pretty unpredictable, but on the other hand she gets to have all her wishes come true. Though maybe in a different way from what was anticipated.

        Leprechauns are generally much shorter than Floridians. I have to say you’re disguising the height issue well. Maybe that’s with Tom-Cruise-like sophisticated camera-deceiving tricks, e.g.stacked shoes, standing on a box, or getting your love interest to stand in a hole. Always works for selfies and live-streaming your woodland adventure.

        As for US politics – I suspect my story is more plausible than much that has been going on there.

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 7:48 am
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      Great spoofy story Andy. Glad you are back. I had mine half written but then my son’s psychologist broke her ring finger rather badly bike riding in the wet with him. Compound fracture and they had to cut her wedding band and engagement ring off. It was a very ouch moment and she did rather well considering, poor woman. She slipped in the wet wheeling her bike….

      Reply
    • August 19, 2020 at 6:22 pm
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      Thank you, Andy. That’s very kind of you. From one of your replies, I learnt that you had a health issue and stayed away for sometime. Hope you are fine now. Stay fit and happy. God bless.

      Reply
  • August 20, 2020 at 3:27 am
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    I fear I’m not going to have time to comment on everyone’s stories this time, or at least not at this stage, so apologies for that. I’m just about to start reading them all and it feels a bit deadliney for the voting.

    by the way, is anyone else having to sign in every time they make a comment?
    I am signed in with WordPress which is usually fine, but every time yesterday and today I have to fill in 3 boxes under the comment, name rank and serial number, I also can’t ‘like’ a story or comment – it doesn’t allow me.
    Is there a gremlin in the system? Or has my cookie crumbled?

    [Short pause to fill in boxes again]

    Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 6:52 am
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      Hey Andy, that happens to me too. It’s been like that for a month or two now. I thought it was just my phone, because lemme tell you, that poor device has reached its limit. Guess I was proven wrong then, maybe WordPress is acting up?

      -oh and from experience, you don’t have to fill in the website box, idk what that is for, but I’m able to sign in without taking the extra 0.001 seconds to fill that out-

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 9:27 am
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        Hm, probably is a WordPress glitch.
        Not a big issue, because I can just type one letter and autofill the boxes – just puzzling.

        Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 10:26 am
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      Hi Roy,

      I am having the same experience about signing in every time.

      Ken Frape

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 12:04 pm
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        I have to sign in every time too.
        I’ve emailed WordPress, and they said it’s a bug and will be fixed (eventually).

        To make it even MORE annoying, whenever I’m logged in as an administrator of the site (which is hosted on wordpress.org) I can’t comment.
        I have to log out, then log into my wordpress.com site and THEN I can comment.

        I love wordpress but it is not without its bugs.

        Reply
        • August 21, 2020 at 5:14 am
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          Now that’s frustrating.

          Tried singing in with my Google account, which looked to be fine till I posted a reply, then there was a message saying “Error: Google did not return an expected code”.

          Reply
          • August 21, 2020 at 5:16 am
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            ! That should be “signing in”, not “singing in”.
            I haven’t sung in an account for some time.

  • August 20, 2020 at 9:25 am
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    Alice,

    I have to run an unexpected errand and haven’t finished voting yet. I will more than likely be able to finish by the deadline when I get back, but, just in case, can you please hold it for a bit for me in case I don’t?

    Roy

    Reply
  • August 20, 2020 at 10:28 am
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    Thanks for your lovely comments! Sorry, but again I don’t have the possibility to answer or comment myself. I vote now! See you next time.

    Reply
  • August 20, 2020 at 12:00 pm
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    We are waiting on Rathin, Ken M, Robt and Sandra.

    I’ll give them one hour – if they haven’t voted by 1:00pm central time their stories will be disqualified.

    Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 12:05 pm
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      Dear Carrie,
      Reliever to hear from you. I didn’t get the email for voting. Can you send me the link please. Waiting with my notepad. Please, please send it to me at the earliest.
      Love and best wishes,
      Rathin

      Reply
        • August 20, 2020 at 12:42 pm
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          Dear Carrie,
          I could have easily written a story about how silly I acted in the last half hour or so, thinking I wasn’t going to be able to vote! Thank you, my saviour, for sending me the link sought by me at the eleventh hour. Aren’t you a dear?
          Take care. Stay safe and happy. God bless you, Carrie.

          Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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      Carrie, I sure hope you’ll delay the deadline as long as possible for the outstanding votes. It’s possible that they’re having trouble logging in too. Might be leprechauns involved for all we know.

      Reply
  • August 20, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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    Ok peeps!~
    Your winners are…….

    1st Place Good Spirits by Phil Town

    2nd Place The Beat Remains Same by Alyssa Daxson
    3rd Place All in my Brain by Ken Cartisano
    4th Place After The Coffee by Ken Miles
    5th Place Shaping Up by Victoria Chvatal
    6th Place Coffee Break by Roy York
    7th Place “You can get anything you want …” by By Andy Lake
    8th Place Brett Maddison Is Leaving Town by Ken Frape
    9th Place The Coffee & Dark Chocolate Couple by Marien Oommen
    10th Place A Lovey-Dovey Affair by Rathin Bhattacharjee
    11th Place Spiders by berlinermax

    Favorite Character: “Tina” in Shaping Up by Victoria Chvatal
    Favorite Dialogue: Coffee Break by Roy York

    Congrats to all!!

    Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 2:48 pm
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      Congratulations Phil, Alyssa and Ken!
      Uncle Roy and Victoria for the category prizes too!

      Don’t ask me how, but I sort of knew the best character award was going to someone called Tina!

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 2:50 pm
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      Congrations, Phil – and Alyssa; for me, it was hard to choose between your stories. They are very different, but both are extremely well written.

      Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 3:18 pm
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      Congratulations Phil – my top choice this round too!
      Great integration of the prompt in the structure of the story, and first-class on every aspect of the writing – character, dialogue, description …

      And congratulations Vicki and Roy as category winners, and to all the other placees 🙂

      Reply
      • August 20, 2020 at 5:05 pm
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        Congratulations Phil. You didn’t even get a vote from me and you still won. Congrats to Alyssa, you certainly don’t need any more advice from me. Congrats to Honorable Mensches, KM and Victoria. I thought both of your stories belonged in the top five, I just had them ranked a little higher. A lot of good stories up and down the list. One of my favorites was Jurgen’s Spider story. And it came in last, very baffling because his dialogue was excellent. Which, I kind of forgot about, I regretted not giving his story The Best Dialogue vote. It certainly deserved it. Perhaps people are just put off by creatures with eight arms, or legs?

        Reply
        • August 21, 2020 at 5:09 am
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          I also had Jürgen in my top 5 – I like the way the story built, and the main character’s mania likewise. Everything that was said to calm or console him went through the spider-paranoia filter. As a metaphor for how people don’t listen or listen only to their own fears, I thought it was great. So very surprised it didn’t resonate more with others. A story very much of our times.

          Reply
    • August 20, 2020 at 5:30 pm
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      Thanks to those who voted for my story – that’s a lovely feeling to take into the weekend.

      And congrats are in order for us all, I reckon, for the consistent quality of the writing in this small (but only in number) group.

      Onward to the unusual summer (it must be the most unusual one ever, in fact!)

      Cheers!

      Reply
      • August 23, 2020 at 6:35 am
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        Yours was on top of my list. Congratulations to you and everybody else.
        What a good lot of writers here. Makes me feel young again, like I’m back in class, but with a new found freedom to express or go any way I want to travel.
        In the process, confuse, muddle, mix ‘n match.

        Writing is pure catharsis.

        Reply
    • August 21, 2020 at 3:55 pm
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      Wow! Congrats Phil and Ken C! And thanks for the second place, wasn’t expecting that! Congrats to everybody

      Reply
    • August 24, 2020 at 9:19 am
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      Audacious, indeed. One day, when an editor says we can’t use your work because of your unwillingness to change your incorrect contractions, you’ll fold faster than a cheap suitcase.

      I’ll be there to support you, and also to say, told ya!

      Roy

      Reply

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