May 16 – May 29, 2019 Flash Fiction Contest – “The Eavesdropper”

Theme: “The Eavesdropper”

You or another character overhears a conversation where it is believed something horrible is going to happen. But is what was overheard accurate? Maybe, or maybe not. That is up to you dear writer

 

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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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90 thoughts on “May 16 – May 29, 2019 Flash Fiction Contest – “The Eavesdropper”

    • May 18, 2019 at 5:54 am
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      Hi All,

      i’m in. Just scratching my head. Nothing has sprung up yet apart from a tuft of unruly hair. Can I write about it?
      Onwards etc..

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 18, 2019 at 5:25 pm
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        Ken, you can write a story about an unruly headed writer who overhears something in a cafe as he’s trying to write. 🙂

        Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 5:47 pm
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      Hi All,

      Really sorry I didn’t get time to write a comment on every story. I have been away from my home computer and I just can’t face the prospect of using my i phone to send long messages.

      I have, of course, read all of your stories and, as ever, can’t help feeling what a talented bunch you all are.

      Good luck all,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
  • May 16, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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    I’m in. Posting for receiving comments.

    Reply
  • May 17, 2019 at 8:55 am
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    Signing in for comments! Hope I can participate this round! I’ll be going to Oxford, Mississippi tomorrow with my writer’s group to visit William Faulkner’s home. Maybe I’ll get some inspiration there at Rowan Oak.

    Reply
  • May 17, 2019 at 10:16 am
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    Bring it on…

    Reply
  • May 18, 2019 at 12:01 am
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    Unplanned Chain Reaction
    (1199 words)

    Casandra walked down the hallway to use the fax machine at the firm she had worked at as a secretary for over ten years. She was tired and running late as it was and wanted to get home before midnight.
    After sending the fax that would finalize the details her client had changed repeatedly, she decided to grab a cup of coffee from the pot next to the fax machine. On her way back she heard her boss, Mr. Jenkins and another man talking conspiratorially. Normally, she wouldn’t have stopped to listen but what she heard frightened her so bad she had to know exactly what they were talking about.
    “The explosions will be massive this time, you’ll see.”
    “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I think it would be best if you wait until about nine so everyone is there, either on or near the piers before setting them off.” Jenkins spoke quietly.
    “Do you want me to set the smaller ones off before or after the messages are sent?”
    “Set off some smaller ones to get the people’s attention first, save the biggest one for last.”
    “That’s perfect! Deliver the final explosion simultaneously with the messages.”
    “Exactly! I’m glad we got this all figured out, I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon to set everything up.” Jenkins shook hands with the man as he stood up with his briefcase.
    Casandra hurried down the hall and slipped inside her office closing the door behind her as gently as she could. She crossed her office to the window to peer out the blinds, watching as Mr. Jenkins and the other man got in their cars and left the parking lot.
    Not knowing what else to do, she rushed to her desk to call her best friend for advice. Amanda always knew what to do or how to help and she had a nack for pointing out when Casandra was overreacting.
    “Cassandra? You’re calling pretty late. Are you stuck at the office again?”
    “Yeah, I may need your help.”
    “You sound scared, are you ok?”
    “I’m fine. I just heard Mr. Jenkins talking to someone in his office. It sounded like they were planning on bombing the piers!”
    “What! That’s insane!”
    “I swear, Amanda! Jenkins was talking about small explosions and some message with the last one which is supposed to be the biggest explosion of all!”
    Cassandra was so caught up in telling Amanda what she had heard that she hadn’t noticed Todd, the night janitor had opened her door, heard everything she said and silently closed the door with fear etched across his face.
    “Calm down. I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation for what you heard.”
    “You’re probably right, Mr. Jenkins has always been a great boss. He’s firm, fair and always has something nice to say to everyone.” Casandra admitted.
    “See, a man like that doesn’t just go off the deep end and start setting off bombs.”
    “Good point.”
    “I’ll put on some coffee, you come over here and we’ll figure it out.”
    “Thanks. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” Casandra hung up and gathered her things to go see her level-headed best friend.
    Todd ducked into one of the doors in the hallway to wait for Casandra to leave the building. Peeking out, he saw her leave and decided to check Mr. Jenkins office for any incriminating evidence.
    “What do you think you’re doing? You’re supposed to clean the office not make it a disaster area!” Todd jumped at the sound of the angry, indignant voice.
    “Mr. Jenkins! What are you doing here?”
    “I left my files on my desk and came back to get them.” Jenkins countered. “Your turn and it better be good.”
    Todd explained what he had overheard and why he was searching the office. To his surprise, Mr. Jenkins started laughing so hard that his face turned red and he could barely catch his breath.
    “Sir?” Todd was bewildered by the outburst. “Are you alright?”
    “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time.” Jenkins replied and was off on another gale of wild laughter.
    “It’s funny?” Todd thought aloud in confusion.
    “It’s hilarious considering the irony of what this is all about. Are you going to at least tell me who overheard my conversation?”
    “I don’t know.” Todd looked worried again.
    “Let me explain what’s going on and then you can tell me who overheard my plans, or not if you still don’t believe me.” Jenkins compromised.
    “Deal.” Todd readily agreed in hopes of not being fired.
    He listened intently as Mr. Jenkins described the details of his plans at the piers and wondered if he should warn Casandra.
    “So, there you have it. Don’t forget we’re closed tomorrow and be at the pier by eight pm.” Jenkins face lit up with a huge smile as he realized something else.
    “What is it, Sir?”
    “You don’t have to tell me who you heard, I think I already know. Just clean this up and remember, not a word to anyone!” Jenkins picked up his files and left the office. Todd could hear his boss still hiccuping with giggles as he went down the hall.
    The next evening hundreds of people made their way to the lake with more than a dozen piers that stretched out over the water. They were all drinking soft drinks, eating snacks and chatting excitedly as the sun began to set in all it’s glorious colors. Sunset turned to darkness with some stars speckling the sky as everyone found themselves a place to sit or stand on the piers, some people even let their feet dangle in the cool water of the lake.
    The night filled with the sound of people shouting, clapping and cheering at the brilliant colors and designs that shot across the sky as one after another the explosions rang out. The celebration went on with the people lighting sparklers, watching the display of fireworks and enjoying the live band that played in between setting up more rounds.
    “I have one final display that my brother help me set up before everyone leaves! Thank you for coming and happy Fourth of July!” Mr. Jenkins shouted excitedly into a microphone from the display pier he had set up.
    The final explosions filled the sky with a huge red, white and blue burst that reflected beautifully over the surface of the lake and floating on the air were thousands of colorful wallet-sized cards.
    Everyone at the celebration caught some of the cards and read the messages printed on the front. Some of them read ‘Let Freedom Ring!’ or ‘Happy Independence Day!’ with a coupon for free ice cream on the back.
    The rest of the cards contained a different message:
    ‘Penance for eavesdroppers (You know who you are and so do I): Shame on you! Clean this mess up by tomorrow morning. Happy Fourth of July!’
    “I thought only your secretary eavesdropped on our conversation?” Mr. Jenkins and his brother couldn’t help but laugh when they realized that Todd and Casandra had a lot of help from all the other eavesdroppers cleaning the debris off the piers.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2019 at 10:46 am
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      Amy, Even though I figured out your story early, and was sure the explosions were going to be what they were – no spoiler alert here – I found your story to be entertaining. This time around I vow to write my comments after reading each story. Even though I’m not getting all the comments. Don’t know why, yet.

      Reply
    • May 22, 2019 at 7:38 am
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      Amy,
      Cute story and great descriptions! Like Roy said, it was easy to figure out early but well worth the read. Good job!
      Adi

      Reply
    • May 23, 2019 at 8:06 pm
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      Hi, Amy

      A fun story with a clever ‘eavesdrop within an eavesdrop’ structure. You skilfully held off the reveal (when Jenkins and Todd are speaking). There’s some neat dialogue that moves the story along briskly. I thought that maybe Jenkins was a little rash in not getting in touch with Casandra – what if she’d called the police? That could have got very complicated. I didn’t really understand ‘all the other eavesdroppers’ here: “…had a lot of help from all the other eavesdroppers cleaning the debris off the piers.”

      Reply
      • May 23, 2019 at 8:39 pm
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        Thanks for the wonderful and enlightening feedback, everyone.
        For Phil, I’m glad you enjoyed the story and appreciate your feedback. To answer your question about all the other eavesdroppers- it’s more of a think it through line- the cards floating on the air had no name written on them to say who they were meant for just the (You know who you are and so do I) printed on them and no signature to say who had printed them. Obviously not everyone worked at that particular firm but this was to show that Casandra and Todd were not the only people in the world to make the mistake of misinterpreting a conversation not meant for them to hear.
        The reason behind Jenkins not rushing to Casandra was simple, he is a self-assured businessman with a great track record for being a great boss and a fair man. If I had set Cassandra to call the police rather than discussing her situation with Amanda, it would have ruined the ending. That’s where having a level headed best friend like Amanda comes in handy for a jump-the-gun kind of girl like Casandra.
        Thank you so much for your comments, I look forward to many stories in the future with us discussing the details and structure. I really am new to this whole short story/flash fiction writing (By new, I mean this is actually my 4th short story, lol) and am glad that I stumbled onto this site where I can sharpen skills and get great advice and feedback from other writers.

        Reply
      • May 24, 2019 at 8:06 pm
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        Just to be clear, Amy. What I mean is, once the reader realizes the key to the mystery involves Independence Day, a cynical reader would ask, ‘Why would Cassandra assume that her boss is a terrorist?’ The answer is: She wouldn’t. Only the act of withholding that vital information allows the story ‘to work.’ Once that info is revealed, it makes the whole story much harder to believe. Unless you give Cassandra some other significant, (albeit unfair) reason to be suspicious of her boss.

        Reply
    • May 24, 2019 at 3:02 am
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      I enjoyed reading your story. Nice flow, easy to read. It was about two thirds of the story down that I guessed about the misunderstanding of the explosion.. Still you kept my interest in finishing the story.

      Reply
    • May 24, 2019 at 6:33 pm
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      Amy,

      I hope you’ll pardon my tactless devotion to honesty, but your story, though clear, concise and well-written, did not fool me for long, but rather left me wondering why the main character was so clueless about the fourth of July.

      Upon further consideration, I’m guessing that your strategy was to keep merely the readers in the dark, without worrying about your character’s lack of insight.

      I would suggest that you provide a reason for the character’s lack of knowledge or awareness of the typical activities related to ‘The Fourth.’ Or, better still, perhaps the business was purchased or taken over by a new, and foreign born owner during the previous year. And the main character is suspicious of the new owners to begin with. (Perhaps they’re Arab, or Muslim, or worse still, IRISH!) Or you could keep it subtle and just drape them with the faintly dissonant origins of Oman, Dubai or Nairobi. Now you’ve got reasons for the character to be suspicious.

      Your writing is excellent, but the story needs a little more trickery to pull the reader in and keep him or her guessing.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2019 at 10:37 pm
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        Hi Ken C,

        Your comments, feedback and analysis are completely appreciated and welcome after all that is why I am here. As a novelist, I would have absolutely no reason to post here if I didn’t want completely honest comments about my attempt at writing something smaller than 40,000 words and as an author and reviewer, I crave honesty in the same manner that I deliver it. Brutal and to the point, so please do not apologize for your tact it is refreshing to get that kind of honesty.

        On to the points about the story… Under usual circumstances, I would totally and whole heartedly agree with you.
        In this case, the main character’s (Casandra) reaction is not as wild as one might imagine especially in today’s society of drama and reality tv. Sadly (and quite comically most of the time), I have come into contact with many people that would react just this way to a conversation between people they knew would never do such a thing. (My cousin, Casandra is one of them…)

        I regretfully admit that the stream of ‘blond moments’ (please do not take offense to that particular phrase, I actually tell my own daughter she has blond moments and since she is blond-ish, its ok) from her are so far out there that no one would understand how she comes up with half the ideas she concocts. Thankfully, there are numerous times when she in fact needed someone to tell her how nuts she sounds and explain to her that what happens on tv reality shows and how things are in the real world are two very different things. (Please bare in mind I am referring to a normally bright young woman that usually has something intelligent to say until she decides to have an episode of real life drama.)

        So in essence, Casandra (in the story) is a flighty, nervous woman that has been working for long hours and losing track of days as most people do sometimes. If you figure in her exhaustion and listening to the conversation about the impending ‘explosions’ it is not really too far fetched for a dramatic person to find some wild devastation or something totally macabre in an innocent conversation.

        Once again, thank you for your responses, this will help me grow as a writer of short stories and flash fiction. I look forward to much more of your honesty, that is what we are all here for… to learn from one another and since no two people think alike this is the perfect place to get different ideas, concepts and fellow writer’s perspectives.

        Reply
    • May 28, 2019 at 8:33 am
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      Amy, a sweet and entertaining story. If I agree with most of the other comments to say that it wasn’t a story with suspense, I didn’t think it was that problematic. After all, all stories do not have to be. What can be interesting, knowing from the get go that we are dealing with a case of misunderstanding, is to watch it progressively unfold.
      Maybe the question was that you didn’t seem to choose between those 2 options, and still were hoping that we would be surprised at the end…?
      A good story to ponder that very question, I find!

      Reply
  • May 20, 2019 at 3:54 am
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    Hoping to get a story in.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2019 at 6:26 pm
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    THE BIRDS AND THE BEES TOMORROW

    i dont normaly lissen but i coudnt sleep tonite. mummy meid cheez tosties for super – i love them, wiv lots of tomatoe sors and crips. and i had a glas of coca-cola – i dont fink that helpt. so my tummys stil ful and ive bin turnin and tosin and the sleep fairy jus wont come.

    she comes quikly enuff wen i have to stey aweik! like in miss evans clas. she caut me the uver day. she woz ritin on the bord and wen she turnd round i woz nodin off! ooh she woz so angery! she made me sit in the corner for the rest of the clas. luckly it woz only a few minits but evryone woz starin, even davey henderson.

    he past me a note las week. DH L KT. thats wot it sed. ive got it under my pilow. actaly i fink i L him a bit to. id like to kis him i wood. he helpt me wiv a sum that day thats how i no he realy Ls me. leest i fink he duz. but he woz lookin at me sitin in the corner and i coudnt stop the tierz comin and i sor him snigrin. i stil L him but not as much as befor.

    so yes i coudnt get cumfy and the wethers realy hot and mummy puts to many blankits on my bed. its like sleepin in a uven. cours i dont no wot sleepin in a uven is like realy. i magin its somefink like that. hot enyway. and i dont lissen. but tonite well i coudnt elp it.

    i realy needid to go wee so i went along to the bafroom and cours i had to pas mummy and daddys room. i erd them but they woznt speekin. ive been past there room befor and herd there conversashun. like that nite id bin bad at school and miss evans calld and mummy and daddy woz so angery and they had a terible argment. but this time it woz difrent.

    i coudnt here eny words like the uver time. no wot i herd woz a kind of monin like wen flosy is sleepin on the sofa and dreemin and she makes thees terible noizes and we hav to weik her up cos we cant here the telly and she barks at us and goze bak to sleep. them kind of noizes. at first i fort it WOZ flosy but then i sor that she woz lyin at the end of the landin.
    so i stopt and had a good lissen at the dor. it woz mummy and daddy and they woz bof makin that noiz. then all of a suden i herd mummy say yes but she dint say yes only wuns she kept on repeetin it and very lowd and then i herd daddy shaut. it saundid like he woz in pein so i disidid to try and help him.

    i opend the dor and wot did i see? mummy sitin on top of daddy and kind of jumpin up and daun. i screemd dont hert daddy dont hert daddy and mummy screemd cos she woz suprizd to see me i fink and daddy shautid. mummy jumpt up and rusht over to me and pusht me out of the room. she dint hav any cloze on and thats the first time ive seen her wiv no cloze on. it woz strenge.

    she woz angery but then she calmd down and hugd me. she smelt funy. i tole her dont hert daddy and she sed she woznt and she woodnt. she sed shes goin to explein evryfin in the mornin. now go to bed she sed so i keim bak to my room and i disidid to rite my diary befor i foget wot hapend. the plees mite aks me sum qwestiuns.

    i cant weit for the mornin to find out wot woz goin on.

    but por daddy. i hop hes ok.

    .

    Reply
    • May 22, 2019 at 6:17 am
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      Oh Phil,

      This is absolutely brill! I haven’t laughed so much for ages so thanks for that. It must have taken ages to get the language to sound so perfect. I especially loved the word “snigrin”.

      The whole notion of parents “having fun” when the kids are supposed to be asleep is one that most of us will recognise as well as trying to hold a conversation with a toddler who is standing beside the bed whilst M and D were otherwise engaged beneath the duvet.

      Great stuff Phil.

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • May 23, 2019 at 8:22 pm
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        Thanks, Ken. I feel that I might have laid the misspellings on a bit thick, but anyway …

        I don’t recognise the scene, fortunately (but see note to Adi).

        Reply
    • May 22, 2019 at 7:37 am
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      Great job with the child-speak Phil! Good story. I knew where it was headed and the child’s reaction was great. Of course, when you are on the other side of that scenario, it isn’t quite as funny. LOL

      Reply
      • May 23, 2019 at 8:27 pm
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        Thanks, Adi. As I said to KenF, perhaps the ‘child-speak’ is a bit too much. Don’t know. Fortunately, I don’t have experience of being ‘on the other side of that scenario’, except occasionally with cats and once, memorably, a labrador.

        Reply
    • May 24, 2019 at 3:11 am
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      Nice story to which most of us can identify with. I was puzzled as I was reading to why you had to write the whole story in a child’s language until the end when I discovered the child himself was writing the incident in his diary. I like that end. The style made sense then.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2019 at 7:10 pm
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        Thanks, Chitra. Yes, there IS a logic to the style of the language here (but a bit fingernails-on-a-blackboard perhaps – see Ken’s comment below).

        Reply
        • May 26, 2019 at 4:03 am
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          Hi Phil,
          As writers/readers we differ in the way we appreciate a piece of writing
          I did not find your story tedious to read. I slotted in the mindset of the child and it flowed well for me.
          In fact it grabbed my attention because I was surprised to look at what seems gibberish at first glance. I was excited when I realised why it was written in that manner.
          I enjoyed the story and the technique you used to tell the tale.
          There you go. That is how my brains work.

          Reply
    • May 24, 2019 at 6:44 pm
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      Philip,

      Weren’t you paying attention last week when I posted the comments of a successful writer who, during an interview said, it’s important, when creating a character, to dial back the accents or dialects, lest your characters become caricatures?

      I liked the idea of your story, but the five year old’s chronic speech impairments had an effect that is similar to dragging ones nails across a blackboard. Or the sound of a dentist’s drill. (Zeeeeeeeeeeee-yowwww, zeeeeeee-zeeeeeee-zeeeeeeeeeeee-yowwww.) Ow, ooh, oy, ach. No. Stop. Stop, stop, stop. Give me the novacaine please. Just shoot it right into my skull. Yes, at the base. Right there. Good, good. Thank yew.)

      I like the concept. Obviously you’re a risk-taker. Probably do base jumping in your spare time, or hang-gliding. You’re always taking literary risks, experimenting, testing the water, throwing caution out the window with the bath-water. (As it were. If only the baby had gone with it.)

      The good news here, Philip, is that likely due in part to my complete and total denunciation of this story, it will probably come in first place. And that’s okay. Just as long as you don’t plan on doing stuff like this ever again. Not ever, Philip. I’m warning you. (Okay, I’m not really warning you, I’m begging you. Please. Philip. No more lithping childerns. I can’t take it.)

      On a side note. I considered the fact that you might have some rare malady, that causes you to write 312 stories without a single mistake, and then put 400 mistakes into one story. A malady like that, if I discovered it, could make me famous. (Ken’s Philipitis Syndrome.) I know what you’re thinking. “Ken always makes it about himself. It’s my story, my malady, and all he thinks about is his fame. What a jerk that guy is.” But it’s okay, Philip. I forgive you for thinking such unkind, (and totally imaginary, if not psychotic thoughts as those.)

      I appear to be rambling on again, so I’ll leave you with this question, Philip. Who’re you going to listen to? Me? Or everyone else in the civilized world? Think very carefully about this before you answer, Philip. Me? Or the rest of the planet? That’s the question. Take your time. Think it over. Use a calculator or slide-rule if you must. I patiently and politely await your answer, Philip.

      Reply
      • May 24, 2019 at 7:37 pm
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        Dear Ken

        You crack me up – like someone taking a hammer to an egg-shell. What have I done to deserve this? Okay, okay – I’ve run my finger nails down a blackboard and made you listen. But …

        … seriously, though. Thanks for your comment – witty and astute as always. Except for one thing. “…but the five year old’s chronic speech impairments…” They’re not impairments, my ol’ chap. They’re the way she speaks … she’s writing in her diary … she doesn’t know how to spell properly yet, so she writes as she thinks the words are spelt. Therefore, everything is an approximate phonetic reproduction of ‘normal’ speech. She has a few ‘impairments’, yes (although they’re not really – they’re just a regional/class variation on standard pronunciation): a /v/ or /f/ for ‘th’ (e.g. ‘wiv’ for ‘with’, ‘uver’ for ‘other’, ‘fink’ for ‘think’); a lost /g/ at the end of ‘ing’ words (e.g. ‘turnin and tosin’); a dropped /h/ (e.g. ‘elped’ for ‘helped’); etc.

        But you’re right, I think (and I admitted as much to KenF and Adi) – it’s all laid on a bit thick and may be wearing by the end … depending on the reader’s level of patience.

        But anyway, it was worth a shot.

        Fanks agen!

        Reply
        • June 5, 2019 at 2:39 am
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          Hi Phil, I wonder if you’ll read this. Will you be notified of comments posted much too late?

          Reply
      • May 30, 2019 at 2:55 pm
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        Ken … this is a coincidence. I’m working through a compendium of American short stories and I came across this one: ‘1/3 1/3 1/3’ by Richard Brautigan (perhaps you know it). Towards the end of the story … well, you’ll see. (This doesn’t invalidate your and Flo’s comments, but it does go to show … something.)

        https://www.shortstoryproject.com/story/13-13-13/

        Reply
    • May 27, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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      As always, Phil excellently written, but this time old pal, I knew exactly what was going to happen, but it was so well written, and with what I consider an extremely hard task of keeping the little girl’s language problems straight. Nicely done and well worth the read, even though I had to decipher some of the words and it slowed me down. But the reread was even better.

      My son walked in on my wife and I once and we weren’t in the bedroom, but downstairs, fortunately in a dark TV room.. When he saw us he asked loudly, “What are you doing?” I jumped up and said, “Son, you shouldn’t sneak up on people, you scared the clothes off of us.” My wife started laughing and said, “Roy, not even a five year old is going to buy that line.” Then she turned and said, “Go back to bed son, everything is fine.” Which he did. Then, we did … sent back to what we were doing.

      Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 5:38 pm
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        Thanks, Roy. That’s a great story of yours, with you ‘thinking on your feet’ (“scared the clothes off us!” Ha!) And you hardly missed a beat, apparently – straight back down to business. Sign of a seasoned campaigner!

        Reply
    • May 28, 2019 at 8:44 am
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      In much much less words, I will agree with Ken C on the child language… (at the same time as feeling a real cheat… when I finally post my own story… you will immediately see why…)
      So, yes… I thought it was a bit much and slowed my reading quite a bit, but this didn’t prevent from a good laugh! It’s an old story, as many people are commenting on, but old stories can always be much fun!

      Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 5:42 pm
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        Thanks, Flo! Yes, I have to hold my hands up – it was too much. I had to pitch the age of the girl quite low (to get her innocence/naïvety), and the poor level of her written English was a natural result of her age. But it IS painful on the eyes.

        Reply
  • May 22, 2019 at 10:40 am
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    Getting to the Top.

    By Ken Frape

    1200 words.

    I enjoyed the sensation of my stomach dropping away as the express lift whisked me from floors 3 to 35. I clutched the envelope tightly in my sweaty hand.
    “Take this up to Mr. Archison on 35th floor, Davy. Hand it over personally, not to anyone else. Understand?”
    That was my floor manager’s instruction.
    I nodded. Mr. Archison is the boss of the whole company. Carry this message to God, he could have said. Archison was like God to us. The 35th. floor was almost there.

    Floor 35 was luxuriously carpeted. My footsteps were springy and soundless as I approached the reception area, manned by a grey-haired man about my dad’s age. Same hair too, trimmed short, greying at the sides. He wore a crisp white shirt short-sleeved shirt carrying the company logo.
    I stood there nervously turning the envelope over in my hands.
    “Are you Davy?” He looked up at me over half moon spectacles.
    “Y..y…yes.” My stammer always kicked in when I was really nervous.
    “Message for Mr. Archison, is it? To be delivered by hand?”
    I nodded gratefully, sparing me the need to actually speak.
    He raised his arm and pointed.
    “Right to the end. You can’t miss it.”

    He turned back to his keyboard. I wandered down the very long corridor, pausing to admire the art works, paintings and sculptures, antique chairs and tables and wooden doors with polished brass nameplates on either side of the corridor. The final double walnut doors announced, “Michael Archison, CEO.” The door was slightly open and I paused, my hand raised to knock. Several voices were audible, engaged in a conversation.
    “I’m afraid we are all going to have to let them all go.” The first of the voices spoke, a commanding male voice. Mr. Archison?
    “Is there no alternative, Michael?” queried a second voice, female.
    “I’m afraid not, Mary. Can’t afford it. We’re going to need every penny.”
    Mary went on. “I’m really going to miss them. They’re old friends.”
    A third voice, male, joined in. “I know but I don’t think we have any choice.”
    “So we’re agreed then? Dave? Mary?”
    They must have nodded.
    “But let’s keep this between ourselves until we’re ready to make the announcement……” the commanding voice concluded.

    Stunned, I hurried away from the door and moved ten feet down the corridor to the nearest chair. My legs went to jelly as I sat down. My parents both worked for Archison’s …and my sister…..and me! Were we all about to lose our jobs? I was jerked back to reality as the door swung open and the voices themselves appeared, Dave and Mary, meeting over. They moved off down the corridor, silently on carpet. Archison himself, six two, blonde and tanned, appeared in the doorway and he sighed as he looked down that long corridor, before suddenly spotting me. He waved me over, took the envelope and said, “Thanks. Davy, isn’t it?”
    I was stunned. He knew my name! How come!
    “Yes sir.”
    “I know your parents. Send them my best will you?”
    I nodded.

    Dinner that night was a very subdued affair, for me at least. I looked around the room. All this would change. Mum and Dad were planning a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary cruise. How could they pay for that with no job? My sister Susie was planning a trip too, to Cambodia with her fiancee Brad.
    “I could take unpaid leave,” she chattered on.
    Brad’s a nice guy and she really should go, I told her.

    My news would really put the damper on all their plans and my new, ultra-light mountain bike….well, forget it.
    “Why so quiet tonight, Davy?” Mum’s voice penetrated the bleakness of my musings, as I picked over my food.
    “Yeah, Davy, cat got your tongue?” quipped Susie. “Normally, we can’t get a word in at the dinner table once you get started!”
    It was decision time. How could I not tell the three people in my life who mean the most to me?

    A few minutes later there was absolute silence around the table. However, just before that, there had been shock, anger, tears, grief and finally, a kind of reluctant acceptance that we were all going to be unemployed. My Dad insisted on going over everything again, questioning me carefully over every detail of that overheard conversation. The conclusion was the same.
    “So what do we do? asked Mum, tearfully.
    There was no immediate answer until Dad stood up.
    “Right, I’m going to call Uncle Freddy, he’s our union guy. See what he has to say. Everyone OK with that?”

    We all agreed knowing that within hours the news would be like spilt coffee on the table, spreading out and running uncontrollably in every direction. By mid-morning, the whole town was on fire with the news that our biggest employer was laying off its staff. Was the business going under? Was it being sold off? A hostile takeover? No one knew and the unanswered questions simply fuelled the flames. No work was done in the office that morning. The Press were camped outside the main door and everyone prepared to speak on camera was given the chance to hold forth. This was big news!

    “I knew something was going on,” said one worker, who knew nothing of the sort but was revelling in his moment in the spotlight.
    “They always put profit above workers,” said another, ignoring the Archison Foundation’s considerable philanthropic presence in the town.
    “I really can’t believe this is going to happen,” said another, more in hope than expectation.

    By three o’clock in the afternoon Archison was forced to hold a press conference. He stood on the front steps, surrounded by workers and microphones. I watched him as he wearily took his place on the podium.
    “ I have called this conference in order to announce that Archison’s is NOT making ANY redundancies.”
    Wild cheering.
    He held up his index finger. “ Not even one.”
    He waited until further cheering and the clamour died down.
    “Now, everyone in this town is aware that my father, the late George Archison, amassed a considerable art collection.”
    There were murmurs of agreement. It was a well-known fact.
    “My father’s art collection has, for the past thirty years, lined the corridor on the 35th. floor of my building, unseen by most people. This is unacceptable so I have decided that the entire collection will now be sold to the County Museum and it will be put on permanent public display.”
    Huge cheers.
    “I can further announce that the money raised from this sale, every penny of it, will be used to realise my long cherished desire to build a new faculty for our university to be known as The Archison Business Studies Faculty.”
    Further cheers.
    “Finally, I am unhappy that you have had to endure the shock of hearing, without any grain of truth, that you were to lose your jobs. I am investigating how this came about. Thank you.”

    As Archison left the podium, his eyes scanned the crowd before stopping to rest upon me.
    Oh dear!
    Maybe there would be just the one redundancy after all!

    Ken Frape
    1192 21/05/2019

    Reply
    • May 23, 2019 at 8:18 pm
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      Hi, Ken

      A really well structured 3-part story. The ‘god’-like status of Archison, and the awe he commands, is well established in the first part, the building representing the hierarchy within the company. Then there’s the excellent scene of the dinner at home, with the suspense of if and when the news is going to be revealed, and how the family take it. Then the wider repercussions and the satisfying reveal. And a little coda, suggesting trouble in store for the narrator. Very neat and a great read.

      Reply
    • May 24, 2019 at 4:35 pm
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      Ken,

      Loved the story! It was well paced and the reveal was great. As an artist, I picked up on Davy pausing to admire the artwork because that’s what I do everywhere I go. Then, as I got to the end of the story, I felt dumb for not picking up that the boss was talking about letting all of the artwork go. But… then again, it is a tribute to your writing that the end was not obvious. Great work!

      Reply
    • May 26, 2019 at 3:40 am
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      A well written story. It was a pleasure to read.
      You get the feel of the luxurious office setting, the exemplary executive and the blunder of a newly appointed young person.

      Reply
      • May 26, 2019 at 3:47 am
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        Hi Ken,
        Miss writing your name up there. The comment was meant for your story.
        It is quite annoying when you cannot delete/ edit a comment after you’ve posted it.

        Reply
    • May 28, 2019 at 9:10 am
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      As always from you, Ken, beautiful writing and impeccable structure: I can only agree with all the previous comments! Also with the word “elegant” to describe your style.
      I wasn’t drawn to the story itself as much as some of your other ones, and I thought it might have to do with this short-story format, which tends to induce the idea that we have to create a “surprise” effect for the readers. Sometimes, it comes out as a bit of a stretch.
      As I told Amy, I wonder if your story wouldn’t benefit from being more about “let’s see how this unfolds”…?
      But once more such a pleasure to read!

      Reply
      • May 28, 2019 at 10:01 am
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        Hi Flo,

        Thanks for your comments. It is always good to hear comments from fellow writers. You are right, of course, in that the allowed length of the story has a distinct effect upon the story itself. Descriptions need to be more succinct and one needs to keep the plot tight. In fact, apart from some flash fiction which is 300 words or less, I generally write a minimum length of 1500 words.

        You could be right about the need to do something different with the ending but I know endings are a real challenge. A friend of mine and award winning writer, John Holland ( look up johnhollandwrites) suggests removing the last sentence of a story to see if it was really needed. Often it isn’t. Then the next sentence and so on.

        In my case, I could have left out the last section but it wouldn’t have been rounded off as well, in my opinion, as I wanted. I felt that the narrator should not get away without some repurcussions.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
  • May 22, 2019 at 7:23 pm
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    Hi Ken,

    Good to hear from you again. It’s some time since we crossed semantic swords over the use of words. I don’t think anyone else writes comments that are quite as detailed, pertinent and comprehensive as yours. Oh and entertaining as well.

    There clearly are cultural and linguistic differences between my UK (South West England) and your USA. Thus, let’s address these.

    In the UK when workers are “let go”, through no fault of their own, we call it being made redundant. It’s different to being sacked or dismissed which implies wrongdoing on the part of the employee. It is a technical/ legal term in that redundancy carries with it an understanding that the worker will get a (redundancy) payment, probably linked to salary level or years of service. When a firm goes bust, like one of the British Steel factories just today, we talk about redundancies, about workers being made redundant. They are not sacked.

    Therefore, in my view and feel free to disagree, it is absolutely the correct word to use in this instance, especially if written in the UK, as this was. In my Oxford English dictionary the word redundant is listed as, among other things,
    ” for a person, no longer employed because there is no more work available…derivatives…redundancy and plural, redundancies.”

    Of course, I could have used one of the alternatives you have suggested but I chose the word redundant. A good, old fashioned British word ( which it probably isn’t but that’s language for you.) Talking of being British, my father was descended from French Huguenots, my mother is a Scot, so there.

    The second word “facility” for “faculty” is less of an issue and the word should have been facility. You are right, dammit!! What about department? Or building? Ok, Ok, facility it is.

    When I write my first novel I am going to send a draft to you to either, a) edit or b) use to prop up the corner of your piano. Your choice. You can choose a third option if you like.

    Thanks for all the other things you said too. You made me blush!

    Yours in literary friendship,

    Ken Frape.

    Reply
  • May 24, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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    Hey Ken, (The Frapemeister.)

    I asked the moderators to take down my previous comment not because you stubbornly refuse to take my brilliant advice, but because I was afraid it was a bit of a spoiler, gave away the reveal and I didn’t want to risk ruining a story that I enjoyed so thoroughly.

    In fact, after I asked Alice to remove my comment, I realized my concerns were unfounded because hardly anyone reads my comments, few people place much stock in my observations and absolutely no one ever takes my advice.

    So, that having been said, your five hundred word rebuttal to my critique and explanation of British ‘language customs’ provided me and a bevy of aristocratic and elite American sophisticates, (that’s American slang for: beer guzzling NASCAR-addicted reprobates,) a good hardy round of unrestrained, knee-slapping laughter. (That’s not true. It was just me and my cat, and he can’t even spell his own name.) In truth, your steadfast and irrational devotion to a word that only the British use improperly is probably nothing more serious than the last vestiges of indignation at having once been conquered by Italians.

    I respect that. (But it was a long time ago Ken, and you guys need to get over it.)

    However, this whole episode has instilled in me the desire to write a story that only American’s will understand, and will leave ‘so-called English speaking people’ completely baffled. A kind of turning-of-the-tables, if you will. Or, as you Britts like to say, ‘a rounding off of the abacus beads.’ (Took me quite a while to figure that one out, you clever bastards.) Oh well.

    At least you’re bold enough to admit that you would never house an institute or building inside of a human being, no matter how learned he or she may be. (Or deserving, if it comes to that.) This is comforting, aware, as I am, of the British penchant for defending and promoting the human rights of her majesty’s subjects. (I think there’s a joke in there somewhere.)

    Anyway, I hope you know I’m just jabbering, because I don’t have a story yet, or an idea, or a clue. (And I’ve already had 8 cups of coffee and it ain’t even noon yet.) And if you really feel the need to cater to your fellow so-called English speaking inmates, I can, and very well may forgive you, based on the otherwise sterling quality of the story, and your fabulous writing. (‘Sterling’ pun totally accidental.)

    All kidding aside. I loved the story Ken, and your writing is, up to this point, very refined, elegant, and amazingly colorful.

    p.s. My editing expertise is so keen, that every writer who has dared to ask me for advice, has either; A. Sought out extensive psychological counseling; B. terminated our fledgling friendship; and, or; Threatened to track me down, find me, and rub my face in Tapioca pudding. (I know, that doesn’t sound so bad does it?)

    Just be thankful that I don’t have your email address.

    Reply
    • May 24, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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      Ken,

      You are too funny for words! But, you are absolutely right! Ken F.’s story was brilliant and well written. I’m glad you asked or commented on whatever in the post you had removed, because it saved me from looking up how the word “redundancy” fit in the scenario of someone losing their job. In my work within state government, during a small spell of not working due to an inability of the higher ups in government to negotiate a working budget, we were termed as “non-essential.” How’s that for an ego buster? “Non-essential.” Bah! Humbug! (Of course, we got 4 days off and we were paid for those 4 days after all the turmoil but the sting was still there.)

      I personally enjoy your advice and I’m not wasting my tapioca pudding by rubbing it in your face!

      Adi

      Reply
      • May 24, 2019 at 7:45 pm
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        Adi,

        Too funny for words? Are you being ironic? Or, Did you just quip me? By the by, after reading your comment about visiting William Faulkner’s home in Belarus, Miss. I thought, ‘Faulkner, where have I heard that name before? It’s sounds so familiar. Could he have been a relative of mine, or were you referring to a German aircraft manufacturer during World War II? I had to investigate.

        Obviously, investigation comes with certain risks. (Especially for those dedicated to their own ignorance.) Consequently, I found myself accidentally reading two of his short stories. (Some day, maybe, I’ll tell you about accidental reading, but not right now.) I read ‘Barn Burner,’ and ‘A Rose For Emily.’

        Now, what I got out of those two stories was, 1. There was no such thing as mood elevators back in the day. If you got depressed, you stayed depressed.
        2. Good story endings hadn’t been invented yet.
        3. Faulkner didn’t care whether people liked his writing or not.
        4. If these are examples of Faulkner’s best work, I am gonna be soooooo famous.
        5. If these are not examples of Faulkner’s best work, then why are they so prominently featured? And what IS considered some of Faulkner’s best work? And finally,
        6. Alice. (This is simply a reward for Alice for reading my entire comment to someone else.) Hi Alice. (Don’t give me that ‘I’m bored’ look.)

        Reply
          • May 28, 2019 at 9:12 am
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            Ha! ha! ha!!! That back and forth between the 2 Kens, where one part is now missing… a brilliant surrealist conversation piece!!!

  • May 24, 2019 at 4:46 pm
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    Murder at Walmart
    By Adrienne Riggs (w 1,199)

    Martha, the town spinster, sat alone in the restaurant. In her late 70’s, Martha lived with her cat and she considered her life routine, lonely and boring. The highlight of her week was shopping at Walmart and treating herself to lunch at Subway so she could watch the shoppers through the large glass window facing into the store. There is no place like Walmart to see some of the strangest people God ever put on the planet. Walmartians were a source of great amusement to the old lady.

    A young couple bought their food and sat in the corner booth. They didn’t even notice the old woman seated nearby. Ashlee took a bite of her ham sandwich, chewed and swallowed.

    “So, how do we kill Jason?”

    “Are you sure you want to do that?” John took a drink of his Diet Coke and watched her.

    “Of course! He’s evil. Think of what he’s done to Marie! He has to die!”

    John nodded thoughtfully as he chewed on his roast beef sub.

    Sitting behind Ashlee, Martha listened avidly. Her eyes were wide as she leaned closer to the wall of the booth dividing them.

    “I’ve been thinking about it a lot” Ashlee said. “I just can’t decide how to get it done.”

    “What are your ideas?”

    “Well, maybe he’ll get into a fight with his little mistress and she’ll shoot him. She’s very jealous and you know he always keeps guns in the house.”

    “Hmmm” John mused. “Is that likely? Remember, she killed his baby. Wouldn’t he want to kill her in retaliation? Or is he so besotted with her that he forgives her because she is the mother of his bastard son?”

    “See!” Ashlee exclaimed. “That’s another reason to kill the conniving creep and maybe his little tramp as well. Marie was devastated by his cheating, her baby’s death and what he did to her afterward!”

    “I’ve got to admit, having someone committed to a state mental hospital in order to cover up your crimes was a low move. He had to have paid someone off to get that accomplished. Marie is a smart woman but grief can do horrible things to people.”

    In the adjoining booth, Martha gasped in disbelief. This had to be the scariest and most thrilling conversation she had ever heard! She had no clue what she would do with the information but in the meantime, she couldn’t stop listening.

    “He was just after her money!” Ashlee fumed. “He thought if he put her away, he would have control of it. She fooled him!”

    “Honey, calm down.”

    “Ok! I’m calm. Here are my thoughts on how to get rid of Jason.”

    “I’m ready.”

    “Shooting.”

    “Effective but loud and messy. Who would be shooting him?”

    “Poison then.”

    “Ok, which poison? Who would administer it and how?”

    “Ugh! John, you aren’t making this easy!”

    He grinned, “Just playing devil’s advocate my Dear.”

    “Drowning in the lake.”

    “And you would orchestrate that how?”

    “Ok, what do YOU suggest?”

    “I say, you don’t kill him. You hurt him enough to make him really suffer.”

    Ashlee nodded. “How would I do that?”

    John leaned across the table conspiratorially. “You give him some type of short-acting neuro-toxin and when he’s incapacitated, you dump his sleazy carcass in a wooden box and you bury him alive.”

    Martha gasped again as her heart pounded inside her chest. ‘Oh my word!’ she thought. ‘This is really bad!’ When an employee wiping tables approached her, Martha waved her away. She didn’t want to miss a word!

    John continued, “But… you don’t really bury him. You leave him in there just long enough for him to come around and as he fights to get out, you let his panic drive him literally insane. Then, you ‘save’ him at the last minute.”

    “Where would I get a neuro-toxin?”

    “Ok, just get him drunk or give him a sleeping pill. Whatever works.”

    “What do we do after he’s driven insane? How does that make him suffer?”

    “Easy” John laughed. “Once he’s declared insane, you arrange for him to be committed to the same asylum where he placed Marie. She wasn’t crazy and she survived. He will be crazy and his fate will not be good inside.”

    “Really?”

    “You’ve heard the stories! No access to money, prestige, or the finer things in life he was used to. Instead, he’ll be forced to eat the horrible food Marie described and be subjected to all of the things that we never wanted to know about before Marie revealed the truth.”

    “He wouldn’t be able to buy his way out! That might work!”

    “Of course it will work! Who’s going to get him out? His little mistress? She’ll drop him like a hot potato when he’s of no use to her. Whatever money he has left will be taken by the state to pay for his ‘care’. Of course….”

    “Of course… what?”

    “You could treat her to the same fate and they could live forever insane in separate parts of the asylum.”

    “That is perfect!” Ashlee squealed in delight. “I’ll do it.”

    “Good! Are you ready to go?”

    Martha heard the sounds of the paper and napkins being crumpled and picked up for disposal by the couple behind her. As they stood up, she froze in fear.

    Ashlee glanced at the pale old woman as they began to walk past her. Her chest was heaving, her faded blue eyes were wide and she looked like she’d seen a ghost. Ashlee was alarmed.

    “Ma’am! Are you alright? Should we call someone?” Ashlee placed her hand on the woman’s arm. “What’s your name?”

    “M..m..Martha.”

    “What is wrong? Maybe we can help you. Do you need a doctor?” Ashlee fanned the old woman with a napkin.

    “Noooo.” Martha moaned. “I’m ok. Can I ask you a question?”

    “Sure.”

    Martha looked around the nearly empty restaurant and whispered, “Would you really … kill someone or bury them alive?”

    Ashlee looked at John and they both burst into laughter as Martha watched, confused by their reaction.

    “Only in my next novel” Ashlee said laughing. “Oh! You overheard us talking didn’t you?”

    Martha turned red and nodded.

    “Sweetheart, I’m a writer! My boyfriend…” she motioned toward John, “and I are collaborating on my next book. I’m so sorry if we scared you!”

    “Book? Writer? It wasn’t real?” Martha heard herself sounding disappointed.

    “No, it wasn’t” John assured her.

    Since the afternoon had been more exciting and entertaining than any Martha had experienced in a long time, she laughed with them.

    “Well, you certainly had me fooled! I think I might need to read that book when it’s complete.”

    “No problem. We’ll get you a copy when it’s done.”

    “I’m here every Wednesday for lunch!” Martha volunteered.

    “We’ll look for you” Ashlee told her. “Can we help you to your car?”

    “No, thanks. I think I’ll stay here awhile longer.”

    Ashlee hugged the older woman and waved as they walked out of the restaurant.

    She looped her arm in John’s as they turned the corner.

    “That was close!” She laughed. “I’d hate to have to hurt that old woman.”

    Reply
    • May 28, 2019 at 9:22 am
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      HAHAHAAAA!!! (trying to show I’m laughing even louder than Ken…)
      I must say, on the subject of surprising your reader, Adrienne, you win, hands down!!!
      I must confess I skipped some of the details of the plot, because I assumed I knew where you were going… The ending brilliantly proved me wrong, and I’m grateful for it!
      I also thought that the old lady’s disappointment when she thinks “it wasn’t real” was a perfect detail.

      Reply
      • May 28, 2019 at 11:42 am
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        Thanks Flo! The story was fun to write and it was a diversion from my worry about my son. (He had a diabetic crisis and was in the ICU for 2 days.) I’m glad you enjoyed it! Poor Martha. She’ll live another day.

        Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 2:06 pm
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      Adi,
      Good story. I guessed that Ashlee and John were brainstorming on a story they wanted to write. Martha didn’t. She was so guillible. It seems so unfair to wind a lonely lady. But, it gave a great twist to the story.

      Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 4:34 pm
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      Hi, Adi

      Really neat story. Like Flo, I was complacently expecting one ending (although towards the end I was thinking “hmmm, wouldn’t it be interesting if …”) and then you flipped it, very skilfully. It’s a nice, upbeat ending, in fact, despite the implications (Ashlee concerned about Martha). Of course, it would have been darker if Ashlee and John had decided there shouldn’t be any loose ends …

      Very nice read.

      Reply
  • May 24, 2019 at 6:56 pm
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    Ahh-hahahahahahaha. Oh yeah. You got me Adi. Totally. Hook line and sinker. Well done.

    Reply
    • May 28, 2019 at 11:43 am
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      Thanks Ken! I had fun with this one!

      Reply
  • May 25, 2019 at 10:01 am
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    NEW OCCUPANTS

    Doris shot out of her front door when she saw the Asian men chatting away next door.
    They brought the “Sold” sign down and laid it against the picket fence.

    She went to introduce herself. “Hi, dear.” She stood and spoke over the low fence. “I am Doris, your neighbour. I guess you are the new owner of the house.”
    “Yes.” Dadul detached himself from the group to move near to Doris.
    “I’m so pleased to meet you.” Doris shifted her gaze over the house. “I saw a few white women across the windows. I waved and they closed the curtains on me. I don’t know what to make of it.”
    “There are only a couple of my Europeans tenants, from Poland and Romania.” Dadul frowned and stared at Doris. “They don’t speak English, therefore do not want to speak to anyone.”
    “Oh!”
    “ My friends here,” Dadul spread his hands towards the men, “work for me in my properties business. We deal with tenants.”
    “I will keep an eye on your property.”
    “You don’t have to. We’re private Asians people. We like to keep our business, ourselves to ourselves.”
    “Ok.” Taken aback, flustered, Doris took a few steps away and turned to go back to her own house. On her way, she picked the dead flowers from her plants. She could not help eavesdropping to their conversation.

    “Watch this nosey, old bag! She seems to poke her nose in other people’s businesses.” Dadul swore in Urdu to the men. “She has already noticed the girls and us. Bloody spying nutcase!”
    “The hearing-aid wearing bitch. She draws her curtains and goes to bed at 9 pm .” One of the other man piped in. “Look at her creeping in that front garden and pretending to make conversation. White witch!” He spat on the floor.
    “Make sure she doesn’t watch us and find us going in and out of the house. She will grass us. Silly old cow! We don’t want the Police snooping here.”

    Doris felt her heart drop to the ground. It started to beat erratically.
    “Disrespectful and horrible young men! What’s their transaction? Why are they worried of the Police? It sounds fishy.” She thought regretting listening to their chat. She rushed back into her house.
    “How dare they take me as an idiot, a confused elderly person with no role or friends in my life? ” She poured herself a measure of brandy and gulped it to calm herself. “I taught Asian children in school. I also taught the previous Asians occupants of that house in the past. They don’t know that. In the process I picked up the Urdu language and speak Urdu fluently. These men are not like the ones I know of.”
    Her mind drifted to the white girls she noticed in the house. “They will soon find out about these louts whose main concern is making money. I am sad for these women.”

    She twisted and turned on her bed as her thoughts kept her awake all night.
    Her mind was so unsettled that when the afternoon came, she felt she needed to share her experience with Gladys, her neighbour across the road.
    “Ah! There is something very strange going on. You see men coming in and out of that house all day and night long. As you know I sleep on my chair in the lounge, I don’t draw the curtains, I use the street light as lightbulb to my room. Unlike you I go to bed late.” Gladys reminded Doris.
    “You’re exaggerating, now!” Doris refused to believe her. “The men live there too. They look alike and you tend to think there are many of them. I used to get confused with them on parents’ evening. Sometimes I couldn’t tell who is who.”
    “Doris. You haven’t witnessed what I see. Plus, without your hearing aid you’re as deaf as a bat. You don’t hear anything, sometimes.” Gladys walked near her window to peep out to the house. “See, there are men going in there now. So discreet, they never park near the house.
    I never saw any white girls as you say. Perhaps they go out to work early in the morning and come back late at night. These foreigners live in groups to save money.”
    Suddenly, a thought struck Gladys. “You never know they might be prostitutes. These men have perhaps turn this house into a whore house.”
    “Don’t let your imagination run away with you!” Doris said and got up to leave. “I’m feeling unwell already.”
    “Me too!” Gladys said. “I wonder how many houses they are overcrowding with these immigrants. They will get into trouble with the Council, not the Police. The Police is not bothered. It’s not a crime to them.”
    “I know.”
    “I think we should report this to the Council.”
    “Don’t!” Doris rose her voice. “These men are horrible. We’re two vulnerable, elderly widows living on our own. They will harm us. Please don’t do anything. We might be wrong. Possibly heard wrongly.” Doris blinked and creased her forehead. They cut deep into her wrinkled forehead. “I’m sure I heard rightly. They called me all sort of names a few times. I cringe to think of it. I was wearing my hearing aid. I conversed with him without asking him to repeat what he said.”
    “We will discover the truth one day. Go home and relax. Let them do what they want. The government does not seem to bother.” Gladys waved at Doris as she saw herself out.

    Two months later, early in the morning, Doris could hear a commotion outside. She was going to look out when the phone buzzed. She answered the call instead.
    “Doris! Have your got your earplugs on? I’ve been calling for a while.” Gladys spoke almost incoherently. “Put the tele on. You’ll have the shock of your life and a bigger shock if you look out of the window. You might appear on tv too.”
    “What’s going on? There is some noise outside.” Doris picked the remote, switched the tv on to watch as some police officers walked behind some men in handcuffs. It took her a few seconds to realise that it was happening next door. She peeped out of the window.
    A journalist was talking on his speaker. Like a repeated scene on the television, he informed, “The women are from Poland and Romania, lured into England with promise of work and money. The perpetrators confiscated their passport, held them prisoners in the house and forced them to work as prostitutes. The men are taken in custody, the women to a Safe house.”
    “Oh, my God.” Doris whispered to Gladys with her hands shaking over the mouthpiece of her phone.
    “I guessed it. I have been telling the Council officials, then the Police. In not so many words they told me to mind my own business.”
    “You didn’t! You promised you won’t do anything like that. They can retaliate, attack us. I am shaking with fear.”
    “Me too!”

    Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 4:48 pm
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      Hi, Chitra

      This is a very realistic story – there are often news reports in the papers and on TV about this very problem (human trafficking). Unlike Adi’s story, you set us up to believe one thing, we think that the old friends must be mistaken, then it transpires that it was what we expected all along … and that’s a kind of twist/bluff in itself. It was a nice move to have Doris able to understand Urdu and the insults, but it’s a bit strange to have her tell herself that fact (“In the process I picked up the Urdu language and speak Urdu fluently.”) Maybe that piece of information could have come out more naturally in a conversation with Gladys (?) An interesting ending, which foresees possible problems for the friends in the future.

      Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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      Hi Chitra,

      Scary story with a realistic plot. We never know who is living next to us, do we? Good job!

      Adi

      Reply
  • May 26, 2019 at 9:59 am
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    Space Oddity by Peter Holmes (804 words)

    When you wake up every morning and the first thing in sight is Mother Earth in all her glory, there isn’t a single reason not to get out of bed. The breathtaking views are easily the best thing about living on a space station. The Earth sits below us, looking like the definition of beauty. The stars encompass us, guardians of the cosmos.

    You’ve seen pictures, but none of them do it justice. I’ll never get tired of it. What I could get tired of is my galactic colleagues. As I admire the view, two deep voices echo through to my quarters.

    “We can’t tell him.”
    “We have to.”

    It’s Mark and Randy, arguing again. I’ve been stuck up here with them for five months now, and they still irritate me sometimes. Even with the intense space training that we endured together, we’ve never really bonded. Mark is the man in charge of our mission, and the kinder of the two. Randy still considers me a child, despite there only being a ten year difference between us (and I’m 30!).

    “He’s too young, you know he’ll freak out.” I hear Randy say.
    I probably shouldn’t be listening to this.
    “He has a wife and child, he deserves to say goodbye.”

    Say goodbye? What is he on about? Do I need to call my family? My little boy Jonah, he’s only eight. And my angel of a wife, Izzie. They’re the only thing I miss from Earth. The computers aren’t reporting anything odd. All 54 screens, state of the art technology. Before you could click your fingers, these mathematical magicians could measure and calculate every figure you’d want to know.

    “I don’t think we should tell him.”
    “Screw you, he has a right to know about the asteroids. He has a right to know about our inevitable deaths. And he has a right to know about all of this, because he’s one of us.”

    What the goddamn hell?
    Death? Asteroids?
    WHAT THE GODDAMN HELL?

    Panicking in space isn’t a good idea. My vomit floats above my head. My tears are suspended in front of me, as if to mock me for my lack of emotional stability. Get yourself together Troy. Remember the training, no panic attacks in anti-gravity. The computers still reporting perfect information. Stable temperature, ideal location, even the amount of dehydrated food is correct. How have Mark and Randy discovered this catastrophe? And more importantly, why haven’t I been told about it yet? The interstellar communication device (fancy phone) stares at me, putting my stomach in twists and turns. I feel homesick, begging myself to call home.

    “Troy.”
    “ARGH!”
    “Calm down slick, it’s just me, Mark. I’ve got some news for you.”
    “Oh, w-what’s that?” Keep your cool Troy, he doesn’t have to know that you overheard their conversation.
    “I’m not going to beat around the bush here kid, we’re going to die. There’s an army of asteroids, marching towards us.”
    “Can’t we do anything? Evasive manoeuvres, crap like that?”
    “I’ve reported the issue to ground control, but communication systems seem to be buggered.”
    “Shit.” I say, without thinking.
    “Abso-bloody-lutely. T-minus 2 minutes.”

    He’s pushing himself away now, presumably to the main control room. As I push myself towards my quarters, an asteroid smacks us, knocking the space station out of its course. The space station starts shaking uncontrollably. Food stores are flung open, dry ice cream hitting my face. 2 minutes my ass! His stupid measurements must have been wrong. I fear that the walls will break, despite their reputation for withstanding explosions. If this is my last day alive, I’m going to hear the voices of my family one more time. I cling to the phone with all my strength. I enter the code, and wait as the line rings. A voice like heaven comes through to my ears. Don’t let them worry, I tell myself. They don’t need to know.

    “Troy? Sweetie? Is that you?”
    “Hey baby, how’s things on Earth?”
    Tears run out of my eyes, before floating around me.

    “Jonah got a perfect score on his test, and I’m making cookies. We miss you a lot though.”
    “I miss you too Izzie. And yes, things are running smoothly.”

    Another asteroid attacks us, and I almost lose my hold on the phone. The technology around me starts to fizz and bang, switching off its life force for the last time. An explosion erupts from somewhere in the station, chunks of space rock punch against the walls.
    “Troy? That sounded bad, are you sure you’re okay?”
    “Definitely. I’m talking to you, I couldn’t be any happier.”
    “Alright, I love you.”
    “I love you too baby. Give Jonah my hugs. See you soon.”
    The last asteroid charges towards us, as I hear screams from the other end of the station.

    “Goodbye.”

    Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 1:59 pm
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      Peter
      Great story. Interesting to read the apocalyptic view you used for the prompt.
      The end left me wishing for a miracle to happen to the crew.
      Great names – Troy, Izzie, Jonah, Randy, Mark – they stand out.

      Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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        Thanks Chitra, glad you enjoyed my apocalyptic theme

        Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 5:00 pm
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      Hi, Peter

      Gloomy take on the theme, but very well done. The vulnerability of the space station and the helplessness of the crew is well established, as are some of the physical features of weightlessness. The ending is very nice – Troy spending his last minutes with the people he loves, and no miracle (I see how Chitra would have liked one, but I like the bleakness of this). On a practical level … wouldn’t ground control have been able to predict the arrival of the asteroids, possibly allowing for evasive action?

      Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 5:05 pm
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        Hey Phil, your comments are much appreciated. In terms of ground control predicting the asteroids, I agree with you. I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t noticed this while I was writing. Unfortunately, it felt like the only way to allow the sad and inevitable end of the astronauts.

        Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 5:06 pm
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        Plus, due to me being on holiday (and away from my computer), I had to write this all up on pen and paper, so my thought process was slightly hectic.

        Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 5:18 pm
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      Peter,

      Great story. It was a tear jerker and I admired the way Troy made his last conversation with his family a positive one, even knowing he was going to die. Well done.

      Adi

      Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 5:25 pm
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        Thanks Adi, good to know my hard work trying to make this scene sad enough paid off

        Reply
  • May 28, 2019 at 9:53 am
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    Disclaimer: in the state this world is in, and strongly believing in the virtue of recycling, I hereby declare that I willfully recycled my “River Discussion” story, left unpublished, to serve the purpose of this here new prompt… 😉

    Reply
  • May 28, 2019 at 9:53 am
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    In the language of eavesdropping

    “… so, I am backing out, looking behind me, coast is clear, when… boom, man! I hear a noise! And then those guys in a car pull up to my side, and start screaming through the window, man… They are screaming in Spanish, man…” “Ah yes, they are the worse, aren’t they?” “… but wait, man, wait… so here I am, man, not understanding what the situation is. You see, it’s still early in the morning, and I’m not completely awake, man. And it’s literally like they appeared from nowhere…” “But wasn’t your son with you?” “Yes! He was, man! And what a good thing that was, too, man!” “So what did he say?” “Wait! Wait! Those three guys… those three Spanish dudes… they get off the car, man…” “What did he do?” “Who…?” “Your son!” “Wait wait! Well, that was a great thing he was there, man! But… where was I? Yes… so… Those three guys get off the car, so I get off as well. I cannot understand a word they’re saying. And I have no idea what’s going on, man…” “But had you run into them…?” “Well, that’s the thing, wait… “

    “Er… guys…”

    “… uh…? Wait, so, those guys start screaming at me, like they are really pissed off…” “But you had run into them…?” “… but that’s the thing… wait… So here they are, man, telling me that I backed up into their car when I was trying to get out of my parking space, man… and they start…” “So, you had run into them…” “…uh…? Wait wait wait… “

    “Guys!? Are we…?”

    “Mmh…? So anyways. They are trying to say that I run into their car, man, and they point at a big dent on their front hood. But no matter how hard I look, I can’t see anything on my car, man: not a dent, not a touch of paint, nothing, man…”

    Today, right now, they are six. Six guys by the riverside. Six backs releasing long stretches of a heated discussion I cannot interrupt for the life of me. An intense conversation I mostly reconstitute in my mind. Because, in truth, what comes out of that closed circle sounds more like:
    “… so, I am borchswweetch, looking chruhvtuh, fumph clear, when… boom, pah! vuhmch noise! And then those vertch car sloomtuh, and zzz screaming verzz window, pah … Rombutch Spanish, pah …” “Ah yes, aghtuhvlum, they?” “… but wait, pah, wait… so chtawk, not perceblitwum. Vaysh, ayandah morning, pah, and I naw kordadoo, pah. And ayleetarahlee erparecereedooneeyumyerch…” “But son nawayghakotigoo?” “Yes! ayrah, pah! And ooker boahmtera, pah!” “So ookerdeejteuh?” “Wait! Wait! Ooch three gahgoo… chteuh three spanshfooleuhnooch… sayonarah carhoo, pah…” “ookfaizlam?” “Who…?” “ohtah feeloo!” “Wait wait! Well, poïchklah rookeuh thing chtahverlerkah, pah! But… oondeurkchterah? Yes… so… chteuh three gahgoosayooramoo car, so ayoosayootamh, Ben. Nawp erseurboohoom peuleuvrahk djizeum. And nawteen neehum ideadekeuh chteuak tersserh, pah …” “But toochteenyahghampeukahdooelch…?” “Well, eessoohayakoosah, wait… “

    I pull the plug. Shut my mind to the impassioned discussion that takes so much of me every time. Every single time, gives me the feeling I am eavesdropping on an ominous conspiracy I should not be witnessing. Something terrible will happen, and I won’t be ready for it because I will not have understood what was supposed to have prepared me for it. And I mostly doubt I know how to read the signs other than what real words inform you of. It’s mainly this big guessing-game I don’t necessarily have a particular talent for. The worst are those repetitive “pahs” that keep exploding at the end of every sentence, as if I were surrounded by wild cowboys waiving their colts in their hands, shooting every important moment of the conversation to prove their point… I mentally keep dodging those verbal bullets I can’t force into meaningful sentences.

    Now that I have pulled the plug, I mainly confine myself to computing… Six. With me, that makes seven. Not a good number. In a four, you need five, with the cox. In an eight, nine. So we are either two too many, or two short. I hold my breath in the hope that they show up, the two missing ones. I love going out with the eight! The power of it! It’s intoxicating. Plus, if we have to go out on a four, I can predict coach is going to ask me to take the “boaty-boat”. Not that I mind it that much. Gives me a rest from all of this, truth be told. It’s just that it’s slightly irritating, this way of assuming that I should always be the one to “sacrifice”.

    Close to three years, it’s been… “Go explore!” “The world is your oyster!” “Row your boat on unknown rivers!” “Join a new club!” I kept telling myself… “It doesn’t matter if you haven’t studied the language yet”, I pressed my point, “you’ll be using the universal language of sport!” I’m not going to try and convince myself of the contrary I managed to convince myself of: quite an experience, it’s been! I’ve always loved living in other countries, exploring new cultures, meeting new people. Above all, learning new languages is my upmost passion! Ha! the joke… That beast has been a tremendously hard nut to crack. Or is my hearing rapidly failing me? Anyways, rowing on that river has been one of the best moments I have experienced these past few years, and I wouldn’t miss the evening trainings for the world: fantastic sunsets, changing tides, unpredictable squalls, grand mood swings within the team…

    Speaking of… a voice reaches through my haze: “Flo!!! Dreaming again?! We’ve been waiting for you all this time: we’re pulling out the eight!!! What are you standing here for, doing nothing???!!!”

    Yes, time to shake it off. Snap out of it. By the riverside, where six is an unlucky number, unfailingly willing to transform into a perfect combination, I make my own conversation, decide I have made a discovery: the universal power of Team Spirit!

    Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 1:51 pm
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      Great story.
      I like the apocalyptic view you used for the prompt.
      The end left me wishing for some sort of miracle to happen to save the crew. Great names – Troy, Izzie, Jonah, Randy and Mark. They stand out.

      Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 5:16 pm
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      Hi, Flo

      The mysterious wonders of Portuguese? You cleverly gave us your impression of the conversation before the virtual gobbledegook of what you actually heard (I think I’m getting that right?), so that we come to that section looking for clues from the first part. The listener’s fears of missing important facts are clear, but then you make that of secondary importance with the idea that simply being a part of the team is enough – a nice, fundamental truth.

      Reply
  • May 28, 2019 at 11:32 am
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    Ken,

    Just for you, one of Faulkner’s quotes about writing: “My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food and a little whiskey.” William Faulkner LOL

    Reply
      • May 29, 2019 at 5:26 pm
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        LOL. He had typewriters – 2 of them. They are on display in his home in Oxford. There are also handwritten notes on the wall in the kitchen next to the phone. He also had notes for each day of the week on the walls of his bedroom.

        Another quote: “… of course, the first thing, the writer’s got to be demon-driven. He’s got to have to write, he don’t know why, and sometimes he will wish that he didn’t have to, but he does.” William Faulkner, 1957

        Another: “It is my aim, and every effort bent, that the sum and history of my life, which in the same sentence is my obit and epitaph too, shall be them both: He made the books and he died.” William Faulkner, 1949

        Reply
  • May 29, 2019 at 12:42 pm
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    ​​Hey writers!!

    You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

    Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

    http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-for-eavesdropper2019/

    You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • May 29, 2019 at 3:47 pm
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    No Reservation

    It was a cold afternoon as we walked towards the restaurant Brasserie Les Halles. The young Japanese girl, who received us, asked if we had any reservation.
    Jon answered in a loud singsong voice, “No reservation”.
    She looked up puzzled. The receptionist had never heard of the television program by the same name.

    A 40s- something couple, quite obviously in love, was already seated at the next table as we stepped into the grand ballroom.
    Marcia was a bit cheesed off to sit so close to them. But we had no choice. We were already in high spirits since after much walking, and getting lost, we had finally located this French restaurant, made famous by Anthony Bourdain. This place was known to be personally supervised by the great chef, and the menu carefully picked and served. Being huge AB fans of his television series, nothing could spoil our mood.

    Being a social worker, my interest was drawn towards the couple. They were holding hands; he was massaging her knuckles and tendons tenderly. She was responding with equal fervor. Oh, this was getting a bit too hot. Then as if on cue, they both started picking at the salad with their free hands, and drinking wine with the same hand. The other hand was rendered useless, caught in the throes of high passion.
    For artful dexterity, I gave them 8 points.

    Meanwhile our food arrived. Jon had his hands firmly on his fork, cutting slice after slice of the succulent Filet de Boeuf with Béarnaise. He was more passionate about the dish set before him and definitely not a whit interested in squeezing my tendons or knuckles. Instead I caught him gazing at the tenderloin dipped in sauce in his plate. They were NOT looking into my blue eyes.

    That’s when the man, at the next table, got up to go to the men’s room.

    The bespectacled woman turned dreamily towards me, her chin cupped in the palm of her hand. A pretty smile, a faraway look conveyed that everything was going just right for her. I felt a twinge of happiness for this strange woman. “Good for her,” I thought to myself.

    ‘Hmmm but looks a bit old,” continued my mind. “Not bad for her.”
    I’m thinking of widows in other countries, where I was working, who could never go on a date or get remarried without society wagging its tongue.

    The woman was undoubtedly in seventh heaven, I could see very clearly from her glazed expression. After a while, the man returned and planted a deep kiss, pretty long drawn out, it seemed to me. I was staring unabashedly now.

    My young girls, with impressionable minds should not be seeing this, I thought, while turning my attention to pick at my own ‘Magret de Canard, Sauce Grenade’- slices of roast duck with pomegranate sauce.

    Meanwhile, they are on their third glass of wine.

    I whisper to the others at my table, “The couple next to us is deep in love. Look at them. No, don’t look now. Okay, look now.”
    The ones at my table take turns to make surreptitious glances at them.

    The food was so delicious that soon we lost interest in them and focused on our plates.

    We were half way through our food, when we heard raised voices coming from their table.

    He was accusing her of something, and she was retorting now. His lips were pursed. She sounded teary now. Their hands were clearly disentangled. Whither went the passion?

    He ordered another glass of wine. Their conversation was getting embarrassingly loud.
    He said, “But I have the money.”
    She replied, “Ya, for sure. YOU are the financial manager.”
    He said, “But you look older than me. Do you realize that? A good twenty years older.”
    She replied, “ But you act like you are only seventeen.”

    It was like watching a free movie right next to us. And it was getting pretty interesting too. I believed it was indecent and unfashionable to eavesdrop. And I did teach my girls of impressionable minds never to eavesdrop. But hang on; this is a movie with real life actors. Not like Jersey Boys though. This couple was in a real hard situation and was neither singing or dancing.

    They didn’t bargain that a family of four would be sitting in such close proximity to them. I stole a glance at the people sitting at the other tables. They were watching the free show too.

    The hero poured himself another glass of the good wino.

    Jon chose this crucial moment to to talk now, tell us inconsequential some news, make polite dinner table conversation- about a similar dish he ate some years ago, and I shushed him, a little unkindly.

    Fact was I wanted to hear the bitter end of this eavesdropping saga. Someone even suggested we do the Mr. Bean act and move our table closer to them, holding the legs under the white tablecloth.

    Finally our lunch was over, we had to leave the restaurant. My little girl went to the washroom and she came back in a rush.

    “Mama, that lady is talking on the phone. She is calling the cops. I think that guy is really bad. He stole her money.”
    I ushered my kids out. We didn’t stay for the end of this high drama.

    But it taught us a lesson. I certainly hoped it taught my young ladies, with impressionable minds.

    It’s not about the wooing, and the hand massaging, Or the deep eye penetration in the game of Love, If it’s to be long, secure, and lasting. It’s not about the wine you gulp to impress your partner. Nor is it about the deep cleavage, Neither the size of your wallet. Or his. It’s not about pretending to like men-sports, Football, golf ball and baseball, All just to impress the Man. To live a lie. For the rest of your life?
    It’s about real lasting love, Willing to compromise, to sacrifice, Whether for richer, for poorer, for better or for worse. It’s about being honest with each other, And loving with all the imperfections, The bumps, the warts on knuckles, or not.

    1036 words

    Reply
  • May 29, 2019 at 4:32 pm
    Permalink

    Grand Fortissimo.
    by ken cartisano ©5-29-2019
    wc 866

    Ellen and I were sitting across from each other at a popular local diner when I heard a child ask her parents to be excused from the booth directly behind me. You don’t hear that very often any more. She must have strict parents, I thought.

    I’m sure Ellen was thinking the same thing, as a girl of twelve or thirteen walked past our table, dressed in a boyish outfit, on her way to the ladies room.

    Hardly had the girl entered the restroom when the husband or rather the father hissed, “I didn’t sign up for this shit, Beth. There’s a lot of things I’ll do for her, but this ain’t one of them. And what could she possibly know, or should I say care, about gender at her age anyway?”

    Ellen and I exchanged worried frowns as we sipped our soup. He sounded angry.

    The wife was talking now. I could hear a soothing murmur but no individual words. At least he was listening. Though I couldn’t see them over the back of the booth, I thought it was safe to assume they were the girl’s parents.

    Then we heard the husband say, “I am not paying for a sex change. We, are not paying for a sex change.”

    I wish I had a picture of the look on Ellen’s face. Or mine.

    He went on. “Break it to her gently? I’ll break it to her anyway I can if I can get her to take those damned ear phones out of her…”

    There was a prolonged period of silence, some intense murmuring, and then, from the husband, a loud but equivocating, “Well…”

    We heard several other choice snippets from the husband. I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist of what he said was: A sex change would be expensive. But it wasn’t the cost that bothered him. It was the frivolous nature of the expense.

    Strange. It’s hard to see a sex-change operation as frivolous. Inappropriate, drastic and permanent maybe, but not frivolous. Ellen and I saw a documentary about just such a thing, very young kids opting to change their genders and the surgeons who enable them. For some, it’s quite an ethical dilemma.

    Ellen and I were unnaturally quiet, so intent were we on hearing every word in the next booth. Without uttering a word to each other, I think Ellen and I agreed with the father, that that girl was way too young to even consider getting a sex-change.

    “Well if you ask me,” he said very clearly, “she’s acting like a goddamned child.”

    At that same moment I saw their daughter exiting the bathroom. She paused near the kitchen to let two waitresses, laden with dishes, veer past her. She continued walking toward us, glancing to either side.

    “Wouldn’t it be fun to just leave her here at the restaurant? Just once? Tell her we’re going to pay the bill and just leave?” The father said, getting no response.

    Even though he was kidding, I glanced at Ellen who was scowling indignantly at the man’s cruel sense of humor, by the father’s description, you’d think the girl had horns and a pitchfork. She was unaware of my attention as she approached, vaguely humming the melody of some jingle to herself while sliding her fingers along the top of every vacant table she passed.

    Ellen didn’t get a good look at her, because she was approaching from behind her, but I did, and it was impossible to reconcile this angelic child with the person her father was raving about. That’s when it occurred to me that she might well overhear some of her father’s invective as she approached. I didn’t know what to do but Ellen saved the day. She read my face and with a totally believable dork maneuver she ‘accidentally’ flung a fork on the floor between the two booths.

    I slid out of my seat and kneeled on the floor to retrieve the fork as the conversation in the adjoining booth came to a halt. When I got to my feet, three people were looking at me, a husband, his wife, and a third person that I would guess to be in their sixties, wearing I-phone ear-buds, pink spiked hair and an outfit that included leopard-print leotards. (I noticed as they were leaving.) It was either his mother or his father, or hers, I wasn’t sure which. (And I didn’t want to know.) I just knew that this was the source of his frustration.

    Judging by the look on his face, the husband must’ve realized I’d been eavesdropping and slid out of his booth as I sat down. “You ready to go, Sweetie?” He said to his daughter.

    “Sure, Dad.” His daughter seemed concerned about his mood and added, “Did you get everything straightened out with…” She made quote symbols in the air, “—grand Person?”

    I thought it was funny but he just sighed. “No. We’ll hash it out when we get home. Come on. Let’s go.”

    I felt like shaking his hand and patting him on the back, but, it would’ve been awkward, so I didn’t.

    I think Ellen felt the same way.

    Reply
    • May 29, 2019 at 5:39 pm
      Permalink

      Well done, Ken, well done! What an uncomfortable conversation to hear and then you revealed the zinger, it wasn’t for the daughter but for the “grand person!” I literally laughed out loud trying to picture this person in my head.

      Reply
  • May 30, 2019 at 8:19 am
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    Hi Ken,

    I don’t know what has happened here but this story was not included as far as I can see in the voting list. It would have received a top three vote from me.

    You completely fooled me. I would never have guessed where this one was going and, like Adi, I can laugh at the mental picture you have put in my mind. A neatly written story with realistic dialogue that cleverly throws you off the scent.

    Interestingly, where I live, this “grand person” would not be that out of place. Stroud, in Gloucestershire ( pronounced Glostershire, in case you are not familiar with the name) is a famously open culture where all are welcome and long grey and multi- coloured hair, beads, braces and boots are entirely the norm for our local chums.

    You followed the prompt and added a neat twist.

    Good stuff.

    Ken Frape.

    Reply
    • May 30, 2019 at 1:47 pm
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      Ken F – Ken C’s story (as well as Marien’s) wasn’t included because it was submitted after the deadline. The voting page had already been created and posted.

      Reply
      • May 30, 2019 at 1:52 pm
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        Hi Carrie,
        OK,
        I guessed that was probably the reason.
        Thanks,
        Ken F

        Reply
      • May 30, 2019 at 11:05 pm
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        Yes, I realized that much too late- was traveling . This is such an interesting forum to be part of. Love all the comments.

        Reply
  • May 30, 2019 at 1:50 pm
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    And without furtho ado here are your winners! Congrats Ken!

    1st – Getting to the Top by Ken Frape
    2nd – Space Oddity by Peter Holmes
    3rd – The Birds and the Bees Tomorrow by Phil Town
    4th – Murder at Walmart by Adrienne Riggs
    5th – Unplanned Chain Reaction by Amy Lynn Raines
    6th – New Occupants by Chitra Adjoodah
    7th – In the Language of Eavesdropping by Flo

    Favorite character: “Martha” in Murder at Walmart by Adrienne Riggs
    Favorite dialogue: Murder at Walmart by Adrienne Riggs

    And for those of you who missed it – the new writing prompt post is up!

    Reply
    • May 30, 2019 at 2:00 pm
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      Good stories all round, well done (especially to Ken F)

      Reply
    • May 30, 2019 at 2:01 pm
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      Hi All,

      Thanks so much for your kind comments.
      So, on to the next one!

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • May 30, 2019 at 2:04 pm
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      Congrats Ken F.!! And congrats to everyone else. They were great stories. On to the next …

      Reply
  • May 30, 2019 at 2:49 pm
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    Congratulations, Ken! Another very good story. And well done to us all.

    Reply
  • May 30, 2019 at 8:45 pm
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    Arden was sitting on the toilet, texting her best friend who was in a biology class, when she heard voices in the next cubicle.
    “Yeah well, I’m hoping we can set it up for next Saturday evening. That way it won’t look too obvious.” There was a pause.
    “I know, I know. It’s gotta look authentic. Just moment. I’m alone. I’ll put you on loud speaker. So hard to hear in here.”
    Then she heard a woman’s voice asking. “Are you sure you’re alone?”
    “Yeah, of course. Everyone else’s in class and it’s the students’ toilet block. I’m in the girls’ toilet. I’ve locked the door.” She heard the woman laugh; a deep throaty chuckle which somehow did not sound very nice – there was something very cutting about her laughter that chilled Arden.
    It caught her breath in her throat and she shifted the button on her phone to silent, so it would not ping when Gemma answered her last text.
    “So, I’ll invite her out to the Red Duck at Noogee. It’ll be perfect. Windy road on the way home. You damage the brake lines on her car, while she’s having dinner with me and Chris. You know the silly cow loves to speed. You’ll have a good excuse. You’ve got the birthday party for Neville down at men’s shed down at Neerim South. Go for a bog or smoke or something. Should take you less than half an hour. A quick snip. And you nip back to the party.” She laughs.
    Arden texted Gemma. “Plse come 2 toilets. Need 2 bang loudly. Doors locked.”
    Seconds later, “What? Why u lock doors?”
    She replied, “Not me. Someone else. They’re > kill some1. 2nite.”
    Gemma replied with two emojs indicating surprise and horror.
    “U gotta come now.”
    “Ok coming!” Arden was just going to text “Bring a teacher 2.” When she realized it was very quiet. The man next door was whispering and his phone was no longer on loudspeaker. She could not hear what he was saying so she lent in closer to the wall separating the two cubicles.
    The hairs on the back of her neck prickled. She felt she was being watched. Looking up, she saw Troy the woodwork teacher’s aide and handyman’s grizzled face staring down at her from above the cubicle wall. His eyes hard black stones, glittered malice. “Missy, whatcha doin’?” Then before she had time to think what to reply, he flew over the cubicle wall and landed in the cubicle besides and her wrenched her phone from her. She remembered thinking, “Shit, he moves for an old guy!” Then before she could scream, he had her phone in her hand and was leaning against her, pushing her into the wall and had the other hand over her mouth. Petrified, she started to shake. He scrolled through her phone messages.
    “I gunna text yer mate Gemma, that yer were only jokin’.” Squashed against the wall, she could only nod her assent. “Afterward, you gunna walk over to tha garden sheds. I’ll folla. I know where yer Mum works. I could arrange an accident. Ifna yer donna do what I says.” And he leaned in close to her ear, “Shut tha fuck up about this, cause I got no problem getting’ rid a ya. Got it.”
    She watched him quickly text Gemma. “Only joking Cha ZING!” and send her a couple of laugh emojs. Gemma texted back,”Oh BITCH! U W8. Yr turn comin’ girl.”
    He then faced Arden. “Missy, I is leavin’ now. Yer gunna leave in five minutes. Come straight t’ tha garden sheds. Go down tha side gate of tha admin block so the CCTV sees you leave. Got it. OK. I expect ta see ya in around ten minutes. Ok.” He chucked her under chin and gave a nasty chuckle. Her phone went into his pocket.
    “Don’t try funny stuff. I gotcha.” He winked, unlocked the cubicle and left.
    Arden sat on the lid of the toilet seat and trembled for a long minute. She did not know what to think, but decided the best course of action was to do as Troy had demanded. She slipped out of the toilet block and made her way down the narrow passage way between the buildings and then with a frightened upward glance at the security camera, walked quickly across to the school garden sheds.
    When she got to the sheds, Troy’s van was parked besides the shed on the side not covered by the school’s security cameras. The side door was open. Troy was in the shed with his tool box open.
    “Sid down.” He barked. “Put yer hands out. Palms together.” She complied. She wanted to stop trembling, and succeeded in getting it down to an occasional quiver. He had a roll of silver duct tape which he rolled round her wrists and then her ankles and knees. She was immobilized. He rolled her into the back of the van and closed the door. “I’ve texted yer friend that you’ve gone home. Decided to give school a miss for today.” He chuckled and got into the van and started it moving off quickly.
    Arden’s only hope now lay with Gemma realizing that someone else had her phone because Arden’s school bag was still with Gemma and Gemma knew that Arden would not go anywhere without her bag.
    She heard Troy on the phone to the woman he had been talking to in the toilet block. It was on hands free so she was able to hear everything that was said.
    “We have a little problem, Joyce.”
    “Oh, what?”
    “There was a student in tha toilet block. The silly little bitch heard us talkin’.”
    “OH! So what are you going to do about it?”
    “We’ll have ta get rid of her. I’ve got her in tha back a tha van. Got an idea, though.”
    “Yes. I am listening.”
    “Yeah. I’ll put her in the boot of me wife’s car. I’ll knock her out with a bit of sumthing I got at home. Put ‘er to sleep. We’ll kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Tha police gunna think me old woman was up to sumthin’. You’ll see.” He laughed.
    Five minutes later. Flashing lights and a siren.
    The door of the van opened with crash. A woman got into the van and sat Arden up.
    “Are you ok, sweetie?” She pulled the duct tape off Arden’s mouth and then pulled out a pocket knife to cut the tape on her wrists and legs.
    Arden started in shock when she recognised the voice as the one she had heard talking to Troy on the phone in the toilet block.
    The woman smiled at her. “Don’t be afraid. It’s ok. I’m a plainclothes police officer. We’ve been after him for some time now. You’re safe.”

    Reply
  • May 30, 2019 at 8:48 pm
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    I decided to post my story even though it is too late to enter and I missed my deadline even for the voting and did not even get a chance to read the stories. I will do so now. So very time poor at the moment.

    Reply

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