October 3 – October 16, 2019 Writing Prompt “Power Couple”

Prompt: “Power Couple”

One man, one woman. On top of the world. Something happens that threatens to burn it all down.

Encompass at least one try/fail scenario to overcome said roadblock.

Story Requirements:

An income stream – they must have earned their money, explain, even peripherally, how they became wealthy. Must not have inherited or come by their money via windfall.

Word Count: 1,200



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236 thoughts on “October 3 – October 16, 2019 Writing Prompt “Power Couple”

  • October 3, 2019 at 2:06 pm
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    Read the stories here:

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

    Reply
    • October 8, 2019 at 1:31 pm
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      Signing up for comments. Apologies, don’t think I submitted my story properly,

      Reply
      • October 8, 2019 at 7:08 pm
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        I fixed it – and welcome to the madness!!

        Reply
        • October 10, 2019 at 3:31 pm
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          Thank you, and thanks for letting me join in. This seems like a fun group.

          Reply
        • October 16, 2019 at 7:11 pm
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          Carrie I have put one author twice in forth and fifth place can I have a tie fifth with Roy and Dennis instead. Hard job this week. I’ll email you later today as I am on class now.

          Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 11:36 am
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      Hi Carrie,
      Signing in for comments and posting my story after Chitra’s

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 10:48 pm
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      I think I am changing my name to Ilana Aarons because I do not get a chance to choose a prompt until May next year. 🙁

      Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm
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    Who were the winners for the last prompt?

    Reply
    • October 3, 2019 at 4:11 pm
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      @Neha I just posted the winners on the Detective post!

      Reply
  • October 3, 2019 at 4:22 pm
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    Signing in for comments.

    And I have a question for the seasoned writers:

    When writing a story, are you aware of/ concerned about confusing your readers by “head-hopping?”

    In my writer’s group, we are working on a collaborative novel. Each month, a different member takes the next chapter and moves the story on. We are on Chapter 10 and its turned into a very exciting story. Anyway …

    One of our members seriously informed us that the last chapter author had “head-hopped” by stating what another character was thinking in a scene with the main character. It was brief and quick. I hadn’t even noticed it as it didn’t detract from the flow of the chapter and we all understood what the scene was about and which character was doing the thinking. However, for this one member, it was a major writing CRIME and he plans to bring us the “15 top rules for Confusing and Confounding your Readers” to our next meeting.

    I’d appreciate your comments and feedback. Ready, set, …. GO!

    Adi

    Reply
    • October 3, 2019 at 5:07 pm
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      I had to research what head hopping is. I didn’t even know there were “rules” like this. If you are writing in first or second person, I don’t think it’s possible to head hop. In third person head hopping is possible, and I’m probably guilty of it, but IMHO I don’t think that’s a bad thing.. That’s just me being me. Screw ’em if they don’t like whose head I’m in as the author. It’s my friggin’ story.

      Reply
      • October 4, 2019 at 8:32 am
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        LOL! I agree Roy. That’s what we told our over-eager, detail-conscious member. I guess he feels it is important because it is a shared story but the rest of us are fine with it. If I have to remember a bunch of “rules” for writing that I don’t agree with, I won’t be able to write. It’s my story. I’ll write the way I want to. I’m glad to hear the opinions of others. When our member brought this up, we thought he was crazy. Here’s to happy writing!

        Reply
    • October 3, 2019 at 5:46 pm
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      I’m really not a fan of it, but it happens all the time. I’m even reading a book right now where I noticed the author doing it more than I’d like. But that’s opinion, not a hard and fast rule.

      Reply
      • October 4, 2019 at 8:36 am
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        Thanks Wendy!

        Reply
    • October 3, 2019 at 7:38 pm
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      I understand it’s a thing in some of the ‘how-to-write’ books and courses. And often pushed by self-appointed editors trying to make money from self-publising authors. They’re all over LinkedIn, for example.

      There was one person in particular in another group who had a bee in her bonnet about this. I gently noted that many if not most of the classic authors do that all the time, citing amongst others Tolstoy (I actually went to my bookshelves to check. Yup, he does.) To which she replied “Tolstoy’s over-rated and War and Peace is one of the worst books ever written”, which I thought kind of summed up the credibility of her advice.

      There are no rules – whatever works in the context. And when in doubt, look to authors you admire.
      (Unless it’s Dan Brown or EL James …! )

      Reply
      • October 4, 2019 at 6:50 am
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        I’m kinda glad I don’t know the ‘new’ rules, that way I can ignore them, and, as Andy says, read your favorite authors and follow their lead. Can’t beat success for a role model.

        I tend to foreshadow and I learned that from Stephen King. I try to write in shorter sentences and learned that from Ernest Hemingway. H

        a great weekend and congratulations to all the writers for some nifty stories. If you ended up on the bottom, try to figure out why and give ’em hell next prompt.

        Roy

        Reply
      • October 4, 2019 at 8:37 am
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        LOL! Thanks Andy!

        Reply
    • October 4, 2019 at 11:13 pm
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      ‘If it doesn’t detract, no need to redact.’ It sounds like Johnny Cochran, but it was actually me who said that. Just now.

      Response 1: He can’t write and would rather create a dust-up than submit his work to the scrutiny of the rest of the group. Ranting over another writer’s violation of a rule he or she didn’t know, is rude, to put it lightly. How is that other righter supposed to feel? Hopefully, your ranter will return next week in a calmer mood, and agree to abide by a democratic vote of the group as to what should be allowed.

      Response 2: If this guy was so committed to the 15 Writing Commandments, why did he promise to bring them to the next meeting? That’s B.S. Anyone that fanatical should have them tattooed on their glottisimmal, that way, they can show them at a moments notice. (Inside a mobile glottisimmallery.)

      Response 3: There are 15 rules to writing?

      When were you, you people, going to tell me? Hm? When? After my first Hugo? Or were you willing to wait till I’d won a Pulitzer? Boy, I thought I knew you people. (Okay that’s not true, strictly speaking.) But I thought I could…. no, no. I don’t trust any of you either. (Not after yesterday. Don’t even try to act innocent.) Hmmm, I guess I should’ve seen this coming.

      Reply
      • October 11, 2019 at 10:23 am
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        LOL Ken! You can always make me laugh.

        It’s actually worse than 15 rules. This is what our member stated: “Writing Rules –
        He’s summarized (in a half-page handout) a recent Internet article titled “39 Tips for Confounding and Frustrating Readers.” His handout has summarized it to just the top 15 …one tip being: “Head hop so readers are frequently forced to figure out who is doing the thinking, talking or acting.”

        If anyone is just dying to know what these are, I’ll share when I get them. Personally, I will be writing as I always do. By my own rules.

        Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 8:37 am
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      Hi,

      I read your question with interest. I have no formal training in story writing as such, but a lifetime of writing things and learning grammar and punctuation etc. Therefore, when I come across something that I didn’t know I am only too happy to add to my education.

      However, when it comes to writing stories I think some people get too caught up in the minute details of the way the story is written. Personally speaking, I think a story is good if the reader enjoys it. It may have structural issues and idiosyncracies but the bottom line is, “Did the story work?” or “Did I, the reader, enjoy it?”

      Of course, on this site we are alll sending critiques to each other and thus we are open to learning from other people’s opinions. Some of us write very detailled comments and some quite brief. We are all different but equally valid. I am always in awe of people who can write great stories in their second language too.

      I understand (now) what head hopping means but the same questions apply as above. Does it really matter if it works?

      More erudite writers than I may think otherwise and there may be guidelines that help or structural frameworks but RULES? Not for me, in my humble opinion but I am prepared to be corrected on this.

      I have been tempted to get on a creative writing course but, so far, only tempted.

      It would be interesting to see your fellow writer’s list of “15 top rules for confusing and confounding your readers.”

      Just love Roy’s comments! Sums up the way I feel sometimes when I enter a story into a competition and never hear again how it got on, which is too often I’m sad to say.

      Just keep writing,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • October 11, 2019 at 10:26 am
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        Thanks Ken! I agree.

        Reply
  • October 4, 2019 at 2:03 am
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    Signing in for comments, hope to write one inbetween all the revising

    Reply
  • October 4, 2019 at 4:26 am
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    A Profit Unwelcome in his own Company

    As the applause died down, one person remained clapping. Slowly. A hand-clap dripping with bitterness. Everyone in the room – mostly his former colleagues – turned to look at him, and immediately felt uncomfortable.

    “Well done Sandra,” he called out to the woman leading the celebration. “That’s why you stuck the knife in my back. So you could sell out to the opposition – and make yourself rich.”

    After a few moments of awkward silence, the petite woman on the stage looked at the person standing at the back and replied: “Make us all rich, Carl. After all the pioneering work you contributed to RoboProsthetix in the early days – ”

    “Early days, my arse! I founded this company, Sandra!” his voice cracked with the force of his emotion.

    Sandra’s eyes narrowed and her tone became icy. “Yes, and we would have loved you to share in our good fortune. But …. Well, that’s history. We are where we are, and where we want to be. Isn’t that right?”

    Several people murmured “Yes” or “Hear hear!”. Then Bill Sinclair, President of Neurotools, bellowed, “I’ll drink to that!” Everyone raised their glasses for a final toast to the takeover.

    Sandra nodded to the band to strike up the music, and the atmosphere of celebration resumed.

    “So you’re the famed and fabulous Carl Williams?” said a young American woman, approaching Carl.

    He nodded curtly as he tried to put a lid on his anger.

    “I’m Larissa, new Director of Operations,” she said, holding out her hand. After an unfriendly pause, Carl reluctantly shook her hand.

    “I’m guessing you’re one of the people parachuted in by the new owners?” said Carl.

    “I guess I am,” Larissa replied. She looked up into his eyes as she sipped her champagne, a smile playing on her lips. “I’m intrigued, Carl. Why you’re giving this up. Everything you’ve worked for.” She speared an olive proffered by a passing waiter, and held it between her teeth as she waited for an answer.

    He made as if to speak, and then shrugged. “Ah, what’s the point now?” he sighed.

    “Let me guess. You think we’re a bunch of rapacious Silicon Valley predators who will absorb you, add your distinctiveness to our own, then spit out your husks. Or am I mixing my metaphors to much? Probably the champagne.”

    “That’s more or less it. Everything I’ve ever worked for has been packaged up and sold to the highest bidder.”

    “You’d stopped making money, Carl. You’d burnt through your venture capital and all those government grants. Boy, you guys were so rich – ”

    “On paper, Larissa.”

    “And then you blew it. Diluted your shares, then as the share value falls, you can’t be surprised your investors get nervy and want some return. So, did you and Sandra have any other options?”

    “Any options apart from the takeover and changing focus? We’d always found a way through cashflow issues before. So – yes, we had other options.”

    “Hm. You don’t think our two companies can do great things together? Our AI control systems are a generation ahead of yours, while your neuroresponsive prosthetics are a generation ahead of anything in the market. Seems like we could make sweet music together. Corner the market while doing a power of good, much quicker than on our own, especially if we were competitors.”

    “That’s just it, Larissa. You said it, ‘Corner the market’. For you guys it’s all about the money.”

    “And for you?”

    “It’s all about the vision. Our purpose.”

    “Ah, your pure Cambridge vision! ‘Make the lame walk’. ‘Turn your granny into Iron Man with an exoskeleton’. Socially-motivated innovation. That kind of thing. We’ll still do that, you know. And more. Much more.”

    “At a price. Fleece governments and healthcare providers. Sell the mass market stuff. Sacrifice quality for quantity. Drop the loss-making niche products that liberate people with less common disabilities.”

    “You’re in business to make a loss, Carl?”

    “Ah, there’s no point in talking about it. I’ll go, I shouldn’t be here anyway.”

    “Hmm. So, why did you come, Carl?”

    “Well – ”

    “To make your colleagues feel bad, perhaps? That ‘stab in the back’ stuff you said. Really?”

    “Look, Larissa. Every penny we made was ploughed back into further research – ”

    “And now we’ll make a lot more pennies to plough into much more research. What’s the problem?”

    “Sure, and plough even more into shareholders’ pockets, six-figure salaries and huge bonuses. In five years’ time everyone will have forgotten why we were doing this in the first place. It will all be about profit and shareholder value, not about the needs of our customers, people with disabilities …”

    Carl looked up as he saw Sandra Willoughby, his erstwhile partner and commercial director, disengage herself from her colleagues’ congratulations and slip through the crowd to join them. The hip of her exoskeleton clattered lightly against the back of Larissa’s thought-activated wheelchair. She put her soft-prosthetic arm affectionately around Larissa’s shoulder.

    “Hello Carl, good of you to join us,” she said, arching one eyebrow. Then to Larissa, “Has Carl been lecturing you on the evils of the profit motive?”

    Carl gave a wry grimace, and an exasperated shrug.

    “I guess you guys have had this conversation before,” laughed Larissa.

    “A few times,” agreed Sandra. “He doesn’t believe you can do good things and become wealthy at the same time. We’ll all be seduced and corrupted by filthy lucre, like I have. Anyway, what are you going to do now, Carl. Start over with a new company?”

    “What else can I do?”

    “But, of course, not with the intellectual property vested in this company.”

    “Naturally. But I can’t help being me. It’s still up here, where it came from originally,” he said, tapping his forehead. “And a lot of new stuff too. You’ll see.”

    “I hope so. Truly,” said Sandra, placing her hand on his arm. “It didn’t have to be like this. But it was your choice to walk away. The offer still stands – Associate Head of Research. Do the blue skies stuff.”

    Carl shook his head. “With the accountants looking over my shoulder all the time? And you telling me I need more focus? Can’t do that. I still believe in our vision.”

    Larissa was looking pensive. She looked up towards Sandra, then Carl. “You know, I think there’s something else going on here. It’s not just about money or ethics. It’s about righteousness and dependency, Carl.”

    “How do you mean?”

    “You’re driven by charity-mindedness. You want to do good for people. That gives you power and moral authority, doing worthy deeds while perpetuating a benign dependence – ”

    “Oh, come on!”

    “No, listen to me. It’s clear you despise the moneyed elite. But I want to be part of that elite. I think my shares and six-figure salary are gonna get me there too. What about you, Sandra? How does being a billionaire sound to you?”

    “It sounds good. Money, and influence … I’m not going to turn it down.”

    “Exactly. How many people at the top do you know who are disabled? Very few. Your work has helped liberate us, Carl. It’s liberated our aspirations too. Get used to it!”

    Reply
    • October 4, 2019 at 9:49 am
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      Andy, I’m not sure about this, as ellipses are something new to me; I think you don’t need to capitalize the word Well after the ellipse following But …

      Nice to know I can do a little off the cuff editing for one of our grandmaster story teller’s tales. Other than that, I’m flat busted trying to find any fault with your story. Well written, and with a nice little greedy humanitarian twist at the end.

      Being a person who has benefited greatly from an artificial hip, I have never begrudged my doctor his well earned wealth. But, I also know he takes medicare and also works diligently to help those in need with pro-bono work and still lives a good life.

      That’s the way it’s supposed to work. You can only own so many yachts and fancy cars. No one gets rich on their own. A lot of other people must work together with them for the top of the heap to reap their riches and you display both sides of the story.

      I do find your story leaning slightly toward the rich, however, trying to have both. But, maybe that’s just me. It might be the line: What about you, Sandra? How does being a billionaire sound to you?” Who needs personal billions in this world? I have watched Bill Gates give away hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars and has challenged other billionaires to do the same.

      Well written story and you made me think. I like that. Good job mate.

      Reply
      • October 4, 2019 at 12:21 pm
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        Thanks, Roy

        I actually know a couple of people who founded hi tech companies and ended up being ousted by partners and venture capitalists. Am I leaning to the rich as opposed to the idealists here? Not sure, just trying to explore the issues and ethics through the characters and the parameters of the prompt.

        On the ellipsis and capitalisation … I don’t know and you’re probably right. My usual rule of thumb is that if it’s a pause and the sentence continues, it’s lower case. If a sentence fades out or breaks off, then a capital for like a new sentence. But is that right? In this case it’s kind of ambiguous even by my rather iffy convention …

        By coincidence, the context of the story is in the news today:
        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49907356

        Reply
        • October 4, 2019 at 1:31 pm
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          Andy,

          (Dear writers, Please DON’T read my comments until you read Andy’s story! I don’t want to give anything away!)

          First out of the gate and with a great story! I was very impressed with your knowledge of business and financing, investors, etc. (Totally out of my league.) You had all of the nuances of big business, capitalism and the quest for the almighty dollar.

          I was totally on Carl’s side. I believe that the purpose and focus of the business’ beginnings was getting lost in the quest for bigger and better things. There are some things money can’t buy and integrity and ethics are part of that. Of course, I am in a social work field and I am completely person-centered in our work with people with disabilities. My family constantly reminds me that I live in a “rainbow-colored world” where I expect everyone “to do right” and “be right” and my grandson tells me that “people just aren’t that way anymore.” I still believe there is good in everyone.

          Anyway, I was so engrossed in the debate between Carl and Larissa and all of the intricacies of big business, that I missed the subtle introduction of the exoskeleton and Larissa in a wheelchair and came to a screeching halt in the story. I had to go back and reread a couple of times to fully understand the scene. I had pictured a totally different scene in my mind. When I realized that they had disabilities and were using the equipment being touted by the company, it was jarring because it seemed to come out of nowhere.

          After rereading the story, it finally all came together. Maybe I’m just having an off day but I didn’t pick up on any clues that the two ladies were living demonstrations of the company’s products and advances in technology. I read the news article from the link you shared and it was fascinating! However, when the exoskeleton was mentioned in the story, I didn’t get an understanding or full picture of what it actually meant (or how it worked).

          I’m not sure how that could be fixed in the story (or even if it needs to be fixed). Like I said, I may be having an off day.

          I’m done rambling. I actually said all of that to say this – It was a great story and I was very impressed!

          Adi

          Reply
          • October 4, 2019 at 5:35 pm
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            First off Adi, thanks for the ‘spoiler alert’ at the start of your comment, much appreciated.
            Same goes for some of the things I’m going to say next – better to read the story first!

            And many thanks for the substance of your comments too – also much appreciated.

            I agree there are big issues around making money out of people’s need for healthcare and support, and how big business currently operates in this field, to the disadvantage of us ordinary folk. And with the immense power tech companies often wield, hi tech in healthcare is going to be a minefield. Roy’s on the money (so to speak!) too with his comment about the polio vaccine on the one hand and the way things tend to work now. These are indeed the context for the story.

            The kind of reveal in the middle, that is intended to something of a surprise, and hopefully a challenging one. I wanted to avoid setting out a black and white scenario, not a simple good guys v bad guys tale, but have some complication and nuance around. Specifically, to avoid portraying people with disabilities as victims or dependants. When I was living in Cambridge, I was a trustee of a disability charity for 10 years, which was all about (re)building capacity, confidence, employability etc through using new technologies. No exoskeletons back then though!

            Btw I’m all for your optimism about human nature, and living in a ‘rainbow-colored world’ 😊

        • October 4, 2019 at 3:15 pm
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          I thought you did a good job showing both sides. I was pointing out that most capitalists use wealth as the measuring tool, not the accomplishments. The more wealth, the more success.

          There don’t seem to be any Dr. Salks in the world anymore. He gave the Salk Polio vaccine to the world. There seem to be only people like the Pharma CEO who raised prices 700% because he could.

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          • October 6, 2019 at 12:28 am
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            Hi Roy,
            Somebody suggested that I’ve been grumpy lately, (okay, maybe it was a couple, okay a couple of dozen people), and after giving the matter considerable constipation, I have to admit, I have not been myself for the last few months. It’s almost as if I was detached, watching someone else trying to be me, (but using better drugs? How else could he do it?) But I’m back now, and I find myself wondering about that guy– that we all thought was me. He seemed so nice. Almost pleasant. I’m gonna miss him. I’m sure we’ll all miss him.

          • October 6, 2019 at 8:40 am
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            The site just isn’t the same without something from the Cartisano personalities, no matter which one is doing the writing. It was Andy’s multiple personality story that broke this open, although he did a good job of using fake names, I saw through it right away. Think about this, and I’m sure Kim will back me up. No one has ever seen you and the other together at the same place, yet plenty have seen you talking to ‘someone’ while alone.

          • October 5, 2019 at 2:58 am
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            It may be too late for that … =^..^=

    • October 5, 2019 at 2:00 pm
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      Good work, Andy. You fully incorporated the prompt in your story.
      I found myself sink into the World you created where two business partners/innovators’ aspirations clashed after they achieved tremendous wealth. It shows how they differ when the opportunity to capitalise even more arose.

      Reply
    • October 6, 2019 at 8:44 am
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      Hi Andy,

      I haven’t been around much lately so it was good to get back into things by reading one of your pieces.

      Additionally, I have learned something new as I did not know what “ellipsis” was, even though it is something I have used. I looked it up. You never know what you don’t know….

      Back to your story. I picked up on the exoskeleton moment and the wheelchair and I have to say, it is a master touch as you led me down the path ( I went willingly) of my own preconceptions.

      The notion of being philanthropic and moral in business or seeking wealth is a never ending dilemma. In my case I was a teacher so making money for myself was never my prime motivation. I was happy with a good but not spectacular salary and the satisfaction gained from seeing my pupils, both able and disabled, doing well. Like Adrienne, I was on Carl’s side.

      It’s an excellent story and a thought-provoking topic.

      Ken Frape.

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      • October 6, 2019 at 12:55 pm
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        Many thanks, Ken.
        And good to see you back!

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    • October 7, 2019 at 5:39 am
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      Another good story, Thanks, Andy. I like the way you snuck up on the jest of the plot.
      About the rich; I’ve never met the ones having the “My stash is bigger than yours” mentally. Fortunately, the ones I’ve known are generous. My ex-commanding officer gave 30 years of service to the country. During those years, in his off-hours, he developed a product that many of us use daily. Oh, yeah, he made millions. He gave the city a stadium, a sports complex, an arena, and other things he’ll never talk about. A local woman married her high school sweetheart and helped him become a billionaire. She hired people to design a cardiac treatment center as the 5th floor of the local 4 story hospital and funded its construction and staffing. She’s said, “Money’s meant for spending, and I need something to do. God knows there are plenty of things that need doing.”
      Thanks again, Andy, and keep’m coming.

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      • October 9, 2019 at 6:00 pm
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        Many thanks, Rob
        Sharing the benefits of wealth isn’t on everyone’s agenda, sadly, but good to hear your positive examples there.

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    • October 7, 2019 at 6:11 pm
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      A well-developed, topical story, Andy, that throws up very pertinent ethical questions – muddied nicely by the reveal of the two women’s … special circumstances (Is it cheating, though, that you don’t mention Larissa’s particular circumstance here?: ” ‘So you’re the famed and fabulous Carl Williams?’ said a young American woman, approaching Carl.”) I kinda went a bit cloudy-eyed during the corporate-speak, but that’s probably just a result of a personal dislike of the corporate world/ stock market, etc. I noted a little bit of repetition of an idea in the middle bit (the ‘for you guys it’s all about the money’). I thought this line was superfluous: “A hand-clap dripping with bitterness.” (you show that it’s bitter almost immediately afterwards). I also think that maybe the ending is a little abrupt: “Get used to it!” is a good line (reminiscent of the Br*xiteers’ catch-phrase!), but I’m trying to picture Carl’s reaction in the (well-established) party scene. Does he walk away? Does he stand slack-jawed? Does he throw his champers glass against the wall in a huff? Having said all that, the theme of the story is very strong and, as I said, topical.

      Reply
      • October 8, 2019 at 12:36 pm
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        Thanks, Phil
        On your question – ‘is it cheating not to mention Larissa’s particular circumstances?” – I think no more than that any twist in a story depends on not revealing something earlier. There would be no crime genre without this!
        But also, in particular I don’t think a writer would normally say anything about the way an able-bodied person approached someone else, so why do so for someone with a disability? “It’s about seeing the person, not the disability”, as they say in the sector. And of course in part it’s to challenge expectations in this case – interesting the way our minds default to a certain viewpoint.

        On a wider note – and maybe in some ways to support the other point of view – one of my very favourite authors, Anthony Trollope, accused fellow Victorian writers who wrote detective and mystery novels in what was then an emerging genre (including the likes of Dickens and Wilkie Collins), of ‘playing tricks on the reader’ by withholding information on order to bamboozle the reader and put them on the wrong track.
        So he deliberately started with the denouement then explored what led up to it in novels like ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ That way, he said, you can explore more fully the circumstances and character of the persons involved.
        Love his stories, but I don’t think his view is really supportable. Interesting viewpoint, though.

        Reply
        • October 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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          “I don’t think a writer would normally say anything about the way an able-bodied person approached someone else, so why do so for someone with a disability? “It’s about seeing the person, not the disability”, as they say in the sector. And of course in part it’s to challenge expectations in this case – interesting the way our minds default to a certain viewpoint.”

          Very good point!

          Reply
        • October 11, 2019 at 10:43 am
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          Andy,

          I did love your person centered approach in describing your characters! I love seeing someone with a disability being noticed or acknowledged for their achievements and personality and not for their special needs whatever those may be.

          It is about seeing the person, not the disability. As I tell my staff and the people we work with, it’s all about ABILITY, not disability. Focusing on what they CAN do, not what they can’t. Focusing on what is right with people, not what is “wrong” or different. This was especially true when I worked with infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities. I worked with parents who were devastated and grieving when their child was not born perfect or “normal.” They heard from the doctors everything that was wrong with their child. It was my job to help them see what was right with their child – What they could do, what they could become, what skills they could learn and how they could adapt. It was about joyously celebrating every tiny victory and progress. It was not about mourning what they would never do, it was about hope and faith for the things they could learn and do.

          I was obviously having an off day when I commented earlier. I’m so happy to see all of the great comments your story generated. I guess the one line that threw me off was when Sandra “slipped through the crowd”. Discovering she was wearing an exoskeleton and having seen them demonstrated, I couldn’t imagine one “slipping” through a throng of people in an awkward device that could be difficult to maneuver.

          However, in my rainbow colored world, I’m happy to suspend disbelief and believe that the technology has been so refined and her control of the exoskeleton so practiced, that she was able to move with ease. As I said before, it is a great story!

          Adi

          Reply
          • October 11, 2019 at 11:18 am
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            Thanks, Adi – I agree 100% with your outlook.

            About suspending disbelief – you don’t have to suspend it too far, even with current technology, I’m glad to say.
            The news video I linked to before does have fairly cumbersome equipment, but there’s a whole lot going on there with an experimental product to enable a device to be thought-controlled by a completely paralysed person.

            However, there are already exoskeletons that are much more streamlined, that enhance a person’s muscle-strength, so can be used for e.g. warehouse workers, care workers, the elderly and people with disabilities that might involve for example a muscle-wasting condition, or who have foreshortened limbs.
            For me, it’s a really exciting field. And it’s attracting huge investment too.
            Some examples here:

          • October 11, 2019 at 2:02 pm
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            Andy,
            .
            Thanks for sharing! I have a preacher friend that was in a bad ATV accident in May. He severed his spine in two places and is now paralyzed from the waist down. He received excellent care and therapy and has not let his injuries slow him down. As of last month, he was back in the pulpit – in a wheelchair, but preaching as he always did. He just received a standing wheelchair but of course, is hoping that he will someday walk again. I pray that technological advances make this possible for him and others.

    • October 9, 2019 at 10:27 am
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      Andy, I really enjoyed your very well written story. Loved how you paced the dialogue- the bit about the olive being bitten while waiting for a reply was great, for example. Plus I appreciated how you snuck in the descriptions of the mobility enhancement devices used by several characters. A great example of inclusive writing that wasn’t pandering. Thanks for sharing your work. Kindly, Trish

      Reply
      • October 9, 2019 at 6:01 pm
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        Many thanks for your kind comments, Trish.

        Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 4:23 pm
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      Dialogue’s good. Clever approach to the prompt, ‘Power Couple. Zzzzzzzzt.’ A bit preachy though. And you don’t have to describe corporate greed. It’s like baseball, everyone knows what it is, (even if they don’t know the rules,) all you have to do is mention it.

      It would seem the message in this story is, “I dream of a world where even the physically handicapped can benefit from corporate greed.”

      That’s a pretty dark philosophy. I had no idea you were such a pessimist, Andy.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 5:00 pm
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        That’s equality, Ken 🙂
        I call it “the democratisation of aspiration”

        Reply
  • October 4, 2019 at 8:01 pm
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    Great story Andy! I wish I had some brilliant suggestions and comments to give you on your story but I just don’t. I think the story does just what any good story is suppose to do and that is entertain. Well written and precise.

    Reply
  • October 5, 2019 at 3:18 am
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    Can I get a clarification on what a “try/fail” scenario is? Also, what is “windfall”?
    I have a fair idea, but I was recently informed that research is important (thanks Roy).

    Reply
    • October 5, 2019 at 6:06 am
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      Hi Peter – it is said (and it may not be 100% true, like all generalisations) that all good stories, whether fiction or drama, comedy or tragedy, revolve around conflict. All happy families are the same, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way (etc) and are therefore more interesting to write about than happy ones. Happiness is boring, apparently.

      The so-called try-fail cycle refers to parts of a narrative where characters try to overcome barriers or threats to resolve the conflicts or dangers they face, but fail. Which then can generate new dangers, threats, opportunities etc to take the narrative forward. And be the basis for character development. Or generate emotional reactions and maybe thought-provoking dilemmas for readers /viewers to engage with.

      Windfall – a big chunk of money received unexpectedly, or generated by unforeseen circumstances. Like winning the lottery, bit inheritance, etc. So you have to show or refer to how the guys in the story earned their wealth/position rather than fell into it through luck.

      Reply
      • October 5, 2019 at 12:49 pm
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        Much appreciated Andy, liked your story by the way, sparked quite a conversation below.

        Reply
      • October 9, 2019 at 7:50 pm
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        Loved the interplay of the characters and the reveal at the end. The reader can visualise, feel and taste the characters. I like a couple of others was firmly on Carl’s side.
        You only need so much of it to live comfortably and the excess can be used to do good and make this world a better place for some other less fortunate people.
        Great piece of writing and topic well handled.

        Reply
  • October 5, 2019 at 10:01 pm
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    THE NICEST THINGS

    “Mmm, that smells good!”

    Marie pushed Victor away from the pot, pretending to be angry.

    “Don’t poke your nose in, you! You know I hate that.”

    “Just sayin’. Did the meat slice okay?”

    “Like butter. It’s going to be very tender, I think.”

    Victor leaned over the pot again. Marie pushed him away again.

    “Why don’t you go and tend the hedge?”

    Victor laughed, in the way that people laugh at familiar jokes.

    “Nah, it’ll look after itself for a couple of hours.”

    “How’s it going, by the way?”

    Marie was genuinely interested, but carried on with her cooking.

    “Bit slow this month – two and a quarter per cent gains only.”

    “What’s that in real money?”

    “About seventeen million. As I said, a bit slow.”

    “It’ll pick up, I’m sure.”

    Marie gave the pot a stir, lifted the spoon, blew on it and tasted the sauce.

    “Needs a bit more salt, I think. Can you pass it?”

    Victor handed his wife the salt cellar and watched with affection as she carefully put some salt in the palm of her hand, then sprinkled it into the pot. She kissed Victor on the cheek and whispered in his ear.

    “One thing you could do – go in the bedroom and stop her screaming? It’s really getting on my nerves.”

    “Let her scream. She’ll only wear herself out and fall asleep eventually.”

    “We could put a gag on her.”

    “Maybe later if she keeps it up.”

    Victor went over to the window that stretched the length of a whole wall in the lounge adjoining the kitchen area. He never tired of the view: beyond the infinity swimming pool, the valley below was a riot of rich golds and browns in the setting sun.

    Marie had to raise her voice now to make it carry to Victor, and to make herself heard above the increasingly hysterical screams.

    “I’m sorry for … you know.”

    Victor turned from the window. His voice was kind and reassuring.

    “Don’t worry. How were you to know they’d try to shake us down?”

    Marie leaned on the kitchen counter that separated the two rooms.

    “They seemed very nice young people, inoffensive, standing there beside their car. I was only trying–“

    “To help them out? That’s because you’re a kind woman. But appearances can be deceptive. You know that now, don’t you?”

    “Yes. But I shudder to think what would have happened if you hadn’t put your Glock in the glove compartment.”

    “It certainly was a stroke of luck. How did you grab it, by the way, without them stopping you?”

    Marie pretended to sneeze.

    “As easy as that?”

    “Yep. I told them I needed a tissue, and then …”

    “Clever poppet!”

    Victor left the window and came over to the counter, stretching out his hands to Marie. Marie took them and they stood like that for several precious moments, gazing into each other’s eyes.

    “I suppose there’s one good thing that did come out of it, though,” Marie said. She broke away and returned to the pot, giving it another stir. Victor joined her.

    Marie blew on the spoon and offered it to Victor. He tasted the sauce and closed his eyes.

    “Perfect!”

    Marie kissed him, tasting the sauce herself from his lips.

    “It IS rather good, isn’t it? Now … if you’re not going to shut her up, there’s another thing you could do before we eat.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Finish cutting him up and put him in the freezer.”

    “How long’s dinner, then?”

    “It’ll be another hour or so – have to let it simmer and then sit for a while.”

    “Okay. And I think I WILL gag her – it’s beginning to annoy me, too.”

    “Good.” Marie frowned. “But what are we going to do with her?”

    Victor stroked his chin, then grinned.

    “Well, there’s Sunday lunch. She’ll be tender for sure. And the best cook in the world can create another one of her delicious sauces.”

    Marie blushed and gave her husband a long, warm hug.

    “Oh, darling. You say the nicest things. Now go and make yourself busy while I carry on with dinner.”

    .

    Reply
    • October 6, 2019 at 8:57 am
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      Hi Phil,

      I was going to have lunch but I think I will try the vegetarian option now!

      A great short story and I love the way you describe the couple’s wealth as “Why don’t you go and tend the hedge?” A very clever touch. The wording tells us but makes us work it out for ourselves. It’s a “show don’t tell” moment.

      The sheer ordinariness of the couple makes it even more creepy. Talking about the salt in the same way as talking about cutting someone up for a stew. “Now go and make yourself busy…” and the impatience implied by hanging around the cook. We’ve all done that.

      Good stuff, Phil.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2019 at 6:15 pm
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        Thanks very much, KenF!

        Reply
    • October 6, 2019 at 1:18 pm
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      Smoothly written story – just flows, carried along by the dialogue and a few little touches of description for context and colour.

      I had a thought after reading the story that with a little tweaking it could also fit last time’s crime theme, what with the wolves of Wall Street depicted here. Or maybe its Gordon Gekko meets Hannibal Lecter, with a bit of Masterchef thrown in.

      There’s an old revolutionary saying about “Eat the rich”, and a film, and several songs – and this story turns the old trope on its head, quite literally.

      It’s quite a short short – maybe room to ‘flesh out’ the story a little within the wordcount? In particular with some hint at motivation for their chosen approach to dealing with problems. Though I guess their actions could be seen as a metaphor for how the world works under capitalism, in which case it speaks for itself.
      Anyways, some dark and gory fun.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2019 at 6:19 pm
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        Thanks, Andy! Yes: ‘Eat the Poor!’ (and the law will never touch you … or at least, proceed as though it won’t!). And yes, maybe a bit short – I did have some extra and alternative ideas for the story, but I foolishly posted prematurely. Note to self (for the nth time): ‘Sleep on it!’

        Reply
    • October 7, 2019 at 10:34 am
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      Phil, my man. Between me grinding them up and you cooking them up, I suggest we come up with a musical as to how we got the customers, … er … main ingredients. I’ve even got a plot and a name. We use a maniacal barber as the antagonist and call it some English sounding name, like … Sweeney Todd and he lives on lets say, umm … Fleet Street. I think it will sell. What do you think?

      The only thing about your story that I didn’t understand was how they made their millions. It took two reads, still wasn’t sure and then I read a couple of critiques. Of course, silly me, when you wrote the line ‘how is the hedge coming along?’ – I immediately thought of the kind that is green, leafy and is ubiquitous in Jolly Old – is he was trimming it but that wasn’t what you meant at all. Perhaps you could’ve made that a little clearer for us older, moving along the road to senility, seniors. Otherwise, as usual, your stories are crisp, move along well with great dialogue and you set a high standard, much as Andy did. I’ve really got to put on my writing cap this time. Good story, mate.

      Reply
      • October 7, 2019 at 6:24 pm
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        Thanks, Roy! That name ‘Sweeney Todd’ does have a certain ring to it! As for the ‘hedge’ – yes, I tried to be a bit oblique about it, and it’s always a question of how much – too much and it’s ‘on-the-nose’, too little and it’s potentially confusing …

        Reply
        • October 8, 2019 at 10:21 am
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          Consider me in the partially confused category, but, since it’s you, I’ll give you a pass this time.

          And damn, I did a little research and, can you believe it, someone has already written a musical about eating victims and named it Sweeney Todd. What are the friggin’ odds?

          Roy

          Reply
        • October 11, 2019 at 10:50 am
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          Phil,

          You can place me in the slightly confused category about the hedge and you most definitely put me off of eating meat for awhile, but I loved the great dialogue (as always) in your story and the flow. You are most definitely a master of dialogue and I love reading your stories!

          Adi

          Reply
          • October 16, 2019 at 2:49 am
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            Thanks, Adi! (and good luck with Nanowrimowotsit!)

    • October 9, 2019 at 9:49 am
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      Phil, great story. Very inventive and a fun read. Your dialogue rang true even for such a bizarre premise, and I loved how you slowly revealed that (spoiler alert) it wasn’t the baby crying. Very fun, thanks.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 2:49 am
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        Thank you, Trish. Glad you enjoyed it.

        Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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      Hey Phil,

      The writing is excellent of course. The dialogue is impeccable.

      So this is a story about a love-struck couple of cannibalistic good Samaritans? The wife was merely going to give them a ride? Or a jump-start? How fortuitous. What does Mr. and Mrs. Soup du Sapiens do when they’re not so fortunate as to have their victims ‘served on a silver platter?’

      There’s an element of innocence (in the wife) that seems inconsistent with the character’s… uh, character.

      Ken Miles did a story about someone getting eaten accidentally in last weeks contest. It was a rather amusing story. This one is designed to be creepy, and I’m not sure you pulled it off, but I give you credit for the attempt, old man.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 2:53 am
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        Thanks, Ken! Good question re the normal source of meat. Stray scouts? I was kinda going for black comedy rather than creepy as such (hence the deadpan Marie), but maybe the style wasn’t strong enough.

        Cheers, mate!

        Reply
  • October 6, 2019 at 4:26 am
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    Excellent dialogue.
    Misleading and engaging story. The reader is taken along wrong deductions. I enjoyed the ride until the end when it gave me the ‘yuk’ thinking. Disturbing but great for crime-readers.

    Reply
  • October 7, 2019 at 6:27 pm
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    Thanks Chitra! Yes – the ‘yuk’ moment … in fact that was something I would have changed if I hadn’t already posted the story (as I mentioned in my note to Andy) – not the facts as such, but the way I expressed them.

    Reply
  • October 8, 2019 at 4:41 am
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    Sorrry, folks, I won’t have a story this time.
    But I’ll be back soon.
    Writerly greetings.
    Juergen

    Reply
    • October 8, 2019 at 5:55 am
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      That’s a shame, Jürgen … next time?

      Reply
      • October 9, 2019 at 9:44 pm
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        Great story Phil. Can’t add much. Loved the dialogue build up. The “gag” part woke me up to the fact it was not a baby in the room screaming.

        Reply
        • October 16, 2019 at 2:55 am
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          Thanks, Ilana! Yes, I was quite pleased with that little bit of subterfuge (I think it worked).

          Reply
  • October 8, 2019 at 7:07 pm
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    “The Emperors”

    Brian shifted his weight off his bad hip and sighed as he read his receptionist’s notes about his new patient, “divorcee with trust issues.” He was glad he hadn’t taken her initial call to set up this appointment. How many times had he heard the sobbing, the sniffling, the god-awful “why – me” sentiments in this office? He seemed to get all the recently divorced women in the city, and there were certainly a lot of them. He knew he would show, would feel even, appropriate concern once she arrived. But for now, he simply hoped that she wouldn’t be too puppy-like in her need for adoration. He steeled himself for his inevitable refusal of her likely advances. It happened every time. Must be because he was a man who listened.

    He continued reading the notes. She had reputable insurance and was covered by her own plan, so she must have her own career. Now that was intriguing. Maybe she would have some chutzpa, maybe she wouldn’t need just a shot of confidence before being sent on her way, maybe he could actually use some of his expertise. He missed that feeling of accomplishing urgent work. When he first became a psychologist, he was a true believer. He dove into each patient’s problems and agonized over each word he spoke during sessions. Nowadays he felt like his presence wasn’t even needed. The patients just wanted to hear themselves talk. So, he just pretended to listen and collected his hefty fees that served to provide for him in the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed.

    Glancing at his watch, Brian noted with pleasure that she entered his office on time. She swept into the room trailing a slightly spicy aroma that reminded him of his wife’s perfume. He hadn’t smelled that scent since he donated all of Margaret’s clothes to Goodwill. Everyone at the Cancer Center had said that would be best. Once he got started piling up her things it hadn’t been difficult. Perhaps it became too easy. He had intended to keep Margaret’s cardigan, the one she always wore for their anniversary dinners, but Brian had gotten overwhelmed in the shuffle of her things, and had donated everything, even the cardigan.

    By odd coincidence the patient was wearing a cardigan today. It was light blue. The buttons were nearly popping and Brian could just glimpse the soft silky lingerie she was wearing beneath. She had her blonde hair in a tight bun, wrapped around a funky looking plastic stick, just like Margaret used to do hers, only Margaret’s stick had been tortoise shell. Brian watched the patient remove the stick and then rewrap her hair as she introduced herself. Her hair was quite lovely and as she flicked it around the bun-stick it added a fresh soap smell to the scent that was Margaret’s perfume. He quite liked this new combination he realized before consciously turning his attention back to the not-at-all whiny creature who now inhabited his office.

    The patient kicked-off with the usual recitation of wrongs and retributions, but then quickly moved away from the events that had caused the dissolution of her marriage. She spoke with the clear voice of a confident, take-charge woman as she listed her positive attributes. She was satisfied with all aspects of her life but found it difficult to trust after her husband had broken his vows and run off with her now former best friend.

    Then her voice changed, becoming tremulous before she bit off the whiny forefront of each word. She teared up a bit and rambled some more about not trusting before she wiped her eyes with a tissue that she balled up and pitched neatly into the trashbin on the other side of the room. Despite her pathos, Brian found his thoughts wandering back to Margaret, who seemed to be forever surrounded by a cloud of crumpled tissues. Brian had loved her without reservation, but he had always been irked that she could never seem to manage to put her used tissues in a trashcan. If only Margaret could have met this woman! Maybe her tissue-slinging could have rubbed off on Margaret. Maybe they might have become friends… In fact, perhaps this woman would be his golden ticket to happiness! What if he cut her off now and suggested that they meet over dinner instead? Realizing he was pushing the very edges of ethical boundaries by even contemplating the thought, Brian now savored the temptation. This “not-Margaret” woman had made him feel whole again. Surely that was worth a little incautious action.

    Brian’s eye caught his watch and he realized that his reminiscing about Margaret had churned up more of the patient’s allotted time than he’d realized. Now was his moment of truth. He decided to risk everything as he choked out an invitation to dinner.

    Then he waited. Her face was unmoved. She might not have heard him. Should he repeat the unutterable? Then she slowly began moving her mouth and speaking. He knew he should focus on the sounds she was making but he couldn’t. He could see from her unconscious shaking of her head as she spoke that she was turning him down. He felt the slow rush of pink embarrassment rising to his forehead and he began to stammer something about it being best if she went to see a new doctor.

    And with that, Brian realized he had seen his last patient. Not of the day, or even of the week, but forever. He had crossed the Rubicon and found himself utterly destroyed.

    Reply
    • October 9, 2019 at 10:57 am
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      They say a good listener is usually thinking of something else 🙂

      A psychological focus on a psychologist, and very well-written, Trish. Everything is happening in Brian’s head, observed through his eyes and the filters of his own experiences. That he doesn’t engage with his client as a real person is emphasised by her remaining unnamed in the story. She is just “she”’ “this woman”, “the patient”, “a divorcee with trust issues”.

      I like the way you take the reader from Brian’s self-regarding arrogance at the beginning, through a degree of sympathy for being a widower and his continuing affection for his wife’s memory, to confirmation of his narcissism and detachment from reality. I think it’s possible his faux-pas (or is it a breakdown?) may come in part from being bored with his work and lonely,. He has fallen from a great height in his own self-image. (Professionally, it’s probably survivable?)

      Great character-study. Very good description too that brings in more than the visual, with the scents and the memories they evoke.

      Reply
      • October 10, 2019 at 9:43 am
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        Thanks, Andy, for reading & commenting on my story.

        Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 9:03 am
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      Hi Trish,

      A most intriguing story with masses of material for discussion. Issues such as,
      Brian’s continued attachment to his deceased wife even though he had been able to clear her wardrobe.
      His lack of empathy ( deep down) as opposed to the professional front he presents to his patients.
      The mystery of why he never seemed to be tempted before. Surely, there must have been other suitable candidates in his practice?
      What was really so special about this woman? Was Brian just looking for a replacement for Margaret? Did he just want what he couldn’t have?
      Why did this encounter lead him to feel “utterly destroyed?” Is he talking professionally or personally or both?

      A very entertaining read.

      One question: Is Brian a psychiatrist, or a psychologist or a doctor?

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      Reply
      • October 10, 2019 at 9:40 am
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        Thanks, Ken. Helpful feedback for areas where I could have written more descriptively. My intention was to show a mid-to-late life crisis in a successful psychologist who was burned out & depressed. Your feedback was helpful, thanks!

        Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 2:45 pm
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      Trish, I normally don’t like stories that are all narrative. I generally lose interest BUT, yours didn’t do that to me. I think dialogue at a few points would make it far more interesting, and gives us some show instead of all tell. A pretty well written story and one that kept me going, although I think your character is being a little hard on himself. Perhaps a couple of cocktails, a good night’s sleep and he’ll be back sitting next to the couch in no time. Good story, Trish.

      Roy

      Reply
      • October 10, 2019 at 3:14 pm
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        Thank you, Roy, for reading & for feedback. I’ll be honest, I tend to avoid dialogue because I’m still working out how to write it realistically. Your points are helpful, thanks!

        Reply
        • October 11, 2019 at 3:01 pm
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          Tell ya what, Trish. Thanks for the reply.

          As good as your narratives may be, I think they could be so much better. So, try writing a story for this group with dialogue. We’ll treat you right, no one is going to disparage anything you do, and will only try to give you constructive criticism. Seriously, that’s why this thread was originally formed. We used to discuss punctuation, dialogue and a host of trendy writer stuff. We still do it occasionally as in this thread with Adi bringing up the writer’s rules and with me discussing ellipses. We’re a helpful, fun group, usually – but I’m sure I’ve pissed a few people off from time to time. Just trying to help and some people really get thinned skinned.

          What helps me is to read dialogue out loud after I’ve written it. When someone is talking to you in every day dialogue, your mind begins to get ready with your reply. So, what I do, is imagine I’m the person to which the first piece of dialogue is directed and try to assume my character’s position (or, how I imagine my character would respond), just so people don’t think I can actually do the dialogue of a deranged, psychopath. It works for me, and it just might work for you.

          Roy

          Reply
          • October 14, 2019 at 1:11 pm
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            Thank you. I am trying in a new piece your suggestion re visualizing & imagining the conversation while reading aloud. It’s working- or at least I’m doing better than I used to. Really appreciate the tip. I’m open to learning! Kindly, Trish

          • October 15, 2019 at 7:32 am
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            I offered a gentle nudge and you got the hint. Well, it was more than a nudge and I am looking forward to your story with great anticipation. We all need nudges now and then, all of us, me included.

    • October 11, 2019 at 10:49 am
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      Trish,

      This is an outstanding story that has generated a fair amount of feedback. My first reading left me impressed with your writing. A second read gave me a chance to absorb the robust content.

      Your first paragraph explains much of his subsequent behavior. (One suggestion: In the first paragraph I would change the phrase: ‘…puppy-like… need for adoration.’ to ‘puppy-like… need for consolation.’ That aside, the first paragraph indicates that he is being tempted, unsuccessfully, by needy women all the time.

      Second paragraph shows us that he’s a psychologist who’s become very disenchanted with his career.

      Third, fourth and fifth paragraphs: Defines his pleasure at actually meeting the new client, who, quite by chance, evokes deep personal and unresolved emotions for his deceased wife. She’s on time, wears similar perfume, fastens her appealing hair in the same way, with a similar device, and her clothes remind him of a favorite article his wife used to wear. She’s also attractive and confident. The character further discloses that the act of dispossessing his ex-wife’s clothes was not his idea, and one that, if only for the cardigan, he now regrets.

      The sixth paragraph is the payoff: Here, our psychologist in truly human style, becomes enamored with his clients ability to chuck her used tissues into the trash can from across the room. This insignificant and (one would hope) infrequently displayed skill somehow elevates this client to a status not just equal to his wife, but higher. Prompting him to lay all his cards on the table, risking his entire career for a date with a woman he has just met.

      In the last line I object to the word ‘destroyed’, but I confess I can’t think of a better alternative. The irony of the story is that 1. He’s clearly not a very good psychologist anymore if he couldn’t anticipate this clients response to his proposal. (If he ever was one.) And 2. Once the smoke clears and the uproar dies down, he’s made a breakthrough in dealing with his grief at the loss of his wife. At the very least, he’s realized that he can’t function well as a psychologist while suffering from grief.

      It’s a very honestly human story. And its not about professional conduct or sex, it’s about grief. I thought.

      It does not however, meet the conditions of the prompt. (In my opinion.) I don’t see a power couple who faces certain ruin, only to overcome it. Unless you hate shrinks, this is not a positive outcome.

      Still, I enjoyed it very much, your writing is almost riveting. Very robust.

      This is a story that could get my vote, regardless of the rules. It’s that good.

      Reply
      • October 11, 2019 at 5:21 pm
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        Thank you for your close read and kind words. Thanks also for the rewrite suggestions. Very helpful. Re the prompt, Mea Culpa, I caught only that it needed to be two successful types who try & fail – I missed the requirement that they needed to overcome too… I will read more closely next time. Thanks!

        Reply
        • October 12, 2019 at 1:22 am
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          Trish,
          I’ve changed my mind, I don’t like consolation either. I think the right word is ‘affection.’

          You know, you’re allowed a revision, if you wanted to make the story conform to the prompt. Have his wife suddenly show up, revealing that he was daydreaming and blah, blah, blah. You could do it but… I like the story just the way it is.

          Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 1:57 pm
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      Trish,

      This was a powerful story full of the range of emotions one feels when going through the stages of grief and how it can affect one’s work, life and actions. I truly enjoyed it. I would have like to read some dialogue that would bring the characters to life through their words and interaction.

      I’m not sure your story met the requirements of the prompt, but it was a nice read. Can’t wait to see more stories from you.

      Adi

      Reply
    • October 13, 2019 at 10:00 am
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      Excellent story, Trish. You handle language with consummate ease, finding a right word or phrase for every circumstance (except perhaps, as mentioned elsewhere, ‘destroyed’, which seems a little strong). I love how the story develops, peeling away layers to expose Brian’s circumstances, and with the minimum of ‘telling’. Others have noted the lack of dialogue, but I think this particular story works without it, especially this bit: “He knew he should focus on the sounds she was making but he couldn’t. He could see from her unconscious shaking of her head as she spoke that she was turning him down.” I think the realisation that this woman might be his “golden ticket to happiness” could maybe have been stretched out a little more, as with the realisation that his faux pas has ‘destroyed’ (different word?) him, but overall I thought this was great stuff.

      Reply
      • October 13, 2019 at 10:49 am
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        I agree with Phil about the need for dialogue or not. For me this works well without it, as an internal exploration of the main character’s state of mind.

        Reply
    • October 14, 2019 at 8:48 pm
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      Needed dialogue to involve the reader in the interplay of characters. Good premises,and great potential. Rewrite could make this a cracker story.

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 1:23 pm
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      Good story, Trish. I’d say even without the dialogue. A classic case of a loner taking a bold step and feeling rotten in the end. Things like this do happen. Brian is a good soul, still so deeply in love with his wife. Happily married folks don’t mind go through the adventure again. Not so for those who are embittered. The once bitten, twice shy kinds- is this woman with the trust issues.
      Didn’t quite get the title connection though.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 1:49 pm
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        The title was meant to reinforce both characters status as Masters of the Universe, successful types. I tried to wrap that up with a reference to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon- with the twist that the crossing did not go well for the main character Brian. Oh well, guess it wasn’t clear in the writing. Helpful feedback, thank you!

        Reply
  • October 9, 2019 at 12:42 am
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    This is excellent, Trish.

    Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 9:44 am
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      Thank you for reading!

      Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 9:46 am
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      Thank you, Chitra! Bad conduct indeed- hopefully nobody would ever act like that in real life.

      Reply
  • October 9, 2019 at 8:05 am
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    BUZZING

    20 YEARS AGO

    “We’ve decided. ‘PAPAJI’ is our business name. Papa wished to work in his own business. Now it has happened. Thank God we won’t be working from 7 until 7 in that filthy machine factory anymore.” Rupa nodded at Nayal and accepted his decision. She pulled the bedcovers and called for her two sons to get into bed. As an obedient wife, she made her way down into the kitchen to finish her chores. Nayal followed her and watched her as she carried out her housework. She was brought up not to object to her husband’s will. She wanted to keep peace in the family. She did not wish to create a situation where she would have to go back to her parents.

    “Paji is like my father really, so loving. You are the best in husbands. On my own I would not have been able to achieve any of this without your support. I’m so privileged.” Rupa said turning to Nayal “I’m so excited. We’ve opened the first corner shop in town. Paji has allowed us to convert the lounge into a shop. A dream come true for me too.”

    “Consider yourself special. Mama and my three sisters were not allowed to work outside the house. In our society, once married women can’t work, if ever they did.”

    “I know. We asked your sisters to join us in the enterprise. They refused. They think I am mad, unwomanly, delusional, bad for my own good. But, they don’t mind asking you for money.” Rupa’s voice rang with some annoyance. She pushed the uncomfortable thoughts away.

    Her chest rose almost burst as she switched her thoughts on how she built the business.

    The nursery asked for donation for their fundraising events. There was only one grocery shop in the town and it did not sell anything Asian. Rupa understood then why the whole family packed their suitcases with spices, dried fish and pickles whenever they visited their homeland.
    The Asian snacks she made with vegetables, meat and spices went off the shelves before she could put the tray down. She offered some to the neighbours for free afterwards. The orders poured in from the schools and the neighbours. She offered other spicy food to them. She made enough money to hire a couple of helping hands, and turned the front room into a shop, selling all things Asian. She made contacts with businesspeople abroad to import goods. Gradually the ground floor became a bigger shop. The neighbours moved out or died and she gradually bought their houses.

    But, officially Paji grew the business. As a woman and a wife she obeyed her husband’s wishes and what her culture dictated. She was not allowed to own anything. Both men boasted about growing the business, ignoring that Rupa was the firing engine, the mastermind. She did not mind playing the second fiddle. What mattered was they were all happy and living well.

    “The people in the community laughs at us for allowing you to be involved. It’s not the done thing. But, I don’t care what they say or think of me and Paji.” Neil reminded Rupa, It was his way to keep her under control. Rupa listened and thank her stars for her good fortune.

    10 YEARS AGO

    Rupa had a big spurt of growth. Despite the arguments and resistance from Neil she built an empire of shops on the ground floor of 13 houses along the street into shops, selling Asian stuff – clothes, materials, sweets, snacks,, cosmetics, dressing jewelries, a travel agent, a dental surgery, an Indian takeaway, a launderette and another corner shop at the other end. She let out the top floors to students and to public workers. She changed the look of that part of the street.
    With the massive income coming in she fell in a position where she could afford to employ people to do most of her work. They bought a large house with acres of land where the family moved into. The children attended private schools and kept horses.

    Nayal’s three sisters were very envious. They were not ambitious and did not have the nerve to gamble. They were contended housewives and objected to the idea to work so hard. “She has no time for anybody, not even for herself. She doesn’t do anything. She hires people to do all the work. She can’t even cook or clean. She’s a bad mother and wife.” Rupa often heard them complain whenever they meet at a family gathering. “She makes our brother work so hard. Paji is spared because he is old now. She is so greedy and arrogant with her nice clothes and jewelries. She wears only the best gold and diamonds.” She turned deaf to the comments.
    She was more concerned if Nayal and Paji took notice of their grievances and influenced them with such negativity. She feared the talk and ideas could encourage them to stop her involved in the business. They would if they could. But, without her they would not be able to operate the businesses.

    NOW

    Paji had a stroke and died suddenly.

    Rupa believed Nayal being the only son, would inherit all her father’s assets and belongings. That was how the law worked in their homeland. But, she had the shock of her life when she and Nayal received mails from a lawyer, regarding their obligation with the businesses since Paji’s death. The three sisters hired the lawyer to look into their share of inheritance. According to the law, they were entitled to a share of what their father owned after the taxman had his cut of 40 percent of the total assets. The threat of her losing almost all her businesses and her home made her sick in the stomach. She lost sleep over it.

    The worse part was Nayal agreed to pass some of the businesses to his sisters, with the excuse that they were poor and always borrowed but never returned money from him. He step into the father figure’s shoes in his family and saw it as the appropriate action.

    She could not come to terms as to resolve the issue. As a result she fell ill and needed treatment for depression. She lost all interest to carry on with the businesses. She kicked herself for being so naïve and not anticipate the problem.

    Her sons were worried and taught her a lesson after watching her go down. “Let them have what they think it is theirs by right. You made it once and you can make it again. They never were hands on, never learnt and they won’t know how to hold it together.”
    A load shifted from Rupa’s chest. Her shoulder grew lighter.
    “I am so unhappy I’ve deprived you because of my negligence. I have worked so hard for others when all this should have gone to you.” She brushed her damp forehead.
    “It’s not the money that buzzes you, mum. It’s the success, the achievements. We know you.”
    The words of her sons cheered her up. She needed to hear that for her recovery.

    Reply
    • October 9, 2019 at 9:43 am
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      Chitra, thank you for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it. My only comments are that I wanted more description of the tastes and smells of the spices & food you mentioned, and would have enjoyed more focus on what the mother felt and thought to show how her head buzzed with achievement. That said, I really enjoyed entering the world you created. Kindly, Trish

      Reply
      • October 10, 2019 at 5:26 am
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        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story, Krish.
        The word limits restricted me in how much I can pack in into my story.
        I tried to picture Rupa as a humble person and in her orthodox and constraint environment she was not allowed to show much excitement. My idea was she was buzzing as a bee by being overly busy.

        Reply
    • October 9, 2019 at 11:15 am
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      I really like this, Chitra – my favourite story from you. You’ve created a very believable and likeable character in Rupa, and anchored her in a very believable context.

      You know, I think this would also work well as a longer short story, and I hope you write it. There’s so much potential in the conflict between the siblings, the jealousies and the comments of the community. I wonder how many women’s experiences this reflects? Must be many, I’m sure.

      One thing – Nayal and Neil are the same person, her husband?

      Reply
      • October 10, 2019 at 5:36 am
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        Thanks for reading and giving your feedback on my story, Andy.
        I am pleased you enjoyed the plot. Yes, the story could be expanded into a longer story, a novella perhaps. I will do something about it when I get around it.

        Nayal and Neil are the same person . I changed the name whilst I posted the story as I thought Nayal sounded more foreign than Neil. In fact Neil is an Asian name too. I was going to name my child Neil if it was a boy when I was expecting.

        Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 9:19 am
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      Hi Chitra,

      A really interesting and well written short story. I find it interesting that across many different cultures the same human weknesses and frailties exist. Jealousy and greed especially. Thus, this story is easily understood whoever the reader is.

      Your story also speaks volumes about the role of women in different cultures and times.

      Whilst it was disappointing that the unworthy sisters took their slice of the fortune the boys’ advice at the end suggests that Rupa will soon make a full recovery and perhaps the boys will have inherited some of her business drive. Hope so.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      PS Fully understand about finding time to read and comment upon all the stories if they are posted very near the deadline.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 3:48 pm
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        Thanks for reading and commenting on my story.
        I’ m pleased you enjoyed the read. Good to know readers read what I write and find it interesting.

        Your story really amused me. I had a few laughs while reading it.
        Very naughty Martina. She sounds like a sex addict on the prowl for victims. I feel sad for Josh.

        I have come across some women who say they are like Martina. sometimes I think they’re lying and making it up, just to make you think you’re missing out on something there.

        Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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      Chitra, I have to agree with Andy. This is also my favorite story from you. I’ve told you before how good you’re writing is becoming, and I hardly notice you are writing in a second language at all. You’ve come a long way, baby! Good job. I don’t even have any thing to complain about, and that’s not like me. I can reread it a few times if you like and try to come up with something.

      Roy

      Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 3:53 am
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      Chitra,

      Since the foundation of this story is gender, (gender roles, gender bias) it behooves you to establish early on which character is which gender. With names like Paji, Rupa and Nayal, only the most cosmopolitan westerner would have a clue as to the gender associated with names like these.

      This doesn’t mean you have to name your characters, Ben, Alice and Mike, but surely you could have chosen names that would help the reader determine who is who. Despite the fact that there were only three main characters, I was well into the sixth paragraph before I was able to ascertain who was the wife, Rupa, and who was the Husband. Nayal. (I suspect that Neil was an error.)

      If there are no names that are more definitive, then you should rework the beginning to make the character identification clearer. (This is probably a problem only for western readers, although I noticed that not one single reader mentioned this little problem so, feel free to ignore my observations.)

      The ending, which may be a kind of intended reveal comes across more like a rushed ending. On the positive side, you have a talent, (or skill) for describing relationships. This story exhibits the same traits, but falls short because of the confusion I felt over the characters names.

      IN short, clarifying the gender of the characters immediately would enhance the story measurably.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 4:53 am
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        Hi Ken C
        Thanks for reading and for your constructive feedback. I appreciate it
        I realise that weakness in the story now since many of you have mentioned it. I will work it out in my copy to show clarity as to who is who. I thought people will pick the name ‘Papaji’ quickly meaning father for some Asian people. The French calls their fathers ‘Papa’ and the English in the olden days ‘Pa’. It sounded familiar to me. I get the confusion with Rupa and Nyal. I’ m sorry to make the story difficult to read.
        You’re spot on with the comments and I have learnt something.

        It is an unfinished story. I have other ideas to finish the tale. I will rewrite it so that it will read more as a short story than a long one.

        My idea of finishing it as I did was to give their reader a chance to come to their own conclusion. I hinted that Rupa will be back in business. According to my observations I find most business people break down when things go wrong like any of us do, but they usually get up, dust down and start again. I wasn’t too right there.

        Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 11:46 am
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      Hi Chitra, I haven’t got to your story yet… been very busy lately. But I wanted, first off, to reply to your comment of last week about the video. How I got away with it? I don’t know! I don’t think it’s for the reason you mentioned, but I did expect that there may be some protest or “issue” (even furore!) about it. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even mean to post it! Ken Cartisano had been pulling my leg about that “Great Transatlantic Matter” and I just wanted to throw that link at him. Just the link – typed, as normal, letter after letter, with a period at the end. I didn’t know that once one types a working web-link in here, WordPress just brings up whatever it is in full-color monstrosity – and starts playing it without permission! Now I know and won’t do it again. If for nothing else, so that others won’t. I’d hate it if this place started to look like some facebook wall – with lots of colors, hahahas and nonsense, with real content struggling to get the attention it deserves!

      But yes, now that it slipped through, it is indeed a funny video! And the issue itself (US-UK-World Englishes) is quite a non-issue really, if you ask me. Fascinating, in some way, but not as much as most other fascinating things we truly find fascinating… Ok, I won’t say fascinating again.

      Reply
      • October 11, 2019 at 3:18 pm
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        Ken,

        I enjoyed the video. I love Michael McIntire’s comedy routines. He is hilarious. I really liked the one about the dentist and the one about how having children changes a couple. Funny!

        Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 3:23 pm
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      Chitra,
      I believe this story is one of my favorites. I learned so much in 1,200 words! I could understand her working like a busy bee, hence your title Buzzing. She was ambitious and hardworking yet humble and unassuming as well. You represented the cultural differences expertly. I truly enjoyed the story!! (I had a little trouble with the names at first – who was who and what gender they represented, but once I figured out who was who, I was fine.) Great work!

      Adi

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm
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        Thanks for your encouraging feedback and reading my story., Adi.
        I am pleased that enjoyed the story and picked up on the idea of the story so well. I realise with yours and other writers’ feedbacks that I need to sort out the clarity regarding the relationship and gender of my characters, if I write for an international audience. I must learn to bear that in mind.

        I hope you feel a lot better now. Take care.

        Miss reading your story.

        Reply
    • October 13, 2019 at 10:29 am
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      A grand tale, Citra, 20 years squeezed into a short story (with all the developments and family intrigue, it might be good for a longer work?) You show well the frustrating nature (for women) of a patriarchal society, but your careful portrayal of Rupa shows how a strong woman can make her mark (I saw a little bit of Mildred Pierce in her). Like others, I was a little confused by the names and the characters’ relationships, but a second reading sorted that out. I thought the titles were perhaps superfluous: you could have used time references in the text itself, and maybe dividers:

      ~~~~~~

      And given that you wanted to show how powerful and resourceful Rupa is, I thought the ending felt like a little bit of a dip. Perhaps you could have finished with her pledging to regain her little business ’empire’, setting her sights on a bright future, rather than mere ‘recovery’. But it’s a good story for the building of the empire, and that main character and her strength.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 5:03 am
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        Thanks for your feedback, Phil

        Like I answered to the other comments, I will have to work on the story again to make it clearer and learn to write with less complicated ideas.
        I thought it was important to show how affected Rupa was with the change of circumstances.

        Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 1:39 pm
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      Good story, Chitra- the Bollywood kind, which happens all over the globe. It’s believable-very typical family issue that occurs in quite a number of households. Envious sisters in law are difficult to deal with. The story ends on a positive note for Rupa which is appealing. Her sons know her best. Hope will keep her fire burning.

      Reply
  • October 9, 2019 at 9:53 pm
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    Good story Chitra. Just a bit of an anti-climax at the end. I was thinking let the greedy sisters have a share and see them fail. Envy in family is a horrible thing. Some siblings can be like dogs with a bone and someone else’s is always better especially if you are related to the owner. Sadly some never have enough

    Reply
  • October 10, 2019 at 5:44 am
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    Thanks for reading and commenting on my story , Llana.

    I understood the prompt as something that threaten the good fortune of the couple. My Focus was on that and felt ok to end the story as I have.

    I tend to finish my stories lightly. Perhaps this is how my brain works.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2019 at 5:52 am
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    Stories are a bit thin at the moment.
    It makes it hard to read stories when writers post their stories late,
    I did not vote last time because I was struggling to read all the stories and choose the best five.

    Reply
  • October 10, 2019 at 2:50 pm
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    What the Hell …

    “What the Hell are you doing?” The loud voice came from behind and startled her. Megan Pagano whirled around, anger flashing in her eyes. “What the Hell makes you think you can talk to me like that? I’m your wife, not your employee.”

    Rick Pagano smiled, much the same way a serpent looks to be smiling with it’s steady, unwavering gaze. Hypnotic. It was what drew Megan to Rick to start with; that look of unwavering confidence. “But, you are my partner, and whether my wife or not, it’s the way I would talk to any partner.”

    “What are you doing home from work so early. I thought you had an overnighter in Chicago?”

    “I did, but plans changed at the last minute. What are you doing?”

    “Finishing up burying some trash, while taking care of a little problem I discovered.” She took the shovel in her hand and tamped down the top of the mound of dirt.

    “Looks like a grave.”

    Now it was Megan’s turn to smile. “It does, doesn’t it. That’s a good thing. Burying the mistakes causing our recent problems. I think I just took care of the last one and our life will get back to normal.”

    “Getting rid of Jepson Industries as a minority company was all we needed to do. We were doing nicely without them. I’m still angry with myself for even suggesting they get a piece of the action.”

    “At the time you thought it would bolster our bottom line. Instead it was an anchor we were dragging, until it dug in and stopped us cold.”

    “I honestly thought our product would appeal to ‘millennials’ as well as senior citizens, the so called ‘best generation’ and the ‘baby boomers’. Jepson Industries seemed to have the market on millennials and were a perfect fit. How were we to know that Jepson would die unexpectedly and their idiot employees would run the company into the ground?”

    “You’re right. We didn’t, but, we’ve taken care of the problem even though it cost us quite a bit and we can get back to where we started. So, let’s walk away from Jepson and forget all our pesky little problems.”

    “Speaking of pesky problems, Ellie called in and said she has taken a job with another company. She had to start right away and wouldn’t be able to give us two weeks notice.”

    “She called and talked to you?”

    “No. she left an email.”

    “That’s rather abrupt. I told you not to hire her. Oh, no,” you said. “She will be a great fit.”

    “She was a great fit.”

    “Yeah, how did that work out?”

    “Don’t rub it in. She’s the second assistant we’ve lost in the last six months.”

    “Maybe we should hire a man next time. Women don’t seem to stick around.” Megan pointed behind the mound of dirt with the shovel. “I think we should put in two trees in here. Every time we look toward the garden and see the trees growing, it will remind us that we grew our business once and we can do it again. Just the two of us with no interference from outsiders. “Hey, since you’re home early” she said, ”why don’t I build us a couple of scotch’s on the rocks, and you can throw a couple of steaks on the grill.”

    “Sure, why not? I still can’t get over Ellie not sticking around.”

    “I’m sure she had her reasons for leaving so soon. It was probably beyond her control.”

    ***

    Rick swirled his scotch, the ice tinkling in the glass. He took a sip and savored it as it went down. “Barry seems to be working out very well.”

    “Yes, he is.” He’s smart, efficient and what I like most is the fact he’s gay. No more salesmen hound dogs sniffing around the desk looking for tail.”

    Rick laughed. “It’s been almost a year and he’s proven to be excellent. In fact, he’s going to St. Louis with me next month, and then on to London. We’ve got this business right back where we want it and after London, we’ll be in the best position we’ve ever been. We should clear $10,000,000 after taxes”

    “I’m sure he’ll be a big help.”

    ***

    Megan threw the shovel down and looked wistfully at the two trees she had planted months earlier. They were growing nicely. Soon there would be a third. She patted the last shovelful of dirt she had just finished throwing on the mound. “Oh Rick,” she said. “Why didn’t you ever tell me you were bi-sexual?”

    Reply
    • October 10, 2019 at 3:27 pm
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      Roy, after reading your piece now I’m thirsty for a scotch on the rocks with a steak. I really enjoyed reading about your power couple. I got carried away thinking of all the twists and turns you incorporated. What a fun read, thank you. (And I hope your medical troubles end well and soon! I’m seriously impressed with what you accomplished in this piece given everything you have on your plate medically.)

      Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 4:10 pm
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      Roy,

      Oh boy! I will be very suspicious now when my neighbors plant trees now. Who knows what lies beneath? Great story!

      I figured out what was happening when poor Ellie just up and quit with no notice. Did Rick really not have a clue? Poor Rick, he should have been more observant and aware.

      Great misdirection with hiring Barry. Maybe Megan should have been more aware of her husband. Loved it!

      Adi

      Reply
      • October 12, 2019 at 9:23 am
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        Thanks Adi. Hope you’re feeling better. You got the subtle message I intended to send to my readers. even though I did send a complete gift to them with “It looks like a grave.” “Yeah, it does, doesn’t it?” Subtle on one hand and heavy handed with the other. Thanks for the comments.

        Reply
    • October 12, 2019 at 4:04 am
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      Fun story with some dark humour, Roy. And a bit of foreshadowing with double meanings like “I’m sure she had her reasons for leaving so soon. It was probably beyond her control” and the husband saying “She was a great fit”, which hints at motive perhaps.
      I guess the police in the area are a little bit dozy – could be a pattern emerging here around the missing persons 🙂

      As it’s so well-written, almost perfectly, in fact, and I know you’re a stickler for correct punctuation, etc (you got me with the ellipsis last time …), I feel bound to note there is one missed capitalisation at the start of a sentence – or possibly a full stop where there should be a comma, either would work – and a possessive with an apostrophe when there should be a plural. Can you spot them?

      Wishing you all the best for your health too, Roy.

      Reply
      • October 12, 2019 at 9:19 am
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        Andy, thank you for your comments. I wrote ‘great fit’ implying motive and you caught it. Well done. I asked my beta reader wife if she got it and she said, “What?” When I explained it she said, “Don’t get gross.”

        When editing, I have discovered that it is difficult to catch errors even on the third or fourth re-edit because the author knows what they intended to write and their minds read that (what they intended to write), rather than the offending words or punctuation. After you, (and another reader) found those two errors, I went back and looked. Forewarned what I would find, I found them practically flashing like neon signs. Yes, here they are:

        Rick Pagano smiled, much the same way a serpent looks to be smiling with it’s steady, unwavering gaze. Hypnotic. It was what drew Megan to Rick to start with; that look of unwavering confidence.

        So, I changed it’s to its. And, I changed the semi-colon to a full stop colon.

        However, you did miss the extra unnecessary “in” in this sentence. “I think we should put in two trees in here.”, which I found when looking for your catch. Either one of them can be eliminated and still make the sentence better.

        It’s little things that make a story better. Thanks. I feel like my writing has picked up in recent weeks. It’s amazing what you lose when your mind is clouded by medicine. You think it’s the same as it’s always been, but it isn’t. I’ll testify to that fact.

        Roy

        Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 1:51 pm
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        scotch’s on the rocks??
        Not nit picking, but treating Andy’s question as a riddle :))

        Reply
        • October 16, 2019 at 2:47 pm
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          Marien, the eagle eyed critic. Funny thing, I actually googled scotch for plurals (with or without the e) and then didn’t go back and change it. Nice catch and I’ll try my best to be more careful in the future. Especially knowing I’m read closely. I am a stickler for that stuff and it irks me when I do it. C’est la vie.

          Reply
    • October 13, 2019 at 6:22 pm
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      Neat story, Roy – enjoyed it. Good dialogue (though sometimes it feels like they’re saying bits of exposition for the reader’s benefit?) When we learn that Barry’s going on the business trip with Rick, I thought he might be doomed (watching too much ‘The Mentalist’ …!) I like the idea of the trees – giving a clever way to show the passage of time. Is the other mound of dirt Jepson? If so, maybe he could have been reported as ‘missing’ (rather than dead)? Devious stuff!

      Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 5:14 pm
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      Roy,

      My sentiments were similar to Phil’s. (though sometimes it feels like they’re saying bits of exposition for the reader’s benefit?) “Getting rid of Jepson Industries as a minority company was all we needed to do.” Is one example where you’ve allowed too much tell into your show. (Or is it vice-versa? Whatever.) There are only a few instances of this so you could easily find and purge them. It isn’t like a deal-breaker or anything, but because of it, this is not quite as sleek and clean as your usual stories, but I really like the plot and the reveal. A very clever tale Roy.

      No story from me this week.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 9:40 am
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        Ken, Apparently I didn’t make it clear that Jepson was the ‘fail’ aspect and selling them off, which I did not explain very well, was how they went down. I just said they got rid of them, and that was taken by many as one of the burials. That’s all explained in the lines that say “That’s two female assistants we’ve lost in the last six months. Maybe next time we should try a man. Then, at the end, she’s burying the third body, not an assistant, (it’s Rick, who proved to be unfaithful for the third time), and I’m not sure many people saw all that. If I rewrote the story, I think I could make that clear, but actually, I thought I did. I think the line should have been to sell off Jepson, then let people look to see who represents who in the three tree line Megan gazes at each night on the patio as she sips her expensive wine. (Maybe Barry’s bisexual,, too) Hadn’t thought of that.

        Roy

        Reply
  • October 10, 2019 at 2:55 pm
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    Your wish is my command, Chitra. Here’s my story. I had the same problem last week that you did, but there were what? 17 stories? Good times.

    I had another medical thing last week that didn’t quite turn out the way my doctor liked, so I’m having a follow up on the 24th, and then if things are right, I’ll have my final resection and reversal of the ostomy some time in early (hopefully) November. At this point he thinks it’s OK and there’s no cancer return, so don’t worry. Just some logistical problems.

    Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 11:18 am
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      Wish you the best of outcomes out of this nasty adventure, Roy… And that you’ll come out of it stronger than ever. Got to, really, after an experience like that – and being here to tell us the story.

      Reply
      • October 11, 2019 at 3:55 pm
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        Hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst. A little setback, but everything is on schedule to be done before Thanksgiving (with time to recoup). Thanks for the kind words.

        Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 4:02 pm
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      Praying for you Roy! You’ve got this! You are a fighter and all will be well. Hugs!

      Reply
      • October 12, 2019 at 9:28 am
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        Thanks, Adi. I think I’ve got it, too. But, one never knows.

        At the age of 77, you tend to realize you’ve lived longer than most, and if you are as lucky as I’ve been, marry well, raise successful, loving children and grandchildren and look back on life with satisfaction. By no means do I want it to end, but when it does, I know that I’ve had a life well lived.

        Reply
        • October 13, 2019 at 6:10 pm
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          I really admire this positivity, Roy (wish I had more of it!). Very best of luck with this latest development.

          Reply
          • October 14, 2019 at 8:55 pm
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            Great stroy Roy. I am so glad you are back writing away now. Hope your health problems are eroding and that you are back larger than life, like your stories. Good story and one with mafiosa overtones. The wife you should never cheat on else she takes care of them permanently. LOL

          • October 15, 2019 at 7:43 am
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            Thanks, Ilana. I still have a few hills to climb, but I’d really like to think I’m back. Now we’ll see how the stories fare.

          • October 16, 2019 at 2:51 pm
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            Thanks, Phil. It took me awhile to develop that. It didn’t happen there over night. It was five weeks in the hospital that made me realize I had everything important I ever wanted in my life. I know the fiddler is playing a little bit closer to my door, but for now, i’ll just sit back and enjoy the music.

    • October 15, 2019 at 6:42 pm
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      Thanks for reading and your very encouraging feedback. I am so happy that you noticed I have made good progress with my writing. I don’t realise it. The opportunity to cook up stories and post them on this site is very motivating and helpful.bi am surprised that I can come up with stories using the prompts. I had a break for over two years doing other things. I am happy I came back. It propels me to write. Feedbacks have made a better writer of which I am so thankful.

      I am so sad to hear about your health problems. Best wishes with your coming treatments. Concentrating on your blessings which you shared with us, help to stay positive and stronger to cope.

      The portrayal of Rick and Megan as a friendly, understanding, strong and acceptable people is heartwarming. Megan is an angel to accept Rick the way he is. This kind of love happens mostly on long term relationship. The end of the story was unexpected. Enjoyed it.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 9:33 am
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        Chitra, I try to be helpful when critiquing stories, and I’m never sure how the critique is going to be received. Telling someone they are so much better than they used to be is a backhanded compliment. Having said that, I have never had a problem with your stories and structure, nor your plot lines. It was always my inability to separate 2nd or sometimes even third language mishaps. Your stories flow as you write better and better in all aspects and I’m glad you stuck around and kept at it. The pathway behind us is littered with authors who could not make that leap. It’s not easy to write in someone else’s language, Lord knows I’ve tried hard enough with English as a first language. Keep it up, Chitra. You are doing great.

        Reply
  • October 10, 2019 at 5:12 pm
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    Power Couple.
    By Una Poole
    Word count. 1193

    At the age of eleven, Royce Rollins and two of his buddies discovered a pristine cache of comic books in an abandoned farmhouse. His friends started throwing them in the air and treating them like trash.

    Royce demanded that they stop at once, and patiently sketched out a scheme to use the comics as leverage to get things: Things like lunch; homework; bicycles; the desk next to the prettiest girl in school, Patti Maxwell. They listened and went along. Within one carefully managed semester, they had already acquired a kind of mystique. After a year and a half, they were ‘the’ kids to know.

    After high school, Royce and his buddies parted ways, but he never lost his knack for turning opportunities to his advantage.

    A bartender by night, Dawn Covington worked at the Super Shear by day, to supplement her income. When Royce walked in without an appointment, she looked him over from head to toe, waved a long black client bib like a matador taunting a bull and said, “First time client? That’ll be 100 bucks, tip not included.”

    He was so amused with her routine, he insisted they go out for lunch, and that was how they began. He was Grand, she was Larceny. She was like rubber to his road. They didn’t match, they fit.

    They began to appear at various functions and fundraisers, always giving generously, and mixing with the town’s social elites. They dressed impeccably. He showered her with precious gems and she wore them gracefully above the perfect amount of cleavage, while he had a flare for the well-timed wink. They were an instant hit, and soon found themselves the star attraction at parties all over town.

    When people brashly asked him what business he was in, he replied, “Investing, mostly in drugs.” This reply worked wonders at deflecting questions about his wealth. Truth be told, Royce was as lucky as he was bold, having won large Las Vegas pots on more than one occasion, but that could hardly sustain his lavish lifestyle.

    Even Dawn was in the dark, bluntly asking him one time if he had a treasure chest buried somewhere in the backyard.

    After a long and mysterious pause he said, “It seems like that, doesn’t it?” But he refused to discuss it any further. “It’s bad luck to talk about money. That’s why I never ask you about yours.”

    They lived in a distinctive house on the river with a huge powerboat named ‘Bluto’s Revenge.’ Two hundred-foot strings of party lights hung on either side of the extended dock that led from the house to the well-equipped boathouse, where Royce and his consort, Dawn, often entertained small and exclusive groups of wealthy and gullible women.

    As they were engaged with one such group, Pedro, Royce’s assistant and part-time bodyguard approached, and informed him that the State Police had blocked their driveway and had entered the house waving badges and warrants.

    Royce looked up at the house and saw no sign of anything amiss. But Pedro was a streetwise Mexican immigrant, not given to small talk or bouts of panic. If he says the cops are in the house, the cops are in the house.

    Dawn saw the troubled look on Royce’s face, distracted the guests by passing around one of her diamond studded earrings, then glided over to Royce and touched him on the arm. “What is it?” She whispered.

    “Police, Pedro says.” The three of them were looking at the house when a man in a suit came out a side door and looked toward the dock.

    “That’s one of ‘em.” Pedro said.

    Dawn muttered, “I knew it couldn’t last.”

    Royce was aware that several of his guests were picking up on his concern, some with troubled expressions on their faces.

    “Shall I start the boat?”

    “Yeah, go ahead Pedro.”

    As the stout Mexican climbed aboard the massive speedboat, Dawn said, “What’re we supposed to do, make our getaway in…?”

    The engines roared to life drowning her out, as several well-dressed guests twittered with excitement. A glance toward the house revealed two dark-suited men, walking toward them with grim expressions on their faces.

    As if things couldn’t get worse, one of their female guests gasped audibly and squealed, “Oh my God, no.”

    The small group erupted in a fit of confusion as it became apparent that someone had dropped the diamond clustered earring which had fallen through the dock and into the water.

    As soon as Dawn realized what had happened, she screeched in frustration, shoved the unlucky woman in the chest, sending her sailing off the dock with arms flailing and purse trailing.

    Her friends screamed, as several got down on their knees in a futile attempt to reach her, while one sensible lady grabbed a life ring from its station and flung it, Jim Thorpe-like, twenty feet past the floundering woman.

    Royce took it all in as Pedro cleared the lines on the boat, and Dawned leaped aboard. He gazed back at the house. The commotion on the dock prompted the suited men to break into a run, their jackets open and ties flapping over their shoulders.

    “Royce. Come on. Let’s go.” Dawn screamed from the deck of the boat.

    But Royce didn’t move, as if his shoes had become nailed to the dock. He heard water splashing and people yelling as the gaggle of women shouted encouragement to the drenched lady they were now pulling towards the end of the dock. Dawn was screaming at him in desperation as Pedro revved the engines ominously. Royce observed the tangled roots of the mangroves around the dock, and how much they resembled the bars of a cage. Though he was a good swimmer, this section of dock covered an area of shoreline that featured one foot of water over two feet of mud. To dive off the dock here could prove fatal, to jump in would be merely comical.

    The two detectives reached him as the boat left the dock, engines roaring. One detective flew past him, the other pulled up short and grabbed him by the arm. After catching his breath he said, “Are you all right? For a minute there, I thought you were going to jump.”

    The other detective rejoined them, speaking into his radio, indicating the heading of the gigantic boat. “They won’t get far.”

    The three of them stood there, watching the cluster of women fussing over their waterlogged friend until Royce began the long slog back to the house alone, like a man heading to the gallows. One of them called out after Royce. “Nice job Detective, they never suspected a thing.”

    No response. His two fellow cops watched him in silence until one said, “What d’you think he’ll miss most, the house, or the woman?”

    The other one grunted. “Does it matter?”

    It does matter.

    Royce and Dawn had secretly gotten married before the massive raid, so Royce could not be forced to testify against her. She was a bit player in Pedro’s operation in any case, and got off with time served. They’re still married to this day, and very much in love.

    Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 4:28 pm
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      Una,

      Fascinating story! I had no clue that Royce was a cop! Great misdirection. I’m glad it ended well but the ending seemed a little rushed – I suspect that this was because of the word count. I’m impressed.

      Adi

      Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 5:09 pm
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      Very inventive- especially liked the bit about the purse flying as the lady gets pushed off the boat. Nice touch.

      Reply
    • October 12, 2019 at 4:28 am
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      Hi Una – lots to like about your story, with its sharp descriptions and metaphors, and the depiction of the main characters.

      I read the story three times, but remain a little mystified about what’s actually going on and why. The detail seems to overwhelm the plot a bit – like what is the significance of the people at the party, the earring and the woman floundering in the water? Probably for the wordcount the pace of the story is a little slow at the start, and rather rushed at the very end. Or maybe I’m just a bit slow and looking at the wrong things …

      Reply
    • October 13, 2019 at 6:52 pm
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      Nice one, Una! Massive misdirection that works well – the introduction about Royce’s school-days gives us the idea that he does in fact have a knack for creating wealth, but this line – “… he never lost his knack for turning opportunities to his advantage.” – shows how, under cover, he can later manipulate Dawn to get to Pedro. And the ending is good in that you allow them to ride off into the sunset together practically unscathed. The dock scene is really well choreographed, but like Andy, I wonder how relevant it is to the main plotline – at least at the length the scene currently has.

      Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 10:44 pm
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      Good story and I cannot add anything to what has already been said. Enjoyed it better second time around. Royce reminds me of Roy Grace a detective in Peter James novels.

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 2:19 am
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      Una, Una, Una,

      I like a story with a happy ending. But, there was an awful lot of water in your story, aren’t you concerned about offending people who live in deserts? I would change the name of the bad guy to something more anglo-friendly. Like Petrovsky, or Molybdenum. (But it’s a minor point. You can’t please everyone, Una. As you well know.)

      Since you’re no more likely to observe my advice than anyone else on this site, (I’ll take your silence as assent,) I’m disposed to tell you a little story, about an obscure religious group. (Your profile pic brought this to mind.) The Mystic Skeptics, whose many delightful myths includes one in which God, in his infinite and uncontrollable perfection, was so bored with Adam and Eve, that he disguised himself as a snake and offered Eve the apple his own danged self, just to make things interesting. That’s it. That’s the whole story, the rest is just human history.

      Those mystic-skeptics sure are cynical, aren’t they Una?

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 3:41 am
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        Ken C.

        I hold your opinion in the highest regard. But the only thing I fear more than the plague, is cults. Your ‘mischievous’ skeptics sounds a bit like a cult.
        Are you a night person, Ken?

        Reply
        • October 17, 2019 at 12:41 am
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          A ‘night person?’ I’m just a ‘regular’ person Una. Even at night. (Unless you add vegetable oil.) The Mystic Skeptic finds your cult comment churlish, Una. Surely, we don’t want to be churlish, do we?

          Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 5:12 am
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      Nice story, Una. I enjoyed the scenes you created with a lot of drama, steered me away from the main plot for a little while, then surprised me with the ending.

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 3:12 pm
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      Had to read it twice to get the fact Royce was a cop. Once I did, the story made a lot more sense. Pretty good plot line and good job keeping me engaged, although the diamond earring was just a pretty bit of fluff that really didn’t have anything to do with the story, yet kept popping up.

      Reply
  • October 11, 2019 at 11:32 am
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    Hi Adi,

    It frustrates me to hear of such people as that guy at your writing club, insisting on rules, rules, rules… instead of appreciating creativity and variety. Insisting on bland plain bread, refusing the spice.

    Maybe these so called “Writing Rules” should be called “Publishing Rules”, for that’s what they really are.

    It’s perfectly understandable that publishers (= businesses) formulate rules based on average readers’ expectations, in order to maximize their potential audience (and therefore, their profits).

    Creative processes, like writing, on the other hand, are all about breaking rules, norms and conventions. The mantra is to be innovative, different, fresh, surprising… It’s the very essence of the word “creative”.

    Yes, of course, sometimes writers and publishers have to talk to each other. No wonder they usually make each other unhappy.

    Also, if it’s a joint project, like your club’s novel, there may have to be some pre-agreed guidelines to follow in order to keep things together. But it doesn’t seem to be such a case with the instance you mentioned.

    Ken

    Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 4:21 pm
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      Ken,

      I completely agree with you. We made it clear when we began our project of a round-robin novel, that there were no rules except to stay within the genre chosen (action/adventure/mystery) and the primary characters introduced. Each writer could take the story wherever they wanted in their chapter. That way, each chapter would be new, fresh and exciting. The premise was to be creative, have fun and see what we could create together. It has been a lot of fun and the story is flowing nicely. We’ll get chapter 10 tomorrow at our annual writer’s retreat at a local state park. We do this every October, going to a different location for a relaxed atmosphere for free writing, group exercises, and other things related to writing. Thank you for your feedback!

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 5:30 pm
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        Adi,

        The idea of a round-robin novel is so wonderfully appealing, I can’t believe I never suggested it on this site. Going to different natural settings, with real people. (You did say they were real, right?) That would be a fun thing to do, (until some ;butt-hole comes along and inevitably screws it up.) My father belonged to a local writing group too, for a while, which was invaded and occupied by a singular ass-hat until they disbanded the group.

        What I should do, is set up a web page, blog-style, write the first chapter, and then disseminate the web address to the group with no rules and see what happens. (Probably nothing.) But if something did happen it could be the greatest? No. The funniest? No. The strangest? No. Well, with this group it’s sure to be the bloodiest novel in the history of fiction. At the least.

        Reply
        • October 15, 2019 at 5:42 pm
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          Hi Ken,
          A group story? Go for it. I’m on board.
          Can we group decide the title too, one word each?

          Ken Frape

          Reply
          • October 16, 2019 at 2:24 am
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            Absolutely Lord Frape, Let’s do the title first. I’ll start…. ‘The… No. Let’s start with… ‘A…

          • October 16, 2019 at 10:25 am
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            Regarding the title of a round robin story, our group has not chosen a title for the story yet and we are in chapter 11. We did discuss potential titles during the retreat but we won’t choose one until the story is ended because we don’t yet know where it will end up. So, story first – title last. (For us anyway).

        • October 16, 2019 at 10:22 am
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          Great idea Ken! LOL. You never know until you try, but you are right, with this group there’s no telling how the novel would end up. We have a lot of talent in this group!

          Reply
        • October 16, 2019 at 10:31 am
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          I don’t think any of you were here on the site when we did that. The problem turned out to be two-fold. First, a total lack of commitment by all who signed up for it, and Second, a let me get my part done and passed on, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. Having said that, if this is an exercise that sounds good to all, I’d be willing to have a go at it, as long as we all understood what we are trying to accomplish with it. And, by the way, I’ve done this with another group and the book was even published. The story wasn’t any good, however, as parts one and two above, were followed to a ‘T’ and the book sucked because of it.

          Reply
    • October 14, 2019 at 9:05 pm
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      You are writing for your readers otherwise, it just becomes an exercise in literary mastubation and you are the only one satisfied Ken and not creating an intimate connection with others through your writing. Writers tend to share what helps make their stories enjoyable for others and has a purpose other than a literary wank or pulling your own chain so to speak.
      Hope I am not offending others, but I write because yes, I enjoy it, but also to entertain others and give enjoyment to them too. Not just the self.
      Bit obtuse for simple little me. Somehow I lost connection with the story’s purpose and I shall reread and hope my brain works better the next time around.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 3:51 am
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        Hi,

        Great comments that certainly didn’t offend me.

        I was at a writers’ group meeting several years ago and it nearly put me off writing. It also made me feel intellectually inferior and I kept looking back at the text that was being eviscerated as I didn’t recognise it from the description. I suppose it just goes to show that we are all different.
        Like you, I write the way I want to but don’t forget that my take on life is a sum of all of my life experiences.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 2:32 am
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        Ilana,
        Your comment contains several references to chains, wanking and masturbation, (Without the ‘r’, not nearly as much fun.) But you refer to a story that you didn’t understand and address your comment to Ken.
        If I may be so bold to ask: To which Ken does all this wanking and chaining refer to? Lord Frapes, perhaps?

        Reply
  • October 11, 2019 at 11:53 am
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    Posting my story.

    “Tom Cat On A Bidet” by Ken Frape 1200 words.

    For Josh and Martina, marriage was a mistake that almost cost them their “kingdom.”

    On her wedding day, Martina was shocked and a little embarrassed to feel so downright horny as she glided down the aisle, sheathed in her virginal white dress. Sex had never really bothered her before but the wedding service seemed to act like a kind of carnal switch.

    Minutes later it was Josh’s turn to feel shocked and embarrassed too as he felt evidence of how Martina was feeling as her hands slid down over his buttocks. He was leaning forward clutching the pen to sign the register in the church.
    The minister’s eyes looked Heavenwards.
    Josh’s parents shuffled their feet awkwardly.
    Martina’s Mum looked gratified.
    She mouthed the words, “Go girl,” as she tittered with merriment, already well into her hipflask of pre-wedding Sherry.

    Josh discovered very quickly that sex with Martina was akin to a military assault where he was the target who would be captured and taken prisoner. Surrender was essential for survival and resistance was futile. Martina sat astride Josh on the bed in their hotel room before their Wedding reception. As she unhooked her bra and unleashed her heaving breasts, Josh felt like he was under aerial bombardment as she thrust them into his face, zig- zagging her rampant nipples across the contours of his surprised face. He wasn’t a greedy man. One would have been enough! He soon came to know the taste of every part of Martina’s body like an unordered, unexpected sexual meze where he was encouraged to sample every flavour or risk offending his host. No-one could say that he didn’t try in those early days, as Martina’s cries and moans attested volubly. The problem was, he just couldn’t keep it up.

    Worse still, he didn’t really want to.

    Josh and Martina were the “King and Queen” of their local amateur dramatics society and the stage was their Kingdom. Martina‘s appeal was obvious with her golden curls and curvaceous figure. She could sing beautifully and her acting was of the highest order. She ran her own very successful clothing boutique and had amassed a sizeable nest egg.

    But Josh’s appeal was much harder to gauge. His fellow thespians saw was a tall, thin, slightly timid greyish man of 39, an inventor who always carried four pens in his top pocket. The liveliest thing about him was his hair, tufts of which seemed to have a life of their own, springing up at will in spite of his valiant attempts to tame them with various hair care products. His workshop was a mess of papers and half – finished plans and he left behind him a snail trail of empty cups, scraps of paper, shoes, scarves etc. Famously, Josh had invented and patented an ingenious medical aid that was now used worldwide and his income was assured for life, regardless of any new inventions.

    Josh was always word perfect in every play. This was hardly the sort of behaviour to endear him to other members of the cast as they struggled with their lines, whilst he was word perfect with his and with theirs too! He was steady and reliable in every play. He could learn words almost overnight and had frequently bailed out other members of the cast when they had dried on stage. He was never seen carrying a script.

    After a chaste, unhurried two year courtship and a number of memorable triumphs on stage, they tied the knot. Much to the chagrin of the am dram group, they announced that they would be leaving the company and buying a new house together in London. For the company, this would be a disaster.

    Josh assumed that, once married, he and Martina would perhaps develop a routine of sex on Sunday mornings and, as he generously offered, perhaps on Bank Holidays as well. He called it “married sex.” This had seemed to suit his parents well enough but he quickly found out that this did not suit Martina at all. In fact, he found this out three times on his wedding night, which was not a Sunday nor, indeed, a Bank Holiday!

    Worse still for Josh, who was a gentlemanly “keep your socks on” and “sex with the light out” kind of chap who coughed apologetically when he farted, Martina always wanted to take the initiative. She wanted to take things in hand, on any reasonably flat surface, vertical or horizontal. Truth be told, when the need arose, as it frequently did, Martina wasn’t that bothered about angles or comfort.

    Josh would never be able to forget the incident in the supermarket car park and the look on that driver’s face as Josh’s suddenly naked buttocks were squashed across her windscreen. As he heard furious rapping on the windscreen he twisted his neck to see the driver looking at him with disgust. That jet of cold water from the windscreen washers that shot up between his legs was a real shock. He felt like a tom cat on a bidet!

    At home, things were even more of a challenge. Any restraint that Martina showed in public disappeared as soon as their front door was closed. Now, it didn’t matter how many times he wiped over the coffee table, Josh was reluctant to put his Custard Creams there anymore. He completely understood how Inspector Clousseau felt, expecting Cato to burst upon him as he arrived home. Josh had been caught out on several occasions by a rampant Martina as she leapt naked out of the wardrobe, nipples like door stops as she pinned him to the bed. She could have had his eye out! Since then he always entered his home with all the discretion and stealth of a ninja and never through the front door.

    On one occasion Martina had backed Josh into the corner by the washing machine, on economy wash, ripping open her blouse as she moved in on him. The vibrations, whilst not unpleasant on Josh’s unexpectedly naked wobbling buttocks, had worked Martina into a frenzy, especially on the 1500 rpm, final spin cycle, with added rinse. As soon as the cycle had finished, a panting Martina had urged Josh to,
    “Put another load in, Josh, please!”
    Josh had managed to shuffle-hop away, trousers around his ankles. Now he was frightened to go near the machine if Martina was home. He knew that she used the machine when he was out, sometimes without even bothering to load it with laundry. Tut!

    The divorce was inevitable and uncomplicated. As the washing piled up, Josh moved back home with his parents. They were not best pleased as they had only just finished redecorating his old room with a view to taking in a paying lodger. Martina stayed in the house as it was hers anyway.

    Outside Martina’s back door was a large square cardboard box, awaiting the bin men. On the box were the words,
    “Superflo Washing Machine with ultra-fast 2000 spin speed. “

    Eschewing any animosity, they have since both returned to their first love, Amateur Dramatics. As Martina said,
    “ OK, so we’ve divorced. Let’s not make a drama out of it.”

    Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 5:05 pm
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      Hilarious and very descriptive!

      Reply
    • October 11, 2019 at 5:47 pm
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      Ken,

      Ummmmm. I have no words. I’m pretty sure I’ve never blushed over a story before.

      Reply
    • October 12, 2019 at 4:54 am
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      What fun, Ken. Perhaps you could have taken the line halfway through, “Put another load in, Josh, please!” as the title.

      Though actually it’s Fifty Shades of Wouldn’t You Rather Have a Cup of Tea, Darling? Josh is a very British character. I know someone who says he got married twice out of politeness, finding it impossible to say no to his partner’s expectations of matrimony. So Josh’s game response to his wife’s liberated approach to sex is manfully dutiful, if somewhat wearing for him. He can’t say no.

      There are some very funny moments, like the comparison with Cato in the Clousseau films, and feeling he doesn’t know where to put his custard creams. I guess in terms of the prompt, you’re supplementing the try-fail cycle with the spin cycle.

      Awkwardness around sex and relationships is the main mode for many a British gent. I’m not sure that he is really a gentleman, though. You said he “Coughed apologetically when he farted – a true British gentleman would be unable to fart in front of anyone, so there’d no need to apologise 😊 Though of course a true-born gent might even apologise if done in private.

      What play do they put on when they return to am dram? There is of course the long-running West End farce, “No Sex Please, We’re British” …

      Very enjoyable, but I do need to go for a little lie-down now. Too much excitement before elevenses.

      Reply
      • October 12, 2019 at 5:34 am
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        Hi Andy,

        Very pertinent and thoughtful comments as ever and much appreciated as I really value your opinion.

        It’s interestring that you should mention a different title as I originally had something else, then changed it to “Tom Cat……” I think either will do the job equally well but I do wish I had saved a few words at the end to add “No sex please…….”. I did actually consider naming their next play but never thought of this one. If I use this story again with a little more space for extra words then I really want to do that.

        I wrote this short story hoping to lighten the tone of this prompt, or at least, my personal response to it. Some of the excellent stories already posted are quite serious in their content and I felt the need for something lighter, though I am not minimising the quality of these stories in their own right. There’s so much nastiness going around at this time that I need to laugh more and if I can help others to do the same so much the better.

        One of my other activities in my leisure time is as a comedy sketch writer and performer. I am part of a team called The Severn Wonders ( named after the River Severn) and we have great fun writing and critiquing our sketches. Many end up in the bin, others get totally rewritten and some hit the spot immediately. Whatever the outcome, we have lots of fun and performed three shows recently which went down really well.

        The try-fail element was intended to be covered by the failed marriage i.e. tried it, didn’t work so got divorced and / or by the annoucement that Josh and Martina were going to leave the am dram group ( and their kingdom) but they didn’t in the end. With your suggestion of the spin cycle that could be another angle that I didn’t consider.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape.

        Reply
    • October 13, 2019 at 2:01 pm
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      Why, Ken Frape, you naughty, naughty man. My goodness, I’m overcome with excitement just thinking about the poor man’s struggle. While I don’t identify with it, I can imagine there are those among us who don’t get that excited as much as their partners. One of my first girlfriends was a lot like Martina. The only trouble with the relationship was I wasn’t the only sailor in port; any other Tom, Dick or Harry could, and would, also sail on the seven seas. It did kind of stifle her appeal for me to find out I was simply a booty call. Not to say that I wouldn’t show up when called, but eventually, the attraction and the desire had diminished and I was traveling other roads.

      Don’t have much to quibble with and you certainly did stay away from the dark side, I have to agree. I do take exception with one remark however, the one where he was the kind of gentleman who would cough apologetically when he farted, seemed as if that was almost the ‘wrong’ thing to do. I would think all men, even those not gentlemen would apologize after farting in a crowd. Although I loved the line he might even apologize when in private (and, I assume alone).

      All in all, well done, my friend. You made me laugh and made me I wish now I had tried the spin cycle thing earlier in my life. It was something that never crossed my deviant mind, and alas, at 77 and following chemotherapy, that part of my life appears to be a thing of the past.

      Reply
      • October 14, 2019 at 4:58 pm
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        Hi,
        Thanks for the kind and appreciative words.

        This story is not quite a protest, more of an antidote to all the news and stuff going on around in the world. I felt the need to try and meet the prompt with someting a little more lighthearted.

        I gather Martina, recently divorced, has a washing machine for sale, spin speed 1500rpm. It’s going cheap as she has a newer model. Hurry and you may be able to purchase it from her but don’t accept her invitation to come in.

        I loved your remarks and they did make me smile too, so we are even.

        Wishing you well in your recovery.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
    • October 14, 2019 at 9:07 pm
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      Well you have certainly entertained me and it will probably get one of my votes unless there are some astounding stories that come in the wee hours of the night.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 3:39 am
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        Hi Ilana,

        Thanks for your kind words.
        If I entertained and made people laugh then I have been successful as this was my intention this time round.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 4:48 pm
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      Cracking story, Ken. Really loved it. Very ‘British sense of humour’. Very ‘near the mark’, as my mum would say, but we’re all adults here, innit? Just one detail that might be tweaked (can I use that word without it being a double entendre … well, I’ve done it now). “…they tied the knot.” You need to give their names again here, I think. Trust me to be a wet blanket! Great stuff!

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 2:44 am
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      Ken! (Lord Frape.)

      How’s it going? A fun story, and one I can relate to. I’m always avoiding sex. I’ve put it off now for a record year and a half. (I’m sure I’ll have to relent soon.) It’s an awful lot of work, my muscles are sore for days afterward, (they’re so atrophied, what a ya expect?) Then there’s the grunting and wheezing, and that’s just from taking our clothes off, before we even get started. But hey, I suppose its okay sometimes, if you’re already naked and covered with vegetable oil. Which, I admit is rare, but…. I think I’ve said too much already.

      Reply
  • October 11, 2019 at 3:26 pm
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    FYI everyone – I won’t be online much this weekend so if you post a story it probably won’t get added to the story comment until Sunday night.
    Also, for the record, emailing us won’t get it done faster. 🙂

    Reply
  • October 12, 2019 at 12:37 am
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    What about chocolate? Does chocolate get it done faster? Hell, we don’t expect to get a story posted even when you’re online. I’m still waiting for a reply to my email I sent you in the Spring. (of 2018) The deal’s off, I want my monkey back.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2019 at 4:34 pm
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    The Circle of Life, The Heat of The Hearth, Call it What You May

    7.30 am.
    Mia came skipping downstairs, a hallelujah in her heart, a tango in her toes. Her phone blared out The Circle of Life on the kitchen counter.
    “Put off that stupid song,” said Geo. “What’s that noise? I’m trying to do some work. Can’t you listen to some decent jazz?”
    His harsh words stirred up Mia’s weekend sunrise, sanguine blood. “I don’t want no jazz early morning. Not when I’m thinking breakfast.”

    For peace sake, she hearkened unto the king of the home. Reluctantly turning it off, she spent the morning in stoic silence, feeling very, very chuffed.
    By evening, the home was so bored of silence, Geo said, “I’m booking for Lion King.”

    The movie opened with…. tada dumda.. The Circle of Life… blaring out very, very loud on stereophonic surround sound.
    Divine retribution or what?

    Mama giggled, nudging her equally tickled daughter.
    Turning to Geo, she said, “Shut your ears, hon! The silly song is on real loud, Moofassa,” she whispered, a wicked gleam in her left eye. “NOW where’s all that jazz?”

    Watching young Simba, who couldn’t wait to be king, becoming protector of Pride Rock in the movie remake, the day was coming full circle.
    With good Dad Mufasa dead, it’s the female Nalla who eggs Simba to reclaim his rightful throne when Scar, the scheming relative, roasts his diabolic plot for succession.

    Mia opined rather grimly, “Had Lioness Sarabi taken up the keys to lead the kingdom, all problems with Scar would’ve disappeared. But in the animal kingdom, females do not have rights.”

    The next morning, Geo was unusually loquacious. He had his fill of the National, pomegranate and avocado. His routine now done, he dared to monitor Mia’s culinary expertise to discover her newest trade secrets with the purpose of ‘improving’ on them. He strayed into her domain.

    “I’m the chef. You are the sous chef. Listen to me.” It had become his song these days.
    “You’re in my space. There’s my name, that’s my face.” she pointed to the plaque on the wall-Mia’s Eatery.
    She took one long gaze at the freshly chopped bhendi (okra). “I dislike cooking this because of the glutinous goo that comes out,”

    “I’ll show you how to cook,” he replied, with a flourish of his fingers, his chest out.
    Geo equated ‘watching’ cooking shows on TV as ‘actual real time’ cooking. He was Antony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, both rolled in one. He couldn’t help his superior grin. Boss at office must be boss at home. It’s in the blood.

    “What did your mama feed you?” Mia grimaced. “How come you got this air about you, eh?”
    “Duck’s eggs,” he replied without batting an eyelid. “Jamie Oliver never does actual cooking. He directs his team what to do.”

    “ But you ain’t Jamie!” Mia said, still calm.
    “ I’m The Chef. You are the Sous Chef.” He uttered his mantra like it’s gospel truth. “First add coconut oil. Grind fresh pepper. Lots of it.”

    “YOU grind it. On this rustic stone. It’s good arm exercise,” she said.

    “Now, add the bhendi. Let it cook in its steam.”
    With calculated seriousness of the master-builder of shining towers from whence the actual cash flowed in.

    “Don’t add water,” Now this last command sounded unnecessarily loud.

    “There’s no need to tell me that, mister! Wasn’t planning to add water anyway.”

    “Just listen.”

    And that’s how Geo cut Mia short, halfway through her protestations. So even as she spoke, her verbs were left dangling in midair, mouth 👄 open, with him, interrupting in louder tones of what HE saw as the ONLY correct method.

    Mia, screwing her eyes, spoke aloud, “Be not dismayed. This is the true marriage of minds. Scenes like these are the essence of a healthy power relationship.”

    She became philosophical at times like these. Could beat Socrates at his game.

    Ooops! The okra was burning!
    Having a song for every season, she belted out the latest hit song, stirring furiously.

    “Darling, You and I, take over the world,
    One okra at a time. Just you and I.”

    Men who constantly agree with their wives with, ‘how amazing, my dear!’ are terribly boring or hiding something.
    Opposition makes the brain figure out retaliatory steps.
    Mia needed her special remedial touch to the okra pot.
    She snuck in a green chilli, lil’ turmeric, a squeeze of kumquat….. and one blueberry.

    Now who puts blueberries in okra? Nobody.
    Ahhhh! The flavors are sensuous. The bhendi looked delicious!

    The weekend was drawing to a close. Geo decided he wanted to eat healthy omelette for dinner.
    But Mia was going tap-tap on her phone for it was her creative hour. Not even a storm would dare disturb the rapid flow of the stream of consciousness onto the screen.

    Geo walked outside, silently, to the moringa tree in the garden, and plucked a tender green branch full of luscious leaves.

    “I’m going to make a Moringa omelette,” he said. “With freshly hand-plucked green chilli.”

    “Ahhh, good,” came her disinterested reply. “That should be yummy.”

    Mia had absolutely NO desire to pretend to jump up from the sofa and say, “Oh! Sweet, I will make the omelette. You just go stretch out on that sofa and read the paper. Like all men do.”

    This was a home with equal rights to everything. Stripping the tender leaves off those delicate twigs wasn’t her thing this late hour. It was his, and he could do it.

    Besides all her cooking was done, executed, finito, kaput in the morning.

    Moringa, the latest US craze as health food, costs a hefty sum. She knew how they branded and marketed turmeric, cinnamon, chai, pepper, cumin..she had it all.

    From a side glance, she could see Geo shaking the washed leaves vigorously using a towel.
    Shake, shake shake…Every dull kitchen routine is turned into an intense bodybuilding workout.
    Never mind the water spray now falling on the bewildered dog, and on the floor.
    He shook the leaves really hard. Everything Geo does is done to an extreme, Mia’s eyes widened in apprehension.
    And it was at that very moment, his Apple ⌚️watch came alive.
    The excess shaking had sent an alarm button.

    He got a notification. From his watch.
    “Looks like you’ve had a fall. Should I call emergency?”

    Now you have a watch pretending it’s a caring wife.

    Should Wife#1 please stand up?
    Feeling a twinge of envy?
    Please stand up?
    Like Slim Shady.

    The options came up on the watch for Geo to click on.
    1: ‘No, I’m okay.’
    2: ‘Yes, please call at once.’
    3: ‘Yes, I’ve had a small fall. But I’m okay.’

    Geo pressed the first option. 1: ‘I’m okay.’

    He felt a bit embarrassed that Apple was watching his movements in the kitchen.
    What if it is transmitted to Cupertino, flashed on a big screen?
    Nowhere is a good man free.

    Besides it’s not macho making moringa omelette late evening, while the wife is lolling on the sofa.
    Nevertheless the task was completed with a flair as he always did.

    Dinner was served. The omelette was delicious. 👏🏽👏🏽

    (1199)

    Reply
    • October 14, 2019 at 5:13 pm
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      Marien, your description of Geo rang so true. I have known jerks like that. I also enjoyed your descriptions of various foods & their cooking methods. Here’s to hoping Mia leaves Geo!

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 1:59 pm
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        Thanks for reading mine, Trish. Mia is no loser. I wanted to convey that she kinda enjoyed this banter.So I boiled down this Power Couple theme to the kitchen..and had my fun.

        Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 5:17 pm
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      Great stuff, Marien. As KenF says, it’s basically a story of marital rivalry and banter, which might have turned out a little mundane but for the very original way you’ve chosen to describe it. You mention ‘jazz’ early on, and I got a kind of jazzy vibe from it (man); the rhythms are brilliant. As wise KenF also says, this would be good read out by you. Different and memorable.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2019 at 9:57 pm
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        Phil has taken the words from my mind and placed them on paper. “How dare you Phil? You have stolen my words. I’ll never be the same again. How DARE U. I am quivering in outrageous rage. I want to go and tell the UN.”

        Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 4:28 am
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      I like the story, Marien. It’s hilarious the way you gave us some cookery and health benefits ingredients lessons and new tech that comes into play with the Lion King tracks playing. It brings so many memories for me.

      Never heard of moringa omelette. I will have to try it the next time I am back home. There is such a craze for this herb/greens at the moment since they discovered it is a miracle food. We will soon get them in tablet form in the Health shops.

      Everybody has a moringa tree in their grounds at home. It used to be a poor man’s food. As children we were given to eat them in soups or cooked to clean our digestive system and body from toxins and harmful bacteria . I was around 10 years old when the neighbours used to get me to climb the trees to pick the branches and help them sort out their tiny leaves. My parents never knew about it. I remember growing a tree from a broken branch and it grew so well and gave us more than enough for the family’s consumption. When I moved from home, it slowly died. It is not there anymore.

      All these buried memories were brought back to me by your story. So nice to go back in time.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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        Thanks, Chitra, I’m so happy to have brought back memories for you. For me as well. My mom used to cook them plenty. The fruit is called Drumstick – tastes good with meat or fish.
        Now I have two trees in my garden here. I use the leaves lavishly in my chapati dough, or lentils, and even in smoothies. It kills infection and joint pains, they say.
        Who is they, don’t ask 🙂

        The leaves are dried and powdered at Whole Foods and they serve you a green shot over the counter.. in the US. You can grow them from a branch.

        Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 2:31 pm
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      Very enjoyable story, Marien, written with a distinctive style and a certain flair. And an interesting take on marital roles, with an interesting digital tangent thrown in.

      I am a little worried by Trish seeing Geo as a ‘jerk’, because there was one thing I kind of identified with there. And that’s about the annoying music. My wife plays all kinds of stuff through her phone (punctuated with youtube adverts), and even if the music is good, the sound quality (no bass, all treble, very tinny) is so terrible. And I like jazz too … actually we both do. So anyway, I got some high quality noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones for her which are brilliant. Peace. Maybe Geo’s peeve is valid (?) – but it’s how you go about resolving it.

      In the end, I think these two are a happy couple, rubbing along with a bit of friction. Somehow they’ll find their way. He can be king in his odd moments, or perhaps in his own mind, but in the end she is the queen on the sofa.

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 3:02 pm
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      I, like others, loved the first line. Well done. I may steal it as well as Ken F. One thing, and this isn’t a criticism (well, maybe it is), I can do without the little emoji things. But, I did enjoy the story. Your syntax is certainly different, but I caught up with it. Gotta love an international site for stories in English.

      Reply
    • October 17, 2019 at 1:08 am
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      It’s a neat story, Marien. Poetic. Unconstrained. With an unconventional plot and characters that more than adequately satisfies the conditions of the prompt without anyone getting murdered, eaten, beaten, arrested, dumped, screwed, divorced or shit on. Congratulations are in order. I loved the unique style of your writing. (I didn’t know that hearkened could be used the way you used it. Learned something there.)

      It should be noted that the couple in the story that was shit on, actually liked shit, so, it doesn’t really belong with getting beaten, eaten, arrested, screwed or murdered.

      Reply
  • October 14, 2019 at 5:19 pm
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    Hi Marien,

    This is a most unusual story. Not in terms of its content so much as the spectacularly different way in which it has been written. I have had to read it several times to fully appreciate its style and individuality.

    Clearly we have the never-ending battle of man v woman but in this case it is fought in the kitchen over food and food preparation to the soundtrack of The Lion King.

    The opening line is beautiful, a worthy opening to the story. I might just have to steal it when you aren’t looking! It’s so nice to wake up with a smile on your face and a feeling that nothing is going to spoil your day.

    It is also a warning to arrogant men who think they are in charge. Spoiler alert!! We’re not.

    There are one or two references that are outside my cultural experience but they don’t stop the flow. I have not come across Moringa but I will find out about it. Google search next!

    This story needs to be read, in my humble opinion by you, out loud so that the listener hears and feels your voice and the way you think. It’s not MY “standard English” but who says it has to be? That’s one of the main lessons I have learned from this website….everyone matters and we are all different.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • October 15, 2019 at 9:02 am
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    Hi all!

    I’m not going to be able to get a story in this time. I’m working on my chapter (11) in our round robin novel and preparing for NANOWRIMO. (I’m also not very savvy about big business, wealth, and power.)

    Our over-eager member did bring his top 15 picks of rules to “Confound and frustrate” readers to our writing retreat. Most of them were laughable and aimed at new writers. He then brought a second hand-out on the “head-hopping” rule. We gave him a thoroughly hard time about it and he took it fairly well. I’m sure we’ll hear more about it but we had a great time. Tennessee has some beautiful state parks and this one was no exception. The weather was sunny and cool and we saw plenty of deer, a groundhog and a beaver. We did some writing and had great discussions.

    Yes, Roy, all that wonderful nature and falling leaves did trigger my asthma and I had a bad attack that afternoon. Grrrr. The only rough part of the day. I’ve had to use my rescue inhaler and nebulizer more in the last 3 weeks than I had all year.

    I have been able to read all of the stories on this thread and I’m hoping I can at least vote. I love the variety of stories that come from every prompt and I always learn something new.

    Adi

    Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 1:42 pm
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      I missed your story, and if you, Alice and a couple more regulars would have contributed, it would have made over 20 stories. Lots to read and comment on. Loved all of it, though.

      Roy

      Reply
  • October 15, 2019 at 4:41 pm
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    Title- Insects!
    Word count- 1,065
    By Neha Neil

    “So, James, what have you got?” Maranda questioned, cautiously pulling out a ten-pound note from her purse and waving it at her husband’s face. James paused for a still moment, before handing her a five quid note from his wallet.

    “Is this all you have!” shrieked Maranda, before cowering at the side of the couch. Disappointedly she gazed out of the open window and out towards the shimmering starry stars, allowing the wild wind to brush against her delicate skin.

    It had been a year since they both had broken from their famous business, ‘Nous sommes beaux,’ a beauty parlour of cosmetics located in France, which had shut down days after failing to pay many debts. It had been a business famously brought up for many generations of the Peak’s family, sending the couple millions of cash flying their way, which had been kept as a memorial tradition of a family, before now. It was founded in 2007 as a manufacturing company before being shut down in 2010 and reopened as a beauty parlour by the couple in 2019. Yet Maranda and James only were forced to give away the company after the many debts they had to recover, leaving them penniless.

    BANG! POW! Jasper hissed as loud as a malignant snake, whilst his little sister shrieked with fear. Daniel and Henry sniggered, giving their parents a sinister gaze. They had four children in total, hooligans as a matter of fact!

    As much as the parents would have loved to keep the business going, they still had their kids to look after! Both Daniel and Henry were twins and the oldest of the others (both very arrogant and impudent in mind.) Jasper and Lacey (having been the youngest in the family) were also quite unpleasant at times, but that didn’t stop them from seeing the good nature they had inside of them. Both Lacey and Jasper were very fond of botany, and had spent most of their lives outdoors, burnt to the tip.

    Infact, this hobby of the sort had led them to the whole mess int the first place, and this is how it had started….

    Lacey giggled with joy as she rushed through the tall, spikes of the grass, tumbling down here and there amongst the many flowers and daisies present. Jasper eagerly followed her, pouncing about like a lion after its prey. I was mid-summer at Cluny countryside, and the sky and begun to dim as the night drew close. Noisily the children bounced about, Lacey cautiously carrying the case that they had used to capture the many butterflies that they had found.

    “Look what I found Jasper!” shrieked Lacey with joy, before cuddling close to her brother.

    “What is that!” shrieked Daniel, Henry following behind with a nasty look. Lacey and Jasper had arrived from their adventures in the meadows, presenting to their brothers the most spectacular butterflies they had found on their journey. Both parents had by then left the house to attend meetings, leaving the children to ponder about the house to themselves.
    “Look what I found!” giggled Lacey, but before she could reach out of the plastic bag to get the case full of peculiar insects they had collected, a taunting knock came to the door…

    “Who is that?” Jasper questioned, getting up and almost tilting the jar full of insects they had collected the day before. Cautiously, he crept towards the door, conscious of what could be concealed behind it. Who could it be at such a time?

    A tall hooded man stood leaning against the wall, cigars drooping off his stifle tobacco, Japer twitched in fright, not knowing what to do.

    “Is Mr and Mrs Peak present?” questioned the tall broad man. Jasper shook his head before moving aside to allow him to enter. The tall man smirked with delight before entering the small cottage…

    “Who is this!” shrieked Lacey, tumbling down the stairs, followed by both Henry and Daniel. The strange man’s eyes shimmered eagerly at the many photos and awards present at the mantelpiece, Over the years the business of the Peak’s had been a huge success, ending up selling 5000 supplies of cosmetics a year. Infact, they have started business abroad now, and were planning to also open shops in places in German, Spain and Britain. Quietly, the man chuckled before seating himself. But before Henry could speak a word the door opened once more….

    It was Mr and Mrs Peak, flustered and flattering about like a fish out of water. They were rushing here and there, up and about, until Mrs Peaks had realized the unknown figure had arrived. Carefully, she straightened her clothes before seating beside him. Jasper and Lacey stood at the doorway, listening to every word mentioned.

    “So why have you come Mr Sheffield?” asked their mother questioningly. There was a silent pause before he continued.

    “I have come to take the business away from you for not paying your bills in time to the organisation. We give you a whole month the hand over your business.” There was an even longer pause then before.

    All a sudden, a rollercoaster of anger raged throughout the room. Yet Jasper could hear nothing of the sort and turned away from the sight of roaring thunder.

    BANG! Shatter of glass could be heard close by. Where form? What had happened? The three boys rushed into the living room, worriedly rushing to where they had thought the sound had followed on from. Surprisingly the fellow siblings gasped as Lacey crouched over the ground of shattered glass, insects crawling out from the crevices. The insects had escaped!

    “What is itching me!” Mrs Peak’s giggled, turning to yank bugs of her back. Mr Sheffield turned pale, feeling a sudden tingle crawl up his suit.

    “So, what do you make of it?” asked Sheffield.

    “I make nothing of the sort, nonsense!” she yelped, squirming with distraught. Hurriedly, she rushed out the room leaving the files of her important business on the table.

    Without warning, he grabbed the papers, grappled his itching suit, and rushed out of the house. From that they onwards were a huge disaster. The cottage had to be evacuated because of such horrible insects and the business had been destroyed as the files of evidence had been retrieved. And from that they onwards, Jack and Maranda never found a true life ever again…

    Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 4:54 pm
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      Neha I thought your beginning was excellent. You drew me into the world you created and sparked my curiosity. I thought the story was an imaginative take on the prompt. – Trish

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 3:22 pm
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      I agree with Ilana’s and Phil’s comments.

      I did wonder about the family company which is said to have been going for generations, and is then said to have started in 2007. That confused me a bit.

      A couple of little English language pointers: you could try avoiding tautologies like “starry stars”, though I can see the effect you’re creating with the alliteration in that sentence, which is otherwise effective.

      And the use of pronouns – at a number of points you refer to “they”, meaning the parents. But the people referred to just before that are the children. We’d normally expect a pronoun to refer to the last person or people referred to who correspond to the pronoun (by gender or number).

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 3:23 pm
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        Sorry, I meant Trish and Phil … (Ilana’s was the name just underneath on the page when I was commenting, and she snuck up on me!)

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    • October 16, 2019 at 3:29 pm
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      Neha, had a little trouble following the story. This line, especially: A tall hooded man stood leaning against the wall, cigars drooping off his stifle tobacco

      Then, the children let this sinister character in. Really? The other pesky little thing I noticed is the children brought in butterflies. Yet, bugs and crawly things escaped from the broken case. Had a little trouble with that. An original plot, however, but not sure you followed the prompt. Because they were given millions and somehow managed to lose it, was explained carefully they had to earn their millions or riches, not be given them.

      Reply
    • October 17, 2019 at 1:14 am
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      ‘From that they onwards were a huge disaster.’ This sounds ehhh, a bit Presidential. If you catch my drift.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2019 at 5:41 pm
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    Some good ideas here, Neha, e.g. the kids collecting the insects, and then the insects having a key role in the denouement. (I was expecting the insects to save the day for the Peaks by attacking Sheffield, but you turned that – clichéd idea maybe – on its head). Sometimes the plot is a little confusing (for me): the Peaks lose their business early on, but then Sheffield comes to take the business away from them? Some words are used wrongly, I think: ‘burnt to the tip’, ‘ponder’, ’tilting’, ‘stifle’, ‘flattering’, ‘seating’ (sitting), ‘distraught’. But as I say, lots of good elements. I love the energy of the kids, for example!

    Reply
  • October 15, 2019 at 9:43 pm
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    A Lashing of Powerplays

    Adriane bought the whip down on his buttocks with a resounding wicked slap, slap. The whip was soft leather, black and glossy strips of animal skin that stung on naked human flesh. She laid in with a will. Brian’s back was covered with angry red stripes that crisscrossed down to his bare thighs.

    “Owww, OWWww!” He cried. And the more he cried the more she seemed to enjoy it. She lifted her leg and placed a leather boot on one quivery cheek and pressed the stiletto heel firmly into it. It left an indentation when she removed the heel about five minutes later.

    “You bad, bad boy. You’re being punished. Do you know what for?”
    “No, NO!” moaned Brian. “What have I done wrong?” She laid aside the whip. Then she crossed in front of the massage table where he was facedown handcuffed to its legs by his wrists and ankles. She carefully pulled down the zip of her black leather teddy outfit to reveal firm breasts that could have possible been enhanced by the addition of a surgeon’s skill and silicone implants.

    She thrust the cleavage into Brian’s face and he could feel parts of him responding in the thrill of anticipation. Adriane shoved a hand under his stomach.

    “You bad boy.” She stepped back and gathered the whip up and brought the lashes down hard.

    “Please Adriane STOP! Hurting, hurting..” he whimpered. Tears were beginning to roll down his cheeks. He held up his left hand with the forefinger and middle finger crossed. She slapped the whip down harder for the next five minutes.
    Finally she stopped. Brian relaxed, despite his raw buttocks and thighs.

    “I’ll make a cuppa while you get dressed.” She hung the whip on a wall hook next to several other whips on their hooks. Zipped up her front and walked into the next room.

    Five minutes later they were sitting in a pleasant little alcove kitchenette on a leather settee with steaming coffee mugs next to a plate of Jatz biscuits with cheese and olives and red peppers stuffed with goats’ cheese.

    “So, how do you explain your back to Holly?”

    “Oh, she hasn’t seen me in the buff for the past ten years.”

    “Really? You’re a spunk for a forty-three year old. What’s with her?”

    Brian took a careful sip of his coffee. He shrugged. “Maybe her miscarriages after the loss of our only daughter to cot death affected her. Who knows? Now her career’s everything. She doesn’t find life fun anymore.”

    “Hummm, so you tried romancing her?”

    “Yeah. I even remember our wedding anniversary. Her birthday, even though she doesn’t remember mine.” He said the last with a wistfulness that didn’t move much in Adriane’s heart.

    “Ok. Keep trying. Maybe something will change. I have to get ready for my next.” Adriane finished her coffee and swept away the plate of biscuits and took both mugs to the little sink. Brian took out his wallet and laid five crisp green 100 dollar bills on the coffee table.

    “Keep the change.” He said putting on his coat as he went out. Adriane smiled to herself. A normal session was $300. She almost felt guilty about what she was about to do.

    *******************
    Three days later – 6.30 am.

    “Morning General Stonewood, Sir.” The sentry saluted as Brian walked into his office. His day had started out with little to recommend it. Holly had left before he rose at 5.30 am. He had wanted to have breakfast with her, but she had decided to start her day at 5 am at her office. He just saw her back disappearing out the door.

    He could not understand why a Detective Superintendent would need to be at her desk so early, but then, just maybe her recent promotion had fueled a hunger to aspire to even higher levels.

    His phone beeped just as he sat down at his desk and had started to leaf through the morning’s correspondence and emails.
    “Ring me ASAP”

    He rang. Holly’s voice was icy.
    “I need to see you. I have something to show you.”

    He replied softly.
    “Ok, darling. Is everything ok? Are you ok?”

    “When is your lunch hour? Is 1.30 this afternoon convenient?”

    “Yes, of course. Where?”

    “In your office.”

    “Ok, then. Is everything alright? Are you ok?”

    She did not reply but hung up.

    He ordered a lunch from an Indian restaurant near the base and got them to deliver at precisely 1.25pm. He knew Holly would arrive at 1.30 pm, not a minute sooner or a minute later. She was always precise. He knew she liked Chinese and spicy Indian foods. He racked his brain for the reason why she wanted to see him so urgently. Their wedding anniversary was last month and her birthday was two months away. Perhaps she was getting another promotion? In that case, a celebration was in order. He checked his drink fridge and noted a bottle of good red wine and the double malt whiskey in the cupboard besides the fridge.

    At precisely 1.30 pm she strode into his office, her auburn hair in a tight coiled French twist, with her regulation superintendent’s cap perched atop, her immaculate uniform jacket and trousers sharply creased, holding in her hand a USB stick.

    She did not speak, but cast a scornful glance at the Indian takeaway set out on the coffee table in Brian’s office, with paper napkins and a glass beside each of the two places set.

    She thrust the USB stick at him.
    “Put this in your laptop. Open the file titled Naughty Brian.” Brian’s heart leapt into his mouth in shock. “NO, NO! Please God no.” he thought to himself. “No, no.”

    With shaking hands, he took the stick and placed it in his computer. Holly stood ramrod straight by his desk, as though she were on the parade ground inspecting new police officers. Her contemptuous expression fixed him in its headlights.

    He clicked on the file. Strip music blared as the title “Naughty Brian” shimmered on the screen. Then images of Brian’s naked buttocks and back being lashed by a black whip appeared on the screen. He could be heard whimpering and pleading for the person lashing him to stop. The video was a collage of clips taken over several visits to Adriane’s studio. It ended with a demand for $50,000 cash or the clip would be made available not just on the dark web, but on FB and LinkedIn.

    Brian turned to Holly. “It’s not what you think. Technology is very clever these days. These sorts of videos can be photo shopped. Apart from…”

    Holly turned and locked the door.

    “Really? Strip off NOW. I want to see your back and butt. We’ll see what’s fake.”

    Meekly Brian turned and started to peel off his clothes. He knew better than to argue with her.

    He stood in his boxers, socks and singlet before her.

    “All off! NOW!”

    Suddenly he turned and started to pull his clothes back on. She looked startled.

    He turned to face her buttoning up his shirt.

    “NO!” He stated emphatically. “Get out of my office now.”

    Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 10:32 pm
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      My story was 1195 words excluding ghe title I think….

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 8:17 am
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      Exceptionally well written. Felt like a subsection of a larger piece. Well written!

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    • October 16, 2019 at 9:37 am
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      Excellent build-up, Ilana – the SM session sounds authentic (I wouldn’t know personally, of course… 😉 ), and the blackmail section springs naturally (if a little predictably perhaps) from the SM. The descriptions are very good. I don’t really get the ending, though (but it may very well be just me not seeing the wood for the trees). Is the point that Brian has regained power over Holly? It all seems to be hanging in the air. So, very well executed, but (for me) a little frustrating.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 11:47 am
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        Thanks Phil yeah having never participated in SM one can only imagine. Although I can honestly say I would feel no pleasure in beating or being beaten by someone. Often wondered why someone would do something like that, but obviously there is an industry built up on people’s unusual behaviour in darker corners of the world. The ending is weak – needs a rewrite definitely.
        Thank you for the feedback and yes left a few too many ‘hints’ about black mail potential. 😁

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    • October 16, 2019 at 10:56 am
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      Ilana, I thought your story was riveting right until the ending, and then everything unraveled for me. I didn’t understand the ending, unless he felt she was ordering him to strip so she could punish him. If that was your intent, I need more direction to reach that goal, perhaps her hiding a whip behind her back as she orders him to strip “all of it, NOW”

      Otherwise, a well written, descriptive story with good flow, and no real quibbles with typos or other mishaps. I just didn’t get the ending.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 11:41 am
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        Hi Roy taking on board your comments and yes he develops some backbone but I probably needed more words in this instance. He refuses to be bossed by her. I need to do a rewrite on this or make it longer. Thanks for your astute comments and valued feedback. 😊🙏

        Reply
        • October 16, 2019 at 11:55 am
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          Aha! So that’s what you were driving at. I had the same problem, Ilana. Riveting story right up until the end, which was not quite clear enough. Although I suspected what you were intending, a bit of irony. It was like a great gymnastics routine, but just didn’t stick the landing.

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        • October 16, 2019 at 2:37 pm
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          It’s amazing how you can struggle with an ending, finally think you’ve got it, post the story, and then, before your first critiquer is even finished telling you what they are missing, you see instantly what they are pointing out. I’ve done that countless times. Otherwise, your story, while using the tried and true mistriss blackmail plot was well done. It’s just that pesky finish.

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    • October 16, 2019 at 1:15 pm
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      Hi Ilana – I pretty much agree with the others. It’s the ending that’s the issue, though I think there is also something about the structure in relation to the prompt. He’s a Gernal and she’s a detective, but I don’t get the impression of their being on top of the world at any point.

      So I’m not sure if they’d have $50,000 easily available – but I guess they could always have a whip round? 🙂

      Reply
  • October 15, 2019 at 10:15 pm
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    A Double Ruse
    Dennis Wagers
    1200 words

    The boat sways lazily about in the calm ocean water. Her length is thirty-seven meters, built-in Europe by a particular order. Nancy and Brendon Swanson lounge upon her deck, lunching on swordfish and caviar. “Do you ever think about it? Don’t you ever get the itch to get back in the game?

    Nancy looks at him with stern eyes. “Don’t start again.”

    “I mean something small, just something to spice everything up, get the old blood flowing a couple of kilos maybe.”

    She threw her napkin at him. “Hell, no!” She said, her voice hard. We’ve been off the scene for three years; we need to leave well enough alone. I don’t want to risk it. We’ve got it right now, we don’t need to be taking any chances.

    “I must say life is sweet right now, even if it is a bit boring. I mean there are only so many places you can go, only so many things you can do, until everything just seems to get bland. You know my dad once told me, the worst thing you can do to a man is give him everything he wants.”

    “Are you shitting me?”

    “No! Don’t you get it? If you give a man everything, he wants then there nothing else for him to strive for. There are no goals to set and reach, nothing to look forward too. Nothing to get up in the mornings for.”

    Nancy doesn’t reply, she looks as if she is pondering something.

    “I’m starting to realize my old man was right.”

    “Dumb is what your old man was, worked his life away in the coal mines of Kentucky until he was broken down and useless, and what did he end up with? A three hundred dollar a month pension and the black lung. How smart was that, hu?”

    Bendon’s eyes shone with hurt at her remarks about his father. “My old mand wasn’t dumb,” Brendon said with anger flaring in his eyes. Just unlucky.” He set his empty beer bottle on the table with a loud clop.

    “Ok, ok, let’s not fight. Besides, I think I might go to that new place just up the shore. Who knows, I might bring someone home, you know to spice things up.”

    “Well… he said with a forced laugh. “Looks who wanting to spice thing up now.”

    “Yea, but this is something we can handle.”

    “I don’t know about bringing another guy home, I still haven’t recovered from the last one yet.”

    “Oh, don’t pretend you didn’t like it.”

    The swanky club was filled with trendy young people with stylish clothes, costume jewelry, and modern hairstyles. There were nearly a dozen others in their later twenties to early thirties divorcees or unsatisfiable as Nancy called them. The men and women who would never be satisfied with the status quo. They were the kind of people who always felt there was someone or something better out there for them, someone sexier, someone better looking. They were still looking for a new thrill.

    At 12:15 AM, mildly drunk, Brendon welcomes the party of three onto the yacht. A young woman, Lilly, pauses as she notices the boats name. “The Good Life! She giggles. “It’s a bit cliché, but it fits.

    “Yes, it absolutely fits.” Nancy chimes in. “Back when Brendon and I first started, we always dreamed about living the good life, and well, when we got to the point where we could afford such things, we bought this yacht and named it just that.”

    Lilly gave a shrill laugh. “You guys must be loaded.”

    “Lilly, I think you mean cocked and loaded.” A young guy named Dillion stood smiling wryly at Brendon. He made his way on the boat, showing a perfect set of white teeth, his blue eyes glancing toward Brendon’s crotch.

    Brendon felt a spark of unease. Nancy convinced him to experiment sexually about six months ago, and one thing had led to another. It was surprising to him that a thirty-four-year-old straight male could enjoy sex with young men. The only downside being, he always felt guilty and shame the next morning. He contributes those feelings to his father’s vocal disgust for such things. He sighs and gives into the situation.

    It was an hour later that Brendon found himself alone on deck with what had turned out to be a warm, charming, Dillion. Nancy and Lilly had made their way below deck. “So how long have you and Lilly been together?”

    “Oh, we’re not really together.”

    Brendon gives him a blank stare. “Are you serious? I thought you guys were a thing.”

    Dillion shrugs his shoulders, his palms up. “I thought we were here for the drugs.”

    Brendon watches him move to the rail just beside him. “Well, not that it matters.”

    Dillion leans in close to his ear, “She’s my sister.”

    “You’re shitting me, right?” Brendon said. “You go swinging with your sister.”

    “Is that what we’re doing.” He leans back on his heels and then steps in closer, smiling brightly. “Are we going to do this, or not?” His arms go around Brendon’s waist, and he presses himself against Brendon’s leg. His gaze is intense. “Do you feel that?” He whispers.”

    Brendon nods his heart racing.

    “That’s just what you need.” Dillion’s voice takes on a different tone. “Just what you need.” He steps away, taking out a Beretta and levels it at Brendon.

    “What the fuck! What are you doing?” Brendon’s throat goes dry.

    “Let see, looks like I’ve got a loaded gun pointed straight at your chest.

    Brendon looked toward the hatch.

    “If you move, I’ll kill you where you stand.”

    “Nancy!” Brendon yells.”

    Dillion gives a cold chuckle. “She’ll be no help.”

    “What’s going on?” It was Nancy directly behind Dillion with her pistol double-clutched at arm’s length.

    “I’m glad to see you, sweetie,” Brendon says with relief in his voice.

    “What are you waiting for?” He hears her say. “Do it!”

    “I’ve got this,” Dillion says, not looking at her.

    “What the fuck Nancy? He’s got a gun on me.”

    “Do it, Dillion,” Nancy shouts, trying not to look at Brendon’s face.

    Things suddenly became brutally clear to Brendon. It was a ruse. He had become too much of a risk for her. She had brought the couple onboard to rid her of a dangerous liability. “How long have you been planning this, Nancy? Six months? A year? How many times have you brought someone here to do me in, and they backed out on you?” He turns to Dillion now. “Listen, Dillion, you’re no killer. You’re young, don’t throw your life away. If she wants me dead, make her do it. Not you.” Just then, a shot rang out, a flash from Nancy’s gun, and Brendon felt a lightning bolt strike him in the chest and knock him backward. A second shot rang out as he felt his head bounce off the boarding of the deck. He manages to turn his head on the hard boards to see Nancy lying on the floor. Lilly is standing behind her with a pistol in hand. A double ruse was the last fleeting thought fired off by the faltering synapsis of Brendon’s dying brain.

    Reply
    • October 15, 2019 at 10:39 pm
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      Denise
      I have to ask this. What do they gain apart from some kinky thrill by Nancy and Brendon’s deaths? It all seems a bit pointless if you ask me. Well written story, but I cannot see where either Lilly or Dillion gain by shooting this couple.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 6:49 am
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        Sorry for the pointlessness of the story. The word limit became a problem. I meant to bring out the fact that Nancy and Brendon kept their illegal money stashed on the boat and that was the motive for their killings. I really struggled with this one. Don’t hold it against me. I don’t think I have time for an edit.

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        • October 16, 2019 at 11:54 am
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          Ahah. Now I understand. Please don’t misinterpret me. I thought your story was fantastic from many points of view. I was a bit puzzled by the end – thinking did they have drugs on the boat. Did not think of cash but all is clear now.

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    • October 16, 2019 at 8:22 am
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      Dennis, well written story. I see how you ran out of word space at the end, but I thought it still worked as a story.

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    • October 16, 2019 at 11:09 am
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      Interesting, well written story. Although, it was written well enough you didn’t have to tell us in the last line that it was a double ruse. That, my friend is author intrusion. Not a lot, you understand, but enough. It could have been Lilly delivering the last line, something along the lines of, “This worked out better than I thought, although you could have waited until Nancy and I were finished. I was enjoying that.” All in all, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you gather some high votes.

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    • October 16, 2019 at 11:12 am
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      I have never thought of dung beetles as a poser couple until this very moment. Get ready for all the poop jokes. Chances are you’re going to hear some real ‘shit’ in any upcoming comments. Different and innovative take on the prompt. I’m just a meat and potatoes guy, but you went right after the exotic stuff. Good job, Ken M.

      Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm
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      It’s a story with potential, Dennis, but as you and others say it needs a bit of rethinking and a spot of polish.
      A lot of typos and misplaced punctuation which interrupt the flow.
      But time, word constraints – they’re the things we all know, have suffered from and sympathise with. We saw the quality of your writing last time out and I’m sure with more time this would have been a fine story.

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    • October 17, 2019 at 1:33 am
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      Dennis baby,

      I really liked it. It did have a few mistakes, but I loved that opening paragraph, or two, or three or four. Beautifully understated visual cues. Calm water, large boat, lounging and lunching on swordfish and caviar. You’ve brilliantly set the scene in just two lines. Then the dialogue starts and draws you in.

      The ending needs work. It’s all there right now, you just have to edit out the fat and extra words. Like Roy said, you’re showing us a double ruse, you don’t have to tell us too. There’s nothing to prevent you from breaking what you have into smaller paragraphs because, quite a lot happens in those last nine lines.

      Also, I can’t speak for others, but I assumed the murderers were after money, or drugs.

      Reply
  • October 16, 2019 at 5:44 am
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    Dennis sorry. I do hate auto correct!

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  • October 16, 2019 at 9:06 am
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    Hey all – just an FYI work has me running like a chicken with my head cut off an I’ll be in meetings until around noon central time.
    So the voting page won’t be up until 1pm central. So that gives you an extra hour to submit/read etc!

    Reply
  • October 16, 2019 at 10:17 am
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    As always, I am amazed at the variety of ways a prompt can be interpreted. Some of the stories this time went off in directions I never expected. At the risk of sounding as naive as my children think I am, how did we get from power and wealth to sex and murder? (No laughing!)

    The murder I can understand to a point, but the sex scenes, descriptions, innuendos, etc. totally threw me in relation to the prompt. I’m always open to learning new things so could someone please elaborate for me the connection? I’m glad I didn’t write a story this time. I’m afraid I would have been completely off track since much of this prompt was foreign to me.

    Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 11:15 am
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      I’m afraid…..

      I’m going to….

      make things……

      worse for you……

      below…

      Adi!

      Like you, I wasn’t even going to take part this time round.

      First reason: I’ve been so busy these past two weeks, I don’t know how I even found the time to write anything at all! (time taken from sleep and missed coffee breaks, probably…)

      Second reason: If there is a subject under the sun that doesn’t interest me at all is that of wealth and money. If anyone was going to pay me a subsription in the Financial Times, hold it – I’ll take out one in “The Glorious History of Trashcans Magazine” instead – it may be more amusing!

      But then I thought, why not write something to ridicule the whole notion of money, wealth and the wealthy? That’s how my story was born.

      Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite cute and romantic in the end. Which is not what I originally intended.

      But the location where it happens – and the “gold-nuggets” my protagonists cherish – still express what I think of money…

      Ok, I won’t say anymore or else I might spoil it.

      I wish I could comment on the other stories in my usual Ken M-way (that many of you have called “insightful” in the past) – but, alas, I was really spread out too thin these past days…

      Ken M.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 12:33 pm
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        Hi Ken M – like you I’m spread pretty thin timewise and now about to enter a couple of months of working away from home on site and overseas. Sadly will have to drive a lot so can’t make use of train time (like now!) to write and read.
        But glad you are able to get a story in. I will catch up with the ones I haven’t read, but not sure if I’ll be able to comment on all the later ones.

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    • October 16, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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      Adi,
      ‘How did we get from power and wealth to sex and murder?’ Just stop and think about that sentence for a minute. A power couple. Where there’s power, there’s money, where there’s money, there’s sex, where there’s sex, there’s jealousy. What I don’t connect to the prompt is murder, but then again, with all the other elements, (sex, drugs, money, rock & roll, swinging, exoskeletons, lesbians, horny housewives,) I suppose the occasional murder was not surprising.

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 12:16 pm
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        Hi Ken,

        Here’s the nub for me. Every time I used to go on a training course my mind would find alternative ways to interpret the course materials unless they were very controlled and specific.This either made me popular and a leader or unpopular and a disruptive force. You decide.

        It’s like the notion of open-ended and closed questions. I see things as being open to interpretation.

        Therefore, when I first read the current prompt and the first three or four stories I decided to try and go in a different direction. This is not a snub to those authors, in fact it was probably partly because they were so good why try to emulate them?

        My theory is that any prompt can be taken in any direction with enough imagination but there are only a relatively small number of scenarios and they include sex, money, power, jealousy and murder.

        I think we have pretty well covered all of these this time around.

        Kind regards,

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • October 16, 2019 at 3:49 pm
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          Following up Adi’s comment/question and the replies – I guess a story can be pretty much anything as long as the prompts are included.
          They have to be or have been wealthy, the source of their income explained, and ‘on top of the world’ in one sense or another, and something threatens that.
          That does still allow quite a lot of scope for the context.

          But I wonder if sex is contagious? (Well I guess it is, but there are treatments these days) And if Ken F has inadvertently opened up if not a can of worms, at least a bedroom door that we now won’t be able to close?
          I have been accused of being a little prudish in stories, drawing a discreet veil when things are going to happen, a bit like in a 1940s movie. (A bit like I am when using such a phrase as “when things are going to happen”, perhaps!)

          I’m afraid my thoughts this time were more boardroom than bedroom. I’ve been pondering awhile about workplace or business-based stories. Sounds boring, but there are some good ones around, like Dave Eggers’ “The Circle” based on a very Google-like company or Tom Rachman’s “The Imperfectionists” which is based in an English-language newspaper in Italy over several decades and has sympathetic but flawed characters, and a great evolving context as the nature of publishing goes through successive changes.

          Reply
  • October 16, 2019 at 10:51 am
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    INFLATION FOR BEGINNERS
    by Ken Miles
    1,200 words

    Is too much of a good thing, really a thing? You bet! A mountain of shit, no less, descended upon our lives – mine and Len’s. It nearly destroyed us. I kept asking myself: how could such a bonanza be bad news? But it was. Until we both discovered something else that’s greater than any wealth. Each other.

    But I started my story for you the other way round. I’m used to doing things the other way round. It’s a sort of habit – if you knew me you’d know why. So let me roll things back for you a little. I hope you don’t mind the pun. But, I know, you’re not getting it, yet. You will. Soon, you will.

    So, here goes. I don’t love Len because he’s rich. But I like him rich. That’s how I know he loves me for who I really am, and not for my wealth. Len certainly doesn’t need my dough. He’s himself filthy rich.

    He’s got his demons too. I love him mostly for that: because he’s not perfect. I can look after him, mother him, fondle him, heal his wounds. That’s all I want of my life. It took me time to find out, but now I know. I want to make Len smile, for he has smiled very little in his life.

    But I still haven’t got to the beginning. We weren’t always there, Len and I, on top of the heap. We worked our way up, the hard stubborn way. We rolled our dough, while the others played. We had no choice really. We were outcasts, black sheep, white crows. Especially Len.

    It hurt being unwanted, but that saved us from getting distracted by life’s trivial pursuits. We didn’t frolick, but put six legs to work where others put none. This made us rich, but also held us close. I found Len intriguing. So much like me, yet so mysterious. A thinker, a loner, a special one. The one I wanted to crack open.

    The others cheered and danced and ate and mocked us. But our opulence, in time, gave us wings. Once you’ve got the gravy you earn respect. And envy too. Respect plus envy equals worship. We became noble. With our immense stashes, it became easy to make friends. Of course it’s all fake, they’re not really friends, but it’s no harm pretending: they look after you, protect what you’ve got, let you believe they like you.

    For some days, we’d been getting wind of it coming. It did sound like some outlandish rumor, an echo of the good old bountiful days, when everyone had more than they could wish for. Our great-grandparents told us of those days of heaven they had heard about from their own great-grandparents, who had in turn heard about from theirs. Tales of Paradise, the Garden of Eden, when the earth was new. It sounded so good to be true, most of us thought it probably wasn’t.

    But, oh Lord, it wasn’t merely a rumor – it all really happened! The Clothed Apes that tend our field converted to this organic-farming hype thingy. The way it used to be many great-great-grannies ago. It’s unbelievable – literally truckloads of meadow muffins, unloaded onto our very field – enough of it for all of us to feast on for a million years to come!

    But then it struck us, Len and I. This was not good for us. We’d worked hard to get to where we were. Our two-hundred pathetic shrivelled pooballs – our combined wealth, one-hundred-sixty-one Len’s and thirty-nine mine – were worth nothing now, in either quantity or quality, next to that mountain of fresh, soft manure anyone can now help themselves to.

    Our “friends” walked away from us. Why would they stick around for a dung-smeared quarter-inch of straw? A guard’s daily salary. We knew it was scales-deep, the respect and all. Just convenient hypocricy, of course. It played well to our inflated egos. The rug now got savagely pulled out from beneath our feet. We were now worse off than before, emperors with no clothes.

    In their newly-found drunkeness, our haters will lynch us, make an example of us. Like that hoard of them who, last winter, came yelling at our tunnel that there was no shit going round, while we had so much stashed up. They said they were hungry. Like it was my problem! Or Len’s!

    “Got no muffins? Eat some cake!” I ordered a guard to tell them. One well-timed mocking for all those times they trashed me, when I was nothing. But now the tables turned again. My wealth couldn’t protect me anymore!

    Len was mortified too. He knew what hatred meant. His left antenna was slightly shorter than the right one, a hatch-defect. He was bullied for it, utterly tormented, and the girls despised him, when we were little. Only I thought his beautiful imperfection made him special.

    I looked at him, now – that same sad face I fell in love with at the nursery, so many days ago. Like back then, once again, he could barely look at me. He felt inadequate, scared, defeated.

    Then he broke down and confessed he feared losing me too. Nothing else mattered, he added, than having me. Which flattered me, but confused me too. Why would he doubt my devotion?

    “Why would you even think so?” I asked him

    “Because I’m nothing now, just a failed assymetric poo-eating bug who used to be Master of the Universe.”

    I caressed his shorter antenna, the one I was so fond of.

    “You idiot, I love you, not for your wealth, but for who you are!”

    I recognized that shy smile that emerged from under layers of sadness. I had seen that same smile the day I first spoke to him, the first and only girl-larva to ever do so.

    That smile was the most beautiful thing in my life. And I got to see it again! I smiled back, and then we both laughed. We held each other and danced. We felt free: having nothing left to guard, nothing left to lose. Except ourselves.

    “Let’s go away!” Len pulled me along, in his newly-found hurry to leave the Colony. We walked forever till the far end of Mount Manure, further away than any dung-beetle had ever gone.

    We threw ourselves in the soft, luscious manure. We rolled a fresh premium dung ball, taking turns at rolling, like we often did.

    “This will be for our kids,” Len told me, “You’ll lay your eggs in it, Mara.”

    The dew levels were ideal, the heat was right, the mood just perfect. We both knew it was the right time. I pulled Len over me onto our bed of cowplop. I felt urges I’d never felt before; something was going to culminate. I never knew we – any two bugs for that matter – could love one another that much!

    Today I laid the eggs. We are the happiest dung-beetles in the whole dung-beetle world! We have each other, we’ll soon have a family. We’ll build our own colony. The others won’t find us here. We’ll live happily for long to come, for another forty days or so.

    Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 11:04 am
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      Very clever & innovative take on the prompt. I admit I was a tad confused about the manure farm at first, but that consternation soon cleared. Fun, well-written story that dragged me right into the world you created and made me care about your characters. Thanks!

      Reply
      • October 16, 2019 at 11:21 am
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        Thanks Trish! Got to love them, right? I set off with a tale intended to mock wealth and the wealthy, but it turned out that way…!

        Reply
    • October 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm
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      That’s some sweet shit there, Ken! Pretty clever too, and I particularly liked the economics of your bugs’ life! And well-constructed with the hints in the first few paragraphs. And I think lurking behind the cute anthropomorphism there are a some genuine facts about the dung beetle life-cycle. Maybe you could write the screenplay and sell to Pixar?

      Reply
      • October 17, 2019 at 5:47 am
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        Yes…Pixar – that’s how to get rich from a short story! Which was ironically written with a strong sense of derision at the rich…

        I’m glad you liked my piece this time, Andy. At first I didn’t think much of it myself (especially since I wrote it in quite a rush), but I suppose it has its merits (and certainly its crap-side too!) It must be less controversial than my last contribution… Nobody in here is going to get offended at being called a Clothed Ape, I just hope… 😉

        Reply
        • October 17, 2019 at 5:58 am
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          Well now that you mention it … 🙂

          btw, you need some songs and dances for the animated version. Like ‘scarab cute, scarab cute / Can you do the fandango’ would work perfectly as a singalong… (makes as much sense as the original!)

          Actually, I liked aspects of your story last time, but got rolled over in a huge dungball by your fanbase – was just waving my front legs to protect myself 🙂

          Reply
  • October 16, 2019 at 1:31 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-power-couple/

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

    Reply

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