Being Resolute on Your New Year’s Writing Resolution

They resurface in lost pockets every so often, covered in lint, scrawled on Post-it notes. I analyze them like an archaeologist, studying their messages—some successful, others negotiable, others well, less than so.

Go Europe. Quit Smoking. Sell book. Fried food: No. Take more photos; take photos of anything other than [delightful pet basset hound] Abner.

New Year’s Resolutions.

As I prepare to make another batch, the new February issue of WD sits on my desk. Focused on getting creative in 2010, it features a great piece by Fred White on the topic of inspiration. On my bookshelf, I have White’s Daily Writer, which includes the following bit on resolutions. While it may seem obvious, it’s something I’d like to brand (in so many words) on my arm for 2010.

“It’s easy to make resolutions but tough to follow through on them. Before you make yours, think about the psychology behind wanting to do so in the first place. We look upon the beginning of a new year as a chance to renew our lives. …

“For writers, New Year’s resolutions are motivational prods that actually can work, if you set up a means of fulfilling the resolution along with the resolution itself. For this new year, resolve not only to succeed at writing, but to write every day. To make that resolution stick, get into a routine; make writing a habit. This means carving out a set time for writing and adhering to it.

“Resolutions are best enforced through a daily routine. Eventually, the routine becomes habitual; writing will become an integral part of your life, no different from sitting down to dinner or shopping for groceries—except, of course, that writing involves uninterrupted concentration. It’s a good idea, before committing to a writing routine, to ‘test the waters’ for a few days just to see how well you can handle four or five hours of writing at one sitting. You may discover that spending only two hours a day would work best for you.

“To ensure that you write every day, set aside a realistic chunk of time relative to the demands on your workday. Approach your writing time as you do eating: As something you must do. Decide ahead of time what kind of writing you’re going to do (work on an outline for a novel, profile a character, describe a setting, and so forth) and do it.”

My latest haul of Post-its: Get personal website revamped and back up, finish editing novel, submit pieces every other weekend. Which means getting home from work and getting back into the routine. Which can be the hardest part. (Well, that, and ditching the fried food.)

What’s on your list? See you Monday in the new year!

WRITING PROMPT: The Power of Suggestion
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

Ask a friend for a number between 100 and 2,000, and without any further explanation, ask her to say the first word that comes to mind. Write a story of the given number of words exactly, and make the random word the title as well as the final utterance in your story. A possible first sentence: “Do you trust me?”

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23 thoughts on “Being Resolute on Your New Year’s Writing Resolution

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  9. Buffy871

    Word: Pizza
    Number or words: 1907
    Suggested by my pizza obsessed husband

    Pizza the fairy hated her job. She visited the people of New York at night and left them dreams of pepperoni and sausage. It wasn’t always an easy job. She’d been shot at several times, and once a pudgy jerk had clipped one of her wings.

    She approached the apartment with care. Pizza whispered a spell under her breath to guard her scent from dogs, and then she deftly climbed the building until she found the right window. Her boss had told her which room to go to, and she made sure she had exactly the right family. She knew she would be punished if she failed.

    She opened the window almost silently, and crept inside. Pizza followed the snores to a small bedroom. An enormous couple filled the bed, and the man grumbled and scratched himself in his sleep.

    She crept close and pulled out her wand. “Half off every Tuesday at Peppertoni’s. You want a large pizza really bad.” She looked around the ugly apartment. “You want to redecorate too,” she said, and left.

    As she made her rounds, Pizza became angrier with each stop. She had been the servant of wizards and the confidant of kings, and now some jerk had her conning fat people into eating his Pizza. He even insisted on calling her Pizza, and since he had summoned her, that was her name. He hadn’t even summoned her properly. He wasn’t any kind of decent wizard; he just happened to rub the old statue his aunt had left to him. He didn’t know it was her summoning totem. Stupid jerk.

    She made her way back to her master’s house, avoiding the stupid human cattle and dangerous large rats. She missed fighting wrongs or helping evil geniuses. Either one was fun. This was just degrading. She climbed in through the cat-door and made her way to the shoe-box Toni had provided for her bed. Her last mistress had been Toni’s aunt, and she had slept under a hand-made quilt with pearl buttons. His Aunt Bernie had called her Princess Tiny. It was a much better name than Pizza.

    “Did it work?” Toni asked. “Will they really come?”

    “Yeah, they’ll come,” she said. “Fat lot of good it’ll do you though. Your food is awful.”

    “What do you know about it anyway?” Toni asked. “It’s good pizza. We just need some business to start us off is all.”

    “It’s all covered in meat. Gross,” Pizza said. “How long are you going to make me do this anyway? I want to move on to someone else who has a better idea on how to use me than make me be a salesman.”

    “When I get enough profits to open another store, I’ll let you go. Until then, you’re mine, so you better get some respect.”

    “Whatever. I’m bored. Go away.”

    Toni left, and Pizza lay in her bed thinking about how to get out of this situation. All over the world fairies were doing important secret work for master craftsmen, world leaders, mad scientists, and all she got was a crappy pizza dive. There had to be a way out.

    The next day she sat in the pizzeria watching the fat slobs she’d lured in eat like the pigs they were. The couple she’d told about the half-off deal was there, even though it was Sunday. It wasn’t even half-off day yet, but they were stuffing their faces with grease. Pizza watched the woman’s neck fat jiggle as she took another bite, barely chewed, and swallowed loudly.

    Pizza cried in the corner, pitying herself. Right now her family would be sitting down to dinner, maybe having stewed mushrooms with fresh bread and buttered carrots. There would be fresh dandelion wine, and her sister Pauline would have brought some French delicacy. HER master was kind enough to let Pauline visit her family for dinner and special occasions. Her father always had a story about the times he had spent serving Queen Elizabeth I, the Fairy Queen herself.

    The guy wiped his mouth on his sleeve and pulled his chair back from the counter with a loud screech. They left, and Pizza knew they wouldn’t be coming back. Even though they had gulped two pizzas between them, she’d heard the woman say the food was greasy. Tricking fat people wasn’t working. She needed people who cared less about what the food tasted like. If she was going to get out of here, she had to get Toni more customers so he could open his second store. She hoped he drowned in marinara sauce.

    As she made her rounds that night Pizza passed a coffee shop. She paused to soak in the smell of espresso. Pizza loved coffee. She decided to sneak in a steal a drink. As she was making her way through the shadows she listened to the people talking.

    “So then I said, of course the government’s trying to take over, and if you don’t believe me…”

    “Yeah, yeah,” another man said. “Always with the government trying to take over. It’s the masons you gotta worry about. They’re running the government.”

    A large man belched and said, “you guys don’t know nothing. It’s all George Bush’s fault. He’s still running things. I know. I got a source.”

    Pizza left with her stolen coffee. She had a plan; she just had to get Toni to fall for it. She did her fat people tricking for the night and went back to Toni’s place to get some rest. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.

    The store was empty the next day, but she hadn’t really put much into her work the night before. “See, the fat people aren’t working. Let me find you customers my way, and you might get some better luck here.” She drummed her feet against the stainless steel counter and tried to look innocent.

    “And how do I know you’ll be helping me?” Toni asked. “You ain’t liked me since we met.”

    “When you can open that second store I’m out of here, so I want you to succeed.” It was kind of true. She couldn’t directly disobey him. She could warp his words; that was actually encouraged in fey society. She would have the best stories when she got home. Even her father would want to hear about what she was about to pull on Toni.

    “Yeah, well, don’t try nothing.”

    “I’ll do exactly what you told me to do,” she said. “All you need to do is make sure there’s plenty of coffee.”

    “What’s coffee have to do with pizza?” he asked.

    “You’ll see,” she said, and she hid under a counter as a customer came into the store. She took the time spent under the counter to rearrange all the pans to that they would fall out when Toni opened the door.

    Later she followed the coffee shop customers to their homes and memorized where they lived. When they were asleep, she crept up to them. “Toni at Peppertoni’s believes like you believe. Eat his pizza and help he will stop whatever you think is after you, or he’ll help you with whatever cause you’re into. Half-off on Tuesdays. All the coffee you can drink. Bring your friends.”

    She worked hard that night, and didn’t get home until dawn. Toni was up and waiting for her. “I thought you’d run off,” he said.

    “You know I can’t do that,” she said.

    “So where were you all night?” he asked.

    “Working. You should have a lot of customers today,” she said. “I think you’ll be surprised.”

    They did have a lot of customers. It was half-off Tuesday, and the place was full. People stood in line outside the door waiting to get in, but they didn’t mind. They just had to have this pizza.

    Pizza watched her master scramble around the kitchen, trying to fill all the orders. He’d called in two nephews and his sister, and he could still barely keep up. She made her way to the front to watch the chaos.

    A man with a shirt that said, “we won’t forget,” was talking to a waitress about how 911 was the result of alien intervention to save the planet. The waitress tried to get away, but he just kept talking. Most of the customers were having more or less friendly arguments about government, aliens, Elvis, or other conspiracies. They all had a solution to “the problem”. They all believed they were God’s truth sayers. This was going well.

    That night she watched as Toni cleaned up the place. “So I did alright?” she asked.

    “Alright? You did awesome! Those were some weird people though.”

    “Well, you didn’t specify,” she said.

    The next day was even better. There was an hour wait just to get a table. The babble inside was deafening, but the customers didn’t seem to mind. They were surrounded by cheap food, lots of coffee, and a fairy-induced feeling that Toni believed them.

    In two weeks they had too many customers. There was a fight outside the store between a man who shouted that Bush was the anti-Christ and another man who thought Obama was the anti-Christ. The police were called, and Pizza roared with laughter as she watched bearded paranoid men running every direction. She knew it was time to make her move.

    "You’re making a lot of money, right?” she asked Toni after everyone else had left.

    “Yeah,” he said. “You’re not getting any. You know that, right?”

    “I don’t need you’re stinky money,” she said. “I just want to go home.”

    “I don’t think I’m letting you go,” Toni said. “You’re useful. I want you to stick around until I can open a third place.”

    “That wasn’t our deal,” she said. “I’ve kept our bargain. You have to keep your promise and release me.”

    "I don’t have enough money to open a second place just yet,” Toni said.

    “Yes, but you have enough prophets,” Pizza said.

    “I don’t have enough profits yet,” Toni said.

    “Sure you do. You can’t even fit all the prophets in the building,” she said. She could barely keep from laughing.

    “What are you talking about?”

    "You know, the prophets you asked for: harbingers of doom, foreseers, those who say what’s going to happen in the future.”

    “You little lying tramp. That’s not what I meant and you know it.”

    She smiled, making sure to show her pointed teeth. “Next time you should be more careful how you say things. I’ve kept the deal, so let me go.”

    “Or what?” he asked.

    “Or I’ll get revenge, along with my family. You don’t mess with the fairy code. We’ll start with lots of biting and then move on to spells. I know some nasty spells. How do you feel about itching until your skin falls off?”

    “Fine,” he said. “I don’t need you anymore, anyway.” That was enough. She had been formally released by her master.

    “See you never,” she said, and vanished.

    She wasn’t finished with Toni yet though. She spent the next couple days going to each “prophet” as they were sleeping. She leaned into each of their ears and whispered, “Toni is the anti-Christ.”

    Before she went home, she stopped by Toni’s house. She whispered in his ear,” tomorrow you’re going to argue with every customer. Have fun with that, Toni. That will teach you not to name me Pizza.”

  10. JJ Phillips

    Word: purple
    Words: 515

    Stream of consciousness writing.

    Purple.

    *********

    Do you trust me? Pick a number any number between 100 and 2,000. Why? Because Promptly told me to tell you so, don’t ask foolish questions, just do as your told. Five hundred fifteen, good now say a random word. Purple, good. Five hundred fifteen and purple, hmm ok, well where to begin…

    I suppose like Byron I wish to begin at the beginning. No, that will take too long and the story must be much too short to fill the allotted space of Five hundred fifteen words from start to finish. What if we start at the end and work our way forwards in reverse?

    Ok so after (after meaning before in our reverse time story) so after the tragedy struck and their love grew ever stronger there was a tragedy and they were not quite so in love, and after that there was no tragedy to begin with and they had not yet met…The end. Hmm I can see now why most stories start the other way around.

    Oh well it’s not a very interesting story whichever direction you choose to look at it, you see she was a tramp throughout the whole story and he was a poor sap from beginning to end. Tragedy struck in their meeting more so than in the tragic finale. I suppose if you were to ask her she would say she knew the ending from the beginning; that in the end she knew she would disappoint him, that she was no good and that he deserved better. And I suppose if you were to ask him he would tell you that he would risk any ending and any pain for the possibility of being with her now, of loving her if even for a moment—you see he really is a sap and I feel bad for him.

    It wasn’t always bad times during the story though, there were so many good times, good moments they both wished to freeze and remain in forever; remain with each other; remain in love. But she knew she would eventually disappoint him, and if you believe in something long enough it’s bound to come true somehow. You see she didn’t believe in love anymore, making her a tramp, and he believed in love unconditionally, making him a sap. And a sap and a tramp can’t stay in love forever.
    So it started the usual way between a tramp and a sap, one day she went out without him and tramped it up, he stayed home and grew sick and longed only for her company. He waited for any word from her to relieve his anxious mind, to know that she still cared about him. She, being lost in her own world of drugs and debauchery thought not about him at all. He began to worry and grew sicker still. It was the beginning of the end, the first episode of the chaos of their relationship.

    Many things happened before and in-between and after, but he loved her always and always she was lonely and without his love became purple.

  11. Martha W

    Uh, this would be hijacker, er… accomplice, ummm… writer #2 in the "borrow" Zac’s blog movement. *grin*

    Following same prompt as my buddy Mark:

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    Joey stared at the ceiling of the tent wishing this camping trip was more exciting. He turned his head and watched the outlines of his mom and dad as they slept next to him. He sighed. They didn’t even let him have his own tent. He tried to convince them that at seven years old he was more than ready to sleep on his own but his mom had freaked.

    So here he was. Listening to his dad snore.

    The urge to use the bathroom surged up and Joey quietly unzipped his sleeping bag. He climbed out and slithered through the tent door. Making his way over to the makeshift outhouse he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. And then stopped short. What was that noise?

    It sounded like… music?

    Joey picked his way through the underbrush and trees, working his way toward the first exciting thing to happen all week. He walked as quickly as possible so he wouldn’t miss whatever this was.

    Within moments he reached a clearing that was lit up like it was the middle of the day. His eyes widened and his mouth gaped open at the sight before him. Tents of all different colors and sizes were perched in varying spots with people milling around the entrances. There were rides of all kinds and games set in long rows, drawing all the children.

    Joey didn’t stop to think where these people came from. He moved forward to look more closely. Carnies called out from each booth, motioning to him, beckoning him over. Mesmerized, he inched in their direction.

    Years of Mom’s warnings rang in Joey’s mind. His feet stopped moving. In fact, they started shifting backwards. Sneers etched the carnies’ faces with anger. He swore their eyes turned a dark, fathomless black. The last kicked his body into high gear.

    He turned and fled. Or tried to. In three steps he slammed head first into a wall of a man. Stumbling back, Joey looked into the pitiless eyes of his roadblock. The corner of the man’s lip edged up in an evil leer as he gripped Joey’s arms. "What’s your rush?"
    "Omigod." Joey struggled to get away, kicking and screaming for help while those around him laughed and pointed.

    The man started to shake him, yelling, "Wake up… Joey, wake up!"

    Huh?

    Joey’s eyes flew open to meet the frantic gaze of his father. Quickly he was bundled up in shaking arms with his mother petting his hair. "It’s okay, baby. Whatever that was, it was a dream." she crooned.

    He pushed back and looked at his parents, shaking his head. "Can we go home? Right now?"

    "Sure, son."

    As they packed their bags and stowed the tent, Joey kept an anxious eye on the woods around them. When they pulled away from the remote camping spot Joey heard the strains of music drifting through the night air. With his heart pounding in his chest, Joey made a decision.

    He was never camping again.

  12. Mark James

    Err. . . Attention. . .
    Since Zach won’t be back until Monday, Martha and I have sort of . . um. . . well. . . “hijacked” is a pretty strong word . . . let’s say we’ve engaged in an act somewhat similar in nature (but not in intention) to what may be construed (by the few) as “hijacking” his blog. And since we’re already in somewhat questionable waters, I didn’t keep it under 500 words.

    This prompt is from “The Writer’s Book of Matches”.
    "While on a camping trip, a little boy strays from his family and happens upon a carnival in the middle of nowhere."

    Dad doesn’t like me wandering off in the woods. It’s like, just because I’m nine years old, he thinks I’m gonna make up some new trouble out here in the sticks.

    He doesn’t worry about me in the city, where weirdoes walk around like ants walk through the grass out here.

    I hate these stupid camping trips. They started after the divorce.

    Dad keeps saying I need to get to know nature. I asked why I can’t get to know it on the Discover Channel where the bugs are on the screen, instead of crawling all over me. He planned another nature trip.

    “William?”

    That’s Dad. Big on responsibility. Never calls me ‘Billie’. “Over here, Dad.”

    “I’d prefer you were over here son, nearby.”

    Like two trees and three rotting logs is so far. “Coming, Dad.”

    Yeah, Dad calls me ‘son’ and ‘William’, but still—he’s gotten a lot grayer since Mom left him for her secretary. Guess she was doing a whole more than catching that last ring before it went to voice mail.

    I started through the trees toward his voice, but then I heard something. The sound came through the trees like ground fog, spreading through the woods. Smells came with the sound, winding through the tree branches—corndogs, doughboys, cotton candy and that scent of sweat and fear that comes with every really good carnival.

    In middle of the woods? A carnival?

    I followed the sounds, the smells, let my feet lead the way, left my Dad and his totally straight-lined, ruler-edged world behind.

    It was only three trees and a couple hundred blades of grass away. I saw the Ferris Wheel first, turning real slow. But something was wrong. It took me a second to understand it was rolling down the midway, crushing anything in its path. Where the seats should have been, cages hung off it. The people behind the bars looked like they were screaming, but I couldn’t hear them.

    Whatever kind of game this was, I wanted to see more. Dad bought me tons of three D games, but nothing like this. It was so real, I could walk right into it.

    I did.

    By the time I made it into the game, the Ferris Wheel had rolled on. The whole place was packed with people, but silent, like a church where everybody’s praying.

    The smells were even stronger now, made my belly rumble. What kind of game came with scents that good?

    Going down the midway through the silent crowd was about as creepy as cruising a graveyard at midnight on Halloween. I passed a woman who reminded me of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Hall. She looked so much like her, I almost said hello. Then I saw her lips.

    They were sewn together in big black X marks, pulled really tight. I could see blood around the holes where the thread went through her flesh.

    Her eyes were aware, in awful pain, the way I always thought one of my Dad’s patients would look if they woke up while he was doing surgery.

    A thought pounded through my head, “GET OUT. HE’LL GET YOU.”

    I was a city kid. Didn’t matter who ‘he’ was. The lady with the sewn up lips was right. Time to go.

    I ran back the way I’d come, leaving those carnival smells behind with every pounding step.

    “William?”

    My Dad’s voice sounded like everything sane and right in the world. I popped out of the trees, breathing hard, practically knocked him down. “Dad, there’s a – -”

    “It’s very irresponsible of you to go running through the trees like that, son. You could get hurt. I’m going to have to insist that you stay where I can see you.”

    I looked over my shoulder, tried to hear the sound of a silent carnival for the dead. “Dad, do you believe in magic?”

    “Has your mother been letting you read those fantasy comics again?”

    Yeah, she was. But they weren’t even a dim torch in the desert next to that carnival. “No. Mostly she’s been getting me Spiderman and Superman.”

    Dad thought those were decent comics, good for building my character. Wasn’t much room for change in his world, and no narrow alleys where reality just fell right out from under you. Tonight, that was okay. Because as soon as he fell asleep, I’d be crawling out of my sleeping bag, and into his.

    Maybe he had some extra of that hard cold reality, and it would rub off on me.

    I sure hope Dad’s straight edges and ruler lines make it into my dreams tonight.

  13. Dorraine

    Thanks for the great prompt, Zac! Not that your others weren’t. As of December 26th, I got some time back.

    Number: 364
    Word: Time

    Right on Time

    Here you are again, ya little shit, come blowing in like the Queen of Sheba. Your grandma, eighty-years-old, in the kitchen, hands trembling, trying to pull that fat turkey out of the oven and you in the living room, fussing over presents. Judy, Judy, Judy.

    “Ah, looks like lots of gifts this year,” she says. “We must of been good. Real good…snicker, snicker. And look at your tree. It looks like the Obama tree!”

    “The Obama’s tree is 30 feet tall, sugar," her husband Joe says, rolling his eyes. “This tree ain’t close to thirty feet.” He shuffles to the kitchen, hands in his pockets. “Hey, you got any beer in this house?”

    “No drinkers here,” Grandma says. “I got coffee. You want coffee?”

    He winks. “Not unless you got something to spice it up.”

    The doorbell rings and she ignores the comment. Other relatives blow in, swamping the kitchen with noise. The women cackle like old hens… squack, squawk, squack, squack. They peck and nibble on the food. God, if they’d only move their fat asses from those homemade yeast rolls I’d have a shot at one. All year I wait for my daughters rolls, and then I’m lucky to get a crumb. She never makes enough. Always been flinty, that one.

    All is clear. I sneak up to the table to make the snatch. Right before my fingers make contact with bread, I get snapped on the knuckles. Holy crap that hurt so bad it made my eyes water. I can’t see who, but I hear the squeaky pitch. Queen Judy.

    “Shame, shame, shame, Grandpa. Don’t be a greedy, greedy. You wait like everyone else.”

    My eyes clear, and I stand amid the revelry, slash pain in the ass, wishing Mike would show up with the beer. He is my son alright, knows exactly what to bring the old man for Christmas. But he doesn’t blow in until the turkey is cold. We are right in the tornado of Queen Judy’s tale about how many bubble baths she’s jammed in this week, and by God my day just lit right up.

    Son, you are right on time.

  14. Martha W

    It bears repeating… I want friends like Mark’s. Even my own sister couldn’t be trusted. Everyone I know has a sick sense of humor… lol!

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Word: rose
    count: 967

    ROSE–

    I wonder if I could make him a New Year’s resolution? The professor was droning on about something Chemistry related but my attention was firmly fixed on the boy seated two rows up and three chairs over. Eric.

    We’d been in this class for the better part of the semester break, an experiment of sorts. There were fifteen of us that were… brighter, I believe is the word the dean used, than the average student. Mensa is what the rest of us called ourselves. So here we were, working away on Christmas break to give the new shortened class periods a go. We liked it but the other students would hate the all day lessons.

    From day one I had noticed the blond sitting slouched down in his seat. Mostly because he was the only one who didn’t notice me. Not that I like to brag or anything, but having a killer IQ along with a killer body usually garnered me the attention of whomever I chose. Except him.

    Eric steadfastly ignored me, even when I was in front of the class doing a teaching segment. He stared at his notebook taking notes like it was still our stodgy old professor yammering on about hydrocarbons. Quite honestly, it like a red flag in front of a bull.

    It was a challenge I couldn’t pass up.

    The timer dinged on Professor Smith’s desk signaling the end of this segment and I knew I had to make my move now or I’d end up with some idiot at the New Year’s party tonight.

    I grabbed my books and slid out into the aisle just as he passed. Shadowing him until we were out in the hall, I moved up next to him at the first opportunity. He glanced over at me, eyes widening just a bit. I smiled at him, "Hi. I’m Mandy."

    He nodded and kept walking.

    Taking a deep breath, I tried again. "You’re Eric, right?"

    He pulled open the door and gestured for me to go first. Since I was getting peeved and needed the fresh air, I went. "Did I do something to you?"

    "No."

    Wow. With that witty dialogue it was no wonder I bending over backwards to get a date. "So you do speak."

    "Of course I do."

    "Huh."

    "What?" He pointed toward a bench under the nearest tree that was empty. And out of the way.

    "If you don’t want to be seen with me, just say so. I’ll leave."

    His blue eyes drifted across my face and down the length of my body, practically setting me on fire right there. "That’s not the problem."

    "What-"

    "Eric. Who’s this?" A husky female voice from just behind me demanded.

    My eyes narrowed. I stepped forward and hissed in his ear, "If you had a girlfriend, you should have said."

    "I don’t."

    I stepped back to assess him, still ignoring the intrusion behind me. "No?"

    "No."

    "Who’s she?"

    "Ex." Pretty soon I’d have to shut him up, he was talking so much.

    Low enough for only his ears, I said, "Ah. Want to keep her as the ex?"

    His eyes swirled with a currant of gratitude and wariness. Just as quietly he responded, "What’s on your mind?"

    Again, the snotty tone breached our conversation. "I asked a question. Who is this, Eric?"

    He cleared his throat but I didn’t give him a minute to think. I lifted shaking fingers to brush an unruly lock of hair from his forehead and leaned in for a kiss. For a brief moment he froze. Then his brain disengaged. He slid his arms around my waist and pulled me tight to him, letting me feel exactly what I was doing to him.

    Soon we were tangled together, blissfully unaware of the snarky comments from his ex-girlfriend. My hands twisted into his hair, keeping his lips locked to mine, unwilling to give him up even to answer the nasty insults being hurled my way.

    Minutes later we broke apart, breathless. He stared at me, running his up and down my sides. "Is this for real?"

    Still trying to collect myself, I laughed. The hurt that flashed through those baby blues stopped me in my tracks. "Eric, honey. It couldn’t get any more real than this."

    The tension eased from his muscles as a mischievous grin graced his mouth. "Oh, sure it could."

    "Are you two through? My boyfriend and I have someplace to be."

    Finally, I had had enough. "Your boyfriend?"

    I turned to see what the fuss was about. She took a step forward and Eric’s grip tightened on my hip. As calm as I could manage, I shrugged him off. Stepping forward myself, I gave her a once-over. Red hair and green eyes matched with a pixie face that belied the sailor mouth, she was really very pretty.

    But she wasn’t me.

    I ran my fingers through long brunette strands, easing my anger until I could respond adequately. My own green eyes snapped with the depth of my irritation and when I moved closer to her she backpedaled quickly. I smirked, for once hiding my level of intellect. Instead I made use of all five-foot-nine inches God gave me. "You didn’t answer me."

    She fidgeted with her book as she tried to remain confident. "What was the question?"

    "He’s your boyfriend? Eric? The one that just had his tongue down my throat? Your boyfriend? Are you sure?" With each question I advanced on her. My southern roots were beginning to show.

    "Mandy." The reprimand meant nothing when it was laced with laughter.

    I sighed and turned back to him. "Yes, love?"

    "It’s time to go." He held out a hand and as I entwined my fingers with his, he looked at her one final time. "Goodbye, Rose."

  15. Martha W

    Shara, sometimes 10 minutes can feel like 2 hours when you’re writing so you’re still right on target… *grin*

    Mark, okay, here’s the deal. I didn’t get a school bus in the non-fiction one so we each get one strike… they cancel each other out, see? No big. *grin* On another note, I want friends like yours. My sister-in-law said 1975 & Inventory. I might take a poll. *wink* And I really like this one. No fair playing on heart-strings…

    Zac, love. If you want your fictitious you to be nicer I can rewrite the ending. I have a better one if ya wanna see it… *big fat cheesy grin*

  16. Mark James

    The word: Hat
    The number: 579
    New Year’s Resolution: Look for the fish.
    Zac: Great prompt.
    Martha: One more. Then they’re toast.

    Hat

    We didn’t stray from the boardwalk. I think I convinced her about alligators in the ocean.

    “The stars are pretty,” Mandie said.

    I kissed her. “Didn’t notice.”

    “Where did you say all the people went?”

    The meds that let her wake up enough for the beach hadn’t kicked in yet. She stumbled against me. I caught her, didn’t let her fall. “Second Coming.”

    Mandie rolled her eyes.

    “You should of seen it,” I said. “Fireworks in the sky. Then this guy on a throne, he floated down in the middle of Miami and – -”

    “Seventy-five years, and you don’t grow up an inch.” She smacked the back of my head. “God in Miami? Where? South Beach?”

    “Wearing a thong.” I shuddered. “It got ugly.”

    “And it was on CNN,” she said, playing along, like she always did. “And everyone on Earth committed mass suicide?”

    “How’d you guess?”

    “You have to stop this. I’m not alive.”

    I took her hand, kissed her palm, inhaled her scent. “Live enough for me.”

    “Don’t.” She pulled her hand away. “You’re spending your whole life in here.”

    “I made a promise.”

    “Yeah.” Hands on her hips, she stopped to look up at me. “Till death do us part. You’re off the hook, Scranton.”

    “That ice cream place you like is down a ways. Let’s walk.”

    She let me take her hand. I squeezed, felt her warm living flesh against mine. Every chance I got, I made a deposit in her virtual account. Soon as she was in the green, I was there, showing her the world so when she woke up she wouldn’t be – –

    “It’s creepy.” A shiver ran through her. “Beaches aren’t silent at noon. How come your memory’s like this?”

    “It’s been a long time,” I said. “Almost a year.”

    “Huh.” She twisted around, her eyes everywhere. “So God really landed in Miami in a thong?”

    “Remember the flu virus from last time?”

    Her eyes went wide. “No way.”

    “It’s wiping out most of the world.”

    She ran to me, wrapped her arms around my waist, held on tight. “Are you sick? Your body? Did you get it?”

    “No.” I stroked her hair. “Some of us have natural immunity. No one knows why. They’re taking us to some kind of camp or lab.”

    “Where am I? With you?”

    “Begin record,” I said. “Amanda, listen to me. Cause I’m going to this lab in the woods, they’re paying to digitize you. Download you into a clone. But you have to agree, say for the record that you’re okay with it.”

    She backed away, her hand covering her mouth. “You know how I feel about that. Those things have no soul.”

    I bit back my temper. “It’s a clone. Twenty years old. It’ll be like the accident never happened.”

    Mandie shook her head. “No.”

    #

    I pulled off the hat full of wires. It led to Mandie’s hat, perched on her shrunken bald head. When she refused, my visit was over. They couldn’t keep her on life support anymore. Hospitals were shutting down. No staff.

    When the tears came, I didn’t stop them. I waited outside her door, tried not to hear the single long tone that meant Mandie was gone forever, tried not to see the flat line that led into eternity, going across her monitors.

    I got to keep one memory of her.

    The door opened. The nurse gave me a box. “Sir,” she said, “your wife’s hat.”

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