Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Snow, Painting, Ex-Friend

WRITING PROMPT: Monday Matchup #13
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings.
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

Write a scene featuring snow, a painting, and an ex-friend.

Also! What are you and your writing doing January 21-23? Join us in New York for the Writer’s Digest Conference. We always have a blast, and it can be a great move for your craft and career (at one of our recent events, agents Janet Reid and Andrea Hurst signed clients, and went on to negotiate six-figure deals for them). On tap this year:

  • Our signature agent pitch slam, featuring at least 57 agents representing a variety of genres and styles
  • Sessions on the future of publishing, craft, platform, social media, freelancing and much, much more
  • Panels and Q&As with agents and other pros
  • Our off-site poetry slam in SoHo.

Click here to learn more. Hope to see you there!

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7 thoughts on “Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Snow, Painting, Ex-Friend

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  5. Mark James

    “Please stop. I’m scared.”

    What he said shouldn’t have mattered to Hanlon. A job was a job. But something in the target’s blue eyes bothered him, made him hesitate.

    “Just turn around,” Hanlon said. “It won’t hurt.”

    “How many times have you died that you know that?”

    Snowflakes swirled down from the night sky, floating through the faded yellow of the streetlight, and lumping together in the filthy gutters. “I know two ways to do this,” Hanlon said, “hard or easy. What’s your pick?”

    “Jordan sent you, didn’t he?”

    In Hanlon’s line of work, names weren’t important, not as long as the bottom line was cash. He slid his right hand behind him, and pulled his knife from the sheath at the base of his spine. “He a friend of yours?”

    “Not since I trashed his painting.”

    A mild wince came over Hanlon’s face. Art? This was about something a kid could do with his fingers? He closed his hand around his knife, keeping it hidden. One deep quick slice and he’d be done. “What’s your name?”

    “Gage. Is it my lucky night?”


    Unbelievably Gage laughed. “Tell me you don’t kill men whose names start with ‘G’”.

    A snowflake swirled between Hanlon’s eyes, slid down his nose and dripped to his leather jacket. When he was on a job, names didn’t matter. Blue eyes didn’t talk to him. Soft lips didn’t invite him to do anything but shut them up forever. Having no idea what he’d do next, Hanlon slid his knife back into its sheath. “Disappear,” he said. “Go on. Walk away.”

    Gage slumped against the graffiti-covered wall behind him. For a moment, it looked like he might die of relief.

    Hanlon found he couldn’t let that happen. He rushed toward Gage and tugged him upright. “Tell me it’s my lucky night,” he said.

    “You’re not the one who almost got dead.”

    Gage tried to disentangle himself from Hanlon, but he flexed muscle around him, and held on tight. “No. I’m the one who almost let you slip right by me.”
    “You always come on to men you got paid to kill?” Gage said.

    Hanlon let Gage ease away from him. “Only when I’m going crazy,” he said.

    “How many times does tonight make?”

    “One,” Hanlon said. “How come someone wanted you dead over a painting?”

    “I’m an art critic.” Gage leaned against the wall. “He didn’t like what I had to say.”

    Before he could stop himself, Hanlon was laughing.

    “It’s not freaking funny,” Gage said. “It was my first high profile write-up.”

    “It was almost your last,” Hanlon said. The speculative look Gage gave him made Hanlon’s hackles stand on end. “You’re thinking something I won’t like.”

    “Always wanted to do a story on a hit man.” Gage’s blue gaze caught Hanlon. “And since I’m not dead, and I have to pay rent, you could – -”

    “I could be smart and give your ex-friend his money back and disappear like a bad Christmas present.”

    “Or we could get dinner,” Gage said.

    All his life, Hanlon had been smart. Tonight, he’d try something different.

  6. Reggie Manning

    Even after what she put me through on our ‘Midnight Movie’, and my hallucination of the ‘Christmas Carols’, Kristina still haunted my mind. I sat there on my door steps chain smoking menthols until my throat was Sahara dry, and my fingertips reeked like burnt popcorn. I missed her… like I was aiming to forget her. Everything reminded me of her, even sitting on the steps smoking; she hated when I smoked in the house, so it’s been routine that I take my habit outside. The stars reminded me of her eyes, which sounds like a corny cliché from an airport novel, but it’s true… her eyes really did twinkle. I was in dire need of a wish right now… I had to see her.
    I parked two blocks away from her residence and sat there for while. I stepped out once but quickly jumped back inside my car. I felt so dumb for doing this, but love tends to make people stupid… She had me dumbfounded. Finally I took a deep breath like I was about to perform a cannon ball, and stepped outside. The wind chill attempted to slap some sense in me, but I was too far gone. I took each step with regret but reminded myself that I had come too far to turn around now. Maybe if I just peeped through her window, just for a glance, my heart would be satisfied and I could return home. I knew just the window to sneak towards, since she always read in her guest room before she went to bed. I just hoped that she hadn’t already gone to sleep.
    I slid my feet in the three inch snow to prevent from leaving a footprint; a silly trick I had seen on ‘Law and Order’. I could feel my heart beat bicycle kicking through my hooded Carhart jacket. My pop corn fingertips felt like metal when I rubbed them together for heat, but still I had come too far to let Mother Nature hold me back. I could see her hair in the window like a set of jet black curtains. I dropped the ground instantly, thinking that she was looking out the window; maybe she had heard me sliding my size thirteen boots. Snow flew up my shirt when I fell prone; leaving my chest freezing with ice dripping into my jeans… this was bad.
    When I looked up at the window I felt stupid realizing that she actually had her back to the window. I shook my head at my stupidity and snow shot from my earlobes. She was holding something in her hand, viewing it. I crouched and duck walked over to get a closer look; the whole footprint idea was history now. It looked like a painting but I couldn’t make out what it was of, so I eased my face closer to the glass. I was so close that I could actually smell her, and my face melted when I saw what she was holding. It was a painting of us that we had some street artist paint when we visited Chicago… It all was worth it now.

  7. Paula Harris

    I recall the night that I spent with Naoki and his friends, listening to them spin tales old and new. This particular one caught my attention more than the rest. I am not sure if it was the hushed tones and demure looks which passed between the friends that seemed to give the tale more credence, or if it was the iconic painting of her which was hung on the wall. Perhaps it was seeing the trinket that solidified my desire to seek her out. Naoki showed me the trinket as we lay next to each other. Our bodies were still covered in our sweat and sex. He brushed the trinket over my lips, re -telling the tale at my request. When he looked again at the face of the trinket, the lettering present there had changed colour. Naoki sat up with a start. He said that this must mean that the trinket truly belonged to me, and offered it to me to keep. He seemed worried and more than a little pale. It was to be the last time I would ever see him.

    I make my way now across the snow covered carriageway toward the park. The freezing fog that cleaves to my hair and face catches in my throat. It builds crystalline shards on the twigs and branches of the trees, which appear white in the intermittent light of the street lamps.
    I walk at a slow and steady pace along the path, I am quiet but I know that she can hear me. My breath alone would be enough to draw her out. I pull the trinket from my pocket. I marvel once again at how her name is there, though it is not written, or etched, or carved. It is a part of the stone and always has been. I head deep into the parkland toward the now frozen lake. No one else will be here at this hour, on this night. I look swiftly around me, glancing from side to side. I am apprehensive, anticipating the sight of her. I am excited to catch the first glimpse of her sinuous advance. I ready myself to run; I am told that she likes the thrill of the hunt better than the taste of the flesh. I set my motion capture camera on the bench here, next to the lake. I pray that it isn’t stolen as I walk away.


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