Surprise Attack; New Pet

Hey writers,

Do you know what house centipedes are? Those multi-legged monsters that look like the next generation of weaponized spider, and move with the  speed of a gazelle? I found one in my apartment last night and a scuffle ensued. Afterward, as we sat there looking at each other, beaten and exhausted, I felt a little bad for Clyde him, and the following prompt bubbled to the surface.

Intruders aside, here’s the latest news about moving forward: Every week, I’ll go through and pick a great story to call out in an entry as a “Notable Story of the Week.” At the end of every month, we’ll have the usual swag-off, and I’ll rotate my co-judges to keep the perspectives fresh (I’ll also get a logo drawn up for the winners, in case they have websites they want to use it on).

Yours in writing,


PROMPT: Surprise Attack; New Pet
In 500 words or less, funny, sad or stirring:

Something unexpected attacks you. Now, you have to decide whether or not to keep it as a pet.

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16 thoughts on “Surprise Attack; New Pet

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  6. Diamond

    The warm Mexico sun poured down on me from overhead, warming my bare arms and legs with a delicious tingling heat that only comes from the tropical sun. I lay on my stomach, propped up like a little seal on my elbows, meticulously brushing sand out of the novel I was reading.

    I was engrossed in the sumptuous unimportance and entertainment of the first book I had picked up to read for “just for fun” in two years—grad school is a bi***. Allowing myself to drown completely in the story and the sun, I was deaf to the rest of the world.

    Jennifer was there with me, a co-survivor of our MA program and fellow shoe-loving travel-aholic. I was awakened from my mental reveille by a blast of sand being kicked up by Jennifer’s flailing legs.

    “Aahhh!” she squeaked as she bounded down towards the warm salty ocean waters.

    I glanced up, startled, and a sickening feeling hit my stomach as I felt sharp claws stuck in my tousled, salty hair. I followed Jen’s example and took off in no particular direction other than away.

    I finally got up the courage to pause my flight and turn back around cautiously to where I had been relaxing. There he was. The biggest, nastiest, grayest iguana I had ever seen. He was glaring at me from just below my bright turquoise towel and didn’t plan to leave any time soon.

    He held my gaze and slowly picked his way backwards a few feet up the sandy beach to just above my towel where a pack of chips I had been munching on lay. This is too much! I thought. I’m not going to stand here and let some lizard eat my Doritos that I smuggled with me on my vacation. I happen to be a huge fan of Cool Ranch. I slowly began to approach my spot, hoping to intimidate this hungry beast before he stuck his slimy tongue in and drooled all over my precious junk food. The instant I was far enough out of the water, the little devil charged at me, strategically maintaining his huge corpus between me and my chips.

    I had no choice but to retreat back into the salty water. We repeated this sequence so many times that it felt like we were rehearsing for the tango. Everything was there, the heat, the argument, the passion, the steps…

    Eventually I had to watch in horror as his dirty hole greedily swallowed up my chips, staring at me in diabolic defiance. I stomped my foot in the salty sand and felt tears come to my eyes. Not because my chips were gone, but that I had lost a stare down to an iguana. Now he sniffs me out every day and I have had to move to the other side of the hotel. This unwanted pet is almost as bad as my ex-boyfriend who also happens to be on the other side of the hotel.

  7. J. Alvey

    Whenever we were really bored during those summers we would wind up down at the McShane house. I do not know how it got that name, as we were certainly not real estate agents or title searchers at nine and 10 years old. It was probably a name that was passed down from year to year, like the fact that it was certainly haunted.

    It had all of the distinguishing features of a haunted house, a rather large, white, decaying two-story house out in the middle of nowhere with the woods beginning to creep in and overtake it. Its windows were broken or boarded, and the one time I managed to actually go through the front door, on a dare, I saw there were broken bottles everywhere along with graffiti on the walls, among other sordid items too mysterious to give much consideration at that particular age, with the exception of the red lace bra and the rubbers in various stages of disrepair, and item, by the way, I thought my dad used to prevent himself from wetting the bed, although I could never get them to work for me for whatever reason.

    Most definitely a haunted house, and therefore we spent most of our time outside of it daring one another to enter, without much success. Much of the time we spent picking blackberries from the thorny bushes that lined the diminishing dirt road adjacent to the house, occasionally coming across and catching a black snake, taking it home and being forced by parental decree to not just remove it from the neck but set it free somewhere far from home.

    On the day I coaxed little brother Bill, visiting cousin Mike and visiting cousin Karen down to McShane’s, we discovered a turtle resting inexplicably in a metal milk box on the backporch. I wanted him.

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    Reaching in to pick him up, he woke from his inner shell and clamped onto my finger.

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    The fate of the turtle is unknown. I had no interest in finding him. I had no interest in discovering how he would survive what was probably his first flight.

    We ran like hell. A haunted house with snapping turtles that clung until a full moon arose was more than we could handle. That, and it was time for lunch.

  8. Patricia A. Hawkenson


    "Man, this sucks."

    "Kyle, we’ve talked about your language before. There are better ways to say that you don’t like something."



    "Okay, okay." Kyle bent his head down to his paper. He started digging in his pencil bag for an eraser but couldn’t find one. Watching his frustration, I reached into my desk, found an eraser and handed it to him. He reluctantly took it and began erasing his mistake. He pressed hard, too hard, and his paper tore, but my mistake was in not turning away. I stood there for the time it took for the eraser to hit me square in the chest. You wouldn’t have thought that an eraser bouncing off cloth would make a loud sound, but every child in the classroom heard it. Twenty-six pencils were lifted at half mast, a respectable moment of silence for the dead.

    Slowly, I reached down and picked the eraser up off the floor. The clock’s second hand kept moving, and I hadn’t realized that I was holding my breath along with the rest of the class. There was stiffness to my voice when it finally came out, "Thank you, Kyle. Most students don’t return things they borrow from me." I walked to my desk, every eye on my every step, and I put it back in the drawer.

    "I told you this sucks," Kyle tried to justify his mistake. "I can’t write. Every time I have an idea it runs away before I can put it on the paper."
    "Kyle, from what I can see, you show a great deal of emotion. You know how to say what you think, a great quality for an aspiring writer. Come up and write your spelling words into sentences on the board. It won’t tear."

    "What do you want me to write about?"


    From the back of the room, "Ooooooh, Teacher’s pet!" Kyle curled his lip as he gave his classmate the evil eye. Turning to my manual, I hid my smile as Kyle came up to the board.

  9. Loveskidlit

    I was parked already, and juggling a grocery bag, an empty juice box, a handful of soggy cheerios and a gum wrapper (note to self: time to get the car cleaned out) when something tapped me on the back of the head. I thought a cicada must have flown into me; one of those dumb bugs with widely set eyes that must triangulate on something in another dimension, because they sure don’t work well in this one. I could hardly bother to turn my head, but reflex was doing the work for me, and just as I did, something trailed across my shoulder.

    At this point, whatever was attacking me was sustaining the fray, and I didn’t need to check my reflexes to know that it was high time to lose my self control. The grocery bag hit the ground with a sickening crunch (note to self: need more salad olives) and I swatted at my shoulder with the fistful of cheerios, much like my toddler does.

    Why the helium balloon picked me, I don’t know. Had it said "happy anniversary" or something, I would not have felt the sympathetic connection, the kind that says "aw, take it home!" But it was a slightly manic smiley face, no longer bouncy and fresh but tired and deflating, crinkly and … old looking. No, I ws not looking in the mirror, so thanks for that. But it was like at the humane society, when all the perky puppies get adoped first, and the sage, slightly bitter but oh so smart older ones do their time. This balloon hadn’t been held close, kept on the leash. And it descended, like some divine finger, and poked me on the back of the head.

    I know it won’t last forever. It’s already half way to the bedroom floor. But I didn’t give it to my toddler, as she assumed I would. This puppy’s mine.

  10. S.E.Ingraham

    The Foolishness of Royalty

    It’s not as if I haven’t been warned. My brother, as ambitious as his is, was kind enough to tell me not to keep you viper, but I knew better. I am divine after all, am I not? And I trusted you, for we two are more like friends than keeper and pet – at least that has always been my belief.

    Now, as I feel my life seeping away, I feel you even now crawling under my breast you fickle friend you. How could you turn on me now, now when I was about to take over my empire fully and rule it alone? You know what they all will think, don’t you?

    Ahh – that it has come to this – that such an end for one as regal as one such as I; that I should come to such an inglorious final rest, I cannot bear it. Come back here, you fiend. At least comfort me as I die, do that for me, you cold-blooded serpent.

    There is a reason they say you speak with forked tongue you little demon, you with your dry scaly body and whispery movements beneath my robes. Have I not always kept you near me? Honouring you with a place usually reserved for deities alone? And this is how you repay me? Poison? You sink your fangs into my heart and poison me?

    Why dear heart, if you have a heart at all, just tell me that before I join my ancestors in their places with the sun, why, when we were as close as any two could be, and I had planned to raise you up, make you a royal sceptre at the very least – why now, would you forsake me, take my breath, my life?

    Don’t hiss at me you foolish snake – a sceptre with privileges, you would have gone everywhere I did and no-one the wiser, but now, you will be lucky to slink away unmolested. My brother will send up the alarm, you know he has to make it look like he cares when I die and you will pay the price. Did he promise you something? Is that why you have betrayed me, you asp, you? Do you not know how devious brother dear is really? I will not be cold before he betrays you too, darling albino serpent of mine, I can promise you that.

    Alas, my eyes grow weary and my limbs heavy with death flowing throughout my soul – I wish you well my darling serpent, even though you have wronged me greatly, for I have loved you, truly. Would that you could have known this better, you might have served me always.

  11. Heather Hoaglund-Biron

    Ever since Teddy–my beautiful German Shepherd/Border Collie mix–died, I haven’t had a single idea for a short story. My wife tried convincing me that it wasn’t related, inspiration would come back, I just needed some time off and I’d be fine. Two weeks and twenty trashed story ideas later, I couldn’t do it anymore.

    “This way,” the kennel attendant said as she opened the door to her right. Loud barking and the overwhelming smell of dog made me smile. The door closed behind us and the attendant stood back, letting me browse.

    A basketful of extremely cute Pomeranian puppies was to my right. Molly, my youngest, would love one, but I can’t stand small, yippy dogs–

    A crash sounded behind me and I whipped around, staggering back against the cage of puppies. A Great Dane was standing on its hind legs, front paws pressing against its cage, tongue lolling out of its mouth in a great big grin. Its head was level with my own.

    “Down, Henry!” The attendant came over and gave the dog a stern look. He backed down, whimpering. “I’m sorry. He’s not trained very well, and he’s been here for the longest time.” Henry’s fur was marbled chocolate and black, and he looked to be in decent shape. “We just got a Sheltie yesterday, she’s over here.”

    The attendant walked away from Henry’s cage, toward a smaller one in the back. I couldn’t help glancing over my shoulder at Henry.

    “She’s very good with children. You said you had two kids, right?”

    “Yes.” The Sheltie’s face had a slight resemblance to Teddy’s, but she was very small. Cute and puppy-sized forever. But it was another small yippy dog.

    “Is Henry, over there,” I pointed, “good with children?”

    She raised her eyebrows, somehow surprised I was interested in him. “If you trained him well, yes. But that would take some time. Not into the Sheltie?”

    “No, not particularly.” The dog’s tail wagged enthusiastically, but I looked back at Henry.

    “How do you feel about Boxers, or maybe a Labrador?” She walked to another corner of the room where more dogs barked and whined incessantly. I looked over the dogs, and none of them were as enthusiastic as Henry. He was even quiet, if you ignored how he made the fence creak when he leaned on it. Maybe he had nearly attacked me, but he was only being friendly. I could take him to training lessons; I had some time in my schedule.

    I quietly wandered back to Henry’s cage, and the attendant followed me distantly, with a frown. “Interested in him, are you?” Henry jumped up again, and she pointed and gave him another stern look. He backed down, but stood there with his tongue still lolling. “He’ll need some work.”

    A story idea came to me then, about a dog and a rude kennel attendant. It was perfect, the best idea I’d had for weeks. I smiled and nodded. “He’s the one.”

    Heather Hoaglund-Biron

  12. De Jackson

    Pet Rock

    People who live in glass houses
    shouldn’t throw stones
    but they often do.
    I’ve saved this one
    as a reminder of my own fragility.
    I think I’ll call him Charlie.


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