All in a Days Work

As a doctor for hire you’ve met a fair share of odd folks. Nothing quite like this though: A man in his mid-thirties stands before you, clutching a wound just given to him by another man sprinting down the street. Now the perpetrator trips and lands on his own knife. Screaming for help and not knowing what the heck just happened—what do you do?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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265 thoughts on “All in a Days Work

  1. rmhoffman

    From ’67 to ‘68, I ran a mobile urgent care clinic out of my VW van in the Haight-Ashbury, catering to the massive population of young people that had ventured here to become hippies. For my services, I took whatever the patient could afford, which was usually nothing. I dealt with mostly venereal infections and overdoses, but also a good number of assault victims. Violence had a place here, thinly veiled under the naïve ideals of peace and love. The trappings of humanity produced byproducts so vile, that at times and always privately, I wept.
    On a particularly busy day, I encountered something that changed me deeply, so much so, that it marked my last days operating out of my van. There had been an outbreak of chlamydia and a long, bright, calico and tie dyed line of mostly teens and 20 somethings stretched a half a block away. It was a hot day and I injected penicillin into them, one after the other, like an assembly line worker. I was 2 years out of med school, and these were my peers, age wise, but they always seemed younger. I felt for them.
    As I listened to a young lady describe the typical symptoms of a burgeoning venereal infection, a flurry of action in my peripheral caught my eye. I turned to see, about 50 ft away, a young man getting stabbed repeatedly by what looked like a 15 year old boy. As the young man fell to the ground, screams issued from the crowd, first 2,3 then too many to count. The crowd screamed and yelled and panicked as the boy turned away, quick of foot, running up the steep sidewalk, then, tripping, whole body spasming twice on the pavement. The whole scene played out in less than 30 seconds.
    Put a flower in my hair and knife in my chest…
    With crowd frenzied, and some flocking to the stabbing scene, while others ran away, I struggled to reach the victim of the assault. When I did, it took a minute to get everyone away from him. He was bleeding from the right side of his abdomen and the front. I needed to move him over to my van and needed a hand. No one helped.
    I ended up bringing supplies over to him, dressing and wrapping him, quickly and efficiently. I still had another problem: the assailant was lying on the pavement surrounded by a group of about 10 people that were attacking him. As I ran over to help him, an ammo bag of medical supplies bouncing off my hip, I realized that I was too late.
    That boy, who I never found out the name or age to, passed that day, in my arms, after having been brutally beaten. That day, I realized the whole idea of peace and love and rock and roll had not been lost; it just had never existed, here, in the first place.

    1. Solid Shadow

      Wow, rmhoffman, that was powerful. A thoughtfully eye opening perspective and ingeniously inspiring. I’d love to read more of this story.

  2. SkyFox

    Its a special feeling when you help someone. When you make their day that much better.
    The clinics dark.The needles and banadages packed and stored away.
    Im the only one here. Its nice really. Just yourself with no distractions.
    Sighing I clip the documents togher and shove them into the cabinet. Its time to go home.
    Go home to my empty house, with the dinner uncoocked, where I cant remember the last time someone laughed inside.
    As I walk down the green stained halls my mind wanders. I wonder whats it like for a normal family now.
    There be sitting down to dinner,laughing,smiling, recounting the days ups and down.
    Not me though. I go home to cold halls and memories. Usually followed by a bitter dinner where we blame each other for everything that happened. Then Mark dumps the dishes on the sink and walks out.
    To come back at two in the morning, smelling of perfume and vodka.
    The whoosh of the doors opening breaks my thoughts and a chilly wind picks up.
    The streelights blur as my eyes water, searing gusts of making them cry.
    Except when I blink theres a man kneeling on the street. Praying?Homeless?
    He takes his hands away from his chest.
    Their sticky with blood. His eyes roll and he pitches foward onto the cracked concrete.
    Theirs a dark shape running away, running to try and jump the fence.
    Im starting foward, trying to get to the man when a shreik cleaves the night.
    The shape slumps foward, and hilt protudes from his side.
    Im kneeling next to them men and trying to tie a banadge around his side.
    His blood is everywhere,on the sidewalk, on my hands.
    His losing blood to fast and his breathing is shallow.
    Shaking I take out my phone and call 000.
    “Hello this is 000,what is your emergency?”
    “Stabbing. 24 May Street. I…I need help.”
    The phone drops from my numb and an shatters on the street.
    The man in the dark is trying to move.
    I run, but I have never been fast.
    Hes face down on the concrete.
    I grab my scarf and hold it to the wound and roll him over.
    Its Mark. Hes blank eyes are staring at the stars and blood coats his side.
    I dont know if I am crying. My whole body feels like ice. I fall to my knees and rest my head against his chest. I can hear the sirens in the distance.
    Yet a small part of me feels glad that he is gone, that he is no loger part of my world and thats what makes it so much worrse.
    I am still sitting there when paramedics come.
    I am still sitting when they try and get me to respond.
    I am still sitting when the take me to the asylum.

    THIRD POST>PLEASE GIVE FEEDBACK 🙂 🙂

  3. Beebles

    Ah, just for the crack – reference previous comments. And guess what, its my first time writing in decasyllabic assonal laisses with a caesura after the 4th syllable. 🙂

    Beneath these leafed suburban streets I creep
    Torn from college whereat I do my work
    A PhD does show my quality
    But who comes now all blood around the gut
    Dash flashing knife impaling he who flees
    O no and woe both men I cannot help
    Since medicine is not my discipline
    But Medieval French literature be

  4. Critique

    This was perfect in every way Tim, entertaining all the way through.
    I’m glad the techs knew their stuff and got your seized fluid pump up and running!!!

  5. Critique

    I wrote this in a hurry – it’s a bit lacking but wanted to take a shot at the prompt.

    A Badge of Distinction

    “Take one pill three times a day with food. They can be hard on the stomach. I want to see you in two weeks.” Marcia helped Mrs. Duffrey’s frail figure navigate the front steps and climb into the gleaming black Studebaker where her husband sat waiting for her. “Take care now.”

    For a small town there sure were plenty of sick folks. Mrs. Duffrey was the last patient on the roster. Marcia couldn’t wait to get home. Twelve hours on her feet.

    A movement caught her eye and she turned to see the Sheriff staggering down the boarded sidewalk towards her clutching his shoulder. Blood oozed through his fingers.

    “Help me.” He gasped and pointed to a man running down the gravel road. “He stabbed me.”

    They both watched the fleeing man stumble and fall heavily to the ground. A shrill scream pierced the air.

    “Denise.” Marcia hollered at her nurse. “Get out here.”

    Denise raced down the steps and between the two women they half carried the bleeding man into the clinic and got him to lay down on an examining table. Assessing the wound quickly, Marcia ascertained it wasn’t life threatening.

    “Denise.” Marcia folded a sterile towel and pressed it onto the wound. “Keep pressure on this until I get back.”

    “Shouldn’t someone go with you?” Denise’s eyes were wide with worry.

    “I wouldn’t go near that man Doctor.” The Sheriff ordered weakly. “That’s Francisco Demerit. He’s wanted for a string of crimes and is armed – as you know – and dangerous.”

    Everyone in town and the surrounding area knew about Francisco Demerit. They kept their children close, stayed in after dark and locked their doors.

    Silence reigned outside.

    “I have to see what’s happened.” Marcia called as she hurried out the door.

    Cautiously approaching the still figure on the ground Marcia knew instantly there was nothing to be done.

    Francisco Demerit lay on his back, sightless eyes staring at the sky, a knife stuck to the hilt in the left side of his chest.

    Inside the clinic Marcia told them he was dead.

    Denise injected a pain narcotic and Marcia disinfected the wound, stitched it closed and applied a dressing. The sheriff winced as Marcia tightened a sling to keep his arm immobile.

    Handing the Sheriff his dented star shaped badge Marcia said. “This probably saved your life. The knife hit this first or it likely would have severed the axillary artery.”

    “Yes, I’m mighty thankful for this. Might have to frame it.” The Sheriff sat on the edge of the table and fingered the damaged six-point badge with his free hand. “We’ve been on his trail for months. We can rest easy tonight.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is quite nice, Critique. You did a nice job establishing the setting and presented a lovely “just-so” story. This universe plays for keeps; first Francisco tries to stab the Sheriff in the heart, then stabs himself in roughly the same place. Remind me never to get a knife-wound there… 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A good response Critique, your characters were believable. The dedicated doctor comes across very nicely and a smooth solution at the end. And the irony at the end was very nice. I enjoyed the use of the sherriff’s badge. Finishes the story well.

  6. Observer Tim

    TURNABOUT IS FOUL PLAY

    This is the sequel to “All in a night’s Work” below. Even darker.

    Three years as a sex slave slash medic have done a great job honing skills I never knew I had. My Cantonese is passable; I can take a client to heaven and I can send an enemy to hell, either one over the course of several days. Mister Yu has provided a complete education, the only cost being every shred my dignity and humanity.

    I stand like a statue, eyes downcast as Mister Yu and Mister Tang argue. I’m dressed Hawaiian style right now, grass skirt and lei and a flower in my hair: nothing else. It’s been over a year since I had to take a beating for reacting to what was said in a meeting. Perversely, I feel pretty.

    Yu is shouting now; that means by the end of the evening I’m going to be sore and Tang is going to be dead. Yu is always rough on me after a fight, but at least my little Chun-Li will lick it better afterwards.

    Then the unexpected happens; Tang pulls a dagger. Yu’s chief of security is going to lose a finger over this. No, he’s going to lose his life. Yu’s carotid artery is spraying blood; now Tang turns to run, totally ignoring me. I swing my leg around and one foot goes out from under Tang. He obligingly lands on his knife.

    Yu is already dead; his body just doesn’t know it yet. I roll Tang over. There’s a deep puncture in his side but he’ll pull through.

    Like hell. I drop on his chest with one knee, pull the dagger out and slice his throat open. I’m rewarded with a bath in arterial spray as impressive as a low-budget action movie.

    A part of me screams to run. Get the hell away from here; get out of Hong Kong and back home to America where I can rebuild my life. Go back to being a skid row doctor who charges by the druggie stitched.

    F..k that.

    With enough skill, a human hand can be removed fairly easily. Yu’s hand provides the palm-print I need to unlock his wall safe. It looks like about five million US in there, plus the diamonds and the folio of bearer bonds. The rest I can assemble later.

    I touch the intercom and call in Raj, Mister Yu’s security chief. The shock on his face is priceless when he sees the bodies; he knows the next thing that’s going to happen is his own death.

    “Raj. There is a way out of this mess if you follow me. Do you?”

    He stares at me, calculating pi to the hundredth decimal place and figuring out how big a slice he’ll get.

    “Yes, memsahib.”

    “Good. Mister Yu has had an accident. Call Chun-Li and tell her to bring a washbasin and my diamond gown. Due to your oversight, I will find a new security chief. You are now my lieutenant. Do you understand?”

    He nods and I smile. It’s nice to have my own practice again.

    1. Beebles

      Fantastic follow up story Tim (i thought i’d posted so but it appears not to have appeared!) The change of scene took it to a whole new level and we learnt so much more about the plucky Doc.

  7. JosephFazzone

    Sorry couldn’t help myself. These guys are fun to write. Backstory for the prelude I wrote earlier. I apologize in advance.
    “Oh, so you’re a doctor,” she spoke in a flat wholly uninterested voice.

    “Doctor,” I said with a nod. “Sort of.”

    “How typical.” She was bored, it was obvious, and yet so gorgeous. Every line on her face complimented the next. Soft gentle deep sea eyes concealed the lioness underneath.

    “Yeah, sorry about that, a bit of pressure, love, and support from my family,” I granted amiably, inwardly reeling from the sting. “I suppose it’s really my fault wanting to make something of myself.”

    She bit back, those white teeth gnashing about wildly. “You’re a short balding drippy little man.”

    “Well, there’s that,” I said and smiled politely. She wasn’t lying. “And what is it you do?”

    “Me?” She graced me with a sly confident smile. “I’m not the nine to five kind of girl. Work doesn’t define me.”

    “Employment isn’t your thing, is it?” Not off to a good start, as first dates go. “Mother claimed she was a hippy for many years. Father called them leeches.”

    “I really not interesting, really.” The gravel in her tone was a screeching halt to my getting to know segment of the evening. Then she yawned and said, “Although, I guess as an alternative to suicide, I could just be ordinary like you.”

    Ordinary, indeed! “You just reminded me of Hedy Lamarr,” I said softly. “You’re glamorous!”

    She brushed a lock of her glorious raven hair as she flippantly asked, “Who?”

    “Hedy Lamarr,” I said. Follow me down the rabbit hole. “Ever hear of her?”

    “Sort of,” she lied. I was hanging by a thread of curiosity.

    “She was one of the most beautiful women in her day. She was an actress in the 30s through 50s. Same hairstyle as you, her eyes were green, where yours are a most exquisite blue.”

    Those pert lips raised a notch at corners in acknowledgement of the compliment. “Her allure captivated the world,” I continued. “And they list her as one of the most beautiful women of all time.”

    “She sounds amazing,” she said.

    Her arms were at her side, she was relaxed, waiting.

    “Do you know what she’s most regarded for?” I asked.

    “What?” She asked eyes glazed, deep and dreamy.

    I tapped my head. “Spread spectrum communication technology.”

    She blinked. “What?”

    “She teamed up with a bunch of other scientists and developed this technology that basically jams torpedo frequencies. Without her work we wouldn’t have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. This woman was a brilliant mind and a brilliant inventor. She was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.”

    She smiled in return. “Wow. Well I feel flattered, really.”

    I stopped her. “Oh, I wasn’t comparing you. I said you reminded me of her.”

    She stared at me confused.

    “You reminded me of something she said. ‘Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.’ That’s what I meant when I said you were glamorous. Except you were sitting, of course.”

    It was a most elaborate insult. I did pat myself on the back as she stood there fish mouthed. Finally she frothed, spat, and said, “You’re a dead man!”

    “And you’re beautiful,” I yawned. “How genetic.”

    She squawked. I thought it was cute until she grabbed the steak knife and stabbed me in the right forearm.

    I fell back in my chair. Dishes broke, as some people gasped, and many gawked. We saw her try to flee the scene, but the dessert cart proved to be a worthy roadblock. She tripped over it, and managed to stab herself in the left side with the knife.

    I grabbed a cloth napkin and managed to wrap my arm up nicely. The restaurant was strangely silent as I advanced upon her, a vision of grey satin, blood, tears, and tiramisu. The knife protruded for her side. She stared at it in a panic.

    “Help me?” She muttered miserably and yet so sweetly.

    I snorted. “I’m sure they’ve already called the 911. An ambulance will be here shortly.”

    “Tsk!” She hissed at me and in a manner most clandestine. She beckoned me closer, and as I leaned in, she eyes were the innocent fawn as she whispered, “I’m on probation.”

    It was love at first stabbing. “So we do have something in common,” I confessed with a smile, and offered my hand.
    “Sorry I stabbed you.” She apologized.

    —-

    “That’s was that. I told her about my business, patched her up, made love to her under the starlit sky, changed bandages, and we’ve been together ever since.” I finished with a smile. “Today is our anniversary.”

    The boy Barbie looked at me with a painted frown. “Right, stupid story, didn’t ask. You want the ring or not?”

    I turned just in time to see this other crossover with copper corn rows for hair, a steel grill for teeth, and a buck knife in her/his hand race toward us, slicing at the boy Barbie!

    “I’ve been stabbed!” The boy Barbie was crying.

    Opportunity knocked. “Right, stupid story, didn’t ask. Looks like it will glue together. My rate is two fifty for lacerations if there is no need for topical lidocaine. Are we a tough boy, Boy Barbie? Do we like the pain?”

    She glared at me angrily.

    Our negotiations were interrupted by the sound of the copper corn rows crashing into the pavement, followed by a loud mournful cry. Opportunity knocked twice. I can get a decent price for that! I’m going to be a tad late tonight. Hope it doesn’t cost me too much.

    1. Observer Tim

      How I Met Your Mother – the nasty version on acid. This is a strange and entertaining enough take on its own, Joey, but when added to the other part it tells a truly wicked tale. They would combine to make a wonderful Hallmark moment, if Hallmark had a division that covered evil. 🙂

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Okay, I went down the rabbit hole and am still lost underground, but I am certain I love the way this is written, still thinking about the vision of grey satin and tiramisu. Great, just great.

    3. UnclePizza

      These characters are like a horrific accident – I hate that it happened but for crying out loud I can’t stop gawking. Good job with the visuals. And some of the lines are awesomely clever – “Oh, I wasn’t comparing you. I said you reminded me of her.” I will never plagiarize but damn if I’m not going to use that wen talking to my wife next chance I get. I’ll let you know how it goes LOL!

  8. Reaper

    Holistic Mediocrity Overseers

    Over time the stale scent of blood becomes like a lover’s perfume. You know it is still there, and on a good day you still catch a whiff of it. Most minutes though… most times… you just forget the thing that used to define every moment with her (her the woman, or her the city) fades into the background. It tickles the olfactory part of your mind that defines memory but no longer stokes desire.

    When I first moved to Detroit, that coppery smell reminded me that reclamation was perfectly legal for a doctor. Used cybernetics have a limited value though, and an even smaller window of re-usability. Working as a wandering doc for hire was more satisfying. Most days.

    That day reminded me that the fifty-third modification to the Hippocratic Oath meant there were always choices to make. Sometimes simple choices. Most often very complex choices with untold ramifications.

    From guys with purple spines on the outside, to women with orange, ceramic heads that replaced their original brain cases, I’ve seen some weird shit. That day took the cake. Hell, that might have been what it was about.

    The seven foot tall, broad, muscular man falling down in front of me made me think of soldiers in the third class wars. He looked tough. But with the forgetting of honor and the absence of training… well… they were all posers as big as the white gang bangers in the nineteen eighties. With all the grace of a slaughtered hog he slipped to his knees, a gaping knife wound in his gut.

    His assailant, a nuvo punk, ran down the street; brandishing his blade in front of him. Just as I stooped to look at the victim, fate stepped in. As the fickle bitch so often does.

    The assailant tripped and landed on his own knife. Perhaps it was a drug induced walking coma. If I saw his eyes I am sure they would have cleared. He was screaming in pain. His cries for help echoed in my brain. He screamed about what just happened?

    Like I said… He might not have known. End of the day? He made a choice and he was responsible for it. Just like any of us. He should be held accountable. I was responsible for my own choices too. I had one to make now. Two patients, one traveling doctor. I did what any man of morals and means would have done.

    I pulled out my street doc pad and scanned it. The information on both patients jumped out for my fingertips to scroll through. I stood and walked towards the assailant. You would have too.

    He had better insurance.

    1. Observer Tim

      And this is why splatterpunk always creeps me out. This is a very visceral and cynical story, Reaper; you did a great job painting the setting and the sheer hopelessness of the future. And yet with all that, the light touch at the end got me laughing. Wonderful job! 🙂

    2. JosephFazzone

      So cut throat, so honest in that way. This is a man who does what he does. Your character is really cool with that black and white detective theme going on. Even down to the cynicism. I do hope to see him in more adventures.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a dark vision you’ve presented. Your portrait of the doctor was so perfect that his decision wasn’t that much of a surprise. Excellent work.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I know insurance agents who would have slipped into your story
        I place Doctors on the lower part of the list that is headed by elementary school.teachers. This was a biting part of future reality and perhaps some around that corner. You tailored it well, as usual.

  9. NOPE

    ‘This is why I don’t date,’ Doctor Karen Scott was thinking as she made her way towards the ladies room hoping to find a window from which to make her escape.

    “I should have just stayed home and watched TGIT.” She grumbled at a passing waiter as she skirted around him nearly upending his tray.

    She was pleased to see that there wasn’t a line for the bathroom.

    Already assessing the room as she pushed through the door, she quickly noted that there was indeed a small window and that if she stood on top of the trashcan she would be able to reach it. Locating said trashcan, she flipped it over.

    “Damn pencil skirt,” she grumbled as the garment did its best to restrict her movements. With a glance behind to make sure she’d locked the door behind her, she unzipped the skirt and slid it off. As an afterthought, she removed her heels as well.

    Now, wearing only her blouse and her nicest underwear, she stepped easily onto the trashcan and opened the window. Looking down, she saw that there was an open dumpster directly underneath.

    “At least my landing will be soft,” she murmured. The window was too high up for her to step through, so she tumbled forward head first and landed with a small ‘oomph’.

    The dumpster was about halfway full and the recent heat had made everything particularly odorous. She was about to open the sliding door on the side to crawl out when she realized that she had left her skirt and her shoes on the bathroom floor.

    Karen was thinking only of the bottle of red wine in her refrigerator as she dug through the garbage in search of something to wear home. She had just about decided on a Frito Lays box, when she heard the shouting.

    Inside the dumpster, Karen listened as two men argued about college basketball teams. She rolled her eyes.

    ‘Not this again,’ she thought. All her date had been able to talk about had been his March Madness
    Tournament bracket.

    “You- Ya just stabbed me!”

    “Steve, man, I’m so sorry!”

    “Where are you going? Kyle, you get back here right now and call me an ambulance!”

    Unable to violate her oaths as a doctor, Karen noisily rolled out of the dumpster. Clutching her box around her hips, she approached the one holding his arm.

    “I’m a doctor, I can help,” she stated. The man moved his hand so she could look at the wound and she saw that it was tiny and hardly bleeding. “You’re going to be fine. I would suggest a Band-Aid.”

    “Did ya hear that Kyle?” the man shouted joyfully, “I’m gonna live!

    “That’s grea-

    Kyle tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and somehow landed with his ink pen inside his neck.

    Karen ordered Steve to sit down and shut up, then called for an ambulance and administered as much aid as she could. All the while she wished she’d just stayed home.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, NOPE!

      This was such an enjoyable story with a MC who’ll take charge (even when dressed in just a blouse and her nicest underwear). 😀

      And just so you know, this whole exchange made me laugh out loud:

      “Did ya hear that Kyle?” the man shouted joyfully, “I’m gonna live!
      “That’s grea-
      Kyle tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and somehow landed with his ink pen inside his neck.

    2. Observer Tim

      What a saucy, irreverent, and fun take on the prompt, NOPE. I can feel Karen’s evening going from bad to awful to somehow even worse. I suppose the next thing that happens would be the ambulance attendants having a ridealong reality show crew… Nice, in a naughty sort of way. 🙂

  10. cosi van tutte

    Dr. Hildreth Mayhew stood alone in the Old Cemetery on a windy Wednesday night. The note had said to come unarmed, but Hildreth was no one’s fool. He had been in the slaying business for fifteen years. That was long enough to wise anyone up.

    He pulled out his Bossman 55 and made sure that it was loaded. “If I’m lucky, I won’t have to use a single bolt.”

    A shrill scream split through the wind.

    He sighed. “I’m not gonna be so lucky.” He ran past faded limestone crosses and broken grave markers. The ground alternated between lumpy and sunken, but he kept his footing.

    The scream grew wild and panic-stricken.

    His slayer senses kicked in and he knew where the screamer was located. “Behind the mausoleum. What else is new?”

    He made it to the mausoleum, turned the corner, and stopped short.

    A vampire stood behind a plain-looking woman He held her arms pinned to her sides. His fangs were inches away from her neck.

    The woman’s screams died down to a whimper. “Please…Please don’t…”

    Hildreth’s first instinct was to shoot and not bother with questions. But, he thought. She’s in the way. Darn it! He aimed carefully and fired. The bolt whished past the creature’s face and struck another vampire who had just wandered into the background.

    The vampire raised his head from the woman’s neck. “I told you no weapons.”

    Hildreth shrugged. “Force of habit. What do you want?”

    “Right now?” He smiled, revealing his fangs. “Right now, I want to feed.”

    “What do you want from me?”

    “Answers.” His fingers dug into her arms. “Why can’t I enter Elsie’s house? Was that your doing?”

    “Elsie is my wife. You have no business going anywhere near our house.”

    “Huh. So, you both did it. How? She never revoked her invitation to my face.”

    “Release the girl and I’ll tell you.”

    He laughed softly. “I’ve been a vampire for a long time, doctor. I know better than to fall for cheap slayer tricks.” He kissed her neck. “But maybe if you answer my questions like a good boy, I might spare her life.”

    “Please let me go.” She sniffled. “Please.”

    “Don’t worry. I’m sure the nice slayer will save your life by telling me what I want.”

    She looked at Hildreth. “Please don’t let him kill me.”

    Hildreth felt like he was surrounded by insurmountable rocks. If I tell him, it will render our contract null and void. He’ll be able to enter our house again. But if I don’t tell him—

    “Hurry up, doctor. I’m hungry.”

    She burst into a flash flood of tears. “Just tell him.”

    If I don’t tell him, she’ll die. I can’t let that happen. But I can’t let that thing go anywhere near my wife. Never again.

    “Doctor—”

    “Tell him!”

    “—tell me!”

    The wind died down into silence.

    Hildreth shivered. “I can’t.”

    He smirked. “I knew you’d say that.” He plunged his fangs deep into her neck.

    Hildreth raised his weapon and aimed it at the vampire’s head. This won’t kill him, but it should annoy him to distraction. He fired bolt after bolt after bolt. They all bounced off his head. It was enough to annoy anyone.

    But it failed to annoy him.

    Her body went limp.

    He released his hold on her neck and stood there, softly panting. His eyes glazed over.

    Now’s my chance. I have only a few minutes – five at the very most. He ran over to the vampire, pulled the girl out of his clutches, and pressed his Bossman 55 against the creature’s chest.

    The vampire regained his senses. In one swift move, he disarmed Hildreth and shoved him up against the mausoleum. “I have a headache now, thanks to you. Tell me. Why can’t I enter Elsie’s house?”

    “That’s none of your—”

    He tightened his grip on him. “What did you do?”

    “None of your business.”

    “Tell me!”

    “No!”

    “Why?”

    “I promised.”

    “Promised who?”

    Hildreth tried to squirm out of the vampire’s grip, but it was impossible. “I can’t tell you.”

    The vampire made eye contact with him and slipped into his mind. “Ah. Mark Caten. Of course. It would be him. And look at that. He made you sign a non-disclosure contract.”

    I didn’t say anything. It doesn’t count. I didn’t say anything! “I don’t want you anywhere near my wife.”

    He smiled. “Of course, you don’t.” He lunged forward and sank his teeth into Hildreth’s neck.

    Hildreth’s world transformed into a kaleidoscope of sharp-edged blacks and bright blues and gory reds twirling and twisting into each other. He gasped.

    The kaleidoscope kept turning even after the vampire released him.

    “Tell Mark Caten that Ambrose Smith sends his regards.”

    1. Observer Tim

      I was wondering where this was going when I started; I was half-expecting to have the girl turn out to be a dupe. I guess Ambrose is going to have to try a little harder to get his girl back… Nice one, Cosi. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What a grisley tale Cosi. You pulled me in even though I didn’t want to. Now I won’t sleep till next week and it’s all you fault. I want to enter your mind with a sugary tale and elevate your blood sugar.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Oh Cosi, it was a great and descriptive power house of a tale. I usually don’,t sleep anyway. You know I’m 99.7%/Irish and we have weird senses of humor. I wish I could write one now and then to stir the juices up. Kerry Brian.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very strong scene, but I fear I smiled at the argument over the wording of the contract. I was surprised he let the victim die, so very effective writing.

      1. cosivantutte

        Thanks, Reatha!

        I almost made the victim be Gabriella or someone that Hildreth knew, but I decided to just go with a.poor random girl who doesn’t even have her own name or backstory. 🙁 Poor thing.

  11. MikeGill

    The Sticking

    “Attention all portables! Attention all portables! We have a fight in Alpha Unit! Fight in Alpha Unit! Weapons involved!”
    Doctor Peters stood up from behind his desk as soon as the radio call started. As it finished, he had his door locked and had turned down the hallway in the prison’s medical complex. He saw nurse Jones and nurse Brown piling out not too far in front of him. Each with a medical bag on his shoulder. He felt a little better having them on shift when this kind of thing happened than any of the female nurses at the facility. He supposed it might be sexist to feel that way. But when you have two male nurses who both look like they could take on someone from Special Forces—and win—those are the kind of nurses you want in an exam room with you when an inmate is being difficult.
    In the main corridor, he turned left to follow his nurses, losing ground to the younger, faster men. He heard the door down the hallway behind him close and knew that someone had grabbed the gurney. With weapons involved, it was sure to be needed. Ahead, he saw Brown and Jones turn right and then heard the clang of the grills. As he reached the turn, he slowed knowing he would have to wait for the doors to cycle again before he could keep going.
    PA Delany pulled up next to him with the gurney. “Why do they always have to do this just before a shift ends?” She asked, panting.
    Peters just looked at her and tried to catch his breath. He knew there wasn’t a politically correct answer to that question and didn’t want to risk being written up. He was still in his first year, after all. “I just hope they aren’t after staff.” He said instead as they made their way through the door. Then they were off again, down the long corridor to the unit.
    “There on the left, doc.” The officer holding the door said as they entered the unit. Turning the corner after the offices, he tried to quickly understand the situation. Inmates lay all over the flats, but one about halfway down was clearly bleeding from his left arm. Jones was there already and it didn’t look too bad. Brown was near the steps to the second tier where an inmate was holding off staff with some sort of sharpened metal rod. As Peters watched, the inmate turned to run up the stairs, rushing the staff there. But he tripped instead. His armed turned under him and the rod erupted out his back on the left side.
    “That’s going to be bad.” He said to Delany. “You help Jones. I’ll see what we can do for the other guy.”
    Not for the first time, Peters pulled on his gloves and started across the bottom of the unit wondering why he thought this job would be a good idea.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a great story of some of the doctors we always forget about. I’m not sure whether this is a security psych ward or a prison, but you did a great job creating the feeling of presence with little touches. The paragraph thing’s a bit of a nuisance, but it didn’t really introduce confusion here. You did a good job ramping up the tension that comes before the professionals get down to work. 🙂

    2. JosephFazzone

      Tough business. Straight forward and to the point. I truly respect the way you showed how he stoically faces the grim reality everyday, despite is misgivings. He still does his job. Much respect to your character. Good job!

  12. ReathaThomasOakley

    All in a day’s work
    (Longest thing I’ve ever posted)

    Henry to airport. Check.

    The list in Liz’s hand shook as she recalled how she’d turned back so hopefully this morning when she’d heard…

    “Oh, Liz,” Henry’d stopped so she had to walk back to him. “Don’t forget my gray suit, to the cleaners today.” Before she could answer, he’d added, “Better write it down.”

    Wine. Check.

    Crab bites in oven. Check.

    Family photos in desk drawer. Check.

    What am I doing, she thought. If Henry hadn’t mentioned dry cleaning, if he’d said, “I’ll miss you,” or “I’ll call tonight,” or anything but the damned dry cleaning.

    “Henry’s fault, all his fault,” she said.

    His fault she’d signed up for the community college French Lit class, he shouldn’t have laughed when she read aloud the course description.

    “I can so do this. Two years college French, all Bs.”

    And, it had started well. She’d found the room early, was pleased to watch the other students file in, most her age. The teacher was late, hurried in with a stack of books and a big smile.

    He was rather slight, dark full hair, and that beard. My gosh, she’d thought, Pierce Brosnan, that photo online.

    She’d stayed after class.

    “Dr. Miller, I need to talk to you.”

    “Yes, it’s Elizabeth, isn’t it?”

    “Well…” she started. She hadn’t been called Elizabeth since school. “Yes, it is, rather, I am…yes. It’s just, I think I should drop the class.”

    “Why? You seemed interested, more than some of the others.”

    “I am interested, just not certain I can keep up, especially when you start teaching in French. It’s been nearly thirt…uh, twenty years since I’ve…”

    “Oh, my dear Elizabeth,” he’d touched her hand. “A student as eager as you, I’ll spend extra time, perhaps some private tutoring.” He’d run his fingertip up her arm as she stared at the beard.

    Then, after three weeks of classes and private sessions she’d mentioned Henry’s trip and he’d pulled her from her chair, tried to kiss her, and suggested a different kind of lesson.

    Now, as she went over her list one last time, the door bell rang.

    “Oh, God,” she muttered.

    “Elizabeth, how lovely you look,” he said and reached for her before the door was closed.

    “Um, yes, ah, please come in. Let me take your coat. Wine’s there.” As she closed the closet she thought she heard him say, “Domestic?” and felt something like a tiny stab in her chest.

    “Yes, the woman said, with shellfish…”

    “What?”

    “Never mind, would you pour me a glass?” Liz found the corner of the sofa with the back of her knees and sat.

    “What is that smell?” he asked as he sat beside her. “Like something burning…” He laughed. “You cooked?”

    “Well,” she gulped the wine, “I thought, maybe, a little something…” He tried to stop laughing. She felt another stab, this one in her throat.

    “I just can’t believe you…” Then he snorted and Liz watched a droplet of snot fall into his mustache. “That’s sweet. Now, how about a kiss to go with this, um, wine.”

    As she pulled away Liz felt his mustache, scratchy and damp, like dozens of tiny needle thrusts, against her cheek.

    “I gotta see about…” she tried to stand.

    “Come on, girl, you knew…” but before he could finish, the kitchen smoke alarm started and Liz dropped her glass.

    “…the crab bites.”

    When she opened the oven smoke, and the smell of burning fish, boiled out. She opened the back door and window, used the broom to knock down the smoke alarm. From the living room she heard a crash followed by a scream and then the back door burst open.

    “Liz! My God, me and the kids were outside, heard the alarm, called the fire department, knew Henry was gone. You better come on outside, lotta smoke in here.”

    “No, no, I’m fine, go on back home.”

    “Who’s that screaming?”

    “Friend, friend from school. Go on home.”

    In the living room Liz found the doctor sprawled on the floor.

    “Tripped over this blasted coffee table. Call my wife,” he said through clenched teeth. “She knows what to do about my back.” Liz sat on a chair next to his head.

    “Your wife?”

    “Yes, my wife. You’ve got a husband, don’t you? Phone’s in my coat. Call her.”

    “You’ve had hair plugs?”

    “What the hell…”

    “Different view from up here, bet I could count them, one, two, three…”

    “You idiot. Get the phone!”

    “Why’d you do this? Tutor me, woo me. Why?”

    “Fifteen students, had to keep fifteen students, or they’d cancel class, wouldn’t get paid.”

    “Hmmm, and your wife knew, about everything, about tonight?” In the distance Liz heard the wail of a siren.

    “Damn straight, she’ll leave I lose another job. Tonight, know what she said tonight? She said, don’t forget the condoms. What a woman.”

    “Did you write it down?”

    “What? Are you nuts?” He twisted his head toward the door.

    “I’d better let ’em in,” she said.

    Later, after everyone was gone, Liz found her notebook and started writing.

    Cancel French Lit class.

    Call carpet cleaners.

    Call painters, consider new color for kitchen.

    Take gray suit to cleaners.

    1. Observer Tim

      I love the way this descended from romance to disaster to farce. Since you’re not French (I don’t think so, at least), please take this as a compliment: your story is classic in the Jerry Lewis style that the people of France fell in love with. And the list Liz is making at the end shows that she’s going to be all right, in her way. I think she can cancel the class if only because she’s lived such a fine example of it… 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This would have made such a marvelous movie with Carol Burnette and Jack Lemon in one of his earlier movies. Carol Burnette has made movies not just television and is such a talent she would have been perfect for this. Your battleship of a story has put out a barrage that just sunk all the other stories on this week’s prompt. It’s magnificant satire.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, we get Carol here at 11PM, and I watch her often and marvel at her genius, so that comment was so meaningful. As for the rest, I blush.

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks Tim, you got the story arc. I’ve been working on some one-act plays, so perhaps I was envisioning the physical element. My maternal grandmother was a Chavin from Louisiana.

    2. Beebles

      Ay, reet grand our Reatha. So well written. Loved the check list for two reasons: dramatic/character effect and as another nudge to my own writing to try something different sometimes. Guess I’ll have to wait, though, to see how a doctorate in French literature can be used to overcome a knife weilding assailant or staunch a wound. 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        At one time in my life I lived by lists, so if I were ever tempted from the straight and narrow, I’m certain the list would come first. Thank you, but I think this will be the last response to this prompt. However, I might do something with this one in the future.

    3. JosephFazzone

      So funny! The poor guy really wants to keep that class alive. That’s a dedicated teacher! The lists are such a great way to paint the way our hero organizes her life, and then there’s her anger at herself for not remembering her French. I love the end. It’s funny, but closes it all up so nicely. I’m not going to have an affair. I’m choosing my husband. Very cool story!

    4. cosivantutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      I really enjoyed this story. It isn’t too often one reads a story about the disintegration of an affair.

      I loved all the small details, like the hair plugs and the bad back. 😀

  13. Amaria

    Note: Okay this is super long but I got a splurge of energy. I’m also looking into wrapping this story line up before April when I begin other writing projects. This is the first part. I will be posting the continuation later tonight:

    Ginger – Part 9

    Ginger was casually listening to Molly talk about her strange dream while snooping around their mother’s house.

    “I was a doctor doing house calls” Molly said as Ginger pulled out a file folder under the computer desk. “I was walking down the street when this guy runs up to me. He’s bleeding profusely and tells me he was stab by some guy. Are you listening to me?”

    Ginger looked up. “Do doctors do house calls anymore?”

    Molly shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Anyway I then notice this other guy running down the street. He trips and falls face down. He led out this horrible scream. I run over, forgetting about the other guy and turn the guy over. When I look on his face, it’s dad.”

    “Dad?” Ginger asked.

    Molly replied. “Yeah and he then open his mouth and says…”

    “What the hell are you two doing in here?” shouts Linda from the doorway.

    Molly and Ginger jumped. Molly and Ginger was so absorbed in the dream and looking through papers they didn’t hear the front door.

    “Nothing mom,” Molly stammered. “I was talking about this dream I had. You see I was a doctor…”

    “What are you doing going through my files?” Linda asked as she stepped into the room.

    Ginger stood up. “I wouldn’t have to snoop if you were upfront and honest.”

    “What are you talking about?” Linda asked.

    “The truth about dad,” Ginger answered. Linda rolled her eyes. Ginger continued. “I saw the letters in your bedroom.”

    Linda face paled. “You were in my bedroom?”

    “Yes and I saw the love letters, the letter from the school suspending dad and even that letter some guy named Todd sent you.”

    “Who’s Todd?” Molly asked.

    Linda shook her head. “I’m not having this discussion with you.” Linda turned to walk out the room.

    Ginger ran over to her mother and grabbed her arm. “Yes we are and we’re having it right now.”

    Linda pushed Ginger’s arm away. “What has gotten into you? I’m starting to think that Dr. Leveque is not a good influence on you. I should have never let you…”

    “Dr. Leveque is fine. It’s you with the problem” Ginger replied.

    Linda crossed her arms. “You want to know the truth? Fine, I will tell you, but you probably should sit down first.”

    Ginger and Molly sat down on the sofa while Linda took a seat in the armchair.

    Linda began. “Your father was having numerous affairs with his students. I only know about two of them, but I suspect there were others. I found the letters in your father’s office. He called me one morning in a panic, saying he left behind a folder he needed for a meeting. I went into his office to fetch it so I could take it to him. That’s when I found one of the letters in the top drawer. I later found the others.”

    “Was this before the school investigation?” Ginger asked.

    Linda nodded. “I knew months before the school found out, but I never said anything to your father until then.”

    “How did the school find out?” Molly asked.

    “His student Janice Miller. She found out your father was carrying on with another student Bridgette. Bridgette Leveque.”

    Ginger gasp. “Bridgette Leveque.”

    Linda laughed. “Yeah, the odds of meeting another person with that last name. I guess it’s a small world after all.”

    “Wait” Ginger said. “Do you think Bridgette and Dr. Leveque are related?”

    “Maybe they are the same person” Molly added.

    Ginger replied, “No. Dr. Leveque’s first name is Angelique.”

    “She could have changed it like us,” Molly replied.

    Linda interrupt. “No. Dr. Angelique Leveque is Bridgette’s younger sister.”

    Ginger and Molly were taken aback. “What?” Ginger whispered.

    Linda continued. “Bridgette died a few months after your father’s accident. From what I don’t know. I had seen a picture of Bridgette when I was going through your father’s things. I didn’t know she had a sister until you started seeing Dr. Angelique. When I saw her, I knew they had to be related. They looked so much alike.”

    “You knew all this time?” Ginger asked. “You went to therapy with her. You let me go there knowing who she was.”

    Molly interrupted. “Could Dr. Leveque know?”

    Linda quickly replied, “No, she doesn’t know anything. We changed our last names. She wouldn’t be able to connect us to your father.”

    A thought came to Ginger’s mind but she said silent.

    Linda continued. “Anyway, Janice was furious when she found out about Bridgette. It was Janice who told the school that your father promised her a passing grade in exchange for sex.”

    There was a moment of silence before Ginger spoke. “I remember waking up to you and dad arguing the night before he died. This is what you guys arguing about wasn’t it?”

    “I hated the fact that everyone in town would hear about your dad’s dalliances. He put us all at risk for ridicule and humiliation.”

    “Mom, was dad’s accident really an accident?” Ginger asked.

    Linda looked at Ginger incredulously. “What are you trying to say? You think I did something?”

    Ginger replied, “No, but…”

    “You certainly had motive,” Molly interjected.

    Linda replied, “Listen to me you two. I did not kill your father. I would never do anything like that, no matter how mad I was. But you are right, there is something I haven’t told anyone. This must stay between us three.”

    1. Amaria

      Continuation of Part 9 (not as long):

      Ginger and Molly slowly nodded in agreement to keep what their mother was about to say between them.

      “Todd was my ex-boyfriend. I broke up with him right before I started dating your dad. Todd didn’t like Robert. Todd was always reckless, but he loved cars. He owned his own car repair shop. For some odd reason, your dad had me take his car to Todd’s shop for repairs. Todd could tell I was upset about something. In his office I broke down and told him everything. Todd was very supportive and told me everything would turn out okay. While Todd fixed the car I went across the street to the diner for lunch.

      After it was done, I took the car home. That night your dad took the car out and well you know. The police concluded bad weather and speeding was the cause. Then a few months later before we moved, Todd wrote me the letter you found upstairs. I didn’t read until four months later, when we had settled in our new home. When I read it I was confused but I didn’t want to dig up bad memories. Months went by and soon the one year anniversary of your dad’s death came. I decided to reach out to Todd. It was harder than I thought it would be because he had sold his shop and moved out of town. When I finally did locate him, he told me what he did.”

      There was a moment of silence before Linda continued. “He had manipulated the brakes, just enough for them not to fail before I got home. He wanted to punish your dad for hurting me, but I don’t think he intended for him to die.”

      “But the brakes could have failed with you or us in the car,” Ginger added. “What was he thinking?”

      “I don’t he was thinking to be honest.” Linda replied. “Like I said Todd was reckless.”

      Ginger asked, “Why didn’t you tell the police about his confession?”

      “When I located Todd, he had a terminal brain tumor. He died two months later. So in a way I suppose he got his punishment.”

      Linda stood up. “So there you have it. The truth. Does it make you feel better?”

      1. JosephFazzone

        This really closed up a great deal from the other chapters. Crazy story. I do wonder if Dr. Leveque knows who they are. Would be cool to see a confrontation between them, or a cleansing as this story needs to come out for Ginger to heal. Nice tie in with the prompt.

    2. Observer Tim

      Wow. Fire can cleanse. It’s good to see everything come out, and it does pin a resolution on the various plot points. I still get the impression Doctor Leveque did recognize the situation and the players, though. This is very clever and creative, Amaria, and I do like the way you were able to wrap the story around a number of consecutive prompts. Great job! 🙂

      The only weakness I noted was in the dialogue (and that only in spots), which is mainly a matter of practice.

  14. Kerry Charlton

    HELL’S KITCHEN

    Dr. Patrick ’Bull’ O’Malley, knew poverty perhaps better than most. Born in ’Hell’s Kitchen’, a run down area of Manhattan, West 39th street between ninth and tenth Avenue, he grew up with an Irish brick-layer, alcoholic father and a saintly mother, a seamstress in a sweat shop. As an early teen, a member of the ‘Lakewood Rats’ gang, he hnew trouble with a double T.

    He watched his younger brother die from Scarlet fever due to lack of medical attention. Only a football coach who took him under his wing, saved him. As a running back in high school he earned his nickname. His grades soared as well as his football fame.
    Full scholarship at Yale, made him a football legend in 1953. Graduating from Cornell Medical school and residency in 1958, he could have worked anywhere.

    But he returned to Hell’s Kitchen in 1959, established his own clinic. Street gangs of Irish and Puerto Ricans clashed violently on the streets around his clinic. No one messed with “Bull’ however, knowing his background and prowess as an athlete. And he treated most anyone who managed to come to his clinic. Surrounded by three of the finest interns from Cornell, he saved countless lives.

    Living above his clinic, he heard a weak knock at three in the morning. He opened the door,

    “Please help me, I’ve been stabbed by that man running away down the street“

    ‘Bull‘s eyes adapted to the dim light as he watched the runner fall and cry out,

    “I’ve fallen on my own knife, he screamed. God help me.”

    The assistant med student on duty led the injured man at the doorstep inside while Bull raced down the street to the crumpled man. Carefully he turned him over. He saw the shiv embedded in the man chest, two inches from his heart. Bull carried the unconscious would be killer back to his clinic, and prepared him for surgery. His blood loss was extreme but An RHB negative blood type presented a severe problem.

    Two men lay on separate tables two feet apart, one a victim of the other. The victim‘s wounds were not serious but the would be killer would not last but a few minutes without a transfusion.

    “It it possible,” Bull said to his assistant, “the victim’s blood type would match.”
    In his mind he knew less than two percent of people had RHB negative. His assistant made a quick analysis and announced,

    ‘You hit the jackpot Bull. Who would have thought? A miracle perhaps.”

    As the young doctor hooked the two injured together, the victim to save his would be killer, Bull muttered under his breath,

    ‘There are no miracles in Hell’s Kitchen‘. Then he reflected on his own life.

    ‘Well maybe I might be wrong about that’.

    .
    .

    1. Observer Tim

      My God, Kerry, if you ever get thrown back in time you could write movies in the 50’s; are you channeling Nero Wolfe today?. I saw and felt this play out in black and white before my eyes, and could almost hear the dialogue. What a lovely ironic twist that the victim becomes the killer’s lifeline. I can see a whole second act between the rest of the story and the last three paragraphs – the doctor convincing his patient to do the right thing. Really good one. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Tim for the pep taik. I have no idea where this came from. I thought immediately about West Side Story amd my memory flashed back to some 50’s movie I saw as a kid about Hell’s Kitchen. It gave me nightmares at the time but I had forgotten about the experience until I started to write. Thank you.

    2. JosephFazzone

      I love the ‘don’t tell me the odds’ scenario going on here. Very gripping, and it makes you believe in the miracle, not for those two patients, but for the Bull. This was for Bull. Amazing story! GIves you that cautious optimistic emotion at the end. Perhaps someday…

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, as I read this I was planning on Googling Bull as soon as I finished, then read your comments. I am amazed that he is your creation and not a historic figure. The details made him, and his story so real. Very, very well done. I’ve said before, your strength, in my opinion, is in this kind of writing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaha, I think you’re right about the vein I write in. Maybe I should just concentrate on it. But then It’s such fun to go off on a lark of satire now and then to clense the pipes. None of you will ever know the importance this web site sits in my mind.

    4. Critique

      Bull’s compassion/non-judgment is believable and praiseworthy as he pulls from his own experience. We need more people like Bull in this world.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Critique. I ‘m sure there are a lot like Bull, walking the earth. The reason we don’t hear more is twofold Most don’t seek fame for their work and two, the media considering them boring, Murder, rape plunder and gutter politics is their neighborhood. It’s all about circulation and money. Where are the Edward R. Murrows and Ernie Pyles of yesterday?

  15. thejim

    A pool of crimson blood stained the cement sidewalk in front of the old Johnson Pharmacy. The light of the street lamp brought forth an ominous glow; jagged shadows etched across the lonely night street.
    With the wounded stranger in tow, I help him hobble to my office a few doors down.

    “Thanks Doc, I don’t know what I would have done if you had not come along,” said the bleeding man.

    “Well, I suspect you would have bled out and died,” I said matter of fact.

    I gathered up some gauze and a few items as he lay back on the table in my examination room.
    The knife wound was a lateral cut across his abdomen, by the angle and depth of the cut it would have to have been a left to right motion. Ending with a deeper cut on the right side. The slash was about an inch to an inch and a quarter deep at the end. After cleaning the area I notice a second laceration, this was not a slash but a puncture. Luckily for him it was low and to his right side that it had missed any organs and just entered into the flesh. After giving him a sedative I began to stitch him up.

    “Hey, Doc, can you hurry up I got someplace to be,” he said.

    I could tell that this was not someone that was out for a nightly stroll. His face showed signs of multiple fights probably two or three times he had broken his nose and at least one of them is was not set correctly. He was well toned. I would have called the police right off if I had not noticed the handle of a gun sticking out of his thin leather jacket.

    “So what exactly happened here? I asked.

    “Well I was heading out to go to a poker game, down the road here, and it I felt like I had been followed, again. It seems like I have had that feeling a lot late… Whoa… Doc, what did you give me, I feel a little dizzy.”

    Don’t worry about that a little something for the pain, it is quite a deep cut,” I said.

    “So anyway,” he went on, “there was someone following me, I mean, he really was. I turned around and it was him, again. Then I said, “What the hell, you doing following me?”

    “You can’t get away from me that easily,” he said.

    “I am sick of you, everywhere I go your always s tagging along.”

    “This is a free world I can go where ever I want!”

    “Like hell you can.” I reached in my pocket I pulled out my knife.

    At the same time he pulled out his knife. He just laughed at me.

    “You think you your smart?” I said and ran my knife across his gut, and he fell to the ground.

    “Ha, follow me now!” I said as I ran away. That’s when I tripped on the damn broken sidewalk and fell into the knife I was holding.

    Suddenly the bloody man shot up from the exam table and yelled at the door.

    “What the hell you doing here, I stabbed you once don’t think I’ll do it again.” He dove for his jacket to get his knife, but came up with a gun.

    “Hey I don’t want to do it but I am sick of you,” he said trembling.

    Then it happened, he turned the gun on himself.

    “I shoot you asshole, don’t come any closer!”

    “Like Hell you will!”

    He stepped closer to the empty doorway and shot himself.

    I picked up the phone to call 911 and wondered, would this is a suicide or homicide.

    1. Observer Tim

      I was kind of wondering what the heck was going on until the climax. I guess this is what happens when MPD turns on itself. This is a very clever take, theJim. You had me wondering right through, and in the end I kind of pitied the patient. Great job building character in the dialogue-heavy environment. 🙂

  16. Observer Tim

    And, on the darker side…

    ALL IN A NIGHT’S WORK

    I walk out of the coffee shop and right into him: Steve, the village loser. He’s standing in the amber glow of the streetlight with his hand on his left shoulder. Looks like his latest attempt to score some drugs went bad.

    “Doc! Thank God you’re here. I couldn’t pay my dealer and he… he…“

    At least he’s not trying to hit on me like he did the last time. A lot of these creeps think just because I wear a skirt that I’d love to roll over and play bed. No, I’m working here because even a doctor can hit skid row, especially after that trumped-up malpractice suit.

    “Let me take a look, Steve.”

    He complies; the wound is shallow and didn’t come near anything vital. It’s treatable with a small dressing and will probably stop bleeding on its own in a few minutes anyway. I reach into my bag and–

    I hear the scream from half a block away. Next streetlight up a man is prone on the ground and I can see the dark stain starting to pool around him.

    “Come on, Steve. You’re not badly hurt; he is.”

    “But that’s the guy that stabbed me!”

    “And now he’s hurt worse; come on, I’ll treat you afterwards.”

    Steve dutifully tags along as we jog to the other guy. As we arrive I can smell the dark rum on the ground. Hopefully that means he isn’t as badly hurt as it looks. I roll him over.

    And stare at the gun.

    “Don’t move, Doctor, and keep your mouth shut.”

    I comply, as anyone on that side of a .45 would. Even if I did scream, to most people in this neighborhood it would just be background noise.

    “Stephen, restrain her.”

    My hands are pulled behind me and my wrists joined with a zip tie. The ‘injured’ man is getting up and dusting himself off.

    Steve says, “Sorry, doc. Business is business.”

    The man hands Steve a fairly large bag that reeks of cocaine. As the junkie runs off my captor smiles at me.

    “Steve was right; you are pretty. I’m sure you’ll fetch a good price.”

    1. jhowe

      Now there’s a twist for you. The dark rum was a nice touch; it can look a lot like blood. Very entertaining story. I have one suggestion: it seems improbable the doctor would recognize the gun as a .45. Maybe just describe it as the wrong side of a gun barrel or something more generic.

      At first, I wondered about the bag that ‘reeks of cocaine.’ I’ve never smelled it but I haven’t heard that it has a distinct odor, maybe it does. Then, I thought about it, and a doctor would ‘figuratively’ recognize its appearance as well as the junkie’s exploits, and that could be considered ‘reeking’ of the substance. Now I like it.

      1. Observer Tim

        (Tim attempts to explain his way out)

        My assumption is that either (a) live on skid row has taught her something about guns, or she’s the type who calls any automatic pistol a .45. I should have called it a pistol.

        A (very brief) internet search came up that cocaine in quantity smells strongly of ether. Without personal experience I could very easily have been snowed (pun intended).

        1. Kerry Charlton

          This has a lot of polish and pointless horror to it. The reader feels so helpless to the doctor’s plight and there is where the immense power is to your story. Dark, swift and magnificant.

    2. JosephFazzone

      Wow, our poor doctor has hit already hit skid row, and still she falls even lower. Poor girl. I know it’s not looking good for her, but perhaps she will able to use her skills to work her way out of her servitude. Dark story, but amazing.

    3. Beebles

      just shows that when the mighty have fallen to earth, there is a whole well of trouble to trip into. I had a really clear impression of the junkie from this, turning on doctors ‘cos he’s run out of grandmothers, weak and spineless. Great story OT.

  17. JosephFazzone

    “You’re late!” Freshly cut finger nails grinding over a brand new chalkboard couldn’t make an uglier sound.

    “I am.” I agreed. I was late. “Crazy business, that. Blood, entrails, the lot… I would wager you don’t want to know about it.”

    “Well, you are stupid.” With her ear piercing tone, a stern look, and narrowed eyes she filleted me with look.

    She waited with her pert lips taut and ready to strike. Her raven black hair framing the picture of beauty incarnate even at her ugliest.

    “All right,” I voiced, vexed, as I clapped my hands, and cracked my joints. With a pop to both sides of my neck, I continued, “Found myself caught in a bit of a mix. Some boy Barbie from Seventh Street, you know the type?”

    “Hooker?”

    “Not exactly,” I answered. “Those criss-crossers, you know, yellow hair, diamond studded, buoyant bosom bimbo boys for sale. The boy Barbie was in some kind of tussle over boundaries with another she he with hair-do consisting of copper corn rows, and a steel grill for teeth.”

    “So, two hooker trannies in a territory dispute?” Painted brows rose as if stating the obvious question. ‘Is this some kind of joke?’

    “Yes.” Ignore the look. Answer the question, and still I become lost in her sea of fiercely unyielding deep blue eyes. I’m drowning. Keep it simple, keep it strange.

    “So, how is that your business?” Squeak, squeaking, squeakily squawk. “Tell them to build a wall.”

    “Well, what was I to do?” I argued. “The boy Barbie was cut, and the copper corn rows, who had been the assailant, botched its attempt to flee by tripping on the curb, and impaling the knife on its thigh.”

    “Again, how is this business of yours? We set supper for six.” Screech, spit, spat, splattering splat.

    “Where there’s blood, there’s business,” I snarled. “And business was booming tonight.”

    “I’m your business!” She gave me one tremulous trill, then a chirp, and a lip smack. “How much did you get?”

    “Two fifty for the boy Barbie cash and twelve hundred for the copper corn rows” My confidence grew.

    She pondered, she stewed, she made evil faces, as some do, and then she said with much delight, “I think we will have the ciopino and a bottle of Casanova di Neri Cerretalto, Brunello di Montalcino.” She ripped a kiss off my lips, tasted it, and then spat. “Make that two bottles.”

    She read about the wine in a magazine.

    “You’re not mad, dear?” I’m in salvage-mode now.

    “I’m not pleased.” Her arms were folded. Her squeaking diminished to a gentle pitch, the butterfly not the tornado. “So, again, what business brought you to Tranny Hooker Alley?”

    “It seems the boy Barbie had a sale going on and well…” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small black box. “Happy anniversary, my love.”

    Her smile brought gorgeous to its knees, and there is no sweeter sound than my queen when she’s pleased. “I thought you forgotten.” She opened the box with delight, and then her eyes grew flat and angry.

    “You forgot to clean it.” She raised the bloody ring as she squeaked, a squeakily SQUAWK! “Touching. Three bottles!”

    “The diamond’s real.” Meek, that’s all I was.

    “Three!” She held up three fingers, and then snapped, “Happy Friggin’ Anniversary to you too.” Then she lowered two fingers.

    1. Observer Tim

      Um, I’m not sure where to go with this, Joey. This wandered all over uncomfortable-land, but somehow still managed to be entertaining as hell. I was half-expecting the doc to be a vampire at one point, but the tale veered away from that. All I could think of at the end is that he should have cleaned the ring better. This is an incredible tale of love among the truly evil. 🙂

    2. jhowe

      Wow, this was fun and odd and very entertaining. Both characters project three dimensionally off the page in very cool ways. I really like the man. He seems British to me. It appears he’s into organ harvesting or some such gruesome business. And the woman, with her beauty and her voice; I can’t imagine what that would be like, all that hissing and splattering. And the way she flipped the bird was creative.

      1. JosephFazzone

        Thanks, jhowe. I liked him too. I’m thinking I want to remember these two for future stories. They were fun to right. Organ harvesting sounds like a good side project for him. Wouldn’t be something that would make him squeamish.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Well, all I can add is it’s a miracle this repellant duo found each other and didn’t mess up two other lives. However, the gift of the ring was a nice touch of romance.

    4. Beebles

      Have you seen the clip of the opera company doing the magic flute – i think its the magic flute – when they have projected scenes and character bodies onto the stage? Well, this felt like that. Yeah it was the magic flute, i checked. Anyway I am not entirely sure what was going on, but, especially with her, it was the words asociated with her, the squwarks and trills, that drew a picture in my head, not necessarily of how she looked on the outside, but on the inside, like a mish mash of animal traits, a beast of fur and fin and scale. A compelling read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Joseph, this is pure and raw dynamite you’ve written. Your characters are totally repugnant yet so real it sickens my stomach. This is power with a double P.

  18. Beebles

    The first thing I did of course was suck in my breath. And hold it. Ready for that great exhalation, when adrenalin took over and I had to make the fight or flight decision. Thankfully for me, having stabbed the suited man, his assailant scampered in the opposite direction, toward the High Street, then promptly tripped on a raised paving and plunged to the pavement, a coarse and profanity embellished sequence of screams stabbed into the leafy, early evening suburban tranquillity. He stayed down.

    I made the emergency call as I crossed to the muted victim. He was a tidy man in his mid thirties, expression shocked, eyes pleading and his hands clutching his abdomen. The red stain was spreading faster than I liked. I tried to recall my training.

    ‘What’s your name?’

    ‘Adam,’ the man gasped, his stillness and dignity a stark contrast to his assailant who continued to scream and curse.

    ‘I’m Doctor Marshall …’ I stopped myself, so used to introducing myself in a professional capacity. …Thomas.’

    ‘Oh, thank God. You’re a doctor.’

    ‘Mmm, yes, but not that kind of doctor. I do know some first aid. Let me see.’

    As I examined Adam he talked in that dreamy, panicked, half conscious way that the potentially terminal do. He mentioned his wife, the arrangements he had made for their anniversary. He talked about his two children, how proud he was. And his one surviving parent, who he was looking forward to taking to the south coast that weekend, same time every year. The life depicted in his speech was enviable, but ruptured by a savage gash. I used my jacket and applied pressure.

    The yelling from the other man was incessant. He had stopped his generic swearing and on seeing me, focussed his jet of septic vitriol. He ‘f**king’ needed my ‘f**kng’ help too. Why wasn’t I ‘f**king well seeing to him? I noted the dropped aspirate and voiceless dental stop in his speech and placed him from the estate across the High Street. It was a squalid place, fortified by high rise flats; renowned for its poverty, drugs, absent fathers and domestic abuse. His ragged tracksuit bottoms sustained my analysis.

    ‘Do you think I’ll be alright, Doc?’ Adam asked with a whisper of a smile. I considered him.

    ‘Oh, I think you’ll be fine. As long as the ambulance gets here soon, you’ll be fine.’

    He seemed to relax a little. As my bloodied hands continued to press his stomach, a shadow crossed us. In the warm relief of distant sirens I let the newcomer keep up the pressure. I crossed to the foul mouthed perpetrator as one would approach a wounded alligator. His own knife stuck ironically from his thigh, incapacitating, though it appeared to have missed the artery.

    ‘I heard you say you were a f**king doctor. I seen what you did to ‘im. Now f**king well sort me out.’

    I felt dispassionate, removed, almost cruel as I looked at him squirming and shouting. It was best in my profession if one didn’t get emotionally involved. God knows what this wretch had been through to turn him from an innocent into this venomous serpent of contempt. Should I help him? There wasn’t much time.

    ‘Alright,’ I said calmly, ‘I’ll try to help you.’

    ‘Bout f**king time!’

    I squatted next to him, positioning myself just out of reach.

    ‘Now,’ I began, ‘tell me about your childhood.’

    1. Flynnie

      A nice read Beebs. I particularly liked this part.

      I felt dispassionate, removed, almost cruel as I looked at him squirming and shouting. It was best in my profession if one didn’t get emotionally involved. God knows what this wretch had been through to turn him from an innocent into this venomous serpent of contempt. Should I help him? There wasn’t much time.

      1. Beebles

        Thanks Flynnie. From reading below, I rarely have the right thought pop in and often my first attempt is not the best. I have to mull it over and look for the right angle. Somtimes even then what comes out is pants. So … you are not alone.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      I actually considered a doc with a PhD in medieval French Lit or something like that, but am so glad I didn’t because this is so great. Dr. Thomas is so fully developed from assessing speech patterns in a crisis to delivering the best “treatment” he can. Most enjoyable read.

    3. Observer Tim

      It’s amazing how you can tell what type of doctor he is simply by that last line. This one’s a perfect stinger, Beebles. Like Reatha, I was thinking about other types of doctor (and I may yet do one), but now psychologist is definitely off the table. The narrative and POV do a great job of making me feel like I’m right there on the scene. It may be cruel, but if I saw that happen in real life I’d probably laugh out loud, especially since the second chap was so good at generating unsympathy. 🙂

    4. jhowe

      This story brought all three of your characters reluctantly together and their interactions were very well developed. I would have had a hard time being compassionate with the vulgar guy, but I’m glad Thomas did it.

    5. JosephFazzone

      Touche! That was hilarious! I say karma is served for the perpetrator. Your descriptions of the neighborhood set the tone so nicely, and I love how Thomas gets the last laugh against our potty mouthed assailant.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Most of what ai had wished to say has been comented about. It was an unusual enjoyable read for me. And I also thought the last line was a perfect ending and mind-bending.

    6. Critique

      Well done Beebles! Nice use of descriptive words.
      The intelligent Doctor realized the foul-mouthed injured man would live so he resorted to what he was trained to do.
      I’m hoping Adam survives.

  19. Pete

    The early sunlight rises to life through a cloud of tear gas and ash, glittering on the broken glass and bouncing off of bent street signs and mirrors of overturned cars. Day two and the city has been ripped apart. A park bench hangs halfway through a storefront window. Smolder from trash cans.

    Just last summer I’d been to a parade on this very street. Kids on shoulders. Balloons and ribbons. Now there’s sawhorses, helmets and batons, shields smeared with the spit. A wedge of fear between the two sides.

    I’m in the middle of it—ground zero if you will, trying to remember just what it means to be a National Guardsmen. Because I’m not exactly sure what’s worth guarding here: a city of rioters, a state of panic, an entire nation broiling in self-hatred.

    The police quit almost 24 hours ago. Simply handed over the keys to the asylum and walked. Now teenagers strut and laugh from the hoods of squad cars, displaying lights or radios as trophies, grotesque smiles as others record the mayhem on phones.

    Between the tear gas and the panic my vision is teetering. Classrooms and residency haven’t prepared me for combat. I jump as a sloppy hand claps my shoulder, sliding down my back as I spin around expecting a bottle or brick to find my face. Instead it’s a kid. He must have slipped the lines and now lies crumpled at my feet.

    I kneel, amid footsteps and howls. The kid points and I look up, over to the corners of 8th and Commerce Streets. A man slinking off with a knife. Jesus, I think, they’re turning on each other. Before I can think two soldiers move in on the attacker.

    “Don’t you fucking move!”

    Pop. Pop.

    The man pitches forward, his lifeless body lands on the knife. Two beats of silence. Two seconds for everyone to react. Then the uproar.

    “Lieutenant, we need a hand over here!”

    I can’t handle it. Just can’t think or move. Three drills a year, the rest is research and study. This is war. Pure and simple.

    I turn back to the kid, eyes so wide they pull me in. His chest bounces and he wiggles, swimming with the pain and fear. His boxer shorts plume from his pants, clutching his waist.

    Pressure on the wound, then I wave for a medic. Frantic as the kid shaking his head. A red bandanna hangs loosely at his neck. He’s fifteen, maybe, tops. Squirming like a bad dream.

    My knee rests in a puddle of his blood. I try to think when it happened. Fuck, I was collecting baseball cards at his age, he has a collection of scars on his chest.

    The barricade is a joke. Same as the curfews and protective orders. The other side is growing faster than ours. They have the numbers, the rage, and the dangerous conviction that what they are doing is just.

    When the police threatened to quit no one believed it. The pundits said it would never happen. The militias arrived by the truck load, shouting and swinging, red-faced and ready to exercise a right to shoot people without consequence. Now we’re doing this.

    Kenneth arrives and we clean the wound. He’s an older guy, with stubby fingers and bad skin. He picks a grand time to tell the kid he got what he deserved. I try to keep focused.

    “We need to get him up to St. Peters.”

    Kenneth shakes his head. “Good luck.”

    St. Peters is four blocks away. The streets are clogged and choked with mobs and tear gas. Basic essentials are gone. Free Wi-Fi remains. The whole square is shut down. There’s just no way. But there’s going to be more than two bodies on the street if we don’t do something.

    The kid grunts and kicks as we tear off his shirt. His diamond-studded belt buckle seems at ends with his black jeans and renegade attire. I duck as something booms overhead. A news chopper thumps from above. At some point I thought this gig would impress on a resume, but this is no commercial.

    The body on the sidewalk fuels the crowd. They climb up on the monuments, looking for something to break or destroy. The soldiers pat their batons and
    Kenneth heads for cover.

    Orders crackle through a loudspeaker. I curse the Mayor for not having the cops’ back. This kid for looking at me to save him. Kenneth for not giving a shit. I blame my hands for trembling too damn hard to hold a gauze. All I can do is take the kid’s hand. His eyes snap open as I start praying. Because what else is there anymore? When the shooting erupts, when the barricade retreats.

    When the stampede of war swallows us whole.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a dark commentary on what happens when society breaks down. The scary part is the way it could happen anywhere and it wouldn’t be too surprising. The second-last paragraph surprisingly doesn’t come across as preachy to me, mostly because we’ve had the whole story to prepare for it. Nicely done, Pete. 🙂

  20. ShamelessHack

    “Are you a doctor?”
    “It just so happens, yes.”
    “I’ve been stabbed, doc! You have to help me! Oww!”
    “Hmm, who’s responsible for your wound?”
    “Him! That guy running down the street! He’s the one that stabbed me and—oh my god! He’s tripped and stabbed himself! Doctor–do something! Look at my wound! ”
    “Your wound? Hmm. Yes,your wound. Ask yourself, what is its nature?”
    “Huh? What?”
    “Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask what is it of itself?”
    “What? Whatwhatwhat? I’m bleeding here doc. What are you talking about?”
    “Think: what need did your assailant serve by stabbing you?”
    “Oh hell, doc, you’re not making any sense. Help me!”
    “All in good time. Your attacker saw you, and he coveted what he saw.”
    “Oww, doc, you’re crazy, you’re out of your mind!”
    “Sit still, please.”
    “What are you—what’s that? What’s in the bottle?”
    “This bottle. Why it’s a nice Chianti. And these are fava beans.”
    “What?! Nonononono!!”
    “Ta ta…”

    1. Observer Tim

      I really should have seen that coming, but I didn’t. Well, I guess if the cut’s there he might as well take advantage of it… 🙂 As usual, this is clever, twisted, and fun. Nice job telling the story. The dialogue is beautiful and shows no sign of needing tags.

    2. jhowe

      Do you think the doctor will win another Oscar for this role? Where’s Clarice when you need her. You have a knack for bringing familiar characters into your stories and providing top notch entertainment. Nicely done.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          After reading story after story from you Larry, remind me not to meet you on a dark, lonely street anytime soon. Loved this one. Slam dunk!

  21. cosi van tutte

    Just for the random fun of it….:D

    ****

    “Doctor! Doctor! You must help me. I’ve been stabbed. I am going to die from being stabbed.” And Jim Genevie threw himself on the floor with a dramatic moan and writhed with pain. “Oh! Ahh! Aiee!”

    “Don’t you worry none, son.” Dr. Yamsworth knelt beside the gasping, wheezing young man. “I’mma gon’ ta make you all well again.”

    Before Dr. Yamsworth could work his medical magic, Rob Linnaver staggered into the room. “Oh, aiee! Fie! And woe is me!” He did Drama Pose #33 – hand on forehead. “I am not loooong for this world. List. Ohhh, list. I have thrust this dagger into my gilded bosom and my life blood is issuing forth.” He dropped to his knees. “Farewell, precious world. Ahh, that I could have lingered longer in thee. But alas and alack! ’twas not meant to be.” He did Drama Pose #1 – pull dagger out of chest, lift it up to the heavens, and let it fall out of hand while ruefully looking to the side. “My time grows ever so short. Oh!” He lunged to the ground. “Oh, I see heaven’s light. I see—”

    “Stop.” Dr. Yamsworth stood. “You’ve carried on for long enough, Pete.”

    Rob Linnaver (aka Pete) sat up. “Well! Pardon me for having the longest death scene ever.”

    Jim Genevie stopped writhing. “What do you mean?” He sat up as well. “My death scene is longer.”

    “That may be so, but mine is more dramatic and worthy of Shakespeare.”

    “Oh, you and your Shakespeare.”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “I mean, you’re obsessed with him and his blabby plays.”

    “Shakespeare is not blabby.”

    “Sure he is. He makes his actors blab and blab and blab whole pages worth of blah blah blah paragraphs.”

    Pete picked up his dagger. “Take that back or else.”

    “Or else what? You’ll kill me with a fake dagger? Oh, that’s a good threat.”

    Dr. Yamsworth stepped in between the two men. “Look. We came together today to go over our parts. Not to out-diva each other.”

    Jim laughed. “Who the heck could out-diva him?”

    “I’m going to take that as a compliment.” said Pete.

    “Fine. If that makes you feel better about yourself.”

    “Oh, it does.”

    “Okay.” said Dr. Yamsworth. “Now that we got that all settled, let’s take this from the top…”

    1. Observer Tim

      I’m not sure whether the two actors were eight-year olds or just acting like them. You did a great job with the hamming, especially Pete/Rob. I like that I was able to figure out what was going on from the cues. By the time the dialogue started in earnest I was laughing at everyone. Great job. 🙂

    2. JosephFazzone

      Hahaha! The bickering is very amusing, and the fake dagger threat is hilarious! I love your take on the prompt, it really hit the mark from an entirely satirical perspective. Forsooth, Shakespeare is not blabby!

  22. ReathaThomasOakley

    All in a day’s work

    Left foot, right foot, left foot…Oh, God what am I doing, she thought, walking through gently falling snow, on a December night, my arm tucked in the crook of his, the back of his arm pressed against my…

    “What did you say?” She stopped, looked up from watching her boots, pulled her arm away from his.

    “My dear, I asked what was so fascinating about the sidewalk.” He removed one glove and brushed his fingers, hot from the leather, across her cold brow. “I even made a little joke, but no response, you just kept walking, eyes on the ground.”

    She looked up into his face, his skin the color of some burnished exotic wood, his hair long, black, spread across the shoulders of his dark coat, silvered threads shining in the glow of the street light. She was used to seeing his hair in braids, in daylight. When he’d walked into the bar earlier, at first she hadn’t recognized him.

    “Just thinking, thinking about that first day.” He pulled her close.

    “The first time I saw you sitting in the classroom,” he paused, “so serious, so ready, so…”

    “So hoping the guest lecturer for Ethics for Human Service Providers wouldn’t be as boring as the others…” He laughed into her hair, she felt his breath, warm on her scalp.

    “And was I, was I boring?”

    “No, never. You made me understand how decisions I make are often like what you and other physicians make,”

    “That dull?” He used one finger to lift her chin. “I promise, tonight, you will not be bored.” He kissed her cheek, then licked a snow flake from her lips with a flick of his tongue. “I promise,” he whispered.

    Oh, God, she thought, what am I getting into.

    “What the hell?” he said over her shoulder.

    “Help me, help me.” She turned and saw a youngish man stagger out of the dark alley, clutching his stomach. In the dim street light she could see blood seeping between his fingers. “He’s behind me, please help me. I need a doctor.”

    Then from the alley a man, more a boy, she thought, ran into the light, saw the wounded man and with a guttural roar lifted a long, bloodied knife and lurched forward, but before he could strike again he stepped onto a patch of ice and pitched forward on to the blade and screamed. She pulled her phone from her coat pocket.

    “What are you doing?” He grabbed her arm. “We’ve got to get out of here.”

    “But, these men, they need…”

    “Didn’t you hear me? We can’t stay here, you can’t call anyone.” He pulled her along the sidewalk.

    “Let me at least…”

    “You little idiot. How would I ever explain this, explain you? My wife…” She stopped.

    “Your what?” Suddenly the snow and dark were no longer romantic, cold spread through her body. “You go on, I’ll call, I’ll stay, say I was taking a walk.”

    “Bless you,” he reached for her hand, she moved away. “I’ll…I’ll call you.” He looked toward the injured men. “Don’t try to do anything, wait for…” She focused on her phone.

    By the time she ended her call he was out of sight. “First, do no harm,” she whispered into the night.

        1. Flynnie

          I’m no writer, can only weigh in on whether I enjoyed it or not. I did, Cosi is right there is a lot at play here and left very open ended for the reader to fill in some blanks. I think that is good, keeps us thinking about after we’ve read it. Just my unsolicitied, untrained $02

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Thanks, Flynnie. I’m sure by now you’ve been thinking about all the great advice others have given you, and I’d like to add a bit more. You wrote and posted a response to the prompt that was read and commented on. In my opinion that makes you a writer.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a beautiful story of two very human reactions to a sudden trauma. I especially appreciate the irony of the reaction in front of the ethics lecturer. As one of my profs in seminary said, the inclusion of an ethics course in medical school did not make for more ethical doctors, it made for doctors who were amateur ethicists. Wonderful work. 🙂

      My consistency editor noted a couple of things. The first paragraph needs a bit of a recast, as it took a couple of tries for me to figure out that there wasn’t a person shift there. Also, at several points you seem to have a different speaker and actor in the same paragraph (e.g. the “Just thinking” paragraph), or it may need a tag (e.g. He continued,) to clarify the speaker.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks Tim, for your comments and your second paragraph is spot on. Opening and closing were much longer, more MC thoughts, more parting dialogue, etc., I needed to trim, but fear I cut too much without adding tags. As I reread I got a bit confused as to who was speaking/thinking. Thanks, again.

    2. jhowe

      Fascinating story Reatha. You developed the doctor’s character perfectly, and when the crucial time came, I was riveted but also almost expecting bad behavior from him. Very unique.

    3. Beebles

      Super Reatha, such a well portrayed situation and relationship. I didn’t like the professor from the off I have to say, as soon as we learnt she was his student. But all the detail was very well revealed as it moved along. Great.

    4. JosephFazzone

      So intense! You can almost hear the sordid tale that got them to this point, and both sides of the spectrum. A very cool Yin and Yang romance perspective. I’m kinda hoping that’s the last she sees of that guy, but I don’t know if she can resist. Great story, but I want to know what’s going to happen next.

    5. UnclePizza

      Good foundation, Reatha, and I have nothing to add in the way of constructive feedback that hasn’t already been suggested. I do want to say, though, that I really liked how the last line (“First, do no harm”) pulled us back to remembering that this guy is a physician ethics lecturer. I’d lost sight of that toward the end by just focusing on what a creep he was. Whatever way you rewrite the next version, I think you should keep that echo at then end.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I love your stories Reatha, about ‘almost bedded women’. You might call it a tease to those of us who know how to treat a damsel in distress or not in distress. Your male characters are ‘klutz heads’. I ought to start a manners school for them, might be big money in it.

        1. UnclePizza

          When the kids were all little I used to make pizza every weekend. Hand thrown sourdough crust, homemade sauce, the works. My name is Pete and one of my nieces took to calling me Uncle Pizza (and still calls me that – 25 years later).

    6. Critique

      There was a wee bit of confusion for me as to who was talking but I got the gist of the scene clearly.
      The smooth talking physician turned out to be a jerk confirming my first suspicions. I especially like your description of the doctor – sounded like a dashing romantic figure that preyed on vulnerable pretty students.
      I also like the last sentence that leaves the story open to interpretation as to what the girl might do.

  23. UnclePizza

    My Dearest Margaret,

    Please forgive that this is my first letter these last two weeks. The war has been raging with increasing ferocity and each day is more demanding than the day before. I offer this not in the way of excuse, however, for I know how you must worry for my well-being regardless of what distracts my hand.

    Under General Meade, our army held Gettysburg a fortnight ago, as I shall assume you have by now read in the newspaper. While we prevailed, our casualties were horrific, as were those of the Confederate troops who fought with Lee. The slaughter was such that I shan’t attempt to describe it lest I profane your sense of decency.

    When I hired on as an army surgeon I had visions of healing those brave troops who were wounded in their fight to reunite our country. While I am a peaceable man and not a soldier, my belief that our country should provide freedom for all was so profound that I felt compelled to contribute to the effort in what way that I could. Now, the reality of war has provided a much starker undertaking for me – I simply struggle to remain sane in the face of so much suffering. My earlier naiveté would be an embarrassment to me today if I my exhaustion did not disallow the luxury of emotion.

    The weariness and numbness to suffering is also afflicting the troops. Not only must they witness the same suffering as I, but they must also inflict it in kind upon our foes. The torment can become too much for some and their minds can break. Some grow shallow and withdrawn, others appear normal until they awake screaming from torturous dreams, while still others will explode violently for no reason, even attacking their own fellows.

    For example, just this afternoon I had traveled to the railway depot to collect some medical supplies. The train was late, so I wandered into town where I ran into young Raymond Healy. You will remember him as the son of the blacksmith who made our gates. He had grown into a fine young man and had recently become a captain in the Union Army. I stood talking to him, both of us sharing happier memories of home, when one of our soldiers came running up the sidewalk. Without a word, he stabbed Raymond in the chest and continued running, screaming gibberish, whence he tripped upon a loose plank, and falling upon on his own knife, soon expired. I began to tend to young Raymond, calling for help although I knew none could come, but alas, his wound proved mortal as well.

    So, my dearest, while I am safe in body, remaining behind the lines of battle in my surgical tent, please pray for my sanity. I have seen how men can lose their minds as easily as their limbs or their life. One day this war must certainly end, and when it does I can only hope to come home to you as the same husband who so proudly donned his uniform as army surgeon nearly two years ago.

    Until that time, and with heartfelt sincerity, I remain your most faithful and loving husband,

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very well done. This is a great frame for the prompt, plus you maintained your MC’s voice throughout. The emotions were very real and believable. Great job.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is very lovely and a wonderful period piece; I heartily agree with Reatha on all points. 🙂 A few turns of phrase offended my Victorian sensibilities, but that is more because they were Americanisms than because they were out of period.

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks for the comments. Believe it or not, I’m not really familiar with the period outside of seeing movies and reading some random fiction, so I’m not surprised that I had a couple of out-of-place phrases. This one just kind of came out all on its own, although unlike your post which just “popped out” when you read the prompt, I must have mulled it subconsciously all day. It wasn’t until I sat down in the evening to see what I could do that it basically just flowed. Doesn’t happen often, but I love it when it does! Thanks again.

        1. Observer Tim

          Not an issue, Uncle. My 19th-century reading is largely composed of Oxford Movement documents (religious works of British origin); even by that era the American and English styles had begun to differ. I just had to remind myself – USA not England – a couple of times.

    3. Beebles

      Well written. I really felt the period, liked the military history and the use of the prompt. My one small thing would be not using the term ‘army surgeon’ again in the penultimate line. I hope he gets back safe. Good old US, son of a blacksmith would never make Captain in the British army at that time! Good stuff.

      1. UnclePizza

        Beebles, you are absolutely right – I’ve read the ending with and without the term “army surgeon” and it’s like night and day how much better it is without seeing it a second time. Great feedback and I really appreciate getting it. Thanks!

    4. Flynnie

      Not a writer but a reader, so no critique ’cause I’m not qualified. However, I can say this I thoroughly enjoyed the read. History buff, so I particularly loved the approach. You guys are unbelievably creative people. To take these prompts and turn them inside out, take them through time and provide these gems for us to savor is so cool. I wish this site was designed a bi differently (or maybe it is and I just don’t know it) so that each of you had your own page with your personal archive of prompt history, a path to your work past or present. Seems like that would be a great tool for WD to offer. Anyway, I’ve certainly read my share of letters like this in the past and this is so authentixc sounding. SUPERB! Was a very fun read.

      1. UnclePizza

        Flynnie, it’s an absolute honor to get a comment like this. I’m truly flattered and humbled. And in my mind readers are the more important critics than writers since it’s the readers that we write for, so yes, you are definitely qualified to comment. (And I’m not just saying that because you said good things 😉 )

        Thanks!

        1. UnclePizza

          And let me echo what others are saying in their comments to you – you wrote, so you too are a writer. You might be just starting out and gaining confidence, but that doesn’t make you “not a writer”. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts to future prompts!

    5. JosephFazzone

      So sad, and honest. This just has such real emotionless emotion. I love how its so succinct and factual, but describing so much with so little. I genuinely feel bad for this guy, and his poor wife. I can just imagine what she must have felt when she read this. Just amazing work, Uncle Pizza!

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Joseph. I particularly appreciated your comment about “how its so succinct and factual, but describing so much with so little”. When I stumbled on this site last month and decided to start writing again I chaffed at the short word limits. Every first draft was at least double the suggested word count. I’ve since decided that I like being forced to trim the story to where I can tell it with less than half the words I originally thought I needed. And practicing has helped – I trimmed fewer than 100 words from my first draft to get to this version. (And if I’d had Beeble’s advice sooner I could have trimmed two more!)

  24. Flynnie

    Okay, posting early this time to get the benefit of all the valuable critique you have to offer. Again, keep in mind, I’m no author, not trained just trying to spin an occasional tale. Hope to write something real someday, though if I can learn enough. Thanks for reading.

    TAKING A STAB AT IT

    Doc took the long drive from his estate in the suburbs down to the marina. He parked near a jetty and sat alone behind the wheel of his late model Mercedes C500. He watched as the sun rose on the horizon, spewing bright oranges and pinks across the morning sky remembering all of the times he had come here with his young wife. Corrina loved the smell of the ocean. After watching the sunrise she would drag him down to the waters edge and he would watch as she danced with the tide, running away when it surged and tip toeing as she chased the frothing wavelets back to the sea. It was a simple childs game but it made her smile and giggle in a way that made him feel more alive. He could almost see her from where he sat, slumped into the cold leather seat, squishing the sand between her toes and chiding him to join her by the surf. Her long curly hair bounced playfully as she spun around with her arms wide open, making herself dizzy enough to plop down on the beach soaking up what little heat there was so early and warming her cold ankles and toes.

    A tear trickled down along the wrinkled path of his face and dropped off onto his expensive silk dress shirt. For 11 wonderful years they had made the weekly migration, most often together, though Corrina had come on her own many times. He had made his responsibilities at the hospital a priority. A decision he never regretted more than he did now. ‘There is an unmistakable clarity that comes at the end of catastrophe’, he thought. She was gone, the victim of a drug overdose. He hadn’t expected to be with her long, anyhow. She was so much younger than he. He understood that a time would likely come when she would leave. But not like this. He had done everything that he could to keep her happy; luxurious house, expensive cars and extravagant shopping sprees had managed that. But something, somehow had obviously gone wrong.

    He had barely closed his eyes to relive a few more memories before returning his daily grind, when a loud thump wracked his senses. He woke to find a tall, well built man leaning on the hood of his car, clutching a blood soaked shirt in his hand.

    “Hey Mister,” He gasped. “You – you’ve gotta help me.”

    The Doc wiped the cobwebs away and pulled himself out of the car toward the man.

    “What happened here?” He asked, sizing up the man’s situation quickly.

    “That man, there, he’s running away. Do you see him?” he questioned. “He came up behind me asked me a couple of questions and started stabbing me.”

    “No, I don’t see anyone.” Said the doc looking away briefly.

    “I elbowed him in the face and I think I broke his nose.” The man said. “That’s when he took off. I tried to chase him but I couldn’t keep going. That’s when I saw you.”

    ‘Well, your bad day may have turned to good. I’m actually a doctor.’ He said. “We’ve got to stop this bleeding, fast. Now give me the shirt so I can clear this blood away and have a look.”

    “Oh shit it hurts! It burns so fucking much!” He screamed.

    “Yes, you’ve been stabbed, of course it hurts. But I need you to do your best to stay calm.”

    “How bad is it, Doc? How bad?” He asked, wincing in pain. “Tell me I’m not going to die like this!”

    “Well, this is definitely bad, he may have pieced a kidney and I’m guessing got a lung as well,” answered the Doc. “But without the proper equipment I cannot tell how much damage has been done inside.”

    “What do we do next?” He asked.

    “Well, I’m going to have to – “The Doc was interrupted by a loud cry from just over the bluff.

    “Help, help! Somebody help me!” It bellowed. “I can’t see!”

    “That’s him, that’s the guy who stabbed me.” He choked out. “I know it is. I did break his nose. You can’t go help that fucking asshole.”

    ‘I’m a Doctor, I have to go help him.” Informed the Doc.

    “Doc, what – what about me?” He said arching his back in extreme pain. “I need help, he stabbed me!”

    “I’m sorry son, what’s your name? I have to at least check on him. You just apply pressure with this shirt and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

    “It’s Walker, Mark Walker.” He answered. “Please get back fast.”

    The Doctor froze in his tracks. “Did you say Walker?”

    “Yes, Mark Walker, why?” He answered. “I feel really cold Doc, please hurry.”

    “Yes of course Mr. Walker, I’ll be back straight away.”

    The Doctors eyes seemed to glaze over. He turned and walked briskly over the hill to find the other man sitting on the ground with the knife impaled in his left eye and a blood soaked face and shirt.

    “Well, what have we here,” asked the Doc coldly.

    “Who is that? I – I can’t see. There was a man, he broke my nose and tried to stab me. I took the knife and tried to run but my vision was blurry and I tripped and fell on the knife.” He lied. “Can you get help?”

    “You know,” said the Doc. “When I hired you, I fully intended to get caught. You were the loose end that I could not figure how to sew up.”

    “Doc, is that you? Oh, I can’t believe this.” He said. “I did the job, I got rid of him just how you paid me for. Now help me before the cops get come sniffing around.”

    “Oh, I’ll be glad to help, you did me a favor and all for a little pharmaceutical payment that’ll go down as simple theft from the hospital.”

    “Doc, can you get me outta here?” He asked as if completely ignorant of the Doctors tone.

    “Yes, of course.” He answered. “But one question first if you don’t mind. Why here? Why at the beach?”

    “When I approached him he said that he was here reminiscing about a girl he knew, a girl that he loved who he had met here.”

    “Of course.” Sighed the Doc. “Of course.”

    “Doc, are you going to help me or what?” This is killing me, the pain is unbearable. Will I be able to see again?”

    “Of course, I’ve just got to pull the knife out slowly.” Said the Doc. “Now you just lie down so that we can limit the movement and I’ll pull it out. It’ll all be better in a minute.”

    “Thanks Doc, I mean it. Thanks a bunch.”

    “That’s it,” He said helping the man to lay down. “He grabbed the knife by the handle and drove it deep into the mans’ brain, killing him instantly.”

    He then walked slowly over the bluff with the knife still dripping blood in his hand to the first man, Mr. Walker. He was barely hanging on to life propped up against a light pole when he found him. He had crawled about 15 feet from the Mercedes trying to get to the road for help.

    The Doc slapped him lightly on the cheeks, reviving him. “Mr. Walker, Mr. Walker, can you hear me?”

    “Doc, oh man, am I glad to see you.” He whispered tiredly. “Are they on the way? Is the ambulance coming?”

    “Sure Mr. Walker, but before they get here I wanted to ask you something.” The Doc said. “Look at me Mr. Walker it’ll help you to stay alive. The other man mentioned a girl before he died. Tell me about her, focus Mr. Walker.”

    “Yes, Corrina. She was beautiful.” He said. “She was married to some old crone who couldn’t keep up with her. She used to cry in my arms about it. She must’ve been so torn by the whole thing. She ended up taking her own life.”

    “Mr. Walker, look at me.” He said snapping his fingers in front of the mans heavy eyes. “I’m the old crone, Walker. Corrina didn’t overdose, I helped her dose. I knew she would leave one day. But betrayal was something that I couldn’t take.”

    “You’re maniacal.” He said trying to reach for the Doc but only finding air.

    “Said the man who jumped in bed with another mans wife. Look at me Walker, you’ll be together soon.” And the Doctor stiffly slammed the knife into Walkers abdomen, just below the ribcage, ripping upward and into the heart.

    Walker eyes widened and then went vacant.

    —————————

    The Doc was in the back of an ambulance wrapped in a blanket. It was late afternoon now and he had endured a battering of questions and was completely exhausted.

    “He’s had a heckuva run that old guy.” Said Detective Barnes, chewing on a toothpick.

    “Yeah,” said his partner. “It was just two weeks ago that his wife killed herself and then he stumbles into this mess.”

    “I tell ya, the guy comes down here to try and dredge up some peaceful memories and wow.” Said Barnes.

    “To hear him talk about how he tried to help these guys and wound up holding each of their hands as they passed.” Said his partner. “This guy deserves a frigging medal or something.”

    “No kiddin’. Let’s button this thing up and get out of here.”

    1. UnclePizza

      Hi Flynnie – You asked for feedback so here’s mine (from another amateur, so feel free to ignore it if you don’t like it ;-). You have a talent for descriptive writing: I could really picture the young woman playing in the water, sand between her toes, etc. in the first two paragraphs. You do well with the dialog, too. The story is a little hard to follow when you tell so much of it through dialog, though. While using dialog tell a story is good technique, too much can be like too much of any good thing…it stops working how you want it to. You might want to mix it up a bit (description and dialog). It looks to me like you’ve got some solid basics down, so just keep practicing!

      1. Flynnie

        Well, that is what I get for trying to bang one out during a long lunch break. I see your point and I agree now that I’ve been away from it for a bit. It is due a rewrite (which I will do for myself because I obviously need the workout, no repost). I appreciate the props on the descriptive writing and the fact that you took time to weigh in. Keep practicing I will, UP.

      1. Flynnie

        Thanks RTO! I had hoped to get a little sympathy going for him before we realized the inner monster. So I guess that worked? Thanks for reading!

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Flynnie!

      You did a very good job with this story, especially in making the Doc a truly horrible person. Your descriptions are very well done and your writing style is very clean.

      My Internal Editor had an issue with just three things:

      1. The first guy does a lot of talking for someone who may have been stabbed in the lungs. Maybe if you made the sentences shorter and more broken it would feel more realistic.

      2. Also, I’m not sure how easy it is to slice through from below the ribcage up to the heart. Maybe it’s possible with a sharp/strong enough blade.

      3. I understand it had to end that way, but the officers seemed awfully naïve. I mean, both Walker and the other guy died horrible, bloody, far from peaceful deaths x amount of feet from each other. For him to be at both of their sides “holding each of their hands as they passed.”, is practically a confession of guilt or supreme suspiciousness.

      But that is just my fifty-five cents. Take it or leave it as you wish. 🙂

      1. Flynnie

        Cosi, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed critique. I can’t impress upon you how much I appreciate that. I read so much great stuf form so many great writers that I hesitate to post at all (3 post in just over a year).
        I wrote this one very fast (for me) to try something different, no read/editing. It seems that lesson backfired on me a bit. I tried to write the guy with the stab in the back wound a bit broken in speech and breathless but I see it didn’t come across well enough. I wasn’t sure on the right way to depict that in sentence.
        In terms of the officers being naïve, well two things at play there. Observer Tim called me on the long length of my prompt responses (so I was trying to trim) and then I just ran out of time and got lazy. Brought it to the quickest most easy conclusion I could, when what I should’ve done was put it aside and revisited it the next day. You caught me and called it right.
        Rewrite to myself is due to even validate the initial effort. Thanks again, I appreciate all of the pointers!

    3. Observer Tim

      This is a very – well, nice isn’t quite the right word – take. 😉 The deep descriptions gave me both a pity and a dislike of the Doc, whose callous nature is truly chilling.

      In the case of the killings, the doc’s dialogue kind of telegraphed both of them. It would have read as more suspenseful if the loose end comment were delivered after the killing. For Walker, rather than “I’m so sorry” he would have been better served without the “I’m sorry son” before asking his name. But those are both fairly minor fixes to an enjoyable story.

      If this is the intro to a police procedural, the doc’s mistake of using the same knife and leaving his bloody fingerprints on it (literally) is going to come back and haunt him. It won’t take Columbo to unravel the real chain of events. [P.S. this reads like the intro to a story for that particular detective.]

      1. Flynnie

        OT! The only cat in here that has replied to all three of my posts. Once again, ‘m in your debt, sir. I see your point on the telegraphing, I will change that (for my record only, of course) cause I definitely ned the work. There’s no doubt that the ending was weak. I’m a bit pissed at myself for making the tineliness of the post more important than the post itself. I wasn’t writing a detective novel so I didn’t want to go too deep but I could’ve gone a bit deeper in having the detectives maybe recount the doc’s story of how it happened? Suggestion from you would be helpful if you happen to read back. Thanks again for taking the time!

        1. Observer Tim

          I try to always reply, though I don’t succeed. So you know, many of us keep “fixed” copies of our stories; that’s good practice for the skill of editing and rewriting. And we all need work; polished stories don’t just appear by magic. Even work doesn’t guarantee success, and I have the rejection slips to prove it. 😉

          Actually, the depth of this piece, and the ending, are what make it the perfect start of a longer crime story. From what you wrote so far I want to see this bastard get his comeuppance, even though he does have valid reasons for his actions (note I didn’t say ‘good’ reasons).

          As for suggestions to what follows, there are as many as your imagination. Perhaps he might be catapulted to minor fame that brings out his vices, or he could see in post-murder triste that his killings didn’t really solve anything. Or he could realize he’d just been released from alien mind control, or he could discover that he’d been manipulated into doing the whole thing. Our job as writers is to pick an idea and run with it; the sky’s the limit, and your writing is already on the way there. 🙂

    4. Beebles

      Hi Flynnie. I enjoyed this, particularly the opening and as has been alluded to above the medical side of things coupled with some of the dialogue caused a few believability issues – it was the knife in the eye that got me more than the others, yeugh. Doc was bad but nice and complex as well.

      1. Flynnie

        Beebs, I’m just flattered that you and so many others actually read it and appeared, for the most part, to enjoy it. It certainly doesn’t come easy to me so if I’ve done any of it right at all I feel a small sense of victory. BTW, I kinda liked the knife in the eye part, lol. Maybe I’ve seen too many gore movies. Love those zombies, hahaha. Thanks again for weighing in.

    5. JosephFazzone

      I really don’t know what to comment or critique, I’m just learning my voice as well, but I will say that I enjoyed your story. The Doctor is crazy, and I think it’s going to catch up to him. Those cops aren’t that dumb. =) You paint some great pictures. Keep on writing!

    6. Critique

      The doctor turned out to be a nasty piece of work. I thought the story line was believable.

      The comments below are good ones – some editing and this could become a longer piece?
      Keep on writing – you clearly have what it takes to spin an entertaining yarn.

  25. cosi van tutte

    Dr. Henry Irving was tired and drinking three tequila-on-hot-rocks in a row did nothing to elevate his energy level. It just made him depressed.

    But, then, his entire life made him depressed.

    “I used to be somebody.” His voice was soft and sloshed. “Somebody big and impor’ant. Big doctor. Big city. Big deal.” He took another sip. The jalapeno powder floating in his drink hit the back of his throat all wrong. He coughed hard several times.

    The waitress walked past him, vastly unconcerned.

    He took another sip, which singed away the sting. “Yeah. Top of the best doctor’s list twenty-five years straight. Then, one mistake and whoosh! All gone. All o’ it. Now…”

    He looked down at his drink. The glass wibbled and warbled and wobbled out of shape. “I’m a crummy doctor for hire. And who’s my bosses? Crummy crooks and gangsters. They’re all the only ones who’ll hire me.” He laughed a miserable, bitter laugh. “Top o’ the list working for petty scum. Cheers to me.”

    Tears filled his eyes as he remembered all that he had and all that he had lost. He wiped away his tears in a sloppy gesture. “If Janice were here, she’d slap me and drag me on back home. Then, she’d tell me all the what in the world and I would…I would…”

    The crowd noise in the bar melded into a voiceless roar as Henry’s eyes drifted shut.

    Someone grabbed his shoulder and shook him hard.

    “Asofowhaa?” He opened his eyes as best as he could.

    A man, no older or younger than thirty-five, stood beside him. “Are you the doctor for hire?”

    “Yeah.”

    The man’s eyes widened. “I need…” He grabbed Henry’s shoulders. “I…need…” He gasped, released Henry, and dropped hard and awkward to the floor.

    Henry closed his eyes and sighed. It felt so good to close his eyes. Made him feel just a little bit of peace.

    The man cried out in pain.

    Henry stumbled, half-tumbled off his barstool and knelt by the man. The floor’s so close. he thought. Lying down would feel so good.

    But he opened his eyes and struggled to focus on the injured man. “Whaasamatta?”

    He knew that it was a dumb question as soon as he’d asked it.

    A red stain splotched the man’s shirt.

    It wasn’t an old stain.

    It was spreading.

    Henry muttered an incoherent curse word. There was a time when he’d be able to fix someone like this in fifteen minutes flat. At that time, he had nurses and stitches and equipment. He had none of that here.

    The front door banged open as another man barged into the room. “Ha! I see you. Hiding like a wounded dog.” He pulled out a large dagger with a wicked-looking blade. “Well, dog. I’ve come to put you out of your misery. Yeeeeaaaaaaa!” He ran full speed to the wounded fellow.

    No one warned him that the tile floor had just been waxed. So, it was a complete surprise to him when he slipped and fell forward.

    Falling on his dagger was another unpleasant surprise.

    “You dog! If you think that…uhhh…” He proceeded to moan and groan.

    Henry rose to his feet with great difficulty. Only one thing to do. he thought. He walked over to the bartender. “Couldja please call 911?”

    1. Observer Tim

      Ah, how the mighty have fallen. At least he’s not totally drowning in self-pity, only mostly. You did a great job portraying someone totally burned out and wasted, Cosi. I find myself wondering if he’s going to do any first aid while waiting for the ambulance; at least there’s plenty of ice available, and vodka makes a good sterilizing agent… 🙂

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, OT!

        Now, the question is: Considering the state he’s in, should he even try to do first aid? He might do more harm than good. 🙁

    2. Flynnie

      Great read. It was the irony of the end that I enjoyed. Beat himself up for hours in the bar about all that he had lost, looking back on the mistake, etc. Then, opportunity presents itself and instead of rising to the occasion he figures, ah, it ain’t really worth it and bugs out dropping the responsibility on someone else to call 911. At least that was how it hit me. Before I laid down and took a quick snooze, lol. Awesome-sauce.

    3. JosephFazzone

      Wow, cliff hanger! Nicely done, Cosi. I love the quick pace. Jalapeno powder? Ouch. Not something I’d want to go down the wrong pipe. Painful! You paint a great picture, and leave me wanting to know what happens next. Great story!

    4. UnclePizza

      Excellent portrayal/description. “Asofowhaa?” – LOL!! You made me feel like I met that guy before (not sure what that says about me though!).

      A very entertaining read – thanks!

  26. Trevor

    Word Count: 573

    The Accident

    “Doctor! Doctor Bryant! Please help me!” This shouted plea for assistance wouldn’t have been bizarre to me had I been back at the hospital. However, I had clocked out for the afternoon and was on my way to meet some work friends at a nearby café for lunch. After some tense hours that consisted of a heart surgery, a multi-car pileup, and a 6-year-old boy having a seizure, I really needed to relax. But once I heard those shouts, coupled with the use of my surname, I was thrust back into Doctor mode.

    I turned to see a middle-aged man run up to me, clutching his stomach. He didn’t need to get closer for me to see the blood leaking from between his fingers that he used to cover his wound. Before I had a chance to assess the situation further, I heard another shout. “Doctor, help! Help!” A younger man then ran up beside the older one. This time, his wound was more obvious by the fact that the weapon used to create it was still inside it: A large pocketknife jutting out of his thigh. The older man turned to the younger one and immediately had a new reaction.

    “That’s the bastard that stabbed me!” He shouted aggressively, pointing at the man with the hand that wasn’t clutching his bloody wound. The accused man’s eyes flew open as he quickly fired back. “No way! I didn’t do that! This guy’s crazy!” He shouted. “I was just minding my own business when he jumped me! I was defending myself!”

    At that, accusations flew as a small crowd of confused onlookers gathered to see what was happening. I didn’t even know what was going on. Emotions were coming at me a mile a second. Fear at being near a potentially dangerous assailant, shock at the sight of two injured men before me with no medical equipment on hand, and a mountain of stress from my current situation combined with all the trauma I had witnessed mere hours ago at work. With my head spinning like a pinwheel, I stumbled backward, stepping off the curb….

    And in an instant, I was blinded.

    My sight returned once I was on the concrete. I could already feel my broken bones. I tried to raise my head, but it sent painful shockwaves through the rest of my body. I could hear panicked screams and make out the silhouettes of people rushing about. I sighed with relief when a woman briefly kneeled down to me to say she was calling an ambulance before getting up and pulling out her cell phone. The hospital was only a few miles away; provided that I didn’t have any internal injuries, I would make a good recovery. But as I laid back and waited for paramedics to arrive, I overheard a conversation between three men. Two of them I recognized as the bloodied men who inadvertently caused this accident, another was an unrecognizable male voice. But it didn’t take me long to piece together what they were saying.

    “This wasn’t supposed to happen! You were just supposed to freak the Doc out!”

    “How was I supposed to know the idiot would jump into oncoming traffic!?”

    “No matter what, I better get paid. You promised $10,000 each!”

    Six months later, I received a generous settlement check from JKTY Studios and the television prank show “What’s Up, Doc?” was cancelled following much media outrage.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is why I don’t watch “Just For Laughs: Gags” (a mean-spirited descendant of “Candid Camera”). This was very nicely done, Trevor; you took a clever idea and ran with it to a natural and fairly credible conclusion. Nice job! 🙂

      Too bad the doc was already burned out for the day; otherwise he could have done quick triage (open abdominal wound beats thigh wound with weapon in), told the two jackasses to both shut the hell up, and called an ambulance. Then stuck the two of them for the ambulance bill.

    2. Flynnie

      Absolutely wonderful! I’ve toyed with a short movie about just such a scenario. But in so mnay more multiple layers of how a single prank could go so completely awry. Enjoyed it, super ending twist, just how I like it.

  27. dustymayjane

    I take an oath, as all medical professionals do, to preserve life. It doesn’t matter who the patient is, what they stood for or if they are good or evil. I promise to do everything in my power to preserve their lives. It makes the choice easier to bare when I allow God to be the final judge.
    I see two men before me who need my expertise desperately. Both bleeding profusely from their abdomen. I have the tools at my disposal to provide them with the necessary care. I could do my best to help both, select the one with the highest risk for survival, and tend to him first. Or, I could do a minimum for each. Doing what I deemed best alternately, until additional help arrived. I could also choose to deny them and walk away.
    This is my dilemma you see; I know these men. They are my neighbors, along with their families and their children. If I were to open their shirts I would find a variety of wounds on each of their bodies. A gunshot here, a knife wound there. This was their life, knowing only violence as a recourse for their anger and frustrations. I hear their children cry from hunger and neglect. Their women being beaten and left to fend for herself and her children without the money to buy proper food or heat.
    The streets are ridden with dealers and prostitutes, many accustomed to this life, to the sights, sounds and smells of the street, the ghettos, and the slums. The cycle has not been broken you see. Mothers, sisters, fathers and brothers, many hooked on heroine, crack or meth. Guns can be purchased as simply as a newspaper on the street corner. Knives can’t be outlawed, any more than a fist can. I’ve seen what a fist can do to an infant’s skull.
    The two men I stand over, on this dark and deserted street, would likely heal if I chose to clean and repair their wounds. They would live to fight another day, to beat their women, to be indifferent to the needs of their children.
    I grew up on this block, my mother still lives on the sixth floor of the building behind me. I got out when I was seventeen and wonder everyday how I survived. I am saddened by the decay of society and almost walk away, leaving the two to either die or be found by another soul. One with a bigger heart than mine. I raise my eyes to the light on the sixth floor and imagine my mother watching. I surrendered to my conscience, and knelt down, pulling my tools from my bag.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is touching, Dusty, especially for such an introspective take. I like the way you painted both of the “victims” as people who cause their own share of trouble. Luckily for her ethics, she should likely be able to save both of them. I’m not sure how lucky it will be for the neighbourhood. I think I would side with your MC on this; if she chooses to be judge and jury, she’s really no better than those she judges. Sometimes life sucks.

    2. Flynnie

      Wow! This is a truly inspiring piece. Wrought with inner turmoil and social struggle. I felt the argument the doctor wrestled with and the pain of experiencing the horrors of the life lived by the less advantaged. The irony of the choices that people in dire circumstances make, in this case on both sides of the fence. Incredibly emotive and authentic. I’m no writer but I can at least tell you this was a fantastic read!

    3. JosephFazzone

      So intense. So real. I can smell the refuse. You paint an amazingly realistic grizzle and gristle type of attitude, and the soul that rises above it all to do what’s right because it’s right. I found this very emotional. Solid story. Inspiring.

    4. UnclePizza

      Damn conscience anyway! This brings to mind the Chinese (I think?) saying that once you save a person’s life you are responsible for it. Well done!

    5. Critique

      An introspective concise piece of writing. The problems/vicious cycle of life seem insurmountable here…. I’m glad the MC surrendered to his/her conscience.

  28. jhowe

    The following utterances that describe this story give me exactly 500 words and will save you the trouble of using them in your response:
    Improbable, inaccurate, farfetched, rambling, inane, and of course, ludicrous.

    It was a bitterly cold morning in International Falls, the one place where global warming was thought about affectionately though seldom verbalized. The antique ambulance idled at the curb while billowed clouds of steam and hydrocarbon infused emissions poured from the tail pipe. The white coated attendants loaded the injured man on a canvas stretcher as a second man cried out in pain.

    The doctor watched impassively. His toes were beyond numb in his scuffed wingtips. The attacker was supposed to strike quickly and disappear. Now he lay prone on the icy sidewalk, screaming, his own knife protruding from his abdomen. Slowly, on frozen feet, the doctor walked up to the attacker. The man’s eyes shone with shock and pain and he shook violently, his lips blue.

    The doctor opened his bag and squatted. He plunged the needle of the syringe into a thick vein in the man’s neck. “This will help some with the pain,” the doctor said and made his way to the ambulance as the man’s eyes closed. One attendant was at the wheel, the other held the rear door open. A siren sounded in the distance as the door closed and the ambulance drove away.

    The ambulance bounced on studded snow tires across an icy bridge that forded a frozen river. The driver clenched the wheel tightly as the van slipped and he corrected, passing the airport, heading south and then east. It was a quick transition between city streets and desolate country roads with mammoth ridges of plowed snow piled along the sides. Twenty minutes later, the driver slowed and activated a remote control. An overhead door rumbled open on a snow covered flat roofed structure and they drove inside.

    The victim rested comfortably on a soft bed. The doctor checked his wound and applied a fresh dressing. Only a flesh wound, as ordered. He checked the IV mechanism and nodded in satisfaction as the chemical cocktail dripped steadily. One of the attendants walked in.

    “The Canadian is here.”

    “Show her in,” the doctor said. He deactivated the IV and pulled out the needle. He applied a bandage and smiled for the first time that day.

    A thin woman wearing an oversized fur coat stopped in front of the victim and also smiled. She accepted the large envelope from the doctor and peered inside.

    “What is the name of Canada’s newest citizen?” she said, opening a passport. “Jonas Jackson?”

    The doctor nodded. “It was spur of the moment.”

    “And he is no longer a republican?” she said.

    “As liberal as the day is long.”

    “You Americans go to extreme lengths to assure that Trump does not become president.”

    “We have many deep pockets.”

    The woman fastened her coat. “The barge will be waiting tonight.”

    “He will be there, along with the others.”

    1. Observer Tim

      Lovely spot o’ political satire, John. I always wondered where the additional fools came from. At least we can burn them at the stake to melt the snow… 😉

      I can tell “The Canadian” is from the east; no way a prairie dweller would put on a fur coat with only seven feet of snow on the ground, and if she was from BC (the wet coast) she’d complain about democrats being too right wing.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      *laugh out loud* I am not sure i can afford to comment, but let me express my fullest sympathy to all US citizens- stuck between a rock and a hard place, as far as I am any judge. It is no secret what Europeans think of US general elections (though “fascinated horror” probably sums it up- like witnessing a horrific car accident). Glad that at least it gives birth to such splendid satire…

    3. Beebles

      Not sure I got all the satirical references. Like Nicki, I am too far removed to comment, though I do think there is a viable option, nuff said. But damn, that piece felt cold. Nice one.

    4. Flynnie

      An Undeniably incredible knack for descriptive writing (see, I can learn stuff, lol) canvases this entire piece. I learned a lot just reading this. I learned that I want to get better and be able to write this well.
      The ambulance bounced on studded snow tires across an icy bridge, fording a frozen river. It swounds so simple but paints such an encompassing image. This must be what Observer Tim is trying to communicate to me about saying more, with less? I’m not sure, but I know I loved so much of this.

    5. Critique

      Loved the satire in this descriptive prompt response. I’m wondering who ‘the others’ are in the last sentence 🙂
      I keep opinions mostly to myself on the political circus playing out on the American field. Folks are between a rock and a hard place is all I’m saying.

  29. Observer Tim

    STABBINGS

    This just sort of popped out when I saw the prompt. It probably says a little too much about the way I think.

    The human seems to be completely fooled by my holographic disguise. He reaches out a hand toward me.

    “Doc, you gotta help me!”

    I give him a cursory scan. The integument on his lower abdomen has separated and is oozing red fluid; the situation seems to displease him. While technically I should minimize interaction with the local life forms, the image of my disguise seems to be that of a care practitioner.

    I am about to speak to him when I notice another human landing on the walkway. He says something about being ‘stabbed’ at high volume and begins groaning. This species seems naturally clumsy. I return to the matter at hand.

    “Please open your garment, sir.”

    He does; his integument is definitely ruptured. I take a quick sample and then ensure his optic sensors are focused on me.

    “Turn off your fluid pump, please.”

    “Huh?”

    “Turn off your fluid pump and minimize the leak. The liquid it emits will otherwise hamper repairs.”

    “What the hell are you talking about, Doc?”

    I touch his thorax superstructure and administer sufficient voltage to his fluid pump to shut it down. As anticipated, the leaking slows. A quick thermal weld stops the leakage, but he seems to have gone into hibernation mode. I can restart him later.

    As I locomote to the other man I note that human movement is inherently unstable. That may be the reason he fell. There is a small pool of red fluid around him. I rotate the man so his damaged section is located on top. The problem is immediately obvious. There is a piece of sharpened metal disrupting his integument. I remove it and he commences gushing much like the other man had been.

    This time I know what to do. I shut down his fluid pump and weld the damaged fluid line. It would be best to allow the system to cool down before restarting him, I think.

    I update my log file; humans appear to have an extensive internal fluid network. I stand up and scan the area. I must perform further experiments.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      Glad I took the time to check out the prompt- it said zero comments, so I was twice pleased to find you had already responded. Both thumbs up (and both big toes)- this is pithy, absurd, and absolutely hilarious. I really very much enjoyed the idea of stopping the “leak” by shutting of the “fluid pump”. Though I’m not sure it’s a technique that will ever break into mainstream medicine, I might just ask my profs what their professional opinion on the matter is… 😀

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Nikki. I can’t see the medical profession adopting this practice for minor fluid leaks; when my fluid pump seized, the techs were very keen on getting it started again. Luckily it was only off for a few minutes and restarted after a few ticks from the external spark plugs. 🙂

    2. jhowe

      If your intent was to entertain and tickle our funny bones, mission accomplished. I found this very enjoyable and well written. What made it even more amazing was that you followed the prompt to the letter.

    3. UnclePizza

      For just popping out when you saw the prompt, you did amazingly well. What popped out for me when I saw the prompt this morning was “WTF – how am I going to come up with something original for this?”!

      You nailed it!

      1. Observer Tim

        Ah. Humans can be difficult to restart after their fluid pump is shut off. In my case it took about five minutes and several attempts to hit Control-Alt-Defibrillate. Thanks for the comment, Beebles.

    4. Flynnie

      See, that’s why I so seldom respond to the prompts. Nothing seems to ‘pop in’. If I have to think about it it’ll probably be too hard to write. This, however, is superb.
      I give him a cursory scan
      Otherwise it may hamper repairs
      then ensure his optic sensors are focused on me
      thorax superstructure, administer sufficient voltage, fluid pump, hibernation mode, I can restart him later
      Come on, this is almost genius. In case you didn’t guess I enjoyed the piece very much. Great job.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks greatly, Flynnie; having something I wrote called “almost genius” is a wonderful compliment. 🙂

        As for being able to respond on the spot, that’s mostly a matter of twisting the mind into that shape, which is in turn a matter of practice. I can’t do it vocally, only in writing.

        If you want to know how I comment on so much, here’s the trick: (1) find something about the story I like, and then (2) write it. If there’s constructive criticism, always phrase it as you would to someone you deeply respect, because everyone here has already taken the enormous step of showing something of their inner being and that deserves respect.

    5. cosi van tutte

      Hi, OT!

      The voice and word choice in this story was absolutely perfect. 🙂 And just so you know, this whole exchange made me laugh out loud:

      Turn off your fluid pump, please.”
      “Huh?”
      “Turn off your fluid pump and minimize the leak. The liquid it emits will otherwise hamper repairs.”
      “What the hell are you talking about, Doc?”

    6. JosephFazzone

      So funny, the very understandable ignorance a robot would have never encountering humans before. I love the conversation, the way he talks to the patients. Hilarious. Fluid pump? HAH! Really entertaining, Tim. Loved it! Great perspective.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Joey. I love the alien perspective; it’s amazing how well it can be worked into so many situations. Imagine the poor robot’s surprise when he finds out how hard it is to get that pump restarted after letting it cool down.

    7. Critique

      Tim this was perfect in every way. Loved it.
      Glad your techs were successful with their spark plugs to get your fluid pump up and running!!
      This is my second post – the first one had a mind of its own and went to the top of the prompt page. Sorry.

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