Awry

Weekly Writing Prompt: Awry

Write about a situation in which plans go awry, leading to disastrous consequences. Did you go to college anticipating success, only to flunk out? Does a character fall in love with the wrong person, leading to a difficult breakup? 

Post your response in the comments in 500 words or fewer.

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112 thoughts on “Awry

  1. Seaside Susan

    Solo travel is not for the faint of heart. But, with solid planning, it is rewarding. That being said, the best laid plans can go sideways in the most unexpected places.

    Imagine, if you can, boarding a plane in Seattle, Washington and flying to Washington D.C. to change planes. Luck is a lady in D.C., your gates are literally across from each other and your layover allows you time to eat and take a nice walk. You board your flight to Paris and it is on time, as a matter of fact, with good winds, you arrive in Paris early. Baggage claim, customs and navigating the airport are smooth as silk. You get to the train platform with plenty of time to board the fast train south which eventually lands you in Perpignan, France. A good plan is never a bad thing.

    But then…

    It is raining in Perpignan. I decided to double check my hotel location at the visitor information desk. This is the first mistake I have made in my planning. In retrospect, I would rather parley with Captain Hook than try to parlez vous any language with the woman employed to help me. I get it, the French are a proud people, but shouldn’t a person employed to help travelers be able to speak a small amount of English or even German? She looked at my hotel reservation and shook her head and then in rapid fire French, gave me directions. The only word I caught was Patisserie. That would be like saying turn right at the Starbucks in Seattle, not helpful.

    As I had suspected, turn at the Patisserie was not overly helpful, three side streets later, I discovered how un-waterproof my jacket was as I tucked myself into the vestibule of an apartment building. I pulled out my paperwork again and hoped for some enlightenment. It came in the form of a university student. She was coming out of the building and saw me and luggage tucked in and dripping. She asked if I needed help (in French) and I said yes (in English.) She took a look at my reservation and recognized the name of my hotel. The two of us walked down the street two blocks and she pointed me in the right direction. Sure enough, about half way down there was a sign.

    The hotel was a cozy little place; exactly what I needed as a centralized location.

    As for the patisserie on the corner, warm croissants and rich coffee were on offer each morning as I started off.

    On a sunny morning I took the train for a day at the beach. I left the woman at the Information Desk to be mean to some other unsuspecting travelers and dealt with the ticket agents instead. They even attempted a bit of English.

    Now, let me tell you about the sleazy cliché of a man at the Pau train station visitor center.

  2. Smileyface256

    Welp, this is the most depressing thing I’ve ever written. My bad. 😛
    ___________________________________________________________________________________

    Sophie gripped the seat of the landspeeder as it hit a bump and threatened to toss her out. Her mom’s voice in her head chided her to put on a seatbelt, but there wasn’t one. So much for advanced alien technology.

    She looked up at the moonless sky, filled with uncountable stars and unfamiliar constellations. Nights like this usually helped her feel a little better, but the hard knot of dread in the pit of her stomach only grew as she and Kira drew closer to Federation compound.

    Kira had trained her to be a good bounty hunter, taught her the importance of following the law. Tonight, Sophie would help Kira break those laws to rescue her sister Hiryn, wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to be executed. A transport to Federation Headquarters would arrive for Hiryn tomorrow morning. It would leave empty.

    Sophie didn’t blame Kira for her actions; if her little brother was still alive and this happened, she would have done the same thing.

    She was still scared. She looked up at her mentor. “Kira?”

    “Yes, little one?” Kira’s eyes remained ahead.

    Sophie hesitated. “Do you really think–I mean–what if this all goes wrong?”

    “Then we take it as it comes. You remember the plan?”

    Sophie counted on her fingers. One. “Tell the guard at the gate that we’re there to see a prisoner.” Two. “Rolo will be inside the gate to escort us into the prison and pretend to scan us for weapons.” Three. “You’ll ask to see your sister one last time, and–” four– “Rolo will leave us in her cell for two minutes.” Five.“That will give us enough time to use the rift gun and get away.”

    Kira nodded. “When we get there, focus only on the plan. Fearing what could go wrong is a distraction you cannot afford.”

    Sophie wanted to say that she was scared, that something about tonight gave her a worse feeling than any of their other missions, but she simply nodded. “I understand.”

    “Good,” replied Kira with a calm that Sophie wished she had. “You have come a long way from when I first found you. I am proud.”

    Sophie blushed. Kira rarely praised her this highly. “I mean, I have a great teacher, so…yeah.”

    It was hard to see in the starlight, but Sophie thought she saw a small smile on Kira’s face.

    “You have a strong will and a mighty heart. I did not teach you that.”

    Sophie squirmed, not knowing what to do with this sudden praise. Kira was strong. Even in the toughest situations, she was almost always in control. Sophie was just…scared. Everything would be different after tonight.

    Kira slowed the speeder and parked outside the gate. Sophie climbed over the side and followed Kira to the booth where a bored guard sat.

    The guard had to crane his neck to meet Kira’s eyes. “Here to see a prisoner?”

    Kira nodded. “I am.”

    The guard pressed the button to open the gate, not bothering to ask for identification.

    The gate opened wide enough for Sophie and Kira to walk through, then slid shut behind them.

    Rolo was there…along with a squad of Federation soldiers.

    Sophie froze.

    Kira’s calm disappeared. “What is the meaning of this?”

    Rolo’s eyes were cold. “I’m only upholding the law.”

    Kira narrowed her eyes. “You mean you are only saving your own skin, coward.”

    There were too many to fight at once.

    Rolo nodded to the soldiers. “Arrest them.”

    The soldiers took a step.

    Sophie heard the telltale click of a pin being pulled from a grenade.

    “Goodbye, little one.”

    The world exploded with the noise and light of a stun grenade. Kira’s large hand grabbed the back of her shirt and threw her. Pins and needles raced from her toes to her fingertips. She fell onto cold, rocky ground.

    The ringing faded from her ears, but everything was still dark. Sophie sat up. “Kira?”

    Her voice bounced off the walls of…wherever this was. She felt along the ground until she discovered a wall, and the pieces came together. Kira had used the rift gun, and tossed Sophie into another dimension. The plan had failed.

    Sophie swept her arms through the air in the direction she’d fallen from. Maybe the rift hadn’t disappeared yet, maybe she could get back and help. “Kira! Can you hear me?”

    She yanked out her sword and pressed a recess in the pommel. It sparked to life and glowed with blue energy. Sophie used it as a light, trying to find the rift.

    Nothing was there but the smooth cave wall.

    “Kira!” Sophie slashed her sword through the air, hoping by some miracle that it would open a rift. It didn’t work. Of course it didn’t work. The sword was designed to cut through physical objects, not time and space.

    She whipped off her backpack and dug through its contents, searched her pockets, sliced into the cave wall, and screamed Kira’s name until she was hoarse. Tears slipped down her cheeks. She pounded her fists against the rock.

    First her home planet, now this. It wasn’t fair. If Kira hadn’t found her she would have starved to death four years ago, when her dimension’s Earth was torn apart and she’d fallen through a rift. Without a rift gun, she would never see Kira again.

    “Sounds like someone is desperate,” crooned a deep voice from the darkness.

    Sophie snatched up her sword and whirled toward the sound. “Who said that?”

    “Oh don’t mind me. I’m just a shadow in a cave.”

    Sophie squinted, trying to see into the darkness. “But–who are you?”

    “I–” The voice was now behind her– “am someone who could help you.”

    Sophie jumped. “R-really?”

    “Yes, I could take you right back to your dear fellow fleshling in a blink of an eye, for a small price.”

    Sophie yanked out her money pouch. She still had plenty left over from her last bounty. “I’ll give you all of this.”

    The shadow laughed. “You misunderstand. I have no use for your worthless metals.”

    Sophie dug in her pockets. “Then what do you want?”

    “A memory.”

    Sophie felt a chill. “What?”

    “Any memory. It doesn’t have to be a pleasant one. It could be something you wish to forget.”

    She hesitated. Nightmares had plagued her since she lost her home, waking her up at night and keeping her from sleep.

    But then, the things she had nightmares about were also things she didn’t want to risk forgetting. If she forgot about losing her family, she might forget about loving them. Besides, Kira had told her not to trust anyone with access to her mind. Memories, good or bad, made a person; mess with them and you could lose yourself.

    “Which memory do you choose?” taunted the shadow.

    Lilly squared her shoulders, trying to be brave like Kira. “None of them. I would rather lose my right foot than–”

    “Done.” The shadow creature entered the pool of light cast by her sword.

    Sophie backed up and tripped. “Wait, no, that’s not what I–”

    Darkness wrapped around her right foot and crept up over her ankle to just below her knee. She felt a slice…and the lower half of her leg was gone.

    Before she could react, a rift opened and cold, thin fingers dragged her through by the wrist and dumped her on the other side.

    She screamed, clutching her bleeding stump as burning agony hit like a wave and her blood soaked through her fingers.

    The detached, analytical part of her brain rattled off facts about blood loss and shock. Fighting a wave of nausea, she ripped off her jacket and tied it around her bleeding stump as tight as her shaking hands could manage.

    She needed help. She needed… “Kira?” She sniffled and raised her head, noticing her surroundings for the first time.

    She lay at the bottom of a cliff. A quick look around showed nothing but a few lumps of clothing, like…bodies. Her gut lurched.

    “Kira?”

    The closest lump was big and long enough to be…no. Sophie dragged herself toward it, just to prove that she was right. It had only been a few minutes, Kira couldn’t be…Kira couldn’t…

    With a shaking, bloody hand, Sophie turned the body over.

    Kira’s lifeless amber eyes stared at the sky.

    No.

    Sophie looked up at the edge of the cliff. The Federation always held their most public executions at the same cliff, then tossed the bodies over the edge. There was no proper burial for traitors and murderers.

    Her gaze trailed down to the base of the cliff, and found Kira’s sister. Hiryn was shorter than her sister, but they had the same amber eyes. Her eyes were closed.

    Sophie closed Kira’s eyes with a brush of her hand and laid her head where Kira’s heart should have been beating. Weak, shaking, covered in her own blood, she was too numb to cry.

  3. hillsworth

    A little history for my mafia series from long ago. Kerry C, I think you and maybe Jhowe might be the only ones on here today that were on here in 2012/2013 when I first wrote that series.

    1939
    Both families were from Avola, a small Sicillian town on the southern tip of Italy. They were not related, but as far as freindship goes, in this case, it was stronger than blood. Bruno’s father, Benito Valeni, got his family out before the war. Luca Alphonsis did not.

    Upon finding out that his friend was leaving, Louis, oldest son of Luca, pleaded with his father to also leave, but it fell on deaf ears. Luca did not believe for one minute that the Allied Powers had any reason to invade Sicily, and he did not want to run his family anywhere, especially not America. One week later, eleven year old Louis solemnly stood on the dock with his father, feeling slightly betrayed, and watched as his best friend sailed away, starting his new life.

    Fast forward, with respect, through WWII to 1946.

    Benito has established himself as a ‘strong-hand’, if you will, and is running the ‘City of Brotherly Love’. Bruno has been groomed through his early teens to become successor to his father and as fate would have it, he gets that opportunity in April, at age nineteen, after Benito succumbs to Influenza, of all things.

    Bruno’s first line of business as the new Don is to bring Luca’s family out of war-torn Italy and get them to the States. But Luca is too sick to make the trip and he dies just two days after his family leaves.

    Upon arrival in Philadelphia, Bruno places Louis at his right hand and teaches him the ‘family trade’. In time, Louis wants to branch out to other cities, but Bruno respects the other Mafia families and chooses to stay only in Philly. They part ways in 1981, when Louis takes advantage of the indictment for racketeering and mail fraud of crime boss Carlo Marcello and takes over New Orleans.

    Just five years later, Louis is back in Philly and larger than ever. He tries to come to an agreement with Bruno, but it ends in violence and after all the smoke clears, to eveyones amazement, Bruno concedes and Louis takes over the city. Many of Bruno’s made men convert to Louis’ family, including but not limited to, Bruno’s younger brother Mikey.

    In 1996 Louis murders Mikey at a retirement party which sparks a chain of events that is still ongoing.

    Stay tuned for more…

    1. hillsworth

      A list of old prompts and my mafia series if anyone is interested and willing to go back through the archives to read them:
      Part 1- Retirement party food fight. Feb. 28, 2012
      Part 2- Best friends need your help March 13, 2012
      Part 3- Why are you digging that hole? May 15, 2012
      Part 4- In too deep with your bookie. June 19, 2012
      Part 5- The face outside.
      Aug. 27, 2013.

      Enjoy!

        1. hillsworth

          If you go to the Home page and click on ‘More Creative Writing Prompts’, then scroll to the end of the list and click on ‘older prompts’. You can go the whole way back to the beginning of the writing prompts. There’s a lot of great stories in those archives!!! It just takes a while to get there.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Way back machine stops before earliest one you listed. Fun to read yours, and to see other familiar names, many of whom we don’t see any more. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  4. globehugger

    Janice tapped the end of her pen against the kitchen table and pulled the paper closer. Leaning over the list, she retraced the checkmark next to each item, her brow knit with the frustration of not-quite-success. Reaching the empty box, her pen drew a check mark in the air, and she whispered the name of the elusive experience.

    Be on tv.

    Paul and Madge were on tv when their restaurant caught fire. Luna was on tv when she won the spelling bee. Her own stupid sister was on tv in a mattress commercial. Janice pushed the list away and scowled at her bad luck. She grabbed the edge of the table and let out a roar.

    Today was the five-year anniversary of her vision board, and Janice was not going to let this day end in defeat. Despite the visualizations and her many grand collages on poster-board, this one item remained out of her grasp. Janice recalled the years of heartfelt effort and wondered if the universe just had poor aim. The dart of fame came her way but landed just outside the bullseye.

    No, Janice remonstrated herself. This is just your final test.

    With renewed purpose and a sense of calm, Janice rose from the kitchen chair. She looked at the laptop on the counter, its blue light indicating it was ready and waiting for the deed. A few steps and she was there, wiggling her finger on the mousepad and bringing the machine to life.

    A few clicks and the draft email was sent.

    Peaceful excitement flooded her heart, and Janice exhaled deeply. She had come to know the feeling of the universe wrapping around her will, like a warm blanket around her shoulders. She would have preferred the universe to take more initiative, but no matter. With one quick email to the Citizens Report! desk at Nine News at Night, Janice had taken the step that would lead to the final checkmark.

    Returning to the table and the list, Janice savored the moment. Soon the checkmark would be there, and her list would be complete. There would be more lists, yes, but never another first. Janice felt the gravity of it all and imagined describing this moment to an audience. Maybe on a stage in five years. She took the list and wrote this vision in the bottom corner.

    It was easy to hear the sirens in the quiet night as they approached her sleepy cul-de-sac. Janice hadn’t realized that the news crew would use sirens. She stood, smoothed her sweater, and headed towards the front door. The knock was louder than she anticipated. Janice had always imagined the news crew to be friendly people.

    “POLICE! OPEN UP!”

    Janice opened the door and was blinded by the flashlights. Her throat closed, and she blinked. Opening her eyes, her visions shattered at the sight of SWAT officers crowding her front stoop. They began to shout instructions and say her name.

    Janice blinked again. Oh my God, she thought. They know.

  5. Beebles

    Awry? – sounds like a job for my own piece of space junk, Fleet (ex) officer Dalwhinnie! Just don’t think about the science too hard ….
    ———————————————
    Chard looked him up and down and nodded her approval.

    ‘Scrub up well, Dalwhinnie. Good to see you out of the dressing gown.’

    ‘Good to be on the flight deck, Captain.’ Dalwhinnie engineered the cheeriest salute he could muster, so pleased that the petite Captain had put some faith in him after his recent cock-ups.

    She really wasn’t a bad looker. He tried to suppress his Grandpop’s axiom on the fairer sex: the prettier they come, Dalwhinnie, the more chance they’ll grind you down into a whimpering pool of dog piss. Grandpop had been full of pithy little sayings like that, some of which had served Dalwhinnie well through the years, others, he confessed, he hadn’t really understood.

    Chard was smirking. ‘Great. Well let’s see how you handle a Dunston cargo freighter. Controls are all yours.’

    The Dunston was based largely on the Fleet Angel class galaxy frigates, in fact the class III had the Angel’s engines. He knew his way round an Angel and sure enough the Dunston handled comparably.

    Chard sat nodding at the con. ‘Good hands, Mr Dalwhinnie. Got a first name?’

    Dalwhinnie executed a smooth lightspeed transition, dropping them a few million clics from a class V planet. He shrugged. ‘Always been Dalwhinnie. Even Grandpop, Admiral Dalwhinnie, called me that.’

    ‘Uh oh!’ Tellert on coms piped up. ‘Incoming Fleet destroyer, Nance,’

    ‘Ok, Dalwhinnie, time to shine. Take her to light, see if we can lose her in hyper.’

    The fingers of the ex-Fleet officer and instigator of interplanetary war moved instinctively over the keys and there was the brief nausea as local space disappeared.

    ‘Where is she, Tellert?’

    ‘Leapt with us, Nance, still tracking.’

    ‘If it’s a Domesday we won’t outrun her.’ said Dalwhinnie, excited to be part of the team. ‘You must have something pretty contraband stowed, Captain Chard.’

    ‘You mean apart from the most wanted man in the galaxy?’ Chard said pointedly at her stand-in pilot. ‘Yeah, lots of stuff you don’t wanna know about.’ She bit a nail. ‘Still there?’

    Tellert nodded.

    Dalwhinnie saw his chance to impress. ‘Don’t you worry, Nance,’ – he searched out the Harrobian cigar bug from his jacket pocket and clamped it between his teeth – ‘I’ve got one or two manoeuvres from my Fleet days. What’s that big black thing standing off to our left, Tellert?’

    Tellert looked uneasily at Chard, who shrugged trustingly. ‘Black thing? Er … black hole?’

    ‘Thought as much,’ said Dalwhinnie, mouth full of bug and head surrounded by smoke. He altered course and gave her everything.

    ‘Er…. Dalwhinnie ….what are you doing?’

    ‘You’ll see.’

    ‘Destroyers almost on us!’ Tellert piped.

    ‘Just a second more.’

    ‘Stop you fool! We’ll never brake in time. We’ll be sucked in!’

    ‘Now!’ screamed Dalwhinnie to himself. Amongst ear splitting complaints written in aural triplicate the Dunston dropped from hyper and Dalwhinnie slung on the metaphorical handbrake spinning her engines to the singularity.

    ‘Destroyer’s crossed the horizon!’ yelled Tellert.

    ‘There!’ cried Dalwhinnie, ‘told you I knew what the engines on a class III could do.’ He gave her full power, but to his dismay the Dunston was still heading backward.

    ‘What the …?’ Dalwhinnie started pushing buttons to no avail. ‘Come on you class III piece of junk!’

    Chard sat, hand clasped to her forehead. ‘Dalwhinnie,’ she said quietly, ‘this is a class II.’

    The ship started juddering and there was a sound like the hull was being shampooed by an Ulgarian Void Parasite that hadn’t had its nails clipped in … like … forever. It ended with a teeny-tiny clunk.

    ‘What was that?’ Dalwhinnie asked quietly.

    ‘That,’ said Chard to her boots, ‘was the event horizon … and Dalwhinnie…’

    ‘Hmm?’

    ‘Never call me Nance again.’

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I had no idea you could write this kind of stuff. Hats off to you because I have no idea where to start. Like John said, fast and furious tale you’ve told. Part two coming?

      2. Kerry Charlton

        I had no idea you could write this kind of stuff. Hats off to you because I have no idea where to start. Like John said, fast and furious tale you’ve told. Part two coming? How many years would it tyake to learn this?

  6. rlk67

    At exactly 2:13pm, Anne shrieked and almost blew the windows out.

    “EEEEEEEE!!!! MAX!!!! EEEEEEEE!!!” Either Tommy brought a possum home again, or Ariella was taking another bath in the kitchen sink.

    I jumped from the sofa and saw Anne wildly flailing her arms. “EEEEEEE! IT WAS ACCEPTED! MY NOVEL! THEY ACCEPTED IT!”

    “Huh? Who accepted what?”

    “HARPER! THEY ACCEPTED MY NOVEL! OH, MAX! MILLIONS OF REJECTION LETTERS AND I FINALLY GOT IT! EEEEEEEE!” She was dancing now.

    Tommy walked in holding a coffee. “Uh, popster, why is mother dancing?”

    “I’m not sure. And since when does a nine-year-old drink coffee in this house?” It wasn’t from me…I hated the stuff.

    “Oh, I don’t drink it, really. Mom looks pretty cool when she holds it and does her work!”

    “Oh, yes!” Anne pumped her fists. “I am so cool, and I am…ACCEPTED!” More dancing, if that’s what you would call it.

    “Um, which novel is this? The one about the killer catepillar, or the one about the aliens turning off our gravity?”

    “No, no! It’s the hospital mystery! The Bedpot Bugaboo! It’s intriguing! it’s fast-paced!”

    “And it doesn’t stink!” I added, stupidly at the wrong moment, again.

    Anne put that you’re-in-for-it face again. “Max. Listen. I only sent the first few chapters, and I need to send the other sixty-seven by the end of the day. So please go back to sleep and let me…”

    Whizzzz….Pop…Pow…BOOM!!!

    Oh, no. What was that? I could only guess.

    “Daddy!” screamed Tommy and Ariella at the same time. Accusations. Did not! Did too! All the normal things.

    “Ok, Ariella, you go first. And don’t mind Mommy dancing on the table.”

    “Daddy, Tommy spilled that stupid cup of coffee on Mommy’s laptop..”

    “Well,” Tommy naturally chimed in, “you were chasing me with a butter knife!”

    “Was not!”

    “Was too!”

    Mommy’s laptop…oh, no. Anne froze in mid-air. She slowly lowered herself to the ground. “And did you dry it?” she asked, sweating.

    “Ariella didn’t let me. She took it and threw it in the dryer.”

    “You made me!”

    “Did not!”

    Anne dropped. Her last words were, “My novel. OOOhhhh…I only had it saved on…OOOhhhhh…”

    “Well, I guess we all learned a lesson today,” I said stupidy at the wrong moment, again. At least I was good at something.

    1. Bushkill

      I loved the mom’s behavior. Having had a letter of acceptance for a short story after a trail of tears over the missives spelling defeat,
      .
      .
      .
      I emphatically scream, “EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      OOOooooo, no! Reminds me of way back before electronic grant submissions and twenty copies of the NEA application carefully laid out, ready to pack and mail, and that supersized iced tea…..

      Great prompt response, great glimpse of real family life. Enjoyable reading.

  7. RafTriesToWrite

    I was contemplating whether to share this or not, I guess it just got a little too real for me.


    A lot of plans go in awry all the time, but here’s mine.

    When I graduated from high school, all my classmates and I talked about was what are we going to take up in college? I was one of the many that had no idea how to answer that question.

    We were asked the same question when we were in the second grade, but of course the usual answers were firemen, doctors and teachers. While I, being the odd one in the class, answered with a “taxi driver”, because I’d get to go places when I’m a taxi driver. It was only later on in life that I found that there were no colleges for being a “taxi driver”.

    So there I was, young 16 year old Raf, exposed to the real world and I didn’t knew what to do. I told my dad that I wanted to take a computer related course since at that time the world is in the transition zone where computers are becoming more important to everyone, and since I “thought” I was good with computers, naturally I said that I’d like to take a computer related course such as Computer Science or Information Technology. But at that time, I didn’t had any plans on taking such courses, in fact that was already my back-up plan.

    My dad said no and I didn’t had anything up my sleeve at that point. So I was lost, for a moment.

    He instead said that I’d be taking up accountancy. Says I’d have a better chance there than my “plan” to take computer courses since a lot of people are already taking them up. That was it, my dad changed my life, but my question is, will it for the better?

    First day of college, I was dreading to be there. Sitting on my chair, waiting for my class to start, I wasn’t mad, I just felt vulnerable. It was something new to me, yet I neglected to accept the opportunity my dad gave me.

    So my new plan was, flunk my major subject classes.

    Fast forward to now, plans do go in awry. I did decent in my major subject classes even though I was having a miserable time studying for them. I guess my classmates made it more bearable for me to be there. They made me feel like I could still go on, even though I came from a class of +120 students and only 5 of those +120 students graduated, I was one of them.

    Maybe life had other plans for me because it didn’t stop there, I became a CPA as well. Now I’m trying to live my life as an auditor, in this company and up to this day, I still couldn’t find the heart to like what my dad made me do.

    Should I be proud of what I’ve achieved? Yes.

    But am I?

    Answering that question is still a blur to me.

    Yes, it was tough and I could’ve stopped at any time just to prove my dad that I couldn’t do what he told me to, but I didn’t. He set me up to this life, and I chose to take it. I chose to be a good son; to follow what his dad told him to do.

    Now, I’m facing the consequences of my actions. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life, I don’t like my work, but I have to “have” a job to have that feeling of security, I don’t have friends to hang out with and did I mention that I don’t like my work?

    Yeah.

    But at least I know some good things that came out with me taking on this journey.

    Writing and how to account for my taxes.

    1. jhowe

      Well, Raf, it’s hard to realize sometimes if you’ve made the right decisions. There’s always a hint of ‘what if’ in it all. Now, if you’d become a taxi driver, you’d probably have the same thoughts. Good luck.

    2. rlk67

      You gave something nice to your father. There is such a thing as being ‘rebellious’ and ‘It’s my life leave me alone’, and there is a place for that. But don’t live in the past anymore. Look forward, and if there’s any way you can still live parts of your dream, don’t hesitate! Plan wisely.

    3. Beebles

      Just a brief glance suggests the stories this week are either v bizarre or v personal. I think there are few people who feel they get it right first time – I’m still searching – and you have plenty of time yet I’m guessing. Thanks for this. Now, while we’re on the subject I have a tax question ….

    4. Bushkill

      How do we define happiness? I have hundreds of students who have loved my classes. students that hate the subject but enjoyed the way I ran class are as plentiful as those that did like the subject. I don’t think it’s easy to make kids like Algebra, but I’ve always found it easy to like kids, or to take pride in the success they thought impossible.
      Am I happy though?
      It’s not fishing. Fishing makes me happy. So does writing, weight training, a mug of beer or three. The math thing keeps the heat on though. That’s important, too.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well, Raf. Seems like you have a lot of thinking to do. So if it’s okay, I’ll do some for you. While you are in accounting, do the absolute best job possible and then improve it. . regardless of not being sure. That puts you in the top ten percent, regardless of your IQ. Look for a leap to another accounting job, perhaps in a large city. Lay out the communication that you are a dedicated person and give your company 110%.

        Sounds out of fashion, doesn’t it. and another thing when you screw up something. tell your boss you screwed up something before he finds it. That will floor the guy or lady. Sixty years in business has taught me that. That is not a misprint. Good luck. .

    5. ReathaThomasOakley

      Raf, once again I appreciate your honesty here. The others commenting have shared some great advice, for your personal and professional lives. We all wish you the very best.

  8. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Best Laid Plans. . . .
    Well, you know the rest

    When I got the email from Katie, esteemed leader of Prairie Pens, local writers group, I hesitated answering. I wasn’t certain I wanted to be September substitute while she attended an out of state workshop. Usual sub John was still in the mountains, bow hunting. (Note to self: When he returns ask if he has extra jalapeños again this year, crabapples are ready to pick.)

    I finally accepted the challenge, then, to be prepared, created a detailed agenda plus a sign-in sheet with expanded spaces, we’re not a youthful group, and reminded myself that as moderator I needed to pay attention to group comments and not just focus on getting mine written.

    Saturday we got to the library early. I was as ready as I’d ever be, tote bag in hand with water bottle, multiple pens, highlighters, note pad, extra note pad in case someone forgot to bring one, lip balm, file folders, WD articles on self editing, wallet, ten copies of what I was going to read, iPad, pack of tissues, nail file, etc. I decided not to bring a purse. Don took copies of his poem, one guaranteed to generate laughter and groans from the Pens. Donna arrived, got the key from the circulation desk, unlocked the meeting room, and writers arrived.

    The meeting went well, six Pens and a guest, I followed my agenda, even when in the midst of introductions Mr. L. breezed in, announced he had only fifteen minutes, asked why I was in charge, then plopped in a chair. He was joking about having to leave, read two poems, one of which he’d brought before. Others read their poems and prose. There was lively discussion on the difference between its and it’s, on what makes some fiction flash, and why some authors get by with not using quotation marks but Pens get dinged when they don’t use them. (Note to self: Never mention Cormac McCarthy’s name again.) I apologized for the editing handouts I brought not printing well and remained composed for the requisite three hours.

    This morning I felt sufficiently recovered from Saturday to review all my notes, write a meeting recap, and email it out. Within seconds my husband, at his computer, replied asking who Donna F was when “our” Donna is R. Oh, my, I’d been entrusted with the Prairie Pens and, in spite of my efforts at perfection, I’d gotten a name wrong.

    I quickly sent out another email explaining that Donna F was my first boss in Billings nearly fifty years ago. As soon as I hit SEND I remembered Donna F was a fellow nonprofit director in Billings about thirty years ago. My old boss was actually Donna B.

    Now dear online writers group, I need advice. Do I send yet another email with more Donna ditherings or do I drop it? Or, do I make ten copies of this, take it to the October Pens gathering, and hope for laughter and groans?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Brilliant response to the prompt. They’re not going to care one way or another. It did make a good response tho. I am so used to your writing, I feel like you are talking directly to me.

  9. MicMag

    The plans were laid, tools were prepped, the team was ready. I’d demanded exhaustive effort, unrelenting focus, for three full days. Exhaustion was encroaching. But none would rest until the deed was done. A clock chimed once. Fifteen minutes til midnight. Fifteen minutes til we’d change the world.

    And then I made the worst decision of my young life. The voice in the back of my mind gently called.

    “Just sit down.”

    It didn’t shout. It didn’t cry. It didn’t demand, nor pity. It spoke as an old friend, one who’d walked by my side for lifetimes. It was a compassionate suggestion. And in my tired weakness, I surrendered.

    The couch was so inviting, it’s seductive folds promising respite from the unforgiving work I’d forced upon myself in this maniacal pursuit. I leaned back into the soft, welcoming paradise. Never had such comfort been gifted upon the world. My head tipped back. My eyes closed. The world fell away.

    When I opened my eyes, the room was full of commotion. Terrified expressions flashed across faces. Voices rose and fell, jumbled shouts in panicked tones. I sat perfectly still, perfectly content. I watched the chaos unfold with neither concern nor disinterest, observing all, but devoid of desire to interfere. I blinked again, let my gaze wander. And suddenly it hit me.

    The movement had ceased, hundreds of eyes now laser-focused in my direction. From the corner of my vision I watched a figure lean in, his concerned face stopping right in front of mine. We stared into each other’s eyes. I detected a deep fear and confusion, a sort of paranoia suggesting an encounter with some paradigm-shifting otherness, strange and unreal enough to unravel every foundational assumption of a brittle mind. His lips parted and a whisper escaped, but I couldn’t discern the words. Puzzled, I gazed at the vaguely familiar man, his unkempt hair falling nearly to the deep-set bags under his eyes.

    I smiled. I reached out to clasp his shoulder, and I opened my own mouth to speak. “All set?” I asked assuredly.

    No reply. No hint of recognition. My inner tranquility gave way to concern. I spoke again, tried to shake the man. Still nothing. Concern grew to dread. I looked around, waved my arms. And then I noticed my arms weren’t waving. I glanced down and dread became soul-crushing despair. No arms, no legs, no body. Just a mere trace, like an outlined stain, as the sofa had absorbed my corporeal form into itself. I hollered, screamed, wailed. Not a soul stirred.

    Eventually, the man rose. A murmur welled up in the crowd. He spoke, words again unintelligible, and pandemonium erupted. People yelled in all-out terror, limbs flailed, bodies crashed, and a stampede funneled out through the exit. Finally, the shaggy man looked mournfully around the room, shook his head, and followed. As he passed the threshold, a chime rang out, followed by eleven more. Since then, stuck alone in this sofa, silence has reigned forevermore.

    1. Beebles

      I’ve had dreams like this, no, nightmares – which you have managed to capture so vividly I felt decidedly uncomfortable both times I read it – and they usually come with exhaustion. Good job indeed.

  10. Bushkill

    9-19-18 Awry
    (This is a true event)

    Father’s day. What a day to be alive! I had spent the weekend fishing with my best friend and looked forward to heading home and enjoying the annual peach pie my loving children baked for me each and every year.

    The weather app on my phone said temps would skyrocket into the mid 90’s and I wanted to get home quickly to avoid a sweltering stew of a time managing beltway traffic around DC.

    “Kev? You seen my wallet?”

    I looked up from my phone, “No. You put it in the console box last night before we emptied the rods and tackle boxes out of the bed of the truck.”

    “Huh. I’ll look again.”

    I heard him head back through the garage and continued my weather study while sipping coffee. He came back concerned and agitated. I turned the phone off, “What’s up? You find it?” I know the answer. It’s written in every fiber of his being.

    “No. I must have thrown it away last night with the trash from dinner.”

    I know differently. I distinctly remember it going into the console. I can see it now as I type this. However, he’s a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier so he wins the argument before it starts. Instead, I look at him, “Options? You wanna go check?”

    Of course, he does.

    It’s a 150 mile one way trip from Fredericksburg to Virginia Beach. And it’s hot and getting hotter when we roll out of the driveway. Two dumpsters later, my buddy on the inside and me on the outside combing through garbage bags, a state trooper pulls up at the rest area and leans out the window, “Never thought it’d be you, didja?” Sometimes southern wit lacks the corresponding charm.

    There are foul things in dumpsters. Heat doesn’t help them.

    Ever.

    No luck, either. Our trip back to the shore ends at the Little Creek Naval yard. Yes, my friend is USMC (since retired) and kept his boat on base. Ever tried to talk your way onto a military base without ID? Box checked on my bucket list.

    Also the only time I dumpster dived under armed guard. The trooper earlier didn’t really stay around and the MPs outclassed him in firepower.

    Hours later, after finding our receipts from dinner the night before in a soggy-from-some-unknown-source-bag, but no wallet, we got back to his house and I packed up. I still had another 5-6 hour of car life to drive home.

    We joke about it. He had to cancel all his cards. 23 years in the Corps and never had to replace his ID. Until that day … 3 months from retirement.

    And the stench will never really leave us. It lingers like the memory.

    The wallet? Found by some kids in a storm drain around the corner from his house a couple of days later. (because he had put it in his console)

    A day gone Awry? Yes. Definitely yes.

    For peach pie and Father’s day and Friendship.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      You really proved your friendship.that day. Think if it had never happened. Then you wouldn’t have amused me like you did. I usually throw stuff or beat the leaf catcher from the lawn mower over my.fence.yelling words I haven’t heard since Dad passed. Pass this story on, it’s a treasure

    2. Beebles

      Peachy story Bushkill. I echo Kerry’s words on friendship. I still have the first card my youngest made for me on Father’s day, because, in the words of my wife, ‘Father’s day is not a thing.’

  11. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Most people I know regret the things they did. Fry, who we all knew had something wrong with him, had killed a man. He had enough human in him to regret it. Mutt, who was too loud and too fast and too much, was fucking a married woman. And her husband. That was his regret. Even Squito, who mostly stayed quiet and calm, had done something to regret. He would leave late at night to drink, despite his wife and kids who thought he was sober.
    But I wasn’t like that. Most people I know regret the things they did. I regret the things I haven’t.
    It started when Mutt and I had been smoking something he’d gotten somewhere.
    “This is top notch shit, big time, the good stuff, the great stuff, the fucking blow your mind and make you religious kind of shit,” he kept going, on and on. All of his words just blended into noises that my mind moved to the background. This shit wasn’t anything special. I’d had better.
    “Mutt,” I interrupted, passing it back to him to shut him up, “why do you do the things you do?”
    He smiled wide, handing the stuff back to me. His teeth were stained and his breath smelled like an alleyway. His robotic eye was glowing strong. He’d told all kinds of stories about it, from losing it in a war, to tearing it out with his own hands to prove a point. It was all bullshit. He had passed out drunk and some traffickers tore it out of his face. He seemed to forget that I’d been there.
    “Well, that’s a good question, and I’m sure you know I’ve all kinds of stories that explain,” he took the stuff back from me and lost the smile. He didn’t smoke the stuff, bringing a halt to our passing. I angrily eyed it, wanting more, but listening with some part of me.
    “But I’m not gonna give you a bunch stories, not this time,” he finally took a puff and passed it back, “because it’s really pretty simple.”
    I stared at him. His explanation for his actions was simple? He could simply explain away all of the fucking he’d done, all the fucking over he’d done, all the people he’d ruined? I knew he was full of shit most of the time. I knew all of my friends, Squito and Fry too, were full of shit. Hell, I was full of shit. But none of us would say the things we’d done were good. Not even Mutt. So, I stared.
    “I’m happy. I do what I want, and I live with the consequences, but, goddamnit, doing it makes me happy. Do I regret most of it? Hell yes. Would I do it again? Hell no. But I did it because I wanted to, and I got what I want, so I think regret is payback enough for getting what I want,” he smiled again and reached for me to pass the stuff to him. I passed it, not even bothering to take a puff.
    He took a long drag and handed it back.
    “Living with no regret isn’t living. You don’t gotta do stuff like I do, like Squito does, definitely not like fucking Fry does. But you gotta live.”
    He stood.
    “Aren’t you gonna take this?” I held the stuff out to him.
    “Nah. Keep it. Get into some trouble,” he smirked and walked away, leaving me with myself.
    I fucking hate myself. And I wish I hadn’t asked Mutt that, because he’s fucking right for once. And I regret beginning my own walk home after our conversation, leaving any sort of trouble I might have gotten into on the ground with the sorry shit Mutt tried to call top notch.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You know I’ve never heard a more bitter at life story like this or even near to it. I am sure it’s out there but I don’t care to see it. It is a step toward not believing in anything and just living moment to moment.

        Let’s talk about the writing. Magnificent in it’s truth and shame. How many, how many? Probably millions of souls in this country alone. Why? You can ask but no one will have an answer. Only one has it and there must be a reason but I can’t think of one
        Turn away, turn away and let someone eelse struggle with it.

    1. jhowe

      Ah, regrets… what would we do without them? Nice tight writing; it really pulls you along. It’s also refreshing to see we don’t have the spam filter to worry about now.

  12. Nicole Coffey

    Jack didn’t fit in this place. White walls were decorated with quilted designs, children playing, rainbows and whatnot. There he stood pacing the room with his black leather jacket, and heavy combat boots. The chains on his shoulders, and that on his choker seemed to make more noise than his footsteps but couldn’t drown out the scream of his thoughts. Why was this taking so long? Delivery often took hours, some women were stuck in labor past the twenty four hour mark, but this was a cesarean. Last Jack heard his sister was doing fine, and Mallory was being taken care of. The doctor said he would report back when Jack could go see her. Those around him wore various faces, some of anticipation, others worry that mirrored Jack’s. He hadn’t felt like this since he was arrested at twenty two, but Jack felt like a scared kid again. He rubbed the stubble on his jaw, leaving his fingers raw by the time the door swung open.

    The small community clinic, with it’s small waiting room, seemed to shrink further in size. Jack felt he was in a movie and the focus zeroed in on the doctor who approached him with a solemn expression and guarded eyes. After taking out an envelope and pressing it into Jack’s hands the doctor sighed,

    “I’m very sorry, we did everything we could, but there was a complication. These things hardly happen, but taking into account her anemia…”

    His words became background noise to the contents of Jack’s stomach sloshing around, threatening to choke him just like the clog of tears in his throat. Jack nodded to the doctor who said Lorena’s lawyer was coming shortly, and he sat down away from the others. He was already a dark cloud in this cheerful room, he didn’t need to add more to it. With trembling fingers Jack opened the envelope. He expected it to be some sort of legal form, but instead it was a letter from his sister.

    ‘Jack,
    If you’re reading this, my body didn’t hold up to the surgery as Dr. Hart warned, but it was less risk than natural birth. I didn’t want to tell you after you already lost Mom and Dad. They may not be dead, but if they can’t accept your sexuality and would rather disown you, then they’re dead to us, ok? I’m sorry for all the loss, but I hope this decision I made will make the best of things for both of you. Mallory Renee Donahue is yours as soon as my lawyer brings the legal guardianship transfer for you to sign. I have two requests, you call her Lorie sometimes and think of me, and you let that little girl call you Daddy. Mallory doesn’t need an uncle, and there doesn’t need to be any more distance in this family. Show her the love a parent is supposed to give their child.
    I believe in you, love,
    Lorena’

  13. writer_sk

    THE BARROOM VENT

    Delph ruminated over his decision to enlist the 20-something paralegal to take pictures of files from Tier One at UniBiology. He went over what he had again and again. He estimated he’d be ready to contact the FBI in a few months time. He heard the old screen door slam and bounce back, just enough to let in the last of the summer light and air from his rented house in the prestigious Hamptons in the Long Island section of New York. His job as a researcher and financial consultant at UniBiology afforded him certain creature comforts and more. He rented the house with his best friend, Jack Young who also worked at his company. They subleased rooms in the downstairs to several tenants to make rent and supplement the cost of living in the area and working in Manhattan.

    Delphi’s espresso was ready and he drank it with a sophistication he hadn’t felt before. He wasn’t a snob but a low-level scientist about to bring down a corrupt company.

    “Hey man,” Young stepped towards him hoisting his Schwinn bike over his head and onto the wall-mounted rack. “I’m going to shower, get some coffee and go in for a couple hours.” Even though Young was helping Delph he wasn’t privy to the extent of dirt Delph had on the company. He wanted to wait to let him in. Young was still part of the rat race at UniBiology and if that meant going in on Saturdays, he was game.

    That evening The Library Bar, attached to the Hudson Hotel, was already drawing a crowd of young and old, tourist and native. Delph got off the subway at Columbus Circle, entered the bar and ordered a Vodka tonic with “Grey Goose” vodka, while planning to get a Brooklyn Lager later.

    He sat at the table according to plan and set up his recorder on the floor in front of the vent. He shook as he placed a briefcase in front of the audio device.

    The paralegal, Calla, texted him – she’d gotten her friend, who was a host there to seat the two senior partners at the table under which the air ventilation system connected.

    She walked towards him drinking a Brooklyn Lager. She was dressed down and Delph self-consciously slipped off his sports coat and unbuttoned the top button of his work shirt. Calla was stunning in jeans and a black sweater. Her eyes were green cat eyes lined with black and she smiled as she brushed past him to sit, bringing the cold drink to her lips and then not bothering to wipe her hand that held the glass before they shook.

    “This is the most exciting first date I’ve been on,” she joked.

    He raised an eyebrow, distracted by her presence as he looked over the photos and photocopies she’d stolen. He had the evidence in his hands, now he would have to connect it to the individuals sitting on the other side of the vent.

  14. GrahamLewis

    YOUNG MR. LEWIS MAKES HIS CASE

    Long ago, Graham Oscar Lewis successfully applied to law school. He spent the summer before reading up not on the law itself — he was paying good money to have his professors teach him that — but rather on the ins and outs of law school. He studied the basic principles of legal reasoning and how to “brief” assigned cases. He learned it was a cardinal law school sin to show up unprepared. If that happened the professor would likely make some very public comment to the effect that students with important things to do than read the cases should make a living at those other things. Because law was not for them.

    Graham also understood he might be grilled unmercifully about the cases. He learned that law school classes were participatory experiences, that the so-called Socratic Method of teaching involved having the professor call on a student to explain the facts and holding of a case and then badgering the student with increasing complex questions until the student ran out of answers. All in front of 80 classmates who sat in contented knowledge that for now at least the bell was tolling for someone else.

    Graham put that learning to good use. He always read the cases and did all right the few times he’d been called on. He’d been pleasantly surprised to learn that only Professor Grimstone used the full-bore Socratic Method. All the other professors would call on a student, ask a few questions, then move on. But Professor Grimstone invariably called on one person at the start of the class, and stayed with the person for the full hour.

    This was an experience to be avoided, and Graham thought he knew how. In a large classroom, he reasoned, the professor must project his voice to be heard, so he was unlikely to choose anyone seated near the front of the room. So Graham always sat in the center of the front row in Grimstone’s class.

    The approach seemed to have worked. Two weeks left in the semester, and Graham had not yet been called on by Professor Grimstone. On this particular day, as people were settling into their seats and the good Professor shuffled his papers at the lectern, Graham turned to his benchmate and smugly — and, it turned out, too loudly — explained why they could both sit back and relax. When he looked up he saw Professor Grimstone studying him. Graham’s insides didn’t turn to jelly, but they threatened to.

    After a few introductory remarks, the Professor, who rarely smiled, smiled at Graham. “Mr. Lewis,” he said, “Please set out the facts of the case.” And thus began one of the longest hours in Graham’s young life. He survived, but not until he had painfully learned an unwritten rule of law school — keep your damned mouth shut.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Boy this was jumpy
      Brought back lots of memories of graduate school of marketing
      The whole year was run this way with one exception. You had no idea what question a professor might ask . No written.study work
      Toward the end.you might be asked about an area never in any book you might have consumed that year. And you had ten seconds to respond, all with your own thoughts. I love the way you presented the prompt. Will I sleep tonight? Of course.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Glad you liked it, Kerry. One thing I realized — however stressful those moments might have been, at least they were all confined to the classroom. It’s usually after you get out in real life that you realize what real stress is all about. I often miss those days.

    2. writer_sk

      Ha! Wow, so what law school did you go to? Sounds scary but good experience although public speaking can be a nightmare.

      I would’ve liked to hear the presentation!

      Strong writing and witty ending.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Thanks for the kind words.

        It was a Jesuit law school in the Midwest– names changed to protect the innocent.

        I still (30 years later) remember that the case was in one of the Dakotas and involved transfer of ownership after a family member died — this was first-semester Property Law. I recited what facts I knew and tried to answer his questions and do some reasoning when I didn’t know the answers (they say in law school there are no right answers only reasoned results). I recall starting to check my watch but thinking, “time doesn’t matter. I’m here for the long haul.” Afterward I felt good, as though I’d been initiated and survived. Plus the fact that he rarely called on the same person twice.

        Nothing after — not even arguing to a state Court of Appeals — was as scary as that.

      1. GrahamLewis

        rlk — I wasn’t thinking. Another time I wore a red sweater, which of course caught the professor’s eye even though I was in the far back row. A friend wore a black and white striped shirt so, of course, the professor said, “let’s have the referee sort this out.” Which brings back one more memory — my first day, in Contracts law, the professor threw out a question and I raised my hand to answer. He grilled me pretty hard, then said, “Let that be a lesson. Never volunteer.”

        jhowe — back then at least all male students were “Mr.” and all female students “Miss.”

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Ah, yes. I went to a very strict, church related school, and, in spite of one implied rule, wore my HS class ring. I inadvertently left the ring at home after a break. First day back in class, Old Testament, taught by the strictest of the strict, I was getting my desk organized when I realized several people were whispering my name. Finally the guy next to me hissed, Pray! It seems the prof noticed my bare finger, assumed I’d seen the folly of my sinful ways, and decided to have me open class with prayer. I borrowed a ring until my mother mailed mine.

  15. jhowe

    “You assured me, Cedric, there’d be no turmoil in Morocco.”

    The aide forced himself to make eye contact. “Who would’ve thought the Moroccans would suddenly develop a conscious.”

    “I have 16,000 tons of toxic waste to be dumped and now you tell me Morocco is out?” The Senator paced in his office on Capitol Hill. “How big a yard do you have Cedric?”

    “I live above your garage, remember?”

    “Get Mexico on the phone,” the Senator said.

    “Too close.”

    “I wonder if the Tibetans would bite.”

    “They have Mount Everest,” the aide shifted in his seat. “They enjoy their clean air.”

    “Fine, just take it to Nevada again.”

    “Sir, the Nevadans will likely balk.”

    “Dammit Cedric, play ball with me here! Do it at night for crying out loud.”

    The shitstorm hit three days later. Cedric and two other high ranking officials remained silent as they were cuffed and led away. The Senator immediately called a press conference.

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the press: It came to my attention just this morning that my long time aide and some others employed by my office have been arrested for illegally disposing of hazardous waste materials in the Sierra Desert. I immediately launched an investigation and have already obtained several leads that point to Russia as the culprit. No expense will be spared to assure the American public that justice will be served. Of course Russia denies the allegations, but really people, does that come as a surprise?” The room erupted as the senator turned and walked away with his hand up. In his office he picked up the phone.

    “Look, Donald, do you want the South or not?” He listened a few moments. “I know, I know. It pains me as well. Right… right… of course. I’ll do my part; just make sure you follow through.”

    Cedric still had fingerprint dust on his hands when he walked into the senator’s office.

    “Dammit Cedric, it’s about time. Get Uruguay on the phone. There’s a shipment on the way and Customs will give us a two hour window to get it across the border.”

    “But sir, shouldn’t we at least let the dust settle from the Nevada incident?”

    “Haven’t you learned a thing from me, Cedric? You strike while the iron’s hot. Besides, we can always blame the Russians.”

    Cedric closed the restroom door and an FBI agent removed the recording device strapped around his chest.

    “Thanks for trying,” the agent said. “But the sting has been called off.”

    “The oval office?” Ceric said. The agent rolled his eyes and walked out the door.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Business as usual John. By the way do you know what they’re serving for lunch today? Talk about a mess. My cheeseburger was limp and soggy. This needs to be immediately, taken care of. Move it to the top of the list. thank Toxic can wait, don:t you agree?

      Do this sound familiar? It started with George and continues 242 years. To the present.

  16. Kerry Charlton

    ATHENA

    There existed a time in my life, when my brain was connected to both ends of my body. People used to refer to this era most of us went through as ‘young and foolish.’ However, they never meant a word of it. ‘How could they? Why on earth would they? What gives them the nerve to even try it?’ And the one that hurts the worst, ‘neither one of them were worth the effort.’ And with this in mind, I will begin the story.

    We first met them at a party we were invited to. That’s often how it usually starts. They were a handsome, intelligent couple with their life totally in place as ours was. As time would have it, we grew close to them but not in a smothering way at all. A polite way, you might refer to it as. Her given name was Athena, said she was of Greek heritage but I found her blonde hair, and light complexion to dispute the fact.

    As time wore through the week, I would begin to feel a yearning to be with her even if we were not alone. To stand beside her and hear her voice was enough and then it wasn’t enough. I could tell her feelings were similar but we avoided speaking about it. During the week while at work, I would pick up the phone and start to dial and then suddenly hang the phone up before it started to ring.

    Weeks came and weeks went and still we never talked about it even on the dance floor. We began to communicate our feelings with a stolen look, a nod and a slight caress on a dark dance floor. A dance to us was a limited paradise as we clung to each other while we danced as one to the music. And still we never discussed it. It became a wonderful sort of torture just seeing each other at a party or at a dinner together and not being able to hold hands together.

    We thought, ‘No one knows, they don’t see the unspoken passion we exchange with each other with not a word spoken They don’t see the hand holding as I help her climb a step or enter a car. Of course they don’t, we’re too clever for them.’ I think of unrequited love as pure and honest and worthy. When in actuality it’s torture to be apart from each other except on weekends. What fools we were.

    The tender love grew to a swirling, thrilling desire of passion and we did talk about us. The pressure was too much for both of us. We lost total control and the dam broke into a nightmare of sorts. Looking back through all the years if you ask me,

    “Was it worth all the pain and the hurt?”

    If you are familiar with my writing, it’s not necessary to tell you.

        1. Bushkill

          being shot … lol. Though, if I recall, you’re from Texas, so it’s more than possible and probably excusable.

          I’m working now with my daughter (the one I wrote about in the prompt about why we write) to self-publish my stories from here. It should be a blast for her and i to work on together. And there are more than a few stories I’ve written that will cause angst and concern.

          of course, writing is best when it’s connected to who we are and what we’ve experienced.

          Write on, friend Kerry, Write on!

          1. Kerry Charlton

            You know Bushkill. my daughter Leanne and I have talked about the same thing. I have 300 or more stories to choose from. about 250 flash fiction and the rest from 1500 to 6000 words. There’s bound to be something worth while there.

  17. Pete

    The bathroom inside the PullenGo would make a great place to film a horror movie. The single dangling lightbulb, the way it flung Noah’s flickering reflection around in the cracked, fun house mirror, hanging crooked on the exposed studs.

    But the smell, the smell was the feature presentation, and as Noah covered his nose with his shirt, the rancid blast of chemicals, piss, and oh-god-let-that-be-dirt rose from the concrete floor, he wondered if people opened the door, merely unzipped and sprayed and…Noah cut the though short. He pressed forward.
    He wasn’t there for the toilet, but the vending machine.

    A small breath, Noah reached into his pocket for quarters. He’d come prepared. He inserted the quarters, ignoring the scrawl of phone numbers and misspelled vulgarities, and turned the lever through the rust. Another turn, then…stuck.

    Stuck? No. No, no, no. Noah gripped the lever tighter, pushing through the thoughts of bodily fluids and the many sticky hands that gave the lever its slippery film. He put his weight into it—all 142 pounds. Nothing.

    This couldn’t happen. Noah turned his head at the sound of a cackle from the other side of the door. He thought about his car around the side of the store, Jenny sitting alone, waiting, wondering. Noah patted his pockets. He’d only had the four quarters…

    Nothing.

    PullenGo was his only hope. At sixteen, it was this machine that had been etched into his memory since he was ten. His father pumping gas, tapping his foot, when Noah had to run in to use the bathroom. The smell, the light, the mirror, he couldn’t remember. Just the four slots (ribbed, lubed, spermicide, XXX-traBig). And now, after all this planning, he’d chosen the wrong one.

    Noah pivoted, his shoes squeaking on what he hoped was water. He opened the door, took a pull of fresh air. The heavyset woman at the counter was talking to a tall, thin man in overalls. Something about a wreck on Route 460. Eventually, the man tapped the counter twice and thanked the lady—Charlotte, he called her—and the bell on the door jangled as he shuffled off.

    Noah took a breath, pulled out his wallet, and stepped to the counter, clearing his throat. “Excuse me, could you change a dollar?”

    The woman gave him a long, lasting look. “Change?”

    “Yeah, um, if that is all right?” He smiled, trying not to think about that mystery liquid slick on his shoe. It really wasn’t a mystery if he really thought about it. A bathroom, the urine smell, the lack of lighting. It was easy to miss the toilet. He almost told the lady there had been an accident in there, but the way things looked, it might be more of an accident if someone actually cleaned the toilet.

    Charlotte seemed to shew on something in her mouth. She glanced past him. “You were just in the bathroom,” she said, like he was guilty of something horrendous. “Don’t you think I know what you’re doing, what you’re after? How old are you, anyway, fourteen?”

    Noah gulped. “Eighteen.”

    “Pfft. Eighteen my foot. Boy, I know what you kids are doing with those condoms.”

    She said condoms like condemns. Noah however, wasn’t finding the humor, but looking towards the exit as Charlotte set a thunderous forearm on the counter and leaned into her words, shaking her head. “If you’re eighteen, I’m Brittany Spears.”

    Noah was without a clue as to who Brittany Spears was, but he wasn’t about to bring up the point, or discuss with this lady what he was going to do with a condom. Her top lip pulled, revealing her barren gums. Not that Noah was judging but the lack of teeth caused her to spit and flake when she said words like “Spears.”
    Noah nodded. He wanted no trouble. “Okay, well, I’ll just be…”

    Charlotte caught him by the arm. Noah gasped, surprised by Charlotte’s nimble movements. Her eyes looked like they belonged to someone else, coming alive in their sockets. “You think I don’t know? You stupid kids, putting these things up your nose? I heard all about it on the radio.”

    She jabbed a finger towards the all-knowing radio, sitting on the counter beside a pack of cigarettes, it’s bent antenna tuned to the know.

    “Noah looked at the woman’s hand on his arm, the flab still jiggling from the movement. “Uh, Miss, please. I’m on my way out.”

    “Not if you’re in there tampering with the machine.”

    “Tampering?”

    The bell jingled and Charlotte let go of Noah’s arm. A short, plump man walked in, “Howdy Charlotte,” he said, his mustache going for a ride with his smile, which quickly fell when he saw how Charlotte was worked up into a ball of red wrinkles. “What’s going on?”

    More finger jabbing. “This one here, he’s back there messing with the machine.”

    “The machine? What mach—ohhhh, right.” The man’s eyes widened. He turned to Noah. “Whatcha doing in there, huh?”

    “You know what they do, it’s like those Tide Pods. These stupid kids are eating the condoms.”

    Noah shook his head. “This is a misunderstanding. I was asking for change…”

    “Why you need change, huh?”

    “I told you,” the woman barked. “or them condoms. He’s eating ‘em.”

    “I’m not eating condoms, okay?” Noah looked around, confused. “My girlfriend and I, we’re…” It was all so ridiculous. He broke away, determined to leave when the door jingled.

    Jenny stopped. Seeing the commotion. The man’s eyes went big. Charlotte gasped and stumbled back. “Oh…Oh! They’re…” She reached down and came out with had a bible, of all things. “Kids, we need to have a talk, right now.”

    The man nodded furiously. Jenny, with a smirk cracking at the edge of her lips, looked at Noah and mouthed, “What in the world?”

    Noah shook his head. “Look, I need—”

    Charlotte flipped through the well-thumbed book, shaking her head and nearly speaking in tongues. “I never thought this could happen. I mean, you hear about it…” She licked her finger and got down to business. “Corinthians. When you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can endure it…”

    The man had his hat off, nodding. “Amen.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I was.squirming in.my seat at the start. I thought those things were used for water balloons. You see what kind of sheltered life I lead.with you prose you placed me right between.evetyone and I was worried about being stepped on
        What remarkable writing here. Pete you set the stage carefully and it shows your talent

    1. GrahamLewis

      Certainly drew me in. Though I began reading while eating lunch, and the opening scene made me lose my appetite for a bit. The ending was really unexpected.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Not certain the correct superlatives to use when commenting on the bathroom description, maybe awful, as in full of awe. Then the situation got worse. Great writing here.

  18. Jennifer Park

    22. The Show

    [Follows “21. The Flight”, posted under “Unfairy Tales”. You can see a listing of the Darth Barbara saga chapters—all of which are posted under WD prompts—by clicking on my name above.]

    “Sorry you’re gonna miss the show,” said the Ambassador.

    “Yeah,” Barbara lied. She thought it was a bad idea, as much as she had helped test the concept.

    “Thank you for all you have done. We’re going to win them over.”

    Through an overdramatic intimidation tactic that Barbara was sure wouldn’t work.

    “I know you remain skeptical, but this is a new phase of diplomacy. Upping our game.”

    Foolishly.

    “Your concerns… were quite helpful, in fact, and I’ve documented them with highest commendations.”

    No, it got Barbara demoted… to a lower-priority, lower-development garbage world of electronics-age barbarians. She was being dispatched to Ke’aottémazh, another planet trying to decide whether to join the Galactic Union. It seemed the Union was losing more member planets than gaining them these days. But, its economy remained robust; its military remained unmatched; and the Death Star had not been used for many decades. “Thank you, Ambassador.”

    “Safe travels.”

    “Die, b@stard,” Barbara almost said, but smiled humbly instead.

    * * *

    The plan was for the Ambassador and the higher-ranking staff to descend upon the coronation in their most splendorous form, riding on giant albatrosses made of light, with wingspans that dwarfed the largest of Ammic animals, and, essentially, force the new sovereign into accepting the protection of the Union. Similar tactics had been used many times before, but the peculiarity of the geomagnetism here required a lot of tuning of the new equipment.

    Meanwhile, Barbara had realized that the ordinary Ummahamamm were not nearly as superstitious as the royals and the nobles, who had wholeheartedly bought the we-are-divine fiction of the Earthlings.

    Even as she touched up her angelic uniform in preparation for her credentialing ceremony…

    “Barbara! Barbarella!” yelled the Oversubjunct as she rudely barged in.

    “Yes?” Barbara replied majestically, fully in character.

    “It’s Amm… The ceremony…” The Oversubjunct was out of breath, but was also deeply shaken. “It’s… disaster…”

    It took Barbara a second to deduce what had happened. It took her another second to respond. “Call Subambassador Obershrifter in Emmemuhemmam. Tell him to go to the capital, implement Plan 9.”

    “What?” The Oversubjunct was even more out of her depth on this one.

    “You know what? I’ll do it myself.” She had to turn off the uniform to access the communication channels. Total hassle.

    * * *

    From the Ummahamamm’s point of view, this is what happened. A bunch of angels showed up at the coronation, flying in impressive formation, illuminating the night sky with their splendor. Then, they made an upward loop, halted for a moment, and crashed into a mountain. When the crowd arrived at the dead bodies, wrapped in strange tangles of contraptions, a ball of light appeared, and evaporated the bodies, saying—as majestically as any god would—something condemning pretensions of divinity and such, that the native supreme being had always and would always protect the planet from alien interlopers, blah, blah, blah…

    Better to lose a prospective member planet than to lose face.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      An exciting story I enjoyed a whole lot. What it really boils down to, whether in space or on a World War I battlefield. Things operate basically the same. A generation that will see.attifical intelligence still.won’t be able to make a tube of toothpaste that works properly and remember.don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

    2. jhowe

      Another good installment Jennifer, in this strange world you’ve created. Like the giant albatrosses made of light, there were many interesting tidbits in here that made it quite enjoyable.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Loved the names in this episode, don’t remember if you’ve used Oversubjunct and Subambassador Obershrifter before, but they are just perfect. Still like the celestial image. Great last line.

    4. Beebles

      Good depth to this and an easy style. Touches of Julian May in the imagery- one of my favourites. I have enjoyed a couple of Barbara’s other adventures but am behind on the story. Enjoyable nevertheless.

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