Baggage

You start dating a person you met at your local grocery store. The date is going well—you’ve taken the person to your favorite restaurant (in which you both ordered the same unusual meal) and, it turns out, you both grew up in the same small town. The problem is, when you got for a walk along the coastline at the end of the date, she reveals something about her past that shocks you. (Good? Bad? You decide.)

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

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297 thoughts on “Baggage

  1. jbastin

       “One of my favorite places to go was definitely The Walk on the weekends. Always something to do,” I told her. This date was going absolutely wonderful, I thought to myself.
       “My friends and I used to hang out there all time,” she began laughing as she said this.
       “What’s so funny?” I asked my eyebrows raised in curiosity as I smiled at her.
       She caught her breath and said, “Well, this one time, my friends and I found this homeless bum who was looking for money. We told him if he’d dance like one of the monkeys with the music box we would give him five dollars.”
       I stared blankly at her lost for words.
       “He asked to see the money first, we all took out one dollar and shook it at him shouting at him to dance. It was hilarious. A great night.”
       What a complete bitch I thought to myself. I can’t believe I thought this date was going well.
    “Well, listen here, I have to go. It’s been fun. Don’t call,” I said as I left her standing there. I could care less how she gets home.

  2. Early Blogger

    Whetime_in_bush.jpg
    When I met him, we were both squeezing melons. Ok, I know what you’re thinking; get your head out of the gutter…

    “How can you tell if these things are ripe?” He wants to know.

    “You have to give a push on the stem end of it. If it gives a little, it’s good to go.”

    “Seriously? I see people knocking on them all the time. I usually wait around a bit to see if the melon answers.”

    “HA! That’s funny.” Rolling my eyes, I giggle.

    “I see you here all the time. What do you do when you’re not pushing melon?”

    I smile despite myself. “Usually eating them.” I find myself gazing a little too intently into his eyes. There’s something familiar about them.

    “Ah, I get it…now you’re trying to be funny. Seriously, can I take you out sometime?”

    “I think I’d like that.” I answer.

    “Great, How ‘bout we grab a quick something to eat at this diner I know and then hit some local clubs for Karaoke?”

    “Gee, I don’t know. The last time I tried Karaoke…”

    “Oh come on! It’ll be fun. I promise I won’t let you faint and embarrass yourself.” His eyes dance in amusement.

    “You were there?!” Incredulous. How many other people know about my embarrassing past, I wonder? I look around to see who might be watching.

    “What can I tell you? It’s a small town.” Eyes still twinkling.

    Arrangements are made and we leave the food store together, both with our ripe melons in tow.

    *****

    Seated in the booth-style seats in the NEW YORK DINER, the waitress with her pad and pen wants to know what my date “will have tonight”.

    “I’ll have the breakfast; eggs sunny-side up, sausage-the thick logs-not those puny links you buy by the bag, home fries with onion, oh and a short stack. Please.” Looking across at me “You don’t mind the onions do you?” he whispers loudly.

    “Not at all.” My eyes widen. “I’ll have the same please, but could you add a side of scrapple as well?” My gaze never leaves his face.

    As the waitress leaves, “Is it just coincidence that you like to eat the same thing as me?”

    “I don’t believe in coincidence.” He says.

    “Hmmm. Neither…do…I.” I’m sure my furrowed forehead and arched brow are the reason for the laughter that follows.

    “Thanks for remembering the scrapple.”

    “Alright! What gives here?” I demand.

    He laughs. “Hey, remember the Chinese store and water balloon fights?”

    I’m shocked into silence. He looks into my eyes and waits for everything to register. When it doesn’t, he says “and the time we played hide-n-seek when you fell, but not before getting lost for hours.”

    And that fast, I’m transported back to that fun-filled and confusing sunny day. Looking around me, I see evidence of an earlier water-balloon fight. Bright splatters of yellow, green, blue, and red rubber are left shriveling in the August heat. I’m kneeling on the hard brick walkway just 5 or so feet from the marble steps leading to my Aunt’s house and watching as blood trickles down my leg…I don’t remember…

    “Hey! I’m here.” My date injects.

    I’m brought back to the man across from me and I remember those eyes.

    ”Don.”

    “Hi cutie.” He says

    *****

    After the reunion of sorts, we find ourselves walking the boards surrounding the Inlet. Colors drift in ebbs and flows on the surface of the water-not unlike that day so long ago.

    “Will you excuse me for a moment? Nature calls.”

    “Of course!”

    And with that he disappears into the DEAD DOG Saloon. A rendition of POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME floats out as the door of the saloon closes slowly behind him.

    Turning back towards the water, the sights and sounds of Germantown come rushing back; the scary coal room at the bottom of the basement steps, the night I lay frozen in the bed as I watched…

    SPLASH!

    “OH! You son-of-a …” I look up at Don who snuck up from behind and attacked me with a half gallon’s worth of semi-cold water contained in the combustible veneer of a red balloon.

    “That is for the unanswered shot to my head!” I’d forgotten how competitive he was; even at such a young age. He looked smug standing there with large hands on slender hips. My eyes traveled up the V-shape of his torso and to the shiny glow of his mischievous eyes.

    “WHAT THE HAY, DONALD!” I shout laughing.

    Laughing hysterically, he leaps forward and wraps his huge arms around me, lifts me and then releases. I fall, snickering, to the weathered wood beneath my feet. After a pause “What happened that day, Lynn?” There is something about his demeanor-something sheepish.

    “Why Donnie? Why are you asking now?”

    “Just trust me.” He says. The phrase ‘FAMOUS LAST WORDS’ springs to mind but I believe him for some reason.

    I don’t respond for a long time. My mind slips back to that day and what I remember seems too strange to even mention.

    After some time I say, “I…I see what happened, but it doesn’t make sense, Donnie. It feels like a memory of some other time, but I know it’s the same day…”

    “Go on.” He encourages.

    “There is this open field, and I’m sitting on the grass…grass Donnie; not the patches of weed poking up from the cracks in the cement! And some distance away, there is a building…I think…”

    “What do you mean you think?”

    “You’ll laugh.”

    “I promise I won’t!”

    “It looks like a big dog house.” He stares and I just say, “I told you so.”

    “Anything else?” he asks

    “Well yes. There is a dog.”

    “And?! Come on, Jeez. It’s like pulling teeth with you.” He smiles to break the effect of his words. But he is clearly frustrated.

    “IT’S TALKING TO ME SOMEHOW!! THERE! ARE YOU SATISFIED?” I wait for his reply.

    “You see his mouth moving?”

    “No. I just hear the words. It’s too far for me to see its mouth. It feels so far away. But, I remember seeing other things, too… Like the inside of the house in front of me…in the yard where I hid… The real house… the widow Clancy. Don, I’ve never been inside that house…ever!” I feel the chill coming off of the Inlet and I shudder.

    “And then what? Are you sure it’s a dog?”

    “What?! Yes…no…I…I don’t know. And then nothing. It’s like I remember, for real, seeing the gray fence in the alleyway with the tall bush in front of it. The field was gone, the open field…vanished. I looked down at my leg and I was bleeding.”
    “Did you cut yourself?”

    “NO I…it wasn’t a cut. It was a scoop.”

    Donald stares directly into my eyes. This is what he was waiting for.

    “Lynn. There’s something I need to tell you….I work for the government. Part of what I do is fact-check cases of missing time…”
    I interrupt, “YOU WORK FOR THE CIA?”

    “Hush!…There’s a case I’m investigating now. Well…it reminded me of you.” He stops and just stares.

    “And?!”

    He doesn’t say anything. He just slips his hand into the pocket of his pants and pulls out a picture. Slowly, he holds it up for me to see. “Does she look familiar?”

    “Yes, Don she does…That could be me!”

    And with that Don replies “Was it you?”

  3. Bookworm415

    “Oh my god! You like lemon chicken too?!”
    I exclaimed after my date and I ordered the same thing. He laughed,
    “everybody thinks it’s so gross, but I love it!”
    I grinned. Our food arrived, and my date, Patrick, rolled up his green dress shirt sleeves. I tugged at my jean shorts, feeling a little underdressed. I folded my hands out in front of me, hoping my pink nail polish would draw attention away from my shorts.
    “So, you never told me where you are from,” I said. He cleared his throat.
    “I lived in Alabama until I was 18.” My eyes widened,
    “me too!” He gestured to our empty plates.
    “How about a walk?” I nodded, and we left the restaurant with a wave to our waiter. The coastline seemed picture-perfect tonight. The waves rolled gently, the sand was soft and golden, and a breeze whispered gently. Patrick stopped suddenly. I frowned.
    “Are you okay?” I asked gently. He swallowed,
    “D-do you remember how Mark got bullied?” My eyes well with tears. My older brother was bullied physically, to the point that he died.
    “Yes,” I whisper.
    “I-I was the one that told the principal when I found him kissing Lance,” He says so quickly I almost don’t understand him. But I do. My body goes rigid.
    “You monster,” I whisper, my hands clenched into fists.
    “What, Amy?” I whip around, feeling nothing but hatred.
    “You MONSTER! You VILE, CRUEL, MONSTER!” I scream.
    “Amy, you-you gotta understand-”
    “Oh I understand PERFECTLY! You’re nothing but a small-minded DEMON!”
    “You don’t understand! I was freaking out, and-”
    “You felt the need to RUIN HIS LIFE?! To take it away?! Nobody would have known if you hadn’t done that!”
    “Amy, I never meant for him to die.”
    “How the HELL did you think that would turn out?! You lived in Alabama with me, you know how anti-gay they were!”
    “I thought maybe-maybe he could get help!”
    “THERE WAS NOTHING HE NEEDED TO GET HELP FOR!” I screamed, my voice pierced the air. “Nothing he needed to get help for besides being ostracized and beaten!”
    He shuffled. “He was kissing another guy-”
    I attacked him. I punched him, and slapped him, and really, it was in a blind rage.
    “Go,” I muttered, my voice thick with tears.
    “C’mon, Amy-”
    “GO!”
    He walks away, leaving me sobbing on the beach, remembering my dear brother.

  4. zeissg

    “Better than Pei Wei’s” I said, holding a chunk of orange-flavored tofu.

    She smiled “Even a bit better than Pick-Up-Stix.” we both laughed…

    “Not quite Kung Pao Bistro, but not as far, either.”

    “You know all the places for this stuff, don’t you.” I nodded, smiling.

    “Did you eat this growing up?” she asked.

    “No, I grew up in South Miami. The only person that had ever heard of tofu was the chinese guy at the Farmstores.”

    “South Miami? Me too! What high school did you go to?”

    “Southwest” I answered.

    “No! Me too! What year?”

    “1975, you?”

    “1977. Shit, we were there at the same time!”

    I knew she was married and didn’t recognize her last name, so I asked “what was your name back then?”

    “Susan O’Shea,” she said, hesitantly, her face darkening a bit when she saw my shocked reaction.

    “Billy’s sister?” I asked, my voice now trembling.

    “Yeah, may he rest in peace.” A tear rolled down her cheek.

    Billy O’Shea was a friend of everyones at school. Your basic “one of the guys” Irish-Catholic kid. Notre Dame fan, although barely good enough grades to go to Miami-Dade. Football player – second string linebacker. Always had good weed and cold beer, and was always dating one of the lesser cheerleaders.

    Billy was driving home one day with his friend Sam. They had taken a shortcut that we all often took – through a little bit of a rough neighborhood. Ten minutes faster on a clear night, thirty faster during rush hour.

    Neither of them ever saw or heard it coming. They had the windows up and the stereo on, and they only saw the muzzle flashes before it was too late. One of the shots caught Billy in the temple, he immediately slumped over, and the car accelerated into a parked car, killing Sam immediately.

    They never caught the guy who did it, he was part of a gang and was probably half-way to Baltimore before the cops arrived.

    The memorials at the school went on for days. A week after the crime, the family arrived at one, and I remember seeing little Susan O’Shea, barely 15, her head buried in her hands. And now, 3,000 miles and 40 years later, we sat across the table.

    “Let’s go” she said, still crying. I paid the bill, stood up and reached for her hand. She grabbed me tightly. “I haven’t cried over Billy in 20 years. But here you are — you were right there. Damn.”

    I drove her home, we kissed in the car — a friendly, not a romantic kiss. She had a lot to process, so I said “Call me if you want to talk. I’ll be there in a flash.”

    I never heard from her again.

  5. Carlitos

    Things In Common

    Harry had been working at local grocery store as a stock boy in order to pay off his college loan. One morning he locked eyes with a new customer- a blonde with curly, shoulder length hair and sparkling green eyes. He was captivated at first sight. She too was memorized with Harry’s appearance and alluring smile. Harry built up the courage to approach the beauty. After some talk Harry escorted Caroline to the exit with her phone number at hand. That evening Harry promptly called Caroline who was waiting eagerly by her phone. In the middle of the conversation each learned that they grew up in the small town in Maine. Harry invited Caroline to dine with him the following evening. Caroline accepting his invitation.

    It was Oriental sea food restaurant. They were seated in a spot that overlooked the beach.
    It was a very romantic scene. Caroline shifted close to Harry and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek as she squeezed his hand tenderly. Harry’s heart skipped a beat; he felt as if here were on a cloud. He was even more surprised when they both ordered the same entry- sushi of all types and flavors. After having their meal Harry asked Caroline if she wanted to take a stroll down the beach. She promptly agreed but on her face there was a hint of concern. Harry dismissed it and they existed the restaurant.

    It was a beautiful night. The were sitting in the sand talking about the feelings they felt for each other. She felt so comfortable with Harry that she began to feel a guilt rise up inside her. Harry could sense that something was troubling Caroline. She saw his concern and dared herself to tell him the outrageous truth she carried. At first, with Harry listening keenly, she spoke in whispers as if terrified to tell him the truth. Harry held Caroline close to reassure her. In his ear she told Harry that in reality she was not completely human. But Harry was not at all unfazed by her words. Then after a moment of hesitation she told him that in fact she was…a mermaid.

    Harry could not believe it. A mermaid? An honest-to-god mermaid!? To Caroline’s sudden shock at Harry’s blissful reaction she pulled herself away from him and stood with a smiled on her face. Harry also stood and told her that he believed what she had revealed to him. Taking her in his arms he whispered in her ear that in truth he himself was indeed…a merman. Caroline was completely ecstatic! Harry gave her a look that Caroline easily understood. They both stripped bare and walked quickly to the water’s edge. Looking in all direction they dove into the water in unison. Harry and Caroline transformed into an aquatic pair. In absolute bliss they swam together (hand-in-hand) under the moon’s reflective light, shimmering atop the crest of the sea, toward the horizon.

  6. othome22

    As Jasper leaned in for a kiss, I put my pointer on his lips. I stared in his surprised eyes and began to open my mouth. “Jasper. You are sooo not ready for this. I’m not ready for this. We both still have secrets we need to tell each other.”

    He leaned back, his cheeks a rose red. “Well, the only secret I have is that I have a chihuahua named Bingo and I sing him to sleep every night.” Jasper confessed.

    I giggled at the thought. That’s the only secret he has? Wow. I have way worse secrets. “What secrets do you have Reyna?” Jasper inquired.

    I brushed my hair off my cheek and looked down. “It’s kinda private….” I whispered.

    “Don’t worry. You can tell me anything.” Jasper said.

    I closed my eyes and told my secret. “I… can’t ever truly love someone. My trust was broken a few years ago by my boyfriend Alexander. He cheated on me for 5 other girls. One of them was my sister! Jasper, I’m sure your a good guy, and I bet you would never hurt me, but, I’m just not ready for this.”

    Jasper gulped before looking at me and saying, “Is now a bad time to say I’m dating your sister to?”

  7. Wildcat86

    The windblown waves broke over the rocky shore and her straight blonde hair flowed with the breeze across her face.

    “Do you remember Cavanaugh’s?” She asked as her face lit up in excitement.

    “Yeah, I lived around the corner from there on Chatham Street. When I was kid I would go in there and read the comics while my mother picked up whatever she needed. Then Mr. Cavanaugh would throw some penny candy in bag for me.”

    “Did you like Mr. Cavanaugh?”

    “Sure. He was always asking me how I was doing in school and mentioning how well behaved I was. And, let’s face it, the free candy did not hurt his cause. He helped me get oleander for a science project once.”

    “Huhmmm. How old were you then?”

    “Ten or eleven. However old you are when you’re in sixth grade. Why all the questions about Mr. Cavanaugh?”

    “Nobody knew how he died…”

    “It was strange. They said he must have bent over to pick up something off the floor. He really wasn’t that old.”

    “I killed him” she whispered barely audibly over the cacophony of waves crashing.

    I stepped back and stared into her face waiting for a sign that she was kidding. A crooked grin. A wink. Something! “No, you didn’t. It wasn’t murder.”

    “Cold blooded.” Her voice chilled.

    “Impossible. There was no blood. I remember reading about how they found him. My sister worked at the hospital and I saw the report on her desk. They did not call it a homicide.”

    “What? You don’t believe I could kill a man? Believe me, after what he did, killing him was kind.”

    “What did he do that he deserved to die?” I asked realizing there are several offenses an older man can commit to a younger woman for which he deserved to die. Still I asked, “Did he rape you?”

    “No. I went willingly. I was sixteen and he caught me trying to steal some beer. He threatened to call the cops and my parents.”

    “Oh!”

    “Well, I got pregnant. Of course, I went back to him about it and he claimed it wasn’t his. Said some shit about my willingness to get out of jail time by fucking him it was what I deserved. I don’t think I deserved it.”

    “So you killed him because you got pregnant?”

    “No. He didn’t want to help pay for the abortion and he certainly wasn’t going to own raping a sixteen year old for trying to steal beer. I killed him and ‘borrowed’ money from his wallet to help pay for the abortion.”

    “What did you use to kill him?”

    “Why did you order oleander? You do know oleander is a poison, right?”

  8. devsmess

    I don’t believe in fairy tales and I don’t swoon at love songs, so naturally, I hate myself for feeling this strongly about two hours into our second date.

    “I still can’t believe it,” he says.

    “Yeah. Me either,” I echo with a giggle.

    “And it still feels weird to feel like I should be telling you everything about my life like I’m ready for you to just take me in forever.”

    “I know! But I get it. I really do.”

    He lends me a smile and a short chuckle before averting his eyes to the sea, sprawling towards the gold horizon to our left.

    We clear paths of scattering crabs as we put one lazy foot before the other.

    “So, want to hear something crazy, then?”

    I momentarily think he’s going to confess his undying love for me. I don’t know how I would respond, but I nod once and grab his hand.

    He smiles again, but it quickly vanishes.

    “Do you remember the well out by the Garder’s yard? The one pretty much hidden by the tall grass that you always kinda found by accident as you were running through the field?”

    My hand twitches in his, strong enough for him to glance at me for clarification. I turn quickly to look toward the rose tinted roofs of the shoreline.

    “Yeah. I remember.”

    “Yeah,” he says.

    I see him turn his head from me out of the corner of my eye and return my line of sight to our slow bending path.

    “Well, I was hanging around it one day and, I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I pushed off the wooden barrier which was probably meant for kids like us and I was just so angry that day and so, all, pent up and everything and I spent hours yelling down this thing. The echoes coming back were so loud and they just fed my adrenaline and I was just yelling and at it was hating me back and it was, I don’t know, it was so weird but it was so satisfying.”

    He stops his monologue to take in a breath, but it doesn’t matter. The switch is flipped, my steps are steady, my eyes perfectly glazed.

    “And that in itself is pretty uneventful, I guess, but, do you remember that autumn? It was right after Y2K. And a day later-“

    He stops again.

    I am silent.

    He stops walking.

    He keeps hold of my hand and I turn my head to look at him. I am perfectly neutral, perfectly blank, perfectly perfect.

    “Tully?” I prompt.

    “A girl fell down the well. She died. The day after. It was in the news.”

    I try to react the way I think someone would react to hearing this type of thing but my face is frozen. I can feel my stiff features as if I was using my fingers to observe as the blind observe. Eyes just wide enough to look curious, just-pouted lips cracking from the hardening breeze and skin stiffened from chafing.

    But nothing on my face will move, so I simply reach up with my free hand and grip my locket and say softly,

    “What a horrible thing.”

  9. Jasper1990

    First time poster! Let me know what you think!

    I was sitting there flabbergasted by what I had just heard, this beautiful girl that I had just met also had a strange taste for my favorite meal,Chitlins. I have been coming to this restaurant for a long time and had never heard anyone else order it! The running joke with me and the manager was that it was just on the menu for me at this point.

    The date was going better than I could have ever expected. Everything just felt so natural, like I had known her for years. It was actually freaking me out. I have the worst luck with females, yet here I am actually having a great time with a girl that is way out of my league. I have never believed in love at first sight, until now.

    Then she asks the one question I was dreading… “Where are you from?” I debate back and forth on if I should lie to her or not. You see, I am just in the city on work. I actually still live at home with my parents in the small town of Pine Lake. So you can see why I was embarrassed to tell her. No twenty nine year old man should still live with his parents.. But, I come to the conclusion that I am just going to be honest. If she doesn’t accept it then I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. “Im from Pine Lake, Its a small town about 3 hours south of here. Im sure you haven’t heard of it”, I mumbled. To my surprise she answered with “Shut up!! Im from Pine Lake!! What year did you graduate?!”. “You’re lying! 2004, what about you?” I exclaimed. She responded with “Thats crazy, I graduated in 2004!”. At this point the bill has come, I payed and asked if she wanted to go for a walk and see if we knew any of the same people, had classes together and what not. She excitedly accepts!

    We are walking along the beach talking and things are starting to get strange. She says she was in the same classes as me. Im walking with her thinking to myself, “Theres no way she was in my classes, I definitely would remember her!”. Then she starts talking about her friends from high school, Susan was the loud one of the group, Jakob was the jock, Marcus was the nerd, etc. Those were all of my friends!! I confront her about it thinking this has to be a practical joke. I yell, “Who put you up to this? Why are you lying about being friends with everyone I know? Who are you!?”
    She quietly responds with “If I tell you the truth, promise you wont get mad?”
    What she says next blew my mind..
    She softly says, “Mikey, do you remember Keith, the skinny kid with the big hair?”
    “Yeah, the gay kid.” I answer.
    “They call me Keisha now, I got a sex change.”

  10. nathan88

    First time poster; long time reader (creeper?)! Had fun w/this…

    Everything about the evening had surpassed my wildest expectations. Yes, I still have expectations. He’ll open the door for me. Will pull out the credit card for the waiter without a moment’s hesitancy. And will love me unconditionally. The question of whether I could return that last favor hadn’t really entered my mind…
    The genuine connections we have to bode well for my over analytical mind. That he had suggested a moonlit walk along the beach to close the evening was really the proverbial cherry on top.
    “Well this has been a really nice night, hasn’t it?” I hasten to fill the silence as I feel your eyes on mine.
    “It is. A beautiful night. You know, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this with you but I feel like I owe it to you after the great time we’ve had. So, can you just listen and promise you’ll keep an open mind about what I’m to going to say?” The question comes all in a rush, as if any slight nonverbal cue on my part will set you free from undergoing any torture.
    “Yeah, of course,” I hear myself saying. Is it too late to make a run for it?
    “OK. I guess the first thing for you to keep in mind is that I’ve dated my fair share of frogs. I’ve had my heart broken and second-guessed my decisions. Am I sending out the wrong signals to a potential date? Anyway, just understand that my frustration had kinda boiled over some time ago and it led to the decision I made…I think it would only be fair to let you know I’m about to be the next bachelor on ABC’s show. Er, you know, the reality show about bachelors.”
    It was as if a tsunami-sized wave had just slapped me across the face. Reeling, I decided to ask the first logical question that came to mind.
    “Are we being filmed for the show right now? ‘Cause I have a right to sign something if I’m about to be on national television.”
    Based on what little I knew about the show, I wasn’t sure how to process the revelation. Do you make a lot of money from breaking hearts on TV? And, most importantly, was our date going to play out in front of a national audience? (Did I mention I have an over analytical mind?)
    Smiling that dazzling, meant-for-cameras smile, you shake your head and lean closer to me. I feel my heart in my throat.
    “I don’t think that’s something you need to worry about. My hands are kind of tied about what I can say and producers have a special place reserved for them in hell. But…I didn’t find “the one.” There were a couple people I can see having friendships with, but in that environment love’s just not gonna happen. They will make me pick somebody, it’s in the contract. We make a few appearances after the show has wrapped up, post some pics on Instagram, and then quietly fade into obscurity. I’m still looking for love and, go figure, I didn’t find it on a reality show.” He laughs. A genuine, from the belly laugh. “You probably could have figured that out without testing the waters. Do you think I’m crazy now?”
    Realizing I have just approached a fork in the road, I sigh and give the best smile I can to compete with his.
    “I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” I say.

  11. JRSimmang

    THE BEACH AS A WINDOW

    Food.

    Food.

    Sex.

    Sex.

    Mate.

    Long hair.

    Show teeth.

    Show teeth.

    Pound dirt.

    Inhale.

    Howl.

    Howl.

    Food.

    Sex.

    Food.

    Food.

    Mate… Mate?

    ###

    Test subject 103 has responded well to geothermal radiation. He is exhibiting signs of process deficiency. Soon, he will not remember he is human. Then, we can begin the transformation.

    -JR Simmang

  12. lyngralee

    He was kind of adorable, so she said yes. She had never met a guy in a grocery store, but he had no rope or duct tape or anything ‘murdery’ in his basket. To be fair, the cheesecake looked a little dangerous.

    They decided to meet at Abby Bistro on Friday at eight. He ordered, “The usual, please, Paul.” And, since the menu offered to welcome special requests, she ordered the fettuccine alfredo with mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes. Paul bowed and retreated, and Lucy realized Jake was staring.

    “What?”

    “Well,” explained Jake, looking even cuter than Lucy remembered, “I was a little shocked by your order.”

    “Normally, I wouldn’t order off-menu, but it’s my favorite and the menu clearly stated that… what?”

    Jake was laughing and shaking his head, “No, you don’t understand, it’s my favorite, too! That’s my ‘usual’! I’ve never met anyone who has even tried it!”

    “That’s amazing! Wow, serendipity, right?” Lucy smiled like she hadn’t in a long time. Jake beamed back, and they relaxed into a wonderful dinner. The entrées were delicious, and they chatted easily about city life, and their busy careers. Stepping to the bar to settle the bill, Jake shared a back-slapping joke with Paul, the waiter. Outside the restaurant, they agreed it was early enough to head to the Seaport for a nightcap. They snuggled in the taxi, though there was no chill in the air. Lucy would probably have ended the night differently if she had known that Jake’s ‘usual’ at Abby Bistro was whatever his date ordered. He and buddy Paul never tired of the ladies’ doe-eyed reactions. Paul wanted to be an actor, so he relished acting like a dispassionate waiter.

    After two scotches, neat, they had backtracked their lives to teenage years. Jake was a few years older than Lucy, but they realized they both had been in the Hamptons over the same few summers. Lucy’s family had a house in Southampton, and Jake and his buddies would come out for summers to earn great money at the Windfall Country Club. Lucy was never one for a twenty dollar tuna sandwich, but her parents belonged there before they divorced and sold the house.

    “Yeah, I taught tennis to some of the ladyfolk and made decent coin. After my second season, I was transferred to Pinefall in Bridgehampton. Same owner, same job, different town.”

    Lucy was distracted by thoughts of that painful summer in her lie. She was thirteen, miserable, and her dad walked out on them. After their split, there was no more summering in the Hampton. It was hard scraping by with three mouths to feed. She remembered an old photo that she loved, because her mom looked so happy. ‘Tennis Lessons!’ was written on the back. She returned to the present, and felt a sudden surge of nausea.

    “Jake,” she whispered, searching her phone with clenched teeth, “I need to show you a picture of my little brother, Jacob.”

  13. JRSimmang

    THE MANY SEEDS OF LOVE

    It’s a lighthouse, but the people of Saint Topas call it The Pines, and it’s been hailed as a dream destination for happy couples since the 1960s. It’s been rumored that Elizabeth Taylor, with her third husband, visited for three weeks, in the third month, and had three bottles of wine within the first three hours. They also broke the antique sextant.

    We went there on April 8th. It was a Monday. Monday isn’t the best day for dates, but that particular Monday was the eve of a rare aquatic phenomenon. Once every eighty years, the Polyspora amorosas, a deep- sea dwelling mold-fungus that feeds on the Constantia generalis, but only when it’s in season, surfaces, causing the waters to turn a honey mustard yellow and stink like a used asscloth that has been dip-dyed in the fermented fecal matter of a dying opossum.

    Spectacular.

    I could sense Lyddia slowing to a stop, so I coalesced and slowed with her.

    “My pirate,” she began. That’s what she called me.

    “My damsel,” I responded.

    “I don’t exist.”

    “None of us do.”

    She peered up at the lighthouse. “No, Rog. I’m serious.”

    I sighed heavily, turned to face her, and grabbed her hands. “Damn.”

    “You’re actually holding onto a young tree.”

    “Yeah,” I muttered. “I know.”

    “A pine tree.”

    “Yeah, I got it.”

    “But I love you.”

    “No you don’t,” and I let go of her pinecones. “I come here every night expecting you to be real.”

    “I know, my pirate.”

    “And each time I come up here, I walk away disappointed.”

    “But that’s love.”

    Below me, the mold-fungus was eating its way through the herring. “It’s still the same after eighty years.”

    The stench of the fungus caught an up-breeze and carried it to my face, which burned my skin a little.

    “I wonder where it goes for the other seventy-nine years.”

    I looked back at the pine tree, behind it the lighthouse’s beacon rotated and signaled to a passing ship. I turned around and headed to it, fiddling with the keys in my pocket.

    -JR Simmang

  14. Colonel Plops

    Romance At Its Finest

    Ha. Love at first sight? Beautiful eyes? Soft skin? Every last one of them phrases reserved for romance novels, not for real life. You meet someone you like enough not to strangle them after years in the same house and settle down. Save love for the valentine days cards, the novelists, poets, and hopeful. I don’t need any of it. That is why when I saw her walking carefully down the aisle ‘love’ wasn’t the first word in my mind, rather I thought that she looked nice enough. The way her lips curved just slightly into a smirk showed me that she had a sense of humor. The way her eyes darted around the grocery store showed me that she was careful. And her way of gripping tightly to the cart meant she was shy, trying to avoid bumping into anything, talking to anyone else. Perfect for me, I could crack some jokes with her while she sat there laughing, a one-sided conversation if I had ever heard one. She wouldn’t knock the waiter over like Laura had when I took her to the restaurant, drawing to much attention to herself more me to do anything. I approached her and began the conversation.

    I was wrong. She wasn’t as silent and shy as I’d believed her tight grip had indicated. She instead had some jokes of her own. Luckily, her sense of humor made up for the lost shyness by a long-shot. We laughed over our steaming plates. We’d even ordered the same thing, a match made in heaven. Of course, as far as I knew we were still on Earth and had not been matched by anyone but myself. That was just me though. When she got up to use the bathroom she walked with confidence, knocking down no waiters, spilling no water, and stumbling onto no one. So it looked like I’d done pretty well this time. I’d read her like a book (unlike I had been able to do with Laura, who had been my failed attempt at this ), and now I’d use that to my advantage. She strutted back over to the table and I asked her how a walk along the beach sounded. She said it sounded great and I paid for the meal without even finishing eating.

    I’d never liked the beach myself. She loved it though, so I did too. In fact it was why she had moved here from the small town she’d grown up in. Being the polite gentlemen I was I laughed and told her that it was quiet the coincidence because I’d grown up in the same small town and moved here for the beach too. That, of course, was a lie, unless she was referring to New York City as a “small town” where I’d truly grown up. We told more jokes and laughed more and then stopped just close enough to the water.

    “We’ll have to do this again sometime,” she said, her eyes looking into mine. If her eyes had been truly beautiful, or the skin of her hands that lied in mine had truly been soft, or if love at first sight had truly struck us, I wouldn’t have then thrown myself down on top of her into the waves, attempting to hold her under. The sunset silhouetted the scene as if in a romance novel gone wrong. Suddenly, voices and sirens surrounded me, something latched to my back and sent a shock through my body, causing me to fall into the mushy, brown sand, getting water in my ear. The woman stood and removed a gun from her pocket. The officer behind me put his taser back in his own pocket. The woman removed her badge and showed it to my fallen body.

    “You’re an undercover cop?”

    1. Reaper

      Nice colonel. You have a couple of word errors like quiet for quite and lied in just sounds odd. However, this is an amazing little story. I was expecting a dark end and hoping for the woman to turn out to be really the same and turn the tables on your narrator. Your twist at the end was unexpected, a nice surprise.

    2. lionetravail

      Fun story, Colonel- there’s some exposition in here that I think would be worth converting to dialogue and interaction, and be much more exciting and visceral.

  15. Observer Tim

    LEARNING TO LOVE

    I write romance stories: fanciful tales where girl meets boy in some improbably mundane location and somehow they end up falling into bed and into love in some order. They’re kind of silly, really.

    I was in the grocery store when a woman reached around me to pick up a carton of instant hot chocolate. I felt her warm breath on my ear as she whispered, “excuse me, love” and wrapped her arm around my waist to steady herself. I held my breath until she let go; I couldn’t really tell what I was feeling but I didn’t want it to end.

    I turned and looked, and she was beautiful. Her silky chestnut hair framed a lovely and perfectly made-up face; not like my mousy brown ponytail and plain looks. Her eyes were like dark windows into infinity and her slight pout just begged to be kissed. Maybe the reason I’d never met a guy I liked was that I simply wasn’t straight. She broke the mood with a laugh.

    “We seem to have bought the same items.”

    I looked down and she was right. All the same items sat in both our baskets. I chuckled and asked her, “What else are we picking up today?”

    “A bottle of powdered garlic, a box of tampons, and a small pack of rum-filled chocolates.”

    It was like she’d read my mental list, except for the chocolates, but that was too good an idea to pass up. We finished shopping, then topped it off with a light dinner at Steven’s on the wharf. She ordered first and chose the cobb salad and scampi, which is my favourite.

    We chatted for hours; it turned out we were both from Denver but had fallen in love with Cape Cod, we’d both been tom-boys as little girls, and were both looking for the right man without success. By then I wasn’t sure if that last one wasn’t a bit of a fib. Weirdest of all, we were both named Diane.

    Everything about her fascinated me: her lopsided smile, the way her hair caught the light when she moved her head, the faint smell of jasmine from her body wash. When she suggested a walk on the beach I went eagerly, despite the fact that we were each carrying a bag of groceries. At least they were non-perishable.

    We found ourselves standing barefoot in the breakers with our parcels and our shoes a few paces back. The moon was rising over the Atlantic, turning the whitecaps to gold. My arm was around her soft waist and her hand rested gently on my hip.

    She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Do you love me, Diane?”

    I started hyperventilating as I turned to her. “What?” She’d spoken from my heart and it gave me butterflies.

    “Do you love me?”

    “Y-yes…”

    “Then you know you can love yourself. And that means you can love someone else. Find them.”

    She kissed me; my body pulled close to her, clinging to her warmth as she slowly faded away. For the first time I understood real love.

    My stories don’t seem so silly any more.

    1. jhowe

      That was great OT. I almost wanted the Dianes to stay together but I liked how it ended. Diane II seemed to have a view into Diane 1’s mind and knew what was needed. If I had to red pencil anything, it would be that a romance writer from Denver would likely spell favourite as favorite. But since a Canadian is writing from the viewpoint of a romance writer from Denver, I’m not so sure.

    2. JR MacBeth

      Loved it OT! I’ve had almost no time lately, but just had to comment on this one. Awesome theme, “love thyself”, and clearly one that can resonate with various segments of the population these days, some probably more than others. While it seems like LGBT angles are starting to get overdone these days, yours went light and sweet, and ended up on the sublime end of the spectrum. The ending is where it would have been nice to have extra attention I think. The transition from real, to surreal was good, but I wanted to come away with more wonder. Understanding “real love” has to be more than a daydream, or the product of internal dialogue, right? Finally embracing a person’s sexual orientation can be huge, clearly, but this is what it sounded more like to me was happening here. Not necessarily understanding “true (self) love”. And while the concluding line meshed perfectly with your launch, it also didn’t feel quite right for me, considering the daydream, or meditation in between. Obviously, it was more than just that, but I wanted to share my impressions anyway. Great job, thought provoking, in so few words. (I’m also impressed with how many of these shorts you write!)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I truly amazed at your massive amount of talent, Tim This is one of your very best and if you tell me it took 15 minutes, I’m gonna throw up.

    3. lionetravail

      Beautiful and poetic. Maybe a tad bit of sentimental exposition in the middle for my tastes, but what do you expect in a romance writer?

      Lovely idea, lovely inversion, and delicately handled. Nice experiment 🙂

  16. New2thebiz

    “What’d you say?”

    “I followed you to this town. I love you. I’ve always loved you.”
    He laughed because it had to be a joke. She’s just playing off the coincidence he thought. Kind of tacky though. maybe she’s nervous because tonight’s been going to well.
    “I love you too!”He said.

    “Really? I knew it. Ever since you told Lexi you weren’t going to prom with her. I knew you really wanted to go with me but you were afraid to ask.”

    His eyes slowly widened with realization. Her body was loaded like a spring waiting to burst into his arms. He froze. Only his eyes had moved. So this is what the deer feels like. He thought. He waited to see if the headlights would hit him but the car passed without crashing, so he began to say something to her.

    “Well, I….I.” he began shaking his head, “I had no idea who you were back then honestly.” She continued to stand in front of him; loaded and blinking. “I didn’t go to prom with Lexi because she was saving herself for marriage and I didn’t want to waste money on a sexless prom date.”

    He thought of the fish from the sushi place they were just at. How it had eventually stopped flopping around after it was pulled out of water. How its mouth slightly opened and closed; evolving right before his eyes. He thought of how it was on the verge of speaking but it just suffocated instead. Or maybe it died from getting its head chopped off. Either way, evolution is a slow process.

    She jumped up towards his face because he was a head, maybe more, taller. He caught her without thinking. She kissed the back of his ear and whispered a heavy-breathed, “you can fuck me instead.” And then he was like the fish; suffocated before speaking, because evolution is a slow process.

    1. Reaper

      So I’m not sure if I’m saying hi but I am not sure if I recognize the name. That was some intense and slightly surreal stuff. I found myself both terrified and fascinated throughout this. Nice job.

    2. Observer Tim

      Welcome aboard, New2thebiz.

      This is a strong first showing. You did a great job introducing the premise (second sentence) and building the trap the MC had already fallen into. I love the comparison to the fish and the deer. It also left me cuirous about the expression of her psychosis: is she a black widow (killer), an emotional user, an S&M queen, …? Probably best not to explore that here, but it would be cool to see. 🙂

    3. New2thebiz

      Edit: His eyes slowly widened with realization. Her body was loaded like a spring waiting to burst into his arms. He froze. Only his eyes had moved. Deer me. He thought. He wondered if the headlights would crash or pass. They passed, so he began to say something.

      Maybe that helps or not.

    4. lionetravail

      This is great- welcome New2! I very much appreciate a story in which the girl has every confidence in her sexuality and the guy is the one in the headlights. It was surreal, as OT suggests, and poetic, too. Hope for his sake that her lust is just a delightfully surprising expression of her love, and not psychopathology. So many ways to expand this if you wanted to- nice work.

    5. lyngralee

      This was wonderful, and I love that the perception so easily switched as to who is the predator. Adore the drowning fish references, as well as you somehow channeling the ever-creepy nature of director David Lynch. He would take your brilliantly flawed characters and elevate them. Call him to make the movie… there is SO much more in these characters than we see. Loved it!

  17. pinkbamboo

    I looked down at her and she smiled back at me. Such beautiful eyes and that little playful smile warmed my heart. This is it, Dan. You’re falling in love with this beautiful girl. I held her hand tightly around mine as we walked barefoot on the sand, our footwear dangling from our other hand. I was holding her pink sandals while she gripped on my boots.

    She moved her head closer to mine and laid on my shoulder. Suddenly the wind picked up and blew her dress upwards as she squealed and let go of me to push the dress back down again. I laughed with her and she started giggling as well before she sat down and pulled me down with her.

    “Let’s just enjoy the scenery” she whispered as I nodded and pressed my lips against her hair.

    We sat there for a while, just enjoying the sound of the waves and the presence of each other. Then she turned to me.

    “I have a confession” she bit her lips and looked at me like she did something naughty.

    “What is it?” I smiled.

    “The other day, I didn’t actually need the sugar”

    “Really?” I raised an eyebrow.

    “Yeah, I just saw you coming down the aisle with your cart and I guessed you were heading to grab the last sugar so I just went for it .. hoping for a chance to say hello .. ” she blushed.

    I thought it was adorable and I chuckled. “Well, you got me at hello”

    She laughed and covered her face “That was embarassing”

    I shook my head. “I think it’s cute. I really like that. I really like you”

    “There’s more” her face turned redder.

    I held her hand in mine, rubbing my thumb against her knuckles and leaned in closer as a sign for her to keep talking.

    “That was my first time trying chicken feet” she looked away.

    “You told me you loved them. That was your first try?”

    “I wanted to impress you so I decided to order the same thing as you did. I didn’t know what I was thinking and I just ..” she shrugged.

    I smiled. “You didn’t have to do that. I like you not because of your food choices”

    The wind blew around us again and she clutched my arm.

    “There’s one more thing I need to tell you”

    I really like this girl but this confession thing was seriously getting annoying. I kept my smile and brushed my fingers through her hair.

    “Tell me” I whispered.

    She started crying and I got a little worried. I was not expecting this.

    “Babe, what’s wrong?” and she kept crying.

    “Do you see the cliff over there?” she pointed.

    I turned my head quickly for a glance and nodded.

    “What about it?”

    “I was there – I stood there. I .. ” she smiled through her tears.

    What does she mean? She’s right here in front of me.

    I turned around to look at the cliff again. Nothing.

    From the corner of my eye, I saw something washed up on shore. Pink sandals except this one was torn.

    I turned to look at her. Gone.

    ********************
    Yes people, I’m trying to claw my way back 😉

    1. Reaper

      Pink! Don’t make us nail you to the website. You know sometimes you come back and I see tense shifts and other things creeping in that you have worked so hard on correcting. This time… nothing. This is well written and just beautiful. I thought you were going to tell us a more standard love story and then you turned me on my head and I choked a little bit. Lovely story and a very nice twist. I loved the line, this confession thing was getting annoying. How do you write men so well? Welcome back with a bang.

      1. pinkbamboo

        Hey Reaper! Glad I’m not forgotten! I stole a few minutes lunch hour as always to quickly jot this down. I’m trying to keep my tense shifting, promise! It’s not men’s head, it’s everyone’s head. I’m glad you like this but I feel it’s not twisty enough, if you know what I mean. It’s like turning the screwdriver but not enough turns to get the screw really into the wood, ya know. I’m rambling here lol.

    2. Observer Tim

      Welcome back, Pink. Seeing the pretty face and sunglasses in your icon always tells me I’m in for some good quality entertainment. 😉

      This is clever and atmospheric, Pink. You did a great job moving the story along with minimal narrative and you led me right up the garden path. I thought you were going for the Fatal Attraction thing and then it turns out to be a beautiful ghost story. 🙂

      The only tense shift I saw could have been a typo (‘I really liked this girl’, or ‘I found myself liking this girl’).

      1. pinkbamboo

        I just went for the first thing I had in mind – and I went the only way I know how. I tried to tone down the romance because I wanted to try being more general instead of a being gooey mushy. Fatal Attraction did cross my mind but I felt maybe the guy should have this sense of loss, the sense of having someone you want in your hands and she fades away – there’s nothing he can do about it. On the plus side, love your red pen comments. 😀

    3. lionetravail

      Claw, claw! What a treat- I guessed where you were going, only because it seemed too genuinely happy for you! (had you posted under a nom de plume, I would have been more surprised)

      Great to see one of your pieces again, Miss Bamboo. 🙂

      1. pinkbamboo

        Aww shucks, too happy for me? Is it because of my previous record of horrific endings? lol I’ll try to be sweeter for a change – this year *cough cough* and .. I’m clawing! I’m clawing!

  18. inspiredme

    Okay guys this is my first time posting…here goes!!

    We met at the grocery store over a shattered glass bottle of strawberry milk. This wasn’t the first time my clumsiness embarrassed me in public, so I was used to the sting of judgmental and curious eyes. But today of all days? It was just the icing on the cake.

    “No use crying over spilled milk,” I heard a soft tenor say to my right.

    His dry wit and bright smile made me forget I had sworn off dating. The night had been perfect. Lucas had opened with a dozen roses and I now found myself in the closing scene: a moonlit walk on the beach. I felt so at peace as I listened to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. I closed my eyes and created a memory. If only I could make this night last forever.

    “Lucas, I can I tell you something?” I asked shyly. I could feel my face grow pink with anticipation.

    “Anything,” Lucas answered. His eyes were soft and smiling.

    “I think I’ve seen you somewhere.” I said timidly. “Maybe even in my dreams.” He looked up. His eyes were suddenly intense. It startled me and I stopped in my tracks. “I’m sorry” I said. “I’m just a hopeless romantic. I need to shut my mouth.”
    We walked. I tried to ignore the awkward silence that had wedged itself between us. Lucas stopped suddenly, slowly peering over his shoulder. He quickly pulled me into the shadows, close to his body so I could feel its heat against mine. His scent was intoxicating, and it made my heart beat faster.
    “We’ve met before,” he said with a whisper. His bright blue eyes were clouded with shame. “I have deceived you.” I grew frightened. My heart was no longer racing out of lust. I tried to back away from him, but fell and twisted my ankle. A shrill shriek escaped my lips. Lucas shook his head and quickly bent down so he was eye level with me. “I’m not from your home town. I am Death…the Reaper. I was sent to the town where you grew up 14 years ago to claim your soul, but I instead fell in love with your appreciation for life. I have been protecting your soul ever since. If you wonder why your life has been nothing but turmoil, it is because you are not supposed to be here. Things will only get worse and I can’t help but blame myself. You are living on borrowed time. I must do everything to convince you: tonight must be the night I take your soul to the other side.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Wow, for a first post, you write with a power, most writer’s take years to achieve. Reaper, who isone ace of a writeron this website , is going to enjoy this out the window, like the rest of us. One tiny suggestion to make it a little easier for the reader, you might break the last paragraph into three parts.

      You might end the first section with, “I have deceived you.” Then let the nattater respond…. “Why?” Break the second from the third at the sentence, “I have been protecting your soul ever since.” Then bring in some kind of response from the narrator like. ……. “If you’re death, why are you protecting me?” I started to bolt but reaper grabbed me by my throat. Then continue with the last part. It breaks the conversation from Reaper into shorter dialogue. I really loved this, it’s only a suggestion for you tp consider. I’m looking forward to your next post.

    2. Reaper

      This is good, and not only because of having the word reaper in it, though that never hurts. . Kerry is right, this is amazing. I don’t know how much writing you’ve done outside of here but it is a powerful first post. There were a couple of spots that seemed softer. In the third paragraph, had sworn off dating makes sense but with the rest I’d say bring us into the active past tense. The night was perfect so far, Lucas opened with … had been is a little jarring, I notice it in editing my own writing. Also, you have some good metaphor and I’d suggest captured a memory rather than created one because it speaks of photography and is a bit more intense to foreshadow what is coming up. Last instead of appreciation for life something like zest is stronger. With this all powerful character you show his being out of place well by not having him speak in contractions, a colorful vocabulary would enhance that as well. Just my thoughts and none of them necessary but those are the only places that this wasn’t just in your face intense. It is wonderful no matter what and I look forward to more from you.

    3. Observer Tim

      Whoa, very nice Inspiredme. I did not see this coming. You did a great job setting things up and keeping everything consistent with the reveal without spoiling it early. 🙂

      My style advisor thinks Lucas the Reaper’s speech after the reveal could be polished up a bit: he was not sent to her town, he was sent to her, and again he has not just protected her soul but her (body and soul).

      Regardless of that, welcome to the site, and great story! 🙂

    4. Bilbo Baggins

      Agree with Kerry. This story has the right feel, descriptions… almost everything. Knew Reaper would like this too. 🙂 Just remember to space out the paragraphs and weed out adverbs. If the dialogue itself can’t get the speaker’s feelings across, it’s probably too stiff.

    5. lionetravail

      “Baby don’t fear the Reaper”…. Or Reaper, for that matter. (maybe some of his stories though…)

      Nice work here: part of what made it work for me was the economy of words. The only place where i think the transition is a little abrupt and the passage less visceral than the rest was the para after Lucas’ quip about the spilled milk. I would suggest less story – use the immediacy you used in the rest of the piece to make that transition more oomphy.

      Welcome, and nice first post!

    6. lyngralee

      Very enchanting… enjoyed the twist that she is living on borrowed time, which is causing turmoil in her day to day life. It’s like ‘Death Takes a Holiday’, but then continues on for years past his due-back date. Loved Death going on for so many years, only coming to the harsh realization that he was helping no one, really. Beautiful romance.

  19. jhowe

    The couple conversed quietly in front of the frozen pizza display at Piggly Wiggly. Lamont shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he struggled for words that wouldn’t sound completely asinine.

    “Do you come here often?” Stupid stupid stupid.

    “I find the DiGiorno brand to be the most satisfying.” A little better, but remember your intentions.

    “They have an excellent deli here. Would you like to try it?” That’s the ticket.

    The couple abandoned their carts and made their way to the in-store deli. Lamont found a suitable table. “I’ll order for both of us if you don’t mind.”

    The pastrami on rye was excellent. “You eat like a bird,” he said. “I must admit though that your figure is most appealing.” Now he was getting somewhere. They loved it when you complimented their bodies.

    “Why no, I didn’t know we went to school together.” Her voice was exactly like he remembered.

    “No, I don’t remember asking you to the prom.” That had been the most humiliating day of his life.

    “But thank you for the apology.” She hadn’t changed a bit. “Yes it would have been great.”

    “I too am glad we ran into each other.” Now was the time.

    “Perhaps a glass or two of wine?” No sense delaying the inevitable.

    “Why at my place of course.” Sometimes women could be so naïve.

    The couple drank pinot noir from plastic cups in Lamont’s bedroom. “Would you care to watch a movie?” Sometimes a movie was the perfect ice breaker.

    “Why no, I’ve never tried that. Would you like to?” Once again his instincts were spot on.

    “Yes, I am quite accomplished at this.” The two of them were in perfect sync.

    The finish was quick and satisfying. “Here, let me help you clean up.”

    There were several awkward moments as they dressed. “Must you leave so soon?”

    Lamont went to the kitchen, set the oven to 425 and pulled a DiGiorno pizza from the freezer. Women could be so predictable. Tomorrow he would try branching out a bit. Perhaps the new Walmart on Centre Avenue.

    1. Reaper

      This is disturbing, doubly so because it is like one end of a phone conversation. I’m still not sure if the girl was alive, or a frozen turkey or what. No matter what though your MC needs some therapy I think. So wonderfully written.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great jhowe, to get a response from Reaper …..” i’m not sure the girl was alive, or a frozen turkey or what.”, takes powerful writing. Loved it!

    2. Observer Tim

      Very nice, jhowe. I’m not sure whether this guy is king of the take-out make-out set or totally deluded. I could really see DiGiorno using this as an advertising gimmick in Playboy or other magazines (maybe not Playboy itself, they pretend to be too classy). 🙂

    3. jhowe

      Thanks for the responses. I envision the girl as being imaginary. I didn’t want to come right out and say it so I eluded to it. The guy is definitely messed up though, which makes the imaginary seem real in his eyes. I’m glad you liked it.

      1. Lenne

        Nice. You really got me, I wasn’t sure if she was real or imaginary. I thought if she was real, he was getting revenge on her for turning him down on the prom. Enjoyed the read.

    4. lionetravail

      what a fantastic experiment- i read through responses, including Jhowe’s explanation… once i got used to missing her half of the conversation, i. found it intriguing: i think it’s immaterial if she was real or not. with only his words, his thoughts, it’s easy to see that this story is all. all about him- disturbed and shallow, even if there was a she involved.

      at least its not Deliverance: it’s Digiorno.

      heh.

  20. Observer Tim

    This piece is an experiment; I wanted to see how a story would look if each paragraph was written from a different point of view. It’s only vaguely on prompt.

    DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES

    I touch the surface of the crystal ball, as if that could somehow reveal more about the one I stare at. Septimus Septim, the greatest mage the world has known. What does he watch so intently for hours upon hours? I had started observing him out simple curiosity, a desire to see what great secrets he was trying to plumb from the depths of eternity. Now I was content simply to watch, to trace the line of his aquiline nose and to watch his beard slowly fill in and lengthen as the months go by. I anticipate this time of day more and more; perhaps I should go to him and beg to study at his feet? No, his actual presence would be too distracting. His mind is so enticing but my childish physical urges would get in the way.

    An impartial observer would no doubt cast aspersions upon my sanity. They might even call it a disturbing fixation and assign me some sinister motive. Would they be correct? I am unsure. Why do I spend my day staring into my crystal ball watching this vision of loveliness and serenity meditate on whatever marvellous vista lies within her own crystalline orb? Who is she? Why does she rest a finger upon the surface of her orb? Why have I not seen her at the Conclave of Magi, even though she is so obviously a student of the Art?

    The mistress is still there, in both senses of the term. Until I met Gavin, I had no idea what she was staring at. Now it is time for the sorcereress’s apprentice to try an experiment of her own. I bring her her tea, which as usual she ignores, so entranced is she by what she’s seeing in that crystal of hers. I massage her shoulders; she doesn’t react. I caress her arms and she totally ignores me. My left hand reaches down and begins holding and caressing her breast. She sighs deeply, then comes out of her trance with a start. “Melys,” she asks, “what are you doing?” I mumble something about getting carried away.

    I watch the master’s jaw slowly open and his focus intensify. He looks like he’s about to start drooling, then shakes his head and turns to me. “Well Gavin, I can now say that perseverance pays off. The woman I have been observing has an apprentice named Melys, who apparently feels some sort of unrequited physical attraction to her. That is enough of a clue for someone less intelligent than I, that is, you, to begin researching in the mundane circles you so adequately understand. Hop to it, boy!”

    At noon two figures step onto the beach far below. After a moment they spot each other and run together, followed by that odd human custom of attempting to eat each others’ lips. They confirm that their masters have indeed been scrying each other and start planning to bring them together. I flap my leathery wings and let out a satisfied snort of flame while my tail, which can smash castles at a sweep, twitches in anticipation of the game to come. The two greatest magicians on the planet will eventually mate and raise a spawn who will make their abilities pale in comparison. Just a few more decades and I will have my ultimate challenge. Very soon now.

    1. JM Somebody

      I think your experiment was a success. You told a very interesting story through the eyes of five different, er… beings. Each installment built on the one before it and moved the story along. I have seen this done in novels in which chapters alternate between different POVs. The only suggestion I would make would be some sort of separation between the paragraphs — maybe a line or stars or some scrolly thing. If you hadn’t told me what you were doing, I might have gotten confused.

    2. jhowe

      This was beautifully written. Quite a cast of characters intermingling and observing. Since I knew your intentions, I was able to follow from paragraph to paragraph. To be more successful with the experiment, I think the piece would have to be longer to include more transitions to make the story flow more clearly from viewpoint to viewpoint. But for five hundred words, this was well done. I like it when a story doesn’t follow the prompt exactly. In my opinion, the prompt is just a tool to get us started. What we do with it is the fun part.

    3. Manwe38

      Very nicely done….I had no trouble following the narrative, and it was fascinating to see the story unfold through the eyes of more than one POV character.

      Sequel?

    4. Reaper

      Very well done Tim. If these were full chapters without identifiers you could easily get me confused as to who was talking for sure between a couple of them. Which I actually like.

    5. lionetravail

      Very clever OT. If you were submitting this somewhere, I’d suggest a paragraph break (# in shunn manuscript form), or some other device such as font change to make it more apparent as to the perpective shifts. The strongest was when dialogue indicated who was speaking or thinking, and of course the shift to the generations-patient dragon at the end, unapparent as the ultimate manipulator until the end.

      thought this was inventive and clever and good 🙂

  21. JR MacBeth

    “It’s not that hard Jeff. Internet dude! Fuck the bars. You ever find anything worth more than a one-night stand at a bar?”

    My wingman was back. After five years of steering clear of my bitchy wife (excuse me, EX-wife!), my best bud since high school had come home. Actually, he was now living on my couch.

    “Chuck, I know all that shit. But come on now! How’s that worked out for you?”

    “Well smart-ass, not that you would know, but a few years back I was dating a model! Yeah. That’s right. Finest ass you’ve NEVER had!”

    “Ok. So, where is she now?”

    “Didn’t work out. Turns out she was still married, and the bastard came back, on his knees mind you. Of course, she fell for it. You know, father of her kids. That kind of shit.”

    “Hmmm. A model. Nice ass…”

    “You ought to try some–oh. Sorry man, I didn’t mean it that way. Marcia was–she was all right.”

    “No, she was a fat pig! And about that Christmas. That was wrong of her to do that to you. I–I’m really sorry. I should have said something.”

    “Yeah. Well, whatever! You finally figured her out, that’s what’s important. But, it sure took you long enough.”

    “So Chuck, confession: I actually already have a date tonight. Got it the old-fashioned way. Remember my old friend Linda, from Nature’s Fine Foods? She set us up.”

    “Let me guess. Divorcee. Not fat, but passable. Not pretty, but good enough?”

    “I’ve never met her. Linda said to trust her. It’s a ‘surprise’, she says.”

    As in, the biggest surprise of my life! In the second grade, I fell in love for the first time. Her name was Bettina. Freckled face. Blue eyes to die for. I never told her how I felt because all I could do was blush every time she caught me looking at her. The next year, her family had moved away. I mourned her loss for years.

    ————————–

    Dinner had been a symphony of synchronicities, and now we were walking barefoot on a beach, thousands of miles from where I grew up. Could it be? It had to be my imagination.

    “Your name. I know you! I think. I mean, not really, but I once knew someone with your name.”

    My heart skipped a beat and I could feel my face flushing.

    “Really? I have a fairly common name.”

    “Yeah. Well, here it goes: St. John’s Catholic School, St. Pete?”

    ”Jesus! Then it’s really you. Bettina Rockmore?”

    “And you’re THAT Jeff Nelson! Wow. You sure look different with a beard.”

    Her gorgeous smile hadn’t changed a bit. I knew it was too soon, but suddenly I couldn’t stop myself. I turned, pulling her to me, and looking into those beautiful eyes, I finally said what I had to.

    “How does Bettina Nelson sound to you?”

    She gasped. Her eyes fluttered.

    “Jeff! You’re crazy!”

    “Probably. But how does it sound?”

    She looked up at me and smiled. “Say it again.”

    1. JM Somebody

      I was a little confused at first as to who was talking, but once I learned that Jeff had the date, I backtracked and then it all made sense. The dialogue was well written and the pace was lively. I agree with Bettina though that Jeff might be crazy. :). Nicely done, JR.

    2. lionetravail

      Nice work, JR. The different paces, and even faces of the MC from first to second part rang true to life: we are rarely the samein all social situations.

      However, that verisimilitude was a bit jarring here for me. I liked the mc of the second part far more than the first. The addition of his coarse best bud could be used to show that almost-heartbreaking situation that occurs too often: when you grow up faster than your friend. Your MC is clearly a hopeless romantic and traditional relationship kinda guy, only the first part doesn’t Give us any clue of that- he seems to resonate to the same beat as his bud on the couch. I’d consider how you want him to come off, and have the revelation about his 2nd grade crush come out in the early conversation instead of spoiling that surprise.

      Overall, i really loved the romantic the MC is; i’d love you to make that shine through in the first part.

      Hope that that’s clear (and helpful)

  22. Dennis

    Deadly Secret (510)

    Jeremy walked along the shore hand in hand with Laura. He enjoyed the feeling of the wet sand between his toes while taking in her beautiful features. Her dark flowing hair blew ever so slightly in the breeze. His heart fluttered watching her brush it out of her face. How had he managed to get this lucky, he wondered.

    “I still can’t believe you like moose meat,” said Jeremy. “You know, with being in California and all. It was a delicacy back in my home town in Minnesota.”

    “It’s been some time since I’ve had it myself,” she said.

    Jeremy could feel Laura’s hand tense in his. Hoping not to spoil the mood, he tried changing the subject.

    “I know you said not too many questions, but are you sure we have never met? You look awfully familiar.”

    Laura shook her head as she looked out into the distance. “No, I’m sure I would have remembered you.”

    “Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. Hey, speaking of my hometown, it is certainly a far cry from Los Angeles. In fact, the only reason anyone has ever heard of it is the gruesome death of one family.”

    Laura turned to face Jeremy, a slight look of worry on her face.

    “I’m sorry, there I go again. Let’s talk about something more pleasant.”

    “No,” said Laura, I’d like to hear more if you don’t mind.”

    “Uh, okay. Well, the whole family, the mother and father and two sons, were shot and their house burned to the ground. The only mysterious part was they never found the body of the daughter, who couldn’t have been more than twelve. For some reason the story has always haunted me.”

    Jeremy stared into Laura’s eyes, wondering why she wanted to hear all this.

    “What happened, did they ever her find her?”

    “No, she just vanished. Some think she was kidnapped and probably killed later. Others speculated she ran away in terror. A few in town, though, believed she was behind it all. Although, no one could figure out how a twelve year old could have done something so heinous.”

    “Unless something so heinous had been done to you first.”

    The words lingered in the silence that followed. Jeremy couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He noticed that tears began to trickle down Laura’s cheeks. Finally she looked directly at him.

    “It was you?” She nodded and began to speak. “No, you don’t have to say any more about it.”

    “But now that you know, what will you do?”

    Jeremy drew in a long slow breath, pondering the question. His feelings for her hadn’t changed.

    “It seems more than a coincidence that we’ve met, all these years later and so far from our hometown. Maybe we can now put this chapter of our lives behind us.”

    “I already feel as if a large weight has been lifted, just by talking to you.”

    Jeremy reached down and joined hands with Laura. “Let’s continue our walk and see where the night takes us.”

    “I was hoping you would say that.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is sweet, Dennis, which is strange to say about a story that back-references a grisly murder. As soon as you mentioned it I got the sense of where the story was going, but that doesn’t change the tone, character and quality of the tale. Great job! 🙂

    2. Reaper

      You have done some masterful weaving of words and story here. I am left thinking Jeremy is far too trusting or a very good judge of character. Laura is a sympathetic character but not entirely. I am a big fan of leaving some things unsaid, in this case it keeps me from being able to join Jeremy in his trust though. I am left wondering what could have been so heinous as to warrant four deaths? Dad, okay, I can imagine some things, mom too. With the two brothers as well, without knowing their ages especially, I need a hint to the story to really get behind Laura one hundred percent. That doubt may have been what you are going for though and if so this was perfect.

      1. lionetravail

        i totally have to plus 1 Reaper- this was sweet, and a love-triumphant for broken people type of story, but but, wow, i’d probably have been like “well, okay, cya bye”.

        nice, sweet piece, but if you expand this, i’d expet some serious denouement comin’ down the pike. 🙂

    3. JM Somebody

      Reaper summed up my thoughts on this exactly, so I will just say “me too.” Five hundred (and ten) words is just not enough to explain here, but I enjoyed your intro to what is obviously a much larger story.

  23. Kerry Charlton

    I liked this a lot David. Wriing in complete dialogue with no tags and revealing an entire, tight story is so hard. I’ve tried it, sometimes with some good results, but rarely. As soon as you memtioned the boardwalk, I felt a rush of wind and I was entering a penny arcade again with the flipcard movies, pin ball monters and cotton candy.

  24. Kerry Charlton

    THE GIRL IN A MOSS-GREEN DRESS

    Time and place: Early summer, 1943, Avalon, a small barrier island off the coast of New Jersey.

    Richard Penningham had noticed the exotic beauty once before in Tiny’s Grocery, a store serving the 2000 summer population of the island. He listened to her adament conversation with the manager as he used two canes to drag his crippled legs, clad in forty pounds of iron, across the store.

    She paused in mid-conversation and smiled his way as he drew near.

    ‘Thank God’, he thought, ‘not a look of pity but a genuine smile and what a beautiful redhead dressed in a moss-green dress.’

    “May I help you miss?”

    “Oh thank you, these coupons and stamps confuse me.”

    “Sam,” Richard said, “take whatver you need from my books.”

    “Thank you but I couldn’t accept your kind offer, Mr…………”

    “Richard Penningham, I have more than I need, besides we trade coupons on the island. Are you enjoying your stay Miss………?”

    “Friends call me Eure, it s a delightful island. Have you been here very long?”

    “Every summer, will you excuse me for a moment?”

    Richard shuffled to the entrance and looked up the street. A Phantom Rolls approaced the store, stopped and a uniformed driver entered the grocery.

    “Bill, please load the young lady’s groceries.”

    “I only live two blocks away and I hate to bother you.”

    “I was hopefull you might want to tour the island and have a bit of lunch.”

    He saw her lovely smile again, “What a wonderful idea,” she said.

    A short trip to the yacht basin and the antique lighthouse located at the southern ip of Avalon, then Rolls headed to the north end.

    “Ther is a special Victorian house located on the channel cut, I’d like you to see.”

    “I’ve noticed it before, while riding my bicycle. I’ve wondered about it for a long time.”

    Richard’s face showed puzzlement, “Well, you’re about to get a good look.”

    The car wound through a twisting driveway and stopped at the front porch.

    “Do you know the owner?” Eure asked.

    “I’m quite familiar with him.”

    Richard managed to get out of the car by himself but faced six steep steps at the bottom of the porch. Bll hurried around to help but Eure, stopped him with a shake of her hair.

    “he took Richard’s hand, “I have certain powers, trust me.”

    She placed her hand in his and they walked up hesitating for each step. Bill stood by with a look of amazement.

    “It’s your house isn’t it?’

    I was born here, 54 years ago.”

    She touched his arm again and they climbed three flights of stairs to the widow’s walk. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he leaned over and kissed her hair. She touched his face and the tears ceased.

    “What a marvelous view” she said.

    “I’ve never been up here before,”

    “I know, I’m going to free your legs from the braces Richard.”

    As he sat down, tears flowed again as she removed the iron.

    “Will you walk to the beach with me?” Eure said.

    “Of course, who are you?”

    “I will tell you when we enter the waves.”

    As they approached the wet sand, she lifted him in her arms and walked toward the crahing surf. Just before their heads went under the sea, she spoke,

    “I am called Eurypin, Goddess Of The Majesty Of The Seas. Hold tight to me.”

    Richard felt a burst of speed as they moved though the deep ocean, yet he needed no breath to substain himself. In a few moments, they approached the shore line and broke clear of the waves. He looked in awe at her long boy, her forked tail and her brests as the shimmered in a twilight.

    “Throw the irons and your canes to the sea, you shall not need them again.”

    He held her torso tight to him and kissed her wet lips “How can I ever thank you for freeing my pain?”

    “”Spread your kindness across an earth wrought by war.”

    “Will I ever see you again?”

    “Of course, you still owe me lunch”

    Richard felt the turbulence of the water as Eure jumped high over the waves as a dolphin would and swam way.

    1. Manwe38

      This was sad, and sweet, and hopeful, and just a wonderful story.

      Loved how you lightened the tone at the end with the last line.

      Will we be seeing their lunch date at some point?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you, Manwe, I’ve kind of fallen for both characters in my story. I imagine in the future I will bring them back. Sorry for the dropped letters on the second part of my story, I’m having great difficulty posting for the last three weeks. I love the story line myself. This is of my tales that went into automatic writing after the first sentence, including making the MC crippled.

    2. Reaper

      Spread your kindness across and earth wrought by war. Perfect, lovely, and oh so eloquent and leading to that gem of a line that you kept from being too overt by not making it the last line.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper. I’ve already put this story through a rewrite and cleaned it up some. I’m thinking of expanding it and submitting it somewhere.

    3. Observer Tim

      I’d fall for her; I’m already halfway in love with the sea anyway. 🙂

      This is a wonderful bit of Kerry folklore; I love the way you gently nudged us in the mystical direction until it fell together perfectly at the end. Wow. 🙂 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tim for your wonderful comments, I’m smitten by her also. I’ve written several mermaid stories and angels rescueing drowning teenagers.

    4. JM Somebody

      I agree this is classic Kerry, a delightful modern fairy tale, and a delicious bit of escapist fantasy. Now I want to go to Avalon and jump in the sea. Ah well, sailing season is almost upon us, if it would ever STOP SNOWING!

      Just a tip to thwart those pesky WordPress gremlins. Are you typing your story directly into the comments box? That would be maddening. If so, try writing in Word and then copying and pasting into the comment box, if you are not already doing that.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you JM, I’m happy you enjoyed it. I feel it could be better by expanding it, giving a better background on Richard and how he’s handled his disability through the years and why Eure was drawn to him.

        Thank you for the tip. I have been typing the box making my hair or what I have left, whiter than it is. I’ll try it next week, maybe I can cut down on the Bupropian.

    5. Dennis

      Yes, another great tale, and just a bit of fantasy with a deeper social statement. And whether you add more to the story or not, it felt complete.

    6. Bilbo Baggins

      I like how your stories mix the 1900s with mythology and the Irish stuff to create this oddly wonderful style. Think I’m gonna call it “classic Kerry”. Definitely should expand this one and republish it. Readers will eat this one up. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Bilbo for stopping by, your words are most encouraging. I would love to expand this. There are so many stories and personal experiences from my summer childhood at Avalon. Even though we moved to Miami whn I was eleven, my memories are acute. I could draw our cottage to scale if I needed to.

    7. lionetravail

      Beautiful, Kerry. Hardly even noticed the dropped letters for the lyrical, unrushed feel. Your MCs always seem to prove the classic, thoughtful- hell, gallant- male heroes for whom respect and calm are their metier.

      As you consider your edits and possible expansion of this yesteryear fairytale, consider some more mystery surrounding Eure… Shopping, bicycling around, that kind of thing seems far less magical than she is, and if her descriptions of her activities are more vague (“i’VE NOTICED your house before from the beach” as opposed to while cycling) her majesty will be all the greater.

      Lovely work.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Wonderful ideas David, there was something troublng me while was writing but I couldn’t figure what is was, the mysterious Eure wasn’t strong enough. If you’ve noticed, I’m squeezing in around 650 words per prompt. I can do 500 but I feel like I’m butchering my tales. This is definitely headed for expansion, maybe 2000 to 2500. Most of my stories I.have been writing are in that area. Thanks again for the guidence.

  25. ReathaThomasOakley

    (I should not have even looked at the prompt, because I couldn’t resist. I’ll try to find time to comment on the very good stories here. Perhaps next week’s prompt won’t be as seductive.)

    The Girl’s north Florida cousin intrroduced in Your Mom’s Unexpected Story prompt

    I couldn’t believe I was waiting to meet a stranger for dinner, no, not dinner, for a bite to eat.

    It started innocently, me heading for the checkout line, him with an empty cart bumping into mine. “I should steal your cart,” he’d said. “You have everything on my list and I hate to shop.” So very innocent. As we moved out of the other shoppers’ way he’d said, “But, I gotta shop if I want to eat. I just moved here, cupboard is bare, and I don’t know where locals eat.”

    So I’d said, without thinking, “I’m heading from here to Marty’s, on the beach, for a bite to eat.”

    “Place on the pier? I’ve seen it. Hey, why don’t I grab a few things that won’t melt in the car and meet you there?”

    So, there I sat, nursing my drink, lamenting my hasty words when…

    “Hey, there,” and he was at the table.

    “You found it,” my conversational skills had languished over the past year while I was caring for my mother.

    “I did say I knew where it was,” he pulled out a chair and sat. “What on earth are you drinking?”

    “Orange Crush,” I said. “Haven’t had one in years, but for some reason…” Why was I explaining?

    “Looks good,” he took a menu from the rack as I lifted my glass to the waiter and held up two fingers. “What do you recommend?” he asked.

    “They do great shrimp, but I can’t eat them, shellfish allergy.”

    “Yeah, me, too.”

    “What a coincidence.” My communication skills weren’t improving. “Flounder is good.”

    “I was looking at that.” He put the menu down. “So, what do you do when you’re not grocery shopping or sitting on a pier as the sun is setting?” He obviously had more experience with repartee than I, soon I was telling him about my mother’s recent death and how I was deciding what to do about the house and my life.

    “No other family?”

    “A brother stationed in Germany, cousins, from my father’s side, but, just before she died, my mother told me about a family I never knew I had, a grandmother, an aunt, her daughter, living in a funny little backwoods place south of here.”

    “Oh, where? I know lots of funny little places.”

    “Bet you’ve never heard of Bithlo.”

    “East of Orlando?” He reached over and put his hand, warm and large, over mine. “Of course, I know Bithlo. I know lots of things.”

    Just then the waiter put two glasses of bright orange soda in front of me, and said, “This what you wanted?” As he walked away shaking his head, I looked past his shoulder and saw how the setting sun was reflecting off the plate glass window in such a way that it became a mirror. I could see myself, alone at a table with three glasses of Orange Crush in front of me and knew I was ready to accept what my mother had rejected.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Powerful and poigant writing, Reaha. Our minds sometimes recoil from intense tragedy and send our thoughts on another pathway of imagination in order to bring mental help to an over wrought person. You have described this in a beautiful and soft manner. Glad you returned for another shot. The website pulls me through every week regardess of what trauma I mght be facing.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, Kerry. My weekly goal has been to use the prompt, and 500 words, to expand the saga of an extended family that sees ghosts, “haints” to The Girl. I’m very interested to see what they all do. I think they might meet in the future. My current “problem” is that I’m overcommitted. I’m directing a play with a cast of 19 that opens in less than three weeks, coordinate a small writing group, am in a fantastic book group, have husband and home I adore, and feel it’s not entirely fair to post without commenting on the other stories. Thank you again. I’ll see what this week brings.

        1. Observer Tim

          I know the feeling of being pulled in many directions, Reatha, though mine are quite different from yours. If I have to chose between your entertaining stories and your insightful comments, I’d choose the stories. Many people read through and comment rarely, if at all. That’s okay. 🙂

          1. rle

            Sorry to say I’m one of those ‘many people’ Tim mentioned above. It makes me feel guilty but there are only 24 hours in a day. I guess I’d rather spend the time making sure I read as many as I can.

    2. JM Somebody

      Wow, Reatha! That was fantastic. You really surprised me with that ending, despite all the fantastical backstory you’ve been building up for weeks now. This was a pleasant little jolt to my brain.

    3. Dennis

      Nice continuation and amazing how you can continue on with the story with the ever changing prompts. Although my life isn’t quite as busy I am working on a novel and have to divide my time between here and my novel. Plus, after working eight hours a day in front of the computer, sometimes it is hard to go home and spend some more time in front of one.

  26. Manwe38

    Continued from my last story….

    ***

    “I have something to tell you.”
    Her eyes sparkled, glittering pools that danced in the sun’s light. “Oh?”
    “It’s a secret.”
    “I like secrets.”
    “You might not like this one.”

    The smile faded. I had her attention. “Is there someone else?”
    “Of course not!”
    Her grip on my hand relaxed. “What, then?”
    “I’m older than you think.”

    She laughed, a delightful sound that echoed the waves. “Is that all? I thought it was something serious.”
    “No, Tami,” I struggled to find the words. “Remember when I said I would love you forever?” She nodded. “Well I meant it. I’m old. WAY old.”
    “Evan, you’re scaring me.”
    I took a deep breath. “I was born over 2,000 years ago in Western Europe, and I cannot die. Not unless you sever my head.”
    “Is this a joke?” She dropped my hand and took a step back. “It isn’t funny.”

    “Let me show you.” Like a leaping cat, I pulled the knife from my back pocket and plunged it into my arm, drawing a cut down from elbow to wrist. The waves, a noisy companion, hid the sound of her sudden screams. Fortunately, the beach was deserted, which was how I’d planned it. She turned to run, but I grabbed her arm.

    “Let go of me!” Her voice was the squeal of a ten-year old child. “Get back!”
    “Tami, wait! Just wait!” I held up my arm. “Look!”

    As we watched, the cut slowly knit itself closed, until the skin was as fresh and smooth as pink silk. Mouth open, eyes wide, she reached out her hand and gently ran her fingers over the spot where I’d sliced myself. “How?” she whispered.

    “I don’t know,” I said. “I was born this way.”
    “Are there others?”
    “Yes. About one in ten million births.”

    “Wow.” The glow had returned to her eyes, along with her cheeks. “So what now?”
    “I -”

    “Shouldn’t have told her,” came a new voice. We both spun around, and my heart dropped into my shoes like a skydiving plunging from a plane. It was her, the one I thought I’d left behind. She stood, legs apart, eyes ablaze, the sword dangling loosely from her left hand like a spear of steel bamboo. She was ready for battle, but there was only one problem…

    …I’d left my sword in the car.

    Tami’s nails dug into my arm. “Who is that?”
    I swallowed, my mouth as dry as the thirty beach. “A rival.”
    “For what?”
    “My head.”
    “Huh?”

    I sighed. There was so much to explain, but so little time. And if I lost the impending fight, then she’d never know. Unfortunately, I had no choice. I had been challenged, and those were the rules. Immortal, like us, and written in stone.

    “Go back to the car,” I said. “And get the sword out of the trunk.”
    “You guys are gonna fight?”
    “To the death.”
    Her mouth opened again, but she made no sound. Standing on tiptoe, she turned and bolted back towards the distant lot. Behind me, my would-be opponent erupted in laughter. “You didn’t tell her, eh?” A fresh round of giggles. “Oh, that’s rich.”

    I faced my enemy, a former lover from three lives before. “I just did. She knows everything.”
    “Great. Now she can watch.”
    “It’s against the rules.”
    “I don’t care. And neither do you.”

    That rang true. After killing my last girlfriend, Amanda needed to be stopped. And I would be more than happy to oblige. As soon as Tami returned with my sword, it would be on–and I would win. I was far older and experienced, and while not a soulless witch disguised as a human being, I could feel rage as surely as any other man, and use it to bring the young woman to death.

    And if by some offhand chance I did lose, then I would end up inside her, a part of her spirit, and I could torment her within until someone else took her head. Either way, I would win.

    A grin spread across my face. That’s right, bitch. Bring it on. Like the announcer on that stupid TV show said, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

    Oh yeah.

    1. Manwe38

      Coupla typos here:

      “thirty beach” should read “thirsty beach”

      and “skydiving from a plane” should be “skydiver”.

      WordPress has been giving me fits, especially on my iPad.

      Grrr.

    2. Reaper

      Okay, I guess one of the ones I mentioned was on the money. You did justice to the source with two things I must mention. First, thinking of the other immortal as young woman seems wrong, even with as old as he is it doesn’t sound like the voice you’ve created. Second, to be true to the source when an immortal says I cannot die you must immediately cut to a scene with him falling into bed with the woman he has used this ultimate pickup line on. All fights, vendettas, and story progression must pause and wait for that obligatory sex scene or the universe loses all sense of itself. However, I inserted that mandatory scene in my mind and had them return to the beach for this confrontation and am happy to pronounce this amazing.

      1. Observer Tim

        Like Reaper said. This is a wonderful story set in and around the mythos of the universe. Thank you for omitting the second movie.

        By way of compliment, I can best say it in the words of John Deacon:

        One sentimental moment in your arms
        Is like a shooting star right through my heart,

        Thanks for the memory, Manwe. Highlander was the first movie I and my girlfriend went to back when, and it’s a lovely reminder of the good times… 🙂 😉

    3. Manwe38

      Aww, thanks guys!

      You know, years later, it still strikes me as hysterical tht revealing one’s immortality somehow always managed to get McLeod laid. The promise of experience, perhaps?

      Glad I brought back good memories for you both….and what second film 😉 ?

      Only the first one is real….

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Loved the second part as well as the first. I do think Reaper made a great point on the age of his rival. I just thought of something brilliant. After I put another ten years on the old bones, I can go around telling girls I’m immortal. If they fall for that line, then what am I supposed to do at that age? ………….Run?

    4. JM Somebody

      Sorry to say I haven’t read the Outlander series yet, but that did not stop me from enjoying this. (So many books, so little time!). I was reminded of the novel “Forever” which is about an immortal in New York City. Great, expressive writing as always. I particularly liked your description of your MC’s arm healing rapidly.

        1. Manwe38

          Thank you my friend!

          It’s actually based on a movie called “Highlander”, about an immortal warrior who makes it to modern times. It’s an ’80s film, but well worth it

          And thanks for the book tip, I’ll have to check it out.

  27. Manwe38

    Tami was special.

    Oh, I’d had lots of women–more than most knew–but this one stood out. It wasn’t just the strawberry-blonde hair, or blue-topaz eyes, or the way they crinkled whenever she smiled…it was more. Much more.

    Which is why today was going to be so hard. I’d had this talk many times throughout the years, and had encountered just about every reaction one could expect. Running, screaming, laughing, being spat on–you name it, I’d seen it.

    But then I met Tami.

    I’d never believed in love at first sight, and when you’ve been around as long as I have, that’s saying something. But she was different. It’s gonna sound cliche, how we met, but so it goes. I’d been driving to work, back in February, when I spotted her. That winter had been one of Boston’s worst, and the potholes had just claimed another victim. I don’t know how my Honda survived the cracked and bleeding bombscape that had become the city’s streets, but there she’d been, alone in her coat, the car broken down, no-one stopping to help. So I did.

    It went quickly from there, and now here we were. That frozen street was a million miles away, replaced now by gentle sun and roaring waves. Boston–and winter–were a distant memory, and now, six months in, it was finally time.

    We strode along the beach, the sand tickling our toes, and I turned to her. How would she react? Not just to the meaning of my words, but to what I’d have to do to prove them? The knife, a Spanish antique, was tucked safetly into the back of my jeans…for now. A relic from the Inquisition, it was a fitting instrument through which the truth would be revealed. I just prayed it would set me free.

    If not, well, I’d gone it alone before, and like my mentor always said, it was easier not to form attachments anyway. When you were immortal, love only brings loss and pain. He was a hermit, the old git, but full of wisdom–and bile. I was determined not to end up like that, but had no desire to base love on a lie. Honesty hadn’t always served me well, but it was a patient master, along with time. And I had plenty of that.

    Okay, enough stalling. I stopped, and laid my hands on her shoulders. Here goes.

    Time for the truth.

    1. Reaper

      This is very interesting and well told. It has hints of both Forever Knight and The Highlander which both approach this idea really well and are two of my favorite things of all time. Well done, you’re going strong this week.

      1. Manwe38

        Thank you thank you!

        Highlander has always been one of my favorite concepts; the idea of immortality being a curse, not a blessing, unless it is shared is very powerful to me.

  28. rle

    It all seemed so strange, but then again, everything these days did. Nothing can prepare a man in the prime of his life to become a widower. Nothing can soften the sting of a state trooper showing up at your door to inform you that your wife has been involved in a fatal car accident. Nothing can undo death, but can anything undo lonely?

    After a year, I’d finally began trying to put my life back together, to find something stable and resume some sense of normalcy. I returned to my job as a financial adviser, started exercising, and had even resumed attending church regularly in an effort to repair my strained relationship with God.

    I met Jackie on a Friday evening at the corner market. I’d spent the better part of a half hour wandering up and down the aisles trying to make healthy choices and avoid the ice cream freezer altogether. The longer I tried to ignore it though, the stronger the desire became and I finally found myself standing in front of the frosted door lustfully eyeing a half gallon of Rocky Road.

    1. rle

      (well that was an unfortunate turn of events, let me continue here)

      “It’s easier if you just reach in and grab one without looking,” she said as she blindly reached past me, opened the door, and pulled out a pint of Butter Pecan.

      At first I was annoyed at the intrusion, but after one look into her sapphire blue eyes, my irritation melted away. It was the first time since I’d met my Diane thirty years ago that I’d had that fluttery feeling in the pit of my stomach.

      “My name is Jackie,” she said, extending her free hand.

      “Steven,” I offered up awkwardly trying not to appear as awestruck as I felt.

      What followed was a twenty minute conversation that would have to rank as the most bizarre I’d ever engaged in. Before we left the market that night, we’d agreed to have dinner at Antonio’s the following evening. It felt spontaneous, rushed, and surreal, but at the same time, perfectly natural.

      Dinner was magnificent. Not only was Antonio’s spaghetti exquisite, Jackie’s company also proved to be equally appealing. Although she was ten years my junior, I soon learned we shared many interests. She seemed so genuine, something I thought would be impossible to find again after Diane. It felt so good, I thought I’d just roll with it for a while and see what happened next.

      After a satisfying meal and a stimulating conversation, Jackie suggested that we go for a stroll on the beach. It was a nice night, perfect for a moonlit walk on the sand, so I quickly agreed.

      As the waves crashed on the shoreline we walked and talked, letting the warm white crystals stick to the soles of our bare feet. The gentle sea breeze kept tossing her wavy blonde hair over her eyes. Periodically she’d tuck the errant strands of gold behind her ear. I tried not to stare at her, but it was hard to deny what my eyes wanted, what my heart yearned for.

      “You know, I don’t know what it is about you I feel so comfortable with,” she finally said. “It feels like I’ve known you my whole life.”

      Funny thing was, I felt the same way. “I know what you mean,” I smiled, struggling to find the right words. I resisted the urge to reach down and take her hand and kept walking with both of mine tucked securely in my pockets.

      After a moment of silence, she stopped and faced me. “There’s something you should probably know before we take this any further,” she said as she looked deep into my eyes.

      I felt that little flutter again in my stomach, partly from nerves and partly from intrigue

      “I spent some time in jail about eight years ago for drug trafficking and prostitution.” She looked away as if she thought I might blast her with harsh words. Instead, I put both hands on her shoulders. “It’s not a problem now though, right?”

      “I’m clean as a whistle, have been ever since.”

      As we continued walking, I silently processed what she’d just told me. Why was I still so incredibly attracted to a woman who was seemingly so different from Diane? As we walked on with only the sound of the waves to break the silence, I finally reached down and locked fingers with hers. Her hand was warm, inviting, and encouraging, all of the things I wanted but was afraid I’d never find again.

      It all seemed so strange, but then again, everything these days did.
      ,

      1. JM Somebody

        Hey rle! This is my fourth attempt to respond so I really hope that you don’t end up swamped with responses from me! This website is making me nuts tonight.

        This was an engaging and emotional read. You really let us see inside your MC’s loneliness and vulnerability, and you set the stage for what I think is the beginning of a mystery. I feel like there is a lot more going on here than you’re letting on. Your MC seems like such a straight arrow that I feel like Jackie’s confession should have provoked a little more internal conflict in him. But even he seemed surprised by his own reaction, his instant willingness to accept her sordid past. He seems drawn to her on a level he does not yet understand, for reasons that go beyond loneliness. I’ve got all kinds of theories forming — is Jackie somehow connected to Diane? Or has Steven encountered her before but hasn’t made the connection yet? I guess what I’m saying is — I think you need a continuation. (Why not — everyone else is doing it! 🙂 ) I think if you explore this story it will lead you down some pretty strange and fascinating paths.

        And I better stop writing now before this thing shuts down on me again! Glad you’re still here!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          rle, you start the story wth a Rocket 88 and draw the reader instantly. I think JM hit the critique on the nail head, I also want you to continue. There are so many goodies to explore in the premise of falling for a woman who lays all the laundry out at one time. Is it a trap, a con game, danger lurking or a set up to gut some one’s bank account? Let’s push it forward to part two.

      2. Observer Tim

        This story is sweet and hopeful, RL. I love how, despite its completeness, it leaves other questions unanswered. These are the kind of things that could turn the next phase in any of several directions. Great work! 🙂

      3. Dennis

        Your writing created a great mood and I was really hoping it would work out for the MC. I also liked how you bookended the story with the same statement. Although there is always more to be said I feel satisfied with what you wrote.

      4. pvenderley

        Honestly, I think the system was trying to tell you something with that unfortunate turn of events: that’s where your story begins. Here’s why: your tale’s focus isn’t on loneliness, but on the differences and similarities between Diane and Jackie. It’s after Jackie nonchalantly nabs that Butter Pecan that we’re drawn into the story. From there, we want to explore the juxtaposition between those two women, so we could understand the strangeness of the emotions your narrator’s feeling.

        That said, this is charming vignette, made so by the narrator’s voice and the things that enchant him. Thanks!

  29. JM Somebody

    Whee, I’m jumping on the continuation bandwagon! 🙂 This is a continuation from last week’s “Scavenger Hunt” prompt.

    __________________________________________________________________________________

    If a girl isn’t pretty, she’d better be smart. And if a girl’s not pretty or smart, well then she’d better work hard. That’s what Father always says.

    Me, I’m a hard worker. And it’s a good thing too, because that’s how I met Benny.

    People say there’s something wrong with him, that he got fired from his last job for doing something awful. But I don’t know. It’s hard to think of Benny being bad ‘cause he’s so sweet and all, always carrying all the heavy stuff for me and telling me I look nice even when I don’t. And to be truthful about it, he’s kind of handsome too.

    Father says I shouldn’t be thinking about boys. “Connie, your prospects are limited” he always says. And then he says that he won’t be around to take care of me forever, so I better find something I can do. I think I’m pretty good at working down at the Save-Mart.

    Sometimes I buy lunch at the deli counter just so I can talk to Benny. I always order the olive loaf. I really like the olives, although I’m not so sure about the loaf. Benny said he likes olive loaf too, which is funny because not too many people like it. So we got that in common.

    So one day I got an idea.

    “Hey, Benny,” I said, “Why don’t I make us some olive loaf sandwiches and we can have a picnic down at the beach.”

    Benny looked kind of funny and said that sure sounded swell, but maybe he ought not to, ‘cause he’s not supposed to be alone with any girls.

    “But Benny, there’s lots of people at the beach.”

    Well his face just lit up like the fourth of July. “It’s a date” he said.

    A date. I had a date. Wouldn’t father be surprised!

    So me and Benny took our olive loaf sandwiches down to the beach, and it was really nice. I felt like I could talk to Benny, like he really listened – not like most people who act like I don’t matter. I even told him about how my sister is marrying that stupid butt-face and how it makes me so mad ‘cause he’s such a stupid butt-face. Benny laughed and said I shouldn’t call my future brother-in-law a butt-face. That’s what Father says too. He says I better be nice to Butt-Face because he might have to take me in one day. But there’s no way I’m living with a mean, stupid butt-face.

    When we finished our olive loaf sandwiches, I said we should take a walk on the beach. So we took off our shoes and walked along the water’s edge. Then I got the idea to hold Benny’s hand, which is really romantic like in the movies. But that was a mistake, because he got all nervous and just stopped right there in the sand with the waves rushing up around our bare feet.

    “Connie,” he said, looking so serious it scared me a little. “There’s something I have to tell you… about what happened at my last job. There was a guy there named Karl, and he tricked me. He said I had to get something from this girl and then he would let me in his fraternity. So I did it, ‘cause I really wanted those guys to like me. But that girl, Mary Alice…”

    “Mary Alice?”

    “Yeah, she thought I was attacking her or something, and I got in a whole bunch of trouble.”

    “Did you say Karl and Mary Alice?”

    “Yeah, do you know them?”

    “Well, duh, Mary Alice is only my sister. And Karl… well, he’s just a stupid butt-face.”

    Benny turned as pale as the sand and we stood there staring at each other with our mouths hanging open.

    “Connie, I swear, I didn’t mean to hurt her. And I would never, ever fall for that again.” And then he took my hand, and I got that romantic feeling again.

    “And I would never, ever hurt you. You believe me, don’t you Connie?”

    The funny thing is, I did believe him. Maybe Father or Butt-Face would say I was being stupid. But I believed him because Karl is mean. And because even though I’m not smart or pretty like Mary Alice, I’ve got something Mary Alice doesn’t. I’ve got a mind of my own.

    But holy smokes, is this going to make Father mad.

    1. Manwe38

      Oh wow, this was AWESOME!

      Loved the MC’s voice, the continuity, and how you wove both tales together.

      Poor Benny, but it looks like karma is finally going to reward him. And I loved “butt-face”, not to mention Connie’s determination to be her own girl.

      Good for her!

      1. rle

        Humm….well that’s funny. Here we are posting one after another again.

        I absolutely loved this. Like Manwe, I loved the MC’s voice. loved it, loved it, loved it. Did I mention how much I loved the MC’s voice? I don’t think there’s any way this could have been done any better. JMC, you continually set the bar higher.

      2. JM Somebody

        Thanks Manwe! I’m not sure it’s all smooth sailing ahead for Benny, but at least he’s got someone in his corner. I see big trouble ahead with Karl, Mary Alice and Father.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hey, JM!

      Thanks for the continuation. It made me happy to see things going well for Benny. He’s just so sweet and likable. And Connie is just awesome. 🙂

      My Internal Editor has only one comment: He doesn’t think that Benny would say “I swear”. But that’s a minor detail.

    3. Reaper

      This has a beautiful voice, and the beginning got me all teary eyed. It was so well done that the coincidences at the end would seem improbable in a lot of places but fit perfectly here. Only other thing I can say is M-O-O-N, that spells this is a hell of a good story.

      1. JM Somebody

        M-O-O-N spells thanks, Reaper!

        I thought the coincidence thing was pretty hokey, but, you know, the prompt… Actually I liked the way you handled it, as your coincidence turned out to be no coincidence. Smart.

    4. Dennis

      This was great writing. I had to go back and read last week’s as I didn’t get time too. Great how you tied the two stories together and I so much liked how this one turned out. This story reminds me of a movie I watched recently on Netflix called The Other Sister, but in that case the girl comes from a privileged family.

    5. pvenderley

      I appreciated the narrator’s voice, and the ease with which you included the elements of the writing challenge – nothing felt contrived. You created a nice moment with two real characters. Well done!

  30. Roan

    “Great … my favorite table, allow me.” The chair scrapes across the wood floor.

    “Thank you, you are such a gentleman.”

    “I know what I’m going to order, so you take your time.”

    Veronica opens her menu. “Oh … I can’t believe it. they have sweet breads (calves brains) and Black pudding (pork blood & oatmeal).

    “You’re kidding.” Tim leans into the table. “That’s what I always order.”

    Veronica leans back and swishes her pitch black hair over her left shoulder. “I knew there was something special about you.”

    Tim, lost in her deep red lips doesn’t notice Al, the waiter, standing by the table.

    “And your order will be?”

    Tim looks up. “Al, you’re not going to believe this. She’s going to order my favorite.”

    “So, it’s two sweet breads and black pudding?”

    “Yes, and two salads and a bottle of Bergmann’s Spatlese.”

    Al leaves shaking his head.

    “Wow, this is crazy. Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up?”

    Veronica glances down at her nails. “Oh it’s a really small town. Collinsville, in …”

    Al cuts her off. “WHAT? NO, I grew up in Collinsville. Illinois?”

    “Yup”

    “Can’t be, I knew everybody at school. I definitely would remember you.”

    ”I was home schooled.”

    “What street did you live on?”

    “Well … our property was on the outskirts of town.”

    “Property? Sounds like you had a chunk of land. Where on the outskirts of town?”

    “On the east side.”

    “The only land owner out there was, wait. Do you mean, “Where the Wolves Live?”

    “Yes.”

    Tim’s back rippled, and if he had hair on the back of his neck, it would have bristled, as images of riding with the guys came back, drinking beer, abandoning the vehicle, and creeping up to the fence in the light of the full moon. Then the howling would start. “Werewolves,” they would whisper, their eyes wide, as they studied each other faces trying to be braver than the other. When the howling stopped they would run screaming to the truck, sure that they were being tracked in the silence.

    Tim was sweating.

    Veronica leaned forward. Tim turned his legs to the side of the chair, getting ready to bolt.

    “Look, Tim, I know the reputation we had. When Dad had the sign made, the contractor left out the most important word “Sanctuary”. We rescued wolves that were injured or abused by humans. We created a safe haven for them. I was home schooled because the mission we carried ran 24 hours a day. I’ll tell you right now, I would choose a wolf over any man who is not the master of his true self.”

    1. JM Somebody

      Veronica is a pretty interesting girl, but the blood pudding and sweetbreads lead me to suspect she might not be telling the truth. And Tim’s fondness for the same makes me wonder about his predilections too… Unless, of course, he’s Irish, in which case it’s just breakfast. 🙂

      This was a good read, and the present tense succeeded in giving it an immediacy and vividness. But — I have to say it — you slipped into the past tense toward the end, which took me out of the story for a moment. Still, I think you’re off to a great start and you made me want to know more about these characters — especially the enigmatic and slightly intimidating Veronica. Nice work, Roan.

      1. Roan

        Thank you. So helpful. Finally got it that I have to REALLY PAY ATTENTION to tense when I revise. Oh ya, and I actually had to eat that stuff when I was little. Thanks again JM.

    2. Reaper

      I really like Veronica and am still unsure myself if she’s telling the truth. The present tense was a bit off to me, it is often strange in the third person but I got lot in it until the slip. So this was a very engaging story and I liked it a lot. Thought the parenthetical statements were out of place. Was Veronica really explaining to her date what she was ordering when he could look at the menu? I assumed you were doing that for your readers benefit and if so you should take it out of the quotations and explain afterwards, or better yet let us look it up. That was the only thing off though, and it may have been her explaining it so I don’t know. Amazing story with a very intense character I want to read a lot more about.

      1. Roan

        I was doing the parenthetical statements for the reader. Instead I could have Veronica say, “I can’t believe it. They have brains and pork blood sausage..” The present tense was off for me too, it sounded like a screen play, but I stayed with it, and then I kind of liked it. Thank You Reaper again for your masterful observations.

    3. Observer Tim

      I love the way you led me on to think Veronica was a werewolf. It’s amazing the way the mind can play tricks on us, and you did the manipulation masterfully. Of course, I also have a soft spot in my heart for wolves and werewolves. Great story, Roan. 🙂

    4. Dennis

      I liked the little twist at the end. But their favorite foods almost made me stop reading. 🙂 It seems it would take a fairly confident person to eat that on your first date. Nice job.

  31. Amaria

    I should have known from her eyes. The color was too vivid and pulled me in so easily. Yet I could not look away, nor believe my luck. How could two people from the same mid-size town find each other in such a large city? We ran into each other – literally – in the supermarket. I should have been more embarrassed. I was in such a hurry that I almost ran her over, but she was so calm and found humor in our collision in aisle 4. There was something about her I could not put my pulse on. I asked her out right away, and surprisingly she said yes.

    I found out during dinner that we were not only from the same town, we attending high school at the same time. I was a year ahead of her. She said she recall seeing me in the hallway and playing football on Friday nights. I felt a little ashamed that I could not remember her, but she did not seem to mind. She said she was a loner in high school, but had a secret crush on me. She was too shy to say anything back then. We talked, laughed, sipped wine and even ordered the same meal – linguine in marinara sauce. If I had paid more close attention, I would have noticed she hardly touch her food, but I was too mesmerized by her eyes and mysterious smile.

    After dinner we strolled along the river walk, under the light of a full moon. Even in the moonlight, her eyes were magical. I reached out to touch her face. She slightly flinched but not before I felt her skin. It felt very cool.

    “Are you cold?” I asked. “Do you want to go somewhere else?”

    She answered, “No. I like walking by the river at night, and my skin always feels cold, so there is no need to worry.”

    We continued to walk. As we approached the end of the path, she stopped. “There is something I should tell you,” she said. “After high school I went through a lot of changes.”

    I replied, “I think we all do in some way.”

    She smiled, “Yes, but this is different.” She turned to me, looking at me with those too bright eyes. “I met someone during my first semester in college. He showed me a whole new world and I made great sacrifices. My family, friends, school, my humanity.”

    Ok where was this going I thought to myself. I asked, “What do you mean humanity? What are you saying?”

    Slowly she approached me until I felt her firm arm wrap around my waist and her hand gripped mine. Her eyes grew dark as she smiled, revealing her large white fangs.

    Someone should have warned me about picking up strange beautiful women in the supermarket at night.

    1. Reaper

      Interesting that this prompt seems to be inspiring the vampire stories. This had a good flow and kept my interest well. The cold skin was an early reveal, if you intend on that it’s very good. If not you might remove the actual touch and just have the flinch away. Either way this was good.

    2. Amaria

      Thank you Reaper and Observer Time.
      I thought it was quite comical when I came on the website today and the first thing I see on the home page: “Science Fiction Writing Tips: How to Make a Vampire Not Suck”. LOL

    3. Dennis

      Nice story. When you mentioned full moon I thought maybe werewolf, but then her skin was cool. I was interested in how you would play out the ending and I liked the last line.

      1. Amaria

        I had actually thought about changing the ending and having the girl turn into a wolf before posting but decided to stick to vampire. Maybe the next prompt I try my hand at writing about a werewolf.

  32. Manwe38

    Warning: strong subject matter (not graphic or explicit, just emotionally tough). And disclaimer–this is purely fictional, and does not represent me, or anyone I know. I’m sure it’s happened to someone, though, and that’s a tragic shame.

    ***

    I am not gay.

    Okay, that’s a loaded statement, so let me start at the beginning.

    It first happened in high school, and oh what a shock. Now, I’d always liked women–the smell of their hair, the feel of their skin, the soft swells of their breasts…but then the other feelings came. Ninth grade, that’s the first time I can remember having those thoughts, when Jeff moved here from out of town. I tried to fight it at first, and for awhile, I succeeded…until senior year.

    I’ll never forget that night at the party, after everyone had left. Just the two of us alone, in the darkness of the den. Up to that point, I’d had plenty of girls, but this had been different, powerful, raw. His tongue in my mouth, his hands on my back, rolling around on the couch until I reached heights of pleasure no woman had ever brought me to. And afterward, the fear and the guilt, and the cloud of shame that wrapped around me like a stifling blanket.

    What could I do? How could I tell them? They would die if they knew, my mom the youth pastor, my dad the Marine. “If a man lieth with a man the way he lieth with a woman, he hath committed an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.” Oh, there wouldn’t just be hell to pay, there would be hell on earth. Maybe I’d survive, out on the street, but I’ve heard what happens to guys like me, and I don’t have the strength to face it alone.

    So I made a decision, earlier today, one that I hope will ease everyone’s pain. I haven’t committed yet, and I won’t until Alyssa gets one last chance. She’s beautiful, sexy, and smart–everything a guy should want. And tonight, it’s decision time. Game on, I believe the saying goes, and so it is.

    We are strolling together along the Riverwalk, the cool San Antonio breeze blowing the last of the day’s heat away from our skin. The moon is out, a pale cratered ghost peeking down from the crepuscular sky, a witness to the last of the sun’s fading rays. Looking up at the sky, I can’t help but bite back a smile. There’s a bulge in my pants, you see, a shaft of cold steel, pressing against the side of my leg. I’m waiting, though, on the one made of flesh. If he comes out to play, then the gun stays away.

    If not…well, let’s just say Remington won’t care about my sexual orientation. He’ll get the job done, and that’s all that counts. But hopefully, it won’t come to that. As long as the girl can turn me on, then my life will be spared, and hers won’t be ruined.

    I want to tell her the truth, am aching to say the words, but that would ruin the test, bias the results, and so my thoughts stay locked behind the walls of my teeth. Sensing something, she stops, and looks up at me with shining eyes. Okay, no more delays. It’s now or never.

    I am not gay.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Wow. I can see what you mean by emotionally tough. This couldn’t have been an easy story to write, but you did a great job. You wrote it with great sensitivity.

    2. JM Somebody

      Oh wow, talk about pressure. You thoroughly drew me in to this man’s tortured thoughts and made me afraid for both him and Alyssa. I am hoping Alyssa turns out to be his saving grace, but maybe not in the way he is hoping.

      I always find some unique or poetic phrase in your writing, and this time I loved your description of the moon as a “pale cratered ghost.”

      1. Manwe38

        Many thanks, JM! Yeah, I like to try my hand at unique descriptions–sometimes they work, sometimes they fall flat.

        Glad you liked “the moon” 🙂

    3. Reaper

      This had to be tough to write. I liked the moon, I also liked the description of the gun. The subtle unanswered ending is nice because it does leave room for at least three endings. The story is wonderful. I would like to see another paragraph about his mother and father to give a deeper connection to his inner turmoil. I can sense it and understand it but without that one little piece I’m not there with him. I feel bad for him but I also have this, you idiot thought. Because I’m not quite as connected as I want to be with him and his turmoil. I am connected to it, don’t get me wrong, you have me about half a step from being in his mind completely and the word limit and how hard this had to be to write held me back from where you were going and I know from experience that you can easily get me there.

    4. Observer Tim

      This is powerful, Manwe. While it could easily take place today, it has 1970’s written all over it. 🙂

      I had to read through a couple of times and think through to figure out what made it so realistic and what was bothering me. I think it’s the combination of confidence and insecurity; he’s insecure enough that he’s depending on the girl to turn him on, and self-confident enough that he has no doubt she’ll try. It all comes together in a perfect suicidal mindset.

    5. Manwe38

      Thanks guys!

      Reaper–this was actually taken from a slightly longer story I wrote awhile back. I tried to go a little deeper into the MC’s head, but there was no way to do it without seriously violating the word count.

      ObserverTim–thank you for your kind words 🙂 In light of what’s just happened wth the GermanWings flight, it definitely takes on special relevence. Getting inside the mind of someone suicidal is a truly frightening thing to do.

    6. Dennis

      This is indeed thought provoking and powerful. What a said state of affairs that we have to be afraid to be ourselves. Not sure if that will ever end. Great story.

  33. Cceynowa

    Containing Light with Sound: Caleum

    Her silver hair attracted Caleum’s attention. She made efforts to keep it hidden under her dark colored scarf, but an occasional turn of her head caught the sun’s light too easily. He watched her move steadily through the market booths, her head bowed and her eyes downcast. He had thought her helpless, no doubt a servant or even slave to some master in the High Street Districts, and would soon become an easy target for the plethora of pickpockets and cut-purses that frequented market days.

    Sure enough, Caleum watched as a young boy began easing his way through the crowded street towards her. Smiling at the child’s boldness, he followed close enough to witness the thief’s hand slip the knot of the lady’s coin belt; no doubt the child was a professional with many years of experience.

    The lady’s hand reacted though the rest of her body remained calm and still. The child knew better than to struggle and attract attention. Caught in the lady’s firm grip, his eyes scanned the street fearfully for the Watch Guard on patrol. The lady bent to whisper in the child’s ear. He flinched, pulled away from her staring into her face. More fearful of what he saw there than of a Watch Guard’s whip, he nodded hurriedly while giving the lady back her purse. She released his arm, opened her purse, and handed him a single silver coin. He held it tightly while running from the woman without a backwards glance.

    Caleum approached her cautiously, “You know giving him coin only encourages him.” The lady turned at his words and he had to exercise control not to flinch as well. Her eyes were violet. This woman was like none he had ever seen before. “Or, perhaps, you scared him towards a life other than thieving?”

    The lady laughed quietly, “No. I gave him an option. The coin is worthless on the market, but if he shows it to a certain peddler camped at the East Gate, he will find work as an apprentice. A good life that he will be well suited towards.”

    “Do you give options to all the street urchins?” He asked.

    “Only those bold enough to steal from me,” she answered. She had turned towards him, dazzling him with the full force her strange beauty. She was a tall for a woman, and slender with naturally caramel skin unblemished by sun or weather. She studied him as intently as he studied her, saying “My name is Lyra.”

    “Lyra,” he repeated. “I am Caleum, son to Cale of Otal. Would you dine with me?” He asked, and then wondered at his boldness. “There is an inn, The Spotted Horse, at the end of Market Street.”

    After they had dined, they walked along the river’s edge away from the city’s landing docks and towards the footbridge. “You are a horseman,” she said. “Do you own your own herd?”

    “No, not until my thirtieth summer or if my father passes. His family raises the most prized stallions on all the Eilsung plains, and I will inherit well,” he boasted.

    “But he isn’t really your father is he?”

    Caleum stopped walking, “What do you mean?” While they dined he had learned that she spoke Lower Otal’s dialect beautifully, and that she was familiar with many of the regions customs even though she was raised in the far northern kingdom of Cerceas. He instinctively felt they had much in common, but was unsure how that could be.

    “Caleum,” she said, “neither of us are who we were raised to be.”

    “Oh, then who am I?” He felt anger rising in him. Taking a deep breath he pushed the anger away knowing it was in response to fear. He was unsurprised that this strange woman knew his secret.

    “You are a mage Caleum, just as I am. Just as they are,” she gestured to two people standing across the river. “Spend the night in our camp, and we’ll explain more. You have no need to fear.”

    She waited patiently as he stared across the river, trying to make out the figures standing on the other side. “And what if I don’t like what you tell me?” He finally asked.

    “Then you return to Lower Otal, and we continue on without you.”

    The prospect of being alone again, hiding his ability, was too much. He nodded to her and together they continued down the river’s edge to the crossing bridge.

    1. Cceynowa

      This is actually a snippet of a larger story I am on-off-again working on. Your kind words are exactly the boost of encouragements I need to continue. Thanks all!

    2. cosi van tutte

      This is so well-written. It feels like a first chapter of a book. Great job, Cc!

      My Internal Editor has only one comment: This whole paragraph -> “While they dined he had learned that she spoke Lower Otal’s dialect beautifully, and that she was familiar with many of the regions customs even though she was raised in the far northern kingdom of Cerceas. He instinctively felt they had much in common, but was unsure how that could be.” should probably go after he invites her to The Spotted Horse. It feels a little out of place where it is right now. But that’s just my fifty-five cents. No offense intended. 😀

      1. Cceynowa

        Thank you for the edit! Re-reading, I can see your point and do like the flow of it better there. I’ve gone back and expanded quite a bit, filling in gaps and details, way over our 500 word limit here.

  34. cosi van tutte

    Sorry! This one is way past 500 words.

    I met Alexander Frommage over by the cod chopping station at Meheecan Josephat’s Groceries. The line was breathtakingly long that day and I was stuck in the middle of it. Who knew that codfish was that popular in this town? I sure didn’t.

    Anyway, I stood there, holding my codfish by its stinky, rubbery ribbed tail and wondering if it really was worth the wait. I raised my fish to eye level and contemplated its blank, glassy stare. Maybe I should get a can of tuna. Tuna’s good. Get some mayo and rye bread and—

    Someone bumped into me and my fish flew out of my hand. It hit the floor and skidded straight under the chopping station like a baseball player sliding into home.

    I walked over to the chopping station, amid twelve thousand objections from my fellow waiters about me cutting the line. I guess they didn’t notice my lack of fish. I knelt and peeked under the kiosk. I could see my cod lying there on its side. Was it worth rescuing?

    The cod chopper lady stepped on my fish with her dirty sneakers. Splat! Squash! No thanks.

    I stood, resigned to a dinner of canned tuna. Oh, well. At least, I liked tuna.

    A man behind me said, “I am sorry.”

    I turned to face him. And he was so handsome I just stood there, vacantly staring at him.

    He smiled, a beautiful movie star smile.

    “Why are you buying fish?” It was the stupidest question I’d ever asked a guy.

    He held up his empty hands. “I’m not.”

    Well. That flummoxed me. “So, why are you over by the cod chopping station?”

    “I was trying to avoid an old associate of mine. And I made you lose your dinner. I am sorry. How about I take you out to eat?”

    “What? Right now?”

    “Yes. Unless you have other plans…”

    “Nope.” I said it way too fast.

    But he didn’t seem to mind.

    ***

    We went out to eat at Garbanzo’s Garbage Shack and ordered Mashed Avocado Goo with a side order of jellied squid ink. It was my favorite thing on their menu. To my surprise, he liked it too.

    I discovered so many things about him on that date. Amazing things. Like he grew up in the house right behind my family’s house. How did I not know that someone of his high hunk caliber lived right behind me all this time? Did I have juvenile blindness where I just didn’t notice cute guys? Or did he spend all of his time avoiding me?

    Speaking of avoidance behavior…He refused to touch me. No hand holding. No “accidental” foot bumping. Nothing. Which I just figured was him being first date polite. Okay. Fine.

    Next date…No physical contact.

    Next date…Nada.

    Next date…See all of the above.

    I started to worry about his orientation. But why would he date me if he wasn’t attracted to me? Are guys really that nonsensical?

    ***

    “It’s a beautiful night.” I said.

    He smiled. “So, it is.”

    “Hmm. I hate to go home so soon.”

    His smile crashed and a panicked look set in.

    What the heck was his problem? “I want to spend a little more time with you. You know, just you and me. No restaurants. No crowds.”

    His eyes widened with one hundred percent fear. “I…I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

    “Why not?”

    “My apartment is…”

    My face turned red. OH MY GOSH! Is that what he was thinking? “No! I didn’t mean…No! I just want to walk on the beach with you, for cryin’ out loud!”

    He relaxed. “Ahh. That sounds lovely.” He glanced up at the moonlit sky. “But maybe another night.”

    “They’re predicting thunderstorms for the rest of the month.”

    He looked surprised. “I didn’t realize they could predict the weather that far ahead.”

    “I watch the Weather Channel. They do extended forecasts.”

    “Oh.”

    I smiled. “So, how about it?”

    He frowned. “I still say it’s not a good idea, but you seem to have your heart set on it.”

    “Oh, I do. It will be so romantic.”

    “Romantic, huh?” He did not look convinced.

    ***

    to be continued…

    1. cosi van tutte

      Here is the conclusion to my story…

      Alexander was in a dark cloud mood as he drove me to the beach. But I refused to let it dampen my spirits. I was finally going to have him all to myself. No crowds. No noise. He’ll be so moved by the scenery, I thought. he’ll gladly take my hand and maybe he’ll even kiss me.

      He parked the car. “Can’t we just stay here?”

      I unbuckled my seat belt. “Nope. There’s a whole beach out there waiting to be trampled.” I got out of the car and opened his door. “Come on!”

      He got out of the car with over-the-top reluctance. I wanted to slap him. It’s not like I was telling him to jump into a live volcano. What the heck was his problem?

      I reached for his hand, but he jerked it away. “Please don’t.”

      What the heck? Does he think I have cooties?

      We walked down to the water’s edge. I tried to casually bump hands with him, but he managed to avoid even that.

      He sat down in the sand with his arms folded.

      I sat beside him and slipped off my sandals.

      “I am sorry.” he said. “It’s a beautiful night for romance and I’m ruining it for you.”

      No kidding. I dug my toes into the sand.

      “But it can’t be helped.” He chin-propped on his knees and stared out into the ocean. “I’ve told you many things about myself except for the most important thing. I haven’t told you about who I used to be associated with…about who I used to be.”

      The water raced back and forth, wetting my feet and softening the sand. “Let me guess. You’re either CIA or FBI.”

      “Neither. I used to be a top elite hunter.”

      I tried to imagine him dressed up like a hunter and failed.

      “Then, on a night like tonight, everything changed. I became the hunted.” He pressed his forehead against his arms. “As long as I stay in a crowd or near a crowd, I’m fine. There are too many scents in a crowd. I can’t concentrate on them all. But if I’m alone with someone and they touch me, I lose control. I become what I’ve hunted for so many years. My former associates know that I’ve changed. They’ve been hunting me. It’s all a matter of time before they catch me.”

      And to think that I was worried about his orientation. If only it were that simple. “I probably should be heading home. Got a long day at work and such.” I stood in the soft, wet sand.

      He grabbed my hand.

      I startled and looked down at him.

      He looked up at me with colorless, glowing eyes. “Don’t leave me.” He smiled, baring sharp white fangs. “It’s a beautiful night.”

          1. Roan

            You know, for me, I like where it ends. It was a platform that ignited my imagination. I took off, where you left off, and ran with the story. Great writing.

      1. JM Somebody

        Just your MC’s luck, to go out for a codfish and find a semi-repentant vampire. This was well written and rolled along in your usual upbeat, entertaining style. I would have liked to have known a little bit more about the MC, other than the fact that she likes fish, avocado goo and squid ink, and hunks. I mean, what girl doesn’t? 😉 The fish scene was funny, and as usual, your tone borders on the absurd, which is always a lot of fun. I know I’ve said this before, but you often put me in mind of Tina Fey, which is meant as a large compliment.

        1. cosi van tutte

          Hey, JM!

          🙂 Thanks for your comments and for the compliment! I really do appreciate it.

          I wrote this one while I was doing a week of midnight shifts so maybe that’s why I didn’t flesh out my MC as much as I could have. Hmm. Sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. 🙂

          1. JM Somebody

            A week of midnight shifts might have me dreaming up avocado goo, squid ink, vampires and stinky rubber codfish too. Yikes, sorry to hear that!

      2. Reaper

        cosi, you have, as JM said, a particular style that I enjoy a lot. It is very upbeat and happy and I love the term almost absurd. What surprises me is when you tackle things like this so effortlessly. Most writers who are similar at all to your style try to make the monster the lovable misunderstood, oh I drink blood and kill people but I’m not so bad. You don’t. Your monsters are monsters, even when they are trying to avoid what they are that nature is still there. That combination is wonderful as when you put a monster in this happier world they are even creepier

        1. cosi van tutte

          Thanks, Dennis!

          Halfway through the story, I knew that I wanted the last image to be of him looking up at her with glowing eyes.

          I started to write a sequel, but I didn’t like certain parts of it. So, I decided to drop it.

  35. jhowe

    The tap tap tapping of the man’s Italian loafer clad foot in the adjacent booth was about to drive me crazy. So was the fact he wore no socks. I fought the urge to lash out and concentrated on my consommé–organic duck broth with bits of kale and water chestnut, served cold–if anyone’s interested. The tapping continued and sweat beads from my forehead threatened to fall in my soup which, on the plus side, would have added some much needed salt, but still I fought the urge. In my mind I was grasping the restless leg and twisting, creating a syndrome of my own–take that Shaky. I eyed the salt and pepper but refrained; none for me thank you.

    My date stared out the window with an apparent nonchalance I was sure she did not possess. Why I had ordered the same dishes she did took me completely by surprise.

    The salads arrived; thank whatever god suits your fancy for that much needed diversion. Tap tap tap. Take this slimy collection of vitamin piss away at once. What was this, more kale? Green shavings of non-GMO cardboard with a white wine vinaigrette? Tap tap. My kingdom for a freaking ball peen hammer.

    This would be a good time to mention my anger issues. According to my psychiatrist, I have what she calls dysphoria which relates to bipolar disorder which in my opinion is a load of shit. It also causes me to shift between past tense and present from one paragraph to the next, which is also a load of shit. But my psychiatrist—and I question her abilities–spouts off nonstop about anxiety and rage and manic episodes and how the neighbor’s dog ended up in the trash can…. How the hell am I supposed to know? If you ask me, it shouldn’t have been barking like a wounded seal in the first place; the little fucker got what it deserved.

    Ah, the main course. Broiled kingklip with wasabi mango rice. Tap tap tap. The waiter said kingklip tastes like cod. Tap tap. So does fucking cod. My date shifted in her seat and a barely audible squeal escaped from her tightly pursed lips suggesting she may suffer from some anxieties of her own.
    But alas, it’s time for my anti-psychotic medication. Take with food it says. Good luck with that. I wonder if Shaky would like some wasabi mango rice shoved up his ass. That would keep the leg tapping well into next week. Wasabi in the ass? What a concept.

    Check please. Tap tap tap. Was that a smile? I asked her if she’d like to go for a walk along the river.

    A very sudden no.

    My intuition told me she may be suffering from PMS so I did not succumb to my urge to grab a fork and stick it in Shaky’s restless leg as we passed by. Tap tap tap. Let him live to annoy another day.
    Outside we said goodbye. I considered asking for a kiss but she was a little too fragile at the moment for me to risk creating hope. She revealed that it was a horrendous mistake for a psychiatrist to date one of her patients. I said I could hardly agree more, although I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon she comes up with a bad case of wasabi ass.

    1. jhowe

      As I re-read this, I feel that, perhaps that last seven seven was not needed last night as I wrote this. I did manage to include two very distant references to the prompt though.

    2. Pete

      On first take I have to say that this is brilliant. I’m going back in to read again, because there’s so much packed in here. I especially love the opening paragraph. Talk about setting the mood!

    3. Reaper

      This is brilliant. I knew there had to be a reveal about the date but what it was turned out to be perfectly surprising. That fourth wall break about switching tenses made me laugh out loud. Just all around wonderful.

    4. JM Somebody

      Brilliant is the word. Sick is another one that comes to mind — but in the best sense of the word. Actually, in every sense of the word. This was so painful, and just so, so good. I LOVED it, Jhowe!

    5. Observer Tim

      The twist in this caught me off guard, jhowe. 🙂

      You did a great job showing the stream of thoughts from the patient’s perspective. Sounds like he may not be so much bipolar as have something else (e.g. antisocial personality disorder).

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved it because I’m not only bipolar, but I have a bad case of RLS and am also Irish. I can and will write my own RLS, Irish story. Thanks for a wonderful idea. Great writing, jhowe.

  36. Reaper

    Okay, time to try and ongoing story for a bit. Let’s see how hard Clem makes it to continue this one next week.

    In the Beginning – The Meeting

    She had an ass you could bounce a quarter off of.

    A disembodied thought floated along the river of Chester’s mind. Why now? The only girl to inspire such thoughts was Nicole in high school. Now the hinny of some soon to be trophy wife in the grocery store was… slipping out of view. Why didn’t he have the upskirt app on a hotkey? The woman turned and…

    “Nicole?”

    His one word question brought a smile that could melt the sun. Often, unrequited longing and distance left feelings reality found itself unable to match. Chester’s daydreams of long lost Nicole paled in comparison to her in the flesh. Not that he had her in the flesh yet. She agreed to lunch though, so he was well on his way if he did say so himself. Nicole turned out to be one of those rare women to grow more beautiful as she approached her dreaded mid to late twenties. Score one for Chester the MILF hunter.

    Despite his odious personality and reprehensible hygiene practices the ex prom queen agreed to lunch. He missed the implications of something bigger afoot that such an agreement portended. Chester lived in a delusional world where his self-proclaimed title as stud of Harlow, Minnesota remained despite time and miles.

    They met at Fusion, a restaurant both obviously and pretentiously named. Nicole found herself enjoying the experience in spite of herself. Once he showered and got past the initial shock of the hottest girl in his graduating class showing up in his town, Chester was a decent enough guy. If he would stop “accidentally” touching her thighs he might pass for human.

    They reminisced over a traditional Harlow lunch. Rocky Mountain oysters, fugu, and foie gras. People said many negative things about the inhabitants of the small town but they were culturally diverse and accepting. At the end of the meal they were both laughing.

    Nicole hated that. Snow bound slugs crawled inside her stomach and up her back. She had to break Chester’s heart and shatter his mind. What kind of woman would that make her? She hesitated as long as she could, laughing with him. All the while she languished inside until her soul died. With that pesky thing tagged and bagged she moved on to why she agreed to the date in the first place. It was time to crush a man’s spirit.

    “Chester, do you think about home very often?”

    “As little as I can. I have a good life here.”

    “Well, you see, it wasn’t an accident that I found you. I came looking for you.”

    “Oho! You couldn’t get the stud of Harlow out of…”

    “Stop. Don’t ever call yourself that again. Do you remember the prophecy?”

    “That thing the fucking Baptist moro…”

    “My father was the preacher.”

    “…ralists were always going on about? I remember it. Why?”

    “It’s us.”

    “What is?”

    “It is, they are us, we are them.”

    “Speak English.”

    “The time is here and we’re the chose ones.”

      1. jhowe

        Yeah, just that one little ‘n’ really makes a difference. Being the chosen one or the chose one tells you a little about how many teeth are present in the mouth of the speaker.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very interesting, Reaper. I’m curious about where this is going. 🙂

      The gradual POV shift felt a bit odd, but it didn’t throw me as much as a sudden change would. It’s definitely a writing device worth trying out. Very clever!

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Tim. I’m curious too honestly. I know where it is supposed to end but the in between I’m not sure of.

        The POV was more of a voice shift based on focal character and is something I’ll do from time to time, but it happened really fast in this one and I wasn’t so sure about it but it felt necessary. When I’m doing third person omniscient I find the voice changing depending on who is the focus for a scene, when one is shared it can get strange.

    2. jhowe

      The first line hooked me. I’m in for the long haul now. You did a great job getting things set up for what is to come. The title was perfect for this.

    3. Cceynowa

      Do you have to wait until next week to continue? I’m hooked and, like many in my generation, want instant gratification to my thoughts. 🙂 Well written and definitely worth continuing.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you Cceynowa. I am actively campaigning against instant gratification by causing the wait! 🙂 Honestly I might have a bit between this and next week but I need to see where next week goes to figure out what I need to do between them. Between that and having just a bit too much going on I’m afraid we all must wait, even me.

    4. Manwe38

      All right, you got me. I didn’t see this coming, not by long shot.

      I’m kind of hoping they get to hook up, though, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

    5. JM Somebody

      I’m not sure if it really was a POV switch, or an omniscient narrator, but knowing you, I’m sure it was on purpose and an artistic choice. So I’ll wait to see how the story develops.

      Is Chester really not such a bad guy? I have my doubts about both of these characters. Overall, this felt very Steven Kingish to me in all the right ways, and I’m sure all hell is going to break loose very soon. I am anxiously awaiting the next installation…

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You bounced me around like an over-inflated ping pong ball with your story. First of all, I was catapulted in with “the quarter bouncing off her ass.” The next one that got me was. “Why didn’t he have the upskirt app…” Then you hit me between the eyes with, ” ….. if he could stop accidently touching her thighs…..” On and on you went. I pressed the screen to see if I could find an entry. Alas, it was not to be so……Dang!

      2. Reaper

        Thanks JM. You’re right on the switch, I mentioned that above. As for Chester. I’m not entirely sure how good or bad a guy he is right now, but Nicole is thinking he’s not as bad as she first thought, but likely you’re right, it’s a comparison and I’m not sure about her myself, so her judgment may be flawed.I find myself as anxious for it as everyone else seems to be.

  37. Observer Tim

    RESIDUAL

    We sat on the big flat rock below Jonah’s Point and watched the breakers roll in. Occasionally a particularly large wave would splash us with cool salty droplets. The moon was slowly sinking over the fretful Atlantic.

    Mariette and I had met while shopping for groceries, both examining cartons of omega-3 eggs for cracked shells. We’d hit it off immediately. After a couple of lunches at the food court we’d had our first real dinner date.

    It was over the duck confit that we really got to talking. It turned out she grew up in Spinnaker’s Rest, too. I was a bit confused because I’m sure I would have noticed a beauty like her in a town of four hundred, but I chalked it up to life being funny like that.

    She leaned into me and sighed. “This is so wonderful. If my grandchildren could see me now…”

    My eyes popped open, “Grandchildren!?”

    “What? I don’t have any grandchildren! I’ve never even… you know.”

    “But you said grandchildren. Where’d that come from?”

    “I don’t know. It sort of came out. Let’s not worry about it.”

    “Yeah. Slip of the tongue.” I leaned over and kissed her.

    “And I suppose that was a slip of the tongue, too?”

    I blushed deep red. It was almost as embarrassing as when Annie Johnson kissed me and our braces got locked… which was last week.

    “What’s wrong, Paul?”

    “I just had a childhood memory: I was twelve years old, but it was only last week.”

    “Okay, that’s weird. I think the wine is getting to us. Maybe we should call it a night.”

    “Together?”

    “Separately. I’d rather not have my first time be when we’re drunk. I want to remember it when I’m old and gray.”

    I stood up, then helped her to her feet. We fell into another kiss, and this time my brain told me there was no sign of girl-cooties at all. I filed that under ‘strange’ and we walked toward the edge of the rock.
    Right into an invisible wall.

    “What the…?”

    A few tests proved it was solid, and that we were in a cylindrical space about fifteen feet on a side. Mariette put her hands on my shoulders while I pounded at the air, eliciting solid thumps. Then it all went black.

    “Well, that didn’t work. Their minds broke down the scenario in less than ten minutes this time.”

    “Did you listen to their vocalizations? It was as if residual memories were somehow still present in their brains.”

    “But we scrubbed them!”

    “I told you it wouldn’t be enough to reset their bodies to the same maturity state and wipe their memories, but you wouldn’t listen!”

    “Well it’s too late to go back now; we have to make this work. We need to get proper recordings of natural human mating practices before we reach Rigel-7 or we’ll fail and have to repeat the class again!”

    “Why did we have to leave this to the last minute?”

    1. jhowe

      This was strange and wonderful. Some kind of alien science project I suspect. I think Paul is hoping the class is successful before they reach Rigel-7.

    2. Cceynowa

      Wait, what? <<< Initial read.
      How fun/clever/worthy of a second read! <<< Second read.
      You've done really well with this one OT. <<<< Third read.

      I liked this one quite a bit, and I can't even figure out why. I think because it is so unique, and unexpected. Well done.

    3. Reaper

      Wow. This hit me as something like the strangest combination of Dark City and Under the Dome dropping acid and running off to see the wizard. Then you did this thing that made it completely unique and those two comparisons just a way of distracting us from that twist. Definitely unique and quite amazing.

    4. JM Somebody

      I think CC summed up my thoughts on this perfectly. It was absolutely delicious in a way I can’t quite verbalize. Which means it’s really, really good fiction.

    5. Dennis

      Great story and like how you bring something different with your sci fi background. The wiping of the memories yet they still filtered in reminds me of a movie but I can’t place it at the moment. I’m sure it will hit me at 2am.

      1. Observer Tim

        The inability to completely erase memories is a standrd trope of SF. It’s often brought up when selective memory wipes are available. Here are two examples from TV. In Star Trek: TNG, Picard and crew had their memories wiped in one situation, but recovered them by noticing things like plants that had grown and the like. In Babylon 5, the wipe worked but a relative of the wiped person’s victims killed him.

        In real life, the idea that memories can be selectively (and totally) wiped and a misunderstanding of amnesia is behind “recovered” memories.

        From personal experience, the 4-day hole in my memory created when the oxygen was shut off to my brain for several minutes (heart attack) is one of the most creepy and disturbing experiences of my life. I do get flashbacks into that period, but I don’t know if they’re real or if my brain constructed them.

    6. Bilbo Baggins

      I was just going to pass through here, but I HAVE to comment on this…. oddity. The added section at the end nearly cracked me up.. “proper recordings of natural human mating practices”…..??? What??? 🙂

  38. pvenderley

    “Want to split the fried pickle appetizer?” Tricia asks, and I fall a little bit in love with her.  We’d just met in the Albertson’s checkout line, and something familiar in her accent, in the way she’d said “paper or plastic,” prompted me to ask where she’d grown up.

    “Mill Creek,” she’d replied.  Which is where I’d grown up, a little town in Southern Ohio with one traffic light and the only Hardee’s in a 30-mile radius. Our paths had probably crossed several times back then, but she was 5 years younger than I, so I wouldn’t have paid attention to her. Now, though, she was hard not to pay attention to: 5-foot-7 in 6-inch heels, t-shirt knotted above her belly button to show off a figure that had obviously been sculpted through years of workouts, wavy brown hair that shimmered even in Albertson’s fluorescent lights. I’d managed to suggest a date as she handed me my receipt. She’d agreed to meet at this beach-side grill where they served, among other things, deliciously greasy burgers and batter-fried dill pickles.

    “They’re not as good as The Stag Club’s,” I say.

    “Hunt Club.”

    “I always mix that up. The Hunt Club. But, yes. Let’s get one,” I say to the waiter.  “Back home, I used to finish off a basket all by myself.”

    “Me, too!” says Tricia. “Well, almost a whole basket.”

    “Pickles, burger, and a movie. That was a Friday night for me. Hey! Remember the Dawn Theatre?” I ask.

    Tricia shakes her head. “Honestly, one of the reasons I left home was because I wanted to see movies in the theater before they went to DVD.”

    “Yeah, they were pretty stale. You’d get a slightly better selection in Jonesdale.”

    It was a twenty mile drive between Mill Creek and Jonesdale, along County Road 7, with nothing in between but trees, Half Moon Lake, and…

    “The Pink Panther was out that way. Remember that place?”

    Tricia smiles wanly, and looks out to the beach.

    “I always wondered what kind of girl worked there.  I mean, I’m no prude, I’ve visited a strip club or two since I’ve got out here, but there never was a great number of women who could work in a strip club, not in that area. You know what I mean?”

    “I worked there,” Tricia says after a bit.  “It was the only way I could get the money to move out here.”

    My mind snaps back to the present to find some way to extricate my foot from my mouth. A seagull rises from the beach, its cry sounding like laughter at my discomfort.

    The waiter drops off the fried pickles, hot and steaming in their basket.  Tricia picks one up, juggles it between her fingers, and dips one end of the pickle into a cup of ranch dressing.

    “What?” she asks. “Did you honestly think I could get all this by bagging groceries?” She chomps into her pickle with a wicked grin on her face, ranch dressing dripping down her chin.

      1. Cceynowa

        ^Let me echo everything OT said, including the welcome! This was a fun and flowing “slice of life” segment that had me hooked at “fried pickles.” I’m also hungry now. So, overall, a tale worth reading! Thanks for sharing!

    1. jhowe

      That was very well done. I like your writing style and look forward to reading more of your stuff. The Pink Panther is an excellent name for a strip club. Nice job on the dialog.

    2. JM Somebody

      Small town life is not always what you might expect, and I think you’ve illustrated that very humorously here. I enjoyed the irony and the fried pickles. (Coincidentally, I recently tried fried pickles for the first time, and they were actually better than I expected them to be!) Nice one, Pvenderley, and welcome!

    3. Dennis

      Great story with all the descriptions of the small town life. I don’t like pickles in any form but it added to the intrigue of who this great looking woman was who loved greasy food.

  39. Bilbo Baggins

    Attention: The first four parts of this series can easily be accessed on my blog. They may also be found in the four last prompts. Please feel free to comment.

    FLICKERS- FIVE

    Nicholas Wrangell wasted no time finishing his meal. As soon as he’d walked over from Albert’s table, he signaled a waiter to send the rest up to his room. The short man he’d seen hanging around could be back any minute. Better to escape now, without a trace.

    He crossed the dining hall. Waving politely to the detective, he grinned as he saw him wave back. The fool. Thinks the Chinese will help him. No matter thinking on that now. Inside the hallway, his head was bubbling with excitement. It had always done that, the mental chess game. He thought of it as good training for business. Always get rid of the competition fast.

    Nicholas efficiently packed his valise. He stripped down his Colt and refitted the magazine. He’d hired a friend in Vallejo to remodel the gun to house Webley-Fosbery “manstopper” bullets. Any copper who stopped him would be blown into the Bay.

    “Sir, I’m afraid you left this.”

    Startled, Wrangell looked up at the page holding his coat.

    “Thank you, sir. Had no idea I left it.”

    He took it, felt suddenly angry at himself. The man was staring at the gun.

    “Always need some protection,” he smiled. “Never know who you might meet.”

    The page nodded, turned and left. Wrangell was glad he didn’t have to kill him. Innocent civilians had no choice in the matter. He took his bag, stopped. But Anne was an exception.

    After leaving his room, he took a circuitous route to the lobby. Albert may have left and he couldn’t risk another conversation. He checked out, leaving another tip. At least you never have bad service, he thought.

    The streets were ghost-like. In the lamplight, doormen were chasing bums back to their alleys. He saw a stray cat jump from garbage cans onto a newspaper wagon. Breathing in acrid smoke, he felt that filling in his chest again.

    Across the street, he entered an antique store and asked for the owner. He was led to a back room where two of his workers sat waiting under one lightbulb. Bulky shipmen, muscular, they were used to loading heavy crates and cursed like navy boys. They grinned at him like sons.

    “George, Rico, it’s time. Load up the truck.”

    They stood, running with surprising agility to the roadster. Nicholas got in the front cab and the headlights glared to life. Two yellow beams bounced through the alleys to the back of the hotel. His men tucked their saps into their arms. Goodbye, San Francisco, Wrangell thought. And good riddance.
    ____________________________________________

    Albert finished his meal in silence. His mind felt bloated and busy, thoughts running in and out like couriers before he could stop them. There had to be a connection. It had to fit.

    He thought back to 1902, when he was just an apprentice himself. Seemed odd. They’d caught Hammonds robbing the Wells Fargo Bank on Telegraph Hill. No Chinese were seen there, no further investigation had been done. Had his accomplices survived? It all felt like one great big sticky web and all he felt was tired all over. Start in the morning.

    Ben had never showed, and it bothered him. He was early for… everything. Albert headed up to his room and decided to send a telegram to Oscar. He’d befriended the old, wiry operator yesterday and thought he’d nudge his boss to speed things up. The man was only too glad to help.

    “Message, sir?”

    Albert looked around the dusty room, gathered his words. “No luck yet. Anne safe. Need link between Hammonds and Chinatown. Search files K-S and Yan. Urgent. Repeat, urgent.”

    The telegraph began ticking faster than a machine gun. Albert gratefully tipped his hat and took the elevator upstairs. Anne should be asleep by now, don’t want to wake her. The hallways were cold and no guests were about. He thought of Wrangell’s face… “such a tragedy”. His pace quickened.

    Mike Thompson saw him coming and began trembling all over. Albert was running now, driven by fear he didn’t know was there, came up to the door. Mike’s eyes brimmed with tears and he was rubbing a blue knot on his forehead.

    “So sorry, boss… didn’t…. didn’t see ‘em coming…”

    Albert flew into the room, saw the bed was empty. The room was like a funeral, black and stiff and deadly. He wanted to yell for her but his throat was so thick no noise came. Her bag was on the dresser, opened, two shirts thrown onto the chair. The bathroom was locked from the inside.

    “Mother!” he yelled with his full power. The only sound was Mike crying outside. A crawl erupted on his skin and he thought for a moment she was lying there dead. The last revenge of those who’d helplessly maimed her.

    Albert kicked open the door, wood splinters flying onto the carpet. He turned on the overhead bulb and dissolved into anger and sorrow, throwing his hat across the room.

    She was gone.

    1. JM Somebody

      I did go back and reread from the beginning because I was starting to get lost. It flows a lot better when you read them all in one sitting — I think it’s because the POV shifts a few times from one chapter to the next. But I’m all caught up now, and looking forward to the next installment and finding out what happened to Anne, and what roles Hammond, Wrangell and the Chinamen played in it, and most of all – why? I am vey much enjoying the old gangster movie flavor of this. Keep going, Bilbo!

        1. Bilbo Baggins

          Glad you guys all caught up. And Kerry… thanks for comparing me to Spillane the Great. I have not fully read any of his books and, to be honest, I don’t intend to but the compliment surprised me. Sorry, you’ll have to wait until next prompt for the next dose. I’m only starting to write it today. Thanks again.

  40. lenawyn

    “Limes, cilantro, tomatoes, purple onion,” “limes, cilantro, tomatoes, purple onion,” “limes, cilantro, tomatoes, purple onion.” Ryan didn’t even realize he was saying his list out loud until the witty brunette walking behind him said, “limes, cilantro, tomatoes, purple onion, bottle of pinot grigio” In fact, he didn’t notice the sultry voice chanting with him until their third stanza together, when he slowly turned his head to see who was adding a fifth item to his grocery list. HELLO! She’s hot! He smiled while they said the ingredient chant one last time, but when she finished with bottle of pinot, he coily added “at my place?”

    Ryan couldn’t believe his luck when Mara agreed to meet him for dinner at his favorite restaurant Saturday night. He’d always heard the grocery store was like a “meat market” for dating, but never thought it was true, until now. Murphy’s was the place to be that night, and the air outside was perfect for eating al fresco. He hoped he would remember what she looked like, but to his surprise, she was already seated when he arrived and whistled for the salsa boy to come on over.

    As if her long, sexy legs weren’t enough, the way she taunted him, drove him crazy. “Hello Ryan, how did your fiesta night turn out?” Mara cooly questioned.

    “Quite well, after I washed it down with a bottle of Pinot, quite well. And how is the grocery store antagonizer herself doing on this fine night?”

    “Oh, you never can tell, but the weather is fine for a good evening, maybe I’ll avoid the grocery store, just for tonight.”

    Ryan was enthused with the way they were talking and clicking, they really seemed to have a connection, and not just with the witty banter. Not only did they both order the Peking duck and claim it was their favorite, he found out she was from the same small town where he grew up.

    “Where did you say you grew up?”

    “Groton, Groton, CT.”

    “No, can’t be. That’s where I grew up! I’m pretty sure I would’ve noticed a girl like you in Groton.”

    “I guess I just missed your radar, you must’ve caught me in my awkward phase of life…”

    They discussed all the intricacies of life in a small town up North, and how they had both navigated life to end up in Charleston, SC. What a crazy coincidence, or was it fate. Ryan knew he couldn’t let the date end at the restaurant, so he suggested a walk on the beach. She accepted, and they began walking towards the beach, talking and generally enjoying one another’s company.

    Ryan began feeling like he knew her, there was something about her, something about the way she walked, why couldn’t he put his finger on it. If she was someone he’d known from his past, why couldn’t he remember.

    Mara couldn’t contain it any longer. She held up her hand high in the air, and yelled “Go long Weenie boy!”

    The worst memories of his life came crashing back as the waves were hurtling the surf into the sand. Mara was his childhood bully. All. Grown. Up.

    1. Observer Tim

      What a twist! You totally got me, Lenawyn. Now we get to see if Ryan has grown up enough to let bygones be bygones… 🙂

      My red pencil says “coyly” and suggests you write out the state names in full.

      Also, I don’t recognize your name so I’ll welcome you to the site (even if it turns out you’ve been here a while). 🙂

      1. lenawyn

        Thanks Tim, I appreciate the comment. I am kind of new, I tried it for a while a few years back, but was never really a regular. Thanks for the constructive comments as well, I am learning 😉

    2. jhowe

      Talk about taking a wicked turn…. very nice. “Go long weenie boy’ is the perfect example of what a bully would say. I’m envisioning two things: either Mara was a female bully, or she was a male who is now female. Either way works for me. Very enjoyable story.

    3. Dennis

      Nice ending. I at one time had thought of the idea of the woman once being a man for my story so I thought that might be where you were going. Fun story.

  41. Trevor

    Word Count: 750

    Sharing The Secret

    “I’ll have the chicken fricassee topped with creamed spinach.” Adam’s order surprised me. It was the same meal I was going to have. I was so shocked that it took me a while to recover and give the waiter my order.

    What was even more shocking to me was the fact that I was on that date at all. The way we met felt like something from a cheesy Hallmark movie. That Monday, I had been at the grocery store, hurrying to get to the checkout line. As I turned to take a shortcut down the produce aisle, I crashed right into another shopping cart. A gallon of strawberry ice cream fell out of the cart.

    “Oh, my God, I am so sorry! I wasn’t looking-“I started to mumble an apology, but when I saw the man’s face, my throat swelled shut. With that tanned skin, slick black hair, and those soulful green eyes, he looked like he belonged on the cover of a romance novel. Seemingly unfazed by our collision, Adam bent down and picked up the ice cream.

    “It’s alright. No harm done.” He spoke with the charisma of an actor. “My name’s Adam. What’s yours?”

    “I’m Karina.” And just a short conversation later, we had a date that Saturday at the best restaurant in town. We sat at the table, getting to know each other better.

    “So, you’re a novelist? That sounds interesting.” Adam asked me.

    “Yeah, but I haven’t been published yet. Until I do, you can find me waiting tables at Red Lobster.” I hated talking about my stalled writing career. For the past few weeks, I’d been struggling with the worst case of writer’s block. I would stay up late staring at my laptop, praying for inspiration that would never come. It was like my brain had been shut off.

    “Well, I wish my career was as interesting. I work at an insurance company. Just hours of sitting at a computer and getting back cramps.” I couldn’t help but laugh at Adam’s charming wit. Adam laughed along, ignoring the annoyed glances we were getting.

    After our dinner, we left the restaurant and walked along the beach outside. The sun was beginning to set, slowly hiding behind brilliant hues of blue and purple. I looked over at Adam, expecting to see his dazzling smile. But instead, what I saw was a scared, conflicted look on his face.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked, taking Adam by the hand.

    “I have to tell you something, Karina. It’s something I’ve never told anyone before.” Adam hesitated and nervously cleared his throat. My heart sped up. What was he about to tell me? Was he married? A wanted fugitive? A serial killer who had lured me away from the crowded restaurant to do away with me?

    “I think I might be gay.”

    Adam’s secret confused me more than it shocked me. If Adam was homosexual, than why would he take me, a woman, out on a date?

    “I’ve been suspecting it for years now. While I do find women attractive, I also catch myself checking out men, too. I was raised in a Christian household, so I can’t talk to my family about this. My parents would disown me if they found out.” I could tell this was really hard for Adam to be saying. “I still don’t know what I am. I’m so confused.” Then, Adam looked up, tears welling up in his eyes. I reached out and put a hand on Adam’s shoulder. He looked at me with the eyes of a scared puppy.

    “I completely understand. Sexuality is something that takes a while for some people to figure out. But I think you’re the greatest man I’ve ever met, Adam. You’re charming, intelligent, and so easy to talk to. Honestly, I couldn’t care less if our relationship gets serious. As long as we’re friends, that’s enough for me. And I’ll stand by you and help you figure this out, no matter how long it takes. Nothing can make me want to leave you.”

    Adam’s eyes changed after that. They turned into the eyes of a scared man who had finally found someone that understood him. Without warning, he wrapped me in a tight hug.

    “You don’t know much this means to me, Karina. Thank you so much.” When Adam released me from his arms, he had tears streaking down his face. I smiled at Adam and took him by the hand.

    “I think I’ve found my muse.”

  42. Pete

    It was her posture that first got my attention. I was at Trader Joe’s and happend to over when I saw her. She was examining the organic wheat pasta, and looked to be really into it. But there was something about the way her hair was tossed to one side, exposing her neck, that fascinated me. When she noticed me and smiled i almost took out the Cave-Aged Blue Cheese display.

    “Great choice, I said, recovering.

    “Is it?” she said with a laugh. A quick scan of her cart and I could hardly tell it from my own. Soybean burgers, artichoke antipasto, cage free eggs, two bottles of Three-Buck-Chuck mattressed by a pile of worn canvas shopping bags.

    By the time we reached the gluten-free blueberry muffins I was falling head over Toms for Juniper. From her waif-like figure and her skinny capris to her vintage clear eye-glass frames, she was it.

    I asked her out. I had to. And that evening I found mysself looking through those clear glass windows to those vintage blue eyes.

    The waiter approached at our street side table. The night was warm and breezy, and the jazz mingled tunes mingled just under the hum of conversation. I inquired about the filtered water. The waiter hustled off to confirm. When he returned, we were ready to order.

    “I’ll have the balsamic ramp and leek salad.”

    I choked on my flatbread and hummus. A girl who loved ramps and leeks. And come to find out we were both from Williamsburg. It could mean only one thing.

    Destiny.

    We biked to the beech afterwards, where we shuffled along the coastline, rolling our eyes and sharing a similar disdain for nuclear families. They were so clueless, feeding their kids poison while polluting the air with their automobiles. I reached out for her hand e and we swung our arms in step with our strides.

    “Everything okay?”

    “Hmm mmm.” Juniper bit her bottom lip. I worried she might have been using a petroleum balm Not a deal breaker, but close.

    “You sure?”

    I nosed at my under arm. By not falling for the corporate scheme that is deodorant companies I do sometimes leave a scent. Her grip tightened in my hand. It wasn’t my system-fighting funk that seemed to be bothering her. There was something on her mind.

    “What is it, Juniper?”

    She shook her head. “No, I…you would never understand.”

    The sun was falling into the horizon. The crashing waves lent a symbolic rhythm to the moment. I’d found the girl of my dreams and it was falling apart.

    “I have to know what’s wrong. Whatever it is I can understand.”

    She stopped walking and looked me in the eyes. I clutched my fedora, letting the gust of wind flutter through the trails of hair.

    “Years ago….when I had just turned 18.”

    My heart pounded through my v-neck. She fell inot a bench overlooking the beach. I waited, knowing that whatever it was we could work through it. I would marry her. We would have a son, Atticus, and we’d live in 190-square-foot modified dumpster and use a rain barrel for showers. Our life would be so perfect if we could just get through what she was about to say.

    “I was young, and naïve. I had no idea what I was even doing.”
    “And?”

    “And…”

    “Yeah?” What could it be? An abortion? Alcohol? Drugs? Oh God, did she believe in God?

    “I….I voted for Bush.”

    My heart dropped. Just like the ball of fire into the ocean. She was beautiful and ironic and nearly perfect, save for one fatal flaw. I let go of her hand and wiped my eyes. Then I stood. She glanced up to me, then back out to sea. She knew it was unforgivable.

    “We’ll always have ramps, Juniper.”

    “Yeah.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Wonderful, funny, moving, brilliant, heart-wrenching and yet, so very Democratic I mean it even though I hit the steets of Dallas, campaigning for Barry Goldwater.

    1. jhowe

      Now that, that was incredible. What a great job setting the scene and throwing in interesting descriptions and flowing the conversation along seamlessly. I enjoyed this greatly.

    2. cosi van tutte

      😀 😀 😀 😀

      I love this whole part ->“Yeah?” What could it be? An abortion? Alcohol? Drugs? Oh God, did she believe in God?
      “I….I voted for Bush.”
      My heart dropped. Just like the ball of fire into the ocean. She was beautiful and ironic and nearly perfect, save for one fatal flaw. I let go of her hand and wiped my eyes. Then I stood. She glanced up to me, then back out to sea. She knew it was unforgivable.”

      It’s just so hilarious and awesome! Great job!

    3. Reaper

      Great writing, loved the mix of understandable and over the top that is this culture you write about. I think, after reading two stories that I am going to need a lot of napalm this week. How the first two managed to be about characters I disliked and found very interesting and relatable at the same time while being amazing stories I just don’t know.

    4. Observer Tim

      Ah, life among the left-wing loonies (as opposed to life among the right-wing loonies, I guess). I’m sure this is something they could work through; just chalk it up to youthful indiscretion.

      This is very well written, Pete, and captivating in a strange way. 🙂

    5. Cceynowa

      I’m blown away by the sweetness, the humor, and the wit in this piece. The “Oh God, did she believe in God” bit was my favorite though. Very well executed.

    6. Dennis

      You painted a great picture with your words. I’m with Reaper in that the MC needed a napalming but you really captured the subtle fanaticism of him.

  43. lionetravail

    Advance to Boardwalk

    “… And I can’t believe you actually ordered the vegetarian haggis too!”

    “Really? I love it! It makes me feel almost like a Scotsman with a conscience. Never figured you for it though.”

    “Why not?”

    “Well, you’re always going on about being a ‘foodie’ and all.”

    “I’m trying to be better. I read ‘Skinny Bitch’, and…”

    “You’re not, by the way.”

    “Well, screw you!”

    “I meant ‘not a bitch’.”

    “Oh. Well, okay then. But seriously, I think we can be vegetarian foodies too, and not miss out on much. I remember back home how…”

    “Where was ‘back home’ anyway?”

    “Grover’s Mill.”

    “Holy crap! In Jersey?”

    “Yeah, ‘home of the 1938 martian landing’.”

    “Me too!”

    “No way.”

    “Yes way! Went to Wilmuth High…”

    “Shit! Me too! Graduated in 2010.”

    “Huh, I was out in 2006- we just missed. Go figure!”

    “Weird… By the way, are you done?”

    “Pretty much- let me get the check.”

    “Okay. At least this time. Do you have to be anywhere, or are you up for a walk on the boardwalk?”

    “Are you kidding? I can put in extra hours later; I’d love to get to know you better, Jani.”

    “I’d really like that too, Hal… Hey, don’t forget your AMEX.”

    “I blame all X-chromosome-induced discombobulation.”

    “Uh huh… So, you like the boardwalk?”

    “It’s the best part of Atlantic City for me. Damn casino’s are too noisy.”

    “Yeah, the beach is awesome all the time, but best like now during the winter when barely anyone is there. I love watching the ocean… All that liquid water sloshing around is awesome. Do you know how rare it is in all the universe to have water in its liquid state?”

    “Um, no, not really.”

    “Well, take my word for it, it’s pretty freaking rare, Hal.”

    “Some kind of astronomer, astrophysicist, or astrophile?”

    “You could say that.”

    “Well, I think you’re pretty kick-astra.”

    “Okay, that was pretty cute. A little geeky, but cute.”

    “You like geeky and cute?”

    “About as much as I like oceans.”

    “That much, huh?”

    “Yeah… Okay, look Hal. I think you’re really awesome…”

    “Amazing too, right?”

    “Oh, that too, but, well, you should know something about me before we go any further.”

    “Oh crap, is this the ‘I just wanna be friends’ talk?”

    “Oh, god no, you doofus! It’s just that I’ve got things in my family’s past you should know about before we do anything, yanno, serious.”

    “Cool! We’re going to do something serious!”

    “Oh, shut up! This isn’t coming out right…”

    “Okay, I’ll be good. What’s on your mind, Jani?”

    “My grandmother.”

    “Wait. What? What about her?”

    “Let’s just say the landing of 1938 wasn’t exactly a complete hoax.”

    “Huh?”

    “Remember when you joked before lunch: ‘Is that a third leg in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?’ Well, to tell you the truth….”

        1. lionetravail

          Thanks so much, Reatha- yeah, I did it last year; the whole poetry judging/submission thing seems awful subjective to me (even more so than fiction writing), because just how do you determine that one poem is better than another?

          Anyway, I am writing more for myself these days, which is also fun. But yeah, I hope to way in on the PAD challenge at least here and there.

    1. Reaper

      There was a part of me that wanted to throw napalm on the characters but the terms vegetarian foodie and Scotsman with a conscience broke my reality and let me just enjoy the awesome ride this story was. Nicely done. While I hope to see more of you this week good things are much better to keep you away than bad ones.

    2. Observer Tim

      Beautiful dialogue piece, Lione. As soon as I read it I went back to the drawing board; in my version he was the nonhuman (and not a vegetarian) and they were both from Horsell Common. 😉

      You put the story down quickly and with incredible skill. Great job! 🙂 🙂

      1. lionetravail

        Man! I’d like to say ‘great minds think alike, Tim’, only I’m afraid others might respond ‘that, or lunatics run in packs’. Sorry to steal your thunder on this one 🙂

        And thank you everyone for the kind comments!

    3. Cceynowa

      The truth is out there…. you just cut off the story too quickly! 🙂 This was such a fun dialogue piece; very nicely done. I can only echo the above comments and thank you for sharing it with us!

      1. lionetravail

        Thanks Ccey, Manwe and Kerry for the kind thoughts on this piece! Been wrapped up in a few deadlines, so less time until today than I’ve liked. Been and will keep reading above, and hope to catch up today.

        @Ccey- I was trying to prove to myself that I could stay under the 500 word limit 🙂
        @Manwee- I knew to do the thing any justice, and stay under 500, it was only going to be dialogue 🙂
        @Kerry- my time management skills are being overwhelmed in that best of ways, so thank you for being as amazing as you are to find time to comment above, and mention it here as well.

    4. Dennis

      You did well with the dialogue and keeping the story moving, although I am not one to normally want to see this much dialogue at one time. But it is a good exercise for to hone it.

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