Writing Prompt: Bowdlerized

Write about a situation involving an attempt to gently or modestly explain something illegal, outrageous or lewd to someone who might find it offensive, disturbing or problematic.

Post your response in 500 words or fewer in the comments at the end of this post. Or, keep reading to learn the history behind it.

July 11 is Bowdler’s Day, which in equal parts honors and ridicules English physician and philanthropist Thomas Bowdler for his famed prudery. He is responsible for the publication of a book called The Family Shakespeare in 1807. Finding Shakespeare’s works too bawdy and inappropriate “to be read by a gentleman in the company of ladies,” Bowdler censored Shakespeare’s works to make them less offensive for women and children, with the assistance of his sister Henrietta. (You can read the full text of The Family Shakespeare here.)

While Shakespeare’s plays are indeed brimming with naughty puns, murder, suicide, etc., Bowdler’s sanitization seemed nearly as bizarrely puritanical then as it does today. Since then, the word “bowdlerize” has been used as a word meaning “to censor or expurgate,” especially in notably absurd or destructive ways.

He not only nixed about 10% of the text, which contained 20 plays across four volumes, but also replaced some of the language and scenes within the plays for the benefit of “our virtuous females”: Blasphemous declarations of God! or Jesu! became Heavens!, and in some editions he altered Lady Macbeth’s famous cry of “Out, damned spot!” to “Out, crimson spot!”

Some of the more infamously dirty jokes and double entendres were mangled or eliminated:

  • In Othello, Iago’s line “… your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” becomes “… your daughter and the Moor are now together.”
  • In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio’s dirty joke, “… for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon,” becomes “… for the hand of the dial is now upon the point of noon,” and some of the subsequent lines are eliminated.
  • Some of Hamlet’s naughtier language to Ophelia in Act III is dropped entirely.

He also deleted a prostitute character from the text of Henry IV, Part 2, and he tweaked some of the tragedies to make them less tragic or problematic: e.g., Ophelia’s drowning in Hamlet was made accidental (instead of a scandalous suicide).

Despite the rampant censorship, Bowdler noted in the introduction that Measure for MeasureHenry IV, and Othello were still too foul for some audiences—or “incapable of being completely buckled within the belt of rule.”

Therefore, this week’s prompt is dedicated to Thomas Bowdler.

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73 thoughts on “Bowdlerized

  1. jwismann

    The old country veterinarian walked into the restaurant after a visit to the Kloggman’s cattle farm. The local eatery was crowded with the standard greasy, sweaty, gruff customers as always. He clambered toward his seat but was unfortunately stopped short by a young waitress attempting to slide around him between two tables, the vet being pushed into one occupied by the almost never lovely and always very critical, Mrs. Melpin.

    As his portentous paunch was unceremoniously draped suddenly over the last few inches of Mr. and Mrs. Melpin’s table, the latter exclaimed, “Oh, my, Doctor, watch what you are doing!”

    With embarrassment reddening his face, he apologized profusely, “I am so very sorry, Mrs. Melpin, Mr. Melpin,” nodding to them both.

    “Oh,” Mrs. Malpin went on, this time covering her nose with her napkin, “my, how you do smell awful.”

    “I am sorry,” began the doctor, “I was just assisting the Kloggmans with…” but the woman interrupted him.

    “Doctor Abdigarious, you have something on your arm there. Oh…well, what is that slime all over your sleeve? Maybe you should wash before coming into a respectable establishment. Or…I mean…on the other hand, perhaps you should steer clear of respectable establishments if you do not have the decency to clean yourself before going out in public” she said as she slinked closer and closer to the window next to which she was sitting. Her husband, sitting across from her, snickered while trying to cover up the impropriety with a bite of his BLT.

    “Mrs. Melpin,” said the normally patient doctor, “this SLIME is the gelatinous liquid of life produced in the iron danglers of the Kloggman’s prize bull that has not only won for them thousands of needed dollars, but provides them the very business on which their livelihood depends!” Then, in an act of complete disregard for his reputation, Doctor Abdigarious proceeded to remove the supposed semenic slime from his shirt and twirl Mrs. Melpin’s bangs into a stiff swirl above her head like the curly hair of a cartoon baby. Mrs. Malpin was frozen with fear and disgust and, for the first time in her life, had nothing to say.

    The Malpins rose to leave the restaurant, the patrons incredulously staring and whispering to each other as Mrs. Malpin rushed with utter disgust out the door. As Mr. Malpin passed the doctor he patted him on the shoulder and smiled at him as he exited. The doctor smiled back. He would pay their bill for sure. Then he licked the rest of the doughnut icing off of his finger as the customers laughed and everyone clapped for the jokester veterinarian and another grossly enjoyable afternoon.

  2. Kerry Charlton

    Having moved to Coral Gables, Florida by catching a train with my family, I left Washington D. C. behind and landed in a paradise I didn’t even recognize at the time. Two or three years later, my sister and brother-in-law took the plunge also but settled in Fr. Pierce, Florida. A small fishing village located 130 miles north of Coral Gables. It boasted less than a thousand in population, and as it nestled on the Atlantic coast, it waited its turn to grow.
    When school let out, my brother Bill and I caught a bus in the middle of the week and landed at a small motel, built by Bud, my brother in law. A small pond forty by twenty feet sat in front of the travel court because it had been dug out and the dirt used for fill around the foundation two years earlier. After a dinner of half cooked chicken, vegetables hard as stone and burnt potatoes, we went outside with our rods and reels, hooked up lures and fished the small pond.
    Bud came out, “I’m sorry to say there’s no way any fish are in there.”
    I’m just practicing how to cast,” Bill said.
    At that instant, an explosion of water hit his lure and to our amazement a tarpon leaded from the water, ready to fight. It took Bill a few minutes to land him as Bud stood back shaking his head. It weighed close to five pounds and Bill released the fish back into the pond. We filed the fish story in our memory because in my brother-in-law, we had positive truth. Whoever thought what would happen the next day.
    Bright and early in the morning we went to A small park where a community pool ewas available. At nine in the morning, it was empty and we had the place to ourselves. A short time later a girl about seventeen in a tight two piece rode up in her bike and meandered to the diving board. My jaw dropped as I watched her do a one and a half off the diving board . Her body cut through the pool water like a sharp knife. I noticed Bill had her eyes on her also.
    When she climbed from the pool, the force of her dive had pushed the top of her suit down on one side and her right boob was totally exposed. We both noticed at the same time.
    “Go up there and tell her that her tit is exposed,” Bill said.
    “Are you serious, you do it.”
    “Not on my life, it’s too embarrassing.”
    As I thought about it, what was the worst thing that could happen? So I walked slowly toward her and she waved as if she didn’t notice. I began to worry what was wrong with her brain? As I drew closer, my mind flashed, how will I mention it? What will I call it? A boob, knockers, tata’s, hooters, tits? Gad I couldn’t call them tits. My concentration snapped instantly,
    “Hello there, my name is Peggy, what’s yours?”
    “It’s Kerry and my brother is Bill.”
    “He’s good looking.”
    I know, I hear it all the time.”
    She smiled, “How old are Kerry?”
    “Have you ever seen a live boob before?”
    “No, not hardly.
    She pulled the top of her suit off completely.
    “Now there are two to look at.”
    I was getting ready to run but she stopped me.
    “What were you going to tell me?”
    “I was just trying to help. I thought you didn’t know.” My voice cracked like an egg.
    Well, thank you, I’ m sorry to have teased you. Tell your brother he’d a stuffed shirt and go sit on a rock.”
    “I will, you’re very pretty Peggy.”
    ““And you’re a charmer, remember that.”
    “What a nice thing to say.”
    “And also, these” she shook them slightly, “are called breasts.”
    I took off running.

  3. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

    Normally, Randy wouldn’t bother with how he looked. That morning, however, the brown stain in the crotch of his baggy pants glared like a revolution banner against the creamy fabric.

    “Just coffee,” he said, tilting his head in apology to a complete stranger who was passing by. The stranger looked back, puzzled, and kept on going.

    Mouthing excuses here and there, Randy couldn’t wait to reach home and end this walk of shame. Susie, the lovely Susie would deal with the mal-entendu. She’ll scold him for taking a day off work, of course, but she’d understand that no self-respecting print press operator can bear looking like he’d had a ‘malfunction in the backyard’ and turned his pants round to cover up his tracks. Which he absolutely had not because Randy was the most decent print press operator in the town.

    “It’s coffee,” he mumbled to himself. “And it was very uncomfortable when I spilled it. Very.”

    The familiar iron gate of his house finally came into view. Good thing Susie was a housewife and had to be home, hopefully wearing her black-and-white maid uniform which evoked in Randy the most pleasurable tingling right around the area which was now occupied by the scandalizing brown stain.

    “Susie! Darling!” he called, tossing his boots off on the porch. Muffled noises came from the upstairs bedroom. Has his pumpkin planned a surprise furniture rearrangement? It certainly sounded like some heavy pieced were being moved.

    On his way upstairs, Randy called her again, louder this time, to give her time to keep the surprise secret. Everything went silent for a moment, some shuffling around followed, and Susie’s trilling voice rang across the second floor.

    “Randy, darling, come in!”

    “What?!” shrieked a man’s voice in a tone of utter incredulity.

    Randy entered the bedroom to see his wife in her best maid dress, lying on their huge marital bed, propped on her elbow, legs crossed, a touch of warm satisfaction in her rosy cheeks.

    “Susie, pumpkin, I need your—“ Randy’s eyes met the terrified look of a 7-feet tall black guy who stood near the bed wearing solely one leg of his pants and, judging by his posture, had every intention to put on the second one, but failing.

    Randy covered the stain with his left hand, which, he knew by fact, was a little bigger than his right one. “Just coffee, no need to look so outraged.”

    “Darling, meet Danny,” Susie said, ruffling her hair, ruffled enough as it was. “Danny’s a plumber.”

    “A naked plumber, I see,” noted Randy.

    “Of course!” Susie flitted off the bed and helped Danny the plumber get dressed. “He works with water, what do you expect? Bye, Danny.”

    Danny steered around Randy and commented, “Hey, man, your fly’s on your ass.”

    “It’s meant to be,” Randy yelled after him.

    “Darling, it’s the third time you spill coffee this week.”

    “And the sixteenth plumber I meet here. Honestly, pumpkin, what’s wrong with our pipes?”

    “Oh, Randy,” Susie sang, making the bed. “Our pipes are better than ever.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Whoa there,a beautifully written piece o,f of, of farce I have ever read in my life. I always wanted to be a plumber myself for lonely housewives but I think Danny has hit the mother load. I loved this piece.

    2. writer_sk

      What an interesting pair- one has nonstop “coffee” accidents and the other nonstop plumbers!

      The strange thing was Randy’s non-reaction to the plumber. It gave the story an almost eerie ring to it.

      I liked how you left the audience to figure out these people. Good writing.

      1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

        Thank you for your thoughts and comments. They are indeed fun people to write about. I suppose no reaction was explained by the fact that Randy knew that his wife was earning money in a peculiar way (because he’s seriously underpaid, skipping job all the time and being generally quite a messy person). Who knows, maybe Susie adds something to his food to embarrass him and make him turn a blind eye on all her shenanigans. I like playing with people’s motives.

  4. Jennifer Park

    55. The Denial

    [Follows “54. The Nullification”, posted below. You can see a listing of the Darth Barbara saga chapters—all of which are posted under WD prompts—by clicking on my name above.]

    “Ambassador! Wake up! Please!”


    “The Oker has been… destroyed…”

    “What?!?!” That finally woke her up. The reconnaissance vessel had been dispatched to Ep-Ep to assess their military capability. Secretly; many treaties were violated by this action. “How… I mean, never mind. I have to…”

    “The Council, Ambassador, they…”

    “Yes, yes… I have to draft something that denies any sensor ship activity in that area.”

    [It’s past my bed time.]

  5. writer_sk

    I’m rusty! This prompt was difficult for me and the point got away from me! I’ll take any advice. I need to get back on track…


    Cilla was the first person downstairs that morning and she opened the sliding door to look out at the large New England yard off of her parents’ split level ranch. It wasn’t her childhood home but still held both the nostalgia of her youth and the strange yearning for her parents’ vibrancy. They were by no means decrepit, but her mom seemed to have a complete intolerance for weather temperature and conditions as well as more seemingly random experiences: “If you go out to lunch the meal they give you is simply too large. It’s huge. It’s offensive, really.” “I won’t walk outside in the evenings during summer: the bugs are so vexatious I cannot function.” “I hate television.”

    Cilla found a way around her mother’s strangest behavior, which was identifying what she thought were someone’s needs or wants and then insisting they do what she considered would make them more comfortable. She would not let up, either: “Why don’t you sit over here instead, that stool is rubbish.” “Wrap yourself in that blanket, you look cold.” Her guests temperature and comfort level were a far second to her dedication to feeding them. A visit to Meme’s kitchen meant a nonstop barrage of offering regular on-hand snacks to labor-intensive meals, “I could slow roast you a chicken and stir fry some veggies while I whip up some stuffing from scratch.” “Try these almonds and I’ll make you a cup of tea.” “I’ve already eaten,” was an ignored response which insulted her more than, “no thanks.” She wouldn’t allow you to clean any counters or dishes if you did partake and it wasn’t becomes she couldn’t use the help, it was because you were doing it wrong. Meme’s crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder controlled her actions and drove her to great exhaustion. Cilla’s had found if she gave the control of the decision back to her mother she could get out of the cycle, saying: “Do you mind if I just sit here?” “Do you mind if I take a small plate of food home?” If all else failed telling her mother she felt sick to her stomach would work but it opened her up to a diagnosis on par with a doctor’s. “Oh no,” Meme’s face read as the same level of anguish you’d associate with having told her you have a terminal illness.

    “I’ll get you some ginger-ale, lay down on the couch, do you feel like you have a fever?”

    Cilla started the coffee she’d been craving since planning her trip home and went into the yard. By her second cup, everyone was awake. Her younger brother, Sam and sister Paula made pancakes. Her mother put a huge homemade quiche in the oven and her grandma sat looking over the newspaper.

    They all knew about Cilla’s engagement after her divorce but her mother had developed a new obsession in the past five years. She went to church daily and spouted off advice from “the blessed virgin” as though Mary lived next door. Meme was having trouble with the modern arrangement Cilla and her fiancé had in which they lived together at his condo. The wedding would be just them in Bermuda.

    While Meme crocheted at the kitchen table Cilla explained the relationship yet again through large mouthfuls of pancake.

    “We live together. We share a bed. We are marrying in two weeks and that is all the wedding will be.” Cilla was blunt.

    “Why don’t I throw you a wedding shower here,” began Meme and when you get back from Bermuda we can have another celebration and ceremony at the church for you and your roommate?”

    “He isn’t my roommate, he’s my partner, I’m 45.”

    Meme was ignoring her, outright, and had gone out the slider to sweep the deck. Cilla followed her out but was told to “sit down in the shade and have some coffee.” She’d already had 3 cups but humored her mother by getting a a fourth and sitting in the shade.

    1. Witt.Stanton

      Great take on the prompt! I love the scene you set and the characters were wonderfully fleshed-out. I loved it when Cillia “explained the relationship yet again through large mouthfuls of pancake.” Domestic yet underlying tensions.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          You,’ve been away And you say your rusty!
          You have just described a member.of my family and it is so accurate it,’s chilling
          Would you like to know what causes it?8
          I am experienced about this. As people get older, their children and some close friends start to withdraw from them. I don’t think know the cause for the friend’s action or a child’s.

          So the excessive behavior is that person who the older fears she/he is being put on the shelf and left there to die.i know it sounds impossible that.a person could do this but they don’t recognize
          What the are doing
          So what are we doing about it to stay off the shelf?
          Become mysterious, take the children’s inheritance, fly to Rome and throw coins in the fountain. Send the younger ones a postcard.and tell them you’re glad they aren’t with you
          I think your prompt response is brilliant.
          How old am I? Not telling. I am mysterious

          1. writer_sk

            Kerry- thank you! Your comments are very motivating. I appreciate all your insight and find in very helpful to learn my character’s inner motivation. Maybe I’ll think about writing something from Meme’s viewpoint to reveal her backstory.

    2. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Smooth but hectic is what comes to mind now that I read your piece. Somehow you managed to connect the unconnectable (I’m speaking about the ‘flow’ not the plot). Sometimes the story flied, sometimes stumbled over a series of dialogue lines. Maybe it’s just the fact that you didn’t divide the lines into paragraphs, which made the piece a bit hard to read. However, second time over, the characters spoke to me a bit more clearly. I would love to read more of you.

      1. writer_sk

        Lucretia, welcome and thank you for the input.

        I see exactly what you mean and believe it speaks to my rushed proofreading. I appreciate the specific feedback. Dialogue can be so tricky.

        I loved your compliments, too.

        1. Denise G. Monello

          I thought it was a touching truth of older people. I appreciated the fact that Cilla had a loving tolerance to Meme which can be difficult for others.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, dear. You captured my mother from my first memories to the last. My sons warn me when I start channeling her. Good job. Cilla is handling it well.

  6. Witt.Stanton

    “Martha Josephine Rosetta,” her daughter admonished, pulling away from the hug. “You smell worse than my husband does after a night out with the boys. Are you drunk?”

    Martha pushed herself up from her walker and shuffled toward the mirror. “I’m right as rain, Susan. Look at me!” Patting her hair into place, she gave her daughter a cheeky, toothless grin.

    Her daughter’s eyes widened and a gasp escaped her chest. “Mother. You’re taking seven different medications. The nurses warned you about reckless behavior.”

    “Eight. You forgot the one for my constipation.”

    “Oh my goodness. Who took you to the bar in the first place?” asked Susan, her hands fluttering helplessly at her sides. “I left to spend one night at home with my husband and two children. One night. I come back to find one of the off-duty nurses rolling you back into the room after hours!”

    Singing to herself, Martha shuffled into the kitchenette, turned on the tap and began to fill a large metal cooking pot with water. “The nurse that wheeled me back was cute, wasn’t he? You should find yourself a man, Susan. One that will take care of you.”

    Susan eyed the abandoned walker in the entryway with a sigh and sat herself down in her mother’s rocking chair. She clutched one of the soft throw pillows to her chest, breathing in the smell. “I’m married, mother.”

    “But he’s not taking care of you, is he?” Martha swiveled her head to look at her daughter. “You spend all of your time with me here. I’m your mother. It’s my job to know when something’s out of place. You need a better husband.” Looping her speckled, stick-thin fingers through the handles of the pot, Martha began to drag the pot across the counter and towards the stove.

    “Mother,” her daughter tried again. She made as if to stand up but decided against it. “I’m fine. I just worry about you.”

    Making a noise of disbelief, Martha shoved the pot onto the stovetop and began twisting the nobs on the front of the stove, trying to turn on the top burners. “Don’t worry about me, Susan. I am ninety-two years old. I don’t need your mother-henning.” She paused, and then with all her might, she wrenched the largest nob to the right.

    “Mother, stop. The nurses disconnected the stove. It won’t heat up.”

    Martha gave her daughter a strained look. “Then why did they give me a stove?”

    Susan finally stood. “You need to sit down, mother. Sit down.”

    “I will not. You sent me to live here the week after my husband died. I don’t know what you were thinking. I looked after him in his old age and I took care of our house. It’s beyond me why you decided I couldn’t look after myself when he passed! It was one less person to worry about.”

    “Mother!” whispered Susan, scandalized. “You can’t say things like that. You’re happy here.” But Martha was on a roll.

    “Do you think that I want to live in a two-room house where nothing works?” She angrily shuffled toward the television. She turned it on and stabbed the buttons on the remote control, endlessly looping through the same three shows. “I’m living in the shell of a body worn down from living too much, Susan. I can’t even get drunk properly. This two-room imitation mocks my inability to return to the world. I want to cook my own food, watch my own television, and stay out as late as I damn well please.”

    “You can’t say that,” Susan repeated, stunned.

    Martha took a breath, turned off the television, and sat down next to her daughter. “I refuse your attempt to sugar-coat my life. Get out, or help me fix that god-damned stove.”

    1. writer_sk

      Wow, I really sympathize with Martha. I believe in having the elderly keep their independence as long as possible. Good writing.

      If you don’t mind a little constructive crit: Id include less plot exposition in the dialogue and let it come out another way; for example when the daughter is telling the Martha the details of what she herself did if just maybe be nurse brief. It didn’t sound wrong – just a little awkward. Just my two cents! Nice work.

    2. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Way to go, Witt. You managed to involve me in the action, the beginning and the end are both right where they should be. The characters are vivid and perfectly ‘alive’, and I’d like to note the way you give out important pieces of information when one doesn’t expect them. That sentence of yours: ‘She clutched one of the soft throw pillows to her chest, breathing in the smell. “I’m married, mother.”’ I think I’m in love))

  7. ReathaThomasOakley

    True Story

    The hair atop her head was a bright yellow, cotton candy, architectural masterpiece with a perfectly placed sausage roll crown. I don’t remember her name, but I’ll never forget the hair, or the blue eyeshadow, or the Revlon Fire and Ice lipstick. We shared a common story, twenty years apart: Young southern girls, who fell for western men, hers died, mine was in Wyoming with another wife, and now we made our homes in Montana.

    We’d chat as I picked up messages at her reception desk, so we got to know each other a bit. I had sons, she’d never had children so that topic was avoided, but I learned she still cooked “Southern” for her church friends and just as religiously had a standing Saturday morning appointment at a salon where they, according to her, still knew how to do ladies hair.

    I sometimes wondered about the paperbacks tucked in a bookcase behind her desk, but never wondered enough to ask. Then one day she had one open, a 3×5 card in one hand, a black fine point marker in the other. So intent was she that she jumped when I spoke.

    “Ah, that brings back memories.” I said.


    “Underling textbooks.”

    “Oh, I’m not underling, I’m marking out things that shouldn’t be read.”

    She explained that her hairdresser had a lending library at the salon, when you brought a book you could take a book, but some women, obviously not ladies, brought in romance novels that contained words and passages that could be offensive or prurient. So, this good church-going displaced southerner would keep the innocent shop customers from being exposed to filth by reading books with suggestive covers and applying black ink where needed.

    “But,” I couldn’t help myself, “should you be reading those books if they’re so bad?” She shook her head, risked a sartorial avalanche, gave me a bright red-lipped smile, and replied, “Some body’s got to do it, and besides, I’m strong in the Spirit.”

    A few years before that day I’d had the privilege and pleasure of meeting the essayist Noel Perrin and hearing him speak on censorship at the library where I worked. I’d heard the term, “bowdlerize,” but didn’t know the origin until I read Mr. Perrin’s book, “Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy: A History of Expurgated Books in England and America” prior to his visit.

    That day, watching that very sincere lady saving other women from unexpurgated books, I knew Thomas Bowdler’s legacy lived.

  8. Hiba Gardezi

    Is the fact that you’re writing no more
    Disturbing is that you no longer craft stories
    Gently, they say, speak gently to your soul
    Ok, Soul
    Ok, Hiba here goes

    You are a writer in your core
    You must write with the belief that what you are doing is only right
    And that you were meant to be here
    Why then, every time that your fingers begin to dance on the keyboard, do you…
    Jump off-
    Of the empty bottle of ink in your heart…
    Or the overflowing emotion that may destroy this restless harmony
    You fear both your rapturous feelings and your dully wrought brain
    You despise being worldly
    But will not dare to jump down the ditch of the opposite
    What then do you want?
    Decide now once and for all
    Will you
    Or will you not write

  9. ShamelessHack

    November 19, 1863

    “Four score and seven years ago our non-gender-specific forebears brought forth, on this continent, a new social convention, conceived in political correctness and non-impactful, monitored speech, and dedicated to the non-threatening proposition that all persons are evolved equally.
    Now we are engaged in a great civil conversation, testing whether that nation, or any nation so happily agreed-upon, and so filled with safe-spaces, can long endure.
    We are met on a great debating-field of that conversation.
    We have come to dedicate a portion of that field (where we won’t disturb the natural ecology or the spotted owls) as a final resting-place for those critics and commentators who here gave their gentle opinions, that that nation might live.
    It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
    But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
    The brave men, living and dead, cis-gender and/or transgender, and/or pansexual, and/or lost in transition, who argued here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
    The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here, or said that they would do here. Or said that they would have a conversation about what they would do here. Right after a meeting and a lunch break.
    It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work (at public-service union wages or better), which they who verbally fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great shovel-ready task remaining before us that from these honored critics we take increased devotion to an ideal (not to a deity) to that cause (political–not faith-based) for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under (censored), shall have a new birth (by choice only) of hate-speech-free freedom, and that the all-knowing, all-powerful, and of course, very benign and socially triumphant government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

    1. jhowe

      Ok, I humbly declare this to be brilliant. Take that conservatives, take that liberals, we play no favoritism here. (I hope you appreciate the extra work needed to include the Italics. A truly entertaining piece.

    2. writer_sk

      Hack, great job. This is beyond clever. Such a strong statement on being so politically correct or having so much inclusion and diversity involved in in everything that it disrupts the flow of life and overrides common sense.

      Very eloquent and well-stated.

  10. Denise G. Monello

    “The bay breeze. A faint smell of fish in the air that passes beneath one’s nose as locks gently stray through the path of your vision–causing a chill to the body as it cools down your perspiration.”

    “It’s a breeze. A hot, muggy, stinky blow to the face.”

    “Jim, what do you see by the dock?”

    “A bird? A boat?”

    “Ah, my friend, I see a vessel bound for adventure. I see it as the craft producing memories of the sea. Men, women, rapidly skimming the surface of the water. The vessel is unknowingly bouncing to the beat of the rhythmic sounds emanating from hidden speakers. Sipping cocktails from plastic cups, absorbing the rays of the sun. Soaking in the scenery around them through dark spectacles preventing harmful beams from passing through their eyes.”

    “A margarita–music–sounds nice.”

    “Tanned, sweaty bodies with narrow wired weapons strategically placed beneath the darkened surfaces of the water, dangling a delectable delight to their prey. Once hooked, the perilous battle begins. The man struggles to retrieve his prize. The victim is viciously fighting to regain his freedom. Who will be the victor?”

    “Well, if we were doing the fishing, the fish would win. We never catch anything.”

    “True my friend, true. We seldom catch anything but a sunburn.”

    “Why can’t you talk regular–talk like a bunch of guys?”

    “I’m not part of a bunch. Someone in a “bunch” sees things as the bunch sees it. One never has the opportunity to express his innermost thoughts because the bunch rules him. Jim, the bird?”

    “It’s a bird.”

    “It’s a finely feathered creature resting atop an aged piece of wood, craning its head to observe his surroundings–like the beacon from the ancient weathered lighthouse, passing over the darkened seas. The plumed creature searches for the slightest movement in the gently moving waters indicating his afternoon nourishment rests beneath its surface. And sliding down the rough timber as he rests, are the remnants of his morning meal.”

    “Mack, it’s bird crap.”

    “To most. To me, it’s the excess release of what the body no longer needs after its miraculous process of digestion.

    “I’ve had enough of relaxing by the bay. Let’s go get a beer.”

    “Visions, Jim, visions. Life is all about how you visualize it. For instance, I see two fairly young men, resting from a days work. Muscles sore, throats parched.”

    “And I see them going to a one-horse town. Being met by a pretty young girly in short shorts and a tank top askin’ them what they want. I see those men throwin’ back a cold one from an icy mug that’s drippin’ all over the table.”

    “I see two hard-working men, but their labor doesn’t afford them the luxuries of life. One, the surveyor–noticing the people, where they’re going, what they’re doing. The other swiftly approaches the dock and observes the golden implement precariously dangling amidst the many dials. He nods to the surveyor. The surveyor trots to him at a rapid pace. Both carefully place their feet onto the jostling vessel. In eager anticipation, with quivering fingers, one man turns the golden implement releasing into the air a mighty roar–the smell of gasoline. Their smiles broaden. They quickly release the heavy, slimy ropes that hold the vessel captive. Both take their stance as mighty oaks. The vessel surges free from it shackled spot.”

    “Mack? Are you sayin’ what I think your sayin’? You stealin’ it, Mack?”

    “You are correct in your thoughts and diction my friend. Let’s go. The luxury of life awaits us.”

    1. jhowe

      This was a real gem of literary delight. I don’t think I’d enjoy hanging out with Mack too often, but man, can he spin a yarn. I wish them well on their journey and hope they don’t get caught.

  11. jhowe

    Many of the Writer’s Digest prompt writers flew to Vegas for the first annual spam filter appreciation event. It was poorly attended.

    Kerry was the first to arrive and toted a portable propane torch. Hack met him in the lobby with the dynamite. After recently writing a story featuring the Roadrunner, Hack was nervous carrying the explosives, but he pushed his fears aside. Reatha, the most reliable of the group, voiced her concerns that no one should be hurt but the spam filter had to go.

    From the sidelines, Jhowe recorded the events. From the corner of his eye, he noticed Snuz and many others milling about, trying unsuccessfully to blend and cast away suspicion. He wanted to name them all, but he’d learned long ago that 280 word stories get bogged down rapidly if too many characters are featured.

    With the unprecedented struggle with unreliable censorship via the spam filter the previous year, the prompt writers were antsy to take action. They’d inserted one too many asterisks in their stories to vanilla-ize the most benign wording. All eyes turned to Kerry and he gave the nod.

    Kerry aimed the flame thrower and a stream of water came out, slightly wetting the spam filter. Hack activated the explosives and confetti spewed about. Cosi was quick to announce, “Hey, we’re writers, not gosh danged terrorists.”

    On the plane home, the writers enjoyed free c*cktails, thanks to the first class upgrade granted by Writer’s Digest. When asked, Jhowe plans to stick with the free drink angle, despite it being the most fanciful concept of the story.

    1. Jennifer Park

      I’m sorry I was a no-show. The spam filter filtered out the invite because it had the word “spam” in it. Should have called it a “luncheon meat” protest.

      I’m glad you all had a good meeting, and thank you for posting the lovely minutes.

      So, what is the opposite of meta-fiction, when the fiction is actually painfully close to real life of the authors? 😉

        1. Jennifer Park

          No, no, that probably was my pro-censorship evil twin, Katrina. She’s not even a real DJ. Probably drugged the real DJ and took their spot. She calls herself a promotor-for-hire, and takes over dance parties like that, and promotes her clients’ music by inserting them into the play list. She also uses her body to make radio DJs play her clients’ music. This sounds all noble and all, but she only represents clients who have innocuous lyrics… and is actually a secret agent for the Censorship Board at the RIAA.

          She is one of the elite RIAA agents responsible for those bland dance tunes that don’t have any lyrics worth remembering. You know, the ones that the artists keep insisting are not euphemisms. The Censorship Board’s methods are shameless and ruthless, even scandalous, especially for an organization that purports to uphold traditional values. I suppose the ends justify the means. There is an epidemic of ends-ism in the US, I have to say.

          And clever. Why fight culture trends with laws and regulations and Supreme Court decisions when you can erode it from the inside?

          Oh, wait… There’s someone knocking on my door. I haven’t even posted this exposé, consarn it, and I haven’t even used a censorable word!

          Well, I can see the RIAA vehicles parked on my lawn. I am done for.

          So long, everyone…



  12. Jennifer Park

    54. The Nullification

    [Follows “53. The Diary” under “Lost Journal!”. You can see a listing of the Darth Barbara saga chapters—all of which are posted under WD prompts—by clicking on my name above.]

    [This is another commentary on a current event.]

    “The Lshammen?”

    “Yes, Ambassador.” With the arrival of the new ambassador to Tstrini, Barbara was no longer the official ambassador to any of the planets in her four octants. She now had a much more modest official title of “Adjunct Advisor”. But, “Ambassador” being technically the highest title she had attained, people still addressed her by it. “Total clemency.”

    “By, ‘clemency’, you mean we’re going the unleash a rabid band of pillaging r@pists upon…”

    “Ah, well, they will be allowed to stand for the upcoming election.”

    “As in, they are going to intimidate their way into controlling a planet.”

    “The Lshammen did oppose the Lorgonian Planetary Council. As such, they stood with the Union.”

    The Lorgonians were definitely anti-union in sentiment, albeit not in deed. “No, no, no… The Lshammen were going to attack the Union once they controlled Lorgon. They still plan to, I’m sure.”

    The Envoy coughed pitifully. The Envoy had little control over this matter. She was merely a messenger from the Council of Thirty, who were also ultimately powerless.

    “For eff’s sake… Read the statement again.”

    “‘In recognition of their valiant struggle against the tyranny of…’”

    “Let me stop you there. We’re the tyranny. Not the Lorgonians.”


    “Are we really going to encourage people to fight tyranny?”

    “Well, yes, Ambassador. The Union stands against tyranny. We are the voice of freedom and messenger of…”

    “We are the voice of freedom that is going to let the biggest jerks in the octant walk free… Do you know how many civilians they murdered? How many children they orphaned, and then… trafficked?”

    “These are not publicly known, Ambassador. And, they certainly have not killed as many innocents as, say, Homli…”

    Barbara shut off the viewer.


    Barbara answered the envoy’s call after a few hours’ attempts. “Go away.”

    “Ambassador, I need your commitment to dispatch the instructions…”

    “Alright. Suppose I see the point of ‘rewarding’ the Lshammen for opposing the ‘dastardly’ Lorgonians. And suppose I do not want to… lie. Work with me on this.”

    “Ambassador… Please…”

    “No, seriously. I’ve been stretching my brain on a rack trying to come up with something… palatable.”

    The Envoy pleaded again for her life. “All I need is your commitment, Ambassador…”

    “The Council can decide on the deed. I decide on the message. Help me.”

    The Envoy sighed. Resignedly. “I suppose… Well… The truth is, we are unleasing a bunch of law-breaking pirates to punish a bunch of spineless cowards.”

    Barbara nodded. “And why?”

    “To set an example…”

    “And why?”

    “So the less spineless planets do not dare grow… spines?”

    “Exactly. So…”

    “Which is, really, regretful…”

    “Aha! That’s it! Regret. ‘We regret that we have no choice under the Union Charter but to… to…’”


    “Yeah! ‘But to nullify the sovereign decrees by the Lorgonian Planetary Council… during… the…’”

    “‘While under the sway of… illegitimate… influences…’”


    “I will check with the council… And, this means we have to release ALL of their criminals.”


    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Great job handling the prompt and Barbara’s situation. I checked your blog recently and am so impressed with the body and excellence of your work.

  13. Jess Zafarris Post author

    In case anyone can’t see the prompt/article above, I am aware that it seems to mysteriously disappear for no particular reason, and I’m looking into it. Thanks for your patience.

    Update: The problem has been resolved, and I shifted the prompt to the beginning of the post to make it easier to find it without reading through the history.


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