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Career Day

Categories: Creative Writing Prompts Tags: creative writing exercises, creative writing prompts, writing prompts.

You’ve agreed to give a talk at your child’s school for Career Day. Not only do you hate public speaking, you found out yesterday that you’ve been fired from your job—and you haven’t told your kid yet. Write what happens when you go to the school to present.

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

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308 Responses to Career Day

  1. laurentravian says:

    Sorry guys. I just felt like another one. :)

    I cursed under my breath as I flew towards the school. Random objects beneath me turned to even more random objects. This was why I was fired- improper use of magic. Well… that ungrateful wretch Cinderella probably had something to do with it too. How was I to know the Prince snored? And now, the agency is shutting down, because no one wants a fairy godmother anymore. Well, at the very least, the agency is letting off some fairies. Because, of course, you can still help if you aren’t visible. But that will not please anyone, so most fairies got laid off. I was soon at the school. I collected my wits, then stepped inside. “And here we have Madame Merriwether, a fairy godmother.” Announced the teacher cheerfully. I smiled at her, then searched for my son. Poor kid. I knew he got teased because he was half-mortal, but how was I supposed to change that? I gave him magic, I taught him spells, but he doesn’t DO anything. I fluttered over to the podium. “I, uh, um…” Gabriel looked at me encouragingly. I shrugged. “I got laid off because Cinderella was displeased with her prince. I am sorry, Flora, Fauna and Beatrix. I see you there, fluttering, waiting for your turn, wondering whether you should lie. Any questions?” BAM! Gabriel used the Love spell I taught him. His entire class was female. They immediately turned their attention to him. “Oh Gabriel.” “Gabriel!” “Gabby, darling!” “My angel!” “My one!” “My only!” “True Love!” that last one was from Beatrix. I always knew she was a slut.Gabriel ran out the door, grabbing my hand as he went. His wings were always so big and feathery… “Mother. ” he said in his deep voice when we got home. “Yes dear?” I asked happily. “I must go now. To heaven… to fulfill my destiny. I already started an internship there as a message courier.” I turned to him in shock. “But your magic! You just used it perfectly!” Gabriel shook his head. “No mother. Goodbye.” And with that, he was gone. My little baby, all grown up. His father would be so proud.

  2. npryncess says:

    “Hi, Lana. It’s Karmen. I’m really excited about career day tomorrow. Just calling to confirm that we should all be at the high school at 10 am. Give me a call or shoot me a quick text when you get a minute, okay? Talk to you soon.”

    “Criminy!” I shout, as I sink into my chair and seal the last of the boxes containing 15 years of ‘stuff’ from what, in 5 minutes, will be my ‘old office’ at my ‘old job’.

    You see, yesterday, my new boss was suddenly faced with the realization that I am twice her age and I don’t take too kindly to being spoken to like I was enrolled in a Scared Straight Boot Camp. I don’t really remember what I said to her. I just remember seeing red and then I think I must have blacked out or something…but that’s another story for another day. The next thing I remember is standing on the curb outside of the building that houses the 200 lawyers I used to work with, while the HR lady stood in the doorway shaking her head with my building pass in her hand.

    Thank goodness for that delayed reaction thing I’m known for, (yesterday excepted), or I’d be flipping out right about now. As the president of my alumni association I had arranged, along with seven of my closest friends and fellow alum, to present a career day at my kids’ school tomorrow. My twins were so excited and proud. In our neighborhood status was everything and they were chomping at the bit to introduce their lawyer mom and their ‘pretend’ aunts and uncles (they’d known my friends since they were born) who were doctors, entertainers, entrepreneurs and even the mayor of our little town.

    As I load the boxes into the trunk of my car my mind races, searching for a quick solution to this unexpected problem. I’m dreading the thought of seeing disappointment in my girls’ eyes. Will they pack up and move in with one of my friends who is still successful? Will my friends shun me? Should I lie to everyone tomorrow? Okay, now I’m panicking! “Wooosahhh”, I moan as I sit behind the wheel of my Porsche, massaging my earlobes, eyes closed tight, rocking like an addict going through withdrawal. Suddenly a feeling of calm envelopes me. I open my eyes slowly and breathe deeply. “Career Day is meant to introduce children to a variety of career options.” I rationalize. “Unless I’m disbarred or fail to maintain my license I am still a lawyer!”

    “Karmie, yup, high sch @ 10. See u 2morrow” I txt.

    …”Good morning class. I think many of you know me. I’m Mrs. Werthington, my first job is being Chloe and Bella’s mom, but I’m also a lawyer. Now, there are many types of lawyers. Some work for law firms, some for corporations like Nike, or for the government, and some work for themselves in private practice…”

  3. Miksoko says:

    When I woke, my head was pounding. Throbbing, more like. I smashed my face into my pillow as far as it would go, and tried to make my life go away, but my conscience itched until I looked at the clock. Fuck. I was late. Goddammitgoddammitgoddammit. I hobbled around my room on still asleep legs, looking for clothes. I had a pair of slacks crumpled in the corner, and a blouse at the bottom of a slightly damp laundry pile. I settled on mismatched socks and remorsefully ran out the door without brushing my teeth or hair.
    When I arrived at the school, I parked and ran to Rafe’s classroom. It took me a couple tries, but I made it, out of breath, sweaty, and stinking to high heaven. Pulling my hair into a sloppy bun, I knocked and entered.
    “Mommy!” Rafe screeched from the back of the room. Everybody’s heads swiveled to face me in all my disgusting glory. I ducked my head and hurried to the undersized chairs where the rest of the parents were sitting. Moments ticked by until I was called to the front of the class.
    I stood nervously as the kids, all too aware that my clothes were wrinkled and my hair greasy and flyaway. I probably still had make-up smeared all over my face from last night, too.
    “So, Rafe, do you want to tell me what your mommy does?” his teacher prompted when several minutes had passed and I still hadn’t said anything.
    While Rafe explained that I was a waitress, I took deep gulps of air, trying to calm myself. I hated talking to people. My job doesn’t really require much talking. Well, it didn’t. I looked up, and saw everybody staring at me with unnerved faces. What had Rafe said?
    “And sometimes, she doesn’t get back until real late!” Rafe finished triumphantly. His teacher glanced at me, incredibly nervous.
    “So, you’re a… waitress. And you wear…” she looked at Rafe.
    “She wears her panties to work!” he shouted to the whole class. How did he know that? He was supposed to be asleep when I came home! The parents shared uncomfortable looks and murmured to each other, taking peeks at me.
    “Um… I’m not sure we should talk about your job anymore, Ms. Anders,” his teacher said, avoiding my eyes. “It’s not really an appropriate topic.” I was shuffled to the back of the line and pretended to curl up into my chair.
    When it was time to leave, one of the moms accosted me.
    “I think it’s disgusting, what you do. You are setting a very bad example for your son,” she said snootily. As she turned, I heard her breath the word “whore.” I snapped.
    “I’m not a whore!” I screamed. Everyone turned to look at me. “I’m a dancer at Catz. Or I was until I was fired. So I’m not a bad example anymore. Happy?” The room was silent. Tears started in my eyes, and I ran to my car, away from those horrible people, back to my miserable life.

  4. Chocoleese says:

    Hi all, first time here. Love the concept of the prompts. Here goes:

    Back then, I loved Career days. The job titles sounded fascinating. Configuration Administrator, Senior Underwriter, Molecular Scientist. Of course, there was the usual boring doctor-lawyer-dentist talk too. After each Career Day, I usually imagined myself all suited up, walking into my office, briefcase in one hand, coat in the other, to the clickety-click sound of my two-inch heels. Two inches because I would probably grow as tall as my dad, and I didn’t want to tower too much over everyone. Career days were my motivation. Especially since my own parents were hardly invited to a Career Day. After all, what could a maid and a seasonal – more out-of-season than in-season – fruit picker say to “…expose students to future opportunities and to inspire them to greatness”?

    Fast forward to now and here I am, about to present at my daughter’s Career Day. By now, of course, I learned the value of work and rewarded my parents’ sacrificial efforts to provide for me with a retirement home in the suburbans. Even if I hadn’t, they would have still felt duty-bound to sacrifice for their children. Funny the things that usually came to my mind whenever I was about to make a major presentation. This wasn’t the first or second presentation I would make – after all being a Senior Organizational Communications Coordinator meant I did this at least twice a week. With the two-inch clickety heels.

    All eyes on me. Especially a brown pair belonging to an awestruck pre-teen who just seconds ago whispered, “That’s my Mom! She’s a great talker!”

    Jess, this great talker got fired yesterday, I mentally communicated.

    “The job of a Communications Coordinator is an exciting one. It involves effectively communicating everything about the company to customers through the media.”

    How do I effectively communicate that I no longer have a job? But one look at the pride on Jess’ face made me realize I could not stand there and pretend everything was okay. The potential embarrassment was probably too much for her to bear. And for me, of course.

    “But sometimes a change in company ownership means that CEOs carry their own employees with them to their organizations. Especially their communications people”.

    A few murmurs. Everyone was staring intently at me, especially Jess.

    “That’s why I would like to announce that I no longer do today what I did yesterday.”. Those cute eyes widened in surprise. She looked at me with a raised eyebrow, squirming uncomfortably in her seat.

    “I’m proud to announce that as of today, I will be campaigning for…. mayor of this city!”

    I could not tell who was more surprised – my daughter or me. Mayor! Seriously! What magic hat did that appear from?

    Lots of applause. “You go, Mrs. Jackson!” Some of the kids were patting Jess on the back and giving her high-fives.

    Hmmm….Mayor Jackson….

    “And this is how I intend to carry out my campaign…”

  5. JohnBethlehem says:

    As Mr. Malone exited to leave, he whispered “good luck” to Stewart Gordon. Stewart’s smile wasn’t visible through the terror that was now plastered to his face.

    “Hey buddy, you alright? You’re not gonna vomit are you?” Malone asked. Stewart swallowed the little amount of saliva he had left and finally mustered a response, “Yeah. No, I mean,” another swallow, “Yes, Im ok and no, Im not going to vomit.”

    “You sure? “

    “Yeah… yeah, I’m fine. Just a little nervous.” Stewart mumbled.

    “Now, we have just one more. Next up is Micah’s dad, Stewart Gordon. Mr. Gordon owns Gordo Burger, right next to the movie theatre. How many years have you owned Gordo Burger, Mr. Gordo?” The class let off a small chuckle. “I mean Mr. Gordon.”

    Mr. Gordo, now flushed with red, spoke his answer to the ground, “Thirty-two.”

    “Wows” softly echoed throughout, ending with a perfectly punctuated “holy shit” from Benny Harper in the back; more laughter erupted.

    “Benny!” Mrs. McPhee looked back up at Mr. Gordon. “I’m sorry. Please, begin.”

    “S-S-Sure.” He stared blankly at the class for a few seconds. “I’m sorry, I d-don’t do this v-very often. I’m a little n-nervous.”

    “Just share with us a little about why you got into the burger business or maybe even where you’d like to see it go.” Mrs. McPhee replied.

    “O-Ok,” he paused. “W-well, one of the t-things I’d like to s-see is expanding m-maybe out towards Hazel or even Paducah.”

    “That’s wonderful. So, you don’t have any plans of retiring any time soon, I take it.” Mrs. McPhee asked.
    “Oh, no. N-not yet. W-we’re doing okay right now. W-We’ve had a bit of a s-set back this year but I think we’ll m-make it out ok.”

    “My dad says you’re going under.” Benny Harper raised his hand as he spoke. “He says you’re shutting down in a month.” Stewart froze. His eyes were widened by the comment.
    “N-n-no. T-that’s not t-t-that’s not t—”

    “He said it was cause you hired a queer manager.”

    “That’s enough!” Mrs. McPhee was on her way to the front. Stewart’s noticed his son’s immediate embarrassment.

    “I di-didn’t hi-hi-hire a qu-qu-queer manag—“ Before he even got the word out, his son hurriedly made his way out of the class.

    “I mean… I didn’t… he’s n-n-not a…”

    “Mr. Gordon, it’s ok. I think it’s ti—

    “I didn’t mea—”

    “I know.” Mrs. McPhee gently grabbed his arm, “Here, I’ll walk you out.” There was no applause.
    “Get rid of the queer to stay in the clear, Mr. Gordo.” Benny quipped. Stewart and Mrs. McPhee stopped. They stared in bewilderment at Benny who was now reclining in his chair with his hands behind his head, smiling.

    “Go to principle Trice’s office, Benny,” Mrs. McPhee said softly but with authority. “Now. I’ll be there to meet you shortly.” He stopped smiling. Not because she’d put him in his place. But because he’d just publicly called Principal Trice’s son a queer.

  6. ggbrown says:

    Great, a -fucking- nother job bites the dust, and I have to speak at my son’s school tomorrow.

    Hey everybody, this is my dad.

    Hi kid’s, my name is Slim. Brad is my son, sit down son.

    Slim starts with a joke, “a giraffe walks into a bar and says highhballs on me,” The teacher does not think this is funny , but some of the kids laugh hysterically.

    Kids, son. I lost my job yesterday. Don’t feel sorry for me though, thats life. I have had my share of jobs in this world and to be quite honest this one was’nt all that good. Yep, it’s on to bigger and better things for me. You see, i have learned something very valuable in living a workin mans life and that is, you just have to keep on going. Slims voice begins to shutter, “life gets better, and better, and better as you……”

    Slim breaks down and begins to sob uncontrollably. He falls to his knees and the class begins to gather around. The teacher walks over and helps Slim to his feet. Chris, Slims son helps his dad to his feet.

    Dad stop, please stop, Stop! Slim begins to gain his composure, and starts to leave the class room with his son’s help.

    They get out to the parkinglot and Chris says , “dad, did you start drinking again?”

    Slim say’s, “shut up and get in the god-damn car.”

    • Ishmael says:

      I thought the joke was rather funny. The break-down followed by the son’s concern that dad was drinking again (followed by dad’s drunken retort, which was perfect) fit the story nicely.

      A few clerical errors, but the story was genuinely touching.

      • ggbrown says:

        thank you, i wrote a more complete version then my computer went off line and i lost it. so i pecked that one out pretty quick. i normally use google when typing for errors so i get the words right. i guess i could use word then cut and paste. anyway thanx for the review!

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Nice and to the point. I wonder the expanded version looked like?

    • Jeanie Y says:

      What a melancholy story. Makes me want to take Chris home and punch Slim out. Your writing got me all riled up ggbrown!

  7. laurentravian says:

    I smiled wide, and reapplied my lipstick.
    “Greetings young people.”
    2 4th graders looked up. A nerd and my daughter, who quickly looked down again. The rest yawned.
    “Yesterday, I had a successful job at a New York Law Industry.” Five kids. None Annie.
    “I was fired for calling the boss on his sexist approaches and idiocy.” All the girls’ heads go up. Except Annie.
    “Now I have a cool 50,000$ and every intention of starting…” they were all staring at me. What would I do?
    “a new life in California as a Hollywood starlet. So none of you will ever see Annie again.” Annie was looking up at me and smiling now. I smiled back. “In fact, I have to take Annie with me RIGHT NOW to catch our plane!” “But Mrs. Evers!” cried the poor pathetic teacher. “Zip it, Miss Dateless.” Annie was ready at the door. I grabbed her arm and ran as fast as I could in high heels. “So Mom, where are we going this time?” I opened the car door. Annie scrambled into the back, next to the bags. “Avalon, Annalisa. It’s time to go back. Mother and Father can hardly refuse us asylum now that you are nine. By the way, what did they do this time?” I drove towards the docks, to the waiting ferry. “Gum wads in my hair. Lemon juice in my eyes.” I bit my lip. I hate it when kids pick on her. “Sounds painful.” She shrugged. “At least they didn’t call me a witch this time.” “Annie, I told you. You’re not a witch. You’re an enchantress in training. Like your aunt Morgan.” The drive was quick. However, at the docks I met a familiar figure. “Oh, Merlin not here!” I breathed. “We’ve always been faster than him! He wasn’t supposed to ever be able to get in front of us until you were fifteen.” Annie leaned forward. “Who’s that, Mom?” she asked nervously. “That is your father. That is the son of Lancelot and Elaine, Galahad. The pure. More like the stupidly childish who does everything is mother says like a zombie.”I said nervously. He tipped his hat, and strutted over. “Princess Rowena.” “Asshole.” I responded cordially. “Is this her then?” he asked, looking Annie over. “Don’t you touch her! She’s all I have left!” I cried. He withdrew his hand, more likely at Annie’s savage glare than my tears.”You won’t take me away. Grandma and Grandpa kicked her off of Avalon because of you and your mother.” Annie said. I knew she resented him, for leaving me. For leaving her. For one day, trying to take her back to his manipulative mother who wanted a prodigy. For betraying his king, my father, Arthur. “Suit yourself. But it’s a long ride to Avalon on the ferry, with just the three of us.” He shrugged.

  8. Icabu says:

    Sitting at a picnic table in the small town park near my son’s school, my nerves finally began to settle. Speaking before crowds unnerved me like nothing else. So, when my son brought home the form for his fourth grade’s Career Day, I began sweating immediately. William was too busy running the family business to volunteer for the school duty, which I understood – this was my territory. The bank job was just extra income and something to keep me busy since Billy started to school.

    Then, like icing on the cake, the bank let me go the day before I had to stand before twenty-some ten year-olds to talk about what I did as a teller. With my mind on all this, I never told my son that I no longer had the job I was scheduled to speak about.

    At the school’s dismissal bell, I smiled as the hordes spilled out, hearing the laughter and chatter. My Billy was in there too, and I wondered if he’d stop by as he passed on his way to his father’s hardware store or just keep going, pretending that I was no relation to him. I couldn’t really blame him if he did.

    “What’cha doing out here?”

    Billy dropped his bike and book bag and joined me at the table.

    “Just enjoying the day,” I said, happy that I hadn’t been ostracized.

    Sitting quietly for a minute, Billy began to fidget. “It’s okay, ya know.”

    “It is?” I queried.

    Billy shrugged. “Sure,” he said with finality. “We can bake cookies after school, ya know, like we used to before I had to go.”

    I nodded, fondly remembering that closeness. I hated that he had to find out about my job loss as I blurted it to the class.

    “Will you take my book bag?” he said, rising and signaling the end of the brief conversation.

    Nodding again, I watched as my young man mounted his bike.

    “Oh, Mom,” he paused, one foot resting on a pedal. “If you and Dad think this’ll be a good time to give me a little brother or sister, please make it a brother.” He zipped off, legs pumping, hair waving.

    Cringing, I flushed with embarrassment at the babbling mess I’d made at Career Day, yet felt blessed that it apparently caused no permanent scars to my son.

  9. Birdee0809 says:

    Beach Master

    I moved stiffly, the wounds in my neck stinging from the bitter salt water, blood ran down my body and blended with the foamy surf. I hauled myself out and made my way to a side of the beach where the harsh wind could not reach me, there I rested. I had battled for most of the night, fighting three challengers. In the end, it was a young newcomer who bested me, ousting me from my position as Beach Master.

    The newcomer was already gathering a harem of females and herding them to his new territory on the other side of the rocks. The pups were expecting me, now former Beach Master, in their career class today.

    Although I could challenge again, I wouldn’t. I held the title for two summers and I gathered many females. I had a favorite; her gray skin was smooth and dotted with patches of blue and her round eyes were the color of the sea at its deepest. I hoped the new Beach Master wouldn’t take notice of her, or maybe I hoped she wouldn’t take notice of him.

    In the distance, the sun rose from the water, clearing the fog that hovered above the waves as they rose and dipped in their unending rush to the beach. A fog of sorts was lifting from me too and for the first time in a long while I didn’t feel the weight of responsibility upon me.

    My injuries were still bleeding as I made my way to the classroom next to the tidal pool. I steeled myself as I walked past other males. In the past, I had fought many of them and I expected a snort or swipe of a tail flipper but nothing happened. I was no longer a threat.

    The classroom was full of wiggly, torpedo shaped youngsters, all anxious to spend time with the Beach Master. With a suffocating mix of pride and dread, I realized many of them were mine.

    What could I possibly tell them? That I failed? In my life I had fought, won, defended and ultimately lost but was that all there was? Had I failed?

    The joy on the young faces of the pups was quickly followed by fear and I understood why when I felt the bulk of the new Beach Master crash into me, pushing me aside. He stood in front of the class with an air of superiority. There was nothing I could do short of a challenge and I turned and walked away.

    I lay on the sand feeling dejected. I heard a noise and turned to see a group of pups coming toward me, they were being led from the classroom by their mothers. My favorite joined me on the sand, leaning herself against me with a sigh.

    For the rest of the day, I watched over my pups as they played. I realized they were my priority now. The breeze was gentle and the soft spray from the sea tasted sweet.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Oh Birdee, I really like this! A reminder that we need to live in the moment and appreciate each day. Oh, so much going on here. Love this!

    • jincomt says:

      Very creative twist to the prompt. I was especially taken with the description. Well done.

    • Birdee0809 says:

      Thanks for your comments Jeanie Y and jincomt! Description was what I was trying to practice. I’m in awe of all the excellent, creative writers here and grateful for all the inspiraton and help.

    • Icabu says:

      So creative! A humanizing touch to one of nature’s toughest roles.
      Enjoyable read. Good job!

    • Ishmael says:

      This was a great way to take the prompt, Birdee. I loved your descriptions of the seals (sea lions), especially the line about his favorite cow: “…her gray skin was smooth and dotted with patches of blue and her round eyes were the color of the sea at its deepest.” That one struck me as very nice, relating her eyes to the sea – not just a line.

      Passing the torch…one of life’s certainties. You showed the angst he felt, and the contentment of finally accepting “retirement.”

      Very nice. (It’s funny…I’m not dyslexic, but I always misread your name as Bridee. I thought you were a newlywed or something). :)

      • Birdee0809 says:

        Thanks for your comments Icabu and Ishmael!

        You’re not dyslexic Ishmael, I started out as Bridee here at WD but that was a typo and it should have been Birdee, which is my nickname in real life.

        Have a great day!

        Birdee

    • MCKEVIN says:

      This was nice. I kinda felt like I watching the animal channel which means your descriptions were on point. Good job.

  10. mshoward says:

    As I pull up to the school my stomach pits I hate speaking in public the only place I would do it is at my job which I got fired from yesterday, I try to take a deep breath to relieve the nervousness but it makes it worse. “Why am I so nervous?” I ask myself
    “Ugh my hands are sweating?” I rub my hands on the car seats to dry them
    “I can go in there and just tell them about the job I used to have and it will be great!” I thought
    “But what if they start to ask questions?” I got nervous again
    “For sure they’ll have questions” I reminded myself
    “I’ll just answer honestly” I coached myself
    “Should I tell them I got fired?” I frowned my face with disdain and rolled my eyes to the ceiling.
    “Maybe I should say that I got laid off” I nodded to myself
    “For sure it’s an easier blow, plus it is a part of the real world people get hired, fired and laid off everyday especially in this economy!” I reassured myself that it was ok to explain my situation honestly
    “but what will the teacher and the other parents think of me?” I sighed a little in shame
    “Aww the hell with it I’m going to go in there and say what I have to say and who ever doesn’t like it can bite me!” I hopped out of my car with my head up and my shoulders back, ready to take on the looks of pity and the confused faces of nine year olds.
    “I would like to introduce Ms. Neverson, she is Michaela’s mother and she is a database administrator” the teacher announces as she coax the class to applaud.
    “Well, hi boys and girls as your teacher said I’m Michaela’s mother and to correct your teacher I am a database administrator formerly for…..” as I explained my job and what I do and how fulfilling it could be the children sat with lite up faces, the parents actually applauded me for having the courage to announce to the class that I lost my job. I also explained to the kids how important it is for you to follow your dreams and to always believe in yourself. Overall it was a good speech! One of my best I must say which is odd considering the circumstances.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      The beginning and middle are good. Then it seems like you ran out of space in the end. You started with good dialogue and flow but told us what you said in the end. It’s a good heart felt story and if you edit a little of the nervousness in the beginning you’ll be able to impact us in MC’s words in the end. Just a thought. Overall nice story :)

  11. ksmiller727 says:

    I can tell he’s nervous.

    Even from way back here in the tenth row I can tell. The sweat isn’t visible, but the tremors are there.

    I know.

    This isn’t the first time he’s gone up there on Career Day and tried to make the same speech, and every

    other time he’s been a complete mess, but this time is different. This time he doesn’t have a job to try and

    talk about. His stammering and long pauses while he pages through index cards full of nonsense aren’t

    caused by just pure nerves anymore. He lost his job and doesn’t think I know about it.

    But I do.

    This is a small town and everyone knows everyone. There are few things that people can actually keep

    secret in a place home to less than five thousand people. My dad’s job was in a high profile bank that

    employs thirty percent of our town’s population, so if anyone leaves, gets fired, or quit, everyone knows

    about it. That’s the curse of living in a small town. But at the end of the day there’s also not much crime,

    people surprisingly still borrow sugar and power tools from their neighbors, and I’ve seen more than one

    white picket fence on my block.

    That’s what surprises me about my dad’s speech. He’s up there talking about checks and balances, loan

    rates, and interest percentages as if he’s still there! He’s up there lying to everyone about his “job”, telling

    us all about the banking industry as if he still works for a living! What is his problem? Why can’t he just tell

    the truth? Why will I have to put up with all of the finger pointing and crap tomorrow because of him?

    Wait.

    What’s he saying?

    Why is he talking about me?

    What do our trips to the lake have anything to do with his “job”?

    What?

    He’s talking about his commitment to our family?

    What family?

    Mom left three years ago, Dad’s always at work, and I’m left home alone with only the TV to keep me

    company.

    What is he thinking?

    Oh, my god, he’s actually crying. Everything he’s saying has nothing to do with banking. He loves me,

    everything is his fault, there’s nothing left to say….

    What is that in his hand?

    DAD! NO!!!!!

    From The Daily Monitor, August 24, 2012.

    Man Commits Suicide at Career Day

    LAKEVIEW SHORES, MI (AP) – 35 year old Joshua Weldon committed suicide this morning during a career

    day presentation at Lakeview High School.

    No children or school faculty were wounded.

    Police investigators say that Mr. Weldon recently lost his job at Miner’s Bank on Fifth Street the day before.

    Sources at the bank speaking on condition of anonymity say that he was under suspicion of embezzling

    thousands of dollars from customers.

    The firing was based on those assumptions even though no charges were filed with the district attorney’s

    office, according to our source.

    More information will be available as it is revealed.

  12. jschicke says:

    I looked at those little twerps, and I just knew they’d have my number.

    It was Career Day at my son’s school. You know–you talk to some pre-teens who don’t have a clue about work. You tell them you do this or that–their heads nod in unison only because Teacher says, “Isn’t that interesting, children?” Meanwhile, all they care about is the next time they can play their video games and consume all the cookies and soda in sight (whatever hasn’t already become a permanent part of the carpet and walls, that is).

    But yes, they had my number. How did I know? You just can’t fool kids. I walked in there ready to tell them of a typical day on the job (well, minus the cursing, the flirting, the skipping off to take a nap…). But I didn’t have a job. Not anymore. And having a couple small children of my own, with their incessant questions, I learned that you can’t fool them because eventually they’ll catch you tripping over your lies.

    So, you ask, had I told my family I had lost my job? We-l-l-l, not exactly. I was just sorting out the best words to use–and the best “poor me” expressions. Anyway, so there sat my boy, my pride and joy, my progeny–about to watch his daddy embarrass the both of us. But no way would I embarrass my son by sharing my job loss.

    The teacher stood up. “Children,” she said, “Mr. Jameson will now tell you what he does for a living. He didn’t want to tell me ahead of time, so get ready for a nice big surprise. Mr Jameson, whenever you’re ready.”

    I thanked her, faced the classroom, looked each of them in the eye, and with a voice that emanated wisdom gained over many years, I spoke:

    “You’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you. Work is a necessary part of life. You might not like it, but get used to it because there’s no way out of it—well, except for maybe one or two of you who marry rich or win the lottery. Other than that, most of you will drudge through day after day for the next 50 or 60 years.”

    “So what do you do on your job?”

    (Yeah, that shows you’re listening real well). “We’ll get to that, young lady. There are more important things at stake here.”

    “But everybody else told us…”

    “Well, you don’t want to be like everybody else, right?”

    “Uh, I guess.”

    “Good, then let me give you something you can really use. Now as I was saying, it’s time for you to grow up and accept that you’ll have bosses who treat you like crap, who play favorites, who keep you down and step on you to elevate their careers.”

    Like I said, my son wouldn’t be able to fault me for embarrassing him by sharing my job loss….

  13. BriWeezy says:

    Oh my gosh, this was HILARIOUS. I cracked up. Great Job!

  14. fbxwriter says:

    XANAX TO THE RESCUE

    (492 words)

    Look at him. Must be a lawyer. And that’s Donny’s mother. She’s a doctor, isn’t she? God, what am I doing here? These other parents are successful. I don’t even have a job anymore. I shouldn’t be at Career Day.

    I’ll lie. I’ll pretend that I haven’t been fired. I’ll…I’ll….

    Who am I kidding? I hate public speaking. I’ve already started to blink like mad. And I always stutter when I lie. Franky usually thinks it’s cute, but he won’t when his stepmother looks like a fool in front of his classmates. They may only be in the fifth grade, but they’ll figure out I’m lying.

    Shit! When is the Xanax going to kick in? If my hand doesn’t stop trembling I’m going to make some excuse to leave. Or I could just disappear behind these other parents and slip away.

    Dammit! The only door is at the front of the room. Who the hell designed this room!? God, I wish something would happen. Why doesn’t somebody pull the fire alarm?

    What the hell? God, look at the size of that spider! Where did it come from? No one else sees it. They’re all watching Mr. Fascinating Firefighter demonstrate his mask thingie.

    Look at the fangs on that. It’s heading right toward that little girl. It’s going to bite her! I’ve got to do something!

    “It’s all right, Shirley,” I tell the girl, as I grind the grotesque creature under my foot. I can’t believe how calm I am. The Xanax is working.

    She looks at me with wide eyes.

    “Who’s Shirley?”

    “Is everything all right?” Ms. Torgerson takes a few steps toward me. I smile reassuringly, until I notice her red eyes.

    “Is that yours, Torgie?” I say, pointing to the crushed spider.

    “Now, Ms. Beal, just be calm,” says the teacher. Behind her one of the students, Max, is smiling. I can see his fangs. Torgerson has already gotten to him. He leans over to Franky.

    Then I’m at Franky’s side. Torgerson and her vampire minion are sprawled on the floor.

    “Franky, run!” I yelling, pointing for the door. The little trooper doesn’t hesitate. I turn to distract the others, a room full of melting dead.

    “Ms. Beal, please sit down,” Mr. Firefighter says, but I can barely understand him through the tentacles in his mouth.

    Surrounded, I make a break for it. Reptiles can’t fly, so I leap through the window.

    —–

    Franky ran across the hospital waiting room into the arms of his father.

    “Stephanie’s going to be all right,” John said. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”

    “What happened?” asked Franky, his eyes puffy and red.

    “Stephanie took a pill to calm herself before speaking at your class. And, well, she got fired yesterday from her job at the pharmacy.”

    “Fired?” Franky’s eyes grew wide.

    John sighed.

    “Apparently, she had been mixing up drugs.”

    “Oh,” said Franky, then his eyes grew even wider.

    “Oh,” he said.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      Lol this is a different approach it was spectacular.

    • Ishmael says:

      I liked the originality of this piece and the rambling of her hallucinogenic thoughts. Those were some powerful Xanadu’s! It was a perfect scenario…a pharmacist fired for mixing/taking/stealing meds, then coping with an unpleasant situation by overdosing (non-fatally, thank goodness). It’s such a realistic situation. You delivered it flawlessly.

      My only suggestion, had this been my piece, would be to spell Franky as Frankie. Every time I saw it (usually because it followed dialogue), my mind wanted to read it as “Frankly.” But that’s small potatoes. Great job!

    • fbxwriter says:

      Thanks all. As I wrote this I had in mind Stephen King’s Rose Madder. In it one of his characters slowly goes mad. Mine’s different in that King’s character wasn’t on drugs and he used a lot more than 500 words, but I’ve always wanted to try to replicate what King did so well.

      Good catch, Ishmael. Little things like that make a difference. I’ll remember that one.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      So glad she got fired from her job! Imagine a whole town full of people on the wrong medication! (Oh, sounds like a good story idea!) :)
      I liked this one…good job!

    • jschicke says:

      Ha ha! Funny that I just read something else where the person was seeing things that weren’t there. Good & fun story.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      Your dialogue is on the nose and maybe put her thoughts in italics. I had to read it a couple times about the reptile part?? Who’s the reptile?

      • fbxwriter says:

        Thanks. I wanted to present a constantly changing hallucination, but I had to keep within the 500-word limit. So, I changed from spider to vampire to melting dead to reptiles. However, on reflection I shouldn’t have made such an abrupt change without the space to expand on it.

    • Birdee0809 says:

      Different, I like it!

      I took Xanax once. I walked around my house with a piece of my dogs kibble stuck to my foot. I didn’t remove it, just kept trying to figure out why it was there, it eventually fell off. Then I went to bed and fell into a dreamless hole and woke up not knowing where or when I was. I guess it effects everybody differently but for me, no thank you. :-)

    • radioPanic says:

      I like it. I like the evolving (devolving?) nature of the hallucinations. The reptile thing could probably stay like it is, but be a little less jarring just by mentioning ‘reptile’ one time previous. Something like “…A room full of melting dead. Melting dead reptiles.” Just a thought.

      I also like the way the hallucinations begin so subtly (“Who’s Shirley?” began the tip off for me.) and how the end explains what happened thru dialogue instead of just telling us what happened.

  15. MCKEVIN says:

    “In conclusion, Police Investigations is an exciting field because there are many ways to get the truth. My partner and I will leave no stone unturned to catch a thief, murderer or bully. It’s a dangerous job but, someone has to do it. Are there any questions?”

    I looked at the freshmen seated in front of me and locked eyes with my adopted son, Cedric. He gave me a thumbs up and smiled. I’m so proud of that kid. His father and I work hard teaching him respect and honesty. But I felt like a hypocrite because I hadn’t told him about yesterday. The chief of police son hand went up. He undoubtedly knew what happened.

    “Yes Bryce.”
    “So, Mr. Beverly you like your job?”
    “Yes, I’ve been at it over twenty years.”
    “How long have you worked with your partner?”

    I looked at Leak who seemed oblivious to the question, while Cedric stared at Bryce.

    “About five years.”
    “Have you or your partner killed anyone?”

    Cedric came to my defense.

    “What’s with all the questions Bryce?”
    “What? I just asked your father have they killed anybody that’s all.”

    He looked at me, then to Leak and back to me.

    “It’s okay, I got this. No, we’ve never killed anyone but, we’ve come close.”

    Leak dropped his head like he knew this kid wouldn’t stop. Ms. Freeman and the class were fixated with our conversation and the room was silent. Occasionally, a student in the hallway peeked through the door’s window and Leak instinctively looked up.

    “So, you two are trained killers and protective of each other right?”
    “Yes, in this line of work, we watch out for each other like family. I’m sure you know that being in police family.”
    “I do. We don’t have secrets. Does yours?”
    “Cut it out Bryce!” Cedric said.
    “No we don’t.”
    “So, you’ve told your family that yesterday you and your partner were fired?”

    Embarrassed, I looked at Cedric for understanding.

    “No I haven’t.”

    I thought Ms. Freeman would intervene and get us back on track. But I believe she wanted to hear answers more than Bryce did.

    “Does dad know?” Cedric asked.
    “Aren’t you his dad.” A young girl questioned from the front row.

    I ignored her.

    “Yes he knows and I was going to tell you when the time was right.”
    “Did they give you a warning?”
    “They gave them plenty of warnings.” Bryce said.

    Cedric looked surprised and the class mumbled.

    “So what happened?”
    “Your dad couldn’t control Leak/”

    Leak stood defensively.

    “What?” Cedric asked.
    “He’s right. Leak does what does what natural for him,”
    “Yeah, problem was, he did it where everybody could see him.”
    “Dad, what is he talking about?”
    “Yeah, Mr. Beverly, tell us!”

    All eyes were on me as I searched for the right words. There were none. I hated being in this predicament. But it’s better Cedric hears it from me. .

    “Leak was caught again mounting another male dog.”

    My son just laughed.

    • jincomt says:

      Hey McKev– The build- up was great. I knew something was going to happen with Leak but didn’t know what. You did a good job creating that feeling of almost sick anticipation for the reader. We knew it was going to be something bad for the cop. I got a little confused during the line of questioning about killing, the relationship of the kids and how it all really ended. The ending was a bit much for me– but that’s just me, I’m sure.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hi jincomt, thanks for reading. Bryce could have asked questions about sexual crimes or sex on the job situations but that would have given you too much info in regards to Leak. The story was more about a father and son relationshiop than rivalry between cops sons who just happen to share the same class.Cedric was obviously, more mature than Bryce by defending his father and laughing Bryce’s inuendos off. I don’t like or like to write sappy endings so, let’s just call the very ending (twist), creative license. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    • Ishmael says:

      Interesting twist! The line of questions from Bryce was relentless…the little stinker! You put me right in front of the class, feeling the unease of the father, and effectively moved the story along with the dialogue. I like how Cedric came to his defense. And poor Leak…someone throw him a bone. Good take on this, McKevin!

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Thanks Ishmael. You have taught me that a writer needs 2 pens. One should be Personal and the other, Commercial. If a writer tells a complete, entertaining and informative story, he/she will find success. It will not matter the subject, genre or sexual orientation. Lol. You and this forum allows me do that.

        PS. Thanks for being kind. I found several Ishmaelisms that you didn’t point out. Have good day.

        • jincomt says:

          Hey McKev– I have a question. I think I misread your story. Who’s Leak? I’ve read it a couple of times. I really do like the build-up.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            Leak is a police trained dog.who just happens to be gay and he’s partnered with Mr. Beverly for police work.

          • jincomt says:

            Thank you! That makes so much more sense. I swear I’m thick sometimes. OK the ending is great LOL. For some reason I thought Leak was the dad’s partner and the fact the he was doing a dog.. well, you can see where I got lost.

            I like how your writing makes me think. I’m too simplistic in my approach in writing sometimes. I’m glad you post.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            LMAO… jincomt, as a writer, I know I can take my readers out there. Way out there! But even I have limits. Lol. I am so glad we cleared that up. Lol. You made my day.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          PSS – Did you mean a bone or a boner? Sorry I just couldn’t resist. Lol.

        • Ishmael says:

          Which reminds me…I do want to offer up apologies for any past comments (to you or anyone else) that may have come across as blunt or rude – that’s never my intent. I’ve tried to be succinct and to the point. Free time has been scarce lately and I’ve wanted to come in here and participate, but in my haste, I think I’ve sometimes been less than delicate.

          You have a great deal to offer. I like your voice and want the masses to be able to hear your roar, too. Ishmaelisms..lol! Don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. If it’s a euphemism for “picking out every damn thing that I forgot to edit,” then…I guess it’s spot-on. LOL! But believe me, I don’t pick out everything…I blame it on years of editing copy for a rag I worked at, but it’s also an innate characteristic that’s hard to keep in check. I miss stuff in my own work all the time and it really chaps my hide. :)

          Oh…and “bone” was a double entendre, so you were correct with your assumption. I’ve felt a little devilish lately.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      Funny stuff….it took me a bit to realize that Leak is a dog…haha I’m a little slow…one thing I didn’t understand was. Was the punishment too extreme for Mr. Beverly? Aren’t all dogs Horndogs? good stuff though. The twist threw me for a loop good job I was expecting a with the line of questioning that they may have hurt someone.

      • rob akers says:

        I like it. Like everyone else I got a little lost but figured it out. One thing that threw me was that the son, Cedric. You said he was adopted and that put me on the track of thinking Mr. Beverly and Leak were both humans. Blame it on a expectation bias, but if it was just son then it might be clearer.

        • fbxwriter says:

          Great story, McKevin. The twist at the end was a delightful surprise.

          I read something not too long ago about “planting seeds” early in a story. I think that speaks to the point of the son being adopted. If you plant a seed, it will grow, sometimes in ways you didn’t intend. However, you planted several seeds that grew the way you intended, so the story works.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            Thank you fbxwriter for the compliment. I try to plant seeds in everything I write and I mean everything. Sometimes it works and people get it and somethimes… we you know. The more people move beyond their reading comfort zone the more they learn. This medium teaches me anything is possible. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting.

        • MCKEVIN says:

          Thanks Rob, Okay, here ya go; Mr. Beverly is a gay cop and has a significant other that is only referred to as “father” and “dad” but the significant is included in the “family” which Bryce speaks of. Leak is a gay police trained dog which is spelled out in the 2nd to the last line. Those are the only gay people in the story. Cedric comes to one of his fathers defense during Bryce questioning and he laughs at Leak’s behavior and Bryce’s inuendos because of his family situation. I didn’t mean to confuse or challenge anyone but I’m glad I took a lot of you out of your comfort zone. Thanks for stopping by. McKevin

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hey assaultymcnulty, I’m so glad you stopped by. I’m also glad you stuck with my story and figured it out. The funny thing is, it wasn’t supposed to be a puzzle. Lol.As you can see from the other comments, the story was entertaining and informative because it took you out of your reading comfort zone. The punishment was a bit extreme but I had to remain true to the prompt. Thanks again for reading and commentin. Your input is greatly appreciated. McKevin

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hey assaultymcnulty, I’m so glad you stopped by. I’m also glad you stuck with my story and figured it out. The funny thing is, it wasn’t supposed to be a puzzle. Lol.As you can see from the other comments, the story was entertaining and informative because it took you out of your reading comfort zone. The punishment was a bit extreme but I had to remain true to the prompt. Thanks again for reading and commentin. Your input is greatly appreciated. McKevin

    • radioPanic says:

      MCKEVIN,
      Good story! The first thing that strikes me is, ‘there are many ways to get the truth’ in the 1st line, followed by Bryce’s interrogation. Loved that. (Little punk!)

      If you read carefully, everything’s here, all the info you need to know what’s going on. I had to re-read a couple times, but that’s probably just me being lazy. For the lazy ones, though, a couple more dialog attributions couldn’t hurt.

      And the main thing that bugged me at first really makes perfect sense: that a cop would get fired for not controlling a police dog, especially if he’s already been warned. Especially since mounting is usually a dominance thing. Whatever the reason, Cedric laughing is the perfect end cap.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Hi radiopanic, thanks for taking time to comment and reading my story. I tried to give clues that Leak was a dog throughout the story. I’m glad you figured them out. I like writing like that because when my readers get it, they really get it. My a fan base is obviously one that likes a challenge.The really good part is, I get to provide that service by inviting a lot of readers into my world. Promise me you won’t be shy about stopping by in the future. Thanks again and I’ll see you at the forum. McKevin

        • ggbrown says:

          i hate those nosy kids. leak! nice dogs name.

          • MCKEVIN says:

            Hello ggbrown, Kids will be kids and don’t forget the teacher could have intervene but chose not to. She was just as nosy as the kids. I am glad you like the name Leak for a dog. I thought about having to take a dog out for a “Leak,” hence the name. Thanks for reading and commenting. You make sure to be here next week because this is a truly unique forum. Watch, you’ll see. McKevin

    • Birdee0809 says:

      Nice story! I liked the build up too and the dialogue. I liked the honesty of the MC too, not pretending to be something he’s not.

      • MCKEVIN says:

        Thank you Birdee0809 , Your compliment, reading and commenting means a lot because it makes me try harder to get better at this. The MC honesty is a repeated theme in all my stories. You should check out some of the previous prompts. The writers here do a really good job with their work. I am so glad to be part of this forum. They keep raising the bar of creativity. Don’t be shy and we’ll see you the next time okay. McKevin

  16. jincomt says:

    The annual Career Day at my daughter’s elementary school was always a horrid show n’ tell event catering to competitive and insecure parents. But, I knew how much it would mean to my sweet Bianca.

    Trying to get comfortable in plastic chairs too small, I listened as a father spoke about being a toy manufacturer. He brought his son up with him and together they displayed various dolls and puppets. The class, of course, was fascinated. I couldn’t quite take my eyes of the little boy’s rather obvious proboscis. Poor child.

    Another mother, a sleep specialist, stood up and talked about curing some old man of insomnia and a hapless young girl of her sleep disorder (until some unwitting lad apparently interrupted her deep slumber). The woman was effective. I was bored and could hardly keep my eyes open.

    Finally the teacher, Ms. Good, stood to introduce me. “And now, Bianca’s mother will be talking about the magic of gardening.” I tugged on my black skirt and walked to the front carrying my basket full of delicious fruit. The kids gazed at it appreciatively, as well they should. My harvest really was perfection.

    I licked my lips nervously. I’m more accustomed to addressing a reflection than a room full of little children. “Hello class. My name is Magas. My daughter is Bianca.”

    “Stepdaughter,” I heard the little wretch…er… darling pipe up from her seat. Was she glaring at me? Her little friends, seven of them, were seated around her, each with little smirks on their face, one with obvious allergies.

    “Yes. Anyway, I grow fruit. Isn’t it gorgeous?” I held up a perfectly shaped red apple. It gleamed. Even one of her little friends eyed it lustfully. I’d seen that one before; he wasn’t very smart.

    Suddenly, just when I was going to offer her grouchy friend a bite, my husband walked in the room. “Stop now,” he said.

    “Darling! Children, this is Bianca’s father.” All eyes turned to him and Bianca rushed out of her seat wrapping her arms around his legs.

    “Magas,” he said, never taking his eyes off of me. “Enough. Give me the fruit.”

    “But, I… I was just telling the children…”

    “Give me the fruit.”

    I handed him the basket, not quite meeting his eyes.

    “You know we’re through, right?” The children and other parents were clearly entertained now.

    “Maybe you shouldn’t be so hasty,” I said giving him one of my sweet smiles. “The fruit is delicious.” I held up the apple.

    “And poisonous,” he said snatching it from me. He grabbed Bianca’s hand and headed out of the classroom. “Oh,” he said, turning around. “I have the mirror too.”

    My hand flew to my throat. No. Not the mirror. I rushed out after him, begging. “Please! No! What’s an out-of-work evil stepmother to do?”

    Behind me I heard Ms. Good clear her throat and introduce the next guest. “Children, this is Cinder’s father. As you know, he recently lost his beloved wife, but he graciously agreed to speak with you today anyway about his work with the government. I stopped in my tracks. Maybe another gig wasn’t out of the question.

  17. Ishmael says:

    A Tough Row to Hoe

    “McIntosh!”

    Old Lady Smith’s tart bark splintered down my core and I fumbled the birdhouse I was hanging. It smashed to smithereens. The Finch’s won’t be happy. Jona Gold, a solid tree and my best bud, shot a furtive glance.

    “Granny’s on the warpath again,” he warned. I lumbered over to her lush, chemically-treated side of The Orchard. I couldn’t believe I was being called on the leaves again.

    “Yes Ma’am?” The Brothers Delicious brushed by, gawking and rustling to each other. Somehow I knew Red and Golden were behind this. They’re bad seeds.

    “Your productivity is repeatedly low, McIntosh.” The words spewed from her pie-hole like bad applesauce.

    “You do realize I’m Organic, Ms. Smith. My religion doesn’t allow for chemical enhancements.” Her face gnarled even more, if possible.

    “You human-hugging Organics. Natural harmony with mankind…ha! Only a handful of die-hards buy your puny, overpriced apples. The rest of them love our added hormones.”

    “But…my grove is pure! Until men stop thinking like you and concentrate on natural fertilizers and pesti—”

    “—Stop thinking like ME? And what do you mean by that?” Her brow furrowed deeper, squeezing a grub from its hole like a zit.

    Oops. Three apples clunked to the ground behind me.

    Slumping back to the grove, I tried to keep a wooden façade as my eyes slowly filled with sap. Hastily picking up my waxes and polishing cloths, I apologized to the Finch’s and pulled up roots. “I’ll send a pigeon when I find new digs,” were my trailing words before I disappeared over the hilltop. Thank goodness for Twitter.

    It was enough to break any tree’s bough. I’d gotten the axe.

    When I remembered Career Day at my sapling’s school tomorrow, it made the firing worse. I hated to disappoint the little graft. Maple, my ex, has custody – she’s a real Birch. Aimlessly trudging, I nested by the lake, weeping amongst the Willows and drifting off to…

    Glints of morning sunlight flickered in my eyes and I only had minutes to get to the Charter Nursery. A crisp splash across my bark, then off I rambled. Crossing the field, I ran into Mahogany and her sprout.

    “Nice bush,” I noted, patting her offspring on his red-tips.

    “Peaches told me the news…tough break.” Dark and exotic, Mahogany’s breath was like cedar and her burls were in all the right places.

    We talked about the job, the divorce, before finally arriving at the thicket. Johan “Dutch” Elm was creaking about how his family tree departed the Old World, narrowly escaping The Disease. Yawn. The sprigs looked bored, especially Wormwood, but that was his nature.

    My turn. A new knot formed in my trunk and me timber shivered.

    To my surprise, Mahogany stood up, shaking her way to the front of the class. Hoots and hollers clamored from some of the older twigs, until Headmaster Yardstick bounced through, rapping branches.

    “Quiet! Don’t make me get a nun.” The din settled. “Ms. Mahogany…”

    “Thank you. Sprigs and Saplings, I’d like you to rustle your leaves together for the newest Vice President of Ojai Fruits and Exotics, Mr. Herb McIntosh.” It felt like I’d been struck by lightning…again. I didn’t know what to say. “My father needs good trees like you,” she whispered as we passed each other.

    Suddenly full of pith and vinegar, I spoke proudly, explaining the benefits of Organic Gardening, the intricacies of apple polishing, and…birdhouses.

    Sorry it came in long…571. I cut from 884, but couldn’t do anymore without a fatal loss of blood.

    • jincomt says:

      Very clever. There are some inspired lines in this piece:

      Called on the leaves again
      words spewing from her pie hole
      my religion doesn’t allow for chemical enhancements (ha!)
      she’s a real birch (groannn)
      the sprigs looked bored, especially the Wormwood
      full of pith and vinegar

      …just to name a few. I don’t know how you came up with these lines, but they’re great.

      • Amy says:

        This was awesome, Ishmael. It took me just a minute to figure out they were trees…it was one of those ‘aha’ moments and everything clicked. Very original and I loved all of the ‘tree speak’! Keep ‘em coming!

    • BriWeezy says:

      wow, this was full of originality!! I liked that you used objects instead of people! I love when people do things TOTALLY different. This was TOTALLY different! Great story :)

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Very good Ishmael. This was clever on steroids. The best part for me is the title and you know I would have taken it in whole other direction. Good job. You give me something to aspire to.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Ishmael, you are so clever. I love this.

    • Birdee0809 says:

      This is awesome! So many very clever stories this week!

      • Ishmael says:

        I appreciate that you all enjoyed it! Clever on steroids – ha! Love that. This was one of those that really hurt with each cut. I had to take a shot of whiskey every twenty words or so…okay, ten. The pain subsided. The original flowed like logs down the river, but some choice phrases had to become driftwood. They were delicious, but only added to the setting and characters and didn’t drive it forward. I’m glad a lot of it still came through. (I did keep the original for future possibilities) Thanks again you guys…this page is definitely filled with some winners this week. :)

    • fbxwriter says:

      What a saucy bit of writing! The pruning must have been tough. But, really, I think you could have cut more “without a fatal loss of blood.” However, you might have had a fatal loss of sap!

      Seriously, though, excellent piece. You’ve really branched out with your creativity. Argh! I think you’ve infected me with pun beetles!

      • Ishmael says:

        Thanks for reading and commenting! It is infectious, isn’t it fbxwriter? It’s funny you should say pun beetles, because I had to cut the beetle-infested Pine line. Looks like they made it through, after all. Rob, I’ll eventually have it somewhere in its entirety (and maybe a little extra – my only revision was cutting it down). I’ll let you know. :)

      • Birdee0809 says:

        The word saucy made me snicker. I really want to eat an apple.

    • radioPanic says:

      Damn, Ishmael, this was a lot of fun! A bizarre idea, but you humanized the many characters without actually giving them many human characteristics at all. If that makes sense.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      I’m humbled at the creativity that I see here, great job Ishmael. My favorite line is, “Nice bush”…good stuff!

    • DMelde says:

      Great story! You did a great job!

  18. SJ_Mitchell says:

    When my daughter asked me to speak to her class during career day, I was elated. I had a great job and worked with great people. I wasn’t exactly sure how the kids in second grade could relate to field service technician but I was willing to give it a shot. My job has me on the road a lot and I don’t get many opportunities to do things with my baby girl; career day was timed perfectly for me.

    After I got little Rose on the bus in the morning I received a phone call from the boss. Apparently I was careless during my last service call and the crane I fixed malfunctioned. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the payload dropped onto the roof of the foreman’s office, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Needless to say, the company terminated my contract and instructed me not to report back to work.
    On my way into little Rose’s elementary school, I was praying for a flat tire or a routine traffic stop or the earth to open up and swallow me whole. Anything that would give me an excuse as to why I couldn’t speak at career day would do.

    I no longer had a career.

    What was I going to discuss, how not being careful could make you lose your job? Surprise Rosie, daddy’s unemployed! No, I couldn’t drag down a bunch of kids like that. I haven’t been there for Rose very much in the last five years since I took the job, I couldn’t embarrass her like that.

    I sat in a chair much too small for me in the back of the room and listened to other parent’s talk of their jobs. Lawyer, soldier, chef and the list went on. I started to think that even if I was still employed I would lie about my situation. All I did was go fix things. I looked at the clock hoping we’d run out of time but I had no clue when this thing ended.

    When it was my turn I stood up in front of the class and my little Rose had a big smile on her face. She’s going to be so disappointed. Expectations. I should teach her to lower them so she isn’t so let down by the future.

    “Hello kids,” I began, “I’m Dan…er, Mr. Edwards I guess.” There was an uncomfortable silence; I should’ve spent more time thinking about what I was going to say instead of lamenting over my situation. “I’m here to tell you about what I do for a living but,” here we go, “as of today I have a new job!” The words came out and I had no clue what I was saying.

    Rose looked confused.

    Then, one of her classmates spoke up, “What’s your new job?” Cute kid, I’ll be sure to ‘lose’ his invitation to Rose’s next birthday party.

    “What do you have to do?” Another child whose invite will be tragically lost. It won’t matter; none of these kids will want to be friends with her after today. God, I’m a terrible dad. It’s bad enough that I never see her, but now that I’ll be home she won’t ever want to speak with me.

    “I get to do whatever I want!” I said with so much sarcasm it prompted some laughter from the other parents. The kids, on the other hand became more intrigued.

    “Can you fly a plane?”

    “Sure!” I said.

    “Can you drive a race car?”

    “You bet!” I answered with enthusiasm. Then like an idiot I added, “Heck, I can even be a knight and slay a dragon if I want!” The parents laughed harder but the kids were on the edge of their seats now. I couldn’t turn back…I had their attention and they were eating out of the palm of my hand. “As a matter of fact tonight I will be called upon to rescue a princess from an evil wizard who will try to put her to sleep. Tomorrow I may find myself running for my life after taking an artifact from a temple of rabid monkeys!”

    The class erupted and they began talking amongst themselves, shouting and pretending to wave swords in the air. Telling my daughter how she had the coolest dad ever, in spite of the fact she had a look of horror on her face. The teacher clapped her hands together and instructed the class to settle down and when they finally did she looked at me cautiously, “So tell us, Mr. Edwards…what do you do?”

    Swallowing hard I looked into my little Rose’s eyes and said, “I’m a stay at home dad.”

    Her smile told me everything would be okay.

  19. rob akers says:

    A Jimmy Everest Story

    27 October 2012

    Olivia Everest watched her three kids climb into the mini-van. The late October air was already much crisper than anything they experienced in Chicago. Northern North Dakota was a universe away from Olivia’s hometown of the Cubs, Bears and Blackhawks. Living in a farmhouse, she moved because work was plentiful, people were sparse, it was close to the Canadian border and she hated every second of the single purpose/rural lifestyle. Technically, she was still married to Jimmy only because he wasn’t available to sign the papers. Her lawyer told her that she could still get a divorce without his signature, but it took time and money. One of which she had in abundance. The Feds assumed it was because of the debt that Jimmy left in his wake. A nurse on paper and a thief by trade, she could get the money.

    She knew all about Jimmy and his vices. Like Jimmy, she had enjoyed the fruits of others but that wasn’t the life she wanted to live. She wanted Jimmy despite all his flaws. But right now, she needed her husband not a man on the lamb. Pulling into the parking lot, she saw the dark blue rental with Canadian license plates. Jimmy taught her well, she was always aware of her surroundings; he described it as situational awareness and like her mammary glands, she was amply blessed. He had been gone for six months taking with him the 24/7 surveillance provided by the American tax payers. She would have been a great Jane Bond had that been her quest in life.

    The kids rumbled out of the van, sauntering into the school. The car followed and soon passed her. Heart racing, she maintained her composure and constantly checked to ensure they were not followed. The car led her to a dumpy motel where she waited for seven minutes until the driver got out. She trailed the man to his room. Three hours later, the conjugal visit was concluded and Olivia left for work. She had two weeks to live in this life and she would not bother providing any notice when she left. Like her husband, she would simply disappear. Again life had a purpose; the sun was shining and the chill evaporated because she was a woman in action.

    Her lover went back to the school, it was career day and his oldest son would have the surprise of his life.

    • SJ_Mitchell says:

      That was a great payoff!

      So much more happening in that world than a simple career day would suggest. I’d like to think that his first action after escaping would be to get his family to safety, assuming they haven’t been harvested by the time he gets out…mwahahahaha!

    • Ishmael says:

      I like reading about Jimmy’s sordid little life and sordid little wife. They’re perfect together – don’t let them divorce! The prompt at the end was a good touch. Well done, Rob.

      (Oh, it’s lam, not lamb. You know I couldn’t let that slip by. I tried.) :)

      • jincomt says:

        I agree– their dirty little secret lives need to continue.

      • rob akers says:

        I spent 45 minutes trying to figure out how to spell conjugal. My goal this week was to write a story with no conversation. Thanks to you, j-she and Jeanie for the kind comments.

        • fbxwriter says:

          A good goal. You were able to keep up tension without conversation. That said, something felt missing without the dialogue. Action stories just seem to cry out for fast-moving dialogue. Or maybe that’s just what I’m used to.

          Forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to spell conjugal? Did you get distracted by what you found on Google? ;-)

          • rob akers says:

            Actually had to resort to dictionary.com because I couldnt get close enough for spell check to work. I was at home with the kids watching Phineas and Ferb.

            I used to be cool. Now I walk around the neighborhood in a white tee shirt and black socks yelling at the kids to turn that crap down. Half of the time I remember to wear shorts. It is a sad tale.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Mr. Rob, This is great! I really wanted to hear more.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Again, congratulations with the blog… And I like how you keep pushing yourself with your writing… I like this one alot.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Watch and do all you can with those kids while you have them Mr. Rob! Before you know it, out the door they go. Try to enjoy the journey..not always easy, but laughing maniacally helps! :)

      Unless you were watching Phineas and Ferb all by yourself! ha!

      • rob akers says:

        Have you watched Phineas and Ferb? It is a good show, who cares if I have to pay my kids to let me watch it… Ha Ha.

        Actually it is good. I watch it for the creative way they do the show and I have actually incorporated a couple of things and put it to use in my book. Hope ya’ll dont think less of me but I take ideas any way I can get them.

    • Icabu says:

      Great read, Rob. This pair is so nasty makes me want more!
      Good job!

    • zo-zo says:

      You’ve painted such strong characters here, and your sentences are sharp and strong. Well done!

  20. Jeanie Y says:

    Christ, it’s so cold.

    I keep going through the facts, over and over. Partly to keep myself from thinking about how Goddamn freezing I am, but also to make sure I have it all down cold when I get the hell out of here. Pardon my pun, but you see, a detective’s job is to have all the facts in order, and I intend to be a detective again.

    First off, losing my job was not my fault. Being a police detective lends itself to having some unsavory contacts. Bennie (great name for a drug dealer, huh?) is one of them, and I guess, in his defense, he was only trying to help me out. Lord knows why I told him that I had this career day thing coming up, along with my issue of catatonia during speeches. Sometimes you lower your guard and things you shouldn’t say just come spilling out. Well, Bennie left me a little present. The note attached stating, “Only take one, you don’t want to teach the little darlings the fine art of stripteze or nothing! Ha! Ha!” I had no intention of taking any, but my boss found that little present and presented me with a big present: a walk down unemployment lane.

    Next day, I arrived at Kismet Middle school ready to talk about the exciting life of a police detective; they didn’t need to know about my little hiatus. Heart-racing at the podium, with all those beady eyes staring up at me, I remember thinking big eyes, little eyes, brown eyes, blue eyes…like some goofy Doctor Seuss story. Then I started laughing…then the ground rushed up to meet me.

    Hello pretty yellow tiles!

    Good bye all you beady little eyes.

    Waking up in the ambulance meant I had been in the land of Nod for quite some time.

    “You took quite a knock to your head,” the paramedic said. I tried to sit up and he firmly pushed me back down. “I am going to give you a little shot of some pain-killer to help take the edge off. Boy are you gonna have a headache tomorrow,” he chuckled.

    Being a cop, I notice things. My paramedic was working alone, they never do that. “Where is your partner?” I slurred.

    “Just settle right down now, the medicine will work pretty quick,” he said.

    Sure enough, my vision became blurry, and I began to float. Right before I passed out for round number two, I could just make out the name on the medicine bottle: Fentanyl – the coma-inducing drug.

    I have had some time in this cold metal drawer to figure things out. DOA upon arrival. Intracranial hemorrhaging or so-appearing, then straight to the morgue. They won’t wait too long to come and get me out. The body has to be alive for the harvesting. Black market organs go for big bucks nowadays, and I am prime meat.

    I twist myself like a contortionist in order to reach down into my crew sock. With numb fingers I pull out my trusty switchblade. Never leave home without it.

    I am ready. Come and get me.

    • SJ_Mitchell says:

      That was a great payoff!

      So much more happening in that world than a simple career day would suggest. I’d like to think that his first action after escaping would be to get his family to safety, assuming they haven’t been harvested by the time he gets out…mwahahahaha!

    • Ishmael says:

      Jeanie! Hey! I’ve missed your stories, and this was a nice return (I’ve been quite busy myself, on the board sporadically). I liked the “yellow tiles/beady eyes” lines, and many more. Good job, and good to see you again!

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Oh, I’ve been missed! Thanks Ishmael – you’re the best!! :) Had two kids going back to college. Don’t know if I am coming or going sometimes. SJ: This guy is somebody who is hard to kill and likes a challenge. He swears a lot but I toned him down for online posting. He is also pretty embarrassed about passing out, but will incorporate that into his story on how he broke the black market organ harvesting ring. Yeah, he would save his family, but it might be for some glory, selfish guy. As you can tell, this was way more than 500 initially. :*(

    • zo-zo says:

      You HAVE been missed, Jeanie! Hope life has calmed down now!

      I loved the tone in this… Your writing style is perfect for the character you created, and you kept us in suspense til the end! Good story!!

    • radioPanic says:

      Definitely written in a great voice for the character. Great tension, great last line, too. Only suggestion I have that might improve the tension, would be to make it seem more of a struggle to get at the switchblade. Maybe you could spread that action out from beginning to end, even give the narrator some pain in reaching his goal. Maybe cutting a bit from the Bennie paragraph if you want to keep to the word limit. Just a thought. Glad to read this!

    • Birdee0809 says:

      What a twist, yikes. I like the casual way he speaks, it felt true to life and the little rhyme at the podium was hysterical! Great job!

    • clillianjohn says:

      Nice characterization, and the ending left me wanting to read the next chapter. Great job!

  21. radioPanic says:

    …Aaaand here’s number three from the Creatures At The Wedding universe. Probably more of a prologue, I suppose.
    ______________________________

    Marty leaned against Mrs. Reese’s desk, arms folded. “Career Day,” he said. “Now, I don’t have specific advice for a career path or anything. Just general advice, really.”

    He wiped palms on his jeans.

    Students listed, bored, nodding off. Elizabeth’s head lay on her desk.

    “Now, you might get a career all planned out, think you’re gonna end up in a company that’s always gonna have your best interests at heart.” He shook his head. “Not gonna happen.”

    Seven or eight students, more than he’d expected, at least pretended to listen.

    “You know who the one person you can count on to have your interests at heart is?” He pointed, finger traveling an arc encompassing every student. “The one in the mirror. That’s it. That’s my first piece of advice.

    “Part two is: have a backup plan.” He clutched the desk’s edge with sweating hands. “‘Cause if you don’t… you might find yourself doin’ things you aren’t proud of… so you can feed your family. So you can send your kids to school in decent clothes.”

    Twice as many eyes focused on him.

    “Lemme just give you a for example,” he said. “Say you give ten years of your life to Elgin Custodial Services.”

    Elizabeth looked around, put her face back down between her arms.

    “And there’s no shame in cleaning up after people too important to clean up after themselves. But let’s say ECS starts losing contracts. You call in, an’ they tell you, ‘nothin’ today, try tomorrow.’ This goes on for a couple weeks, you’ll start wishin’ you had a backup plan. And you’ll start finding other ways to make ends meet. Ways you’re not proud of, but you realize that it’s only you got your family’s back.”

    Shadows moved behind the window, a knock, and Mrs. Reese got up and stepped out.

    Elizabeth’s eyes finally latched onto her dad.

    “Then Mrs. Elgin herself calls you up, tells you she’s lettin’ you go. After ten years.” Marty finds breath becoming a chore. “So you end up doing more things you’re not proud of… maybe end up hurtin’ someone. ‘Cause only you got your family’s back.”

    Silhouettes in caps passed the door, light glinting off brass through the textured glass. The door opened. “Mr. Martin?” said Mrs. Reese, “I hate to interrupt, but someone here needs to see you.”

    The door closed.

    Marty nodded. He looked up at Elizabeth. “Lizzie? I love you. Remember that.”

    Elizabeth stiffened, eyes wide under a furrowed brow.

    “Tell your momma, tell Joel that I love them.” He stepped toward the door.

    “Dad?”

    Tell them,” Marty said. “I love you.”

    He stepped out.

    Strong hands knocked him to the floor, chipping a tooth on the concrete beneath the low-pile carpet. A strap tightened around wrists wrenched behind his back.

    Mrs. Reese trotted into the classroom.

    Through the door, “Dad?”

    As he was hauled upright and herded toward the exit he heard, “You have the right…”

    The voice faded.

    From behind, beyond the door, “Dad!?

    • Jeanie Y says:

      I really enjoyed this. Your dialogue was so smooth and believable. Great job!

    • SJ_Mitchell says:

      Wow, when you get terminated from your job…you REALLY get TERMINATED!

    • Ishmael says:

      Great, RadioPanic! Loved the dialogue. Real and nice build-up of tension. I could sense his rile. Wonderful take on this.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      Now this was horrible good. This is the kind of stuff I like. Art imitating life. Love it.

    • fbxwriter says:

      Great build up and finish. Marty’s informal speech pattern works well. It adds to his character.

      Here’s a thought. End the story right after “He stepped out.” I think that might add even more tension to the story. Up until that point I wasn’t quite sure who was waiting for him out in the hall. I was thinking police OR “enforcers” from some organized crime group.

      I like Marty’s composure in the face of all this. In just a few words you’ve created a complex character.

    • zo-zo says:

      Great intrigue – I’d love to know more about why he’s going to jail. Also, agree with the other comments – loved the dialogue and tension build-up. Love the ‘silhouettes in caps’ image.

      • radioPanic says:

        Jeanie, SJ, Ishmael, MCKEVIN, fbx, rob, zo-zo, thank you all for reading! A little late, but I was trying to return comments before responding. Almost made it.

        fbx, you’re probably right about the ending. I was writing from the perspective of some advice I don’t remember where I heard, that to humanize your villians you should write a scene with them as the protagonist. So I may have overdone the portrayal of Marty’s concern for his daughter even while being brutalized and dragged away by the cops.

        Thanks, all.

  22. Dean Kutzler says:

    Hope Springs Eternal

    Sally stood outside the classroom, trying to quell her fear of speaking in front of an audience. It was absurd, she thought; the things she’d done in front of audiences without a qualm, when the price was right.

    She looked in through the long slit of window embedded in the door. It was career day; she had prepared a lie. She didn’t like lying, she’d only done it once before, but she wouldn’t embarrass her thirteen-year-old daughter. Not during freshman year. Even though her daughter insisted she tell the truth.

    Genie was sitting in the front row. Her face was bright and intent, full of hopes and dreams the way a teenager’s face should look. She was listening to Jennifer’s mom the investment banker, proudly speaking about the steady rise of her career. Luckily for her, she was born the daughter of a bank owner. She must have forgotten to mention that part. She would also never know that that bank owner was one of Sally’s biggest fans.

    Despite the miserable life Sally had known as an orphan of foster homes and shelters, she had never given up on her dream of becoming a nurse so that she could help people in a better, honest way. Struggle as she had; she would never allow that life for her daughter. Genie will never know her real father. Nor will she ever know about that night Trojan failed, hence the lie. From that failure, sprung hope—a chance to make it right. Hope isn’t just for the young.

    Genie has never wanted for anything, Sally has made sure of it pole by pole. It was all she knew. It’s what has kept them going all these years since her birth. She was too proud for charity, so she sold her soul instead. Choices had to be made. It’s just what one does when life takes a turn.

    She was thirty-five then, when she had Genie. Now going on forty-eight, the pole has slipped from her grasp. Regardless of identity, good genetics had gotten her by up until now, before the club owner had ‘That Talk’ with her. Sometimes, life’s turns are for the better.

    Now it was her turn to speak to the class.

    Jennifer’s mom pushed past the door, click-clacking in her Pradas. “You’re up!” She said to Sally with a smirk. “Poles all yours, ah—I mean, floor, floor’s all yours,” she finished in a whisper.

    The door clicked shut before she could let Jennifer’s mom know, what she’d never known or never would. She knew. They knew. They all knew. Maybe not the children, but she really couldn’t kid herself. Children were wicked enough back in her day, let alone in today’s day and age of bullying. Men talk, people overhear. Rumors are born and gather strength downhill.

    All sixty-two eyes followed her as she made her way over to the blackboard. As she stood in front of the class, looking into the faces of the young students, something inside of her changed. Her daughter’s proud, smiling face, stood out in the crowd like a beacon—a beacon of hope. She nodded only once, a nod of encouragement and from that gentle gesture sprang a world of limitless boundaries.

    She took the index cards of lies that she’d been squeezing the life out of and tossed them into the trash can next to the teacher’s desk. She’d only lied an important lie once in her life and from the proud hope beaming from her daughter’s face, she wasn’t about to tell another.

  23. Erick Jacobs says:

    I ignored Outlook’s dings and finished tweaking my resume. I hit save and shot off a copy to a few recruiters, who had to be thinking ‘Whoa, look who’s back.’ Then my cursor found the dreaded email. Was that ‘day’ really tomorrow?
    My brain began assembling my ‘I’m so sorry, but’ excuse. My palms fretted. What would Lara think? I could hear the giggles and see the finger pointing of her prepubescent, zit popping so-called friends – fiends. She’d hate me if I bailed. If not for a long while, at least a good while – I was almost ok with that.
    West Jacinto Junior High Career Day
    The bolded subject taunted me – sneering and piercing, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Everyone will know you’re a cheat, and a liar. You’re a good for nothing, pathetic piece of …
    I slammed the laptop shut and tossed it aside. I needed a drink. I took a deep breath and bolted the room nearly knocking my daughter to the floor in the process. I started to holler, but didn’t.
    “You ok, Dad?” she asked.
    “Fine.” I said anxiously.
    “What is it?”
    “Never mind. You get to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon. Good night hun.”
    I kissed her on the head and she disappeared upstairs. I went to the kitchen, poured my drink, or plural equivalent, then passed out on the bed.
    Mrs. Tate thanked us for agreeing to speak at today’s event. My head hurt and its only thought was ‘stop shaking my hand heifer’. She led us to the backdoor of the auditorium, and up the staircase where two rows of six chairs sat. I went to sit down on the furthest chair thinking I’d be last and that we might run out of time.
    “Oh, Mr. Aaron I have placed the speakers in assigned seats. You’re one.” She said happily.
    I nodded. ‘I’d like to twist those glasses and shove them up…’. My phone rang. It was bill collector number whatever – third one today. Mrs. Tate gave me a nasty look. I smiled, ‘remember where those glasses are going.’, and turned it to vibrate. I saw Lara walk in through the corner of my eye. She wore a big, bright smile.
    My pocket buzzed while the auditorium filled. No recruiters though. Mrs. Heifer hushed the room and introduced us to the students. My head was fuzzy and my heart was pounding. Oddly, I don’t recall my name being called upon, however I stood nonetheless and pulled an orange from my sport coat pocket. I held it out high for all to see.
    “Pay attention!” I shouted, probably more than was necessary, “This represents all you’re striving towards a career. Inside you’ll find family, security, and wellbeing.”
    I dropped the orange onto the floor and stomped it with all I was worth – 40 years of worth.
    I sat.
    I pointed to the mess I had made.
    “And that’s me without a job.”
    Lara’s big, bright smile went poof.

  24. catbr says:

    Steve knew in his heart that he had to go to his son’s school for Career Day and give a talk about his job as plumber. Stevie jr was looking forward to this for the last couple of weeks. Conversations between them lately usually ended up with Stevie saying things like, “I wonder how many other kids in school have a dad who is a plumber and can fix everything. I bet there isn’t any. We’ll show them, right dad?”

    “That’s right Stevie, we’ll show them.” Steve always looked over at his son with grateful affection for his son’s unconditional love. The feeling was mutual. But now the situation was a disaster. The company Steve worked for was downsizing and decided they had to let some employees go. The day before he was informed that he was one of them. Steve couldn’t let his kid down by giving him the news about not having a job anymore. He decided he would give the talk at Career Day, even though he couldn’t stand public speaking. Back in his high school days he would break out in a sweat even if he had to take a turn at reading out of a book or go to the front of the class to write anything or do anything at all. His voice would crack and his face would turn beet red. He was a wreck when it cames to those things.

    “I’m ready dad. I think it’s time to go.” Stevie said.

    “Let’s go get ‘em Stevie.” Stevie was so enthustiastic. He jumped into the front seat of the car a few minutes before Steve got there. The drive to the elementary school was the longest, dragged out car ride ever in Steve’s mind. Thoughts of remorse over his bad misfortune and wishing it would have never happened were overwhelming.

    “Come on dad, we gotta go to the gymnasium for this. Mrs. Johnson told us this afternoon. I’ll show you.” Stevie grabbed his father’s strong callused hands and pulled him along.

    “Whoa, slow down there a little before somebody gets hurt.” Steve said with a sinking feeling inside.

    All the students, parents and others took their seats in the gym. Soon the speeches began after all the preliminary talks. After 3 or 4 speeches were given the principal of the school took the microphone.

    “I have an announcement to make. We have a very serious leakage situation in the girls washroom. I understand from the list of scheduled speakers that there is a plumber here today, thankfully. Mr. Steven Mitchell could you come forward please.”

    “That’s you dad.” Stevie beamed.

    “You stay here son. It looks like I have a job to do.” Steve suddenly felt that there was hope after all. He fixed the leak in the washroom that day and was hired by the school board to do all the plumbing work at the local schools because he had done such an excellent job and had a very good, long work history at his former place of employment. Lucky break for Steve that the previous plumber the school board had, just quit only 2 days earlier. The other bonus was that Steve didn’t have to give any dreaded speeches that day, but it didn’t matter to Stevie. Now his dad was not only the best plumber in the world, but he was also a hero all around the school for saving the day, for some time after.

  25. Amy says:

    “Mama!”

    “I’m in the bathroom, sweetheart. I need to get ready for your school’s career day, remember? Why are you squinting?”

    “It’s so bright in here. Why do you have all those lightbulbs around the mirror? Ugh. Don’t put on so much makeup. You look like a weird doll. You’ll scare my friends.”

    “But Gracie, makeup is my career. You know I make money by giving other mamas, and sometime daddys, makeovers. Please hand me the blue eyeshadow. No, not the turquoise-the dark blue.”

    “Eww…it’ll make you look like you’ve got a black eye!”

    “What did you say? Stop mumbling dear.”

    “Nothing.”

    “There. How does that look? Oh, come on, wipe that frown off your face. It can’t be that bad.”

    “Why can’t you wear light colors? You look like someone beat you up. And that lipstick…nobody has lips that red!”

    “Gracie, honey…”

    “I don’t like it Mama. I don’t!”

    “Well, I’m sorry you don’t like it, but I’ve got to make a good impression, especially with your teacher and the other parents there. It’s a grown-up thing dear. One day, you’ll understand.”

    “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want you at career day.”

    “Too late, my darling. I’m committed. Think how disappointed your little friends will be if I don’t come. I know, I’ll braid your hair, and you can wear some pink lip-gloss.”

    “No. I won’t. I don’t want to be like you. It shouldn’t matter what I look like. Teacher says it’s what’s inside that counts.”

    “Well then, let’s go get in the car.”

    “Come on Gracie. Get in and buckle your seatbelt. Stop fidgeting please.”

    “Can we listen to the radio?”

    “Not now. Let’s talk. Stop sulking and uncross your arms.”

    “ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT GENTLY DOWN THE STREAM…!”

    “Gracie, hush. That’s not singing, that’s shouting. OH MY GOSH. You’re distracting me! I just ran that stop sign.”

    “You’re going to kill us both. I WANT DADDY!”

    “Well, you can’t have him. Daddy left us, remember?”

    “He left you…”

    “What? Oh nevermind. We’re here. Stop rolling your eyes.”

    “I don’t want to hold your hand. I come here every day, remember?”

    “You’re in a bad mood today Gracie…Oh, hello Mrs. Stephens. I’m excited about career day…Gracie, where are you going?”

    “To my desk…this is school…”

    “Class-give a warm welcome to Mrs. Krauss, Gracie’s mother.”

    “Good morning Mrs. Krauss!”

    “Good morning class! Do you know what I’m holding here?”

    “It looks like a suitcase?”

    “Very good. And your name is?”

    “Jimmy.”

    “Well Jimmy, you’re almost right. This is a makeup case.”

    “You need something that big to carry your makeup in? You shouldn’t wear so much…”

    “You look nervous…your hands are shaking!”

    “Mrs. Stephens said you lost your job yesterday…”

    “Jimmy, Emma, Josh, be quiet! Let Mrs. Krauss speak…”

    “YOU LOST YOUR JOB?”

    “Gracie-I can explain. I didn’t want you to worry dear. I’ll find another one, I promise!”

    “Why are you crying then? Ewwww-your makeup’s all runny. You look gross. I HATE YOU! I WANT TO LIVE WITH DADDY!

    “Gracie…come back here! I knew this was a bad idea. You’re all spoiled brats!”

    “Mrs. Krauss…come back! I’m sorry you’re upset…Gracie, Mrs. Krauss…watch out for that car…OH MY GOD!”

  26. BriWeezy says:

    It was career day Chesterfield Middle School. This meant parents all over town were taking the day off to brag about their top of the line jobs and their million dollar salaries in front of a group of kids who don’t really give a damn.

    My daughter Paisley wanted me to participate so bad this year. I mean, if my mother was a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld, I’d want my mom to come to Career day as well. Unfortunately, I was let go from my dolphin training position at SeaWorld. Let’s just say you should never punch a dolphin, no matter how aggressive it becomes.

    NEVER!

    “Next up, we have Paisley Jackson’s mom who is a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld!” By the thunderous sound of the applause, the kids seemed very excited. I awkwardly walked out on stage and rested my forearms on the podium. I had never been so intimidated by a room full of 7th graders in my life. When I finally managed to make eye contact with the audience, my eyes immediately were drawn to my daughters proud face which featured the biggest most beautiful smile I had ever seen on her face. She was clad in SeaWorld attire from head to toe.

    “Hello everyone, my name is Mrs. Jackson, and I am Paisley’s mother, and I work at SeaWorld!” I said with a nervous tremble in my voice. All the kids began conversating amongst each other for a moment, then dozens of hands eagerly shot up all at once. The fact that the kids were so interested made me feel so much more comfortable.

    “Yes, you with the Bieber-do.”

    “Aren’t you that lady who punched Dolph the Dolphin in the face?” He said as he pointed at me like some child from the corn. Suddenly, I felt the sting of hundreds of little eyes on me as they awaited my answer. My daughter’s eyes stung the most. That one-of-a-kind smile had faded away and like the others she anxiously awaited my answer.

    “Hey listen, Dolph was getting a little too aggressive with me, so I nudged him in the nose with my hand in a closed position. I did nothing wrong.” I said hoping I was talking to a room full of naïve children. It was silent for a moment.

    “SO YOU PUNCHED HIM!” The same kid exclaimed. Nope, not naïve.

    “NO, I nudged him!” I exclaimed.

    “ANIMAL ABUSER!!” The kid exclaimed, and the whole auditorium began chanting even Paisley. I really felt threatened by these crazy kids.

    So now I am in anger management class. Let’s just say you should never punch a kid, no matter how aggressive they become.

    NEVER!

  27. penney says:

    “Kyle, I just found out this morning that I won’t be working at the coroner’s after today.” Kyle’s dad didn’t know any other way to break the news to him but to just say it. He waited for a response.

    “But, dad what about the show, they’ve been waiting all week.” Kyle was horrified.

    “We’ll just have to go out with a big bang. Don’t worry, I’ve got this handled. You’ve got the release forms?” Kyle shook his head and smiled. His dad winked back.

    “Now go find a seat, maybe toward the back out of the way.” Mr. Riggers started organizing his displays.

    Principle Venetti walked onto the auditorium stage, microphone in hand. “For today’s look into interesting careers, it is my pleasure to present to the Sunnyvale Middle School our one and only town coroner, Mr. Don Riggers.”

    The curtain came up, and on stage was something quite similar to a mad scientist laboratory. Test tubes and beakers bubbled, steam hissed, and odd lights glowed from no explainable place. Slowly a short Einstein like man in a wrinkled lab coat eked out from the darkness.

    Kyle’s dad made his presentation explaining crime scene investigation, and the importance of science and forensics. He showed dead bugs and chemical compound mixtures that excited the kid’s minds. They all pushed up to the edge of the stage just to see the deformed creatures suspended in formaldehyde. That’s when Mr. Riggers knew he had them.

    With perfect timing a student yelled out, “What’s on the table?” They all cheered in unison, “Table, Table!”

    “You want to see what is here?” Mr. Riggers almost slithered, snake like around the back of the table gliding his hand over a white blanket like Vanna White about to reveal another letter. Reaching overhead, he tilted the large viewing mirror so each student could get a better look.

    “I am working on a new case, one that will either bring new evidence to light or baffle us further. Would you like to see?” The auditorium fell silent. With that, he yanked the blanket off the table. “Let us take a look, shall we?”

    Reflecting on the mirror, was a corpse, its ribcage already sawed open and skin flaps pulled aside to reveal the entrails.

    Screams escaped the audience and the obvious sounds of heaving and gagging could be heard. On queue Mr. Rigger’s reached inside the cavity and with what seemed an amplified suctioning sound, he pulled out the heart.

    “Isn’t it beautiful and this could all be yours as today was my last day.” Mr. Riggers watched as Principle Venetti was keeled over a garbage can, students were running for the doors and some lay past out in the isles. But, what clinched it for him, what let him know that all was well was Kyle sitting in the far back of the room, holding his sides in a failed attempt to hold the loud guffaws. Once again, they struck pay dirt on career day.

  28. Wendy2020 says:

    I was at my daughter’s Career Day, without a career and without much to say.  I’d printed my “poor me” story on a stark white poster board and hung it from my skirted table.  I set out two bowls of candy, one for chocoholics and one for those who liked to suck on something sweet.  Treat-filled mouths were less likely to ask questions I’d have to answer.

     
    My booth was sandwiched between a superhero and a star.

     
    I’m sure Gary Maxwell had a real job, doing something ordinary like processing insurance claims or accounting other people’s money, but few of us in the town of Rudmore knew what it was.  He was, instead, the living legend who’d saved the lives of four ten-year olds from a backyard tree house fire.  Smuggled fireworks, the invincible stupidity of boys with matches, and the summer drought of 2002 had made Gary Maxwell a hometown hero.  He was a Rudmore Lifer, representing the volunteer fire department.

     
    Being a hero doesn’t pay the bills, I wanted to scream.  Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman… there’re all volunteer gigs!  Dream all you want about saving the innocent, but it’s the working slob alter-ego that earned a living.

     
    Gary read my sign and gave my shoulder a “buck up” squeeze.

     
    “Give it time, sugar.  You’ll be okay,” he said, popping a lemon drop in his mouth.

     
    I gave Gary my best lip-glossed smile and feigned hero-worship.

     
    To my right was Lily St. Clair, former teen soap opera star.  She’d played triplets on Midnight Falls back when daytime drama hijacked all television sets between the hours of noon and 3 PM.   As Raven, Robin and Wren Davenport, she’d had fictional amnesia seven times.  Now it was like everyone around me had amnesia, forgetting that Lily St. Clair wasn’t real.  She was LuAnn Mortimer, prodigal middle-aged daughter of Rudmore, who’d only returned when her Hollywood star burned out in the wake of talk shows and scripted reality.

     
    LuAnn tapped my forearm with an acrylic red nail, then slid a small oval pill under my fingertips.

     
    “It won’t fix anything,” she winked, “but you won’t care.”

     
    I repeated my lip-glossed smile, but shook my head no, placing the tablet back in her lotion-slick palm.  I’d suffered a loss, but I wasn’t ready to fill it with her version of candy.

     
    The gymnasium doors spang open.  A swarm of innocence and cherub cheeks flooded in, my nine year old Sophie among them, somewhere.  She’d spent last night at her dad’s.  She didn’t know about me.

     
    Most of the Future-Somethings of America weren’t sure what to make of me and my tale of loss.  But they devoured my candy.   Adults kept their distance, as if I were contagious, and whispered Poor dear or What a trooper! a little too loudly.

     
    Principal Grantham did her obligatory drive-by.  She smiled sympathetically, patted my hair, and thanked me for coming, anyway.   I didn’t say “you’re welcomeand I didn’t smile back. My lip gloss had worn off.

    “Mom,” cried Sophie.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”  She flung her skinny arms around me and buried her curls in my neck. 

     
    I shrugged.

     
    “You didn’t have to come, you know?   I’m not a little kid anymore, mommy.”

     
    Maybe she could handle it.  But I couldn’t. 

     
    My sign was an excuse notice, and not a very good one.  I’d written it like a rebellious child forging her way out of unfinished homework: 

     
    Lost my voice
    Extreme Laryngitis
    Help yourself to some candy

     
    A lie, followed by a bribe.  That’s how I’d lost my job in the first place.

    • zo-zo says:

      Wendy, thanks for your kind words on my story, but in my opinion you’ve blown us all out the water!! This is incredible.

      You hook us from the first sentence, and we’re eating right out of your hand until the last one, which is just as powerful. I love how your sharp sentences perpetuate the jadedness of this lady, and how her self-disgust seeps through. Also, the nail gloss, And the lie that we only find out at the end. I seriously think you should make a short story out of this and sent it out to publishers.. Really, really good.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      zo-zo said it all! This was super Wendy!

    • Ishmael says:

      Wendy – A most enjoyable read! This had all the elements in perfect alignment, and your descriptions really enhanced the great characterization. I love the metaphor created with the lip gloss. This was truly wonderful.

    • Nice…Loved the way this was assembled and unfolded. Nice flow, and ending….even if you did cheat (595 words)…but then again could we expect anything less from a protagonist who is a liar and bribes little children :) laughing, Great Job Wendy, Five stars *****

    • Birdee0809 says:

      Love the style and imagery. Totally hooked from the first sentence.

    • ksmiller727 says:

      Very well thought out, nice twist. It not only gave her a reason not to speak, but gave us a reason why she was fired.

      Nice job.

    • ScottP says:

      About the time the gym doors opened in your story I was afraid that you weren’t going to tell us what the sign said. The last line ties it all up and makes me want to learn more at the same time. Great job!

  29. jenjane says:

    Seven years. Thats what I had given my boss. I need to focus, I promised my son to talk at his schools’  career day.  The school building is bleak, a grey concrete construction from the 1970′s. I remember the feeling of anticipation   20 years before  when I left this building for the last time after graduating to embarked on my career path.  And now anticipation of what to say about that career as I enter this building.  A quick scan of the hall, brimming with children eager to hear me.  What have I got to say…seven years of service and I got fired! I spy the coffee table  in the corner of the hall, slipping out my pewter flask from my satchel  I pour a delicious amount  into my flat black. No one will suspect my instant confidence comes from coffee liquor. Oh, who am i trying to kid, these are third graders , they know it all. How am I going to be convincing.  Another sip of my coffee and I feel the familiar warmth slip into my gut and my sole. Perhaps my boss had suspected. I figured the smell of alcohol was masked by the coffee aroma. Had he known that my ability came from a silver vessel containing Tia Maria. Was I so blinded by my own inability to recognize a problem.  

    Concentrating on each step as I climb up to the podium I looked at the sea of 8 year olds and begin…..As one door closes another always opens. Opportunities are everywhere…..seven years is not an eternity its just an itch that had to be scratched.

  30. Chancelet says:

    “Everyone welcome Debbie’s mother, Mrs. Redwood. She has a magnificent job that I am sure each of you will be thrilled to hear about. This will be a big surprise, since Debbie is new here and I doubt anyone knows what her mother does for a living. I will give you one hint: Every night when you fall asleep, Mrs. Redwood could tell each of you exactly what you are dreaming of! Now listen closely.”

    Raina Stinson scuttled eagerly to her desk to hear Margaret Redwood’s presentation. After listening through the tedious lives of office managers, construction workers, and a book editor, she could not wait to hear this.

    Looking wan and haggard, Margaret Redwood languidly made her way to the front of the class, which immediately gave Raina concern. Margaret had just made it to the class, so Raina did not have a chance to say more than “Hi” to her. Seeing how badly Margaret appeared now, Raina wished she had talked to her more.

    Margaret leaned against the podium at the front of the classroom, slowly scanned the classroom, and finally spoke.

    “If you ever have to do this for your child, get out of it at every cost.” She tapped her long nails against the base of the podium. “I really hate speaking in front of people…in front of crowds. I never do it. Never.”

    Her embarrassed blushing changed the creaminess of her brown skin to make her look feverish. She stammered, “What…I…do. What…I…used to do…until today.” She looked to the floor, then back to the dismayed third graders. “I hate it. I just hate it!”

    With that, Margaret slid to the floor and sat bawling, her head bouncing on her folded knees in rhythm to her cries. Lifting her head, she whimpered, “I got fired. Just yesterday I found out. Of all the jobs, I’d never worked as hard or loved as much as this one. And now, after agreeing to talk with you guys, something I said I’d never do, I’ve got nothing!”

    She covered her head again, and Raina finally gathered herself from the scene enough to try and take control. She wanted to dismiss the class, but it was too soon for recess. She looked to the teacher’s pet, Hannah Ringold, and said, “Please hurry and get the Assistant Principal. We need to dismiss the class.”

    A roar of cheers rushed through the class, until Desmond Porro, the brainiac of the classroom, stood and pounded his book on his desk. “Just wait a minute! I need to know one thing.” Quiet held the room, and everyone, including stressed out Raina Stinson and teary-eyed and despondent Margaret Redwood, looked to Desmond, astonished at his outbreak.

    “Before we leave,” he stepped closer to the front of the class and looked directly into Mrs. Redwood’s eyes, “I want to know what-the-heck-job you used to have!” All the students turned to hurl wadded papers at Desmond Porro, and Margaret cried even louder, putting end to the class.

    • Wendy2020 says:

      Hmmm, so what was her job? Just curious.

      I got a little lost as to who the main protagonist was? I assume Margaret Redwood, but her voice kind of got swallowed up. Would be interesting if you included her daughter’s reaction as you never mention her except that Mrs. Redwood is her mother.

      Good depiction of a mother breaking down, just could use a little fine-tuning.

      • Chancelet says:

        Actually, it’s supposed to be the teacher’s perspective. You know how it takes days or weeks to get writings the way you’d like, especially in 500 words! I think you would be someone the kids would throw wadded paper at for asking what the job was! :)

  31. zo-zo says:

    Oh flip – it seems my editing skills again this week are lacking.. :@… sorry about that, but I do appreciate the feedback. I failed to mention his son is a teenager, which makes him attacking the boys and his son tackling him more viable. But I clearly didn’t show the climax clearly as it was supposed to look like the whole thing was staged, part of his presentation…

    *Any other feedback or suggestions on improving my writing are welcome!*

    • Egg says:

      zo-zo – I think you cleverly and succinctly hinted at the boy’s age early on by, “…all I’ve known Patrick to look at is girls.” As a reader, I like figuring these things out rather than being told, “My son was a teenager.” Also, I really like that the guy is pissed off. Why wouldn’t he be? Yeah, I missed the ‘staged’ thing, but the idea is a good one, I think, and I enjoyed the story anyway. Nice work.

  32. slayerdan says:

    I liked this to a point, then it lost me. It seems like these were little kids–he was going to attack them? And his son took him down, as a small child? Then people cheered? There is a chance Im missing something i guess, but you lost me there.

  33. zo-zo says:

    Yesterday they fired me for doing my job. Told me I took it too far. Told me maybe security’s not for me.

    But protecting’s what I do. I’ve got the eyes for it: I see. Sniffer dogs sniff, and I watch. I can sense trouble even if it’s dressed up in pink, and I see more than people want me to. My Maggie doesn’t see further than her vegetable garden, and all I’ve known Patrick to see is girls, so it was easy to lie.

    ‘The boys are having a night at the pub,’ I told them so I could stare into my beer glass all night in peace. I’ll tell them next week, I thought.

    This morning at 7:15 I drove straight to KFC and ate two meals for good luck. As I drove to Patricks school my head began throbbing. Fear and grease never mix well.

    A buck-tooth woman whose perfume smelt like toilet spray greeted me. The way she smiled, and patted my hand made me want to punch her. She reminded me of the HR lady smiling as she fired me.

    So I ignored her and watched the little birds fight over seeds. Finally she left me alone on that green bench. One greedy bugger kept stealing from the smaller ones. On his third theft, I jumped up and aimed a pen at the bastard’s eye. Then the other damned birds got all neurotic and flew away. A hot shaky rage filled me and my head heard the rumblings of a one-way freight train.

    I thought about Maggies forest-green eyes until I’d calmed down.

    In ten minutes I entered the hall, where the children sat in solid straight lines. They stood for me, and that made me feel good. Some damn respect.

    ‘I’d like to introduce to you, Mr Vorster.’ Her eyes blinked hard. ‘He will be giving you a most interesting talk on being a security guard.’

    Two boys in a corner exchange smirks. Delinquents in training. I heard the freight train.

    ‘To be a security guard you need a calling,’ I started. ‘And many are called but few are chosen.’

    I glanced at the boys. They were snickering into their hands and the freight train in my head whistled and I exploded.

    ‘You bloody good-for-nothing idiots!’ I pointed my finger at them and their eyes widened. ‘Little demons in disguise, that’s all you are!’

    I was just about to climb over the rows of wide-eyed children to give those boys my fists when I felt pressure around my arm. I turned and saw my son.

    In an instant I was on the ground, my arm throbbing. When did I teach him that? I thought

    ‘And that,’ Patrick says, ‘is my dad’s job – to protect us.’

    The hall rang with applause as the children stood up, beaming. I looked at a spot on the floor and closed my eyes until it was over.

    Tonight at dinner I came clean. Maggie slapped a piece of steak on my plate and said time for a holiday. Patrick shrugged off my apology because now the popular girls want his number.

    ‘Yeah,’ Patrick said, ‘you looked the shittiest I’ve ever seen you. Besides,’ he stabbed at a carrot, ‘you’re a terrible liar.’

    • DMelde says:

      There’s some good lines in here and I like the story. slayerdan has a good point. wide eyed children shouldn’t be able to bring down Vorster the Enforcer. maybe calling them burned out teens would have been better? burned out teens would scare the hell out of anyone. :)

    • Chancelet says:

      Like the main character. You get a good feel for him, and the son ‘throw down’ was a good twist.

    • Wendy2020 says:

      You are a creator of classic lines… I mean that.

      ” The way she smiled, and patted my hand made me want to punch her. She reminded me of the HR lady smiling as she fired me.”

      “I can sense trouble even if it’s dressed up in pink…”

      “Fear and grease never mix well.”

      “Then the other damned birds got all neurotic and flew away.”

      Can’t say the protagonist was totally likeable, but was completely memorable. And if I had to choose one, I’d choose B.

      Great job!

    • Jeanie Y says:

      I agree with Wendy zo-zo, you have a way with words! Good story!

    • BriWeezy says:

      I loved reading the details in the beginning. And I really liked how you described the scene with the birds. It is amazing how you fit so much detail into so little words. Good Job! :)

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      I cracked up. I totally get your approach. This is a story of a man who cracks under the pressure of his world coming down on him…The only way you couldn’ve made it better was if he were drunk hhaha good job

    • radioPanic says:

      This was a lot of fun. “A buck-tooth woman whose perfume smelt like toilet spray…” Ha! Great, concise image.

      Yeah, I got a bit lost at the end. If the event was staged, the line, “When did I teach him that? I thought” doesn’t quite add up. Cutting that line might work, maybe having the last line say “terrible actor” instead of “terrible liar.” Unless I’m missing something.

      Enjoyed this all the same.

  34. ScottP says:

    David is bursting with energy this morning. It’s not often I get to see my 12 year old son excited to go to school, “You know you have to be there at 10:30, right Dad?”

    “I know, David. You’ve told me 5 times already this morning. Don’t worry I’ll be there.”, I reply. It’s not like I have anywhere else to be. Getting fired yesterday freed up my schedule for… well for the indefinite future.

    David holds a Pop-Tart in his mouth as he shrugs on his backpack and slips on his new tennis shoes, “Rachel is going to think it’s so cool that my dad makes video games. I can’t wait to see her face. Hey, you said we’d go out to lunch afterwards, right? Can Tim come too?”

    “I… um… Well, why don’t we just go to lunch just the two of us, okay?”, I forgot about lunch but I suppose that’s as good of a time as any to tell him the news.

    “Alright, ok. Bye, Dad! Have a good morning at work. I love you!”, before I have a chance to respond, David is out the door on his way to school.

    I slump down in my chair. It’s a relief not to have to pretend everything is fine, pretend I have a job, pretend I know what the hell to do now. Things were just getting settled after David’s mom left us. I still can’t believe she just left like she did. It was almost as unexpected as John firing me yesterday. Where the fuck did that come from? That jackass wouldn’t know good programming if it kicked him in the nuts. It’s not worth dwelling on now though, I need to figure out how to tell David.

    I show up to David’s school 20 minutes early. Having the extra time to prepare is a blessing and a curse. This is my first time in David’s school since Back to School night so it’s nice to have the extra time to find his classroom. Unfortunately, it also gives me time to remember how much I hate public speaking and I really hate public speaking.

    When I stand up in front of David’s class to tell them how to become a video game programmer my palms are sweaty and my heart is racing. However, it’s not talking in front of the class that is making me nervous. It’s seeing David’s face beaming with pride at me. I can hardly even look in his direction because when I do my heart drops and I’m tempted to run out of the room before he realizes what a fraud he has for a father.

    As the last presentation is finishing up, the bell rings and I’m interrupted from my swirling thoughts by David’s smile, “Ready to go to lunch, Dad?”

    “Yeah..um..yeah.”, I say and we make our way through the chaotic halls of David’s school, “Listen, there’s something I have to tell you…”

    • slayerdan says:

      Cute. Suggestion: work on not using the word “I”. 26 times is roughly 5% of the story. Just a thought. Ex:
      I slump down in my chair. It’s a relief not to have to pretend everything is fine, pretend I have a job, pretend I know what the hell to do now. Things were just getting settled after David’s mom left us. I still can’t believe she just left like she did. It was almost as unexpected as John firing me yesterday. Where the fuck did that come from? That jackass wouldn’t know good programming if it kicked him in the nuts. It’s not worth dwelling on now though, I need to figure out how to tell David.

      Slumped down at the computer, its a relief not to pretend anymore. That everything is okay and that I know what to do now that my job is gone.—–from three “I”s to one. Just an idea.

      SD

    • jincomt says:

      Your portrayal of the father’s inner turmoil and dilemma was really well done. It’s hard to convey emotions and you did a really good job of that.

  35. JWLaviguer says:

    I’ve battled demons, vampires, and lycans, but standing here in front of a classroom full of 9 year olds, all eyes on me, was the most terrifying experience in my life.

    “Good morning, boys and girls,” I finally managed. “I’m Mr Van Helsing, and I’m a vampire hunter.” All of their eyes opened wide, and shocked gasps quickly turned into all-out laughter.

    “Mr Jackson,” the teacher said disapprovingly. “Honestly, if you’re going to make a mockery of this…”

    “I’m sorry,” I said. “Let me rephrase that. I USED to be a vampire hunter. Until they had to lay me off.”

    “You mean you got fired,” said one obnoxious boy seated in the front.

    “Yes, I guess you could say that,” I continued. “But it’s all your fault, children. All of these stupid, inaccurate books and movies and tv shows about vampires and various other monsters has brought them into the mainstream, and de-mystified them. Now they have representation in local and national government, and are protected under law.”

    I took another swig out of my Starbucks cup, feeling the whiskey burn soothingly down my throat, and then continued.

    “Why, just 10 years ago, vampires, ghouls, demons, and the like were greatly feared, so you all needed people like me, those with nothing to lose, willing to protect the innocent by tracking down these hideous monsters and destroying them. I don’t even get paid unemployment benefits. And if I try to go out and do the job on my own, I get arrested and thrown in the slammer.

    “I wanted to quit, when I met Tommy’s mother, but there just weren’t enough of us. Sure, they let me take a week off to get married, but for that entire week, my trigger finger was itching, if you know what I mean.

    “That was, you see, until I found out what she really was. And why I had to kill her. But not until after little Tommy there was born.”

    Every head turned towards Tommy, as he slinked down further into his chair, the hair on his neck already standing up and growing.

    That same smartass boy in the front said, “What was she? And what does that make Tommy?”

    “She was a werewolf, and that makes Tommy a half-lycan, half-vampire.”

    “A what? Where did he get the half-vampire from?” asked another.

    I let that sink in a bit, and then showed them a big smile, complete with freshly-sharpened fangs.

    Tommy and I ate very well that day.

  36. I swallowed hard as I slowly strolled through the parking lot in the rear of the two story yellow bricked field house with an Olympic sized swimming pool and the large gymnasium. I attended high school years ago. It was comforting to see the back retaining wall that created a platform for a flower bed running the length of the back of field house had been removed. I shuddered with a cold chill at the mantel imagery and flashbacks of hanging out there with my fellow classmates. This was where we hung out before classes started and during lunch smoking dope and getting high. I continued on and signed in at the main office in building adjacent to the field house.
    I had always had a shy quite personality, and hated public speaking. It was never one of my stronger assets. I was a bit nervous and somewhat apprehensive about speaking to the student body. This was my son’s high school. Yet in spite of my anxiety, I had been looking forward to speaking here on career day for months. The thought that I might help motivate and inspire some of the young adults here was comforting and outweighed any fears I had about speaking in public. The idea that I could be an instrument for hope and a source of encouragement and betterment in these young lives comforted me. But that all changed yesterday when I was abruptly fired from my job of 27 years as a police officer. I was not feeling so confident now, and feelings of inadequacy shame and guilt began to overwhelm me. I had not told my son yet and I knew it would be in the local headlines of today’s evening gazette.
    Standing at the podium in center court, I took a deep breath and sighed. I scanned the faces of the students that sat quietly in the roll out bleaches that ran the length of the interior wall of the field house. Good morning everyone my name is William Cauhgins.
    It’s a pleasure to be here and an honor to address the student body here at ‘Pelzer Regional Academy’ and the next generation that will lead our community and nation through the first halve of this new millennium; and make no mistake about it. This is much more than just helping you all find and pick a rewarding career that will make you successful and give you a means to make a lot of money. You are about to be handed and entrusted with the torch that will light the path for those that will come after you.
    I’m here to remind you all today of the greatness that lies within each and every one of you. To inspire and motivate you, but more importantly; I want to remind each and every one of you that you can overcome any obstacle life may throw at you; that you can, and will succeed in life if you work hard and never give up.

    • Again this was a first draft which I hastily posted without a proper review or revision. A few missing words miss-spellings and typos…My apologies :) This could have/should have been a much better piece.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      I liked it. Pssst… If writing here was all about typos, correction and …. I wouldn’t never have anything to post. Goood job.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      This is a great story. I like how despite his personal failure and anguish he still carries the message of hope. Good Job!!!

    • Ishmael says:

      I loved the message of this piece…didn’t notice any misspells except bleachers…only because it made a different word…bleaches. The first paragraph was very descriptive. His speech was inspiring, and needs to be reused at his son’s commencement address! It was standing ovation good. I realize that writing sans quotes is a style, but my preference is with them. Just to give my brain a heads up that this is being spoken and not merely a thought.

    • DMelde says:

      Great story and message!

  37. Chilo says:

    Okay. I can do this. Take a deep breath and walk inside my son’s classroom for Career Day. There’s the doorknob. Why can’t I just turn the darn thing? Okay, okay. Take another deep breath. You can do this public speaking thing. Ignore the sweat already making its way down my back. I hate how it trickles into my…. shake it off. Shake it off.

    “Good morning.”
    “Uh, good morning.”
    “I’m the principal, Mrs. Malarky. Did you get lost looking for the room? Our school is designed in a strange way-”
    “No, no. I’m getting my bearings before I go inside.”
    “Oh, I see. You’re here to talk at your child’s school for career Day.”
    “Yes, I’m trying to… remember my lines.”
    “I see. Good luck… who is your son?”
    “Matthew. Matthew Starke.”
    “Oh, yes. He told us yesterday you were coming. I’m glad you did. Well, don’t take too long. Students tend to get excited on these days.”

    I agreed to talk to the class because Matthew was set on having all his friends meet the person who helped design the new super-duper roller coaster ride at FunLand. The only thing is, I lost my job yesterday, too- and I haven’t told him yet. Here goes…

    “Dad!”
    “Hi, Matt.”

    “Good morning, Mr. Starke…. Class, this is Matthew’s father, Mr. Starke.”

    “Hi!”

    “You know kids the most important job is being a parent. A job is second to that role in life. Sometimes, you give everything you’ve got into a career and then, poof! It’s gone. Just like that. Then, you have to look for another job… hopefully in the same profession…”
    “Mr. Starke… um… maybe we can have the students ask some questions?”
    “Oh, sure.”

    The questions poured and I spit out the answers like a slot machine or was it more like a punching bag?
    But, there sat Matthew upright. Everyone smiling and enjoying my drawing of the latest roller coaster project I am working on. I couldn’t spoil it for him. Being a parent teaches you that. I’ll have to wait a few days for his glory to wear down to tell him the truth.

  38. DMelde says:

    I went in the front way and Lenny must of saw the stapler in my hand ‘cause he jumped around me and run outside. So I grabbed Clem and he’s a fat liar if he says I hurt him on purpose, ‘cause I was only trying to staple his shirt to the desk, and not his tongue. After I helped free his tongue I apologized proper like, and then I run outside looking for Lenny. I was madder than Preacher Tom when he spoke ‘bout fire and brimstone at Sunday service. Me, Lenny, and Clem work together at the Town Resource Center, where they put slow people to work, but I could outrun any of ‘em, so they don’t rightly know what they was talking ‘bout. Our job was to write real tiny on these little white balls, but they had dimples on ‘em, and my L’s always got crooked. So I started writing my L first, in-between the dimples, and then I put e-i-s-t after the L and T-i-t before the L. It looked real good when I wrote it that way, but Lenny and Clem always wrote out T-i-t, and then they’d start in to giggling like they was small school boys. That bothered me some, but what I really don’t like is when I caught ‘em stealing paperclips. I don’t rightly care for a dishonest man, and that’s why I was chasing ‘em.
    Bobbie Sue met me at the door and she slapped me real hard across the face, and my taste went numb for a second.
    “Whad ya do that for?” I cried.
    Bobbie Sue had dimples too, and she could charm the oil out of a snake, but when I saw the fire in her eyes I gave her my stapler real quick. I lost my job after that, and I ain’t told John Jacob Junior about it yet neither.
    So I went to his school where I made up my mind to make stuff up, but when I saw them young’uns looking up at me, I knowed I couldn’t do it, so I broke down and told ‘em all the truth. I told ‘em how I lost my job ‘cause of them paperclip thiefs and tit gigglers. My speech must of been pretty powerful ‘cause everyone’s mouth was wide open and I saw Junior holding his head in his hands. The teacher was impressed too ‘cause she took me right to the principal, and made me tell my story all over again. When I got to the part about them being tit gigglers she stopped me, and asked me if I knowed what that meant.
    “Yes ma’am,” I told her, “I write it every day.”
    She nodded at the teacher and the teacher left. Then the principal offered me a job cleaning up at night, and how would I like doing that?
    And I like it just fine, ‘cause when I clean under the desks, I find all the gum I can chew.

    • zo-zo says:

      I *LOVE* this!!! Amazing voice and flow to this piece! He reminds me a bit of Forest… :)

    • Chancelet says:

      Great story. Funny and horrible at the same time!

    • Wendy2020 says:

      My favorite is the last line! What a great fringe benefit.

      Would have liked a little more context as to who Bobbie Sue was… his boss? Also, is there a mom? Not that you have to answer every question in a story, but you have me curious.

      Hard to write in dialect, especially consistently, and you did it well.

    • radioPanic says:

      Wow. That’s… I’m still laughing at the last line.

      I got a little confused toward the end, since both the teacher and principal are referred to only as ‘she.’ If this is intentional, since the story’s being told by a — mentally challenged person — is that the PC term? — just ignore this comment.

      But the voice and the dialect make it seem like a story out of the past, hence the hand-painting the brand name on golf balls makes absolute sense.

      The narrator’s description of his job and coworkers is brilliant. Wasn’t sure where it was going at first, but it paid off, big time. And the next-to-the-last line, ‘…and how would I like doing that?’ I can really picture her saying this to the person she’s saying it to.

      Still laughing at the last line.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      You made me laugh DMelde! :) Thanks!

    • Ishmael says:

      You know I’m a sucker for dialect – done well. Good job! Like the others, the last line got me good. Such a witty observation. I also got confused at the unspecific pronoun at the end. “The principal nodded at the teacher and the teacher left. Then she offered me a job…” let’s me know who’s who and what’s what a little better.

      I always like your takes on the prompts, D!

    • jincomt says:

      DMelde– as always I love your writing. I like the dialect. I’m too chicken to give that a try. I thought it read well. I also liked the happy ending, chewed gum and all. Nice writing as always.

    • MCKEVIN says:

      I love sick humor and this had me rolling. Good one.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      Innocence is bliss. I love the way you captured the language. It reminded me a bit Of Mice and Men. Great story and not to mention funny!

  39. clillianjohn says:

    “Yes, yes I did sign up for Career Day, Mrs. Thomas, but…”

    “Wonderful, Mrs. Cozack! I am so relieved you are able to do it. See you at 10 am tomorrow.” Click.

    She’s desperate. But what is a Career Day presentation by someone who was fired three hours ago?

    Budget cuts, my boss said. If he laid himself off they’d save more money and I could just go about my business. Bitter much? Yeah.

    I haven’t yet told Belle. She has dealt with so much in her nine years — parents’ divorce, death of pets and grandparents. I can’t tell her yet until I have a plan, and I have 24 hours to come up with one.

    A Google search yields three openings for a Vice President of Public Relations. One requires a graduate degree, another requests extensive travel, and the third is my own job. Budget cuts, hunh? Bitter much? Yeah.

    Totally exasperated and going through the seven steps of grieving in rapid succession and repetition, I brew some tea and clean the kitchen. Pantry is cleaned out, cupboards rearranged, floor mopped, and ceiling swept for cobwebs. In the course of my maniacal cleaning, some stapled pages flutter out from a forgotten crevice between sink and cleaning fluids.

    Sinking down on the sparkling clean kitchen floor, I begin to read the results from a career focused workshop I attended two years ago. Strengths include personal interactions, creativity, organizational skills, and problem solving. My weaknesses are authority (meaning I don’t take direction well) and rules. The suggested careers are cemetery worker, night shift manager, and cruise director.

    The last page is an envelope, it turns out. Addressed “note to self,” I remember our final assignment was to write a letter to ourselves in one year. Tearing it open with a little trepidation, my familiar handwriting leaps out at me as I read the long forgotten words.

    Dear Meg,

    I hope you are happier. [I am. At the time I was six months off of the divorce.]

    I hope you left that horrible boss and job that drained you. [I have, but not of my own volition. Still counts.]

    Here is your dream. Open an errands business. Kid’s birthday parties, grown-up celebrations, dry cleaning, grocery shopping. Not weddings. New parents need someone to go out in the middle of the night. Business men and women need help on maintaining relationships with simple, thoughtful gestures. Elderly people need help with pets and other things.

    Good luck, future Meg.

    Current Meg

    My bitterness lessens and I feel the adrenaline of a good idea with no grounding in fiscal reality whatsoever.

    The next day I arrive at Belle’s class promptly at 10. Mrs. Thomas eagerly greets me, and I quickly tell her the change of career. Her eyes light up, and I know I have a new customer. Handing her a newly-minted business card, I see Belle happily distributing brochures for “Cozack and Daughter. No errand too small, no job too big.”

  40. assaultymcnulty says:

    As I scanned the scary eyes that crawled all over me, I felt a pit in my stomach that crawled up into my throat. I’m pretty sure they heard my swallow. What’s so intimidating? They’re only children I thought, but they smelled my fear.

    Amongst the group was a banker, a Postman, a psychologist and a secretary to a CEO. I mean who doesn’t appreciate a LARPer. Live Action Role Player.

    Through the smiling faces that were at attention I noticed one seat that looked empty. I leaned over to get a view and realized it was my son, Foster, slunked down, covering his face with his hoodie.
    “Show us a move!” shouted Mason Dumas, that tough little prick, that’s always beating on Foster. I saw Foster lower even more.
    “Here ye, here ye, my little Knights and Wench’s!” I belted in my knight’s attire, my helmet shifted, being too big for my little head.
    My introduction didn’t have the effect I anticipated. I heard the slutty Mom, who I’d guessed was a stripper, pipe up. “Seriously? Wench’s, what’s wrong with this jerk?”
    “Lend me your ear!”
    “Have another beer queer!” Mason shouted getting a rise out of everyone. I turned to the teacher who quickly put the fire out.
    “Who dares challenge the Great Finbar Cornelius?!” I shouted. My eyes bolted to the first hand raised and as I suspected, it was Mason.
    “Come on up.” I said handing him a helmet and foam covered sword. I explained the rules, the first to three points, wins.
    “Prepare for battle!” I noticed Foster sit up and remove his hoodie. Mason glared at me with looks to kill.
    “Fight! the teacher shouted and before I knew it Mason whacked me off the head rattling my helmet. A roar of laughter followed and I watched Foster slunk down again.
    “Prepare!” I shouted.
    “Fight!”
    SMACK! Right off the head… again! This time my helmet fell off. Another roar of laughter ensued. The slutty secretary was in stitches. . This was more than a LARP match, this was the fight that my son couldn’t fight. I bowed acknowledging his victories.

    One more point, this thing is over. I found my son’s eyes and watched him shake his head nearly begging me to stop. I collected myself.
    “Clearly, I’m going easy on the lad!” I shouted. It was received by a burst of laughter.
    “Prepare!” I hollered, then turned to my son and smiled with a wink in an attempt to soothe his anxiety.
    “Fight!” Mason charged again as he had before. I waited until the last second and parried his attack, Mason missed big and flew forward hitting his head on the door, knocking himself out.
    “Yeah!! Who’s you Daddy now punk!” I shouted.
    “Mr. Heiney that was uncalled for!” The teacher blurted with disappointment in her tone. “You should be fired!” shouted the slutty secretary/stripper. “I already was!” Foster jumped up. “Really?!” and for the first time in a long time….Foster smiled. Then the psychologist handed me her card.

  41. slayerdan says:

    I was 14 the first time I had sex, 21 when I got married. During those landmark events of my life, I damn near had a heart attack each time and discovered that I could sweat more than a 400 pound man running a mile.

    This was way worse.

    The omniscient eyes of nineteen 17 year olds readying to conquer the world. To make their niche. All held captive in front of me now, to hear my success story.

    To taste my lies.

    And I will lie to them just like I did my own family. I will stand there, sweating like a whore in church, and tell them how to succeed. I worked the same job for seventeen years, so maybe all in all it’s not a lie. Overweight doctors tell us every day to lose weight. Smokers tell us not to smoke. Surely an out of work man can tell teens how to succeed.

    Bullshit.

    “Up next we have Joseph Moore,” came the buoyant voice of my sons teacher,” so let’s give him a hand and our attention. The less than overwhelming reception told me that they were as thrilled to hear my lies as I was to tell them.

    My throat was dry and I didn’t bring any water. What a turning point in their lives this shall be.

    I looked at my wide eyed son, waiting nervously to see if I embarrassed him or not.
    A knot formed in my stomach as I took my lone spot at the podium of despair, a trickle of sweat working its way down my buttcrack.

    Right on time.

    “Hello everyone, my name is Mr. Moore and for 17 years I have worked in the wastewater industry,” I managed to fumble out, that much the truth. As I mustered myself to continue, a big eyed girl in the back sat up and raised her hand.
    “Yes,” I said, pointing at her.
    “My dad runs the wastewater plant,” she said sitting forward, the class turning to look at her as she spoke.“ Were’nt you one of the people that he had to let go yesterday?” she asked, a “gotcha” look on her face. The class whirled back to me, my ass now in full sweat. I traded glances with my son.

    It was all I could manage.

    Four deep breaths later, I continued, “Yes, that is correct. There were cutbacks and several of us were let go to make sure the plant could continue to run,” I said, letting the truth out for the first time. The whole class was now on full alert. Laughs, giggles, ooohs and ahhhs came forth as they do from children of this age.

    “So why are you here?” the junior Katie Couric followed up. I pictured her head in a vice for a few moments.

    “To share with you what no one else will today,” I took a deep breath and continued,” what it’s like to lose a job.” Several hands went up.

    Bracing myself, I took the next question.

    • assaultymcnulty says:

      What a little snot!! hahah great story and descriptions.

    • fbxwriter says:

      Nice twist. Good, descriptive writing full of tension.

      You played up the sweating problem in the beginning and started to follow through, but then it gets dropped. I thought it would be a major part of the story at the end. The rest of your story is so strong that I would either drop the sweating problem or tone it way down. That way you can focus on the meat of your story, which–to me–is how a guy turns a disaster into an important lesson. (For example, after the Katie Couric question you could have something click in his mind: “So why AM I here?”)

      Alternatively, you could have turned the sweating problem into a comedic ending.

      Anyway, excellent work slayerdan. You kept me interested and got me to smile at the end.

      • slayerdan says:

        Truth be known, I had 2.5 different ideas. I was using the sweating thing to highlight his nervousness to stick to the prompt to make the rules lawyers happy, but I do see where there is a build up like it might be alot of sweat, then it is relegated to the butt region lol….

        Thanks for the perspective—-always appreciated.

    • Chilo says:

      I like the way the parent used the opportunity to teach the class something rather than take it the wrong way, someone his child would be proud of.

    • ScottP says:

      There is a big feeling of relief when you give up a lie. I think the end of your story nailed that. Well done!

    • zo-zo says:

      Wow, this is great! Really good writing and a good story! I don’t know what’s happened, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve really seen your stories really explode – congratulations!!!

    • Chancelet says:

      Good job. You got horrible teenagers down.

    • catbr says:

      Good story. Some funny lines, made me laugh. Life can be cruel sometimes. Portrayed well.

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