The End of The Bucket List

Write a story about a character who finds out that he or she is dying and has been knocking things off his/her bucket list and has finally reached the last item.

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

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315 thoughts on “The End of The Bucket List

  1. RobinTrembath

    The sun was bright and hot on her skin as she stood among the crowd, waiting for the gates to open. The fun-seekers stood in ragged lines, ball caps and visors shading their faces. Though the lines were long and the sun was hot, everyone was happy and excited to be there.

    This was her dream vacation, one to which she had looked forward for several months. It was the last thing on her bucket list before she knew she would have no more energy to do what she loved; Gloria had received a death sentence from her doctor five months ago. She was on item number thirty-five. She had saved the best for last.

    Gloria, though forty-five years old, loved Disneyland, even now that she had to use a cane to walk any distances. She knew her weakening legs and feet would fatigue long before the end of the day, but she still looked forward to every step in the park.

    At precisely 8:30 a. m., the familiar voice came over the loudspeaker, grandly announcing that the gates were opening. The growing crowd clapped and cheered, and Gloria’s excitement rose as the lines began to inch forward and pass through the gates into the Magic Kingdom.

    “Don’t you just love coming here?” she asked her husband, clutching his arm and almost losing her breath at the end of the sentence, her smile radiant in spite of her pallor. Anthony, hiding his tears, was fumbling with putting his ticket into his breast pocket, and did not respond. He always acted like he only tolerated coming to the park to keep his wife happy, but she knew that deep down inside, he too was excited to be there. This time, however, they felt both joy and sorrow.

    The music filled the air as they entered onto Main Street. The smell of fresh baked scones wafted from a nearby shop. Families strolled past them, the young children skipping as they pulled their parents along. Young fathers with small children on top of their shoulders walked briskly past them, attempting to get ahead of the crowds to beat the lines that would quickly develop at the most popular attractions. In spite of the sense of urgency in the crowd, no one pushed or shoved; they looked fondly at the ailing woman and her husband as they ambled along, enjoying the hanging flower baskets, the Clydesdale horses and carriage, the freshly manicured flower beds, and the perfectly maintained storefronts. For Gloria, it was as if it were her first time there. Though she knew it would be her last, her smile did not fade. The tears welling up in her eyes were as much tears of joy as they were tears of sorrow that she would never return there again.

    This was her last hurrah. And it would be magical, as it had been for her every year.

    Thank you, dear Walt. Thank you!

  2. A. J. Kidding

    I didn’t even had a bucket list before I got “the news”. Four months, they said. Irreversible.

    At the beginning, it always hits you hard. First day, I cried my ass off as my consciousness was drowning in chaotic thoughts about suicide, but eventually I got tired and just went to sleep. That went for a couple of days, and I started returning back to my own state of mind. The nature of my condition was such that there was no pain or any type of sensation that there was something wrong with me, until the final two or three days where it hits you really hard. Lights, chair, desk.

    Pen, meet paper.

    “Okay, number one – tell everybody you know”
    Whether it was because of some latent feelings of attention-seeking or fear, I did. Neither my friends nor family took it well. Of course, everybody wanted me not to give up and seek alternative methods, but after the twenty fourth test confirms your inevitable doom, you just kind-of accept it.

    “Number two – sell what you can, donate the rest”
    Seeing how I was to depart from my physical form, all my material possessions suddenly lost their value. I gave my family and friends a few memento’s, and that was it. On the bright side, I did make a significant amount of money selling a few collections. But even the six figures I currently had didn’t seem to worth that much to me now.

    “Number three – drive a Lambo for a day on a racetrack”
    Well, the money did help me with this, because hiring a supercar for a day definitely cost a pretty penny.

    “Skydive… check”

    “Give $10 000 to a random person on the street… check”
    You should have seen the face of that wheel-chaired boy.

    “Hire prostitutes dress them in nursing outfits and send them to the all-male ward of an elderly home…check”
    I’ve never seen so many happy old people at the same place.

    “Go on a cinema watching binge for a week… check”
    I could have gone without that one, since most of the movies these days were terrible to say the least; alas, I wrote it, so I had to do it.

    “Write the will… check”
    Well, Death certainly has its bureaucratic tone, and I had to state who would get my house – congrats, big sister; you and my nephews won’t have to pay rent anymore. My car – here you go lil’ bro, just don’t crash it. The rest of my money – mom and dad.

    “Visit a few indigenous tribes, and do their drugs… very check.
    I went to South America, Africa, Asia and lived through what could be described as the most amazing adventure I could wish for in my entire life. The people I met, the visions I had experienced… It put me in a state where I felt my soul to be a thousand years old, and I had traversed many universes an infinite lifetime…

    It was time for me to get back. Reality and gravity have something in common; after you soar up high, at some point they both pull you crashing down. By schedule I had two weeks left, and I wanted to make sure that I had a room with a view and a comfortable bed to die in. I lived enough, now I wanted to go out peacefully.

    Oh, the last thing on my list…

    “Be cured”

    I laughed at myself when I read it. When I started writing on this piece of paper, I promised myself not to place something that wasn’t unreachable because I had enough disappointments… and so I just prepared.

    I started getting sick. Fever, vomiting, the whole nine yards. It was around that time that I hospitalized myself, and just started waiting while watching a copious amounts of TV. And then, my fever went away. I was better, but why? The doctors ran dozens of tests in order to confirm my poisoned blood and bone marrow, but… there was nothing. It didn’t make sense. I wasn’t going to die anymore! Almost felt a bit of disappointed.

    I took the piece of paper out of the drawer, and wrote at the end:

    “Check.”

  3. snakeater

    Death was at my doorstep.
    When I thought about my death I figured it would be something very tragic, or at least cancer like what seemed to become the thing that everyone was getting. When the doctor looked over his papers. that look that you know he is trying to figure how to break the news to you. those few moments that you lock eyes with him. where your entire world just crumbles into nothing. Where no matter what he says you just sit there almost as if time has stopped. All I heard was.
    heart malfunction
    from what I’m told, this should have been impossible to live my entire life like this. well I use entire life sparingly considering I’m only 25. Regardless, I won the lottery when it came to going through my young life without showing any symptoms. I would like to be able to tell you that some sort of dramatic circumstance led me to finding about my heart condition. no… nothing so flashy. To be honest I hardly even knew anything had even happened until it was too late.
    The day started like any other, nothing special. Crawled out of bed barely awake to cook something before the morning regret kicked in. as I was slowly sipping at a cup of coffee just a little too hot, everything went black. The next thing I know I woke on my way to the hospital surrounded by a team of EMTs asking me a million questions as I flash back and forth from consciousness. I later found out I had actually died twice on the way to the hospital. Naturally they politely informed me that I would be staying for the next couple days for observation.
    Before I left I had time to sit and talk with the doctor about my condition. Apparently one of the ventricles never formed correctly. It had managed to stay together just long enough to live a rather normal life. But this time for whatever reason it collapsed in itself. They tore me apart and pieced it together to the best of their abilities. But as amazing as medicine is, there are limitations, very large ones. The heart is one of the few organs which cant be repaired all that much. So they give me the next best thing.
    Three months to live.
    What does one do with three months to live you may ask? Not much, you try to set your affairs in order as the doctor so kindly recommended. But nothing matters when you have that weighing on your conscious. So, you end up doing the next best thing. You create a bucket list to at least get some sort of satisfaction before it all ends for you. It’s an odd thing knowing that you have a finish line now. One by one I checked things off the list in a sad attempt at determination. Six things on this list and spread out to maximize rest so I don’t die before my time is up. Skiing, sunset on the beach, reading in the biggest library of the world, learn how to fly a plane, scuba dive, and write my story.
    This is my story.
    Thank you for reading.

    1. A. J. Kidding

      “You create a bucket list to at least get some sort of…” This line is amazing. I think it marks the sinking of the melancholic feeling that the character is about to perish… even the bucket list itself doesn’t look so important.

      The fact that the character wrote his story shows that the last item on the bucket list has been crossed out. Short, heartfelt (no pun intended), and incredibly engaging.

      Thanks for the good read!

  4. UntamedCreation

    Hoping to get some feed back. I haven’t written in a really long time. Writer’s block has really been killing me. But I was hoping some of these prompts could really help me get moving again.

    She sat in the old car her hands clenching the steering wheel. She commanded herself to get out the car but she couldn’t move. She’d known this was coming but still, she felt she wasn’t ready. She took a deep breath and turned off the engine of the car. Reluctantly she got out of the car. She turned her attention the small blue home she was parked in front of. The manicured lawn and white picket fence made it seem like something out of a magazine. She made her way to the door tapping lightly on the glass window. She could hear her heart beating in her ears. She was trembling. She could see a figure moving toward the door.

    “Who is it?” A soft female voice answered

    “Uh hi. I was hoping I could speak with you.”

    She watched as the woman hesitated before cracking the door enough to see her.

    “Yes?” the woman asked

    “Hello I’m Carrie, are you Rose?”

    “I am.” She answered slowly

    Carrie opened her mouth but no words would form.

    “If you came here to sell me something-”

    “No, no that isn’t it. I just…I can’t believe I’m really looking at you.” She said her voice almost cracking

    “Who are you?”

    “I-I’m your mother.”

    Silence. The instant the word left her mouth it was as if time stopped. Rose stared her mouth slightly agape. They didn’t move and neither spoke a word for what felt like ages. Rose opened her door, “Come in.”

    Carrie sat at the kitchen table an empty mug in her hand. The inside of the house was just as primped and polished as the outside. She watched Rose as she moved around the kitchen preparing some sort of tea blend.

    “Here you are.” She said filling Carrie’s mug with the mix,

    “There are sugar cubes in there and creamer in there.” She said pointing to a porcelain sugar bowl and creamer.

    “Thank you. Did you make this blend on your own?” She asked adding a few cubes of sugar and a little cream.

    “Yes. I prefer home made tea opposed to buying it from the store.”

    For a while, they sat in silence. Neither knowing what to say to the other.

    “You live here alone?” Carrie asked finally breaking the silence.

    “I use to live with my husband but he died a few years ago. Hit by a drunk driver.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that.”

    “It’s been hard but I’m managing.” She said a quiver in her voice

    “I must say it’s a beautiful home. You must really take care-”

    “Why are you here,” Rose said her eyes focused on the mug in her hands.

    “I-I’m sorry?”

    “Why are you here!? You’ve been M.I.A from the day I was born. Now you just show up out of nowhere asking me about my life, what do you want?”

    “I-I wanted to talk to you. I know I’ve been absent and there’s nothing I can say to change that but-”

    “No. No! You don’t just get to show up out of nowhere opening up old wounds. I have lived forty-six years without you and I plan to live many more years the same way. Get out.” she looked up tears streaming down her face

    “Please I just-”

    “Get out! I don’t want you here. I was getting better. I was finally…” She trailed off her sobs taking over

    Carrie pushed her chair closer to Rose, “I know that I haven’t been here for you. I was young and alone. My family had turned me away and your father had abandoned me. I knew nothing about raising a child and
    I wanted you to live a happy and fulfilling life. I knew I couldn’t provide that to you at sixteen so I put you up for adoption.”

    “What stopped you from finding me sooner?” She asked

    “I didn’t think you even wanted to see me.”

    “I waited until I was thirty-six. I hoped and prayed that you’d eventually find me. My adoptive parents had their concerns. But they supported me. But after so many years I figured if you wanted to find me you would have…” She trailed off raising her head and looked into Carrie’s eyes, “So again I ask. Why are you here?”

    “Rose, I-I’m dying.” She whispered

    Rose stared in disbelief, “What.”

    “In one month I will be dying. I’ve done all the things I wanted to do in my life and I’ve finally built up the courage to come see you. Rose, I want you to spend this last month with me. I’m sixty-two, I’ve been divorced twice, I have no family, and I’m dying. All I want is for the last month of my life to be spent with someone I love…” She smiled, “Rose I know one month isn’t enough to make up for so much lost time. But I was hoping we could try.”

    Rose was silent it was so much to take in.

    “Carrie…Ok, I will spend this last month with you.”

    Carrie embraced Rose, “Thank you. I’m looking forward to getting to know you.”

    In that moment both women broke down. The years of heartache and pain finally over at least for the next month. They’d decided that they wouldn’t revel in the past. The next month would be about the new memories they’d make and the happiness they’d share.

  5. madina

    Okay so I used to love writing as a hobby but after my history teacher told me I wasn’t good at writing, it really shot down my confidence and I stopped for months. So, I’m really rusty. Hell this may even be plain bad, but I’m open and look forward to any feedback and constructive criticism 🙂

    I pull the edge of my soft, warm blanket over my head as golden streaks filter through the window. My head is pounding and my eyelids laid heavy. I bring myself to a sitting position and let the sun’s penetrating rays illuminate my notebook in my hands.

    Go Skydiving. Check.

    I close my eyes and reminisce my skydiving adventure from last month. The vast blue with floating white masses, the glowing green of the land and trees below lit up by the sun, the simple things that my eyes drank in.
    “Ready?” asked Dad. “Yeah, you ready kiddo?” Uncle Ben hollered.
    “Hell yeah!” I cheered back and gave them both fistbumps. I strapped the gopro securely on my helmet, took a deep breath, and jumped out of the helicopter, my heart soaring and my stomach doing flips. “Whooooooeeeeee!!!” I screamed, my eyes popping out of my skull and adrenaline buzzing within me. I pulled the string on my backpack, prompting the parachute. I was in the clouds. Literally. Glee caused my grin to overtake my face. The fact that I was going to die soon was out of my mind. All I felt was pure bliss and an invigorating energy.
    I snap back to my current reality. Before my eyes was my last item on my bucket list…

    Say goodbye

    My eyes begin to sting from the oncoming tears. I’m not ready to die… I’m not ready! A person is never ready to leave the world, leave behind their life for good. When I was diagnosed with a rare, terminal form of cancer, I knew that this day would come. I refused treatment because I knew that it would worsen my quality of life, and I would die anyway, except in more pain and look even more frail. Without treatment I’m still very thin and pale, and my eyes look dull and soulless. I still have my hair though, not like that makes much of a difference.
    Well, everyone will die at some point… and mine’s now.
    I am going to visit all of my relatives this weekend to spend time with them, and then go into hospice care at home. My health has declined dramatically since skydiving, as I knew it would. I’m lucky that I was able to make a short bucket list and actually do some of the things, so that I had some sense of a fulfilling life before I go… not everyone gets that opportunity. Besides skydiving, I also went ziplining, bungee jumping off a bridge, snorkeling, to a concert, we got a puppy, and went abroad. I crawl out of bed, look in the mirror, and sigh. When I visit everyone, I’ll wear makeup so they don’t feel too bad, I decide. I pick up my cellphone and make the plans. Today, Friday, I’ll go to Grandpa and Grandma’s house that is about an hour away. My mom’s siblings and their families will meet us there. On Saturday, we’re going to take a roadtrip to visit my dad’s side of the family, and the next day I’ll begin hospice care.

    It’s Sunday. Visiting my family members was bittersweet. I hugged and snuggled with both grandparents for a long time, and I ran around and played with my cousins, which exhausted me. They fed me well; big, juicy cheeseburgers accompanied by a sweet, silky chocolate milk to quench my thirst.
    I crawl into the bed, and my parents sit by my side, and my golden retriever puppy Sammy in my lap. We reminisce on fun memories from this summer, from my bucket list, and from my childhood. I begin to doze off and dream about one of my childhood memories, right after telling my parents how sorry I am about my sickness and how much I love and appreciate everything they’ve done for me.
    “Don’t apologize sweetheart… you’re so strong and nothing’s your fault, you’ve done nothing but bring light to our lives,” Mom says, tears rolling down her flushed cheeks as she strokes my cheek with her hand. I weakly smile as the sleep consumes me.

    With bent knees and being on all fours, my eyes are glued to the small ants traveling in a single file line on the hot pavement, with tufts of grass sticking out from the cracks. I straighten my legs and yell, “Mommy, mommy, I wanna play hopscotch!” I squint my eyes to look up to her, the beaming sun adjacent to her head.
    “Come on, let’s finish your skating lesson, okay? You can’t give up now,” she says. I pout. “Fi-ine.”
    My roller skates are clunky on my feet as I try to push myself forward. I keep going and soon, I’m flying ahead. “Good job! Whooo!” she cheers. “Yay!” I cheer back, before I skid over an interfering root of a tree and fall on my hands and knees. All I can hear now are the wails coming out of my own mouth.
    Back inside, Mommy patches up my cuts. My legs are plastered in bandages and bruises from various falls, and my palms are permanently calloused from past excursions on the monkey bars. Mommy treats me with a bowl of mac and cheese and a chocolate milk to make up for it. She kisses me on the cheek.
    “I’m so sorry lovebug.”
    “It’s okay Mommy, I love you!”
    Later that night at dinner, I tell Daddy all about my fun yet challenging day over pizza. Mommy, Daddy, and I all laugh and talk as I finish my last slice of pizza and guzzle down the last drops of another chocolate milk. A thought pops in my head. It’s time to go. I wave bye to Mommy and Daddy, and they embrace me and let me go. I walk towards to front door, strap on my roller skates, and skate out. I’m gone.

  6. curlynnxo

    Friday
    3:30p.m.
    I stared at the clock as the time continued to tick away and as I was doing so, the ticking started to become much louder the more I focused on it.
    Hearing the door open behind me caused me to snap back into reality and I was shortly appointed by another person. He sat across from me and I had my hands placed on my lap intertwined together tightly.
    I took a few seconds to study his outlook. He was dressed well and had a clean cut.
    His shirt was a buttoned down light pink, almost a salmon color while he was wearing black dress pants with a black belt and he was wearing a black suede type shoe.
    He looked neat and it wasn’t the type of neat that most people are used to, it was almost like he had OCD.
    After I was finished analyzing him, I looked directly into his eyes. They were pretty. He had a bright smile on his face and shortly extended his hand.
    “My name is Dr. Green and I will be your new therapist. Why don’t you start off telling me what you’re having trouble with?” He said calmly and charmingly.
    I took his hand and shook it. We pulled away from each other and I took the type to introduce myself.
    “My name is Karuna Rose and I’m having trouble accepting the fact that I have been diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung cancer. I’m having trouble accepting the fact that I am dying and it’s scary. I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way but, I hate the fact that I’m constantly thinking about it—about dying.” I said unanimated.
    “What have you been crossing off your bucket list?” He asked me.
    “I got to meet my favorite singer, cook my favorite dish, go to California and I got to meet my favorite athlete, but I don’t know what I want the last thing to be.” I said.

    “Go skydiving, go kayaking, go swim with dolphins, I mean anything. On your way home think about what you want that last thing to be.” Dr. Green said ardently.
    The mini-timer he had on his desk began to go off and that told me our session was over with. I stood from the couch and began to head for the door.
    “I’m sorry we didn’t have much time today, next time we will. Try and go out more.” He said with a small, calm smile.
    I nodded and headed out of the room. I had a lot to think about on my way home and I figured out what I wanted to do.
    Saturday
    4:30p.m.
    I found myself in a helicopter and I was far from the ground. My adrenalin was pumping and my heart was racing, but I was ready. I jumped out of the helicopter and screamed as loud as I could. I laughed and smiled.
    “Woo hoo!” I screamed.
    I finally did it. I crossed the last thing I wanted to do off my list and I was happy.

  7. ErikaLHayes

    MONDAY 2:33pm
    Marion gripped tightly to the crumpled sheet of paper in her hand. A tear plopped smearing the words on the last line. Charity her daughter lifted her hand, running it along the bottom of her eye in an attempt to keep any further tears from escaping.
    “Mom, are you sure?” her daughter’s voice sounded hollow and distant. “This seems so, I don’t know, final.”
    “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.” She chuckled and lifted her hand, Charity reached over and took it in hers.
    “Mom, I just can’t imagine you really want this.”
    “More than anything.”
    “If you are sure.” Her daughter’s voice caught, “I will make the arrangements.”
    “Thank you, sweetie.” She smiled and pain befell her wincing she forced another smile, “I know it’s strange but it’s the last thing on my life list.”
    Her daughter grinned and kissed her on the forehead. “I will be back, don’t go jumping out of any airplanes while I am gone.”
    Marion winked, “Been there, done that.” Watching as her daughter closed the door to her hospital room, Marion shifted and the air mattress hummed and readjusted. Her eyes were heavy from the long visit with Charity but worth it. She felt a warmth move tickle her chest, she would actually get everything on that list done if she could just hold on a few more days.
    #
    WEDNESDAY 12:00
    Getting in the wheelchair was the easy part, a two strong young, one of them a very handsome, nurses lifted her from the bed and gently placed her in the chair. The handsome one was named Marco, the other wasn’t bad looking but not her type his name was Tony. Each of them had moved her with ease alone but today was special and both men wanted the honor, and she obliged.
    The sitting in the chair was the hard part, slipping forward as her body was barely anything but a skeleton now. Her hair gone from the chemotherapy that failed to conquer the tumors that ravaged her lymphatic system.
    “Marco dear, would please come with me?”
    “Oh Ms. Marion, yes, I would be honored.” Pushing her down the hall many of her caregivers stood and smiled as she rode past. She felt like the queen of England in a parade. It was more than she could have imagined. The doors opened and the sun flooded the exit.
    She gave a half cough half laugh as she muttered, “I see the Light!”
    Marco slowed to a stop, leaned down, concern pushed his brows together, “Ms. Marion are you okay?”
    “Oh yes, Marco,” she patted his hand, “I am great. Thank you for this, but it will be worth it.”
    “Ms. Marion you know all of us here would do anything for you.” He smiled and began pushing her through the doorway. “I am just honored you want me beside you.”
    “Of course dear, you know I have a crush on you.”
    He smiled and winked at her. “And I on you.”
    “You’re just too young honey, I would be arrested.”
    He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows, “I think it might be worth it.”
    “It may be, but I got one more thing I have to see before I go, and it aint prison,” she paused, “again.” She let a good laugh escape, the coughing tried to ruin it but she pushed it down.
    “Ms. Marion, you’ve been to prison?” his shocked amused her.
    “Yes, well jail. I was spunky back in the day.”
    “What do you mean back in the day?”
    “My body has given out on me but you’re right, the spunk is still trapped in here.”
    “I would say so.” He closed the car door and moved to the other side of the car and got in.
    “We are in the back seat…” She lifted one brow and leaned toward Marco.
    “See still spunky.” He gave her a warm smile.
    #
    WEDNESDAY 1:10pm
    Marco maneuvered carefully and found a seat in the back of the room, locking the breaks of the wheel chair he sat down beside her. Charity came and greeted Marion and kissed her veiled cheek. “Mother, so glad you could make it.” She whispered.
    Marco let out a small hiccup and Marion reached over and patted his hand. His eyes were already betraying his broken heart. The pastor took his place announced the service would begin soon, and a short viewing would follow the service. After giving a fantastic eulogy he turned to Charity and relinquished the pulpit while several people sniffled and wiped their eyes in agreement of the kindness of the deceased. Smiling Charity opened the floor to anyone else would like to say a few words, several people stood and shared stories leaving most people laughing and wiping tears of good memories.
    “Oh I have something to say,” she tapped Marco, “take me down front.”
    Marco stood and unlocked the wheelchair and moved toward the front of the room, a twinkle returned to her eye. She reached the front of the room and lifted her veil and the room gasp, “Check” she put a check mark next to the final item on the crumpled paper that held her bucket list. “Attend my own funeral! Been there, done that.”
    The room exploded in laughter as Marion gave a great laugh.

  8. GrahamLewis

    THE BOTTOM OF THE BUCKET LIST

    “Where are you Dad?” The middle-aged man almost shouted into the phone. “Nebraska? Why for God’s sake?”

    “Yep, Nebraska, town of Crawford. Nice little motel.” Silas Cobb sprawled on the bed, his head raised by two pillows, his cell phone pressed against his ear. He smiled toward the ceiling, a smile worn around the edges. His eyes shone from a drawn and pale face, sharp cheekbones, framed by sparse gray hair. “It’s the last place on my list.”

    “It should be the last place on anybody’s list,” quipped the son.

    Silas did not laugh.

    “Sorry,” the son went on, “but it makes no sense. The Great Wall and Eiffel Tower, those I understand. And the Grand Canyon. Or Amtrak through the Rockies. Beautiful and historic. Also easy to get to, and with lots of people and . . . “ He almost said doctors and ERs close by, but didn’t want to go down that path. “Nebraska. And what is it about this bluff or whatever that makes it worth 14 hours of boring driving? And why did you have to go it alone?”

    “Crow Butte. The drive was fine. And I don’t expect you to understand. You’re not from here.”

    “And neither are you.” A brief pause. “Okay, you were born there, but you moved away after your dad died, when you were what, three years old? How does that make you from there? We’ve got no family or friends anywhere near there.”

    “Look,” Silas said, “I don’t have to justify my bucket list. I’m finally at the end.” Pause. “And it’s about time. You know my heart thing, and that chemo makes it even worse –”

    “Which is why you shouldn’t be in the middle of nowhere by yourself.”

    “I have to be by myself. And there’s nothing left at home but to listen to the doctors and wait for the end. This is my last place to go.” Pause. “‘I’m going out of cell range now but it’ll be fine. Bye.” He turned off his phone and stepped out into the crisp morning. He headed east, toward Crow Butte, which towered over the town, just as he remembered from those downtown walks with his father. He had so wanted to go up there, was so drawn to that dark brooding presence. “Someday,” his father had promised, but they never did.

    Today he would. He followed the steep footpath as it wound upward, edged by narrow ravines dotted with cedars and prairie grass. Breathing hard and stopping often, leaning on his stick, he ignored the increasing sharp chest pains. Finally he rounded the final outcrop and stood atop the Butte.

    He looked first at the broad horizon, and then down to the city street, at the image of his 3-year-old self, no longer wishing to reach the top. “At last,” said the old man, “We made it.”

    He sank heavily onto a rocky outcrop, leaned back, closed his eyes, and died.

  9. Raeeeeeee

    There’s a certain anxiety that always accompanies the hallowed halls of a hospital. It’s the foreboding threat of death that hangs over the doorway to every room, every hallway, every staircase. It was a certain sense of finality that was enough to make anybody uneasy.

    Emma was no exception, of course.

    Every since she was a little girl, going to the hospital had always frightened her beyond belief. There was a bad feeling in her gut that she couldn’t shake, one that made sure she was no longer comfortable in her own skin. It was the sense that life could end at any moment, no matter what she did or who she clung to. It was the promise that everything she ever loved could vanish into the void forever. Gone, thrown out into the winds and rains as if they were never there in the first place. It was such a strong feeling that even when she got sick, Emma avoided the hospital at all costs. She postponed every check-up, every surgery, every treatment, even though she knew it was a daft thing to do. Instead, she made a list, a long list that she never wanted to end, and each time the doctors asked her to come in, she did something on that list, something miraculous and amazing that took away the dread hanging over her every waking breath.

    She never wanted things to end, and for a very long while, it didn’t seem like it would. Emma had explored the jungles of Peru, walked the mountains of Europe, stared danger in the face every day. She swam with Great White sharks in Australia, and held her breath every time they floated above her, dancing about in a ballet as old as time. She saw the great pyramids of Egypt, the homes of the old gods in Greece, the fires that burned in the hearts of those committed to the old ways. Emma saw everything that she wanted to see, felt all that she wanted to feel, believed in all the goodness and hope that existed in her world. Yet, there was one last thing she never got to do, one thing she had saved for the very last.

    “I want to stare Death in the eyes.”

    Emma had been sick since she was a child, the victim of an autoimmune disease and the losing party in a battle she had never been fully committed to anyways. At 24 years old, she had finally finished doing everything that she had to do. Emma stepped through the menacing white halls of the hospital, ready to accept what was coming to her. To accept the irrevocable fate of everything on this earth and acknowledge that she too must come to an end.

    And she stared Death in his eyes, and she made him bow to her.

  10. J.Fujimaru

    “Looking good! Really, you look about ten,” said Max as he grabbed the handles of my wheelchair. I twisted my sore neck to face my friend.

    “Are you saying I look helpless like a child or are you being sarcastic?”

    He shrugged off my comment smoothly. He was always smooth, not in the Rico Suave sense – heavy in the cheap cologne, high in the raised eyebrow – but in the zénitude of a man with no concerns, no commitments, no great need for success.

    “So, you’ll be busy next week, right?” he asked out of habit. We never talked about it, always mentioning it as if it were a minor scheduling conflict getting in the way of friendship. That was our friendship: ignore the gravity of the situation. He knew that was what I needed to get by.

    He pushed me through the stale white corridor. It was the usual walk, the one we all took whenever I was feeling well enough. They all took turns to see me. Wednesday was Max’s day.

    We stopped at the window breathing in the bright green of early March. Max’s eyes flitted back and forth across the branches; they were searching for something to say. I was being unbearably quiet again.

    “There’s still something left… but I’m not sure if I should do it.”

    “Is this about the bucket list?”

    I nodded.

    “Right, fire away. If it’s something I can help with, I’ll do my best.”

    “It’s the last one on the list, actually.”

    “Oh, that one. Yeah. No problem. It’ll be a piece of cake compared to the others.” He pushed the cumbersome wheelchair back and forth in the playful but careful way he usually did. “This’ll only be a minor inconvenience.” We both laughed at the thought of it.

    “I’m thinking I should leave it unfinished.”

    “The list?”

    “Yeah.”

    “But you’ve put so much effort into it.”

    “I don’t like the finality of it.”

    “Right. Never thought of that. Good point.”

    We fell into another silence. The smell of rubbing alcohol crawled up my nose. Max scratched his chin. He turned away. His eyes were fixated on the sterile linoleum floor either in deep thought or in a zen state of blankness. “We could always do it after… You know, as a celebration for –”

    “But what if I can never get around to it?”

    “Don’t say that.”

    “What?” My voice came out too harsh.

    “Give up before it’s even time to.”

    “It’s tiring. It’s pointless. You don’t understand,” I said. My voice was hard, firing an unwanted electric pulse into the peaceful room.

    “No, I don’t.” He turned me around. He was crouched down this time. His breath was steady on the back of my hand, his pupils dark and widened, searching. Then he got up. The air of the room shifted in one determined breath. “I know what…”

    He pushed me along, off the path of our usual walk, heading down a corridor I’d never seen. Yes, he knew exactly what. He knew what to do.

  11. TurtlesAreCool

    Grace was going to die, and soon. She needed to set things right before she kicked the bucket. Picking up her notebook, she flipped through the pages of all her final wishes. Page one, swim with dolphins. There’s a little picture in the corner of her and my best friend, Robert, doing just that. She flipped through every page, looking at the wish and then the corresponding picture of Rob and her fulfilling that wish. As She turned to the second to last page, she stared at the hard and unforgiving words. No matter how much Grace didn’t want to do this, she had to. She owed it to him.

    “Hey, Grace!” Robert called. “So, what crazy adventure are you gonna drag me on today?”

    “None.” Grace replied as she stepped into Robert’s house.

    “Oh? So are you finally going to tell me about your feelings instead of distracting me with dolphins and candy?”

    “Maybe, maybe not.”

    “YAHOOOOOOO-OWCH! WHY’D YOU PUNCH ME?”

    Sitting down on his comfy couch, she laughed. “Cause you’re being a goof.”

    “Alright.” Robert surrendered, knowing that winning a fight with her was impossible. Sitting down next to Grace, he traced her hard gaze to the picture she was staring at. “You like that picture of Kate and us? Her mom gave it to me during the funeral. Why didn’t you come to that, anyways?”

    She looked away. “I couldn’t deal with it.” She swore to herself she wouldn’t lie to him anymore, but that wasn’t technically a lie. Robert just sighed and grabbed her hand.

    “It’s okay, Grace, I’m gonna find the person who did that to her and…” He trailed off.

    She grimaced. “Okay, Robert.” His grasp on her hand tightened.

    “I’m gonna aveng-” He started.

    “I need you to do something for me.” Grace interrupted.

    “Uh… What?” He shifted nervously.

    “Please hold this.” She shoved a sealed letter into his hands. As he started to open it, she put her hands on top of his to stop him. “And don’t open it until tomorrow morning.”

    “Okay?”

    Grace smiled as she pulled out her camera. “Hold up the letter for the camera!” After the picture was taken, she made her way to the door.

    “Will you explain the pictures to me in the letter?” Robert quietly asked, staring at the letter as if it was an impossible puzzle.

    “Yes.” She said, before shutting the door.

    —-

    That night Grace fulfilled her last wish as well as one of Robert’s wishes.

    That night, Grace had killed herself.

    And, as Robert learned the next morning, she had avenged Kate’s murder in doing so.

  12. Losing-It-Poetically

    So this is all that remained of that silly list that I had written when I was in my twenties, not yet even out of college. Now age had caught up to me, far more than it should have for my liking. I’m not sure if you know this, but cancer will eat you away from the inside out. First comes the pain, dull in the beginning of course- like all pain does, but slowly it grows and spreads until it’s the only thing on your conscious thought. Following that is the bruises and the swelling, the breakdown of your blood until it does nothing but flow. That is when you begin to realize there was a problem that didn’t include age, nor creed or identity. Cancer doesn’t care who you are.
    Lymphoma is a cancer that corrupts the blood flowing through your veins and suffocates your cells. Eventually there is only one word that echoes through your skull like a rock hitting the bottom of a hole not even the most adventurous fools would wander down, the kind of hole that no light would see the end of. One word that each echo became louder. One word that drove mad men sane and sane men into the end the word carried around.
    “Terminal,” the doctor had said. That cursed word that would swallow me whole every day for the rest of my miserable existence. Not that the doc told me I had a horribly long amount of time left anyway. Two months was on my clock two months ago. Part of me felt like I knew already. A steady ticking had been going on through my skull for a long time now,
    So here I sit, staring out at the beautiful scenery laid out before me. My eyes, sunken in and paled, took in the broad expanse of the ocean before me as my toes curled in the sand as if they belonged there. The clock was ticking down slower and slower as time passed by. A piece of paper got dragged out of my pocket along with a pen. A small list of things had been assembled on the parchment in the sloppy handwriting I had twenty years ago. Truly my underwhelming career as a file clerk had helped to refine the scribbles I once had.
    At the very bottom of this list was ‘See the ocean’. It was a dream of mine from a young age, and now it was finally getting scribbled off. A catharsis ebbed into my bones as I laid back to look at the sky as the night began to fade in. The hues in the sky faded from blue to purple slowly until eventually all that was left was the stars twinkling high above. A smile graced my lips as my lips drifted shut. The ticking slowed into silence and breath escaped my lips for the last time.
    Time’s up.

  13. emmerainey

    The doctor’s room is always so cold, it reminds me of the winters in Alaska with my father, but without the warmth of his famous hot chocolate. I thought watching my father forget everything he knew was more painful than anything. Watching him forget the recipe to the hot chocolate, then my own name, then his own. It was dreadful, and the only thing worse than it was learning it was genetic and that I was to get alzheimer’s as well. I should’ve noticed. My keys were always missing, i lost my job, and everything else was there on a bright sign. But, i ignored it.
    The doctor told me 4 months ago that things would start going downhill at a quick pace. I had a choice. Take pills that would slow the process, but not prevent it. Or, make a bucket list. And of course, I chose the bucket list. but , now it’s been four months and I’m at the last box to check. She laid down the paper beside her, its corners had began to curl and it was stained with memories.
    Her toes curled into the warm sand, it had been years and years since she’d been to the beach. Before the wrinkles and before the bucket list. Things were simple then, and she wanted to end things simple. So the last thing she could remember before she couldn’t remember would be peaceful. The horizon was eating the sunlight, ending the last day of her life with a harmony of color. She picked up the list and rolled it into the perfect size, she placed it inside a bottle and screwed the lid tight. Her mouth opened slightly as it became difficult to breath. Her body was giving out before its time was even up. She sighed heavily, listening to the waves crash against the shore. She envied the water, wishing she could be pulled away into the abyss of beauty and pain. She was afraid. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to go back to Alaska with her papa, she wanted to taste hot chocolate on her tongue, she wanted to fall in love all over again. But instead she tossed the bottle as far as she could with her weak and fragile arms and turned away. She managed to get up and walk along the beach. She felt the wind against her weathered skin, smelt the salt in her nose, and was intoxicated. But she knew she would forget this one day. Soon she would live in an old folk’s home and wither away, she’ll forget the taste of papa’s hot chocolate and the smell of winter. But that night, an old fragile woman walked to the train alone after visiting the beach on her final day, and collapsed. The light everyone always spoke of appeared, and she let go. The air smelt like winter, and the only taste left on her tongue was hot chocolate.

  14. Kerry Charlton

    LUC

    .

    Reginald Ponderplush’s brow was covered in cold sweat despite the fires of hell that encircled the bowling alley. It leaned in favor toward the Arena at ancient Rome only the lions were gone and in the bleachers, Lucifer sat. To his right was Adolph Hitler and on his left was Benito Mussolini, in all his ugliness. Rows of demons sat behind the three waiting for the final twelfth ball to be thrown by Reginald.

    Thirty years previous, Reginald had sold his soul to the devil in order to become the greatest bowler in the world. His power had been taken back and the only reason there had been eleven perfect strikes was a tease from the devil himself.

    ‘How could I have done this to myself, I’ll never know, ’ mused Reggie. After the eleventh throw his right arm has become useless and hung swinging nowhere. So the last throw would be left handed. Unknown to the devil, was the fact that Reggie had always bowled left handed when he played with his children. Even with his know all, he never broke 180 at his best.

    The devil cackled and Hitler saluted Reggie. What they received back was the universal hand sign of repute. Reggie‘s family sat to his left chained to a bench. If he missed the perfect game, his family would burn with him. What hurt the most were his eleven grandkids who also were there. He put the ball down and propositioned the devil,

    “I‘ll throw a gutter ball if you release my family.”

    “I wouldn’t miss seeing your grandkids burn and scream so I’ll take my chances like any other man.”

    “You are a scum bucket Lucifer.”

    “No one knows better than I, I’m proud of it.”

    “Let me ask you a question Luc.”

    “No one, not even you can address me that way.”

    “Sore about Luc.? Did your bearded mommy call you that?”

    Lucifer recomposed himself, he didn’t realize the old pain could still bother him, after all, he had his revenge on her.

    “Get back you coward, throw the ball and watch you family burn before you do.”

    Reggie picked the ball up, and noticed the second and third finger were missing on his left hand. His two fingers that were left, barely managed to hold the ball. An unearthly cackle again from the devil.

    “Try it and burn you worthless piece of junk.”

    “ God help me please,” whispered Reggie as he released the ball and heard it drop awkwardly and slowly wobble toward the pins. He held his breath as the ball hit the sweet spot of the pins Seven pins went down, the eighth leaned into the ninth and they went down. The tenth pin swayed back and forth and just before it stopped a fierce thunder bolt split the sky and vaporized Hitler sitting next to the devil. The shock wave rolled across the floor, picked the wavering pin up and returned it at high speed and it smashed into Lucifer‘s jaw bone. Reggie heard the bone crack with the force.
    “Bow to me fallen angel and then disappear.” The words rang with power and Lucifer bowed his best, rose from his seat and started to leave. He turned toward Reggie,

    “This isn‘t over yet,” he announced.

    “You want another bet on that Luc.?”. .

  15. Pete

    This may read a little choppy. I’m at work, sitting in a conference room on my lunch break…

    Mom asks how I can go visit Papa. She calls him all sorts of names and likes to remind me how if he wasn’t half-cocked—as she calls it—he wouldn’t think too kindly of a black kid coming to visit him.

    Once Mom starts talking fast like that, there’s no use in trying to stop her. All I can say to her is that he’s my Papa, and I can’t help all the other stuff. To which she makes a noise that sounds like “Hrrmph,” shakes her head and walks off.

    She’s right about Papa’s brain though, that sucker checked out years ago. He mixes up dates, people, night and day and everything in between. He sees things I can’t see. No one can. Things from his past.

    Papa’s no longer a collector of memories but of memorabilia. He’s got all these Civil war relics on his walls. He used to have all sorts of rifles and medals and that Mom had sold off. I managed to keep a few things. Some gold buttons and a sword I keep under my bed.

    He used to do reenactments. Get all dressed up and play shoot-em-up with some other hicks. Then he started forgetting what was real and what was not. I’ve heard stories from Mom, but now Papa and I mostly just sit in that little room of his and he calls me Marvin even though I’ve told him from there until sundown that my name is Harris. He usually goes on about the war, even though he was born almost a hundred years after it started. He talks about Abraham Lincoln like a dog, goes on about some guy with two first names I can never remember. Says that things could’ve turned out differently.

    I glance around the room, at Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and all the other old wrinkly white dudes mounted on statuesque horses with their backs to the sunset on the great Virginia landscape. Papa would get going about the war, the nation, slavery and how most slave owners were generous. I’d find myself looking over my own arms. Smooth, light caramel and not much wider than a lawn hose. I wondered if he even saw me sitting there.

    But he’s my grandfather. Even though Mom said he disowned his child. That he was more than a history buff, he was full of hate. That he went to meetings to preserve the heritage of the white race. But when I’m around he simply calls me Marvin and continues his story, until his brain gives out and his two empty eyes stare at me with nothing left in the tank. That’s when I know it’s time to leave.

    He’s all the kin I have, and I’m only trying to understand why he feels the way he does. But I never get close to those answers. Instead Papa paces the room, hobbling on his two bad knees with hands clasped behind his back. He shows me maps, talks strategy. How if Jackson had never died…had the English got involved…had the Mississippi not been taken by Grant. It seems like a lot of “ifs” if you ask me, but I listen. Because he’s my grandfather.

    Each time I visit, I come home and find Mom eyeing me like I’ve betrayed her. Her parents passed before I can remember and Aunt Rita lives in Seattle. So Papa and Mom are all I have.

    The next time I stop in I find Papa ready for battle. It’s blazing hot, nearing triple digits that afternoon and Papa answers the door in a gray wool Calvary uniform.

    “Papa, what’s going on?”

    He leans in, down close to my face and I catch an eye watering whiff of his old man cologne. Even his eyes have gone a rebel’s shade of gray as they swing up and down the hallway. “We’re busting out.”

    “Busting out? Of Sandusky Springs.”

    Papa’s voice is loud now, gravelly and full of fight. “Jackson’s got his men in position. We need to get to the railroad. Secure munitions”

    Oh boy. On his wall, just to his right I see that emergency cord dangling, just begging me to give it a yank. One pull and I can end this. Papa takes a swig from his canteen and I nearly double over. The old man is all prepared.

    But I must’ve caught his crazy. Because it dawns on me that Papa might need this in his life. He’s dying in that little room of his, hunched over in his kitchenette, reading his old books and complaining about the food. Maybe he can use some adventure in his life.

    I eye that emergency cord one last time, then the side door that in big, bold letters says, ALL VISITORS MUST USE MAIN ENTRANCE. Well, Papa has one last adventure left in him. Why not let live it?

    “Marvin, let’s go.”

    He’s yelling back at me, over the cannon fire in his head. I give him a salute and we charge for the door, on the wrong side of history but the right side of fun.

  16. Critique

    Her heart beat in staccato bursts when the man’s searching eyes found her and he lifted a hand in greeting.

    “Ted, thanks for coming.” Sasha flashed a brief smile as he pulled out a chair and sat across from her.

    The waitress came and they ordered coffee.

    “Sasha I was blown away when I got your email. How did you find me? It’s been what? Ten, twelve years?” Ted’s blue eyes were riveted on the delicate thin features across the table. Time had refined her beauty.

    “Social media. It wasn’t hard. And it’s twelve years.” Sasha knew to the day. She looked at the handsome face that had haunted her dreams and her hand trembled as she set her coffee cup down.

    “Gosh it’s great to see you. What? Are you married? A passel of kids?” Ted eyed her appreciatively and his dimples flashed. “You’re as beautiful as ever Sasha.”

    “It’s good to see you too. And no not married.” She said evasively. “How about you? Married? Kids?”

    “I haven’t found anyone I’d want to tie the knot with. And no kids.” He grinned mischievously. “At least no one calls me Papa that I know of.”

    Sasha chuckled nervously.

    “I’ve something to tell you Ted.” She said. “Several months ago I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and my oncologist recommended I get my affairs in order.”
    “Sasha, I’m so sorry.” His large hand reached out to cover hers on the table. “I’ve heard cancer treatment is improving all the time. How is that going?”

    “Well I’m cautiously hopeful. The treatment I’m receiving now has had positive outcomes.” She pulled her hand away. “But that’s not really what you need to know Ted.”

    “Ted.” She took a deep breath. “I… we have a daughter. A beautiful daughter. I found out I was pregnant after that summer when you moved away to graduate school.”

    Ted’s face registered shock. “A daughter?”

    “Yes. Her name is Tess. She’s beautiful and smart. She’ll be in grade seven this fall.” Sasha said.

    Ted let out a low whistle through clenched teeth. “I’m a father?” He stared at her. “This is … wow, you never thought to tell me?”

    “You made it abundantly clear that you regretted what happened that summer. You told me it was a big mistake. Remember?” Sasha said. “I knew it would ruin your future plans and you would equate the baby as part of the mistake. I couldn’t live with that.”

    “That’s damn presumptuous on you part. I had a right to know about the baby.” Anger burned in his eyes. “You’ve got it all wrong. I regretted what happened between us because you were too young and I acted irresponsibly but I’ve never forgotten.”

    “Right now I’m all about the regrets Ted. Right or wrong I did what I thought was best but in light of my future I have only one worthy item on my bucket list and that’s for you to know about your daughter.” She took a cellphone out of her purse and laid it on the table. “She’s a wonderful loveable girl. I have pictures – she looks a lot like you.”

    Ted took his time perusing the pictures. He looked up at Sasha. “I want to meet her.”

    “Tess knows about you and she’s excited to meet you.” Sasha said. “She’s at the hotel across the street where we’re staying. How about early this evening?”

    “How about right now. Enough time has been wasted don’t you think?” He pushed back from the table not waiting for her answer.

    She placed a restraining hand lightly on is arm. “Tess has a lot to think about right now. She knows about the cancer and she’s scared. I don’t want anything to happen to her.”

    Ted stared down at the tense face in front of him.

    “One step at a time I think.” He placed his hand over hers. “Let’s go meet this daughter of mine.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A very personal and intimate response to the prompt. The reader want’s to see Sasha recover and you left that possibility. You also stopped at the perfect place. Let the reader decide the future. Conversations are right on cue. Mice job with the write.

    2. JosephFazzone

      Sad, full of regrets, and yet cautiously hopeful. I love this story because it’s so real in so many ways. How do people make the best of these situations. I am hopeful that Sasha survives, and that Ted goes on to have a wonderful relationship with his daughter. This story fires on a lot of emotional cylinders, and you wrote it so real, I could see this scene unfolding. Brilliant!

    3. Tysheena Jackson

      Critique, this was entirely engrossing and such a great read! As I was reading it I could feel the emotion shift as the conversation shifted. The love that was once lost, the heartbreak, the shock… It works! You’ve done a masterful job piecing this together. High marks for you! Xx

  17. RafTriesToWrite

    I don’t know if I can do this but here’s another take on the prompt. I apologize for the length again.

    “Betty White?” A slimming doctor covered in white, together with the stereotypical ‘stethoscope around the neck look’ holding one too many clipboards, came into the room with something to tell. I don’t know how doctors deal with telling patients their condition especially if it’s really bad. In this case however, I can tell that it’s bad, it’s written all over his face.

    I’m here because there was indescribable pain in my stomach a while ago. The pain was too unbearable that I wasn’t even able to stand up. Alex, my newly wedded husband, had to carry me to his car and drive us all the way to the hospital where they did all these tests and blood samples.

    “Yes doctor?” My husband stood up, eyes full of hope and dreams like a little kid wanting to become a fireman or a doctor someday, wishing what happened to me was just something minor and not life threatening. He was anxious, so was I.

    “I’m afraid I came bearing bad news” And that’s all I heard. I can hear indistinct murmuring between my husband and the doctor afterwards, but that’s all there is to it. I do not know if I should cry or mope around our newly purchased home, but one thing is for sure, I’m definitely more determined now to finish my bucket list.

    “Everything’s gonna be alright.” Alex reassured me, though his voice clearly says otherwise, the doctor was gone. I appreciate him being strong about this but I can see through him as clear as cellophane. I know him too well, that’s why I married him in the first place.

    I gave him a simple glance, for one split second, I saw a shattered, weak, helpless, heartbroken man. He’s hurting, yet here I am, still feeling nothing. I took my wallet then pulled out a small folded paper where my bucket list lies. I inspected the piece of paper carefully.

    “Two more?” Alex spoke, peeking on my list, not caring whether I needed the privacy or not.

    “Nope, just the last one.” I looked up at him, half smiling.

    “How about that one?” He pointed at the second to the last unchecked box. The bittersweet feeling still fresh on his face.

    “I can’t live up to at least 70 now can I?” I peered at him, as I struggle to put myself out of the eerie hospital bed that has been laid by hundreds or maybe thousands of people already.

    “Where are you going? The doctor said you should stay in bed and rest.” Alex was very caring, one of the qualities I loved about him, but I won’t finish my bucket list “resting” around on a bed all day now can I?

    “I need to finish the last one. Besides it won’t take too long.” Alex was pondering, he’s been my partner in crime since I can remember, I just wish he would set aside his caring side and start thinking about my happiness and what I want for now.

    “I don’t know. I’m worried about you.” He’s turning. Now’s my chance.

    “I’ll buy you chipotle.”

    “Dang it.” He stomped his foot, as I stood up from the bed slightly laughing at his childish remark. “Deal.” He added, giving me that smile. The one that always melts my heart, the one that makes the butterflies in my stomach go crazy, the smile that says I’m so in love with this woman.

    We checked out of the hospital and bought an anti dog biting body suit on the way to the Arizona desert.

    “Now could you tell me what are you gonna do with the suit out here in the desert?” Alex questioned taking another bite at his chipotle. I was being secretive about the last item on my bucket list. Perhaps, now is the time to tell him.

    “I need to hug a saguaro.”

    “A what?”

    “A cactus.”

    Alex was looking at me like I’m some deranged person.

    “Why was that on your bucket list?” He made it sound like I was crazy.

    “I don’t know, ask 8 year old me.” I chuckled at his demeanor.

    “Okay, but why in Arizona?” He was laughing now.

    “I told you, ask 8 year old me.”

    It was at this moment, we thought everything was fine. We were having fun, laughing, not caring about anything. It was all going well until my phone rang.

    ”Mrs. Betty?”

    “Yes?”

    Alex kept looking back and forth at me and the road.

    ”I’m your nurse, Jackie, from L.A. Community Hospital.”

    “Oh, hey Jackie, what can I do for you?”

    I looked at Alex and mouthed ‘nurse’ at him. He responded with a nod.

    ”It appears there has been a mix-up with your clipboards.”

    “What do you mean?”

    ”Is your last name White?”

    “Yes.” I was mind boggled, why would she ask my last name? I rethink her question again, and then I remembered. No, I’m married now.

    “Wait, no. Not anymore. It’s actually Ernst.”

    ”Ahh, Ernst, here you go. Your test showed you had stomach cramps. All you needed was enough rest and food in your system is all.”

    “Oh. Thanks.” Was all I could muster up. I ended the call. Poor Betty White.

    “What was that all about?” Alex looked at me.

    “Guess I’m not dying anytime soon” I said smiling.

    We weren’t paying attention to the road until we heard a loud honk coming from an incoming cargo truck. Then I knew it was already too late.

    1. dragonchef

      Just when you think it’s safe to hug a saguaro and get away with it. . . Oh jeez! Didn’t see that coming. Neither did they, apparently.
      There you go again Raf! Good one.

  18. bli3

    The sun, a fiery orange, was slowly making its way down the horizon, the ocean threatening again to snuff out its radiance for another day. For now, though, Francine enjoyed the warmth the waning sun provided, its rays permeating her smooth skin. She inhaled the sea air, felt the breeze whip through her hair and listened to the waves crashing against the shore.

    She had always loved the sound of the ocean.

    Of course, those ocean sounds had always come from a screen – a beer commercial on television; an ad on YouTube playing before the latest carpool karaoke. There were always excuses not to go. First there were the prosaic ones: busy with school, getting ahead at the firm, pregnancy, money. After that were the other, decidedly more foreboding ones: the dull pain in her belly she had first attributed to the C-Section, the cancer ravaging her body like a flame on a dry forest bed, the chemo that took away her youth and vitality, and then the desperate, invasive, “experimental” treatments that first took away her independence, and then her dignity.

    She mentally brushed those thoughts aside, and focused instead on the sand between her toes. Before all of this, spending any time contemplating the coarse texture of a thousand tiny particles of silica on her skin would have seemed silly. Today, it was heaven.

    “We should have done this a long time ago.”

    “I agree, babe.”

    She turned to look at her husband lying next to her. He flashed her a contented smile she hadn’t seen in a long time – not the forced ones he usually made to unsuccessfully hide his fear and uncertainty.

    “Maybe we should come back here next year” she said hopefully.

    “One step ahead of you,” he said, “I already placed a deposit on the house for next summer.” He smiled roguishly. “I didn’t think you’d mind.”

    Francine leaned over to kiss him. Then, a sudden feeling of panic. “Where’s Justin?” She saw the bucket and shovel, but no trace of their son.

    “Don’t worry, he’s with your father — hear that?” Peals of Justin’s laughter drifted over the sound of the waves.
    Francine calmed down. But something was off…. “My dad?” “Bryan, he’s been dea….”

    “Relax, honey, everything is all right.” And for some reason, it was. Francine calmed down. He grinned at her. “Race you to the hou..” Before he finished, Francine had already bolted up. Laughing, they raced towards the beach house, over the sounds of the waves and laughter of their son.

    ***
    “Mr Li?” “Should I come back later?”

    I looked up at the nurse poking her head through the door and gave her a wan smile.

    “That’d be great, she drifted off not long ago.” Truth be told, I was getting a little sleepy myself, and Francine’s heart rate monitor was beeping steadily, reassuring me that everything was alright. For now.

    “Oh look, Mr Li!” The nurse nodded towards Francine brightly. “She’s smiling in her sleep!”

    And she was.

    1. dragonchef

      Mr. Li? Mr. B_Li? As in Bli3?
      Magnificent imagery.
      Not sure what this is: “an ad on YouTube playing before the latest carpool karaoke.”
      Loved this: “My dad?” “Bryan, he’s been dea….” – but you could leave off the quotes between dad and Bryan.

      1. bli3

        Thanks for your comments, dragonchef. The answers to the questions are: yes, yes and yes. Carpool karaoke is a skit on the Late Late Show with James Corden. My wife used to love watching his videos on YouTube.

  19. ShamelessHack

    My bucket list. Ahh, the sadness, the ethos of reaching the end of my bucket list at last. But what are we to do when we have reached this great stumbling block in life, eh? Shakespeare said it best…”All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death…”

    But why bore you with maudlin sentimentality, here at the very end. So I present to you forthwith my Bucket List, beginning with the tenth item and finally, mercifully counting down to the last.

    MY BUCKET LIST:

    10. Take scenic tour of the West.
    9. Seek out desert bird life through binoculars.
    8. Try to coax one of the desert birds into feeder of poisoned seeds.
    7. Have stomach pumped when bird zooms right by me and I trip over feeder and swallow the seeds myself.
    6. Roller skate on desert road. With rocket attached to my back.
    5. Unpaste myself from cliff face when bird zooms by and I’m blinded in cloud of dust and hit wall.
    4. Purchase twoton safe (Acme).
    3. Drag safe to top of outcropping and push to edge over roadway beneath.
    2. Lean over edge near safe to wait for bird. Bird comes rocketing along road.
    1. What’s that cracking noise?

    Beep beep

    1. Rene Paul

      Ok, I’m not that sharp. My father-in-law told me I was as sharp as a bowling ball! Had to read it twice to get it, but get it I did. Cleaver is the word.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Hack. The strength of the wind in ,my face as I rushed back 70 years to a movie theater was worth it as the film rolled once more. My favorite of,all favorites. The audience would cheer and stomp their feet, especially on Saturday mornings. How can I ever return the favor?

    2. JosephFazzone

      I was always hoping he could set himself up with a nice discount from ACME. Surely they owed him that much after keeping them in business for so long. I mean who, besides Wiley, had a need for an instant snow and ski making machine in the desert? Always a pleasure reading the words from the Hack! Great job man! I was locked in from number 8 on. Funny!

  20. igonzales81

    I only had one item on my bucket list, but it took me a lifetime to do.

    It first occurred to me while I was working as a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders, providing medical care to the impoverished masses in rural northern India. I learned a secret there, a whisper breathed into my ear by a dying man, payment for the service of enough morphine to take the pain away forever.

    That secret first piqued my curiosity, then inflamed my imagination. Before long, it had become an obsession.

    I abandoned my responsibilities, violated the conditions of my travel visa, and illegally crossed the Himalayas, breaching the border of China to enter the highlands of Tibet. When I found the place I sought, I considered it worth the cost.

    What I learned there took me to many other places.

    I searched ancient ruins in Laos and Cambodia, seeking rare spiders and insects. I traversed the Andean heights, in search of a flower alleged to be a myth. I braved the darkest heart of Africa, facing hunger, disease, harsh elements, and dangerous people, all to retrieve the fruit of a certain tree. Finally, I survived the incessant conflict of the Balkans, hunting among the mass graves, all to find a talisman carried there by a man much like myself.

    When I had everything I needed, I went home for the last time. There was nothing there for me, nothing save an empty house where I could complete my work in peace and quiet.

    And what a work it was.

    For years I labored, trying to get it right. I worried constantly, as with each failure my stock of precious components dwindled. At times I lost faith, considered giving up, even contemplated ending my existence rather than face another failure.

    Then, one night, the solution came to me in a dream, the answer to the question I had asked again and again, in tears and curses.

    I tried again, one last time. I formed the body from a clay of grave soil and blood, infused with powders and potions crafted from my sorely depleted stocks. I embedded the talisman where a heart should be, and said words that set rats and roaches to scurrying away into the shadowy corners of my secret workshop.

    This time, the clay did not crumble. This time, the potion did not sputter and vanish. This time the talisman did not fall to the floor, a dull and worthless piece of metal.

    This time, the eyes opened and the limbs moved. Then it fixed its gaze on me, opened its mouth, and asked a single question.

    “Who are you?”

    In my excitement, my joy and relief, I almost forgot to answer. “I am you maker.”

    Then it rose from the bier on which I had given it life, and I knew I had succeeded. I had accomplished what I had set out to do.

    I could cross the one item on my bucket list off.

    This was some comfort, when the thing I had created closed its hands around my throat, and choked the life out of me.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is going to give me the trembles, cold sweats and nightmares strong enough to make me scream. And when i do, a certain redhead i married 50 years ago is going to come looking for you
      So start to sweat early, it won’t hurt as much

    2. writer_sk

      igonsalez: Nice build to the reveal. The final sentence was well done. The sentence “piqued my curiosity and inflamed my imagination” good wording…

    3. dragonchef

      Golems . . . Can’t live with ’em, and you can’t unmake them – especially if the shem is placed in the chest as opposed to the mouth.
      Nice job. Great reveal at the end. Well written.
      But I do have to ask . . .
      1) If the MC was choked to death at the end, who wrote the journal entry?
      2) Was it the MC’s goal to make a golem and have it kill him/her? It was, after all, the only item on the “Bucket List”.

    4. gdominado

      After reading the phrases “a whisper breathed into my ear” and “piqued my curiosity, then inflamed my imagination”, I knew instantly the writer is a Filipino. 🙂

  21. Katie

    “Last one, Grandpa. Are you ready?”

    I nod and hand him the pillbox. He pops open the blue-tinted cap. The faded white scroll says, “27”. I tried my best to come up with 31 items for my bucket list, one for each little compartment of the monthly medication organizer, but 27 felt like plenty.

    I didn’t want to push my luck.

    He fishes out the lavender paper, a piece of my wife’s old stationary. I’d been hanging on to a half-used pad of it since the funeral. The contrast of the dreamy purple against his grungy hands as he works to unfold the tiny square makes me smile and ache; there is no work more important on this Earth than the serious, dirty play of a child. And Grady, my grandson, puts in long hours on our family farm.

    I miss roaming all that wide open space like he does, but really, I’m just grateful my son took it over. I’m even more grateful his wife took me over, let me come back here to die.

    He squints to make out my scrawl; the tremor in my hands has gotten bad. “Return The Goonies to Blockbuster.”

    He looks at me. “What are Goonies and Blockbuster?”

    I laugh and tousle his hair, the same color of harvest-ready wheat on a good year. “It’s a movie, and a store in town you can borrow them from. Like a library.”

    “Can I watch it first?”

    “You could ask your mom, but I bet she’d say no.”

    He frowns. “Why haven’t you taken it back yet?”

    I pause. It’s a good question, one I haven’t been able to answer in more than 30 years. I’ve had it since the EMT that responded to the scene handed it to me. He said Brandy wouldn’t let it go, that she said over and over that I’d be mad if it was late. They let her hold it on the gurney. I bet they don’t usually do that when there’s hope, when they need everything out of the way and all hands on deck because they’ve got a life in front of them that they can save.

    She was dying, and in those last moments she worried about making me mad. What kind of a father did that make me?

    “Grandpa? Are you sad?”

    I smile at him and don’t bother to wipe away the tears. I learned more in that moment that I took possession of that rented movie than I’d ever learned in school, but it still isn’t easy to let go of the tape, knowing it was the last thing she’d ever touched. Knowing it connected her to me in a way, even if it was a way that made me stare hard at an ugly truth.

    I let Grady drop the tape in the return box, a hundred dollar bill tucked in the case. I’m not sure if it settles my debt there, but no matter. I’m free.

  22. RafTriesToWrite

    Apologies for the length, etcetera. I did shorten it to be honest, hope I didn’t distort my story too much.

    It’s been three months since I first and last saw him. Jake is – was, a different guy, one I never knew existed. Unique would be an understatement to describe him at this point.

    It first started at the bus. I’m not one to talk to my seatmate, but that day, that particular Valentine’s day, he took the initiative to talk to a random stranger which was me, and was also by the way the fourth to the last item on his bucket list.

    He was charming, good looking and very clever with his words, he asked me a few questions as we head our way to the mall, anything random, just yes or no questions. For every yes, I would touch his dimple, and for every no, I would tap his phone. Then the game began.

    I was alone, he was alone, we were both going to the mall on Valentine’s day with no dates. He asked if we could eat, I was hesitant at first but I really wanted to go with him for some reason. Maybe I liked his Armani scent, maybe I liked his manly quiff, maybe it’s his voice, maybe I just really like his cool-ness, or maybe I just really like him. Like, like him-like him.

    We ate, asked questions, some were personal like what’s his major or does he have siblings, some were random like would I eat the world’s hottest pepper for ten bucks or something like that. We took pictures, some were awful, some were… cute. He paid for our meal, which I extremely disagreed to. I wanted to pay at least half but he didn’t let me. This was third to the last in his bucket list – get a meal with the random stranger.

    During our meal – which was also as close as a date that I’ll ever get – we agreed to watch a movie of his choice and of course he will pay for, which I didn’t pay attention to. I was too preoccupied staring at Jake the entire movie, and the fact that he had his arm around my shoulder the whole time didn’t helped at all. I was nervous, I was anxious, I don’t know if he’s giving me signs, I don’t know if he’s just being friendly.

    After the movie, we went out to the park near the mall, just a normal walk in the park at night. The kind that couples do, but we aren’t a couple, I mean, how could we? We just met.

    We stopped somewhere in the park, I remember a fountain, the dim lights from the street lamps, and a worn out faded green bench, together with the stars in the sky as witnesses, he did the unexpected.
    It wasn’t a quick peck, nor was it a French kiss either. It was just a gentle bittersweet lip tingling knees weakening breath taking kiss, like the ones you read in romance novels. I’m at the part where the sparks would fly, or there was chemistry between the two people, or it felt like fireworks when they kissed.

    After which, we went on our separate ways.

    Of all the information we exchanged, his address and our cell numbers weren’t in the list. I forgot as to how and why.

    So here I am now, sitting on my bed, alone in my room as I go through the package, an envelope and the note that came just now. It’s weird that he asked for my address and I never bothered to ask his.

    Bernard, by the time you read this I’m probably gone from this world. I never told you this because I never wanted to hurt you back then, I mean, I just met you after all. So if you don’t know yet, I have leukemia, or rather, had leukemia.

    I’m sorry if things ended the way it did between us, I’m also sorry if I ever hurt you in any way. I hope you can forget this part of my life and just try to remember the happy times that we’ve made. In those short hours that we spent together, you made me experience how to love and kiss a person, even from someone as unexpected as you, who’s also a guy like me. So, that’s a check for the last two items in my bucket list – love and kiss someone I like.

    In this box lies four items, a picture frame to put your favorite picture of us when we ate together, my perfume because you told me you loved how I smell and also because no one would use it now, the movie tickets that I told you I threw away, when in fact I just hid it in my pocket the entire time and a small envelope. Open that with caution.

    Take care always,

    Jake

    I opened the envelope carefully as Jake instructed while tears escaped my eyes, and to my surprise it was a picture, of Jake and I kissing at the park. I cannot fathom as to how he got a picture of this, but I soon dismissed the thought and just held the piece of photograph near my heart as I cried my eyes out.

    1. Rene Paul

      I’m not a gay man, but, I could feel the tension and the love in your story. Interesting. Well done. Picky point: I would liked some dialogue to create the uneasiness between characters. Again, well done.

    2. writer_sk

      Good job. It reminds me of the types of films where the couple walks around New York all night or strangers meet on a train. Great feeling overall. I agree, I would like some dialogue.

    3. dragonchef

      Love at first bus ride – happens to everyone.
      Interesting take on the prompt; but, it feels to me that Jake was probably stalking Bernard long before they met “by chance” on the bus.
      Also, I am not a gay man either, but I don’t think men–even gay men–wear perfume, they wear cologne. Or, maybe they do spritz perfume; I could be wrong. Men in drag might, I guess.
      Be careful of wording agreements such as plural vs singular, and so on.
      I don’t think it actually required dialogue. I know you said it was shortened, but I do think it could use a little more ‘uneasiness’ descriptions to stand as total narration–if that is what you were going for.
      Keep up the good work . . .RafCanWrite! 😎

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well, I was really surprised in the middle but that was okay with me, I don’t know that dialogue would enhance this It is a wonderful story.Perhaps if you wrote third person it would become clearer to the reader what motive the stranger was operating under. The picture at the end gives a clue perhaps of .extortion but then again perhaps not. Either way it’s a fine story.

        1. RafTriesToWrite

          This story originally had 5512 word count in my country’s dialect/language and it has dialogues when I wrote it. Still, I’m not quite sure if it’s good with or without dialogue. Perhaps it’s in the way I translated it and made it into one without a dialogue.

          Jake had much admiration for Bernard, also I wasn’t thinking of extortion when Jake took the picture of them kissing. Or could it be? Maybe I’m the one who’s wrong? 🙂

      2. RafTriesToWrite

        Not a full on creepy stalk mode, but nonetheless you’re right, Jake was technically stalking Bernard for quite some time now.
        Not sure about men in drag wearing perfume as well.
        Quite the eye you got there with the perfume, even I didn’t noticed it when I was checking my work until you mentioned it. I’m terribly sorry, it was in fact supposed to be cologne.
        I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch the plural vs singular wording agreements and so on. I apologize again. I’ll try and keep an eye out for them the next time I write.

        Thank you for your inputs dragonchef. Always love them. Love your works as well.

        With much admiration.

        -Raf

  23. Lisaleggett

    Andrea closed the door to her car. Put her hands in her coat pockets and took a deep breath. She was hoping the cool air against her face would delete the serious sound in her doctor’s voice. She played it again. “Andrea, you have a chronic condition. It will not go away. It will take strength, determination, and most of all a positive attitude to incorporate it into who you have now become. A person that will face daily obstacles and ups and downs.” She didn’t hear anything after that.

    She walked toward the swing set. She picked her favorite swing. As she went higher and higher trying to fly away from what she faces now, the tears began to fall. She saw her dreams, hopes, her future so different now. Days filled with sadness, pain, depression, lonliness. A body and mind that was empty.

    She stopped the swing. Sat and thought how she was so young. She pondered if life was worth moving forward.

    The pink piece of paper blew over her foot and was trapped around the swing set pole. What made her pick it up was something that may surprise her.

    She wiped her face and read the piece of paper. A list. A bucket list. The list was long and all the things were cross off except the last one. She read it several times.

    This is my bucket list. A list of things I wish I had done before it became my bucket list.This last item is not marked off because I will not know if I accomplished it. I will hope that someone will read my last drop in the bucket and bennifit from it. My last item is the following – I found out too late that life is short. That at any second I would no longer have a tomorrow. I hope that someone will read this and realize that no matter what your situation or circumstances are that you indeed live today like it was your last. Take every opportunity to grow, learn, share and love. If you do this then there is no need for you to make a bucket list. Enjoy life. Smile. Conquer each day.

    Andrea folded the piece of paper. Cliniched it in her pocket. She saw her dreams and future so different now. Days filled with hope, happiness, joy and love. A body strong and a mind full of ideas and goals.

  24. Rene Paul

    I was proud of myself; I jumped from a perfectly good airplane and landed safely right on target. Ok, a jump instructor was strapped to me like a bacon wrapped steak and I had nothing to do but pray that the parachute opens and scream.
     
    My bucket list comprises of twelve–I want to do this before I die–items, that had to be completed before the one-year-left-to-live date given by my doctor. It’s been eleven months, fait accompli.
     
    I pulled into my driveway and parked in front of the garage, walked pass the sign stuck in the grass announcing my home for sale, went up the veranda, and through the front door.

    My five grandkids hoot & hollered as I entered the foyer, “Congratulations, Papa!” They shouted.  Then my three kids and their spouses entered from the kitchen. They clapped and cheered, too. I felt great despite the knowledge my time to experience this was growing shorter by the day. 
     
    As the celebration ended, my oldest son said, “What now, Dad? You’ve done everything on your list.”
     
    The question stayed with me the rest of the day. After the family left, I sat in my easy chair and pondered a problem I never thought I’d have to consider. What will I do now, curl up and wait to die? I fell into a taxing sleep.
     
    When I awoke, I was still in my chair, dressed in yesterday’s clothes. I got up and started a pot of coffee. The doorbell rang. It’s eight in the morning, I thought, who can that be?
     
    Bobby, the youngest of my kids was at the front door. I opened it, waved him in, and offered a cup of fresh coffee, we sat in the kitchen. I asked if I could make him breakfast, he declined, so I asked him what was on his mind?
     
    “Dad,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep last night.”
     
    “Join the club,” I said.

    He said, “There’s something about your bucket list that has been bothering me and I couldn’t figure it out. I Kept going over it, analyzing the twelve items, then it dawned on me. The fact is, there is no mention of us, your family in the list. It’s as if we don’t exist. We weren’t important enough this past year to make it into the bucket.”

    “What are you saying, Bob? Of course, you’re important!”
     
    “Ok, easy to say, but let’s analyze your list.” 
     
    He pulled a copy from his shirt pocket and placed it on the table, unfolded it and recited the numbered lines from one to twelve. Memories washed over me as he read each line aloud. Visit Washington D.C., see Europe, drive a race car. He articulated each one, ending with, ‘parachute out of an airplane’.
     “See my point, Dad? Where does it say, I’ll spend more time with my family? You didn’t include us or even mention us as part of any of the things you wanted to do, the things you wrote that are important to do before you die.”

    He hit a nerve, he was right, everything I did was for me and me alone. I included no one in any of my fulfillment missions. 
     
    “I’m sorry,” I said, “But, what can I do about that now? As you know, I haven’t much time left.”  
     
    “Let’s start a new bucket,” he said, “for next year.”

    The thought brought a smile to my face.
     
    He flipped the original list over, pulled a pen from his pocket, reached across the table and held my hand. “Let’s start with…”

    1. dragonchef

      No offence, but if Papa was well loved by his entire family, then he paid beaucoup attention to them all through their lives to earn that love. He also earned the right to have some time, some fun, to himself. That bucket list was for Papa and about Papa to do things he was never able to do while raising the ungrateful Bobby and his siblings. That whole, “Your life was about us, so your death should be about us,” is nothing more than Bobby trying to be controlling. Poor miserable Bobby.
      And that fact that you have me monologuing means you wrote a successful emotional piece.
      Nicely done, RP. Well written. And now, if I could just bitch-slap Bobby . . .

      1. Rene Paul

        No offense taking. I was trying to convey the emotions different people have given the same situation, but from different perspectives. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment, much appreciated.

  25. JRSimmang

    CITY OF LIGHTS

    The world’s gotten on so long now, that nothin’ should have shocked me. People been prepping for world-wide devastation since people learned how to pack stuff in bags. For them, for us, it’s been the same: Somethin’ comes, people die, people rebuild.

    If they’re rebuilding, I ain’t found none yet.

    And, my leg been hurtin’. Been hurtin’ somethin’ fierce.

    She was a pretty thing, the first I’d seen in months. They roamed wild now, the stallions. Seems like once they was unpenned, they found their legs and ran, ran down to the wild streams and drank like the first time they drank their mother’s milk. To be there again, to be in that place where the wind was a cousin shoutin’ back ‘come play out here, Sam, come out here and play’ I would give my good leg.

    But she was too wild. Thought I’d take her so’s I could take a load off my feet. Turned out to be a wrong choice, and, well, horses don’t like to be cornered. Same’s with humans, too. She took a swing, came down hard on my leg, and raised quite the ruckus. Glad I was to be hobblin’ away from there. Even gladder I was to find the springs. Gave me some much needed respite. Gave me time to think about where I was headed.

    The death of the world does things to you, makes you wish that the plague, or the comet, or ice age would take you too. Those poor b*stards with their families, I can’t imagine how it must’ve felt to be the last one standing. Glad I’m still a bachelor. My choice. Gave me my land, my friends, my music. My direction now. I hope luck’ll be with me just a little longer. I gotta find at least one of them. I gotta know that my footprints ain’t going to be the last ones ’round. I gotta know that my pockets’ll ain’t full of words for nothin’.

    The road I walk led to New York. I figured people’d be there. But, the dust that settled on everything, settled on the pavement where my feet hit day after day, settled on the tree tops and wild horses, settled here too.

    I wandered the streets, palms up when the rains came. They was the same here, hot and left me wanting to bathe. It fell on me same’s as the bodies that had long since strewn and devoted themselves to the ground.

    I looked down at my leg. It hadn’t stopped bleeding and started smelling like an old fart. No matter what, I would join these numbers, these legions of lost. I tried the doors to the businesses. All of them were open, waiting for me.

    I stumbled, but caught myself on the rear view mirror of a Pontiac. I couldn’t tell if I had started to sweat or it was the rain, but I vomited anyway. My leg was numb. My foot was numb. My fingers and hands grew numb, and my heart felt a million miles away spinning around a star.

    I had to find one. Just one.

    I stood up as upright as I could, walked three more steps, shuddered from a chill, then fell to the ground.

    Times Square, I reckoned, once lit up like the night sky, is where I’ll make my last stand. I let the rain fall on my face, and for a moment, I am certain my last wish arrived just in time. He stands over me, wet and dripping. I reach up, grasp air, and move my hand to my pants pocket. I hope he knows how to read.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      I held my breath just about all the way through, JR. This line, “my heart felt a million miles away spinning around a star” is my favorite. As well as everything below it. It’s just all so well done!

    2. dragonchef

      Post apocalyptic bucket list – what could possibly be on it?
      And the thing in his pocket – Book of Eli?
      Was it black rain that fell, radiation poisoning, that caused him to vomit? Or was it infection/septicemia from the horse kick? >> “It hadn’t stopped bleeding and started smelling like an old fart.” <<
      A well written and rather unsettling story, but I Guess that is what you were going for . . . and where we are all headed.

  26. jhowe

    This one is kind of strange. I barely understand it myself.

    All around her was mist and matter and energy and nothingness. She raised her weary being and surveyed her creations. Not perfect, far from it, but hers nonetheless. What had she done?

    The din became a roar. She could no longer single them out and they kept piling up upon one another and she sent them away in anger, unanswered. And then a single voice broke free from her tirade and floated around her, within her. The voice of a child, pure and free of malice. It moved her, deeply, beyond her grasp of understanding. This one voice. And then she knew. She gathered her resolve and cast her death wish violently aside. She would not give up after all. The child’s voice reminded her; there was still hope as there always had been. And always would be.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Some of the greatest advice I’d heard in my twenty-one years of life is to write what you don’t know. Jhowe, you might not understand it now, or maybe never, but that’s OK. That’s the beauty of words and creation. We, as creators, might not always understand things but I guarantee someone will come across it and it’s just what they needed. Wonderful piece!

    2. Rene Paul

      Wow! Made me think. A good story should leave the reader pondering what they just read, otherwise it’s a waste of time. I’m pondering right now.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is so beautiful, full of questions why one voice moved her. I may ponder it a day or so and then get back to you. Feels like you went into automatic writing phase and perhaps your subconscious wrote for you. It certainly is impressive.

    3. dragonchef

      Okay – here’s my take on it – and it came to mind in through the child’s voice . . .
      She is dying, on the threshold of death, having one of those out-of-body experiences you hear about. But instead of hovering above her body, she is actually in a lucid dream-like state where she can create images, places, people. And through the dream she could hear those around her. Maybe her family crying over their loss. Maybe doctors and nurses clamoring for a crash cart. But more than that, she could hear the child, perhaps a grandchild, calling to her. And ultimately bringing her back.
      But, hey! I’m just a kid in a candy store. What do I know?
      I love it, J!

      1. jhowe

        That’s a nice take. It probably fits better than my version. The She, is God. I made Her a woman to score points with the ladies here. I guess She’s having a midlife crisis. She almost ended it but realized there is hope. Thank goodness for us. At first I capitalized all the pronouns, but there’s so many, it looked cluttered. Oh, and the voices were prayers.

        1. dragonchef

          Yeah – that was my other take – the unspoken one. I set that one aside.
          Probably the only women you would score points with are the militant feminist ones. Could be wrong.
          Not sure a God/Goddess would have a “mid-life crisis”. But, like you said, God help us all if it were true.

  27. grahamgold

    Morris sat in first class on the way to Boston from Japan. He took out the list he had made up, each item except for the last one crossed off with a red pen and a happy face. Some events on his bucket list were dreams he always had, like driving a race car around a track or roasting a pig on the beach in the Bahamas. Other ideas for things to experience he had taken from “bucket list” searches he did on the internet. The idea of making a bucket list originally excited him, until he realized that it was basically a more tedious and stress-inducing travel itinerary. Jim took out a red pen and crossed off the last event: eat at Jiro’s sushi restaurant. He drew the last happy face, which is not how he felt. He stared at the piece of paper, at the things he had accomplished, and couldn’t figure out why he felt so clueless.
    “Are you okay?” The passenger next to Morris asked. “Your hands are shaking.”
    The wrinkled paper vibrated in his hands. Morris folded it up and put it his pocket. “I’m fine,” Morris said.
    “But you’re crying.” The passenger faced him. Morris, never keen on intimacy, turned his head and wiped his eyes. Just as he was about to ask to be left alone, he had a second thought. He decided to open up, something he hadn’t done in a long time.
    “I’m dying. I finished my bucket list. I’ve never felt more at a loss than I do now.” He spoke without looking the passenger in the eyes.
    “Of course you feel that way,” the passenger laughed.
    Laughter. Exactly what he didn’t want to hear. Morris was ready to retaliate, but saw kindness in the passenger’s face. “My brother had a bucket list,” the passenger said, for a moment getting lost in memory. “But with each thing we crossed off, he became more and more depressed. One day he said to me, I want to be alone and be happy. I didn’t get it at first, I was hurt. But I soon realized something. Goals give us purpose. The day after achieving a dream can be the loneliest day in one’s life, which is why you should be working towards the intangibles. Relationships, with yourself and with others. Those things will always need work.” The passenger finished, shook his head. “Was that too cheesy?”
    The pressure Morris felt at the top of his head, the weight he felt of this indescribable feeling had been put into words by a stranger, a stranger he never would have spoken to before. Morris opened his arms, left them open and felt the thrill of the unknown. And the passenger hugged him back.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Your piece here taught me something, graham. And that is to never give up working on relationships, even the rotten ones, because those are the things that constantly grow in life. Thank you for that!

    2. dragonchef

      Satisfying only the carnal desire is like kissing someone through a window or a screen door–the accomplishment eventually feels unfulfilled.
      When you read a book, and you love the characters so much that they begin to feel like friends–you adventure with them, eat great food with them, cry with them, tend to their wounds when they get hurt–and then they leave you when you reach the last word and close the book, a deep sadness falls over you (or am I alone in this?). The same could be said of raising kids . . . and accomplishing goals and milestones.
      Did that – check!
      Did that too – check!
      All done!
      Wow! Now what do I do? I can pity myself for not having added more temporal things to my list to finish out my life, or–now that the temporal is done–I can go beyond the flesh and love on the people that need it be fore I go.
      I think you said that in this story. Thanks. Great read!

  28. kj6hvc

    Been far too long since I’ve been able to write. I’ve missed this. Doesn’t look any less busy going forward, so I just have to make my own time, I guess. Anyway, I’m out of practice, but that’s what this is for, right?

    The last light was gone, inexorably pulled over the horizon by the endless dance of the planet. I’d wanted the moment to last, of course. I wanted all the moments to last; there were so few of them left. I pulled the worn notebook from my pocket. Even in the dim light from the pier’s lamp-post, my notebook looked incredibly old. Though dirty, worn, and well-traveled, I’d only had the notebook for six months. Six months since I learned–

    In the dim light on the pier, I flipped to the page held by the thin ribbon, and crossed off the second to last item on the list: “Watch the sun set over every ocean.” I didn’t have any more sunsets, and I wouldn’t be coming back to any oceans. I turned and looked across what I could see of the pier and the beach. I dreaded the walk back to the car. My increasing frailness was why I’d planned this beach last, even though it was closest to home. Still, this short walk would have me winded and weary.

    Eventually, I did make it back to the car. The concern on my driver’s face was not masked. He’d wanted to wheel me around in a god damn chair. I’ll not suffer such an indignity. I may be dying, but I’ll finish this on my terms.

    I turned on the cars dome lamp and looked at my list in the notebook. Just one item left.

    The last item was the Big One. That’s literally what it said in the notebook: “The Big One.”

    It was enough of a description. Even tough it was the last item, it was the first on my mind. As soon as I’f gotten the news, I knew how I wanted it to end. I may be dying, but I’ll finish this on my terms. So I’d made my list, and spent the last six months travelling around the world, crossing things off my list.

    That had been a cover, of course. I mean, yes, those were all things I wanted to do before I died, but really my goal was singular: “The Big One.” So I’d used my trips to arrange meetings, arrange supplies. None of the illicit contacts I’d made believed I could pull it off. The wide-eyed looks on their faces when I explained my plan were priceless. Soon the whole world would have looks like that: awe and fear.

    We arrive back at my mansion, and I go to bed reflecting on the past, present, and future. Yesterday, the last detail had been accomplished. Today, I’d witnessed my last ocean sunset. Tomorrow, I will take my last breath.

    The last thing I did before going to bed was to set the timer on “The Big One.” Tomorrow, I will take my last breath, and so will everyone else in Manhattan.

    I may be dying, but I’ll finish this on my terms.

    1. dragonchef

      So, kj6, are you on the DHS watch list? Sorry, but as far as I am concerned first person terrorism does not make for good reading. Not in this day and age, what with it running rampant in all corners of the globe.

  29. Kerry Charlton

    SEPTEMBER SONG

    Through Brian’s mind a song raced, ‘September Song‘ .

    “For it’s a long, long time from May to December,
    And the days dwindle down to a precious few,
    And these precious days, I’ll spend with you.”

    He drove home as the lyrics repeated over and over. He had asked his doctor about treatment but was greeted with,

    “Let’s talk about time.”

    He had frozen at the thought. 120 days or possibly six months. The brain cancer was stage four and not operable, as if his doctor cared.

    “I’ll make a list,’ he thought, ’ and knock them off, one by one and save the very best for last. That will give me an incentive.’

    Five months went by like the wind, he could tell the difference but not a lot, so he booked a flight to Philadelphia late that afternoon. He arrived at the airport, rented a car and immediately drove toward Avalon, an hour and a half away. It was at Avalon that he spent his summers as a boy. He remembered from the forties, it took four hours then on a two lane and a ferry.

    As he approached the island and drove to the bayside, he looked for the turnstile, ancient bridge he used to fish from. Of course it didn’t exist anymore. The bay had turned to a yacht basin, replacing the crabs he used to catch. As he approached the beach side of the island the pier and movie house had long been washed away and a large boring hotel had replaced it.

    The $320.00 hadn’t bothered him for the sea side double room as he settled in a comfortable chair and took in the sound of the waves crashing on the sand and the night air full of moisture that bathed his weary face. He fell asleep in the chair.

    The next morning he walked the beach to Stone Harbor, a four mile tread across the damp sand. He was amazed he could do that at his age. On the way back his gait increased at an unusual pace and he was back in an hour and rented an ocean rod and reel like he used to have. First cast into the waves was sixty yards and the second cast was eighty yards.
    His rod began to whirl as a large fish grabbed the lure. Within an hour he had lined up in shallow water three blue fish and six black sea bass. He noticed an employee from his hotel rolling a large ice chest toward him. When he arrived he opened it for the fish but also there was a bottle of Old Crow and two glasses. Adept at mixing ice with bourbon, he handed one to Brian and kept the other.

    Two hours later, both the ice chest had become loaded as well as Brian and his companion The sun went down and the two men started singing sea chantries to the wind.

    “The end of a perfect day“, Brian mused..

    Meanwhile at Brian‘s hotel room a conversation took place,

    “We didn‘t find him until this afternoon when the maid opened the door to clean,” the hotel manager stated.

    The county coroner and police chief of Avalon stood by,

    “We understand,”: the coroner said, “it looks like a case of natural causes, a total collapse you might say.”

    “But why the expression,” the chief said?.

    “I will admit, the smile is unusual, maybe a last minute memory?” . .

    1. writer_sk

      Kerry! I can relate to this type of bucket list wish. Loved your description of the character fishing and it was a nice touch how he gained speed. I enjoyed the glow – how you have one action attached to another if you know what I mean. I could picture the town And see how it had changed through his eyes. This is a bucket list item that makes sense to me and seems real .
      Sarah

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tysheena. I love the word stunning by the way. You weren’t the only one moved.I got so lonesome for Avalon when I wrote it but it’s not the same anymore. You can’t go back, better to have the memories, they never change.

    2. JRSimmang

      To some, this is what the afterlife is: an eternal afternoon with the ones we hold dear, free to do that which we love. As always, you’ve nailed the characterization and provided us with a unique ending.

    3. dragonchef

      Ah, there is nothing like getting caught fishing when you reach the event horizon.
      I guess any amount would have been fine to pay for a hotel room that allows you to transpire while reeling in blues and sea bass like there’s no tomorrow–pun intended.
      Great and fun read KC. BTW: Didn’t you write another piece involving Avalon?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you dragonchef, I did write a quick one called ‘Footsteps’ maybe a year or so ago.That one was published in The Story Teller Magazine] I also wrote a longer story called ‘The Dunes Of Avalon’ It still needs a lot of workThank you for your comments, I always look foirward to all of them

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you dragonchef, I did write a quick one called ‘Footsteps’ maybe a year or so ago.That one was published in The Story Teller Magazine] I also wrote a longer story called ‘The Dunes Of Avalon’ It still needs a lot of workThank you for your comments, I always look foirward to all of them

    4. JosephFazzone

      Very cool! A perfect last day, and yet it never happened. It almost hearkens to the question if a tree falls and no one is around does it make a sound? Did his wonderful memory really happen? The smile confirms my suspicions that it probably doesn’t matter; it happened to him. I loved this perspective on the prompt, Kerry.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Joseph, I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to go than fishing on the beaches of Avalon with a bottle of Old Crow. I spent the first 11 years of my life, three months every summer at Avalon. I look back now and realize what a rare privilege It was, My memories are like those of yesterday, sometimes better. I carry the memories in my pocket,

        1. Rene Paul

          Sorry I’m so late with the critique, hope you get a chance to read it. WOW! The pictures your story painted…WOW! Loved every STUNNING word, sentence, paragraph.

  30. ReathaThomasOakley

    The list

    “Mom?” Janet stared at her oldest son, Martin. “Didn’t you hear me? Isn’t that wonderful news?”

    “So, this is why you’re all here?” Janet felt the anger building, clinched her fists until she feared her nails digging into her palms would draw blood, ignored the pain. “Why did he tell you and not me? Am I no longer the patient?”

    “Oh, Mom, we just thought–” Will, her youngest son started, then stopped. He knew the signs.

    “Thought what? That I’d be pleased I’m not dying? We’re all dying, I appreciated having a two-year time line.”

    Janet looked into the faces of her four verging-on-middle-age children, their smiles fading, gathered around her in the kitchen of her assisted living apartment, now cluttered with half packed boxes and bags. She wanted to scream, or laugh, at the pitiful preparations for the planned move into the nursing home. How little they know, she thought, these efforts were nothing compared to the list, she had hoped it was the last one, she’d just completed.

    Martin, weak, wasteful, always falling for some trollop bedazzled by that hint of wealth, how easy the last one was to “disappear”, one phone call, and cash, easy. Will? She’d put too much faith in him. Securing his PhD was simple, a few well placed words and his advisor was gone, a more amenable one in her place. Tenure, however, proved impossible.

    Janet attempted to read a message in Charles’ eyes, but, as she’d decided years before, there was no message. Still she had tried. Those worthless so-called friends he’d dragged along for decades, they had to go before she did. She swallowed a groan, now she apparently wasn’t going anywhere, at least not right away.

    Why was Margo frowning there in the corner? Margo, the sly one, the listener. You should be on your knees, thanking me. He was no good, lazy, a dreamer, just like your father, Janet thought. Better for you they both are gone, you should be smiling.

    “Mom?” Martin tried again. “Aren’t you happy? We are.” He looked at his siblings. “Tell her, tell her how happy we all are.”

    How much I’ve done for each of you, Janet thought, all your lives. List after list after list, until this last one, the bucket list. Janet closed her eyes and whispered to herself, “A mother’s work is never done.”

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Very deep, Reatha. If I’m not mistaken it seems like her children were ready for their mother to croak but the circumstances changed and now they don’t know what to do. Her reaction was calculating and nicely written. Good one, Reatha!

    2. jhowe

      Well, that was certainly thought provoking. (Does that mean you provoked my thoughts?) It seems that good old mom might be frequenting with hit men. If Margo were here, I’d confirm it with her as she seemed to suspect something.

    3. JosephFazzone

      A very intense story to see how this mother handled her job! She was on point, if not a bit manipulative. It does show that she’s set her children up to be well adjusted, if not a bit dependent on her abilities. Luckily she’s going to be around longer. So they are good. I really enjoyed how you described each child. They came to life with each paragraph. Loved it!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This hit home a lot
        You have to so careful.with.your children. And show no favoritism either way. The brilliant ones you can,t raise the bar on all of them
        And watching how families deal with their parents aging is a startling experience. Not from a personal experience but watching our friends experiences i feel comfortable offering one piece of advice
        Hold on to the money it puts you in a strong position with the children. Sounds bad doesn’t it, but ask your friends
        A marvelous piece of writing Reatha. Almost sounds like you ‘ve been there but i know better.

    4. dragonchef

      A matriarch doing for her offspring what most mothers wish they could–except most have a conscience. And the offspring doing what most spoiled rotten offspring do–think of themselves.
      There is certainly a deeper story there, Reatha. Could be a NYT best seller.

  31. Tysheena Jackson

    The End of Age by T. M. Jackson

    Keith frowned at my request. I knew he would find something to dislike about it. “Look,” I beat him to the punch. “It’s just a one time thing. It’s not like I’ll be doing it often.”

    “That’s exactly why you shouldn’t do it. If something goes wrong–”

    “If something goes wrong I’m dead. If it works out I’m still dead. Keith, I’m running out of time here. Every passing moment is just a chance for me to…”

    “I know, I know. Every passing moment is a chance for you to take on the opportunity of life while you still can.” He propped his elbow in the driver side window and shook his head. “You’ve only said it about a thousand times.”

    “Then why won’t you grant me this one last thing? This is my dying wish, man. My last hoorah before I clock out.”

    I’m telling you, Jack, if you plunge yourself in that river you won’t come back. Your body can’t handle it. And I’ll be damned to let you do it.”

    I slowly faced him and was careful not to tangle my oxygen tubes with the seatbelt strap. He was glaring outside now the muscle in his jaw visibly set. Whenever Keith got this way, all downtrodden and moody, I often cracked jokes to cheer him up. My jokes were pretty terrible and known for being uncouth but that was the thing– they got him talking one way or another. It was when I joked about my illness that made him stiffer than an ironing board. He wouldn’t talk to me for hours, and if we were in the car together, he’d give me the cold shoulder up until we were in front of my parents house, the place in which I chose to live out my final days. He never drove off without saying ‘See you later’ or ‘Tomorrow, yeah?’.

    And he detested the idea that I was more than OK with the fact that my days were reaching the lows. Hell. I think any normal twenty-something-year-old person would be too. But anyone normal– their days weren’t numbered like mine. Their bodies weren’t giving out on them like wood and a termite infestation. Their natural minds didn’t have the capacity to accept the conclusion that life had given them an underwhelming plate of their Great Aunt’s tuna casserole, and that was OK. I didn’t expect anyone to know where I was coming from. Dying just seemed… I don’t know… a lot easier when they didn’t.

    “Remember when we were ten,” I coughed, “well, I was ten and you were eleven, and I’d shown up to school really late in the year because my dad lost his job, so we moved in with my grandparents? I got made fun of for it. That first week I nearly got my ass kicked by–”

    “Drew Humphrey,” Keith snorted and pounded his fist on his steering wheel. “I still hate that bastard to this day.”

    “There I was maybe just over forty pounds, nerdy as hell about to get the beatdown of a lifetime but then you, you just walk right over and shove Drew away from me. And all it takes is three words. Three words and…” I turned and coughed into the handkerchief in my lap but this one wasn’t so good. My lungs did that thing they’ve been doing the past few months now where they would contract and stay that way for a minute until my eyes watered and someone like Keith would have to pound on my back to get air through. Keith turned the key and started up the engine and told me he was taking me home. I didn’t want to go home. I was tired of that place, tired of my mom hanging around like a battered puppy.

    I shrank back in the passenger seat and looked down at the battered notebook in my hand. I quickly scanned over the list of things I had recently crossed off and ran my thumb across the last item. My sweaty thumb smeared the words but they were still legible, attainable. “Do you remember what you told me?” I watched the side of his face as he focused on the road ahead of us. We were already in front of my parents home and dread slowly began to creep her way back in. But before she could I passed him the notebook. “Just read it,” I said opening the passenger door. I got out and started up the driveway, my oxygen tank screeching behind me. Inside the house mom made me a ham and cheese sandwich to take with my meds, they stopped working months ago, but if she knew that she’d probably have a heart attack. I thought about the last item on my list and the moment I decided to change it. Even though it was a dream of mine to jump buck-naked into Lake Michigan, I knew Keith Saunders would argue against it.

    My phone vibrated in my pocket and I knew it was him. Opening his text, thirteen years of friendship rolled down my face and landed on my phone screen. Thirteen years of friendship I would bring to the grave.

    ‘You don’t owe me anything, Jack’, He wrote. And then a minute later: ‘We’re even, OK?’

    ‘OK’, I immediately texted back.

    But even I knew tomorrow wasn’t promised.

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        Thank you, Reatha. I wanted to make some of the story obscure and I think it worked if you’re unsure if you understood it all. The broken language between the two friends symbolizes the brokenness of what Keith will feel after Jack is gone. Thank you for the comment!

    1. jhowe

      Well done, Tysheena. You’re hitting on all eight cylinders on this one. Though it did get a little confusing toward the end, I see from your comment that you intended that, and that works for me. Very sad, but an enjoyable read.

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        I feel like this week’s prompt has been a sad one in general. As soon as I read the prompt I clicked open a new Google Doc’s sheet and typed away. This was one of those stories I got lost in and now have an idea for a possible novel/screenplay. I appreciate you checking it out! 🙂

    2. JRSimmang

      T.M., you’ve painted a lovely snippet of these two lives. The true value of friendship, I think you illustrated here, is shouting loudly while the ones we love are unable to catch their breaths.

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        Wow, JR. Thank you so much for your feedback, it means a lot. And I love that: “while the ones we love are unable to catch their breaths.” Profound. <3

    3. JosephFazzone

      Wow! I loved this. A great story of friendship, and the most difficult of times for anyone to face. How they go about doing it is to their discretion. I wonder what the last item on the list will be.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I think I understood why you wrote the conversation as you did. I have listened to imioliar from my identical twin grangdaughters. A word, a certain look, a smile back to a nod, then one word, then a giggle. What I have described is a complete conversation between the two of them, like they spoke in code. It illustrates two minds in total friendship, care and understanding. The reader feels somewhat awkward even being aware of the dialogue and that only makes it so very powerful.

        It is definitely difficult for me to believe you are only twenty, you write much older and take that as a compliment from someone who knows.

        1. Tysheena Jackson

          You’ve got it, Kerry! I was a little nervous putting this one out because of the vagueness and obscurity but I also wanted people to perceive it in whatever manner they want. Your example regarding your granddaughters is exactly how both Jack and Keith’s relationship works. I guess when everything’s been said a hand gesture, a look, and silence are all that’s left.

          I appreciate the compliment as well! I thank God for the gift of writing 🙂

    4. dragonchef

      TJ –
      Such a well written and beautiful capture of friendship, and what it’s like to lose it.
      In my time, I have lost a great many friends from high school and beyond–some to suicide, some to natural causes and some not so natural. What hurts the most is I was never able to say goodbye or what their friendship meant to me. At least Jack was able to say goodbye, in his own way.
      Thank you for the read. It is remarkable.
      I’m sad now – I think I’ll go eat ice-cream.

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        AWW! Dragon, I really hope your sadness was only for a moment. I hope your spirit was lifted soon after. I appreciate you taking the time to read and not only relate to my story, but provide much needed insight. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience the loss of loved ones throughout your life. I have, too, and I can definitely say that the toughest part was not having a proper goodbye. Jack here is readying himself for goodbye, but he’ll make sure the ones he loves most are taken care of first. 🙂 🙂 Xx

  32. Cceynowa

    Watching the Sun Rise

    His last night alive stretched into finality. He sat at the end of the rotting pier and watched the waves break against the jetties in the distance. Farther down the beach, hidden by the dunes, he could hear some of the party goers he had watched earlier retiring to their tents. A few, he suspected, would stay awake as he intended to do in order to watch the sun rise. Seeing the sun rise over the ocean was the last thing on his “bucket list.”

    A bucket list.

    When he first heard the term in the past decade, he had laughed at the irony. Why could humans not see that filling their time with experiences was pointless, especially when they knew they would soon “kicked the bucket” (a term he had first heard in the 1700s in reference to suicide). Their bucket would then be empty at their death. Right? Why equate a life kicked away to one filled with goals? The whole damn thing was a prime example of human stupidity.

    Yet, given his condition, the ridiculousness of a bucket list appealed to him.

    Despite his long existence, he had done very little in the way of experiences. Sure, he had seen the seven wonders, visited Mayan temples, jumped from planes, and even wore a parachute once.

    If he thought really hard on the subject, he could even check off the less noteworthy experiences like falling in love, having children, and making his parents proud of him. But that was a long time ago. Far longer than he cared to remember. Perhaps longer than he deserved to remember.

    “Albus,” a voice called his name. “Don’t Albus.”

    Without turning, he asked, “Why did you come?”

    “I had to. Please. Don’t do this.”

    “I’ve been dead for years. It is time I died.”

    He did not turn to look at the woman when she settled on the pier next to him. He knew every detail of her face, every curve of her body, and every fleck of gold in her eyes. She had been his unchanging companion for over three hundred years. They had long since ceased to be lovers, but their bond was unbreakable.

    “You are still young, Clarisse,” he said. “I do not expect you to understand.”

    She could not remember the last time she had cried, but unbidden the tears began to fall, staining her chest a deep crimson. “Oh, Clarisse,” he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her to his side. “That’s nice. I didn’t expect anyone to cry for me.” He allowed her one final kiss before commanding her to go.

    The sun rose, and he savored the feel of its heat on his cold dead flesh.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      This poor vampire had lived a long life and decided it was his time ago. And like he said, he’s been dead for years. I hope Clarisse can cope with that. Amazing tale, Cceynowa. Xx

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very interesting, and beautifully written, insight into a vampire’s weariness and desire for that one, final experience. Great first and final lines.

    3. dragonchef

      Call me clueless, but it didn’t even dawn on me that this was about a vampire until I read the other comments. Even with him not having heard of “bucket list” since the 1700s; and jumping out of airplanes–once with a parachute; and being a companion to Clarisse for 300 years. and I especially didn’t know vampires cried tears of blood.
      Where is that rock I’ve been sleeping under? -sigh-
      But, I must say, this is a marvelous piece of writing, despite my obliviousness.

  33. JRSimmang

    I think I already surpassed my word allowance, but I had to add this:

    HOLE IN MY BUCKET

    Our dining room table slumped in the middle of our living room. It was the only piece of furniture in the whole of the house, with the exception of one lawn chair and a radio. There was nothing on the radio anymore, nothing like Orson Wells’s The Shadow or Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. I’d even settle for a fireside chat.

    “What’re you doing,” he gruffed. Rex and I had been inseparable since middle school. After my wife left me, he wound up on my doorstep with bottles of something’r’other, a couple pizzas, and the Star Wars legacy. After I slipped into a coma for three days, he watered my plants and let my dogs out. Now, he was my accountability.

    “Staring at my list.”

    “Why?” He joined me at the dining room table and unfolded his camp stool.

    I slid it to him. “What do you notice?”

    He picked it up and studied it.

    “So, what? Do I die now?”

    He snorted. “Get kicked out Harold’s on Main?”

    “Two weeks ago. I tied my tie around my head and danced on a table while singing ‘Fireworks.'”

    That elicited a deep laugh from him. “How did I miss that?”

    “You were out of town with Glen. Pacers v Heat.”

    “Right.”

    “So. Is this where I climb into bed, slip into another coma, and die?”

    He sniffed. “Yep.”

    So, I stood, shook his hand, and went to bed.

    I woke up the next morning. Rex and I met at Market Road for pancakes and coffee.

    I went to bed that night. Woke up the next morning. Rex and I met at Market Road for pancakes and coffee.

    I went to bed that night. And the night after that, and the night after that, and… I never slipped into another coma. The tremor in my hand slowed. Breathing wasn’t as hard for me. Rex took me to my specialist, who was still convinced that I wouldn’t live another couple months but hopeful the PPS was actually starting to work. If, and this was a big if the doctor emphasized, I might outlive Jonathan Simms, whoever that was.

    Two months became ten months. Ten months became a year.

    My house was still barren. But, I figured I’d at least need a microwave. Rex’s knock was easily identified, and it startled me from my daydream.

    “Coming,” I shouted as I stood and opened the door.

    “Still alive, I see,” Rex smiled. “Want some company? I figured we’d go shoot some hoops.”

    “Sure,” I agreed. “Hopefully, I’ll get into the mood once we get to the court.”

    “You can tell me about it on our way.”

    We hopped in his car, and I turned the AC toward me. “You know, I spent all that money, sold my furniture, went to Harold’s, went to the Grand Canyon, kissed someone random downtown, ate the ‘world’s best sundae,’ hopped on a plane and hiked through Machu Pichu, and now, I’m not dead. What do I do now?”

    He stared out the front of the car, signaled, and pulled into a parking spot in front of the courts. Then, he turned to me, and, matter of factly, said, “Make a new list.”

    “Not this time,” I sighed. We played basketball for three hours, then, just like that, I-

    -JR Simmang

  34. JosephFazzone

    She sat against her backpack which was placed against one of the pilings. Her blue sun dress was prim and proper as she sat cross legged, and in her lap, pale, frail hands rested on a blue worn faded spiral notebook. She took a soft slow shallow breath, and hummed out slowly. It was getting harder and harder to breath.

    She could smell the salty air which resonated with that all too familiar brine made it all the sweeter, as did the smell of the rotting fish near the cleaning station at the end of the pier. The waves were calm now, the tide retreated, and she stared in awe of the beauty and serenity.

    The endless expanse of sea swallowed the sun whole as she watched another magnificent sunset. Nature has been hitting that note, rocking it since the beginning of time. She sat there, surrounded by the beauty before her and smiled softly. She opened her notebook. On the first page was her list, fifty-three items, her bucket list, and on the bottom, not yet crossed off was the words, “Witness a sunset at sea.”

    The adventure began the day she got her prognosis. She took her notebook, and wrote out everything she had yet to do that she always wanted to do. By the time she got to this point, she was wasted down to nothing, and she knew that within days she would probably live out her days on a bed. Walking hurt, thinking hurt, breathing hurt, eating hurt, and even smiling hurt. She was weak, and so very tired.

    A flock of pelicans flew low over the waves, she absently wondered if a big wave ever caught a flock of birds by surprise. She imagined the effect would have been comical.

    She looked out at sea. The sun was now below the water line and the darkness began to seep in from the east. It was almost time. With all the strength she could muster, she stood up. She placed her notebook on the top of the piling, and crossed off the last item.

    Leaving the book where it was, she bent down, and opened her backpack. Inside was a length of chain attached to a pair of hand cuffs. She cuffed her ankle, and let out some chain to give her a little slack, and then zipped the backpack. It was stuffed with sand and rocks and weighed more than she could even handle. It took her twenty minutes just to drag it to where it was.

    With the last of her strength, she picked up the backpack, and without another thought, she jumped off the pier.

    The wind blew in, blowing the notebook to sea to join its owner.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Oh my goodness. This is such a heartbreaking read. The imagery manages to convey a lighter tone even until the end. Beautiful yet bitter-sweet, Joseph.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Joseph, your word choices, pale, frail, worn, faded, etc., are so perfect for your MC. I felt her exhaustion, and her resolve. Lovely story.

    3. Witt.Stanton

      This piece perfectly fit the topic. I love your writing style; there was so many emotions conveyed by the word choice and structure alone. Great work setting the scene!

    4. JRSimmang

      How tragic, but I don’t feel tragedy after the story is finished. The MC had completed her mission, and you’ve made us almost happy for her. Pleasant imagery, dreamy tone, well penned.

    5. dragonchef

      Yikes! Now, I like to swim, and I like to scuba dive, but drowning never seemed like a good way to go. But I must say, Joseph, your story left me breathless. 😎
      Wonderfully descriptive – great imagery. I could feel her exhaustion from moving a backpack full of rocks. Oo – and the smell of the fish – ripe!
      Great story. Well done.

    6. Critique

      An amazing little story. The word dichotomy comes to mind: nature in its beauty along with the rotting fish; life and death; pleasure versus pain etc. Beautifully written!

  35. Witt.Stanton

    San Francisco, 1929.

    I hadn’t known her name. It shouldn’t have mattered either way, of course, because she was a nobody. That’s all that matters around here: Nobodies and Somebodies. But that’s just what bothers me the most.

    She used to walk past us every morning. I remember her tattered heels knocking against the pavement as she pulled her dirt-smudged, bone-thin children behind her. It was a sorry sight; they looked even worse off than us. One of my brothers would always knock me upside the head when they caught me staring. I was too boneheaded to see that there really wasn’t a difference between her situation and mine.

    We didn’t have any money, back then. Nobody did. The Great Depression hit everyone below the belt. My father was one of the lucky ones; a few weeks after I was taken out of school, he found work in the cities. We never saw much of him after that. I didn’t mind much, though, since I wasn’t old enough to understand how a normal family was supposed to work.

    Anyways, whenever she walked by, my oldest brother would run out and join her. He got paid ten cents an hour to watch her kids. It was a slick gig, really. She worked as a maid in the hotel across the street. Everyday, she managed to scrape enough money together to pay my brother. He was always bragging about it, too.

    And so it went until the day my older brother got sick. The rest of us tried to help him, of course, but he took his time dying. At first he was throwing up right and left and then, once everything was emptied, his lungs gave up. It was only when he began throwing up blood that we finally realized he was really going to die.

    With one man down, my brothers stopped playing cards. They stopped goofing around with me. They stopped treating me like the kid I was supposed to be. We needed money; we had nothing. When my brother finally kicked it, the old woman who he used to work for kept paying us the ten cents. My brothers told her not to, but they quickly pocketed it all the same.

    There’s not much more to tell: I grew up, I found a job, I survived. While we do everything we can to distract ourselves from it, death is the one thing that screws us all over. In the end, it doesn’t matter if who we are; sometimes, it’s the nameless Nobodies that matter the most. Now, as grey hair seeps at my temples, I only wish I knew how to thank her.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very effective description of an era in just a few sentences. I like that the Nobody became an important Somebody to the brothers.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The skill you used to write this kind of story is very difficult to pin pont. It’s a natural affinity for people who suffer something as difficult as the world depression of the 20’s and most of the 30’s. You certainly nailed it.

    2. dragonchef

      Witt: If you didn’t live through this yourself, then you must have through a past incarnate. You were definitely there, and we were there with you in this moving tale of the depression era. When the brother became sick I thought it was contracted from the woman or one of her kids. But, it must have been consumption. Thank you for this time travel. In this day and age of plenty, it is all too easy to forget the roots that brought us here.
      -Dragonchef-

  36. jhowe

    Penny Digby sat in the middle of a massive leather sofa and gawked at the lush décor. Her cousin Dwight was at her left and her cousin Rita was on her right. Dwight couldn’t hide his unpleasant smile as Penny’s Uncle Arlington’s lawyer cleared his throat. Rita dabbed at nonexistent tears with a lace handkerchief. The three of them were the only heirs of one of the richest men in America.

    As the lawyer droned on about the estate, the employees that maintained his properties, the multitude of businesses and whatever else was said, Penny mused about the charities that would benefit from any and all inheritance proceeds that might come her way. She was comfortable and didn’t need the money. Her late husband had surprised her with a hefty life insurance policy that took some of the sting off his passing.

    “Miss Digby?” the lawyer said. “Did you hear what I said?”

    She blushed. “No, I’m sorry. I was daydreaming I’m afraid.” She glanced at her cousins who eyed her with obvious contempt.

    “Your uncle wants you to complete his bucket list.”

    Alone in her living room with a glass of Pinot Noir, Penny opened the letter.

    Dear Penny,
    I want to start by saying I regret never having children of my own, but you have brought me much joy over the years. Rita and Dwight, as you’ve probably noted, are not happy campers. They will be comfortable, but I want you to complete the last item on my list. I’m leaving you the bulk of my estate to do something extraordinary. I want you to start a foundation in my name. I’ll leave it to you to decide the beneficiaries but I suggest you diversify and spread the wealth as you see fit. I know of your fondness for animals and children and I suspect your aim will be generous where they are concerned. I trust you Penny, with all my heart, and I hope you enjoy this endeavor.
    Remember me always, Arlington Jaffe

    Penny carefully folded the letter as a tear rolled down her cheek. She sipped her wine and went to the window. Neighborhood boys played basketball in the Cox’s driveway. Old Mr. Bates walked by with his dachshund. She thought of global warming, the plight of the polar bear, the children of Mozambique. So much for early retirement.

    1. JRSimmang

      J, have you seen “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries?” This rings of Phryne Fisher, the diction and desire to do good. You’ve presented us with a unique character in so few words, and something tells me this isn’t her last story.

    2. MoiraiTQ

      This reminds me of the Find the Objects type games on social media. While I love those, the timed aspect of them gets me every time.

      I do love your story. Don’t get me wrong. I want to read more.

    3. dragonchef

      Looks like her wish was granted.
      What do ya think – will she actually use all that money for charities? Or will billions of dollars at her disposal work its evil magic on her?
      And now . . . for the rest of the story . . .

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I also hunger for more, John. What a great launching pad for not only a book but for a series of novels. You have the perfect MC you’ce created here. Now please use her when ever you can.

    4. JosephFazzone

      I loved this. Penny has got my deepest respect. I love that she was more about selfless acts than herself. And the acknowledgement and trust given to her by the late Arlington was humbling. It’s a real good story, J! I loved it!

  37. MoiraiTQ

    It’s my heart. My heart is broken. Not that kind of broken. I am surrounded by my loved ones and am feeling very loved. My heart is broken because of genetics and too many years of soft living.

    My name is Sam. I’ve always wanted to go into space. However, when the space race started it was only men who could be astronauts. By the time the great Sally Ride went into space, I was too old to start the program. I lived in space through everyone else who had gone and was already in space. I watched all the space related TV shows and movies. I read most of the books. I just wanted to go into space before I died. By the 2000s, I had come to terms that I would stay on earth for the rest of my life. I was neither wealthy enough, nor young enough.

    I’ve got everything checked off my bucket list that is feasible. I’ve enjoyed pottery and wanted to learn how to throw clay. I made an urn for my ashes to give to my family. I learned how to blow glass and made a small round, red ball. Overall, I’ve lived a good life and had a great family.

    My last one as yet to be done, to go into space. I just won’t be alive when it happens. I know I only have a matter of days, but I’ve already signed the paperwork to be cremated and some of my ashes flown into space. It’s about the same price as a funeral, so it works for me. I just have to do my part. I need to die.

    1. dragonchef

      Great wish, Moira! Great place to spread your ashes (why didn’t I think of that?).
      That would be so cool. I wonder how much that would cost.
      Nice story. Hope Sam doesn’t rush the matter.

        1. MoiraiTQ

          It is Moirai for the Fates. TQ is for an iphone-only GPS game we play. It is called Traveler’s Quest.

          To answer your question about the cost. Right around $5K to go up for 3 minutes and back. Then the ashes are given back to the family.

      1. MoiraiTQ

        Thank you very much DragonChef. She only has a few days, so she’ll hang on long enough to irritate those family members who don’t like her and too soon for those who’ll miss her terribly!

      1. MoiraiTQ

        I debated writing two, one with cremation and the other with being frozen. I was picturing the episode of TNG when Data unfroze the three people from the 1980s.

  38. Anniexoxo

    I lean back and stretch out until my back touches the warm grass, and as I lay down, I feel pretty. This might not seem important to you, but let me tell you one thing: it is for me. Actually, it is not easy to die when you’re sixteen. Sweet sixteen turned bittersweet for me, but at least I have kept and enhanced its sweetness until the end and soaked up its enchanting high. I feel accomplished, pretty, and peaceful as I pull a small, folded piece of paper from my pocket.

    – LOVE!

    It’s the last word on the list, an imperative written is bold red, followed by a chubby exclamation mark. The check mark is still missing. It is the last word on my things-to-do-before-I-die list.

    When I wrote it down, I wasn’t even sure what to expect from it. Love had always been the great mystery out there, the one thing I couldn’t seem to grasp, this contradiction that caused more pain than anything else while making one lust and hunger for it. It was promising, and I wanted to know it. I had dreamed about it too much, and now it was time to catch it and live it to its fullest.

    The only problem here was that love isn’t something you just go do or buy your ticket to. I was sure that I could never accept my dying young if I hadn’t truly and fully loved before I was going to close my eyes forever. There was just this one problem: according to the doctors, I had 5 months left. At first, this seemed like nothing, but in the end, it turned into everything, because it was all I had left. I had five months to learn how to, find, and give love.

    Was there a way to make someone fall for the dying girl? I know, there is no way to make anyone love somebody at all, but I was determined to find the one who could open his heart to me, and I was sure I would know immediately when our paths crossed. I did when I met you. In an instant, I sensed that you weren’t afraid of death, who was sitting on your shoulder just as he was on mine.

    I stretch my arm a little to get a hold of your cold fingers. Our skin meeting shoots sparks through my worn body, and I swear my heart skips a beat. I am not scared.
    I turn my head and look in your beautiful deep eyes that are turning glassy.
    “Don’t!” I say as I wipe your tear away.
    You smile.
    And then, you roll over, your watery eyes not letting go of mine. Slowly, you lean in to kiss me. I soak it up and breathe it in. You are all mine, and I am all yours. There’s just here and now.
    Our lips unite, melt into each other. We become one.
    Now, I’m ready.

    LOVE! Checked.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      You’ve done something here, Annie. This coming of age tale is tender and oh so bitter-sweet! I try to stay away from stories like these, especially the ones that are done right, because I know my heart will just get ripped into shreds. Wonderful. Just wonderful!

  39. dragonchef

    It isn’t time yet,” Jenny said aloud. “Not yet. There are still some items on my list that I haven’t accomplished, so I can’t go yet.” She waved the ragged paper in the air.

    “I refuse to go. End of story. So you can just go take a coffee break. Take a powder. Something. Just get away from me!”

    A sound, something akin to a sigh, filled the room.

    Jenny’s face turned red. “What do you mean I don’t have a choice? I have a choice. This is my life and I will say when it’s time. That’s my choice. Got it?”

    Another sigh, but it was chopped, like laughing.

    Her eyes went wide. Jenny looked at the man sleeping in the chair next to the window, then back to the empty space at the end of her bed.

    “Don’t you dare! You are here for me, not Foster. He’s healthy.

    “What is this, a game to you?”

    The sigh was more like a hiss this time.

    “I don’t care about your stupid quota. Or your contest. Just because you can’t have me yet doesn’t mean you can take Foster instead.”

    Jenny folded her arms across her chest in defiance, and smiled. “And we both know you can’t.”

    And now the sigh was more like a snort.

    Jenny raised her eyebrows, uncrossed her arms, sat up and looked at her paper.

    “Well, there’s coffee and beignets at Café au Lait.”

    A quick snort.

    “Mango margaritas in Cabo?”

    Another quick snort.

    “Chasing penguins in the Antarctic. Running with the bulls in Pamplona. Skinny dipping in a Yucatan cenote.”

    Three consecutive quick and loud sigh snorts.

    Jenny slammed her paper down on her lap. “When? When did I already do those things?”

    Back to a sigh—a long, very long soft sigh.

    Jenny looked down and forlorn at her paper. “I see.”

    “Damn this tumor.” Tears slid down her face. “Damn it! It’s not fair. I can’t remember.”

    She wiped the tears away, but they kept coming.

    She looked over the list, and then turned the page over. On the back was one more item.

    Between sobs she asked, “What about this one?” And she held paper in the air.

    There was another sigh.

    Jenny smiled.

    “Oh good. Will I remember it?”

    Then she lay back on her bed, and nestled her head into the pillow.

    “Forever. That’s nice.”

    Jenny closed her eyes for the last time.

    The sound from the heart monitor woke Foster and he rushed to Jenny’s side. She was smiling in her sleep, her deep forever sleep. And he cried.

    Foster recovered after a time, then bent forward and kissed her lips.

    He picked the paper up from her lap and looked over her list. He remembered doing all the things on the list with her. Those were some great times. Together, he and Jenny finished her list – all but the one on the back. This he could not do.

    Soar across the night sky and touch every star.

    1. Paul Grignon

      Hi Dragonchef,

      Read your intriguing story and loved the last line. Was…was it a pact with the Devil, much like Faust? Not sure. I think ‘list’ was mentioned a tad too much, but other than that, you can feel Jenny’s angst and confusion and desire to live, but ultimately succumbing to her eventual blissful state.

      Do let me know if I am incorrect in my interpretation. And thank you so much for commenting on my own small tale. I appreciate it!

      Take care,
      Paul

      1. dragonchef

        Hi Paul –
        In my mind the invisible entity was a reaper. I thought about mentioning it in there but in the end I left it unspoken so the readers could make their own decision as to what/who it was. Perhaps I was mistaken. The “Show don’t tell” rule came to mind all too late.

        I agree: A few too many Lists in that last paragraph.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.

        Write-on, Dude!

      1. dragonchef

        Hi Pardeep –
        Thanks for commenting – much appreciated. Read the comment I posted for Paul above as to what I saw talking to Jenny.
        Thanks again.

    2. Cceynowa

      This is a really beautiful take on this prompt. Writing a literal argument with death caused me to smile, despite knowing what the eventual end must be. Well done, and thank you for sharing.

  40. Rapunzel

    [Ok. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale.]

    She stands on the sidewalk and stares down the pink house. The ultimate boss level. The last thing on her bucket list.

    [Ok. Snap out of it Hailey. You bungee jumped. You wrestled a gator. You climbed a mountain. You sky-dived. You even went to china and ate a cockroach. This should be nothing. This is just…..mom…..and her cooking…….Oh god I’m going to puke.]

    [Ok no. Get it together. You’re dying. It’s literally now or never. Maybe she won’t even take it that bad. I mean her baby is dying. So an insult would be the least of her problems, right?]

    [Right?]

    [Where’s the voice inside my head when I need it?]

    Just as she’s freaking out, a little kid in a tricycle drives up to her and watches her panic.

    “Why you crying?” the kid asks in song.

    “I’m not crying.” Hailey corrected the kid. “I’m freaking out man. How am I suppose to tell my mom that her cooking sucks and that her fashion sense makes her look fat?” She took a deep breath. “I haven’t even told her I’m sick.” She turns to the kid who just blinks in response. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

    The kid looks at the house and then looks back at her. “Your mommy is the lady that lives in there?”

    “Yes.” She sighed.

    “She scary.”

    “Yeah. yeah she is.”

    “Are you crying?”

    “I am Not crying.” Hailey emphasized the ‘not’ because she was in fact crying a bit. She took another deep breath and turned to the kid, who again just blinked in response. “Is there anyway you can tell her for me?”

    The kid blinked and cycled away.

    [Might as well be a sign on the lawn that says: Turn around if you value your life.]

    [Ok. In and out. Like a drive-by. Just get in, say it, and run out. Ok. You can do this. Just like wrestling a gator.]

    She marched herself to the front door and knocked. She heard the footsteps on the other side of the door as well as her mother’s voice saying, “Coming!” Sweating by the gallons but Hailey stood her ground and readied herself to enter the kill zone as the door opened.

  41. pven

    “Was the last 500 feet supposed to be that easy?” Sam asked breathlessly.

    “Compared to the rest of the wall? The last 500 feet is a cakewalk!” Spencer laughed and embraced Sam. “Dude! You just scaled El Capitan! How do you feel?”

    “Exhilarating! My muscles are a little sore.”

    “No doubt. You were working it! We’ll make a rock climber out of you yet!”

    Sam turned to look over Yosemite Valley. He and Spencer had spent the better part of the day scaling El Capitan. Now, with the sun dipping below the horizon, the Cathedral Spires were highlighted with tones of fire and soot, and the Merced River became an onyx ribbon in the valley below.

    “It’s beautiful. Totally worth a day of my life.”

    Spencer nodded. “It is that.”

    Sam sat down and shuffled to the cliff’s edge. He watched as the cars lining the Yosemite Valley Drive started turning on their lights, creating a steady line of amber and snow.

    “I read somewhere that, on average, people spend about 4 hours in Yosemite.”

    “Huh,” Spencer grunted.

    “That means that for everyone spending a day here, there’s another person who drives up to the edge of the park, looks in and says: ‘OK, now I’ve seen that,’ and drives away.”

    “Crazy, man.”

    “I want to stay here forever.”

    Spencer smiled. The two sat on the granite cliff while the sun disappeared behind them and stars coalesced into constellations.

    “Well, I’ve gotta get back,” Spencer said, raising his hands to his temple.

    “Not yet,” pleaded Sam. “I mean, can I have a little more time?”

    “Sure,” said Spencer, nodding once. “A moment.” Then he disappeared.

    The waning crescent moon peeked over Half Dome. Sam watched as it pulled itself into the night sky, illuminating only the tops of the peaks around him. Then, slowly, the sky flouresced, drowning out the stars, the moon, and the valley below. Granite cliffs were replaced with white drywall, and the night sky with a backlit image of a blooming cherry tree branch and a single cloud set in cerulean blue. The wind became punctuated with the incessant beeps of multiple medical monitors. The antiseptic smell of the hospital’s acute care wing cut through the crisp air Sam had imagined.

    Two nurses attempted to keep a close eye on Sam while maintaining a discreet distance. After his last two sessions, the separation from Virtual Reality had been too much for Sam to handle. The first time he had broken down for hours, thrashing and screaming and refusing any aid. After the last session he had been nearly suicidal, attempting to separate himself from the machines that kept him both alive and imprisoned. Sam’s caregivers had requested that Spencer not return, but scaling El Capitan had been the final wish on Sam’s list, and Spencer had been determined to grant it.

    Spencer was watching Sam pretty closely also. “I’ve got to get back,” he apologized.

    “I know,” Sam said. He watched Spencer pack the VR kit back into its crate. “Thank you for doing this.”

    Spencer brightened. “Not a problem, dude. This was cool.” He shook Sam’s hand a little too hard, jostling the IV lines in his arm. Sam did his best not to wince.

    “Spencer? You know how you said you could make a rock climber out of me?”

    Spencer nodded.

    “You mean that?”

    “Of course, dude!” Spencer said. This was what Sam loved about the man. Everyone else looked at the machines looming over him and gave the best false reassurances they could muster. Spencer never focused on anything but Sam. “I’ll talk with the doc; we’ll see what therapy we can work on in here. Give those muscles of yours a real workout! And when you get out, you come on over to the gym and we’ll get you on our wall. It’s no El Capitan,” he grinned, and Sam couldn’t help but smile back. “But it’s a good start.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      A very creative approach to the prompt. Your characters are very well developed, as is the landscape. What a great way to finish a list, and have hope for the future.

  42. Paul Grignon

    .Dear Reader,

    The view, as you can see, is always spectacular, but never more so in late October, high above the town of Sedona.

    This is the last of my bucket list, the last scrap of paper left in my actual bucket. Nothing special, really. Just an old tin can with a bent handle, found at the local ‘Take It or Leave It’ shed in the recycling center.

    Over the years of retirement, I had packed this pail on all my journeys, setting it on the night stand in whatever hotel or B & B I happened to stay at. And over time, watching as the little slips dwindled, each one carefully removed and unfolded, revealing a new adventure.

    Which has led me here, to this precipice in red rock country, a dazzling last chance glance at this particular slice of worldly magnificence.

    I hoist my old bones to my feet, clasping the remnants of a $200 bottle of Macallan 25 year old scotch. (Extravagant, perhaps, but it is after all, my last drink.) Drank most of it on the way up and now, standing on the lip of the world, I embrace the mountain air and take another long warm swallow of the sweet amber liquid.

    ‘Another dead soldier, Hank,’ I say aloud, looking at the empty bottle, devoid of its rich color, now hollow and fragile, much like me. I put it near my rucksack and pick up the tin bucket, placing it on the edge of the cliff.

    I stand as erect as my wracked body can allow, and gaze out into the brilliant sunset, the rocks aglow on one side and deep indigo shadows to my left. The sun will soon fade, leaving behind in its absence mere silhouettes of once vibrant, colorful, lively things.

    I look down at my empty bucket one last time and give it a gentle nudge, sending it tumbling into the shadowed ravine far below.

    ‘Kicked the bucket,” I chuckle aloud, watching it disappear.

    I step closer to the edge, my feet finding purchase on crumbling real estate and cool mountain air, my arms outstretched from each side, take a deep breath, and give one last look at nature’s beauty.
    Following my well-traveled tin can, I pitch forward and fall into the void, welcoming its darkness.

    I had a good life. I wanted you to know that.

    With gratitude,
    Henry ‘Hank’ Devlin

    1. dragonchef

      Yo Paul – Nice imagery. Great drama. Well written.
      Dude was lucky he could make it to the top in that drunken stupor.
      Was he actually dying? Or anxious to die?
      Thanks for the read.

    2. pven

      Good exposition leaving us with a clear picture of the MC.
      I would suggest that you excise the next to last paragraph of this letter. A)it’s not necessary; I would posit that our minds can fill in that gap. B) More importantly, that paragraph either makes Hank extremely pretentious writing about his death “as it happens”, or it yanks us out of the narrative for duration of the paragraph.
      Two cents.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      I enjoyed reading this, appreciated the actual bucket and the description of the landscape. Very well done. I agree with pven on the ending.

    4. Tysheena Jackson

      Wow. Poetic. Simple. Dark. I love the symbolism in your story, Paul. And I would have to wonder the same as @dragonchef, was he a dying man spiritually or physically? Great job.

    5. RafTriesToWrite

      Wow Paul! I loved the descriptions you’ve put here, really spot on, colorful and vibrant. What a really remarkable writing prowess you have here. It felt like I was reading your piece from a hard bound published book.

      “The sun will soon fade, leaving behind in its absence mere silhouettes of once vibrant, colorful, lively things.” Was my favorite part.

      Hope to see your other works soon. Thanks for sharing.

    6. JosephFazzone

      Great perspective. I loved the line about Mac 25…good stuff that! I was a bit confused by the dying in real time, and the signature at the end. Was this all the contents of a letter? Sorry, loved it, but I think I was a bit thrown by that.

  43. Pardeep Kaur

    Henna is a ten years old orphan. She is blind.Someon left her near the orphanage when she was only two years old. The orphanage is very small to give shelter to fifty kids. However, they are fifty seven. She never complains about anything that others hate in the orphanage. She lives in her own world and no one knows what she feel about such life. She has not talked to anyone ever since she learned that she is going to die soon. Miss Wilma(30) tried so many times to know if Henna wants her to do something for her. However, Henna asks for nothing but “When am I going to die?”. Her soft voice disturbs miss Wilma and she tries to find a different answer every time.
    Henna has a collection of a seashell, a feather, a round pebble, a mirror, a bell and a white paper and a candle. She always keeps them in her satchle. It confuses miss Wilma as she doesn’t understand why she has collected these things.
    Other children are affraid of her as they believe that she is a witch. This is the first reason why they stopped showing her sympathy. They want her to leave the orphanage. But miss Wilma has always been kind to her. She really wants to know what is going in her mind. She wants to help her.
    One day, on a winter evening, miss Wilma notices her placing the objects , on a desk. She is feeling each one with her little fingers. Miss Wilma asks her,”what are you doing Henna?” This time, contrary to miss Wilma’s expectation, she tells her in an innocent voice,” These are the things I always wonder about how they look. I wish I would be able to see them in my next life if they are burried with me.” Miss Wilma gulps her emotions as she doesn’t want Henna to know that she is weeping. Henna gives her the white paper and says, “Can you draw a rainbow for me?” Miss Wilma takes the paper from her hand and hugs her without saying anything. She leaves the room quietly.
    That night, miss Wilma goes in her room to say her good night. But this time she doesn’t get a reply. Henna has gone. Miss Wilma bursts into tears as she places the drawing under her little soft hand.

    1. dragonchef

      Pardeep –
      Not really a “Bucket-List” story, but still, it’s a moving one. Heartfelt. Emotional.
      Guess she never got her rainbow picture.
      Thank you for the stroy.

  44. writer_sk

    She could smell the salt air the closer they got to the ocean and closing her eyes brought her right back to the summers of her childhood, when mom would drive the old Volkswagen down the same roads commenting on the loons sitting in the marsh. Agnes hadn’t feared death, a devout Catholic, she would ascend to Heaven where Saint Peter would lead her to her husband who had predeceased her…but still, dying was not appealing.

    When they’d rented the dumpster the previous Fall it arrived in a quick uneventful way. The man with the tow truck had Savannah sign some documents and Agnes had put the credit card back in her purse thinking Savannah would push the wheelchair back inside for her and they’d have at least a cup of coffee before they started but her daughter was all business.

    “We’ll start in the basement straight away, Ma.” she nodded, distracted by the task ahead.

    Agnes wheeled the unfamiliar beast forward, the birds catching her attention in the birdbath nearby. She thought it beautiful and odd that they had come even with the huge tow truck. The robin put her beak in first then glided smoothly across the liquid and shook her feathers out before doing it again, fearless and graceful.

    Savannah worked with her sleeves up and her straight black hair pinned up beneath an old bandana. They were cleaning out the house prior to Agnes’s death so that she could decide what would be kept, what would go to family and what was an just another piece of her life that was disposable.

    She was by no means an untidy person, in fact, the basement went fast, it was the kitchen pantry and front porch that took some time. Upstairs, Agnes took out her photo albums. She knew the diaries were below them and felt Savannah would love to read from them. She had left the chair at the landing and walked up to the box but now she couldn’t manage bringing it back down without the stupid wheelchair. She chuckled at herself.

    Her daughter carried the items as they walked companionably all the way down and out to the breezeway. Agnes had always favored the comfort of the screened in breezeway to the open-air porch. The breezeway was private and protected while the porch was exposed to the street and your back was nearly flat up against the house if you sat in the chairs facing front looking directly at the world with no barrier and no shield.

    The real iced tea her daughter brought was perfect. She’d put in the nice straw with the long spoon, the real wedge of lemon and the teaspoon of sugar. They ate a turkey sandwich and looked at the photo albums. Stephen would be there when he got off work and Agnes laughed from her belly at the photo of when Stephen and Savannah had washed the car and were covered in soap suds head to toe. Her children were so sweet and she was truly blessed.

    The diary rang bittersweet and nostalgic as she and her daughter lay in the hammock scanning the old pages. The passages told tales of great milestones, small adventures and life lessons. They came to the page containing a folded paper. Agnes sighed. She hadn’t liked the idea of a bucket list but her husband had written one and years later she’d made a feeble attempt.

    Charles, her husband and the doting father of her two kids, had an affinity for sharp pencils and she always joked with him about his pretentious electric sharpener he kept in the drawer of the spare room but didn’t hesitate to steal the elegant utensils, sharp and ready to conquer but containing the requisite pink eraser, built in and convenient for correcting human error. Agnes’s bucket list was crossed off in crisp pencil. The three things were simple: Eat pasta in Italy- which she’d done with her family and taken her parents along to boot, attend the Olympic games, she and her close friend, Ebony had gone as their trip to kick off their retirement and the final item was to try water skiing. She had written that one down half joking but it was an idea she had had to get out of her comfort zone. As a teenager Agnes had accompanied her neighbor to a family picnic on a lake. The girls all had black, pink and bright orange bikinis and the boys had golden tans and wore their orange lifeguarding shorts. Agnes had worn a full piece plain checkered bathing suit with cut-off shorts, tennis shoes and a baseball hat and she had no clue of how to water ski. The girls all skied the lake, expertly spinning, whooshing and finally letting go and swimming to the dock. The boys were even more athletic, staying upright and flexing their arms. Agnes had sat in the same spot on the little speed boat for what felt like hours wishing she was one of those girls especially when one of the lifeguard types put his arm around one and kissed her forehead. Later they ate cheeseburgers at picnic tables and Agnes got stung by a hornet. She tried not to cry but the hot tears dripped down her face washing away her eyeliner and her dignity.

    Now, the ocean roared, vast and cool. Agnes loved the ocean and the beach sand felt soft beneath her tired feet. The wheelchair would never roll over the beach sand but a strong and cheerful Stephen smiled at her.

    “Don’t worry, Mom, we have something for you.”

    Without warning, he lifted her up and carried her onto the small jetty that bordered the channel where the ocean deposited some of its calmer waters. Here the water flowed nicely and the setup of the little boat was just perfect. It didn’t feel strange to be carried by her son. To Agnes, it felt natural. He kissed her cheek and placed her in the special wheelchair. She looked down. Her water skis were her favorite color – ocean blue. The boat went up and down the channel, Agnes closed her eyes and thought of all she had, listening to the laughter of her daughter, the sweet soundtrack of her life. She didn’t wish to be anyone anywhere else.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Beautiful story, beautiful telling. So glad she got that final wish. I was especially moved by the way Agnes planned her house clearing/cleaning. My mother started some similar before Alzheimer’s claimed her.

  45. cosi van tutte

    “I’m sorry, Peter. You’re dying.”

    Everyone is doomed to die. Some will be old. Some will be young. Some will never take their first breath. Yet, despite that fact, I never expected to hear those words said right to my face. “I’m sorry. You’re dying.”

    It made everything seem so frivolous and inconsequential. All of those arguments. Road rage. How much I hate the White Sox.

    Peter looked down at the diamond pattern on his hospital gown. What should I say? I guess I should be upset. It is one of those big, sob your guts out moments. I could probably get away with wailing “Why me?” fifty-five hundred times.

    But all he could say was, “Oh, really?” in a mild, disinterested voice.

    That didn’t quite sound like me.

    The doctor frowned. “Peter. If you want to weep and rail—”

    “No. I’m. I’m good. I’m gonna go home.” He shook the doctor’s hand. “Thank you.”

    The doctor gave him a list of names and numbers, but Peter had no idea who they all were much less why the doctor thought he’d need to call any of them.

    I don’t have a bucket list.

    I thought that was for old people.

    For dying people.

    I never thought of myself as a dying people. I always thought of myself as vibrantly alive. Strong heart.
    Strong head.

    Peter shivered. But I am a dying people.

    NO!

    Not people.

    Person.

    An individual.

    Me.

    I’m dying.

    “Do you have any questions?”

    Will it hurt when I take my last breath?

    Will I know that it’s my last breath?

    Will I be counting them down?

    Will I feel the struggle of life versus death?

    Will my life really flash before my eyes?

    And, most important of all, what comes after that very last breath? When the light leaves my eyes, what will I see?

    Peter shook his head. “I just want to go home.”

    The doctor reiterated his phone list of mystery people and talked of etceteras.

    Peter didn’t hear a word of it.

    ***

    By the time Peter came home, night had fallen. There was no moon and the stars were hidden.

    He hung up his coat, shluffed off his shoes, and went up to bed.

    But he didn’t go to bed.

    He changed into his sensible, comfortable pajamas and walked out onto his balcony.

    He looked up at the night sky, searching for a familiar face.

    A long forgotten pattern in the blackened blue sky.

    But the stars were hidden and the night was cold.

    He sighed.

    I don’t know what I was expecting.

    It’s been too long.

    Although I’m not that old, it has been too many years.

    He turned to go back inside.

    The balcony doors were shut.

    And a yellow ball of light stood fiercely on the door handle.

    A well-sharpened sewing needle shined bright in her hands.

    Her?

    Her.

    Peter gasped.

    Her!

    “Tink.”

    She floated up to his face and spoke in her chime-like voice.

    “But I can’t. I’m too old.”

    She eye-rolled and called him a derogatory term for a donkey.

    He smiled.

    Her glow brightened.

    “Okay. Let’s give it a try. If I fall, I fall. If not, I fly.”

    She blew him a kiss and some of her glow covered him.

    He closed his eyes and thought of his happiest memories.

    He didn’t think about if’s or tries, he trusted that it would happen. He had faith.

    He could no longer feel the ground beneath his feet.

    Peter opened his eyes and he saw it.

    He smiled.

    I can see it.

    “The second star on the right and straight on till morning.”

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thank you!

        I started the story with the main character being a random guy named Peter, but then I thought “Huh. That would take it into a much more interesting direction if it were Peter Pan.” I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😀

    1. dragonchef

      Pretty cool, Cosi. Careful, though – you were changing POV from quite often.
      And why were the stars not visible on a clear blue-black sky? Normally on a clear moonless night the stars are brilliant. Did I miss something? Or could Peter just not see the stars?

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thank you, dragon!

        Sorry if it felt like I was jumping POV. I would have put his thought in italics, but I have bad luck with that.

        As for the stars question, yeah. Peter just couldn’t see the stars. Or if you want to look at it another way, he couldn’t find the stars he was looking for. 🙂

        1. dragonchef

          Ah! Explains a lot. Thanks,
          You could use an HTML editor, I think, to format your mss. and keep your italics. This is after all a web page. Word

          1. dragonchef

            Hmm. Seems I cannot show you what they are because they disappear when I hit submit. Copy and paste this into your address bar: pd.clcillinois.edu/docs/basic_html.pdf

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Cosi, another great one. I liked the way Peter’s thoughts and internal dialogue moved the story. I think most of his questions and concerns would be shared by many readers. Loved the ending.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thank you, Reatha!

        I just imagined how scary it would be to be told that you are dying and the sort of unspoken questions that would cross a person’s mind. The kind of questions that can’t really be answered without dying.

  46. SonniKahn

    “Last one – are you ready?”

    I nod and hand him the pillbox. He pops open the blue-tinted cap. The faded white scroll says, “27”. I tried my best to come up with 31 items for my bucket list, one for each little compartment of the monthly organizer, but 27 felt like plenty.

    I didn’t want to push my luck.

    He fishes out the lavender paper, a piece of my wife’s old stationary. I’d been hanging on to a half-used pad of it since the funeral. The contrast of the dreamy purple against his grungy hands as he works to unfold the tiny square makes me smile and ache; there is no work more important on this Earth than the serious, dirty play of a child. And Grady, my grandson, puts in long hours on our family farm.

    I miss roaming all that wide open space like he does, but really, I’m just grateful my son took it over. I’m even more grateful his wife took me over, let me come back here to die.
    He squints to make out my scrawl; the tremor in my hands has gotten bad. “Return The Goonies to Blockbuster.”

    He looks at me. “What are Goonies and Blockbuster?”

    I laugh and tousle his hair, the same color of harvest-ready wheat on a good year. “It’s a movie, and a store in town you can borrow them from. Like a library.”

    “Can I watch it first?”

    “You could ask your mom, but I bet she’d say no.”

    He frowns. “Why haven’t you taken it back yet?”

    I pause. It’s a good question, one I haven’t been able to answer in more than 30 years. I’ve had it since the EMT that responded to the scene handed it to me. He said Brandy wouldn’t let it go, that she said over and over that I’d be mad if it was late. They let her hold it on the gurney. I bet they don’t usually do that when there’s hope, when they need everything out of the way and all hands on deck because they’ve got a life in front of them that they can save.

    She was dying, and in those last moments she worried about making me mad. What kind of a father did that make me?

    “Grandpa? Are you sad?”

    I smile at him and don’t bother to wipe away the tears. I learned more in that moment that I took possession of that rented movie than I’d ever learned in school, but it still isn’t easy to let go of the tape, knowing it was the last thing she’d ever touched. Knowing it connected her to me in a way, even if it was a way that made me stare hard at an ugly truth.

    I let Grady drop the tape in the return box, a hundred dollar bill tucked in the case. I’m not sure if it settles my debt there, but no matter. I’m free.

  47. Steph

    Judy Bilby Had just celebrated her 39th birthday yesterday. It was now the evening of June 10th, as her and her husband James sat on their southern California patio, watching the sun fade over the horizon. When Judy was 18 years old, she created a bucket list and vowed to complete it before she turned 40. She had flown in a hot air balloon over rolling, quilted fields at sunrise. She had visited Japan and learned a second language. She married her high school sweetheart and together, they built their dream home.
    She completed her bucket list before turning 40. What should have been a moment of fond memories and recollections between Judy and her husband though, was a moment of silence that neither of them knew how to break. Judy sat, staring at her list, tattered, dirty and yellowed with age, every item marked with a check.
    Judy broke the silence with her whispered words, “You know, I completed my list 2 years early. I was excited. I thought this meant we could make a new list together.” James began, “we can love. We have,” “No. We don’t have time. Stop telling me there’s time.” Judy interrupted. A month ago, Judy finally met with her doctor regarding the headaches that had been increasing in length and severity since February. The doctor found a large and aggressive tumor penetrating her brain and surrounding her spinal cord. “james”, Judy said. “I’m not gone yet. I want to add one more thing to my list. I’m going skydiving. If I’m going to heaven soon, I’d like to get a closer look before I go. Please let me do this alone.” And James agreed.
    July 4th, The Bilby’s arrived for Judy’s jump. She tucked a note in James’ pocket and told him to read it when she lands. She kissed him and boarded the plane. As the plane reached altitude, the jump door opened, but Judy didn’t wait for the go-ahead. She had no intention of ever opening her parachute. Judy did everything in life her own way, and death was granted no exception. Within minutes, Judy had landed in a forest, over a mile from the landing target, and she was gone.
    That night, James opened the note in his pocket.

    My loving husband,
    I know you are broken right now, but I’m not gone. My love for you wasn’t in my physical body. It is in your heart, and will remain there forever. Going blind, needing diapers, seizures, and a painful death…. Those things aren’t me, and I couldn’t let you remember me as such. I chose this day for a reason. My bucket list is in our nightstand. You’ll need to cross the last one off for me, but I did it. My list is completed, down to the very last item. Dying.
    Love Always,
    Your Firecracker

    P.S. The fireworks are beautiful from up here. I love you, James.

    1. dragonchef

      Steph –
      Chills. I actually have chills. Such a bitter sweet story.
      Love the fireworks at the end. But I knew what she was going to do the moment “Skydiving” as revealed. Still, it was really well written, and very moving.
      Thanks for read.

        1. dragonchef

          It wasn’t a direct give-away, but it was a great foreshadow. One of those, “I had a feeling that was going to happen” things.
          For a first-timer you are one to watch for. Looking forward to your next post.
          -dragonchef

          1. dragonchef

            Try hinting at it.
            <>

            Try something like this:
            <>

            Just food for thought

            Also, while I don’t know you or your belief system, in some circles committing suicide will not get one to heaven.

          2. dragonchef

            Oops – my hints didn’t quite make it on page.
            Sorry
            “I’m not gone yet. I want to add one more thing to my list, and I think I really need to do it now. And I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I need to do this alone.”

          3. Steph

            That’s a fantastic idea! Thank you for the example. As for my beliefs, I am Christian. I have been taught that suicide is an unforgiveable sin. However I have wondered many times, is it considered suicide when a person is already dying? In the case of someone who is actively dying, would it be suicide, or confronting death with courage and dignity? I’m not sure. I know when my time comes, I would rather be anywhere other than incapacitated in a bed as loved ones attempt to hide their tears.

          4. dragonchef

            Point taken, Steph. It must be difficult to know you are only a few breaths away from you last, and the last will bring much pain and suffering with it for both yourself and your loved ones who will no doubt watch you go through it. I cannot honestly say what would go through my mind given that situation. But, as a christian, I would hope and pray that I trust in God enough to keep me from doing what I was always taught as Gospel. If Jesus could go through what He did, I hope I would have the strength to so as well.
            Much love and prayer for you and your family, and your daughter.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very nicely done, and a warm welcome to the site. I know it can be a bit frightening to share, but it is fun to see your words “in print”. I would suggest a bit of grammar and punctuation editing to make a strong story, like this, even stronger. See you next week.

    3. JRSimmang

      Steph, thanks for contributing! It’s often nerve-wracking seeing those words become a living thing, and it takes a certain amount of gumption to put stuff up. This is a great community of writers, and I have had nothing but support here.

      You’ve taken the prompt in a different direction, and it’s appreciated. Jenny stays consistently in character from start to finish, and you packed a lot of action in this small space. For the future, start a new paragraph for each new line of dialogue. It’ll make for an easier read.

      As for foreshadow, I agree with DragonChef. The reader can predict what’s going to happen and won’t be disappointed so long as the story is sound and the character’s are developed.

      1. Steph

        Thank you for the advice JRsimmang. I didn’t feel nervous about posting, because the best way to grow is to be shown where you fall short. Until recently, I just wasn’t aware online writer’s communities existed. Next week, I’ll work on better structure, though I’m still figuring out the proper way to write out quoted character conversations.

        1. dragonchef

          Don’t use a word processor, i.e.: MS Word
          Use Notepad. paragraphs and punctuation remain.
          Of course, some use an HTML editor, and then even italics remain.
          When you copy/paste from MS Word you lose all your paragraphs, and probably some formatting.

      1. Steph

        Thank you RafTriesToWrite. I pray when the time comes, we all find the beauty and opportunities that lie within dying. I love your screen name, by the way. Made me chuckle.

  48. JRSimmang

    Pardon the length, please.

    THE LEAST WE KNOW

    We’re Jewish. Well, most of us in Poland are, and the ones who aren’t aren’t Jews. I’m Alter. My wife, Dalit, is a baker sometimes. Other times, she is a woman and mother.

    God gifted us a child while we were late on in our years. We named him Eitan, though we knew he wouldn’t survive the winter. I had heard from my mother that her sister died before she celebrated her 6th birthday. The doctors call it Canavan’s. It must run in my family.

    “Alter, my brother!” my neighbor shouted as he burst through the door.

    “Gershon, knock! For the love of man.” I shouted at him from the dining room.

    “Sorry, so sorry, but we must leave.”

    “Leave?” I stood and walked around the corner.

    “They’ve come for us.”

    I looked over to my wife, who put down her bread knife, wiped her hands on her apron, and glanced to our son. He was in a wheelchair, his legs never learned to walk. He made a burbling noise, and she caressed him with the back of her hand. “We’ll need help carrying him down the stairs.”

    “I’ll help,” offered Gershon. “And I’ll get my brother.”

    Gershon left us, and I walked back into the kitchen. “We have to go, my dear.”

    “I know. I knew this day would come. It’s just like it was twenty years ago.”

    “I think it’s different this time.”

    She looked up at me and sighed, then coughed a couple times before stopping herself. “Perhaps, you’re right. Perhaps, Germany will succeed. Perhaps, we will have an excuse to finally go to Jerusalem.”

    I let my eyes rest on Eitan. His eyes wouldn’t focus on anything, and his head tilted to one side. He was still robust for a five year old, but it was mostly that he hadn’t a chance to lose his baby fat. “To Jerusalem? He is much too young for a pilgrimage.”

    “I want him to see Jerusalem, Alter,” she whispered. “I want him to pray.” She never raised her voice. I think it was because she put so much effort into raising our son. “The Tombs of the Kings of Judah, my husband. He has to see them now.”

    Gershon crashed back through the door. “Come, friends. We may be safe in Switzerland.”

    “Thank you, Gershon, but we will go to Jerusalem instead,” I said.

    He nodded, then filled us in on the links of friends he has that have woven a thick tapestry of possible routes while he and his brother lifted my son down the stairs. At the landing, he looked up at me, a question behind his eyes.

    “Ask, Gershon. I can tell you wish to say something.”

    He swallowed deeply, glanced at Eitan, then at my wife, then met my gaze. “How will you manage?”

    “With friends like you, and with the grace of God, we will make it to Palestine.”

    In the distance, I heard thunder, or what I thought to be thunder. I was not far off. It was the voice of destruction. Three German jets tore through the air above us, like the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and left behind a shaking torrent.

    “Alter, it is time we go.”

    Gershon and his brother lifted Eitan once more over the threshold, and I pushed him through our narrow streets. Our shtetl in Warsaw was once rich, thriving with mercantile businesses, accounts managers, but now, it was a hovel. My father was the last of the great textiles seller. I could see his curtains, aging and yellow, in the windows of the rooms that were stacked high and loomed over the streets.

    We stopped into Bentzion’s shop. “We’ll pack some supplies for the trip here. Ben owes me a favor,” uttered Gershon as he went to the counter.

    “Do you think we’ll make it?” Dalit asked.

    All I could do was reach out a hand and pat her arm.

    “We’ll use Eitan’s chair,” Gershon shouted from the corner of the store. “He has room for flour and sugar.”

    “God will provide the rest,” I hoped.

    Eitan’s face stayed focused on the stars. Even in the day time, when the sun peeked through the clouds, his eyes would chart their progress through the sky. Sometimes, his hand would move, and his forefinger would point into the air. He would shudder, and a sound would escape his lips that sounded like pure ecstasy, engagement with the wonder of God. Dalit was convinced that he saw more than we supposed, which is why she was hopeful he would make it to Jerusalem.
    ***
    “After we board the boat in Romania, we must remain in our quarters until Turkey.”

    “How do you know so much, Gershon?” I asked as we waited in line to board the boat.

    “That, my brother, is a story for another time.”

    We settled in to our rooms on the bottom of the boat. I had never been on one before, and couldn’t get the rhythm of the water under my feet. I decided to go abovedecks at dusk to see if the horizon would help. I took Eitan with me to see the stars. He seemed to have a permanent layer of sweat coating his brow. His pulse was rapid and unpredictable. He must not have liked the water as much as I did.

    “You’re Jewish, aren’t you?” I heard a gruff voice pattern out disdain over the night air.

    I turned to a ruddy-faced, blond-haired child of a man. “I am, friend.”

    He squinted his eyes at me. “That your child?”

    “He is. His name is Eitan.”

    “Worthless.” He spit on the deck in front of me. “The whole lot of you, worthless.”

    I inhaled deeply, and he laughed.

    “Should toss him overboard.”

    “Why would I do that?”

    “Perhaps, I’ll do it for you!” He rushed at me, lifting his elbow and catching my jaw. I was knocked to the ground, and I saw flecks of gold and blue dance before me. He bent over and grabbed Eitan around the waist. He must not have noticed Eitan’s restraints, because he was jerked back down to the chair.

    “Leave my son alone!” shouted my wife. She ran at him as fast as her legs would carry her. He stood up and opened his arms. She reached out, bent low, and ran straight into him, taking him over the railing, and her tumbling down after.

    “Dalit!” I yelled. “Dalit! No!” I stood up, shakily, and used the railing to help me. “Help! Help! My wife is in the water!”

    There was a whistle, and two men in crisp uniforms pounded toward me. I pointed, but I knew she was already gone. The sun was down, the lights from the stars were not enough to even splash on the captain’s windows. A bright light was focused on the water for what felt like hours. That was all they were willing to do for a Jew. A light. A few shouts. A whistle. But Dalit was gone. We were alone.

    Gershon sat me down in my room, Eitan beside.

    “We will make it to Jerusalem,” he affirmed.

    I caught his eyes, then refocused on the floor. “I wouldn’t know if Eitan knows his mother is gone forever.”

    He flashed a glance at Eitan. “I don’t know.”

    “She wants him to see Jerusalem. Before he dies too.” Eitan’s breathing came in ragged strips.

    I put my head in my hands and let myself cry. Gershon stayed by my side until the ship hit the shore.

    Turkey granted us safe passage through to Palestine though the British just halted a ship from allowing Jews into Palestine a month prior. They were allowing most Jews free passage. Palestine was not as welcoming, saying they were close to the number of Jews they would allow in. Strange that, since my fathers’ fathers’ were born here, in Israel. I was here for the Tomb of the Kings of Judah, however, not to be unwelcome.

    I wheeled my son to the Tomb of Simeon the Just. There were several dozen Sephardim and a few Ashkenazi among us. We bowed our heads, rocked, and said our prayers that we would say during Lag b’Omer. Eitan burbled along with us, and no heads turned. I stood close to him and reached out my hand to squeeze his arm.

    He shuddered then stopped. A wet breath squeezed from his mouth. Then, he breathed once more, wheezing and drooling.

    I wondered if he had any hopes, any dreams, any desires on which to propel himself from his chair, onto the ground, and up and out the door. I wondered if he ever wanted to dance. If he ever wanted to paint. Perhaps he wanted to learn to play the clarinet or the English horn.

    Looking down at him, I hoped he was able to rest in peace now. I know I would.

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Masterful. I was caught up in the story as if I was sitting at a kitchen table hearing it told for the first time. After I googled Canavan, I read again. The line about playing the clarinet or English horn so beautifully described your MC’s thoughts and emotions. Again, masterful.

    2. dragonchef

      JR –
      Whoa! I thought I was watching a movie – so well written. Masterful imagery and emotion. Hat’s off to you, my friend. (I’m not worthy)
      >> “He shuddered then stopped. A wet breath squeezed from his mouth. Then, he breathed once more, wheezing and drooling.” << Was this his last breath, and he died there?

    3. JRSimmang

      Thank you, a million times thank you, to you both. I have another 200 words or so on this end, and I plan on putting it up on my blog by the end of the month. I’ve always been fascinated with congenital diseases, especially ones that impact the nervous system.

      Dragon, I’m glad you’re asking questions! I think the best answer I can give is: I leave the ending to you to decide. (PS: You’re absolutely worthy! We all can learn something from someone else, and I can say I’ve learned from you already!)

    4. Steph

      This was very hard for me to read, but beautifully written. My daughter has a terminal illness. She requires life support equipment and is wheelchair bound. I’ve only heard her voice in my dreams and I’ve only seen her walk in my imagination. You captured such a realistic viewpoint of the parents of a dying child, as if you took the thoughts from my own mind.
      While your characters had their own aspirations for what needed to happen before their son passed, I relate fully. My daughter is on borrowed time and I work tirelessly to see to it, that her life Has meaning, before she’s gone.
      I don’t know if you’ve lost a child or been witness to someone who has. If not, you have a gift for empathy. You stepped right into the mind of a parent, losing their child, and you nailed it.

    5. writer_sk

      JR- I liked the piece you wrote. It felt like you are very versed in the subject matter which works well when painting a scene the way you have. The dialogue and brotherhood between the neighbors was strong. I enjoyed the descriptions and urgency in the first part of the story, ie the yellow curtains, the apron.

      1. JRSimmang

        SK, thank you very much! I’d like to say that WW2 is a passion of mine, but I’m more curious about the displacement and resettlement patterns of Europeans during German occupation. I’m glad you were able to sense that.

    6. RafTriesToWrite

      Another well written masterpiece Simmang! I also felt like I was watching a movie. This piece of yours really played with my emotions, I don’t know whether to feel angry because of what the man did to the mother or feel sad that no one tried to do anything more than what they did to help her after she fell into the water.

    7. RafTriesToWrite

      Another well written masterpiece Simmang! I also felt like I was watching a movie. This piece of yours really played with my emotions, I don’t know whether to feel angry because of what the man did to the mother or feel sad that no one tried to do anything more than what they did to help her after she fell into the water.

  49. rlk67

    “Your name is pretty, and you are pretty.”

    That’s what the smiley old man on the train said to Iris when she was five. Her heart melted, and she’s been in love with flowers ever since.

    “You came all these miles just to see us? Why, you probably gone farther than any other cutie pie in history!”
    That’s what grampa said to Iris when she was seven. Her heart swelled, and she’s been in love with traveling ever since.

    When she was nine, her teacher told her about state capitols, state birds, and… state flowers? Her heart jumped, and she made a decision. One day, she, Iris the traveling flower, was going to plant her own flowers in every state, thank you very much.

    Dreams don’t always stick. Like her brother declaring at ten that he would be a doctor. He gets some credit for following through a little, but after introductory chemistry, he buried the stethoscope forever.

    But Iris’s dream stuck. Practically, she figured she had time. Then, at 23, she had more of a sense of urgency. She knew the first two to tackle, and planting the first orchid in Alaska was breathtaking, while Hawaii was energizing.

    Mournful family helped with the expenses while trying to keep upbeat. They reminisced with her about the yellow rose she planted around the Houston courthouse, and the lily she planted close to Mount Rushmore. A daisy in Delaware and a petunia in Oregon. They assisted her as time went on, and it became harder to do the actual planting. Maine was beautiful, and putting that carnation along Lake Michigan was awesome.

    Now her sister sat next to her with red eyes as Iris filled in the dirt around her final flower. Her father lifted her weary arm to help her cross off Colorado from her list. Then everyone clapped. Iris managed a slight smile. She whispered a thanks to everyone, and mom wiped a small tear from her eye.

    Then, silently, they all turned from the lone flower on the front lawn of the medical center, and slowly headed inside.

  50. dustymayjane

    I looked at my list and thought back on all the wonderful memories that had been created. How I’d like to shout to the world. “It’s not too late. Do the things you’ve always wanted to but were too afraid.”

    I was like all the rest. Thinking I had the time. Thinking that someday I would get to it. I’ll ride horseback on the beach, climb El Capitan at Yosemite, ride in a hot air balloon, someday. Those items on my bucket list were meant to be shared, however. Shared with my beloved Rafe. Man of my dreams, husband of forty five years and wonderful father of our four beautiful children. Rafe’s life was cut short, as was mine, that day he was struck and killed fetching the mail on rural county road eight. Our address for all of those forty five years.

    Rafe carried my tiny, feminine, twenty year old frame over the threshold and our life as husband and wife began.

    “Bonnie.” He would ask. “How can such a tiny woman love so big?”

    I never grew tired of hearing that and answering, “My man is deserving of big love, that’s how.”

    I never grew tired of seeing my man’s face in the doorway of my kitchen after a long day in the field. All whiskers and dust from the chaff and dry black dirt. Some days I catch myself glancing out the window over the sink, in search of my Rafe walking across our yard. He won’t be there, he won’t be returning to our home.

    I was content now. Now that I have checked off the last item on ‘our’ bucket list. I was given three months to live before the cancer would take me. That’s the day I booked travel to Paris. Me and our four kids. We had a marvelous time and thought of Dad often. Oh, how he would have loved Paris in the springtime. We all agreed and chuckled at the glee he would entertain when seeing the Eiffel tower and the Seine River with the statues and nymphs at the Alexander Bridge.

    It always amazed me how such a simple farmer from Minnesota could have such a grand and splendid appreciation for the art and culture of the world. Rafe was a man of mystery, always full of surprises.

    I lay in my bed, near the dining room where my children moved me, so I could be close to them and my grandchildren. I heard them speaking in quiet tones and each came to kiss my cheek, now cold and dry. I counted the kisses, fourteen soft touches of lips upon my face and I would go. Twelve, thirteen…fourteen…good bye my loves, goodbye.

    What was this? Did I miscount? Fifteen and smelling of spice and musk. I opened my eyes and there was Rafe, in the doorway of my kitchen. He held out his hand for me to take. I leapt into his arms and squealed in folly as he carried me across the yard.

    “Where are we going my darling?” I asked.

    “You know Bonnie, you know.” He smiled his brilliant, charming smile, the one I had been missing so.

    Rafe and I both knew we were going where love lives forever.

    1. dragonchef

      Dusty –
      Like listening to a country song. You know, the ones that make you weep while you’re driving down the road and cause you to swerve as you’re trying to wipe your eyes. The ones that are so powerful they make you feel like you lived through something in your life that never happened. Yeah, that’s your story.
      Awesome read.

    2. JRSimmang

      Dusty, I do so enjoy your delightfully bucolic diction. Each of the stories of yours I’ve read, I get transported to my family’s farm in West Texas. Thank you for conjuring up those emotions!

    3. Steph

      I loved reading this. There is so much beauty in life but we often overlook the beauty that can be found in death as well. You captured it beautifully.

        1. JRSimmang

          Raf, if you’re trying for italics, try the . To end your italics, do the same thing, but it’ll need to look like this: , minus the spaces in between the symbols. Now, let’s hope it translated from the comments box to the comment.

          1. JRSimmang

            Okay, hang on, I got this:
            Shift- comma, lowercase i, shift- period to open your italics. Shift- comma, backslash, lowercase i, shift-period to close your italics.

          2. dragonchef

            opening italics tag:
            less-than-sign, i, greater-than-sign

            closing italics tag after your word(s) you want italicized:
            less-than-sign, /i, greater-than-sign

    4. Critique

      A beautiful story. Reminds me of my parents love story – together for 66 years – both gone now. I’m glad I scrolled down to read the first story here.

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