Father of Mine

Start your story with: “My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. (fill in the blank), 2. (fill in the blank) and 3. (fill in the blank). The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.”

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

writing-prompts

Download from our shop right now!

You might also like:

214 thoughts on “Father of Mine

  1. LizMB

    Little Jimmy Carter

    My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Love fast 2. Hate slow, and 3. Don’t steal candy from children. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.

    I grew up in a nice neighborhood with nice kids. We all behaved ourselves and got along. Twenty years later, I find myself living across town in a neighborhood that was all but full of nice little obedient children. No, these children are monsters, and one in particular was my own personal hell. My dad was drunk when he gave me that third rule, and I laughed and kept it in my head all this time, never believing I would actually break that rule. It all started when little Jimmy Carter moved in with his family next door.

    Jimmy is everything a parent wished their child wasn’t. He is loud, obnoxious, arrogant, rebellious, and a flat out troublemaker from hell, and it is all packed into this one tiny three foot human. It has never failed that at 7 am every morning as I sit at my table by the window drinking my coffee, little Jimmy comes waltzing into my front yard and pisses on my oak tree, mooning me in the process. You try drinking your coffee while having to stare at a small child’s butt. After he finishes, he walks to my flower garden and yanks out one flower, just one, and then leaves it on the ground beside the garden. That is just his morning routine. He does other stuff throughout the day. It’s like his mission in life is to annoy the living breathing soul out of me.

    I’ve had several discussions with his parents, but nothing comes out of them. The only way to make him do anything is to take his candy. It’s his kryptonite. I learned this one day when this monster from hell took my dang cheeseburger.

    A new burger place opened up down the street last spring, and it has become tradition for me to get a cheeseburger from there every Wednesday. Well apparently Jimmy had been watching me, and began to steal it from my porch and return it with a big bite taken out of it. I knew it was him. Who else would just take my cheeseburger like that?! One day, he flat out stole it and didn’t return it. I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew where this devil hid his Halloween candy, and I had to get this brat back. So I took his candy, which he hid in MY shed mind you, and waited on my front porch.

    Then the wailing began, and an apologetic Jimmy with a cheeseburger walked up to me. We exchanged our hostages, and I smiled triumphantly. Jimmy hasn’t stolen or taken a bite out of my Wednesday burgers since. Sorry dad, but that rule had to be broken. Now, it’s time to change his other behaviors…

  2. Creatrev

    My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Always tell the truth, 2. Chili is better the next day and 3. There is no such thing as love at first sight. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.

    I am 25. I am single. I have only had one serious relationship in my life and she is now married to my best friend. They are happy, have two kids and are really unpleasant to be around. If I wanted to have conversations about poop, bottles and people drooling over everything I’d go back to college. So here I am, sitting in crowded cafe, alone. My evening was made more fun when “Tadd” (what a stupid name) my waiter, asked me if I was waiting for anyone. No Tadd, I’m alone and thank you and your stupid soul patch for pointing it out.

    When faced with these desperate circumstances I like to hide behind the menu and seem mysterious. Maybe people will think I am an actor who can’t be bothered or a private investigator on someone’s tail. As I was lost in daydream about being a private investigator, catching some low life cheating on his wife,”Tadd” walked up to the table. At least I thought it was that smug, condescending, 38 year old hipster, but it wasn’t.

    All I could think was … that’s just it, I couldn’t. The person that was standing in front of me was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Here’s the thing, I have seen all of the rom-coms. I had played this scene over and over in my mind. (Again, I’m lonely.) I knew when I saw the woman I was going to marry, I was going to confidently and boldly say to her, “Hi, my name is Jason and I think you are incredibly beautiful. I love your smile and I would love to get to know you. Would you like to get a cup of coffee.”

    As these well thought out, reasonable and non-threatening group of sentences were about to come out of my mouth, this angel opened her mouth and asked me, “What would you like?”

    In all of the chaos, my confused brain jumbled everything up and I was horrified when the next words out of my mouth were, “My name is…cheeseburger.” For what seemed like an eternity, neither of us spoke. Apparently the confused, horrified and awkward smile that drew itself across my face was enough to break the silence and she laughed, a cute musical laugh only slightly tinged with pity.

    In the several table trips that followed, she told me that “Tadd” had been called into the owner’s office because he had been caught stealing tips from other servers and that is why she was came to my table. We discussed how I secretly wanted to be a private investigator and she said she would like to see me in a fedora and trench coat.

    So, Dad was wrong. We now sit around with friends and discuss poop, bottles and drooling. And every now and then, when she really wants to remind me she loves me, she will whisper in my ear, “I love you, Cheeseburger.”

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      How cute! The “My name is… cheeseburger” line is instant and classic gold. I’m glad their relationship worked out. Great job!

  3. SargentBlaum

    My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Always be honest with those closest to you, 2. Always know exactly how much is in your bank account and 3. Never speak with your mouth full. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.

    I was having lunch with Marie, my wife of seventeen years, at her favorite French restaurant. It’s not a chain, but rather a family owned business in the heart of downtown Annapolis. We went there every so often, because the walks along the pier and the general ambiance was relaxing and romantic – we both loved it.

    Usually there was nothing to mar the experience when it came to Annapolis. There might be a rowdy sailor or two, or drunk tourists, but if you dined early enough you could generally avoid the histrionics. On this particular evening, we were exchanging small talk over glasses of Merlot. Our table was near the window and the sun was still high enough to afford us an excellent view of the old street outside.

    “You know ordering a cheeseburger in an establishment known for its haute cuisine marks you as a Philestine, right?” Marie’s mouth lifted at the corners, her tone hinting at the tease in her comment, crinkles appearing at the corners of her blue eyes.

    “I understand they were quite adept at military theory – I suppose I could do worse.” I winked at her and then leaned back as the waiter delivered our food. He was dressed in the formal garb of such a profession, complete with black bow tie and he delicately deposited the plates from the right.

    “Will there be anything else?” His tone was polite as he glanced between the two of us. I looked at Marie, her plate of steaming French delicacies in front of her. She shook her head and I looked over to the waiter and was tempted to further tweak the nose of propriety and ask for ketchup, but my romantic soul intervened, and I just shook my head.

    We started to eat, my eyes occasionally straying to the street outside as the evening encroached and a group of cadets from the Academy started up the street, jostling and joking in their camaraderie.

    “You know, it won’t be long before Gary can do the babysitting for us and we won’t need to hire a babysitter any more,” my wife was saying with a glint in her eye. “Just think – we’ll be able to come out to dinner more often.”

    She had intentionally waited until I had my first mouthful of cheeseburger before making her comment. Outside, a couple of men had emerged from an alley with Ingram submachine guns, obviously intent on indiscriminate violence.

    “Duck,” I spurted, as partially chewed cheeseburger sprayed both the table and my wife, shortly followed by bullets smashing the window behind her. We both survived unharmed, but I broke rule number three.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      GASP! Here I am, reading this very well written piece about a couple enjoying the evening and each other, then–WOW. I was already composing comments, such as fantastic details, effortless back story, etc., before the ending. Now, I’ll add, great twist, plus a sad reminder of contemporary life. Good job.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I need to echo Reatha’s comments. Wham.bam, seems like a hit man.operation. I wish you had gone to 600 words. The writing is excellent, the scene settings perfect as well as the back story

        As far as I know there’s no electric chair to fry a writer for going over the five hundred. I should know it happens to me a lot

    2. Beebles

      Excellent flow and detail. The ending was very abrupt and even Incongruous, but that’s how these things are. Made me think how in an instant such a loving relationship could be torn apart. The abruptness does make him come across a little sang froid (well they are in a French restaurant). 😉

      1. rlk67

        I totally agree with Beebles. How did that happen just three lines before the end of such a serene enjoyable story? This guy does seem quite cool in the face of sudden danger. Maybe there’s a part 2?

    3. SargentBlaum

      Thank you all for your kind comments. I would love to have had one thousand words to flesh this out fully, but unfortunately the exercise called for 500 or less. I always hunt down extraneous verbiage and viciously excise, but it never seems to end up quite right – either the ending winds up abrupt or some section in the middle becomes egregiously brief. Obviously, I need more practise – I will endeavour to improve in the future!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        I think we all strive for 500 words, and I’ve found that has helped me edit, but at times I, and others, go beyond when more editing is impossible. Some folks do two parts, or continue the following week. Just don’t stop writing.

    4. dragonchef

      Hey Sarg – I used to live in Annapolis. Can’t say I would ever see that happening there, but you made it happen. Now I don’t think I can go there again and not think of your story – and keep close vigil for gun wielders.
      Billiant “episode” of a Clancy-esque short. Sorry for the 500 link ball-n-chain, but as Reatha says, some do tend to cheat a little (and some a little more than a little).
      Seems your MC knows a thing or two about weapons, and to quickly distinguish between an Uzi and an Ingram while eating a french cheeseburger and glancing out a window I imagine he has quite the military background. And the cool, unruffled reaction to the situation (his pulse probably didn’t even flicker) . . . CIA trained? Definitely a story there you can develop.
      My favorite line: “I looked over to the waiter and was tempted to further tweak the nose of propriety and ask for ketchup.”
      Thanks for the read.

    5. writer_sk

      Nice story! Great secondary details (explaining/describing extra things I wouldn’t’ve thought of)

      I liked seeing the wife’s personality and looks come out in the writing.

  4. Tysheena Jackson

    “Number Three: Part I” by T.M. Jackson

    There were three things– rules, really– my Dad laid out for me to live by. “Number one: Always make eye contact with people, both men and women, and don’t ever NOT make eye contact.” Dad passed me the brick he just slathered with cement and I stood to my feet and carefully aligned it on top of the most recent one. “Number two: Never assume people will like you. As far as I’m concerned, the world will hate you.”

    “Hate me?” he nodded. “But, why?”

    “Human nature. When you grow a little older you’ll understand then.”

    He passed me another brick and this one I laid on top of the last one, only it went on crooked. I sighed and lifted it up and worked on fixing it. After a minute of seeing me struggle he took the brick from my hands and laid it in the grass. My own hands were covered in cement and I had gotten some all over my new high tops, the ones I wasn’t supposed to be wearing that Mama got me for school. I would be going into the seventh grade at the end of August, and Dad agreed I needed new shoes for it.

    “Kelsea, look at me,” Dad suddenly said.

    I looked down at him and he reached up and smoothed the crease between my brows with his thumb. His big hands held my upper arms and he laughed, “Smile, baby girl. Your life is way too precious not to smile.” Then he stood up and landed one on the top of my head. “Ready for cheeseburgers? Mama’s going to meet us at the Snack n Shack any minute now. We should get going.”
    “But what about Number Three?”

    Dad smiled, “That was Number Three, silly. Now, come on. Let’s go meet Mama.” I took his hand and we walked over to his pickup truck.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Tysheena, lovely story with perfect details. I especially liked the dad smoothing out the frown. I think you presented this entire family in just a few words. Very well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You solidified an entire family over the brick-laying. Sounds like the Dad was a great guy
        It is so important for a father to be close to his children because most daughters will look for a copy of Dad when they decide to settle down. It is an awesome responseability for any father. I love the relationship between the dad and his daughter.

        1. Tysheena Jackson

          Thank you, Kerry! I agree. A father is an important part of a little girl’s upbringing. He is the first man she will ever love and it is up to him to represent the kind of man she deserves in the long run. I appreciate the feedback! 🙂

    2. dragonchef

      A bricklaying teenage girl – what’s wrong with this picture? Maybe that’s what I should have done with my teenage girl – things might be different. But never mind me – I digress.
      A nice, touching rules-to-live-by take on the prompt, Ty. Even pulled a sigh out of me.

  5. Turkey Girl

    My dad gave me three life rules to live by. 1. Never go anywhere without a knife. 2. If you make a mess, clean it up. 3. Never eat while you’re driving unless you’re eating french fries. The first two were easy but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.

    I’m a policewoman, and sometimes, it isn’t easy to get back to the station on time when you’re patrol is up. My boss is a very excitable man, and I make a point to get back to the station early. I’ve seen what he does to people who are late, and it isn’t pretty. Well, I’d just handed out fifteen speeding tickets, and I was heading back to the station when I realized I was running short on time. I usually eat at a fast food place before heading back, since I usually have time, but this night in Chicago, there was no time. My cell phone was buzzing in my pocket and I picked it up. It was my boss.

    “You have ten minutes to get back to base,” he told me. Before I could respond, he hung up. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel and looked around for a drive thru fast food place. There was a Wendy’s right around the corner, and I pulled off. Ignoring my dad’s advice, I ordered the largest cheeseburger they had and drove off. I got back on the highway and started to eat my dinner.

    The exit for the police station came up on me quickly. I swerved across three lanes of traffic to get into the exit lane, barely making it there in time. I felt something wet on my uniform trousers and I looked down to see what it was. My cheeseburger had exploded all over my uniform. I was covered in ketchup, mayo, lettuce, bits of tomato, and the cheeseburger itself. What’s more, it was also on the carpet of the patrol car. I pulled off to examine the damage, hoping I could do something to remedy the awful situation. My phone rang again.

    “You have one minute to get back here!” Once again, my boss hung up on me before I could reply.

    I dashed back into the dirty car and sped back up the road to base. Turning into the police station, I hit the street light pole. To my surprise, it didn’t fall, but it left a nasty dent in the front of the patrol car. Hurrying into the patrol car parking lot, I parked and ran out of the car. My boss was outside waiting for me.

    “What have you done to that car?” he roared at me.

    My pay was lowered, my ego was bruised, as well as other parts of me, and the only reason I survived was because I had my knife with me. But the only lesson I learned from the experience was never to ignore my dad’s rules again, even if it meant going hungry.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Hello Girl. What I wouldn’t give for a video of this story. Your descriptive verse left nothing out but the color of your eyes. Hazel probably. What a riot for a Friday afternoon. You keep writing them, I’ll keep reading them. Great job. .

    2. JRSimmang

      There is an alternative solution: set the car on fire and claim it was only a byproduct of derailing a gang fight or something about keeping the community safe! But, your MC seems too honest for that. She’s very well fleshed out and likable. Nicely done.

      1. Turkey Girl

        I honestly didn’t think of that. However, I think the officer would have been fired had her boss ever found out. That would have made for a very different end. Thank you for your feedback!

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      I honestly would ignore my boss and just eat my cheeseburger in peace.
      I really like the flow of your stories TG, you don’t leave anything out.
      I’m with Kerry concerning the video for this. I’d love to see it in action.
      Keep it up!

      1. Turkey Girl

        Unfortunately, she probably would have been fired if she’d ignored her boss, even if it did mean she kept the car in good condition. That video might take some work, but I like to play with making movies, so maybe I will record it!

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a very bad, awful day. I could see every bit of that poor cheeseburger. I’m not certain how the knife was used, hopefully just to scrape the ketchup off the carpet.

      1. Turkey Girl

        I couldn’t quite figure out how to fit the knife in. I just needed another rule, and that one came to mind. Cheeseburgers have actually exploded all over members of my family, so that part of the story is from experience. Thank you for reading!

    5. dragonchef

      I guess there are some people who simply cannot go against habit – going for eats after her return to the station must have been out of the question. And, as habits go, they can sometimes be disastrous.
      I think you could have left out the return of the knife; it stood out quite well alone as a rule in the beginning, especially without justifying her survival without it.
      A cop swerving across three lanes of traffic to make an exit – does that ever happen?
      Tragic comedy at its finest, TG.

  6. ClutteredThoughts

    I wrote this half-asleep but it still feels like something that would actually happen to me.

    My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Always make time for your friends, 2. Never screw up your sleep schedule, and 3. Don’t smile just because someone tells you to. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.
    I was on a date, one of a string of ‘em, with this cute fella named Daniel. We’d met after work, hit it off, and today he’d finally invited me to dinner at his place. I was actually pretty excited- it’d been years, far too many, since I’d seen the inside of a romantic interest’s apartment.
    For dinner, he made us cheeseburgers, these extra-fancy ones from a family recipe with special seasoning and white cheddar, toppings laid out on the counter in a beautiful arrangement. “Can’t afford flowers, but I’ll still make it look nice,” he joked when I commented on it.
    Dinner was going fabulous, and the cheeseburger was DELICIOUS. I couldn’t stop eating it, although I forced myself to so that I could talk to him. We both got seconds, and he asked if he could take a picture of me with the cheeseburger to show his mom how good her recipe was. I agreed; it seemed harmless enough. And then the stomach pains hit.
    I hadn’t asked him what the ingredients were… oh god, had he used something with soy in it? I was allergic, but I didn’t want to leave or hurt his feelings- especially since he was going to show his mom, who according to him was an absolute angel, oh no…
    Daniel was back with his phone in hand, ready to snap a picture. I knew that the slightest movement would lead to me either falling over or vomiting. Thankfully I was in something resembling a pose.
    “Alright, smile!” he said. My mind was in overdrive: Would smiling cause me to vomit? It had a decent chance of doing so. Shouldn’t I show how appreciative I was of the cheeseburger? It was good, but then I could just stare at it in hunger- no, I couldn’t fake that… What would Daniel think if I didn’t smile for the picture? And what about his mom?
    I was stuck in a metaphorical corner. Good god, I did not want to smile, but I did, and he snapped the picture, and then I fell on the floor. I was so relieved to have not vomited that it didn’t occur to me what Daniel would think of me collapsing in pain and groaning.
    It took a long time to explain, and I ended up sleeping in the guest bed instead of going home, but we got a good laugh out of it, and he promised to never make anything with soy in it again. I felt bad, not just for the sour turn of the date, but for letting down Dad by smiling when I didn’t really want to. But it all went okay afterwards.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I really like how you used the three pieces of advice without it seeming forced. I see this is only your second time posting, keep writing and posting here, it’s a great place.

    2. dragonchef

      I agree – initial dating with the hopes of long term relationship causes agita. Poor girl. Good thing she didn’t act out a scene from the Exorcist while the picture was being snapped. Mom would not have been pleased. And, good thing dude had a spare bedroom. Imagine having to ride home on a bus with a rumbly in your tumbly like that. Of course, probably no one would notice or care since it happens to be an everyday occurrence on a public bus at midnight anyway.
      But enough of my life . . .
      Good story CT. Glad it wasn’t a rufie-in-the-drink tale. But, rufie-in-the-burger is different.
      Welcome to Klems’ World of Weird Tales.

  7. rlk67

    “My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Try to learn from others, 2. Never criticize other people’s works, and 3. Use presented writing prompts exactly as indicated. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.”
    Being able to discover opportunity in practicing writing has opened a world for me. Comparing the works of incredible authors and their parallel usage of thought-provoking writing prompts has been a source of potential excitement. However, when rambunctious three-year-old flung his cheeseburger, fries and shake on my laptop (‘Hey, Daddy! See computer! Ha-ha-ha!’), I wasn’t able to think beyond going ballistic and used my son’s pajama sleeve to wipe the ketchup and cheese off the screen. This made him laugh more and left me with horrible smears of various colors which in some mall kiosks would be considered chic.
    But I couldn’t make out the prompt on the screen so well, and I just had to write something. So I read every third word and just incorporated some ideas into a half of a half story. I waited anxiously for the responses..
    ~~Q.Verjanzi
    Ingenious use of the prompt.. I have no idea what you wrote, but it really flows.
    ~~Zinger912
    The way you used Mt. Everest to correspond with a mysterious lost diamond ring was mind blowing. Still
    working on the connection.
    ~~Oh,Sherri
    I think you posted in the wrong week. Check out the archives.
    ~~Prompt.Editor
    No offense, but did you get ketchup on your PC or something? Read the prompt again.Thanks

    I was disheartened, but energized. Pass the Windex.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I tell you what. I’ve raised five three year old’s and I believe every word of it. A perfect response for a geezer who’s still working hard at it on a Friday afternoon. Where is a rest home when I need it? Better yet, where is rich Barbara, I dumped in college? Her father owned a shoe manufacturing company in New Jersey, I think the brand was Capezio Shoes. Woe is me.

          1. rlk67

            Ok, but I wasn’t really venting about kids. More like keeping accurately with the prompts. Don’t worry…Barbara lost everything in the financial slide. And the shoes don’t fit anymore.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Loved this. Great way to use the prompt, using an all too real situation to drive the story. I also, as you wrote in comment to Kerry, get frustrated by some of the prompts, so I like the idea of just replying to every third word. Most enjoyable.

      1. rlk67

        No, I’m not frustrated with the prompts. I really like them and try to stay as close as possible to them. It’s reading others who don’t. Terrible admission on my part.

  8. Pete

    Mom had been seeing Troy for a few weeks when one Saturday he moved in his stereo, records, several cans of beer, and his junk car that would eventually become my bomb shelter.

    Troy’s buddies were jerks, but what would you expect? Troy was king jerk. He was self-employed, which I took to mean his main job was to kick me around and tell me what I was doing wrong or how I was getting in the way. And since Mom was just regularly employed, she was always at work in order to pay money so that Troy and I had somewhere to sleep.

    The day after he moved in his beer collection and records, he sat me down to lay out his “ground rules.” This was after he and all his jerk friends had kept me up all night and made a mess of the apartment and gobbled up a weeks’ worth of groceries before Troy took to the couch, snoring and sprawling out for the day so that I couldn’t even watch TV.

    We were at poker table in the kitchen. I had my Kool-Aid and he had his beer and some sort of meat patty he’d cooked while I’d been outside playing in the heat. He snorted and sniffed and rubbed his red eyes and looked worse than he usually did—which was pretty awful.

    He fiddled with himself and then got down to business. “Okay, you’ve had your way with your Mama for too long now, and so I want to get a few things clear. I won’t tolerate a back talking kid. I’ll pop you in the mouth every time, you hear?”

    I could hear him fine—it was understanding him that proved to be tricky. Troy spoke mostly gibberish, in grunts and growls like he’d learned to talk listening to AM radio without an antenna. Also, I’d realized that the patty he was chowing down on was that hunk of freezer burned chuck that had been in the fridge since we’d moved in two years ago. I figured we’d kept it frozen due to environmental reasons.

    Now, looking around, I noticed how the walls had taken on an atomic sheen. A tire black cloud of smoke hung near the exposed wiring of the light fixtures his buddies had knocked free from the ceiling last night. I nodded furiously. This place was going to blow.

    Troy gnawed on another side of his cheeseburger, blinking hard, as though trying to squash the bug that was his brain.

    “Second, and this is just as important.” He paused hear to swallow. It was then that I noticed his complexion matched that of the stove—or a lima bean. He was sweating something awful, I thought his tattoos might just slide right off his arms. “I’ll make a list of chores. Your mama has just been letting you run wild, doing whatever you please. You’re what, fourteen?”

    “Eleven.”

    “Right, so I want you to start pulling your weight about here. You hear me?”

    Again I heard him, gurgling and all. Even with the ringing in my ear from where he smacked me around the other night for interrupting his card game. Not for the first time I wondered about my mother’s taste in men. They were always self-employed. Always the same guy in the same outfit. Always the same mannerisms, the same jokes, the same cigarette hanging out of the same tilt of their mouths. Same, same, same. Except the one I’d never met.

    But Troy here, he was the king. I watched as he forced down his burger, eyed the moldy blue pieces he’d picked off the sandwich slices he used as a bun. He was the worst of the bunch.

    He stopped chewing and closed his eyes. I counted to seven before he opened them and set his gaze on me. I nodded.

    “Good.”

    He slid away from the table, bleary as he let out a soggy belch that sent his eyes to a roll. The chair fell to the floor as he got to his feet, arms out like a zombie as he staggered to the bathroom to rid himself of that nuclear cheeseburger.

    Now the stove was ticking. The pan he’d cooked in was glowing red. I had to evacuate, but first, an idea came to mind. I looked at his beer can on the table, mostly full and wet with condensation. Then I stood up and peeked down the hall. I could hear him retching.

    I hocked up my finest loogie. Then I let that fat, cherry flavored slop slide off my lips into his beer.

    A little dessert for Troy before I ran for the bomb shelter.

    1. JRSimmang

      I can sense the frustration and the anger of this eleven year old, and what a perfect slice of vengeance. Well done with detailing the inner machinations of a mind trapped in an abusive relationship.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pete, I had to read this twice, second time very slowly to better enjoy the fantastic details. What a wretched life your MC, who appears to be intelligent and self aware, has had. Great reference to his father, and great writing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Made me want to back hand the sorry shadow of a man
        Then I had a jolt thought. Who really is to blame here. Certainly not the son nor Troy were to blame. Some people are naturally born clods and this is one of them. So who’s left
        Well, of course the mother is

  9. Jennifer Park

    It was a simple plan. 1) Get born of a virgin. 2) Start a new major religion. 3) Be martyred in the hands of a figuratively-rabid crowd at a rally for a literally-rabid demagogue. All I had to do was take the stage and drone on about love, peace, interracial reproduction, and pansexuality, and “the people” would do the rest.

    The cheeseburger was not in the script.

    We arrived about an hour early, not having known that in Portland, Oregon, public transportation actually ran on time. I told my Disciples to spread out through the crowd at the Convention Center, ready to agitate and be martyred with me.

    I looked for a place to have lunch.

    Really, I was ready for my sacrifice. I didn’t have the kind of doubt that had bedeviled my siblings and all those prophets that Father had sent to this world. I had no attachment to this world, like those who had chosen to become cult leaders instead.

    But I was going to miss cheeseburgers. They don’t have cheeseburgers in Heaven.

    I headed toward Murder Burger at the food court. They didn’t have a line, and surely they had cheeseburgers.

    I was greeted with, “Welcome, Friend! Have you eaten here before?”

    I sighed. This was one of those over-pretentious hipster joints. “No.”

    The “friend” handed me an iPad. “Here is your freedom of choice. If you flick…”

    “Whoa!” The phrase “peanut butter” had caught my eye. This infuriated me. Not only did my soon-to-be-literally-sainted mother have peanut allergies. So did many of my disciples, and we had a strict No-Peanut Doctrine. “Peanuts?”

    “Of course!” He grinned proudly. “Sourced from our founder’s family farm in…”

    “Don’t you know peanuts kill people?”

    “Oh, no, these are organically grown.”

    I rolled my eyes, and flipped through the menu, becoming increasingly confused. Where was the cheeseburger? “Can I get a cheeseburger without it?”

    “Ummm… no, it’s in our grass-fed…”

    “There are peanuts in your cheeseburgers?”

    “Well, we don’t have ‘cheeseburgers’. You can add your choice of goat brie, walnut chevre, and…”

    “Walnuts???” Now I was filling up with Wrath.

    “Why, yes, they are…”

    “Look, all I want is a cheeseburger! You hipsters have ruined beer! And salami! And pizza! And now you are ruining cheeseburgers?”

    “But, Friend…”

    “Don’t ‘friend’ me, you devil-spawn!” I spread my arms in anger. “You are the ones who are destroying all that is Good and Right in Creation! This madness must stop! You and your pork-belly pastrami!!! Be gone to Hell!!!”

    The thing about angels is that they kinda’s just do what you tell them. By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late, and I was standing in the rubble of the Convention Center. Tens of thousands of attendees, all dead.

    The cops came incredibly quickly, and whisked me away to the nearest Black Site.

    Sorry Father.

    Sorry Mom; I thought you’d be sainted for sure.

    1. writer_sk

      Jennifer what a cool way to take the prompt. That is such a relatable topic to have the main character get mad at hipster I was chuckling out loud .

      The ending was great, very clever

  10. starness

    “My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Live being truthful 2. Live being loved and 3. Live being free. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.
    I found myself craving a cheeseburger one day in the middle of the night, you know when your stomach randomly is like “I want a cheeseburger and I don’t care if that means going to McDonalds in my pyjamas.” So I drove down to macca’s and ordered myself the last of the cheeseburgers. As I was munching down on the heavenly piece of crap this guy comes up to me, right. He’s like big and scary with his hair shaved off and he’s all like:
    “Did you eat the last of the cheeseburgers”
    And I was like “Yeah, what are you going to do about it.”
    And this stranger is like “Come with me to find out.”
    Well you see I’ve never had anything interesting happen to me, I was also a bit delusional because it was 12 am. So I followed this guy into a small alleyway right and this guy is all like:
    “I needed that cheeseburger, that was the last cheeseburger in the world.”
    “What? Why can’t they make more?”
    “Don’t you listen to the news kid, there’s a cheese shortage throughout the world.”
    I was thinking at this moment: “Holy shit, I must be dreaming”
    “I need you to vomit up that cheeseburger.”
    “What? No!”
    “You’re going to vomit up that cheeseburger or I’m going to make you.”
    “Go ahead and try.”
    The guy’s huge fists come towards me and they punch me in the stomach, I almost puke but I like to think I have more resilience than that and after that strong punch another one comes, and then another one and then another and another and another. I don’t know how my stomach was staying strong. I try to punch this guy back but I’m pretty weak when it comes to strength. I’m on the ground crying because the pain and I see a knife just sitting there and there with my 12 am delusion I was like.
    “I could stab him” Anyway this guy who was running past this alley way and saw me with blood on my hands and called the police and now here I am” I finished my story and looked up at the puzzled prisoners in front of me. “So yeah that’s my story.”
    “So this happened all because of a cheeseburger.”
    “Yep all because of a cheeseburger.”

  11. ShamelessHack

    My father’s eyes are on the road as he guides his Ford pickup truck through the snowstorm. I’m riding shotgun–his pint-size wingman. An old Frigidaire refrigerator on the truck bed behind the seats rattles as we drive through the storm.
    “Son, there are three rules to live your life by,” he begins.
    I look straight ahead through the windshield. Great, now I get to learn the secrets of life, but I’m starving. I could really use a cheeseburger. And I’m sure not interested in waiting until we drop off the refrigerator or whatever we’re supposed to do with it.
    “OK,” my old man continues. “Rule number one: never, and I mean never, cheat on your wife.”
    Ohhh, kay. That sounds all right to me, I guess.
    “Number two: If the temptation to cheat overcomes you, take drastic measures to correct it.”
    “Hey, Dad,” I pipe up. “Before you tell me rule number three, there’s a MacDonalds up ahead. I’m hungry.”
    “What? Where? Aughhh!” C-R-A-S-H!!!
    ****
    A man walks through the fluffy clouds and up to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates.
    “What were circumstances of your demise?” asks Peter.
    “Well, I was driving my pickup in a snowstorm with my son. I turned my head for a moment and the next thing I know I woke up here.”
    A few minutes later a young boy walks up to Peter. The Gatekeeper asks the boy the same question.
    “My dad screwed up royally. He was lecturing me about fooling around with women, must have gotten excited, drove the pickup straight through a MacDonalds, and the truck blew up. Now I’m here.”
    A moment later a nineteen year old girl in stiletto heels wobbles up to the Pearly Gates.
    “And you, young lady,” asks Saint Peter. “Why are you here?”
    “How should I know?” she replies. “I was just sitting in a refrigerator minding my own business…”

    1. writer_sk

      Hack- Oh my goodness, lol. The old “mistress in the frig” ending!

      Seriously though- your writing is sharp and witty. This captured my attention. I have been enjoying how everyone includes the hamburger in their pieces! The descriptions were vivid and the tempo was just right.

      Great ending.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh Man! Hack, this is priceless. I never read anything funnier. I love jokes with the Gatekeeper. The set up was absolutely beautiful. the pace, timing and descriptive voice is beyond go. Nail this one to your refrigerator, I’m thinking I’ll do the same.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, my, Hack, what a mind you must have. I could hear this dad passing on these pearls of wisdom, then the crash. Last line? Oh, my, again. I just loved it.

  12. ReathaThomasOakley

    Annie’s Daddy
    March 27, 1955

    “Daddy?” I’d scooched right up to the edge of the seat so my head was right close to Daddy’s where I could smell Vitalis and Old Spice.
    “Annie? You ain’t asleep?” Daddy reached back and patted my head. “Hard as you and your cousins played, didn’t think you’d be awake.” I rubbed my cheek on the prickly seat cover.
    “No, sir. Brother’s took up all the room, I just been thinkin’.”
    “Your mama’s sawin’ logs, she ‘bout wore herself out, cleanin’ up your Aunt Edith’s kitchen and such ‘fore we could head home. But, that’s your mama. What you been thinkin’ ‘bout?”
    “North Carolina’s a long way off, ain’t it? Why’d Uncle Woodrow move there?”
    “Guess the Lord called him, ‘lest that’s what my brother says.” Daddy dimmed his lights for the car heading for us. “Kinda handy the Lord did that, Edith’s family being so close and all.” Daddy laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. “That all you thinkin’ ‘bout?”
    “Been thinkin’ some on next Sunday.”
    “Oh, ‘bout the verse you gotta memorize? Just use the one you used this mornin’ at Uncle Woody’s church, no body gonna know you already used it.”
    “Daddy,” I laughed, just not too loud so’s not to wake up Mama or Brother. “You know that ain’t what I’m thinkin’.”
    “No, I ‘pect not. Ain’t ever day folks turn ten.”
    “No, sir, that’s an important birthday, ain’t it? I know ever one’s important, but ten. I ain’t gonna never be just one number ever again. All the rest of my life I’m gonna be two numbers.”
    “Hmm, I ain’t never thought of that.” Daddy gave a little chuckle, like he does when he’s tickled. “But, Annie, think of this, you just might one day be three numbers. Aunt Edna’s 98 and she says she’s gonna live to 100.”
    “Oh, Daddy, one hundred’s 90 years from now. I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout next Sunday. Also thinkin’ ‘bout how I ain’t never gonna catch up with Wilfred, he’s already ten, nasty, ol’—“
    “Annie,” Daddy said, sharp like. “I don’t like when you say things like that, ‘specially when it’s kin.”
    “He ain’t kin! Not really, just TeeDee’s cousin.”
    “That’s almost kin, he’s at the Carter reunions, and at church. Ya’ll used to play together,” Daddy gave a big sigh, “don’t know what happened.” I pushed Brother’s legs over and sat back on the seat.
    “He got nasty,” I said low so Daddy wouldn’t hear.
    “One thing my folks taught me, don’t forget kin. Something I guess I ain’t taught you, way you talk.”
    “Yes, sir.” I said out loud. “I don’t forget kin, but, Daddy, you know Wilfred ain’t nice most of the time, to me, to other girls.”
    “Yeah, I heard. Just try not to say things at church—“
    “What ‘bout school?” I put my hands on the back of the seat and sat back up.
    “Oh, Annie.” Daddy laughed. “Guess I can’t say much ‘bout school.”
    “See, this is what I mean. Seems like I gotta be different soon as I’m ten, it ain’t fair, I don’t know ever thing I’m ‘supposed to do when I’m ten. I asked Mama and she just got out her big Bible.”
    “Annie, here’s what I believe. All your life me and your mama been tryin’ to teach you right from wrong. I think you got all you need to know already.”
    “No, I don’t. I’ve heard about this stuff called Algebra you gotta know in high school and I don’t know that at all!”
    “Oh, Annie, I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout Algebra, I’m talkin’ ‘bout how to make right decisions. Here’s something else for you to remember, when you don’t know what to do or say, look deep down inside your own heart and mind.”
    “Daddy, when we get home, I’m gonna write down in my detective notebook two things, don’t forget kin, and look inside my own heart and mind.” Daddy laughed again.
    “Why you gonna do that?”
    “Just in case some body, some day asks me what my Daddy taught me. Anything else you wanna teach me?”
    “Annie, Annie, you need to get some sleep so you can get up for school tomorrow. Let me think. Well, I guess you should remember if you’re at Russel’s Pig Stand, always order a cheeseburger.” Daddy reached back again. “Now, move Brother over and go to sleep. ‘Night, Annie.”
    “’Night, Daddy.”

  13. ReathaThomasOakley

    Annie’s Daddy
    March 27, 1955

    “Daddy?” I’d scooched right up to the edge of the seat so my head was right close to Daddy’s where I could smell Vitalis and Old Spice.
    “Annie? You ain’t asleep?” Daddy reached back and patted my head. “Hard as you and your cousins played, didn’t think you’d be awake.” I rubbed my cheek on the prickly seat cover.
    “No, sir. Brother’s took up all the room, I just been thinkin’.”
    “Your mama’s sawin’ logs, she ‘bout wore herself out, cleanin’ up your Aunt Edith’s kitchen and such ‘fore we could head home. But, that’s your mama. What you been thinkin’ ‘bout?”
    “North Carolina’s a long way off, ain’t it? Why’d Uncle Woodrow move there?”
    “Guess the Lord called him, ‘lest that’s what my brother says.” Daddy dimmed his lights for the car heading for us. “Kinda handy the Lord did that, Edith’s family being so close and all.” Daddy laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. “That all you thinkin’ ‘bout?”
    “Been thinkin’ some on next Sunday.”
    “Oh, ‘bout the verse you gotta memorize? Just use the one you used this mornin’ at Uncle Woody’s church, no body gonna know you already used it.”
    “Daddy,” I laughed, just not too loud so’s not to wake up Mama or Brother. “You know that ain’t what I’m thinkin’.”
    “No, I ‘pect not. Ain’t ever day folks turn ten.”
    “No, sir, that’s an important birthday, ain’t it? I know ever one’s important, but ten. I ain’t gonna never be just one number ever again. All the rest of my life I’m gonna be two numbers.”
    “Hmm, I ain’t never thought of that.” Daddy gave a little chuckle, like he does when he’s tickled. “But, Annie, think of this, you just might one day be three numbers. Aunt Edna’s 98 and she says she’s gonna live to 100.”
    “Oh, Daddy, one hundred’s 90 years from now. I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout next Sunday. Also thinkin’ ‘bout how I ain’t never gonna catch up with Wilfred, he’s already ten, nasty, ol’—“
    “Annie,” Daddy said, sharp like. “I don’t like when you say things like that, ‘specially when it’s kin.”
    “He ain’t kin! Not really, just TeeDee’s cousin.”
    “That’s almost kin, he’s at the Carter reunions, and at church. Ya’ll used to play together,” Daddy gave a big sigh, “don’t know what happened.” I pushed Brother’s legs over and sat back on the seat.
    “He got nasty,” I said low so Daddy wouldn’t hear.
    “One thing my folks taught me, don’t forget kin. Something I guess I ain’t taught you, way you talk.”
    “Yes, sir.” I said out loud. “I don’t forget kin, but, Daddy, you know Wilfred ain’t nice most of the time, to me, to other girls.”
    “Yeah, I heard. Just try not to say things at church—“
    “What ‘bout school?” I put my hands on the back of the seat and sat back up.
    “Oh, Annie.” Daddy laughed. “Guess I can’t say much ‘bout school.”
    “See, this is what I mean. Seems like I gotta be different soon as I’m ten, it ain’t fair, I don’t know ever thing I’m ‘supposed to do when I’m ten. I asked Mama and she just got out her big Bible.”
    “Annie, here’s what I believe. All your life me and your mama been tryin’ to teach you right from wrong. I think you got all you need to know already.”
    “No, I don’t. I’ve heard about this stuff called Algebra you gotta know in high school and I don’t know that at all!”
    “Oh, Annie, I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout Algebra, I’m talkin’ ‘bout how to make right decisions. Here’s something else for you to remember, when you don’t know what to do or say, look deep down inside your own heart and mind.”
    “Daddy, when we get home, I’m gonna write down in my detective notebook two things, don’t forget kin, and look inside my own heart and mind.” Daddy laughed again.
    “Why you gonna do that?”
    “Just in case some body, some day asks me what my Daddy taught me. Anything else you wanna teach me?”
    “Annie, Annie, you need to get some sleep so you can get up for school tomorrow. Let me think. Well, I guess you should remember if you’re at Russel’s Pig Stand, always order a cheeseburger.” Daddy reached back again. “Now, move Brother over and go to sleep. ‘Night, Annie.”
    “’Night, Daddy.”

    1. writer_sk

      Reatha! I just love being brought into Annie’s world! Excellent. Your story was so warm, charming and natural. I love how Annie has a deep connection to religion. I like how she disagrees and protests with her parents- she still wants to behave but lowers her voice or sneaks in the tiniest bit of backtalk. She’s the type of child you would want to parent- curious about the world, opinionated, kind and bright. I am a writer but my passion is film- have u seem the PBS television movies “Anne of Green Gables”? That character is awesome. Your Annie is similar to Anne Shirley. (In that case the movies are better than the books if you haven’t seen them)

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks. I try to use bits of my childhood in every Annie story, and I had a better relationship with my father than my mother. He spent more time talking with me and my brother than she did. Annie’s mother is the one I would liked to have had. I’ve seen the PBS version of Anne, and understand there’s another on Netflix, I believe.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      What a nice laid back sippin’ on a lemonade at the front porch swing on a sunday morning kind of story.
      Loved the dialogue, I really imagined Annie and her dad sayin’ it like they used to in the movies of cowboys that I watch – slowly and with a southern accent (If I’m not mistaken).

    3. JosephFazzone

      I always love a tale with Annie, she’s such a well developed character. I remember when I turned two numbers as well, and I was excited by the same prospect. Here’s to all of us reaching three numbers! Great story! It was a really nice moment, driving along, and we were privy to a nice private moment between father and daughter. Fantastic!

    4. JRSimmang

      So, when you’re finished with Annie’s story sometime this year (though we both know the truth: a story if never truly finished), you’ll have to know where to get it. I want to read it all the way through without having to go back and click on all those pesky links.

      She’s, every time, getting to be more and more real. You’ve done a great job of making her seem 10, well, 9 -but who’s counting?- without making her seem too childish. On a personal note, dialect is a sticky-wicket. Be cautious about overdoing it with every sentence. Mark Twain was the master at dialectal interpretation. You might also want to look at David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas.”

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, JR. The dialogue thing could be problematic, something the publisher and I have discussed. Right now I’m learning about the business side of all this. It’s a small, but growing, company with Annie on the 2018 list, if I can get everything done.

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Thanks, JR. About six weeks ago I went to a conference hoping to interest an agent, got a publisher instead. I credit this site because I entered several Annie stories in a pre-conference competition, won first place, and publisher was in the audience when I read the shortened-for-time piece. Every chapter in the book will be an expansion of a story posted here using the prompts, with more linkage. I’ve kept writing Annie for two years because of the feedback and encouragement. So, thanks again.

    5. Beebles

      It was a lovely feeling as a child, being asleep in the car but I liked it even more being the dad. Oh to lift them from the car one last time. Just a touch of wonderful Reatha and glad to hear things are moving on. We are all looking forward to 2018. And if this damned advert gets in the way one more time ……..!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Beebles, the expanded version of this includes Annie thinking about being carried into the house, a memory special to our own and our children’s childhoods. My husband recently wrote a great poem about the carried child becoming a man and helping his aged father out of the car. Thanks once again.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Now Reatha, you just made my day, Annie is so real, I feel sometimes she’s sitting next to me while I read about her. Dialogue is amazing as usual but in this case, it drove the entire story and I know how difficult that is when you have to put back story in it also. Another classic from you.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Kerry, your comments are always welcomed. I think because I love theater so much, I tend to put as much as I can into the words spoken. Thank you.

  14. pven

    “My Dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1.Live large, 2. Live true, and 3. Live free. Turn here.”

    The shuttle cart swerved in the direction Hart was pointing, threatening to flip as its two left wheels lifted inches off the floor.

    “The first two were easy. This third one’s gonna be hard to follow through with, eh?” Hart grinned at the cart driver. “You sure you don’t know the code to the back, kid? Make things a whole lot easier.”

    The kid shook his head.

    “Ah, well. Another right.”

    “The airlock?”

    “Shortcut. This jalopy is shielded, right?”

    The kid nodded.

    “You don’t get this, do you?” Hart asked. “You’re young. You haven’t had a real cheeseburger, a good thick slice of cheddar hanging beneath a crisp leaf of lettuce, mingling with the succulent juices of a medium rare patty. Used to be quintessential Earth cuisine until the global mad cow epidemic of ‘25 all but drove cattle extinct. But God! It’s one of the most basic yet most wholesome meals Man can create.

    “‘Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese…’” he sang.

    “Don’t get me wrong,” Hart continued. “Those guys did their best to ruin an American classic. But a McDonald’s cheeseburger is manna compared to the Imbrium mud they’ve been forming into patties up here. So when Walton Rothschild announced his exclusive “Terran Barbecue,” in which he would dine on a cheeseburger made from one of the last Wagyu cattle, well. Here we are.”

    Hart jumped out of the cart and keyed open the inner door of the Posidonius airlock.

    “Go, go,” he instructed the driver. Once the kid obeyed, Hart shoved the airlock door down and jumped to the outer door panel to initiate the open hatch command. The inner door rumbled and hissed as it sealed shut.

    “That should lock them out.”

    Instead of completing the command to open the outer airlock door, Hart forced open the door to the maintenance pod adjacent to the airlock bay. The Posidonius bay was the smallest of the Serenitatis community’s, and seldom used. The maintenance pod was empty.

    “It’s kind of a douche move, don’t you think? Invite everyone to a barbecue and say you’re the only one who gets to eat the cheeseburger?”

    The kid shrugged.

    “Help me get that case open, and you get a bite.”

    The driver looked at the translucent lexan box that held the cheeseburger. It was being delivered “deconstructed,” which meant that each component was arranged on its own plate. Sesame seeds dotted the empty bun like stars. The quarter-inch slice of cheddar shone beneath the lights like a square sun. The marbling in the beef patty glittered like the Orion Spur.

    Hart pushed past the kid with an acetylene torch. He lit it and focused the flame on the case lock. Within five seconds the clasp around the lock began to soften. In ten, Hart yanked the lock, spraying polycarbonate goo over the floor. He shoved the box open, grabbed the cheeseburger tray, and took it to a bench where a hot plate sat warming up.

    “Normally I like the bun toasted, but this will have to do,” Hart said. He slapped the patty directly on the hot plate. Hart’s sigh juxtaposed with the angry sizzling of the beef.

    “This part’s important,” he instructed after what seemed an eternity. ”You flip a patty one time, and one time only” Hart did so, then carefully placed the cheese on top. A few more minutes passed before he pried the patty off the plate, slid it onto a bun half, slapped the lettuce and the other bun on top, and wrapped his creation in a paper towel.

    Someone thumped on the airlock door. Muffled, but definitely angry, voices carried a broad spectrum of threats.

    Hart looked at his unwitting accomplice and winked. “Might as well find out what we’re going away for,” he said, grabbing a kerf blade and slicing the cheeseburger almost in half. Hart handed the smaller half to the driver.

    “Here, kid. Bite into that.”

    Hart didn’t wait to see what the kid would do. He slammed shut the maintenance bay door, thumbed outer airlock door panel to complete the open sequence, and jumped into the shuttle cart. As the cab sealed shut in response to the change in pressure, Hart jammed the accelerator pedal to the floor.

    If the cart’s tires could have squealed, they would have.

    Hart didn’t stop until he’d reached the far edge of the Posidonius crater. Waiting any longer would have been foolish — the Rothschild security forces had vehicles much faster than the kid’s puny cart. He unwrapped his half of one of the last cheeseburgers on Earth or Moon, and raised it up to the blue and green marble that hung above him and grinned.

    “Live large. Live true. Live free. Here’s to you, Dad.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Great take on this prompt, I especially enjoyed the details. They made the story so very real. However, I am now craving a cheeseburger.

    2. writer_sk

      This was an interesting read, Pven! I am picturing a post-apocalyptic world. I thought the details were strong.

      Superb phrasing here: “juxtaposed sigh with angry sizzling beef.”

      The description of the ingredients at the beginning made me hungry.

    3. JRSimmang

      Pven, it’s difficult to pull off speculative sci-fi; sometimes we get caught up in the technobabble and forget to explain. You’ve done an excellent job, though, balancing the diction with revelation. I like how you used the cheeseburger, a staple we are all familiar with, as an anchor.

  15. Kerry Charlton

    THREE JEWELS OF WISDOM FROM MY FATHER
    ..

    My Father gave me three rules to live by,

    First, “Quit annoying your older brother, He’s bigger than you are.”

    Second, “Clean your plate at each meal, including cheeseburgers.”
    And the third one came later as I entered high school,

    “If I were you, regarding girls, I’d get all you can while it‘s available”

    Fortunately, my Mother overheard that remark and let him have it verbally for weeks. When we managed to talk about what he said, it wasn’t an easy subject for a boy to discuss with his Mother. Fortunately, all I had to do was listen,

    “You know Kerry, girls in school and later on the women you meet through your life, need to treated with respect, protection and understanding. If you do, they will adore you, trust me.”

    I was so embarrassed, I could barely speak. I had great respect for my Mother and never once talked back to her. Being the baby in the family had certain advantages. My Father wore himself out, trying to control my sister who was ten years older than I. He lost that battle when she eloped at nineteen. Even though my Father was extremely intelligent in certain areas, Joy had a genius IQ and blocked him at every turn.

    My older brother was next on Dad’s radar. They battled back and forth constantly over everything. It didn’t do either one any good. By the time Dad turned to me, he was worn out but I took no chances with him anyway.

    I started high school with two thousand plus students half of which were.. You guessed it, girls. Blondes, brunettes, red heads, raven headed girls, more than a thousand. I was so shy, I stumbled all over myself until I hit my sophomore year. I managed to go to Cotillion and learned to dance, so that helped.

    I met Carol Diane and we danced every Friday night for a year. My best friend, Jim stole her away from me. Was I mad, you bet but then I dated Carol’s best friend Ann. She was tall and willowy, smart as a whip and a lot of fun. I probably dated two dozen girls by the end of high school, never touched one of them. Okay, I don’t give a hoot if you don’t believe me.

    In college, I joined Sigma Chi and we had exchange parties with all the sororities .
    Still dancin’ mind you and then I met Barbara, well, she started everything, what else could I do?

    My Father was full of beans with his advice, my Mother, however was right on cue. Thanks Mom, I’ll never forget.

    Well, I’ve done my share of creating trouble for society, I have five daughters and eleven grand daughters. That should stir up things for a while.

    Maurice Chevalier certainly understood when he sang,

    “Thank heaven for little girls
    For little girls get
    bigger every day

    Thank heaven for little girls
    They grow up in
    The most delightful way”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, what a lovely story. What a wise mother you had, glad you listened to her. I almost put something in my story about my father having eight sisters, and learning from them, will save it for another day.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha, my Mother was top drawer, taken out of school in the tenth grade because her family didn’t consider it important. She taught herself to write, wrote a weekly column for The Coral Gables Times for seven years. That’s three hundred and sixty columns, about 500 words each. I have every one of them. , Typical sentence from her………. “I met my future husband on a street car in Philadelphia. He was in need of a haircut and seemed impressed. I was not so.”

    2. writer_sk

      Kerry – I read this twice. I want to say that time period is so nice –it seems to be set in the 50s? (Forgive me if I’m wrong) –it’s a small space of time where innocence and good manners were a part of teenage life and love. It’s such a good setting for this sort of thing and it’s used wonderfully on your main character. I like the voice of the narrator and the way it’s written in a story telling way-I could picture someone telling me this. Very real and very nostalgic.

      I am glad mom stepped in with her tidbit!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you sk., for the wonderful comments. For me, High school 1951- 54, college 1955- 1958. I owned a 55 Rocket coupe Olds and a 58 T Bird. Living the high, but be assured I’ve been through the low also.

    3. Tysheena Jackson

      Brought happy tears to my eyes, Kerry. We girls are fragile souls and must be taken cared of with the utmost respect. Even the “tough” ones. They’re the ones who need the most lovin’. Love, loved this! Xx

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tysheena, I’m glad you enjoyed this story. I knew the time in the fifties would be ‘Blowing In The Wind’ along with Peter, Paul and Mary. While in the music business in the early 60’s I had the pleasure of their company in Dallas for a day. Mary Travers was quite a sight, very tall, slender, long hair and she clung to me for an afternoon. Good thing I had “Mama” training.

        1. Tysheena Jackson

          I would love to sit down over a cup of coffee one day and chat about life experiences. I know you have so many amazing gems to share like this one! 🙂

    4. RafTriesToWrite

      Indeed, a delight!
      I completely forgot about the prompt. I was completely swept into another dimension when I was reading your story Kerry.
      I’m now contemplating on whether this was an actual true to life scenario or not. It was still lovely either way.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks for the wonderful review RafTries. I will solve the question, the story is in.my autobiography. The title of which.is ‘Living In Paradise And Not Knowing It’.
        At present, I am rewriting it. Kerry

    5. JosephFazzone

      Great story! I love how personal it is, and how much I learn about you from this piece. Wonderful! I have 3 girls and 1 boy, and boy do we men of the house feel out numbered, but my girls are such joys! I am a lucky man!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Joseph. A little secret in raising girls, just sing to them,

        “Little girls get prettier each day.” Did it help? No but singing it was fun. I prayed every day the health department wouldn’t come by, inspect my house , lock the door and throw the key away.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Girl, but writing this comes easy to me. For some reason I don’t understand I can take an.incifent from my past, think about it a minute and have complete recall like it happened yesterday.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you JR. IT IS EXHAUSTING TO REWRITE BECAUSE IT’S WRITTEN SO POORLY AND THERE’S 300 PAGES OF IT. I STARTED TO WRITE ABOUT NINE YEARS AGO AND TACKLED THAT FIRST. DUMMY ME

  16. jhowe

    Mama said there’d be days like this.

    Well, Mama died when I was a baby, but Daddy said that’s what she would’ve said. So now, it was up against the wall for me. Daddy told me that since I was turning 18, it was time to hear Mama’s rules. I think, though, they’re Daddy’s rules in disguise, but I wouldn’t tell him I figured that out. I valued my existence.

    I expected the darkness and I knew about the secret room. Daddy worked on it at night, but I saw the comings and goings of his friends and the material deliveries since the stores only delivered in the daytime. So much plywood and insulation and black paint.

    Daddy showed me the hidden hatch under the dining room table. I knew about it but I never dared open it.

    “Go on down, son. It’s time.”

    “But Daddy,” I said as he lifted the hatch. “What about the rules and life lessons and cheeseburgers?”

    “Pay no attention to that prompt. It’s all just a bunch of contrived malarkey. Just go on down and be careful you don’t fall.

    I wasn’t so sure a fall would be any worse. My knees trembled as I descended into darkness. I heard rustling, like cotton on cotton, and then a muffled cough. I reached the cold floor and braced myself for whatever was to come. The lights came on and everyone yelled Surprise. My friends and relatives all gathered around me and shook my hand and patted my back and hollered happy birthday. I looked at my daddy and gave him my best implore.

    “Well, son, sometimes you just say what comes to mind when you have nothing else.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A Zinger to WD John. You had my comp;ete attention. Suspense was at level ten. In the back of my mind, did you write another prompt using the secret room built at night? It stuck in my brain but it may not have been your story. I liked this a lot, sort of like Reatha would compose. A new side of you just popped out and I like it.

      1. jhowe

        Yeah, I kind of built it up, then let you off the hook. I took a nice pill today. It does seem like I wrote of a secret room, only with a gloomier ending.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a great ending after that build up. I really liked how the father kept the mother in your MC’s life. Plus, the father had a great time, I’m sure, preparing this surprise.

    3. JosephFazzone

      I love how this goes all over the place. I’m bracing in for a heartfelt mom story, and then it shifts to a hidden room and some epic secrets. Then we’re having the surprise party at the end! Great twist and twist and twist! I loved it!

    4. JRSimmang

      You got me. I was expecting cannibals, or a slow descent into madness, but I was completely derailed by the surprise birthday. You didn’t let us off easy this week, you’re tormenting us with all that wonderfully suspenseful pacing and dark imagery! Well done!

  17. writer_sk

    It was called a duplex, a house in which the two sides had an upstairs and a downstairs with a wall dividing our families lengthwise. I always knew my father was in love with the lady next door but we never talked about it. Mom had left us when I was only five and the neighbor’s husband had been taken by cancer. Her name was Marlene and she was a visiting nurse. Marlene worked odd hours and I knew when she was due to come home because dad would go out to the porch swing and sit with a glass of water. My father drank alcohol only around the holidays, he never cared for it much. I loved when he sat on the swing because it was one of the only times I saw him relax. My dad was perpetually busy, an office manager at a parts distributor by trade, he also kept the house tidy, lawn manicured, garden pruned and enjoyed working on old cars. He and I spent time together but a lot of it was routine rather than meaningful.

    That morning Dad was out on the swing early. It was a Saturday and I’d grown sick of the cartoons and jumping on my bike, I drove through the puddles avoiding the big one at the end of the driveway and skidded on purpose onto the sidewalk. My dad wasn’t strict and wasn’t one to fuss over skidding a bike. He looked up from his newspaper and nodded at me, the paper was unfolded and the sections I might want like sports and comics were left under the swing for me to look at. 1986 had been a strange year for me. I was 10 and had started the fifth grade. School was getting hard and I needed direction and information. The night I felt like the stress of it all had gotten to me I’d completed two pages of math, read 30  pages for history and taken notes and now I had to begin a research paper. Carrying the bulky encyclopedia into the kitchen, I tripped. The book fell out of my hands and I felt the sharp crack from my ankle as my foot landed the wrong way. I did cry.

    My father helped me up and kissed the top of my head but it was already too much for me.

    “I miss mom!” I said.

    Dad didn’t say anything. Mom would have picked me up, stroked my hair and sat me on the couch saying “It’s ok, there, there.” 

    I can remember my mom’s voice and I miss it.

    Dad said, “Seth, you can only do your best.”

    The only other advice he had ever given me was to always carry my Swiss Army knife with me.

    When he told me he and Marlene were engaged he revealed more of himself when he told me he was afraid of the future and what might happen with Marlene. He just mentioned it out of the blue while flipping over the hamburger patties in our small kitchenette. “It’s ok to be afraid, though, it’s normal – I was afraid to raise you alone but it all worked out,” he ruffled my hair and kissed me on my head and I sat with his third piece of advice: that it’s okay to be afraid.

    “You can only do your best, Dad.” I said, dropping the cheese on the patties and watching it melt. “Should I set a place for Marlene tonight?”

    THE END
    this prompt was so difficult. I couldn’t decide how to make the dad: heartfelt, mean, boring. So I went for sort of a regular guy with nothing extraordinary happening. My original idea was where the father and son are running from an alien invasion…


      1. Kerry Charlton

        Sometimes the ordinary stories are the very best, and this is one of them. Most people live simple lives. The skill of the writers makes these stories poignant and touching and you’ve done this here. Congrads.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pleased you avoided the alien invasion, this is a great slice of life that lovingly described the relationship between father and son. I think Marlene will fit in well.

    2. pven

      I’ve got a different take on this bit. It’s nice. It’s evocative. It’s the back story.

      There are two tales you can develop from here. 1) Dad’s burgeoning romance with Marlene. 2) Dad’s taciturn dispensation of Life lessons.

      because of these divergent storylines, your narrator’s cry of missing Mom seems out of place to me. It’s not sure what to tie itself to.

      I disagree that there’s nothing extraordinary happening here. It’s there, hiding between the lines, waiting to be flushed out.

      1. writer_sk

        Pven- thank you so much. I value this information.

        I’m glad you brought that up regarding the mother. I agree- I was like “does this belong?” But I guess I would tie it to a foreshadowing of sorts for him using Marlene as a mother figure. That is the only explanation because he has a good dad.

        I wish we could submit much longer pieces here. This feedback is unbelievable. Thank you. I liked what you said about flushing out the extraordinary. So cool.

        I will try to make this longer.

    3. JosephFazzone

      This was a fantastic story! I immediately saw everything, and really connected with the father. Heartfelt,and genuine. You packed in so much personality into the father, and through Seth’s eyes you could feel the love he had for his old man. Awesome tale!

    4. JRSimmang

      Echoing the sentiments of others, I’d agree that there the beginnings of a coming of age story are here. You could certainly work it into a piece about how the dad’s life had impacted Seth on his life as he searches for meaning as a young adult. Plus, we need to know what happened to Seth’s mom, and why it was that his dad was in love with Marlene, and if that had an impact on his mother’s leaving. At any rate, there’s good backstory here.

      1. writer_sk

        Thanks JR. Wasn’t wanting to make it any longer but after comments I’ll work on it. Probably easiest scenario if I make it longer is the mom ran off with a different man because I’d rather the dad remain innocent.

  18. RafTriesToWrite

    “My dad gave me three life rules to live by.” I told George. We’d been sitting all morning at the steps of my stairs talking about what our parents have been telling us.

    “Mmhm?” Was the only response I got.

    “One, the girl is always right.”

    “What?!” George was furious.

    “That’s what I said!”

    “And, what did your dad say?”

    “’Was your mom ever wrong?’ He said. And I said no. So he said, ‘there you go’. My mind was blown.” George was still giving me a weird look, like he’s having trouble understanding what I told him.

    “Fine, the second?” Well look who’s in a hurry.

    “Wait I’m not done” George just gave me a blank face, waiting.

    “The girl is always right, except when she admits she’s wrong”

    “Ohhhh” George said in realization, while nodding his head as well. I remember my dad telling me that he was confused at first when his dad told him this. He thought, why would the girl be always right when she admits she was wrong? Then my grandpa simply said, ‘When a girl admits she was wrong, she is right in admitting she is wrong, therefore she is still right.’

    It made no sense when my dad explained it to me.

    “Two, it’s better to face fear with open arms than to cower in one corner and do nothing.” Now that I understood.

    “But what if you’re really afraid?”

    “Of what? Clowns” I teased George. He’s very afraid of clowns ever since he came to my 4th birthday party many summers ago. He was the reason why we never hired another clown for my 5th birthday and so on.

    “Yeah! Have you seen the killer clown videos on youtube?” He exclaimed. Those were pretty scary.

    “I’d run to the nearest police station if I ever see one”

    “But what if he was blocking the way to the police station?”

    “Then I’d run towards the clown and then to the police station”

    “But you’d be killed!”

    “I just have to run really fast.”

    “I’d probably just run the other way” classic George. I laughed and swayed my head in disapproval.

    “Okay third” I spoke.

    “Bring it”

    “Never eat or drink anything dairy” George held his breath for a long time. Up until he couldn’t anymore, then he snorted and started laughing his eyes out.

    “Y-y-you never t-told me you were lact-tose intolerant!” He couldn’t stop laughing.

    I remember my dad telling me all these when I was five. I don’t ever recall eating or drinking anything dairy before then.

    “Yes I did!” He must’ve forgot.

    “S-s-so the ch-cheese burger?” He started, but he couldn’t form the sentence fast enough because he was still laughing so hard. Probably about the incident last week.

    “Uggghhh, Yes George. Fine. The third one proved difficult all because of that one cheese burger!”

    I never knew what my dad meant when he told me number three. I was just five then. He explained the whole concept of me being lactose intolerant but, I never fully quite understood it, not until last week.

    Let me explain.

    Me and some of my classmates in my school when to this new place three blocks from our school to eat and play some arcade, this place was super cool because it sells food and lets us play arcades for a few quarters. Anybody who’s anybody has got to be there on opening day, that’s why we went.

    Long story short, I’ve always wondered what a cheese burger tastes like because whenever my friends and I eat at the school cafeteria and they’re serving burgers, I always get the regular ones. Not the cheeseburgers that the cool kids gets. So I thought, maybe this was my time, you know?

    Then I did it, I got my three dollars, exchanged the two dollars for some quarters, and paid for the dollar and two quarters worth of cheese burger and played some arcade.

    After an hour or so, my stomach felt queasy, like I was about to puke.

    I didn’t puked though, rather, I had a fecal accident.

    It was the most embarrassing day of my life. I should’ve just listened to my dad.

    1. writer_sk

      Raf-that was a good way to work in the cheeseburger, clever! I loved the back and forth of the two friends- so good, spot- on. I think light hearted was a good choice for this prompt

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I had a cheeseburger for lunch and had no problem with it until I read your prompt Alley Oop!
        Seriously it was well written and quite a clever way to handle it.

    2. JRSimmang

      Once upon a time, kids would get their bikes out of the garage, pedal to the corner of the block, then ride to the nearest arcade or bowling alley to gorge themselves on spray disinfectant and cr*ppy 2-bit images. This story reminded me of those good times.

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Those were the thing back then. I remember those times JR. Where I would sit mindlessly in front of a 2-bit 2D arcade game for hours or until I run out of coins to put into the game.
        But then technology evolved. Now here we are.
        I miss those good times.

  19. Rene Paul

    My dad was a simple man, a man of simple means and little education, yet urbane words of wisdom flew straight from his heart into the consciences of those he loved. He gave me three life rules to live by, and I want to share them with you.

    I believe his knowledge of these inspirational sayings came from his mother, a saintly woman, endowed with a spiritual integrity beyond reproach.

    She entered life as the great granddaughter of Chief Rain in the Face, a war chief of the Lakota people, credited with delivering the final death blow to General George A. Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

    I share this background information, not as a point of pride, but as a reference, so you will better understand and appreciate where they originated from and the insight, knowledge, and the values they can provide to you and your family for generations to come.

    From my family to yours, I reveal three of my father’s pearls of wisdom for your consideration.

    Number one, this one, passed down from his father, my grandfather, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you the man you are or will become.”

    Number two, a Lakota traditional saying from his mother, “It is not the man who has little, but he who desires more, that is poor.”

    Number three. One you can ponder for years to come, straight from my father, “Life doesn’t always give you steak, sometimes you get a hotdog. If you don’t like hotdogs, pray for a cheeseburger.”

    As I said, “A simple man.”

      1. Rene Paul

        I must confess, only half of the story has any truth to it. I’m French of Canadian ancestry and do have some Indian blood. I was called Rain in the Face as a child by my school bus driver! My father, too, was a bus driver. He did say, “Show me your friends…” My Father only graduated from 8th grade, but he was super street smart! The rest is just a story I made up. Sorry if it implied anything else. Glad you liked it.

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks, my father wasn’t educated through government education. He had to work as a young man to provide for his family. But he was a very wise man. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. JRSimmang

      Rene, this packed a whollop in its brevity, and almost reads like an obituary (a positive one, full of reflection, which is difficult to accomplish). All great advice from a wise man.

  20. JRSimmang

    I’m about to get all gushy, and this isn’t a story, but I just wanted to share how incredible all you authors are here. Thanks to you all, and to WD, this is one of the best forums to hone our craft.

    Write on, y’all.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, I too appreciate this venue and those who share week after week. You all have kept me writing nearly every week for just over two years, and when Annie makes her appearance, hopefully next year, I plan to cite this group.

      1. writer_sk

        Me too, I agree with you both. This has been an awesome group. I’ve gotten as much out of it as my IRL writing group. Just a wonderful resource

    2. JosephFazzone

      I love this place, this little sanctuary. You have all helped me so much with my craft, and I have been delighted by so many of all your stories. It has been one of the highlights of my day, coming here to hang with all of you. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        I’ve almost always received good remarks every week. I know I’m nowhere near mastering the craft of writing, but I have you guys to help not only me, but everybody else in this journey. I don’t get much responses in my “publicly posted” works on the other website, but here… I get more responses here than any of my works on the other website combined.

        So I want to say, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you guys for reading and commenting. It really means a lot, especially the tips and constructive criticisms I get from time to time. I really appreciate it. This is truly what I look forward to every Wednesday morning (in my time zone). I’m really enjoying my stay here, so I won’t be going anytime soon. I LOVE YOU GUYS TOO! and Write on!

  21. JRSimmang

    GINNIE EATS MEAT

    Why Emilie chose to sit outside for our interview, I don’t know. It’s summer in South Texas, and that means that we’ll be able to swim in our seats in a matter of minutes. Should’ve worn my swim trunks.

    “My dad always offered advice, most of which was unusable and hardly advice. “Don’t count your chickens,” or “two wrongs don’t make a right,” or “two in the hand,” made their ways into my ears, into my lunches on notecards, or written in dry erase on my bathroom window. From all that rough, though, there were three diamond rules, given to me at various points in my life, that have stuck with me. 1) Always sleep with one light on; 2) Always ask for permission before using someone else’s chapstick; and 3) If you want to make something truly disappear, eat it. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger.”

    Emilie looked up from her notebook, and her eyes narrowed under her furrowed brow.

    “Let me explain,” I added quickly.

    “Please,” she said.

    “He was a proud man, dad. The kind of guy that rolled up his sleeves before a fist fight, not that he ever really got into fist fights. Well, there was this one time,” I noticed Emilie inhale loudly then clear her throat. “Right, well, anyway, he was proud.

    “Dad left for Vietnam when I was twelve, following in his father’s footsteps. Only, ‘Nam wasn’t the Pacific Theatre. Fighting there was something else all together. People hidden in the trees, commies lurking in the huts disguised as women and children, landmines, well, you get the pic, so when he returned a few years later, he wasn’t the same guy. I hear stories of guys that return to the bottle, ones that return with nightmares and daymares and pills and a rainbow of maladies. Dad, though, just got more, uh, involved. Maybe that was his PTSD, Proud, Thoughtful, Super Dad. Maybe he realized that he’d missed 4 years of my life, and now that I was 16, he needed to repay it.

    I didn’t care. It was nice having him scribble notes to me. But, I always did find it odd that Jerry Francis’s dad beat his mom and dad took my mom to the movies every Friday night.”

    “People get over trauma in different ways,” Emilie offered.

    “True. That’s very true. But, I didn’t find out until later why.”

    “Why, then?”

    “I’m gettin’ there, hon.” I took a sip of my lemonade and felt it immediately soak the back of my shirt. “So, one day, this guy comes asking for my dad. He’s dressed sharp, black trencher, black sunglasses, black fedora. This guy’s larger than life, you see, but there’s something about him, like if I took my eyes off him, I’d forget he even existed.

    “He looks me over when I answer the door, then he says, politely, ‘I’m here today to check to make sure your father is upholding his end of our bargain.’

    Of course, I’m scratching my head, but I shout into the den behind our kitchen, ‘Dad! Some weirdo’s here to check on you!’

    “I scuttle back to in front of the TV, and dad comes around the corner and steps outside. They’re out there for what felt like only a few moments, but when dad came back in he’d gone from military tan to military pale as a ghost. He was fiddling with something in his pocket, which was nothing new, seeing as how he usually had pounds of things in his pockets.

    “That night, I wake up to some sounds in the kitchen, and I sneak down with my baseball bat. Me! A 17 year old scrawny high schooler who weighed maybe a buck- ten soaking wet. I must’ve been a sight to my dad when I tore around the corner screaming bloody murder and swinging that bat like I was trying to conduct an orchestra. I hit one of ma’s teapots, and it shattered, but dad caught my wrist and forced me into a chair. I took a few minutes to calm down, and then I notice he’s got beef patties stacked and I smell charcoal.

    “‘Late night snack,’ he says to me. And, I think, da*n, I’m hungry too.

    “So, we eat burgers at 1 o’clock in the night, and dad leans in to me after we’re done and says, ‘in 50 years, you’re going to have to repeat this phrase exactly: Ginnie Eats Meat.'”

    “Project GEM.”

    “You are a smart one, holy crap. Took me 50 years to figure that out!”

    “You remember, I’m an investigative journalist, and your bowels are what stands between me and a Pulitzer. So, on with the story.”

    “Right, so a year later, we get home and the place is trashed. Tables overturned, couch split open, beds torn apart. Dad packed up what we could salvage, blamed it on the neighborhood hoodlums, and we moved to South Dakota. Mom was like, ‘I didn’t care too much for our neighbors anywho. The Scanlins were too Protestant.’

    “I had these crazy stomach cramps, and I didn’t know why until last week. But, year after year we had break-ins, cars, houses, trouble followed us, and when dad died ten years ago, they stopped. Hadn’t had a break-in since.

    “Last week, I kid you not, the same smartly dressed man stopped at my door. The same. Exact. Man. He looked at me and said, ‘Ginnie Eats Meat.’ Then, I feel this terrible twist in my gut, and I say to the guy, ‘Yeah, me too, but I gotta sh*t.’ Right then, right there, I ran to the toilet, and this-” I slid the item cased in metal with two blinking lights across the table to Emilie, “plops out. This, Emilie, is what you’re looking for.”

    “It’s been in your gut for 50 years?”

    “Yep.”

    “You’ve washed it?”

    “Yep.”

    “Have you seen what’s on it?”

    “Yep.”

    “And, it’ll blow open Project GEM?”

    “Sure will.”

    Emilie looks at the device, looks up at me, and says, “After all these years, it was your dad’s plan all along. How did he get you to swallow it?”

    “The burgers.”

    “Genius.”

    “Yeah, except I was a vegetarian.”

    -JR Simmang

    1. JosephFazzone

      Great story, Jr! For some reason the Watch Story from Pulp Fiction popped in my head. I love the backstory leading to present day. I can see this leading to a great adventure centered around Project GEM. The father in the story is so well drawn out. Nicely done!

      1. JRSimmang

        That’s one of the best scenes of the movie. Christopher Walken’s voice was absolutely essential to the success of it.
        I hadn’t put much thought behind expanding into Project GEM, but I suppose there’s enough here to do that!

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Wow! I really cared for this whole family, and the way they went about their lives in spite of everything. “The Scanlins were too Protestant,” fantastic. Ending caught me by surprise, wonderful!

    3. Rene Paul

      Had me at the first paragraph! Great characters and excellent back story leading to current times. Really… I dug the story. Thanks for sharing with us your immense talent.

    4. writer_sk

      JR- the details and hints woven into the narrative were the highlight of this. I liked how the first half just touched on the dad’s past while bringing us into a kind of regular upbringing for the kid.

      Such a creative use of the cheeseburgers. It sounds like the father was working as a secret agent. Would love to know what’s in the box.

      Well done. Awestruck.

  22. JosephFazzone

    “My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. (fill in the blank), 2. (fill in the blank) and 3. (fill in the blank). The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.”

    “No! That’s not right. You are supposed to fill in the blanks.”

    “I did.”

    “Didn’t.”

    “Did.”

    “Prove it!”

    “Snappy today, did we take the testy pills instead of the happy pills? I’ve already told you, they are the fruity ones that are multicolored and shaped like various fluffy creatures. The testy ones look and taste like sh…”

    “I said, Prove it!”

    “You typed it, man. Let’s let the tree be a tree, okay?”

    “Let’s stop evading the issue.”

    “What issue?”

    “I said, prove it.”

    “Okay, Mr. Testy Always Thinks He’s Besty! I will.”

    “Waiting. And I don’t think I’m the best.”

    “Changing the subject?”

    “Right, sorry. Prove it”

    I stare at him a long moment. He is me, and I him, but we both know what the silence means. It means that I in the spotlight. His undivided attention is critical.

    “My dad died when I was little. He was divorced from my mother when I was littler, and he was never there in between. The only thing he ever told me was that if I smoke I am a dummy. I was 5 years old.”
    “I’m sorry.”

    “You aren’t. You thought I was going silly, and I flipped it on you.”

    “It was my fault for presuming.”

    “Mine too, I suppose. I wasn’t expecting it to go this way.”

    “Well, the stage is ours.”

    I bow slightly in thanks. “I watched sitcoms, and saw what these families have to deal with, and how they resolved, and even more so, how much love and concern existed in these relationships. I watched, and saw how fake television really is. The coping mechanism fell in place, for surely here is an existence I endure that completely defeats the TV family paradigm. My sitcom has an alcoholic now deceased father, and a mother who replaced negligence for affection. Then one day I learned that there were many families like that who were happy and functional, and in fact, it wasn’t so uncommon.”

    “The dam of emotion breaks, so to speak, and we begin to try and figure out all the math that isn’t somehow adding up.”

    “Why indeed do we live like this?”

    “Why indeed.”

    “We called ourselves victims of circumstance. It was our badge, our honor. The bitterness held the pain in check, and then I woke up.”

    “Was that the cheeseburger? That existence that continually angry and bitter?”

    “Indeed, it was the metaphorical cheeseburger. I had to fill in my own blanks.”

    “And now you are a father.”

    “And now I am. And here is how I want my children to start their story. ‘My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Live life. Learn to Swim. Be. 2. Be the example happiness and respect wherever and whenever you can. 3. Finish Strong. And may all your cheeseburgers be palatable.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Joseph, this reminds me so much of “Waiting for Gadot.” It’s ethereal, philosophical, and leaves me asking myself where my metaphorical cheeseburgers are being grilled. Is this an internal dialogue played out between two halves of the brain?

      1. JosephFazzone

        Hey JR. Thanks a lot. It got pretty emotional. It is an internal dialogue. When I saw the prompt, I immediately chewed it up, pretty fast. I see a few errors, but alas, this one hit home when I saw the (fill in the blank) part. I couldn’t for the life of me think of anything to fill in the blank. So I wrote about that. =)

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Joseph, I really appreciate stories that make me think, and yours did. Your MC(s) filled in the blanks quite well, and passed along wisdom. Very good.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Sometimes Joseph, when you do let the stops out, the writing soars as in this care. I find when I write that way, my stories are usually more me than fiction. It’s very hard to hide your inner personality when you write and that’s okay, we’re here to help each other
        I think I’ve been helped more than most. God Bless this site and all the writers in it.

    3. writer_sk

      Oh wow. Brought a tear to my eye at the end. That is all humans can do. We must carry on and not repeat the damaging behaviors we may have been raised with.

      The way the plot points came out in dialogue was very effective.

      I like what you did here and glad the blanks were filled at the end.

  23. rlk67

    My dad gave me three life rules to live by: 1. Be honest with yourself, 2. Set a good example, and 3. Never forget your roots. The first two were easy, but the third one proved difficult all because of a cheeseburger. Let me explain.
    My Yiddish grandparents were born and bred in the old country. As Grampa used to say, “Dunt let muddy boots get in der vay of a shmaltza kiggle!” I have no idea what that means, but while waiting in motionless traffic for an hour last week, I kept repeating his mantra until I almost laughed myself out the window.
    Grandma was a bit more conservative. Sewing her afghans until she got blisters, grandma would just nod at grandpa’s comments and add, “Yes, dats the vay it is, you know it!” Later in life, she confided that she could only hear out the ear ‘that was never close to your grandpa any-vays, sank you very much!’
    Coming from a small town which was mostly religious, both of them kept the strictest dietary laws, which included nothing that even ‘shmecked’ like bacon, and the classic ‘no-meat-and-milk-within-twenty-feet’ rule. Really, both can’t be eaten together at the same meal, but grandma screamed if butter came anywhere near the same airspace as her chicken soup.
    My father, growing up not in the old country but a more modern society, didn’t have the same strong connections to the ethics of his forefathers. But for reasons which he never fully explained, he insisted on keeping kosher in the traditional sense. He was very close to grandpa, and I think he wanted the same closeness with his own boys. Therefore, we grew up with a kitchen menu unlike most of our neighbors.
    I respected and valued everything my father stood for, so I was willing to keep this aspect of life and remember my roots, as he said. But then came the meeting.
    Part of my position as VP of sales is to (kosher)-wine-and-dine my clients. It’s not difficult when I can choose places that give me an option of certain foods which would still not make grandpa turn over in his grave. One evening, however, one of my top prospects insisted on going to small but quaint joint where his father was the big chef. “No, lunch is on me,” he grinned. “But it won’t cost me a thing. And wait till you taste the food!”
    Taking no for an answer was obviously tantamount to saying, “I hate you. I don’t need your business after all.” So I agreed, and I would work it out later. But later came, and this guy pulled a fast one and took the liberty of ordering me his father’s mouthwatering beyond juicy ‘Bullmoose’ Cheeseburger which was delivered personally by the big chef.
    Never forget your roots vs. never forget not to insult a 275 lb. man with a cleaver. I sat and waited. “Well? Dig in!” said the client. His father waited for a reaction. After an agonizing few minutes, I figured that if this guy is loyal to his dad, why should I be any less? A vision of grandpa formed in the onion rings. “Dunt do it! Dunt let muddy boots…” I forcefully put my hand down.
    “Why did you smash your onion rings?” asked the chef’s son. The chef stopped smiling.
    “I must excuse myself…I need to leave. Sorry.” I got up, barely avoiding the cleaver. “Smells wonderful, sir!” Then I ran out.
    No client, no deal. It was tough, but it was worth it. At least someone’s dad would be proud.

    1. writer_sk

      Rlk – the description of the grandparents was so wonderful and funny. The Yiddish saying are great.

      I truly enjoyed your tale and the writing was second-to-none

    2. Turkey Girl

      I like the tone you’ve put this in. This story really does have a message for today. Don’t be afraid to stand up for who you are. I loved this story.

COMMENT