Funny Feet

Ever since you were a child, you have burst into uncontrollable laughter every time you see a bare foot or bare feet. So far you’ve managed to suppress your hilarity at the sight of feet. Today, your boss has assigned you to cover the foot fashion show that is coming town this weekend. The show runs three days and you are required to attend all of the events. How do you get through the weekend?

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

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238 thoughts on “Funny Feet

  1. Boriana

    I am so late posting this but had fun experimenting :
    ________________________________________________________________
    Aiko was the daintiest of us all. I was so struck the first time i saw her, that i turned away – afraid, my gaze would be too rough on her enchanting face. In all honesty, I never got used to it. I always kept a distance, not knowing how to handle that kind of fragile beauty.

    I wished i could preserve her features in a jar and look at them whenever i wanted to. Little did I know this dysfunctional, deep obsession with pulchritude would make me into the ceaseless hunter of the le beau ideal I am today. Later on, my photographs became my jars.

    It happened on a Tuesday morning, when she and her older brother Hiroshi, were playing outside the Millers’ house.

    The yellow wire was naked and waiting…..desperate to make a move. Aiko reached over to grab the broom and was killed in tout de suite. If death could be masterfully swift, hers was it. Hiroshi couldn’t recover. I hear he lives in Alaska. Never married. Just him, the Kenai River and all that silver salmon.

    I did not cry but I could not stop picturing myself going up to her and saying “hi.” Or inviting her to play rope with me and Clara. Or offering her a bite of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It seemed much easier now that she couldn’t look back at me with that face.

    The entire class had to go to the “Wake”. I felt like a balloon – light , empty and ready to pop. There was a small heap of shoes in front of the house. I tiptoed inside as if not to disturb her …again. It was jolting to see the open casket. Her face , strangely, even more beautiful now void of any color.

    I don’t know if my 8 year old mind was ready to experience a loss that carried such permanence.

    The music started. The wailing did too. It was quiet at first, suppressed almost, but it began ripping through my heart…. and it all washed over me – the grief, the terror, the hysteria.

    The wry smile which tilted my head to the left turned into a chuckle. Amanda elbowed me but that made it worse. My breathing became heavier. Then Jess leaned forward and whispered “Look down! Focus on everyone’s feet.”

    Everyone’s feet were crooked, hairy, perfect or just plain old regular feet but they caused the explosion. Within a minute I was convulsing with laughter. Mrs Thompson helped me out of the room. Nobody reprimanded me but the feet hysteria stuck. It really stuck. Summers were a delicate time.

    Eventually, through my work with Lionel, my hypnotherapist, I began getting some relief around it, but it was never completely gone. It struck at the most unexpected times leaving me embarrassed and shaky.
    When my weekend assignment came through I couldn’t believe it. How could i possibly photograph all these feet!? I panicked. I sat down on the couch, my bottom too heavy to move. Lionel was the only thought that came into my head. I held onto it as a drowning man envisioning an island. I could call him in the morning.

    Warm breeze came through the open window and my eyes shut down for a moment, relaxed by the sudden sense of comfort. I don’t know how much time had gone by but when i opened them again, she was right there standing in the middle of the room.
    Aiko! As little and fragile as I remember her.

    We stared at each other for a while. It was the longest I’ve ever looked at her. I wasn’t scared but rather curious. Not knowing what to do, I awkwardly offered her a pretzel from the bowl in front of me. “Sure” she said.

    Her crunching was slow and deliberate. I took a pretzel too wanting to join into this rhythm of pretzel music comprised of lip-smacking and soft teeth clacking. We smiled at each other.

    And then as two little conspirators we looked down at our feet at the same time and those shy smiles turned into a loud freeing laughter. We laughed hysterically for a long time. When we were done she gave me a strong, enveloping hug. Maybe she was not as dainty as I thought after all.

    The next day I walked into the venue and quickly found the best lit spot. My cameraman set up the equipment. Shortly after, the feet started rolling in but as i suspected, their symbol was now stripped of any potency. I waited for a bit but all that came through me was the familiar, idiosyncratic appreciation of human form. And just like that I was la femme libre.

  2. cokeMug

    piggyGiggles
    @piggyGiggles
    The universe is officially conspiring against me. Foot, fashion, and show are words that should never be used consecutively.

    “I’m sorry, what?” I squinted at my boss. Did he really say what I just thought he said?
    “You are to cover the foot fashion show this weekend. It is going to be held at White City Mall this weekend,” he slowly explained, “understood?” I nodded dumbly, not even caring about his condescending tone. A foot fashion show? Who even knew those existed?
    “I don’t think…”
    “You’ll be paid overtime of course,” He quickly asserted. I thought about the new apartment that I had been salivating over. Was it worth it?
    “Alright, sounds good,” said the Boss Man, taking my silence as consent and left.
    What would I do?
    ~*~
    When I went home, I turned to my most trusted advisor. Dear Google, how do I stop laughing? I clicked on a WikiHow article and saw to my surprise, that there were quite a few methods one could use to stop laughing. I smirked. This would be a piece of cake. I started a list.
    How to Stop Laughing
    1. Think of something sad- easy! I could just think of my life.
    2. Pinch yourself
    3. Use breathing: exhale all the air out of your lungs- okay yoga during a fashion show, doable
    4. Distract yourself: do math or sing a song
    After making this list, I made another detailed list of all the things I could do to stop laughing. All the sad things in my life, all the reachable places I could pinch, and all the songs I could get stick in my head. I was prepared.
    ~*~
    I focused on yet another model walking down with yet another show which looked exactly like the one that had come before it. Why was I picked for this again? It’s not like I had any fashion expertise. Suppressing a sigh, I put my pencil in my pocket. My hand brushed against a piece of paper. My list! I had almost forgotten about it. I pulled it out and stared at the contents. All that work and research gone to waste.
    When I was in a panic, I had forgotten an important thing. This was a foot fashion show, a show to show off all the accessories people with nothing better to do have come up with. No foot at this show was even close to being bare.

  3. SheepCarrot

    (I almost didn’t do this one, but a coworker talked me into not giving up so here goes…)

    I plop myself down in my desk chair, my head still pounding. I down a couple aspirin with a sip from my Mondays Suck coffee cup as I fire up my computer. I open my email and send off my article on the “Foot Fling Fashion Show” to my boss, convinced that the last laugh is mine. She knew how much feet bother me when she assigned the Show coverage to me…that’s what I get for failed office romance I guess. After the assignment came in, I schemed my way out of it.

    How? Simple…I have a twin, and he loves feet. So I gave him my press pass and I took a weekend vacation to Atlantic City while he went in my place to cover the Show. He even wrote up the article for me, so I didn’t have any worries all weekend except for having my glass run dry.

    The sound of a commotion has me peeking over the edge of my cubicle, and I see two of the city’s finest talking to my boss. She points at me, and I can feel the heated accusation in their glares as they turn my way. Before I know it, I’m being cuffed and read my Miranda rights as they escort me out of the magazine office and into the cramped backseat of a squad car.

    A million questions are ricocheting through my head, but I’m having trouble formulating them around my hangover. We get to the precinct and I’m hustled into an interview room. An old, crusty detective that reminds me of Colombo sits down across the table from me.

    “Mr. Grady, can you tell me where you were Saturday night at between 11:45pm to 3am?”

    Right away I don’t like where this is going. “I was at Caesars in Atlantic City.”

    “Can anyone verify that?”

    A rock drops to the pit of my stomach, and I wonder if my couple sips of coffee are going to make a repeat appearance. “No. I went alone and paid cash…I won a couple hundred at the blackjack table.”

    “Can you explain to me how your press pass was found in the dressing room of Olivia DeVaughn? Or how the other models said they saw you entered her dressing room that night?”

    I lick my lips, my mouth suddenly very dry. Just what did Calvin do this weekend anyway? “My brother went to the fashion show for me…I gave him my press pass.”

    Colombo leans back and scrutinizes me. “Why did you do that?”

    I look down to where my cuffed hands rest on the table’s edge. “I…can’t look at feet without laughing. So I asked him to go for me and took a little vacation instead.”

    The door to the interview room opens and a uniform comes in, whispers something to the investigator. Now I’m standing in a line up between a brick wall with prison tattoos and a dweeb with an overbite and glasses. I really should have known better than to switch places with my brother after that spirit rally incident in high school.

  4. cosi van tutte

    One last one before the prompt changes. Fair warning: This isn’t quite following the prompt, but…Oh, well! 😀

    I folded my arms across my emblazoned chest. “Quiznara—”

    “Nope. Not Quiznara. I am—Crème de la Crème, Hashan City’s newest hero.”

    “Lovely. Now get rid of that lime green eyesore—”

    “Eyesore? My lime green spotlight? How is that an eyesore?”

    “It is. So, get rid of it and return my spotlight to its rightful place.”

    Crème stuck out the tip of her tongue. “Your spotlight is an old, ugly fuddy-duddy. Mine is hip and pretty and it plays ‘Bad Romance’ if you step on the base just right.”

    “My spotlight is a classic black.”

    “It’s uuuuuugly.”

    “Yours is ugly.”

    “No, it isn’t.”

    “it is.”

    “Not.”

    “Is.”

    “Not. So there. I win.”

    “You do not win. I do. I am Good and Excellent Lady. I always win.”

    “Not this time, toots.”

    I pulled out my laser blaster and pointed it at her. “I win.”

    “Hmm. I don’t have any weapons that can compete with that.” She grinned. “So! This is what we’ll do instead. You want your spotlight to sit up here in my place? Okay!”

    “Wow. That was agreeable of you. I’m surprised.”

    “I wasn’t done talking.”

    “Oh.”

    “There’s this big anklet convention going on tomorrow night down by the river docks.”

    I frowned as I imagined a bunch of people walking around in anklet socks. “Why anklets?”

    “Because they’re dainty and pretty and—” She noticed my increasing confusion. “Oh! Anklets as in bracelets for your feet.”

    “Oh.” That still didn’t make sense to me, but I let it slide.

    “Anyway, this anklet convention is open to a select group of people and I know that neither of us is invited.”

    “How do you know I’m not?”

    She giggled. “I caught a look at the invite list.”

    “How?”

    “Oh, I have my ways. So, only 47 people are invited. I don’t get why. Maybe it’s a cover for some drug dealing or whatever. You and I are going to sneak in there. If it is a cover for illicit activities, well. The two of us will bust that bucket of fun. But if it is an anklet convention, you and I are going to compete as to who can take the most pictures of these anklets before we get busted.”

    “Are you out of your mind?”

    “Nope. If you take more than I do, I’ll put your cruddy, old man spotlight back up. If I win, guess what that means?”

    I sighed. “You get to keep your spotlight up.”

    “Yes!”

    “And if it’s a tie?”

    “Hmm.” She thought about it for a couple of minutes. “We’ll put them side by side.”

    “We’re going to get in trouble.”

    “Yep!”

    “Probably get arrested for trespassing.”

    “Probably!”

    I looked at her spotlight. It was such a bright color it actually made my eyes hurt. I sighed again. “I’m going to hate myself in the morning. Okay. Let’s do it.”

    “Yay!”

  5. Craig the Editor

    Foot Notes

    It was late Friday afternoon when she stuck her head into the editor’s office.

    “You can’t be serious. My beat is covering city hall and the mayor’s office. Not some fashion footwear show. This should be Sandy’s assignment.”

    “Normally, I would agree with you but Sandy’s giving birth to twins this weekend and I need you to step up and be team player.”

    “I am a team player, but fashion editor is not my position. I want to cover things that really matter. Not where the current shoe trends are headed. You are only giving me this assignment because I’m a woman and you think all woman are obsessed with shoes!”

    “That’s not even close to being true. We need you to cover this event because the shoe stores in this town still buy a lot of ad space and we need to generate more income.”

    ” Great! Send someone else to fill Sandy’s spot. I am just not the right fit for this assignment.”

    “Look, if I had anyone else, I would send them. The paper has had to make some cutbacks. We’re down to just three reporters. And before you ask the answer is no. Buddy Wafflebottom has to cover the croquet tournament this weekend.”

    “How do we know Sandy is really pregnant?”

    “Because for the past few weeks she looks like she swolled a watermelon.and the fact that her water broke in this office. That was the real clincher.”

    “How about I cover it from home? I could do it over the internet. I am sure they must have a website.”

    “Absurd! The paper has already shelled out top dollars for the front row seats to every event in this three day shoe extravaganza. And you are going to be there for each and everyone of them. And don’t even think about ducking out on this assignment. I am sending out out top photographer , Nathan.”

    “I can’t do this. I just can’t.”

    “Nonsense! It’ll be a piece of cake. a walk in the park. Nothing hard about it at all. You’ll get a list of what the upcoming trends will be for the coming year. Who the hot new designers are. What’s in, what’s out. You’re a seasoned pro. There is no reason why you can’t cover this shoe show.”

    “I have a medical condition. ”

    “Really? A medical condition that prevents you from covering a footwear show?”

    “Yes”

    “And does this condition have a name?

    ‘Ummm, It’s one of those long multi-syllable words that medical people toss around. It wouldn’t mean anything to you.”

    “And what are the symptoms of this “condition” he asks, complete with air quotes.

    “Well, there’s only one real symptom.”

    “And what is that?”

    “Whenever I see bare……you know….

    “Feet?”

    ” Yes, I get this overwhelming urge to break out….laughing.”she said, trying not to giggle.

    “Laughing? Really? Are you serious? Just the sight of naked feet causes you to break out laughing? Do I look like an idiot? Never mind! Don’t you dare answer the question! You are going to the shoe show and that’s final! Besides you could benefit from some laughter. Covering city hall isn’t a barrel of laughs.”

    Just then, his assistant interrupts to say that Nathan, the photographer is asking for reassignment. Apparently he suffers from podophobia.

    “What the hell is podophobia?” barked the editor.

    “He has an overwhelming fear of shoes.” replied the assistant.

    1. cosi van tutte

      😀

      Sounds like your MC will have to take the pictures too.

      Just so you know, I love this line: “Do I look like an idiot? Never mind!” 😆 And great last line.

    2. Beebles

      I thought this was excellent Craig. Fast paced, engaging dialogue and super ending. Two things did occur to me as I read it: would it work purely as dialogue? Ramping up the editor’s sarcasm around the pregnancy would highlight the reporter’s untenable stance even more? just thoughts. Thank you – really enjoyed that.

      1. Craig the Editor

        Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it. In the limited amount of words I tend to concentrate more on the dialogue between the characters rather their surroundings. I used to do improv comedy so when I get these writing challenges I think of them as suggestions from the audience.

  6. JosephFazzone

    “Feet?” The tone of her question hit a fifth above the normal inquisitive. There was a hint of disgust, judgment, or perhaps a seriously motivated curiosity.

    The buzz resonated in his ears. It’s been a lifelong problem, and still he was hacking at the barricades to get through. He stifled a giggle in response.

    “Mr. Droed, let me assure that you are in a safe place”, her tone informed him that she was back in control. “We have made progress.”

    “Dr. Chos”, he responded ominously, “I am sure we are in a safe place, but once I head off to the assignment, I am a dead man. My heart will probably explode out my chest. Blood will splatter on their little digits, as mayhem and panic will ensue.” He paused to take a ragged breath and then continued in a more calm voice, “And then I’m sure Marda will fire me. She’s wanted me gone for years. This will do me in for good.”

    “You seem so sure of this”, Ms. Chos spoke softly after a moment of reflection. “Did you consider this to be the moment you’ve needed to finally have the break through?”

    He countered with a question of his own. “Did you not hear the ee in feet?”

    “I heard it”, she replied.

    “The eeeeeee”, his mouth affected a high pitch scream, “indicates the plural of foot.”

    “Yes, I’m aware of that”, with infinite patience did she reply, “and yet I am equally aware of the fact that this is what makes it ideal.”

    “It’s the ideal to be confronted by a massive of wiggly piggies?” His face grew red as he tried to hold in the uproar of laughter that was building from within. The dam was barely holding.

    “Why do you call them this?”

    “It’s what my mother called them”, he answered with a sigh.

    Dr. Chos felt for the man. She knew he was all in all a good guy with a very odd affliction. “I think it’s best that you consider the research of Dr. Voet Jalka. His work reflects on a sort of transference of imagery on the target areas. It was used in the Picior Wars of the early 1700s where the neighboring village of the Oinez people attacked utilizing paper Mache masks of their revered elder Fotur Hora. The people were so devastated mentally from the repeated attacks that the very sight of their leader would cause them to cry and moan.”

    “This sounds like a made up story”, Mr. Droed spoke in a tone heavily laden with skepticism.

    “Dr. Jalka utilized hypnosis with image therapy, and over the course of a week, he had cured the village. The Picior warriors were able to return to their normal lives of farming and baking bread. The point is, we can try and transfer an image to the feet when you look at them.” She concluded breathlessly.

    He thought a moment, and then said “Well, there’s so much wrong with what’s happening. All I can do is throw out a rope, and hope it holds.”

    “So you are consenting to give this a try?” Her eyebrows were arched in confusion when she asked.

    “So if I consent, and we transfer an image of say Barney the purple dinosaur onto their feet, are you saying I will see Barney every time I see a foot?”

    “Well, the point is to utilize the image as what you think about when you see feet. Something that won’t make you laugh, but not make you unaware you are seeing a foot.” She answered. “I think we can agree that it’s important that you still recognize a foot when you see one.”

    “This is sounding absurd”, he spoke with disdain.

    “Says the guy who collapses a lung every time he sees a foot”, she snapped back.

    “That’s hardly professional”, he countered.

    “Your assignment is in two weeks”, she smugly responded, “you need every second from now until then if you want to turn this in your favor.”

    His mouth was agape was he realized he was bested. She was right. “Fine. When do we begin?”

    ——-Progress Report——–

    18-05-2015 15:54.44
    Subject: Kembe Droed Age: 34
    Sex: Male

    Notes: Subject has made significant progress. Transfer of image completed within time parameters. The mother was the image chosen. Follow up sessions will be included to oversee the completed results.

    — Dr. Noha Chos

    “Well?” his friend Stopalo asked when he returned from assignment. “You look well, did it work?”

    Kembe opened his portfolio showing his friend all the great shots he managed to get on the fashion show. “Marda was pleased, I think I’m cured, and what’s more I’m calling my mother more. We’re closer than ever.”

    “Sounds like a win/win!” Stopalo said with a smile. “Let’s go hit up the Fuss Bar for a celebratory beer.”

    “I can’t”, Kembe said shaking his head, “I’m having dinner with my mother tonight.”

    “Well, let’s just hope that you don’t break into hilarity when you see your mother.” Stopalo said thoughtfully. “Wouldn’t that be a tragedy?”

    Kembe froze in terror. “No, that can’t be true. That’s impossible!”

    “Or is it?”

  7. Beebles

    Don’t groan its just for fun!

    GET ME SPIDERMAN

    ‘… and get me spiderman!’

    The editor just about throws Peter from his office and then turns his gaze on me.

    ‘And you! Take the ice queen here, and get over to Eastville. I want the soul reported out of that foot fashion weekend!’ He slams the door behind him. Cigar smoke billows across the open plan office.

    I smile across at Natalia, the ice queen.

    ‘Well, a romantic foot fetishists’ weekend away for us then.’

    ‘In your dreams, biddy boy.’

    God I like Natalia. She is from Eastern Europe; been over here on a visa for six months. With her thick accent and high cheek bones she sets my dick on fire; which is ironic, for an ice queen. Maybe this is my chance to give her a good thawing.

    ——-

    On the train, Natalia relaxes in the opposite seat. She kicks off her shoes and puts her feet on the seat next to mine. I look at those ten little pinkies: piglets wriggling in thirty denier bags and I explode. Laughter pours from me like a teenager’s vomit on a night out. It goes on and on.

    ‘Shut up!’ Natalia hisses. ‘Eeveryone’s looking.’

    I can’t help myself. The laughter causes everyone the other passengers to cringe, until in desperation Natalia ups and moves into the next carriage. One step, two step … It was my mother’s fault and that bloody nursery rhyme. My mirth gradually subsides and as the carriage settles down, my mood sours. Damn! I thought I was over this childish affliction. The thought of her feet sets me giggling again. If I am to survive this weekend, and stand a chance with Natalia, I must get this under control.

    ——–

    The badger is snarling at me, but I ignore him. Madame Zoolt’s boudoir is above a taxidermist’s shop and I make my way through the dim labyrinth of stairs into her inner sanctum. As expected, it is all tassels and table lamps. And frogs. Zoolt clearly has a thing for frogs. A hundred bulging white ceramic eyes fix me from the shadows.

    ‘Hypnotic creatures, frogs,’ she croaks from inside a heavy shawl.

    I explain the situation and she nods. ‘I can remove this reflex, but we must have a safe word.’ I raise an eyebrow. ‘In case anything goes wrong, we must have a word which I can use to undo the hypnosis, to reset you, if you will.’

    After a moment’s thought I say, ‘Penis.’ Her eyes resemble those of her figurines. I shrug. ‘Who the hell is going to say penis at a foot fashion weekend?’

    ——

    Natalia ignores me on the first day, but I don’t care. I’m feeling great. There are hundreds of feet, thousands of toes and not a guffaw passes my lips. I am on top form. I schmooze and network and write column inches I never knew I had.

    Throughout the second day I notice Natalia taking a bit more of an interest. As I have infiltrated the circle of designers and big name retailers, I have become big news myself. Everyone loves me. And Natalia has noticed. On the final day we catch up for a cup of coffee before the final presentation. Some function organiser has persuaded me to step in and host it; it’s on a Cinderella theme. I am only too happy to oblige as it makes the ice queen’s eyes steam up.

    ‘You know, I may hev misjudged you,’ she says, playing with her hair. ‘Maybe we get some dinner tonight, stay over perhaps?’ Her accent is already massaging my loins.

    ‘Yeah, that would be great!’ I am hurriedly writing down a really funny joke that I overheard earlier that day. I am going to use it in my speech. I shake my biro as it gives up on me. ‘Bugger.’

    Natalia reaches into her bag. ‘Here, my pen is working. Take it.’

    I shiver. Nerves I think. ‘Thanks. Well here I go! Let’s meet at the bar after.’

    Natalia purrs. ‘Knock their socks off, Darling.’

    1. madeindetroit

      Well written. Love this description of your character and the accent:

      With her thick accent and high cheek bones she sets my dick on fire; which is ironic, for an ice queen. Maybe this is my chance to give her a good thawing.

      Great line!

  8. Scott B.

    “She’s out to get me, I know it this time. She knows how I feel about fe–…you know,” Jack pointed down at his shoes as he paced the room.

    “Feet?” The psychiatrist glanced up from her notes to see Jack running his fingers through his unkempt hair. She wondered if it left his fingers with a light greasy coating. She retraced a darkening question mark on the side of her legal pad.

    “I don’t know how my editor found out. I’ve only been with the magazine for a few weeks. Maybe the janitor’s been snooping through my things at night; or, or, or my ex-girlfriend’s been opening her filth mouth about me and she followed me to work and found out who my boss was…”

    “Slow down Jack, you’re escalating. Let’s go back to yesterday when you were given the assignment. Tell me again precisely what she said to you.” The doctor resumed her note taking, but glanced at the clock wishing their time wasn’t nearly up. While Jack was not her most promising client, he was certainly her most challenging.

    “We were in the staff meeting, like every Monday morning, to go over the week’s events. She got around to us – the photojournalists – and offered a Fashion Week side-piece to Lauren and some fluff, crap junior high spelling bee to me. Before I can even object to yet another lousy assignment, Lauren offers to switch because her niece is in the bee.”

    “So now you’re stuck with the Fashion Week piece, the…Pedi Parade was it?”

    Jack, face now buried in his hands, in a furious turn went from anger to fear and burst out crying. Before the doctor could interject he let out a high pitched cackle. He was laughing, almost uncontrollably. He eventually composed himself and peered up from her between peek-a-boo fingers and ran his fingers once more through his dark, stringy hair.

    “Boo!” The words shot out followed by another laugh and made the doctor jump in her chair, causing a crooked smile to cross her lips. In another setting, another life she may have even found him attractive.

    “I want you to try one of our coping techniques to get through the assignment. Try the positive anticipation we rehearsed. I find that works very well for patients with similar fears. Visualize, breathe, conquer. You’re making improvement Jack (a lie) and I’d like to hear from you next week. I’d like you to bring in your photos from the assignment; they may prove useful in my analysis.”

    Jack stood and stared at her for an awkward minute before breathing in sharply through his nose and performed a butchered, yet courtly bow. “See ya on the flip side, Doc.”

    He exited without another word or glance back, but she was frozen watching him leave.

    The buzz from the reception area sounded at her desk. “Dr. Quinzel, there’s a Lieutenant Gordon from Gotham PD to see you. Should I send him back? Dr. Quinzel? Hello?”

  9. gbg

    “How many years have you known me?” I asked.
    “20,” James replied.
    “And in those 20 years, how many times have I not laughed at a naked foot?” I challenged.
    “This weekend will be different. I’m going to get you through this,” he insisted, turning the corner towards the theatre. “We’re here. You go ahead, I’m going to park the car. And remember, we don’t know each other.”
    I looked up at the entrance in dread. “See you in there,” I mumbled, getting out of the car.
    “Steven,” James called, as he pulled away, “Try not to look at any feet ‘til I get there!”
    I gazed after the retreating car helplessly, took a deep breath and walked into the theatre. I was greeted by my co-worker, Alice, who started briefing me. I made sure to keep my eye line on the horizon whilst listening.
    “Let’s make our way backstage. The designer agreed to an interview before the show,” she reminded me.
    I groaned under my breath as I followed her. No sign of James yet.
    “Hello Mr Spencer! Thank you for agreeing to an interview before the show,” I gushed.
    “It’s my pleasure, Steven,” he said quickly. “Listen, we haven’t got much time. I’m going to have to multitask here. You’re going to have to interview on the move.”
    “Not a problem!” I assured him, whilst reminding myself to keep my eyes up top. “Talk me through your inspiration for this show.”
    “Well, it all started when I visited Tokyo last autumn,” he replied, walking towards a cluster of models. “Have you ever been there? The women there have the cutest little feet.”
    I felt the corners of my mouth tugging into a snigger. Even the mere mention of feet was starting me off. There were people rushing about everywhere, but still no James.
    “Have a look at these shoes over here,” he continued. “Janie, can you slip these on so Steven can get the full effect.”
    The model walked over. She leaned down to put the shoes on. Before I could stop myself, I had glanced straight at them. I snapped my eyes up, but the damage had been done. I started cracking up. Mr Spencer was busy gazing at his handiwork but Janie had noticed. She frowned at me.
    At that moment, someone bumped into Mr Spencer, almost spilling a drink on him.
    “Oh Mr Spencer! Sir! I am so sorry!” I heard James exclaim behind me.
    “Whoa!” he growled. “Watch where you’re going! Who are you anyway?”
    “I’m Terry. Your assistant for the weekend,” James said breathlessly. “Here, this coffee is for you.”
    “Thanks,” said Mr Spencer, looking at him apprehensively.
    He turned back to me, my laughter having subsided, and continued describing the shoes. I nodded enthusiastically as he talked. James was standing at his side, watching me, ready to interject at the next breakdown. The model was still glancing at me suspiciously.
    It was going to be a long weekend.

  10. Manwe38

    Been awhile since I’ve been here, but I couldn’t resist 🙂

    ***

    “Schisms”

    I’m not going to be able to do it.

    I leaned forward, elbows digging into the peeling wood of the cheap coffee table, and stared at the dark brown cylinder sitting quietly before me. I knew I shouldn’t have it, didn’t want to open it, but like a pedophile walking past an X-rated store, a loss of control was inevitable.

    Oh God, what had I gotten myself into?

    I’d wanted the assignment, begged for the chance, and after six long years, the shrink had said I was ready. After eight thousand dollars and several hundred sessions, I was supposed to be cured. No more fetish, no more quirk. No more laughing like a kid at the dentist who’d just sucked down the nitrous every time I saw one. She promised, and I’d believed her…at least enough to stick my neck out at work.

    In the world of journalism, you learn to step up, or you’ll eventually step out. Or be shown out, if you really screw up. As long as you don’t wash out. There, you like that? I thought you might. Anyway, I’d finally regained my confidence, or so I’d believed. I remember that day, standing in her office, not one week ago. ‘Are you sure you can do it?’ my editor had asked.
    ‘You bet,’ I’d told her.
    ‘You’ll be surrounded by feet,’ she’d said. ‘All toes, all the time. For hours.’
    ‘I’m cool.’
    She’d stared at me, head cocked, wearing one of those expression like someone who had just swallowed something a little too spicy. ‘Okay,’ she’d said after a moment, ‘the assignment is yours. Don’t screw it up.’

    That had been three days ago. Now, it was finally time. My hair was brushed, my dress immaculate, my iPad ready to capture an afternoon of podiatric brilliance–and then it happened. The sudden shakes, the knot in my gut, the drenching sweats like getting caught in the middle of a summer storm, and in that moment I knew–I wasn’t cured.

    Not by a long shot. If I went to the show, I would start to laugh. And not just a case of the high-school giggles. No, this would be fits, paroxysms of endless guffaws, a veritable seizure of my well-toned diaphragm. But I’d said I would go, and my career was on the line, so only one choice remained–the little white pill.

    I slowly reached out and lifted the bottle, tracing my finger around the cap’s white rim the way a mother might stroke a baby’s cheek. Time was a’wasting, my Apple Watch said, and salvation lay within. My fingers clenched, the muscles reluctantly obeying the warring brain’s command, and the lid popped off. They were shaking, the fleshy instruments which had given me my livelihood, and only one thing could change them back into the delicate tendrils that channeled my delicious wit.

    Outside, the loud blast of a car horn shattered the storm of my private thoughts. Okay, no more dallying. I upended the bottle, rolled out a pill, and swallowed it down. As I bounded out the door towards my date in foot city, I felt the veneer of artificial calm wash over me like a blanket.

    Thank you God, for the bounty of xanax.

    1. Critique

      Haven’t seen you here for a while. Welcome.
      Had to look up xanax – the side effects could be interesting for a working journalist 😉 Nicely done manwe!

    2. Manwe38

      Thanks guys–it’s good to be back.

      Xanax is similar to Valium, and just as a potent a sedative, not to mention addictive. Great for calming nerves about feet…

    3. regisundertow

      There’s a certain musicality in your writing, especially in the paragraph describing opening the bottle. I really enjoyed your use of language here.

    4. charkhanolakha

      Thank you God indeed, for xanax. I especially loved your description of the moment he opens the bottle: it perfectly captures the love and tenderness your protagonist feels for his savior.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I also liked the opening of the bottle. Be careful about those kind of drugs or you’ll find the wallpaper unpeel from the walls and try to wrap around you and capture your soul.

    5. Manwe38

      Thanks all!

      I’ve never used xanax (or any drugs, except for dilaudid for one day after having surgery for Crohn’s back in 2009), but I’ve worked with a lot of addicts, and was trying to capture what I imagine they go through when attempting to rationalize why popping yet another pill is okay.

      Thanks for reading eveyone 🙂

  11. madeindetroit

    THE DEATH OF ANNE ARCHER

    I knew someday my foot aversion (I refuse to call it a fetish) would get me in trouble but I never imagined it would land me twenty-years-to-life in the state penitentiary for first-degree murder.

    They got the wrong man. I’m innocent.

    I know what you’re thinking. That’s what they all say.

    I’m a third generation foot freak, albeit not by choice. My grandfather dubbed, ‘The Dapper Dactyl’ by law enforcement, prowled the suburbs of Detroit searching for women with long slender toes, high arches, and shallow insoles. Convicted of ‘crimes against feet’ and home invasion, his victims testified of a masked stranger wearing a Fedora waking them from a sound sleep by licking, kissing, tickling, biting, and sucking their toes. He served five years in prison and married three of his victims including my grandmother.

    My father took the theatrical route when it came to his obsession. During my childhood, I witnessed him paint and dress my mother’s bare feet (along with his other three wives), creating characters with names like Anne Archer, Tippy Toes, and Sarah Soles. I emerged from my childhood unable to hold a straight face in the presence of a bare foot. My condition has cost me two marriages, countless relationships, and four newspaper jobs.

    As I drove north on the interstate to cover the Footloose and Fancy Feet Foot Festival in Flint, my stomach churned with anxiety at the thought of losing another job over this sickness that years in therapy has been unable to cure.

    When I arrived at the festival on Friday morning, I should have turned tail and bolted but I needed the paycheck. Sweat poured from my armpits and gaggles of suppressed laugher bubbled from my belly when I entered the convention hall. Toes, arches, ankles, heels, and insoles everywhere I turned.

    When lights dimmed and the music blared, I knew I was in trouble. I loosened my tie and slumped in my seat. When the first model strutted down the runway and I spotted ten familiar toes painted with blazing red nail polish strapped in a three-inch stiletto pump, I lost it.

    “I know you. You’re Tippy Toes!” I screamed pointing to the woman’s feet. “It’s Tippy Toes everyone. Look! Ahhh-hahahahah! Ahhh-hahahahahaha!” The woman on stage flipped her hair and her middle finger, and gave me condescending sneer before huffing off stage. I collapsed in my seat to a chorus of whispers and angry stares from the crowd.

    When the second model pranced down the runway, all hell broke loose.

    “Anne Archer!” I jumped on the runway and lunged at the woman’s feet. “It’s Anne Archer everyone! Ahhh-hahahahah! Oh, how I’ve missed you, Anne!”

    The woman on stage squealed for security. As two burly men pried me away from her feet, she got one last shot in and kicked me square in the nose. Water filled my eyes and blood spurted from my nostrils. “I’ll get you for this, Anne Archer!” I screamed, as the men hauled me out of the packed convention hall.

    The next morning there was a knock on the door.

    A uniformed police officer and a man dressed in a rumpled suit stood in the hallway. “Oscar Larson?” the suit asked.

    I rubbed the sleep from my swollen eyes. “Yes.”

    “You’re under arrest for the murder of Sable Hall.”

    “Who?” I stammered, as steel cuffs locked tight around my wrists. “I don’t what you’re talking about. I’ve been in my room all night.”

    “Does Anne Archer ring a bell?” the suit responded. “She was found dead in her room this morning. Her skull mashed in with a lamp. We got four hundred witnesses who claim you threatened her yesterday.”

    * * *

    The trial lasted five days. Despite my ‘not guilty’ plea and only circumstantial evidence for the prosecution, the jury took less than an hour to convict me. As they say, life in prison is no bed of roses. After getting off on the ‘wrong foot’ with my three-hundred pound cellmate Ruben, we’ve actually become quite close (not that close). You see, Ruben also has quite a pinky fetish too. Hey, in this place, a guy in my position will do just about anything for protection.

    I spend my days painting and dressing up his feet. I’ve even created a whole new ensemble of characters. Ruben’s favorite is Charlie Callous. I guess you could say my father’s sickness (or talent) rubbed off on me. I’m hoping it keeps me on the ‘right foot’ to parole.

      1. madeindetroit

        I enjoyed creating the ‘generational penchant’ you speak of. Kind of explains why the characters do what they do.

        Thanks for commenting, Beebles!

    1. charkhanolakha

      You found a reason for the laughter!! And a surprising and entertaining one at that.
      “married three of his victims including my grandmother” absolutely loved this line.

  12. regisundertow

    This one is as aimless as it gets, but I rather put it out, half-baked ideas and all, than not contribute anything. Hope you enjoy regardless.

    *********

    BOOTLEEECKER

    He can hear the footsteps nearing the door and he immediately drops to the ground behind it. In the inky darkness, every sound is a giant. He can hear loose concrete scree crunched underneath rubber soles, their echo magnifying them threefold. There’s a metal jingling too, and the static between layers of warm fabric. They form an orchestra whose song has sung the same lyrics since he found himself in the blackness; They are coming.

    The slit at the bottom of the door bangs open with a tortured screech. The hot white glow pouring through burns his retinas, but he manages to catch a glimpse of his own ghostly hands. The veins have a color that is neither green nor blue and the skin hangs on his bones, the tendons underneath twitching like bugs. He lets out a feeble moan, but he doesn’t dare shield his eyes. He wants to see Them. The light slowly fades and two boots take form. Shiny polished leather like onyx pools, perfectly symmetrical shoelaces. Clean. Flawless. A waft of wax emanates from Them and singes his nostrils.

    They simply stand there, as if assessing the situation. Then, without hesitation, They step back. A tray with a stained ceramic bowl clangs on the floor and is shoved through, the slit closing behind it.

    Blinded again in nothingness, he clumsily reaches out and grabs the bowl. His fingertips dive into the frigid liquid, pluck the soft morsels out and deposit them ungainly into his mouth. His teeth tear through them without resistance. They don’t register on his tongue, but his stomach accepts them eagerly. The liquid follows right after in large hurried gulps. The cold feels like lead in his insides and his stomach cramps and spasms. He doubles over and tenses, willing his body to keep the nourishment down. Several moments of anguish follow that stretch and stretch and stretch.

    The others chortle and snicker. With considerable effort, he hurls the bowl at them. It hits the wall and its shattered pieces rain on the floor, eliciting more giggles and cackles. Feeling the wall, he finds a corner close to the door, wraps his arms around himself and slides down to a foetal position. It’s probably warmer farther inside, more comfortable, but they inhabit that part. And he doesn’t want to be involved with them. Even now, one of them mocks him in a high-pitched voice, its sound struggling to fight its way out of a cancerous throat. Bootleeecker, can you sink any lower?

    For the human body, things are simple. It will go on until it can’t, stubborn in its ignorance. The human mind operates with a different and far more delicate set of rules. It forgets things it doesn’t want to remember. As time frayed at the ends and the hours melted into each other, he realized he had forgotten how and why he was locked up with the others. He could only assume it must have been something horrible and berated himself for it until his guilt turned from suspicion to certainty.

    The footsteps again. He wakes up with a startle and scurries to the door. He doesn’t consider how long has passed. His stomach is complaining again and that’s a good enough answer. The slit slides opens, revealing Them in their immaculate glory. He knows the ritual. They’ll remain still for 4 to 6 seconds, then They’ll take a step back and the tray with the bowl will come crashing down. He gathers all the courage that’s left in him and, as the left boot moves backwards, he utters a single word. Wait. He’s not sure the sound escaped his lips or he imagined it until he realizes the boots are still. Wait, please wait.

    The tray hits him on the face as it’s pushed through the slit. The light disappears and the others roar. That high-pitched voice again leads the chorus. Why are you doing this, bootleeecker? It’s comfeee in here. Come sit with us.

    Footsteps, trays, slit. Footsteps, trays, slit. Boots. Footsteps, trays, slit. Boots. Laughter. Footsteps, trays, slit. Footsteps. Footsteps.

    He touches his cheek on the floor and waits. His wrist throbs where the slit caught him the last time. His skin was warm and wet and now it feels cracked and dry. It hurts when he moves, but it hurts when he lays still too. He counts the footsteps. The slip opens and he shoots his arm out. The pain is so piercing his scream never leaves his lungs. It takes emptying his mind and leaving his body to withstand the metal mangling his hand. He refuses to let go, even as bone shatters within his fingers. He doesn’t realize when the onslaught ceases. The ringing in his ears continues without pause. The boots are no longer immaculate, standing in distress and wonder.

    His bloody hand waltzes timidly forward and backward, inching agonizingly towards the leather. There is no more sensation, only a big red glow emanating from it, but he wants to touch Them. He wants to feel something other than concrete, something other than darkness.

    The boots disappear before he reaches them and his arm collapses, half in and half out. He wills himself to pass out, to reset. He doesn’t want to deal with the disappointment anymore or the others reminding him how he belongs with them. Enough. This is pointless. I am tired.

    The echoes fade, scree and the jingling of metal and static in fabric. The light through the slit shines through his eyelids.

    Bootleecker…looks like it’s your lucky day…

    Was the door always unlocked? Surely, he would have noticed the stripe of brightness by the frame before. He pokes the door and pulls his finger back, as if testing a wild animal. The door swings lightly on its hinges without a sound. Another poke and the strip of brightness grows. He stands, his hurt hand underneath his armpit, hunched over, his knees touching as he moves. He leans in and lets his weight do the rest.

    Behind him, the voices have fallen silent.

    1. Critique

      For half-baked this is amazing regisundertow. I was hooked right from the start. The descriptions of the raw and savage environment of the MC were very well done!

    2. Beebles

      Very well done Regis. I was right there with them. I’m guessing the others were in his head. And very timely, can I just nick this for the next passage in my book?

      1. regisundertow

        Cheers, Beebles, you honor me. The others are a manifestation of the Jungian shadow. Just self-doubt and low self-esteem keeping the MC imprisoned (you can interpret “imprisoned” however you want). I tried to show they are immaterial by having the MC throw the bowl but only hit the wall.

        Feel free to use the passage.

      1. regisundertow

        Much appreciated, Reatha. You could draw that comparison, sure. I think it adds depth to the interpretation, one that hadn’t actually occurred to me.

    3. charkhanolakha

      “As time frayed at the ends and the hours melted into each other, he realized he had forgotten how and why he was locked up with the others. He could only assume it must have been something horrible and berated himself for it until his guilt turned from suspicion to certainty.” Brilliant!! I always enjoy reading thought progressions. I don’t know about half baked; but it was certainly thought provoking.

      1. regisundertow

        Many thanks! Plot-wise, it leaves a lot to be desired, but I absolutely love writing thought progressions and drowning in a character’s introspection. I’m just happy you enjoyed reading them too.

  13. Critique

    Uncle Steve spent his last days in a hospice. Too young to remember much I clearly recall his painted feet.

    That day all six of the cousins ranging in ages from two to nine, were crowded in at his bedside – saying our last goodbyes – restless and probably bored. I was three.

    My mother got the bright idea for us kids to paint smiley faces on his toes with markers. Uncle Steve lay there watching us and I vaguely remember him patting my head as I sat on his bed.

    Our artistic efforts probably weren’t great but we sure had fun. The funny faces on the underside of his hairy toes poking out from the sheets made us giggle and laugh. In the midst of our hilarity, Uncle Steve took his last breath.

    I’ve never forgotten the peculiar feeling in the room. The adults cried, the children giggled and laughed, and Uncle Steve lay on the bed – his mouth and eyes open to the ceiling. I looked up too. What was he seeing?

    Many times growing up and now an adult, bare feet – especially toes with hairs – triggered my funny bone and I would laugh uncontrollably. It was freaky and terribly embarrassing. I faked coughing or blowing my nose. “Allergies.” I said if anyone asked.

    I rarely took beach holidays – so awkward to explain my reaction to feet when I didn’t understand it myself. Instead hiking became my favorite thing – rare to see fare feet there.

    Samantha, my boss, called me into her office last Friday and gave me the next photo assignment for the fashion magazine I worked for. A model shoot for a new line of high-end summer footwear.

    All weekend I had this recurring nightmare where models sprouted coarse hairs on their toes as they strutted their stuff. Shrieking in horror they scampered inelegantly down the runway while I lay on the floor, camera in hand, howling with laughter.

    The police came and as they led me away (hands cuffed behind me) tears of mirth streamed down my face soaking my shirt.

    I arrived early on Monday for the photo shoot with a disquieting feeling of doom and set up my camera equipment. I could I pull this off right? I was a professional.

    The venue filled up and the show began. Black clad models glided impossibly down the runway wearing the most fabulous shoes imaginable – more like miniature stilts.

    Clenching my teeth I rolled film as they teetered towards me. My eyes fell on the toes of the first model. I tell no lies, I saw them – hairs growing out of her toes.

    Tears clouded my vision so I squeezed my eyes shut and put the camera down. I held my nose, tried taking deep breaths. It didn’t work. Snorts morphed into giggles. I peeked when the second and third model’s hairy toes came into view and burst into hysterical hyena laughter.

    Pandemonium reigned as they ran, tripping and falling over each other – some landing in the crowd. I howled madly watching their hairy toes fly through the air.

    Life is dreary confined at the Institution. I don’t belong here. When depression weighs too heavy, I remove my shoes and start chuckling….

    1. regisundertow

      Just brilliant. That simple scene in the beginning, one that has probably played millions of times, and the concept is elevated into something beautiful. The image of the breakdown and hairy toes just keep it on the right side of tragicomic, given what has come before.

  14. cosi van tutte

    I am not crazy.

    Look at me. Do I look crazy to you? No. Of course I don’t.

    Listen to my voice. I am calm and rational and sane. Yes, I am sane. Don’t listen to those reporters and photographers over there. They’re the crazy ones. Their words are lies. Their pictures are cobbled together with strips of lies.

    I am not crazy. You know me. Don’t you? You know that I would never say or do the things that those liars claim I said and did. Don’t you?

    No! Don’t ask me questions about the show. I don’t want to talk about it.

    Stop! Don’t ask me any questions. I don’t want to answer any questions.

    Please. Listen to me. Reassure me. Believe me. Not them. Don’t listen to them. They are liars. I am not. I would never lie to you. You know that. Don’t you?

    So? Maybe I did laugh out loud when they brought out the glass sandals and the glass moccasins. But that was because those were silly designs. I don’t know why no one else laughed.

    Look at me. I am not crazy. You know that. Don’t you?

    The glass boots. I don’t want to talk about them. But surely you agree with me. Don’t you? Boots should be made out of practical material. They should be weather-proof. Glass is not practical. Boots should not be made out of glass.

    No! Don’t repeat those words, those lies. I didn’t do it. I didn’t say them. I only thought them. But my thoughts were too loud. You believe me. Don’t you?

    I didn’t do it! No! I didn’t jump on the runway. I never left my seat. I swear I didn’t do it. Someone else did it. It wasn’t me!

    It was my doppelganger. Yes! My doppelganger did it. He did it. Please. Please tell me that you believe me. You believe me. Don’t you?

    Yes, I kept laughing. Even after the boots were yanked off the model’s feet and smashed. I couldn’t help it. Glass boots. Glass…boots. It’s a ridiculous concept. It’s twisted and absurd. Why did they make them out of glass? It doesn’t make sense. It’s insane.

    I am not insane.

    I am not crazy.

    You know that.

    You believe me.

    Don’t you?

  15. Beebles

    This feels like an ugly sister’s foot in a glass slipper. Way to long. Bit of a hatchet job.

    Jack Lewis was both an inspiration and an enigma.

    Carrie, the editor of the Gatz Gazette, introduced Jack to our small team like a new quarterback from the NFL. Jack had been in Sarejevo, Lebanon; embedded in Iraq, Afghanistan. You name a conflict from the past twenty years and Jack had reported on it. He was prolific; one of the most hardened and revered reporters in the world.

    Why, then, had he taken a job in a riderless one horse town? The only clue was that his parents had a small holding here, and that’s where he was staying.

    He was pleasant enough, if somewhat reserved. He kept to himself. He called everyone by their surnames and he always looked you straight in the eye, as if concentrating hard. He also had an unnerving habit of moistening his lips while he talked to you. And once a month, he would disappear for a few days. Carrie seemed fine with this, but my reporter’s instinct and female intuition told me Jack was here for a reason.

    I started to dig. I read everything he had ever written; that had been written about him. He had seen things to drive a normal person insane, but Jack had kept on going. Perhaps the pain and suffering had taken their toll? Maybe, but I wasn’t convinced. He was hiding something.

    Then came our assignment to the Pittsburg Foot and Fashion Convention. This was big copy for an outfit like ours and Carrie teamed me up with Jack. This was my chance to interrogate him.

    We made small talk as I drove us across state. Jack munched on his habitual bag of snacks. I tried to steer our conversation to his work, but he deflected every probe. I’d even worn my most revealing blouse, to try and open him up. He remained shtum.

    The first day of the show was typical stuff, summer frocks, hats, that sort of thing. In the evening I continued my research online. About 2am, toasted panini half way to my mouth, I found it: a foot note in history; no press coverage, no briefings and significantly, no Jack Lewis story. The next day I was determined to press him.

    Day two was shoes.

    I was amusing myself, trying on the collections, when Jack found me.

    ‘What d’ya think?’ I said wiggling my toes at him from inside a pair of open fronted heels.
    Jack’s inscrutable expression changed in an instant. He stared at my toes a moment and then he started to laugh. It wasn’t a pleasant sound. It rose from his belly and exploded in an insane shuddering that brought him to his knees.

    ‘Jesus, Jack …’ But he was gone, hands over his face.

    It took me a while to kick off the shoes and by the time I found Jack he was hunched in the cafeteria, shaking ; stuffing his face with snacks. He looked like a fruit loop. I sat down over the table and touched his arm.

    ‘You OK?’

    He was still giggling, like hiccups.

    I thought I’d go for the kill while his guard was down. ‘This is about your time in the desert, isn’t it Jack?’

    The giggling stopped, but the madness remained in his eyes. ‘How do you know about that?
    It didn’t matter. ‘What happened after the helicopter came down?’

    He continued where I left off. ‘Six of us set out walking from the crash site. It took us a month to reach civilisation. By that time there was just the two of us.’

    ‘How did you survive?’ Jack’s face contorted and he licked his lips.

    ‘Cannibalism.’ He let the word sink in.

    ‘So … back there with the shoes …’

    He started laughing again, real mirth this time. ‘Human meat is delicious, Miss Roderigo, addictive, and the toes … the toes are the best part. They are easy to carry, you see, and so, so juicy when roasted. The bones go brittle and crunchy …’

    Fingers of bile thrust up the back of my throat and as Jack sobbed and laughed I tried to steady myself. So this was why he was here, staying with his parents. He was undergoing addiction therapy. I let my gut settle. I patted his arm. ‘Well … d…don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone, Jack.’

    He dried his pale eyes. ‘Thank you,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m grateful.’ He sniffed and held out his bag of snacks.

    ‘Pork scratching?’ he said.

    1. charkhanolakha

      Oh my god. Was not expecting that. I hope my dinner tastes as good on it’s way up as it did on the way down.
      In all seriousness though, this was brilliant. Carrie’s obsession with finding the truth, the initial clues to Jack’s cannibalism :shudders:. The dialogue was also very well done.

    2. regisundertow

      Good Lord…I kept imagining James Nachtwey, an incredibly tortured but soft-spoken real-life war photographer. Normally, I’d treat any mention of cannibalism in a story with an eye-roll, but the characterization is so good here I found it genuinely creepy and unsettling.

    3. Critique

      Well done and wonderful writing. My interest was piqued right from the beginning and bringing in cannibalism powered up the story to an exceedingly creepy level for me 🙂

  16. Amaria

    This sort of follows the prompt and it’s not even a story – but it is under 500 words 🙂

    I never thought my feet were pretty
    they were too skinny and pale
    but I was fond of high heels
    as a child I spent afternoons
    in mom’s closet tipping in her pumps
    and she, by the doorway,
    would laugh at my tumbling

    When the time came I began to train
    my feet in kitten heels feeling so grown
    in time I was able to conquer
    those four and five inches
    that made my feet so alluring
    my hips swaying from side to side
    catching all the men’s eyes

    Especially that one guy
    who confessed he had a foot fetish
    he snapped pictures of my feet –
    which I still found unattractive –
    but he was mesmerized
    by their shape and how they look
    in those steel pointed spikes.

    So now when I see those
    pieces of art on pretty feet
    I cannot help but giggle –
    recalling mom’s smile
    at my juvenile tumbling,
    or the lust in that guy’s eyes
    that said so much more

    1. ajhaughee83

      i think you did a great job showing the confident/sexy feeling a woman has when she has on killer heels, while still dealing with everyday insecurities “hips swaying side to side”

  17. jhowe

    The most important thing we learned at our sexual addiction support group was the art of substitution. That’s what Garth, our counselor called it, art. It works like this: when the urge strikes, and there will be urges – we’re sex addicts for god sakes – when the urge strikes, you substitute an alternate feeling that’s instilled into your brain, drummed in over and over again, using Garth’s tireless technique.

    The technique had nothing to do with ‘twelve steps’ or a ‘higher power’ or any of the normal methods used by traditional treatment plans. We associated our urge with a chosen feeling and supposedly, it works, but only after countless hours of intense therapy. My new friend Brandon chose the sound of raindrops on a metal roof. I chose laughter.

    On a Wednesday afternoon, a few weeks after I’d graduated from the program, Garth and I walked down the sidewalk. He insisted on being with me for the biggest test of my life. I’d landed an internship with Innovate, the largest television affiliate in the city, working with their entertainment editor. She’d assigned me to cover the annual women’s hosiery fashion show at the DeltaPlex.

    Garth and I were positioned at stage side, wearing press badges and sporting notebooks. Our cameraman slouched, looking bored out of his skull. My senses were on high alert, my nerves on edge. The first model walked out wearing fishnets and spiked pumps. Holy shit; my fetishes were developing fetishes of their own. The cameraman suddenly came to life and started rolling footage, his mouth agape.
    I watched, as the model stopped at the end of the runway, turned and sashayed to center stage and displayed her stockinged foot on a raised platform, inches from my sweating face. Garth squeezed my arm and I clenched my teeth and let out a small snicker. The model lowered her foot and raised the other, letting the pump heel slip downward, the seam of her stocking exposed on the bottom of her slender foot.

    Garth squeezed harder and I giggled, lamely, but it was a giggle. Another model came out, this one with stilettos and ultra-sheer black stockings. She joined the first model at the platform and their feet touched. I guffawed, several times, very loudly. I shook my head and raised my line of site, meeting their eyes, which were narrowed, not pleased with my outburst. My laughter subsided and I nodded an apology while leaning back, taking notes.

    The cameraman continued to roll footage as one model after the next strutted her stuff. His beard was wet with drool, his hands trembled and I noticed the lens cap was still in place. During an intermission, I whispered to Garth that I thought he might have another pupil to deal with and he agreed. I enjoyed the rest of the show, managed to arrange several interviews and instructed the cameraman to get some proper footage, slipping him Garth’s card in the process. That night, I went to bed feeling good about myself for the first time in years. I had a new appreciation for the art of substitution.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I can’t help commenting on the line also, one of best sentences I’ve ever read. Also, your description of the girl’s stockings and pumps was dead on. jhowe, I really think you do have a foot fetish, right?

    1. ajhaughee83

      i think you did a good job isolating one moment and giving it depth – your POV character watching the models. i like the line “my fetishes were developing fetishes of their own”

  18. johnwritesnow89

    Since I was a little kid, my dream was to become a journalist. The journalist is the bridge between public and private sectors, the fourth estate, the ones who keep the powerful in check. The journalist is the light that shines between the cracks of the old hardwood floor, only to find cockroaches frantic, scurrying around trying to hide their sins. Newspapers have won wars and have impeached a president. No other job seemed as important to a common, ideological young man who just graduated from J-School.

    “Socky, boss-man wants to see you.”

    That is not my first or last name; my actual name is Tim Stockton. Apparently at last year’s Christmas Party, I was laughing so hard at people taking their socks off to go skinny-dipping, I almost choked myself. I also began to chant “Socky!”, or what I could only think was a drunken translation of “Socks Please!” Now everyone calls me “Socky.” Great Christmas Party. Who knows what this has done to my credibility as a journalist.

    “You wanted to see me?”

    “Socky- I mean Tim- I have a new assignment for you.”

    “That was 6 months ago, Harold, and you were not even there,” I said, rolling my eyes.

    My editor tries to listen to the water cooler gossip. He was not even there, such bullshit.

    “A fashion show is coming…” he said, unable to keep the grin off his face.

    “What IS so funny, Harold?!”

    He spits it out quickly so he can get back to laughing: “The Underground Shoe Designer Tour is stopping by Asheville this weekend.” He covers his mouth, and looks at me sarcastically, like a child who made a mistake. “And guess who gets to cover it? Mr. Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiim Sockyyyyyy!” exclaiming as if he were an NBA announcer giving the starting line up.

    i took a deep breath. “When is it due?”

    “Two weeks. Oh, and 10 pictures of Sunday’s runway contest. Now, Chop-Chop! Have fun, just not too much.”

    If only he knew this was deeper than a single incident at a Christmas party. Ever since I was a kid, I could not see a foot without laughing. No martial arts, no public pools, and several awkward moments in bed with women. Try asking someone to keep her socks on and manage to still get lucky in the same hour. I vow to not let this affliction hold my career back. I would never work in this field if, at my first job, I passed on a story or failed to turn one in.

    “Socky! Incredible insight. And these photos, vibrant and telling. The designers, their shoes, and the story behind them are at the heart of your work. Well done.”

    “Thank you, Harold.”

    “How did you pull this off without making a fool of yourself?”

    “Sunglasses with the lower halves filled in with Sharpie and an ipod full of death metal. So, I looked like an idiot, but you have your story, and I have my miniscule paycheck.”

    “Goodnight, Harold,” I said, shaking his hand.

    “Goodnight, Socky.”

    “It’s TIM.”

    “Whatever you say, Socky.”

  19. Loneanimewolf

    “Xani the Bert needs you in his office”.
    I pause, setting my half eaten sub down.
    “Did he say what for?” I ask while wiping mayonnaise from my chin, licking it off my fingers.
    Dina smiled, shaking her head. “Nope, but he seemed pretty upset, so you should probably hurry”.
    I frowned.
    Leaning forward, she gently touched my shoulder. Lingering, her fingertips slid up to my mouth, pressing against my lips. I grunted in surprise, leaning in. Smiling mischievously, she brought her hand to her mouth and licked her fingertips.
    “You missed some”. She purred.
    Blushing, I grinned. “Trying to seduce me in the office D? Why, I thought you had more class than that”.
    She laughed, turning towards the door “All my class melts away at the sight of mayo on your chin. Your the seducer, not me”.
    I snorted loudly.
    “See? Seducer”. She paused. “You really should hurry though.” She glanced at her watch. “Shit, my report!” Bolting, she ran toward her office.
    Wh
    at a woman…I chuckle to myself.
    Grabbing my jacket, I hurry to Bert’s office. Hopefully this isn’t anything too bad.

    Shit. Shit shit shit. SHIT. Why me?
    Why did I have to be the only reporter in my whole company that didn’t have a project this weekend. And what are the the odds that subject is the one thing I absolutely cannot stand.
    Feet.
    I shuddered, repressing the urge to vomit. Bleck. This is hell.
    Breathe. You can do it Xani! Power through this!
    I glance up.
    Immediately I clench a hand over my mouth and bite my tongue to stop hysterical laughter. FUCK. I can’t do this. For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated feet. Something out them makes me want to hurl, then curl myself into a ball and cry. Whenever I see them I break into fits of laughter. I think its some kind of coping method.
    It freaking sucks.
    Clenching my jaw, I look up, barely keeping my self composed.
    “Yes! Like that! My god, your gorgeous Mona! Such perfect feet!” The photographer slobbered over his camera, complementing the model reverently. “Ah, tilt to the left. Just like that! Ah! Your gorgeous!”.
    The model preened, following his every instructing with a pleased smile.
    Okay, I can do this. Just don’t look at her feet…

    Aghhh, Jesus Christ. Thank god that was over. I’m definitely making a point to tell Bert that Xani Ikki will never take any foot related jobs. Ever. Never again.
    Stumbling drunkenly, I fumbled the keys to my apartment out of my purse.
    Where was the key again? Blindly, I brought the keys up to my nose straining to see past the fog. They slid between my fingers, landing on the floor. Grasping the doorknob for support, I tried to pick them up but my legs gave out.
    Screeching I go down, the floor slamming into my face.
    Whimpering, I curl into a ball and fall asleep.
    Suddenly, I felt hands on me. Slowly, they helped me sit up. Blowing the hair out of my face I meet Dina’s worried green eyes.
    “M’ fine” I slur.
    She smiled worriedly. “You don’t look fine to me”. Grunting, she helped me to my feet.
    I bury my face into her neck breathing in deeply. “Y’ smell so g’d”.
    Laughing, she opens the door and heads straight toward our bedroom, plopping me on the bed.
    “Want to talk about it?” She asked while pulling my shoes off.
    “N’ I jst wanna cuddle”. I mumble, pulling her next to me.
    “Alright”. She turned toward me, snuggling into my embrace.
    I drift off to sleep with the woman I love in my arms, the weekend long forgotten.

    -Sorry it went over the limit! I got a little carried away with the details. Hope you like it! <3-

    1. Beebles

      Ah cosy ending. I loved some of the language in this, especially the thought processes and i snorted out loud at ‘I snorted loudly’ – don’t know why it just seemed perfect at that moment. By contrast the word ‘bolting’ didn’t seem to work a couple of lines down. Did not spoil my enjoyment.

  20. cosi van tutte

    I am Nayana. No last name. Just Nayana. I am beautiful. I am fierce. I know how to smile with my eyes. I’m hot. I’m fantastic. I pity the little nothings who walk the runway with me. No one even sees them. All eyes are on me.

    When I walk the runway, they always play Jon Bon Jovi’s version of Queen of the Night. I expect it. I insist on it. It is in my contract. No Bon Jovi? No Nayana.

    Don’t call me a diva, though. I don’t sit around, resting on my laurel-scented furniture with fifty-five hundred minions to do my biding. I work hard for my fame and fortune and ninety-nine minions. I accept any offers sent my way, no matter how stupid. Pretending to juggle smiley faces while dressed in Prada’s take on a nurse outfit? I got it. Posing in a dowager’s pillowcase and fuzzy gym shoes? Not a problem. Slouching on a tiger’s back while slathered in fabulous minke whale blood? All for a good cause.

    But it is so hard to be a top model. Everyone’s petty. Everyone’s jealous. Everyone bandies about lies and vulgar insults. They all want to drag me down to their little level. But I stand tall and hold my head high and keep my expression blank. I must not frown or scowl. I don’t want premature wrinkles or angry lines.

    I always try to be cooperative and keep a good rapport with the photographers, but ohh! They can be so stupidly annoying. “Hold your arms higher!” they say. “Sparkle, girl! Let me see some sparkle!” I am Nayana. I don’t need to sparkle. I just need to show up and just be present. The camera loves me. It finds the nuances in my expression. Yet, those idiots yammer on and on with their commands.

    Today’s show is the Adam and Eve Spectacular Fashion Spectacle. We’re all dressed in delicately arranged leopard skins and grape leaves and Virginia creeper vines. And we are all barefoot.

    Of course, I go out first. A fantastic black wig made entirely out of Himalayan bearcat fur covers my entire head in floofy waves. I strut down the runway. My important body parts are covered and that’s all that matters. I am fierce. I am primitive. I am a Neanderthal goddess.

    Bon Jovi sings, “I’m Queen of the Night! Queen of the night! Oh, yeah yeah yeaaaaaah!”

    I stop at the end of the runway and pose, hand on hip. Oh, yeah. I am the Queen.

    I survey my camera snapping subjects. Flashes of light. “Look at me!” “Here!” “Here!” I give them all a condescending smirk before turning to leave.

    That’s when I hear it.

    A laugh. A smothered, barely restrained laugh.

    I flip my hair over my shoulder and start to strut back.

    The laugh increases, breaking through its restraints and rising above Bon Jovi’s voice.

    I tell myself to keep moving, but that laugh tells me to stay put. Find me. it seems to say. I’m laughing at you. Come find me.

    “Stop it.” a woman whispers.

    “I can’t help it.” a man says in a definite not-whisper. “She’s barefoot! Ahhh-hahahahahaahahaha! She’s barefoot! Ahhh-hahahahahahahahahaha!”

    So. He is laughing at me. I spin around and find him easily. He’s in the front row, doubled over with undisguised laughter. His girlfriend/wife/whatever, a drab faced dweeb in a leather coat that’s two years out of date, punches his arm to make him stop.

    But he doesn’t stop. “She’s barefoot! Look at those feet! Ahh-hahahahahahahahaha!”

    I consider my options and decide that kicking his teeth out of his head is the one to go with. I smile with my eyes. Two years of kickboxing and three years of karate are finally going to be put to good use.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, Reatha!

        I will say that this prompt had me stumped at first. I wanted there to be a good reason for my main character to be laughing at the sight of bare feet, but I couldn’t think of a good enough one. So, I decided to turn it around and write it from the model’s perspective. 🙂

  21. Kerry Charlton

    FOOT LOOSE AND FANCY FREE

    It wasn’t Joe Reddycock’s idea, it was Sylvia Slippery, his fashion boss at Harper’s.

    “Go up there and write some color on this.”

    “A bare naked foot fashion show, are you out of your mind?”

    “Your fetish again? Still trying to suck women’s feet are you?”

    “You didn’t enjoy it Slip?”

    “Well, as a matter of fact, I did. But this is business. Grow up, keep it in your pants this weekend and write, for God’s sake.”

    “Snicker, okay I’ll do my best, snicker, snicker, excuse me.”

    The fashion show was set for Minot, North Dakota. Nothing but a SAC Air Force Base and hungry grizzlies up there.. Six miles from the Canadian border, the show was scheduled for Friday, February 12 thru Feb14th

    ‘Long johns,’ he thought, ‘with a steel jock strap thrown in, ought to do it.’

    Location was the newly expanded Trapper Farley’s Inn and Beer Hall. Their motto, ‘Your Pleasure Is Our Treasure’ spread through the woods and mountains of North Dakota. Even the grizzlies took notice and salivated at the thought of all the tender ‘beef on feet’ due to arrive.

    Friday evening was ‘Get to know you mixer’. Minus seven degrees greeted Joe as he walked to the ice laden, dung heap of a hotel. Inside, thirty women reporters roamed through 140 naked feet models, getting the skive. An evil grin enveloped Joe’s innocent looking face as he strolled through the women with a small sign hanging from his neck,

    ‘Toe sucking available, 24/7, room 506. Courtesy of the ‘International Toe Joy
    Society.’

    A virtual riot occurred among the women attending the ice breaker. It wasn’t long before hotel security in the form of ‘Blackjack Farley’ a three hundred pound back-woodsman, a nephew of the owner, threw him out. But the hook had been set and Joe crept back into his hotel room with three bottles of Old Crow, fourteen ham and cheese sandwiches and a large bottle of Viagra.

    “I’m set for the weekend.’ He thought of himself as a public servant, doing his share to brighten the cold, dark winter in North Dakota. Well, he was slightly incorrect.
    The models had held an impromptu meeting in the nearby beer hall, and declared Joe Reddycock a chauvinistic pig.

    “We out to teach the man a lesson he’d never forget,” yelled one slender woman and was quickly joined by the rest. Marching down the long hallway six a-breast, they went. [Pardon the pun.] They hauled him to the nearest tree outside the lodge and tied him to it. He pleaded,

    ‘I’m sorry, so sorry I offended you. Don’t leave me here to die.”

    Blackjack heard the commotion,

    “Are you crazy? A grizzly can smell a man a mile away. Do you want him eaten alive.”

    Just then, the girls heard a crashing sound in the woods and darted for shelter.

    Blackjack was no where to be seen. A huge grizzly crashed into the opening. Joe took

    one look and stared to pray,

    “God help me, I don’t deserve to die.”

    Still no sign of Blackjack

    The grizzly, all ten feet of her ambled to Joe, gently put one paw on his shoulder

    and started to lick his face.

    “If there is a heaven,” Joe screamed, “Take me there quickly.”

    The bear’s claws were three inches long and she used them to untie and remove
    Joe’s shoes.

    “Lord no!” Joe uttered.

    When the bear started to lick his feet it tickled and he laughed.

    The girls inside held their breath. The bear continued to lick Joe’s feet and then nuzzled and kissed him with a sloppy. Just then, Blackjack approached the grizzly,

    “That’s enough Lucille, leave the poor man alone.”

    : The bear approached Blackjack, rolled over and showed her tummy as the woodsman reached over and tickled her.

    “On your way, go home Lucille” he said, as the bear ambled off.

    Jack addressed the girls and Joe as he untied the poor shriveled mess.

    “Did you learn anything tonight? I raised Lucille from a tiny cub, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. Just how many grizzlies do you think are tame?”

    He walked away and his laughter rang through the woods.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Reatha for the read. Joe Reddycock is as boorish and nasty a character I can create. Trust me, he will be back in another prompt. Sleeze-buckets are fun to write about, glad you enjoyed it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks jhowe, As far as how my mind works, I have no clue. At my age, i’m concerned with trying to get home every afretnoon without asking for directions!

    1. Critique

      Joe should thank his lucky stars that’s all the grizzly did 😉 An entertaining read. Its fun to see where the imagination goes with these sometimes zany prompts 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I originally planned to have something happen a lot worse, but I need hm in one piece so he can get in more trouble with another prompt. As far as imagination I still think I’m thirty untiI I shave in the morning, now that’s real imagination.

    2. Manwe38

      Lucille reminds me of Bart the Bear, the Kodiak who starred in “The Edge” with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.

      This was a great story, Kerry. I really enjoyed it.

    3. charkhanolakha

      Still laughing at : Long johns,’ he thought, ‘with a steel jock strap thrown in, ought to do it.’
      This was entertaining from the beginning to the end. I want to read more about the adventures of Joe Reddycock.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Welcome charkhanolakha, love the handle by the way. I’m glad you liked Joe, my sleeze-bucket
        character. A down-and-dirty bad guy. He’s too real to not keep around. However after the grizzly episode, it’s going to take him some to time to find his ‘you-know’.

        1. charkhanolakha

          Thanks Kerry! Writing is a labor of love for me; much like the spinning loom in the poem. I’m curious: are you a fan of sufi poetry or qawwali?
          Hahaha I’m sure he’ll get his mojo back, and come back bigger and better than ever!

  22. ajhaughee83

    Sorry….went a little dark and got a little graphic with this one.

    “Alright let’s get this over with. I have a Givenchy shoot this afternoon and I need time to center myself beforehand.” A tall, elegant brunette strutted across the room and flopped her designer bag on the oversized chair.

    I continued to carefully wipe my camera lens and looked anxiously at the set. My stomach was rolling in turmoil over the thought of what was about to happen. Alicia had worn short cut offs and polished her legs so much that they looked as if they could show my reflection. I had to be professional about this and get my job done or I wouldn’t be able to make the rent this month. Several pairs of designer platforms awaited Alicia on the prop table next to me. I couldn’t bear to even look at them to consider what type of lighting would showcase the colors best. I closed my eyes and drew in a deep, calming breath. I can do this.

    “Whenever you are ready.”

    “Naturally.” Alicia rolled her eyes and took off the fur lined boots she wore specifically to leave no indentations on her skin.

    It felt as if my heart stopped beating as I got my first glimpse at her immaculate foot. The familiar shiver rolled over me and I couldn’t stop my mind from racing. Was this foot capable of what the other feet had done so many years ago? I made myself look away and fumbled with the camera strap as I unnecessarily reattached it.

    “I am going to start with the Blahniks and probably end with the Choos. You’re going to have to change lenses because of the fabric of the last one.”

    The room felt as if it had shrunk to the size of a closet and I was fighting for air. I involuntarily watched as she unhooked the clasp on the black pair of shoes, feeling my heart hammering in my chest. I stared at the hardness of her heel. That foot could easily kill someone. Could easily kill me right now, especially with that five inch spike on the end. My mind flashed an image of mother’s head with that black spike gouged through her temple and blood gliding smoothly to the floor. My hands flew to cover my eyes and I began to choke.

    “What the hell is wrong with you?”

    I stumbled back into the chair and fell on top of Alicia’s leather bag. The darkness was about to consume me and I had to turn it. Then I felt the bubbles begin slowly in my stomach and spread effervescently up my throat and out of my mouth. It began as a light chuckle and soon turned into howling guffaws. Alicia stepped back with a disgusted look on her face.

    “Screw this. I am not going to give my time to such a damn idiot. You can explain to your boss why you have no pictures from this shoot.”

    Alicia ripped her bag out from under me and stormed out of the room as I strained to control myself. I wiped my hands over my face and felt the shaking begin to subside. My decent into tranquility was interrupted by a knock on the door.

    “I am here for the shoot at 2:00. Sorry, I am a little early.”

    I looked down at the camera still in my hands and wished I could focus my mind as well as I could focus the lens.

    1. jhowe

      I liked the dark aspects to this. You gave just enough background with the mother to make it believable. Nicely done. My one critique would be to use contractions in the dialog to make it sound less formal.

    2. Beebles

      Found it. I think I read it on my phone first which is rubbish for comments. Yes nice and dark – had me thinking along a sexual line at first and then came the kick – literally – in the middle. Portrayed the panic well I thought.

  23. ReathaThomasOakley

    “What the hell?” The girl sputtered. “Glass? GLASS shoes…”

    “Um, those would be slippers, Ella, glass slippers.” The older woman said.

    “It’s CINDERella, how many times I gotta tell you, without cinder my story makes no sense, has no legs,” she threw the shoe box, slippers and all at the woman, who caught it as if used to such actions. “If I’m gonna pay a PR flack good money, then you gotta…”

    “Your father’s money,” the woman muttered as she placed the box on top of the rejected gown and tiara.

    “What did you say?” The girl moved toward the woman. “Daddy left me his entire portfolio. His mistake was naming you my guardian, my fairy godmother. I can’t believe you’re trying to ruin the most important night of my life, the night the prince will take one look and fall in love with poor, little abused me, who never had a chance…” Ella wailed, throwing herself on the fur covered bed.

    “Ella, uh, Cinderella, I’ll explain again. This prince is rumored to have a foot thing, has said he will only marry a girl with beautiful feet, perfect toes. Now, think. He can’t see your feet if they’re covered. You only have one chance to make a first impression,” God forgive me, the woman thought.

    Cinderella wiped her nose on the gold embroidered sheet and sat up.

    “What are your spies saying THEY are wearing?”

    The woman checked her Apple Watch.

    “Stepsister One, I really wish you’d learn their names, is wearing a Vera Wang, too close to a wedding dress, I think…”

    “No, no, you incompetent twit. Not dresses, shoes!”

    “Oh, yes. Seems they are walking the conservative path,” she looked to see if her pun was understood, she had few chances for fun. “Standard jewel encrusted, silk lined, everything covered.”

    “Okay, I’ll wear the stupid glass things. Now, how do I get there. No stretch limos. I want a coach, horses, footmen, the works.”

    The woman shook her head, but only said, “As you wish.”

    Later, as she was reclining on Ella’s chaise with a glass of Jack, the door burst open and a disheveled Cinder stormed through.

    “It’s your fault. You should’ve known. You set me up.”

    “I? Never! I more than anyone want you to find your prince, get married, etc., etc. What happened?”

    “Everyone but you knew the reporter for Kingdom Times has this problem, every time she sees a bare foot she starts laughing uncontrollably.”

    “Oh, no.”

    “Oh, yes, and when they heard her, my ugly stepsisters saw their chance, started pointing and hee hawing. Others joined in and when that stupid pig of a prince saw what was happening, even though just moments before he was drooling at my feet, he started laughing, too. I was so humiliated I ran out, stumbled down the stairs, lost a slipper, couldn’t find the stupid coach, ran all the way back, hopping on one foot.” Cinderella flung herself across the bed. “And, it’s all your fault!”

    “Well, look on the bright side, at least you still have one shoe,” she said as the glass slipper splintered against the wall behind her.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Loved it, perhaps the Prince will remember the drool part and come looking for her. Enjoyed all the ya ya between Cinder and her step mother, nice twist there.

    2. jhowe

      I loved this. You don’t do comedy often, but you nailed it. All those zingers: the Apple watch, the glass of Jack, not knowing the step-sister’s names…. it all worked.

      I wanted to point out one technique you used that worked very well: when you said, “she placed the box on top of the rejected gown and tiara,” it said a mouthful without having to explain that Ella hated everything the godmother picked out.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, back in the day, early 80s, that is, I wrote a weekly newspaper humor column, very Erma Bombeckish. With limited word count I truly learned what “show, don’t tell” meant, and how to find the funny in every day examples. Thanks again for noticing that.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Cosi. When rereading, especially the last line, I think I should have better identified the speakers rather than just use “she”. Thanks, again.

    3. charkhanolakha

      I love this representation of cinderella as an entitled bratty princess!
      “.. fall in love with poor, little abused me, who never had a chance…” Ella wailed, throwing herself on the fur covered bed.” Really enjoyed the contradiction in this sentence.
      I had a smile on my face through out this story, thanks for sharing!!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, I’ve always thought the good girls in fairy tales are so dull and boring. Cinderella was such a wimp, depending on a fairy godmother or prince to save her. The stepsisters were probably more interesting.

    4. Beebles

      One of the things I like about this site is not necessarily the inspiration to improve my prose- nuff said on that – but to improve my ideas. There have been a number of stories I have read since joining that have reminded me to look at things differently. This is one. Great fun.

    5. JosephFazzone

      Clever twist to make a small character the twist in the story. I really liked that. I also liked the modernization of the classic, and the tenuous relationship between the Fairy Godmother and Ella. =) Fun fun fun!

  24. charkhanolakha

    Mrs. Hameeda was worried. Raja would not stop crying. His face was red, scrunched up, tear following tear. She had tried everything she could think of: she sang to him, she pulled funny faces, held a worn teddy bear in front of her face and talked in the growl-iest voice she could manage. Raja just redoubled his efforts. She held his tiny feet up in the air, gently massaged them as she tried to sooth him. Suddenly, Raja stopped crying. He had just seen his feet for the first time. He watched, fascinated. Then a gurgle of laughter escaped him, followed by a peal. He could not stop. This was the first time Raja had laughed.
    Raja was 8; he was in the boy’s locker room after football practice. Arsalan sat next to him on the bench; took his socks off. Raja glanced at the other boy’s feet: untrimmed nails, middle toe longer the thumb. Raja felt a laugh swell up in his belly, he felt it move to his throat; he heard the laugh escape. His own laughter: loud, uncontained, and unstoppable. Arsalan gave him a strange look, and slowly edged away.
    Slowly, as he began to grow up, Raja realized that people judged him for finding joy and laughter in something as mundane as feet. He began to hide his laughter, a little cough here to disguise a giggle, a hand over his face there to conceal a smirk. He began to fit in more, his quirk became a secret that bought him joy, but was known to only a few others. Mrs. Hameeda encouraged this tendency for concealment: she understood people’s tendency to ostracize those who are different. He wore black polished shoes to his graduation from art school, a BA in photography in his hand.

    Then came the bombshell. Aleena, the editor at the local newspaper he had begun to work for, sat legs crossed, cigarette in hand, sleek curtain of hair partially obscuring a sharp, pointed face. “Raju: I need you to do this for me. Ramps, catwalks; they are all so dull; so passé. Feet are the new frontier. I need a picture story: I need callouses and corns; I need pedicures: I need yellow polka dots on a pink nail base: I need henna tattoos. I need people who make their feet their canvas!” Raja gave her a blank stare. “Raju, I need you to cover the art exhibition “the paths we walk” by the upcoming artist Khan. He tells people’s stories by taking pictures of their feet. It’s going to be nothing but feet.”

    Raja felt strong enough for this. He had molded his life around hiding the hilarity associated with feet; the hilarity only he saw. He could go to the exhibiton; behave like the professional he was, no one would suspect a thing. He walked in, camera swung around his neck. The air smelt of art; and intellect; with a little bit of pretension thrown in. He walked from picture to picture, a faked look of contemplation on his face.
    It began with a curled toe nail. “You can do this”, he told himself. Toe hair. “Just another day at work, move on.” The tan line from a sandal. A giggle escaped him. “Get it together!” A bride’s henna tattoo. He was laughing now. A different color of nail polish on each nail. He was in hysterics. He couldn’t control it anymore. All the years of pent up laughter burst out of him; he was on the floor; grabbing his sides. Laughing so hard it hurt. Every foot he had ever seen was coming back to him, every laugh he had ever choked back determined to escape. A crowd had gathered. They were whispering. “Is he okay?” “Why won’t he stop?” “Should we do something?” “Someone call an ambulance!!”

    Dr. Nasr sat across from him; the desk a vast ocean between them. “So you find feet funny…why do you think that is?” Raja stared at him blankly. “What do they remind you off?” A lifted eyebrow, a pressing tone. A quick glance at a gleaming wrist watch. “What was your relationship with your parents like?” Raja stared at Dr. Nasr, perplexed. What was the point of these questions? “It was wonderful, Doctor” he said. Dr. Nasr looked disappointed. “Hmm…Raja, until you can look within your self and find answers to these questions, I am going to have to ask you to take this medicine. It will help fix you.” Raja wanted to laugh at the absurdity of finding answers that did not exist; of “fixing” something that gave him joy. He did not, though. He had lost confidence in his judgment of what is appropriate to be laughed at.
    He disagreed with the doctor, he disagreed with Arsalan, and with the people who had put him on that ambulance. He thought feet were hilarious. He took the large red pills anyway, religiously. He had to, if Aleena was ever to let him come back to work. He needed Dr. Nasr to say he was fine, he was normal. He took the red pills religiously.
    He was just like everyone else now, with no secret source of laughter to light up his insides and make the tiny corner of the world he inhabited a little bit brighter.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I just loved this, so many great scenes and lines. I really appreciated: The air smelt of art, and intellect, with a little bit of pretension…

    2. jhowe

      You made this so real, so riveting, I liked it a lot. You told just enough in each scene to explain Raja’s condition perfectly. I would have liked seeing the story broken into more paragraphs, especially the dialog parts, but sometimes these posts get changed when you hit ‘submit.’ Good job.

      1. charkhanolakha

        Thanks jhowe!! yep, there were at least two paragraphs in there that got merged into a single paragraph. None of them contained the dialog parts, though! Thanks for pointing that out, will work on it!

    3. Beebles

      This story felt like a blanket. It wrapped me up though ultimately left me heart broken. It made me want to rail against the injustice. Liked the subtle commentary. Thank you.

      1. charkhanolakha

        Thanks Beebles!! And thanks for picking up on the commentary! I can never tell if I’m being subtle or driving the point in with a hammer, so I tend to err on the side of caution.

    4. regisundertow

      This is very akin to some of my favorite short stories. It hits that sweet spot between literary confidence and leftfield plot. Absolutely love it.

  25. Cceynowa

    A Bargain Made

    I focused on hiding my sweat while Andy passed out our monthly assignments. I pressed my hands down on my knees to keep them from jumping. I couldn’t explain my anxiety without explaining my disability. How could I explain that for the past fifteen years I had avoided bare feet in an attempt to contain my near hysteric laughter at the sight of toes? But now I was assigned to cover Thurberville’s annual “Heel-to-Toe Fashion Show.” This was my first big assignment for the paper, and I couldn’t ask for a different one. In desperation, I decided to visit Mama Jean after work.

    Mama Jean is a verified, unofficial, witch living in the woods that surround Thurberville. As a child I learned about Mama Jean, and how to contact her, but was warned never to do so. Her powers were real, and so was her anger.

    I parked my car at the edge of the woods and steeled myself for what I was about to do. I weighed my options and knew I had no other choice. A psychologist evaluated me once and his diagnosis was that it was the strangest case of conditioned response he had ever seen. Since then I avoided my “trigger” and caused as little embarrassment to myself and others as I could. But I had to attend the Heel-To-Toe Show or else I would lose my job. With a steadying breath, I left my car and walked into the woods.

    Sunlight barely filtered between the tree boughs, making the woods dark and forbidding. Pushing my fear down, I tried to recall the stories I had heard as a child. Not too far into the woods I saw the tree carving: a circle with an arrow embedded in it. I walked in the opposite direction of the arrow. The next arrow I followed, and then the opposite of the third. After six more arrows I stumbled upon a stream that flowed uphill. I followed it and finally arrived at Mama Jean’s cabin. She was sitting outside tending to a large open fire. I coughed once to announce my arrival.

    “Come on up her’ Ruben. I’ve been needin’ to talk to yer,” she waved her gnarled hand at me.

    I made my feet move. “You know my name?”

    She chuckled in the back of her throat. “Yer mammy told me.”

    “What?” I was now standing directly across from the witch. “My mother? She came here?”

    “She did that. Was a young’un still, face pox spot’d and scar’n with acne. I made her pretty and she promis’d me her firstborn.”

    “She gave me to you? I don’t understand, I’m not yours. I came here because I need your help.”
    “’Course yer do, and no yer not. Yer mama came to barg’n with me after yer was born. Said she couldn’t do it. That it was wrong. She was brave, and I barg’n’d with her. I took yer laughter instead, but yer found a way to deny me havn’t yer? Smart boy, yer are.” Her eyes had begun to glow on their own as she spoke. I could feel her anger.

    “You took my laughter,” I repeated. Slowly understanding dawned on me. “You cursed me to laugh at feet, right?”

    “Yes boy,” she hissed. “All yer had to do was laugh and I would have been paid. But no. Yer like yer mammy and be want’in to not pay.”

    “But you don’t understand,” I cried. “I’ll lose my job if I laugh at the Fashion Show this weekend. I cannot laugh at feet! Is there anything I can do? What do you want instead? Please!”

    Mama Jean regarded me for a long time. I wanted badly to turn and run from her, but sensed that I would never make it out of the woods if I did. Finally, after her fire had burned low, she said, “Once more I’ll barg’n. Once more only. Yer won’t be laughin’ at feet if yer agree to give me yer honesty.”

    “So I’d lie all the time?”

    “Yer a writer,” she said with a wicked smile. “Yer wouldn’t even notice it was gone.”

    1. charkhanolakha

      Cceynowa, I really enjoyed reading this! Was completely gripped. I loved the plot twist, and the detail(that Ruben has to walk in the direction opposite to the arrows, for example). The last lines made me laugh out loud (honestly!).

  26. Critique

    haven’t had anyone over recently, so it must be yours. You take a sip as the…
    Late. Last week’s prompt.

    Ted shoved empty take out cartons aside on the coffee table searching for the TV remote. The pizza he ordered should be here soon. Where the heck was that thing? Rubbing his tired eyes he salvaged an open can of soda teetering on the table’s edge and absently took a long pull of the liquid – immediately spewing it out across the hardwood floor. He slumped onto the sofa, held the can at arm’s length and squinted.

    Toxic paint solvent.

    A burning sensation started in his stomach, spreading rapidly up his throat. He coughed, a gurgling squawking noise coming from his mouth. The can fell from his fingers, spilling its potent contents just as the doorbell rang.

    Shaken he crossed the room and opened the door. The same pretty young woman that delivered pizza last week – the one with the sprinkle of freckles on her nose – stood in the hallway holding a large pizza box.

    “Pizza delivery for Ted Prince.” She smiled recognizing him.

    Ted opened his mouth. “Croak… gaaaggh.” He gestured wildly at his throat.

    Her eyes widened in alarm. “Are you okay?”

    Ted froze when he looked at his gray complexion in the hallway mirror.

    His throat was on fire.

    Ted fainted.

    When he came to there was a pert freckled nose up close and personal – she was giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation while the MacAuley’s – the neighbours from next door – hovered with worried faces.

    Ted smelled paint remover and pepperoni.

    “Mr. Prince can you hear me?” She said. “The ambulance is on its way.”

    “What….what happened?” Ted asked his voice strangely hoarse.

    “Ted, you was croaking like a frog. Scared the crap out of us.” Mr. MacAuley leaned forward and dropped his voice. “You drinking solvent Ted?”

    Mrs. MacAuley piped up. “I know a few good counselors. No shame in that young man.”

    Ted slowly got to his feet. “It was purely accidental.”

    Mrs. MacAuley smiled slyly and winked at the pizza lady. “Looks like Olivia’s kiss of life turned you back into a prince eh?”

    A becoming blush spread over Olivia’s face and she fussed with her hair.

    Following a thorough checkup from the paramedics, Ted’s fatigue dissipated and sharing pizza with Olivia – paint solvent fumes in the air – well, everything turned out fine after all.

    1. jhowe

      Very enjoyable. You created a great, feel-good story and followed the prompt perfectly. The neighbors added a nice touch and helped to round out the story.

  27. Reaper

    Part 29, I’m conflicted on what I think of this one. Strongly so. Sorry once again for falling behind on the reading and commenting aspect. One of these days I will have nothing but time.

    In the Beginning – Quentonian Nightmare

    Father O’Reilly knew the Saturday morning preachers weren’t talking to him. Why would they be? He was a man of God. They were the faithless shepherds of a well fleeced flock. Their message was not for him.

    It was for someone though.

    He could see they were speaking to that one, passing along messages of death and damnation. They spoke in tongues, expelled riddles that only the most damaged of minds could mistake for the Word. One of those minds was surely hanging on every syllable.

    That scared the priest more than anything.

    When he looked back on it later, Father O’Reilly didn’t know if it was the fourth wall breaking ministers or the tumor growing in the center of his head, but something prepared him for velvet Jesus.

    His reaction to bare feet was one of the things that drove him to a vocation that denied him a family. Ever since he was a child just the thought of a bare foot was enough to get him giggling. The sight of one turned that into gales of laughter. So, when the velvet Jesus turned from offering food to the masses and told him to attend all three days of the foot fashion show, well, who was Father O’Reilly to argue? Jesus was his boss, and he could do a lot more than strip away the retirement plan.

    Come to think of it, He had kind of already done that.

    When the priest saw the insane book thief wandering through the fetishist demilitarized zone he understood who the talking heads were speaking for. Of course it would be that maniac. But how was he out?

    O’Reilly kept his focus on the other man as much as he could. One stray glance at a toe though, and he was snorting. The enemy turned, offering the smile of a cannibal standing up to supper. The priest who spoke first.

    “Peter, I am surprised to see you here.”

    “I have it on good authority that Jesus said much the same to another man with my name.” The laugh underlying the words made the father’s skin crawl.

    “I have it on good authority that Jesus said a lot of dumb shit he never did.” The priest nearly vomited out the words.

    Peter tilted his head, to the left of course, the corners of his mouth turning down. “So where do we go from here, father? You have no authority.”

    “But I can save the world some trouble.”

    O’Reilly reached into his coat and drew, aiming at the madman. Peter flinched, then cackled wildly. O’Reilly gave him his best, what’s so funny look. Peter pointed to the finger aimed at him.

    O’Reilly looked down and realized he had no gun. Why should that be surprising? He was a man of peace and love. He also didn’t own one. Which made him think.

    He also didn’t own a velvet Jesus painting. So why was he here? This fight could happen another day. As O’Reilly turned to return home, Peter called out to his retreating back.

    “Oh, don’t go away. We’re just getting started.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I had to take a day to think about this one. Good use of the prompt, but the most powerful elements revolved around Father O’Reilly’s confusion and actions. I found the image of him thinking his finger was a gun so very sad and even childlike. Peter’s final words were chilling.

    2. ajhaughee83

      excellent depth on the priest character and i also think you do a very good job of structuring your writing to give it visual flow..the way you will put in one line on its own here and there for emphasis

    3. regisundertow

      It’s interesting how the prompts, as silly as they’re becoming, have provided a springboard for some unexpected character development within your saga. Looking at the wider picture, you’re keeping me guessing regarding the direction and the convergence of the various threads.

    4. Manwe38

      I freely admit, I’ve fallen behind on keeping up with the goings-on here, but your ability to twist any prompt to fit into your saga fills me with awe.

      I need to come around more often, if for no other reason than to read each chapter of your continuing story…

    5. Beebles

      Exquisite and chilling. Adored the use of language – expelled riddles – Felt as if I was closeted in the Father’s small world. My cup waits to be filled once more.

  28. WanderingHog

    Andy pushed open his door like he was getting ready to switch to his spiderman costume and save the world. He knocked over his lamp on the way to the kitchen cabinet and took out a bottle of whiskey. As he poured a glass and downed it in one gulp, he reminisces about his first foot encounter.
    He was four years old when he was accursed with this uncontrollable laughter towards feet. His father did not understand why Andy was laughing so hard and thought Andy was possessed. He was taken to the hospital and to the pediatrician’s bewilderment, given a full checkup. When the checkup was finished it had been six hours since he started laughing and his stomach started to burn. He just couldn’t stop laughing. What was happening to him? Finally the doctor decided to use chloroform on him and knocked him out. The reason for his laughter was figured out when he suddenly stopped laughing while being dressed for his first day of school. His parents deprived of sleep stopped for a moment when this happened and looked at each other in astonishment. They then looked down at where their hands were and from then on enforced a rule that Andy must wear socks at all times – even in the shower.
    ‘No’ Andy thought, ‘I cannot put myself through that terrible hysteric anymore.’
    He swallows down another glass of whiskey and wipes off beard with his sleeves.
    He pauses for a moment and looks down at his feet. Covered in gray mold and soured with stains and stench he has grown accustomed to over the past four months were his socks. His co-workers assumed there was a problem with the building’s ventilation but little did they know the cause.
    ‘I cannot subject myself to that pain anymore! People will think I’m crazy. I can lose my job!’
    Andy has been avoiding the beaches and never showers publicly. He lied to his girlfriend about wanting to wait for the fear of her discovering his curse.
    ‘Now I’m forced to attend this fashion show! I’m screwed. There’s no way I can do it!’
    He looks down at his feet again.
    ‘It’s been four months since I checked. Maybe this time it’s gone away?’
    As he slowly leans down towards his toes his body shivers as if he’s stranded naked in the Arctic.
    ‘I can overcome this. I have to! It’s been too long, I cannot be caged by this disease!’
    And with his fingers gripping the elastic ankle of the sock he pulls them both back to reunite himself with his kryptonite.
    He didn’t laugh. He cried.

  29. snuzcook

    THE SOLE OF COMPASSION

    Marissa had resisted. My older sister has seldom given much weight to my crises, and this was no exception. Since we were kids, she has maintained that my quirky sense of humor was nothing more than a bid for attention. The littlest things would set me off into uncontrollable spasms of laughter: animals wearing sunglasses, bikinis in any context, and bare feet. Any feet. There’s just something about those toes stuck on the end of big old lump of foot that seems so improbable. And then if they wiggle…Excuse me, didn’t mean to sputter in your tea. But it IS funny!

    It is a good thing we live in Minnesota.

    Anyway, Marissa had resisted at first, but she has helped me before and she gave in. Being a syndicated psych expert on the radio and proponent of hypnotherapy, she could hardly refuse. When I applied for my job at Women of the North magazine, she had given me some self-hypnosis exercises that really helped.

    You see, there is a photo montage outside the editor’s office of favorite pix from past issues, and one of the prominent images is of the magazine’s December 2012 ‘snow angels’ contest—a dozen very cold and slightly blue women in bikinis cuddling poodles in sunglasses posing on an actual snow bank at the edge of the editor’s brother-in-law’s wheat field. (The contest was discontinued when three of the angels sued the magazine for medical bills resulting from frostbite and hypothermia). Marissa’s treatments got me through the interview and have helped me walk past those images every week.

    Then the society and fashion reporter went on maternity leave, and my editor gave me an assignment that I knew was going to be trouble: the first annual Sole of Minnesota fashion show. It was a fund-raiser for the local Lutheran Aid Society. And the editor’s niece was in it.

    Thank goodness, Big Sister came through. After our session, she assured me that I would not have any trouble with inappropriate laughter. As I was leaving, she showed me some new subliminal messaging CD she had received from a colleague. They were very promising, she said, for enhancing any form of hypnotic suggestion. When she wasn’t looking, I borrowed one of them just for good measure.

    That night I dreamed I was being chased across a frozen lake by snow boots with teeth. Yikes!
    I was confident when I took my seat next to the runway in the community theater the next morning. The artwork in the posters around the room showed only irritating images of a pair of golden sandals hanging from a tree branch. No bare feet in sight. So far so good.

    Then the announcements were made, the music started, and the first model stepped out. Her adorable feet were being tortured in a series of metallic straps that pinned them to a ridiculously tall set of stiletto heels. I could feel the pain of those poor toes, bearing the weight of that freakishly tall, gaunt woman stomping to the blaring sound track. I looked around through misty eyes. No one else seemed to notice. They were politely clapping as the model trounced off.

    She was followed by another pair of sweet, innocent feet with the first and last toes manacled to a thin leather sole with only a hint of heel cup. With every step, the toes cried out to me for help! The arches were suffering with no support. This model was bigger boned than the last one, a local girl I recognized. As she thumped by me, every ounce of her considerable tonnage compressing those poor feet, I couldn’t help crying out for her to stop. Oh, the humanity! I found myself crawling up onstage, trying to unfasten the sandals and free those poor digits from their misery!

    By the time the security team pulled me out into the hall, I was bawling my head off. It was so cruel, so inhuman! Why did they have to torture those poor feet so! They sat me down in the lobby. Someone brought me water. I slowly got control of myself. It was so wrong! I was reminded of my dream, chased across the ice by a stiff, blistering pair of boots. My own feet ached in sympathy.

    I looked around for something to distract my thoughts. Across the lobby were posters for an upcoming ballet performance. One image was of a woman with her body arched in a tall pose, all balanced on a single foot in a flimsy silk toe shoe. I fainted right then and there.

    1. Cceynowa

      Wonderful! Fantastic way to twist this prompt to a new level! You made the MC’s emotions, and reasoning behind her actions, plausible and real. I enjoyed this a lot Snuzcook. Thanks for sharing!

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, snuz!

      Those last three paragraphs totally cracked me up. Especially -> “… I couldn’t help crying out for her to stop. Oh, the humanity! I found myself crawling up onstage, trying to unfasten the sandals and free those poor digits from their misery!” Great job! 😆

    3. charkhanolakha

      I absolutely loved the 180 degree twist snuzcook!
      Also, I loved the line: “As she thumped by me, every ounce of her considerable tonnage compressing those poor feet..” Yow! I can really feel the pain there!

  30. Trevor

    Word Count: 557

    Alleviation

    I gripped the camera so tight my hands began to ache. My stomach churned like a hurricane. Under normal circumstances, I would be thrilled. I was in Paris, tasked by my boss to cover Fashion Week for the travel magazine I worked for. Since most of my past assignments were mundane local events, this was an exciting opportunity for me.

    But this year, Fashion Week had a twist that shattered any chance I had of enjoying this rare trip: All the models would be bare footed.

    Ever since I was a child, I had this weird quirk about bare feet. The very sight of a bare foot would send me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. This didn’t make me popular in kindergarten, where it seemed like no one could keep their shoes on for more than ten seconds. My constant giggling had the other children branding me as a weirdo and deliberately excluding me from group activities. But thankfully, after those short years of preschool, I managed to escape my weird quirk….

    But now it had reared its’ ugly, embarrassing head again. The fashion show was about to begin and I knew the minute the first model came strutting down the runway; I would erupt in laughter and embarrass myself in front of everyone. My hands began to shake as the introductions began.

    “You here to take photos, too?” A smooth voice cut through my thoughts. I turned and saw a young man standing right beside me. My heart began to beat rapidly at the sight of his chiseled face. His blonde hair tied back in a short ponytail. But most of all, the way his sweater and blue jeans hugged his body, extenuating his perfect figure.

    “Um….yeah. I’m a reporter for Travel Monthly. Heard of it?” I said when I finally managed to snap out of the trance the man’s beauty had me under.

    “I think so. I work for Fashion Forward.” The man replied, his brown eyes staring into my soul. “My name’s Matthew.”

    Matthew stuck his hand out and I nervously shook it, hoping he didn’t feel how sweaty my palms were. “My name’s Heather.” But before the conversation could continue, the show began. Matthew flashed me one last grin before he began snapping pictures of the models.

    I began doing the same-without a single laugh. My entire focus was on taking pictures and sneaking a brief glimpse of Matthew. Every inch of his body was like an exquisite piece of art that I wanted to examine for every beautiful detail. Never once did the thought of bare feet cross my mind.

    By the end of the night, I had taken almost 1,000 photos. Even as I reviewed them, the models’ bare feet didn’t affect me. My mind was still on Matthew.

    “Nice shots.” Matthew’s sudden voice was more of a surprise than a shock. He had his hands on my shoulders, his grip making me feel secure. I turned to him and gave him a smile, feeling a surge of confidence in the wake of overcoming my foot quirk.

    “Thank you. You looked pretty good out there yourself.” I said, my comment oozing in flirtation. Matthew grinned and brushed a stray strand of hair from my face….

    That night, I finally got to examine that work of art in close detail.

  31. Beebles

    Pete. Blown away by that. The pace, build up and description was perfect for me. I really bought in to the pain and fulfillment – for both of them. Thank you.

  32. Pete

    Clyde Kilroy showed up for the Lancaster Seat and Feet show with an empty chuckle. That Collins had sent him made it clear, he thought, watching the drops of rain blur his windshield, this was payback.

    For what? Could have been a million things. Clyde knew he wasn’t easy to work around, but still, this was just cruel. “Feet,” he scoffed, locking up the car and putting himself to the task. “Hilarious.”

    Clyde stifled a giggle as he took his place in the front row. Eye level with the sharp angles and wiggly toes. Platforms. Wedges. Stilettos. Clyde couldn’t look down. Couldn’t bear the thought of the wiggly toes held in the straps. Sweat coated his back, even as he kept his eyes on the faces of the models. The stalk like legs, the hollow eyes. The shitty music.

    Then she kicked her shoe off.

    Feet sent Clyde into a panic. Tickled him crazy. Always had. For years he’d laugh uncontrollably at the site of bare feet. Even his own. Could have been childhood. Could have been lots of things.

    He wiped his nose, covered his face. It was all too much. Clyde fought through the crowd, refusing help and wheeling past the walls were adorned with portraits of feet. Even in the bathroom.

    In the stall Clyde’s chest convulsed. Painful stabs of uncontrollable laughter. Someone asked if he was okay. He wiped his face, sniffled. From his coat pocket he found the bottle, took a swig to numb the senses.

    Clyde scooped himself together, eventually, and like the seasoned pro that he was, finished day one.
    Back in his hotel room he collapsed, muffled his cackles with a crisp pillow as not to alert any guests. He rolled around, hysterical with tears streaming down his neck. A good, sloppy sob. Then he hobbled into the bathtub for a soak.

    Epson salt. It was the only thing that helped. His nubs ached. From time to time he felt an itch to a limb that was no longer real. He rubbed it in, soothing relief washed over him. Then Clyde leaned his head back, took another drink, and then got to work on his piece.

    Day two. A few dickheads at brunch took the bait, making the tactless joke about footless reporter covering a foot fashion show. Clyde headed for the orange juice.

    He’d never make it. It was too grotesque. He mercifully dumped the rest of the bottle into his orange juice, wheeled around and made his way for the door.

    “Clyde?”

    A feather in his ear, that voice. Clyde turned.

    “Hi,” she said, then touching her chest. “Violet. Do you, do you remember me?”

    “Violet, of course,” Clyde said, thinking, No. It’s not possible.

    They’d met at therapy, two years ago. Only a few months after he’d lopped off his own feet with a 18” chop saw during a three day bout with absinthe. Violet had lost both her feet to a shark attack after a shoot in Maui.

    “Well, I’m modeling again,” she said, biting her lip. Reading him. “Prosthetic foot wear. I know it’s not Paris, but…”

    “No, it’s great. I’m uh,” Clyde set the screwdriver down, felt his heart fling itself back then leap forward. Easy boy, he told himself. “I’m covering the show, for the Times and all.

    “Oh, wow. That’s great. And how’s the novel?”

    He’d never told a soul but hers. “Mostly in here,” he said, tapping his head. He felt everything stir inside him, dragging the murky pond of drink and depression.

    “Violet, this is great, seeing you. This may sound weird but I was just thinking about you.”

    She put a hand on his. Sent a charge to his spine. He loved hands. So elegant and attractive, the elongated fingers and perfect nails. “I’ve been thinking of you as well, Clyde.”

    Clyde was a new man. He tossed the liquor and suffered through the afternoon proceedings, determined not to laugh out loud at the anorexic models. And when Violet set foot on stage, it all dimmed. The chatter. The lights. The doubt in his chest. It was just her. In a room lit by her aura. He never blinked. Not one time.

    ***

    Exactly one year later, on a damp, April afternoon, the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing was presented to Clyde Kilroy. Conner was there, along with the staff, barefoot in support and cheering on their beloved staff writer whose novel was set to be published the following year. Clyde rushed up the stage like a teenager—his new legs beneath him—to receive his awards for the groundbreaking piece on one model’s vision to bring fashion to the world of prosthetics.

    Clyde thanked his tough love editor, got a few lighthearted laughs at the expense of the team, but then, broke into a tearful account at how he came to write a story about the love of his life.
    Violet wiped her green eyes. The attendees rose to applaud. And Clyde, up at that podium, felt his heart tugging him home. Easy boy, he said to himself.

    1. jhowe

      Well Pete, you set the bar pretty high with this one. I was thinking, for the life of me, how the hell do I respond to this prompt. And the answer is: like this. This was a great story. Entertaining and well done.

    2. Dragonfish

      Wonderful work! I am quite impressed, and I am not easily impressed. You managed to address every point and answer every question raised in the prompt itself, and also make the story your own and keep it interesting. Once again I say, wonderful!

    3. cosi van tutte

      This was a beautiful story, Pete!

      Just so you know, I loved this whole paragraph: “And when Violet set foot on stage, it all dimmed. The chatter. The lights. The doubt in his chest. It was just her. In a room lit by her aura. He never blinked. Not one time.” 🙂

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