Going on Chore Strike

Your family isn’t cooperating with your writing career, so you’ve decided to go on strike. Write a list of demands that must be met in order for you to return to your chores and household responsibilities. (Don’t forget to make a concession or two to speed up the negotiation process.)

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

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768 thoughts on “Going on Chore Strike

  1. PeterW

    “Best way to get back at the bullies is to get famous,” I yelled at my mom.
    “I just think you should have a back-up plan,” she said.
    “I don’t have time for that. Shut the door woman.”
    And she shut it, chastised.

    The problem with parents, see, is that they don’t love you unconditionally enough. If they really loved me, they would respect my dreams and let me stay in the house, rent-free, until my masterpiece is ready. If they really loved me then they would be trying to kick me out and charging me rent and insinuating that I need a real job. Writing is a job. A full time one. I wish I lived in a Mexican family where the kids live with their parents until 40 or 50 or whenever they marry.

    And this intrusion in my room, my shrine, my zen was the last straw. The next day, I decided to go on strike against them. I decided I would no longer communicate with them vocally. Especially at dinner when everyone is there, including my 17 year old brother. I also decided to stop cleaning my room, doing my laundry, showering and visiting other relatives, especially the ones who vocal laughed at my career choice when I made it very vocal about my chosen profession at the annual Christmas reunion.

    Also I decided to stop sending out job applications… Seriously, a waste of time.
    I got a masterpiece on my hands. I really do. It pains me that my parents can’t see this. But when I’m famous and have gotten back at everyone in high-school, I will forgive my parents for their transgressions. against my art. I will give them big hugs. I will apologize for perhaps being short at times. Then buy them a chateau at Vail with my millions.

    1. Reaper

      All I can say is I loved this. Double use of vocal and one of them should be vocally in the same paragraph. However such small things in a brilliant piece of work. I kept thinking of the they’ll be sorry when I’m blind from a Christmas Story as I read it.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is wonderfully understated, PeterW. Your MC is living the writer’s dream; now if he can make the dream become reality…

      I spotted something that would need a small fix in the first full paragraph; in the third sentence, I think it’s probably supposed to be “…they wouldn’t be trying…”.

    3. Jay

      Man, I would never get along with your MC in real life. I’m over here cringing reading it. haha It sounds like the MC is still very young (or isn’t young, but incredibly immature). I fully agree that every writer should follow their passion and dedicate a certain amount of time to it, but they should not overlook anything like survival or responsibilities to do it. A back-up plan and a real job are important, and unless the MC’s masterpiece is selling (and actually a real masterpiece), it’s not a job, haha. When I first started (serious) writing, it was 40 hours at work, 25-30 hours a week at school, about 40 hours writing, and about 5 hours a night sleeping (and fitting in a little lazy gym time between all that). Sounds like the MC still has a lot to learn.

      I’m getting the feeling this is a satirical piece, which makes me a feel a little better for not liking the MC. haha

  2. Observer Tim

    “Robert Dear, there’s another one!”

    Robert walked out of the bedroom in his robe and slippers, carefully sucking his first pipe of the morning. Indeed it was another one; a message written in blood on the wall.

    Dear Interlopers;

    It has now been two weeks since you moved in; I expected you to leave much sooner than this. You have proven too foolish to leave, and even the most dire threats scrawled on the wall in blood have left you unmoved. Instead, you argued about whether the blood was human or not.

    I have had enough. It is now time for drastic action. If you don’t want to suffer cruelly ironic deaths within these cursed walls, I suggest you pay attention.

    “Seems rather forceful, doesn’t it Mary?”

    “Yes, Robert. Positively demanding, I’d say.”

    First, you are to copy down my words every day before cleaning the walls. I know the maid appreciates the extra work as it helps her pay for Community College, but I do not like having my words eradicated by harsh cleansers with no permanent record.

    Second, the cat is to be kept out of the hall at night; it keeps trying to lick up the blood as I write. Honestly, people, control your pet!

    “But Fluffy would never…”

    “I’m afraid she does, Mary. I’ve seen the bloody paw-prints myself. I suppose it’s good to be certain she wasn’t the one writing on the wall.”

    “Very, Dear.”

    Third, I want a dictionary; spelling mistakes are embarrassing. Just leave it open on the hall table and I will do the rest.

    “Well at least the writer values good spelling.”

    Fourth, Robert is to stop dipping his finger into the blood drips and drawing a happy face at the end of my missives. I am a serious writer.

    Robert tapped the wall twice for the eyes. “Rather cheeky. But I draw them so well, don’t you think, Darling?”

    “Yes Dear. Your happy faces brighten up my day.”

    Fifth, I’m going to need a new source of blood. Grandma has run dry. If you don’t want me to use one of you, you’ll have to start luring hitchhikers to their doom.

    “That explains why she wouldn’t answer the breakfast bell. Should we call an ambulance?”

    “No point really, Darling. Most people fare rather poorly without blood.”

    If we all cooperate, I am sure this can be a successful and productive haunting.

    Signed, The House. :)

    Robert took another pull from his pipe. “Do you think it’s serious, Mary?”

    “Very likely, Dear. Otherwise we need an exterminator.”

    “I don’t think exterminators deal with this sort of thing. Perhaps a priest?”

    “Dear God, no! Not in MY house.” Mary let out a long sigh. “I’ll call Madeline. We need this off the wall before tonight’s dinner party.”

    “Mom? Dad? Could you move over a little?”

    “Whatever for, Cressida dear?”

    “I want to take a picture and then post the letter on Writer’s Digest. It’s perfect for this week’s writing prompt!”

    1. Jay

      …and later in the picture she can see the cat standing in the blood and licking it up. She never saw the little queen again.

      Such a fun story, Tim. This gives me mixed memories of The House (1984?) and that show on T.V. that I couldn’t quite get into… American Horror? I don’t know, but it’s one of those shows. lol

      Nice job

    2. originalalchemist

      I agree with Jay on this. This is a fun story and certainly has me imagining it as a season on American Horror Story. The characters’ inability to be startled or upset is rather humorous. I can picture a scene that involves the family having a little too much wine at the dinner party and spilling the secret of the wall writings. Then maybe the spirit demands blood from one of the guest…great story!

      1. Reaper

        This is quite similar to what I was thinking. This is horrifying but more because of the nonchalant way the couple approaches it. Well done.

    3. jmcody

      I loved this! To me it was more satirical than horrifying. I loved your blue blooded characters and their exaggeratedly blasé reactions. So funny!

  3. chrisbutcher

    One thing you should know about me is this: I am an idiot. I stare at the single dirty dish in the kitchen sink and tell myself that I could write a dozen pages about that lone piece of cheap china. Not a piece of china made in China, though it probably was, but a white and crusted and glazed plate sitting like a king in a dirty sink that mocks my ineptitude when it comes to keeping my immediate surroundings clean and tidy. I sometimes speak to that singular plate: “Why do you laugh at me? I can break you into pieces and throw you into the very same fire I’ve thrown the next great American novel into.” The plate is stoic; unfeeling. It wants to jump into bed with my filthy sheets and dirty thoughts and write letters upon the bedroom wall that not even my sometimes agent would comprehend. My agent is my ex wife and I am an idiot.
    I have just three concessions that I am willing to offer that stupid plate. For my ex there are none. She never washed dishes anyway and was never that great of an agent either. If I had to choose between a dirty plate and her advice, I would most likely choose a kick in the groin. Which was pretty much all I ever got from previous sales of my first book. My friends and family seemed to think I was too cynical and callous in my first offering so to hell with them. I write for me, not them. I burn pages not for them, but for me and that stupid plate. So to that cheap piece of china I offer this:
    1) You are and shall always be the only plate for me.
    2) My next book shall be dedicated to you.
    3) When I destroy words and meals, and place my head upon your ever so cool sheen, know that I think and dream only of you, and that I am an idiot for ever having neglected you.

    I have a dishwasher now due to the sales of my second book, ‘The Gratitude Of Familial Relations’. Her name is Lacy.

  4. G.R.Blessing

    .I’m going to change this up a bit. I no longer live with my family but five roommates. Sadly this story is somewhat true so lets begin this daunting task of seeking a place of refuge, so my ideas can come to life.

    We all gathered together in the dining room and the sun was just about to set casting an orange glow on the walls. I shield my eyes from the sun as I proceed to shut the blinds.
    “OK guys” I begin “Here’s the deal. I’m done cleaning up after your crap.” I head to the table and sat down. All I get is a blank stare and one scoffed. keeping my calm I took out our lease agreement and pointed out that we agreed to do our part in cleaning.
    “Look the thing is I really don’t mind doing the work really I don’t. What bothers me is the noise you guys make. I’m mean seriously you really don’t have to blare your music at ear bleeding levels. I’m not complaining about the mess but the noise.
    “so here are the list of my demands:
    1. after 8pm keep the noise level down
    2.rinse out your dishes
    3.pick up after yourselves
    4.if you spill it clean it up
    I will do the remainder of the cleaning but not your laundry, so stop asking” the guys all chuckled at my last comment. “That is pretty much it guys” I concluded
    They looked at me and smiled. “that’s it?” one replied “That’s pretty easy i guess.”
    The other four began to nodded in agreement. “We know your writing is important and we will be happy to meet with your demands.”
    We all hugged it out to finalize our agreement and we went on to out daily lives.

    1. Observer Tim

      Actually it’s a nice story, G.R. I also live with “roomies” (in my case a married couple), but we keep our chores separate. That’s how domestic tranquility works where I live. The demands are fairly reasonable, and hopefully their agreement translates into action.

      My red pencil believes you wrote this fairly quickly, and that it would benefit from some capitalization (unless you’re channelling e.e. cummings in which case go for it). There were a couple of tense shifts, too, but nothing major.

    2. Reaper

      I like this story. Five roommates? Man that’s just rough. Only thing I noticed was you have scoffed where I think you meant scoff. Short, to the point, and with a nice ending that fit well with the story.

  5. lionetravail

    “Chore Leave”

    (Had to beat Observer Tim to the punch for another super-weird take on this prompt!)

    Why the hell is everyone looking at me that way? Again?

    El Jefe has that look on his face, the one which says he knows someone’s gonna buy it. He’s so predictable, it looks like he’s already working on his I’m-sorry-but-he-was-a-hero face and speech for his diary.

    But, you know something? He’s not even the worst of the group I’m with, not by a long shot. There’s the woman who likes to pretend she knows how you’re feeling and that you want to talk to her about something, for one. It’s always: “Oh, and how does that make you feel?” Well, I’ll tell you, estupida puta, it makes me feel like I want to throttle you until your lips turn blue!

    And then there’s the guy with the funny glasses- he has a note from his doctor that he has to wear them, when really, they’re just fancy looking sunglasses like from the 1980’s- que gilpollas!

    That stuck up prig of a pendejo who leads us, the one the rest of my team calls “el Jefe Cabron mas stupido” when they’re being formal, is looking over at me while standing in his overly-dramatic pinche-culero pose, which means he’s about to order me to do something suicidally insane.

    “Rodriguez,” he says firmly, as if anyone believes he is not playing to cameras in his own head. “You and Jones scout and set up a perimeter- we’ll check out the cave.”

    Maricon! Again with ‘the perimeter?’ Maybe this one will have giant, man-eating natives eager for my flesh… like the last one!

    “No,” I say.

    “What?” he says, in an even-firmer voice.

    What a goat penis he is!

    “No,” I say again, helping el Jefe Cabron by saying it slowly. “No- I want some concessions before I go risk my life again with ‘your perimeter’.”

    “This is insubordination at best, mutiny at worst, Rodriguez,” says el Jefe Cabron like he’s telling me something I don’t know.

    “Yes, yes, but here’s the thing,” I begin. I notice Jones standing with his mouth open, looking like an astonished little piggy, and resolve to ignore him. “I don’t want these assignments where you order me off to another near death experience. I want to spend my time writing, not ‘set up perimeters’, or ‘secure that prisoner’, or ‘leap into the line of fire.”

    Now everyone is looking at me like I’m insane, but I’m not- I’ve finally gone sane.

    El Cabron is the first to find his voice. “Ryker to Enterprise- lock onto the redshirt Rodriguez and transport him up now. I want him in the brig immediately!”

    Ai caramba!

    1. Observer Tim

      Oh, this is good lionetravail!

      But, stupid tramp? Just because she’s the only Starfleet officer with cleavage? Okay, maybe you’re right…

      Luckily, this is Next Gen; the MC will only make it to the brig if there isn’t something else more interesting going on.

  6. Jay

    Once upon a time there lived a man who stories and the kin, and he had a family that did not cooperate with him. Though his mother called him something other, he lovingly called himself Tim. He lived with three others, his daughter Karen, his son Daren, and a wife named Kim.

    Tim and Kim and Karen and Daren lived at odds with each other in that house. Tim had to work while Daren loudly played with his mouse. Karen always screamed on her phone while Kim cleaned their house. Everything was as it should be, but Tim could never focus, causing him to become a raging spouse.

    One day Tim took the time to take Karen and Daren to a far away park while Kim cleaned the floor. The kids played and played, and they played some more. Soon passed an hour, maybe two–maybe four. When they looked up Tim had gone, and they let out a loud cry like a lion’s roar.

    When he got home, Tim stabbed Kim in the back. He gave her one, two, maybe four times the whack. With Karen and Daren gone, Tim hid Kim in the shack. An hour later the bell rang, and behind the door with Karen and Daren there was a man named Zach. He took the kids into the house, and began to yack.

    “You see kids, your mom has left us. Karen, Daren… I must put you on a bus. You will ride and ride, and ride some more until you reach your aunt May and your uncle Russ. Just know I love you, now please leave without a fuss.”

    And so the kids left the house, Karen with her phone and Daren with his mouse. Finally Tim found the time to write, three less a louse. At the end of the day, he cleaned the house, rid any trace of his family, even burning his wife’s favorite blouse.

    The End

    1. lionetravail

      A rollicking, rhyming romp, with all of the circumstance, not to mention the pomp!

      Very funny Jay, all the way to the ‘maybe four times a whack’. Loved it.

    2. Marie Therese Knepper

      There’s a Dr. in the house.
      His name is Dr. Jay.
      This Dr. is a wordsmith,
      who many people say
      should never stop his writing
      which surpasses Sam I Am.
      We all love our Dr. Jay,
      who’s this groups biggest ham!

      Go, Dr. Jay!

    3. Observer Tim

      Very clever, Jay. This is the kind of kid-lit that rocks like it’s 1899 (i.e. back before we got scared of telling kids about death)! I’m not sure about the name Dr. Jay; Julius Erving might object, and there’s nothing fiercer than a 64-year old basketball player. He might dribble on you (sorry Dr. J, I had to).

      This was delightful and clever. If I wasn’t leery of police attention I’d share it with all the kids I know.

      1. Jay

        Thanks, Tim… and no need to apologize! You know, I’ve been toying with the idea (and many people have told me to do so) of creating a children’s book full of short stories. I think Erving would be proud to have an evil twinsy doing a darker opposite to his lighter stories. 😀

    4. Reaper

      I do not like green eggs and roe, I do not like them Jay who I call Moe. I do not like them with a knife, I do not like them with slice of life. I would bomb them on a bus, I poison and feed them to my friend Gus. I do not like green eggs and roe, but I love this Dr. Seuss meets Edgar Alan Poe!

      Beautiful Jay. Your idea reminds me of the alphabet book about people dying. I would read that to any children I knew, until their parents stopped letting me in the house.

  7. Augie

    Traveling ten miles an hour, the passenger yells out to the driver.

    “Can we go faster sir?”

    The driver pulls back and spits tobacco on the cobble road, “What did you ask sire?”

    The thirty-three year old passenger jumps out.

    “I am not a sire sir! I am a writer. You can refer to me as Tom for the rest of this journey. I need to get to Philadelphia as soon as possible! How many days will it take?”

    The driver spits again. “ Seven days.”

    After seven long days of travel, Tom greets his colleagues. “Come Tom, we have work to do!”
    They debated all day about Tom’s writing. Eventually the speaker shouted, “Write your demands Tom, we want to hear them! Then we can continue with this meeting!”

    Tom rose before the sun, eating biscuits and sipping tea.

    He dips the quill pen and began the journey:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.

    Before the rooster crowed, Thomas Jefferson’s quill pen dances, writing our Declaration Of Independence.

    Happy 4th of July!

    1. sjmca1966

      Augie,

      My grandfather lied about his age so he could join the US Navy in WW I. He wore the New Zealand uniform in WW II as the father of seven (the youngest being my father). He passed when I was around three, so I only have vague recollections of him. I know he was seriously injured and was never able to work on his return home, but that was not a problem as his offspring always provided for him and my grandmother.

      Although I am Kiwi through and through, I appreciate the sacrifices that anyone serving in the armed forces make for not only their own people, but for like-minded people across the globe. So I’d like to say happy Fourth of July to my American Brothers and Sisters. Love and Peace xxx –

      Some species of Mayfly live less than twenty-four hours in their adult form. Although they will never meet, let alone have the joy of watching their offspring grow, they dedicate their short lives protecting and ensuring their progeny thrive and prosper.

      Some people in this crazy world of ours, could learn a lot from the Mayfly.

      1. Augie

        I would invite any Kiwi to my home to celebrate our shared heritage in the struggle for what is right around a fire pit. But never a peacock, I don’t like them. Thank you for the story about your grandfather. I am a research guy and will definitely look into the Mayfly. Get back to you later on that! Thanks again!

    2. Bilbo Baggins

      Happy 4th of July! The military’s always been in my family, with my dad deployed four times and one great-grandfather nearly being killed in WW1. He was carrying a Catholic prayer book in his pocket, and the metal cover on it saved his life. I still have the book with the bullet fragments on it to this day in a desk drawer. I’m proud to be part of this country. Okay, end spiel. Good story, Augie. What better way to portray this than to go back to where it all began.

      1. jmcody

        That is a great story Bilbo! Thank you for sharing it. It’s interesting how all the Catholics took those prayer books into battle with them (I am one of the flock too). We have some old wartime prayer books from my husbands family from WWI and WWII with the names and dates of service inscribed in them. Cool memorabilia and a telling detail about that generation. Your story is priceless!

      2. Augie

        What and incredible story! With your talent you should write about that! These days its easy to track the path of soldiers in both world wars. Just punch in their unit, and off you go on the journey. Thank You Bilbo. (side note- do you know where JRR Toliken got his ideas from for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings?)

        1. Bilbo Baggins

          There’s an old story (don’t know if it’s true), but when Tolkien was working as a teacher, he was grading papers and saw one was completely empty. Taking up a pencil, he just wrote the first thing that came to mind: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit”. And, it kind of went off from there. It was probably easy for him to create languages and places, since he knew 35 different languages… :-)

          1. Augie

            One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.
            — J.R.R. Tolkien, forward to The Lord of the Rings

            Written in the trenches as he served the British army in WW1.

    3. Observer Tim

      Nice patriotic shot, Augie. If only the Continental Congress could really have met with so little squabbling…

      The only glitches I spotted were three verb tense things. Two are, “Tom rises…”, “…begins the journey:”, but those ones you probably noticed just after hitting the ‘post’ key.

      The third is subtler. To fix the rooster you have ensure the passing of time allows the rooster its noisy welcome somewhere in the middle of the writing. This is my suggestion (take it for what it’s worth). “Before the rooster crows, Thomas Jefferson’s quill begins its dance, …”

      Great job, Augie.

      1. Augie

        Ahhh.. Nope, I didn’t catch those. I did a quick fact search and wrote as fast as I could before I forgot them all. Thanks Observer Tim.

    4. jmcody

      Tense shifts aside, this was great Augie and a story worth telling. Happy 4th to you and yours, and as always, a hearty thank you for your service to these ideals.

      Since we’re giving military pedigrees, my Dad is a WWII vet (army) and one of the last surviving members of his company at 94 years old. (Yes, I have a 94 year old Dad and an 8 year old daughter… Don’t do the math!). :)

      1. Augie

        I’ve said this to Reaper before, sometimes you will see a very old man walking in the parking lot wearing a ball cap distinguishing his part in the war. He can chat with you for hours about all the battles and lost friends, But cant remember where he parked his car. Happy 4th, and thank you jmcody. We can be proud for all our fathers sacrifice, yours included.

        1. jmcody

          I saw that discussion with Reaper, and I think what you’re doing is wonderful. My Dad will only tell a handful of very lighthearted stories from the war, which tells me that the rest must be pretty grim. But I bet he would tell another serviceman. Too bad we don’t have someone like you around here to capture and preserve those stories.

          1. Augie

            If you do anything jmcody, find out what his unit patch is. Let me know if you wish, if not, you will be amazed at what you can find about his journey online.

  8. thetelleroftales

    May 5th, 2014
    So what I’m only fourteen! So what that I have homework to do (who ever wanted to do that, anyway?)! And the dishes? They want me to do the dishes? Sweep the house? Clean the bathroom? Who do they think I am, Cinderella?
    I shook my fist in the air behind the closed door of my room and plotted rebellion. All that useless, erroneous stuff that they pile up for me to do, cackling as they draw up lists of chores designed to keep me from my all-consuming, all-important work. When I’m a bestseller, they’ll look back and rue that they scorned my genius and forced me into these superfluous, menial tasks. All those people who stole my time, laughed at my brilliance, snickered at my ‘useless obsession’, they’ll all be shocked and sorry when I’m a millionaire.
    But first, before that happens, I need to cook up a plan to have more time to write.
    I had already tried to lock the door. But I had forgotten the spare key. I had tried to steal the spare key, but then I had forgotten the door from my brother’s room to mine. Gurr. I always knew he was evil.
    When I went on my laptop, inspiration, as always, struck. Windows 8 had set up a malicious, fiendish little sort of start up that I was generally inclined to curse. But now, I almost kissed the screen. There, on the newsfeed, it had an article about Wall Street.
    A strike! Oh, glorious gods of inspiration, be blessed!
    Seeing as it was midnight, I quickly wrote most of the above, then fell asleep scheming up deviltries for the morrow.

    May 30th, 2014
    Life is hard and cruel. A lesson I had always known but never felt. And moms have been endowed with devilish cleverness. I tried the strike innumerable times, for long, drawn out periods of time. At first, Mom thought it was funny. Then she tried to make me see the consequences of my actions by letting the dust build up on the floor and the dishes pile up on the sink. But I withstood longer than her.
    And then. Oh, and then.
    She apparently had been reading history, and struck on the same plan as Ronald Regan, or whatever president it was, and called in the military.
    I held out, barricaded in my room, for almost a week. I did get numerous chapters written, so it wasn’t all bad. But then hunger and the military (in this house, Dad), finally won out.
    So now I’m working on another angle and it might be a while until you hear from me again (plans will not be written here in case of infiltrators or spies).
    They may have won the battle, but I will yet win the war!

    1. Observer Tim

      [Reconstructed; curse you, WordPress!]

      I love the way the MC likened her struggle to write to “la revolucion”. Their take on history is interestingly political, especially for someone seemingly young.

      I also like the subtle cues that tell us the MC is an only child (or the only one at home). Otherwise, brothers and sisters would have had to do the chores and there would be some good old fashioned sibling justice handed down…

  9. JRSimmang

    FORGETFULNESS

    This morning, the house was quiet. Francy and Emma were on a mother/daughter retreat, and my office was spotless. I opened up the windows, let the cool coastal air settle on my glasses and push my fingers.

    I think it was the smell of bacon burning that propelled me out of my seat. I walked down the stairs, turned the corner, and saw my father standing in the kitchen.

    “Dad, you’re not supposed to be in the kitchen.”

    “Where are the spoons?” He was still in his bathrobe, which was on backward today.

    I walked over to him. “Dad, you’re not supposed to be in the kitchen.” I repeated.

    He looked up at me. “Georgia, where are the spoons?”

    I put my arms around his shoulders to guide him to a chair. “Dad, sit down,” I relented. “Mom’s been dead for a couple years.” The words no longer sounded foreign to me.

    “Georgia… spoons…”

    I studied him in silence for a few minutes. “What do you want for breakfast?”

    He put his hands on the table. “Eggs, dearest, with toast and rhubarb jam.”

    “Like always,” we said simultaneously.

    I pulled out the pan, eggs, and toast. As the oil was heating, I poured both of us a mug of coffee.

    “Thank you.”

    “Sure.”

    I cracked a couple eggs into the pan. “Sunny side?”

    “Thanks, Drew.”

    He always comes back around. Some times take longer than others.

    “I thought you were on a cooking strike.”

    “I changed my mind.”

    I made his quickly, slathered his toast with jam, and joined him at the table.

    “Are you not hungry, son?”

    “Not yet.”

    “You have to eat breakfast. You’re a growing boy!” He smiled at me.

    “Dad-”

    “No, no. Don’t ‘dad’ me on this one. I’ll admit, your old man sometimes, and I mean sometimes, is wrong. But not on this.”

    “Dad, I eat after I finish my two pages.”

    He furrowed his brow. “Oh. Oh I see. You’re going to be a great writer one day.” Then, he snickered. “And how’s that going to help your family? Your dad, I, put aside his dreams in order to take care of your mom, you, and your three siblings.” He grabbed his plate and threw it against the wall. We stopped serving him food on china. He’s been getting Styrofoam for the past 6 months.

    “Dad. Calm down.” He thought I was a teen again. “It’s what I do in my spare time. I want to be a lawyer like you one day,” rehearsed, mechanical.

    “No! No, you don’t want that either. My job took me away from all of you.” He collapsed back into his chair. “Where are the spoons?”

    I didn’t want to tell him I was his only child, so I instead put my hand on his shoulder and kissed his head. When he started eating his breakfast, I walked back upstairs and sat at my computer. The Skype phone was ringing. “Hey, sweet pea.”

    My daughter and wife appeared on the screen. “Hey daddy!”

    “Hey Drew.”

    “Having fun?” I asked.

    “It’s been busy,” Francy said. Emma chimed in the background, “SO much!”

    “Good.”

    “Honey, you look exhausted already. Did you sleep okay?”

    I looked at the screen. “Promise me something.”

    She tilted her head and leaned in. “Sure.”

    “Promise me that we’ll always have spoons.”

    She chuckled. “Okay, honey… shouldn’t you be writing right now?”

    We said our goodbyes. They’d be home in two days. I should be done with this book by then.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Observer Tim

      This story touched my heart, JR. It’s a beautiful tale of what it’s like to live with someone who is mentally ill (senile dementia or Alzheimer’s, I can’t tell from this short extract). It’s also a lovely reminder of the value of family.

      1. lionetravail

        You deserve it- a nice, heartwarming story, when nearly all of mine have been absurdly ridiculous. Yours, instead, was wonderfully touching and real. Nice work!

  10. Jay

    We are own worst critic, guys. Remember that. We can’t edit our replies and don’t have (and don’t want) professional editors for our small 500-word (in my case bazillion-word… I’m working on that haha) stories! We all understand your plight and we won’t eat your face for your mistakes! 😀

    That said, This is an amazing community with a lot of fantastic writers. Keep it up!!

    1. Observer Tim

      We’re also our own worst editors. It’s nice to have someone who understands go over the story for style, structure, grammar, and the lot. The best part about being here is that we’re all in the company of minds that are in that one way united.

      I used to fret over errors, but now I go back to my master copy of each story and fix them. The exercise is good practice, and should any of them see the world beyond this forum, they’ll be all the better for having rough edges sanded off.

      Thanks!

  11. thatbillguy

    It’s time. Decision time.

    Do I do the dishes? Do I change the baby? Do I mow the grass that, after recent heavy rains, I can literally hear growing? Or do I finish chapter eighteen?

    If the questions were to make it into the wild, I know what the answer would be. It would be less about working out how Weiss escapes from his dungeon nightmare, and more about how the boy’s impending diaper overflow would affect tonight’s meal.

    “I’ve always wanted to be a writer. You know that.”

    “I know.”

    “I feel like I could be successful.”

    “I know”

    “The more time I put into it, the better I’ll get.”

    “I know.”

    “We could hire someone to mow the lawn.”

    “I know. We should.”

    “We could wash dishes as we use them, rather than let them pile up.”

    “It’s true.”

    “But Weiss isn’t going to get out of that dungeon on his own… he needs me!”

    “I know.”
    “So I need to do this. I need to finish this. No matter how successful I ever am in my actual career, there will always be this unfinished thing, this regret following me around.”

    “I know. It’s important to follow through with things you start.”

    “Okay. Thank you.”

    The space was small and cramped. A warm bouquet of decomposition hovered at the entrance. Pernicious substances cascaded on every surface, threatening to escape the confines of the moist prison. My stomach contracted hard. I turned my head and fought down the wetness in my mouth.

    “What evil has wrought such a place?”

    “Pureed broccoli and carrots, with turkey and gravy.”

    “Oh.”

    “Well, at least you can get back to writing after.”

    1. Observer Tim

      I love the way the MC was able to reach out and use the reality of the situation to strengthen his writing. :) The dialogue is crisp and natural; the fact that the MC is getting the short responses gives a clear signal that this discussion has been held many times before…

  12. Bilbo Baggins

    THE CAVE

    It’s another day, regretfully. I can only tell because those harsh beams above me snap on, with blinding clarity, and they descend upon me. The sun is cruelly blocked out by large black walls. I shiver at night, watching motionless black bats on the ceiling. I am in a cave.

    I am alone, except for… them. Five minutes later, my captors breeze in, with billowing capes and silver tentacles. I am strapped inside a gray cocoon, squirming. They poke and prod me with mechanical arms and take notes.

    “What do you want with me?” I scream. Some recoil, but even then they do not understand. I want freedom.

    Afterwards, they bring in water that makes my head spin until they leave. The room still bounces around, but my arms are freed. At last, I can work on my true passion- writing. Even before the cave, it’s been my foundation.

    The details still remain fuzzy, unclear. I can remember men in crisp blue coats, heavy suitcases, hard benches that pressed into my spine, people staring at me cold as death. I’d rebelled, hot steam in my throat, until stern arms had guided me onto a white platform that took me here.

    Of course they try to tell me different. They remind me that I brought myself here, that they were not the ones to imprison me. They tell me of people I don’t even know, and in my rage I flip over everything within reach.

    You’ll never break me, I think, no matter how hard you try. Raising my hands, a gentle woman, transparent with golden locks, brings forward a gold tablet. Nameless, her eyes mesmerize me. I begin to write a list of demands for them. Together, I plot, we can overthrow this cave.

    First, I must be left alone. No more prodding, no more potions. Then I can live in peace. Second, I need to walk around, see the air. Why do they not let me outside? I remember grass, clouds, stars, in earlier days. She was always alongside them. Third, they must let me write as long as I want. It’s my driving force, and every day I feel words piling up inside me, waiting to be released.

    White anger flashes into me suddenly, and I tug at my chains, my legs kicking viciously. Individual letters form, dragged together. Knife. Stories come exploding out, pouring onto the sickeningly clean floor, and I smash the tablet from her hands, my list evaporating. She just stands there, imploring me in a language that I cannot hear, until finally she gives up and cries.
    ________________________________________________________________

    The doctor turned away from the window, his face ashen.

    “He’s writing in the air again. Do you think we should give him some paper?”

    The nurse beside him sighed and looked at her clipboard.

    “Patient 8970 is not allowed. He’ll go into a fit. He was fired from a job at the local paper mill, for stealing. Snapped a few days later, killed his wife.”

    “What a shame. He could’ve been a bestseller.”

    “Yes, what a shame,” the nurse repeated. They walked down the hall to the next room, cold air conditioning blowing relentlessly. The patient continued to wave his arms, until, weary, he fell asleep.

    (This idea came along suddenly and refused to leave, sort of like people looking over my shoulder at what I’m writing. No concessions, mainly because I was approaching the word limit and he’s in a bad enough situation anyways.)

          1. Augie

            I brought the water guns… Woops, not a good idea!
            Good story Bilbo. I like ‘the billowing capes and silver tentacles.’

    1. Marie Therese Knepper

      This is my favorite. Excellent. You make me feel guilty for missing whatever mistakes you’re referring to, because it’s perfect, imo.

    2. Reaper

      I like it, and I think it speaks to the madness that many writers and those that love them fear they will slip into. Just beautiful. I’m sure the errors you mentioned are there but I read over them.

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