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Howdy, Partner

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

There’s a knock on your door. When you open it, you find a cowboy—complete with the hat, boots, spurs, six-shooter, the accent, everything—standing on your front step. He claims he has no idea who he is or what he’s doing there. Write this scene, as you try to sort out his (and your) confusion.

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478 Responses to Howdy, Partner

  1. alyssasdgva says:

    There was a knock on my door. Who could be here at this hour? I groggily opened my eyes and got out of bed. who ever it is i’m going to kill them.
    “Why are you waking me up in the middle-” I stopped talking to fully look at the man in front of me. This guy is a weirdo! He’s wearing cowboy getup and is grinning at me like an idiot. It takes me a moment before I realize that i know this man. This is Alfred f. Jones. Now i’m really going to hurt him.
    “Alfred, what are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be on a date with Arthur tonight! Did you two get drunk, AGAIN.” I whisper-yelled at him.
    “How do you know my name, never mind, can you tell me where we are? I didn’t see any horses and he dragged me here which he says is where i live, but i live in a shack outside of town”
    “wha? i’m your roommate what are you talking about?”
    Before he could answer Arthur came up behind him and covered his mouth.
    “He is beyond drunk and thinks he is back in his cowboy days.”
    He fell into Arthurs arms and fell asleep.
    “well i guess he has to sleep on the couch tonight”
    with that i went back to bed.

  2. ultimatefrisbeegirl says:

    “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” starts my musical doorbell. I clap my hands. I can’t count my attempts at replacing that doorbell. Just kidding. Twenty-three. Grandma Evie had it installed when she lived here. I go to the door. Is the world against me eating my dinner in peace?
    “Congratulations,” I begin as I swing the door open. My sarcastic comment floats away as my mouth drops. A cowboy stands before me. Like the real deal, right-out-of-a-Western-film cowboy, complete with a black Stetson.
    “Ma’am,” he says, “I don’t know who you are, but I need help.” I blink and notice the lines of dust around his dark blue eyes, his muddy jeans, and one blood-soaked sleeve.
    “Are you a murderer?” I whisper.
    “I’m in serious trouble.” his deep voice and accent make me melt. “Stay here,” I say, “I’ll get you a glass of cold water and a washcloth.”
    “Thank you ma’am,” he says as I begin to close the door.
    BOOM! BOOM! Something screeches through the air and pounds against the porch. I’m knocked to the floor, my head spinning. Before I can stand, strong hands are pulling me up. The cowboy has me standing, kicks the door shut behind us and latches it while holding me up with the other arm. “What happened?” I say.
    “Do you have a basement?”
    “No.”
    “A closet?”
    “Yes, in my bedroom.”
    “Where?”
    I show him the way, my legs barely steady. My dinner is forgotten as he pulls the closet door closed behind us. “You okay?” he says.
    “Yes.” I can barely see him. He releases me and rummages about. I hear something heavy being laid against the door. Then we’re silent. I hear his pistol cock and jump. “I knew it!” I gasp.
    “It’s not for you,” he says wryly.
    “Then for who?”
    “It’s better you don’t know, but you listen to me. I didn’t mean to bring them here. Go into the back of this closet and hide in the clothes. I don’t want you getting hurt. They’ve come for me.”
    “Why?” I’ve gone cold. He doesn’t answer, because at that moment there is a sickening crash and splinter of wood. The front door. “Hurry!” he whispers, pushing me back. I go, starting to shake again. My breath is hot against the clothes and the house is eerily silent again.
    They’re coming.

  3. Mallen says:

    You step out of the shower and spritz yourself with lemon and vanilla body oil. This, you smile to yourself, is a good day to be you. Walking out of the bath, wrapping yourself in a huge over-priced body sheet from Neiman’s, you hear the door and you smile. He’s here. He, being the wonderfully perfect Jeff who flies the friendly skies for American Airlines during the week and alternates between operating a life-saving helicopter for the National Guard two weekends of the month and volunteering for the fire department. That leaves one weekend for his mother, demanding old bitch, and one short 48 hour period for you. But he is here, now, knocking on your door. Practically purring, you walk to the door.
    You drop your towel. And open the door.
    “Howdy, Partner!”
    The scream that erupts from you can be heard from at least a two block radius. Followed from the slam of the door in his 5 o’clock-shadowed face. Who was HE?
    “Mam?” came the muffled sound from the other side. “Can you cover yourself and let me in? I think someone is following me and I need to get inside.”
    You tell him to go, you don’t know him and you are expecting a very important visitor shortly and he should ‘hustle on down the road’. You scuffle to close the bath sheet and hold it closed over your wet and well moisturized naked body. You feel panic begin to build in your chest.
    “Partner, I do apologize but those rapscallions are getting closer, I am sure of it and I am going to have to come on in. I really do hate to barge in on ya, but ya leaving me no choice. Now back away from the door.”
    You are in a full thrown panic now. This ruffian is getting ready to break down your door. You yell at him to wait! Give you a minute to think. Did he promise not to hurt you if you let him in? Would he leave as soon as the danger passed?
    “I promise mam, you have my word as a cowboy.”
    Slowly you turn the knob. He walks in. This man is teeming with lust. He doesn’t walk, he saunters. He doesn’t look, he regards. He didn’t speak, he conferred. And you best believe when he made love it would be earth shattering.
    “Now, how’s about we try this again. Howdy, Partner.”
    “Howdy.”
    “Mam, you bout to drop your towel.”
    You tell him that you just might drop your towel. And when you drop it you just might walk back to your bedroom. And when you get to your bedroom you may lay down on your bed. While you are laying there you may get lonely. And if you did would he be so inclined to come and keep you company? And while you were there enjoying each other’s company you may get an itch you need scratched and as a certified cowboy with spurs, boots, hat and all would he be willing to help out a damsel in distress.
    “Well mam. I never could see a pretty little lady like you endure a hardship of any kind. But what about your very important visitor?”
    You had forgotten all about Jeff, and his perfect, do-gooding ass. Well you tell him, if we are interrupted he can just go visit with his old decrepit mother. It’s not every day a cowboy knocks on your door.

  4. mrswmoore7 says:

    “Uh, yes can I help you?” I asked the tall, striking cowboy as he stared back at me. He had on the full armor of a true cowboy. His cowboy hat, boots, spurs, and his six-shooter with a sexy Texas accent.
    “Uh yeah I was looking for Kelly McKlain.” His accent thick. He was tanned with brown hair pulled back into a pony tail and had sad brown eyes.
    “Sorry but you have the wrong address?”
    He didn’t move. He stayed in place. And then I saw the corners of his mouth twist into a hidden smile. “Can I come in?”
    I was taken aback because I didn’t know this cowboy. What if he was a mass murderer cowboy? How would I know? “Uh I don’t even know your name. What is it?”
    “Big John,” he said amusingly, staring at my dark brown eyes as they blinked rapidly.
    “I…I’m Payton but there isn’t a Kelly McKlain by that name who lives here.”
    “Sorry to disturb you ma’am,” the cowboy tipped his hat and began to walk away.
    “Wait,” I shouted.
    The cowboy turned back around and faced me, arching his eyebrows.
    “Uh, you can come in for some coffee and maybe we can look up this Kelly McKlain you’re looking for.”
    Big John tipped his hat as he strolled inside my house.

  5. Kemter says:

    Why are the walls and the ceiling the same color? That just simply doesn’t make sense. I should have Lucile paint them. She’s a wonderful artist, Lucile. One day she came for a visit. I had no idea who she was but she came for a visit; that’s my good Lucile.

    She came at the right moment too. Clever Lucile. I was staring out the window, watching the rain and feeling so lonely and sad. I didn’t even hear her come in. But in a blink she was behind me, touching my shoulder.

    I remember she spoke so soft and sweet, “Hello there, you don’t seem happy.”

    And I thought, well how ‘bout that. She doesn’t hardly know me and she can tell the feelings I’m feeling. I thought she might be friends with Ms. Dillan. Ms. Dillan is also good at that, but she wasn’t supposed to come until the day after tomorrow.

    But Lucile wasn’t friends with Ms. Dillan, she told me so. She wasn’t supposed to be in my room at all she said. I wasn’t afraid of Lucile though, even though she didn’t wear the right clothes for someone visiting in my room. Lucile was nice.

    She drew me a picture right on the wall. I did tell her that was against the rules but she said, “Don’t worry,” in her pretty voice and I stopped worrying. Just like that.

    Lucile can be like that, she doesn’t have to follow the rules. She used so many colors on my wall then, it was beautiful. Like the picture the sun paints over the blue sky when it wakes up and goes back to sleep. Lucile was like the sun.

    Lucile can be a tricky one though; she skipped out of my room again while I was looking at her picture without saying goodbye.

    I didn’t much mind though; you just can’t stay mad at a nice little thing like Lucile. I stared at the colors on my wall all day that day. Until my friends came to take me to the movie room. They said the painting was beautiful, but they were lying. My friends do that sometimes. They looked at the wrong wall, that’s how I caught them this time. I told them so as we walked to the movie room. I like catching them in lies.

    We watched a cowboy movie, with the real cowboys riding real horses. I asked some of my friends if they had seen Lucile anywhere, but they hadn’t. She would have loved the cowboy movie I know it.

    A cowboy would make her less lonely. I wish I had a cowboy too, but I have my friends in blue. They always wear blue, but Lucile didn’t wear blue. She could use a cowboy who didn’t where blue and feel less lonely.

    I lie back on my bed, the sheets white like the ceiling and walls which makes no sense, and close my eyes to see that picture one more time in my head. It was gone when I got back from the movie that day. I think one of my friends stole it right out of the wall.

    A tap tap tap, comes from my door. How strange, it’s not time for my friends to come visit yet and bring dinner. It must be the thief then, returning the picture on the wall.

    “Come in.” I say grumpily with my eyes closed. I want to surprise myself when I see the picture from Lucile again.

    “Howdy partner,” a voice says back.

    I open my eyes and see a cowboy like in my cowboy movie. He even has the big hat which only the real cowboys are allowed to have.

    “You must be looking for Lucile,” I tell him happily, “but she’s not here yet. She’s going to paint the wall again! You know it doesn’t make sense that the walls and the ceiling are the same color. Lucile will fix that when she comes back.”

    • Scarly says:

      This was really interesting, written from a child’s point of view:) I really enjoyed this and it kept me intrigued the entire time. I wonder who the woman was and who this child is. It doesn’t specify a gender but I think it’s a boy. And I feel like this woman, Lucille, is his mom visiting him, wherever he is. That’s just what I thought of, but I loved this.:) Keep up the good work! *claps*

    • jhowe says:

      This was very nicely done. The patient seems to have a vivid imagination and invents characters that visit her in her room, like Lucile and the cowboy. Though it was very sad, I loved it when her friends looked at the wrong wall when viewing the painting. I liked this a lot.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        And so did I. You write with a lot of emotion. The patient still has some marbles left to work with, more so then most people with dementia. I’m looking forward to your next post.

    • Critique says:

      This was such an interesting well written story. I’m thinking the MC is a young man with a mental disability – possibly Down Syndrome? I look forward to more of your writings Kemter :)

    • drnoag says:

      It is very good. I really enjoyed.

    • harmonee72 says:

      that was great!! I know Scarly read the story from the point of view of a child – but i read it from the point of view of an senior in a senior’s home – or someone with dementia or something like that …. and that’s the great thing about writing – and reading it – everyone sees a story in a different way …. i enjoyed this very much!!! thank you for posting it! i’m new to this site and have literally just registered but i do plan to try out some writing myself – you’ve been an inspiration!!

  6. GuitarSlim says:

    The pounding on the door jarred me out of my daze. I’d been sitting at the table, staring bitterly out the window at the simple headstone that marked my brother’s still-fresh grave.

    Don’t know who the hell would come calling on a day like this – the weather was coming in from the southwest, and the dull, slate-gray sky was spitting sleet at the cold, indifferent prairie.

    Before I could take two steps, the door burst open, the figure standing in the entryway reeling with the effort. He was tall and slender, his hat pulled down low to hide his face. His clothing was smeared with dirt and mud, to the point that his shirt and pants were nothing more than shades of brown. He was swaying a bit, and I could tell he was disoriented.

    Looked like he could’ve been a hand from the Bar-T, the ranch a few valleys over. Maybe he got thrown from his horse, bumped his head and lost his way. No overcoat, so he must have been desperate to be so far out in weather like this.

    “Can I help you with something?” I offered cautiously.

    I could see beyond him to the horse pasture; he’d already helped himself to one of my roans, because she was tied to the hitching post outside the door.

    “Need a saddle…” he began in a breathy Texas drawl, slumping forward and twisting to the side. The back of his shirt was covered in blood, and I could see a pair of holes where two slugs had obviously found him.

    Shot in the back…just like my brother…

    The stranger slid a silver-plated Colt revolver out of the holster on his hip, pointed it in the air and cocked the hammer.

    He raised his head just enough for me to see his eyes. They were beady and black as coal, and despite his weakened state, they were staring at me with a cold, piercing intensity. A flash of recognition hit me. The silver pistol, the Texas drawl… It was Hale McCready, a callous and frequently drunken no-account who was wanted for theft and murder. The murder of my brother, in fact. I’d never actually seen him before – but I knew it was him. Didn’t look like he knew who I was, though. He was clearly on the run and just happened to end up here. He meant to steal a horse to get away – and probably kill me in the process.

    But I had different plans.

    Off in the distance now, I could see a group of riders coming up over the hill toward the house. The sheriff and his deputies, no doubt. Probably tracked Hale here, and I’m sure they had plans of their own to take him in. Hale dropped to his knees and seemed on the verge of passing out. I didn’t have much time. I quickly ducked into my bedroom and grabbed my Winchester. The metal was cold in my hands – a fitting instrument for what he had coming.

    My heart was pounding wildly as I came back around the corner. He was still on his knees, pointing the Colt in my direction. The muzzle traced a figure-eight in the air as he struggled to steady his aim. I leveled my rifle at him and cocked the hammer. No, I had different plans indeed.

    • Scarly says:

      Ha:) Good plot going on here. I like how this villanous cowboy was near his death bed and still had killing in his bones. I also like the cliff hanger; the narrator could have killed him or maybe he had plans to torture him. Anything could happen. You made one teeny tiny itsy bitsy mistake though. Being a gal from Texas would make me Texan:3 So accents would be Texan, or more hypothetically accurate, Southern works too. Enjoyed your story! Have a good day!

    • jhowe says:

      This is a good story. Hale deserved to get plugged with the Winchester. The MC stayed cool and collected the whole time, waiting for his opportunity. I liked how you avoided using the word ‘cowboy.’

    • Critique says:

      Enjoyed your story! I like how you left me pondering the ‘different plans indeed’. My imagination pictures the MC as a girl and she will plead self defense when the posse arrives :)

  7. Observer Tim says:

    I opened the microwave and the smell of popcorn immediately filled the kitchen. I drank in the fake butter aroma that brought me back to golden days of yesteryear, when Mom, Dad, Eric and I would go to the movies. That was the plan tonight too, though this time it was only me and the movies would be playing on TV in the living room. Eric was away at his writer’s group and I was getting some quality “me” time. I dumped the popcorn into a paper bag and picked up my paper cup of soda. This would be a night to lose myself.

    The knock at the door made me jump, just like one of those old scary movies. We live on the fourteenth floor of a so-called secure building, so people knocking usually meant neighbours. I set the food down and went to answer it.

    I pulled the door open and stopped dead. My jaw dropped. There was a cowboy standing there, right out of a Clint Eastwood movie. He wore a greatcoat and duster over his shirt and vest, and below his chaps were rugged pointy-tipped cowboy boots. He smelled of dust and sweat and horses and … other cowboy things.

    I swooned, partly because I’d always loved those movies and partly because the smell of cow flop was a bit overpowering. He caught me in a rugged arm and pulled me close. I couldn’t tell whether I gasped because of the smell or because of the real concern I saw in his steely blue eyes.

    “Are you all right, miss? What’s your name?”

    “Wah-wah-Wanda.”

    “Well, Wawawanda, what’s a pretty young gal like you doing all alone in this godforsaken place?”

    “The city’s not that bad…”

    I trailed off and looked around. The hot sun was beating down on the dusty ground and the wind raised tiny dust devils around us. We were standing in the doorway of a dilapidated shack in a small town that even the ghosts had deserted. And my popcorn was gone!

    “What the fudgesicle?”

    But I already knew what the problem was. Eric. My idiot writing-obsessed brother had somehow written the entire world out of existence. I wasn’t sure how he did it, but he just had to be involved. All that was left was me, a ghost town, and a kind-of-hunky cowboy that I had just created on my word processor. I think I’ll call him Dusty.

    I could tell my brother hadn’t written this because Dusty wasn’t poking me with his stiffened rod (which Eric would have some lame excuse for, of course). Disgusting. I looked at Dusty again, as his personality details started moseying their way into my head. Well, maybe we can come back to the ‘stiffened rod’ around chapter eleven or twelve, after I’ve gotten to know him…

    I hit the ‘print’ button and the page came out. As I stared at the words I finally understood what Eric felt after he’d created something. I was hooked.

  8. Cowboy Games
    ============

    The Cedarwood Home for the Elderly stood at the end of a dead-end street in a rotting burrough of a dying town, a bit of irony not lost on the staff and residents– well, some of them anyway. The arrivals came in minivans full of harried yet frenzied families. The departures left in black stationwagons where the back seats were always quiet. The visitors’ lots grew weeds from disuse.

    Eileen taught grade school for nearly forty years before retiring and within two years her son, David, dropped her off with a peck on her cheek. Another two years passed and he’d visited regularly at first, then phone calls, and finally silence. She wished him a happy life, but loneliness crept in to her days. She slept those away and enjoyed the nights instead.

    Mister Jameson, three doors down, wandered the halls in the wee hours, sometimes clothed strangely and sometimes not at all. The word on the ward was that syphilis turned his brain into cheese. No one knew about his life before Cedarwood, his tenure longer than everyone else including the staff.

    This one night, Eileen’s mood wasn’t the best. She conned one of the orderlies into fetching her some brandy, an easy enough task for a woman not afraid to peddle her charms. The liquor burned her throat but made the time more tolerable.

    She considered the length of the tie on her house coat and wondered if the wall sconse light would hold her weight, assuming her courage held. A noisy hooting and hollering from the hallways interrupted her pondering, and when there was a loud knock on her door, she startled and stuffed the fuzzy would-be noose under the mattress.

    “You in there, Eileen?” said the familiar voice through the door, this time drawling like a cowboy from a bad western movie.

    She yelled at the door. “Go back to bed, Mister Jameson. It’s three in the morning.”

    “I have a six shooter pointed at your door. You best come out, little lady. I hear you got a bit of booze to lubricate the joints.”

    Eileen smiled to herself. The wall sconces would be there tomorrow. Tonight, there waited another lonely soul. She walked over to the door and opened it.

    “Greetings, Marshall Dillon.”

    “Howdy, ma’am. Might I come in for a spell?”

    Mister Jameson wore cowboy boots and a felt brimmed hat. He wore no holster, but his pistol looked loaded with lead and ready to fire. She closed the door behind him and let her house coat fall to the floor.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Chill bumps actually Doug with the last sentence. Romance never dies when one searches for it or it appears st three in the morning at a nursing home. That’s what I refer to as the human spirit. You pointed that out so well in your story. For 500 or less, your tale packs so much of life in it. In my humble opinion, this story has elevated the entire forum. Let’s see what the other writer’s have to say about this.

    • lionetravail says:

      A nicely unique take on the prompt, and tackling challenges! Nicely done on several levels: exploring sexuality in the older/nursing home resident, for one. Given the word limit, it’s excellent. My sense is that, for Eileen, the suicidal thoughts are more contemplative than actual/desperate, and perhaps in “Marshal Dilllon’s”, ahem, line of fire, she will find reasons to stay away from the wall sconces. :)

    • agnesjack says:

      Go for it, Eileen, I say. The picture you painted of the nursing home with the forgotten residents was spot on. Maybe Mr. Jameson can keep Eileen from the wall sconce for a while. Nicely done, Doug.

  9. AnthonyChrist says:

    This is way over the 500 words, but ya’ know who’s counting right?

    Jen & the Identity

    It was nine ‘o’ clock in the morning and I had to skip breakfast, because I was extremely late for school as usual. I promised my Math Analysis teacher that I would start to get to school on time as it was beginning to take a negative toll on my grades. I never ceased to disappoint myself or everyone around me.

    As I was making my way towards the living room, I noticed the TV had been left on the news station and before I could shut it off the doorbell rang causing me to groan. I assumed it was the next door neighbors wanting to once again complain about something that was obviously out of our control. They were a wicked kind of people, forever seeming to attempt to drive my mother and I out of our house. We’ve lived here edging towards nine years; we weren’t going to let some weird corrupt people try to kick us out.

    I’m Jen Mandrose; daughter of the Clara Mandrose…we were fighters and we fell in love with our beautiful town Johnstown.

    I swung the door open and sent the guests the sassiest stare I could conjure. It failed due to the amount of auburn hair frolicking in front of my face.

    “Howdy, little lady!” came a boisterous male voice. What were we back in the old west? I brushed my hair away from my eyes and saw a boy my age dressed in a cheap cowboy costume.

    Maybe I was still dreaming?

    “Howdy, little lady!” he repeated.

    “I heard you the first time.” I snapped while he flaunted a cheshire grin. I did NOT have time for immature games. Knowing my friends back at school; they probably paid this creep to come mess with me as a departing prank since it was close to grad. Well they picked the right time to do so! “Who paid you? Marcus? Teresa? Sara?”

    “Young lady, I can’t recall the moments before I had awakened so you may see why I’m balled up. If you were to be so kind as to lend me a helping hand, I’d appreciate such. If not, I’d have to pay you through nose.” He replied managing to uphold the creepy grin.

    Balled up? Pay you through nose?

    I sighed running a hand trough my hair making my stress as apparent as necessary. Maybe this joke would’ve run itself through with hilarity, but I just didn’t have the time of day to fool around. “Dude, stop calling me little lady and young lady, because you’re just as old as me and if I’m not correct I think you’re in the back of my Economics class…” I trailed off and examined him. Those dark hollow eyes and pale skin with bad acne couldn’t be reciprocated by anyone else. Better yet, who would want to look like that?

    Yup I definitely went to school with this loser. When I made this wary, the guy shifted weirdly and he sort of flinched; answer obtained.

    “Look I won’t tell Sara or any of the others that I caught you in your funny little act okay!” I pleaded trying to get this guy from under my skin as quickly as possible. “I’ll tell them like some weird guy dressed up in a cowboy suit really got on my nerves this morning, and that I’m scared that you might be some stalker I met online to make it sound like you really put in some work.”

    “Now ma’am-“

    “Don’t call me ma’am either.” I demanded uncaringly interrupting him.

    “Miss, I’ am not familiar of the people which you speak of.” And still the lies continued.

    I rolled my eyes. I could care less of anything he had to say now; I just wanted him to be gone. “Could you remove yourself from my front porch now? What do you even want?”

    “I-uh-I…” was all he could get out imitating a broken record. Sweat was beading down his face and his eyes were nervously scanning the area. What was with this jerk? Did he not know how to end this useless attempt at a comedic prank? He was only making himself look more pathetic and persistent. I gave him a chance and he still kept jabbing at me. “May I use a phone?”

    “Oh. You’re a cowboy who knows what a phone is; unique.” I deadpanned before digging in my pocket to find that it was empty. “I left it inside. I’ll be right back.”

    I made my way back inside the house up to my room knowing that when I came back, he probably would no longer be there. It was typical Sara Whittlock behavior; when the road gets sturdy, lie to yourself, runaway and never look back. I was so going to get her back, it’s my new side-goal to end off the year as a senior.
    I didn’t even go all the way to my bedroom. I walked right back to the living room to discover the “cowboy” had fled from the scene. I definitely had it in for Sara and I couldn’t wait to get to school.

    “A major alert for the citizens of Johnstown,” I overheard from a reporter on television. “There’s a tragic break of news that residing schools have been put on lockdown due to the search of a young man who’s going to the resident’s houses claiming to emit from the old west before brutally attacking his victims. There has been a count of up to five deaths and seven injuries in the past hour and…”

    I drowned out what else was said as my body was triggered into a state of paralysis. My lips fell slightly agape as my heart began to slow down. My face was glazed and I knew at that point the world around me had ceased to exist. Today I woke up from bed, frantic about not being able to attend school on time not knowing it may have been the last time I would ever be able to attend school ever again. Today I had spoken with a killer. Today I discovered sat four rows in front of the devil.

    I felt disembodied; I was numb.

    What if he was still outside somewhere? I panicked as I had dashed forward to shut the door completely jolting out of my state of condition. Abruptly, life around me came back to life and I was able to feel again. I went over to the window aside from the door to look out on the porch, but just as I was doing that I heard the words of my demise.

    “Howdy, young lady…” someone said in an aggressive tone. The curtains flew open and I saw on the dirty glass, the face of an angry and isolated sociopath.

    And it wasn’t a reflection.

  10. agnesjack says:

    Crazy Maudie was just finishing “planting” the plastic flowers in the front window boxes of her trailer when she heard a crash. She raced inside to get her shotgun.

    “It’s those dang kids again, Gus!” she said to her husband who had been dead and buried twenty-seven years. Then she went blazing out of the back door, yelling, “Git! Git! Git!” to protect her prized piles of junk on the half-acre lot behind the trailer.

    She didn’t see anyone, so she took a walk through the maze of piles and around the fenced perimeter.

    “Musta scooted when they heard me comin’,” she said with a wink toward Gus’s old chair when she came back in. “Lordy, they do keep me spry.”

    Just then, a knock came at the front door.

    “What now, sweet Jesus?” Maudie said.

    A young, cowboy with dark, curly hair was standing on the threshold looking a little dazed. His shirt was bloody and his hat looked stomped on. There was blood trickling down from a cut on his forehead.

    “Ma’am?” he said.

    “Lord above,” she said with eyes popping and mouth agape, “it’s Billy!”

    She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.

    “Looks like a bronco finally got you, Billy. Sit down. No! Not that chair. That’s Gus’s. Let me clear off this one,” and she took a pile of old rodeo flyers off another chair and placed them atop a pile of old newspapers on the coffee table.

    “Ma’am?” he said again. “Is that my name? Billy?”

    “Why, sure. What else would it be?” Maudie said with tears in her eyes. “Let me get something to clean up that blood,” and she navigated her way through the indoor maze to the kitchen.

    She came out with a clean towel, some gauze and antiseptic.

    “Oh, Billy,” she said as she dabbed his head. “What happened to you? I waited and waited after the rodeo. Then Gus came and held my hand and said you’d left town for good. Did you go to Montgomery, Billy? Did you go there without me?”

    “I don’t know, ma’am,” he said.

    “You were the best broncobuster in Idaho. The best. Then you just up and disappeared. June 16, 1958, you just up and disappeared on me, Billy.” She was crying outright, now.

    There was something about this woman with the wild gray hair and the delicate hands that made the young man feel for her. She reminded him of his great-aunt Sheila, who had been both tough as nails and delicate as orchids. Suddenly, his mind cleared. He was no broncobuster. He was a computer programmer from New York who had cracked up his rental car on the way to the dude ranch were he was to spend his vacation.

    “Uh, ma’am,” he said, using the cowboy voice he’d been practicing for weeks. “Thanks for your hospitality, but I must be saying adios.”

    “Aw, Billy,” she said.

    “Ma’am,” he said. “I’m not Billy, but I, uh, have news about him.”

    “Oh?” she said.

    “Billy was, uh, killed by one of his broncos the day after he left town, but he had always planned on coming back for you.”

    “Oh, Gus,” she said to the empty chair, “Did ya hear that? I knew it, Gus. I just knew it.”

    With that, Billy, whose name was really Sheldon, tipped his hat to crazy Maudie.

    “Ma’am,” he said, and let himself out.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I like crazy maudie. If not her face, at least her property and demeanor were very vivid to me and I enjoyed picturing her patrolling with her shotgun and talking to her passed husband’s chair. Semi sad but ultimately amusing little story here.

      • agnesjack says:

        I liked crazy Maudie, too, GTB, and had fleshed her out much more in the beginning, but had to cut back to get the cowboy in and keep close to the limit. People who live on the isolated edge like this have always fascinated me.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          You captured me again, Nancy. A computer programmer from New York as a shining knight in armour, coming to the rescue to set crazy Maudie’s mind, finally at piece. I’ve read three in a row now, Tim, Doug and yourself.

          What a joy to be a member of this forum. Go Hurricanes!

          • agnesjack says:

            Thanks, Kerry — and I agree. I feel fortunate to have found, and be able to participate in, this wonderful forum of unique writers.

    • lionetravail says:

      Nicely done- Crazy Maudie is iconic, and Sheldon kind (if confused).

      Seriously, Maudie would be a great recurring character or supporting character in a story :)

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks, lionetravail. I think I will have to find a place for Maudie. As I mentioned to GTB, I had written much more that I had to cut. For example, her shotgun wasn’t loaded, and so rusty that if it had been loaded it would have been more of danger to her than to anyone she pointed it at. She really came alive for me. I liked her.

  11. UnusDeo says:

    “Well, you sure aren’t at the saloon.”

    Why did I say that? Seriously, a guy’s got amnesia and that’s the first thing I could think of. I mean, the cowboy clothes don’t quite help, but why add insult to injury.

    “I mean seriously, are the Village people looking for new members?”

    Dammit. Normally, I’d be proud of this moment. I mean, not insulting a man with no memory. I’m not proud of that in the slightest. Seriously though, I’ve never been this witty in my life.

    It wasn’t like I was completely unaware of the situation or anything. It could have been tarradiddle. I could have been on the receiving end of a prank or something. I wouldn’t exactly understand the cowboy gimmick since I’m not a huge fan of westerns or anything.

    Oh, and there’s the fact that I just moved here. So, it was probably easy to rule out that this was a prank by the friends.

    “I’m sorry, please come in. Have a seat on the couch.”

    I got the man some water and watched as he tried to sort things out in his head, occasionally following his thoughts with a sip. I was still weary of it being a prank. I mean, it’s one thing for a man to knock on your door claiming to have no prior knowledge of his life. It’s another thing to have a man fully clad in old western clothing, speaking as if he stepped directly out of the 1880s, tell you he didn’t remember a thing about himself.

    “So, did you come to with the giddy up- I mean, get-up?” I really couldn’t help myself.

    “Whaddaya mean?” I think I only confused him further.

    “Were you wearing that when you woke?” I clarified.

    “Well, I reckon I wouldn’t be wearing anything else. Don’t exactly have a wardrobe.”

    “Of course. Amnesiac. Right.”

    It’s not to say that I forgot so quickly. I was just trying to catch a prankster off guard.

    “Where were you when you woke?” I continued the questioning.

    “Well, I was layin’ on the cold, hard ground with some feller blowing loud noises in my ear.”

    Hmm . . . I wonder.

    “Just to clarify, you do know what a car is, right?” I had to ask.

    “Sir, I do still remember basic knowledge,” he responded.

    So, why the hell are you wearing cowboy gear and SPEAKING with a COWBOY ACCENT?!?!

    At this point, it was clear that I could rule out time machines being involved. It still didn’t explain a damn thing for me. He’s a citizen of this era. Even with amnesia, shouldn’t he retain that he’s not a real cowboy? Maybe his brain reprocessed knowledge incorrectly.

    I don’t know why I’m trying to guess the science behind it. I never graduated. More importantly, it looks like I’m actually entertaining the idea of this guy actually forgetting his memories and this not being a huge prank. Man, if it turns out this is a prank, I’m going to lose it.

    We may have talked for hours. What could have caused it? He didn’t experience any trauma. The only pain he remembers was the horn blowing in his ear. What was the last thing he remembered prior to passing out? Running. I know, pretty vague. Why was I still believing this? Oh wait, that’s the question I kept asking myself. After awhile, I just decided I needed a drink.

    “Let’s just watch some TV.” With a button press, the screen lit. As it lit, I simultaneously dropped the remote and headed towards the kitchen. I know, I’m a multitasking pro.

    The sound of the television quickly matched and surpassed my speed. I completely forgot that I was watching the game before I let the guy in.

    “Tonight’s top story,” it was the news. Not out of the ordinary after the game, “an accidental discharge causes two horrific disappearances.”

    Great, just what the guy needs to see, the positive side of the world.

    “Earlier today, a little boy was killed at his own birthday party when he was shot in the face by his own father. The incident occurred when the young boy somehow got a hold of one of his father’s colts from his gun collection. During that party, the young boy mixed the actual gun in with the plastic ones. His father had the unfortunate luck of grabbing the gun and pretending to shoot his son. However, he didn’t expect what would happen next. People at the party say that the father ran off in horror and hasn’t been seen since. If you . . .”

    I may have been pouring that drink far too long. I could feel the brown river running over my hand as I paralyzed with shock.

    “HE WANTED THE PARTY!” The very next thing I heard.

    I dropped everything and dashed back to the living room. The forgetful cowboy was now the tearful cowboy. In that moment, he forgot something else. He forgot his surroundings, even the screen that stood between him and the reporter.

    “HE WANTED TO BE JUST LIKE ME! HE WANTED TO HAVE ‘COWBOY STUFF’ JUST LIKE PA!” His sorrowed yelling continued. “I DIDN’T KNOW HE’D GET IN MY COLLECTION! HELL, I DIN’T KNOW HE COULD LOAD BULLETS! I JUST WANTED . . .”

    At this point, his accent began to vanish. He stopped yelling, but he continued his tirade.

    “I just wanted to show my son the life of a cowboy.”

    With those words, he passed out.

    After he fainted, I may have stood for about five minutes, but it all felt so timeless. He was running, right? And he suddenly passed out . . . just like now.

    He didn’t suddenly catch a case of amnesia . . . he made himself forget.

    I gained the courage to run to his side after giving a quick call to the police. I tried yelling, I tried slapping, all to no avail. Suddenly, he began to open his eyes.

    “Who- who are ya, feller? Better yet, who am I?”

    No. This was not a prank. Not at all.

    [I legitimately tried to make it shorter than this. I really did.]

  12. UnusDeo says:

    “Well, you sure aren’t at the saloon.”

    Why did I say that? Seriously, a guy’s got amnesia and that’s the first thing I could think of. I mean, the cowboy clothes don’t quite help, but why add insult to injury.

    “I mean seriously, are the Village people looking for new members?”

    Dammit. Normally, I’d be proud of this moment. I mean, not insulting a man with no memory. I’m not proud of that in the slightest. Seriously though, I’ve never been this witty in my life.

    It wasn’t like I was completely unaware of the situation or anything. It could have been tarradiddle. I could have been on the receiving end of a prank or something. I wouldn’t exactly understand the cowboy gimmick since I’m not a huge fan of westerns or anything.

    Oh, and there’s the fact that I just moved here. So, it was probably easy to rule out that this was a prank by the friends.

    “I’m sorry, please come in. Have a seat on the couch.”

    I got the man some water and watched as he tried to sort things out in his head, occasionally following his thoughts with a sip. I was still weary of it being a prank. I mean, it’s one thing for a man to knock on your door claiming to have no prior knowledge of his life. It’s another thing to have a man fully clad in old western clothing, speaking as if he stepped directly out of the 1880s, tell you he didn’t remember a thing about himself.

    “So, did you come to with the giddy up- I mean, get-up?” I really couldn’t help myself.

    “Whaddaya mean?” I think I only confused him further.

    “Were you wearing that when you woke?” I clarified.

    “Well, I reckon I wouldn’t be wearing anything else. Don’t exactly have a wardrobe.”

    “Of course. Amnesiac. Right.”

    It’s not to say that I forgot so quickly. I was just trying to catch a prankster off guard.

    “Where were you when you woke?” I continued the questioning.

    “Well, I was layin’ on the cold, hard ground with some feller blowing loud noises in my ear.”

    Hmm . . . I wonder.

    “Just to clarify, you do know what a car is, right?” I had to ask.

    “Sir, I do still remember basic knowledge,” he responded.

    So, why the hell are you wearing cowboy gear and SPEAKING with a COWBOY ACCENT?!?!

    At this point, it was clear that I could rule out time machines being involved. It still didn’t explain a damn thing for me. He’s a citizen of this era. Even with amnesia, shouldn’t he retain that he’s not a real cowboy? Maybe his brain reprocessed knowledge incorrectly.

    I don’t know why I’m trying to guess the science behind it. I never graduated. More importantly, it looks like I’m actually entertaining the idea of this guy actually forgetting his memories and this not being a huge prank. Man, if it turns out this is a prank, I’m going to lose it.

    We may have talked for hours. What could have caused it? He didn’t experience any trauma. The only pain he remembers was the horn blowing in his ear. What was the last thing he remembered prior to passing out? Running. I know, pretty vague. Why was I still believing this? Oh wait, that’s the question I kept asking myself. After awhile, I just decided I needed a drink.

    “Let’s just watch some TV.” With a button press, the screen lit. As it lit, I simultaneously dropped the remote and headed towards the kitchen. I know, I’m a multitasking pro.

    The sound of the television quickly matched and surpassed my speed. I completely forgot that I was watching the game before I let the guy in.

    “Tonight’s top story,” it was the news. Not out of the ordinary after the game, “an accidental discharge causes two horrific disappearances.”

    Great, just what the guy needs to see, the positive side of the world.

    “Earlier today, a little boy was killed at his own birthday party when he was shot in the face by his own father. The incident occurred when the young boy somehow got a hold of one of his father’s colts from his gun collection. During that party, the young boy mixed the actual gun in with the plastic ones. His father had the unfortunate luck of grabbing the gun and pretending to shoot his son. However, he didn’t expect what would happen next. People at the party say that the father ran off in horror and hasn’t been seen since. If you . . .”

    I may have been pouring that drink far too long. I could feel the brown river running over my hand as I paralyzed with shock.

    “HE WANTED THE PARTY!” The very next thing I heard.

    I dropped everything and dashed back to the living room. The forgetful cowboy was now the tearful cowboy. In that moment, he forgot something else. He forgot his surroundings, even the screen that stood between him and the reporter.

    “HE WANTED TO BE JUST LIKE ME! HE WANTED TO HAVE ‘COWBOY STUFF’ JUST LIKE PA!” His sorrowed yelling continued. “I DIDN’T KNOW HE’D GET IN MY COLLECTION! HELL, I DIN’T KNOW HE COULD LOAD BULLETS! I JUST WANTED . . .”

    At this point, his accent began to vanish. He stopped yelling, but he continued his tirade.

    “I just wanted to show my son the life of a cowboy.”

    With those words, he passed out.

    After he fainted, I may have stood for about five minutes, but it all felt so timeless. He was running, right? And he suddenly passed out . . . just like now.

    He didn’t suddenly catch a case of amnesia . . . he made himself forget.

    I gained the courage to run to his side after giving a quick call to the police. I tried yelling, I tried slapping, all to no avail. Suddenly, he began to open his eyes.

    “Who- who are ya, feller? Better yet, who am I?”

    No. This was not a prank. Not at all.

  13. drnoag says:

    The door was of a regular type. It was not unusually wide or unnecessarily tall. Within and on one side of the door, shadowed under starving moonlight, was a man; -ish, a man-ish. On the other side of the door was Blink and one of the rooms which, were one so inclined could, when systematically compiled together with the rest of the attached rooms, be considered a home. How the door became a two sided portal instead of a wall was not a very complicated series of events which led to the door being opened by Blink and which began, as these things did, with a knock.
    The man had a crooked smile which seemed to be creeping further into the sides of his face; a face lightly veiled by the shadow of his leather Akubra. Blink thought of black spiders nesting under the bed. Where the hat met the man’s head, sweat or worse could be seen. It climbed down and plastered long hair to his neck. His hands twitched and grew around pistols with the fattest cylinders Blink had ever seen. Although, Blink was something of a recluse, he hadn’t seen any save those that decorated Clint Eastwood movies.
    The man was able to convey bits of information, through speech and rampant gesticulation even if it did transmit in some Jibberjabber-Jackjaw-Heehaw style to Blink. As if someone had started to encode the message, originally in English, but given up on the way. So, instead of a coherent string of communication, Blink was left to piece together bits of jargon and physical movement which populated within the eye of his mind as mad threats, ferocious troubles, and an indiscriminate, waking hunger. It was the kind of hunger that had sat dormant through a wilderness of cold only to just be shaken alive by the smells and sounds of a season replete with offerings.
    Blink had been watching Discovery. After looking into the eyes of this Wild West, gun slinging maniac, he was quickly reminded of, and more quickly forgot about, a fungus which would cultivate inside the body of an ant. The fungus would grow and prosper and ultimately infect the ant’s central nervous system. It would cause the ant to seek out a high perch – high being relative – and, once found and achieved, to sit and to die. The fungus would then grow out of the ant at an alarming rate, especially when Discovery did that rapid time dilation thing. Finally, it would grow spores and ejaculate its fungal offspring into the Aether. This fungus could OWN the ants. If that was possible, what else was?
    This guy, this cowboy-ish, was surely ridden by something that didn’t start life inside his head. Blink wished that discoveries would stay on the goddamn television and off his front porch.

  14. opalescence says:

    The knock came around midnight, scarcely audible through the pounding rain. Fleetingly, she considered ignoring it – sitting quietly in the orb of dim light radiating from the dusty lamp until the visitor left. But it was likely that, on this night, the consequences of leaving it unanswered would be severe. Her joints and the floor creaked in unison as she stood, hobbling across the room.
    She heaved the door open.
    “Nice costume.” She held the basket of candy out to him. He looked a bit old for Halloween, but the industrial-sized bag of lozenges she’d bought was still nearly full, and lord knew she wouldn’t live long enough to eat them all. Besides, a costume that elaborate deserved a reward. “Here, take one. Or all of them.”
    But the man did not reach forward to take any. Instead, he removed his sopping cowboy hat and stood awkwardly, squinting in the bare-bulb porch light as moths flitted around his head. “Sorry to bother you so late, ma’am, but I’ve found myself in a…predicament.”
    “Predicament?” Marian gripped the lozenge bowl tighter, eyeing him with suspicion.
    “I reckon I’ve been in an accident of sorts.” There was a musical twang in his voice that brought to mind the western movies of her childhood. “You see, ma’am, I haven’t the slightest idea how I ended up on this here farm of yours. Can’t remember much anything at all.”
    “Well, you’d best come in and dry off.” She could phone the police and they would take care of it.
    “I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
    “Oh, nonsense. I’ll make some tea.”
    The man hesitated, wringing water from his hat, before stepping inside. She escaped into the kitchen. As the teapot warmed, she considered him. He was certainly polite for someone clearly insane. Or was he? Who was she to decide he was insane, anyway? She’d leave it up to someone else to decide. Opening the cupboard, she fished a teabag out.
    She found the cowboy in the living room, staring at a framed painting that hung on the wall. She held the mug out to him, and he took it absentmindedly, his gaze remaining fixed on the barren prairie depicted in the painting. He didn’t seem to notice as she crossed the room and picked up the phone, slowly punching buttons with her arthritic fingers.
    “I can remember some things, you know.” A thoughtful look crossed his face. “Relentless sun. Hooves thudding on cracked earth.”
    Marian looked down at the phone in her hands.
    “When the wind rustled, I listened for voices, but I never heard anything. But at night the stars seemed to pulse in time with my heartbeat, and I felt whole.”
    A sense of stillness, deep inside her chest, began to bloom. Placing the phone back on the receiver, she joined the cowboy. Together they stared at the painting until the frame retreated beyond the edges of the vision, until the house around them faded away, replaced by barren land and endless sky.

  15. melissafield says:

    TWO COWBOYS

    I flop down on my big, green comfy couch. It’s old, ugly and puts people off. Kinda like me. At one time I wasn’t so old. Or ugly. But I never was much good at makin’ friends. I guess it’s because I don’t say much. You’d think I was pinching them on the inside the way they squirm and fidget when I go quiet.

    Sometimes I think I was just done born in the wrong place. A man like me shoulda been born in Montana. I’m pretty sure there’s a man out there that looks just like me, talks just like me, except he’s a real cowboy. He’s my dimensional twin, or somethin’ like that. I saw it on the Twilight Zone. Everybody had this twin walking around and it was their spittin’ image, except they grew up all different.

    Best darn thing I’ve ever seen. Mostly ’cause I know it’s true. Sometimes you see somethin’ like that and it’s strange and you ain’t seen nothin’ like it before, but you get a feeling. You get that tingle on your head and that feeling like hot soup in your stomach and you know it’s real.

    I kick my feet up, pop the cap off my beer and there’s a knock at the door.

    Hmmmm. I ain’t expectin’ company.

    I saunter on over. I consider for a brief second putting on a shirt. I realize it don’t matter. Whoever it is, if they don’t like the way I look, I ain’t gotta care. They’re them and I’m me and that’s the start and end of it.

    I open the door and for a second it feels like the room shifts. I feel all sideways and lean against the door frame to steady myself. There before me stands a cowboy, spurs, gun holster, and all. And ain’t it odd, seeing this fella dressed like this in the middle of the city.

    He tips his hat to me.

    “‘Mornin’,” he says.

    I sip my beer. I got that feeling. The head tingly and warm stomach feeling.

    “How can I help you?”

    My mind flashes back to that episode, about the twins who were maybe the same person, only separated. In the end, when one twin found another, somethin’ happened. They would sort of disappear. Except not disappear, they’d just go somewhere else. Somewhere they were meant to go together. It was a dimension, always different. There were a million of them dimensions.

    “I been lookin’ for ya,” he says.

    Before I can respond my beer bottle is on the ground. I never saw this, I just know ‘cause I felt it fall from my hand.

    I suppose my neighbors will come home, find my door open, the beer on the ground, and get pretty darn upset. I can’t help that though. It’s too late for me to say where I’m going, I can only feel us slipping into the darkness, travelling down the tunnel, two cowboys goin’ to another dimension.

  16. Stormsent says:

    Home

    “Okay, I understand. I just thought…” Stopped in mid-sentence, an episode of ‘The Lone Ranger’ seeped in. She turned off the phone. “Joshua… Joshua,” calling to her 11 year old son. “ Time for pj’s and bed.”

    Joshua was unmoved. He continued his play, bonded to the TV, one of the wonders of wireless connections.

    “Josh-u-a.” This, the enunciation that pried action out of her son, sent him to his room.

    Moving all things from the kitchen bar, she sat out several plastic shot glasses. Their placement carefully measured. A folded bar cloth added; bar stools precisely arranged. She set the front door ajar, dimmed the kitchen lights and waited.

    The front door swung open; a silhouette stepped in. Eyes circling the room quickly stopped at the bar. Pulling his hat off; batting it against his pants caused a whirling of dust. His holster weighed heavy against his hips; he gave it a tug, searching for some relief. The pistols shifted slightly. The leather didn’t.

    Tipping his head at the barmaid, she put down the glass and pulled out a bottle. He didn’t have to ask; she knew what he liked.

    “It’s been a while.”, she said quietly while wiping the bar. Lifting her head, she searched for his eyes. “Been alright?” No response. She slid the bottle closer. Pouring the amber liquid he stared at it briefly and drank it quickly. Then he looked.

    “I ever tell you bought getting caught up in Dog Leg trail? Thought I’d never git outta that place. Hotter than hell, de by God. Cut backs ev’ry few steps. Not sure ole Buddy was gonna make it either. Thought we’d both be meetin’ our Maker that day.” He poured another one and drank it immediately. Put a real hurtin’ on my feet. Walked as much as Buddy. He’s been with me near 10 years now.”

    “That long? My, doesn’t time get by fast.” She wiped out a shot glass.

    “Thinkin’ bought gittin’ some new boots this trip. These took their last steps ‘bout four days ago.Sanders still got his place?”

    “Yes, he does. Right where it’s always been. You remember Sanders? Goodness, it’s been years since you mentioned him.” She poured him another one. “On me.”, she patted his hand.

    “You know, if that young fella and his Indian Buddy of his hadn’t a by, might not be standing here today.” He pulled up onto a stool. “ I was trying to make it short between Double Gap and Last Spur. Didn’t much work out. Wore a mask…”, his eyes started to drift. “Gave me a pause. Gave me and Buddy some water. Didn’t know me, saved us though.”

    There was a noise at the edge of room.

    “Hello Jay”, again with her quiet voice.

    “Howdy Miss Liddy. Just stoppin’ in for a bit.” He stood by the old man.

    “Daddy…. I’m sorry. You have to go back. Jay’s gonna take you home.”

    “Home?”

    “Yes Daddy.”

    He looked around… There was no amber filled bottle, he wasn’t wearing boots or hat. He patted his sides. He didn’t have a holster with pistols.There was no barmaid. There was a woman he didn’t know and she had tears in her eyes. He was puzzled.

    “I love you Daddy.” She leaned to kiss him, but he pulled back.

    The old man faced Jay, “I ever tell you ‘bout the time I got caught up in Dog Leg trail? I thought I…”

    Jay reported, “Cancel silver alert. Patient located. ETA 30 mins.”

    • MJ Munn says:

      Very touching story, Stormsent. Understated and sweet. You did a fantastic job writing the middle section through the eyes of the father and transitioned seamlessly from “Miss Liddy” and back again by the end. Wonderful post.

    • lionetravail says:

      Nice writing, lovely and sad together. Only critique I have is the transition with Jay’s arrival- the ‘noise at the edge of the room’ didn’t connect when the daughter said “Hello Jay”, and I had to reread an extra time or two. Overall, a really lovely story.

    • jmcody says:

      This was a very touching story. Not only did the daughter know exactly where her father would turn up, but she provided a setting that would help ease his reentry into reality. Your story showed the importance of listening to the stories of our old people, even if we’ve heard them before, and even if they don’t seem to entirely make sense. (My story below was based heavily on my own family stories.)

      Not sure if you want input on grammar or just overall reaction. I did have one minor grammar pet peeve: “Tipping his head at the barmaid, she put down the glass…” You are mixing up your subjects. He (the father) was tipping his head, so he should be the subject of the second half of the sentence. “Tipping his head, he…,” or you could say “He tipped his head at the barmaid, and she…”

      Lovely story. Thanks for sharing this.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I thought this was a very sweet story as well. I had to re-read it quick as well to get what was going on, perhaps the Jay entering transition could be a tad smoother but the heart of the story was beautiful and I enjoyed this one.

  17. SpokenToLife says:

    My door is never answered as a matter of principled cynicism. After all, how can the world’s foolishness permeate my walls but through such a gateway? But, that day I forgot my principles, fear, and sense all at once. Perhaps it was the coffee, or perhaps it was that little weed of insanity that sometimes does things on whim; regardless, the door was answered. Little did I know, insanity was loose that day.
    It happened one day as I sat in my chair reading. The knocker thudded against my freshly painted door, inspiring a mental image of black splatters all over the concrete steps. I willed my footsteps to fill in the distance and the echoes of those painfully rude knocks in the same second. They were, of course, obedient.
    “What in the name of all that is good and proper do you mean by knocking on a door that is painted BLACK so as to imply that it wants nothing more than to NOT be opened?!” I screamed as I opened the door.
    The ruffian that stood on my paint-splattered top step replied with a simple, “I don’t rightly know,” as he adjusted his hat a bit.
    I was annoyed, but I am patient. I stood in my doorway for a full 3.5 minutes, watching this man collect himself. He looked like an extra from a western film who had somehow suffered amnesia on his way off the stage, due to an inordinate amount of stress coupled with a random indoor fork-lift missing its mark dramatically. It really is frightening how exact my first perception of the situation was.
    Finally, as the stench of his unwashed armpits caught enough wind to travel through his horribly ill-patterned flannel shirt and into my nose, I decided observation needed to end.
    “You’re lost,” I stated without expression.
    “I don’t rightly know,” he repeated.
    “Oh my. Dumb and lost? Do you know how to say anything else?”
    “I don’t rightly know,” he repeated.
    “And what is your name?”
    “I don’t rightly know,” he repeated.
    I am not sure whether I was more intrigued with the hilarity of it all or more annoyed at the stupidity of it all. At this point, I located my phone, plugged it in, and rang for the sheriff.
    “The man at my door splattered paint on my steps as a result of being daft. His name is ‘I don’t know’. Please pick him up directly.”
    The sheriff came and after a few phone calls, a few headaches, and more than a few hours, located the studio missing the man. I did not bother with cleaning my steps by this point of course. The day required no further adventure.
    I sat in my reading chair, running my hands over the supple leather as if to smooth away the reality of what had just transpired. “The whole world may be one… but stages belong in places other than my front-room,” I muttered, closed my book, and forgot the whole affair.

  18. krights says:

    This is my first time on this forum. Hope I’m doing it right! Sorry it’s a little long. I’ll work on that.

    Most folks around here ride English, with shiny knee-high leather boots, cropped jackets, and velvet-covered helmets. But I wasn’t too surprised to open the door to a lanky, Western-clad stranger, thumbs hooked into his belt, in full riding gear from his feathered hat to his spurs. This guy was all rodeo circuit, in a good way. He was angled away from me, surveying my front 10.

    “Can I help you?” I asked. He whirled, startled, and I saw his near-panicked expression.

    “I… I hope so,” he stammered. “I think I’m lost.”

    “You’re not lost,” I said, cracking the local joke we use to describe our little village. “You’re standing right in the center of the universe.”

    He almost smiled. “That’s a relief. But seriously, I think I need some help.”

    I regarded him for a minute, sensing both sincerity and need. I invited him in.

    “I have to tell you,” I said, “I expected you to be collecting for something. Maybe a horse rescue.”

    He looked down at himself and grinned. “I guess I do look like I belong on a horse.”

    “Then you’ve come to the right place,” I told him. “I have a whole herd out back.”

    He brightened at this. “Do I work here? Do you know me?”

    Now I was really confused. “Uh, no, we haven’t met. And why don’t you know that?”

    “See, that’s the problem,” he said. “I don’t know anything. I don’t remember anything before a few hours ago when I found myself walking down your road. It took me a while to get up the courage to knock on your door.”

    “Are you hurt?” I asked with alarm, instinctively jumping up and starting toward him. I’ve seen head injuries when horses and riders part company, and it’s not a pretty sight. Still, he didn’t look injured…

    “No!: he said, recoiling into my leather sofa. “At least I don’t think so.” He relaxed again when I backed off.

    “So let me get this straight,” I said. “You were just walking down the road, and you don’t know where you are, who you are, or how you got here? Is that about right.”

    He nodded slowly, holding out pleading hands. “I doesn’t make any sense to me either, but I just don’t remember anything.” After a pause, as he looked down at the hat that was now in his lap, he said, “Well, actually I do know one thing.”

    I waited for him to continue.

    “I know there’s something special about this,” he said, stroking the brown and black feathers.

    “About your hat?” I asked.

    “Not the hat,” he said. “The feathers. I know they mean something, like someone special gave them to me.” He looked up, defeated. “That’s all I remember.”

    We talked for hours and I did what I do — fed him, asked a lot of questions, and tried to formulate a plan of action. During our conversation two things happened: First, I became more and more convinced that he was telling the truth and honestly needed help. Second, I noticed the deep weariness on his face and in his posture. I sent him to the spare bedroom for a nap.

    Once the deep, even snoring told me he was asleep, I started making calls but came up with no information, By the time he emerged, I had pretty much made up my mind to stick with this and see where it led.

    The next day he seemed right at home in my barn and easily made friends with my horses. That made him ok in my book. He repaired a broken stall door. then he started in on sagging fences, downed trees, and a snapped hinge on the shed.

    After nearly a week, we were no closer to knowing who he was, though we decided to call him Michael. He had gone through my little run-down farm like a whirlwind, fixing everything, getting things squared away for the coming winter, and making improvements I hadn’t even thought of. Michael took care of all the things I hadn’t been able to afford to do, all the while being good company and a perfect gentleman. I’d like to have paid him, but with what?

    On the seventh morning, I awoke to the sun streaming through my window in beautiful rays. I took a deep breath and, as was my habit, thanked God for my blessings. Then I added, “And thank you for Michael. He has been such a great help – like an answer to my prayers. I think we’ll make it through another winter.”

    I expected him to be in kitchen. He wasn’t in the barn either. I fed the horses, disappointed but reminding myself he was free to do as he pleased. When he hadn’t turned up by evening, I knew he was gone for good.

    On my knees that night, I prayed for Michael’s safety and for the return of his memory. I knew if he hadn’t been in such great need when he came to me, I never would have let him in. And it turned out it was he who helped me. As I stood, I noticed something sticking out from under the bed, barely visible. I reached down and picked up a brown and black feather, and I’ve kept it all these years. It was given to me by someone special.

  19. wilsonkime says:

    “Yes…goodness, how did you manage to get on the time…never mind. Wells, Henry Wells. And who might you be?”

    He just stood there, squinting.

    “I…can I sit down?”

    “I suppose. Would you like something to drink?”

    “Whisky.”

    I led him to an armchair, onto which he lowered himself, keeping his rifle in his lap.

    “Scotch or Irish?”

    “No, Mister, Whisky!”

    “I thought as much.”

    I handed him a generously filled glass, which he drained at once.

    “Let me again introduce myself – Henry George Wells IV. And you are…?”

    “I´m…I´m…”

    He stared at me, eyes wide in utter bewilderment.

    It was the first time in my travels that I had taken someone back with me out of his own time. Time travel had never had any adverse effects on me, but of course I hadn´t the slightest idea what it would do to others – particularly when they didn´t know what they were doing or what was happening to them.

    I started to look him over. He was of avarage height and build, and seemed still very young, not yet out of his teens, but life had already left its mark on him. He wore a waist coat over a shirt, a kerchief and a dark top hat, and heavy leather boots with his pants tucked inside. And, of course, a cartridge belt with a pistol on the side. He started to speak again.

    “I…can´t remember…my name.”

    Panic flashed into his eyes. I began to think he resembled someone I knew, or should know. Then it struck me.

    “I know who you are.”

    “You do?”

    “Just a moment.”

    I jumped up to fetch a book – “A History of Outlaws”. I found the page almost at once. When I handed him the book he cried out.

    “What is this? What´s this picture doing in a book? And anyway, how did you get it?”

    “Calm down.”

    “Is this who I am? Billy the Kid?”

    “What is the last thing you remember before knocking on my door?”

    “It was dark…people were shooting at me…I hid behind a cart…and then…”.

    I had been trying to determine what had really happened on that fateful night of July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner and had parked the time machine in a barn. The situation became so bad I was in fear for my life and decided to leave. Billy must have somehow held on to the time machine and now here he was in my living room.

    “Look – something happened that shouldn´t have. I will take you home but I can´t answer any questions. Is there a place safe for you to go?”

    His eyes narrowed again, then brightened slightly.

    “There is a place a few miles out from Sumner…Isa…Isadora…she lives there alone…”

    “Does anyone know about you being aquainted?”

    “You mean that we know each other? I don´t think so.”

    “Well, lets hope not.”

    I had him describe as precisely as he could where it was he wanted to go, then went to calculate the coordinates. Technological advancement hadn´t entirely bypassed the machine my great grandfather had built. Throughout the generations in our family it had been constantly refined, and now it was possible to reach any place one wanted with just about pinpoint accuracy.

    “Time to go.”

    He stood up, clutching his rifle. I led him to the shed where the time machine was kept.

    “Welcome aboard.”

    He stared at me.

    “Get in!”

    He sat down in the passenger seat I had recently installed while I made the necessary adjustments.

    “When you arrive it will be the evening of July 12…”

    “No, it ain´t, its the …” he protested.

    “It will be once you get there – and when you do, you must go pack yourself up and leave immediately. If you do not – they will kill you!”

    “Who?”

    “The people who already tried once. You absolutely must leave! Promise?”

    “Yeah, ok – I will…I promise.”

    We alighted half a mile from the house. The windows were illuminated.

    “I must be on my way – good luck.”

    I shook his hand and he turned to go.

    “Say, Mister – you really know who I am?”

    “Yes”, I said. “Your name is Miller. John Miller.”

  20. jmcody says:

    I blew by the 500 mark somewhere in Germany. Sorry, I hope it was worth it, and I promise I’ll be brief next week.

    THE LAST OF HIS KIND

    New York University Medical Center, 2014

    The old man gestured wildly at the corner of the hospital room.

    “Lonesome… Joe…” he croaked, between gasps of oxygen.

    “Settle down, now” said the nurse. “You’ll tire yourself out.” She knew better than to tell the old man there was no one there. The dying always saw things at the end, long-gone relatives and friends, even angels.

    “Mine ear is open…” wheezed the old man, “…and my heart prepared.”

    The cowboy in the corner of the room smiled.

    ***
    Churchill County, Nevada, 1934

    Fifteen year old Teddy Coleman rolled the massive door of the boxcar shut. With his lantern and his battered copy of “Last of the Mohicans,” he settled in for a long ride and a good read.

    “Mine ear is open, and my heart prepared; The worst is worldly loss thou canst unfold:— Say, is my kingdom lost?” No sooner had Teddy read the opening line, than he heard a voice:

    “What’cha readin’ there, partner?”

    Teddy shined his lantern into the darkness. Instead of the usual hoboes, he saw a cowboy, probably from the local rodeo.

    “Oh hey,” said Teddy, “Didn’t see you there. Its ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ Ever read it?”

    “I weren’t never much for book learnin’.”

    “Oh,’ Teddy shrugged and returned to his book.

    “Say, you ain’t from around here. Where you from?”

    “The Bronx,” mumbled Teddy. He knew he looked out of place in his worn out chinos and thick, coke-bottle specs.

    “What’s a skinny little cowpoke from the Bronx doing in the Nevada desert?” mused the cowboy.

    “CCC. Civilian Conservation Corps,” explained Teddy. “It’s part of FDR’s ‘New Deal.’ It’s supposed to put people back to work. I work on roads and bridges, and get thirty dollar a week. I gotta send twenty five back to my Ma though.”

    “Helluva scourge, this dang depression…”

    Teddy thought of his mother and four siblings back east, and how there was never enough to eat. Dad had gotten the TB and died back in ’28, right before the world imploded. With Ma needing to take in borders, there was no room at home anymore. The second he turned fifteen, Teddy had shipped out to Nevada.

    “Where you headed, partner?”

    “Nowhere in particular.” Truth was, Teddy craved the solitude, the rumble of the rails and the mournful whistle of the train. Somehow he felt less lonely here than he did back at the CCC camp, or even in the Bronx.

    “Well, now I reckon that ain’t all true,” said the cowboy. “You seem like a man what’s goin’ somewhere.”

    “What about you?” asked Teddy, “Where are you headed?”

    “The end of the line,” the cowboy smiled and pulled out his harmonica. Teddy recognized the tune: “Lonesome Joe.”

    He never did get the cowboy’s name. Forever after, he became “Lonesome Joe.”

    ***
    Germany, 1939

    Private First Class Theodore Coleman crouched in a foxhole, his ears still ringing from a shell that had exploded a little too close for comfort. Another shell landed nearby, raining dirt and debris down on Teddy’s helmet, and the ringing became a whistle, then a wail, sort of like a…harmonica?

    Maybe this is what they call “shell shock,” Teddy thought. He had distinctly heard the strains of “Lonesome Joe.”

    “You’d best be gittin, partner’” said a voice. Teddy startled at the mirage before him. He rubbed the dirt out of his eyes, but it was still there. Yup, definitely shell shock.

    “I said – you’d best be gittin,” said the cowboy, now inches from his face. “This ain’t the end of the line yet.”

    Teddy froze.

    “GIT!” bellowed the cowboy.

    Teddy bolted from his foxhole, seconds before the shell hit.

    ***
    Bethpage, New York, 1969

    Ted Coleman stared at the monitor with the other engineers in the Grumman control room. This was the moment they had been waiting for, the culmination of years of work on the lunar module. Ted felt his pulse quicken as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hovered over the surface of the moon.

    After the war, Ted had attended college on the G.I. bill. He often caught glimpses of the cowboy or heard snatches of harmonica, but he kept it to himself, fearing it was some lingering effect of the war. So he was not entirely surprised when he saw cowboy boots on the console next to him. There sat Lonesome Joe, leaning back in a chair, a satisfied smile on his face.

    “Oooo-ee, you’re a gen-u-wine rocket scientist!” said Lonesome Joe. “Told ya you was going places.”

    Lonesome Joe grinned, and was gone, just as the lunar module touched down on the surface of the moon and the control room went wild.

    ***
    The nurse was gone, and Ted was alone. He had never been able to outrun the restlessness of his youth, the loneliness of the desert, and had never married. There were no children or grandchildren to see him off, and his friends were all dead. He struggled to speak beneath the tangle of wires and hoses.

    “Lonesome…”

    “Well partner, we done got here together, didn’t we,” said the cowboy, as he leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his vest. “The end of the line.”

    “What… a ride,” Ted smiled behind the oxygen mask.

    Somewhere down the hall, as the undulating line on Ted Coleman’s monitor flickered and then flattened, the nurses could have sworn they heard the lonesome wail of a train whistle.

    • Good as usual, jmcody. Nice idea, resembling some of the others below but arranging these little stories to chart a whole lifetime. I have to wonder if Lonesome Joe was an actual ghost or some guardian angel sent to protect him or something else.

      • jmcody says:

        Bilbo, I left it so that he was either a guardian angel or some sort of a coping device concocted by a lonely and stressed out mind. You can choose either, depending on your belief system. (I’m going with angel.)

    • Critique says:

      A fine story that I enjoyed very much!

    • don potter says:

      A wonderful tale presented with compelling dialogue. Quite a ride indeed, especially with the help of a guardian angel.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        What made the story wonderful for me was the time zones you created. It’s a very interesting and refreshing way to present a prompt. I loved Lonesome’s dialogue. We hear a lot of that down here, mostly fake but occasionally authentic. He’s definitely a guardian angel. They come in all sizes, you know.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Beautiful. Certainly publishable. You’ve outdone yourself again, jm!

      • jmcody says:

        Really, MJ? I started doing these little writing prompt exercises a few weeks ago and now I can’t stop thinking up these little stories! After writing this one I was thinking of maybe trying to write an actual short story, so your comment is very encouraging.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Jump in jm. The water’s fine. Check the 2014 issue, “The Best Magazine Markets For Writers” If I’ve done, you can certainly do it.

          • jmcody says:

            Thanks for advice, Kerry. I honestly wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

    • jmcody says:

      Thanks everyone. I wasn’t sure if people would get this one. It probably helps if you’ve had the privilege of knowing someone from this endangered species called “the greatest generation.”

      • lionetravail says:

        And I did- my father in law, and a bunch of patients through the Providence (Rhode Island) VA Medical Center. What a remarkable bunch of folk, and mostly for how unremarkable they thought themselves.

        • jmcody says:

          Hey Providence! I have roots up there. The Irish branch of my family got off the boat in Providence and stayed for generations in Newport before coming to NY. I have to get up there one day!

          I agree with your assessment about the “Greatest Generation” folk. Quite a far cry from the values of today. Pity.

    • lionetravail says:

      Gorgeous, complete, and satisfying. Nice job!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I’ve been recovering from a bout of the flu and taking care of the kids with the same. So what pleasure I feel to comment on ANOTHER jm prompt? It’s better than Christmas. I thought this piece was engrossing. I knew the cowboy was a guardian the second I saw the year for the war scene, and it was very satisfying to say the least.

      Reading this story was like drinking a big ol’ bowl of homemade chicken soup. Warm, filling, satisfying and delicious in all the right ways. I think you are ready to start submitting stories for publishing as well. Now I wish I could tell you where, when and how but I am trying to figure that out myself at the moment!!

      • jmcody says:

        And your reply was the same to me! So, Merry Christmas to us both! I take your commentary to heart and I am very appreciative of these remarks. (You know, I appreciate constructive criticism too, so you don’t have to be so dang nice all the time… :) )

        I saw you say somewhere how all the writers on this forum seem to be growing by leaps and bounds. I see it too. It’s incredible what just challenging yourself a little each week can do. I intend to keep at it for as long as I can, although I’m sure you understand how hard it is to do without feeling guilty about the time not spent with the kids. I tend to write on the train or when everyone is sleeping, but still feel guilty!

        Hope you’re feeling better. Wish I could send you a big old bowl of real chicken soup!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Remember this, jm. Your writings will be a window to your soul, for your children grand children and great grand children. My Mother’s columns fascinate my kids and their kids.

  21. swatchcat says:

    Great Imaginations

    A Radio Flyer came thundering from the backyard pulled by loyal Marley, a Golden Retriever, and Jennie screaming at the top of her lungs from the makeshift covered wagon the kids had transformed it into. “Help, help! Save me, please!” She yelled in her best southern drawl.

    She held on for dear life giggling with delight as on trained queue, Marley went for another lap around the yard. In a ridiculously huge, ten gallon hat that stood a good three feet on Jacks head (his dad won it from the fair), he ran with his stick horse, Beretta, closer and closer to the damsel in distress.

    Grabbing the reins, Marley came to a stop by the swing set. Jack helped Jennie from the wagon. She lifted a hand to her forehead and swooned, “My hero!” And fell to the ground. “Now you kiss me.”

    He waved her off saying, “Yuck.” He looked back, “Hey, now let’s go to the tracks.”

    She jumped up and helped Jack transform the wagon to a cardboard train. Tied up and ready for another round, Jennie lay on some Hot Wheels tracks with her hands loosely tied.

    Jack yelled across the yard, “Come on Benny, you’re on.”

    A black haired little boy in a top hat, cape, and construction paper mustache approached Jennie as her sister pounded on a mini piano. In an attempt to be menacing he took wide, crouching steps toward the tracks. “Marley, come,” he continued in a wicked laugh, “You’ll never save her.”

    The cowboy saves the damsel once more, just in time. They rolled around the grass laughing. They ran to the club house in the backyard. Jack tapped the door. From within a voice asked for a secret password. Jack called out, “Hana, Manda, Ganda,” and whooped like an Indian. The door opened and they all rushed in. They sat and ate Oreos and Cool-Aid.

    Suddenly, across the yard came the distinct sound of spurs chinking. Joey dressed in full cowboy regalia, fringed chaps, hat and vest and fully loaded six-shooter cap guns headed for the club house and knocked on the door.

    Club leader Jesse opened the door. Joey looked at him in desperation. “Can I play? I’m all set. Who do you want me to be?”

    Jesse though about it. “Head over to the O-K corral. You can be whoever. We’re about to have the grand shoot’m up. Do you have enough caps?”

    Joey smiled from ear to ear, “Hell yah!” He ran toward the dog kennel whooping and screaming, “I’m Wyatt!”Woooo!” He waved his six-shooters caps snapping. Benny, Jack, Jesse, and Jennie raced after him for the show down.

    • swatchcat says:

      Sorry, I spotted a few problems, mostly spelling.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I have my roll of caps also. They came in a roll of six, lightly set together so a small set of hands cound pull them apart and thread the roll thought the pistol chamber. After getting my roll of six and strapping my Roy Rogers six shooter, I raced to your yard.

        I saw all my memories in the yard playing with your group but when I reached for my roll of caps, they weren’t there. And then I realized, you and only you, had wrapped those six rolls around my heart. Thank you.

        • swatchcat says:

          Thank you your words are most kind, I really respect your thoughts. It makes me feel like actually accomplished something possibly worthy(execution not withstanding). Side note to anyone; can anyone place the origination of the club house password?

          • lionetravail says:

            From the same place that I answer my wife when she asks if I’m ever going to grow up: “Never grow up, never grow up, never grow up… not me!” Peter Pan, yes?

            Lovely story Swatchcat- cute and dear and vivid, all at the same time.

          • swatchcat says:

            Yes! Cool. If I had a trophy I’d give it to you.

    • Critique says:

      A delightful well written story that reawakened wonderful childhood memories for me :) Thank you!

    • jmcody says:

      That was charming. Thanks for that nostalgic slice of life.

    • Reminds me of my old six-shooter from years gone by. Brings back plenty of stuff, remembering all my old friends, across the country by now.

    • don potter says:

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Ah, those easier, softer times.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      You obviously painted a vivid memory for many of the authors in this forum and for that alone you should be congratulated. The best writings/movies/media invoke memories and emotions in our personal lives, and not just relating to what is going on in front of our eyes, they reach to the heart of us if you will.

      I did not grow up in this more innocent time, mores the pity, but I still saw the scene playing before my eyes and it reminded me of some of the older tv shows that used to play on Nick At Night when it still played black and white oldies. Very evocative, exceptionally well written. Nice job

      • swatchcat says:

        Thank you again. I came from a time when you went outside to play. Whether it was in the yard or down in the swamp and in the corn fields. It was all fun. We made little people out of walnuts and rode our bikes for miles. I watched Army helicopters land on the college campus my mother attended during protesting while up in a tree.

  22. Critique says:

    Well written story of a dysfunctional family. Oh boy… methinks incarceration is too good for Uncle Fred.

  23. ONLY THE ANGELS

    It was nine o’clock. The room was dim, but I didn’t care much for the light anymore. I brushed my hair back once more and scared away the shadows.

    “You almost ready?”

    Henry leaned around the corner, his eyes glancing around the room.

    “Yeah, just . . . a few more minutes.”

    “All right.” In his dubious tone. I knew he cared, sure he did. But—there was something else that I felt he didn’t understand. My wounds were seemingly invisible to him. Maybe it was better that way. I stood up from the mirror as he left to go down to the lobby.

    There was a knock on the door.

    “What do you want?”

    “Can you help me, miss? I think I forgot where I was going.”

    His voice sounded Western, but familiar. Almost too familiar, but I’d only been to Texas once, and didn’t meet any cowboys.
    .
    I opened the door just a crack, and his face nearly buried me under a pile of memories.

    “Theo- how in the world did you find me?”

    He softly chuckled, and I looked away.

    “Does it matter?” He took off his hat, and I deflected the spark from his blue pupils. “Thought I would pay you a visit. Hot as hell getup, but it was the only way to not get recognized.”

    “You were wrong to come here,” I suddenly said, my hand still on the door. He narrowed his eyes, those same eyes that I would stare into every waking day, when he’d scarred me countless times with his crocodile love, and I had stayed at his side.

    “Why?” His eyes cut over to the two suitcases on the far bed, and he vaguely smiled. “Ah, I see. How’s he treating you this time?”

    I said nothing, my eyes sweeping the floor near his boots.

    “Does he have the same lighter, the same sunglasses, the same nicknames, the same way he says he’ll love only you and no one else—“

    “Just get away from here,” I cut in, breathing shakily out.

    “Oh, come on, Katie,” he said, in such a way that made my insides churn with the confliction. He held up the keys to his Mustang, the car we’d crossed the country in. Some deep primeval urging almost caught me up.

    “Just come with me, right now. You deserve better than this. You know I love you, you know I do.” He held up the emblem on his keychain, the one I’d given him in Colorado. When I could do nothing but skip rocks on the water, hold onto his chest, and be swept along with his wild life.

    “I was foolish then. You used me like you didn’t care.” I hesitated in the doorway.

    He stood silently, his eyes a mixture. I opened my mouth—and then heard Henry behind me.

    “Katie, who are you talking to?”

    I turned around; saw him waiting for me.

    “Just an old friend.”

    His eyes lit up with anger, with recognition, and I trembled at them. I was a mere piece of paper that he rushed past. Theo was hurdled back onto the cracking wall outside. I looked on terrified as his fist and shoes landed sickeningly on his body.

    “Stop it, Henry, stop it! Now!”

    In a midst of entangling limbs, Theo groaned once and slipped to the side, and finally Henry was back near the door. I retreated to the bed as he slammed the door, Theo’s blue eyes gleaming one last time.

    My chest was in a knot. “Aren’t you going to help him?”

    “What, the bastard can crawl, can’t he?”

    I gripped the black sheets. “That same ‘bastard’ was the only person that cared!” Theo’s rough nature was only the fatal flaw of what he thought he should have been.

    Henry opened the back door, his visage tempered by some kind of supposed compassion.

    “Come on, Katie. Don’t want to be late.”

    I slid off the bed, and promised myself not to cry. I just batted my eyelids until the wave of sorrow left. As Henry’s strong arms enclosed me, and he whispered poisonous vows, I didn’t try to change the past. Slamming the car door, my heart sank into a deeper ocean. Only the angels heard its desperate plea.

    • jmcody says:

      Wow, Bilbo, that was way off the beaten path for you! That was some really, really good romantic drama — Katie caught between two different kinds of bad boys, with a foot in each world, and happy in neither. I am impressed… Bravo!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I felt sincerely sorry for Katie. I feel like a broken record saying this was very well written but damn it it was. Everyone on this forum is growing in leaps and bounds, especially the consistent posters. I stayed in the story the whole time, no flow problems or grammar issues pulling me out, thinking…god these people are such bastards… run katie now!! Makes me a little nuts that there are real people just like this and in these situations. Go hobbits!

  24. john godfrey says:

    A Cowboy Remembers

    When I opened my door, my stomach twisted into a knot. He was there, staring back at me with the same cold blue eyes. His little ninety-nine cent store cowboy costume was a little too big for him, so it hung loosely all around his body, but it was Halloween then, and it only came once a year. It would make do for an hour of collecting candy in the dark. That was then, but now, I was older. I was approaching fifty.

    I looked back at my seven-year old self.

    We not only had the same eyes, but also the same teeth, nose and brown, unkempt hair. My smaller self, who had gone by Petey in those days, spoke first.

    “Hello. Do you know who I am?” Petey asked with a crooked grin.

    “Of course I do. Why the hell wouldn’t I know myself?”

    “I don’t know. I was just tryin’ to be nice.” Petey paused, and then continued quietly. “Momma told you not to cuss, Petey.”

    “Peter. And Momma’s been dead for six years.” I said.

    Little Petey looked down at his feet for a moment. I thought I had inadvertently made myself cry. But Petey didn’t, and instead, he perked up and asked to come inside. I couldn’t deny myself entrance into my own house, so Petey walked in, his large boots banging on my floorboard with every step.

    “Do you know why I’m here?” Petey asked me. He was looking at some of the toy soldiers I had saved from my childhood and placed on my bookshelf. Technically, I suppose, they belonged to Petey.

    “No.”

    I sat into my favorite chair and studied my younger self. His back was to me, he was setting up the soldiers into a line. Just like I used to. He suddenly turned and stared at me with a grin. He had lost his front tooth the day before Halloween, and I could see it.

    “To help you remember. Do you remember when Momma got his costume for us? From Mr. Barnaby’s ninety-nine cent store?” he said.

    I felt a lump in my throat.

    “I remember.” I said.

    “It was all Momma could afford, ever since Daddy started giving money to that girl…do you remember her? When Momma goes to work and Daddy doesn’t, Miss Gonzalez comes over. She tells me to call her that, but for some reason, when her and Daddy go into the back for her to teach Daddy some Spanish, Daddy calls her ‘Oh Jesus Baby’.”

    Petey crinkled his nose and smiled in confusion. “Isn’t that weird, Petey?”

    I didn’t correct him this time. The lump had migrated north from my throat and to my eyes. My eyes started to water because of this.

    “Yes, that’s weird.”

    Petey moved to the corner of the room, to my flat screen. He started to touch it, then recoiled. I had taught myself well, I was polite.

    “What’s this?” Petey asked me, pointing to the television.

    “That’s my T.V.”. I replied.

    My little self looked incredulous.

    “That’s a T.V.? It’s really big. Our’s is small. Daddy said that only morons need T.V.’s, but Momma said that I should be allowed to watch cartoons and stuff like my friends, like Bobby Drayton and Scottie Smith. Do you remember them, too?” Petey asked.

    I did. Bobby Drayton jumped off of a bridge when we were eighteen, but of course, Petey wouldn’t know that. Scott Smith was an insurance salesman back in Utah.

    “Yes.” I replied.

    “Oh. That’s good. Do you remember…” Petey started to say, but I interrupted him.

    “Did you just come here to torture me?” I asked suddenly and loudly, making Petey turn around abruptly, thoughts of my crappy life flooding back to me. “To help me remember how horrible our lives were and are? To help me remember that my father had an affair with the seventeen-year old daughter of the preacher? To help me remember my mother working every day and night, only to be paid lower than minimum wage? That’s why you leave Utah when you turn twenty, Petey. You leave all of that horrible life behind you, move to New York City, get rich, unhappily married twice, keep the fancy loft. That’s all I remember Petey, and that’s all I want to remember.”

    He was quiet for a moment. Then, he started to walk away, boots clomping. When he got to the door, he turned to face me. He spoke.

    “I wanted to make sure you remember the good things, like when Momma bought you this nifty outfit. Or when you caught that ball last year. No matter how many fancy things you put around you, remember, you had a life once in Utah. It wasn’t great, but it helped you turn out right. You need to think about it, instead of try and make it go away. You owe it to Momma.”

    He smiled his missing-tooth smile one last time. “G’bye, Peter.”

    And with that, he was gone.

    • swatchcat says:

      Ghost from the past, nice.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        It’s never too late to remember your inner-self and straighten yourself out again. You brought that theme out in a wonderful way. Is your name really Peter?

    • Critique says:

      Reminds me of a quote: Make peace with your past so you can be fully in the present – something like that. Nice story.

    • jmcody says:

      Oh John Godfrey, that was beautiful, and painful and profound and incredibly moving. What an emotional roller coaster ride. I don’t even know what else to say. Loved it.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I found this resonating for me, because I look back at the past all the time to reflect upon my mistakes, the things that made me who I am and then use it for the future. Poor Peter, who’s father was a p.o.s. I think a lot more people could use a visit from their childhood selves… How many of us would feel shame or sorry at what we’ve become.

  25. Flo Bee says:

    “Coming! I’m coming!” Maria yelled, pushing her walker slowly towards the impatient knocks on her door.

    “Y’all younguns in such a god darn hurry these days!”

    Meera, her cat rubbed against her legs on its way to the door where it began sharpening its claws on the wooden frame.

    Visitors were frequent and unwelcome – from the talkative milkman, to the ill-tempered newspaper boy; but the most unwelcome were the Girl Scouts with those ridiculously delicious brownies that worsened her diabetes.

    The safety lock clicked.

    “I told you I was coming. You-” Maria stumbled backward, almost losing her balance, gasping.

    She stared at the visitor. Never since her teenage years in the South had she seen one.

    His presence sent a wave of unexpected heat over her body. He stood, leaning in the doorway watching with a puzzled face.

    Her eyes worked him from the leather cowboy’s hat that curved so sexily over his ears, to his fierce cheekbone and his newly grown beard that left thick, dark stubble in his sun kissed skin. Her mind vividly traveled back forty odd years to when she had first felt the wild pleasure of a man’s beard rubbing against her bare skin. He looked so real.

    “Howdy ma’am” He tilted his hat. “How y’all doing today?”

    Good God, even his voice was southern sweet!

    He smiled, his eyes dancing or so she though. He had that ‘come either’ look in his eyes, or maybe he didn’t but it was hard to tell with the glaucoma. God dammit! She was sixty eight. She could see whatever made her happy!

    “Well, I’m finer than frog hairs!” He laughed and she lowered her stare, embarrassed at her erotic feeling for a kid young enough to be her grandson.

    Her eyes impulsively strayed back to his piercing blue eyes that drew her in. Her skin got moist.

    “Well, who are you looking for Mister?”

    He was the kind of men she saw only in her dreams-tall, lean and sexy, with the blade of wheat stuck between his white teeth, glistening as he spoke. He kept patting the red hand kerchief tied hang around the collar of his tight plait shirt.

    “Oh, darn, the rodeo is on the other side of town. You came the wrong way, Mister.”

    He quickly stuck his boots in the door blocking her from closing it. His spur clung against the tile as he forced his entry.

    “You take one more step Mister and I’ll blow you straight to hell!”

    “Ma’am, I just gotta piss so bad my eyeballs are floating!”

    “Well why didn’t you just say so, Sugar?”

    She pointed towards the bathroom listening to the urine splashing against the ceramics.

    He reappeared looking relief.

    “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” His jaws dropped and his eyes popped in disbelief. “What’s the meaning of this?!”

    “Well cowboy, you done gone and forced your way in here but there’s only one way you’re getting the hell back outta here!”

    Maria stood buck naked at the door!

  26. ymccray91 says:

    After the knocking, I looked through the peep-hole once and then again in disbelief.
    “What are you doing here, Frank?”
    “Frank? Ma’am, I was wonderin’ if you could let me in.”
    I stood away from the door, moving backward. “You get out of here before I call the cops.”
    There was silence on the other side. I closed and rubbed the corners of my eyes. Why was he doing this to me? I questioned that for the last five years. Sometimes, I think he did this on purpose but other times… he was so damn convincing. I wade my way to the door again, glaring at him. “Ma’am, I don’t know where I am and I was wonderin’… oh, hell, can you please help me?”
    “Go away, Frank.”
    “Mama?”
    I turned to see Jodie standing at the living room doorway with a teddy bear in her arms. “Honey, go back to bed.” I said softly.
    “Mama, is that daddy?”
    I didn’t want her to see this. “No, honey, daddy’s gone, remember? You just had a bad dream that’s all.”
    The knocking began again. He grew more persistent. I bit my bottom lip but feigned a smile. “It’s just one of the neighbors having some fun.” I tried to explain to her but I could see that the clarification was transparent in her eyes. She turned around, back to her bedroom. The knocking stopped and I heard the man begin to sob.
    “Please, ma’am. I don’t know what I’m doing here…”
    I believe him. He comes here in the middle of the night in a cowboy getup and I believe that he truly has lost his mind. He was safe for a little while: his parents had him committed. They hated me for it but I couldn’t have him around Jodie… he was so unpredictable. My loins churned thinking about the last five years. I picked up the phone. “Frank, I’m dialing the police.”
    I walked toward one of the windows, as far away from the door as possible. I didn’t want to set him off. “911; what is your emergency?”
    “My ex-husband is here and harassing me.”
    “Are you in any danger?”
    “No… I mean, I might be… I don’t think so. It’s just… he’s disturbing my child and–”
    I heard the door slam. I spun around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. But something was out of the ordinary, I just couldn’t place it. “Ma’am, are you still there?”
    “Yes, I am… just, hold on.” I said, moving quickly to Jodie’s room. “Honey?”
    Her bed was empty. She must have snuck out. She was so curious. I didn’t even notice that I had dropped the phone. I was already running to the door before I could tell myself what to do next. I saw Frank’s sister’s Honda driving off. I began to run after it. “Frank, stop, that’s our baby!” The last five years began to race through my mind again. “Jodie! Jodie!”

  27. Flo Bee says:

    “Coming! I’m coming!” Maria yelled, pushing her walker slowly towards the impatient knocks on her door.

    “Y’all younguns in such a god darn hurry these days!”

    Meera, her cat rubbed against her legs on its way to the door where it began sharpening its claws on the wooden frame.

    Visitors were frequent and unwanted – from the talkative milkman, to the ill-tempered newspaper boy; but the most unwelcome were the Girl Scouts with those ridiculously delicious brownies that worsened her diabetes.

    The safety lock clicked.

    “I told you I was coming. You-” Maria stumbled backward, almost losing her balance, gasping.

    She stared at the visitor. Never since her teenage years in the South had she seen one. His presence sent an unexpected heatwave over her body.

    He stood, leaning in the doorway watching her with a puzzled look.

    Her eyes worked him from the leather cowboy’s hat that curved so sexily over his ears, to his fierce cheekbone and his newly grown beard that left thick, dark stubble on his sun kissed skin. Her mind vividly traveled back forty odd years to when she had first felt the wild pleasure of a man’s beard rubbing against her bare skin. He looked so real.

    “Howdy ma’am” He tilted his hat. “How y’all doing today?”

    Good God, even his voice was southern sweet!

    He smiled, his eyes dancing or so she though. He had that ‘come either’ look in his eyes, or maybe he didn’t but it was hard to tell with the glaucoma. God dammit! She was sixty eight. She could see whatever made her happy!

    “Well, I’m finer than frog hairs!” He laughed at her response. She lowered her stare, embarrassed at her erotic feeling for a kid young enough to be her grandson.

    Her eyes impulsively strayed back to his piercing blue eyes that drew her in. Her skin got moist.

    “W-well, who are you looking for, Mister?”

    He was the kind of men she saw only in her dreams-tall, lean and sexy, with the blade of wheat stuck between his white teeth that glistened as he spoke. He kept patting the red hand kerchief that hang around the collar of his tight plait shirt.

    “Oh, darn, the rodeo is on the other side of town. You came the wrong way.”

    He quickly stuck his boots in the door blocking her from closing it. His spur clung against the tile as he forced his entry.

    “You take one more step Mister and I’ll blow you straight to hell!”

    “Little lady, I just gotta piss so bad my eyeballs are floating!”

    “Well why didn’t you just say so, Sugar?”

    She pointed towards the bathroom, listening to the urine splashing against the ceramics.

    He reappeared, looking relief.

    “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!” His jaw dropped and his eyes popped in disbelief. “What’s the meaning of this?!”

    “Well cowboy, you done gone and forced your way in here but there’s only one way you’re getting the hell back out!”

    Maria stood buck naked at the door!

  28. misurpa says:

    I took a shower and got dressed, just like any other Tuesday morning. But this was no ordinary Tuesday. Slipping into my shoes I heard a knock at the door. Not expecting anyone, I walked to the door and peeked through the curtains. Standing in my portico was a man dressed in blue jeans, a cowboy hat, boots, spurs, and a gun in his holster. I figured he was collecting donations for the farmers association or something and he dressed to play the part. I’ve heard that a little drama can bring in more donations to those seeking financial aid.
    I opened the door and the look on his face caught my attention. He eyed my short skirt and high-heels as if I were from another planet.
    “Ma’am” he said, “Are you from this neck of the woods?”
    My instinct was to slam the door in his face but my curiosity overpowered all instinct within me. So I played along.
    “Ah moved in ‘bout three months ago cowboy. Came from Dallas. Where you from?”
    “This ain’t Dallas? Where am I?”
    The sincere surprise in his voice cautioned me that this cowboy might not be playing games. Maybe he really doesn’t know where he is.
    “This is Frisco, sir. About an hour’s drive from downtown Dallas?”
    “Drive? Do you mean ‘ride?”
    I looked off to the side of my barn and noticed a horse tied to the tree.
    “Sir” I asked, “Who is president?” Remembering the questions I was asked when I was just short of a concussion.
    “President Arthur” the man replied.
    “Who is Arthur?” I asked.
    “Chester Arthur.” He said quizzically. “He was elected two years ago. Don’t you remember the campaign of 1880?”
    “No sir” I said. “I think you need to see a doctor. Have you taken any medications recently?” I didn’t want to accuse him of taking illegal drugs. Who knew what he was capable of doing?
    I stepped back inside the house and closed the door, leaving him standing on the porch. I grabbed my iPhone from the credenza and dialed 911. I told the emergency operator to send the police quickly. “There is a cowboy on my front steps who thinks our president’s name is Arthur. He’s wearing a six shooter.”
    “Hey, Joe, our cowboy has been spotted again” the assuring voice on the other end of the phone said to her companion. She explained to me that I was the third caller to encounter him. “Keep him there until the police arrive.” She warned. “He may be dangerous. We can’t let him get away this time.”
    I peeked out the window but I couldn’t see him anywhere. I opened the door again and looked toward the barn.
    “Our cowboy escaped” I hollered into the phone.

  29. JWLaviguer says:

    “Well?” I said, impatiently waiting for him to say something. “Aren’t you supposed to say ‘trick or treat?’”

    “Trick or treat?” He asked, looking more confused than ever.

    “It’s a joke,” I said. “Look, um, cowboy. I don’t have time for this. I’m really busy. What do you want?”

    “I don’t rightly know, ma’am,” he said. “I don’t know why I’m here.”

    My girlfriends were crowding behind me; giggling.

    “Oh,” I said. “I get it. Well, come on in and do your thing, then.”

    “Ma’am?” he said.

    “Aren’t you the stripper?” I asked.

    “Stripper? No ma’am; I don’t reckon I follow you.”

    “What it means, cowboy, is that you come in here, put on some music, dance around, take off your clothes, and we shove dollar bills down your G-string.”

    He turned red as a beet, looked at the tops of his boots sheepishly, and took off his hat. That’s when I noticed the matted, dried blood on the back of his head.

    “Shit,” I said. “Get in here.” I grabbed his hand and led him inside to the kitchen and sat him down at the table. “Gail, get me some ice and a washcloth. Jenny, call 911.”

    As I cleaned the wound on his head, the light began to come back in his eyes.

    “I think I remember what happened,” he said. “I was ridin’ the back fence at the ranch when I saw a bright flash of light. I looked up, heard a loud noise, and my horse got spooked, reared up, and I fell off.”

    “So how did you get here, then?” I asked.

    “I don’t reckon I know where exactly “here” is, ma’am,” he said.

    “Look,” I said. “If you don’t start calling me Susan instead of ma’am, I’m going to give you another knock in the head.”

    He smiled and said “Okay. Susan then. Thank you for taking care of me.”

    Jenny came back in the kitchen. “911 isn’t working, Susan.”

    “What do you mean it isn’t working?” I asked. “It’s always supposed to work.”

    “I don’t know what to tell you,” Jenny said. “Should we just drive him to the ER?”

    “I don’t know,” I said. “He’s starting to look better, and his head doesn’t look that bad.”

    As if to clarify this last point, he jumped up, looked around, and ran out the front door.

    “What the fuck!” I yelled. “Where the hell is he going?”

    Gail chased him out the door while the rest of us stood stunned in the kitchen. When she came back a couple of minutes later, she put her hands palms up and shrugged.

    “I don’t know where he went,” she said, “And I have no idea which direction he went off in.”

    Just then there was another knock on the door. This time it was a fireman, and he brought in one of the biggest hoses I’ve ever seen. We forgot all about the cowboy.

    JW Laviguer

    • swatchcat says:

      To strip or not to strip, that is the question? Fun.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was a very eclectic but entertaining story. With a VERY interesting double entente at the end. (I’m assuming that there was a reason she thought the cowboy was a stripper, though I admit I thought it was a gentle poke at the stripping stories from earlier before I got to the end) This was funny and made me smile.

  30. krights says:

    Most folks around here ride English, with shiny knee-high leather boots, cropped jackets, and velvet-covered helmets. But I wasn’t too surprised to open the door to a lanky, Western-clad stranger, thumbs hooked into his belt, in full riding gear from his feathered hat to his spurs. This guy was all rodeo circuit, in a good way. He was angled away from me, surveying my front 10.

    “Can I help you?” I asked. He whirled, startled, and I saw his near-panicked expression.

    “I… I hope so,” he stammered. “I… think I’m lost.”

    “You’re not lost,” I said, cracking the local joke we use to describe our little village. “You’re standing right in the center of the universe.”

    He almost smiled. “That’s a relief. But seriously, I think need some help.”

    I regarded him for a minute, sensing both sincerity and need. I invited him in.

    “I have to tell you,” I said, “I expected you to be collecting for something. Maybe a horse rescue.”

    He looked down at himself and grinned. “I guess I do look like I belong on a horse.”

    “Then you’ve come to the right place,” I told him. “I have a whole herd out back.”

    He brightened at this. “Do I work here? Do you know me?”

    Now I was really confused. “Uh, no, we haven’t met. And why don’t you know?”

    “See, that’s the problem,” he said. “I don’t know anything. I don’t remember anything before a few hours ago when I found myself walking down your road. It took me a while to get up the courage to knock on your door.”

    “Are you hurt?” I said with alarm, instinctively jumping up and starting toward him. I’ve seen head injuries when horses and riders part company, and it’s not a pretty sight. Still, he didn’t look injured…

    “No!” he said, recoiling into my leather sofa. “At least I don’t think so.” He relaxed again when I backed off.

    “So let me get this straight,” I said. “You were just walking down the road, and you don’t know where you are, who you are, or how you got here? Is that about right?”

    He nodded slowly, holding out pleading hands. “It doesn’t make any sense to me but I just don’t remember anything.” After a pause, as he looked down at his hat now in his lap, he said, “Well, actually I do know one thing.”

    I waited for him to continue.

    “I know there’s something special about this,” he said, stroking the brown and black feathers.

    “About your hat?” I asked.

    “Not the hat,” he said. “The feathers. I know they mean something, like someone special gave them to me.” He looked up, defeated. “That’s all I remember.”

    We talked for hours and I did what I do – fed him, asked a lot of questions, and tried to formulate a plan of action. During our conversation, two things happened: First, I became more and more convinced that he was telling the truth and honestly needed help. Second, I noticed the deep weariness on his face and in his posture. I sent him to the spare bedroom for a nap.

    Once the deep, even snoring told me he was asleep, I started making calls but came up with no information. By the time he emerged, I had just about made up my mind to stick with this and see where it led.

    He seemed at home in my barn and easily made friends with my horses. That made him ok in my book. The next day, he repaired a broken stall door. Then he started in on sagging fences, downed trees, and a snapped hinge on the shed.

    After nearly a week, we were no closer to knowing who he was, though we decided to call him Michael. He had gone through my farm like a whirlwind, fixing everything, getting things squared away for the coming winter, and making improvements I hadn’t even thought of. Michael took care of all the things I hadn’t been able to afford to do, all the while being good company and a perfect gentleman. I’d like to pay him, but with what?

    On the seventh morning, I awoke to the sun streaming through my window in beautiful rays. I took a deep breath and, as was my habit, thanked God for my blessings. Then I added, “And thank you for Michael. He has been such a great help – like an answer to my prayers. I think we’ll make it through another winter.”

    I expected him to see him in the kitchen. He wasn’t in the barn either. I fed the horses, disappointed but reminding myself he was free to go where he pleased. When he hadn’t turned up by evening, I knew he was gone for good.

    On my knees that night, I prayed for Michael’s safety, and for the return of his memory. As I stood, I noticed something sticking out from under the bed, barely visible. I reached down and picked up a brown and black feather, and I’ve all these years. It was given to me by someone special.

  31. Critique says:

    The radio blasted Alberta Bound by Paul Brandt as I pulled mouth-watering cinnamon buns out of the oven. Dennis, my childhood friend from grade school had called. He and his wife Melody were coming to the Calgary Stampede. We hadn’t set eyes on each other since we moved fifteen years ago from Avon, Indiana to Calgary, Alberta. I couldn’t wait to see him.

    A loud pounding rattled my front door. Tossing my oven mitts on the counter I turned down the radio. More pounding.

    Opening the door the smile froze on my face. I looked way up into the eyes of a masked man with a scruffy beard. In a split second I noted a white cowboy hat pulled low, a plaid shirt, a gaudy belt buckle – my gaze skittered down…. a six-shooter hung low on the left side of tight jeans and finally, dusty boots with spurs.

    “Miss, sorry to disturb you but, I was wondering if you could help me.” A deep southern drawl topped it all off.

    “Dennis?” I started laughing. “Wow, I love the outfit. You look – authentic.” I hugged him.

    He squeezed back.

    “Where’s Melody?” I peered around him.

    He shrugged. “Not sure I can answer that.”

    “Well, come on in.” I chuckled. We were little devils as kids, always pulling pranks on unsuspecting folks. “We’ve a lot of catching up to do.”

    “If you say so ma’am.” He shut the door behind him. “Something smells mighty fine in here.”

    My chubby childhood friend had morphed into a very large man – a man staring at me from behind a mask. Unease crinkled up my back.

    “Have you taken up acting?” I poured two mugs of coffee.

    He pulled off his hat and mask displaying a mass of corkscrew curls and blackened puffy green eyes.

    “I’m not Dennis and I don’t think we’ve met.”

    Boom – my heart jump-started a full gallop. Dennis had poker straight hair and brown eyes.

    “I think you’d better leave.” I reached for my phone.

    “Please. Something happened to me.” He held out a trembling hand. “I’ve no idea who I am or where I am.”

    Without warning he slumped to the floor cracking his head on the table. He didn’t move. I dialled the police with shaking fingers. Was he dead?

    The police told me – from my description – I had the famous cowboy, Andy Cameron from Oklahoma in my kitchen. His horse threw him during a trial jump at the stampede. He suffered a concussion and had been missing for 24 hours.

    Andy was devouring his third cinnamon bun and holding a bag of frozen peas to bruised forehead when the police arrived.

    We exchanged email addresses and Andy invited me to attend the Grandstand Show with him on Sunday. His autographed cowboy hat sat on my mantle. I grinned. Would Dennis believe my story?

  32. krights says:

    My first time here – hope I’m doing this right!

    Out here, not many people knock on my door. Most folks around here ride English, with shiny knee-high leather boots, cropped jackets, and velvet-covered helmets. But I wasn’t too surprised to open it to a lanky, Western-clad stranger, thumbs hooked into his belt, in full riding gear from his feathered hat to his spurs. This guy was all rodeo circuit, and I found it appealing.

    He was angled away from me, surveying my front 10.

    “Can I help you?” I asked, expecting to be hit up for a donation to some cause or other. He startled, whirling around. That’s when I saw his near-panicked expression.

    “I… I hope so,” he stammered. “I… think I’m lost.”

    “Well,” I said, smiling. “You’re not lost at all. You’re standing right in the center of the universe.” I used the local joke to describe our sparsely populated village.

    He relaxed a bit and almost smiled. “That’s a relief,” he exhaled. “But seriously, I think need some help.”

    I regarded him for a minute. Something about him spoke of sincerity and need. I invited him in, but admittedly winced as his spurs clanked across my foyer.

    “I have to tell you,” I said, “I expected you to be collecting for something. Maybe a horse rescue.”

    He looked down at himself and grinned. “I guess I do look like I belong on a horse.”

    “Then you’ve come to the right place,” I told him. “I have a herd out back.”

    He brightened at this. “Do I work here? Do you know me?”

    Now I was really confused. “Uh, no, I don’t think we’ve met. And why don’t you know?”

    “See, that’s the problem,” he said. “I don’t know anything. I don’t remember anything before a few hours ago when I found myself walking down your road. It took me a while to get up the courage to knock on your door.”

    “Are you hurt?” I said with alarm, instinctively jumping up and starting toward him. I’ve seen head injuries when horses and riders part company, and it’s not a pretty sight. Still, he didn’t look injured…

    “No!” he said, recoiling into my leather sofa. “At least I don’t think so.” He relaxed again when I backed off.

    “So let me get this straight,” I said. “You were just walking down the road, and you don’t know where you are, who you are, or how you got here? Is that about right?”

    He nodded slowly, holding out pleading hands. “It doesn’t make any sense to me but I just don’t remember anything.” After a pause, as he looked down at his hat now in his lap, he said, “Well, actually I do know one thing.”

    I waited for him to continue.

    “I know there’s something special about this,” he said, stroking the brown and black feathers.

    “About your hat?” I asked.

    “Not the hat,” he said. “The feathers. I know they mean something, like someone special gave them to me.” He looked up, defeated. “That’s all I remember.”

    We talked for hours and I did what I do – fed him, asked a lot of questions, and tried to formulate a plan of action. During our conversation, two things happened: First, I became more and more convinced that he was telling the truth and honestly needed help. Second, I began to notice the deep weariness on his face and in his posture. I sent him to the spare bedroom for a nap.

    Once the deep, even snoring told me he was asleep, I started making calls.

    First, the Sherriff. No one reported an amnesiac cowboy, and no reason to think a bad guy was posing as one.

    Next, the hospitals. No accidents reported, and nobody wandered away injured.

    Finally, the riding clubs. No clues there either.

    By the time he emerged, I had just about made up my mind to stick with this and see where it led.

    He seemed at home in my barn and easily made friends with my horses. The next day, he repaired a broken frost-free faucet that hadn’t worked in years. Then he started in on sagging fences, downed trees, a snapped hinge on the shed.

    After nearly a week, we were no closer to knowing who he was, though we decided to call him Michael. He had gone through my farm like a whirlwind, fixing whatever was broken, getting things squared away for the coming winter, and making improvements I hadn’t even thought of. It occurred to me that Michael was taking care of all the things I hadn’t been able to afford to do, all the while being good company and a perfect gentleman. I’d like to pay him, but with what?

    On the seventh morning, I awoke to the sun streaming through my window in beautiful rays. I took a deep breath and, as was my habit, started to thank God for my blessings. On this day I added, “And thank you for Michael. He has been such a great help that I think we’ll make it through another winter.”

    I expected him to already be in the kitchen, but the room was empty. He wasn’t in the barn either. Afraid he had wandered off again, I fed the horses and set out to find him. When he hadn’t turned up by evening, I knew he was gone.

    Before bed that night, I got on my knees, something I was often remiss at doing. I thanked God again for sending Michael, and sincerely asked God to bless him and keep him safe. “…And grant him the return of him memory so that he can go back to his life.”

    As I stood, I noticed something sticking out from under the bed, barely visible. I reached down and picked up a brown and black feather. I’ve kept it my whole life because it was given to me by someone special.

  33. ymccray91 says:

    After the knocking, I looked through the peep-hole once and then again in disbelief.
    “What are you doing here, Frank?”
    “Frank? Ma’am, I was wonderin’ if you could let me in.”
    I stood away from the door, moving backward. “You get out of here before I call the cops.”
    There was silence on the other side. I closed and rubbed the corners of my eyes. Why was he doing this to me? I questioned that for the last five years. Sometimes, I think he did this on purpose but other times… he was so damn convincing. I wade my way to the door again, glaring at him. “Ma’am, I don’t know where I am and I was wonderin’… oh, hell, can you please help me?”
    “Go away, Frank.”
    “Mama?”
    Shit. I turned to see Jodie standing at the living room doorway with a teddy bear in her arms. “Honey, go back to bed.” I said softly.
    “Mama, is that daddy?”
    I didn’t want her to see this. “No, honey, daddy’s gone, remember? You just had a bad dream that’s all.”
    The knocking began again. He grew more persistent. I bit my bottom lip but feigned a smile. “It’s just one of the neighbors having some fun.” I tried to explain to her but I could see that the clarification was transparent in her eyes. She turned around, back to her bedroom. The knocking stopped and I heard the man begin to sob.
    “Please, ma’am. I don’t know what I’m doing here…”
    I believe him. He comes here in the middle of the night in a cowboy getup and I believe that he truly has lost his mind. He was safe for a little while: his parents had him committed. They hated me for it but I couldn’t have him around Jodie… he was so unpredictable. My loins churned thinking about the last five years. I picked up the phone. “Frank, I’m dialing the police.”
    I walked toward one of the windows, as far away from the door as possible. I didn’t want to set him off. “911; what is your emergency?”
    “My ex-husband is here and harassing me.”
    “Are you in any danger?”
    “No… I mean, I might be… I don’t think so. It’s just… he’s disturbing my child and–”
    I heard the door slam. I spun around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. But something was out of the ordinary, I just couldn’t place it. “Ma’am, are you still there?”
    “Yes, I am… just, hold on.” I said, moving quickly to Jodie’s room. “Honey?”
    Her bed was empty. She must have snuck out. She was so curious. I didn’t even notice that I had dropped the phone. I was already running to the door before I could tell myself what to do next. I saw Frank’s sister’s Honda driving off. I began to run after it. “Frank, stop, that’s our baby!” The last five years began to race through my mind again. “Jodie! Jodie!”

  34. derrdevil says:

    I went over. Quite a lot over. Sorry :/

    Confusion reigned supreme in my living room in the wispy hours of the early morning as both the supposed cowboy and I were at a loss for words – I, inundated with questions not knowing where to begin; and he, unable to fathom the most recent events that lead up until that moment he stepped into my home for whatever reason he may have had. But when distant sirens morphed from an ambient noise a mile away into a tumultuous orchestra of confusion outside my front yard, something snapped in the cowboy and he spun me in an arm-lock before forcing me out through the back door.

    I remember clashing into a police office, his riot shield flying through the air as he tumbled down the stairs. He was one of many in a team who was trying to surround my home. As I picked myself up off the ground the office yelled in panic to his squad.

    “He attacked me! Stop him! He’s helping him get away!”

    I didn’t have time to think as I witnessed the cowboy shoot the hapless man in the chest with his era-authentic six-gun. I kicked into a run and made haste through my backyard, following the cowboy over the fence. Bullets whizzed over my head as we ducked and dived through my neighbours’ meticulously gardened suburban yards. The cowboy fired blind shots behind him in the hope to gain an extra foot or mile or whatever. I had no idea why he was shooting at them at all. It just escalated matters into the extreme. All I knew was to run.

    We cut into the garage down the end of the street that was accompanied by a 7/11 mini mall, which ironically closes at 9pm every night, but none-the-less, I hysterically tried opening every shop door we passed by. The cowboy followed suit and managed to find that the handicapped toilet was unlocked. We both rushed in.

    He scoured the room and found a broom at the end of the basin aisle and then wedged it between the door handle and the wall. Hoping that the swarm of officers didn’t spot us duck into our new sanctuary, we both, in sync, sighed in relief as we regained our breath. But it was all in vain when we heard the distinct sound of sirens again and panic settled in when we saw the glimmer and flash of red and blue lights through the screened glass.

    “Broom’s ain’t gonna hold ‘em back,” he said, stress torn across his face.

    “Then why’d you shoot at them?” I countered, raising my voice as I too began to stress.

    “I don’t know, I just did, okay!” It was all he could offer as he raised his arms, the revolver in hand.

    “You don’t know? What do you know? Who the hell are you?” I shrieked at him. Anxious and nervous, I start freaking out, pacing up and down the aisle. Through my panicked state and not knowing what action to take I kept badgering him, unable to pick up the signs that the cowboy was tethering on the fringes of the edge of a breakdown.

    After the torrent of my verbal abuse, he finally snapped and started waving the gun in the air saying random things I could barely decipher. I was at a loss for words. All I could think off was the gun hovering in my face and his mouth moving at a speed I couldn’t comprehend while everything around me droned out as if I’d been drugged.

    I felt a sudden wetness running down my thighs. Embarrassed from pissing myself in front of a stranger, my eyes slowly fell to the floor. I whimpered a meek “I’m sorry” but it was barely audible even for my own ears to hear. But when my eyes looked down, what I saw surprised me. Realisation hit me like a freight train. It wasn’t the wetness of urine, but rather the coagulated thickening of my life force draining from me. I was sat in a pool of my own blood.

    A thousand things ravaged my mind in an instant as time slowly ground to a halt. A barrage of uncertainty and confusion. Did I hear the gun go off? The question stayed with me for a while until I realised that I couldn’t hear anything at all. I was also not moving anymore. I was on the ground, my legs crumpled beneath me. I couldn’t remember falling down. I just recalled the wetness. Thinking of the pee, and the embarrassment I felt of pissing myself in front of a stranger. Damn this cowboy! Disturbing my life. At 2.38 in the morning, ruining my sleep. What spawn of Satan is up at two in the morning? I knew it was exactly 2.38am because I could clearly remember the bedside alarm with it’s blaringly strong LED lights flashing into my sleepy eyes, it’s constant neon blue flicker hammering into my skull the only memory I could recall, when the knock came to my door. Why did I have to wake up? What did he want? Why my door? I couldn’t recall a thing. My mind paused as I suddenly felt like the cowboy in my house when he couldn’t recall what I was asking him. I knew then why he didn’t know. But what was I asking him? I couldn’t recall.

    I slowly drifted off on the most wonderful zephyr of a dream, my mind at ease as I floated away. Better than any drug I’ve had before, I couldn’t feel my face, but I knew it was smiling.

    The cowboy looked into the dead body’s murky pupils. As the police swarmed in, he kept repeating “Sorry, I didn’t mean to. Sorry. I’m so sorry.”

    • jmcody says:

      Hi Derrdevil,

      I read this one a few times. The style in which you wrote it made more sense once I realized it was the recollection of a dead person. I do think you could edit it down a bit without hurting the dreamlike style of it though. (I know, I’m a fine one to talk… I always struggle with wordiness.)

      I like the way your character died — “I slowly drifted off on the most wonderful zephyr of a dream, my mind at ease as I floated away. Better than any drug I’ve had before, I couldn’t feel my face, but I knew it was smiling.” I love this sentence.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Jm is giving you good advice friend, in a very gentle way. I won’t be so gentle ;) I won’t be because I see my own love of description in your words and you have a vivid imagination.

        You need to edit down drastically. I thought this before Jm’s comment but I was too sick to get the energy to write down my own thoughts. You use a few too many adjectives where none are necessary.

        Once you set the scene, its better to let the audience use their imaginations to some extent. You are the tone setter but resist going overboard or you will pull you reader out of the action and start asking questions.

        That being said I did enjoy the suspense and hectic action of the piece, and was very interested to know why the MC was following this nut case, and what was going to happen.

        If you are really interested, you can private message me through the forums on this site or just ask here and I can give you some detailed editing suggestions. Other than that work on setting a tone, let the reader use some imagination and keep writing!

        • derrdevil says:

          Hi guys. Thanks for the comments. I’ve been waiting for good honest feedback on my prompts. I just started writing, so this means a lot to me.

          I read my story over again, with tone in mind, and picked up on what you’re pointing at. I completely forgot the tone, the mood. It reads more as an author’s guideline/plot line before the story is written. Plus my sentences are too long and heavy; I also speak in both the past and present tense (Oops! I originally wrote it on present tense, then changed it to past – I missed a few). There are a lot more errors..

          Thanks gamingtheblues. I will take you up on that offer :)
          Where could I find you on the forums?
          Or do you wish to comment here?

  35. DHouseholder says:

    The light rapping on the door was unnecessary. After I knowingly swung it open, there he stood, as expected. I believe I was looking for him before his appearance. A slight-built young drover that looked to be in his early twenties stood before me, bathed in a pale luminescence. Dressed in homespun trousers that were tucked into a pair of boots which would need to borrow time to last much longer, he was a vision of authenticity. His hat, perched where it had spent it’s entire life, looked to have been with him for quite a while. It showed the maturity of a seasoned warrior, and probably had 10 pounds of dust shaken off of it within it’s lifetime. Beneath it’s brim, a pair of eyes looked directly at me. Thet weren’t threatening, or calculating, but had the look of curiosity; the look a puppy has when it hears a sound foreign to it’s experiences.

    “You were sent?”
    ‘”Yessir.”
    “Why?”
    “I don’t rightly know…”

    There was the look again, as if he was trying to find meaning amidst something chaotic. I had the same feeling; an uneasiness deep inside me that, over time, had been building with an increasing pressure.

    “Maybe, it’s what the boss called ‘circumstances’.”
    “Circumstances?’
    “Yessir. He said you needed to see me. That you’d remember. Said it was important that you remember.”

    I couldn’t help liking this young man, this…enigma from another period. From his easy way of talking to the unapologetic honesty that resided in his eyes; I liked him. Then it was clarified. I had been confused lately, lacking bearing and direction. I must say that, although unintentional, I had lost track of the important things in life; things represented by the young man before me. Did he know that he possessed such unintended power to persuade; by character alone?

    Probably not.

    His boss was right. I was beginning to remember, and all it took was a look. He was sent to remind me of what was, and could be again. Characteristics that my people seemed to have lost the power or desire to emulate. Honesty, dependability, perseverance,…independence.

    “Now I remember, I’ve seen you before, a long time ago. You were crucial.”
    “Well sir, if you don’t mind…I’d like to think I still am.”

    His plainspoken manner was the sign of a thinker, rather than what one would believe. He came from a time when you were considerd a man at an early age by way of necessity. Ruggedness, and acceptance of a hard job was the norm then.

    Then…

    A time when I was built, a time when prosperity lay ahead; built upon the backs of the likes of this young drover. What happened. I seem to have lost some of his drive. My eyes flickered back and forth, dancing with my thoughts as they raced to encapsulate the truth’s that had suddenly erupted before me in the package of this young cowboy.

    “Sir? I’d liketo stay and visit, but the boss said it wouldn’t take long, and the boys…well, they’ll be needing me.”
    “Right. Thank you.”
    “Yessir. And good luck with your…circumstances.”

    He smiled an easy smile as he looked me directly in the eye, accompanied by a handshake firm enough to pull you out of the river. Then he turned, and was gone. The effects of his presence lingered.

    The whistle blew, the alarm clock buzzed. Motors turned, and lights clicked as I awakened from the dream. My people are beginning a new day. Some are striving, some are coasting, and fortunately, some are that young drover at heart. It would be in my best interest to increase the numbers of such. His kind helped build me, sustained me, and will be necessary for my future success.

    I hope he comes back.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Oh my, this is a unique piece. Your imagination is very active, and I think you deserve recognition of that fact as much as anyone. I re-read this piece a few times because it is a difficult one to really “get” as the plot does not just sit out there waiting to be seen. You have to go after it and coax it from the shadows.

      Now… how to say this. You have to be careful with writing like this. There is an exceptionally thin line between brilliant, unique concept, and unintelligible mess. I will give you the benefit of the doubt here, but I strongly suggest that if this is your style of writing, you re-read, edit and then put yourself in another reader’s shoes to make sure that the message you want to convey or the story you want to tell is there in the right way.

      Now for the good news…this was very evocative of Bradbury and umm..what’s his name… (Hold on googling) nevermind…got it without google. Niven. Some of their science fiction, especially the short stories were extremely unique and eclectic. Oftentimes taking it for granted that the reader doesn’t know the world and could not care less to explain it to them. This reminded me of that in a way. I am very interested in seeing what you come up with next week, so please do make sure to write something again.

  36. Violet Hayes says:

    There’s this old saying, something I’m sure you’ve heard of. It goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Which sounds all fine and dandy in theory, but what about the sugar? Or water? Or whatever else goes into lemonade? Do you just drink lemon juice? Squirt it in the eye of whoever’s pissing you off? (I’ll admit to seriously considering the last one.)

    And what do you do when God has a sense of humor and leaves out the lemons altogether and instead sets a tiny cowboy on your front porch instead? How the heck do you make lemonade now?

    This was the jumble of thoughts that swirled through my head as I stared, confused and shocked, at the crying three-year-old decked out in the whole cowboy getup. His little face was red, and his black hair poked out from underneath a Stetson hat that was a little too big, threatening to blind the poor kid. He looked up at me, the hat tilting drastically backwards, and widened his teary blue eyes. “M-Mama?”

    “Uh…”

    “A-Are you m-m-my Mama?” the little kid hiccuped. He looked hopeful, and I hated to let him down, but I’m pretty sure lying to toddlers is morally wrong. I shook my head no, and his eyes welled up again. “Wh-Where is she?”

    “I…I dunno.” His bottom lip started to tremble, and I started to panic. I leaned down more to his level and asked, “Well, where did you, um, where did you see her last?”

    “Dunno,” he said.

    I blinked. “You don’t know?” He shook his head, and I asked, “Well, then, what’s your name?”

    “I dunno,” he said again, and he sniffled pitifully. “I wanna go home!” he wailed suddenly, and the shock of the volume coming from his little body almost knocked me over. I took a deep breath, cursed my awful luck, and took the little kid by the hand. His cries quieted at the touch, and he blinked up at me.

    I tried a kind smile, but God knows whether I looked a saint or a constipated old woman. Either way, the boy didn’t scream, so I took it as a good sign. “Why don’t you come inside?” I said, leading him into the house, because I was a monster if I was going to leave him on the street by himself. “I have some Oreos, if you want.”

    The little cowboy’s eyes lit up. “Cookies?”

    My smile felt a little more natural by then, less terrifying, and I shut the door behind him. “Yeah, cookies.” I got him seated at the kitchen table and set a couple of cookies in front of him before I finally slipped out and into the hall where the home phone sat on the table by the front door. I lifted it up and dialed quickly, waited impatiently for seven rings, and then a familiar voice came through.

    “What’s up?” came Damian’s gruff tone.

    “Hey, babe,” I said hesitantly. I hated to break the news, but… “Look, can we have dinner tomorrow night instead?” And I quickly relayed the story to him. After a minute of disappointment and whining, he eventually relented and hung up the phone. I felt bad. “So much for a fancy anniversary,” I muttered as I hit END, too.

    I had just hit the nine when something rammed into the back of my knees. My knees buckled instantly, and with a cry, I hit the floor on my back. The phone clattered from my grasp. “What the—” I started, but a hand clamped down over my mouth, pressing my lips painfully into my teeth. A tiny hand.

    My first thought was that someone had broken in. My second was about the cowboy, sitting alone at the table innocently nibbling on cookies. And my third was the realization that the kid wasn’t sitting at the table, and he wasn’t so innocent. Perched on my chest, he leered down at me, Stetson drooping over eyes that seemed vastly different from the earlier childlike, sky blue. They seemed glassy. Dead. His mouth moved, but a different, older, terrifying voice came out:

    “Where’s my mother?”

    I wheezed in-and-out, in-and-out of my nose, my panic turning my breath into short little gasps. My eyes must’ve been bugging out of my skull. My face had drained of all color as I realized I had let some sort of monster into my home. When I didn’t answer it, it grinned, and two little fangs poked out from beneath its upper lip.

    “If I don’t have my mother,” it growled, “I will simply make a new one.” And its teeth sunk deep into my neck.

    That was the day that the old me died, and a new me, a monster, was born.

    (A little over…)

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      It’s okay it’s a little over. Once you entice the reader, you really set the hook. I knew it was going to be scary when I started. but I need to reread to find where the hook was. A marvelous journey into terror. You’ve done a great job on this. I know you’ve posted before and I can’t wait for the next one.

    • JWLaviguer says:

      Great story. I love the way you write.

    • Kate24 says:

      I wasn’t expecting the twist at the end, that was great!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I love myself some vampire stories ( I even read twilight………………………) so you had my sympathy from the second the little hand clamped on. This was tense and creepy, especially on second read through and it came out of no where which was nice. Does the little guy want a mother or was he just being cute? Perhaps time ALOT of time, will tell. Interesting take on prompt.

  37. stoland1999 says:

    “Thanks, but my birthday was last month,” the apartment door was almost closed when a booted foot came through to block it.
    “Wait,” the guy’s hand came through and pulled it back half way open. “That’s not why I’m here.”
    “It’s not?” I held firm to the door and scanned the empty hallway behind him. My eyes returned to him and I let them roam, starting at the dusty cowboy hat on his head and the bandana covering the lower half of his face. Trailing further down, I took in the faded duster and scuffed cowboy boots. “Amber didn’t put you up to this?”
    “I don’t know anyone named Amber,” his intense blue eyes stared into mine, “The truth is I don’t know why I am here or who I am. Do you?”
    “Right…” with a quick burst of strength I tried to slam the door back shut. He proved to be stronger and faster. Shoving through the opening, he slammed the door behind him. I stumbled backwards and turned to run for my bedroom. His hand closed around my ankle and I flew to the floor.
    “I’m not going to hurt you!”
    He yanked me backwards and flipped me over to push me against the wall. I wasn’t going down without a fight. Kicking and screaming, I punched out at his face. We ended up half sitting with one of his legs over mine and my wrists gripped tightly in his hands. Panting from the exertion with my heart in my throat, I looked up to find his hat gone and the bandana down around his neck.
    “James?” surprise and confusion flooded my panicked brain, “James Buchanan?”
    “Is that who I am?”
    “You don’t know?”
    “That’s what I said in the hallway,” he muttered. His eyes took in my features, searching for something. “I’m James Buchanan? Are you sure?”
    “Yeah… pretty sure,” my heart was still thudding in my ears, but its beat was slowing. I tugged at my imprisoned hands and felt relief at their release. Pushing back away from him, I scooted a few feet away. He stood and offered me his hand. Hesitantly, I took it and walked back to my living room. I watched him every step of the way.
    “Why are you sure?”
    “Because we dated for a few months back at UCLA,” we stood next to my couch, watching one another warily, “Miranda Johnson. We met in psych 101. You slept through most of it… any of that ring a bell?”
    “Miranda Johnson,” his eyes became unfocused as he looked at the opposite wall. “Miranda…” he put a hand to his head and slumped forward.
    “Whoa! You need to sit down, now!” Reaching forward, I gripped his arm and supported some of his weight. Pushing him into a chair, I straightened and found him gazing at me.
    “We need to get you to a doctor. What happened? Did you get struck on the head? Was it an accident?”
    “I don’t know,” he tugged the bandana off his neck and stuffed it in a pocket of the duster. “The only thing I remember is standing at your door.” His hand emerged from his pocket with a square of stiff paper. Seeing it made him grow still.
    “What is it?” I stepped to the side of him and what I saw made my mouth go dry. “Where did you get that? When was that taken?”
    “I don’t know,” he glanced up at my pale countenance and grimaced, “Look, Miranda… I told you I don’t know. I don’t know why I don’t know. I can’t remember, dammit!”
    I grabbed the photo out of his hand. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the image of he and I standing together. He had on western clothing as he did now, only of a finer quality. The black and white picture was old and worn. My long dark hair was in stark contrast to the pristine white of the wedding gown. I raised a hand to my throat and met his gaze.
    “I never did this,” the photo shook in my hand, “We never took this picture. What’s going on?”
    “There must be a reason why I came here, Miranda. Why I came to you,” he ran a hand through his hair and pulled his eyes away from mine. “Did I give you anything the last time I saw you?” As the thought occurred to him, he sat up straighter in the chair. Turning his head to the side, he seemed to be listening to something.
    “The last time I saw you James it was five years ago. We had an…” I felt heat rising to my cheeks, “intense relationship… that lasted for a few months. Then one day you just disappeared. I never heard from you again. Until you knocked on my door today.”
    “Ok, but did I give you anything? Something you would have kept over the years,” he had risen from the chair and turned towards the door.
    “Why would I keep something from a relationship that spanned less than half a year and the guy disappeared with no word whatsoever? Do I seem that pathetic?” I averted my eyes as his gaze swept back to my heated face.
    “Miranda…”
    “Oh fine,” I huffed, crossing my arms. “You gave me your ring and yes, I kept it like a sap. But that’s not the point. James, we need to talk about this picture and your apparent amnesia.”
    “Miranda,” he said my name with soft urgency. His stare had returned to the door. “Go get me the ring… now.”
    “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do,” I slapped the picture down on the table, “I’m going to go get the phone and call either the police or an ambulance. I haven’t decided which you need more yet.”
    “Miranda, get the damn ring!” His growl was followed by a series of loud thuds from out in the hallway. He thrust the side of his duster back over his hip and pulled a gun from his belt holster.
    “Oh, God, this isn’t happening,” my eyes were torn from the gun in his hand to my apartment door as it began to shake with blows rained against it from the other side. I coughed and began to blink as a stream of green smoke poured in from beneath the door. My eyes watered from the stench and my throat burned.
    As I saw him take aim, I swiped at my eyes and ran for my bedroom. Through blurred vision, I opened my jewelry box and rummaged for the ring. Running back to him, I thrust it towards his hand. He took it and shoved me down behind the couch. Time seemed to slow as he locked his gaze to mine and slipped it on the third finger of his left hand.
    A scream caught in my throat as I watched him arch his back in agony. Dropping his gun, he clutched at his head and fell to his knees. Though the entire episode took maybe only a minute, it seemed like hours before he raised his head and met my eyes again. Though sweat covered his face and his breath came in gasps as if he had run a long distance, his intense blue gaze was clear and focused.
    “I really hate that,” he growled. Shivering all over, he shook himself and rubbed at the ring. The sound of louder thuds and splintering wood drew his attention. He glanced back at me.
    “Thanks,” he said managing a quick grin as he grabbed his gun and swiftly stood to point it at the door. The thunderous crack of shattering wood reverberated through the room. Though my mind screamed for me to stay hidden, I pulled myself up far enough to see over the couch.
    I expected to see armed men storming my apartment. They would be in riot gear or considering how James was dressed maybe they would be in bandit get up. What came through the door is something I could never have imagined… ever.
    A large bulbous body bloated and oozing green fluid over its blue skin flopped through my broken door. Tentacles, too many to count, flowed through the opening and braced against the walls. The creature heaved itself into the room. The sound of its wet skin slapping against the floor combined with the stench made me gag.
    It let out a low grumble that made bubbles form at the maw in the center of its mass. I shuddered and then screamed as a tentacle swept towards me and hovered in the air over my head. Green slime dripped down into my hair. There was a sudden high pitched tone that made me cover my ears. Within seconds, a bang sounded throughout the room. James’ arm jerked against the recoil of the weapon.
    A streaming bullet of light exploded from the gun and slammed into the monster. It immediately began to shimmer with a glow that spread from its center out to the tip of every tentacle. The one above my head was the last to light up and as it did the entire creature blinked out of existence.
    “Well,” James returned his weapon to his holster, “that turned out better than I imagined it would.”
    “What? What turned out better, James?” my voice shook. I stood on unsteady legs with my hands clamped on the side of the couch. “What the hell was that?!”
    “Right,” he nodded briskly and reached into a pocket inside the duster. “Put this on. Everything will make a lot more sense.”
    “Like hell I will!” I stared at the ring in horror. Given no time to react, I couldn’t stop him as he grabbed my left hand and slid it on my ring finger. A sudden wave of disorientation and pain swept through my head. My back arched as I rode the wave. As it began to recede, I fell to my knees panting.
    “I really hate that!” I growled as his hands gently slid under my arms and lifted me to my feet. Pulling me against his chest, he hugged me tight and tilted my chin up to kiss me. I brushed my lips against his and sighed.
    “Undercover work sucks,” I muttered. He chuckled. Tapping his watch, he waited for it to beep three times.
    “Mission accomplished, target neutralized. Don’t expect us back for a few weeks,” he tapped it again and listened to it beep. Taking it off and stowing it in a duster pocket, he slid his hand into mine.
    “I hear the Bahamas are nice this time of year.” We grinned at one another as we stepped through the gaping hole and out into the hallway.

    • jmcody says:

      There was a lot going on in this — maybe a little too much for the word count. It left me with a lot of unanswered questions. For example, why did James not know who he was, but he remembered the ring? Anyway, it was gripping and action packed, and I got totally swept into it.

      • stoland1999 says:

        Thanks for the reply :) This is my first try at writing for here. I found the website a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying everyone’s posts. I finally made myself actually post one, too. I definitely find it hard to stick to the 500 words or less, but I’m determined to get to there. I’m getting a better perspective on how to do that by reading some of the other posts. It’s definitely fun and challenging.

        To answer your questions about the story, James didn’t remember the ring. He asked if he had left anything with her. She mentioned that he left a ring. Thinking it could lead him to some answers, he tells her to get the ring. Now that being said, I can understand why a reader might question that part.

        I have read your posts and really enjoyed them. I hope to get to do more posts and get a chance to comment on some soon, too. Take care.

    • Welcome to this humble little grouping of creative expressers! Very nice story, with lots of action and weirdness, which I like. I have to say, this is the best writer’s website thingy I’ve been a part of. I’ve only been here a few weeks longer than jmcody, so I’m hardly an old timer at this or anything. And, were you born in 1999 as well? Couldn’t help but notice the username.

      • swatchcat says:

        This is good but I had also been left with a few questions. Welcome to the group, the word count is a good exercise in getting to the point, telling a good story without too many frills and laces or wordiness. Some of the contributors actually are super helpful with grammar etc.

      • stoland1999 says:

        Thank you! Actually, I was married in 1999 :) My husband read the story and said… yeah I didn’t see the alien part coming at all. I’ll tell you what I told him – I didn’t either until I got there. It really was great fun writing it. I’ve been able to read quite a few of yours and have enjoyed them. I hope to get enough time (and a feeling of comfort here) to be able to comment on everyone’s posts. It does seem like a great community!

      • jmcody says:

        Bilbo, are you seriously only 15 years old??? Unbelievable. If you are this good at fifteen, I can’t wait to see what you’re like in ten years. Look out, world!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I really liked the premise that you had, time traveling alien assassins or something of that ilk. I love good sci fi and this has the potential to be a very interesting little series of hits for the couple. I won’t touch the ring question as its already been raised. The word count though I will mention. I myself abuse the word count more than any other writer here (before you ;) lol. As this is your first time writing I will give you the advice I force myself to take when I do a word count in openoffice and cry when I see 2500 words (like last weeks elevator prompt did before editing)

      Edit. Edit. Edit. Cut out exposition paragraphs that tell backstory that is not integral to the “tone” of the piece. Cut out unnecessary adjectives or meaningless dialogue. With the short short story format you want to strive for feelings, tone, emotion and what can convey those the hardest in the shortest amount of space. I would be willing to give more detailed suggestions if you desire, just message me through the forums on this website. If not, keep writing, do what I suggested when you do a word count and keep em coming! I liked this story a lot (Sci fi nut again) and would like to see what you come up with next week.

      • stoland1999 says:

        Thank you for the reply and all of your advice! I do find myself groaning as I watch my word count, but I love the challenge. I did give myself a pat on the back for actually finishing the elevator one in exactly 500 words… wow, it took a while!!
        Incorporating characteristics of the people into their dialogue instead of the background text takes practice for me. I used to love to write as a kid and life got away from me for a while and I stopped doing it. There is something so fulfilling about getting to write and share it with others!
        Your user name is one that I have noticed as I have been reading through all of the posts and I really enjoy your writing. I feel as though I’ve flooded my brain with so many stories in the last few weeks that it’s overloading a bit! I need to slow down and comment as I read. I’ve just been so excited to see all the different ideas from everyone!

      • jmcody says:

        MAJOR offender here. But I have vowed to reform myself.

  38. sperye says:

    “Well, howdy partner,” I said when I opened my door and spotted a craggy old man standing on my porch dressed as a cowboy. He was wearing scuffed boots with shiny spurs, leather riding pants, black vest with a gold sheriff’s badge pinned to his chest, and a five-gallon Stetson sitting cock-eyed on his head. A six-shooter hung perilously from his hip.

    His beady eyes cut through me with a vacant stare.

    “Ya lookin’ for Black Bart?” I asked, thinking this had to be some kind of joke. The guys at the office were practical jokers but this was out of their league.

    The cowboy wrapped a palm around the grip of the revolver. He cocked the hammer and snaked his finger through the trigger. “I…I can’t remember who I am or how I got here but_”

    “Alright, I’ll play along with this,” I said. I opened the screen door, stepped out on the porch, and put both hands in the air. “I surrender sheriff. I’ll go peacefully.”

    The old man backed down the steps. “The name’s Earp. Wyatt Earp,” he said, his eyes now slits as he squinted in the afternoon sun. “You’re worth more dead than alive, Billy Clanton.”

    “Whoa,” I said, lowering my hands. “This is a cool little gag and you’re a great cowboy but this has gone far enough.

    The old man pulled the revolver from the holster and pointed it at me.

    “Old man, I’m going to call the_”

    The gun exploded with loud pop. I ducked and rolled in time to see red minivan screech to a halt in front of the house. A man and woman jumped from vehicle and sprinted up the driveway.

    No! Dad, stop. Drop the gun!” she screamed.

    The old man turned, shrugged his shoulders, and lowered the revolver. “Are you alright?” she yelled over to me. She took the revolver from Wyatt Earp and gave it to the man.

    “Yes, I…I think so,” I said, standing up and shaking the glass out of my shirt. Broken glass from my shattered porch light littered the porch.

    “It’s not a real gun,” the woman said apologetically. “It’s a pellet gun. You were never in danger.”

    “He needs to be locked up!” I said, reaching for my cellphone to call 911.

    “Please don’t call the Police. My father’s sick,” she whispered. “He doesn’t know where he’s at most of the time. He regresses into a fantasy world. Last week he crashed a little league baseball game dressed as Babe Ruth.”

    I looked at the old man, his hands shaking, his eyes wet with tears. “I’m sorry,” I said, putting the phone in my pocket.

    Before driving off, she rolled down the window and handled me a check. “That should cover the light.”

    I glanced at the old man in the backseat. His dry eyes now danced with excitement. A wry grinned crossed his lips, and before the van sped off, he flipped me a sly wink.

    • seliz says:

      Nice piece! The suspense when the MC had the gun on him was palpable, as well as his anger afterwards. I loved the last paragraph describing the old man, that wink said everything!

    • jmcody says:

      I read this one a few times trying to figure out what that old man was up to, and I still can’t figure it out. You’ve created a mystery here that begs for more explanation, which is a beautiful thing. I get hung up sometimes on trying to fit a full-out story into 500 words (and usually fail!). Your story is an excellent example of doing exactly what the prompt directions say to do — to write a scene. When you can do that and have the reader asking for more, you’ve done a good job.

      • sperye says:

        I didn’t know what the old fella was up to myself until I got there. I guess that’s the mystery and fun of writing. You follow the prompt and see where it takes you. The writing on this forum absolutely amazes me. So much talent!

        Thanks for commenting.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Oh I don’t need to ask what the old man was doing that old bas#$#d. =) He’s using his old age and people expecting him to be out of his mind to do what the heck he wants, to have fun, get into trouble and then just pretend he had no idea afterwards. This guy was probably a real card when he was younger. Very good take on the prompt, especially with keeping it near the word limit. The twist made this piece.

      • sperye says:

        Just another angle to play as we get older. I was even suprised where this one ended up….Reading your story and the other writers on this forum shows me how far I have to go.

        Thank you for the comment.

  39. amsecre says:

    I’m so late. The kids are scurrying around the kitchen, munching on dry cereal, chattering about everything and nothing. Anna still doesn’t have her shoes on. Connor’s blonde hair is sticking up in the back, a relentless cowlick. Sighing, I glance at the clock again, and hurry to the living room to grab the stack of papers I never finished grading last night. As I try to organize the haphazard pile in my hands, the sounds in the kitchen suddenly stop.

    “Mommy? There’s a man here.” Anna says, with childhood wonder in her voice.

    Papers still in hand, I come back to the kitchen and glance to the door. A man indeed. Framed in the window is an honest-to-god cowboy. His Stetson is pushed down onto his forehead, a pale blue button-down shirt sets of his deep molasses skin, and wrinkled, dusty jeans cover boots that might have once been brown. He is staring into the kitchen, his gaze locked with my children, who stand in mute awe.

    I shake off my shock, and move toward the door. “Can I help you?” I shout. There’s no way I’m opening this door without a really good reason. Or a police officer.

    “Well ma’am, I hope so.” I hear him say. His voice is high and scratchy. “You see, I got this letter here, and it has your name on it, and it said…uhh, could I come in?”

    In his hands he holds a small sheet of paper. The edges are ragged, like it’s been carried in a pocket for a long time. As I squint through the glass, I can barely see the handwriting…and it looks familiar. My heart begins to pound. My children glance from this man to me, questioning. Closing my eyes, I break my own vow, and open the door.

    The man walks in, and I get a whiff of cologne and horses, and it sends my mind racing. He stands in the kitchen awkwardly, as if he doesn’t know how to behave. Unsure, Anna takes Connor’s hand and leads him to the kitchen table. They sit, watching silently, and this man never takes his eyes off of them. As he is watching them, I am watching him. I try to reconcile my present mind with the past that is fighting to emerge. My gaze shifts to the paper in his hand, and I can read a faded line. “…I just wanted you to know, not that you earned the right. One of us had to make a decision. I’m sorry…”

    Ten years. That’s how long it has been since I wrote my father one last letter. I can clearly remember sitting in my empty dorm room after the graduation ceremony that he missed, writing with anger and pain, as I gave my father an ultimatum: you can be a cowboy, or you can be a father. And I told him I was going to California, if he ever made up his mind, he could find me there.

    Now, he turns to me, and his eyes remind me of home. “I reckon it’s taken me longer to make this choice than it should have. But can you forgive an old fool?” Tears spring to my eyes, and I lean into my father’s embrace.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I find it very telling the direction that so many people are bringing to this prompt. True romanticized cowboys were very stubborn, but also known to have their own code of honor, chivalry and right and wrong. I am glad that it was not too late for your Cowboy. I liked this.

    • Foxwriter says:

      Wow, very interesting twist at the end. Your story is a great mix of humor and love. I also like your wording. The story flowed nicely.

    • jmcody says:

      That was a beautifully rendered portrait. It was good in every way — the tone, the pacing, the visual and tactile details and the overall emotional tenor. I am very impressed!

    • Critique says:

      A slice of life in that felt very realistic in your writing. Love the ending.

  40. jhowe says:

    “One day I was speeding along at the typewriter, and my daughter – who was a child at the time – asked me, “Daddy, why are you writing so fast?” And I replied, “Because I want to see how the story turns out!” . . . Louis L’Amour

    And so it began. Louis was a good writer, right from the start. There was no doubt about that. He wrote of the wilderness and the times he and his brothers spent roaming the woods of North Dakota. Yes there are trees there. He spun yarns that almost rivaled those of Thoreau and Hemmingway, but not quite.

    Louis wrote of his days as a boxer. He wasn’t the greatest boxer that ever donned a pair of gloves but he wrote of it nonetheless and it was good. It was more than good, it was almost great, but Louis wanted no holds barred in your face great. He needed a topic he could sink his teeth into; a topic that would firmly establish his legacy as a writer.

    During the midst of his quandary, Louis was annoyed by a troublesome knock at the door. “Who the hell could that be?” Louis said as he heaved to his feet.

    Louis opened the door and there stood a thin man slightly north of middle age in full cowboy regalia, ten gallon hat included. The man’s face was weathered with course gray whiskers sprouting chaotically on his haggard chin. His eyes, narrow slits, were blue and friendly. His smile was genuine but not appealing.

    “What do you want?” said Louis.

    “And good day to you as well,” said the cowboy.

    “What’re you, a wise ass?”

    “I’ve been called worse, but no, I’m not a wise ass.” The cowboy spread his hands in mock surrender. “My truck broke down a few houses down. I was wondering if I could use your phone.”

    “What’s with the getup?” said Louis, motioning the cowboy inside.

    “I’m touring with the Wild West Show. You might have seen the posters around town.”

    “I don’t get out much,” said Louis.

    The cowboy made his call. “My partner should be here in ten minutes. Thanks for the phone.”

    “Have a seat. You can wait in here.” Louis was surprised by his own unlikely gesture of hospitality.

    The cowboy sat in a wooden chair at the kitchen table and removed his hat.

    “Coffee?” said Louis.

    “Only if you’re having some.”

    Louis poured two cups from the pot on the stove. “So are you really a cowboy or do you just play one at the show?”

    “Oh, I’ve roped a few steers,” said the cowboy.

    “Is that so?”

    “I’ve breathed my share of prairie dust but I’m retired now. Not much call for my type any more. The show helps me pay the bills.”

    “Tell me about it sir.”

    The cowboy raised his abundant eyebrows. “There’s nothing earth shattering to tell.”

    “I’d really like to hear it,” said Louis.

    The cowboy started talking and Louis, with a stub of a pencil, scribbled notes on a blank sheet of typing paper. Louis had a euphoric feeling that this was what he’d been searching for.

    The cowboy’s partner arrived. Louis invited the younger dark skinned man inside, learned his name was Johnny Big Bear and offered him a cup of coffee.

    • jhowe says:

      I should add a disclaimer to the above story and say that Louis L’Amour did not get his ideas for his western themed books and stories from a random visit from a cowboy. If he did though, it is strictly coincidental. …Jhowe

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was very well written and shows a real talent for constructing a story. I wish I had read any of Louis L’Amour. I think perhaps now I will.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        The writing is a gem, jhowe. I think you could take Louis’s place if you wanted to. Your writing looks effortless. The only thing I can compare the ease of the task is to watch old movies and see Dean Martin sing a tune. It was effortless for him to do so. At least it apperaded that way.

        Wonderful relaxed tale you have spun. Me want more!

    • don potter says:

      I enjoyed the narative set up and how it led into the great piece of dialogue that followed.

    • jmcody says:

      The answer to the perennial question that people ask writers: “Where do you get your ideas?” I got a kick out of some unusual phrases like “abundant eyebrows” and “I’ve breathed my share of prairie dust.”

    • seliz says:

      Nicely done. The quote at the beginning was a nice lead in to a well written story.

    • Critique says:

      A great story. Confirms to me, that ideas for stories can come from the most unlikely encounters, places etc. if you’re open to it. Louis L’Amour is a favorite in our household.

    • MJ Munn says:

      I love it. Your descriptions are wonderful. I especially love the little details that fix it in time. Everything seems so right and natural. Thank you for this, jhowe.

  41. don potter says:

    The sound of someone pounding on my front door woke me out of a sound sleep. I reached under the bed and grabbed my Louisville Slugger, just in case.

    “I’m coming. I’m coming,” I said and moved in the dark from the bedroom, down a short hall and across the living room. My grip tightened on the bat.

    “Who is it?” I said when I reached the door.

    “I don’t know,” a man with a deep voice and western twang replied.

    “What do you want?”

    “I’m not sure.”

    “Well I need answers before I open this door.”

    “Please let me in. It’s awful cold out here.”

    I slid next to the window and turned on the porch light. To my surprise there stood a long tall cowboy, complete with a big Stetson hat, a holstered six-shooter and pointy boots with silver spurs. He looked like the genuine article to me, so I decided to take a chance.

    “Put your gun through the mail slot,” I commanded. “Then I’ll let you in.”

    “Sure, but be careful. The gun’s loaded and she’s got a hair-trigger on ‘er.”

    With the gun in hand, I checked and saw it was fully loaded before opening the door.

    “Howdy,” the cowboy said and rubbed his hands together to warm them from the cold.

    “Got a few questions that need to be answered,” I said and motioned for him to sit down.

    “Could I have something to take the chill off?”

    I pointed to a bottle of brandy with two glasses resting on a tray on a side table. He quickly poured a drink and offered it to me. I shook my head. The cowboy downed it and poured another.

    “So who are you and why are you here?”

    “I’d tell ya if I knew. Reckon I lost my memory when I fell off the horse and hit the ground pretty hard.”

    “And the horse ran away, I presume.”

    “Well he wasn’t around when I came to.”

    “Where were you going when the horse threw you?”

    “Can’t say that I remember,” he said pulling on the handlebar moustache that framed his mouth and accented the rugged look of his weathered faced.

    “Look, it’s three in the morning, you’re in the middle of the city, and there aren’t any places in this neighborhood that offer horseback riding.

    “I sure don’t know nothin’ about that. This here brandy is darn smooth. Mind if I have another?”

    Suddenly there was the sound of sirens followed by cars screeching to a halt in front of the house. I opened the door and members of the SWAT team rushed in.

    “Are you looking for him?” I asked pointing the gun at the cowboy.

    A barrage of bullets was unleashed on me, and I crumbled to the floor.

    “You shouldn’t have kidnapped this specimen from the lab.” the team leader said, standing over me. “This robot’s too valuable an experiment to leave in the hands of amateurs like you.”

    • jhowe says:

      Great dialog Don. This story flowed well and peaked perfectly. The poor MC did everything right but still got it at the end.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Nice surprise ending. I completely did not see that coming at all. I found the cowboy’s dialogue especially well written.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        You’ve written a real chiller Don. The end was violent, unexprcted and shocking to find It reads like it really happened. As said up above the dialogue was perfect. I hope you don’t mind me putting you in my story. I didn’t have time to handle the problem.

    • peetaweet says:

      Ouch. Creative take on the prompt. Enjoyed it!

    • jmcody says:

      I got a little whiplash from that ending, and I’m still not sure if I am understanding it correctly, but I love the idea of a brandy swilling robot. Nice job on the dialogue.

    • seliz says:

      Great twist at the ending. I was not expecting that! Poor MC though, for all of his caution about letting the cowboy in, he still got shot!

    • Amyithist says:

      Your dialogue is effortless. I certainly didn’t see the ending coming. A robot who drinks brandy… Wonderfully odd. I absolutely enjoyed your take. Thank you.

    • Critique says:

      Nicely written. Wonderful dialogue. The ending was a shocker :(

    • MJ Munn says:

      Interesting story, don. Well-written. You clearly have an ear for dialogue. Did you know when you began that the cowboy was going to be a robot, or is that something that just developed as you wrote it?

      • don potter says:

        To be honest the storyline simply developed. I was headed to the cowboy suffering from amnesia until the idea of him being an experiment hit me. So I kept him human until the unveiling at the end.

    • Reaper says:

      I have been slacking on my writing duties, which I consider this board to be one of. Realizing we are rapidly approaching a new prompt I though I needed to find your story and one other. I am glad I did. This is definitely different than what I am used to seeing under your name. Echoing all of the previous praise I have to thank you for going with the bombshell ending. I had to reread it to make that just happened. I had an amazing journey with this one.

  42. moscoboy says:

    Urban Cowboy
    By
    Ernest Espinosa

    I opened my first frosty Heineken, kicked off my Bally loafers and decided that it would be a night sans electronic gadgets. A thunderous pounding brought me out of my meditative state.

    I looked through my peephole and saw a young man dressed in full western regalia. A ten-gallon Stetson hat, fringed long sleeve western cut shirt, blue jeans stuck in knee length snakeskin Tony Llamas. I assumed one of my office friends had hired a struggling writer to sing happy birthday. I decided to bite and opened the door.

    “Hey pard how are they hanging,” smiled a young version of Roy Rogers. “Mind if I come in and chew the fat?”

    “Ahh, yea, sure I guess. Can you do your shtick and leave, I have a date coming over soon.” I motioned to the couch and noticed he had on a gun belt with authentic looking pistols.

    “Ain’t got no stick,” said the cowboy, “I’m a little kornfused and I’m trying to find my horse. Got any ideas on where my Palomino is corralled?”

    “So you’re lost?”

    “Yep.”

    “What’s your name?”

    “There you go bartender. Can’t rightly ‘member it. I’ve been knocking on doors and no body would give me the time of day. Thanks for opening your door.”

    “Give me your cell. I’ll find out your name, your favorites and I’ll have you on your way in a matter of minutes.”

    “Cell? I ain’t never been in the hoosegow.”

    “No, no.” I ran my right hand over my hair and started again. “I apologize for the slang. I was asking for your cell phone.”

    “Nope, never heard of no cell phone, but I’ll take a beer. My throat is parched and a cold drink would be appreciated.”

    I turned and looked at the Sub Zero. “Maybe in your condition some cold water would be best.”

    He shrugged his shoulders, “Sure, mind if I take off my spurs?”

    “Yes, take off your boots and cool off.” I scurried off for a bottle of water and asked, “What can I call you?”

    He downed the water in seconds and belched. He took out one of his six-shooters and studied the gun. “How about Colt.”

    “Ok, Colt. We’re making progress. Are your pistols real?”

    “Yep, want me to show you?”

    “No Colt, I’ll take your word for it. What about tats, got any tats?”

    “Hey bartender, I’m a man, I ain’t got no tits, got it!”

    “Sorry Colt, my fault again, I meant to ask if you had any tattoos?”

    Colt rolled up his left sleeve and said, “I got this on a week long drunk after my first cattle dive to Fort Worth.”

    The tattoo read: My name is Tom Bolton. Short-term memory loss. Call 713-223-8000 Dr. James.

    “That’s a nice tattoo Colt.” I took out my cell phone and called the number.

  43. IamVandee says:

    Maggie stood in the door way with her jaw hanging off of her face.
    What in all of mercy was she looking at.
    His glorified muscles hung out of the leather vest he wore, like steel iron shields.
    He was a hunk. Duh, even with the dumbfounded look on his face. She could probably get over that expression. Even if the time warping had permanently instilled it there.
    “What do you see?” A old, crinkly voice called out behind her. She wanted to turn, truly, but her eyes refused to budge. Among the man’s brown, leather vest that matched his strapping black leather pants in the same strange sort of fashion, was a 2-gauge shotgun hanging down in his left hand, pointed at the ground. He wasn’t holding it in any sort of threatening fashion, but that didn’t stop her heart from thrumming like the wings of a dragonfly.
    “I’m… I’m…” She stammered, hand going up to her mouth. Oh my god. Oh my god, she realized with complete clarity at the true possibilities that stood in front of her.
    “You are probably going to hurl, here girl. Take the bucket.” And just as grandfather wise said, she turned and hurled all of her insides out into the red, aluminum bucket that had been sitting inside by the doorway. As she finished emptying her insides, she stood up and wiped her mouth. Tesla stood in front of her with a crooked smile on his old worn face. The wrinkles under his eyes were tight with joyous expression, as he looked from her to the cowboy standing behind her.
    “I think he’s lost his voice!” He exclaimed, as if it was a good thing. She grabbed the bucket and wrapped her arms firmly around it as she didn’t feel quite comfortable enough yet to be without. Perhaps she just needed something real to grasp to because she was beginning to think that this was just another one of her bizarre dreams.
    They probably have medication for this.
    Nevertheless, medication she lacked. And avoiding things just wasn’t in her nature. Turning to face the stranger on their door step, she asked him in a more calm voice. Now that she had ridden herself of the mornings jelly filled donut, she could probably think straight and without a sugar high.
    “Is that true?” She asked the man, “Can you not talk?”
    The cow boy blinked at her, then looked into the house. Before he answered her, he took one large step in and as if in reflex, her and Tesla both took a huge step back.
    “I… think so.” A deep, resounding voice came out of the man. She shivered. Something about this was eerie. Tesla practically giggled.
    “A live human specimen. Imagine that.”
    “Yeah,” She mumbled, “Imagine that.”

    • jhowe says:

      I like this but I don’t know exactly what’s going on. The hunky cowboy seemed to be from the past and Maggie had the major hots for him, I think. I loved the line, “What in all of mercy was she looking at.”

      • IamVandee says:

        I know. It’s supposed to be just a clip. It didn’t explain it but from what I could guess from innerworkings of my mind, the girl was taken under Tesla wing and he had experiment to bring someone back from the past. Or something. And that was what showed up on his door. Lol thanks though!

        Vandee

    • jmcody says:

      Is that THE Tesla, the mad scientist? Wow, that is a pretty unique approach to the prompt. Well imagined.

    • seliz says:

      Interesting piece. I enjoyed your descriptions (“thrumming like the wings of a dragonfly”) and how shocked the MC was at seeing the cowboy.

      • Amyithist says:

        Vandee, I find myself intrigued at what has happened and what COULD happen. There’s so many avenues that you could take with this. Although it was a clip and I’m not quite sure of exactly what was going on, I thuroughly enjoyed the imagery. I agree with Seliz; thrumming like the wings of a dragonfly is a fantastic insight on a hammering heart. Well done!

        • swatchcat says:

          I agree with the slight confusion. When you explain that this is only a “clip” from your mind of what you imagined the story to be, that explained a lot. I would suggest rough drafts and/or outlines in approaching your stories so you come out with a final draft for a 500 word short story that has a focus beginning, middle and end type of writing or plot. Spacing, good paragraph breaks, and better attributions may help readers understand your story. Hopefully we will see more of your stories as you grow. Nice job.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Three lines into it I thought, “Sweet Christmas, another stripper story.” ;-)

      This was very interesting. Just enough information to be compelling, although, like many readers, I would have liked more details. The information that there was a “time warp” came early on, but I was unclear how many people were present: are Tesla and “grandfather” the same person? And while some of the expressions place the story within the last 20 or 40 years (“hurl,” “duh,” “hunk”), I would have liked to have known when the story took place. Tesla died in the first half of the 20th century, and indeed could have been a contemporary with this cowboy… I guess what I’m saying is, my only complaint is that I want more! :-)

    • gamingtheblues says:

      A live human specimen eh? This is an interesting tale, tense to me for some reason, though the hunk part takes it out of tense and into a more relaxed feel. Perhaps some author feedback to let us know a little more back story on this piece? I want to know what’s up with these people!

  44. rle says:

    We wern’t expecting company that evening so when someone knocked on the door,it. caught us all by surprise. It had been a beautiful late summer Sunday. My wife, two teenage daughters and I had spent the day mowing the lawn and sprucing up the landscape and were now all enjoying a dish of ice cream.

    “Who could this be?” I sighed as I sat my bowl on the coffee table and approached the front door, “better not be one of those boys that’s been hanging around here,” I scowled at the girls.

    What I found when I pulled open the door was something I wouldn’t have beleived in a million years. Looking just like he’d stepped out of an episode of Gunsmoke, stood an old man clinging feebly to a weathered cane.

    I heared my daughters giggling behind me followed immediately by a ‘shush’ from my wife. I stepped onto the porch with the man and closed the door behind me. “Can I help you?” I asked timidly, still perplexed by our strange visitor.

    His steely blue eyes gazed deep into mine like he was contemplating my simple question. As he stood there leaning on his cane, I could’nt take my eyes off of his attire. From his scuffed cowboy boots to his well worn chaps and big silver buckle, all the way up to his crumpled black ten gallon hat, everything about him screamed wild west.

    He’d been silent for so long that when he spoke it startled me. “I hate to intrude this late but I was on my way to the rodeo and I seem to have gotten lost. If you could tell me where the fairgrounds are here in town, I’ll be on my way and leave you fine folks to your evening.”

    I smiled knowingly at the old man, “I wasn’t aware the rodeo was in town,” I replied.

    “Oh yes,” he spoke proudly, “every other Friday and Saturday night, right over at the fairgrounds. I ride bulls you know?”

    As he finished, a late model sedan pulled up to the curb and extinguished it’s headlights. A man about my own age had exited the car and was now coming up the front walk. “Dad,” he called out softly.

    The old man spun around toward the voice, “Well there you are. I’ve been waiting on you to take me to the rodeo. You are taking me to the rodeo aren’t you?”

    The younger man now stood at the foot of the stairs, “Yea dad, I’ll take you to the rodeo. You go wait in the car and I’ll be right there.”

    As the old man decended the steps and tottered down the walk, the younger man approached me and extended his hand. “My name is Bob Murray, that’s my father Bob. I apoligize for the intrusion.”

    “That’s quite allright,” I said as I released his grip.

    “My dad suffers from uh…” he seemed at a loss.

    “I know,” I nodded

    “He used to be on the circut back in the fifties. They claim he was one of the best.” He turned and watched as his father fumbled with the door handle, “I’d better go after him, again, sorry for the intrusion.”

    He turned and took two steps away then turned back toward me. There were tears in his eyes, “he used to be a cowboy.”

    I felt a lump form in my throat and I said, “I think he still is.’
    .

    • gamingtheblues says:

      You guys are really making me feel like I didn’t dig deep enough this week. Very poignant and sweet. He certainly is still a cowboy. Nicely done.

    • seliz says:

      The last two lines were so touching, particularly the son saying he used to be a cowboy. That line conveyed so much about how proud he is of his dad, but also how sad that he’s losing his memory. Nicely done!

    • IamVandee says:

      I liked this. This was kinda sad. Wasn’t really what I was expecting, but where would the creativity have been had it been? Very nice, keep on writin’! As will I.

      Happy March!

    • jhowe says:

      That was so realistic and so good. You nailed it.

    • jmcody says:

      As others said, the last line was really the whole point of the story. Very poignant.

      • rle says:

        Thank you all for the kind words. I haven’t written much of anything for twenty years. It just seems as though life gets in the way of some of the things we draw the most pleasure from. Looking forward to reading more from you guys and writing more as well.

      • rle says:

        Thank you all for the kind words. I haven’t written much of anything for twenty years. It seems as though sometimes life gets in the way of things we draw the most pleasure from. Looking forward to reading more from you guys and writing more as well.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          There is so much emotion in your story. I think anyone can relate to this. We all have friends who are either caring for family or know someone that is taking care and walking with those that can not make the journey alone.

          You brought that out in a beautiful manner and I’m very moved from reading it, for I have walked the journey with a loved one.

          • swatchcat says:

            Another well written story touching on the hardship of growing older and also the effects it has on family. You captured the possibility of understanding and kindness from a perfect stranger. Very nice

    • Critique says:

      This story tugged at my heartstrings. Well written. Thanks!

    • MJ Munn says:

      A very tender and human moment. Well played, rle. Thank you for this.

    • agnesjack says:

      This brought up a memory for me. In the early seventies after college, I tended bar during the day on Cape Cod. An old man used to come in at lunchtime and drink until he couldn’t stand. The manager told me that he had been with the Wild West shows in the early part of the century. Your story brought up the sad feelings I had toward this man who had nothing but his past.

  45. Kerry Charlton says:

    CHIEF BILLY THUNDER HORSE

    It wasn’t Don Potter’s thoughts in the first place, taking Billy on a radio station tour through the southwest. It was Hef’s plan. It was his country record label. It was his magazine. In L.A., Don had built a reputation as one of the best A and R men in the business and now he had blown it last night in a honky-tonk in Dallas.

    Don had booked a suite at the Cabana Hotel. He opened his door to the adjoining room after listening to a constant tap on the wall. Billy stood there, still dressed as he was last night. Wearing a high-top, black Stetson with two eagle feathers.

    Underneath two black eyes, he was stripped to the waist, carrying enough turqoise to start a jewelry store. If that wasn’t bad enough, two dime store six shooters were swung low on old jeans, supported by boots and spurs from J. C. Penney.

    “I have no idea where I am or who you are,” he said.

    “Cut the crap Billy.Speak as I taught you.”

    He thought a minute and his red eyes lit up,

    “Me big Indian chief. Where in the crap am I?”

    “That’s better, Billy. You had enough fire water last night to kill a whole tribe of Indians.”

    “Me remember you Don, but nuttin’ else.”

    “You don’t recall the Silver Helmet on Harry Hines Blvd. and those six red-neck truckers you took on across the dance floor?”

    “Oh shit,” he said. “Squaw was beauty. Heep trouble start dance floor. She ask,

    “What dat I feel between your legs, Indian?”

    “And what’d you tell her?”

    “Me want squaw, I think”

    “The whole jonjt was watching you take the truckers down, two at a time and cheering you Billy. Did you have to destroy the entire bar, doing it?”

    “They call me ‘Shit face red-man’. Me Indian chief of Apaches.”

    Don looked on incredulously. ‘Good God,’ he thought.’He really thinks he’s an Indian chief.’

    “I cause big trouble, Don?”

    “Don’t worry about it. Pack your stuff. We’re heading out of Dallas.”

    Don’s phone rang. Hef’s number appeared on the screen.

    “Hello Hef. I can explain…..”

    “You know what you’ve done genius?”

    “I’m sorry Hef, but…..”

    “Someone took a video of your damn Indian, chopping red-necks and throwing shit everywhere. There’s been two million hits so far. Billy ‘whatever the crap you named him,’ is a star.”

    “You’re not mad?”

    “I’m wiring an expense draw for fifty G’s.”

    “I don’t know if I can stand a demented idiot from Brooklyn who thinks he’s an Indian.”

    “I’m wiring another fifty to your bank account, Don.”

    “We’re on our way to Tulsa, boss.”

    “Indian no go to Tulsa, Don.”

    “Why in hell not?”

    “Squaw give Indian phone number.”

    “Oh, God help me!”

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was so unapologetically non-pc it was very funny. Actually a very difficult line to walk.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you gamingthe blues. My wife is fifth generation Texas born and is part Indian from the tribe in east Texas. I had double thoughts after posting this. Billy Thundercloud was a friend and a country artist on Playboy Records.

    • jmcody says:

      Kerry, this is quite a departure for you. It was incredibly wacky, edgy and entertaining. I loved it!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you jm. When I read the prompt, I thought of Billy Thundercloud, a country singer and a real Indian Chief, who became a friend as we were distributors for Playboy Records in the late seventies.

        • swatchcat says:

          Wow, it is an honor to meet you via this group. The more you piece together and allow us to know about you and your life feeds me like meeting the best professor at school and waiting outside your door for the next awesome lesson or story. Jmcody says a departure, another says non-PC, but your explanation Thundercloud and the seventies makes, at least to me, okay. I am glad you didn’t double think it and I would hope your wife would have understood with workings of the writer you are. If bad taste can be done in good taste, sir, you did it. Now I think I should drudge up my husband expansive Playboy collection from the basement to see if any of the seventies issues have your character in it.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Oh, swatchcat, I just don’t how to reply to you. I feel so honored to be accepted by this marvelous group of writers, you’ll never realize how much all of this means to me.

            My Mother was a writer, tenth grade education. When she released herself from a life of caring for her family, she taught herself to write and wrote over four hundred columns for a Miami newspaper.

            What did I think about her success? Way to go Mother! But why did I wait until seventy one to peck out my first words? At least I did get started. Thank you for the kind words. As long as I can still hit the keys, I’ll still be here. Thank you, thank you.

          • swatchcat says:

            Miami, well that helps see more behind the beautiful story you wrote earlier of first love and that great historical garden. More mistrial.

    • jhowe says:

      I think I may have uttered the phrase “where in the crap am I,” a few times in my years. This was a funny one Kerry. I have heard of Billy Thundercloud but am not familiar with his music. I think Don Potter has his hands full.

    • don potter says:

      This is funny. I lived the entire scene through my name sake’s eyes. As for having my hand’s full, that’s no big deal since this is fiction. Come to think of it, it might be fun to write a short story about how everything you write becomes reality until the fictional character contols the story and ultimately the writer’s life. By the way, I consider it an honor to be included in your tale.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Well thank you Don. I was originally going to write about Barbie Benton who also recorded on Hef’s label. But them how was I to disquise a beautiful brunette to look like a cowboy. You wouldn’t have minded Barbie giving you a run for it.

        I really like you idea about a fictional character becoming so strong they control the writer. It’s a wonderful idea.

    • jmcody says:

      Hey, Kerry, it just occurred to me that this is the second time I’ve seen you write about someone from Brooklyn. I know you’re a Texan, but I sense a NY connection here somewhere…

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Close jm. I was born in Philadelphia. But for some reason, Brooklyn has always fascinated me. I was only in New York on business once and didn’t get to see much. There’s been a lot of books and movies on Brooklyn. Seems like a cross section of American humanity.

    • seliz says:

      Funny piece! It seems like that had quite the night before. The line about the phone number at the end was the best part though!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you seliz. It’s my favorite part also. This character is so loveable I’m going to use him somewhere. Few people from Brooklyn think the’re Indian Chiefs.

    • Critique says:

      An entertaining read. I love all of the imaginative takes I’ve read on this prompt – its’ a pleasure to be a part of it!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I feel the same way Critique, like we’re all on a bus on the way to a writer’s convention and swapping stories as we go. I always appreciate your comments.

    • agnesjack says:

      I think “wacky” has already been used, but that’s my reaction to this, Kerry. I really loved how you just let your imagination go with it, almost as if it had a life of its own. I believed in this world you created.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Nancy. I really didn’t write this story. Oh, I was part of it but my automatic writing took over after I had written the first two paragraphs.It’s like someone saying to you,

        “Get out of my way, I want to write for a change.” This one may havebeen my Id story for the month.

    • Reaper says:

      Aaaand this was the second one I realized I had to read before the prompt changed. I agree that the more I learn about your life the more I feel like I am standing in the presence of a giant Kerry. I know those weren’t the words but that is how I see it. I am glad you did not give in to second thoughts. My own take on it is writer’s should leave the PC world behind them when they tell a story. It is obvious that you are not promoting a biggoted lifestyle but including something real in your story. When we allow propriety to censor us the art suffers so let it flow and never be ashamed unless you’re a bad person. Thank you for this one, I can’t stop laughing. Of course reading you were a distributor for Playboy records tells me you know all of this more than I do since I know part of the philosophy was anti-censorship and another was respecting each other. I think you tread that line well here.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Reaper for your support on this story. There is so much anti-anti in this world, I thought it a good idea to read about an average guy from Brooklyn that’s nowhere near being an Indian any more than I am a mongoose. And then he beats the hell of six truckers who defame Indians because they have no tolerance for others they consider ‘different’.

        Then throw in a little humor to drive the theme home and lighten it a little bit. Your thoughts mean a lot especially when you drive yourself into the heart of one of my tales.

  46. jw569 says:

    As I stare at this man I hold everything back and it takes all of my strength to do so. Thoughts of rage, sadness and bewilderment race through my head. Was this the man my wife has been having “the affair” with? All the text messages I found , then the emails I discovered only by accident, had she logged out of her Gmail I would have never known of betrayel in the first place. I didn’t want to believe what I had read. I was crushed, jealous and in immediate denial. This man has to be puttng on an act, with his eyes wide open like a deer in headlights…caught. You see it’s only 11:30am on this fine Tuesday morning, my wife’s usual day off except this isn’t a typical Tuesday. We were in a headon collision this early morning as she drove to drop me off at work. I walked away fine she has a broken leg and pelvis which needed some screws to keep from falling apart. I was given her belongings which of course included her phone. ! 10 unread messages and every few minutes another one all from “Jess” “Hi luv meetup@11ish?? Same game as last? Yeehah!! My lil horse wrangler be waitin for me” Went on and on I just about vomited in the waiting room. I couldn’t help it hands trembling I replied “Yes I will be waiting door unlocked…” The doctor came out of surgery and gave me the tired, typical one liner “surgery went well Mr. Jaime, she’s headed to the ICU you can see her there. ” Gee thanks I thought to myself but my mind is elsewhere. Gave him a quick thank you glanced at the clock says 9:45am…plenty of time to get home

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was a very well thought out idea for this prompt. You need to work on your formatting though or people will not take you seriously, some even to the point of not reading what you wrote, which would be a shame. Work on separating the words into smaller blocks that are easier to pick from and read. Not traditional paragraphs but smaller snippets of 2-4 sentences. There is always a place to do so.

      In this format, you should attempt to also pull dialogue away from the main words so that its not lost. Similar to the way most people do it on this forum. Unless you have very serious artistic reasons for doing so, its not about conformity or anything like that but ease of reading, comprehension and not overwhelming someone with a block of words.

      That being said I really really did enjoy the story you created. Having the cowboy be an adulterer is unique and it never crossed my mind. So…well done

    • jhowe says:

      Great idea for a story jw569. Gamingtheblues gave good advice. When you paste your story into the response box, you have to physically seperate the paragraphs. I think the text messages would have been more effective if they were all seperate lines with a space between each. I always make sure the story looks right in the response box before I hit submit. The cowboy is in for a rude awakening when he walks into the house.

    • don potter says:

      The set up was difficult to read, but the effort was worth it. Nice tale.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Interesting take, jw. I agree with GTB that formatting to improve readability would improve enjoy-ability, but I also admit to a certain fondness for the stream-of-consciousness of the jealous cuckold you’ve got going on.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was a very intriguing story, jw569. Although I like stream of consciousness, there were some punctuation and paragraphing problems that took my mind out the story (as others have said). I’ve always found it helpful to read a story out loud. Often, these kinds of problems become apparent then. You really do have a very good story here, though.

  47. seliz says:

    –A Cowboy Dinner–

    Dust caked. Reek of manure. Cowboy hat dirty and worn. And devastatingly handsome. The sight of the cowboy on my doorstep left me staring, mouth flapping open like a fish.

    He pulled down his hat in a nod.

    “Ev’ning m’am.”

    “Evening—err—hello,” I replied, suddenly aware that I was only wearing a thin silk robe. His dark eyes lingered on me, hinting that he had noticed the same. Wrapping my arms around my chest, I continued, “Can I help you?”

    “I’d much ‘preciate that,” he said. “See, I don’t rightly know where I am. Or who I am, matter o’fact.”

    “Is this a joke? Who put you up to this?”

    “M’am, I wouldn’t jest ’bout this,” he said, an edge of irritation creeping into his voice. It was then that I noticed his pistol, peeking out of the holster on his waist. I moved to slam the door, when his leather boot wedged it open.

    “Wait,” he said, his hands gripping the door and pushing it open. “I need assistance. Ye don’t know what it’s like, not knowin’ nothing. Nothing ’bout who you are. Help me. Please.”

    I let the door fall open and he strode inside, glancing around my house with a look of wonder.

    “Tea?”

    “Oh, now that’d be wonderful,” he said, his back to me. He examined the bookshelf, his fingers sliding across the spines of the books. “Lot ‘o books here.”

    “Yup.”

    “Read much?”

    “Uh-huh.”

    He moved from the bookshelf to the fireplace, his hand closing on the cold metal of a fire poker.

    “Ye really should try readin’ the paper sometime. Maybe then ye’d know ’bout the–”

    “Cowboy killer?” I said, my face twisting into a smile.

    “Ain’t that nice? The misses done heard ’bout me.”

    “Oh, I know all about you and your little cowboy games. How you like to prey on defenseless women; tying them up and branding them with a fire poker, before you kill them.”

    His eyes narrowed dangerously.

    “But see, you should really make sure the woman’s defenseless before you attack.”

    I pulled the trigger, loosing a tranquilizer dart. His hand went to his neck, eyes wide with shock, before sliding to the ground with a thud. Crossing the room, I leaned over his body, stroking his cheek.

    “And you really should make sure that woman isn’t more twisted than you.”

    —————————————————————————————————————————————-

    I met my husband’s eyes across the table and smiled. He winked, before turning his attention to his steak. His knife dragged across the china as he cut a piece. Eyes closed, he moaned at the taste.

    “Honey, you’ve outdone yourself! You’ll have to tell me where you wrangled up something so delectable!”

    I couldn’t help the giggle that slid from my throat. He grasped my hand, his laughter matching my own. I moved the centerpiece—a blood and dirt caked cowboy hat—to lean over and kiss him. Twenty years and still going strong. They did always say the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.

  48. jmcody says:

    “Beau, darlin’ – Now ain’t you just the handsomest lil ole thing?”

    Kate studied herself in the mirror as she rehearsed her lines. It was a small role, but a good one. She would be playing Sally Cato, the conniving southern belle in an off-off-off Broadway revival of “Auntie Mame.”

    “Needs more drawl,” she mused. It needed to be positively dripping with poisoned honey.

    Before she could try the line again, she was interrupted by a soft knock on her apartment door. She laid down her script and peered out the fisheye at what appeared to be a cowboy in a ten gallon hat – which should have surprised her, but didn’t. This was New York City, where a cowboy in a ten gallon hat seemed perfectly normal.

    “Suh… I mean, sir, can I help you?” Kate called through the door.

    “Pardon me Ma’am, but I’m looking for a Ms. Cathy Pearson.”

    “I’m sorry, you have the wrong apartment.”

    “Are you sure you’re not Cathy Pearson?”

    “Yes, I am quite sure. Buh-bye now.”

    Kate went back to studying her lines, only to be interrupted by another knock.

    “Please ma’am, if you’ll just give me a moment of your time, I could really use your help.”

    Kate was torn. She knew better than to open her door to strange cowboys. Yet, there was something so earnest and reassuring about his voice, so gentle, and familiar even.

    Sighing, she opened the door just a few inches without taking off the chain.

    “Yes?” she asked impatiently.

    “My, don’t you look purdy today!” gushed the cowboy as he removed his hat.

    “Um, thanks… Look, I’m really busy here…”

    “Well, Miss, I was hopin’ you could help me figger out somethin’.”

    “And what would that be?” she said, wondering what he was selling.

    “I’m hopin’ you can help me remember why I’m here.”

    “Last I heard, you’re looking for someone.”

    “Oh yes, I remember now,” he said. “Do you happen to recall what her name is?”

    “Cathy somebody… Look, I don’t think I can help you. You need to leave now.”

    “Please, Ma’am, it’s very important. Do the names Ashley, Jack and Emma mean anything to you?”

    “Please don’t make me call the cops.” Kate turned to reach for her cell phone, but then faltered as a wave of déjà vu washed over her. Ashley, Jack and… Where had she heard those names before?

    “And what about Travis?” asked the cowboy, his voice dropping now, soft and sweet like the faraway strains of some half-forgotten music. “Do you remember Travis, honey?”

    “Travis?” Kate said, as if waking from a dream. “Travis, is it you?”

    Kate unchained the door and launched herself into the arms of the cowboy.

    “Cathy, you’re back!” Cowboy Travis spun her around in the air. “I’ve missed you so much.”

    “I don’t understand, Travis. I was in New York, rehearsing…”

    “Try to remember, Cathy. You went to New York, and you became an actress just like you always wanted, but you came back to Texas. To marry me. And we had three beautiful children, Ashley, Jack and …”

    “Emma,” said Kate, now Cathy. And as she remembered, her heart sank. She looked around at her boho, downtown apartment. It was now just a simple room with a bed, a chair and a TV. A nursing home. Early Onset Alzheimers is what they called it, and this was a rare “period of lucidity.”

    “I’m so sorry,” Cathy said, burying her head in Travis’ chest.

    “Aw, ain’t no reason to be sorry, darlin’. I’m just glad to see ya.”

    They stood like that for a long time, until finally Kate pushed herself away. Straightening her clothing, she smiled at him and said:

    “Well, I really must rehearse now. But maybe you can come back tomorrow.”

    “I’ll be back,” said the cowboy, “you can count on that.” And he would be back – tomorrow, and the next day and all the days after that, until maybe, one fine day, he would see Cathy once more.

  49. Carlos Hammer says:

    The Real Halloween Monster

    “I don’t know where I am,” the kid said, looking down at his tiny spiked boots. He held his hat at his chest as if he was a real cowboy, wiping tears from his face with his other hand. “I don’t know why I’m here,” he mumbled. He finally looked up at me, eyes red and puffy. The kid made a perfect cowboy, probably the best one I’d seen all Halloween. So, I couldn’t help but let him in.

    “Kid,” I said, “Come in. I can getcha a class of water er sumthin’ and then I’ll see if I can’t get a hold of the police.” He stumbled in and looked around.

    “Are those your kids?” he said, pointing up to some pictures on my wall. I paused in my footsteps and had to think for a minute.

    “They are,” I decided, “but they’re with their mom this week,” I finished, hoping he understood that I had implied we’d been divorced.

    “Oh. Okay,” he said, starting to sound better about being lost. He was still sniffling though.

    “You still up for that water?” I asked, putting a cup under the tap anyway and filling it up.

    “Yeah,” he said. I could tell he was sitting down. Getting comfortable and less worried. Good. I entered the living room and handed him the cup. He began drinking immediately and had soon gulped down the whole cup. I sat next to him while he set down the glass. “Aren’t you gonna call the police mister?”

    “I will,” I said, trying my best to relax and not give anything away, “I just want to make sure we need to. What d’ya remember?” I asked, leaning back.

    “Nothing,” the kid answered, looking up at me, “I don’t even know who I am,” tears came back.

    “It’s okay,” I said putting my hand on his shoulder. He kind of jumped, probably not expecting me to be so friendly. “Don’t worry. Why’d you come to me for help? Why were you in this neighborhood?”

    “I’m not sure why I was here. But I came to your house because I thought I’d been here before and seen kids here before. I thought maybe you’d be as nice as my daddy. Someone who like kids,” he answered sighing.

    “It’s okay,” I repeated, “I do care for people,” I smiled and began to reach for his neck. I had been lucky the pictures of people I didn’t even know gave away that I was a murderer and this kid just so happened to be confused, making him the perfect bait. But before I could get a good grip and finally strangle him he smiled, he hadn’t smiled since he arrived.

    “Oh that’s too bad,” he said. I was confused. What was he talking about? “I don’t care for people at all.” It was too bad I didn’t see his tiny hand move down toward his gun like the western hero he looked like. The gun flew up and I gasped.

  50. pinkbamboo says:

    ok, got a little crazy imaginative this week .. written right before bed XD

    ***

    “It’s about time! I need help with the cookies!” I yanked the door open, expecting one of my girl friends but there stood a man, dressed up like a cowboy.

    “May I help you?” I closed the door halfway, a little apprehensive.

    “Who are you? Who lives here?” he pushed himself in and I got alarmed.

    “Darren!” I called out as I kept my eyes on this mysterious stranger. He turned to look at me and flashed me a pearly white smile. Actually he’s not bad looking, I thought as I held my hands together. No, what are you thinking? You’re engaged.

    “You are very beautiful, miss” he stepped forward.

    I was lost for words. Me? Plain me in my t shirt and shorts. Well, I’m flattered …

    “Thank you” I smiled. Wait, who is this fella? It’s not even near Halloween.

    “Who are you?” I stepped further from him.

    “Have you ride a horse?” he asked me instead ignoring my question.

    “Yeah sir, I need to know who you are and why you’re here” I glanced at the door.

    My girls are supposed to arrive for a movie night and my cookies are still not ready. I’m losing my patience and I’m not in the mood for games with this stranger. He turned to face me and I looked away, my eyes resting on his blue shirt instead.

    “Miss, I have no idea where am I. I don’t remember my name either. I just remember walking by town and next I woke up in front of this place” he gestured around with his hands.

    Then I heard the door opened and a bunch of chatter invaded the silence in the room. My friends stopped talking at once.

    “Hi Sandy, who’s that?” Amy asked.

    I turned and mouthed ‘I don’t know’ then I walked towards the stairs, side stepping the weird man. His eyes followed me.

    “Darren!” I called again.

    This time he came downstairs while rubbing his eyes. Obviously he just woke up from his nap.

    “Honey, who’s this?” he pointed towards the cowboy.

    I stood behind him ” I don’t know. He just appeared out of nowhere” I whispered

    “Why did you let him in?” Darren was not happy

    “He barged in” I got defensive.

    By then, our cowboy friend had made himself comfortable on our single couch. Darren took my hand and approached the man.

    “Hi there. May I know who are you and what are you doing here?” these are the times I’m so grateful that Darren is the serious type of man. No nonsense – just straight to the point. squeezed his hand and he squeezed back. My friends were standing near the door and I exchanged a confused look with them. The cowboy put on his hat and stood up.

    “Look pal, I told the little lady and I’m telling you now, I don’t know”

    Darren nodded and walked to the phone “I’m calling the police”

    “No cops!” in a split second, the cowboy pulled out a gun, loud bang and my fiance fell behind the couch as the girls screamed.

    I rushed to him and started crying when I saw blood on his chest. Our future.

    “Darren! No no .. please no…” I sobbed hysterically.

    He gasped and held my hand to his lips.

    “Sandy, I love you so much and you always said I’m too serious ..”

    pause for deep intake of air.

    I could hear Sam calling ambulance at the back and cowboy man …. to hell with him! I shook my head repeatedly and Darren gave me a kiss.

    “Honey, I just want to say..” another kiss.. don’t tell me you love me then leave me!

    “Happy bachelorette party” he sat up and smeared his blood on my face.

    I stopped cryng and looked at my very fine healthy fiance grinning at me.

    “I hate you. You’re an idiot” I started crying again.

    He chuckled and pulled me in his arms.

    “Go have fun then you’ll be mine forever”

    I heard the girls giggling and rolled my eyes just as a cowboy hat flew by and a blue shirt landed on my head.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Hey! We both did a stripping cowboy!!!

    • jmcody says:

      Crazy pranks and stripping cowboys… what is going on here?

      Fun story, Pinkbamboo!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Pretty tense beginning and middle. I thought it real and worried about them. And then the switch, clever and devious to the reader. If I were Sandy, I have the girls tie Darren up and make the cowboy dance for him. It would serve him right, frightening Sandy. And then the girls could walk out and leave Darren helpless.

        What do you think? Justice!

        • pinkbamboo says:

          i know! that was such a cruel prank to play .. but also a prank that makes Sandy goes whew .. big time relief!

          lol I can imagine the scene you mentioned .. that would be funny ..

    • MJ Munn says:

      Some writers hear “cowboy at the door” and think “time-travel” or “period piece” or “psychotic break.”

      Others think “stripper.”

      This was a fun read, pinkbamboo. I thought “Our future” was a poignant moment, drawing me in for the twist. The last sentence was an excellent close: you can almost see the shot frozen in time. Thanks for posting this.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        tbh i was going for either time travelling or some sort of spiritual thing but decided on something light instead. i thought the “our future” was a bit out of place but i felt like it needs to be there and yes, i can imagine the last shot as well.

  51. Kate24 says:

    The summer evening was cool, the windows were open in hopes of inviting the cool air into the house. Two siblings sat in the living room, a deck of cards out and a game of cribbage was in process. Suddenly, a knock on the front door called the game to a halt. After exchanging a look of surprise with her brother, Emily decided to answer the door.

    “Howdy Miss.” The gentleman said with a tip of his cowboy hat. “I was wondering if you could tell me where I am.”

    “You’re at the Golden Meadows Farm,” Emily said. She paused to take in the stranger’s bizarre appearance. Aside from cowboy hat, pointed boots, jeans, a plaid shirt and solid brown vest. His long hair brown touched his shoulders. Emily’s eyes paused on the gun at his waist.

    The stranger looked at Emily, frowning. “This place looks mighty familiar. And yet it’s changed. Can you tell me anything about this place? Perhaps that will help me figure out why I feel like I’ve been here before.”

    “I’m no good with history, but my brother might be of help. He has a better memory for facts then I do.” Emily sighed. The stranger looked young, close to her age. And she had been at the farm for as long as she could remember, she was born here. If she didn’t remember this stranger, the chances were good he had never been here before. But she knew she shouldn’t judge based on that. Emily raised her voice. “Nick, can you come in here please?”

    “Thank you miss,” the stranger said. His features relaxed some, it was clear to Emily that he had been worrying about something. “I wish I could tell you my name, but for the moment I can’t even remember… YOU!”

    Emily’s attention was caught when the stranger said he didn’t know his name. Why wouldn’t he give her a name? Before she could think any further he had yelled the last word causing Emily to jump. Emily looked and saw Nick had entered the room. When she turned back to the stranger, his gun was out and pointed at Nick.

    “YOU! What have you done to me? Where is Jessica?! Why am I here bothering these people? What has she got to do with you?!”

    The stranger gestured to Emily at the last sentence advanced on Nick as he spoke. Emily screamed in surprise at the gun being pulled. Nick threw his hands in the air and stepped back in alarm, stuttering as the man continued to come closer to him.

    “What… who…” Nick backed into the wall, and crossed his eyes trying to keep the gun in eyesight. “What is going on here? Who do you think I am?!”

    “Don’t give me that,” The stranger said with a half crazed laugh. “I know perfectly well who you are James Anthony Miller. You look just the same as ever except for your strange costume.”

    Despite the seriousness of the situation, Emily had to give a nervous laugh at that. Nick looked absolutely confused as he sputtered “That’s impossible.”

    “How?” The stranger asked, glaring at Emily.

    “Because James Anthony Miller has been dead for 150 years.”

    • jhowe says:

      Very mysterious circumstances here at the Golden Meadow Farm. Nice job setting this up. I’m dying to know the details. Good writing.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Spoooky!

      Excellent set-up, Kate24. But you can’t end it there!

    • Kate24 says:

      Thanks! I’m not totally sure how this ends up past this. But my thoughts are there’s a family mystery here. I do know that the grave for James is on the yard and Emily and Nick are related to him, that’s how they knew the name and date. But didn’t give it much thought beyond that.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This is another story that begs for more information or a continuation. I like you making the connection between the people, I think that would go well in the story somehow, though it would have to be handled delicately.

      For criticism, watch your continuity and timing. You have Emily scream far too late after the pulling of the gun. It makes the reader question the timeline, and even if you figure it out in a second, you have already pulled them out of the story and its harder to get them back in. So re-read, edit as required but good idea for the prompt and hope to see more next week.

  52. gamingtheblues says:

    My “real” take on the prompt.

    Even Cowboys can be Strangers
    ——————————————–

    Jeremy lay in his bed surrounded by piles of blankets and pillows. The sky was brilliant, blue and wavered in the heat. He reveled in his new found freedom and was celebrating with greasy pizza, air conditioning so cold he was wrapped in the comforters, and the new lone ranger comic that had just come in the mail. His parents had finally relented and let him stay home alone while they were at the conference and he was looking forward to a long lazy day doing absolutely nothing.

    A hammering on the door jolted him from the showdown at high noon, and he crawled from this cocoon, sweaty and a little dizzy from staring so long at the comics without blinking enough.

    He threw the front door open in irritation. “WHAT do you-?”

    Standing there large as life was the Lone Ranger. Well, not really but a cowboy. A real. Live. Cowboy. His hat was blindingly white, his chaps rich brown over the blue of his jeans and boots with bright silver spurs. Also a silver star with gold tips pinned to his vest. Jeremy’s mouth gaped. Still, the cowboy looked real sick. His skin was pale and clammy, and he stood limply on the doorstep with his head lolling to the side. His voice thin and ragged.

    “Howdy son, can you help me?” Then he fell over through the threshold of the doorway at Jeremy’s feet.

    Jeremy could never remember how he managed to drag the Cowboy into the house. But he did, and he knew from t.v and the comics that when a Cowboy passes out you put a cold cloth on their forehead and give them water. The instant the cloth touched his forehead, the Cowboy’s eyes shot open, feverish and wild.

    “I…where am I? I can’t see! What’s goin on?”

    Oh jeez… “Mister…Mister… you knocked on my door and fell over. I brought you inside. Here, have some water.”

    The Cowboy turned his sightless eyes towards the sound of Jeremy’s voice. He could barely speak. “Have…to…danger…tall…rock… cave… must… stop…MUST STOP…”

    The Cowboy must mean Dead Man’s Peak the pointed rock formation outside of town, it was dotted with limestone caves. “Mister… there’s danger at Dead Man’s Peak?”

    “Dead…man…must…help…take…go…quick..stop…thieves” He pulled a huge old revolver from a holster that Jeremy had not noticed and pushed it into Jeremy’s hands.

    “Oh man…Mister, I’m only fourteen. I can’t take this. We should call the police.”

    The Cowboy pointed at the star on his chest. “…the…law… I…law…take…go..no time GO.” The Cowboy’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he passed out.

    Jeremy sat still for a few seconds with indecision, then thinking back to the lone ranger and what he would do, he picked up the gun and ran out of the house making his way to Dead Man’s Peak.
    ———————————————————————-

    When Jeremy got back to the house the door stood open and dark. It had taken hours for him to make his way to the caves and back. He was afraid to go back. He had found nothing there, and he was afraid the Cowboy would be angry. He entered the house and stopped. The Cowboy was gone but there was a single sheet of yellow paper on the coffee table.

    ‘Sorry’ it read.

    The house was stripped. The televisions were gone. The lamps, silver plated picture frames, dishes, silverware even the books. Everything smaller than a table was gone. Jeremy looked around in shocked silence and looked down at the gun in his hand. He sat down, and began to cry.

  53. gamingtheblues says:

    I have to post twice this week. My “real” one will be very short but I had no choice but to write this one first. The little devil wouldn’t take no for an answer, standing over there in the corner smirking at me.

    Gift of the Wild West

    Lisa Gordon sighed deeply, back hunched over in the pitch black room. The laptop screen glowed white illuminating her face, a foot from the screen. Her fingers danced over the keys, tap tap tap. If anyone knew what she was doing right now she would have a lot of explaining to do. She was under strict orders to rest, go to bed early and by NO means was she to be working on this night of all nights.

    No one understood though. She was behind on work, the deadline was fast approaching and her editor had taken to emailing her every other day asking for updates. It was enough to drive anyone crazy, the world was not going to stop turning just because she was getting married tomorrow. She bent over the laptop again, eyes intent upon the words as she read over what she had just written.

    “Sally Mae trembled with anticipation as Sergio took her in his arms. His arms, muscular and
    strong made her feel safe. They glistened with the exertion of having fought of the pirates who
    had kidnapped her…he had almost been too late. But now she was finally ready-”

    “Pirates.” Lisa shook her head in disgust. Her first romance novel had been almost a joke between her and her girlfriends. Much to everyone’s surprise a publisher contacted her immediately about distributing her book and things had gone very quickly. This was her fourth book now and they had asked her to write this one about a southern belle captured by Caribbean pirates. Lisa’s heroes
    were confident, and muscular with chiseled features.

    Her husband-to-be was nothing like any of them. David was a librarian with a passion for the agricultural contributions of ancient Egypt. Upon being mugged one night on the way back to his car from a museum, he had broken down into tears in front of the mugger, and subsequently while calling her from his car afterwords. He was also the kindest, gentlest most caring man she had ever had the fortune of meeting. He…just wasn’t the rugged type.

    Her fingers went back to the keys and-

    KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

    Who could that be, it was…oh my god… it was ten past midnight. Lisa blinked in the darkness as she got up from the table and walked out of the dining room, and looked through the window.

    Standing outside was a man straight out of her last novel. Six feet tall, striking blue eyes set in a ruggedly handsome face, a weeks worth of stubble framed by a wide brimmed hat. A homespun, dirt caked corduroy shirt, blue or grey was tucked into worn and faded jeans. Dusty, scratched leather boots jingled with the sound of spurs as he shifted on her front step.

    “Er…Can I help you?”

    “Well ma’am. I surely hope that you can. You see, I do think I am lost, and…well…I, I can not right remember my own name or what I am doing here.”

    This wasn’t happening right now. It was late, she had more work to do and she had to get up early for her wedding! And now this guy who was obviously part of some show was lost on her doorstep. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know you. If you want I can call someone to help.”

    “I don’t know about no calling ma’am, but help would be nice. May I come in? It’s right freezin’ out here.”

    She wondered at his voice. It was deep and pleasant, but as hard as he was. She sighed again and opened the door slowly. “Alright, but be warned. I am armed and know how to defend myself.”

    He chuckled and silently shifted to the side revealing the gleaming walnut stock of an old revolver, wet and glistening with oil. She caught the scent of wood, dust and sweat. “Much obliged ma’am.”

    He accidentally brushed past her as he walked into her darkened living room, and she felt her breath catch a little.

    He had sunk down onto her couch, and had his head in his hands. “I just want to remember…”

    “Well… what’s the last thing you remember?”

    “I was sittin’ at the Coral City Saloon with Sonny and Cliff, when Jeannie came over and said I had to find….to find… someone. But I can’t remember who.”

    Lisa was mesmerized by this tough cowboy who seemed almost almost in tears on her couch. Then she shivered as his words struck. Coral City Saloon. Sonny. Cliff. All out of her last book. A wave of dizziness hit her and she felt faint. Almost to herself, she said, “Rodney?” Rodney was the main character of the book, a rugged cowboy who’s job it was to rescue damsels in distress.

    He looked up suddenly, his blue eyes almost blazing underneath the rim of his hat. “Rodney….Rodney! That…that’s my name… how did…you? Thank you.” She felt suddenly self conscious under his intense gaze directed at her.

    “Umm, I’m going to go make that call for your.”

    She went to turn and suddenly he was behind her. *How did he move so fast?*

    Turning her slowly, he looked at her. “I need to thank you ma’am. I remember Lisa.”

    She could not stop looking into his eyes, they were everything she had imagined them to be. Taking her hand he led her over to the couch. In one fluid motion he had removed his hat, placed it over her head covering her eyes, and gently pushed her into sitting. When she peaked out from under the rim of the hat, he had moved to middle of her living room, produced and lit a candle out of no where.

    Gesturing to a small white slip of paper that she had on her lap, she looked down and read, “Lisa!! We knew that you would up working! This is an early wedding gift! Don’t tell David!! Enjoy the show!! Love, Diana, Sherry and Danielle.”

    ‘Rodney’ turned to her with his deep blue eyes, and began unbuttoning his shirt.

    • jmcody says:

      GTB, your descriptions are magical. I could hear those spurs a-jinglin’, smell the wood, dust and sweat, and those blue eyes bored a hole right through my laptop screen. (I’ll send you the bill.)

      This would be a hilarious prank, but somehow I was actually disappointed that he wasn’t really Rodney from the book. I have to get out more.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        I sort of wanted it to be Rodney too but I couldn’t do that to her husband-to-be.. if it was Rodney things would have gotten more heated I’m sure. ;) I’m a little too emotional this week and needed to keep things lighter. I wrote it with the knowledge that he was a stripping cowboy from the beginning so I figured I should keep it like that.

        • jmcody says:

          So sorry to hear you’re having a tough week, G. As I always tell my kids, tomorrow will be better.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            I guess I’m just an old romantic. I wanted him to sweep her away and take her to the heights of bliss. Tonight is everything, tomorrow may never come you know. Your descriptive prose is unbelievable.

          • gamingtheblues says:

            Thank you Jm, I appreciate the sentiment =) and Kerry, I couldn’t comment on yours directly as the thread tree only has so many branches but now that you and jm are mentioning it, I am sort of regretting not having him sweet her away.

    • don potter says:

      Very vivid, an enjoyable read.

      • gamingtheblues says:

        Thank you =)

        • sperye says:

          Excellent story…Your descriptions are fantastic. Can’t wait to read more of your writing.

          • gamingtheblues says:

            =) That makes me really pleased. Honestly, you can go back to re-read Any of the amazing writers we have on here in the past prompts. I know that most of us go back at least four prompts if not more. I myself do at least and will continue posting in the future! Thanks again for the compliment

    • jhowe says:

      I was glad it turned out to be a stripper. The whole time I was thinking of her fiance and saying, ‘don’t do it!’ The stripper did a nice job of acting.

    • MJ Munn says:

      I’m with jhowe. Poor David.

    • jmcody says:

      Now hold on just a minute there, pardners. If the character had indeed been Rodney from the book, magically come to life, nothing says Lisa was going to sleep with him, as several of you seemed to think. Let’s see… GTB, Kerry, JHowe, MJ Munn… hmmm… all men, I believe?

      Wouldn’t it be cool just to meet your creation face-to-face? Let’s get our minds out of the gutter, people!

      ;)

      • gamingtheblues says:

        =) That was hilarious jm and a very good observation. I think you have nailed all of us for that one lol. LOVE that you put pardners, you are awesome. Thoughhhhhh I did write this with a psuedo-sexual undercurrent so its not their fault for feeling it ;) My word choice was VERY deliberate in all the spots that you might scratch your head and go hmmmmm…… Which is why this sly little story was smirking and winking at me in the corner of my mind. ;) I didn’t want to write it but the temptation was just too great.

        And yes it “would” be cool just to meet your creation face to face in a way.

        • jmcody says:

          Okay, you are the author G, so you get the final say. In my world, it would have gone like this –

          Author acknowledges that hunky cowboy is a temptation but in the end its her nerdy librarian fiancé that she really loves. She goes to her wedding with no regrets, having passed the test.

          But that’s just me.

  54. Jiayo says:

    It was 8:03 on May 27th when a knock bounced off the tired old walls of the living room. The cat, Gibbles, gave the door a half-eyed glare as I pushed myself up from my oak rocker onto my wobbly legs. I clicked open the lock, opened the door, to the disgust of Gibbles, and found on my step a man in leather boots which reached about half way up his shins; a vest with a silver star pinned over the heart; a holster, which caressed an ancient looking six-shooter; and one hell of a big hat.

    “Howdy sir. I hate to bother ya,” he said “but I seem to have gotten myself lost. I can’t quite remember who I am.”

    “Well, I’ll be damned. Your the guy they play on the telly.”

    “Excuse me sir? Ain’t no body playing me.”

    “Haha! Just the type of cocky manner those young folks enjoy you for.”

    “Sir, I ain’t followin’ a word you’re sayin’”

    “Oh, of course not. See, this is all an accident. You weren’t supposed to end up here. Do you remember what happened just before you found yourself on my doorstep.”

    “I can’t say that I do. Just some flashing light. Like somebody were lightin’ a candle, then blowing it out, then lightin’ another one somewhere else, but fast.”

    “I see. That would be the wall-boards glitching.”

    “Giltcin? Sir, you best explain yourself or I’m liable to get a bit upset.”

    “Glitch, not giltch. Come in my friend. Your name is Jack Mann. Your standing on a starship. Kind of life a boat, but bigger and not in the water. Instead we are in space, the giant blackness which blankets the dessert which you are familiar with, and in which the stars find their home.”

    “Are you sayin’ I’m dead?”

    “No, no. You’re not dead at all,” I said, chuckling a little, “You were born and raised in what we call a holo-deck. You parents were entertainers. They would play roles, using the holo-deck as their set, for the entertainment of the crew, although I suppose they were never aware of the arrangement. Your mother had started a relationship with one of the holograms, they were very realistic you see, very well made. Your father walked in, and due to some malfunction, the gun fired real ammo, they were supposed to affect only the holograms. Your mother died, in the arms of an image, an apparition of light. But alas’ she was just an entertainer. Your father killed himself. It was a sad affair for everyone on the ship. We were forced to entertain ourselves elsewhere. Then you grew up and everything was well again.”

    A glimmer of recognition danced in the cowboy’s eyes, a fire which at first seemed far away and unimportant, like the stars dangling in the sky around us, but which quickly shot towards me, a comet preparing to demolish the surface of the earth. He took his trusty pistol out and shot right at my heart.

    I sighed. “We fixed the glitch.”

    The boy was taken away and I never saw him again. Now I read old scraps from the ancient word-stories which we called “books” back on earth, with Gibbles always glaring by my side.

  55. joyousgengler says:

    I wake up to a knock on my door. As I fumble out of bed and peer at my clock I see that it is nearing 4am. Who the hell could this be I wonder? I peer out the blinds of the door to my porch and there is a cowboy. A cowboy in every sense of the word from head to toe; hat, boots, spurs, guns, and I’m guessing an accent to match.

    I stood there dumbfounded a second and he knocked again. He looked confused. I was confused. Was I dreaming? A little fear was creeping in so I yelled through the door. “Can I help you?”

    The confused cowboy replied. “I think I’m lost Ma’am.”

    I rolled this through my head for minute and slowly pulled the door open. I must have been staring because the cowboy put his head down and tilted his hat in cowboy fashion and said, “I’m sorry Ma’am. I know that it is late and I do not mean to disturb you but I need some help.”

    “It’s okay. I will help you if I can, but if you don’t mind me asking though why are you carrying a gun?”

    “Well, I think that it is part of my job. I am real sorry Ma’am. I am just real hazy right now on well just about everything.”

    I escorted my late night house guest into the dining room. I offered some coffee and suggested that while I went to put that on perhaps he could check his pockets for a wallet or something since he didn’t even seem to know his name.

    I put the coffee on and dug through my cupboards quick and found some cookies. What the heck do you serve at 4am to a mysterious house guest? I brought out the cookies and coffee and sat down across from him.

    “Did you find anything in your pockets? A wallet, phone, business card, anything?” I asked.

    “Yes, Ma’am, that was a very good idea. I found a wallet. It seems that my name is James Riverton. I am part of the law I have a badge and am from Lake City, South Dakota.” He said shakily.

    Considering we were in Green Grove, Minnesota this cowboy was a long way from home and that is what I told him. Sitting drinking our coffee and talking we were trying to figure out how he arrived here I decided that we should give the Lake City Sheriff’s department a call.

    I googled the number and left the room so that James could have some privacy. When he came out into the living room I wasn’t ready for the story he was going to tell. It turns out that he had been kidnapped over six months ago when an undercover operation had gone wrong and had been presumed dead. He had pieced together some memories and remembered he had escaped and that is how he ended up on my door step.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I think that the story was flowing awesome, but I can not help but feel the last paragraph was rushed either to fit the word count or..? It pulled me out of the story a tad and I would really like to see those details fleshed out just a little. Other than that I loved the introduction and giving the cowboy cookies for some reason really tickled me. All in all nice story.

    • seliz says:

      I liked the MC’s surprise and thoughts on meeting the cowboy. They had me chuckling, because what does someone serve a cowboy visitor at 4 am? I agree that the last paragraph felt rushed. I would have liked to have read more about his escape. That sounded like a story in itself!

    • MJ Munn says:

      After reading these stories, I think we can all agree that nothing can possibly go wrong from inviting a gun-toting, amnesiac cowboy into our homes at any hour of the day.

      I hope I’m not flogging a dead horse (get it? cowboy? horse?) by contributing to the consensus that the story was rollicking gangbusters up to the last paragraph. I think that part of why it’s so jarring is the sheer wealth of detail you put in every paragraph preceding it.

    • agnesjack says:

      I agree with all of the above that the ending seemed rushed. Also, there were some tense shifts in the beginning, but I think you have a good story here, with nice details (loved the cookies).

  56. peetaweet says:

    Good stuff, what happens next?

  57. thejim says:

    The door shut behind him. In all his glory he stood in the entryway like a hologram of an old western movie. This was no hologram it was real, as if he had just returned from riding a prehistoric horse across the open expanse of wilderness. His eyes darted around the room trying to grasp a hold of what he saw. Like a newborn’s vacant stare he looked as if nothing made any sense, and it didn’t.
    Allen just stood there. Finally he lifted his hand and slowly reached out and touched his dust covered vest.
    “Are those real guns?”
    The cowboy looked down at his pistols and just nodded.
    “Where am I?” his rough voice pushed out
    Well my front room, this is my house. Allen said in a louder than normal tone, his arms lifted in an exaggerated motion. “I live here.”
    The dear in the headlights look never faded as he looked around the white artificial room.
    They looked at each other for a few moments
    “What’s your name?” the cowboy asked.
    “My Name is Allen Tarrlin.”
    “I lied when I said I no idea who I am or what I am doing here, I know exactly why I am here.” Then the cowboy reached for his gun and shot Allen square between the eyes. “Sorry Mister.”
    As the lifeless body fell to the floor the cowboy looked down at his large silver belt buckle and pressed the green stone in the middle. Immediately the room began to fade and a green fog rose up. Once again he was standing by the fire of his camp on the outskirts of the Nevada range.
    A tall man in a robe stood up and approached the cowboy.
    “Is it finished?”
    “The cowboy nodded.”
    “Ah! Ha! I knew you could do it.” He said with a triumphant laugh. “Now there is another one. This time it won’t be as easy as the first. You may come into a little resistance. I am sending you to the year 2437. You will appear in front of an office building the person you are to kill is called Tubok Catillrian. He is on the 12th floor. Here is a picture of him and like last time just press the emerald on your belt and you will return.”
    With a green flash of light the cowboy vanished into thin air.
    The man in the robe went over and sat on a bedroll next to the fire. He opened a large leather bound book. And thought to himself. If all goes as planned I will be able to have control of all 7 quadrants by eliminating my enemies before they are born. It’s just a matter of time and for me, time does not matter. A thin smile formed on his lips.

  58. lionetravail says:

    The knock on the door sounded uncertain. I glanced at the clock: 6:24 pm. A little late for visitors, I thought, but maybe it was just one of the neighbors with a question, or Jack was ready to return the 8-pound sledge he’d borrowed last week.

    I opened the front door and was struck speechless.

    “Howdy,” said the apparition. “I seem to be a mite lost, partner,” he said in a quavering voice.

    The man who stood on my doorstep stood just under six feet, but only because of the stooped shoulders and curved spine- he’d probably been taller in his youth. That might have been even before the “Honeymooners” had first premiered in the fifties. In fact, he looked a bit like Lee Van Cleef in “For a Few Dollars More”, except that he’d appeared to have foregone birthdays in favor of occasional radio-carbon dating by National Geographic anthropologists.

    He was dressed in the height of fashion for what I imagined might be the 1880′s, complete with bolero tie at the top, right down to spurs on the heels of his boots. I also caught a flash of silver at the hip, and the seemingly disconnected words “six shooter” popped into my thoughts.

    “And you are…?” I said.

    His brow furrowed as he thought. “Not sure, I’m afraid.”

    “I see,” I said. “And you’re from where?”

    He looked about to say something, but didn’t finish the thought. “Afraid I don’t rightly know that, neither,” he said.

    “Well, I’ll certainly agree you’re lost,” I said. “You have any ID?”

    “Eye Dee?” he repeated hesitantly.

    “A wallet? A med bracelet? Um, a license?” I asked.

    His eyes clouded with confusion, and he said nothing. He looked lost, and with each question he had no idea of the answer to, he seemed to deflate further. “Why don’t you come in and I’ll make some coffee.”

    He looked up, recognition in his eyes at ‘coffee’, and he smiled. It was such a heartfelt smile that it felt like the sun had just come out from hiding behind winter clouds. “Thank ya, partner,” he said.

    I stepped back and he came in, boots and spurs clinking on the foyer’s tiles as he walked with small, uncertain steps. I offered an arm for support, and he took it, bony fingers clutching with strength. Together, we went to the kitchen and I sat him down at the table and started coffee as he looked out the back window.

    “Damn fine day, doncha think?” he said.

    I agreed, and said so, pouring mugs for both of us, and bringing them to the table. I set his down, and he took a long smell of it. “Well, goldang it mister,” he said, his wizened face crinkled in a smile. “That shore smells fantastic-like!”

    “Why don’t you keep an eye out on those trees while I go check on something,” I said.

    He nodded, almost absently, as he picked up his coffee and sipped at it, returning his gaze to my backyard.

    I got up, quietly, and went to the phone. I dialed 9-1-1.

    “9-1-1, what is the nature of your emergency?”

    “I have an older gentleman here whom I think is lost,” I said. “He came to my door, doesn’t know who he is…”

    “Oh, we had a call that someone had left the senior citizen center in the middle of the night!” she exclaimed.

    “I think you better send someone over,” I said, and gave my address.

    “Oh yes, right away!” she said.

    I looked over at the gentleman savoring his coffee and the view. “No rush,” I said into the phone, and hung up.

    I went back to the table and sat with the ancient ‘cowboy’. We sat and watched the backyard in companionable silence.

    (Went a bit over, but couldn’t trim anymore- sorry guys!)

    • snuzcook says:

      That is a sweet story, lionetravail. I especially liked the exchange when the narrator suggest the old cowboy ‘keep an eye out on those trees,’ and then the ‘no rush’ to the 911 operator.

    • jmcody says:

      No wasted words here! This was a story of a touching act of kindness — very refreshing. I really enjoyed it, Lionetravail.

    • lionetravail says:

      Thanks guys- I loved the great earlier takes before I got this one in, and this idea just came practically assembled and made me go “awwww”, so I ran with it. It basically wrote itself.

    • Critique says:

      Great dialogue. A sweet story that pulled at my heart strings. Thank you.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Homey, understated, beautiful. Thank you for this, lionetravail. It is, as asserted by previous commenters, a tender story, very delicately expressed, and I am very jealous of the graceful mind that crafted it.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This is definitely one of the sweeter stories, like a glass of cool lemonade on a fall day, the breeze in in your hair and the smell of New England floating through the trees. Beautiful and not going down the path of sadness, just sweetness. I liked a lot.

  59. peetaweet says:

    My biggest problem waking up is the fact that Ally has left me with no creamer. I take it back, she left enough to dribble down the tip of the carton and plop into the coffee. The coffee I spill when the door nearly falls over.

    Thump thump thump. I jerk the door open, annoyed and groggy, looking up to find a middle-aged man the size of a linebacker wearing a cowboy hat, vest, chaps, and purple boots.

    “Can I help you?” I’m half expecting him to say trick or treat.

    “Ally here?”

    Oh boy.

    “Uh, no, she’s at the office.”

    His wobbling eyes drift over my shoulder. “I, ne…ne…need to see Ally.”

    “Yeah, she’s not here.”

    The leather chaps whine as he shifts. He makes no effort to leave so I continue.

    “Look, we can call her and then maybe you can see her at the office.” I emphasize office but Buffalo Bill here isn’t listening. People wearing purple boots never listen.

    I move out of the way and after a moment he waltzes inside. I roll my eyes as his spurs hit the hardwood floors. Another one of Ally’s strays. I have no problems with her making the world a better place, only I like it when she does it at the office between the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday.

    “Uh, if you want to take a seat, I’ll just—“

    That’s when I see the gun. I’m far from an expert, but it’s not plastic and there’s no orange tip. Black coffee is suddenly a very good problem to have.

    “I need to see Ally,” he repeats.

    “Uh, sure. So, um, what’s your name?”

    His eyes meet mine and I feel a shiver down my neck. Just two ponds of murky nothingness. I slap my hands together, signaling the end of our small talk. “All right. I’ll go get the phone,”

    I may as well have said “I’ll go warm up the space shuttle” because he’s out there. Standing in the living room, he studies the pictures. Our wedding photos, vacation pictures. He picks up the framed with Ally at the beach and his finger traces her bikini clad body down the photograph in a way that leaves little doubt of his desires.

    Ally answers. “It’s the creamer isn’t it? I feel awful.”

    “Ally, listen.” The cowboy hat turns upwards. He drops the picture on the floor with a crash.

    “You uh, have a friend here at the house.”

    The playfulness in her voice dissipates. “Okay?”

    “A uh cowboy.”

    The boots plod towards me.

    “Oh my God. Joe, is it—”

    “Tell her it’s Charlie,” he stutters, the pistol is in his hand.

    “Charlie, what are you doing?” I say as he raises the gun to me.

    “Joe?” Joe, Oh my God, I’m calling the police. Charlie’s not supposed to be—“

    Charlie takes the phone, his six shooter is still trained on me.

    “It’s Cha…Char…Charlie, your boyfriend.”

    I’m frozen as he smiles and nods. I breathe again, but my relief is temporary. The phone falls with a clunk.
    “You touched Ally.”

    “Hey now, look.”

    I’m slammed face down on the floor. I hear the gun cock and I gasp, unable to yell or blink. Click. More Ally mumbling. His weight pushes the air out of my lungs and his hands crush my neck. He’s too strong. My eyes find Ally’s in the picture, behind the cracked glass in the frame. I remember telling Ally that her work was going to kill her.

    But it’s killing me instead.

    • snuzcook says:

      Good one, peetaweet. Poor Joe! The tension and the reveals roll out nicely, and the last two lines are priceless.

    • bishop_veno says:

      Love it bro. The style of your writing as it jumps out at you from the first word of the sentence. It had me glued to the screen. I enjoy stories like that, I like writing that way as well. It felt so real, yet so eclectic (if that is a good word to use?!). Maybe in my own mind as I pictured the entire scene inside of my head perfectly without any errors or gaps. Great job.

    • lionetravail says:

      Great story, Peeta- nicely done, right down to the “I ne.. ne… need” stutter.

    • pinkbamboo says:

      i like this! did not see that coming .. i can feel the panic in joe. it takes a few minutes for the problem to escalate so quickly from a minor lack of creamer to a full panic for life. nicely done.

    • jmcody says:

      Wow, that is some good storytelling. I was breathless through the whole thing.

    • don potter says:

      This tale is well told. I like “I remember telling Ally that her work was going to kill her. But it’s killing me instead.” This wraps up the story, nicely.

    • Critique says:

      Gripping story – well written – the kind I can’t read late at night.

    • MJ Munn says:

      “Tales from the Tombstone Vocational Rehab!” ;-)

      Brrr! Chilling story, peetaweet! Excellent use of rapid-fire dialogue to maintain suspense. (Also, crushing Joe’s neck helped in that regard.) I hope Ally and Charlie can put this whole killing-Joe thing behind them and move on to the next phase of their relationship (i.e., mailing desiccated cat corpses to congressmen and -women). I would hate to see something as silly as cosplay homicide come between two of Destiny’s betrothed.

      Seriously, peetaweet: excellent story! Thanks for posting it!

    • agnesjack says:

      This started out funny and ended up tragic. You really carried me from one emotion to the next, peetaweet.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Joe better man up, that’s all I have to say. Wow, who saw that one coming guys? This was well written, and so fast paced that one second we are thinking of our own morning coffees to fighting on the floor for our lives. Well done.

  60. MJ Munn says:

    I sit in the lonesome house by the gate in the fog, waiting. It is a large house, a mansion by anyone’s standards, but it has been… a long time since I have left the foyer. I have lived in this room for so long that I could scarcely describe the next room, and have long forgotten what the face of the house looks like.

    I sit with a book in my lap, and I wait for the knock at the door.

    In my youth, as I recollect it, I was something of a loner. I devoted my energies toward my studies, knowing the Torah from childhood and the letter of the Law from aleph to taw. I never craved the company, the attention, or the… affection… of others. My own accomplishments were enough, or nearly. In truth I coveted the approval of others, to be held highly in their esteem, but to be left to my own devices.

    Those days are long past, and become increasingly difficult to remember. Now I often find myself yearning for the companionship I once scorned, someone to spend a minute or a day or longer in my front room with me. So I sit, and I wait for the knock at my door.

    And they come. Frequently, they stop, and they ask directions. But no one ever stays.
    It is night, now, or something like it. Once I was a weary traveler, knocking on this very door. But I remember another night, years before, when I knocked on another door, seeking directions that led me here to this house.

    There is a man at the door.

    In my enthusiasm, I drop my book, scattering pages across the floor. “Excitable fool!” I curse myself. The knock comes a second time. “Wait!” I scramble to recover the strewn leaves. Please don’t leave! “I’m coming!” I scoop as many pages as I can at once and dash for the door.

    He’s a young man, nineteen or twenty. He stands towering in the doorway, a ragged hat on his head and filthy, ill-fitting boots on his feet, a Colt revolver on each hip. I recognize the weapon: more and more of my visitors have them these days. Tendrils of fog slip past him into the foyer.

    “Won’t you please come in! Come in!” I tug lightly at his coarse wool sleeve, and he enters at my prompting.

    He appears disoriented. I shamelessly attempt to take advantage of his confusion. “Please, sit! Would you like a drink? Something to eat, perhaps?”

    “No,” he drawls slowly. “I… I’m looking for a friend.”

    So am I, I think. Already I know that this won’t be the one. He’s looking for someone; he’ll never stay here willingly. With a sigh, I turn to my duties, remembering the pages in my hands. My voice cracks. “What’s your name?”

    The youth is disturbed by the question. “I… don’t know…”

    This doesn’t surprise me. It happens. That’s why I have the book.

    “Hmm,” I say, realizing the problem. I’ve made a mess of things. I flip rapidly through the random leaves, looking for the answer.

    “Leonard Slye? Born in 1911, you starred in over one hundred movies as ‘Roy Rogers, the King of the Cowboys.’ Born again at a Baptist church in Hollywood in 1948. Died 1998, age… 86…”

    I look at the smooth face and acknowledge my error. “Not Leonard Slye. Here we go: Thomas Mix, born 1880. One of the first Western movie stars, appearing in nearly 300 film in the silent era. Made a profession of faith as a child in Dubois, Pennsylvania…”

    “Movies?” he says slowly. I furrow my brow, flipping through the papers and glancing back at those remaining on the floor.

    I brighten: “I can help you remember who you are, but it may take some time. Come, have a seat. We’ll find your friend, no matter how long it takes.”

    Reluctantly, he ambles behind me toward the chairs. Excited, I continue. “We’ll go through each page if we have to, pushing your memory and searching for missed clues.”

    I hear the heavy footfall stop. “Missed clues…”

    I turn slowly, seeing exactly what I fear: the dawn of realization on his dirty face.

    It comes as a croaking whisper: “McCluskie.”

    My arms fall to my side. I drop every page but one. I know what it will say, but I read it aloud. “James Riley, born 1853, raised and taught to shoot by lawman Mike McCluskie. Baptized at a Protestant revival meeting in Newton, Kansas. When McCluskie was shot down by four armed men in 1871, you avenged him by shooting all four, then disappeared into the Kansas plains and died of tuberculosis, at age eighteen.”

    “Yes! Wait! I died?” He clears his throat, but the bloody bronchospasms he expects do not come. He returns his attention to me. “Do you know where Mike is?”

    “Yes,” I admit. I return to the doorway. This time, he follows eagerly. The thick clouds part, revealing the hitherto-concealed pearly gate.

    He doesn’t wait any longer. He loosens his holsters and lets them fall through the clouds. Unexpectedly, however, he turns back amid his long strides and calls, “Thank you, mister! By the way, what’s your name?”

    “Nicodemus,” I answer softly. But I hardly see him any longer. He walks boldly into the cloud and I gaze longingly upon that shining gate until it is again swallowed up in the fog.

    As I turn back to my room I recall my cowardice that night, years ago. Visiting only in secret, keeping the answers to myself. It was my fear that prevented me from entering the gate.

    And so I sit in the Lonesome House by the Gate, and I wait for the knock at the door.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      The beginning of the story hit me right home. But as the story progressed it grew more and more mystic. I could feel the celestial aura throughout the read. That was a very gripping story.

      • jmcody says:

        MJ, I have come to expect hilarity from you, and this is not at all funny, but… It blew me away. From the opening sentence I was drawn into the mystery, and felt the loneliness, isolation and regret of your character. Your writing was so evocative that I was actually picturing the scene in more detail than you even gave (I was picturing lots of cold, damp stone.). I can’t even believe you managed to tie old cowboy legends in with the story of Nicodemus. Interesting that Nicodemus made it to heaven, to the gatehouse, but not into heaven. Food for thought, and magnificent writing, MJ.

        • MJ Munn says:

          It surprised me, too. I certainly don’t expect anything serious to come from me. I think what I was trying to say was that he had a saving faith, but was too fearful to share that faith, and was therefore excluded from those who made their faith public? Nothing I’m dogmatic about, but – like you said – food for thought. Thank you for the considered response!

      • MJ Munn says:

        Thank you Ahsuniv! If I can grip the reader, I hold on jealously for as long as I can! :-)

    • snuzcook says:

      This is fascinating, MJ. I love the premise, and the Twilight-Zone tone drew me in. Nicely done.

    • jhowe says:

      This is a damn good story.

    • bishop_veno says:

      Hands down, my favorite so far. I loved every second of it, the whole idea. Being a man of faith, who is into stories of the afterlife and such, this was definitely a creative and engaging read, I agree with Ahsuniv. I want more, Munn!

      • Amyithist says:

        Wow. I almost feel ashamed for my meager take on the prompt. It’s like holding a finger painting up to a Rembrandt. This is really beautiful and haunting. I loved it. Thank you for writing it.

        • MJ Munn says:

          Nonsense, Amyithist. We can’t all be so blessed to be as insufferable a gas-bag as I. :-)

          I truly appreciate the comparison, but “Rembrandt” is something to aspire to, never to live up to. Thank you very much!

      • MJ Munn says:

        Thank you, bishop. I’d say this type of story isn’t usually my “thing,” but I’m constantly discovering what “my thing” is. It’s astonishing to me to consider how differently each of us interpret the prompts each week. I would never have thought of this story independently of it.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Wow! I am floored by these kind replies! Thank you all so much. I felt I had to do something to make up for missing last week. I look forward to reading all of your stories this weekend!

    • Critique says:

      A wonderful story. I could feel the loneliness and bone chilling cold, the hopelessness, and picture the inhospitable stone mansion – and to incorporate a cowboy into the mix was genius!

    • don potter says:

      This was a thoughtful and well written piece. Think I’ll go back and read it again.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Being non-religious I had to google who Nicodemus was. It puts a brand new….a BRAND new spin on the context of the story and I had to re-read it. I wonder just who he expects to knock on the door…..

      Hauntingly beautiful.

  61. Amyithist says:

    It’s a little long… I’m sorry.

    When I pulled the door open, I thought that I was hallucinating. The man standing before me was dressed like a cowboy; and he wasn’t some phony-baloney cowboy either. He was the real deal.

    He squinted at me, shielding his eyes from the glare of the high noon sun. A toothpick dangled between his plump, road dusted lips. His ten gallon hat had been tipped up and a line of sweat-laden hair matted against his dirty forehead. I have to admit, he made my stomach flutter with butterflies as big as tumbleweeds.

    “May I help you,” I asked.

    He looked at me, seemingly confused. “I don’t know,” he stammered. “Where am I?”

    My brow furrowed at the question. “The Hammond Ranch, Orting, Washington,” I replied matter-of-factly.

    He nodded slightly, eyeing my attire. “Pardon me for asking ma’am, but…what in tarnation do you have on?”

    I looked down at my dingy house jeans; smattered in paint and two sizes too big. And my oversized tee-shirt that hung nearly down to my knees… I must have looked like a complete mess. I felt my face flush. “Oh, I’m just doing some housework today. I’m sorry…I was hardly expecting company.”

    He nodded slightly and hitched his thumbs into the belt loops of his chaps. The more I looked at this guy, the more genuine he looked. “Um, would you like to come inside,” I asked, stepping aside.

    He reluctantly came inside, slipping the hat off of his head. His eyes widened as he sauntered into the house and I felt myself beginning to question my choice to let him in. “What…what is that,” he asked, pointing at the TV.

    I glanced over, noticing that the TV was turned to a talk show. Of course, some teen girl was screaming about how the man in the greenroom was indeed her “baby’s daddy.” I rolled my eyes at it and smiled.
    “Isn’t it sad what this world is coming to,” I replied. I walked over and flipped the TV off. The room grew quiet. “What’s your name, cowboy?”

    He slowly approached the TV, gaping at it as if it were some alien mechanism. “How’d you do that,” he asked, waving at the screen. “Where’d them people go to?” He ran around to the side, as if he expected someone to be standing behind it.

    I was even more confused now. His fascination with the television seemed genuine. I frowned at him. “I’m sorry…where are you from,” I asked, sitting on the arm of my couch.

    He looked back at me, his gaze etched with confusion. He didn’t answer me. Instead, he looked back at the TV, lowering his hat to his lap. He finally whispered, “Where am I?”

    Something was wrong. I felt my stomach clench as he turned around. A stream of blood caked his back. “Oh my God,” I exclaimed, jumping from the couch. “You’re bleeding!”

    The cowboy didn’t respond as he traipsed around the living room, running his fingers over the curio cabinet and fingering the lace curtains wafting in the afternoon breeze. His boots thudded over the hardwood floor with surprising hollowness. “Sir?”

    He turned and looked at me, his expression suddenly sullen and incredibly empty. “I just want to get back home,” he said sadly.

    I nodded and turned, walking toward the phone in the kitchen. “Do you have anyone I could call that could come and pick you up,” I called.

    He didn’t answer. Chills ran over me as I waited for a reply. When one didn’t come, I hurried back out the living room. The cowboy was gone! I frantically searched the house, ran out to the front yard and looked out toward the back field, but he was nowhere to be seen.

    Frightened, I hurried back into the house and into the kitchen. As I reached toward the phone, I noticed my hands were trembling. I lifted the receiver and dialed my closest neighbor, old man Gunderson. I explained what had just happened. To my dismay, he wasn’t surprised at all. “Sounds like you met the Lost Cowboy,” he droned.

    “Who,” I asked, breathless.

    “The Lost Cowboy,” Gunderson replied shortly. “Legend says he was killed by a band of rough riders in the Wild Wild West and been trying to find his way back home ever since. He always comes to your house for some reason. Why did you think you got the place so cheap?”

    • Amyithist says:

      Sigh. Reading over this, I realize that I could have done some editing. I’m sorry. I wrote this a little tired. :(

      • swatchcat says:

        No excuses, we’ll just have to take your birthday away. All’s well at the O-K corral. It was still a good story.

        • swatchcat says:

          Quick question, what’s up with picking Orting, WA as your setting?

          • Amyithist says:

            I live in Washington. One of my favorite places is Orting. It has the small town feel I love. I love driving through their on my way to Mount Rainier. It’s a rustic yet modern town. There is a certain pull that it has. Have you ever been?

          • swatchcat says:

            Hmm. Born at Madigan, went around the world dang near, and came back to WA to finish growing up. Graduated from CowPie High (Bethel) in Spanaway, lived a while in Lakewood, Puyallup, and now Hilltop in Tacoma. Climbed Rainier when I was 6 and Hood when 5. Love the NW.

    • snuzcook says:

      Wish I’d thought of this idea! Clever take on the prompt.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      That was a good one. Brought in a strong feeling of pity for the cowboy’s ghost.

    • jmcody says:

      You do physicality very well — the actions and mannerisms of the characters as well as the various textures and details make the story real. I liked it.

    • don potter says:

      Those pesty ghosts just don’t seem to go away. But they make for a good tale. By the way, when I write to a prompt I try to give myself enough time to put it away for the night and see if there’s any work to be done before posting the piece the next day.

      • Amyithist says:

        Don, that is a terrific idea. I’m still learning the ins and outs of writing; mostly the technicalites. Writing for me is a passion. Sometimes I write with my heart and my emotions and the editing gets overlooked. One of the reasons I love this site is that I can get some wonderful insights and ideas on how to better myself. Thanks for the tip!

    • Reaper says:

      I liked this. I have to agree with the assessment that you do the physical well. Was this at all inspired by the phantom hitchhiker urban legends? If it was I have to say this is an amazing take because I felt a lot of tragedy from your cowboy that leads me to sympathy I never had for the hitchhiker. If not it is probably just the trying to go home that triggered the association in my mind. Either way this is a great take on the prompt.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Nice job, Amyithist. Very natural flow. You certainly have an ear and a feel. If I may make a suggestion, perhaps some foreshadowing? Maybe even just a brief description of the setting at the beginning with an offhand mention of the song she bought the ranch for? That would allow the reader to experience the same “aha!” moment that the MC does at the end.

    • Critique says:

      I truly enjoyed your story – the ending was awesome. The Lost Cowboy could be wonderful fodder for a series.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      You had me going from the very beginning. I had to go back to re-read. I am fascinated by the cowboy…and found his demeanor change to be incredibly creepy. Sullen is not a word for benevolence and peace. I would be moving personally! Very nice job with scene here.

  62. Ahsuniv says:

    A rap on the door awoke Marley. The sight of the horse hoof print on his couch met his eye.

    ‘I must have dozed off’, he thought. He got up and went to the door. He opened it to see a cowboy standing in the doorway with a lost expression on his face. He looked vaguely familiar to Marley.

    ‘Howdy…’ he said to the cowboy, ‘Who are you looking for?’

    The cowboy in the doorway seemed to be talking, but no sound came out of his mouth.

    ‘Strange’, thought Marley and tried one more time.

    ‘Who are you? What do you want?’

    The cowboy mouthed wordlessly with a blank expression. Shaking his head, Marley shut the door in the cowboy’s face.

    He dragged his feet to the bedroom and opened the door. The cowboy stood in the doorway, looking scared.

    ‘Holy molly…’ Marley said and banged the door close, ‘how did he get in there?’

    He turned around and looked out of the window absently, thinking about what to do next and he doubled back as he saw the cowboy’s face looming in the window.

    Cursing, he grabbed his six shooter and shot at the window, but it wouldn’t fire. There seemed to be no bullets in it. Marley saw the cowboy in the window pointing a six shooter back at him and a cold sweat broke on his forehead.

    He ran to the back door, his heart hammering. He opened it and found the cowboy standing there once again. Marley slammed the door in his face, scurried to his horse hoof printed couch and collapsed on it.

    ***
    ‘Mom, the man looks like a maniac in that outfit. Did they really dress like that in 1880?’ asked the boy as his little sister rapped on the windows of the wooden house playfully.

    ‘You bet, they did, child,’ answered the stern looking tour guide, standing at the door of the house, ‘this house is an original piece brought in from 1880, along with the cowboy. Due to difficulties in transportation we were only able to bring the living room of the house.’

    ‘But, why does the man look so scared?’ asked the boy’s sister.

    ‘Well, let’s just say that he is scared of his own reflection…’ he answered mysteriously, his latex pants gleaming in the sunlight, ‘let us move on to the next exhibit then. This one is an original from 2025. The clothing trend of the time was initiated by the then pop phenomenon, Lady Gaga.’

    • Ahsuniv says:

      Okay, I myself feel like I’ve gone bonkers with this story. The story just appeared on ms word out of the blue. So excuse me for the weirdness :Ahem:

    • snuzcook says:

      Interesting take on the prompt, Ahsuniv, and very entertaining. I really feel sorry for the poor cowboy on exhibit. But what happened to his horse after he left his print on the couch?

      • Ahsuniv says:

        Thanks swatchcat and snuzcook. And, the future people didn’t find the cowboy’s horse nearly as interesting as the cowboy himself, so they left it behind ;)

    • jmcody says:

      There’s something very charming about this story. A cowboy afraid of his own reflection is a unique idea.

    • Reaper says:

      I had to reread this to realize the cowboy was a real person, I thought it was a wax dummy at first. Then the story became very scary to me, and the guide so sinister with the let’s just say… because suddenly it felt like the cowboy knew on some level what was going on. If this is you bonkers I say carry on with that! I loved this one. Is it bad that I feel sad for the cowboy but not the kid from 2025?

    • MJ Munn says:

      Submitted for your approval, one Marley, a 19th-century ranch hand who, moments ago, fell into a deep sleep in his living room, only to awaken – in the Twilight Zone.

      Awesome story, Ahsuniv. How do I get the same version of MS Word that you have?

    • Critique says:

      A unique take on the prompt. I felt for poor Marley – caught up in a ceaseless nightmare/time warp.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was creepy and sad at the same time. I have to say that I was more sympathetic to the cowboy stuck in this endless exhibit than the boy or anyone else. It almost felt as if he were pleading to have someone release HIM from this nightmare.

  63. snuzcook says:

    STILL GOT MY HAT

    “It’s like this, Ma’am. As near as I can figure it, me and Smokey got caught up in that twister and it sucked us right up into the air.”

    The young man’s eyes were glassy, and his odd manner of speech seemed to balance on the edge of raving. Clearly he had been through something very odd and very frightening.

    “A twister?”

    “Yes’m. You know, a dustdevil but a whole lot bigger.”

    “Oh, you mean a tornado?”

    He sighed. “Yes’m, a tornado.”

    The young man was visibly relieved to be understood. I couldn’t blame him. He was a stranger. Dressed like someone out of a Tom Mix movie from his pointed boots to his six gun and holster to his ten-gallon hat, he couldn’t be more alien to this little island community if he had been from Mars.

    The villagers had found him on the beach and brought him to my door, the white lady doctor, the resident alien. It was as much their way of evicting him from their midst as it was attempting to help him. Even in the 1920s, strangers were to be feared as possible agents of evil magic. If I had not been here, they would have found a much more permanent way to eliminate him. Theirs was a very practical culture.

    “Tell me more. You and Smokey were caught up in a storm?”

    “Yes, Ma’am. Me and Smokey were on our way to a wild west show just outside of Tulsa. Then out of nowhere came the biggest goll-darned storm I ever seen. It was a half-mile wide and moving so fast we couldn’t outrun it. Next thing I knew the ground just dropped out from under us and everything went black.”

    “That’s an amazing story. I’ve read about waterspouts picking up fish in the ocean and raining them down in the desert. I suppose this must be the same thing. You’re lucky to be alive!”

    “Yes, Ma’am. Lost my saddle. Lost my horse. But I still got my hat.”

    “That’s nothing short of miraculous.”

    “Yes, Ma’am. But I have to know, has anyone seen Smokey hereabouts? I really got to find him.”

    “I’m sorry, no other strangers have been spotted anywhere in the islands. The villagers would have heard.”

    “Oh, you don’t get my meaning, Ma’am. See, Smokey ain’t a person. No, Ma’am, he’s a quarterhorse. Best roping and cutting horse you ever want to see.” The young man shook his head. “I sure do hate to think he’s gone. It’d be like losing my best friend.”

    One of the village women silently entered the room at that moment, carrying a tray of sizzling spiced meat. Its aroma was distinctive on an island where fish and fowl were the predominant sources of protein. I shook my head and she silently backed out. The young man had not noticed.

    “I am sorry,” I told him sincerely, “it is unlikely you will ever know what happened to Smokey. Perhaps we should just be thankful you were spared.”

  64. THE COWBOY CONUNDRUM

    I was interrupted from breakfast by a sharp rap. My ears automatically perked- I was waiting for my new book from Amazon. I decided after a moment’s consideration that To Kill a Mockingbird trumped the cereal.

    I unlatched the chain to face my childhood dreams incarnate on my front stoop, looking at me with an uneasy gaze. After a few moments, my vocal cords were returned to me.

    “Excuse me, sir, but why are you here?”

    He looked around him, his pupils suddenly widening. Rubbing his head with his meaty palms and dusting off his almost ancient tan hat, he managed a small chuckle.

    “I don’t actually know.” He had the accent, even- quite an elaborate getup, I’ll give him that.

    I checked his hands, but they were both in plain sight.

    “Well, what’s your name, then?”

    “I can’t rightfully say.”

    I hesitated. “Well, you don’t look like Amazon delivery, but you can step inside for the moment.”

    “Amazon? Last I heard that was some godforsaken jungle down in South America- piranhas and the like could skin a cow down to the bones. I don’t why in the sam hill you’d want to go down there . . .”

    He trailed when his boots touched the hardwood. You would have thought he saw God Himself standing before him, in the form of some couches and a TV.

    “What’s wrong?”

    He shook it off, looking at me strangely.

    “Oh, nothing. So, where’s the campfire?”

    I flicked on the living room lights, and his mouth hung slightly askew at the sorcery. I led him into the kitchen and pointed to the oven.

    “That’s the closest thing to a campfire in here.”

    “Wait- that?”

    “Yes, that,” I affirmed with suspicion. Was this guy brainwashed, or from the insane asylum, or what? Some large conspiracy I had no part in seemed to be at work.

    “Well, never mind,” he unceremoniously said. “I was gonna see if you had any flapjacks, but I doubt that. I haven’t eaten since Abilene, practically.”

    “Well, do you need anything? Food, water, just a place to sleep?”

    “No, sir, I just need this machine fixed for me.”

    “What machine?” This guy was wearing a straightjacket a month ago for sure.

    “Just the one out in the yard, the side yard.”

    He turned to lead me, and I saw the six-shooter in his belt. It was a Colt from 1873, but it was gleaming like it was brand new. I had to wonder how they let him get a gun license.

    We reached the door, squinting in the late sun’s rays, and his boots strode across the porch. There was nothing on the grass. His arms sagged from his pockets.

    “I’m tellin’ you, I’m tellin’ you, it was there! Right there, and it, it . . .”

    “All right, I’m sure it was there, big guy.” Imagines of cuckoo clocks were in my vision.

    Suddenly a nugget of wisdom surfaced in my mind’s pan. “Can you come back inside?”

    “Sure.” I led him to a seat on the couch, which he sank into uncomfortably, and I opened my laptop computer. He gazed at it like it was one of Satan’s offspring.

    I opened an empty Word document and peered at him.

    “What was that about Abilene again?”

    So, if you ever happen to pick up my bestseller and think it’s good, just thank the unnamed man who left my house that night. I’m sure he would love an interview, but I’ve never seen him again. Based on photos from the era, he died alongside Custer screaming more profanities than Captain Ahab can shake a harpoon at. Probably let the arrow kill him just because he was tired of being beaten at cards.

    Sigh. Fate always takes the best of them.

    (Needless to say, this story came from a strange sector of my brain. Go hobbits, of course.)

    • swatchcat says:

      Is that the best part of the brain to get stories from? Time travel is always a good play.

    • snuzcook says:

      Fun premise, Bilbo–time traveling cowboy. Leaves a lot of questions to be answered. The narrator is actually more interesting than his guest. He accepted the cowboy’s presence as if maybe all his new book characters show up at his door and he invites them in. Cute story.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      Haha the narration was fun. Really enjoyed it. Especially liked the protagonist, just the sort of oddly wired mind of a writer, sort of like me ;)

    • jmcody says:

      I was thinking the same thing as Snuzcook, that this was actually more of a story about the narrator. And as a mother, everything in me was screaming “don’t invite time-travelling cowboys into the house, Bilbo!”

      Go hobbits.

    • Reaper says:

      Your story was entertaining and well written. I wanted to compliment the ending. Endings are hard, especially with the word count. You did an amazing job of wrapping this up in a bow. Your last line was just perfect. So I say keep that strange sector of your brain open for business. I am finally sold that hobbits are better than munchkins.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Fun story, Bilbo. Well written. I like that the writer is so open for story ideas as to freely invite an armed, time-traveling cowboy to stay the night. My favorite line: “This guy was wearing a straightjacket a month ago for sure.”

    • Critique says:

      Enjoyed your story from the strange sector :) My favorite phrase: images of cuckoo clocks. Keep up the imaginative work :)

    • Thanks, guys, for all the comments! :-)

    • agnesjack says:

      Actually, what I saw here in this story was the MCs imagination. Perhaps this wasn’t intentional, but “waiting for a book,” like “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which was such a gigantic best-seller, seemed metaphorical — and the cowboy “rides in” with the answer. I don’t know. That’s what I got from the story.

  65. Reaper says:

    Candy from Strangers

    Was that a horse in front of our house? Bill thought as he responded to the knock at the door. Opening it to reveal a cowboy caused the equine in question make more sense. Bill had never seen spurs before and the jingling shocked him. The pistol looked real but had to be a prop, just like the sheriff’s badge and white hat. Bill was just as sure the drawl was affected.

    “Evenin’ pilgrim. I was wonderin’ if you could assist me?”

    “I get it. You’re supposed to be the Duke!”

    Impersonators were fine, but why one from his grandfather’s generation? Bill’s neighborhood was filled with young families.

    The gentleman frowning his confusion must surely be lost.

    “Duke? Pilgrim, I ain’t nobility. I was wonderin’ if you could help me recollect some things. Like who I am and where I’m goin’.”

    “Aren’t you supposed to be John…” Bill started.

    “John!” The cowboy interrupted. “That sounds right.”

    The actor was making Bill nervous. As his anxiousness grew Bill started to read anger in the stranger’s face. His mind chanted it was just his imagination, but Bill glanced behind him to make sure the phone was in easy reach. When he looked back Bill wondered why the cowboy had removed the badge and how he had done so that quickly.

    “Look mister, I don’t know who you are but you’re creeping me out. Where are you trying to go?”

    “I don’t rightly recollect. You sure you can’t help me?”

    “What is the last thing you remember?”

    “Me and my Tet were at Milly’s Saloon talking about the path to the tower. Then I was walking up here.”

    “You’re mixing your universes up. Even I know that.”

    “Say again, pilgrim.”

    “Look, pilgrim and places called Milly’s Saloon are John Wayne. The Tet stuff, and the tower that’s from King. You gotta stick to one continuity. Hold on!”

    John’s brow furrowed in confusion and, Bill thought again, anger. Bill crossed to the phone and dialed his neighbor. An idea had raced into his mind. While he was waiting for someone to answer Bill glanced back at the cowboy, wondering how he had missed that the man was wearing two guns. They still looked pretty realistic.

    “Mrs. Baker? This is Bill across the street… Yes, did you order a cowboy for Rodney’s party?… Well I know because I think the guy got drunk on his way over… Well because he’s at my house wondering where he is going.”

    “Baker? That’s where I’m going!” The cowboy said behind him. Bill barely heard through his neighbor’s responses.

    “What do you mean your cowboy showed up an hour ago?”

    Slamming down the phone Bill turned to the empty door. When he reached it he saw “John” crossing towards the Baker house. Why had the cowboy swapped hats? Where was the white one the black had replaced? The cowboy drew his pistols, presumably to confront the man already in attendance.

    Those guns just kept looking more and more lethal.

    • Amyithist says:

      Well written! Such a clever take on the prompt. Left me hanging, though, Pilgrim! :)

    • lionetravail says:

      I loved the Dark Tower references brought in- lots of questions though left to imagine!

    • snuzcook says:

      I guess the moral here is ‘never mess with an impersonator’s gig,’ or ‘be careful who you hire your actor from, ’cause you may get more than you paid for.’ Not knowing exactly what was going on did not detract from experiencing the story from the narrators POV, and it was very entertaining.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      Had to read a second time to understand…it was really interesting with a lot of cliff hangers. Want to read what happens further.

    • seliz says:

      I loved the cowboy’s voice. I could just hear him saying, ‘pilgrim’. I’d be interested to read what happens next.

    • Are You Dreaming? says:

      Well done! I second that cowboy’s voice, and waiting for Part II. The “Candy From Strangers” started me off on the wrong foot from the previous story. I read each word ready to skim, but I remained on your great writing track. Keep the words a flowin’ Pilgrim!

    • don potter says:

      “Now listen and listen good.” This is good stuff.

    • Reaper says:

      Thank you all for your kind words. I actually was not happy with this story myself. It started out as an attempt at a lighter story from my norm and then just verged. I posted it even though I felt like I dropped the ball. I have been considering a different take on the prompt, and I still might but I reading through the comments has led me to an idea for a part two. I will write it up and post it in the next day or so since there have been a few requests for it.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Have I descended into Madness? Will the walls fall away? My fingers are numb. Voices from a million miles. What is going on?

      Seriously: I like it, but I don’t understand it.

    • Critique says:

      I’m a bit confused about who John really is and feel there could be a sequel ? to straighten me out. Those guns were becoming more sinister and I fear for the Baker household.

    • Reaper says:

      Welcome Home Blues

      Bill sat in an uncomfortable chair in the interrogation room of the police precinct. He might have been more comfortable had he not been confined in a straightjacket. Standing across from him, fingertips resting on the scarred wood of the table, was one of the city’s finest. A detective named Ford.

      The detective looked familiar to Bill. At first Bill thought the man looked like Clint Eastwood. That was not right though. Bill knew the look from somewhere but the original assessment came from the detective’s voice. The cop’s tone was cold and merciless. It said that Bill was guilty of something and it was a matter of time before they found out what together. As the interrogation entered hour two the officer began to pace. He was wearing a gun that looked oddly like a toy compared to the pair Bill had seen earlier.

      “Explain it to me again.”

      “I don’t see what good that will do. We have been over it a hundred times.”

      “Let’s make it a hundred and one. Start from where you were running across the street, chasing down John Wayne’s evil twin.”

      “I got to the Baker’s,” Bill sighed as he recounted it once more. “I looked over the fence and the guy in the black hat was aiming at the kids. The actor that was already there stood between the bullets and the children.”

      “That’s when you jumped the fence and assaulted the cowboy.”

      “I tackled him. You don’t assault guys that are about to shoot kids.”

      “But he wasn’t.” A fist slammed onto the table, denying the deathly calm of the voice.

      “Yes he was.” Bill seethed.

      “You know by now that the white hat was an actor, the black hat was the kid’s uncle. It was all an act for the children.”

      “No…” Bill whispered. “It was real. I saw it.”

      “You didn’t see what you thought though, did you?”

      “What else could it have been?”

      Bill’s voice pled almost as deeply as his eyes did. Begged to be verified, insisted he was not insane. The detective circled behind the captive man.

      Detective Ford’s voice was still cold but it no longer lacked mercy as he stood just out of sight, addressing Bill’s back. Every word sent a chill along Bill’s spine, each syllable a tombstone splashing into the shallow pond of a man’s terror.

      “The way I see it there are three truths at play here, Mr. Mitchell. One, every man is the hero of his own story. In our minds we all wear the white hat. Two, a man sees what he wants to see. As more facts enter the mind our perceptions change. Three, and most important, some folks are just insane. What you saw was a trick of your brain. Wouldn’t you agree… Pilgrim?”

      The straightjacket bit into the side of Bill’s neck as he craned to look at the detective. He had known the man looked familiar. Suddenly the gun no longer looked like a toy.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was surreal, Reaper. Almost as if the story existed on two planes. One: reality. Two: The Twilight Zone. Very clever.

  66. Foxwriter says:

    THE UNEXPECTED GUEST

    I dared one anxious glance at the clock. There was still so much around my small apartment I needed to straighten up. Sure enough, my mom and brother would be coming to visit me for the first time in years. My brother has lived with my mother for his entire life. He has remained on the eccentric side with no real chance of recovery. Every time I called my mother and dared ask a question about my brother, I immediately regretted it.

    “He’s getting worse,” she would say anxiously. She acted like somehow her very words were tearing an even larger rift in our relationship. “Max is just in pieces. Every time I try to put him back together again, he shatters more. He’s delicate, hun.”

    A knocking at the door pulled me from my nostalgia. I cracked the door open ever-so-slightly, and I could not believe my eyes, “Howdy, partner,” the man said to me.

    “Um, can I help you with something?”

    “Yeah, er… uh,” he was slurring, and I could smell the whisky on his breath. He started to look into my eyes, and his voice began to tremble. “Hey… Little bro.”

    No one else I knew called me by that name. Except for one person, “Max?”

    The pieces began to fall into place as I saw my mom stammering on my front steps trying to lug an over-sized suitcase. She immediately stopped and dropped the suitcase when I opened the door and looked at her. She ran into a full on sprint, embracing me, “Kevin! My goodness, look at you!” she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

    “Hey, mom,” I just gave her a gentle pat on the back. I knew it seemed cold, but I wasn’t sure how else to greet her after all these years.

    She hurried into the house, and immediately began to compliment my choice of decoration. She left Max abandoned to carry her bag. He looked so pitiful there on the stairs in the full garments of a cowboy suit–like he had made it to the wrong set for a movie. As he stepped back into himself, his thin body struggled to haul the suitcase up the stairs. beads of sweat streamed through his coarse black hair.

    “Here, let me help you with that,” I said, offering a hand.

    “Don’t even think about it, partner,” he said pulling out a plastic gun. I just stood in shock, unsure where this aggression was coming from. This aggression wasn’t like him at all.

    “Max, put the gun down,” I said with a sigh.

    “What kinda sissy name did you just call me, boy?” he said to me.

    Something about his entire demeanor was shockingly familiar. Who was this man? It wasn’t my brother. As my mother came back out the front door, I began to feel faint, “Uncle Fred?”

    That’s exactly who he was acting like. After my mother and father separated, I moved in with my father. Max chose to stay with my mom, but she worked long hours at a local diner, so Max was watched by Uncle Fred during school days. Max never admitted that anything happened to him, but Uncle Fred was soon a convicted sex offender. Max didn’t need to explain anything; he was never the same after his visits with my uncle.

    “It’s a part of his treatment, hun,” my mom seemed to be reading my mind. “He has this self-defeating part of himself he’s fighting. It comes out when he’s nervous or sad. The trip was a little more than he was ready to handle on his own.”

    I challenged this man taking over my brother’s body, “What did you do to my brother, you monster?”

    “Wouldn’t you like to know, sissy boy?”

    “Kevin, stop it,” my mom warned.

    “It’s alright,” I said. I knew Max was suffering the chronic effects of Dissociative Identity Disorder. But I was tired of playing along with the game. “That’s funny, Uncle Fred…”

    “What?” he said, challenging me.

    A grin crept across my face, “I didn’t think you cared much for rock music.”

    “What you talking about, boy?” He pointed the fake gun at my head. “You know I should jus’…”

    He turned pale like he was going to be sick. He followed my eyes which were looking at the shirt he was wearing. ‘The Beatles’ was written on his plane white T-shirt. I knew I had won for a short period of time, “Where… Where am I?” said Max in a scared, lost voice.

    “You’re home with me, big bro,” I said, taking my mom’s heaping suitcase. I wrapped one arm around his slim shoulders. He threw the cowboy off his head in disgust. It landed in a nearby mud puddle. We made our way into the home, and I knew I had my brother back… At least for a little while.

    • seliz says:

      Interesting spin on the prompt, the cowboy being the MC’s brother. I liked that you put in a bit of the family background story, but poor Max!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Whoa, that was tough. Very realistic MC. I don’t have any idea what I would have done in the same situation. You’ve hit on so many things wrong in our lifestyle, it would take a book to explain them. Well written piece.

    • jmcody says:

      Such a sad tale. This must have been tough to write. It will resonate with anyone dealing with a family member afflicted by any form of mental illness. I liked this story because it was a victory of love over so many kinds of darkness at once.

    • Are You Dreaming? says:

      Ermmm… Wow, what a tough take on this prompt. Didn’t see the story line heading that way. Why do uncles get clichéd into this element? Really, are uncles more inclined to diddle their brother or sister’s offspring? You definitely shredded my expectation of thinking it was going to be a comedic story, and I find eccentric people quite interesting. I don’t know if eccentric was the right word of choice here, this was taken off of the Wiki page for eccentrics “Psychologist Dr. David Weeks mentions people with a mental illness ‘suffer’ from their behavior while eccentrics are quite happy. He even states eccentrics are less prone to mental illness than everyone else..” I am eccentric myself and have a lot of eccentric friends. Nevertheless, your writing cadence and style is really good. Your story line flows well, and I found it quite strange that I download to my Kindle the Wiki on D.I.D. I came across somewhere on the net and thought it was interesting when applied to creative actors, writers, and whoever it is applied to. Hell, Halloween is a complete celebratory day of D.I.D. May you keep writing to the one in need of your words…

    • Foxwriter says:

      Wow, thank you all for the compliments. I am glad the theme translated well. I think the power of the ones we love can overcome a lot of the obstacles we face, whether physical or mental.

    • Reaper says:

      I was also expecting this to be funny, and then that was turned on its head. You did that to me again when I started to see mom as an enabler but the part of his therapy made her such a tragic figure, dealing with consequences of her brother. This is an amazing story, powerfully told.

    • MJ Munn says:

      Haunting tale, Foxwriter. The MC is very well-realized. I think a bit more physical description would enhance the story. What type of get-up was Max wearing, that Kevin didn’t recognize him at first? Did he *literally* think it might be Uncle Fred, or did he realize that Max was channeling a specific personality? Again, excellent story; just a couple of unclear spots.

    • Amyithist says:

      Ouch. This one hit a little too close to home for me. I’m a survivor of such abuse and it’s not an easy thing to go through. Though, I didn’t lose touch with reality at any point, I did see girls in my therapy group who did and it was really hard. Thank you for writing this. It’s a brave and poignant take on the prompt.

      • jmcody says:

        Hi Amyithist,

        I saw this here a couple of days ago and have been thinking about it, and I don’t want it to go unacknowledged. Self-disclosure is hard, even in an anonymous forum. I don’t really know what the right thing to say is — I’m sorry this happened to you? (I am.) I will say this — I see a lot of raw strength and guts in your writing and maybe that’s why you are indeed a survivor. So kudos to you for your courage and your strength, and for surviving.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was disturbing in a way that felt unresolvable. I kept picturing a scared little boy in a cowboy outfit trying to be tough, when really, he was just a little boy. My heart really went out to him.

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