• THE
    Writing Prompt
    Boot Camp

    Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the Writing Prompt Boot Camp download.

In Too Deep With Your Bookie

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

This time, you’re in too deep. You’re gambling losses have been mounting and, with a recent ill-advised bet, have put you $50,000 in debt. Your bookie, knowing you don’t have that kind of cash, is willing to wipe your debt clean if you carry out a very dangerous mission for him.

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

Want more creative writing prompts? Consider:
The Writer’s Book of Matches

You might also like:

  • Print Circulation Form

    Did you love this article? Subscribe Today & Save 58%

317 Responses to In Too Deep With Your Bookie

  1. Roshambo7 says:

    As Marty walked down the grimy sidewalk towards Charlie’s bar where his bookie, David, doubled as the bar’s accountant, he couldn’t think of a way the day could have gone any worse. He and David had placed big money bets on the Dena v. Hagwood fight, and for the horse Platinum Forelock to win. Needless to say Hagwood knocked out Dena in one round with Marty’s money on Dena, and Forelock didn’t even finish the race. On top of all that Marty had lost almost 8,000 dollars playing the slots and shooting, and missing, craps.
    Marty took a deep breath as he pushed through the door into the bar, bumped his way through its patrons and finally, David’s office. “Hey Dave,” Marty said hesitantly. David wasn’t a body builder by any means but had a vicious temper, especially if he had been drinking.
    “Hey Dave,” David yelled, “Is that all your sorry ass has to say to me after you lose all my friggin money?” He bellowed the smell of alcohol on his breath was unmistakable.
    “Look Dave, I…” Marty stammered
    “No Marty I’m not gonna look!” He roared while throwing himself up out of his chair, sending it flying. “When I heard that Dena got worked over and that damn jockey blew the race on a shoe in horse I was so mad I couldn’t think straight.” He continued surprisingly calmer now.
    “You know neither of us could have seen that coming,” Marty pleaded desperately.
    “Marty, I know shit happens but we needed that cake. Bellatino’s thugs are on my ass for that money.” He said, sounding almost worried.
    “Yeah I know we are in deep on this one but we can’t make up fifty grand in less than a week, can we?”
    “Marty I been in this business a long time ya know, and we ain’t in that deep. I can get out of this mess but you, you gotta get out while you can.” David sounded very somber now. Marty was dumbfounded at first, then David continued, “It’s all fun and games at first with the whores, drugs and parties but in the long run this is a business and those that don’t contribute enough to this business get taken out.”
    “What are we or me or whatever supposed to do?” Marty asked with a combination of nervousness and confusion.
    David reached into his desk and pulled out a .45 pistol, a 7 inch switchblade and a big wad of cash and pushed it to Marty. “I like you Marty, you don’t need this shit. Get a plane ticket or a bus or something just leave this city and don’t look back.”
    “Ok Dave, it’s been fun hasn’t it though?” Marty asked.
    “Yeah Marty, yeah it has.”

  2. thebaseballman2003 says:

    “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. That was a really bad loss that your team suffered. Getting blown out 15 to 0. Those guys couldn’t get a hit if their life depended on it.”
    “Please don’t remind me.”
    “If fact, you’ve been on a bad losing streak yourself. It seems like nothing you do goes right for you. How much are you into now, Jimmy?”
    “I don’t know. “
    “Yes you do. How much do you owe me?”
    “$50,000. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can get it.”
    “You’ll pay me back as soon as you can get it. You’ll pay me back as soon as you can get it. How many times have I heard that one before? A hell of a lot in your case.”
    “I know, Frank.”
    “No you don’t! You are a walking machine of excuses. You say this and that so many damn times I am getting very close to sowing your mouth shut so I don’t have to hear anymore of them. When you were down $5,000, you gave me an excuse. When you were down $10,000, you gave me an excuse. The same was true for $20,000….$30,000….$40,000…and now $50,000. By this point, I would’ve had my boys take you out back and beat you within an inch of your life. When you borrow money from someone, they expect every…penny…back.”
    “I don’t have anything. I can’t pay off my debt.”
    “I figured you don’t have anything but that doesn’t mean you can’t pay off your debt.”
    “What?”
    “There is a guy that is into me for a hell of a lot more money than you. This guy is into me for close $250,000. He has gone far too long without paying his debt and he needs to learn that when it is time to pay up, you pay up. I want you to go to his apartment and beat the hell out of him. You tell him that if he does not come up with the money in the next 30 days, I’ll guarantee that he will never make another bet.”
    “I can’t do that.”
    “You do this and I will clear the slate. Your debt will be wiped clean.”
    “You want me to go over to someone home and kick the hell out of them for you.”
    “I understand if you don’t want to do it but you’ll still be in debt to me for $50,000. And I have been known to become a real some of a bitch if I don’t get what I want. I should also mention that this is a one-time deal. The minute you decide, there is no going back. What is it going to be? Go back to being under my thumb with the pressure increasing or obtaining instant freedom by doing this one little job for me. But like I said before, the choice is yours and yours alone.”
    “I only have one thing to say to you.”
    “And that is?”
    “Where does this guy live?”

  3. greatbear1982 says:

    Thanks, I think.. :)

  4. Ishmael says:

    :) ;) ;o :o ;d :d :/ :p :P :( ;(

  5. greatbear1982 says:

    The phone rings. It’s my bookie. I’ve been avoiding him for a week now… He is astoundingly angry with me. Upshot of everything is I lost my job, went for a long shot on the super bowl and lost horribly. I now owe $50,000. The only reason Max signed off on that much credit for me is because he believed I was still employed, which puts me in one heck of a pickle.
    Nervously, I answer the phone. He gives me an earful of obscenity that would make a sailor blush. I tell him I’ll meet him in his office at 3 pm. This at least is better than him sending his hounds to run me down.
    I show up at the office as planned. He gruffly tells me to sit down. Max tells me I have two choices, find him five rabbits or be the rabbit for his next hunting party.
    I choose to find the rabbits. He hands me an envelope with all the information I need. I offer a hand shake as thanks for the job to get me clean.
    He takes it. I modify the grip, pull him forward, spin him around and cleanly snap his neck. Poor bastard never saw it coming. I raid his floor safe, find 3 million dollars in cash, a Taurus PT145 pistol with two 10 round mags, a heavily modified, select fire, M4 carbine chambered in .458 socom with two custom beta mags, a Cold Steel Rajah 2, and full paperwork for a clean identity and passport. I take my phone apart and smash it to bits with the stock of the M4. I’ll rid myself of it soon. I clean up the office and stuff Max’s tubby body in the safe. I pause for a second, assessing the office again… Then it hits me like a kick in the testicles. I have to actually do this again…
    Apparently, Max had an idea to skip town… I’m sure he won’t mind if I find use of the items I found in the safe…
    The real rabbit run begins.

  6. peetaweet says:

    With just under five minutes on the clock, State appeared to have the game under control. The boisterous crowd, seeing longtime walk on Jim Wolfer enter the game, erupted in cheers. Senior night was always magical, and tonight was no different.

    As most were savoring the closing minutes of the blowout win over long time rival, Tech, Robert Waller was making his move. Carefully making his way down towards the floor where the lively student section was ready to storm the court at the buzzer. Robert could never pass for a student, but went unnoticed. The crowd was too busy chanting for longtime walk-on Harley Shemper. SHEMPER…SHEMPER!

    Robert thought about the conversation with his bookie yesterday.

    “You’re in pretty deep Robbie, how are you going to pay back 50 grand?”

    Both knew Robert could not pay 10 grand, 50 was out of the question.

    “I don’t know Jerry, I ain’t got it…”

    “You could take care of Coach Henson at State, that bum has cost us thousands this year. But seriously Robbie, you’ve got 3 days, pray for a miracle.” The call went dead.

    Reaching courtside, Robert almost tripped over the last step; he stopped to compose himself, and then looked in the direction of the bench, seeing his target. He reached into his coat pocket, feeling the knife handle in his sweaty palm.

    With under a minute to go, both sides unloaded their benches. The seniors received a standing ovation. Robert tried to keep his eyes on the coach, standing on his toes and straining his neck. He jumped as he felt a push in the back and quickly turned around. Looking up, there were kids surrounding him, loud and yelling, Robert wiped his brow and tried to keep his mind on the task at hand.

    As the buzzer sounded the stampede started for the court. Robert was short and stocky, and was quickly lost in the crowd. Waves of bodies knocked into him as he struggled to find his way towards the coach. He made his way towards the flash of bright lights from the cameras.

    “Coach Henson, after a tough year, what does it mean to this team to get a win over your rival on senior night?”

    As the coach started with the typical coach answer, about how the team had overcome adversity, never losing faith, he suddenly let out a wail. The cameras rolled as Coach Henson, the three time national coach of the year fell to the floor, groaning and writhing in pain. Lost in the chaos was Robert, who had tucked the knife back into his coat and was now pushing his way through the crowd.

    “Coach! Coach Henson! We need a medic!”

    Jerry sat at the bar, his Rueben in hand watching in disbelief. Security had locked down Coleman Fieldhouse and authorities were sweeping the building. The bartender turned up the volume on the small flatscreen tv at the bar.

    “Can you believe this Jerry? People are crazy.”

    “Jerry?”

  7. MVinshire22 says:

    It had never been her intention to be standing here right now. Well, Marge admitted sourly, it was usually never anyone’s intention to be standing here right now. She couldn’t help but wish, however, that it wasn’t her standing here, but somebody else.

    Then again, she was somebody else to somebody else. Snap out of it! She hissed mentally, wary of being caught lost in her thoughts by the chubby, squat woman that sat before her, with a peaked nose and eyes that would have been pretty had they not gained wrinkles by squinting through a pair of miniscule glasses for her entire life.

    Or, at least Marge took a guess it was her entire life. But she hadn’t known the woman in front of her for her entire life, so it didn’t really matter anyway.

    What mattered was that-

    “$50,000 in debt, darling? Impressive.” Marge cringed and clenched at her skirt.

    “I will pay it back, Lily, I swear!”

    “Of that I have no doubt.”

    Marge blinked at that, mouth half open in surprise. “You don’t doubt-“

    “I doubt that you have the cash to pay that crisp 50,000 right now.” Lily smiled grimly at Marge, and Marge had a sudden feeling that there was something she was missing.

    “But I will-!”

    “No, you won’t, darling. Ah-ah-ah!” she raised a finger when Marge opened her mouth again. “You going to argue with me darling?”

    “No, no of course not, but-!”

    “But what, darling? You can’t pay me in cash, and I know that. Usually I would have you quartered-“

    Being a European History Major, Marge sucked in a breath, before Lily finished, “But I don’t need your cash, darling.”

    “…You don’t?”

    “No, I don’t.” Lily snorted, waving a hand. “What’s a mere 50,000 dollars to a woman like me?”

    Lily leaned forward, eyes glinting, “But just ‘cause I don’t need it, Darling, doesn’t mean I don’t want a favor from you.”

    “What sort of favor?” Marge had a suspicion that whatever this favor was, she would have been happier paying three times the amount she owed.

    “I need you to give me your blood.”

    A blank stare was all Lily got from Marge.

    “If you call me a vampire darling, I will just shoot you.”

    “No, no! That wasn’t even on my mind! It’s just… my blood?”

    “Your genetic code, darling, to be more specific.” Lily paused, before motioning to someone behind Marge.

    Marge spun around to see another woman with two syringes.

    “Haven’t you heard?” Lily’s voice came from behind Marge, but Marge only heard it vaguely in the back of your mind.

    “Darling, willing human genetic experiments are going for 2 mill a pop on the black market! The scientists are gettin’ a little desperate for some real test subjects, you see.”

    Marge’s eyes widened in horror as she began to grasp exactly what was going to happen to her.

    “Now, I may not need 50,000, darling… but 2 million? Yeah. I could use that.”

  8. lcooks says:

    Sirens wailed as I paced up and down the alley. I promised myself I’d never come back here. Add that to the long list of promises now smattered to pieces. My heels panged against the uneven pavement as my thoughts weighed the insanity of it all. How a 4th grade math teacher ever ended up owing $50,000 to a bookie is one equation that will never add up. One ill-placed bet was all it took to lose more than I make in a year. But if I go through with this, my debt could magically disappear: It’s a gamble I couldn’t afford not to make.

    My fingers shuddered as they rapped lightly on the unpainted wooden door. Nothing. Swallowing, I knocked again.

    “Coming,” a gruff voice yelled over the muffled television.

    I tugged at my dress as I heard footsteps slowly near. The outfit was Constantine’s idea. Knee-length skirts and button-downed blouses had for years hid the Zumba-carved curves that were now on display in the snug number. I tried to relax as I felt a pair of eyes size me up from peephole on the other side. Minutes passed and snippets of sentences were tossed before the door finally stood ajar.

    “You’re late,” the raspy voice’s owner smirked as a cigarette dangled from his lips.

    Summoning every ounce of acting left over from long-gone college days on stage, I smiled.

    “You know I’m worth waiting for,” I whispered into his ear.

    I offered a hug to the man I knew simply by the letter G. He’d been a scary staple in my hometown for years. And now my life depended on him.

    “I can’t believe it,” another voice boomed from across the room.

    I swiveled slowly. Alex. It had been almost 10 years since I’d laid eyes on him. He was my first everything. I was a 17 and smitten by the man with the long brown dreads and tattoos sketched across his sculpted body. The dreads were now gone. And a white button-down covered the names of his dead mother, wife and daughter etched eternally in his caramel skin. Still, time had been kind. His longing stare made me almost forget my mission. Almost. I strutted across the room and wrapped his body around mine.

    “You’re all grown up, now,” he laughed, playfully running his hand through my hair.

    His charm and guile had placed the entire city under his thumb. Alex had become one of the region’s most notorious politicians. His knowledge of the rich and powerful’s dirty, little secrets had made him influential by default. It had also made him many enemies. And Constantine now stood among their ranks.
    Alex chuckled knowingly as we sank into the couch and sipped the drinks G passed us.

    “I know why you’re here,” he finally blurted.

    I squirmed.

    “Tell him, it’s done.”

    “Then tell him,” he growled, “double or nothing.”

    A quick kiss and he was gone. G remained. As the sirens blazed closer, he grabbed my arm.

  9. sprattcm says:

    The confessional was cramped, the air stifling. I felt crushed beneath the weight of shame I’d carried in with me. It clung to me like whorehouse sheets, reeking of stale smoke and bottom shelf booze. I crossed myself, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

    While Father Whalen spoke his blessing, I thought of sins and penance.

    I’d never thought of hope as a sin, but what else do you call that desperate spark that drives you to play one more hand? Sure I’d gambled, maybe even a little more than the next guy. I figure you can’t always lose, and the longer you lose, the more likely you are to win. Of course, I’d been wrong so far.

    “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been six weeks since my last confession.”

    Six weeks and $50,000. I hit the flask in my breast pocket to steady my hands and searched for the courage to do what I’d come here to do. Or, maybe I was trying to squeeze as many sins in as possible before this absolution: Take your pick. It doesn’t matter to me, and they’re probably both true.

    “Father, I…” my voice cracked, “I have been intemperate in the abuse of my body many times in the past six weeks. I drink alcohol to excess and I smoke cigarettes.”

    “In first Corinthians, chapter six, verse nineteen, we read that our bodies serve as a temple for the Holy Spirit. Abuse of this temple is an affront to God.”

    “I have also gambled in excess many times. My family will suffer for the choices I have made, and I fear my soul may be beyond redemption,” I sobbed between clenched teeth.

    Silence followed from the other side of the confessional as Father Whalen reflected a moment. He said warily, “No man who is penitent is beyond red…”

    “I have also committed murder in the house of god, striking down a priest in retribution for hypocrisy and failure to satisfy gambling debts in the amount of $343,000.” There was a sudden sound of movement from the other side of the screen, but father Whalen couldn’t open the door before the revolver in my hand bucked twice. He slumped against the screen, silent ever after.

    I dropped to my knees, “I am sorry for my sins. His mercy endures forever.” I put the revolver to my temple and it bucked a third and final time.

  10. hillsworth says:

    Mafia series:
    Part 1 – Retirement Party Food Fight. February 28, 2012
    Part 2 – Best Friends Need Your Help. March 13, 2012
    Part 3 – Why Are You Digging That Hole? May 15, 2012
    Part 4 – In Too Deep With Your Bookie. June 19, 2012

    PART 4:
    In Too Deep With Your Bookie

    “Action.” Therese yells as she thumbs the record button.

    Bruno looks from Therese, to the Zippo in his hand, to Macs head sticking out of the hole in the ground and back to Therese. She’s standing there, smirking.

    Something clicks in Brunos mind when he looks back down at Mac, violently shaking his head back and forth, trying to dislodge the gag in his mouth. Sweat, tears and snot mix together to form a pasty muck just under his chin. His muffled screams could hardly be heard ten feet away, so there is no concern of some passer-by hearing what is going on. A smile crosses Brunos face as he bends over. Gurgling sounds come from Mac as he stops shaking and tries to pull air through his clotted nostrils.

    “I’m gonna pull this out cause I want to talk to you a moment, Mac, but if you try to yell, I’ll put it back and let this little baby do its work.” He holds the lighter up in front of Macs face and flicks it open and then closed with one thumb. Macs eyes grow wide with fear. “I see we have an understanding.”

    As Bruno tugs the rag free, Mac gasps, trying to expand his lungs, but the settling dirt prevents him from doing so, leaving him to draw short, quick breaths. “Bruno. Don’t do this.” Another gasp.

    Standing tall, Bruno asks, “Mac, what happened to you? You used to work for me.” ‘Click’ open, ‘click’ closed from the lighter. “Hell, you’d probably still be cutting your own arms just to see yourself bleed if I wouldn’t have found you. You had the skills, but you needed some refining.” ‘Click’ open, ‘click’ closed.

    Wheezing gasp.”Come on, Bruno. Everyone knew you were losing your grip on this town. Louis’ family was new here and they were taking over. It was an easy decision at the time.”

    “Obviously a wrong one. Why’d you take this job?”

    “To settle my debt with Little Fonzy. I’m into him for fifty.”

    Bruno had already assumed that Louis’ son, Roman Alphonsis a.k.a. ‘Little Fonzy’, would be his legatee.

    “Well, Mac, gambling’s bad for your health.” Bruno bends down to replace the gag, but Mac whips his head to the side.

    “Bruno, wait. There’s something else you need to know.” Mac now straining to breathe.

    “Let’s go, Bruno.” Therese speaks up from behind the camera. “Finish this.”

    Bruno looks from Mac to Therese and back. “Okay Mac, let’s hear it.”

    “Bruno!” Therese yells and Bruno looks to her again. “Don’t listen to him. He’s a dead man and he’ll say anything to keep his life right now.”

    Bruno bends back down to Mac.”Out with it.”

    “Bruno, I aint the only one who found it easy to run to the other side.” Mac tosses his head to the rear, clearly indicating Therese.

    Bruno stands back up, looking at Therese with questioning eyes. Slowly he slips the lighter into his front pocket.

    To be continued…

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Oh, those three awful words – to be continued! That was evil Hillsworth! I want to know what happens next!

    • Ishmael says:

      Wow…now I’m going to have to go back and read the others! I think I’ve read the “Digging that Hole” one, and believe it was just as good. This was excellent. I always enjoy your work, Hillsworth, for the mere fact that you sketch such a vivid image with pen and ink (keyboard and screen). This was both visual and audible…the deafening clicks of the Zippo. I’m sure they were like fingernails on a chalkboard to Mac. Great dialogue. Great suspense. Great Scot! (Therese is busted!) Great read.

  11. Good story. A few typos. Be careful using -ly words too much. I use Thesaurus.com a lot to find better words. It took me a second to figure out the end but I got it. Nice work. Keep it up. Practice makes perfect…or is that editing makes perfect??? Hmmm.

  12. l24y says:

    “D***it,” I growled to myself, hands on either side of the sink, head hanging. My hair covered my eyes, I could feel the vein in my forhead stickin gout, and my face was flushed. That was either from the alchohol or my anger. Everything was a bit fuzzy, and I couldn’t think straight. But that could have just been from the anger, too. Who knows? Maybe I’m not even drunk- I’m just furious.
    How did I get myself into this? 50,000 dollars? This is the worst luck I’ve had in years! A good ten years, maybe even more. Normally I leave with that much more, not that much less. I looked up into the mirror, an angry scowl plastered onto my face. I screamed, a low, grumbling sound that resonated from my gut, and slammed my fist into the mirror, shattering it. Panting, I stood straight again, fixed my suit, and took a deep breath. I walked past the two empty bathroom stalls, their metal green doors scribbled all over. I straightened my tie as I opened the door, then stalked out the back hallway. I reentered the casino, watching all the men looking nervous or confident or blank, wearing their poker faces perfectly.
    I looked to my left, at the table that I had previously been sitting at, where I had gambled away $50,000. My fists clenched. The man who had conned me out of the money was still there, talking to a younger man. I took a deep breath to calm myself and egressed through the front doors. I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket, like it had been through the whole night.
    It was my bookie, James, who had been my friend for who knows how long. But now he seems to be more my enemy than anything. “Hello?” I said into the phone.”
    “You’re drunk. Don’t tell me you’re drunk! Oh, God, you’re drunk. That means you lost money. How much?” James said exasperatedly.
    “I’m not that drunk,” I protested stupidly.
    “How much?” James persisted.
    “You really don’t want to know,” I said, hailing a taxi. One pulled over, and I opened the door. I told the driver, “Rocks Avenue.”
    “Come on, man, don’t mess with me,” James threatened, sounding annoyed.
    “50,000,” I said quietly, staring out the window.
    “You’re joking,”James muttered. I shook my head, though I knew he couldn’t see it. “You’ve gone too far this time, man. This is too much.”
    “I know, but I can’t pay this. You gotta help me. Please,” I begged desperately.
    “There’s nothing I can do this time, man. I’m sorry,” James said. I could hear the sympathy behind the anger in his voice.
    “Please,” I said quietly. The taxi driver pulled over in front of my street, and I passed him a twenty dollar bill. I nodded to him, climbed out the car, and started down the road.
    “Are you home yet?” James sighed.
    “I’m almost there.”
    “Ok, wait for me outside. We’ll talk then.”
    “Thanks, James.”
    “Don’t do anything stupid, man.”
    I reached the steps leading to my apartment and sat down on the bottom stair. James, who lived only a few neighborhoods over, was there in a matter of minutes. He climbed out of his car in a plain grey t-shirt and jeans, unlike his regular attire.
    “What am I supposed to do?” I demanded, standing up the second he reached the steps.
    “There’s one thing you can do. And I mean one thing, man. No other exceptions, no breaks or cutting you some slack. You’ve had too much of that. This is your only escape route.”
    “Ok,” I said quietly, watching the street behind him come alive with the evening traffic.
    “This is serious,” James said sternly, watching me closely.
    “Anything. You know I don’t have that kind of money.”
    James told me the conditions, and I hesitantly agreed. I knew I didn’t have a choice, but what I was going to do might have been a bit worse.
    Years later, I look back at that time and my face goes red with embarassment. What I had to do- well, it included a a large bunny costume and many cameras. When I tell people that, they usually go red as well, thinking something totally different than I am. But I let them imagine what the situation was, and James and I, now much better friends for it, snicker in the corner. Well, he does, anyways.
    Gambling since then? No, no, not really. I’m still scared I have that bad luck following me, you know? Like, a few months later, I played a board game with my niece, and she beat me bad. Then I played Uno at a family reuinion, and I had the worst score. James tells me it’s nothing, but I can’t help but flinch when I see one of those casino.
    Will I tell you? Ha. Do you really think I’d tell a total stranger like yourself? Well, no offense, I really like you and all- no, I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve had a great time with you, too- Look, Nancy, we’ve been dating for a while, but I still don’t know if I want to divulge this sort of secret to you- wait! Nancy!

  13. rob akers says:

    Nice job and welcome to the deep end of the pool. The water is warm and gentle. The others are right about the confusing part so I see no need to beat a dead bull.

    Just my opinion and take it for what it is worth but don’t be afraid to color outside the lines of the prompt. It is okay with me and most everyone else here as long as it ties in somehow. By the way I thought you stuck to it very well and really couldn’t find much artistic liberty.

    How about a compliment? Nice dialogue. Very original and convincing. I love the line about his brows drawing together like fuzzy worms. That is really good.

    You done good Boyah. Now go fetch dat steer!

  14. morty says:

    I knew it was a stupid bet, but still I had to take it. Just like any drowning man grasps for anything, anything, within their reach. You could trow him barbed wire, and he would clutch it, thanking you for it even as it tears through the flesh of his fingers.

    You see, I’m not really a gambler. You won’t see me clutching handfuls of ticket stubs at the track, or chomping down on a cigar playing cards in some dingy back room down the Alley. No, I’m a decent enough guy, but when times get lean… You start to grasp for the straws. A bar bet here, a lottery ticket there, take your chances betting on a fight. Get lucky couple of times, and you get to keep a roof over your head for another week. Get real lucky, and you get to eat too. It’s not gonna be a steak dinner, but still something to keep your pants on without punching another hole in your belt. And you get a few free drinks. Until your luck turns and you end up punching much more than just extra holes in the belt.

    That night, I got a couple of new bucks in my pocket, and a hope that I might get to keep them there. The nice fellow who had provided me with them was laughing and pounding me on my back. That’s what I like. Give ‘em a good story to tell for those couple of bucks they just lost. Make the game fun to them, something they’ll tell laughing to their drinking buddies. They buy you a drink for it, and go home laughing. No need to break the guy for couple of bucks, right?

    A large hand landed on my shoulder. My new acquaintance scurried away. I was told in no uncertain terms, that a certain gentleman would like to have a little chat with me. I had seen him, sitting there in his booth with his goons. Never broads, just these two goons in matching suits. I’d made some dumb bets in my life sure, but this time I was so deep down the hole even the Rabbit thought I was loopy. The gentleman had an interesting proposition. One chance to wipe clean the slate.

    A lanky man nursed his shot in the bar. Everything about him was hanging – his clothes, his head, even the flop of dirty hair, hiding his face. The gentleman pointed at him. The fifty-thousand-dollar-question was, could I break the guy. I looked at him. Break the guy? Hell, I could swat the fly prancing on the rim of his glass, even that would break him, by the looks of him. Fifty-thousand for breaking some guy life already had beaten within an inch of breaking? So I got up, went to the guy, and whispered in his ear. And he broke. He broke, all right.

  15. The whiskey charred a path down is dust-dry throat. He grimaced but nodded at the barkeep for another.

    “Just leave the bottle,” Owen said. His duster-clad forearms rested on the bar worn smooth from years of wiping. The shot glass rumbled quietly as he rolled it around and his frantic thoughts rumbled loudly in his head. He failed to hear the tell-tale jangle of spurs ringing closer. The neighboring barstool groaned across the floor. Owen glanced up to find Seeleg Black, the richest cattleman in the state scowling down at him. Owen sighed, resigned. There was no replacing the prize breeder bull worth $50,000 that had drown in the river during the drive.

    The barkeep banged down another glass down and Seeleg poured himself a drink. He threw it back without a flinch and poured another.

    “Owen,” he said, chummily. “What’s a dead bull among friends?!”

    Owen knew Seeleg better. He’d take it out of Owen’s hide one way or another. Ranch hands tended to mysteriously disappeared after crossing the man.

    “About 50,000 in debt,” he answered, his shoulders slumping farther in defeat.

    “Well now, let me tell you somethin’. I’ve a proposition for ya,” Seeleg growled. “See, Old Man Babcock down in Barton Hallow’s just acquired a prize bull of his own.”

    Owen’s brows drew together like two fuzzy worms, corrugating his brow in bafflement. Seeleg drawled on.

    “See, I’ve a mind to shoot you for losing me my steer. But, if you get me Old Babcock’s in exchange, I’d be sorely obliged.”

    “Are you mad, old man?” Seeleg’s snarl made him wince. “Babcock’ll know his bull’s missing and when you turn up with it you’ll hang for rustling.”

    Black sneered. “Not if you exchange the carcass for the living one.”

    Owen’s eyes grew wide in shock. “You are mad.”

    “That bull’d have fetched me a herd of the best cattle this side of the Rockies. Now, you’ll do it or I’ll be taking your life in exchange for his.”

    “But, how…”

    “Don’t reckon I care so much about how ya do it. Just do it. I want that bull in my pen come sun up. And if he ain’t, you’ll be pushin’ daisies by sundown.” The cattleman blustered out of the saloon like an Okie tornado.

    Owen stared dumbstruck, then poured himself a shot of whiskey. The prize bull lay heaped on the buckboard. He’d needed proof for Seeleg that he hadn’t stolen the steer for himself. Owen poured another drink and calculated his odds of survival. Old Man Babcock hired cowhands that guarded his cattle day and night; probably a double sentry over that bull. But what choice was there? Take his chances at getting away with it or facing certain death at the barrel of Seeleg’s Colt.

    Owen slugged down the remainder of the whiskey and stumbled out to his horse. Wobbling drunkenly in the saddle he rode back to Seeleg Black’s ranch to hitch up the buckboard.

    OK so I took a bit of artistic liberty but the gist is there. This is my first time…so be gentle.

    • Ishmael says:

      This was a nice take on the prompt. I was a little confused at the end…didn’t know where things were. It sounded like the dead bull was just outside on the buckboard, but later, he has to ride to Black’s ranch to get it.

      “The prize bull lay heaped on the buckboard. He’d needed proof for Seeleg that he hadn’t stolen the steer for himself.”

      The second sentence in that quote makes it seem to refer to the bull heaped on the buckboard.

      It was very good, just sort of got a little muddy at the end. :)

    • Naomi says:

      What I like about your story is it makes me curious about Owen’s future actions. Will he somber up before trying to steal Babcock’s prize bull, and then decide not to try? And, if he does go after Babcock’s steer, who would be willing to help him and thereby become a cattle rustler? (Owen would need help moving the carcass?) I like stories that trigger my imagination, and cause me to wonder beyond the stated events, as your story does.

      I agree with Ishmael about the dead bull’s location. With my first read, I thought the bull was outside of the saloon.

  16. JR MacBeth says:

    “I’m sick of her. She just doesn’t give a shit. About anything! The real bummer is that it’s like a disease, it’s contageous. So now I don’t give a shit, and Jesus Frank, we’re basically shit-out-of-shit at this point..”

    “Larry, you do have a problem, and it’s not really one a psychologist can help you with anymore. She’s the one who needs help. You can go to your meetings, you can recognize enabling behavior, and on and on, but at the end of it, the writing is on the wall.”

    “It’s been a year Frank. I’ve been coming to see you for a whole fucking year! I need real help now, no more talk. You told me in the beginning that she would have a chance.”

    “Yeah, yeah. OK Larry. It’s time. Look, there’s something I never told you, I sort of hoped I wouldn’t have to.”

    Larry sat up straight and looked at his old friend. He had the feeling it wasn’t going to be good news. News was never good these days.

    “You don’t know who her bookie is…you have no idea?”

    “I told you! She has it locked down, like she’s having an affair, I get nothing from her but goddamn contempt! And why? Because I’m trying to save us!”

    “Calm down, it’s not bad news. Not necessarily. It’s actually about me.”

    Larry was confused. “Dammit Silverman, out with it!”

    “He’s my cousin.” Larry’s mouth dropped open.

    Frank shrugged and pulled off his glassses, buffing the lenses with his shirt.

    “Hey, we Jewish boys aren’t always doctors and lawyers!”

    The realization that there was a way out was like a lifeline thrown to a drowning man.

    Larry was starting to laugh, “I fucking want to hug you!” He stood up.

    “Larry, sit the fuck down! Shit! I’m not a miracle worker! Here’s the deal. Jay, that’s my cousin, Jay knows about your wife’s predicament, I know, don’t bitch about violating patient confidentiality, you’ll see why. Anyway, I hate to see you like this. So, Jay is going to…help.”

    “Frank, Gloria owes ‘Jay’ a helluva lot of money, I wish I knew how much. Why would he help, he doesn’t know me?”

    Frank looked at the floor. He shook his head slowly.

    “He’s been banging her. There, I said it. So much for confidentiality.”

    Larry lit up, back on his feet, “I knew it! I knew she was screwing somebody! Ho – ly shit!”

    “The question is, are you ready to move on? She owes him fifty grand. Is she worth it? He’s ready to take her off your hands.”

    “God! This explains so much.” Larry looked at his friend.

    “Frank, do you know why she didn’t just ask for a divorce?”

    “Well, she doesn’t want one.” Frank eyed his friend as he nodded his head.

    “Oh…Oh!”

    “She still loves you.”

    “And you’ve been keeping all this from me?”

    “No! I just found out about the affair last week. Shit, I’m your friend! Listen old buddy, you’ve got a lot to think about.”

    “Yeah. I guess I do.”

    • Ishmael says:

      Nice dialogue! And it’s either pay the 50K or give up the wife, huh? This was good, felt realistic. I loved your details…buffing the lenses with his shirt. :)

      • rob akers says:

        Dang, that is cool. I love the twist and focusing on a different aspect of the addiction. Great and believable dialogue.

        Frank is a good friend. We all need a friend like Frank who is willing to say the hard things like: “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is no good news because it is all bad news. Buddy you’re screwed!”

        That is a great scene and I would love to know what Larry will do next.

  17. JR MacBeth says:

    /i Italics everywhere?

  18. cdube918 says:

    $50,000 is a hell of a lot of money, I think. What could he possibly want me to do?
    Dominic walks to the back of the car and pops the trunk. He motions me over. I saunter back.
    “You interested or what?” demands Dominic. I peer into the trunk trying to see what’s in there…a gun? drugs? stolen goods? All I see is nothing.
    “Get in,” Dominic says. I see Marty reach for the gun tucked in at the small of his back.
    “What?” I say, stalling.
    “Get in and shut up,” Dominic says.
    I climb in and the truck slams. Everything goes black. I focus on the length of time we spend on each road segment, when we turn and which way, but I lose my sense of direction. Finally the car stops. I imagine we must be outside of town.
    The trunk opens and my eyes take time to adjust. We are inside some type of warehouse. A table, two chairs, a light bulb hanging over the table. Pretty sparse.
    “Where are we?” I ask. Dominic says nothing and pushes me towards the table. Marty stands behind me. A third man comes out of the shadows and stares at me.
    “Who’s this?” the man asks, glaring at me. I keep my mouth shut.
    “Don’t worry about him,” says Dominic. “He’s our new get-away driver.”
    “You trust him?” the man asks.
    “He owes me plenty. Fifty large. He’ll do what I say.”
    “He’d better.” The man grabs a file. “Here’s the plan,” he says pushing it in my direction. My mouth goes dry.
    “Main Street Bank?” I say. “Are you crazy? That bank’s been hit twice already this month. The cops will be watching it like a hawk.”
    The man doesn’t like being called crazy, but I can see it in his eyes. “That’s why we’re hitting it. Nobody in their right mind would go anywhere near that bank. The cops know that. They’ll post a rookie at the door and we’ll blow right past ‘em.”
    My job is to drive the crew to the bank, wait outside, and be ready to burn rubber when they come out with the loot. They even make me drive my own car.
    The next day, I drive to the bank. I drop Marty, Dominic and the third man out front. I pull up the block one hundred yards, like we planned.
    I wait. The waiting is hard. My pulse is racing. My heart is going to jump out of my chest. How did I get myself into this? How much time could I do?
    Suddenly the bank is surrounded by cops and S.W.A.T. They storm the building. Shots are fired. People run screaming from the entrance. I begin to panic. Then I realize I’ve done nothing wrong. I start my car and head for home. If Dominic dimes me out, they’ll just add more charges to his sheet.
    Someone must have tipped off the rookie. I’m fifty large richer. Life is good.

  19. Heart2Heart says:

    Beads of sweat were running in rivulets down my back, seeping through my shirt. Bets were placed. The race was ready to be run. Horses were lined up at the gate. “And they’re off” could be heard as if there were a loudspeaker over my shoulder. I needed to win this one. Green Pastures was sure to win this time I told myself. I had lost the last four races. I was in deep, way deep to the tune of $50,000.
    I knew the bookie, Tim, and he knew me. He knew way too much about me. I had spilled the beans several times. Personal things, things only friends know about each other. Good friends. He looked at me when I placed the bet. He had that look that pierced right through you, the one that warned you that you were about to cross the line to the danger zone. No turning back. I plunked down $20,000 on Green Pastures to win. Tim shook his head.
    My horse started out of the gate last. “Come on, you can do it!” I was yelling at the top of my lungs as he lurched forward. He was in front of the other horses. I was out of my seat cheering. He held the post, and then he was rounding the bend. I was biting my nails to the quick. Arrow was the first horse to pass him. “Come on guy you can do it, come on Green Pastures”. It was too late, he came in second. My shoulders slumped, tears came to my eyes. Tim looked at me. I could tell he felt the pain.
    It was the summer of the year my friends and I turned 12 and we were playing the board game Win, Place & Show. Timmy was the bookie and I was his stooge. Tim told me he would pass me another $20,000 enough to stay in the game and he and the others would forgive the debt and we’d start the game over if I would go in the kitchen and get the sodas and chips. It was an hour before dinner and he knew my mom had eyes behind her back. It was a dangerous mission. I accepted.
    Mom was busy ironing in the other room. I tip toed into the kitchen 2 doors away from my mom. I snuck into the fridge and had the sodas in hand. It was the crinkling of the chips bag that gave me away

  20. soofy says:

    Hi Brian, sorry to be a pain but is it possible for you to remove my story? I’d like to submit it in a competition which only accepts previously unpublished stories.
    Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience :)

  21. free durian says:

    A light shone through the lounge window as I came home from the club. Must be Gilly, I thought. She was good at getting herself to bed at the right time, but never remembered to turn the power off, even though she knew how much it cost to keep it running. I’d told her time and time again about my money troubles since the divorce. That’s why we had to cut down on things, and why her Ma had to work so late. She always nodded and smiled, and said she understood, but she still kept her habits from when her father was here. She was a good girl, but poverty didn’t suit her.

    I walked inside and saw a thick poking from the side of one of my high-backed lounge chairs. Startled, I dropped my keys and staggered backwards, searching wildly for something that could be used as a weapon. My right hand found my old tennis racquet, but just as I wrapped my hand around its handle, an old smoke-scratched voice called to me. 

    “Now, now, Maria. Is that any way to treat a friend?” 

    The man’s face was hidden by the back of the chair, but I recognised the voice instantly. My grip on the racquet tightened. “Mr Roberts? How did you get in?”

    “Through the door, of course.” He chuckled. “Your daughter let me in. Such a polite young girl. How old is she? Thirteen?”

    “Twelve,” I said warily.

    “Twelve, yes. A bit young to be home alone this late, don’t you think?”

    “She’s responsible.”

    “I’m sure she is. I still thought it best to have my men care for her. After all, who could know when you were coming home?”

    Bile rose in my throat as I realized the threat behind his words. “Where’s Gilly?” 

    “She’s safe. If you cooperate, she’ll even stay that way.”

    “If it’s about my debt,  my husband…”

    “…Took all your money. I know. Tell me, how much did you make in tips tonight?”

    “Some,” I said.

    Roberts stood up suddenly and looked me square in the eye. He was eighty-six years old, but seven feet tall with arms that could rip most men in two. “Tell me how much you made,” he said, smiling. 

    “Sixty,” I whispered.

    “And how are you going to pay off fifty grand with only sixty a night?”

    “I…”

    “Oh, I know you can’t.” The old man walked towards me and put an arm around my shoulders. “But I’ve got an offer for you.”

    “What?” 

    “There’s a package in Singapore that I need picked up. You just have to fly there, get my package and deliver it to me.”

    “That’s it?” 

    “That’s it,” Roberts promised. “Do this, and your debt is cancelled and you get your daughter back. Any questions?” His face came down to meet mine, his nicotine-laced breath wheezing onto my face.

    “No, sir,” I said. “Give me the details and I’ll be on my way.”

    • Amy says:

      Oohhh…I want to know what happens next! I loved your descriptions….smoke-scratched voice, bile rose in my throat, nicotine-laced breath. You really set the mood. I’m rooting for the ladies!

  22. Naomi says:

    “I’ll get the money to you, Stephan. You know I will.” Stephan turned towards me. His eyes dropped to my shoes. Cheap knock-offs that looked even more pathetic against the sumptuous rug of Stephan’s office. I slowly slid my hand over my wristwatch, hoping Stephan didn’t notice it is a fake.

    “Mikey, Mikey,” he chided gently. His voice was soft, soothing like a father gently correcting a child. His eyes the grayish-blue of a corpse, and just as warm. “We both know that you don’t have the means to make good. Do this one thing, and I will clear your debt.”

    “I don’t … I can’t, Stephan, please …”

    “Think of it as getting paid $50,000 for a few hours of work. Isn’t that a wonderful opportunity?” Stephan said, spreading his hands apart, as open and welcoming as the gates of Hell.

    “But, what is it?” My voice trembled, but this time, I didn’t care.

    “Now, Mikey. No questions, eh? Just deliver the package, and you’re a free man. If you don’t …” Stephan shrugged, and slowly shook his head. His bodyguards, two mountains of muscle, unobtrusive before, shifted slightly in their stance. I looked at each of them, and quickly cast my eyes back downward without a challenge.

    “Alright,” I said softly. I hate being called Mikey.

    Stephan smiled, and nodded to his assistant. She passed the package she held to me.
    “Now, remember. Don’t shake it, and don’t open it. Just take it to the address, and leave it there. It has to be delivered before 6:00 AM,” Stephan said.

    I nodded, and left the office. I made my way through the building, nausea creeping up in my stomach. Once outside, I gulped at the cool night air. The brown paper wrapping the package crinkled in my hands. The faint woodsy scent from Stephan’s office clung to my clothing. I wondered what was in the package. Nothing good, that’s for certain. I was about to deliver a very bad day to someone.

    I could skip delivering the package, and run instead. Leave the country. Start a new life. But, I knew that Stephan would find me, and make me pay for my defiance. If it was a bomb, I could stay near Stephan’s building with the package, hiding in the shadows. Stephan and all my problems wiped out in a bright blaze of destruction. I moved into the alley next to the building, and hunched over in the shadows, clutching the package close to my body. Frustrated, I felt my eyes fill with tears. Good luck, that bitch, had caressed me, whispered to me, and then left with me holding a $50,000 debt. I wiped at my tears.

    Straightening, I strode out of the alley. I’ll do what Stephan wanted, just this once. If someone gets hurt, I will send money to their family. Money I knew I would have soon. Good luck will come back my way. I just know it.

  23. DMelde says:

    Nicely done. A retired hit man with, naturally, secrets. I don’t even know his name. Good story.

  24. morty says:

    I knew it was a stupid bet, but still I had to take it. Just like any drowning man grasps for anything, anything, within their reach. You could trow him barbed wire, and he would clutch it, thanking you for it even as it tears through the flesh of his fingers.

    You see, I’m not really a gambler. You won’t see me clutching handfuls of ticket stubs at the track, or chomping down on a cigar playing cards in some dingy back room down the Alley. No, I’m a decent enough guy, but when times get lean… You start to grasp for the straws. A bar bet here, a lottery ticket there, take your chances betting on a fight. Get lucky couple of times, and you get to keep a roof over your head for another week. Get real lucky, and you get to eat too. It’s not gonna be a steak dinner, but still something to keep your pants on without punching another hole in your belt. And you get a few free drinks. Until your luck turns and you end up punching much more than just extra holes in the belt.

    That night, I got a couple of new bucks in my pocket, and a hope that I might get to keep them there. The nice fellow who had provided me with them was laughing and pounding me on my back. That’s what I like. Give ‘em a good story to tell for those couple of bucks they just lost. Make the game fun to them, something they’ll tell laughing to their drinking buddies. They buy you a drink for it, and go home laughing. No need to break the guy for couple of bucks, right?

    A large hand landed on my shoulder. My new acquaintance scurried away. I was told in no uncertain terms, that a certain gentleman would like to have a little chat with me. I had seen him, sitting there in his booth with his goons. Never broads, just these two goons in matching suits. I’d made some dumb bets in my life sure, but this time I was so deep down the hole even the Rabbit thought I was loopy. The gentleman had an interesting proposition. One chance to wipe clean the slate.

    A lanky man nursed his shot in the bar. Everything about him was hanging – his clothes, his head, even the flop of dirty hair, hiding his face. The gentleman pointed at him. The fifty-thousand-dollar-question was, could I break the guy. I looked at him. Break the guy? Hell, I could swat the fly prancing on the rim of his glass, even that would break him, by the looks of him. Fifty-thousand for breaking some guy life already had beaten within an inch of breaking? So I got up, went to the guy, and whispered in his ear. And he broke. He broke, all right.

  25. massagemom84 says:

    “I will never gamble again.” I vow again as I pick myself up off the floor of the cave I am sprawled on.
    This has become my mantra, I have been constantly repeating in my head since I started my journey into the cave. I wipe at my jeans which are bloody and torn, my palms protest this action as they are scraped and bruised. I wearily start back down the tunnel of the cave, panting rivulets of sweat dripping down my body. Hoping that I can get a few yards, without tripping on the cave floor.
    I can do this, I think to myself. I have given up speaking out loud, the echo making me feel more alone if possible.
    I stumble over a rut in the cave, but this time I am able to stay upright. I rest on the side of the cave swiping my forehead with my forearm with no avail. The grit and dirt plastered to my face scratches where I wipe.
    When Luke offered this task to get out of my debt, I thought that my luck was finally turning around. All I had to do it follow the tunnel in the cave down to where it ends, and retrieve two rubies, easy peasie. I start off again, with more determination then before.
    I shudder hoping I don’t have to face anymore creatures. I am afraid of the little scuttling things that go bump in the night, and so far I have come in contact with them all. In the front of the cave I had to trudge through rat’s calf high, then the spiders, I push my hand through my hair still encased with spider webs, and those were the things I was able to identify.
    I glimpse up, and see two shining rubies ahead of me. They seem to be blinking although there is no light. I pick up my pace the rubies coming closer sweat is now pouring off of me. As I near the rubies, I feel hot air brush past me; I stop and feel it again. It is as if the cave is breathing. The air is a putrid smell, with a hint of something burning that I cannot identify.
    I am frozen in place not sure if I should go ahead or just turn and run. Then I hear a sound that had me turn to ice. It was an evil laugh, but almost familiar to me. I turn ready to run when I hear Lukes voice.
    “I have been waiting for you.” He says
    His voice is coming from the where the rubies are.
    “Luke what is going on here?” I ask, with fear in my voice.
    I hear a crunch as he seems to be moving closer, and I realize the rubies are his eyes glowing brightly in the dark.
    “Well, I have been waiting for you. You came to me willingly and now you are mine.” As he steps closer I see he is huge, and deformed his face not human.
    “Who are you?” I whisper no breath left in me
    “Well, You see my friends call me Lucifer.” He laughs again as darkness descends on me.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Hi Massagemom,
      Neat story. I could feel the evil breathing, that was cool! I don’t feel I am up to critiquing anyone’s work, but IMHO one thing that kept distracting me was the references to being in the cave. It appeared several times and took me away from the action that I already knew was happening within the cave. Does this make sense? It was still a good story! :)

    • Ishmael says:

      Massagemom -

      The premise of your story was dark and foreboding. I like that. Nice descriptions – rivulets of sweat. However, the suspense and eeriness wasn’t quite there, so I didn’t feel the fear that the protagonist was supposed to be feeling. Take your first three sentences, which are important in setting the scene and atmosphere:

      “I will never gamble again.” I vow again as I pick myself up off the floor of the cave I am sprawled on.
      This has become my mantra, I have been constantly repeating in my head since I started my journey into the cave.

      It sounds sedate. Does he really come across woeful and rueful (and scared)? Unfortunately, not too much. And the rest of the story follows that pattern. It has the makings of an evil thriller – the words are all there, the plot is rich with possibilities, but the sense of danger isn’t coming through.

      Picking myself off the cave floor, head scratched and pitted with shards of animal bones and gravel, I continue further down the dark catacomb, repeating my mantra over and over and over again. “God, if you get me through this and I’ll never gamble again.”

      Now…that’s just one of many ways to write it (yours is another), but it gives a better sense of solitude, darkness, and danger. More guilt over his gambling, because this consequence of being in the cave now feels more severe. And, adding God to the statement ties into the Lucifer aspect in the final sentence.

      It’s a great premise – wonderful take on the prompt. Just a little tweaking like that throughout and it’ll make the bravest heart whimper.

      As with any of these suggestions, feel free to take what you need and leave the rest behind. :)

      • Ishmael says:

        I meant to write, “God, if you get me through this, I’ll never gamble again.” At first I wrote, “God, get me through this and I’ll never gamble again.” Either way is fine, but when I changed it, I forgot to take out the “and.”

        • massagemom84 says:

          I completely understand what you are saying, and I appreciate it more than I can express. This is why I started doing these just to see if anyone liked anything I wrote. I get what both of you were saying, and I will be sure to use them when writing my next one. Thank you for taking time to read it.

  26. leahdabel says:

    As the seconds ticked down on the game clock, I knew I was a dead man. The last time I lost a bet, he’d broken my arm, and that was only a few thousand bucks. My stomach clenching, I looked back up at the TV and broke out into a sweat. $50,000 on this one. Yup, he was going to kill me for sure.

    Jumping up from the couch, I ran into my bedroom, tripping over the clothes strewn around the floor. I grabbed a bag from the closet and stuffed it full of clothes from the laundry basket, not caring that they were dirty. If I lived long enough to find a laundry mat, I could wash them later.

    Sprinting to the front door, I grabbed my keys, threw open the door, and ran smack into a solid wall of muscle. I staggered back, falling over the threshold and landed on my backside.

    “Going somewhere?” a deep voice asked.

    I looked up and saw two men wearing black Tshirts, black jackets, and leather gloves standing on my porch. He was standing behind them. It was a warm September day. Not a day for jackets and gloves. I started shaking.

    I laughed, a bit hysterically. “No!” I scrambled to my feet, attempted to kick my bag out of their view, and grabbed onto the door frame as I nearly fell over again. “No! Just…you know, …” my voice trailed off as he stepped in front of the two goons.

    “Let’s go inside, Pete,” he said quietly, walking into my living room.

    “Sure…” I smiled sickly and followed as the two goons stepped in behind me and shut the door. They each put a hand on my shoulder, holding me firmly in place, and frankly, holding me upright since my knees were shaking.

    “Listen, about the bet…just give me a day,” I blurted out.

    He shook his head. “That’s what you always say, Pete. You’ve run out of days.” He nodded at the two goons, and they pushed me down onto my knees.

    “No! Please!” I cried, as the cold steel of the gun’s barrel pressed against my temple. “I’ll do anything! Anything!”

    “Anything? Really?” he asked curiously. “I do have a bit of a problem I’d rather not take care of myself.”

    “Yes! What do you need? I…I could help you with…well…I could show you some out of the way places where…” I stammered.

    “Pete, please,” he snorted. “I’d like you to tell my wife I want a divorce.”

    I looked up at him in disbelief. Hysterical laughter bubbled up as relief flooded through me. “You want me to tell your wife you want a divorce?” I giggled inappropriately.

    “Yes.”

    “No problem!” I smiled, not believing my good fortune.

    “Here,” he said, handing me a gun. “You might need this.”

    • zo-zo says:

      I like how you set this guy up to be responding inappropriately – laughing – and so this comes back to bit him at the end – it makes the ending strong!!

      • leahdabel says:

        Thanks! For some reason when I write, I tend to think of a good ending line before I figure out the beginning. Or a good first line with no idea where it will go from there!

  27. Turtled says:

    Through the dim light I could see nothing more than a tipped garbage can, a fire escape and old papers blowing around the wet ground. It was definitely a scene from some movie, where the main characters get beat up or killed. I tried to swallow but my mouth had gone completely dry. I could feel my Adam’s apple stick to the back of my throat. I wondered if it made a sound as loud as I had imagined.
    I took a step. “What could possibly go wrong?” I wondered.
    “Don’t spook it!” Liz whispered in an exasperated tone. I could tell she wished she hadn’t agreed to come along.
    “Did I say that out loud?”
    Liz closed her eyes and shook her head, her long hair falling on either side of her face. Her hair was somewhere between reddish and brunette, but in the shadows it looked raven black. She really was beautiful. The thought calmed me and I started further down the alley.
    After a few steps, the sound of a window destroyed any calm I was feeling. I couldn’t tell if it had opened or closed. My eyes scanned the dank brick walls searching for something protruding from the edges, a camera to catch us in the act, or worse, a gun.
    Suddenly a hand touched my shoulder. I jumped and spun around. “You are such a frady cat.” Liz laughed and shook her head again. I realized I wasn’t breathing and inhaled slowly before I passed out.
    “OK let’s get this over with.”
    We quickened our pace down the alley. I slung the long package over my shoulder. It wasn’t heavy, but it was easier to carry that way. “I can’t believe we are doing this.”
    “Look at it this way, either Bruno can cut you a break, or he can cut the fingers off your left hand…I think this is the acceptable alternative.” Liz had a point, but did she really need to be so sarcastic while she made it?
    “Apartment 1215…this is the place.” Standing at the bottom of the short three steps looking up at the bent screen door, I tried to remember how it all started. The horse races were fun at first, but by the time I realized that the winning stopped, it was too late to turn back. “Oh well, you know what you always say; ‘It’s not the life you live it’s the courage and compassion you put into it.’ Here goes nothing.”
    I tapped quietly on the door, hoping that no one inside would hear. But almost immediately the door swung open. I could only see the shadow inside. Just as suddenly the screen door flew open towards us. I reached out and handed the package over.
    “I hope they didn’t use too much starch.” The voice said rough from too many cigarettes. And just as quickly she was gone.
    “Dang, now I see where Bruno gets his big head.” I said coming back down the stairs. “Only 5000 more errands and I will be completely paid off.”
    Liz punched my arm, “You are such a goof!”

  28. Just B says:

    I was having a leisurely morning of coffee and girl watching at my favorite outdoor café and just beginning to consider passing groups to melt into so I wouldn’t have to pay for breakfast when a broad hand clamped down on my shoulder and a familiar voice in my ear, “Heya Bobby, great morning, huh.”

    “Oh hey, Nick, yeah, it’s a beaut for sure,” I offered a bright smile, silently cursing my bad timing. If only I’d caught that last crowd.

    Nick chuckled as he sat next to me, “Looka them girls would ya. But, hey, I’m not complaining. They must want us to look, huh.”

    I laughed with him but could feel sweat starting to bead above my lips. I hated that I had such an obvious tell.

    “Hard to believe it got down into the 50s last night, huh, Bobby.”

    My blood froze.

    “Yeah, the 50s. Wow. That’s not normally so easy to climb out of, huh.”

    My mind blackened blankly.

    “But, hey, you know what I’ve heard is perfect during a cold snap like that, huh?”

    Nick didn’t often offer advice. I felt a warming spark of hope.

    “Some good ol’ fashioned action, that’s what.” Here, he dug his elbow into my ribs and laughed like he was watching an old Saturday Night Live. He suddenly sobered and leaned in. I could smell the eggs he’d had for breakfast. “Look, Bobby, I like you. You’re not a bad kid. You just hit some ice is all. You just need to get your traction back.”

    I dared not say anything for fear of blowing away the gossamer lifeline that seemed to be dropping towards me.

    “I need you to do something for me. It’s something I just personally can’t bring myself to do. But it needs done. If you do it, I’ll throw sand down for you. Get you off the ice. Hell, I’ll even pull you all the way onto land. Clean slate.”

    “Sure, Nick, yeah, yeah, of course. Clean slate? Like nothing ever happened?” I knew I was stammering but didn’t care.

    “Like nothing ever happened, Bobby. I’m serious though. This ain’t gonna be no easy thing. It’s personal. Ok? Don’t tell nobody. And I want to be real clear. If you go there, there is absolutely no backing out or lots worse than 50k is gonna happen. That frozen lake you’re on is gonna bust wide open and you’re gonna fall in. You got it?”

    “Yeah, Nick. I got it. Where do you need me to go?”

    He stood up and shook my hand, pressing a napkin into my palm as he did so then hurried away.

    I shifted nervously as I rang the doorbell. Wasn’t this where Nick lived? What the heck was he telling me to come here for?

    “It’s open,” a voice called.

    I walked into a cavernous foyer.

    “Up here.”

    I slowly climbed the carpeted stairs.

    “In here, Slowpoke!”

    I cautiously pushed the door open.

    A cloud of stale, hot air made me cough involuntarily.

    “Strip down and get over here!”

    My eyes adjusted to the dim light, and I finely saw the source of the raspy, female voice. There must have been 500 pounds of undulating flesh in front of me.

    “I like to be on top,” she grinned.

    • Squiggles says:

      BAHAHAHAHA!!! I love this! The ending was excellent and simultaneously horrifying (in a good way). Poor Bobby’s probably wishing he could just fall through the ice after all. Love the dialogue too. Thanks for the great laugh!

    • metaman321 says:

      Great twist at the end. I laughed and choked at the same time. Why did I envision a female Jabba-the Hutt? Sick.

    • Bridee0809 says:

      Oh my, poor guy, but I suppose it could be worse…well maybe not. I really liked the dialogue and how, if I was sitting next to these guys, I wouldn’t have been able to tell what they were really talking about. I’m sure there is a term for that but whatever it’s called, it was a great lesson for me and one I will remember. Thank for a compelling and enjoyable read!

  29. backintheday says:

    Easy Target

    I knew he was in too deep, but I laid in that crazy bet for him anyway. He was going to lose, and I was going to win.

    Sure enough, when the game was up, that fifty grand of his slid over to his credit column. And I don’t mean good credit. I’m talking accounting here. Debits and credits. Make no mistake, bookkeeping is a lot more accurate when it ain’t legal.

    All a part of my plan, though. See, I was two steps ahead of Mr. Crimson late that night. His bloodshot eyes, heavy legs and mussed up carrot top gave him away. He was an addict. I’m a business man. When two such folks meet, one gets richer and the other, sicker.

    What I didn’t expect was for him to own up to his situation so quickly. Well, at least not to the fact that he owed me a lot of money.

    Then I gave him a way out, which was against my better judgement, by the way. I placed my own bet on this poor sod, which goes against everything a bookie knows. Don’t play your own game. Never bet. But my mind was on an easy target, so I gave up wisdom in lieu of finding someone to do some dirty work I needed done.

    “This is how it is,” I told Mr. Crimson. “You meet my friend down by the docks tomorrow night. He’s got something real valuable. I need you to bring it right back to me. No questions. Got it?” He got it all right. Fifty grand in debt and all he had to do was play Fedex for an hour. You bet he got it.

    So, two nights ago, just after the sun went down, Mr. Crimson comes to my door. Yeah, he had the package all right. Along with his neatly-trimmed trenchcoat, snug-fitting fedora and shiny badge.

  30. jincomt says:

    There were a couple horse-racing-bets-gone-bad stories on here, so at first I thought, “here’s another”. But your use of lingo (mudder/last minute scratch) gave it a ring of authenticity that perked my interest. I also thought the twist of the enhancing formula was intriguing, but then you kicked it up yet another notch when the protagonist realized he’d been set up. Kudos– I kept reading thinking, “Oh– that’s intriguing, ohhh, that’s intriguing too..” and then the final, Ohhhhhh”. Well written!

  31. metaman321 says:

    I hear Hanlon’s step on the creaky stair. No fear, he doesn’t know Jasper’s dead and he soon will be too.

    It was supposed to be a sure thing, the fix was in. The horse, An Enormous Dog, was known as a ‘mudder’ and it had been raining for three days. The track was slop and the only other ‘mudder’ in the field was supposed be a last minute scratch. My bookie, Hanlon, had provided the tip. Fool that I am, I had bet everything I had, and then some.

    The horse finished fifth in a field of seven.

    “What are you worried about, Ace?” Hanlon had said with an evil gleam in his eye. “Just ask daddy for the fifty grand. He’s got plenty.”

    I could see Jasper, standing behind him, smiling that smug smile of his. Big and stupid, but tough, Jasper was Hanlon’s muscle. I’d tasted blood because of him before.

    Hanlon knew the old man was done bankrolling my stupidity. Hell, I was the one who had told him so. The last twenty-five thousand was the last I’d ever get and Hanlon knew it. Hanlon was after more, much more.

    “Now, if daddy won’t come across with the money,” Hanlon continued, “maybe we can work something else out.”

    When I asked him what he had in mind, he said, “Get me the formula.”

    The old man’s chemical company specialized in veterinary pharmacology. It had developed a drug that enhanced the performance of race horses. The drug hadn’t yet been approved by the state racing commission but that didn’t matter to Hanlon. If it gave him an edge, he’d use it, or more likely, sell it to the highest bidder.

    I was working at the company, trying to pay off the twenty-five I owed the old man from the last time. I was pissed at the old man about the money and deathly afraid of Jasper. I decided to do it. I knew it would be a simple matter to get the formula after the lab technicians went home at 4:30. I decided to kill a few hours at the track before heading over to the company.

    That’s when I ran into Enrique, the jockey that had ridden An Enormous Dog to the disastrous fifth-place finish. I had known Enrique since we were kids. We used to hang out around the stables together.

    I asked him, “What happened yesterday?”

    Enrique averted his eyes and walked away, but before he was out of earshot, he muttered “Jasper.”

    So the fix was in all right, I was the mark.

    Rage, black as hell’s night, consumed me, devouring my fear.

    Stupid-ass Jasper had been easy to take out. I handed him a piece of paper with some bullshit equations on it. He opened it up and stared at it, pretending to understand what was written there. That’s when I opened him up.

    Now I wait, cold steel, sharp and vengeful, behind my back. The door opens.

    “Hello, Hanlon.”

  32. Ishmael says:

    This is only a test. This is only a test.

  33. zo-zo says:

    Crack winced when he heard. It just wasn’t right. He stomped his cigarette on the greasy pavement. It was sad what a man had to do to get by.

    Three days later he was standing before the heavyweight mansion, ivy edging it’s way across the white porch. A manicured rose garden, strewn with red, pink and yellow roses. He smelt them behind the prim fence, sweet and inviting. The smell would forever be associated with murder. Hopefully this would go by fast.

    It was obvious they were away. There were a stack of newspapers right next to the front door, and the porch needed a sweep. The summer’s leaves were scattered everywhere. Next to the door was an empty cat bowl, with proud black letters saying Whiskers. Crack’s eyes darted back to the roses.

    It didn’t take him long to pick the lock, and soon he was standing knee-high in flowers. He bent down and looked through the stems. This was where he’d find her, Manny had said, by the yellow roses.

    Manny gave him the history. ‘This girl has wrecked the marriage. Always whining, always needy. The Mrs can’t take it. Every day, he talks about her, non-stop. She knows he’ll be wrecked by the loss but,’ Manny breathed tobacco into Crack’s face, ‘to save the marriage, this has to be done.’

    Crack nodded.

    ‘One last thing,’ Manny said, cocking his head. ‘If he finds you in the act, he’ll kill you himself.’

    Crack discovered her easily. She was lying on a cluster of yellow petals. She yawned when she saw him, stretched, and turned away.

    ‘Here kitty kitty,’ he whispered.

    She sat down, showing him her back.

    Crack inched towards her but he needn’t have been so careful – she wasn’t going anywhere. She was a speckled tortoiseshell, whites, browns and ginger. What a beaut. He took his knife out and it glinted in the sun. She looked at it and yawned. He put his hand out to grab her, and as it touched her skin, she started purring. Loudly. The purr shook her entire body.

    ‘Stop that,’ he said, removing his hand. But she didn’t. She looked at him through slanted, flirting eyes. The fifty grand he owed reminded him what Manny’s other language was. Crack knew what he had to do. He braced himself.

    Five hours later, Crack slunk into Manny’s cramped office that smelt like imitation perfume.

    ‘All good?’ Manny said, smiling up from his sprawling desk.

    Crack nodded as Manny made a big show of scratching his name off the black list. He didn’t tell Manny that Whiskers was delighted with her new owner. He didn’t need to know.

  34. Icabu says:

    Sweat beaded on Ed’s upper lip, threatening the glue of his fake mustache. How was he supposed to guess that a horse named Plow Share would so easily beat the sweet Phree Philly? That mistake put him back in the clutches of his bookie for Fifty Bigs. Luckily, he supposed, he had a talent to get himself out of his self-imposed debt crisis. The last time he’d used this talent it had cost him three the hard way – hard time, that is. Despite the sweat, he shivered at the mere thought of going back behind bars.

    He motioned the dealer for a hit and held at fifteen, knowing the wealth of face cards due on the deck. House had a four showing and took a hit. House busted at twenty-four. With the dealer eying him viciously, Ed pooled his chips and decided to cash out for the day. His limit was supposed to be less than ten G per casino to quell attention and suspicion. He took twelve here and needed to get out fast. He was sure the dealer knew he was counting cards – just one of his dubiously useful talents.

    A new day, a new disguise, a new casino. Craps was his real talent. Dice talked to him and he always listened intently. He talked to the dice and they rewarded him with obedience. He faced the faded felt, wishing for the slick tables in the flashy major casinos. He’d been banned for life from all of them. These off-Strip houses would likely collar him, but their security wasn’t as solid as the Big Houses. He still sweated, though, and it made the stringy, blonde wig itch.

    Ed rolled and signaled for his bookie to make bets. Big bets were wins. Small bets were losses – just to give the appearance of being legit. They rolled through three seedy casinos. Doing math, Ed knew one more good gig would pay back his debt. He wanted to go out in style.

    Tottering into the Bellagio, Ed wondered how women strutted in these heels and tight skirts. The thrill of the game floor flooded through him, pushing away the gnawing worry. He wasn’t exactly pretty, but he felt unrecognizable.

    The glitzy craps tables played to his skillful rolls. The dough rose around his bookie. Ed soared, rolling the bones and rolling out of his debt.

    Cashing out, Ed’s bookie tossed him a handful of chips as he hurried out. Ed took this uncharacteristic event as a lucky sign and sat, as daintily as possible, at a Blackjack table. Soon, his chip pile tripled, and tripled again. He was zoned in like never before.

    When the steel vise-like hand clamped on Ed’s shoulder, he froze. He recognized the voice in his ear.

    “It’s been a long time, Ed. Or should I say Edna?”

    The House Dick’s cackling laughter seared Ed’s nerves. His luck had run out. Again.

  35. Bridee0809 says:

    Earth, Air, Fire and Water

    Air sighed heavily, causing Fire across the table to flare up, blanketing himself in smoke. Red and twinkling, his embers floated up then showered down over him, some falling on the felt-covered table top.

    “Hey, take it easy babe,” said Fire, smiling as he patted the smoldering embers on the table, a thin layer of ash falling off his hand with every pat.

    “Sorry, honey. I worked a hurricane today and I think I’m still pumped,” Air said. “I bet two,” she said, carefully placing two chips on the table.

    “Yeah, that was fun, thanks for taking me along,” said Water, sitting to Airs left. “I check,” she said, rapping her knuckles twice on the table. The motion caused small ripples to ungulate from her fingers and travel up her arm, disappearing at her shoulder.

    “Well, I could have hardly done it without you,” Air said, smiling and bowing her head in Waters direction. “I’m just glad the twins didn’t show up.”

    “Which ones?” said Earth, looking up in the midst of throwing two chips on the pile, a worried expression appearing on his craggy face.

    “Light and Dark,” said Air.

    “Oh them,” interrupted Fire. “I’m so over this ‘now you see me, now you don’t, now you see me, now you don’t’ act of theirs,” he said with a disgusted look.

    “I had a run-in with Time and Space today,” said Earth, “they sent me back.”

    “Sweetie, you didn’t tell me that,” said Water.

    “They did that to you? They only do that when…” said Air, then her eyes opened wide, “how much did you owe them?”

    “Fifty. Large,” said Earth, his wide shoulders slumped and he hung his head. A mini avalanche of rocks and dirt sheared off the top of his head and dropped to the table.

    “Fifty? Oh Earth, really! You’re like a child,” said Water, shaking her head and scowling at her mate.

    “I had to do one small thing for them, I’m square now,” he said patting Waters arm then wiping his muddy hand on his thigh.

    “You know, I thought something was different today during the hurricane.” Air said thoughtfully, bringing her arm up to her chin, the breeze scattering the cards across the table. “We were north and things seemed too…oh, I don’t know, tropical?” looking at Water for confirmation.

    “Now that you mention, it was tropical wasn’t it? It’s like the continent used to be somewhere else,” said Water, then glared at Earth.

    “I’d like to put Light and Dark somewhere else. Like the middle of a volcano. You know, just for fun,” said Fire, a sneer curling his charred lip.

    “Spirit was in trouble too, I wasn’t the only one,” said Earth, lamely trying to defend himself.

    “You moved the continent again didn’t you?” asked Water.

    “Something like that,” Earth said slowly and shrugged. He took her hand in his and made a mental note to call Dark tomorrow about cutting a deal for the next few million years.

    • Bridee0809 says:

      Hi everybody! I get too excited about these prompts and don’t let the story simmer for a day or so like I should. So please excuse my goofs. “Avalanche” should be “landslide”, and Air should bring her HAND to her chin, not her ARM. If you see anything else that should be changed or have any comments good or bad, please let me know, I appreciate it. Thanks!

    • jincomt says:

      This was really, really original and clever. I loved the visuals you gave (when Earth took Water’s hand and had to wipe the mud off or the ripples that appeared in Water’s arm) . Very cool! I’m not sure I got the ending– the consequence– but that might just take another reading on my part to put it together. I had a little trouble at first getting the setting with all the characters, but once I got the rhythm of it, and what you were doing, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. It made me smile as I read it with all the clever dialogue and descriptions. By the way, I thought “avalanche” worked just fine.

      • Bridee0809 says:

        Thank you! Earth probably should have said “five small things”. The consequence, I suppose, would be that they all have to spread themselves out a bit more. Kind of like parents – drive to school, drive to soccer, drive to dance class, etc.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      This was really different and I loved it!

    • Ishmael says:

      Honestly, I thought this was ingenious, and I don’t use that word lightly – I seldom use it at all. What a clever spin to this prompt! The personification of the elements (and time, space, light, dark) was delightful, and the details used (ripple, mud, air moving the cards, charred lip) really created a vision of four Titans playing cards after a day at the office (even the card playing details – two taps on the table – were great). The end was a little sketchy for me…I didn’t get why Earth had to cut a deal with Dark after he moved the continents, but maybe that’s to come… Thanks for an unusual and thoroughly charming read!

      • Bridee0809 says:

        Wow, thanks Ishmael! I had a lot of fun with this one. Well, he didn’t move the continents, he broke it apart, the rest of the players think there is still only one. The word count is both a blessing and a curse! Thanks again.

    • metaman321 says:

      This was a fun read, especially the descriptions of the results of the characters interacting. Very creative.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      Ah, finally a reasonable explanation for earthquakes and continental drift. Original and engaging!

  36. Jaybo says:

    Dangerous Mission…
    “Oh, this shave won’t hurt! Not even when you feel the full length stroking of the blade… sideways.”
    “The full length… sideways?” I squeaked like a castrated mouse. That straight razor was my Grandfather’s. My uninvited guest found it on my night dresser next to his Daguerreotype and now it is poised to have me join Grand-Dad in the elect celestial men’s club. This is what an overdrawn account will get a soul who neglects the first tenant of gambling… pay it! “What if I can get the cash in three days?” I, again, piercing a chicken’s upper vocal range.
    “In three days, you will be waiting to be risen from the grave. Capisce? You made a commitment to make good this sum. You cannot. Master said if you do not, ‘Make like Shylock’… ….But there isn’t any Portia here, my friend.”
    “Friends don’t let friends act like colonial barbers.” My poor attempt at humoring this dutiful servant of my fiduciary soverign made him scowl.
    “Enough! What have you got that I can take back to prove the job is done? Your tongue? Ears? Hmm, you don’t listen anyway. Can’t use the eyes. What they’re going to see in a moment will be etched into the cornea; no sense frightening an occularist. Nose is too small, matches your brain. ….You a lady’s man? ….That ought to put things in perspective. Hah! Small brain, small…Wait! Why, yes!” He spoke slowly, “…Brain! Well now, he might approve that and it’s so easy to prove it’s from you. ‘Corpus cum Cranium Evacutuum’!
    “Gott in Himmel!” I regressed to my infantile native language. “Have mercy!” I began crying like that little child in the presence of this man. My torturer looked at me and simply moved away. Putting the razor back on my nightstand, suddenly, he spoke to me like a confessor giving penance and absolution.
    “I can get a pound of flesh or a brain from anywhere. You have one fashion out.”
    “Please tell me! I can do anything but get blood from a stone”.
    “This, I know!… An evil man of former dubious importance lives in a city where the Master grew up. His grandfather took the Master’s family vineyard. He would like nothing more than to have this man’s head on a platter. Go, therefore, to the man’s city, enter into his apartment, which is perpetually guarded and bring back the head… of the former Secretary of State, which you will find easily, at night, in the Master’s chamber-room. You will tell that man, beforehand, why you came and you will leave a note. It will inform the resident authorities of his Family’s committed crime and you will also leave a previously stolen kinetoscope with the proof of the deed. By putting it on the chamber bed next to the body, lying there, all concerned will know they are not impenetrable and can hide criminals no longer. Do you have questions?” “Where is the city and the man?” “Rome,Vatican.”

  37. smallPencil says:

    In the middle of the dirt street I stood in my own sweat, blissfully ignorant that the hot steel of a pistol would soon be against my forehead, “El Relámpago?”

    The old man made no reply. He hid under a straw hat even darker and more tattered.

    “Hey, Americano!” I spun to see a middle aged man a little too nicely dressed for the village, with a little too-wide grin. “Why you come here, Americano?”

    “To find El Relámpago.”

    “No, Americano, why you. Why you come here?”

    “I owe a guy.”

    “You don’t seem like a hunter.” I could smell the whiskey on his breath. He seemed at ease violating my comfort zone.

    I shrugged. “I’m working for free. Plus I’m half-Mexican, not like the fat Italian who sent me.”

    “Do you know what is El Relámpago?”

    “A dog.”

    “El Relámpago is no Dog, Americano. It means, ‘the lightning’. In your shining castles you just hear about him, that he spotted here in Santos. But in Santos El Relámpago is legend.” That’s when I felt the pistol. “For the man who owns him, the rivers will flow with gold.” Two men materialized on either side of the road. They wore tailored suits and held nine millimeter pistols. It hit me for the first time: I was in the middle of nowhere in a wild country. No one would even find my body. Now I grasped the reason Tony sent me. I fumbled with the strap holding the tranq gun to my backpack. The man’s expression went hard. I closed my eyes.

    In place of the bang was a scream. I opened my eyes to find my accoster lying face down, his arm covered in blood and the tattered remains of his silk sleeve. Then the man to my left fell. A black streak fired across the road. A sonic boom slammed into my ears. I choked on an endless cloud of dust. When all but the small puffs coming from the three unconscious men settled, I saw a jet black greyhound before me. It looked like any other but with a yellow sheen to its eyes, like a cat spied through night vision. El Relámpago. With a start I realized the tranq gun was in my hand. I leveled it at the dog. It made no move. Just stared me in the eyes. I knew then what I had to do. I walked to the pistol and picked it up, dropping the tranq gun. More men would come. And I had a new debt to repay.

  38. catbr says:

    Jay wasn’t much of a gambler with the exception of buying a weekly $4 lottery ticket, but then he started getting into something more. The initial excitement of winning the first time made him want more. It was a horse race and he just picked out a name that he liked, to lay his money on. His $10 bet on Dazzling Gold turned into $250. Good old Dazzling Gold was a long shot that started Jay’s spiral down into the dark pit of gambling addiction. Horse racing was only one of the events he gambled on every week. He eventually got hooked on betting the football games, boxing matches, and practically anything else he could waste his money on.

    The losses were piling up like an overwhelming mound of the most putrid smelling pig manure. The wins were far outnumbered by the loses. He was in over his head, especially with the last outrageous bet he made. He put $25,000 down on a boxing match that he was told was a sure thing. He thought with the winnings from this he could pay back everything else that he owed. It was going to be his big break.

    Jay picked up the phone on the second ring half hoping that it might be good news from Arnold. “Hey Jay, it’s Arnold. Guess What?”

    “What?” Jay knew it was bad news. Arnold always said guess what, whenever he was going to lay a load of crap on anybody.

    “That boxing match didn’t turn out like everybody thought. Lewis lost. Gee, I guess you owe me what now, around $50,000? I suppose you can’t pay me back right away?”

    “No Arnold, I guess I can’t. I’m a little bit short of money right now. Is there a payment plan or something we could work out?”

    “What do you think this is, the fuckin’ bank?”

    “There must be something I could do for you to pay back the money. Some kind of work, anything.” Jay was desperate. He didn’t have that kind of money.

    “I’ll tell you what, since I’m such a nice guy there is this one thing you could do for me. My daughter has been dating this loser and I don’t like him much. You bump him off and you’re debt free. You gotta make it look like an accident ’cause I don’t want her thinking I had anything to do with it. So, what do ya think?”

    “I’ve never done anything like that, but I could try.”

    “Meet me down at the old wharf by the lake at 10 o’clock tomorrow night and I’ll give you all the details.”

    Jay went down to the wharf the next night. Arnold wanted his daughter’s boyfriend to be killed in a car accident. Knowing Jay was an auto mechanic by trade Arnold knew he could pull it off. Jay went to where the boyfriend worked and found his car, identifying it by the license plate number he was given. Jay was so nervous that he was sweating profusely on that cool night. There was no turning back, he had to do it. He got under the car with a small flashlight to re-route the fuel lines. The first bump or two the car hit would cause an explosion and instantly kill the driver. Jay waited far enough away with binoculars so he wouldn’t get caught, but that he could see everything. The boyfriend was supposed to be out from work at midnight.

    At around 11:00 pm there was a young woman fitting Arnold’s daughter’s description who approached the car. To his surprise she got into the vehicle and started it up. Jay started running to try and stop her. But he was too far away. It was too late. The thunderous explosion lit up the night two blocks down the street. Jay would be dead by morning.

    • jincomt says:

      Oh what a fatal mistake! This is a good story– you kept my attention with good dialogue then built the suspense and then offered a satisfying conclusion (even though it was tragic!). For some reason, the first paragraph didn’t read as smoothly for me. I felt like you were trying to get the set-up done (which you did succinctly) but it didn’t blend as well as the rest of it for me.

      • rob akers says:

        I like the story and the ending. Great Job. Not trying to be confusing but I have to disagree with jincomt. I liked the first paragraph. Made it more believable to know how his problem started, gave me some identification with him. I guess having lived this life in my past made it real to me.

      • Rebecca says:

        I agree with you both. The first paragraph was needed backstory but it felt rushed. but overall I liked the story. Good Job.

    • catbr says:

      Thanks everybody for your comments. I appreciate it.

  39. lpsmitty says:

    The gun sat on the desk between the two of them, a dull metallic form against the mahogany. Frank’s heart hammering in his chest. The backroom of the poolhall was barely lit by the lamp on the desk and he could barely make out Barry’s face, so he couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. Frank prayed that he was.

    “Pick it up,” Barry finally said, snapping Frank back to reality. This was no joke.

    “You can’t be serious.”

    “I’m dead serious, Frank. I’m down 50 grand messin’ around with you. This is your only out. Now, pick it up!”

    “I can’t do this, Barry,” Frank almost whined. He tried to toughen his voice after hearing himself. “I’m not that kind of guy. This isn’t my thing.”

    “Neither is pickin’ boxers, but that didn’t stop you! I tell you what. You pull fifty large out of your Dockers right now, and then you turn around and walk the hell outta here. Otherwise, I wanna see that gun in your hand!”

    Frank looked down at the gun. A little .380, nickel-plated, nothing flashy. He noticed his hand shaking as he picked it up. It looked tiny, though he could have sworn that it weighed at least a ton. He tucked it into his front pocket and left his hand in there, feeling the cold metal on his fingers.

    He left the poolhall, head down, avoiding eye contact as much as possible. Barry said if he went immediately then he could catch her down at the bar. It was almost closing time and his wife always left alone, though not for a lack of trying. It should only take a couple of shots, he said. The slut won’t ever step out on him again.

    The night air offered no relief. The streets were beginning to empty, leaving nothing but the sounds of distant sirens and the traffic lights which served little purpose at those hours. Frank kept his head down, hoping that when he got to the bar it would be empty. His mind raced with ways to back out of it, how to come up with the money on short notice, anything to keep him from that bar. He crossed streets without looking up, hoping to get side-swiped. He looked at every alley as an escape route. But his feet marched steadily forward.

    He made it to the bar parking lot without hindrance. The lot wasn’t empty. Fumbling for her keys, dropping them repeatedly, Barry’s wife was a short pudgy woman, wearing a dress too short for her age and too tight for her build. Frank didn’t even try to be quiet as he approached her and raised the gun. She turned and had no time to even gasp before he pulled the trigger.

    Click.

    Frank stared at the gun in amazement. His gaze shifted just in time to see her gun pointing at him.

    Boom.

  40. jincomt says:

    He sits across the table from me sipping coffee, his pinkie extended, wearing a gray, pinstripe suit with the incongruent red satin lining, the finest quality. He smiles smoothly, clearly believing he holds the advantage. (The bout begins.)

    “You made the decision to gamble on love, Lindsey.” (Lunge.)

    “I know I did. What choice did I have?”

    He leans back knitting his hands behind his head, a confident look pasted on his face. “What’s it worth to you? Fifty-thousand dollars?”

    I glance away, afraid to answer. “How can you place a price tag on love?” (Parry.)

    “Well, to some $50,000 doesn’t hold a lot of value, but to you, it’s riches beyond your grasp. Am I right?” He moves forward, resting his head on his hands, his elbows propped on the table, his face too close.

    I’m tired of being afraid. I lean forward too so our faces are close together and spit my words out. “He’s different. He’s worth the chance. It’s not a gamble. It’s an investment.” (Riposte.)

    He laughs a low throaty sound that manages to sound as sensuous as it does menacing and claps his hands in delight. “That’s fantastic, Lindsey. Well played, however misguided.” He grows somber and stares at me with quiet focus. “Remember, they’re rarely ever truly different, my dear.” (Touché.)

    “He is,” I insist, but I can feel a thin veneer of sweat on my upper lip.

    His demeanor changes like a shadow and he casually studies his diamond studded cuff links. “Fine. But you will owe the bookie.” (Attaque.)

    Owe? I wonder what he has in mind. I wait.

    His eyes glide down to my mid-section, the fertile plot of my womb. “You will conceive but never to fruition. They will all be mine.” (Thrust.)

    I close my eyes feeling my breath forced out of me. I placed a hand across the softness of my stomach. Blake’s face floats in front of me, the smile I know so well, the lips that move me to a molten mass. I open my eyes to see my opponent smiling at me smoothly. He already knows. (Croise.)

    “What do you want with them?” I can’t help asking even though the decision had been made.

    “Where do you think cherubs come from, my dear?”

    I lower my head and close my eyes, the searing accuracy of his blade burns through my midsection.

    When I open my eyes, he is gone and Blake is standing in front of me. “Oh Lindsey, I’m so glad I found you. I’ve been a fool. I should never have left you.”

    I have dreamt of hearing those words and smile at him, my heart bursting. Cupid, and his evil plot, has been defeated.

    Encouraged, Blake sits down. “I’ve been thinking about that $50,000 you won. I think we should buy a sports car, cherry red.”

    Money I won? What is he talking about? I reach in my purse to pay for my cold coffee and uneaten muffin and see the check with the little house emblem made out to me for $50,000.

    I look around wondering if anyone else hears the hollow laughter ringing and bouncing inside my head. (Match.)

    • Ishmael says:

      Wow. Well played. The parenthetical fencing match was great. Only at first did I think they were having the conversation while fencing, and I got a bit confused how their body actions were “incongruent” (I love that whole phrase, btw) with the match. I figured it out when he leaned back and knitted his fingers, so I went back to the top with this knowledge. Then I had to read it again just for the pure hell of it. It was fun! How’d she get the $50K and the boyfriend? I thought it was one or the other, but by the end I’m thinking it was compensation for the loss of progeny?

      I also liked it in present tense! And when needed, you slid effortlessly into the past tense, described what it needed, then flowed back to us in the here and now. Thanks for a delightful, and innovative, take on the prompt!

      • jincomt says:

        Thanks Ish– it was an experiment, all around. The fencing is a metaphor, but I can see the confusion. I wonder how I could have made that more clear? (Suggestions?) I tried to use their body language to show the concept. I kept it in the present tense because I wanted it to read like watching a match.

        And the money and ending– boo on 500 words (and I even ran a bit over!). Lindsey had insisted that Blake was different than the other men, but Cupid knew better. In the end, did Blake return for love or because he knew about the money? Maybe it was a gamble that didn’t pay off, after all.

        • Ishmael says:

          See…that’s what I sort of thought (about Blake’s return)!

          I loved the fencing metaphor. I got it, and you were perfectly clear with it, so really no suggestions to offer. It was on my end…a loose nut behind the keyboard…just took me a sentence or two to realize that’s what was going on. I loved all the fencing rhetoric, too. Gave it that ooo-la-la feel! Like Cupid himself!

          • rob akers says:

            Great job and I like how you weaved in the fencing. I always thought fencing was something that people did with stolen items but I am not so smart.

            A suggestion: You asked how to make it more clear. Just tell the reader. A simple sentence like, Calm on the outside but her mind was embroiled in a agrument. It is weak but hopefully you get the point. Dont hide it and let the reader try to figure it out. Just say it.

            Eitherway, you did a good job!

      • jincomt says:

        Good idea, Rob and that wouldn’t have hogged up words. I’m never sure if saying something outright won’t give enough credit to the reader or not, but you’re right, that would have clarified it up right quick. Thanks for the feedback! I love it when people read and give me constructive stuff to work with.

    • Jeanie Y says:

      I really enjoyed this jincomt! I think she should send Blake on a one-way trip, telling him she will meet up with him, and leave him there! Cupid is not stupid! :)

      • Amy says:

        Your risk paid off big time here, jincomt! I really enjoyed the parrying with cupid. Great story, well told! Love is truly the highest stake to throw on the table.

  41. joecover says:

    I didn’t mean to get into him for fifty large, but I just kept letting the bet rollover to the next game. I figured the odds were in my favor. How many times can the Springfield Scissors lose? Enough to wind me up standing in front of Chicago Charlie begging for a break, and hopefully it wouldn’t be my legs.
    Charlie stared through piggy eyes. “So you need a break? Some way to work off the debt? You ain’t big enough or mean enough to collect any debts for me. What use I got for a fat guy who works at Petland?”
    I shrugged. Charlie shook his snout and stated, “I tell ya what use I got for ya. My aunt Matilda’s going away for the weekend and she needs someone to watch her rat assed dogs, Piper and Petunia. One weekend at her house and I forgive your fifty thousand.”
    I couldn’t believe my luck as I rang the doorbell to Matilda’s million dollar mansion. Sit in the lap of luxury for two days, pet a couple of pooches, and walk away with all my limbs.
    Matilda greeted me at the door with a Pomeranian tucked under her arm. After showing me the dog food and my sleeping quarters, she passed “precious Piper” off to me and left in a limo that was waiting when I arrived. She had assured me that “pretty Petunia” would be around to meet me shortly.
    As soon as the limo pulled away, Piper licked my chin, then clamped onto it like a vice grip covered with needles. I screamed and let go. Piper hung on as I swung around trying to shake him free. I grabbed his jaws and was attempting to pull them apart when Petunia, a 55 pound American Pit Bull Terrorist, came round the corner headed straight for me; her jaws open wide with drool that screamed “fresh meat.”
    I jumped onto the sofa, Piper hanging on for dear life, lost my footing and fell over the back. Petunia followed me over. I was trapped between a sofa, a wall, and a pit bull. Piper released his grip and began to run around me yipping and nipping, encouraging Petunia to take a bite. I prayed that Petunia didn’t get excited over the smell of human blood, and began to slowly crab crawl on my back towards the nearest door, a coat closet. Straddling my legs, head just over my groin, Petunia moved with me. All the while Piper continued his death dance around us. I inched to the door and slowly raised myself enough to reach the knob. As I turned the knob, Petunia took a pound of flesh from my left thigh. Pain motivated me as I jerked the door open and Piper ran in. I pulled my bloody thigh from Petunia’s mouth and flung myself into the closet.
    The rest of the weekend was spent with me in the dark being tormented by Piper while I listened to Petunia pace back and forth or snore outside the door. When it was finally opened on Monday, Matilda greeted me with a smile and a reassurance, that next time, Charlie wouldn’t let me off so easy.

  42. DMelde says:

    Bart stood inside the Echo Chamber at the Springfield Institute of Sound. The Director had instructed the class to remain absolutely quiet, but Nelson had instructed otherwise. Therein lay Bart’s dilemma. He had lost a bet to Nelson, and his punches hurt, so he couldn’t weasel out of paying him back. He remembered their conversation from yesterday.
    “Come on, Nelson.” Bart pleaded. “I’m already in hot water with the Principal, and if I screw up again my old man will kill me.”
    “A bet’s a bet. Are you suggesting a physical solution involving my fist and your face, in lieu of the payment promised me?” Nelson’s face smiled, but his fist didn’t, as he brought it up menacingly.
    “I’m good for it! Don’t have a cow! I was just thinking there might be some other way I could pay you back?”
    “Do you have fifty-thousand dollars?”
    “Come on, you know I don’t.”
    “Then we proceed as planned. Bart, I offer you a path to greatness that few men will ever achieve. You will be immortalized for this, and it will reverberate forever.”
    On the day of the field trip, Bart ate a grande bean burrito for lunch, with extra beans, and he washed it down with a bubble fizz soft drink, with extra fizz. Surrounded by his classmates, he could already feel the first rumblings beginning in his stomach. He listened to the Director give them final instructions before entering the chamber.
    “Anything above a whisper will echo back and forth, sometimes for hours, so please remain absolutely quiet.” the Director said.
    When they moved inside the echo chamber the Director continued his lecture.
    “I’ve brought along this duck,” the Director whispered, “to demonstrate that a duck’s quack does not echo.”
    The director held the duck in the way you would hold the bagpipes, and he gave it a little squeeze.
    “QUACK!”
    Silence followed, and the class, impressed, nodded their heads in approval. Bart felt the pressure build up inside, and felt ready to honor his bet with Nelson. Striding forward, he turned and addressed his classmates.
    “And now, for your listening pleasure,” Bart whispered, “I present to you the Cafeteria Bean Concerto in Fart Major.” Bart ripped off a good one.
    “PFfffftBLLLLLLLLPFffffffft!”
    The class listened as the sound echoed, and they murmured, “Hey, that was really good”. Bart, being the dealer, smelled it first, but it wasn’t long before the rest of the class did too.
    “Eww-Wee!!” cried the class as they bolted out the door.
    Outside, most of the children were too dizzy to stand, so they sat down on the lawn. A few were lying down, passed out from their olfactory overdose. Bart was the last to exit the building, with his hands raised in triumphant glory.
    “HA-HA!” Nelson roared.
    The Principal and Sound Director walked solemnly in Bart’s direction while his classmates, those still standing that is, cheered, chanting over and over again, as if an echo had escaped the chamber—
    “Bart the Fart….Bart the Fart….”

  43. Jeanie Y says:

    How in the hell did I get myself into a mess like this? Well, I guess that’s what they usually say, isn’t it? I know how I did it, I just can’t figure out how the ride got so wild without me saying I wanted off. Straight laced guy like me, military crew, holds doors for blue-hairs, stops for squirrels. All I had to say was “No,” but that one last bet would’ve fixed it all. Laurie could quit that night job, we could pay off all those credit cards. Just that one last bet, and Bennie had said it was a shoe-in. Yeah, what they all say.

    A trickle of sweat dripped down my spine and I shivered just before I stepped into Bennie’s office. He motioned for me to sit while he finished his phone conversation, turning his back to me while trying to placate the caller. “We’ve talked about this before, now’s not the time.” “Hey Babe, I will call you later and we can talk more about this, okay?” “Yes, yes…soon.” I could never understand why Bennie played the field, his wife was one hot tamale. Bennie snapped his phone shut with gusto, which made me sit right up. I don’t believe I have ever seen Bennie’s teeth in all the times we’ve met, but today his smile was frozen on his face, teeth on display. I felt like lunch.

    “Well, Bill, here to pay the bill?” I forced a crooked smile as his burst of laughter echoed off the walls. Oh God, his teeth keep getting bigger. “I can’t pay this Bennie, not all at once, I think you know that,” I said. Another shiver as Bennie dissects me with his eyes. “I was gonna make you squirm for a while, but no need Bill, I have a solution that I think will be mutually beneficial.” I was hoping it didn’t involve surgery and kidneys, I am rather partial to my body parts. The smile again. “All I need is for you to take care of a little problem for me.” He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out an envelope, marked Bill. Guess he was ready for me. “There is somebody who is causing me all kinds of problems. All you need to know is in there.” “Do it and we are square, and don’t take too long, time is of the essence. Understand?”

    Having no other choice, I took the envelope and left the office, eager to get as far away from those menacing ivories as possible. Not coming close to Mel Gibson’s standard of a Braveheart-kinda guy, I didn’t open that black envelope until I got home. Inside was an 8 x 10 glossy. Bennie was in a position I didn’t even know existed, along with a woman, who was not his wife. “Shut her up, permanently,” scrawled across the bottom of the picture.

    My mind seemed to disconnect from my body as I recognized the woman. “Oh, Christ…No….Laurie.”

    • Ishmael says:

      Ooo, Jeanie, nice twist! The wife! They need to pack some bags and hit the road! I really enjoyed this. I like how you bypassed a lot of the trivial details about the “assignment.” I know with the word limit, we have to make some choices, and that choice worked perfectly. I LOVED a lot of your phrasing: ‘I was hoping it didn’t involve surgery and kidneys, I am rather partial to my body parts.’ That was a good one, and got a chuckle!

      Only one little itty bitty thing…about paragraphing dialogue:

      A good rule of thumb is that every time a character speaks, it starts a new paragraph. However, if one character speaks then performs an associated action then speaks again later, it can remain in the same paragraph. You can also have mixed actions by more than one character in one paragraph, but not mixed dialogue.

      In paragraph two, Bennie is doing all the talking, so there’s no need to use quotes for every sentence he says, especially since they run together (“We’ve talked about this before, now’s not the time.” “Hey Babe, I will call you later and we can talk more about this, okay?” “Yes, yes…soon.”) Using quotes like that makes it feel like it’s coming from two separate speakers, when it’s all Bennie.

      Paragraph three is where it should be broken down:

      “Well, Bill, here to pay the bill?” I forced a crooked smile as his burst of laughter echoed off the walls. Oh God, his teeth keep getting bigger. (start a new paragraph because Bill’s about to speak)

      “I can’t pay this Bennie, not all at once, I think you know that,” I said. Another shiver as Bennie dissects me with his eyes. (Bill’s finished speaking, now Bennie again)

      “I was gonna make you squirm for a while, but no need Bill, I have a solution that I think will be mutually beneficial.” I was hoping it didn’t involve surgery and kidneys, I am rather partial to my body parts. The smile again. “All I need is for you to take care of a little problem for me.”

      He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out an envelope, marked Bill. Guess he was ready for me. “There is somebody who is causing me all kinds of problems. All you need to know is in there. Do it and we are square, and don’t take too long, time is of the essence. Understand?”

      Although the last break wasn’t absolutely necessary (between “…a little problem for me.” He reached into…) it created a nice pause between his words and his actions, which made me think, “Hmmm…what can it be?” Then the action focused my attention on him again. Like I said, it wasn’t absolutely necessary to break up that part, but it seemed to read/feel better. The dialogue felt like it was getting lost in the paragraph when it was whole.

      I hope this is helpful – I’ve definitely had to research dialogue to assist in my own writing! It was a fantastic take on the prompt, like usual! I really like searching down the line and coming to your stories! :)

      • Ishmael says:

        Oops! Forgot to take it off italics when I should have! Sorry! Hope it still made sense.

        • Ishmael says:

          Actually I don’t know what happened. This whole website is now in italics for me! And I could’ve sworn I ended the italics when I should’ve. I hope everybody’s stories look right – they’re all in script now, at least on my computer! :(

      • Jeanie Y says:

        I feel like a toddler in the baby pool looking over at the adults swimming laps and drinking martinis! ha! You gotta crawl before you can run, right? Once again, thank you for your instruction. In school, they teach you each paragraph is a thought or action and when you finish that thought/action, you start another one, but that was not specific to dialogue writing. Still not time to throw away the pacifier, but maybe get a diamond studded one…I think I got this! :)

        Time is a precious commodity, and I completely appreciate the time it took you to write this up for me!

        Thank you too for inspiring…that means a lot.

        • rob akers says:

          Jeanie,

          I echo everything said so far. You are doing great and you have no business in the baby pool. You are ready for the deep end. However, the important thing is that you are in the water. You cant learn by watching others swim.

          I appreciate the comments that Ishamel left for you. Dialouge is very difficult and his words are good for all of us.

          There are several blogs/websites that are great. One I would suggest is my friend Joe Schwartz. thecrossovertest.com

          Several others have sites including Egg. Keep up the good work and even more important is to keep smiling!

        • Ishmael says:

          Come over and have a martini with me! I’ve never considered you to be in the baby pool, but always swimming with everybody else – and as Rob said, at least you’re in the water. Some never have the courage to dip a toe. I still have to refer to my college English books to check up on things ALL the time! :)

    • zo-zo says:

      I agree – great twist! You have written well from the character’s perspective – a casual voice, and showing us what he sees and experiences. There are some great lines here – ‘stop for squirrels’ – I love that!! ‘I felt like lunch’ – great! Well done!!

    • Naomi says:

      Great twist ending, Jeanie. I love how you condensed how much of threat Bennie is to Bill in four words: “I felt like lunch.” That is lovely. I also enjoy how much information about Bill you put into the first paragraph.

  44. Amy says:

    I O U

    You are no good. Selfish, ornery and mean, with no self control. Instant gratification is your game and temptation your mistress.

    This time you really fuck it up. The winning streak, the adrenalin rush, the elation, all going to your head. You’re invincible. The wad of bills, all $10,000 of it, bet on one pony with fifty-to-one odds. You’ve got this.

    Pulse-pounding, breath-holding, screaming excitement. She’s in the lead from the starting gate. Hooves pound, dust takes flight, silken colors flash. The scents of horseflesh, manure and excitement all conspire to lull you into believing you’re a winner.

    You are a loser. Trembling legs carry you to your bookie’s cage, where you see him through a red haze of fear and high blood pressure. You are broke. You owe him fifty grand. Sweat pours from your brow and you can’t hide your shaking hands.

    “Hey,” Bookie says. “Why you so scared? We’s friends, ain’t we?”

    “That won’t stop you from fitting me with concrete shoes,” you mumble.

    “Tell ya what,” Bookie says. “Ya do me an itty-bitty favor, and I wipe the slate clean. Ya game?”

    “Sure,” you mumble, envisioning machine guns and mob hits. You’re done with gambling, you vow.

    “See,” Bookie continues. “I’ve got me a blind date with this broad—the Boss set me up. But I can’t go, see. Not my cup of tea, get my drift. You go in my place. Boss-man Capone is happy, I’m happy, you’re alive.”

    Your heart leaps into your throat at the implied threat. You can’t refuse.

    “When and where?” you ask.

    ***

    You are afraid.

    Two days later, you pick her up. Alexis Capone. Beautiful dame, blond, classy, legs without end.

    ‘I’ll tap that,’ you think as you open the car door for her. ‘Bookie’s queer for sure.’

    One date, two dates, three dates, four. Then you really fuck up.

    “I’m preggers baby,” Alexis squeezes your thigh and pops her gum.

    ‘Dumb, low-class whore,’ you think but don’t say. “We’ll get married,” you enthuse instead, feeling the vise tighten on your existence. Fear clenches your guts. Capone’s baby girl, of all people. He’ll eat your balls for breakfast.

    Shotgun wedding, pageantry befitting a Capone princess, and suddenly a quick death looks preferable to this prison.

    ‘Bookie’s not queer, Bookie’s smart,’ you think, vowing revenge.

    Now, you are surrounded by temptation you can’t touch. Tables turned, you are the enforcer. Ponies, games, dogs, cocks, cars. But your gambler’s brain calculates the odds anyway, constant torture.

    Babies, big house, fancy cars—constant reminders of your folly. You drink, you stray, you get caught.

    You’re out on your ear, and you can’t move far enough away to escape Capone’s wrath.

    But that’s okay. Finally. You feel like a winner.

    • Amy says:

      I know second person point of view can be hard to read, but I had to give it a try!
      I am taking part in a writing workshop and we were discussing this POV last night.
      Hope you enjoy the story!

    • jincomt says:

      I really liked the cadence here. The story read almost like poetry with lush word-pictures. Plus, you had a good story, to boot. I took a little bit of a risk in what I wrote this time too– it always feels kind of funky, but this is a great place to experiment and try things out.

    • DMelde says:

      Great story. 2nd person is so hard to do but you did it with style.

    • Ishmael says:

      You write. You wonder if anybody will read it, much less like it. Comment #1, comment #2, and more continue. Good reviews! People like it! Ishmael likes it! He likes it a lot.

      Great job! I admire the risk you took, and it was well worth it. :)

      • Amy says:

        Thank you so much, everybody! I appreciate you all taking the time to give me feedback! I’ve been doing these prompts weekly for about 2 months now, and find them very enriching, as well as challenging.

  45. ncbooklady says:

    THE BROOCH
    She picked up the phone, her palms so sweaty the phone almost slipped from her grasp.
    “Hello,” she whispered hoarsely. “What do you want?” Her lower lip trembled.
    “You know what,” he growled.
    “I don’t have the money. You know I don’t have it.”
    “Then you know what you have to do.” Her stomach heaved.
    “I can’t, I can’t. You’re blackmailing me.” She sobbed.
    “Hey girl, you play with the big boys, there are consequences. You’re into me for the 50 K or else.”
    “I can’t do what you’re asking. I can’t commit a crime.”
    “Should have thought about that,” his voice ice cold. “You have 24 hours. NO MORE.”
    “Wait wait,” she begged.
    “No more. I’ll call in 24 hours to arrange a meeting, either you have the cash, or you know what will happen.” Click. Silence.
    The phone slipped from her hand as she bent forward with piercing abdominal pain. A desperate wail escaped as she clutched the kitchen table.
    “Oh my God,” she moaned over and over.
    After some time, her breathing became less urgent, more measured. Sweat still poured from her brow. The stomach pain had lessened, replaced by nausea.
    As the trophy wife of wealthy and successful pro golfer Reynolds Langtree, she had become bored a year ago, and that’s when all the problems started. He was on the road so much and she was lonely. She needed a diversion. With access to unlimited funds, playing with money was a natural choice for an amusing pastime. And in south Florida, there were endless opportunities to gamble. It had started at the casino, innocently enough at first, with slot machines. Since her winnings were small, the drain of funds escaped the notice of Reynolds. Tiring of slots, she moved on to the challenges of Black Jack and Craps. She still tried to keep her winnings small to keep Reynolds in the dark.
    But the lure of the racetrack was just too much. She became swept up in the excitement, the crowd, the cheering, the fun. Soon her bets became larger, more risky.
    Once account drains became noticeable, Reynolds found out about her addiction and cast her out with nothing. Now, devastated, broke, and threated by a bookie, she considered the unthinkable. In a fog, she shuffled to her safe. Flipping the combination she knew so well, she extracted the jewelry box, and opened the top as her childhood lullaby tinkled forth. Memories of her mother flooded over her. She fondly stroked the beautiful precious jewels of the brooch. It had been in her mother’s family for decades. She knew it would bring $50,000, maybe more, as it was a one- of-a kind piece. A floodgate of tears started down her checks.
    “I’m so sorry Mom. I have really let you down this time.”
    Numb with pain, the tears finally subsided at she stared at the brooch.
    Finally, with both resolve and a heavy heart, she reached for the phone to call her jewelry appraiser.

    • ncbooklady says:

      opps, meant to say loses, not winnings

      • rob akers says:

        Dang, how did you know this used to be my life. You nailed it so perfectly. True, real life action all wrapped up in a sad tale.

        Good Job!

        • ncbooklady says:

          Thanks Rob, ouch for you. This was my first try at a writing prompt. I am waiting for some negative too.

          • rob akers says:

            Welcome aboard! I dont know why you are expecting anything negative? You did good.

            However I have found that everyone here is really good about offering a critique in a positive way. There are some really tallented writers on here but even more important, everyone has a great attitude and a true desire to help eachother out.

            I hope you find the same. If not please let me know and I will unleash the Captain on them. Ha Ha.

    • Ishmael says:

      I liked your take on this, BookLady. Quite heart-wrenching at the end, and I could feel her pain, as well as disgust with herself for allowing her addiction to get to this point. I like to see people’s choices of names for their characters…yours sounded like a real golf pro! Reynolds Langtree. Love it! And who is he to kick her out – as much as he’s gone, he’s probably had some Tiger Woods moments himself. Welcome to the Guild! :)

  46. DavidWilhelm says:

    “You’re not speeding are you? You drive too fast.”

    Glenn glanced down. He was doing fifty-eight in a sixty-five, in the right lane, and still pissing off other drivers, who were zooming up, hitting their brakes and swerving around him, several staring at him as if he were the old lady instead of his passenger. “We’re under the speed limit.”

    “It’s still too fast. Slow down. Betty doesn’t like to go this fast.”

    Glenn started to say something, but thought better of it. She was staring straight ahead. The car’s name – she had told him after he picked her up in Port Everglades – was Betty, and Betty was thirsty. The old lady’s name was Ada, and she hadn’t thought it necessary to gas up Betty before the trip or to offer to reimburse Glenn for the cost of filling up the old heap, a ’92 Lincoln Continental.

    But it was sill a bargain compared to the money he owed Bill Jr. Junior. Ada’s son. No relation to Betty, at least not that he knew. Junior wasn’t the kind of guy you asked those things. Junior was his bookie in Las Vegas, three hundred twenty pounds of brawn powered by a mouse brain and no discernable sense of decency. Glenn owed him $50,000, mostly from a horse race when Glenn’s sure thing pulled up lame in the home stretch, cutting short his victory celebration and probably his life.

    But Junior had been understanding, willing to give Glenn time, in exchange for this one favor. Drive his sweet mother from her winter home in Florida back to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Junior’s father, Bill Senior, normally drove, but he’d died last year. Lucky bastard.

    What a miserable trip, but they were close, just passing Boston, less than an hour to go. Glenn kept the cruise control locked on fifty-eight and tuned-out Ada’s stream of complaints, content in the knowledge that this hell’d soon be over.

    “Aren’t you listening to me. The police are behind us. With their lights on.”

    Bill snapped out of his reverie and glanced in the mirror. The old bitch was right. There were two marked state trooper cars on his bumper, lights flashing. Before he knew what was happening a black SUV with flashing grill lights swooped around in front of him and he was being guided to the side of the road. “What the fuck…”

    The officers took his license and asked him to get out of the car and open the trunk, which he did. He wished he’d thought to check the trunk before he got in the car. He’d thought about the possibility that Junior was smuggling drugs, but decided that even he wasn’t a big enough asshole to use his mother as a drug mule.

    Starring down into a trunk loaded with enough guns and ammo to provision a small army he felt sick. Without warning Glenn pitched forward and threw-up, all over a trooper’s shoes. This was not going to end well.

    • rob akers says:

      Never a good thing to puke on the police. Nice clean story. Good Job!

    • Naomi says:

      Law enforcement in a black SUV, plus no clear reason for the police pulling Glenn over, makes me think the ATF had their eye on the gun running for a while. Bill Jr. sending Glenn on the run with only the promise of giving Glenn more time to pay off his debt makes me think that Bill Jr. is smarter and more calculating than Glenn thinks. Very nice!

  47. Ishmael says:

    The Legend of Monty Tucker

    Winsdee, June 19, 1895

    If yur readin’ this, you must’a pride it out mah dusty bony hands, an’ I not knowin’ if’n that’s a sin or if’n it hain’t, but today’s yur lucky day, fella. Yur ‘bout to git some learnin’ on the Legend of Monty Tucker. Hain’t nobody else ‘round no more to tell the tale, ‘cept’n me, an’ I figger I bes’ be gittin’ sump’n rit down while I’s still drawin’ breaths.

    The first I ever see’d of Montgom’ry Tucker was back in ’39, when he come in Miss Lavinny’s front parlor that Sundee noon, cool as cactus juice. The pianny stop’d playin’ an’ all the folks stop’d they dancin’ an’ the whole place turnt an’ look’d at him. Ever’body know’d it was a rule to use the back door on Sundees, so the other church folk cain’t see you. But he was all dressed up an’ shiny lookin’, an’ turnt Miss Lavinny’s head in sweet fashun, so she hain’t have much to say ‘bout it.

    “How do you do,” he say’d to her, the fancy way dandy folk say it, then leant over an’ kist her hand. I know’d right then that Miss Fanny was gonna get stuck lookin’ after me the rest of the night. A cupla’ shots of rotgut an’ a few dances later an’ they was headin’ up the steps for a bizness meetin’.

    My mama was one of Miss Lavinny’s girls, but died when I got born’d, so Lavinny took me up an’ pretty much rear’d me. I’s ‘bout ten when Monty show’d up and took a fancy to her. He rent a room ever’ night for a month of Sundees, up till the big poker turneymint, when he went up agin’ Sam Blackburn.

    Blackburn was a shifty sidewinder with a nasty bite, an’ the town’s banker. I hear’d it told that he had ever’body in his pocket. Ever’body ‘cept’n Monty, an’ he want’d him bad, like the devil. I’s actin’ asleeplike on the couch under the frilly lampshade, an’ watch’d him coil up at the poker table when Monty come down.

    “Have a seat, Tucker.”

    Monty stop’d for a snort from the barkeep, then took the chair acrost of him. I see’d his six-shooter cock’d for bizness. He cut the cards and they begun playin’, one hand after ‘nuther.

    I watch’d ‘em for ‘arrs, but they play’d cards an’ drank rotgut wisky an’ smoke the cigars so late, I fell asleep for real.

    “Hey, kid.” Monty was liftin’ me up by my arms an’ took me outside a‘fore I come wakin’ full-like.

    “Git on yur horse, son, we got a job to do.” Nobody nary call’d me son up to then, an’ I jump’d on that Pinto fast as lightnin’, reddy to do anythin’ he say’d.

    On the ride to wurever we was headin’, he told me how Blackburn cheat’d an’ got him into a heap of owin’, an’ now was tryin’ to make him stick-up the coach headin’ for New York with the town’s gold. I was fit to be tie’d.

    “But we hain’t doin’ that,” he say’d, but a bit purtier than I kin rite. “I gots a map to the Lost Mine of Jacob Snively, an’ it have ‘nuff gold in it to pay off the whole town’s owin’s.”

    An’ so we rode to Box Canyun, jes’ as the sun come up from behind Starvation Butte.

    I’ll rit more tomorry.

    • Ishmael says:

      Sorry folks, 571. I found it takes more words to write bad English, hard as I tried to whittle it down. I hope you like it; this looks like the first one I’ve written that has the makings of a serial. Again, pardon the spillover of words. :)

    • jincomt says:

      Ish– As usual, I love your stories. The use of a dialect, especially as consistent and dominant as this played, is a delightful risk. Good for you. I had to dig through it to get the story line a bit, but when I did, the story unfurled with intrigue and possibilities.

      • Ishmael says:

        Thanks, Jin, for reading and commenting -

        I tried to get in the mind of a formally uneducated man raised by a brothel of women, many probably uneducated themselves. He’s got his ABC’s down, but after that he’s limited. What words would he know and use? What words wouldn’t he? Many words I’ve heard used in the dialect I tried to write, and I reckon’d he’d just sound out the word and try to spell it if he didn’t know. I gave him the attitude of, “I’m writing in my journal. If they can figure out what I say when I’m talking, they’ll understand this if they find it.” I couldn’t make it too educated, since I chose him as my voice.

        I know it takes a bit to get into the flow and rhetoric of it, and I gratefully appreciate your time and attention. It was a bit different. I was trying a sort of western Mark Twain approach! :)

    • aikawah says:

      That famous Kenny Rogers song – ‘The Gambler’ – would fit right in this story somewhere in the next chapter after this one…

      I loved it, especially since I have come up against a similar problem before. Kenya has about 42 indigenous languages, representing a character from any one of those cultures truthfully can be a real problem if you try to include their natural ways of speaking. Great take on the prompt.

      • Ishmael says:

        I understand completely! I kept having to backtrack through the story to make correct things incorrect. And what would he know about silent letters to be able to write them? There were some tough calls – he wouldn’t know the W in ‘write,’ but I had to have him familiar with the word ‘know,’ even with the silent K. It was too integral a word to misspell. I figger’d he see’d the word in the paper and learnt it correctly. Thanks again for reading!

    • Jeanie Y says:

      This was really neat. I can see why he would write about this…living with a bunch of women…he jumps at the attention of a man. Glad he got himself a good role model! :) I want to know what happens tomorry!

      • Ishmael says:

        Thanks, Jeanie! Yes, I believe Monty becomes a good influence on the narrator (I haven’t given him a name yet – if I ever do). There’s tons of adventures awaiting them, but first, they gotta run Blackburn out of town!! :)

    • DMelde says:

      Purdy good storey. Ah hopes Ah gits ta read more bout Monty.
      I was able to get into the flow of reading about half way through the first sentence, which is not a testament to my reading ability, but a testament to how well this was written.
      If’n ya git ma drift.
      Great job!

      • rob akers says:

        Agree with all the above. Like jincomt said it took more focus on my part to translate and comprehend. But If I understood everything correctly it sounds like a fun ride to get Blackburn.

        I wonder if you could tone down the slang a little to make it more readable but still keep with the theme.

        As far as the word count, if the old codger cant spell why should you expect him to be able to count to 500? You are tough on the old bird he done real good seeing as he os only 71 words over count. Ha Ha.

        • Ishmael says:

          Ha! Yeah Rob, he uses his fingers to count, so he can only get up to eight (pickaxe accident). He thought he had 425 words!

          I’m practicing this dialect for another story I’m working on, and I wanted to try it out – you were my guinea pigs! So I really do (as always) appreciate your comments…where it works and where it doesn’t. I reviewed Huck Finn and The Color Purple to see how they handled dialect. I forgot how difficult Huck could be to get through!

          This didn’t feel too unnatural for me – can you believe I actually have relatives that talk like this? Yep. But I am working on fine-tunin’ it for an easier read and maybe fewer apostrophes. Thanks!

          • rob akers says:

            You have relatives that talk like this? “Dang Boya, I be talking like this all da times. I is so educameticed that I can be talking tree languages, Anglish, Applichiania, and Redneck.

            I love experimenting here on these prompts. Your right, Huck is tough, never thought about the Color Purple. I will check that out. I have a character in my real project that I could use some help with the spelling. I cant hear his voice in my head but have trouble getting it onto the computer.

            Again great job!

      • Ishmael says:

        Well, thank you kindly! You must’a grow’d up in these parts. Thanks again for reading and commenting! :)

    • Icabu says:

      This was fun – so original. Very creative.
      Can’t wait for the next installment.

    • metaman321 says:

      I find writing in dialect to be very difficult but you really pulled it off! Reading dialect can be tedious but I found this to be the start of a real gem. Keep up the good work, looking forward to the next installment.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      Dang, that was good Ishmael! Hard to add much to the many comments here, but I personally don’t often enjoy dialect (mainly because it’s done so poorly). You are the rare exception who pulled it off. Series in the makin’? Keep rittin’ pardner!

    • hillsworth says:

      Ish, you pulled it off and pulled me in. A few months ago, when I started my mafia series, my first writing had an awful lot of apostrophes in it, trying to capture the dialect of the New York Mafia families. After reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading it, I tossed the whole thought of broken speech and opted for the fact that if the reader wanted to add their own slang or twang, then it would be up to them (although, when I write a story for this site, I always take them to work with me and over lunch break, I read them to my co-workers and I always add my own interpretation of my characters speech). You did an amazing job here and I personally am glad you posted the way you did. Kudos and I’ll be watching for the follow-up.

      • Ishmael says:

        A collective thanks to the four of you: Metaman, Amy, JR, and Hillsworth, (and all you others) for the kind feedback and encouragement for me to continue with this venture. I said to a friend of mine after posting it, “I’ve suddenly got a case of the noids.” I’m glad it was appreciated so nicely and came across in the manner I meant. :)

  48. Lulu Jemimah says:

    Later, in my prison cell, I would think back on two things. The fact that I had expected Fis to get me involved in some kind of criminal activity as compensation and the realization that every day since; I wished he had.

    Instead he had offered to settle my 50, 000 debt if I took his 20-year-old daughter to the annual Launceston formal. This was a religiously attended ‘bachelors and spinster ball’ and the talk of the town year round.

    “Are you insane?” I yelled, my voice sending the secretary who had come into the room with water and two glasses scuttling out after putting the tray on the table.

    Fis stared blankly at me “Lower your damn voice. What the hell is wrong with that?”

    “I am married for fuck’s sake. I can’t show up for the formal with someone the same age as my girls; especially one who happens to be a raving lunatic.”

    “Oh please, your wife left you years ago and we both know your daughters barely acknowledge your fuckin’ existence.”

    “We are separated not divorced which doesn’t take care of your daughter’s mental illness”

    She’s not mentally Ill you fool; it’s called depressive psychosis.”

    “I will remember that when she sticks a knife through my back. Wasn’t she just released from an asylum?”

    Fis leaned forward menacingly “It was a stress centre you moron. The choice is up to you, either come up with 50,000 dollars before the week is up or get off your damn high horse and take her to that stupid dance.”

    “I am not doing it.” I spat reaching for a glass and filling it with water.
    My hands shook at the realization that I would, in fact, be taking Fis’ daughter to that dance.

    Many Years back I had been one of the parents at a school meeting called after Lanon had set the auditorium on fire during a basketball practice. Only one child had suffered mild burns and parents’ screams for an expulsion had fallen on ears deafened by Fis’ generous donations.

    She had been diagnosed then with some depression condition, kept on meds and returned to school where only months later she stabbed and locked a teacher in the girls’ bathroom. With my wife and kids out of the house; the only details about Lanon’s other escapades floated my way from bar conversation.

    There had been another fire, false rape accusations and two attempted suicides according to rumors. The thought for how fast word got around in my small town made me think of my family and how they would never live down the shame I’d bring by escorting the town’s biggest nightmare to a pre-teen dance.

    I emptied the glass of water and looked at Fis pleadingly. He had made a reputation by putting people in his debt, but what he was feared for most, was the way in which he usually collected his debt.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      Loved it Lulu, in spite of minor punctuation distractions. Word choices (and spellings) decidedly more Brit-leaning, which sounded great, but here’s a minor observation, it sort of clashed with “dollars”. I would have changed that up to pounds (the prompt is only that). As far as clarity, I was a bit confused with the young lady who served as compensation. She was 20 years old? But the dance was “pre-teen”?

  49. Squiggles says:

    Billy fidgeted his thumbs nervously as he sat before Rosen’s desk, unable to meet his bookie’s penetrating glare. He was in big trouble this time; sweat dripped down his face as he thought of all the money he’d lost tonight, more than he could possibly repay, and cringed at the thought of what Rosen might do to him.
    He’d heard stories about how ruthless the man was to clients who tried to cheat him. One fingernail pulled for each $500, and if you ran out of fingernails before your dues were paid, he’d move to more extreme measures. Once when Billy was placing his bets on the races, he’d met a man without a tongue, and he had a feeling that that had been the work of Rosen too. And right now, Billy owed a lot more than ten fingernails.
    “Fifty thousand dollars,” said Rosen in a low, dangerous voice. “That’s $50,000 more than I know you have.”
    “Sir, I can get the cash, I just need a couple days,” Billy said, a tremor in his voice.
    “I’ve got a better idea,” Rosen said, a smile suddenly creeping over his face. Billy knew that smile couldn’t mean anything good. “I’ll clear your debts,” he continued, “but you must do something. There’s a man of particular interest to me, one that needs to be… eliminated.” Rosen opened his desk drawer and removed a gun, placing it on the desk. “I want you to do it.”
    Billy tensed. “I can’t!” he choked, resisting the urge to flee
    “That’s too bad,” Rosen said. “Perhaps you’d rather know what it feels like to have your tongue removed?”
    And that was how Billy found himself creeping down an alley that night with a gun stuffed in his jacket. Rosen had given him a photograph and the name Paul, then told him where the man lived. A sudden noise made him whirl around and he came face to face with a figure pointing a gun straight at him. In the dim light he recognized the man from the photo.
    He had enough time to pull his own gun from his jacket before Paul pulled the trigger and Billy fell dead to the pavement with a bullet in his head.

    Rosen slid the briefcase to the man sitting across the table. “You won this time, Johnston,” he said . “All $50,000. Your client can really shoot!”
    Johnston smiled. “Paul had some military training before he became a gambler and hired me as his bookie,” he said, rising to leave.
    Rosen stood as well. “Before you go,” he said, “how’d you like to place another bet?”
    “Already?” Johnston asked. “You just lost $50,000. You’re not becoming a gambling addict, now are you?”
    “I have another client,” Rosen replied confidently. “He’s almost $45,000 in debt. He seems the type who’d kill to save his own tongue.”
    Johnston stared at him for a moment, considering. “Alright. I’ll check my client list for a good match. We’ll place our bets tomorrow

  50. rob akers says:

    A Captain Bill Rimes Story

    23 December 2006

    The C-130 touched down on the frozen dirt runway in Northern Afghanistan. Scheduled to pick up a Special Forces team that had been deep undercover, Bill guided the airplane into take-off position. Loadmaster Tracy Thompson opened the ramp and was met by one of the Army troops.

    “Boss, these guys aren’t ready yet. Might be a while, they said it was safe to shutdown.”

    “Okay, shut her down, but have Old Gurl ready to fire up if we see Indians. Break out the guns; everybody packs until we are airborne.” The crew quickly followed his commands while Bill grabbed his parka and gun on the way off the airplane.

    Each Army troop wore a full beard, long hair and smelled like the locals. The closest man directed him to the leader of the team. Heading down the hill he found Sergeant Lowe deep into discussion with the tribal leader.

    “Sorry for the holdup Captain. These guys are trying to milk Uncle Sam out of some walking around cash.”

    “How so?”

    Pointing at the Chief. “This man here has some art that he wants me to buy.”

    “Pay him and lets go. If we hurry we can still make lobster night at the chow hall.”

    “Sorry sir, but the US Army is not in the art consignment business.”

    Running his hands through his jet black hair. “Can I look at it?”

    The Sergeant spoke Pashtu to the Chief. With little argument one of the younger men brought the picture up to show Bill. Bill’s wife Anna was a former art appraiser at the Guggenheim and now was the Lead Curator at the Huntington Art Museum. Over the years, Bill had learned enough to be a respectable judge of artwork. He was immediately impressed and on closer inspection, he recognized De Vinci type of greatness.

    “Where is the person that painted this?”

    Via translation the Sergeant replied. “Dead.”

    “WHAT?”

    “It seems the former starving artist found himself indebted to the Chief. To work off the debt he was licensed to paint a portrait of the Chief’s daughter, but he left out the veil. The Chief was insulted by the lack of modesty and chopped off both of their heads.”

    “What about freedom of expression?”

    “Nothing here is free.”

    “Can I buy it?”

    “Sir, I would love for you to that. Do you know how this goes?”

    “I have been to the souks; is he going to cut my head off when I lowball him?”

    The Sergeant tapped his M-4. “I have 400 reasons to keep your head attached.”

    17 minutes later, Bill was the owner of a 3 X 3 unframed original painting of Afghan porn. Tracy stopped him as he and the Sergeant walked up the hill.

    “Collecting treasure, Boss?”

    “Maybe.”

    “How much?”

    “50,000 rupees. I gave him 38 dollars and he kept the change.”

    Tracy smiled. “That’s outrageous. Anna is going to have your butt.”

    “We’ll see.” Six months later the painting sold at Christy’s Art Auction for 1.17 million.

    • Egg says:

      Interesting take on the prompt, Rob. So now that the good captain is well-off, will he will hanging up his wings?

    • aikawah says:

      This does happen though, doesn’t it. Art theft in conquered/invaded lands. Reminds me of the Maneaters of Tsavo; two lions that almost stopped the British from building a railway through Kenya’s Tsavo region. They gobbled up a couple hundred Indian coolies and got hunted Alan Quartermain style for their troubles. Now their stuffed remains are in some British museum and the Kenyan government wants them back… they were freedom fighters if you really think about it.

      Well, good thing the captain didn’t kill any local fauna for his prize. I’m waiting for next week to see what he does with the money.

    • DMelde says:

      Good story and so well written. I liked the humor interspersed throughout a serious situation, and that your response to the prompt anchored on the starving artist. Very well done.

    • jincomt says:

      Hmm a gamble that turned into an investment. Original take on the prompt with Bill Rimes in the lead. Fun read as usual Rob!

    • Icabu says:

      A fun read, Rob. Laughed at ‘Afghan porn’ as much as ‘lobster night at the chow hall’ – I was definitely in the wrong war! How tasty is reconstituted lobster?
      Enjoyed the trip abroad.

    • Ishmael says:

      I always like how you’re able to work Capt. Bill into these prompts so effortlessly! Great dialogue, and I liked the subtle humor. I thought only the subbies (submariners) got lobster! :)

      • Amy says:

        So Rob, how many of these flash fiction pieces starring Capt. Bill have you collected now? What a great way to compile scenes for a novel! I enjoyed it, as usual!

        • rob akers says:

          Amy,

          That is a good question, so I went back to count. So far 18 Captain Bill Rimes stories. All of them have some elemment of truth to them. Some as little as 5% and others 95%.

          This one is in the 5% range. The real Capt. Bill actually landed on a frozen dirt runway in Afghanistan, enjoyed the monthly lobster night in the chow hall and he went to the souks. His wife is a bubba in a creative field but not the art world. Everything else is fiction. In this post, I couldnt see Bill being in debt to anyone, ever and he wouldnt have bailed out someone either.

          I am not sure if Capt Bill will ever exist outside this forum. There are no plans to do anything bigger with the Captain. I have completed a novel with my brother. He is working on his part of the book now and hopefully we will have it ready to submit in a couple of months.

          Thanks for all of your positive comments. I appreciate everyone who has followed the adventures of Capt Bill Rimes. The real Capt Bill reads everything I have written as well and I constantly remind him that he has to live up to the high standards of his more famous alter-ego.

          As far as the money ruining him. Never worry, he was never a train wreck before the money and he will not change after the windfall. The money will always allow him to be independent and to do the right thing.
          He is a free man who serves only his creator, family, friends and country. He has no time for those who are self serving, incompetent and hateful.

          Finally, Aikawah. The real Capt Bill and his fictional sidekick both hate the fact that the lions are imprisoned in the British museums. If the opportunity ever presented itself he would return them to Kenya because it would be the right thing to do.

          I have always viewed Capt Bill Rimes as a lion fighting for the freedom of the opressed. I was happily suprised and secretly proud that you indirectly made that conection. I have always wondered if that was getting through.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      What you do, you do so well with these stories Rob. The realism is there, and even if it’s only a 5 percenter, as you say, the average bear out there would never know it. I’m a little surprised to read that you aren’t planning something greater for your “series”. To me it seems like there is a whole lot of potential here!

      • rob akers says:

        Thank You for the wonderful compliment. I agree that the Captain Bill character has greatness in him, and I did not mean to infer that he was limited in any way, But, I feel that I have found a different project with unlimited potential. The project that my brother and I are currently working on; it inspires me in ways that the good Captain never will. Probably because I know the real Captain and I strive to stay true too who he is.

        Having said that: I love these prompts and I really enjoy reading what you and everyone else here create. I think there is true greatness and real talent here on our little creative writing prompts. I compare my writing to some of those here and I find myself lacking in many ways. It isn’t a style or content thing but a general smoothness (if that is a word).

        I am not bashing myself or most everyone else here because we are all in this together and working on becoming whatever our dreams will allow us to become. I am trying to honor those few among us who have real greatness. I don’t have to name them because we all know who they are. It is evident in their work.

        I am sure we all try to read all the posts as time allows. But there are a few that I focus on intently because they are the ones that teach by doing. I salute everyone for jumping into the deep end and attempting to swim a lap. It can be lonely, scary and intimidating in the deep end but it helps me to know that I am not alone thrashing around like a wounded rock star. We are all in this together and I am always willing to help anyone learn because there are several others who are helping me. While I learn to swim; I will sit back and truly admire the Olympic level swimmers because one day I hope to be considered one as well. That is my personal goal and I hope it is one I share with everyone else.

        • aikawah says:

          Couldn’t have been put better. It’s also a bit lonely as a writer sometimes so the camaraderie of the writers on these prompts helps to ease that a bit. Thanks everyone.

  51. “Goin’ somewheres?”

    I knew the voice, cracked with cigar smoke and an old bullet wound that had rendered him nigh mute. I turned and tried to hide the fear threatening to pound through my chest.

    “Just on my way to see The Boss, actually,” I said, wondering how fast I could make it to my gun, trying to tell myself I could dive, grab and fire before Big V could draw his and get a clean shot off. The only question would be whose aim was better.

    “That so?” Deep set eyes scrutinized me, and I could almost feel the pierce of them. “What luck, I was jus’ on my way a’ take you there, so I s’pect yus to follow wi’out no troubles.”

    “Guess it really is my lucky day,” I said and stepped away from my truck. I didn’t bother to specify whether that luck was good or bad; we both knew the answer. His mouth split into a toothy grin as he waved me toward the car. I made no effort to resist.

    The ride was silent; there was nothing I wanted to either say or hear. Or more accurately, nothing I wanted to hear that there was any likelihood of hearing on this little journey. The windows were darkened, so between that and the silence it was like being in a mobile solitary cell. Suited me fine.

    Fifteen minutes later, the car stopped and Big V lead me to the ‘back room,’ a place I knew of but had, until now, never had the misfortune of having visited. I wasn’t sure what I expected, though the rumours would have me believe an all-out torture chamber. Instead I found it was furnished comfortably with thick cushions, fancy rugs, old fashioned lighting and, as I noted after a moment in the room, several dogs which watched me from the darkened corners.

    Another minute or two passed before a door I hadn’t seen at first – the surface made to match the wood paneled wall to either side – opened in the far wall and The Boss walked in. She was the kind of woman who exuded sex, confidence and power, wearing six inch heels and an expensive, tailored suit.

    She sat in one of the chairs and motioned for me to sit opposite her. Big V ensured I followed this directive. A little bell sat on the end table to her right. She rang it, then folded her hands in her lap and smiled at me.

    The silence was oppressive, broken only when a man brought in a tea service and set it on the low table between us. He began to pour but she dismissed him, pouring a cup herself and offering it to me. I took it, only because I was afraid not to, but I didn’t drink it.

    “Now, Mr. Holt. It seems we have a problem on our hands.”

    I swallowed.

    “Tell me, have you ever killed a diplomat?”

    • Egg says:

      The phonetic dialogue was a little distracting at the start, but besides that, the story flowed so well I could see it playing in my mind. Nice work.

      • I had wavered on whether to leave that as it was or write it out properly. I think in future I’ll write it properly (or at least closer to it) and note in the narrative that it’s an unusual accent or something of the like. Thank you for the feedback.

        • Ishmael says:

          I thought it to be written very well as is. I know the struggle of writing dialect, especially if it plays a pivotal role in the story. I agree with you about noting it in the narrative, though, since it’s a small slice of the story and the voice of your story is written correctly. A little notation would cement further the mob guy’s rough image and area he might have come from – a little backstory with the addition of two words (like, “I knew that thick, Jersey voice anywhere, cracked with cigar smoke…”). Then keep the dialogue as written.

    • zo-zo says:

      I loved your description of the guy’s voice in the second paragraph. Nice voice and descriptions here!

  52. aikawah says:

    The moon was rising above the skyscrapers of Afropolis, dark and gloomy. It was difficult to make it out in the night sky, only the edges gleamed a shimmering blue; the effect of a million ZEOS solar panels playing tricks with the sunlight. I’d jacked mem-bits from the 21st century that showed the moon the way it used to be when it still reflected sunlight; before the solar farms. It was fucking beautiful. And this dump of a city now called Afropolis, well it was still a dump back then but it had some space; it had real air and lots of natural light. And people, normal citizens, were allowed to walk at ground level. Nairobi, they called it. Staring at the cityscape that stretched before me I wondered if this is what they dreamed of back then; a city of three billion one-person cabins packed in 3000ft skyscrapers interconnected by horizontal elevators and skyways. I stepped back from the window and flicked the blind switch, watching the chromatic glass slowly blot out the city. It was probably the last time I’d see this view from my apartment. Mokai wanted to see me; had already sent Zig and Juma to get me. Most city dwellers who answered his summons (mostly gamblers on the free-streaming circuit like me) never returned.

    The alert above the cabin door sounded, the panel next to it blinking to life with a bird’s eye-view video of Zig and Juma outside my door. Zig looked directly into the camera and made a beckoning motion with his finger. Ah well, it wasn’t much of an existence anyway. So what if they took my organs, or ripped my mind for illegal mem-bits. My last real fuck had been years ago. It wouldn’t make great porn; I didn’t remember that much of it anyway. I jacked in and jerked off like everyone else. I opened the door and faced the two imposing men, both ex-fighters on the free-streaming circuit.

    “Hey Zig” I began, not wanting the trip to be rougher than it needed to be. Zig was an old acquaintance from back when I ran servers for Mokai in Quadrant 7.

    “Wasup Felix” he replied. “Grab something warmer, we’re going under.”

    I stared at him for a moment before gathering my wits. “You mean we’re going to ground level?”

    He smiled, “For 50,000 bitcoin kid you’re getting off easy. I’ve taken hearts for less.”

    Juma glanced at his partner impatiently. He spoke rapidly in old-tongue, a relic of the 21st now used mostly by criminals in Quadrant 7, “Mwambie aharakishe, next patrol inakuja in fifteen minutes.”

    I hadn’t forgotten old-tongue, or Juma’s legendary temper. I rushed back into the cabin and grabbed an electric parka and my network toolset. The only things down below were cables, cops, and the freezing cold. It was most likely a hack job, bypassing some security filter to transfer bitcoin from the last fight to a dollar account elsewhere.

    If Mokai wasn’t bringing me back into the fold, I was a dead man after this job.

    • rob akers says:

      Cool. Not sure if the future is good or bad but I will remember to bring sunglasses. Good job.

    • Ishmael says:

      Dang, Aikawah, I am so impressed! Your first paragraph painted a futuristic work of art…I had a vivid image of the landscape, and the names and ideas of the details (Afropolis, illegal mem-bits, bitcoin, jacked in…) created the sense of a new world. I loved your last sentence. Great wrap up to the prompt, yet also leave it open-ended.

      I thought it was great! :)

    • Jeanie Y says:

      Great writing! I was sucked right in and want more!

    • DMelde says:

      Hi Aikawah,
      I liked the back and forth descriptions of the old and future Earths. For me it started as a cautionary tale of what the future may bring, without being preachy, and it wrapped up nicely with the trip to ground level. Very good!

    • aikawah says:

      I was testing out the world of the story for a sci-fi short story contest I’m participating in here in Nairobi, really glad you guys liked it. If you’ve got any suggestions on how to improve it I’d love to hear them. Thanks guys.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      One of the best, IMO. Good luck on the contest!

  53. Kae Lee says:

    “I fucked up! I know that Max. How was I supposed to know the jockey was going to fall off the fucking horse?” I yelled. Tears streamed down my face as I shook from fear and anger. Sickness in the pit of my stomach hit again. “I have no way to pay it back. What am I going to do?” I jumped up from the leather sofa and began pacing nervously. I was so screwed.

    Max came over and hugged me close. He had been my best friend since kindergarten and my lover up until a little over a year ago. I had even been his wife’s maid of honor even. I knew he wasn’t going to let me down now. He couldn’t possibly allow his boss to kill me over fifty thousand dollars.

    “Izzy, I’ve been saying for a long time that you need some help love. I even tried to get it for you once but you broke my heart in the process. Remember? That’s when I met Madeline.” Max said as he stepped back from me looking disappointed and hurt all over again.

    “I’m sorry that I ruined us Max.” I said barely above a whisper. “I love you more than anything else in my life but you were trying to control my every move. I couldn’t live that way. I just couldn’t.”

    “Well I suppose it doesn’t matter now. It has all boiled down to this, either you pay my boss what she is owed or…” He said as he stared me in the eyes.

    “Or what Max? What else can I do? Is she going to kill me? Tell me!” I demanded. I was beginning to panic again. I remembered when my coworker had owed fifteen thousand he couldn’t pay back. The police found him floating in the Atchafalaya. My heart was racing in my chest. Max didn’t say anything but handed me a business card with an address and the word ROOF written on the back. I didn’t ask questions, I just left.

    It took me over a half hour to get to the Hilton on the corner of Center Street and Fifth where I found a sniper rifle waiting for me on the roof. This wasn’t a skill I was proud of but I was definitely an excellent marksman and Max knew it. So after proposing I kill his boss, here I stood with Madeline in my cross hairs. A single shot rang through the night and I smiled. No more boss to pay back and no woman standing between me and my lover. I guess all was right in my world now.

  54. whynot1956 says:

    The last race and my horse came in last. That was the final straw. My total losses were now $50,000 and were beyond repayment even in my wildest dreams.

    I looked for a way out, but I could see Sam, my bookie, and his squad of goons standing right behind me. There was no way to escape.

    Wildly I cast around for another way out, but I couldn’t see any. I headed for the ladies room and some time to try and figure out what I was going to do. Sam had already warned me that this time he wasn’t going to let my debt slide and he wanted it in full or he would make an example out of me. Being female wasn’t going to get me out of my fix either he informed me. I had nothing he wanted.

    As I grabbed the handle to the ladies room I noticed one of the goons was right behind me. Entering the ladies room I searched frantically to see if there was a window I might be able to crawl out of. I found a small one in the back corner and searched for something to stand on to see if I could open the window and then climb out.

    There was a small table. I quickly shoved the stuff off and pushed the table to the window. I climbed up and gave the window a shove. It eventually opened and I climbed up and sat on the ledge letting my legs hang over.

    I screamed as hands reached out and pulled me out of the window and set me down on the ground. I was dragged out to see Sam.

    “Ms. Jones, just what do you think you are doing?” Sam asked. “I warned you that this was the last time I was going to let you slide. I want my money and I want it now!”

    “Sam, please, please, please. There has to be something I can do for you. I don’t have any of it right now.”

    “Ms. Jones you are old enough to be my Grandmother,” Sam said. “However, I just got an idea. I have to make a delivery that I just don’t want to do and you would be the perfect person to make the delivery now that I think about it.”

    “Oh Sam I will make the delivery for you. Is it dangerous?”

    Sam laughed and said it is for me. I felt my heart begin to pound at this, but really what choice did I have.

    “Ok Sam I will do it.”

    Sam reached into the car and pulled out a gaily wrapped gift.

    “Here deliver this to my grandmother. It is a belated birthday gift and she won’t shoot you. As least I don’t think she will,” he said with a smirk.

  55. Darhug says:

    Tap-ta-tap-tap-tap.
    I’d know that knock anywhere. I could feel the weight of my foolishness in each sinister rap. Fifty-thousand dollars. More than I made last year, and more than I would now make for a long time.
    Tap-ta-tap-tap-TAP.
    Damn.
    I dragged myself out of my bed, not that I had been sleeping in it. I staggered to the door, exhausted from the shock of the Lakers losing in double overtime, and the insanity of rolling over all my bets into that lineup, that little jumper that rimmed out and cost me fifty-thousand dollars.
    I opened the door only as wide as my body.
    “What.” I couldn’t even recognize my own voice.
    “Now let’s just get this over with, Sunshine.” Davis Regan bustled into the apartment all leather jacket, bourbon and sweat. He hadn’t shaved since the last time I had. “I’m gonna do you a favor, meat. I’m not even going to ask you for my money.”
    I was too numb to answer. I just shut the door.
    “So you listen, and you listen good. You’re gonna take this briefcase over to Mel Mason. At his place. Now. As a favor to me. Just drop it off. You go straight from here with this case, knock on his door, hand it to him and walk away. Simple.”
    I was too shocked to even move. What was he saying?
    “Pull your chin up off the floor, you stupid bastard. This’ll square us. Nice and simple.” He swallowed. “You do this for me, and we are all even Steven.”
    I watched his jaw work, and a small bead of sweat appeared on his temple. Something struggled out of the fog of my fat head. Someone’s voice registered in my fuzzy thoughts.
    Nothing is ever simple with Davis Regan.
    His face was suddenly closer to mine, and I could smell his peppermint gum as it worked stoically, those jaw muscles pumping, waiting.
    “You got a problem with that, meat?”
    I shook my head, and felt my insides go to jelly. “Just let me get my jacket.” He nodded and set the briefcase down. I turned to the closet and reached in.
    Simple. Nothing is ever simple with Davis Regan. So this was not just a fifty-thousand dollar delivery. This was going to do me in. Who said that about simple? Whose voice was I hearing in my buzzing noggin?
    It was hers. Every voice in my head was her voice. She was telling me to be smart, to be alert. I mentally shook off the cobwebs and felt my heart beat in my chest.
    Didn’t matter. Jelly or not, I steeled my guts to reach for my jacket, the one with the gun. I could just reach in and feel the grip of my pistol, and this would all be over.
    Talk about simple.

  56. Chancelet says:

    I was swimming in sweat. Sal was going to come any minute, too soon to conjure up some excuse as to why I had to leave without making a payment toward the measly $500 I owed him.
    This was his fault. Why the hell would he have me come here! He knew I couldn’t resist the lights and sounds, and that I’d end up at the tables, where even he banished me from going near! Not really banished, but he urged me with that all knowing and mockery-driven sneer that made his sagging jowls and baggy eyes jiggle to the point where they looked to be laughing at me.
    I had to tell him! It was as simple as that. But it wasn’t simple according to my gut, which lurched and jostled as if I were being dangled from a rooftop. This time I did too much. Sal would kill me. I had to use my silver tongue like I’d never done before. I’d have to talk with a golden voice. I would convince Sal that this was his fault.
    And I did it. My tongue was smooth, with just the right amount of silkiness and whine. The words I spoke were like they came directly from God, and I saw Sal’s eyes soften.
    When I finished, I swore he was silent for nearly an hour. Then he grumbled out, not in anger, not with mockery, but with an air of mercy, “I see what you’re saying. You’re right, I shouldn’t have had you come to here. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I did. Guess I was busy, not thinking.”
    He placed his hands over his paunch, which wasn’t that big, but had a suitable ledge for him to rest his hands. “I’m thinking now. This is what I’ll do for you, and you’ve got one minute to decide. My youngest daughter is looking to marry. She’s got the guy picked out and can’t wait. But I’m from the old school and will not marry her off until her older sister is married first.”
    My legs wobbled and I began to sink toward the ground. Everyone knew Sal’s oldest daughter. Notorious Natalie was what most called her. Notorious Natalie was to have been married five years ago, until the unlucky bastard talked too long to a beautiful patronage at the roulette table. Natalie beat him unconscious with her hefty size eleven shoes. After he became conscious, Sal got rid of him. That was the first of three.
    “Marry her tomorrow and all is forgiven. Otherwise you have to pay me by midnight tonight.” Seeing the fear and near delirium in my eyes, he added, “The wedding will happen, and you will be safe.”
    Maybe the wedding would happen, but I’d never be safe again. I listed in my head the name of banks outside of Sal’s domain. I’d do a bank job and pay Sal my $50,000 debt well before midnight. Or die trying.

    • DMelde says:

      Good take on the prompt. 50 Gs for Natalie? Sounds like Sal wanted a bargain that he so shrewdly maneuvered the gambler into.

      • Chancelet says:

        Sal wanted a bargain? Not sure what you mean. This was my first time writing a prompt like this, no more than 500 words. So many times I had to dwindle the story down. Maybe the debtor’s desperation to not marry her was dwindled too much.

        • DMelde says:

          Hi Chancelet,
          I think you did a good job of showing the debtor’s desperation. Natalie with her size eleven club shoes would scare most men away, and robbing a bank (without putting in the required amount of planning) is pure desperation. For me, Sal didn’t seem like the type of character who made mistakes. He was old school and he had a problem, and Sal knew he could maneuver the debtor with a weakness for gambling into debt in order to solve his problem. Sal admitting he made a mistake just showed me how shrewd he really was to conceal his true motives. That is what I saw in your story. I enjoyed it. Other people who read your story probably see something else that I don’t. Aah, the joys of writing and discovery!

          • Chancelet says:

            Wow! You read a whole lot into that than I thought of. That’s cool. Shows what a great imagination you have! Thanks for your comments.

  57. Egg says:

    There is a woman screaming further down the hallway, and I press my cheek against the bars so that I might identify who it is. As I suspected, it is Pakoo. She has finally had her baby, and is howling to keep her son, but all of us here know that she will never see him again. The heavy, iron doors rattle open and echo through the building like a freight train, and then slam shut like a crash at the station. Pakoo’s screaming has hushed to a mournful sob. They have probably drugged and shackled her so as not to excite the rest of us.

    I huff at my own reasoning. If there is one thing this place isn’t, it’s exciting: filthy, smelly, cruel, and hopeless, but never exciting.

    Now the thunder of hooves on black earth – that’s exciting. The grunts of the horses and the hisses of the jockeys as they power down the straight; the twinkle of the mirror as they flash past the post and the cheers of the crowd – that’s exciting. Race day was my drug, my addiction.

    I stood at the fence, my heart pounding and the ticket choking in my hand as the announcer called them in. “Come on Magic Sands. COME ON!” My voice crackled in my ears and was lost in the roar of hooves.

    “COME ON!” The filly lost her steam; she wouldn’t make the distance. My eyes burned with tears as the favourite crept up on the inside and won by a neck. My hands shook as I calculated my losses.

    “An overseas trip will do you good, Sal.” Geoff handed me the djembe and I nestled the drum under my arm.

    “And then we’ll be square, right?” I glanced around at the Asian faces bustling to clear security before turning back to my bookie and my friend.

    “Absolutely. Mr Chan will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. You won’t have to do a thing.”

    Well, he was right about that. I haven’t been doing a thing for six years now. If Mr Chan was at the airport, I never got to meet him. And, as for taking me to a hotel, the local police took care of that.

    “Welcome to the Bangkok Hilton, Ms Carter,” said a tiny round-face man in uniform. I was sickened by the thin faces and dead eyes that met me behind the razor wire. I was frightened by the snarls of the wardens and the unpitying stares of the other farangs.

    Now, the shackles mean nothing to me. I close my eyes and picture the track, freshly tarred and ready for race day.

  58. cmspen10 says:

    I sat there, watching the racehorses turn the last corner, tightly gripping the sides of my chair, hoping that Lucky would pull ahead in the last stretch. This was it, the moment of truth… would I lose my 50 grand or would Lucky pull through for me this time? Sweat started dripping from my forehead as I slowly stopped breathing and my eyes widened. If my bet failed me then I was a goner. The racehorses were seconds away from crossing the finish line, three of them were neck and neck for first, Lucky being one of them. I could feel my heart beating faster and faster, the sweat dripping down every crease of my body, soaking my shirt as Lucky and the other two horses came only a few feet away from the finish line. I knew this was my defining moment, proving to my bookie I could make a winning bet.

    People started shouting, clapping, handkerchiefs waved in the air as I stood up, watching the racehorses cross the finish line, but I couldn’t tell if Lucky had won, it was too close. I sat back down afraid of what was next to come. Everyone around me fell silent as the announcer came over the loudspeaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, after looking at the photo finish, it has been concluded that there is a two-way tie!”
    For the second time I held my breath, afraid that even the slightest move would somehow cause my luck to change. The announcer continued, “Congratulations goes to Dasher and Red Baron! Second place goes to Lucky and third place goes to Ghost.”
    I could feel my heart drop a thousand feet. This couldn’t be happening.

    Rrriiinnngg, rrriiinnngg. I looked at the caller I.D., Shady-Slade Bookie. When I first met Slade, my bookie, I never understood why all the guys called him Shady-Slade, now I knew all too well why they had done so. Slade was definitely a man to keep secrets, a lot of them in fact. I never knew what I was getting into when I worked with him, especially not this time when he had told me what would happen if I lost today.

    “Hello”, I answered my phone after the ringing had finally annoyed me.
    “Which one d’ya bet on today, Lucky? Because if it was, you have a job for me to do”, Shady-Slade grouched.
    “Umm, well…” I was hesitating too much and I knew it.
    “Ha ha ha… well I’ma gonna take that as a yes and save ya the trouble of lying to me” Shady-Slade found my situation comical which made my loss feel even worse. “Come over to my office.”

    I left the racetrack, slowly walking over to my old, beaten up, black, 1995 Ford F-150. I opened the door and slammed it shut, wishing I had instead put my head between the door and the frame of the truck, either killing myself or knocking myself unconscious. I always dreaded going to Shady-Slade’s ‘office’. It was an old, abandoned barn in the middle of a pasture field in Georgia. If you ask me, that doesn’t classify as an office, I’m not even sure if it was legal to be on the property. But, I went out there anyways, driving as slow as I could only imagining what I was about to get myself into.

    I got out of my truck and walked slowly over to the door of the old barn, Shady-Slade’s so-called office. It was too quiet, quieter than it should be after a big loss. The wind was blowing lightly, making the door I had just walked through creek loudly and then slam shut. It immediately became dark, I couldn’t see anything. Waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness I heard something moving in the dirt toward me. I couldn’t tell if it was an animal or if it was a human being. I closed my eyes, praying I’d get out of there alive.

    “Oh boy, have you got yourself into a mess today!” Shady-Slade’s voice echoed through the old barn. “I got a proposition for ya boy, since you ain’t worth a lick when it comes to making bets, how about you do me some killin’ instead.”
    I chuckled, “You have got to be kidding me! I am NOT killing anybody for you. Are you crazy?”
    I knew the answer to that question already, but decided to ask him anyways.
    “Ha ha, you think I’m talking about people?! NO, I ain’t crazy, you fool! I’m talking about some horses that keep winning these damn races and since you can’t bet on any horse other than Lucky then I guess you’re gonna have to get rid of the competition.”

    • jincomt says:

      Oooo a true antagonist, killing horses! I liked this story. I think a lot of the excess description (although great) could be cut and still maintain the integrity of the story and be a bit closer to the word limit. You did a great job of setting up the race and dilemma!

    • Egg says:

      Gotta love the weird mix of serious and silly. Go Lucky!

  59. Leond says:

    He looked at me with ice cold eyes. “Five hundred thousand,” he repeated, clearly relishing each syllable. “Quite a losing streak you had there.”
    “I can get the money,” I said, knowing that I sounded like every stereotype of an in-debt gambler you’ve ever heard. “I just need a little time.”
    “Time is money, Mr. Johnson,” he replied. “Do you expect to give more money to someone like you?”
    “I told you that-”
    “I don’t care about what you told me then. Here’s what I want you to tell me. Can you repay the debt now?”
    “I can repay, maybe… half of it?”
    He stared at me, then started to fiddle with a pen. “That’s a problem. It’s something like half of what I want. Tell me. With a debt like five hundred thousand, I think I might make more money off of using you as an example to some of my other debtors than waiting for you to get together that half.”
    I stared at him in silence.
    “There are something like two hundred bones in the human body. That makes one bone for every two hundred and fifty you owe me. I’ve made worse deals.” He paused. “Tell me. You like games. Can you play… tennis?”
    “Tennis?”
    “Answer the question.”
    “Sure.”
    “Good. I need a partner for a tennis doubles game more than five hundred grand right now. Play tennis with me tomorrow and I’ll wipe you clean.”
    “Why do you need-”
    “Look. You may have guessed that I’m in in bed with organized crime.”
    “Yeah.”
    “Literally. One of the bigger bosses is my wife. I have an appointment for a tennis game tomorrow with a girl. A friend, but my wife doesn’t get that. If I show up alone, she assumes the worst and I die. And if I don’t show up, then the same thing happens. So I need to make this doubles. How’s your backhand?”
    “Perfectly good. I was captain of the team in high school.”
    “I bet you never thought that would save your life. Tomorrow at eight. I’ll make the rest of the arrangements.”

    And that, kids, is how I met your mother.

    • Egg says:

      I did smile at ‘You may have guessed that I’m in bed with organized crime.’ I mean, really, who would say that? Cute follow-up, though. Thanks for the fun story.

  60. slayerdan says:

    “Just put it to his head and pull the trigger”.

    Big Mike was still standing in front of Tracy, the gun outstretched to her in his four fingered left hand. She sat in psychological tetany, her mind gripped by fear. She could only focus past the gun, on his shirtless belly hanging over his pants. He looked right through her as he notched up the left side of his mouth in that child molesters sneer of his. As always, he oozed of garlic and aftershave.

    “Just put it to his head and pull the trigger,” he said again, his accent giving sick homage to his ancestry.
    Tracy tried to meet his deadlocked eyes, but could not. Again and again his words reverberated through her head, almost screaming at her what he said. Did he actually say that? A slight adrenaline surge pushed Tracy out of her zombie like status. She wanted to run. She felt her hands tense as if she would push herself out of her chair and sprint past Big Mike. To freedom.

    There was no sprinting past him. His main stooge, Marco, stood by the door, Looking like a bald headed, crackhead, jackrabbit in a 100 dollar suit he could easily block her from leaving. Or run her down if she managed to get out. Or worse.

    “Im a goddamned soccer mom Mike,” she managed to crackle out, tears now haphazardly flowing from her eyes,” I cant kill someone in cold blood. Ive never even held a gun,” she cried, her words heavy with fear and anxiety.She clutched her arms around herself and rocked a little like a mother rocking a baby.

    It brought her no comfort.

    Big Mike pulled her left hand away from her torso and put the gun in her hand. His sneer turned to a sickening laugh. “Hey mama, my little soccer mama,” his voice made her tense again,” how many soccer moms owe their friends 50 thousand dollars for some blow and the horses?” He walked back slowly and sat on the leather couch in front of Tracy.He sprawled his arms across the back, his belly settling on his lap.

    “I don’t know Mike, I”…..

    “None! None, you know it all soccer mom,” he sat forward, the dangerous tone in his voice alerting Tracy that things had just gotten worse.” You will kill him, soccer mom. His death means your family is safe,” he said with no hint of his sneer, “ and that you would then only owe me 25 thousand.”

    25 THOUSAND! Her mind screamed! She tried to process it. Killing someone would only erase half the debt? Body pulsing with adrenaline, overwhelmed by fear, and seeing no viable options, Tracy raised the gun, pointing it at Big Mike with her hand shaking like the tail of a grown rattlesnake.
    “What if I just kill you instead? Then I don’t owe you anything,” she yelled, caught up in the moment of power and fear.

    Big Mike laughed deep and stood slowly, the gun pointed at him still. “ See my little mama, my soccer mama,” his aftershave assaulting her senses once again,” it seems you are more than willing to kill someone when motivated,” he laughed, as did Marco, their voices alone defeating the last of Tracys resolve.

  61. imprinted says:

    “So” said my bookie “can I count on your support?”

    I was unsure, I didn’t have a penny to my name and very little choice, it was either co-operate and be welcomed back into my local bookies in two weeks time when I had been paid once more, or risk saying no thanks and having my legs broken, or worse… death.

    “I’m not sure, I just, don’t know” I replied as I wiped my sweaty palms against the denim of my jeans. He waved a wad of notes in my face; I inhaled the lure of the cash deep into my nostrils, then I sat on my hands as temptation washed over me.

    “Just think” he enticed, “this stash right here can be what saves your legs… or life, if you say yes” he added. The room was dark; the dusk was beginning to settle on the ground outside mixing with the foggy November evening. The ripped and faded striped wallpaper hung from the wall sadly, I glanced over at the painting of the dogs playing pool not wanting to watch as he wafted the cash at me. I had always been behind with payments on everything, car, mortgage and now gambling but never had I needed to resort to something like this and I was scared.

    *Well…”I started, with a hint of desperation in my quivering tone, I didn’t think for a minute he would let me walk out of here without an answer. Tony the bookie was not a man to be messed with. He was not a man that took lightly to being fucked around by anyone. His stature made sure of that, he stood at an amazing six foot eight and was built like a tank. I hadn’t known him a long time, but I had heard rumours that he ran a black market underground for cocaine and heroin. Tony was not a man to compromise with. It was black or white, yes or no and you would never hear him utter the words “sorry” or “I was wrong”.

    I knew that I was playing a dangerous game when I was introduced to the bookies six months ago by a work colleague. He had also done a few jobs for Tony to pay off his debts and the last one ended badly. He was now serving a minimum of ten years on Her Majesty’s Service, and I didn’t want to end up like that.
    I was conscious of the heavies guarding the door, blocking the one exit. I began to tremble as the weight of the situation hit me at last. Running my clammy hand through my unkempt hair. I could feel his gaze burning in my direction then he tapped his watch and sighed indicating that I had better answer now or else. I stared back at his emotionless face and with a sigh I said

    “Alright” I began, willing myself not to cry. “What’s the job?”
    Tony smiled, his eyes lit up the room.

    • Egg says:

      You’ve got some nice images in there, but I found your story a little static at times, possibly due to some repetition of ideas, e.g., sweaty hands, quivering tone, clammy hands. A bit of streamlining might help it flow better. A good start.

    • rich-jolii says:

      Very good story. I would like to find out what the character was going to have to do.

  62. penney says:

    They all looked across the poker table at him, teeth snarling, and drool hanging from their snouts. The Boarder Collie yapped, “I knew he was bluffing, yah, yah, bluffing boss.” His tail was wagging; he was itching to jump up and down on all fours.

    The Sheep dog slouched in the leatherback chair; he knew he had made his last bet. The cards were on the table. He owed The Mutts a lot of biscuits 50,000 to be exact. Hopefully he could cut a deal; he smiled to himself, no pun intended. Before he put his glass down, the Bulldog spoke.

    “I tell ya what I’m gonna do for ya.” His jowel shaking as he spoke. “There’s a job you can do for me.”

    “Anything, boss, anything,” Sheepdog said.

    “Go across town to Poodles place, make the collection. If she gives you any grief, no acceptations this time, take the pups. Dobie and Pitt will go to make sure you get it done right.” Bulldog licked himself from ear to ear and gave a low evil chuckle.

    “Hum? Take the pups where?” Sheepdog wasn’t sure he wanted this anymore, but he had no choice. He was absolutely going to Gambler’s Anonymous if he got out of this unscathed.

    Bulldog cleared his throat, shook his head and a glob of drool landed on the overhead lamp. “The incinerator on 4th and Canine Road, if you fail, you go in with the pups. Do this, and your clear,” Bulldog started to growled, The Mutts joined in. Sheepdog shuddered at the picture in his head of the incinerator.

    “Beat it!” Bulldog snapped viciously.

    Sheepdog ran out with his tail between his legs.

  63. “A Toad-al Disaster”

    I should have learned my lesson after stealing that motor car. I especially should have learned, after all of my dealings, never to trust weasels. But here I was, after I let those silver-tongued scoundrels convince me to gamble away what little was left of the Toad fortune, and now I was in deeper than at the bottom of the river. If only I could have coerced Badger to keep management of my accounts, but he had decidedly excused himself from fixing my financial fiascos.
    Now I sat across from Mr. Hare, who scoured over the books before him, calculating my losses with strict accuracy (rabbits are prodigies at mathematics, as multiplying comes to them naturally). His eyes flicked up at me. “Let me be to the point,” he said with a clipped tone. “Your capability to furnish restitution for these egregious arrears is highly dubious.”
    I stared blankly at him.
    “You can’t pay off this debt,” he said irritably.
    “I can offer compensation,” I pleaded. “Toad Hall is one of the most glorious—“
    “I have no use for your dilapidated old hovel,” Mr. Hare cut in. “However…” He was quiet a moment, and an odd grin spread over his face. “There might be an arrangement we could make.”
    I was never one to take time to think extensively about such matters (that was more of Rat’s department), so I immediately hopped at the chance. “Mr. Hare, I am a more than capable amphibian. Surely someone of my talents can offer decent compensation to a good rabbit such as yourself.”
    “I’m sure you can.” He scribbled something down on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “This is the address of a certain rival of mine. If you could do me the favor of disposing of him, I will gladly sweep all your debts under the rug…or lily-pad, if that metaphor suits you better.”
    My face blanched a paler shade of green, as I hesitantly took the paper. Already I had an idea of who he was referring to as his “rival.” It was well known throughout the woods that Mr. Hare had once had a promising career as an athlete, a competitive long distance runner. But his career and pride had been crushed when he lost a vital race to a newcomer, a Mr. Tortoise, who while was no match in speed for Mr. Hare, had been a manipulative sort who played right into the rabbit’s vanity and greed…and had also slipped a sleeping medicine into Mr. Hare’s tea before the race, causing him to pass out before the finish line.
    So, honestly, what was it worth to have a dishonest, cheating tortoise in the world, if by terminating him, I would free myself from the proverbial (or, possibly literal) noose?
    Little did I know before creeping over there during the dead of night, Mr. Tortoise was a collector of fine samurai swords, and well skilled in the ways of the Japanese martial arts…

  64. Rebecca says:

    I had advised myself to walk away but the riptide of need drew me ever closer. I was sitting even for the night and common sense told me to go home but the incessant pull of the dice as they clinked across the table invited me to stay. One more time I told myself…

    My bankroll got smaller as my hopes slowly dwindled yet I still could not get myself to cut my losses even as they mounted up, stacking against me. I threw the dice one last time across the table…this was it. I could feel it. This was the moment that Lady Luck had been promising me all evening…the moment when all my losses would be turned around.

    In tense silence the die came to rest, revealing my loss of $50,000 and as I watched in stunned silence the dealer scooped up all my chips, effectively leaving me with nothing but the stinging feeling of betrayal by luck’s fickle bitch.

    As the seconds ticked by reality seeped in between the sore thoughts of my loss and I felt the pressure begin to mount. I did not just lose money, I lost my bookies money. I was moving within seconds even as the pressure grew behind me when word of my loss spread across the casino floor like wildfire. And just as I gained sight of the exit someone’s fist stopped me.

    “Oh no my friend…you have a date with the boss.” The owner of the fist said as he shoved me to the back of the casino.

    “Can it wait? I really am not dressed for it.” I quipped hating myself for the tell-tale sign of hope in my voice. Needless to say I didn’t get an answer and I soon found myself blindfolded and strapped to a chair with all attempts at humor stifled by a rag in my mouth.

    “Why do you gamble with money you do not have? And then beg for mercy as if your stupidity can be forgiven?” Her voice was silky, reminding me of the many hot and sweaty nights that we had shared.

    “You have two options. One…you can die or two…you can do me a favor and your debt will be erased.” Unable to respond I waited for her to continue.

    “Now I am sure you are wondering what the favor is but does it really matter? Either your life or your obedience…it’s of no consequence to me. So nod if you are in or shake if you want to be taken out.”

    Furiously I nodded my head, hoping I wasn’t committing myself to something far more sinister.

    “Oh, good. You chose to accept my offer. Well then off with the blindfold so you can see exactly what it is your favor will consist of.”

    I watched her as she stepped over to the door and before opening it she paused to say, “Thank you for feeding the dogs.”

    Horror dawned as teeth began to tear me apart. Well played.

  65. Scott B. says:

    A fluorescent green haze drapes itself around everything in the tiny office. The laminate desk takes up most of the available space and is covered in loose slips of paper. A small radio on the windowsill crackles out a Van Morrison tune that barely conceals the distant sounds of a bustling harbor two blocks away.

    “It’s just a dry spell Tommy. You know me, win-some-lose-some, right?” Mitch was lying – softening the truth really; he had always been more of a win-some-lose-most kind of bettor, but the playoffs took him for a ride this year.

    Tommy Venner was the bookie to go to for any type of action. He moved more money through town than those Loomis armored trucks going up and down Devonshire. Some claimed he was a made man.

    Tommy stood up and moved over to the window and hummed along to the music …float into the mystic… “We’ve been friends for a long time…fourth grade I think.” He reached into his pocket and placed a cellular phone in the middle of the desk. “I even introduced you to wife.”

    “I know Tommy. You’ve been good to me. I just need a little more time.” Mitch was wringing his hands and blinking like a mad man. He hadn’t slept in three days and looked nothing like his usual high school science teacher self.

    Tommy moved his chair from behind the desk and slid it uncomfortably close. He sat down; placed his own knee between Mitch’s and looked him square in the eye. “I can’t stop the juice this time Mitch. I wish I could, but I’ve got my own bills to pay. You understand.” It was more of a statement than a question.

    Mitch staggered and shook his head. Tears welled up over his already sagging eyes. “I don’t got it Tommy. I just need a good angle and some more time. You gotta help me!”

    The bookie looked over at the desk, eyeing the cell. He looked at Mitch and gnawed his lower lip before telling him, “I think we can help each other out. See that phone on my desk? It’s gonna ring any minute now and the guy on the other end is going to give me some instructions.”

    Tommy looked at the floor, then Mitch blurted out, “I’ll do whatever you need Tommy. If it clears my name…if it makes us square, then you just tell me what to do.”

    The phone started ringing. They looked at each other briefly before Tommy picked it up. “Hello…Yeah…What?…No, I understand, it’s just never come to that before…No, I’ll take care of it…I said I’ll take care of it.” Tommy set the phone down.

    “Well what is it? What do I need to do?”

    Tommy sighed, “You’re wife works at the District Attorney’s office, right?”

    Mitch nodded.

    Tommy hands him the cell. “Tell her to take the rest of the day off. Things are about to get a little noisy downtown.”

    • I like how this story establishes some interesting character traits for Mitch and Tommy…especially how Mitch is a high school teacher (not exactly a good role model for kids here, is he?) and Tommy like Van Morrison music…it makes them both seem more human. I hope you continue with this story on your own, it’s a great start.

    • Egg says:

      I like how you’ve set the scene and drawn your characters. Personally, I was left a little dissatisfied though. Not so much by the open ending as the vagueness of it. Was Mitch’s only job to get his wife out? ‘Things are about…’ seems to take the story away from the characters, not closer to them. Then again, perhaps that’s where you’re heading. Nice work.

    • jincomt says:

      I loved the dialogue in this– very well done. The ending wrapped up abruptly and was difficult to follow, given the prompt. A lot of possibility here!

    • DMelde says:

      Great descriptions that really set the tone for your story. Great job.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      Good story. Given a larger word allocation, this seems like it could turn into a thriller. Add a few more twists, a double-cross or two, a cheating wife maybe, and some massive explosions, and who knows, we might see it on the big screen!

Leave a Reply