Olympic Trip

You have been chosen to help carry the Olympic Torch for the 2016 Summer Olympics. It’s finally your turn to carry the Torch and you are so nervous you might throw up. You take the Torch from its previous carrier and start running. As cameras flash and the world watches, you trip and go sprawling. Write this scene.

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

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147 thoughts on “Olympic Trip

  1. cosi van tutte

    And this is just for the sheer crazy fun of it… 😀

    ******

    Alice Lynd ran down the boulevard with the Olympic torch in her hand.

    It’s all very simple. she thought. All I have to do is carry this torch through the Hasta Miercoles Forest to the footbridge. The next runner will be there waiting for me. We’ll touch torches and my part in this relay will be done.

    Hardly anything to it, really. Just one footfall at a time. Steady, easy pace. No rush. Well, not that much of a rush. Hold the torch straight. Watch my feet. Don’t trip. Don’t stumble. Don’t drop it. Don’t burn myself. Don’t burn my fellow torch-bearer. Don’t burn down the forest.

    Hardly anything to it at all.

    She followed the narrow, royal palm-lined road to a forest guarded by a solid wooden fence. A silver sign with bronze letters hung on the fence’s door.

    “‘Hasta Miercoles Forest.’ Lovely. And here I am.” She pushed the door open and stepped into a world of thick green, of twirled and twined branches, and of clumpy-shaped fruit that grew directly on tree trunks. The air itself smelled like green life.

    But I haven’t the time to stand about admiring the place. I must continue onwards. Pity, really.

    And so she continued onwards, following a path that the Olympics’ organizers had carefully marked out with small Brazilian flags.

    She turned the corner. The footbridge was in sight. And so was the other torchbearer.

    As she approached him, she found that he was dressed all wrong.

    He wasn’t wearing the 2016 Olympics jumpsuit that all of the other torchbearers had to wear. Instead, he was dressed in a stylish top hat, a tailored frock coat, and what looked like tuxedo pants. Studded black shoes completed his ensemble.

    Alice stopped in her tracks.

    He was not holding the torch.

    Instead, he was leaning against the bridge’s railing and fussing with a pocket watch.

    “Excuse me, sir.”

    He looked up at her with his bright pink eyes. “Hello then. Are you Alice?”

    “Umm, well. Yes, I am. But…” She stopped. There were so many questions that she wanted to ask, that she knew that she should ask. She decided to go with the most important one. “Are you supposed to carry the flame to the next stop?”

    He flipped open his watch. “Oh. The time is all wrong again. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.”

    “Excuse me, sir, but I did ask you a question.”

    “Yes. Yes. Of course, you did.” He closed his watch and shook it a couple of times. “There then. That ought to fix it right.” He slipped it back into his pocket without checking it. “So. You’re Alice.”

    “Yes, I am. Are you the next torchbearer?” It’s a bother to repeat a question, but I honestly don’t think he heard me the first time.

    “Torchbearer? Certainly not.”

    “Oh.” She frowned. “The flags led me here. So, this must be the right place. But…Have you seen anyone else come this way?”

    “Alice. Alice. Alice. We’re wasting valuable time. And time mustn’t be wasted.”

    “I don’t see how I’m wasting time. I was asking a sensible questi—-”

    “Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. You are wasting time. Hmm. So am I for that matter. So I will cut the chase and stick the point.”

    “I believe you meant to say ‘Cut to the chase’ and—”

    “You shouldn’t interrupt people.”

    She gaped. “I beg your par—”

    “It’s a very rude habit that you seem to possess. The Queen will burn with anger. Oh, yes! Burn hot and steamed with anger. So, you mustn’t interrupt her when you meet her.”

    “I have no intention of meeting any Queen. I just want to—”

    “We don’t want her to turn into a lobster again. Oh, that was an unpleasant business last time.”

    I’m dealing with a crazy person. It’s the only rational explanation. “Umm, it was lovely meeting you, but I really must be going.” She inched around him. Maybe the torchbearer is somewhere on the other side of the bridge.

    “Oh, I agree. I agree most whole-heartedly and fulsomely. You must be going indeed.” He pulled out his pocketwatch and flipped it open. “Ah, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. It is almost time.”

    He glanced up at her and widened his eyes. “I will count down now.”

    She turned away from him.

    “One.”

    She ran towards the other side of the bridge.

    “Two.”

    Almost there. Almost there.

    “Three.”

    The bridge vanished.

    And Alice fell down a long black hole.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a very nice homage to Dodgson; you did a wonderful job capturing the insanity of the hatter as someone. At least it wasn’t a Thursday; that would have simply been strange. Even when I knew what was coming I giggled all the way to the end. 🙂

  2. nnasr

    I am sorry, it is really bad. I am a beginner.

    The crowd went silent. Then I fell.
    The second I fell it became chaotic. I was chosen to be the last torchbearer and I was only 10 meters away from the Olympic cauldron. The fire went out. Someone came up to me and helped me up and asked me if I was alright. I was humiliated but pretended all was fine. A new torch was given to me and I went up to the cauldron and started up the flame with shaky hands. However, there were no cheers.
    I pretended I did not notice this, moved on to the side and tried to disappear as much as I could but, of course, every news media out there had their lens on me. News reporters came rushing up to me with excitement. Within seconds, I was flooded with questions and blinded by all the flashes. I tried to look for refuge somewhere, but there was none.
    Then things started going crazy. The president of the United States came up to me and congratulated me. What was the president doing here? Why would he congratulate me?
    Everyone started laughing and acting in unison. I started freaking out and backing up, but to where I was surrounded on all sides. My life is ruined! This will be all over the news. Everyone will know me for this and it will become viral within hours. Everyone will know me as the guy who fell 10 meters away from the cauldron. What do I do?
    Beep, beep, beep. What is that? How is it louder than all these reporters laughing at me?
    Beep, beep. I sit up straight in shock and look around me. Oh goodness, it was only a nightmare!
    Beep, beep. It is my phone ringing. I pick up the phone and answer it.
    “Hello?” I answer.
    “Hey, Rafer, are you excited?” someone says.
    “Uh, what are you talking about?” I question.
    “Today your lighting up the cauldron! Man, I wish I was you and I could be the last torchbearer!” The person replies.

    1. Observer Tim

      No need to apologize Nnasr, this is a nicely done story. You did a good job depicting the effects of last minute jitters on your main character, and the disorientation of being in a dream. If you’re a beginner then you’re showing a lot of promise. 🙂

      The only spot of weakness that stands out to me is the dialogue, which reads more like something written than spoken, especially given the youth of the voice. In that area I have two suggestions: [1] try reading it out loud and correcting it so the text matches what you say (voice trumps grammar), and [2] keep on writing (practice shows).

    2. Beebles

      Sure fire way to get me to read it – say its bad. Which – I agree with Tim – it is not. i thought there was good variation in the structure, plenty of emotion on display and I could feel the MC’s discomfort and exposure. Oh, and nice and short. Tim has said the rest. Look forward to more nnasr.

    3. JosephFazzone

      I can honestly say that I have improved a great deal since posting here. These guys are so welcoming and friendly, one can’t help but learn and improve. Welcome Nnasr! As for the story, I love how it plays out as just a bad nightmare. Hopefully they will get it right this time. =)

  3. Beebles

    Conscious effort to vary the style.
    ——————–

    I was one of the most fervent campaigners for replays to be available to match day officials. When I tripped, of course, every millisecond was played out in high definition slow motion.

    By the time I reached the top of the hill, surfing that wave of cheers, whistles and applause, steel bands and salsa, the late nights and parties were beginning to take their toll. But I was at the height of my game. My talent was a beacon across Europe. My agent had Real Madrid crawling on the end of a leash, in a studded collar, across broken glass, begging for my transfer. And clothing manufacturer KalliMakos were wetting their latex pants to have my signature on their dotted line. It wasn’t the only line I was doing. Life was as good as a pair of horny twins, blond or brunette I didn’t care. I held my torch high and all were dazzled by the flame. A whirlwind marriage to an Argentinian lingerie model and seven months later, a son, my Vicalvaro.

    When I tripped, it was in a Monaco hotel, twenty two floors up, or down, which was the relevant part. My head on the table, rolled fifty up my nose, I didn’t see him stagger backwards and over the balcony rail. The prostitute screamed for all twenty two floors and created a splash zone twenty metres wide, centred on a French mother of three. Naturally, the police and the papers got involved and the truth was out. My wife sued for custody of my son – f**k her – the only consistent light in my increasingly dark and scrambled life. We exchanged blows, court to court. Me getting poorer: the lawyers getting richer.

    But I was sailing helplessly through the air, out of control, coping with more addictions than I had veins for. My career was heading south. The sponsors left me to shack up with some long legged German kid with a blond quiff and gimmicky dink to the left, and Real let me go. I stumbled down the ladder of the leagues, flashes of brilliance, but more flashbacks from the nights before.

    Until I crashed to the ground, off an Antwerp fly-over in my last asset, a Lamborgini Aventador. Trapped, I was cut from a wreckage that spanned five years and several million pounds. When I came-to in the hospital, broken and broke, lying face down in a spinal brace, my only thought was for my son. But he was out of reach, on a plane, on his way to his new home in South America.

    Being part of the torch relay was supposed to send a message. To show the world that I had reformed and rehab was working. To show that I was back. To show my son that I was trying to be a better man, even if I couldn’t be a father.

    I hope he saw it.

    I hope he saw me run and hand over the torch at the end of my stretch. I hope that he can forgive that I tripped and fell; that I let the fire go.

    I hope he knows it won’t happen again.

    I hope.

    1. JosephFazzone

      He’d be better off signing with Barcelona anyway! =) Really enjoyed this story. It felt like a life flashing before your eyes moment as it went through his career, and his marriage, and madness that ensued. It also had that nagging regret of the fall and the fall of his role as father. Pretty cool story. Go Barca! =)

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Beebles!

      I really liked the momentum in this story. I also liked that the fall was more of a fall from grace instead of a physical fall.

      And, just so you know, I loved this whole line: “I hope that he can forgive that I tripped and fell; that I let the fire go.” It’s so full of hope and regret.

    3. Observer Tim

      What Cosi said. 🙂

      It’s too bad someone had to die and he had to be nearly killed in order for the message to sink in. Hopefully he recognizes that he hasn’t just embarked on a torch relay but a marathon.

    4. Bushkill

      Moving. Very nicely written and metaphorically connected, you really did a marvelous job painting the picture of a life tripping, the jumps, the suddenness, the cause and effect were all very well tied together and then the end flowed more smoothly, more cleanly, more like the new MC.

  4. Bushkill

    Olympic Trip

    Running, even while carrying such an emblem of unity and sportsmanship as the Olympic Torch, is a horrible experience. They may talk about a runner’s high, but what they really mean is you have to be high to run. The action serves no useful purpose.

    The images of elite runners race through my head in a jumble. I strain the bounds of creative thought to isolate a moment when I have witnessed a runner wearing anything resembling a smile. It’s an incongruity. There are smiles a plenty when the experience ends, and if nirvana only begins upon the conclusion of the event, the event itself must be scathingly abusive.

    Which begs the question; How did I ended up holding The Torch in an event that required some form of rapid bipedal locomotion? My entire anatomy screams “dig in your heels and slug it out.”

    I lift.

    As the commercial barks, “I pick things up and put them down.”
    Running makes you good at escaping danger …. Slowly. Cardio itself only makes you better at, well, cardio. It doesn’t even multi task.

    Pathetic.

    People could sprint. Sprinting is very good at everything cardio claims to do with the added benefit of building muscle. It’s like running, but for people who want to look good naked.

    I, however, am a finely sculpted mountain of muscle. I radiate power and confidence. The Most Interesting Man in the World asks me for pointers when going to the gym. When I smile, the stars take note.

    But I just don’t do the running thing.

    I saw it clearly, a short series of steps, a low dais to cross and then more steps to the giant torch that I was to light. I was confident, look at me, who wouldn’t be? And then I wasn’t.

    I felt my foot catch on the step and my body lurch forward. The torch had spun crazily from my hand. My body contorted as I tried to catch my fall and the torch. I failed at both.

    The torch popped. I couldn’t really turn my head to see, my traps were in the way.

    It was troubling, really, I could lift all sorts of things many times. Very heavy things, too. Yet hear I was, flat on my back. Try as I might, I couldn’t generate enough momentum to swing my body around and push myself up. I just stared at the heavens. Blinking.

    It took three of the distance runners to sit me up and a fourth to hand me the torch. The five of us moved to light the torch together. One of them let me lean on him as we walked forward.
    Looked like the kid could’ve used a sandwich.

    I guess unity is what it is all about, team work. I know I was in a spot and it was the little guy that stepped up to help. Maybe it’s not the size of the athlete, but the size of their heart that we should be measuring.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I would never have thought of such a clever ending. Turning a disaster into a victory of unity. United we stand, divided we fall theme. The strongest rope in the world is made of tiny strands wound around each other in unity, so goes the human spirit. A great response Bushkill.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is nicely introspective and thoughtful, Bushkill, especially the take on specialist athletes. Also it’s some kind of cruel insanity on the planning committed to have a powerlifter do the stairs at the end of the torch run. I really like the spirit of this piece. 🙂

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Bushkill!

      This story redefines “How the mighty have fallen.” 🙂 The last line makes me wonder where your MC will go from there. Will he continue to build himself up into a “mountain of muscle” or will he learn from the experience and take up running?

      By the way, your whole first paragraph was a great way to start it all off. It made me want to read on. 🙂

      1. Bushkill

        He may take up sprinting, but joggin and power lifting don’t really coincide. The longer cardio sessions detract from muscle gain.

        And the first paragraph was my fav too. Thanks.

    4. JosephFazzone

      I love the confidence, and then the confidence shattering. I love the team spirit picking him off the floor, and finally the message, not only about character, but about unity through teamwork. Beautiful story. Funny, and poignant.

  5. Amaria

    Ginger – Part 8

    Dr. Leveque placed her notepad on her lap. “I think our last session with your mother bring up issues that needed to be addressed. How did you feel about our last session?’

    Ginger shrugged her shoulders. “Okay I guess.”

    “Is there anything you like to discuss today without your mother being here?

    “Well I had a strange dream or maybe a nightmare last night.”

    “What was it about?” Dr. Leveque asked.

    “I was running in the Olympics. I was waiting on the side of the road. I see my sister Molly running towards me with the torch. She hands it to me and I start running. There’s a huge crowd of people on the sidelines waving and cheering me on. Just when I start feeling good about myself, I trip over something on the road and fall. I hit the ground hard and the torch falls out of my hand. It falls onto a banner which bursts into flames. People begin to panic and run away. Someone tries to douse the flames but it only gets bigger and spreads quickly down the block. Suddenly someone pulls me up. I turn and it’s my mom. She’s shouting at me “It’s all your fault! You ruined everything!” and she’s practically choking me.”

    “Then what happened next?”

    “I woke up,” Ginger answered.

    “Hmmm interesting,” Dr. Leveque said.

    “Interesting?”

    Dr. Leveque asked, “You don’t think so?”

    “I think it’s a sign.”

    “What kind of sign?”

    “That I’m on a path of no return.”

    Dr. Leveque looked at Ginger curiously. “Could you elaborate?”

    “The other day my sister showed me a box mom keeps in her closet. It’s filled with love letters from dad’s mistresses.”

    “His mistresses?”

    “Yeah. The other day I went back into the closet while mom was out and I read them all. There were love letters from two people who I believe were his students – Janice and Bridgette.”

    The name Bridgette made Dr. Leveque stop writing, but Ginger did not notice and continued. “Bridgette’s letter were quite tame compared to Janice’s letters.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Bridgette talked about having a life together – despite dad being married – and how much she loved him and cared about him. Janice talked about tying Dad up and screwing him in elevators.”

    “Oh well, that is quite a contrast. Why did you felt a need to read them?”

    Ginger shrugged her shoulders, “Curiosity. I thought it may shed light onto a part of dad’s life I knew nothing about.”

    Dr. Leveque nodded. “Why do you think your mother kept these letters?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe she used them to punish dad and guilt him into ending the affairs. Or maybe she was trying to save dad from himself by hiding them from others’ eyes. Not that it worked. It’s all strange.”

    “People do strange things for love and family.”

    “I found another letter. A letter to mom from another man who was not dad.”

    “And what did that letter say?” Dr. Leveque asked.

    Ginger replied, “That he was sorry for hurting her and that he always loved her. Interestingly, the date on the letter was after dad’s death.”

    “Do you think it’s somehow related?”

    “Maybe, but I’m determine to find out no matter the costs. Even if everything burns down like in my dream.”

    Dr. Leveque nodded and sigh. “Well, revealing truths can certainly start fires.”

    1. Observer Tim

      The plot thickens. The nice thing about psychotherapy is that just about anything can be incorporated.; you’re doing a great job keeping this dialogue going, especially with the ongoing subtext of the relationship. Poor Ginger is leading a very complicated life, or rather a very simple life full of very complicated people. 🙂

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Amaria!

      I realized something as I read this story. The ongoing mystery of Ginger’s father and her mother’s secrets is compelling enough, but Dr. (Bridgette?) Leveque is her own special blend of mystery. She went from being a student having an affair with her married teacher to being a respected therapist. I can only assume that she reached a crossroads in her life where she wanted to do something important with her life and actually help people. That all just makes her a more interesting character.

      Onto the next part! 😀

  6. Reaper

    Running to Brigid

    Mother always told me some jealous woman would be my downfall. Not even she considered that two of them might work in conjunction. Let me back up a bit.

    You ever notice how when the hero/protagonist/poor schmuck caught up in shit he’s just not prepared for falls down in fiction it’s always epic? I mean, one of two things happens.

    Either some guy with the good looks of Reeve and the powers of Pitt ends up overmatched. I mean, he can’t be beat but the writer puts some block in his way. Could be someone from his home dimension, a fatal flaw like an attraction to easy women, or just an overindulgence in alcohol. So he falls down but gets back up. Three pages later he’s back on the straight and narrow. He works hard, overcomes his demons, usually inspired by some amazingly written dialogue between him and his, except in that moment, unimportant but oddly wise friend. You know, the guy who doesn’t even know who he’s dealing with and is slogging along when his buddy could end all of his misery in a heartbeat. But the dick doesn’t do it, does he? No. He keeps that pal in misery, probably because it provides the earthy wisdom needed for that one moment. Anyway, the dude gets over it all, comes out swinging and wins the day.

    Or… some schlub who never had a damn chance is put into a situation they could never hope to survive. Usually with great comedic affect and bowel liquefying terror they are taken to the darkest corners of humanity. They trip over a well placed stick, thrown in their path by the evils of a mad scientist, two dimensional monster, or conspiracy meant to represent the evils of either corporations or bits of government that espouse the opposite ideals of the author. Then, either the miscreant is beat upon mercilessly by this tormenting entity to prove there is no hope and we must all rise up as one to take everything back. Or, he gets in one lucky sucker punch and, unrealistically, wins the day. Thus appeasing the boorish masses rooting for the little guy and a happy ending.

    Real life is a lot less complicated.

    I won my spot in the Olympic relay on a radio contest. I was stoked, because it included a trip and some tickets. I managed to wrangle the time off from the minimum wage job strangling my life and making such trips impossible.

    I was to take the torch, get the flame from Hera, or at least where she used to live, power walk the first leg, and hand it off. Problem is, I’ve never been great at tying my shoes.

    Long story short, I leaned over and tripped on a damnable, loose lace. I fell into the pit of fire. Now I’m stuck here wondering how this could happen to me, why I never knew fire hurt so much, and why the smell of my own burning flesh makes me so insightful about flawed literary tropes.

    1. Observer Tim

      Owie. This can be taken literally or metaphorically, Reaper. If he’s really on fire I hope somebody is doing something about it; if it’s metaphorical then he’s on his own. Either way I love the analysis of the two major modes of storytelling. Very thought-provoking. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Whow, this reads like it’s introspective at it’s best. What you are describing is life itself, not fiction. The monster or alien could br cancer, treatable or not. One miss-step like your last paragraph. We should never think we’re in the clear and out of harms way during our journey through life, for as soon we have that confidence, it’s leveling time by unseen forces. This in all reality is a beautiful essay about the crap-shoot travel through life. I commend your style as usual, it’s top drawer.

    2. JosephFazzone

      Hilarious! I love the two sardonic looks at the two perspectives, and it’s equally amusing to find he’s doing it while his body is burnt alive. Crazy what one thinks about in the middle of death and destruction. I love how you crystallize his thoughts so well, and so bitterly. Loved it!

  7. Kerry Charlton

    ‘BUCKEYE BULLET’

    Traveling across the Atlantic on a large cruise ship, entertained one of the Olympic team from the United States.

    “It’s a long way from the back roads of Alabama,” he told his team mates.

    “Look Buckeye, we may have some problems when we get there.”

    “What are you talking about coach?”

    “Oh, it’s nothing personal, the whole team may be in danger. Our host country doesn’t like Americans or anyone else either.”

    “I came here to run coach and make America proud.”

    “And so you shall. I’ll make sure no one bothers you.”

    “You mean I can bunk in with the guys.?”

    “If the Olympic Committee won’t let you, our whole team will walk out of the Olympics.”

    The boat docked in France and their team caught a train to the Olympics through France, Austria and finally to their destination. Pre activities took up the first day and later that afternoon, his team mates surrounded Buckeye,

    “We wanted you to carry the torch through the city to the stadium. Authorities said no, pick another team mate, so we declined all of us.”

    “Guys, you didn’t need to do that, I never expected the torch. I’ll beat them at their own game, more incentive this way.”

    So the games started. Buckeye carefully worked his way through the broad jump trails until he made the final contestants. When his turn came, he soared though the air like a hawk, landed in the pit and won the gold for America. The fans were silent in their approval, as he expected.

    Next event, 200 métre dash, he also made the finals, led from the starting gun and won his second gold metal for America. The fans took note, sports soared though political turmoil and they cheered as he accepted his second gold metal. His team mates gathered around and chanted his nick name , ‘Buckeye Bullet’

    He didn’t stop there and entered his third event, the most watched race in the Olympics, the 100 metre dash and that’s when he made history, not only won the event but set a time of 10.3 seconds. It did not qualify as a world record because of ‘wind assistance. He climbed the ;podium again and claimed his third gold metal. Cheers rang through the stadium despite opposition from the host country.

    There was one more event Buckeye was to face, the 400 metre relay. A hush overtook the stadium as the relay was prepared to start. As the anchor, Buckeye took the baton and made history along with his three running mates, and the four stood on the podium, Buckeye for the fourth time and his teammates for another gold metal.

    History, of course, first four gold metal winner in the United States. But a defeat for racism was far more important. And with that, he went back to America and led a quiet life helping people. In 1976, Gerald Ford presented the Metal of Freedom to him. In 1990, ten years after his death, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by George H. W. Bush.

    From a small town in Alabama to the world stage, was quite a journey.
    .
    .
    .

    1. Observer Tim

      And they still wouldn’t let him drink from the same public fountains as most of his countrymen. I got the reference at the second gold medal. Then it all fell into place, right down to the unmentioned Chancellor leaving the arena each time Buckeye’s medals were presented. This is a wonderful slice of American and world history, Kerry. 🙂

    2. JosephFazzone

      Wow an amazing tale of a great American athlete. Gave me chills from beginning to end. I loved this story, and I love how you took the torch and used it more in a metaphorical sense. Mr. Owens didn’t drop the torch. The Nazis did. Amazing!

  8. jhowe

    Salsa music cracked through the cheap speakers as the pretty barmaid picked up the man’s glass and wiped the bar with a dripping towel. The act left opaque streaks on the shiny surface. The Lazy Lizard Cantina was nearly empty, but most bars were at 9:45 in the morning. The barkeep spoke English fairly well, which was good because Grady Pearson didn’t even know what country he was in.

    “And then what happened?” she said, setting his glass down.

    “Some guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to carry the Olympic torch.” Grady drained his beer glass and made a come hither motion with his fingers.

    “No offense, but why you?” The barmaid said, filling the glass and scraping the head off with a plastic ruler.

    “They don’t do that much anymore, you know, scrape off the foam.”

    She shrugged. “We do here.”

    “I have no idea why he picked me.” He took another long drink. “Something about using a regular guy, you know, a layman kind of thing.”

    “Kind of like when a little kid throws out the first pitch?” she said.

    “Yeah, kind of like that. You know baseball do you?”

    “In Venezuela, baseball is life itself.”

    “Is that where the hell I am?”

    “Yes, Maripa.”

    “Never heard of it,” he said. She shrugged.

    “So did you run with the torch?”

    “Sort of.” A dusty man across the bar called out for a beer and the barmaid held up an impatient finger. Grady continued, “One of Obama’s daughter’s was there and she wanted to carry the torch pretty bad.”

    “You’re joking. I know of this American president and his daughters. Which one?”

    “Hell, I don’t know. I told her to go ahead but the guy wanted me to do it.”

    “The promoter?” she said, her mouth open.

    “Yeah, the guy that approached me.”

    “What happened then?” she said. The man across the bar called again and she silenced him with a glare.

    “By then, a runner was coming with the torch, ready to hand it off. Obama’s daughter tried to butt me out of the way, but the promotor pushed her and the Secret Service swarmed us. Somehow I ended up with the torch and I started running.” Grady took a breath and continued. “One of the agents tripped me and I fell. The torch went flying and caught the daughter’s hair on fire. She started screaming and running around.”

    “What did you do then?”

    “I took off. I could see no good coming of this at all.”

    “How did you get this far north?”

    “I hid in a construction trailer and stayed there for a long time. I don’t know how long but I fell asleep. This morning, a man opened the trailer and started yelling, but I couldn’t understand him, so I ran. I saw this bar up the road, and here I am.”

    She stood, her eyes fixed on him, frowning. “Are you shitting with me?”

    “I wish I was.” The door opened and two men in suits entered.

    “Mr. Pearson, can we have a word?”

    “Let me guess.” Grady said. “You found out about those parking tickets?”

    “No,” the barkeep said, under her breath. “I think it’s the Secret Service.”

    Grady rolled his eyes. The tallest suited man held up his hand. “Let me explain. An ESPN cameraman captured the whole torch incident on tape. It was clearly a mistake on our part that caused the, uh, fire. We managed to secure the tape and the cameraman’s silence but we need yours as well. No harm, no foul is our take.”

    “You want me to stay silent about this?”

    “Yes, it’s the only way.” He produced a piece of paper and pen from his jacket pocket. “Ma’am, did he say anything to you?”

    “No comprende,” she said.

    “There’s one more thing,” Grady said. “My passport and my money are back in Brazil. I need to get home.”

    “No Problem, Mr. Pearson. We’ll make all the arrangements.”

    “And the bar tab, too.” Grady held out his hands. “I was pretty stressed.” The agent laid a fifty on the bar. The barkeep raised her eyebrows.

    “Plus tip,” Grady said.

    1. Observer Tim

      I agree with Reatha; Grady’s pushing his luck. There may be evidence, but evidence has a bad habit of disappearing when Presidential dignity is at stake. This is a clever and innovative story, John, which is exactly what we’re expecting you to do. Pay no attention to the two men in the black SUV parked across the street from your house. 😉

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I liked the barnaid also and am quite suspicious of the second guy in the bar who kept calling for another drink. It wouldn;t surprise me if the whole lot wasn’t eliminated including the secret service guys. This could be the start of a great thriller. As usual, John, you’re right on key.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, jhowe!

      I totally agree with Kerry. I thought for sure that the guy in the corner was up to no good. Having read the story a couple of times, I’m still convinced of it. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that he contacted the Secret Service when no one was looking. 🙂

      And. just so you know, the mental image of one of the Obama girls acting like that cracked me up. 😆

  9. ShamelessHack

    “Hurry up, gimme the torch! C’mon, I’m ready! It’s the last and final lap to light the big flame at the start of the games. Run, run, that’s it! OK, give it to me—GOT IT! I’m off!”

    I run run run through the streets, crowds to the left of me, crowds to the right. I run zooming around corners. Quick as flash I’m out of the city, up a hill, down the other side, the fastest by far, through the fields, no one can run as fast as I can, now under a bridge, now over a bridge, the stadium in sight, I run run run a few hundred yards to go and–

    “OUCH! Damn it! Who put that pothole in the road? Ooh! I think I broke my foot—Crap!”

    No one around, what do I do? I—hey what’s that? A moving rock? A rock crawling down the road? Whoa, I drank way too much Red Bull, I must be tripping. It’s getting closer. Closer. Who? What?…

    “Give. Me. The. Torch.”

    “WHAT!? Up yours! I’m the one supposed to take it the final lap and—”

    “Not. Enough. Time.”

    Grrr, he’s right, I’m finished. How could this happen? How could I fail and how could HE win? Damn it.

    “All right. Here’s the torch.”

    “Thank. You.”

    I watch as the rock slowly makes his way over the last hill and into the stadium, the torch in one of his claws burning bright. I hear the roar of the crowds from afar.

    This isn’t fair, this isn’t right. I’ve failed. What’s worse is they’ll probably write a parable about this whole stinking mess. I could really go for a carrot now.

    Stupid tortoise.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          It’s really a trip Larry, since I run like the rock, I’m most amused. Your description of the hare, drowning in his self confidence struck home instantly. A parallel to real life How many hare’s are there? Look around and count every third person, that’s how many.

    1. Bushkill

      Great trip! loved the story and your telling it. the up tempo thought patterns and the general hurry, hurry, hurry of it all were well played, sir.

  10. cosi van tutte

    Most kids dream of being the next Tara Lipinski or Michael Phelps or Jackie Joyner-Kersee. They have golden fantasies of standing on the podium with that big old hunk of metal around their neck while the orchestra blares the national anthem.

    It’s a good dream.

    A worthwhile dream.

    It wasn’t my dream.

    Every televised Olympics I’d sit there wide-eyed while the torch bearers made their way to the big cauldron. My stomach would twist and turn into clumped up knots. So many things could go wrong in between handoffs.

    A trip.

    A stumble.

    A drop.

    And that’s not even including the possibilities of random terrorists, crazy protesters, or rogue imposters.

    Those torch bearers were my heroes. I dreamed of being just like them one day. But I did more than just dream.

    I practiced.

    I trained.

    I read up on all of the rules and etiquette for carrying the torch.

    And, most of all, I firmly believed that my day would one day come.

    ***

    Flash forward through training montages and hoping and dreaming and suddenly it’s August 4, 2016.

    My day has finally come.

    I’m standing at attention, waiting for my hand-off person to arrive. I’m excited and nervous. I could just scream vomit everywhere. But I keep up a good façade of calmness.

    The torch is so beautiful.

    White.

    Tapered to a perfect point.

    A gentle wave pattern carved an even amount of inches apart. The wave is designed to open wide when—

    Ahh! Here he is! He’s coming! He’s coming! He runs up to me. I lean my torch forward. The torch lights up.

    My torch.

    My Olympic torch.

    This is a moment I will remember forever. I’ll tell my children and grandchildren about it. And when I die, I’ll come back as a ghost and tell my great-great grandchildren about it.

    I will never forget.

    The waves split open, revealing liquid glass – blue and green.

    It’s so beautiful.

    One of the bodyguards pokes me and I startle out of my reverie.

    I run with my pack of six bodyguards running alongside me.

    I remember to hold the torch high and straight. It is an extension of my arm. I will not drop it. I will inspire some little girl or boy watching me run. They will look at me and say, “That’s what I want to do. Some day. One day. My day.”

    The flame waves and flares. It’s a beautiful sight. I could just stare at it forev—

    “Fifi! No! No! NO! Bad dog! Come back to momma right—

    A whole big whale of a dog sumos its way through the crowd.

    It sees me running with the torch.

    It smiles. I swear it smiles at me.

    It runs at me, with that demented smile on its large determined face.

    Before I can figure out an evasion technique, before my six bodygards can start to react, the dog rears up and plops its ungainly feet upon my chest.

    I fall flat on my back.

    The dog licks my face with great enthusiasm before grabbing the torch out of my hand and running back to the crowd with it.

    I lay on my back and listen to the screaming stampede. My Olympic moment has been catastrophically ruined. But I smile at the sky.

    I will remember this moment forever.

    I will never forget.

    1. Observer Tim

      The MC will never forget; even with therapy. I love the emotional descriptions, and how you snuck the look of this year’s torch into the story without detracting from the character-driven nature of the piece. All in all this is a great story, Cosi, and well worth a smile and a memory. 🙂

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, OT!

        It took a lot of research to get the details right, but I had a lot of fun writing this story. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    2. jhowe

      Classic cossi van tutte (I’d love to hear the history of that name), full of charm and accurate descriptions and just pure fun. Always a pleasure.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thanks, jhowe for your comments!

        As for the story behind my name, cosi van tutte, well. When I first signed into Writer’s Digest, I had to come up with a user name. I like operas, so I was going to go with Barber of Seville (or some variant of it). But then I thought of the Mozart opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” and I liked the sound of it as a user name. I accidently misspelled the “Fan” as “Van”, but I liked the way it looked. So, I decided to leave it like that. 😀

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Loved, loved, loved this, which could be a reminder of the best laid plans, etc. It was great that your MC preferred the unsung heroes of the Games.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A wonderful shaggy dog story. I fell into your Mc’s mind as soon as I started reading. This would make a great picture story book for children with a second part overcoming the mess. Cosi charming.

  11. UnclePizza

    It’s the same every evening. When their mother tells them that it’s their bedtime, they beg for one more story and come running to me. “Tell us, Grandpa,” they shout. “Tell us again about the earthquake! Tell us about how you met Grandma!”

    “Oh no,” I tell them. “You’ve all heard that one before. Let me tell you instead about…”

    But they all jump up and down screaming, “No Grandpa! The earthquake! The earthquake!”

    “Are you sure? You really want to hear it again?”

    “Earthquake!” they chant as children will, “The earthquake! The earthquake!”

    And so, like the night before and the night before that, I tell them.

    “Well,” I start, as they gather on my lap and at my feet. “It happened nearly fifty years ago. They had the Olympics here that year, and I was selected to help carry the torch to the stadium.”

    “The torch! The torch!” they sing in unison, the older ones marching around in front of me carrying pretend torches, waving them up and down for the imaginary crowd to see.

    “I was selected to run an uphill stretch near Morrinhos. It was a steep hill but I was not worried because I was strong…”

    “Strong!” they shout, the boys flexing their young biceps and marching in circles. “Strong! Strong!”

    “It seemed to take forever, but then the big day finally came. I knew I would be ready because I’d slept well the night before.”

    “Slept!” they shout, closing their eyes, tilting their heads, and making snoring noises.

    “I waited by the side of the road, ready for the handoff. All was quiet, and I took a moment to look to the sky and feel the warm sun on my face. Then I heard the crowd on the hill below me as they let up a cheer.”

    “Hurray!” the children shout and clap. “Hurray! Hurray!”

    “It was the runner carrying the torch up the hill to me. She was beautiful! Like an angel, she ran toward me holding out the torch. I took it from her and began my run up the hill.”

    The children hold their pretend torches again and jog in a circle around me.

    “I was so proud that morning! Proud of Brasil! Proud of carrying the torch! And oh so proud to have been the one to take it form that beautiful runner! And I ran, children, oh how I ran!”

    The children running faster around me now, laughing and giggling.

    “And then…” I pause. The children stop.

    “And then…” They stand stock still staring in anticipation, and if this is the first time they’ve heard the story.

    “And then…I fell!” The children all throw themselves theatrically to the floor.

    “At first I thought I’d simply tripped, that I’d lost my focus and stumbled. But then…” The children all start shaking…

    “But then, when I looked up, I saw others falling! And the road was cracking! And then rocks started rolling down the hills and hitting the cars that were parked along the road! I was hit in the head by a stone, and it about knocked me out! I knew if I didn’t get off the road that I might be killed, but I couldn’t move!”

    The children freeze in place as if paralyzed.

    “And then I felt a hand take my arm and start pulling me up. I looked to see who it was, and it was the angel who had handed me the torch…”

    “Grandma! Grandma!” they shout.

    “Yes, she pulled me off the road, and then we had behind a tree until the earthquake stopped.”

    “Grandma! Grandma! You met Grandma!!”

    “Yes, children, and now that you’ve heard this story, tomorrow I’ll tell you about…”

    “Grandma! Grandma!”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is very nice, UnclePizza, and a lovely depiction of a family tradition. I’m drawn to mind of an extended family all living under one roof, which is a whole nother story in itself. You captured the voice of keyed-up children of “that certain age” beautifully. 🙂

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very well done, loved the images of the children, however, as I continued reading I kept thinking of a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sorry.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Reatha, what did you have for dinner last night? Rocky Horror? Did you wear your best outfit? On to the story. Heartwarming at the least and magnificant capture of the grand children. Really enjoyed it, pace was excellent also.

  12. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    Okay, I’m sick, so I’m apologizing now for any poo writing you read in this story. Hope you enjoy it otherwise.

    The Torch of Life

    Carrying the torch is supposed to be a monumental moment. When we were younger, we’d watch these men and women carry a fire that represented the life in all and the beauty of our perseverance as a people. Now, it doesn’t mean that anymore. Like all things that came before, the ever-changing world tainted this tradition, and this summer, as I ready myself as the next torchbearer, it represents something far worse than probably even the most malevolent mind can imagine.

    The stadium is full of people as I stand waiting for the current runner to reach me. The tangerine and strawberry sky left behind by the dying sun allowed the shadows to descend upon those in the ranks of spectators. Now they aren’t cheering people but writhing specters watching with deliciously venomous hunger as the torch grows ever closer to me.

    Ralph is the man that carries the light. He is a good runner. I watched him on last week’s broadcast, and he was a strong carrier then, is one now. The fire illuminates his face, which contorts with both determination, focus, and terror as he passes the row of 16 terrified faces, the solemn and grieving, those whom wait in fear wondering if one of us will fail and forfeit their lives.

    They’re the reason I’m terrified. Four years ago, before the world fell to darkness, I would have found carrying the torch frightening for very different reasons, but now that carrying the torch means a very different thing, I’m scared I’ll let these people down. They depend on me for survival. If I fail, each one of them will die, and that weight is something I don’t want to bear.

    As Ralph closes the gap, I check to make sure my running garbs aren’t going to cause me any trouble. I pull up my socks, tighten my laces, and tuck in my shirt.

    10 feet… he grows closer.

    5 feet…

    1…

    The torch passes between our hands as slick as oil passes between the mechanisms of a machine. I turn, poised to make it to the next runner. I will not fail them.

    I take four steps. Seven. The crowd roars with disappointment, and then my feet tangle below me. I stumble forward, trying to recapture my footing, but there’s too much inertia. A second later, my face plants in the dirt, and the crowd cheers.

    “No!” I scream as I scramble to my feet.

    Pop, pop, pop, pop, I hear as each of my fellow prisoners heads explode. Flesh and bone and blood splatter the wood posts to which they were tied and sprinkle the dirt ground below. With each successive boom, the crowd grows louder.

    When the final prisoner dies, I look around. Ralph’s face appears dissonant, though it has shades of sorrow painted upon it. He is no doubt glad it isn’t him that failed, but also sad that I am so unfortunate.

    A voice comes over the intercoms. It is one I know well because in these games, where runners go 24 hours a day, failure is inevitable. It says, “You have failed.”

    The crowd cheers. New runners line up. A guard grabs me. Tomorrow, a new runner will determined my fate.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Welcome back, hope you are feeling better. This is a powerful story, but I fear could come true as the masses seem to be more and more excited by blood and bloody rhetoric. I’ll continue to think about this one.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A walk on the dark, dark side Doc. Reminds me of the gladiators of ancient, fight to live one more day, show no mercy. The redeaming part of the horror you write, it certainly is not a new idea and we have survived due only to the human spirit, not characteristic of a torch’s finality, the human spirit can not be snuffed out. A very proficient, thought out plot to stir the juices of a man’s mind.

  13. JosephFazzone

    The torch is hot! Whoa! Right in my face!

    Don’t trip! Don’t trip!

    TRIP!

    Shit! Oh man oh man! My nose feels…I feel…

    Black out!

    I awaken in a room, in a great stone room, granite from point to point. In front of me is a large marble door. The door was closed. Was this my tomb?

    “I see you’re awake,” a throaty rumbling voice echoed in the stone chamber from my right.

    I sat up, and looked. On a small stool sat an elderly man. Well dressed, his build was athletic, and he sat with a posture of confidence and strength.

    “Who are you?” I asked.

    “You can call me, Dr. Zeus.” His grey eyes were wide with mirth and amusement.

    I was spooked, but curious. I wasn’t tied up, or anything. What could I do but probe further the length and breadth of my situation.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    The door in front of him swung open abruptly. Another man entered. He stood at least seven feet, and he wore a blue turtleneck with white sailor pants, and brown sandals. His rugged features resembled the granite. His piercing sky blue eyes bore into me. “You screwed the pooch, that’s what happened.” His temper was barely in check.

    “Now, now, Ares,” Dr. Zeus halted him with a commanding voice.

    Ares stood his ground in front of me, and snorted loudly.

    A music voice sang out behind Ares, “He’s right, Dad, he screwed the pooch, broke the damn thing in half.”

    An affluent looking fellow with long blond hair, stark handsome features danced around the fearsome giant, and gave a slight bow. His clothes were all black, and pristine. He looked at Dr. Zeus and smiled, and then looked back at me. His eyes were violet and imposing as he studied me with a penetrating gaze. “You look like a fellow who isn’t entirely stupid. You trained for years to be who you are, you were hand selected to represent our great nation as one of its shining examples of athleticism and grace, and you fell flat on your face. Surely all of this must give you pause to consider what embarrassment your little face plant has caused?”

    Dr. Zeus intervened, “Circumventing Apollo’s well crafted diatribe, the point is you screwed the pooch! The Games are a mockery, and we are the laughing stock of the world. Our shining star, our beckon tripped and fell. The torch flew across the street, and scuttled under a bus. That bus exploded, and well…”

    Ares interrupted, “Our namesake, our brand has been stained…”

    “The stock is down.” Apollo announced as he looked at his phone.

    “Our last remaining vestige of worship are through the games”, Dr. Zeus said as little sparks of lightning shot out from his finger tips. “My powers are dwindling.”

    “We need the games to continue rise in popularity in order to resurrect the others.” Ares was in a fit of rage as he stared back at me. “My sweet, Aphrodite.” He was heart wrenched.

    Apollo suggested looking at the other two, “In order to save face from this debacle, we need a martyr.”

    “A martyr,” the three of them said in agreement, and then turn towards me.

    “It would seem,” Dr. Zeus said to me, “that you are the problem and the solution.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is clever, Joey. Who’d have thought being an embarrassment would anger the Greek gods? I love the way they talked around the MC rather than to him. They could have used either of the two Greek gods of Time to fix this, but Zeus wasn’t really known for his planning skills… 🙂

      My only real quibble is that I don’t think Doc Zeus would have said “screwed the pooch”; my impression is that he would have used something more formal but equally rude and devastating.

      1. JosephFazzone

        haha thanks Tim. The other greek gods are dead in this story. I was going with the angle that they are using the games as a way to steal worship from all other religions and use it to resurrect their mighty empire. It was a fun perspective to play with. I was trying for a modern greek god mafia organization? hehe Either way, it will need some tweaking. =)

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        Tim, I rarely disagree with you, but I imagine the gods trying to fit in after being away for a long time, but not quite getting it right, the words, expressions, even clothing are just a tiny bit off and made them more real to me. Just my opinion, of course.

    2. Beebles

      I love this Joe. The way you treated the Gods, looking at the phone etc, i thought was inspired. i grew up with these guys and I don’t usually like them being messed around with – but you did a swell job.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          It was a great play on words. The formality of the whole thing struck me as being funny.
          One thing would help, was the stumble caused by his own ineptness or was it planned by another. A play on power shifting. Will it never end.

  14. Kinterralynn

    Entering me in the contest was a practical joke my best friend Robyn was playing on me. The odds of an ex-smoker, former obese, middle-aged woman winning a spot on the Olympic Torch carrying team were pretty far-fetched. We laughed about it when the letter came in announcing I was a finalist. She knew I was not a runner, God had gotten generous with me up top and unless I used duct tape to strap the girls down, running was not something I did voluntarily.

    So how did I end up here in South America, standing on a dirt road with a camera crew on hand and spectators sipping on water bottles and shouting in a multitude of languages, with me only understanding English a smattering of Spanish words? It all comes down to pride. Somebody told me that I would fail. You want to know how to motivate me? Tell me I can’t do it, tell me I’m going to fall and people will laugh, challenge me that way and you can bet that I’m going to try all that much harder to prove you wrong.

    However, my pride was not enough to keep the reservations away. Despite losing over a hundred pounds and beating a smoking addiction, I still looked in the mirror and saw the woman I used to be. I could feel the eyes of the crowd judging me, criticizing my ample chest, my thick thighs and the telltale rasp of the beginnings of emphysema. What was I doing here? I know they were asking the questions because I was asking the same thing. It wasn’t too late though, I could step away, feign a stomach bug or just admit that I shouldn’t be there.

    I was nearly to that point when I heard the cry of the crowd as the other runner came in site, torch flickering in the late afternoon sun. My heart started racing as I took my position and waited, my hand outstretched waiting for the smooth metal of the torch I would carry into the night. Pounding footsteps came up behind me, the sound of heavy breathing and the slap of metal hitting my hand. My fingers curled around it and I started to run, and caught my toe on the hard dirt surface of the road. I did a whole lunging forward kind of motion, with the crushing knowledge that I wasn’t going to catch myself before slamming into the ground in front of hundreds of strangers. The stones that dug into my knees and elbows were sharp, my face burned in humiliation and I looked up to see I had somehow managed to keep the torch upright. A gasp had rippled through the crowd and all I could think was that I needed to disappear fast!

    I jumped up and gave my cuts a cursory glance, the gasp turned to a cheer and I put one foot out and then another, determined to do this. As I faded into the darkness, running my shame into the ground as I allowed myself to laugh and a new sense of determination filled me.

    I could do this!

    1. Observer Tim

      I didn’t see most of the grammar things, Kinterralynn, and the ones I did didn’t stop the story from being heartwarming and inspiring. Your MC definitely met the torchbearer requirement (ability to run 400 meters), and it was great to see her prove that fact to the world. I also love the sense of presence you built with the little things like the water bottles and the MC’s cough. All in all a nice job. 🙂

  15. Pete

    Julie paced the bamboo floors, wiggling her toes in a loose pair of Toms between steps. Meanwhile Connie stood in front of the television, her vodka tonic as much as her uniform as the linen pants and sandals.

    “Connie, we really need to talk.”

    “Relax, Jules, it’s nothing.”

    Relax. Julie always needed to relax. After Chase stole an ambulance and smashed it into a news kiosk. Or when he never even bothered to show for the very first gig of his fall tour. It was always relax. Now, by some maniacal twist of fate, they were in Brazil—which the kid thought was in California—and he was absolutely wasted.

    “Connie? He’s wasted. At the Olympics. It’s the opening ceremony and he can hardly walk, much less run a leg of that track.”
    “He’s not wasted, he’s probably just tired,” she said, waving her off. “Jet lag.”

    At times Julie wondered if Connie actually believed the heaps of shit she slung at the wall. Was it a mother’s love, the vodka, or simply a crude sense of business savvy she possessed beyond her tightly botoxed forehead?

    “Well, here we go,” Connie stood, went for a refill.

    Connie and Julie were actually four blocks from the stadium. After Chase threw a hissy fit and gave the seats to the two silky-haired gatas he’d met at the club last night.

    He just adores his fans, Connie said. Julie could only hope there wasn’t another sex tape on the horizon.

    Now, she turned up the volume. The crowd erupted as the torch made its way into the stadium. Julie watched through a wince as the cameras zoomed to Chase and that cocky grin of his. She thought how he’d once been such an attractive boy, before the neck tattoos and weed. She rolled her eyes as he took out his phone.

    Then hers buzzed.

    It was in a pure state of horror that Julie watched her client, his phone nestled in the crook of his neck and shoulder, accept the torch and light a smoke with it.

    “Jesus, Chase, what are you doing?”

    “Pretty cool huh?” There was a few seconds delay between his actions on screen and the voice in her ear.

    “Chase,” she said, but drew a blank.

    “I’ve told you, it’s Chayzee now.”

    “I don’t care it’s Cheeze Wiz, you dunce. Put out the smoke and get off the phone!”

    “How do I look?”

    “Like a douchbag. You’re disrespecting an entire country.”

    “Ah, the Californians are laid back.”

    Connie ran over, uncharacteristically spilling a drop of Vodka on the rug. “Let me speak to him.”
    In her ear: “I don’t want to talk to her.”

    “Chase. Please.” Julie pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to put some authority in her voice. Undergrad at Cornell, followed by those sunny, carefree days on the lawn at UVA. She’d passed the bar but somehow ended up here, watching an man child self-destruct before a worldwide audience. “Put the smoke out and carry the freaking torch, Chase. Just do that, please.”

    “Man, it’s hot as balls out here. So look, I was thinking, you know that gig tonight, with that old man?”

    “You mean Sir Paul McCartney?”

    “Yeah, cancel it. Not sure it’s good for my image.”

    He’d made a detour from the track, cameras following him to a throng of screaming girls in the stands. The torch held loosely in his grip.

    “Look you little twerp. Don’t you even think about backing out. Just take the torch to the next carrier. Someone who appreciates the honor.”

    Connie piped up. “Don’t talk to my son like that.”

    She’d wanted an unconventional career. Adventure. Now she watched as an idiot took selfies with the screaming girls. The signature tongue wag. The empty smile. The sweat on his head.

    “Chase.”

    A string of obscenities and crude gestures for the cameras. He spun back to the crowd and found a Brazilian flag, using it to wipe his face, still shouting into the phone.

    “Oh and Jules. Look, make sure my suite is stocked. Two cases of Monster. Grey Goose. Three pack of sugar free. Sour Patch gum. Grapes. Green ones, not purple….no seeds and…”

    A closeup as he wiped down his arms then took to his armpits. The announcers went ballistic as the torch dangled in the balance.

    It was almost gratifying, Jules thought, just before the flag caught on fire. Watching Chase implode before the Greek Gods and the world at large. She was nearly serene as Connie shrieked. When the torch was wrenched free from his hands and he was hoisted away, dropped, kicked once in the ribs, then dragged to an access tunnel where he could be properly pummeled. All the while Connie screamed at her to do something. To work the phones. To save her little boy.

    Julie walked out the door. Quit that day, just before the headlines splashed. She left Brazil with a first class smile on her face. A vodka tonic in one hand and a paperback in the other.

    “Chayzee,” was all she said. Out loud, laughing as she hadn’t laughed in years.

    1. Observer Tim

      Boy, did Chayzee (rhyme with ‘crazy’) have it coming. I wish him the worst just for dissing Beatle Paul, let alone the fact that his antics would ensure he’s no longer welcome on any planet that’s chosen to host the Olympics. You did a great job with all three characters and creating an off-the-wall, if slightly implausible, story. 🙂

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      I think Chase/Cheese Wiz was on that reality show I didn’t watch that night. Great story, really liked the stage mother, well, didn’t like, liked your take on her.

  16. Observer Tim

    THE RUNNER FALLS

    Best day of my life? Easy, it was the day I fell with the Olympic torch.

    It took a bit of finagling, a lot of luck, and all the Portuguese I knew, but I made it. I was in Brazil to take part in the torch relay. It wasn’t really anyplace important, a spot of highway halfway between small towns on the west side of the country. I would take the torch from a guy named Fabio, and pass it to a girl named Djanira 700 meters later. I was one of a multitude of people, but still proud as anything.

    There were about 50 people there to watch, along with the local media and two guys shooting a documentary about the torch run. I was so excited I had to close my eyes several times to stop hyperventilating. Something cylindrical was pressed into my hand and I ran about four steps before realizing it was a microphone; I sheepishly told the reporter what an honour it would be to take my part in the run.

    Eventually Fabio arrived, about ten minutes late. On seeing the torch, the spectators went wild. I figured we’d do a running hand-off like we did in relays at school, and it went like a charm. I grasped the tall thin cone with the precious flame and suddenly the crowd was cheering me!

    And then it happened.

    Three well-endowed young women on my right jumped up and out of their tube tops! My mouth dropped open and my feet tried to run in two directions at once. Suddenly I was airborne, gawking at the girls until the pavement smacked my body and then the side of my head.

    I don’t know how I managed to keep hold of the torch or to keep it upright. I lay there stunned for about ten seconds. When I lifted the torch to show it was okay the crowd dissolved in laughter. Watching the video later I found out one of the reporters had made a crude reference just before I did so.

    My run was a little slower than I had hoped, but I did manage to make it despite the barked knees and a bit of road rash on my face. It was only at the hand-off that I got a good look at Djanira: she was one of the three girls!

    I tripped again when she smiled and winked at me as she took the torch. This time I just lay there on the pavement. Of course the pace car was following her, I’m sure as much for her vertical motions as her horizontal; at least she was wearing a jacket by that time.

    Her friends Desidéria and Filomena helped me up; after some explaining I caught on that it was a practical joke and I’d played my part perfectly. We celebrated for the rest of the day.

    No, I’m not going to tell you what happened afterward.

    1. JosephFazzone

      Haha! Great story! Love the light heartedness mixed with some genuinely hilarious moments. I loved the grabbing the microphone and running. Literally just laughed again after I wrote that. So funny. Easy there, buddy. Such a relatable and honest character, I liked him immediately, and what a stellar happy ending, or should I say thrice happy? Awesome tale, Tim. Fun!

  17. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Empress saves the day
    560 or so words

    What a lunatic he is, she thought, whatever possessed me to share his madness once again. Perhaps I am the greater lunatic, she sighed. But, love knows no bounds.

    Around her the crowds, her subjects, were restless. Two hours sitting under the midday sun on tiered ledges cut into the hillside would make even the most loyal plot sedition. Once more she raised her spy glass to the sky, but no airship broke the clouds.

    “Your Imperial Majesty, mam,” she ceased her surreptitious corset adjustments and turned to the young man, trembling at her side.

    “Sublieutenant, you may speak.”

    “The lookout spied a speck on the Northern horizon, perhaps mam, perhaps…”

    “Yes, perhaps. Keep me posted.” She looked back to the heavens as she drew gauntlets over sweat glistened hands, turned her thoughts to the past.

    Each year the Emperor designed a new way, each more outrageous than the last, to open the Games. She shuddered as if chilled as she pulled the velvet skirt away from damp thighs.

    Last year, she whispered to herself, after last year I vowed no more, yet here I sit.

    If I had known in advance, she thought, but he took pride in secret planning and the endless fittings with the band of itinerant tailors and until that day I had no idea he had been duped.

    Never would she forget how he burst forth from the horseless carriage, proud of his new clothes, but naked as a newborn, revealing to all what only she, and the Royal physicians, had known before. Each day since she’d wished for Sir Joseph of the Faz Zone to perfect his mind wipe.

    This year she insisted on knowing, and she knew he should have arrived hours ago. Suddenly, as if a key had opened a door in a room full of bees, the buzzing of a thousand voices filled the amphitheater.

    “Look, look,” she heard. “What must that mean? Is it a dirigible? ‘Tis a ship of the air! An aerial steamer! Smell the smoke of the marvelous machine!” She smiled at their child-like wonder. This day would end well.

    As the massive brass machine, fitted with pipes and gears, hovered over the gathered masses, a door opened and the Emperor, clutching a lit touch, but fully clothed, stepped out into nothingness. Before his parachute opened, the air was filled with screams of horror that turned to cheers as he floated to a perfect landing, then waving to his subjects, he tripped over a clump of grass and fell flat to the ground.

    “Ladies,” the Empress shouted into the face of the Royal microphone, “gentlemen, children, and immigrants, envoys from our neighbors to the south.” She paused as the roar subsided, thinking furiously. “At last year’s Games you will recall how your beloved Emperor came to you unclothed as a babe, thereby proving he had nothing to hide from the world.” The crowd nodded as if a single organism. “This year he has demonstrated his humility, by falling prostrate at your feet, worshipping at the altar of your knees.” Several around her began to weep. “Now, rise and applaud. Your Emperor deserves nothing less.”

    On the ground her husband lifted his face from the dirt, caught her eye and smiled his thank you. She looked at him and mouthed, never again.

    1. JosephFazzone

      Oh wow, that was amazing! It had so many great moments. I loved the Emperor’s new clothes reference. I love love love how you tied it into the Empress saving his pride this one time. She’s a forgiving wife. He’s a lucky man. Great added perspective to consider the humiliation she must have felt. I love how he rebounded from that tragedy. Very flashy and classy. I will be sure to get you that mind wipe. Just in case. That had me grinning ear to ear. The descriptions added to such a fantastic place and time, so brightly colored and vibrant. So amazing. So glad I got to read this. Fantastic!!!

    2. Observer Tim

      I don’t recall seeing you write steampunk before, Reatha, but the genre suits you. I love the sense of pageantry you gave this, nicely counterpointed by the Empress’s long-suffering view of it. Why do I sense the influence of (direct reference to) “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? This gave me a wonderful smile on a chilly Thursday morning. 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks Tim. I loved steampunk before I heard that term, but this is the first attempt at writing. I first saw the silent movie, Trip to the Moon, so long ago that I can’t remember when. I do recall early morning TV shows that featured old movie serials that my brother and I would watch before school, so it might have been then. I also remember some cowboy found a civilization under his ranch, lots of steam there. I’d seen parts of Metropolis through the years, but the entire thing was on TCM a year or so ago. I’ve not seen The Hunger Games, but from stills I imagined the Empress. Lots more influences, as I’m sure we all have.

        1. Observer Tim

          OMG! The Phantom Empire with Gene Autry! That was a classic, and yes it predates the genre name. As does Metropolis (Fritz Lang’s, not Clark Kent’s). I’m not so fond of the genre since William Gibson’s stuff (Neuromancer et al.), but the older stuff is incredible!

          I could totally see this scene as you wrote it. It deserves a second rating of Awesome. 🙂

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      This is an inspired continuation of The Emperor’s New Clothes. I love her positive spin speech at the end. Excellent characterization, as usual. 🙂

  18. Trevor

    Word Count: 627

    A Simple Torch

    “Do us proud, young man. The whole world’s watching.” Those were the parting words I got as the symbol of the world’s most important sports competition was placed in my sweaty, oversized hands. I never imagined that I, your regular Buzzfeed writer who worked part-time at Burger King to pay the rent, would be on the verge of commencing the Olympics with the decades old torch ceremony. But, thanks to an exposé piece I wrote regarding the proud history of the Olympics and how its’ shaped sports history to what it is now that I totally BSed, I was chosen for this high honor.

    It took everything in me to finally start walking out, the burning torch in hand. Everyone turned to see me make my descent toward the large torch that, when lit, would commence the 2016 Summer Olympics. I wasn’t sure if the perspiration on my face was from the intense heat of the torch’s flame or from my immense nerves. Cameras were flashing and all the competing athletes and several spectators were watching me head toward the metal beacon. Everything was going fine….

    Until I stepped in the puddle.

    I fell flat on my face. The torch flew from my hand and hit the concrete pathway. My only saving grace was that the fall didn’t snuff out the flame. Silence fell over the crowd like a blanket. I was so humiliated I didn’t even want to get up and continue the ceremony. I prayed that I would just shrink into a tiny ball and disappear from sight.

    I flinched when I felt the hand touch my shoulder. I thought the crowd was coming up and getting ready to beat me senseless for messing up such a sacred ritual. But when I looked up, I saw it was only one man. I recognized him as one of the European bikers. He smiled at me, as if nothing had even happened. “Need some help?” He asked as he reached his large hand down to me to help pull me up to my feet. Slowly, still half expecting a beatdown, I grabbed his hand and, with great ease, the man pulled me up.

    Finally back on my feet, I realized that this kindly skier wasn’t the only one on the pathway to the torch. To my right was a German track runner to my left a Latino pole vaulter. I turned around to be welcomed to the sight of two gorgeous Russian gymnasts. The realization that all of these different athletes had come to a mere blogger’s aid was overwhelming to me. I turned back to the skier who began this chain of goodwill and saw the beloved torch in his grip. He grinned again as he held it out to me.

    “Now go light that torch, my friend.” At that moment, my previous feelings of absolute embarrassment were gone. I gripped that torch with newfound confidence and marched proudly up to the metal pinnacle of the Olympics. Then, lifting the torch high up above me, I bellowed in a voice I didn’t even recognize, “LET THE GAMES BEGIN!”

    Then, as the Olympian-sized torch went ablaze, the crowd erupted with applause. But my attention was only one the four athletes who came to my rescue, who all humbly applauded my small personal victory. It was such an inspirational sight; four competitors from very different backgrounds and cultures all came together to give comfort to a clumsy American. None of them had money or gold medals to gain, they just did it out of pure human empathy. A sense of needing to give aid to another being. That meant more than even the highest 1st place podium.

    A simple torch showed me the true meaning of humanity.

    1. Witt.Stanton

      I think this is your best one yet, OT. Great moral message, great story telling, great spin on the prompt. Needless to say, I loved it. 🙂

        1. Witt.Stanton

          I was looking at a few previous prompts, trying to find my old ones so I could save them onto a single doc. They’re pretty hard to find, and safe to say I got distracted and started rereading a lot of them. Again, sorry for that.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a wonderful piece about the spirit of the games and overcoming adversity. I love the fact that the Committee gave the job of lighting the main torch to an ordinary person instead of the usual sports celebrity, and the way you explained it. It’s also a lovely tribute to some of the athletes who made the games special by going out of their way to be great sportsmen. Maybe they’ll choose you to light the torch next time around in Tokyo, Trevor. 🙂

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very nice. I was reminded of the race when the runner fell and his dad came out of the stands to help him finish. I must Google that, my memory is often faulty, perhaps it was a dream.

  19. Not An Island

    For better or worse, I’m one of those people who always has music going through his mind. When I was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch for the Summer Olympics, I practiced running, smiling, and generally trying to look triumphant. The famous composer John Williams was commissioned to write several pieces of music for the Olympics over the years, so when I ran my imaginary torch through the neighborhood, I always had Mr. Williams’ music in my headphones. I can barely imagine the inspiration to write such music! When his pen goes to paper, he must think of the athlete’s personal best, along with joy and agony, sweaty torn uniforms, excruciating pain from all the training, and most of all, national pride! After weeks of personal training, my dream of carrying the flag in the Opening Ceremony has come! Of course, something like me tripping and falling face-first into the ground while the Olympic Torch goes flying through the air and landing in an unceremonious splat, would not have been part of Mr. Williams’ original inspiration. But it just happened. With the orchestra playing, and tens of thousands of people in the stadium gasping, laughing, and staring in shock, I searched desperately in my mind for a rewind button for what millions of people just saw. With none to be found, and the clicking sound of thousands of cameras starting to wind down, I searched for my hat, the torch, and my broken glasses. As I started to pick myself up, shake it off, and try to swallow my pride, the laughter in the stadium began to turn to raucous cheers! Raising the torch to the sky, and before an international television broadcast to billions around the world, I just had my Olympic moment of triumph! I can only hope that John Williams missed it.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Not An Island. I love the John Williams obsession, which is doubly perfect because he is one of the composers of the Olympic theme used in the US. Your MC’s loss and recovery capture a lot of the spirit of what the games are supposed to be about. 🙂

    2. Not An Island

      Thanks for taking time to respond, folks. Despite my (ahem) advanced age, I’m a rank beginner with creative writing. I do have a goal in mind, but at this stage, kind words are much appreciated!

      1. Observer Tim

        No problem, about the age, Island; I’m not sure about others, but my first digit is 5 and Kerry Charlton’s is 7. We’re both fairly recent starters, too. Of course, we also have a few 1’s and 2’s in the mix so you are in an ideal place to capture a multitude of viewpoints and raise your skills to the next level. 🙂

    3. JosephFazzone

      Way to make the best of a bad moment. I always say, if you it goes bad, own it, at the very least you can show the world how easy it is to laugh it off. Well done! Oh, and my first digit is a 4, not a spring chicken here. =)

  20. thejim

    — I would like to apologize right off —
    ______________________________________________________

    The echoes from the crowd rings in my ear still, I re-live that day continuously. It plagues me, what Moses brought to Egypt has nothing on the depth of my pandemic.

    I held up the torch with pride. I dreamed of this day, I played it out in my head a million times, then with a simple trip on a rock I had fallen face down into the pavement. I briefly lost my wits. In the millisecond a bystander effortless caught the torch in midair. Jubilant cheers exploded from the crowd that praised his prowess and dexterity. Cheers for him, slaps on his back, nothing went to me. They quickly pushed him on to carry the torch as I was left scraped and bleeding on the asphalt. I stood to see another run away with my dreams.

    Today will be another day. I cocked the bolt of my M24 and composed a sightline to the next torch carrier.

    “Well Cindy it looks like a calm day here in Rio and we are on the second leg of the Torch run. Just a few minutes and the Torch will be handed it off to Matheus Carvlho of Brazil. Security is high today, just in case there are any signs of the, Torch Slayer.”

    I could see the first runner coming around the bend and the second leg runner waiting, just as I had.
    As he approached, I carefully fine-tuned my sights bring my target into crisp clear focus.

    ”He has been present at every Torch carrying event for the last eleven ceremonies, he is again suspected to be at this one, but the Brazilian government said that the security is high and this will be the first ceremony that he will be stopped, before, there will be an incident.”

    Five more steps,…three, two, one. The sound of silencer and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. My shoulder recoiled slightly as the bullet propelled out of the barrel of the rifle. Its trajectory was right on, the southern breeze had been accounted for. Within a second the bullet met its destination.

    The Torch burst out of the runners hand and fell to the ground. This time it was different. The flame did not go out! The fuel did not escape. It was a direct hit. The fire danced and kept burning. How?!? I lifted my scope to my eye only to see the runner pick the Torch back up and continue his run. I was confused.

    Just then the doors burst open and I was surrounded by a mass of rifles and pistols, pointed directly at my head.

    “Well it looks like this is your last Olympic ceremony Torch Slayer,” a large police offer said with a smile.

    They escorted me out to a waiting squad car.

    The hot sun beat down on the pavement as the heat rose.

    The officer on my left made a comment, “Man it is hot out today, Sun Tanning should be a sport in the Olympics.”

    I leaned and said,” Problem is, the best medal you can get is a Bronze.”

    1. Observer Tim

      I hate WordPress but I love this story. When you started talking about the Torch Slayer I thought he was shooting at the runners. This manages to be both clever and somewhat more psychopathic than that. I’ve known a few people who ran in the relay (Vancouver 2010), and they were so proud of having done so that they would have been devastated to have that taken away at the last second. Very nice, theJim. 🙂

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