Snow Shoveling Showdown

You’re outside shoveling your own driveway when you decide, as a kind gesture, to shovel your neighbor’s driveway too. Just then a group of teenagers with shovels show up and threaten you, claiming that this is “their turf.” What do you do?

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

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306 thoughts on “Snow Shoveling Showdown

  1. Craig the Editor

    Snow-Buddy, I Know

    I had just finished shoveling my driveway for the third time in as many hours when it occurred to me that Mrs. Wallaby’s driveway was probably still buried in snowdrifts. Now when I say I finished shoveling the driveway I should explain. It is my “snow-buddy” that is actually doing the snow removal. Personally I find things like manual labor to be beneath me.

    In my younger days I would have courted the Widow Wallaby by kidnapping her but I’ve mellowed and she’ll have to settle for having her driveway cleared. I must confess that I feel just a tad responsible for the snowfall. I believe one of my weather machines currently orbiting the planet has run amok. On the other hand las week people were complaining about the July heat. I find people are never satisfied.

    So the “snow-buddy” and I headed for Mrs. Wallaby’s. I had built the “snow-buddy” from an old vacuum cleaner, a commercial hair dryer and some odds and ends from Ernie’s Gently Used Electronic Emporium. I had programmed it not only for snow removal but for self-preservation as well. I want to to equip it with Tomahawk missles but my pension doesn’t allow such frills.

    We had trudged to the edge of the Wallaby estate when from behind a copse of trees there appeared a band of shovel wielding troll thugs. I feared for the worst and I was not disappointed.

    “This is our territory!” declared the leader, a short rotund fellow with a nose like a potato. His companions raised and shook their snow shovels in agreement.

    “It saddens me greatly to see a find troll as yourself reduced to shoveling snow. Surely there must be a bridge nearby that you could commandeer.”

    “Sadly, this is not the case.” sighed the troll who studied his shovel intently. “My tribe and I are forced make ends meet by shoveling snow. Now yield or we will be forced to smash you and your machine!”

    “But I don’t understand.”

    “Who among us truly understands the whims of the gods of finance? But apparently the market for “Rat-On-A-Stick” was not as great as we hoped.” This last comment was directed towards one of his companions who attempted to hide behind his shovel.

    “While I can sympathize with your financial plight I can not step aside. i you and your friends were able to destroy my “snow-buddy” then I would be forced to withdraw.”

    “Sounds fair to me.” And with that he brought his shovel down on the “snow-buddy”. However the “snow-buddy” sensed his intentions and took evasive action. For the next several minutes the trolls chased the “snow-buddy” up and down the driveway. The “snow-buddy” darted here and there while scooping up snow and firing it at the trolls. As for myself I sought higher ground on Mrs. Wallaby’s front porch. Soon the trolls were gasping for breath and the driveway was cleared. About that time Mrs. Wallaby came out to see what all the commotions was about.

    “What that?” she queried and pointed at my “snow-buddy”.

    “That’s “snow-buddy”, I know…thinking that she would shower me with praise and admiration but before I could finish my sentence, she spit out a wad of chewing tobacco.

    “Well of you don’t know then I won’t be paying you.” And with that she went back inside and slammed the door.

  2. Santiago Swifte

    I took a deep breath, savoring the stark, cold morning air. I had just finished clearing the driveway of snow for the day. A winter storm had left a blanket of snow and ice covering the surrounding houses. I pulled my coat a little tighter, although cold weather had not bothered me since I made that trip into the mountains a while back. Instead I was ravenously hungry all the time.

    I decided to go to the house next door to shovel snow from that driveway as well. I noticed when I arrived in this area, that an elderly couple lived there. I thought I might introduce myself to them by way of a good deed.

    I was working diligently when a rough voice called to me from behind, “Hey, this is our turf! You need to get lost.”

    I turned to find three teenage boys standing nearby with a couple of shovels and a pick. “Excuse me,” I said mildly, “but unless your grandparents live here, this isn’t your property.”

    “We get paid to shovel every driveway on this block. What the hell does a wormy old bastard like you think you’re doing taking our job?”

    I smiled pleasantly. The spokesperson for this teenage trio, a tall, healthy-looking specimen, appeared to lose his composure for a moment. His two buddies looked a little uneasy as well.

    “Such language–but I guess I am taking your jobs. I’m new to the neighborhood and I didn’t realize how things work around here. Maybe you three will let me make it right by inviting you into my house for some hot chocolate?” I asked.

    “Marco, let’s just go. That guy doesn’t live next door—the Wilson’s do,” said the smallest teen nervously.

    Marco puffed his chest out. “This is our turf, just like I said. I ain’t afraid of no creepy old man.”

    “Hey, it’s just a harmless cup of hot cocoa. If you’re scared of that, you might as well ‘get lost’ yourselves,” I replied slyly.

    Marco glanced at his cohorts. “Hey, if you two are chicken, then go.”

    Marco’s friends exchanged twin looks of relief before swiftly leaving. I felt a pang of disappointment watching them go. I was sooo hungry.

    “Shall we then?” I asked. Marco scoffed at his friends’ departure and followed me to the Wilson’s house.

    “This hot cocoa better be good, mister. Don’t be getting any funny ideas, either. My dad’s a cop,” said Marco as he entered the house.

    “No funny business here,” I replied with a broad smile, leading him to the kitchen.

    “What the hell?!!” Marco gasped as he spied the half-eaten corpses of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson laying on the kitchen table.

    “Well there’s no hot cocoa and no funny ideas. You just get to join me for breakfast.

    “What? I’m not going to help you eat them!”

    I had to laugh.

    “Oh, I’d prefer if you didn’t. That’s just more for me,” I replied, taking a step closer to Marco.

  3. Critique

    Winter Gear

    Leaning on his shovel Adam heaved a sigh taking stock of the piles of snow framing his two car driveway. Working in the wintery air invigorated him – made him feel young. He’d gotten his second wind and he looked next door at the Martin’s, then at the Robertson’s and lastly the Stead’s blanketed driveways. Those snowbirds wouldn’t be home for another month. The places screamed no one home – not a good thing to advertise in light of the home invasions recently in the neighbourhood. The perpetrators were still at large.

    Snow began to fall as he briskly shovelled Martins sidewalk.

    “Hey you.” A male voice called.

    Startled, Adam with white frost sticking to his eyebrows and moustache, turned to see three men – their faces partially obscured by hoodies and low pulled touques- standing behind him, all carrying shovels over their shoulders.

    “What are you doing here?” The taller of the three advanced and Adam stared into the unfriendly eyes of a young man.

    Adam’s heart thudded and his breath puffed white steam from the exertion.

    “Come again?” He didn’t like the tone or the attitude emanating from the man.

    “We’ve got a contract to do this house – this side of the street actually – so you leave the rest to us.”

    “I don’t think so.” Adam realized all three were in running shoes and they were shivering in their hoodies. Unusual attire for major snow shovelling in sub-zero weather. “You best run along home before it gets dark.”

    “You hard of hearing old man? Pack it in if you know what’s good for you.” The mouthy one lowered his shovel in a threatening manner and the other two after a quick glance at each other followed suit.

    Adam held his ground, holding the steel shovel loosely with both hands as the trio crowded in. These guys were trouble and he was on his own in the deserted darkening street.

    Quick as lightning Adam slammed his shovel to the left and then to the right connecting with the heads of the two teenagers on the outside and then whipping the shovel vertically he rammed it down on top of the tall one’s head. The teenagers lay on the ground, two of them stunned, the leader out cold.

    Adam had his cellphone out, his feet kicking the shovels away from the fallen trio as he dialled his boys at the station.

    His shovel was all the persuasion needed to keep the boys on the ground until the squad cars – sirens wailing and lights blazing – slid to a halt beside them.

    “Captain Adam?” A police officer exited a squad car. “Whatcha got here?”

    Turns out the teenagers – all over eighteen – had a van parked around the corner full of stolen property. The home invasions dried up in the neighbourhood and the three are in jail awaiting sentencing.

    The unusual snowfall keeps Adam in shape shovelling.

  4. kace

    Twelve inches in the last week of February. Welcome to Canada, right? And while we’re at it, I’d like my groundhog with barbecue sauce and maple syrup, please. You’d think we’d all be used to it by now, by I’m not. I never will be.

    Winter is the loneliest month. Every morning, those young enough to stand it dig themselves out of a snowy grave and wonder if everyone else has just crawled back inside to die. And so I’m out here, glaring down an empty street and starting on the neighbor’s side of the sidewalk despite trembling arms and burning lungs. It may as well be Alaska, all white and not much life. Sometimes I think you’ll show up the way you always did when things got too quiet. Maybe today you’ll sneak up behind me and tell me that this is your side of the sidewalk, wrestle me for the shovel, or tease me for gaining weight when you know its just the heavy jacket.

    Everyone thinks I miss you, and they’re all wrong, because you’re still here. I don’t care that they carted you off, red and blue lights blaring, threw twelve feet of dirt over you and then left. Everyone says I’m lonely, that I have too much time on my hands now. I don’t mind it, because you only come when its quiet and I’m alone, alone and buried up to my knees in winter’s silence.

  5. Penney

    Penney’s Journal
    Feb. 24, 2015-02-24

    So, let’s just look back for the day and contemplate the events. Holy shit it was fricking cold outside. Randy expects us to sit around in blankets, scarves and all sorts of shit just to save a few bucks on the gas bill. SCREW the fucking gas bill, give me heat. I am the coldest bitch alive; I am Icicle Lady ten fold. I wear socks and flannel PJ’s in the middle of summer. All I’m asking for is bump it from 61 to 69, is that too much to ask? We’re not poor just irresponsible on occasion.

    Anyway, the boys are doing awesome. They learned their lesson in the first semester of high school that shits harder and there is less leeway on due dates. Both regretfully failed some classes for the first time ever and now they both realize that is they don’t figure it out they will become (get this) “Super Seniors” what the fuck is that? Ahhh, poor baby you failed but will give it a neat name to make you feel better. WHAT? You’re a fucking looser and failure, pick up the pace and do the job expected. As dad said, “Failure is not an option! I’ll kick your ass if you fail; there is no excuse for it.” Hey I was just reading an article and a bit of trivia. “Failure is not an option.” That was something a NASA guy actual said in the height of the space race, which explains everything about my dads thinking. He came from a great time of hard workers and now I drive a bus full of hooligans, bully’s and excuse makers. GOD! I hated today. Postal Workers unit!

    I hate manual labor like a lot of people but I can’t stand seeing an underdog suffer. There’s dad’s thinking again. Well, the snow is surprisingly high and I went and downed twenty layers of warmth. By the way there are not enough layers for this shit. I am not shoveling my own shit, I’ll pay someone but Norm’s wife, hmmm, Widow Norm, is alone. We don’t talk much, just cordial when passing by, help carry an occasional bag. She needed her snow shoveled and I went to do it. Dumb Ass. I’m wet, cold, will catch the flu but I got to watch those sons-a-bitches do all the work for me. Three pucks tried to bully me. Said I couldn’t shovel her snow, Said this was their turf. Sure I was mad; sure I wanted to kill them. But, as always I hold it all in, smoldering till Randy gets home and unleash the tongue from hell. Oh, the sarcasm flew left and right. How dare they this and what the fuck that. But the glory of it all. I sat in my 69 degree house with my dogs heating my toes, eating my Valentine belated chocolates (Target day after sale) and watched out my picture window at one hell of a scene. My personal slave labor. They did my yard too.

    Well, we are all healthy, alive, roof over our heads, clothed, and food on the table. I have my family and I’m still strong in my faith and love my writing. The puppies are good (except for Odies incessant scratching) but I am blessed. Thank you. And more chocolate and hot coffee please.

  6. cosi van tutte

    This is a short one. Only 301 words. I don’t think it’s sticking quite to the prompt, but ehh. Oh, well.

    The snow blanket covered his driveway and yard. Smooth and flat. Pristine. Perfect. It lay in wait for him. Just for him.

    Aira the snow fairy perched on top of the rounded street lamp and watched his house. She waited for him. Just him.

    He would come out and see the snow. He would talk about it and joke about it to his beautiful neighbor.

    And he wouldn’t understand that it was her wooing gift to him. A gift of white. A gift of beauty. A gift to be seen and admired and accepted. Not shoveled away.

    Aira rested her elbows on her knees and cupped her face in between her hands. She had offered it to him so many times before. Each time he failed to see the beauty of her gift. Why would this time be any different?

    She raised her head. “Because today is a new day of possibilities. Anything can and might happen. Even the impossible.”

    He opened his door and stepped outside. He glanced around at the miracle of snow in his yard. Just his yard. He laughed.

    How she loved his laugh. “Look at it.” she whispered. “See it this time. My love is in each snowflake, in each crystalline shape. Please see it.”

    He went inside for a moment and returned with a shovel.

    “No. Please! Look! See!”

    He stabbed his shovel into the snow.

    Her heart sank. “It’s just like last year.”

    He dug deep and flipped the snow to the side. Over and over. Clearing a path. Until the sun broke free of the clouds.

    The sun brought the snow to crystallized life. Sparkling, shimmering magic. He stopped digging and looked at the beauty all around him. And, for the first time in his life, he saw it. And he accepted it.

    1. Just JM

      What a lovely little allegory about seeing the hidden gifts in our daily challenges, or looking beyond the ordinary to perceive the extraordinary. I loved this, and I’m sure I’ll think of it next time I have to shovel my driveway. Beautiful story, Cosi.

      1. Penney

        You don’t have to stick to the prompt exactly. You can take elements of it, parts that light the fire. That thing that you found, that thing that tugged at your heart and said write me, this was it and it is good. A love story of many possible directions. Nicely written

  7. Tea_and_a_book

    Sorry I didn’t get to respond to comments on my last story,I’ve had a busy busy week 🙂 I did read them,and think I’m getting better 😉 Anyway,here ya go
    _____________________________

    Cold. So very,very cold. It was the first real day of winter in Montana, and at three in the afternoon it was just gettin’ above 0. Christie’s fingers were practically growing icicles,and her toes had gone numb a long time ago. But there wasn’t much left, she was almost done with Mama’s driveway, then she could go inside and have cocoa and get paid her 50 cents.

    But as she shoveled the last scoop off the driveway, Christie noticed that, across the street, Old man Leroy’s driveway was still 2 foot deep in the fresh snow. She sighed, knowing mama wouldn’t let her have peace until she’d ‘done like the good Lord would’, and gone and shoveled the snow away. She stomped her frozen feet, threw her shovel over her shoulder, and headed over.

    As Christie dug into the white powder, she imagined that each scoop was something mean one of the bullies had said to her recently. Bobbie, Joey, and Leroy always teased her about her flat chest and uneven teeth, even though mama said they made her special.

    “Ya need braces, Crusty!” Poof. A shovelful of powder.

    “Maybe you should at least pretend ya got some jugs, Crusty!” Splat. Another one, this scoop larger,and wetter from the melting snow.

    “Say, Crusty, you sure you’re really a girl?” She envisioned Bobbie’s face as she attacked the snow, angrily. Then, from behind her,she heard the hated voices for real.

    “Whatcha doin here, Crusty? This is our spot.”

    “Ain’t nobody’s ‘spot’ Bobbie,” she retorted, without turning.

    “Weeelll, ya see, Crusty, ain’t nobody that says it ain’t our spot. An’ the ol’ man pays us to shovel, so you can finish and we get paid anyhow, or ya can skeedaddle. We wouldn’t like to hurt ya, would we, guys?”

    “I ain’t budgin’. I’m gonna finish, let him know I done it fer free, and then I’m gonna go home,” Christie replied, hoping they didn’t do anything stupid to get rid of her. Like snowballing her. She was better with a snowball than anyone else in the eighth grade,but they didn’t know that.

    “I said GIT,” shouted Bobbie loudly, clearly irked that she was standing up to them. “Boy’s, start snowballin’ her. She’ll git away soon ’nuff.” His goons began gathering snow, some or it with small rocks or ice balls inside them, the shovels they’d brought forgotten in the snow.

    All Christie had to do was hit the window. Not too hard, iffen you was as good as she was. She pulled back her arm facing the bullies, but surprised them all when she turned and hit the window dead on.

    BAM! The front door opened quite loudly, and Old man Leroy came out in his sweater, with newspaper in his hand, seemingly very angry.

    “What the ‘ell are are all you kids doing in my yard? Are you bullies botherin’ that poor girl? Git! Git,I tell ya! I shan’t pay you no more!”

    Christie smiled as they ran away, knowing they wouldn’t bother her anymore. After all, nobody messed with Old man Leroy.
    __________________________________________________________
    A little over the word count,but oh well 😉

    1. Observer Tim

      This is great, Tea. I love the realistic voices you gave the kids, the way Christie outsmarted them. I’ve been on the receiving end of bully-taunt (in my case for my actions moreso than my looks), but you definitely nailed it. Also, it was nice to be reminded that no matter how threatening kids can be, all you need is one adult… 🙂 🙂

      My only suggestion would be to not telegraph Christie’s window shot (i.e. rearrange the throwing paragraph so hitting the window comes at the end).

      1. Tea_and_a_book

        I understand exactly what you mean, OT I really should spend more time drafting, but I have a one hour time limit in my busy day 🙁 Maybe it’s a multi-day project…

    2. cosi van tutte

      This story was just the right length with a great voice and ending. Great job! 🙂

      My Internal Editor had one small squabble point: “Old man Leroy came out in his sweater, with newspaper in his hand, seemingly very angry.” My Internal Editor doesn’t like “seemingly”. It sounds like he’s faking his anger. Maybe you could show his anger. Maybe his face is as red as a Miami sunburn or he’s thwacking the newspaper against his other hand. Or something like that. 🙂 Just my fifty-five cents.

      1. Tea_and_a_book

        Great catch, cosi 🙂 I SEEMINGLY missed it on my quick edit 😉 I do agree with you though,a better description would’ve made it almost ‘perfect’ , even if just for you and me

    3. Reaper

      This is great and has a wonderful voice. The way the story went was just sweet and well done. I didn’t notice what the others said until I read their comments. For me the only thing that seemed off was the use of the word bully by the old man. It didn’t seem to fit his voice, something similar but more old school and aggressive seemed to be in order but that was just me.

    4. Just JM

      I agree that the voice and the story are both engaging, and I enjoyed this very much.

      Something about your last line is not sitting well with me. Old man Leroy might be crotchety and mean, but since he is an old man who needs help with his driveway, he might not be so physically intimidating, which is how I read the last line. Plus, kids who are bullies do tend to mess with crotchety old people. Maybe just his cranky presence is enough.

      But that’s a minor quibble, and overall I loved it!

  8. Observer Tim

    This ties back to my first post on this prompt.

    CHRISTY

    Christy sat in the snowbank where she’d fallen, her breath coming in slightly ragged gulps. The snow had ridden up into her coat and was now leaving wet down her bum. Mum would think she’d peed again and she’d have to wear the plastic panties. No fair! She was thirteen!

    The three boys were digging at the snow on the stepping platform. If it wasn’t cleared in eleven minutes then her friends couldn’t come back from the other place. She’d never had friends before, and didn’t want to lose them.

    The boy with the glowy spots on his sneakers stretched. “I gotta go; Mom’s gonna kill me for being out this long.” At that he ran off.

    The boy with the funny hair that stuck up everywhere stopped and looked down at the stepping platform.

    “What is this, some kind of solar panel?”

    Funny hair boy looked over at Christy. The boys had seen her shoveling the snow that the blow-plow had thrown onto the platform. Funny hair had pushed her out of the way and started shoveling. Well, he hadn’t pushed her; he just walked by and she fell backward trying to avoid him. It was kind of like pushing.

    Now he was talking to her. Christy whimpered.

    The boy with pom-pom on his hat talked while he shoveled. “Why ask her, Mitch?’ She’s a retard.”

    “Can it, Will. She’s autistic. My cousin Gil’s like that; they don’t talk much.”

    “She’s a retard, Mitch. This whole thing is retarded. If you want to help Stupid Girl, go ahead. I got hot chocolate waiting at home.”

    “Will!”

    Pom-pom boy stomped away with his shovel.

    Christy stared. Her mind calculated the rate of snow removal; he would take about three minutes too long to clear the platform. Her friends would be trapped. She started to cry.

    The boy dropped his shovel and ran over.

    “Chrissy, right?” He pulled her out of the snowbank and put his arms around her. “It’s okay, I can do it.”
    Christy shook her head. How could she make this boy understand the problem? Finally she showed him the countdown timer on her watch.

    “Is that how long you have?” He bit his lip. “Maybe we should work together.”

    Of course! Christy hadn’t thought of that. She picked up her shovel and they both shoveled together. After a minute they had a rhythm going and the platform was cleared with almost two minutes to spare.
    Afterward he stood beside her, leaning on his shovel. “So what is this thing, anyway?”

    Christy opened her mouth but the words wouldn’t come out.

    Finally there was a whoosh and her friends appeared out of thin air, back from the other planet.

    Becky spoke, “We’re back, Christy. Who’s your new friend?”

    A look of terror crossed Christy’s face, but the boy stuck out his hand. “I’m Mitch. I helped dig this thing out.”

    Mitch. Mitch was her Friend. Christy concentrated on it so she would remember.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, what a lovely story with wonderfully wrought characters and believable dialogue. After all the bullies, thugs, and hoods, I was afraid for Christy at first, but she’s just fine.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I love this Tim and I think you did the autism well. Can you imagine trying to form word and speek them as hard as she tried? Did you notice at the Academy Awards, best actress and best actor both presented vast struggles to maintain human dignity in the grip of two relentless diseases.

    2. cosi van tutte

      This is wonderful! You did a great job showing Christy’s frustration. I really liked how compassionate Mitch was in comparison to his friends.

      The ending left me wondering if she is autistic or if she’s from the other planet. Either way, she is a very interesting character. I wouldn’t mind reading more about her. 🙂

    3. Nicki EagerReader

      One of my favorite pieces of yours so far- this had everything and a little more. Once again, I admire how you demonstrate that “otherness” is just the other side of “regular”. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful tale.

    4. Just JM

      I can only echo the others — great characters, an original story line and frustrating emotions well portrayed. This definitely makes me want to read more.

  9. Kerry Charlton

    THE MAIDEN AND THE WOODSMAN

    Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a woodsman in a dense forest by the name of Hans Banderson. His only friends were the creatures of the woods, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and butterflies. Then one day he discovered, in the dead of winter, a small cottage nestled in a clearing. Being a shy felow, he dared not to knock on the door.

    After visiting the cottage for several days and not seeing anyone, his spirits lagged. But on the fourth day, a huge snow storm appeared. He slogged his way to the cottage and timidly tapped on the door. To his suprise , it opened and a fair maiden appeared.

    “I’m not supposed to answer the door,” the young girl said, “my guardians said not to.”

    “You have guardian?”

    ‘Yes, seven”

    “Why don’t they shovel the snow away?”

    “I guess they’re busy at their mine.”

    “”Well I’ll do it if you wish. I’m a woodsman and my name is Hans, may I ask yours?”

    “I —-I’m not allowed to say, as I’m hiding from my evil stepmother.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry but I wouldn’t let anything happen to you. What are you in fear of?”

    “I wish I could tell you, but I can’t. I’m so sad, you’ve been so kind.”

    “Is it alright if I shovel your pathway?”

    “Yes but please hurry, my guardians will be home soon.”

    Hans set to the task and in a few minutes he was almost done, when he heard a chorus behind him,

    “How dare you enter our property,” they said in unison. “You’re bigger then we are but we out number you.”

    They started to swing their shovels at Hans but he caught each one and threw them into the woods.

    ” I mean no wrong,” he said, I want to help her.”

    “Why’ they responded

    “Because I do, isn’t that enough?”

    “No it’s not.”

    The woodsman lelt in sorrow and entered the forest to wait.The night was bone-chilling but he dug pit in the fresh snow and more fell through the night. In the mornng after the little men left, he approached the cottage and again knocked politely on the maiden’s door.

    “Come in,” she whispered, “I will tell you what I fear.”

    They sat by a small fire and she continued

    “”I’m afraid of the huntsman, my stepmother hired.”

    “Why?”

    “She asked him to carve my heart out and carry it to her.”

    “I will protect you with my life.”

    “Thank you Hans, with all my soul.”

    “I’ll be at the edge of the forest and wait for him. keep your door locked.”

    He wondered who the evil woman was as he waited for the huntsman, probably the evil queen’, he thought. Just then, the huntsman appeared in the clearing and stalked toward the cottage,a large knife rested at his side. Hans stepped into his pathway and confronted him,

    “I can kill you with one swing of this axe huntsman, pledge yourself to the princess, kill a pig and take its heart back to the evil queen.”

    The huntsman knew he was a dead man if he refused Han’s command. He backed away and hurried off.

    The fair maiden appeared at her door, motioned him inside and kissed his cheek.

    My guardians are going to have to get used to you being around.”

    END PART ONE

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you, Dennis. I almost scrapped this in the middle. I’m trying to skip aound this tale and take a different ending to it. Thank you for the read. I will recite to the kids when I’m finished with it.

        1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

          That’s not a bad article, but the problem lies in that it is a fact sheet more than anything else. More often than not, you can avoid passive voice by simply being clear. To use their example:

          “The baby was carried from the burning building.” (The author of the article even says they don’t know who did it. Who did? Someone.)

          “Someone carried the baby from the burning building.” (Takes the guesswork out and explicitly states that someone did it.)

          Both contain only eight words, but the difference in clarity is key. The only reasons I can think why anyone would choose the passive voice over the clearer active voice is either they’re lazy, don’t believe in strong writing, or updating their Facebook/Twitter status. What I find especially funny is that writers here are fighting to use passive rather than coming together to avoid it. Lol

          I say leave the passive voice to weak writers. If you must use it, though, at least master active voice first, and then enbrittle the prose with as much passive as you want afterward. 😉 What you don’t want to do, however, is make excuses for using passive voice simply to defend your writing. That’ll never fly when an agent tells you to change all your passive voice to active. Ya dig? (I still have the email when an editor of a magazine told me to change my passive voice to active when I was still sucking on my writer’s pacifier. Haha)

  10. Dennis

    (I went a couple hundred over this week)

    The Magic of Winter

    It is time to share my story, one that may be hard to believe but is nevertheless true. It’s a tale of magic and wonderment.

    One winter the snow fell more than it ever had, which meant I could finally build a snowman that would last more than a day. Feverishly I worked, building the best snowman ever. The task was completed when I added a hat, scarf, button eyes and mouth and a red ball for a nose.

    Each day I played in the yard there was Mr. Snowman. I talked to him and I swear he understood, that he sometimes seemed to smile and wink back at me. Other times I’d come outside and he wasn’t quite in the same spot that I left him at. The words my grandfather told me, about the magic of winter, started to come back and I knew then that they were true.

    One day when I was outside I noticed the neighbor’s walkway and driveway had not been shoveled. An elderly couple lived there so I thought I would help them out. But I would not get to finish.

    “Hey moron, that’s our turf.”
    I turned to see Chucky and his clan standing behind me.
    “What do you mean?”
    “I mean we shovel this block and if you don’t leave we’d be more than glad to assist you.”

    Each of the boys wore devilish grins and I knew not to push the issue. I walked back to my yard hearing names being thrown at me, but I paid no attention.

    I stood next to Mr. Snowman while I watched the boys shoveling snow and goofing off.
    “Ah, look at the little boy and his snowman,” said Chuck with a laugh.
    Out of nowhere a snowball hit him scare in the face. His face turned bright red.

    “Why you…” Another snowball hit him, and then another until all of the boys were getting pelted by a rapid fire of snowballs. Eventually they ran out of there with no real harm done but some bruised egos. I glanced over at Mr. Snowman and a much larger smile stretched across his face.

    Well, Chuck and his crew was not the brightest bunch and hounded me some more, at school, after school, and any time they threatened me, they were pelted with snowballs. And every time I made it back home there was Mr. Snowman with that giant smile of his. Eventually the bunch left me alone.

    But one day the lightbulb went off in Chucky’s head and he cornered me at school.
    “Listen twerp, someday the snow will melt, and when it does, I’ll be there and no one will be able to help you anymore.”

    True to his word Chuck left me alone for the rest of the winter. I wasn’t sure whether to share my story about Mr. Snowman with anyone and in the end decided no one would believe me.

    That fateful day finally arrived. As I left for school one spring morning I noticed Mr. Snowman had partially melted. By the end of the week he had disappeared. I felt like I had lost a friend.

    Not too long after Chuck and his buddies cornered me after school. I had all but forgotten about them and somehow thought they would do the same about me.

    “Who’s gonna help you now,” he said as he stared me straight in the face.

    Out of nowhere a single snowball hit Chuck in the side of the face. I took advantage of his confusion and kicked him square in the groin. Chuck dropped to his knees like a ton of bricks. I then popped him square in the nose which began to bleed. The loyal clan stood in amazement for a few moments and then one by one left the scene, never to bother me again.

    I helped Chuck up and fetched something to clean up his nose. Ever since that day we have been friends. And they say miracles never happen.

    So that is my story. Your story will be different, unique, but equally magical should you choose to believe in the magic of winter.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Wonderful story Dennis. The story in itself was magical, moralitic and retro at the same time.Reminded be of ‘The Christmas Story’. I truly enjoyed it.

    2. Reaper

      This is so amazing for me. I think everything Kerry said about it is perfect. I realized a lot of the appeal was that retro feel to it. It was also just so full of wonder that it was impossible to disbelieve. Your ending is amazing.

      1. Dennis

        Thanks Reaper, glad you liked it. I originally started with an older man telling the story to his grandson but removed that to cut down the length. I plan to expand it a bit more and use for the WD contest.

    3. Manwe38

      Oh wow, loved this!

      It has a simplicity and innocence to it, yet it’s moving and powerful. I love how your MC and his tormentor became friends at the end; it’s kind of like a boy and a girl who hate each other as kids that end up getting married.

      Nicely done 🙂

  11. Jastar

    “Your ‘turf’? Turf? Are you kidding? What are we going to do, dance fight? Besides, if you’re so eager to shovel why didn’t you get here a little earlier and you could have cleared my driveway?”
    The one who appeared to be in charge stepped closer to me.
    “Look old man, Nobody’s doing a good deed for Mrs. Pence except us.”
    The other four kids behind him snorted at the ‘old man’ comment. I was offended. I was forty-five. Far from an old man in my mind. Yeah, maybe my back hurt and I was still out of breath from shoveling my own driveway, but I wasn’t about to reveal any of that information.
    “So you go around doing good deeds?” I asked.
    “Only for Mrs. Pence,” replied the leader.
    “Why only for Mrs. Pence?”
    “None of your business.”
    I was cold, tired and growing very impatient.
    “Why don’t you kids run along and take some selfies or tweet or whatever it is teenagers do these days.
    The other four straightened up at this comment and took on a more aggressive stance. They all had snow shovels and they held them in a way that let me know they could do more with them than just shovel snow.
    “Alright,” said leader, “I’ll let you know what’s going on. We’ve actually traveled in time from the past. At 1:45 this afternoon, Mrs. Pence is going to come out of her house to get her mail. She’s going to slip in this snow and break her hip. She’ll never recover. We have to get this sidewalk cleared.”
    I was pretty sure he had said something about time travel, and I was busy trying to process that information. Before I realized, the others had circled behind me
    “So you’re time-traveling, snow-shoveling, sidewalk-clearing teenagers from the past. How far in the past?”
    “That’s not important,” said leader.
    “Who is Mrs. Pence? Why is she important?” I asked.
    “Again, none of your concern.”
    I hadn’t realized the others had formed snowballs until they hit me with them.
    Four snowballs, slamming into my head and sliding down my neck.
    The leader stepped closer. “You should have left.” he said.
    “Who is Mrs. Pence?” I screamed.
    “We’re stuck in a time loop,” explained Leader. Mrs. Pence is going to change her will to leave some money to her brother’s granddaughter. Her great niece or second niece or whatever. That granddaughter will use that money to create the technology to allow us to return to our own time. If she breaks her hip today than none of that will happen.
    The other four had formed more snowballs and were getting ready to launch them in my direction again.
    A garbage truck had lumbered down the street and was turning around two houses down. The beeping of the truck had momentarily distracted everyone.
    I turned to see that riding shotgun in the truck was a snowman who was holding a snow shovel out of the window.
    Beep-Beep-Beep
    That wasn’t a garbage truck. It’s a spaceship.
    Beep-Beep
    It’s not a spaceship. It’s my alarm.
    My eyes popped open. What a stupid dream.
    I rolled out of bed. I had to get up. I had to shovel my driveway.

    1. cosivantutte

      I was about to cry foul about the “It was all a dream” ending. Then, I realized that it was probably the time loop resetting itself, which made me feel bad for your MC. At this rate, he’ll never get his driveway shoveled. Poor guy. 🙁

    2. Manwe38

      Interesting premise.

      If I may give one piece of constructive feedback: show, don’t tell.

      What do I mean? An example would be: “I was cold, tired, and growing impatient.” That’s great, but as a reader, I need to be able to believe what I am seeing. That is best accomplished by describing, rather than interpreting, what your MC is going through.

      Describe for me his cold, tired body. Describe his impatience. Don’t just ‘tell’ me; it comes across as being lectured in a freshman college class, the kind with a thousand people stuffed into an overcrowded and dimly-lit auditorium that reeks of unwashed socks and old food rotting in the cracks between the fold-down seats.

      Kind of gives you a mental picture, doesn’t it?

      I might’ve written this as: “A hand flew to the small of his back, where the muscles had just tied themselves into fleshy knots like winding twists of living pretzel. Stretched to their limit, the forty-five year old ligaments also joined the protest, and the weak strokes of his numb fingers did little to calm either.”

      See the difference? In terms of the kids, have him raise his voice, plant his shovel forcefully into the snow, anything to ‘show’ me that he’s growing impatient, rather than tell me. Your writing will be stronger for it.

      In terms of theme, it was a good story. Time travel is tricky, but the flow was good. Kind of reminds me of an old episode of Doctor Who were Tom Baker and his companion are locked into a time loop by a talking cactus-like alien named Meglos.

      Keep on writing!

  12. Manwe38

    So a lot of people aren’t going to get this story, but if you can spot the reference, I will be very, very impressed. Hint: it involves a VERY short-lived television show from the early 1980s.

    ***

    “Travel Bans”

    The snow had stopped just after noon, leaving behind dark clouds and cold winds. Around the neighborhood, the high-pitched squeals of children at play easily mixed with the sound of shovels on pavement. In the distance, the dull roar of approaching plow-trucks tickled the ears with a phantom vibration. The storm had been well-timed, unloading its cargo while the city had slept, but now it was time to clean up.

    At least it was Saturday, and while he probably shouldn’t have slept until two, there were at least three hours of daylight left to tackle the strip of white-covered asphalt. Piece of cake…or at least it should’ve been. The problem was, he’d lost last week’s poker game, and now had to shovel Jon’s walk as well. His sister had begged him to stop playing, but the lure was too strong. If divorce and a failed custody battle couldn’t break the addiction, then a lecture from his younger sibling sure wouldn’t.

    Oh well. At least he had stopped gambling money…not that manual labor was all that much better. But a bet was a bet, and he honored his word. If nothing else, at least he had that. And so outside he went, hat over his hairless scalp, gloves on, ipod blasting Journey and Queen into his rapidly-numbing ears with righteous anger, and got to work. His coat, a present from his mother, proudly displayed the words ‘North Face’ on his right breast. A bit lame, but it kept him warm.

    It went slowly at first. The nearly ten-inches of white powder didn’t want to cling to his shovel, and the wind was no help. Steady and strong, it ripped into his dry and cracking face with cruel fingers, sending sheets of brilliant white sailing through the air like rippling silk sheets. But went it did, and ninety minutes later, his driveway was done. He straightened up, turned around, and sighed. Jon’s was nearly the same length, but wider at the top. Two hours, at least, and no mistake.

    But a bet was a bet, and he honored his word.

    Trudging over to his neighbor’s yard, his boots slipping on the airy snow, there was no sign of anyone home. He grunted; the fat slob was probably taking a nap. Either way, Jon would probably have a heart attack if he tried to do this one on his own…not that it wouldn’t be deserved.

    Okay, time was wasting. He took a deep breath, bent down, and got to it. His mind began to wander as the robot took over, the cold seeping into his thoughts like an erstwhile stalker. He didn’t want to be here, but the sooner he got done, the sooner he could curl up with a cup of coffee. And YouTube. It wasn’t his wife, but it would do. Around him, the wind whipped, the children played, and the sun sank towards the waiting horizon. Life was cold, but so be it.

    The first intimation that something was wrong came when he felt the weight of a distant stare. Looking up, he saw a group of what appeared to be young men rapidly heading in his general direction. He stopped and squinted, tears frozen on his cheeks like salty icicles. Were those shovels? He couldn’t be sure, but they had the right shape. As he watched, they closed the distance, mounted the driveway, and encircled him. The tallest, wearing sunglasses and a wool hat, stepped forward.

    “What are you doing?”
    “What does it look like?”
    A frown twisted the corners of his teenage mouth. “This is our gig.”
    “Oh yeah? Says who?”
    “Says Kroll.”
    “Who?”

    The frown became a smile. “A respected commander. Our boss.”
    “Commander of what?’
    “Zone troopers.” He motioned to his cronies. “That’s what we’re going to become. But we need his support. It’s the only way in.”

    Zone troopers. The term sounded familiar, but he didn’t know from where. Straightening up, he crossed his arms. “Well I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’m shoveling up here. I owe him, and I always honor my debts.”
    The frown returned. “If you don’t leave, we’re gonna-”
    “What? Attack me with shovels.” He sighed. “You’d be doing me a favor, kid. Now I’m tired and cold, and I’d like to get done. I don’t know what the hell you’re on about, but I think you’ve got the wrong house.” His lips thinned. “So take a hike.”

    The young man blinked. “He won’t be happy.”
    Laughter escaped in a burst of white cloud. “Yeah, well, tel Mr. Kroll he can join the club. Now goodbye.”

    The teenager opened his mouth to retort but suddenly snapped to attention instead. “Commander!” His voice wobbled like an old phonograph. “You’re awake!”

    He turned around. There, walking towards me, was Jon. He was dressed in an odd black uniform eerily similar to the clothes of the kids, and from his hand hung a strange black cylinder with a rearward-facing grip. Above his left breast, a bizarre insignia–an open eye within an upright triangle, itself within an upside-down triangle–glared at him with eerie malevolence. Something was wrong. Very very wrong.

    He shivered. “Jon, what the hell is going on?”
    “Hello, Brent.” A gnarly smile emerged, an expression somewhat reminiscent of a human bulldog. “Sorry for the mess, but I completely forgot that the boys were coming over.”
    Brent stared at his neighbor’s clothes. “Uh….”

    Jon waved his hand. “Don’t worry about it, Brent.” He raised the cylinder. “You weren’t supposed to see this, but it doesn’t matter.” With his free hand, he reached into his pocket and emerged with a long, purplish crystal whose inside appeared to be packed with electronic circuits. “In fact, you won’t ever have to worry about anything again.”

    Brent’s faced paled. “Wait-” But he was too late. With a flick of his thumb, Jon fired the weapon. The last thing that went through Brent’s brain–before the high energy bolt–was to wonder just how in the hell a washed-up character actor like Jonathan Banks managed to build a real-live laser gun.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Boy, you picked an obscure TV show, “Otherworld” I liked you prompt and I also like challenges. The MC’s very likeable, gritty and down to earth Good character to run a series on, possibly a “cheap detective” or bounty hunter. Kind of low brow, kick in the ass series.

      1. Manwe38

        Kerry, I am in awe 🙂

        That show was on for about five minutes when I was a kid, and I LOVED it. I recently found a DVD set of the series for sale online, and to my wife’s chagrin, immediately bought it. The concept remains utterly fascinating to me; I think my favorite thing about the series was that funky trail of quasi-Egyptian obelisks whose purpose seemed only known to a select few.

        In terms of this story, they left the show wide open with its sudden cancellation, so why not? Commander Kroll in the US? Stranger things have happened….

    2. Observer Tim

      I missed this one, mostly because I got it confused with “The Fantastic Journey” which predated it by about 10 years. It’s a totally different premise, but something has glued them together in my mind. Kind of makes you wonder where old evil overlords go when their series ends. Imagine having MegaByte (Reboot) as a neighbour… 😉

      In any case, great story! 🙂

    3. Reaper

      I missed this show, but it seemed familiar anyway. Interesting story there. You had one slip into first person there towards the end. That was the only glitch I saw. Having never seen the show this was pretty intense and interesting.

  13. lyngralee

    I had just finished up my own, and decided to shovel my neighbor’s sidewalk. He shoveled mine sometimes, too. We had an “At least one of us can stay warm,” understanding. It was prime shoveling time, so the neighborhood was well represented. Shloop. Shloop. Shloop. There was a rhythm to the sound, echoing everywhere in that wintry strangeness of snow covered silence. Shloop. Shloop. Shloop. Then, like a blast of icy wind, a handful of teens rounded the corner, shovels and picks in hand. “Yo, lady, you in our hood!”

    “No, actually, this is my hood,” I pointed, in what seemed to me to be a certifiable thug-like manner, to the hood I was wearing. “And this,” I waved my hands in a sweeping gesture that was a sure sign of brain frostbite, “Is my neighborhood!” Just to clarify, I am not recklessly sassy in the face of danger, but these boys did not look dangerous. In fact, they kind of had Christmas Morning faces.

    They slammed the business ends of their tools into the snow with a resounding and unified Whomp. “Well, ain’t you freaking funny,” said the crew member whose hat had a wildly unnecessary number of tassels, braids and pom-poms. Twice more, they raised and lowered their tools with a Whomp. It mingled with the sounds of the shoveling neighbors.

    “Shloop. Shloop. Whomp. Shloop. Shloop. Whomp.”

    One kid did a backflip, totally stuck the landing, and it began.

    Grinding, kicking, flipping, twirling.
    Pounding, shouting, hacking, whirling.
    Dancing, bending, stretching, moving.
    Swaying, jumping, spinning, grooving.
    Tossing, catching, digging, romping.
    Skidding, laughing, singing, stomping.

    They were like a cirque du soleil flash mob on ice.

    By now, all the neighbors had stopped shoveling to watch, but the lack of the background Shloop wasn’t even noticed. These kids had skills.

    Someone dialed the local news on their cell phone, and the next big thing was born. The boys probably made about $500 that day, from the $20 that everyone had in their pockets. But, by the next week, they were trending on Twitter and guest starring on every morning show. And on You Tube – well, duh, of course videos were posted – they had more views than cats playing musical instruments. The Kardashians friended them on Facebook. “Balls of Snow” was on the roster of every wintry destination spot, and the group was on its way to millionaire status.

    The little green sign on our street corner went from “Cedar Lane” to “Balls of Snow Boulevard.”

    And everyone, everywhere, was wearing hats with a wildly unnecessary number of tassels, braids and pom-poms.

    1. cosi van tutte

      This was an awesome take on the prompt. This whole part cracked me up:

      “No, actually, this is my hood,” I pointed, in what seemed to me to be a certifiable thug-like manner, to the hood I was wearing. “And this,” I waved my hands in a sweeping gesture that was a sure sign of brain frostbite, “Is my neighborhood!” 😀 I also loved the hat with “a wildly unnecessary number of tassels, braids and pom-poms.”

      1. lyngralee

        Thanks so much, cosi!
        I often find it harder to write the light and humorous! As always, I look forward to and appreciate your feedback. Thanks for taking the time, it means a lot.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I am so taken with your story, I could hear the rhythm of the grinding, kickng, flippng and swirling. I agree with tim, we have a new comet to streak through the cold summer sky at night. Loved the description of the movements and the shovel symphony.

    2. Reaper

      Lyngralee! What did you just do to my brain? This was amazing and funny. Sometimes the really light can be harder to read, but not here. Just well worth reading. Your six lines of one word motion description were amazing as well.

  14. Nicki EagerReader

    Sorry to drop this into the forum, but it WAS inspired by this week’s prompt. It’s something over a 1000 words, so feel free to skip it- otherwise enjoy! And it’s much to ask because feedback is so very time-comsuming), but if you could drop me a line I’d really appreciate it, because I might just like to work this into something longer (unless your verdict strikes it a deathblow).

    The snow was white, but only where it rested on window sills and fence posts. Tires and exhaust fumes had streaked the street with ruts of brown and grey, and the tips of dark winter grass studded the brittle sheets of white crisped across the lawns. They would melt some time later during the day, but at the moment the diluted light of pre-dawn barely sufficed to endow the murk with texture.

    Despite the early hours the street was livid with activity- uniforms of blue and reflective yellow bruised the complexion of the otherwise faultless neighborhood, and flood lights subjected the drive-way of 18b to an artificial morning glare. A swath of pavement lay bear where heavy boots had tread the mush into meltwater, flowing from a construction of canvas and tarpaulin that, given a little more snow and lower temperatures, could have passed as an igloo with an edge.

    A woman near its entrance watched as another van full of equipment and bodies pulled up on the curb. As she was neither shouting nor foul-moutihing in the approved fashion of senior officers everywhere it wasn’t immediately obvious that she was orchestrating the unfolding operation. Occasionally, she would issue a clipped order but most of the time she contented herself to observe obtrusively. Just being aware of her presence usually spurred people to put in a little extra effort and adhere meticulously to protocol.

    Though nostalgics found it hard to admit, a police force couldn’t run on Humphrey Bogarts alone. Neither could it rely on inefficient bunglers and self-righteous humanitarians.

    DCI Nuha Jane DeForest was none of the above. She wasn’t haunted by her past because she lived in the present. She didn’t seek blind justice because she was aware of moral ambiguity. She didn’t smoke because lung cancer kills and cigarette butts absent-mindedly discarded at a crime scene cause no end of trouble. She did drink, because beer came with the badge, but not with the olympic determination that secured many of her predecessors top rankings on the waiting list for liver transplants.

    In short, Nuha DeForest belonged to the new generation of officers, who approached the their profession with a modern attitude. Nuha regarded policing strictly as a job and, to the initial surprise and chagrin of many of the more old-fashioned among her male colleagues, she was good at it. They couldn’t come to terms with the fact that a chit of a lady such as her could hold her own against criminals three times her mass, process paperwork like a furnace, and find time to squeeze in a LIFE. Not much of it, admittedly, but more than most officers her rank could lay claim to- Nuha DeForest was probably the only DCI on the entire island coldblooded enough to switch her phone on voice mail when she was off duty. She had an emergency number, of course, but she made a point of changing it as soon as more than four people got their hands on it.

    Despite the high demands, and although over the years she had witnessed enough aftermaths of violent deaths to make a Stephen King novel seem like a light-hearted read, DeForest enjoyed her job, at least on most days. Dealing with crime provided her with a kind of cognitive stimulation and a sense of purpose that she would have lacked otherwise, and she was fortunate enough to be equipped with the strong mental barriers that shielded her private life from the the overspills of the job.

    Even so, she would encounter a case every now and then that she couldn’t fob off at the office. She called them “followers”. She had known one lay in wait for her that morning even before her brain had pattern-matched the visual input from the sad remains against the databank of her previous experiences. Her empty stomach still lurched ever time she recalled what the forensics tent mercifully shrouded, and she had resigned herself to the prospect that the face would stalk her the rest of the day, sit opposite to her at the dinner table, lie next to her in bed.

    Just the face, though, whom frost and rigor mortis had frozen into a permanent rictus of anguish and terror.

    The rest of the body was little more than pulp.

    “Run me through what we’ve got so far,” said DeForest and took a sip of her coffee. Her clouding breath seemed to mock an era when a nicotine haze would have issued from her mouth.

    “The man bringing the paper found him,” said DI Pollox. The squat man consulted his notebook. “One Kevin Reele. Been doing the round since his retirement six years ago. First thought somebody had hit a deer or something until he noticed the shoes.”

    DeFrost nodded. The shoes- as perversely well preserved as the face. They would have to leave it up to Dr. Evans to tell them if the victim had been wearing anything else. DeFrost suspected the pathologist might actually have to strain the remains in order to find out.

    “Could we confirm the victim’s identity?”, she asked.

    “We will have to await DNA testing to actually conf- I, mean, it’s most likely him,” the DI hurried to say as DeForest scowled. “Martin Stanford, age forty-two, from number 21. We let ourselves in when nobody opened the door. House was empty but we found a wallet with an ID that matched the- well, the body. And pictures.” The DI sighed. “You can’t see the wall for happy family.”

    DeForest stopped blowing on her coffee.

    “He’s married?”

    “Plus a son.” Pollox peered at his notes. “Sixteen years. We have no idea so far where they are. According to the neighbor Ms. Fowley they didn’t mention they were planning to go on holiday.”

    “On a Tuesday in the middle of February?”

    “People let their kids bunk off school.”

    “Yes, but they don’t usually turn up at 3 a.m. clubbed to hash in their neighbor’s driveway. What was he doing out here anyway? And don’t say, Shoveling snow.”

    “Murder weapon?”, suggested the DI.

    “Can’t exclude it,” said DeForest. “But I doubt it. No blood.”

    And that was just it: no blood. Not on the shovel they found next to the body -that might have been cleaned- but also nowhere around it. Doing that to bones and muscle and organs should have left ribbons of red over a radius of seven meters, but so far they hadn’t detected as much as a fine scarlet spray. Of course the forensics team would have to go over the parameter first but…

    Curtains twitched as the waking residents investigated the disruption to their routine. A DC explained to a sourly man with a mastiff that he would have to reroute his constitutional. Another DC slipped on a patch of ice.

    And as her coffee grew a skin in the cold, DCI DeForest wondered once again if quitting the theater all those years ago really had been such a good life choice after all.

    1. cosi van tutte

      This is wonderfully descriptive. Especially this line -> “uniforms of blue and reflective yellow bruised the complexion of the otherwise faultless neighborhood…”

      My internal Editor has just one comment. If you do extend this into something longer, try to slowly work the information in paragraphs 4 through 7 throughout the story. It is background information that would be better shown than told. Maybe slip it into dialogue. Just my fifty-five cents. 🙂 Otherwise, great job!

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        Thanks, cosi, your fifty-five cents always are a treasure! Good point about working the backstory in at a later point in different form (I was trying to keep it short somehow) and I’m glad you like the descriptions- I’m always a little worried I might be piling on too many of them. 🙂

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I liked this Nicki, I was captured immediately. Cosi Van Tuttle has a very good point about slipping the background in with the dailogue. That’s how I usually try to do. It’s rather easy when you’re used to it, but have the speaker reminise about his/her past or have it brought out from questions from the other conversation party.

          1. Nicki EagerReader

            Thanks, Kerry, and thanks for the advice about working it in via dialogue- so simple and so effective!

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a great opener to a police procedural, Nicki. I am duly and truly impressed. Very glad I didn’t skip it (yeah, right, like I would). Now I find myself wondering about the crime scene as described. Is it a paranormal killing (lack of blood) or one that was being disguised (mashed body)? A vampire would leave at least a little blood at the scene unless he/she/it were very fusssy. It would be very unusual for a dump if the perp mashed the body afterwards, and I’d argue against organ thieves unless they did a dump and mash to obscure the actual crime. Dagnabit, fraulein, you’ve got my brain going on this! 🙂 🙂 😉

      There were a couple of misplaced words but nothing earthshattering: overspill is usually collective/singular, like water; at least on this side of the big pond it’s usually “book off” school; perimeter not parameter.

      It may sound silly but I’m curious whether the DC slipped and fell, slipped and stumbled, or slipped and skidded. I have no idea why.

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        Thanks, TIm, I am glad you liked it (though I would have fully understood if you skipped it, esp. at it’s all in italics). Thanks also for your red pen; “parameter” is the kind of stuff my addled brain comes up with after drafting past my bedtime 😉 .

        I wish I knew myself where this was going. There is a paranormal component to the story, but in how far I don’t know. I just looked over Nuha DeForest’s shoulder and all right, no red snow. Strange that. Guess both our brains will run hot mulling over this case…

        P.S.: The DC slipped, skidded, flailed a little, and fell right onto his tushy- legs in a V, hands propped behind him. But that seemed like descriptive overkill. 😉

    3. Reaper

      Other than the html glitch there were very few things in this that seemed at all in need of fixing. Your descriptions are wonderful and pulled me in. There are a few word things like bear for bare and unless it is shouting generally don’t emphasize with caps. The thing mentioned about slipping the background in slowly is good, though you could do it in the exposition way but I would move it a little further down, after we see the reaction and the comparison of mist to smoke. Beyond that I would say go for expanding. Because I shy away from procedural cop stuff and yet you pulled me into this story anyway.

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        Thanks you, Reaper! What would I do without all those fault-finding eyes in this forum? And I’m serious about that. Your advice really means a lot to me- and your opinion. 🙂

  15. Kemter

    “Hey,” a whip crack of a voice shattered the deadening hush of falling snow.

    Turning, I took in a gaggle of younger men—teenagers—each with a shovel.

    The spitfire that seemed to lead them crudely addressed me again, “Get out of here, Jack. This is our turf.”

    “My name is Dan actually.” I informed them, “Do you usually shovel for Rick?”

    “All the time.” the boy said with more menace than necessary, “Now get lost Dan.”

    I had noticed a majority of the gang had shovels better suited for digging trenches than shoveling snow; they would have destroyed the man’s smooth concrete with those metal spades. Topping it all off, the chill was starting to creep into my coats, so I continued to clear the snow while we conversed.

    “It’s alright fellas.” I pressed on towards a particularly intimidating lump of snow, “This is the least I can do for the man after what he gave the wife and I.”

    “Get out of here old man,” Skippy took a step at me. At this point, I was a twinge peeved off with these young men.

    Thrusting violently with the wide shovel, I found myself stuck fast against the packed ice block. The boys grew quiet, watching me struggle for leverage over the bank. Quite embarrassing. Locating the bottom of the hard packed snow, I gave a final heave to flip it out of the hollow.

    Water darkened kaki dress pants. A single brown loafer; glossy in the dimmed light coming through overcast clouds. Pinstriped, cornflower blue button down shirt, splattered with exploding rings of russet brown.

    “Ri—Rick!” I dropped my shovel, the right side of his deathly pale face turned towards me.

    The teenagers looked at the body with eyes colder than the wind-chill factor. My phone fell from my belt clip as I scrambled to call 911, fingers instantly achy when I ripped my glove off to dial.

    Poor Rick! And after he had been so kind to us.

    “911, please state your emergency.” A woman’s voice came through the speaker, muffled by the bottom of my hat.

    At the sight of my phone, the teenagers seemed to break into action, rushing me together.
    As the fastest reached me first, shovel swung back like a baseball bat, I managed a single word, “Help!”

    When I woke, I had a ripping headache. The room was unfamiliar in a memorable way, a room I had seen from the door: Rick’s living room. Two boys stood by the entrance, while Skippy sat before me on the blonde coffee table and the rest looted the home.

    “You boys are getting yourselves into a heap of trouble here.”

    The boy, large brown eyes weepy, scrubbed the scruffy curled locks out of his face in frustration, “Do you know what you just saw Dan? A dead body. You wanna know who killed him? I did.”

    “Why?”

    “You tell me, old man,” the teen grappled behind him for a kitchen knife, “Where are they.”

    I had no idea what the kid was asking for, I told him as much. However, things seemed to be turning sour as his smaller friend reported nothing had been found in the house.

    The knife bit painfully into the soft skin of my neck as Skippy became angry, “Tell me where you hid the drugs or Rick won’t be the only dead body around here.”

    Things seemed to happen all at once from that point. First, I realized Rick was not the neighbor I had thought he was. No good man consorted with drugs and characters as unsavory as Skippy and his friends. Second, I recalled the reason I had come to assist him. At my wife’s last open home get-together, Rick had given us a crate of restaurant-grade meat-rubbing spices as a housewarming gift.
    The third realization wasn’t exactly a leap of conjecture.

    As I took a breath to plead with the drug mongering kids, the door burst open. Police men and women stormed the house, chasing the rabble down like foxes after hares. Paramedics extracted me with care, offering a blanket and holding gauze to the wounds on my neck and temple.

    The world fell away when my wife came running from the house.

    “Honey,” I breathed as I held her close in relief, “Don’t use Ricks spices on the pot roast.”

    1. Reaper

      That was an amazingly fast pace and done so well. To keep that up with only a few points of real action was impressive. The last line was just too funny. I really liked your MC when I found out what he was repaying, such a small thing but for a man with a huge heart and sense of responsibility. You managed to convey so much of his personality in a very short space.

  16. VampireVelocity

    Twelves inches. Yesterday’s flurries turned into a massive storm. I barely got out of my house, needing to use a blow dryer to melt the ice that held the door closed. I was already thinking of the hot chocolate with marshmallows I would enjoy when I was done.

    I lived in a dangerous neighborhood. I was in suburbia, but the local teens were split into two gangs. They competed for the lawn care and snow removal jobs to earn cash. Normally, I just gave my business to whoever came to my door first, but, since I hadn’t had anyone knock on my door, I figured they stayed in today.

    I finished shoveling my driveway after 30 minutes of grueling, back-breaking work. It was snow and ice mixed together. I saw my neighbor’s driveway was still full of the white non-goodness, so I figured I’d be nice and help old man Jenkins out. He was 76 years old and wouldn’t be able to shovel, nor afford the high climbing shovel prices these days.

    I began my work, knowing my chiropractor would enjoy so much extra business. I felt a poke on my shoulder, hurting it slightly. I turned around, wondering where it could’ve possibly come from and my face drained of any rosy color. One of the boys stood there with an angry look on his face, shovel in his hand.

    “What are you doing here? This is my territory and you are not welcome. Get out!” His stance was intimidating and highly sinister. However, I wasn’t going to let him see my fear.

    “Be my guest! The snow is frozen slightly with ice. I’m sure your body will be stiff and sore after this job. I was just being a good neighbor, considering Jenkins is on vacation and you won’t make a dime. Did you want to do this for free?” I taunted.

    His angry face diminished and his shoulders hunched. He walked away without another word.

    1. Observer Tim

      Clever take, VampireVelocity. I like the little twist at the end. The only thing that would have made this crueler is if the MC had let the boy shovel for half an hour or so, then told him about Mr. Jenkins being away. 😉

  17. sudhiriyer

    Sunday.

    ‘45 Lakers Court’, reads the letter box of my neighbours; it shows an amateur painting of court of arms bearing a rake and sphere! As I stand just outside my neighbours’ driveway and see this letter box, a thought runs through my mind – “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.

    But then an after-thought occurs with a dismissing tone,”Neighbours, huh!”. Still, putting mind over matters, I finally begin shovelling the snow on their driveway.

    Less than five minutes into it and shouts come flying at me from their garage.

    “Hey! Keep Off Sober Gober! This is our territory. Don’t want no favour! How dare you think of coming o’er and trespassing our property?” shouts the lanky leader of Rakes-sphere, the notorious gang of teenagers who, by utter misfortune, happen to be my neighbours, or rather I theirs!

    I dismiss my ‘sociable’ behaviour and just as I drop the snow from the shovel back on their driveway and turn back, a shovel flies towards me and almost kisses my nape. ”And remember you’re always safer minding your own business”, says the guy with the shovel, pointing it towards me. Disgusted, I walk away from them towards my door and look back at them.

    “Mr. Gober, never before have you felt so better avenged”, I say to myself. I laugh. I laugh loud!
    And the Rakes-sphere punks just look on at me, confused. They may think I am crazy or retarded. But I deserve to have the last laugh over what just happened.

    And this is what happened an hour ago….

    Last night’s snow was heavy. I stepped out at 6 am this morning. The council did not show up to clean.
    I looked around and all houses in the neighbourhood still seem to be asleep. I decide to shovel my driveway.

    As I was shoveling, my eyes landed on the adjacent block and I was reminded of how much I hated those punks ever I since moved into 46 Lakers Court, four months ago. I had lost all my verbal battles with them on their high decibel late night parties and continued misdemeanour in matters of general co-operation. “Sober Gober” they mockingly called me and I hated that.

    A sinisterly though occurred to me. How about I just shovel away the snow from my driveway over the fence to theirs? Makes it just easy for me and will give those lazy punks some hard time and frustration.

    And so I did shovel all the snow from my driveway over to theirs! My driveway was clean. I started walking back towards my door and I remembered the lines I had read somewhere early that week:

    “Do not do unto others that which is hateful to you”.

    I felt guilty. I slowed down and looked onto their driveway. “Teenagers after all! They will have their lessons! I must undo.”

    Now.

    As I sit on my patio and sip on my hot cup of Earl Grey with some marmalade and toast, I watch Rakes-sphere – all 5 of them – using their rakes and shovel cleaning up their driveway, ah, rather my driveway (in one way)!

    “Chances of a bright sunny afternoon”, said the radio. “I am liking this”, I said to myself.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a nice tale of just desserts, Sudhiriyer. The Rakesphere boys got what they deserved. 🙂

      I sense a bit of non-English construction in the grammar, but I’m not quite sure. It shows up mainly as some minor awkwardness in the dialogue.

  18. igonzales81

    I knew I was taking a risk. I didn’t care. I was sick of it, sick of the bullying, sick of being put down, sick of seeing my neighborhood terrorized. They’d started it three years ago, rolling up at the start of summer, strutting down the road as though the world was theirs. First it had been the lawn-mowing, then the hedge-trimming, then weeding gardens. Everyone gave in because they were scared, because it was just so much easier to go along, to not make waves. But like a mouse with a cookie, they just kept wanting more. Soon it was raking leaves and chopping wood. And now, snow-shoveling.

    I was good at shoveling snow. I could clean your average drive in five minutes flat, down to the pavement, cut a berm of solid ice, even salt everything down when I was finished. I took pride in my work. People appreciated that. Then these guys moved in, told me I wasn’t needed, that they were taking over, like they’d taken over everything else. And like everything else, they didn’t know the first thing about what they were doing. Every morning I saw people out there, slipping and sliding down their driveways.

    No more.

    Eight inches of fresh white had fallen the night before. I picked up my shovel, with the custom handle and the reinforced blade, a tool that could make any snow removal almost a joy. With a wheelbarrow of deicing salt in tow, I left the garage, determined to show them how it was done. Or die trying.
    I cleared my dad’s drive first. Scrape, scrape, scrape till it’s clear, salt it down, move on. I got through three driveways before they showed up.

    The crunch of footsteps on wet snow was the first sign of their arrival. I kept shoveling, didn’t even look up.

    “What do you think you’re doing?” it was a harsh, abrasive voice, the voice of a kid who always go what he wanted, and saw no reason for that to change.

    I ignored him.

    “Hey, I’m talking to you,” the voice came closer.

    I looked up. All three of them were there, the Dover boys, all of them used to using fear and pain to control others.

    “We run the snow-shoveling in this ‘hood,” Jimmy, the biggest one, the leader, said. “Nobody works this street but us. Anybody don’t toe the line, we make a snowman out of them.”

    His brother’s chuckled, true toadies.

    I kept on working.

    Jimmy’s face reddened. “You got a hearin’ problem?” He came forward in a rush, reaching for the shovel.

    I let him have it, hard as I could swing, right in his kisser. He went down, hands flying to his ruined nose. All three of the brothers stared at me, mouths open, that first hint of fear in their eyes.

    I tossed the shovel aside and stood my ground, daring them to make the next move. Come what may, I was ready for it.

  19. rle

    Frank Myers trudged to the garage and grabbed his trusty ergonomic snow shovel. “This is just fantastic,” he mumbled as the garage door opened to reveal a fresh blanket of snow. “More white shit from the sky.” As he began the familiar task of cleaning the driveway of their upper middle class home, he regretted that he ever agreed to move to Cleveland in the first place. The summers were always hot and the air always reeked of sewer and garbage. The winters were long and brutally cold with never ending snow. What an armpit of a place to live. But, since his wife had accepted a prestigious position at The Cleveland Clinic, he really hadn’t had much choice other than to tag along and endure. This sure wasn’t south-central Georgia.

    After forty-five minutes, Frank had finally cleared the concrete driveway for at least the twenty-fifth time this winter and probably the two-hundredth time since they’d moved here. Standing back to admire his work, Frank stole a quick glance across the street. Mrs Dabney’s driveway and walks were still untouched. He thought about just pretending he hadn’t noticed, but realized the guilt would have eventually eaten him up. That was one disadvantage to having been raised in the south. So, just like every other time it snowed, he reluctantly made his way across the street and began clearing the old widow’s driveway.

    Mrs. Dabney was a bit of an oddity, largely keeping to herself and never getting involved with anything that went on in the neighborhood. Frank often wondered why, in all the years he’d cleaned her walks and driveway, she’d never offered up so much as an ‘atta boy’. It wasn’t that Frank expected anything in return for his generosity, but he didn’t know why a simple ‘thank you’ once in a while would have hurt anything.

    As he approached the halfway mark, Frank heard voices coming from the street. Looking up, he spotted three grubby looking teenage boys milling about at the end of the driveway. By the looks of them, Frank could immediately tell that they were certainly from some type of hood, but not this neighborhood. Although Frank wouldn’t back down from a confrontation, he didn’t want to invite one either. As the three boys donning snow shovels dismounted a trio of broken down bicycles, Frank continued with his work.

    “What do you think you’re doing dude?” the tallest boy with earrings in each ear questioned sharply as they stopped just short of where Frank toiled.

    Frank rolled his eyes and kept shoveling. “I’m building a nuclear weapon Einstein.”

    “Well look here boys, we got us a real live smart ass. Guess nobody told you that this here is our neighborhood now. Tall boy tapped his piece of shit shovel on the clean blacktop.

    Frank felt the heat emanate from under his collar. “Oh yea,” he said, finally standing up to face the three hoodlums. “So tell me then, which half-million dollar house do you live in?”

    The three looked at each other dumbfounded.

    “That’s what I thought,” Frank nodded as he returned to his work.

    “Yea, I’m not sure you understand what my boy here is saying,” piped up a short round boy as he scratched the hairless waddle of blubber under his chin. “We’re doing the snow removal in this neighborhood now. It’s a hundred bucks a house or else.”

    Frank stood up and leaned on his shovel listening intently to the fat boys threat. “A hundred bucks a house huh? Boy that sounds like a bargain. Let me go and get my money and pay you in advance for next time, that sound okay?”

    “Suit yourself chief,” Tall Boy said as he snickered at the others.

    “Here,” Frank said as he tossed his shovel at their feet, “consider it a gift.”

    Frank walked back across the street. He rummaged through the garage until he found what he was looking for; a three foot long piece of steel pipe. Frank calmly climbed into his pickup and laid the pipe on the seat beside him. He slowly backed out of the garage and down the driveway all the while watching the boys in the rear view mirror as they did a royal half-ass job on Mrs. Dabney’s sidewalk. Suddenly, he mashed the accelerator and rocketed across the street, catching all three bicycles with his bumper, grinding and twisting them into a mangled mass beneath his truck. He grabbed the pipe and slowly exited the cab, casually making his way toward where the boys stood in a state of shock. “I’m gonna tell your punk asses one time so listen up. You get off this street, you get out of this neighborhood. If I ever see your faces again, I will personally beat your sorry asses into a bloody pulp. You got it?”

    The boys dropped their shovels and hightailed it across the old woman’s yard. Frank watched until their figures disappeared into the distance.

    As he turned to finish the walk, he looked up to meet the gaze of Mrs. Dabney, smiling down on him from the living room window, apparently having watched the whole scene unfold.

    Frank waved and gave her a sheepish grin. The old woman waved back and mouthed the words ‘thank you.’

    1. Paint on Parchment

      The writing here is believable and real, and you portray emotion very well. My only criticism is that I don’t find Frank particularly sympathetic; he’s an adult who does something juvenile (crushing the bikes) to threaten teenagers (who don’t even seem like such bad people, but do seem like they’re from disadvantaged backgrounds, which makes Frank’s actions worse). In this story, I feel more empathy for the teenagers than for Frank.

      1. Penney

        I liked the story. Once again, I could sense the frustration of the MC. Oddly, I think a lot of people are experiencing this style of bullying, and wanting to fight back. You see it with the response of Mrs. Dabney as she mouthed the words thank you. She probably would have done the same thing had she the strength or courage, but someone else help her. I see this everyday as a school bus drive now. This kids react this way; cussing, screaming, yelling, bullying, being obscene and disrespectful, calling me names. I was told that I don’t come from their kind of lifestyle(although the person doesnt know me), that it’s a cultural thing that I don’t understand and should be easy on them. Culture, lifestyle doesn’t excuse bad manners. I have no empathy for kids like this. Sorry, I digress, it was a great story because you got this kind of response.

    2. Reaper

      I liked this. I have no sympathy for the youths because anyone who will take advantage of an older woman and have an or else attitude upsets me. I can see some sympathy for them but I don’t feel it. We live in a “it’s not your fault” culture. Especially out here where I live, we make excuses for everyone to take fault off of their actions instead of saying they shouldn’t act like asses. Now, I think your MC reacted too harshly, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t cheering him a little in the moment. So in that way, agreeing with the theory but not the actions, this had a very Fight Club and Falling Down feel for me. The writing was very good and readable as you always do.

      There were two off points for me, and even those were small and I got past them quickly. The first was donning snow shovels, my mind said they should have been hefted because you don clothing. The second was his dialogue. His actions were very southern rage but the way he spoke struck me as North East US. But, I have not spent any time in Georgia so it could be me lacking knowledge.

      Loved this, even as I kind of wish your MC was a nicer guy I can understand the frustration and the desire to lash out at self entitled younguns, just like my father and his father ‘afore him!

    3. Observer Tim

      So grumpy Frank gets to show of a little of his Good Ol’ Boy on these three. Of course in Ohio there are enough folks with 12-gage persuasion skills that they might feel lucky that Frank was the one they annoyed.

      In any case, I found all the characters (except maybe Mrs. Dabney, who we don’t see enough of) rather dislikeable. However, the story itself is gratifying and realistic. Great job rle! 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great story, rle. Are you sure you’re talkin Cleveland ant Amarillo. That’s how we settle things in Texas. Keeps the pipe manufactures busy makin one inch pipe, which suppliments their income beside their plumbing trade. I have no problrm with steel pipe, it’s more accurate then flimsy tire chains. I’m a little stirred up on this. I think it funnythe round kid calling the punk, ‘boy’ ‘One of my boys,’ could add a slight punch to his idiocy.

    4. Critique

      rle I was hooked right from the start. Frank vented his bottled up frustrations on the bikes – the neighborhood is safer – at least Mrs. Dabner will feel safer knowing Frank is across the street and has her back.

  20. Paint on Parchment

    I miss New York. In New York on a day like today, I would be drinking hot chocolate and painting. But not in Suburbia. Instead, I’m currently shoveling snow off my parents’ driveway in -4º weather.

    My parents decided that the school system was better here. That’s why we moved. But they didn’t consider the homogeny of this godforsaken town. Everyone here is rich and perfectly groomed, and I’m, well… not. Back in New York, I was the head set designer for the theater crew. It didn’t make the best impression when I showed up to school with my tattered blazers and “Down with the Patriarchy” pins. I’ve been told that I look like a liberal Phantom of the Opera. In New York, that would have been a compliment.

    Here, it’s seriously not.

    So here I am, shoveling this annoyingly powdery suburban snow, when I decide that maybe I should take the first snowfall of the year as a chance to reinvent myself. I won’t abandon my pins, but I’ll be a more open person.

    I’ll start by shoveling my neighbor’s driveway. That’s what good neighbors do, right? I think so. In New York, good neighbors didn’t do more than say hi to each other in the elevator.

    I begin systematically digging through the snow and tossing it into a heap. My system works for a few moments until I hear someone call my name. “Lara!”

    Damn. Dennis and his cronies (who I’ve nicknamed Lackey #1 and Lackey #2 solely because I know that neither one knows what “lackey” means) tramp directly through my pile of cleared snow and swagger up to me. I stop shoveling. “What do you want?” I ask. I can feel myself radiating irritation. It’s better than fear.

    Dennis guffaws stupidly. “I was just coming by to say hello, wasn’t I, guys?”

    Lackeys #1 and #2 nod furiously.

    I shrug and return to shoveling. Of course that’s not why he’s here. He’s here for something much less innocent. Sure enough, as soon as I ignore him, he steps uncomfortably close to me. “Hey,” he growls. “I was being polite. And you’re being rude.”

    Shuffling away, I say, “Thanks for informing me. Now, don’t you have some girls to ask out and then dump the day before Homecoming or something?”

    Lackey #1 mutters something to Dennis, who shakes his head. Dennis turns back to me. “That was only once. Or twice. Or more; I don’t care, really.”

    This is a joke. I was that girl. At least, before I knew his reputation. Now I would never go out with him—it isn’t safe.

    Dennis keeps talking. ”But what I was going to tell you, before you were so rude, was that this yard is our turf and you need to leave.”

    “Sorry, no. You don’t live here. I’ll stay,” I tell him. If I’d been halfhearted when I made my original decision to shovel my neighbor’s yard, I’ve abandoned that now. There’s no way I’m backing down.

    He takes a step toward me, menacing. “Listen, slut. You leave when I tell you.”

    Scoop the snow, dump the snow. Scoop the snow, dump the snow. “No thanks.”

    I’ve noticed that Lackey #1 and #2 have started edging away. They never do that. Their job is to support Dennis, no matter how boneheaded he acts. So if they don’t want to be here…

    Abruptly, he lunges at me. “You know what I do to girls like you? Skanks who don’t listen to me?”

    I can feel my throat begin to tense. I’m wavering in between ‘be-a-feminist’ and ‘run-for-my-life.’ I choose ‘feminist.’

    “You do nothing,” I say, making my voice as strong as possible. “You get the hell away from me and you do nothing to girls who are too afraid of you to say anything. You stop being repulsive, you stop raping people—”

    He grabs for my chest.

    I don’t think. I punch him in the nose.

    Then the world is ablaze with color and the red smearing his face is more vivid than artificially flavored ketchup. The Lackeys are fleeing. And I’m marble and I don’t know why but I’m not moving.

    Dennis clutches his nose and moans unintelligibly. Suddenly, I remember how to run and I do, back into my house, neighbor’s driveway still blanketed by snow. But now the snow is swirled with blood and I can’t make it white again.

    1. Penney

      It’s hard to come back to your normal self after standing up to someone and especially winning. It’s a scary feeling. Nice story. Well, put together. I feel for the MC, but she’ll definitely survive not, whatever suburban persona she takes on. Those lackeys will change too, at least 2 out of three aint bad.

    2. Reaper

      Your last bit of dialogue was a bit confusing. It was not bad, just a little confusing and that could have been a nod to the rage talking. Well written and very enjoyable story. The beginning got me and then the very end got me again. I can’t make it white again. That line is just amazing.

    3. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Paint. You portrayed Lara’s mix of fear and anger beautifully. I think Dennis should be very happy he didn’t get a shovel-handle in the sternum, or any part of his lower abdomen (there’s a lot of painful territory down there). As a New York City girl, I’m surprised she didn’t think blood on the ground was just part of the scenery… 😉

  21. Cat Girl

    (Not sure if it loaded the first time)

    Just Another Snow Day

    I made a pouty face. “But it’s cold outside!”
    “Tough. Get it done fast and you can come back in!”
    I glared at my aunt and put on those ugly brown snow shoes. Stomping out the door, I grabbed the dirty shovel off of the wall.
    One shovelful…Two shovelful…Three shovelful…
    “Oof!” I looked over. Ms. Dod, my elderly neighbor, had fallen over in the snow. I rushed over to her and helped her up.
    “Oh, thank you, thank you. I’m fine now,” Ms. Dod wheezed. I felt a rush of pity.
    “Would you like it if I shoveled for you?” I offered, though not especially wanting to.
    “That would be so sweet of you! Thank you! I’ll make some hot cookies for you.”
    “That’s not necessary. I’m not hungry,” I replied. “Just sit and rest.”
    “Well, if you’re sure…”
    “Yes.” I watched her hobble into her house. I felt bad for her; she had no one to care for her, but she refused to move to a nursing home. Her husband died a month ago because of cancer.
    Suddenly, someone shoved me from behind, making me fall into the wet snow. My head shot up, looking for what had pushed me. Four teenagers my age stood behind me, glaring down.
    “What do you want?” I snapped, trying to get up.
    “For a wimp like you to go away!” the leader snickered. “This is our turf.”
    “Uh, technically, this is Ms. Dod’s yard…” I stammered.
    They pushed me back to the ground. “Skat!”
    “Why should I?”
    “Because we said to! You can’t just do whatever you want in our neighborhood. If the old lady wants her driveway done, then she’ll have to pay one of us!”
    “But I –”
    “No buts, just go!”
    “No.”
    “No?” Menace edged the leader’s voice.
    “No. I’m not afraid of you,” I snarled, pushing up angrily. I grabbed the shovel and held it like a baseball bat. They backed away. The leader scowled at me darkly, turned, and strode angrily away. The others followed sulkily.
    I watched with a feeling of triumph as they sulked away.

  22. Stephen S

    (Cool as Ice)

    “Pardon me sir,” A voice said from behind me.

    “Yes,” I replied and kept shoveling the snow.

    “Sir, please turn and face us, so we may speak eye to eye,” another voice said.

    I stood upright with my back to them and stated, “Talking with you is a waste of my breath and I need not to see your eyes to know you are of little worth.”

    “So you know who we are?” the other one asked.

    “Yes I do, as you also know me,” I said.

    “So you don’t live here?” a voice asked.

    “No, but neither do you,” I said still not facing them.

    “Well our living arrangement is not in question. The fact is that you don’t live here and shoveling a driveway that isn’t yours, is in question. Shovel your own driveway if you so desire, but no one else’s, that’s our job,” the other one said.

    “Not today and you may not see it, but we are equals in this situation,” I replied.

    “Are we, now?” another one asked.

    “Yes. We are all trespassers here. What sets us at odds is our intent. Mine is to help a neighbor and yours, well yours is your own and it does not concern me in the least.”

    “It should concern you, sir,” The other said again.

    “It doesn’t. Now be gone with you, go and find someone else that may quiver for your benefit,” I replied.

    “Sir, you misunderstand, it’s not for our benefit that we the do this, no, no. It is for yours, as you are old, weak and only one and we are young, strong and three. So turn and face us so we may speak,” A voice said.

    “We are speaking. Or do mean to speak to me, like you spoke to Jim up the street last week? Is that how you speak? I may be one, but the only weakness, is your estimate of me.” I said.

    “Sir, that was a misunderstanding and you don’t want us to misunderstand you, do you?” One of them asked.

    “There is nothing missed in my understanding. You are the brigands, the bandits, the dog shit.” I turned around slowly holding my shovel in both hands. “And you know what happens to dog shit. It can be left alone to dry up blow away or it can be stepped on and scraped off with a stick.” I tighten the grip on my shovel and continued, “So you little shits, what will it be? Are you going to blow away or do I have to scrape you off?”

    We all faced each other but nothing was said. After a minute of looking at them I said,” Go away, my eyes grow tired of your faces and you are taking up space.” Then I turned my back to them and stood still. Behind me I heard nothing for a moment, and then one by one I heard their foot steps leaving. I went back to shoveling my neighbor’s driveway.

    1. Nicki EagerReader

      An interesting take, Stephen. I liked the style, which for a while had me fooled you’d chosen a medieval setting. But this was even better. The interaction between the MC and the gang was credible, and the post felt the right length for the amount of story you had to tell.
      Only thing that “annoyed” me was the redundancy of “I heard” in the second to last sentence. Suggestion: “I heard nothing behind me for a moment, then, one by one, the sound of their footsteps, fading into silence.”Or something. You get my drift. 😉

      Overall a good job!

    2. cosi van tutte

      I love the dialogue in this one! It’s like reading a play by Shakespeare.

      Only one thing: I think you could have rephrased this line to keep with the tone -> “Go away, my eyes grow tired of your faces and you are taking up space.” The “taking up space” sounds too modern. I don’t know. Maybe change it to something like “Begone with you, ill-bred youths! My eyes grow weary of your faces.” Or something of that sort. 🙂 Just my fifty-five cents.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I also liked the dialogue, in it’s formal manner. The confortation seemed a little stronger because of the formality and the politeness. I wasn’t sure the old man could hold his bliff, I expected him to turn to the riff-raff with some heat in his hand, perhaps a 357 Magnum.

    3. Just JM

      What was interesting to me about this was how you managed to build the tension and conflict despite the fact that the dialogue sounded like an argument between a bunch of attorneys or college professors. 🙂 The MC keeping his back to the interlopers certainly contributed to that, as did the increasingly aggressive language, from “Now be gone with you, go and find someone else that may quiver for your benefit,” to “So you little shits, what will it be? Are you going to blow away or do I have to scrape you off?”

      This was a creative use of the prompt, and well executed.

    4. Reaper

      The focus on dialogue was amazing, as was the dialogue itself. I got the impression of a mafioso and some street toughs coming up do to the formality of the language and the forced politeness, which isn’t far from the nobility things I have seen if this was set in the thirties or forties. The whole thing was somehow strengthened by the lack of visual cues. Very unique and enjoyable.

    5. Observer Tim

      The dialogue style you chose for this was great, Stephen. I’m not sure whether my brain is reading the MC/narrator as a “tramp scholar” or an Oxford-type, or possibly some weird quantum superposition of the two. Overall the effect is wonderful. 🙂

      I only saw one place where the mood seemed to break: the quote beginning “So you little shits, …” My suggested rewrite would be something like, “So, little shits, shall you blow away on your own or must I scrape you off?”

    6. Stephen S

      Thank you for all your comments. I tried to stay away from the thee and thou, but maintain a respectful tone as I increased the menace in the wording. I’m glad it did not seem cliché. All of your comments and suggestions are wonderful and remind me why I write.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      If it makes anyone feel better, the standard (unwritten, of course) rule is no more than 5%-8% of your story should contain passive voice. I abuse myself, though, and usually aim for 0%. They show examples in that text about setting up emphasis, but we’re writers. We can put emphasis on any part of the sentence we want emphasized without breaking a sweat while still avoiding passive voice. That’s what we do best, right? 😉

  23. Kerry Charlton

    A CONTINUATION OF DENTAL DISASTER

    NICK EAGER PART TWO

    Nick and Lola sat through the next hour of the night in quiet conversation.

    “Why didn’t you clue me in?” Nick said. I could have been prepared.”

    “He would have killed you instantly, Hacked off your hand and taken the briefcase. We don’t play by rules, neither do they.”

    “I guess not.”

    “What were your thoughts when most of your command died on the beaches of Tarawa?”

    “You know about that?”

    “Of course, I also know about the Navy Cross. Our job has no glory, no recognition, just complete our mission and survive.”

    “You’re upset, I can understsand.”

    “You don’t, it was you I was worried about, not the kill.”

    “I’m tougher than I look.”

    “Don’t tell me that, you’re mean lookong enough as it is.”

    “Oh yeah, well look at this.” He made a mean looking face.

    “It that Boris Karloff I’m looking at or Peter Lorrie on a bad day?”

    “I give up Lola, tell me a little about yourself.”

    “What you see is an Iowa farm girl from Des Moines. Simple enough. Scholorship to MIT and Harvard.”

    “How did you manage to sleep?”

    “I didn’t sleep for seven years. Anything else you need to know?”

    “How’d you end up in the O. S. S.?”

    “I was working research at MIT under a government, wartime grant and they recruited me.” They went after a lot of us, basketball pros, baseball players, scientiests, and so on. I’m not telling anything else, especially about …….”

    “Men?”

    “Oh, go to sleep, I’m back to mystery woman.”

    Lola closed her eyes and leaned back with a smile that Nick couldn’t see. ‘Why do I feel this way about him, he talks like a brother, but I know better. I can’t let anything happen, it would be disaster for both of us.’

    As the train started to slow on the approach to Chicago, bathed in an early morning light, only NIck was asleep. Lola knew not to let her guard down, there were probably more filtration on the train. And where in hell were her operatives? She decided to take a look, knocked on their compartment door. With no answer she picked the lock.

    Three men lay dead on the floor. ‘Probably poisoned,’ she thought. She closed the door quietly and walked back to Nick,

    “Wake up, we’re leaving right now. Don’t ask.”

    The train decreased more speed as it entered multiple tracks heading in both directions, in and out toward the station.

    “Jump and run.” Lola said. “Now.”

    Nicl landed on his bad leg but quickly rolled and rose to his feet. Trains were coming and going at a furious pace, back and forth but the managed to climb up to a maintenance platform, in front of a large roundhouse full of train engines.

    A foreman wandered over,

    “What are the two of you doing here?”

    “Federal safety inspectors,” Lola said showing a fast glimpse of a card. “We won’t be long.”

    The foreman wandered off with a puzzled look as NIck saw three men racing across the rails toward the platform.

    “Keep this door locked at all time,” Nick said as he slammed it shut. “Safely code 3.24.”

    Pounding started against the door, resounding through the shop.

    “See what I mean?” Nick announced as the two hurried through the maintenance depot to a cat walk spanning the roundhouse turntable. On the other side, a parts supply warehouse led from it’s loading dock to a delivery alley.

    “Close,” Nick said.

    “You bet, we’re taking that car across the alley.”

    “There’s a guy inside.”

    “Not for long.”

    1. Just JM

      Your pacing on this was excellent. There was just enough conversation to convey some backstory and character, and then — BAM — dead bodies in a train compartment, our heroes jumping from the train and then navigating their way through a train hub, which was a wonderful visual. I noticed that you wrote from Lola’s perspective this time, conveying her thoughts instead of Nick’s, which gave her a little less mystery than last time. She seems to have good intentions toward Nick; in the last installment I wasn’t so sure.

      So where’s the snow and the shovel? Just kidding… 🙂 Maybe you could have had them jumping from the train into a snow bank. Can’t wait to find out what happens next!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you JM. The snow prompt is close to the head of the prompt. ‘The Maiden and the Woodsman.’
        About NIck and Lola, you can’t get comfortable wih either MC or the plot, I’m not going to let you.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks, Manwe. There’s more trouble ahead for Nick and Lola in chapter three next week. I’ll keep it going as long as there’s interest in the story, I don’t want to be a pest and take up a lot of space.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thaks Reaper, I’ll post part three on the next along with the final chapter of the ‘Maiden and the Woodsman.’ As fat as Lola, I’m not sure of her either, she is so highly trained, she might flip over to dark in a fire fight. We’ll just have to see.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Kerry. You did a great job keeping the tension going. I loved the way you subtly introduced Lola’s situation with men by her indicating she didn’t want to talk about it (which means she did, if Nick was clever enough to clue in). 😉

      I noted a few rough edges as I went, but that’s reasonable considering the nature of the forum; nothing earth-shattering.

      Now I’m curious about the next part, which I already know is above (way above – I have to stop losing weekends).

    3. Critique

      You’ve kept me on my toes Kerry. Nick and Lola are getting to know each other and romance is in the air, then boom three dead bodies and they have to jump from a moving train. I’m waiting for the next installment 🙂

  24. Observer Tim

    GUTSY

    I was so lost in the act of shoveling that I hadn’t noticed finishing our driveway and working over onto the Andersons’. I also hadn’t noticed them sneaking up behind me. When one of them grabbed my shoulder I whirled and found myself staring into Becky Larson’s pimple-strewn face.

    “What are you doing here, Nelson?”

    I pulled out one earbud. “I’m shoveling snow, freak. What’s it look like?”

    “I don’t mean that. Why are you here?”

    Three more girls moved into position to surround me. Jan Watterson, Sonya Hart and Lanie Schulz. The girl’s geek squad. They were all carrying shovels and dressed for skiing. Being obscured by winter clothes made them look better.

    “Why shouldn’t I be here? I live here.”

    “Then where’s your house?”

    “Right over…” I pointed to the empty field where my house was supposed to be and my jaw dropped. A quick look around confirmed the Andersons’ house, the Feegleman place across the street, and everywhere else was gone. I was shoveling snow in an open field.

    “Okay, Admiral Nelson, now that you’ve opened the eye without the patch, why are you here? This is our planet.”

    “Your planet?”

    “We created it; this whole planet is the property of Gutsy.”

    “What’s gutsy?”

    “The Girl’s Ultra-Technology Club. G-U-T-C: gutsy. Now get your ass back home.”

    “I don’t even know how I got here!”

    “Great. Just great. And if we take you back we have to wait twenty hours for the capacitors to recharge.” She waved vaguely in Jan’s direction. “You think he’s cute, you deal with him. Make sure he doesn’t get in the way.”

    Jan’s eyes popped wide and her face went scarlet as she hissed, “Becks, that was a secret!”

    “You were going to tell him!”

    “I hadn’t done it yet!” She somehow managed to look small. At six-foot four that was hard; she was the tallest kid in junior high but right then she looked like a really embarrassed flagpole.

    I stared into her nonexistent chest, then way up into her eyes. Tears were forming.

    “You really think I’m cute?”

    She turned redder.

    “Come down here, Jan.”

    She got down on her knees, which was an impressive feat of engineering. From that position we were about the same height.

    “I think you’re pretty too.” Okay, pretty like the Space Needle, but she kind of was. Also, she was the first girl who’d ever admitted an interest in me. I pressed my lips lightly against hers.

    “Kissy face! Kissy face!” Sonya and Lanie chanted it in union.

    “Come on you two voyeurs, let’s get to work. Leave the lovebirds be and we’ll mark out the ice castle’s foundation. We want to have a functional shelter in two hours.”

    I let go of Jan’s lips and turned to Becky. “I could help, you know.”

    “I guess. You come over here, then. Jan, you start up the ice shaper.”

    And that’s how I became the only male member of the Girl’s Ultra-Technology Club.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Tim, don’t get me wrong but one word came to me when I read your story “Precious” Your tone was perfect as were your character’s names. “Kissy Face”, I haven’t heard that in long. So many years rolled off and I thought of the first time I played ‘Spin the Bottle’. She was a pretty brunette named Lisa. I think I was twelve [remember my time is different than most.] I named my third daughter Lisa. Another word came to mind, ‘Lovely’.

    2. Just JM

      That was weird but sweet. “Pretty like the Space Needle” made me laugh, probably because I looked kind of like the Space Needle when I was 13. Well, not really, but I think I felt that way. 🙂

      This could be some really fun, funky middle grade fiction. Your voice is perfect for this sort of thing. I think you should expand this and see where it goes!

    3. Manwe38

      Sweet, innocent, and a lot of fun.

      I’m a little surprised a junior high-school kid would have the word ‘voyeur’ in their vocabulary, but it really it.

      Loved ‘kissy-face’ as well.

      You too me back aways with his one…

    4. Reaper

      Very nice Tim. I agree that this reads perfectly in a voice for middle grade fiction. It has exactly the right sweetness and introduces man vs himself in a time when everyone relies a bit too heavily on action for my taste. This was delightful and I can’t say much more that hasn’t already been said.

    5. Critique

      An imaginative tale that I enjoyed reading. Me thinks a lot of kids/geeks would identify with the body issues: flagpole, non existent chest, and short stature – everyone wants to belong and be accepted. I liked the line ‘obscured by winter clothes made them look better’ 🙂

  25. Reaper

    How Come it’s Got so Cold

    Crimson drizzle stained bone white snow with a sizzle of heat only known on the coldest days. Herbert, never Herb, wondered how it had come to this. Was he so old he no longer belonged in the world or was it the thing caged inside of him since ‘Nam? Ah the impatience of youth, from the beginning.

    Damn global whatever the hell, thought Herbert as he shoveled the snow in his driveway. Wasn’t it supposed to be getting towards spring? Sixty-five was too old for such tasks. As he insisted on the truth of such ponderings he looked next door and sighed. The widow Blankenship had over twenty years on him and her driveway needed attention. Clearing it out for her was the Christian thing to do.

    As he dug the first shovel full out three teenagers appeared on the horizon, which with Herbert’s declining vision meant the edge of the property. Looking at them Herbert knew they were trouble. He cringed inwardly as he mourned the decline of society. Who the hell wore their pants down around the knees, especially in a foot of snow? Seeing one of the thugs motioning to him, Herbert walked to the impromptu conference.

    “Pops, we have problem here. This is our territory.” The first boy, probably the leader, with the barrette, or something equally ridiculous sounding, piercing that that looked like a fishhook through his lip.

    “Just being neighborly.” Herbert’s voice was proud and strong in spite of his advancing age and the apocalyptic conditions.

    “Didn’t you hear? This is our turf!” Teen two, with the unsightly black, plastic saucers replacing and extending his earlobes. “That old bat pays us twenty bucks for five minutes work.”

    “Did anyone ever teach you to respect your elders?”

    “I’ll show you respect ya old fuck. Get on inside.” Teen three, the one with no metal but acne that would survive until his thirties on his face. “We’ll be over to shovel your house and get the money in about ten minutes.”

    “Son, I would ask you to watch your language.”

    “That’s it, I warned him. You heard me warn him.”

    Permanent acne swung his shovel at Herbert as the other two nodded with mock sorrow. Herbert was old but these punks weren’t trained. He snatched the handle just below the blade and yanked. His leg came out and with the slipper snow the teen fell onto the wide metal of his shovel with a disturbing crunch of shattering teeth and nose.

    “You boys have aggression but no training, no discipline, and no respect.”

    Stop now, Herbert told himself, before this goes too far. It was too late though. The thing he had caged up since coming home was loose. Besides, saucer ears was advancing.

    Herbert lifted his shovel. With a quick thrust driven by wiry muscles long unused but not forgotten the handle met the boy’s esophagus. The teen went down with a disturbing choking gag as he clutched his throat.

    “We were punks in my day too but we respected age, skill, and service. Things your self-entitled generation does not learn and thus fails to honor.”

    Metal mouth was turning to run but it was too late. Herbert was in another place. The boy was the enemy, Charlie, and he was escaping. Mercy belonged in Korea not Vietnam. Herbert reversed his hold and swung the blade of the shovel at the back of Charlie’s head, connecting with a satisfying thunk that dropped the youth to watery knees and spread crimson through his hair. As Herbert looked at the blood on metal the mist cleared and he returned to the now.

    Crimson drizzle stained bone white snow with a sizzle of heat only known on the coldest days. Herbert wondered if this was what the world had come to. Wondered if this was what he had to become. He looked upon his fallen adversaries and felt ashamed of himself, but not as ashamed as he would if they didn’t deserve it.

    “I’m sorry that had to happen boys. I’ll call an ambulance for you.”

    Herbert turned to make good on the promise. His foot slipped on the unshoveled pink slush and he went down. He heard the telltale snap from his aging hip as he landed.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Never say sorry Reaper, write what you want, as long you want, if you get thrown off the forum, I now have a basket of tricks how to get back on. About the story, the reader is drawn into the “NAM” Hopefully the reader is. This is out of you normal ballywick but is a marvelous piece of essay if I can call it that.

        Descriptions of characters, made the story sing for me. Also your last line is a killer.

    1. Just JM

      There’s nothing to cut here. This is very different for you and yet still somehow distinctively Reaper. The sadness of this piece was wholly contained in the line “Was he so old he no longer belonged in the world or was it the thing caged inside of him since ‘Nam?” You portrayed the turmoil and angst of a generation in a heart-rending way.

      I am very impressed by this different side of your writing. It was very affecting in ways I can’t even completely verbalize, and I think its one of those stories that will stay with me for a while.

      1. Reaper

        JM, you are making me blush. I try to step out of my comfort zone here, and recently I did an author interview that reminded me that I don’t like genres. So I am back to trying to stretch myself. Hopefully I can keep it up. Thank you very much, I know it is not a happy story but I stepped back at the end and went, where the hell did that come from?

      1. Reaper

        It’s funny Reatha, I cut two endings that didn’t fit. At first I was going to have the MC looking down at the boys as they asked him to teach them. Which was going to lead to him telling them that was another form of weakness in them. But that was going to be a Korea vet and when I looked at the years it would have made him just a bit too old for what I wanted and wasn’t quite tragic enough. Then I got to the end and had him telling the boys if they yelled loud enough together that the old lady might hear them and call for an ambulance for all of them. That was just too silly and didn’t really fit the gruff guy he became as I wrote. So I decided to leave it there, at the tragedy point and let the reader decide how it went. I’m glad it had an affect on you.

    2. Manwe38

      Chilling, and excellent descriptive writing.

      You really got me ‘in the moment’ with this one.

      That line about the crimson-on-white, followed bythe snapping hip, just put a nasty image in my mind, which tells me you did an excellent job of pulling me into your MC’s world.

      Well done.

      1. Reaper

        Thank you Manwe38, that means a lot to me. To pull anyone into the world is a wonderful feeling. And to pull you into this one with those descriptions, since I know what you do for a living, is just an amazing compliment.

    3. Observer Tim

      PTSD at its finest! You did an excellent job portraying the situation of a man who went through one of the ugliest wars in western history. I especially love the line, “Mercy belonged in Korea not Vietnam.” That tells the whole story of those two conflicts in just six words. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Tim. I was trying with that one, since I don’t want to be disrespectful to those who served in either of those theaters. I save my judgment for politicians. 🙂 I mentioned above that originally I was going to go with a vet from Korea but he would have been too old. It would have been a very different story if I had though. I watched my dad’s friends who were in country who didn’t actively say they had that, and I watch what my brother goes through from the more recent conflicts and I tried to build the two together. I was worried it would come off disrespectful so what you said makes me very happy.

    4. Dennis

      Great writing with a strong voice. I like how you bookended the story with the same paragraph. I liked all of the commentary of the youth of today. I’m still trying to make sense of it.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Dennis. I’m glad that worked and really liked the voice on this one so I am happy it was strong. I assume you mean trying to make sense of the youth of today, not the commentary. Honestly I think young people today have a lot of good ideas but they also lack a lot of passion and respect that people before them, and before me, had. However I don’t think that comes from any failing in them, I think it comes from what we have failed to impart and pass on.

    5. Critique

      Succinct sad tale without a happy ending. Well done. The line: “Crimson drizzle stained bone white snow with a sizzle of heat only known on the coldest days.” is just fabulous.

  26. PeterW

    Kids arrive on the driveway. With shovels. With scowls and dirty parkas and mug-Irish faces. “Mate,” a short one says, “This is our territory. Put your shovel down.”

    You say, “Just trying to help.”

    The short one says, “No trouble. Shovel down.” You’re holding a plastic shovel. You’re trying to shovel the neighbors drive. “Look kids,” you say, “it you want to shovel this, your welcome too.”

    You are not about to fight a troop of dirty kids. They all had old school unefficient metal shovels. Yours is ergonomical. You watch the kids from your drive, peering over the newly fallen snow, the mounds and tiny landslides of snow spreading on the top of new snow you’ve created, through crisp morning air, and the greyness and whiteness that fills space after a big snow.

    What the f. The kids are swinging their metal shovels. What the f. They are swinging their metal shovels up and down on a dog. “What are you doing?” you scream as you see spouts of red flying over dirty parkas and onto jeans.

    You scream this 5 or so times. Finally the short one turns. He calls nonchalantly, “Stray dog.” Then returns to swinging on the dog.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Peter W, this is short,strong and a disturbing piece of work. Not that it doesn’t happen from the lost generation of boys. It doesn’t need any more words to get the message across. Good job.

    2. Reaper

      That is disturbing and just the perfect length as Kerry said. You have this way with second person that reminds me of choose your own adventure novels until you get to the end when it changes to something else. And I say this as a person who was addicted to those things.

  27. TwistedLyric

    I did go over by about 135 words but I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

    I love the snow. It settles onto the ground in the neatest way, getting deeper and deeper until canyons are formed on the side walk and the street is barely visible from a ground floor window. Snow is the purest form of sweetness to a humans eyes and a pleasant form of frozen liquid to behold.

    There is of course one issue with snow. It covers your driveway and rather irritatingly blocks in your car at the worst imaginable moments. My particular worst imaginable moment was when I woke on the morning of my University interview for Harvard and discovered, with a vague sense of delight, that there had been heavy snowfall overnight. I got dressed, placed the thick sludge I called good coffee into a travel mug and hurried to my car, my car keys dangling from my mouth as I battle my way through snow that reached my thighs with hands full of resumes, grade sheets and a travel mug.

    Upon reaching my vehicle I paled, dropping my keys onto the lid of my travel mug so I could let a spew of my choice cuss words, face quickly becoming flushed with anger and annoyance. I turned and trudged back to my house, mentally calculating how late I would be for my interview. Sighing I shoved my travel mug and papers onto my hall table and stalked to the garage, mobile pressed to my ear.

    “Hello, Harvard information desk. How may I help you?”

    “Hi, I have an interview today for the student selection process but I am going to be running a bit late.” I paused for a second to wrestle with my snow shovel, mentally screaming as my lawnmower cable got stuck around the handle of the snow shovel.

    “I see. Name please?”

    “Jessica Summers.”

    “Alright Jessica, when you show up if you come to the desk and ask for me I can see if the interviewers can fit you in.”

    “Alright, thanks.”

    With that I hung up, finally wrestling my snow shovel free with a triumphant yell. Moving back into my garden I hurried over to the back end of my car, digging in the shovel a bit to vigorously, snow puffing into my face.

    Huffing I wiped the snow away from my eyes only to see several teens from the street standing in front of me. Each was armed with a snow shovel, eager grins on their faces aimed at me and scowls aimed at each other.

    “What?”

    At once each spoke, the same sentence, dripping with helpfulness, coming from their mouths.
    “I’ll shovel you’re driveway.”

    Immediately they turned and began arguing with each other, each one trying to desperately out shout the rest. This continued for several moments, with me watching in amusement mixed with annoyance. Eventually the annoyance won out and I placed two fingers into my mouth, letting a sharp whistle pierce through the air.

    “HEY! I am running late to a very important interview and I need to shovel this quickly. Help or don’t. I don’t care, just get of my driveway!”

    The boys paused, stunned at my anger. However my shouting had worked as they obediently began helping me, occasionally pausing to make quips about each other with slight spite in their tones. And halfway through it began snowing again which started a whole new round of arguments.

    I was 2 hours late for my interview and it is safe to say they will never let me interview again as when I did show up I was covered in snow and wielding a dented snows hovel that had a faint skull shaped indent in the center of it.

    1. Reaper

      Loved the end on this. It put a smile on my face because it is just subtle enough to not be in your face. You seemed to be missing an our or a loose before the spew of curse words. Otherwise the only thing that kept hanging me up was certain repetitions. Mostly it was travel mug and snow shovel. Because they came so close together and so often the travel and snow started to cause a weird bump in the rhythm. Now, with that said it also gave the voice of someone who would be worried about a college interview so it could just be an odd thing for me. Very interesting and well written story.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a very clever story, Lyric. You did a nice job catching the MC’s take-charge attitude and annoyance at the bickering/sniping. 🙂

      Reaper had some good suggestions here; I will add one more. In the last paragraph, you might consider a slightly less awkard “…wielding a shovel with a skull-shaped indent at the center.”

      1. TwistedLyric

        Thank’s Tim, I am glad to see that the annoyance carried across well.

        I will take your’s and reapers suggestions on and definitely watch out for that in the future. 🙂

  28. ray4115

    The dreaded Alberta Clipper swept down through Montana bringing more than three feet of cold white freight and dumping it smack dab on Bob’s street. Bob hauled out the rusted snow blower and battled the drifts a few times over the two days, trying to stay ahead of it. Bob hadn’t seen this much snow in these parts in twenty years. About halfway through Tuesday though, the embattled 1964 John Deere finally coughed out a cog and gave up the ghost.

    Bob knew there was no fixing it. Deere hadn’t made a part for this unit in 25 years. Even if he could get to the dealer in town, which he couldn’t. No way his car was getting through ten miles of drifts even with chains on the tires. Hell, Bob figured, I don’t need chains, I need snowshoes or cross country skis.

    That got him to thinking about Emmett’s snow-mobile. The old man across the street had brought it back from a trip to Quebec a decade or so ago and every now and then he pulled it out, loaded it into the bed of his pickup and hauled it a hundred miles or so to the mountains to go high-watering, or trail marking or some such. Emmet hadn’t used it much since his stroke last spring, but Bob figured it might be OK to take to town and get some supplies. Bob Thought Emmet might need something his own self.

    So Bob grabbed his shovel and started breaking a path to Emmet’s porch door. About halfway up the sidewalk, he heard something behind him and turned around.

    “‘What the hell you think you’re doing Bob?’” Kurt Overholt and Ned Hershiser stood at the end of the shovelled part of the sidewalk. The earflaps on Kurt’s hunter’s cap were askew, Ned’s Carhart canvas coat was half buttoned and by the amount of red in their faces Bob figured Kurt and Ned had been doing some drinking. Not that there was a time when they wasn’t doing some drinking.

    Bob, waved at the porch and said, “Fixin’ to see if Emmet was OK, then borrow his motor-sled and head into town and see about gettin’ someone out here to plow us out. Mebbe bring back some canned goods to see us through.”

    “Well seein’ as we are the appointed Block Watch patrol, Bob, Doncha think that’s something we should be taking care of? Can’t have people zooming all over the roads, getting in the way of official business.” Kurt grabbed at Bob’s shovel.

    Bob moved the shovel a full inch and Kurt missed his grab and stumbled forward, hands outstretched. Bob put his work-boot onto Kurt’s backside a gave a mighty shove. Kurt shot forward and disappeared into the six foot deep drift on Emmett’s lawn.

    Bob glanced at Ned who backed up a step, two bright red spots burning high on his cheeks.
    Bob yelled at the Kurt-shaped hole in the snow.

    “When you get yourself outta there Kurt, you can ask Emmett who he’d rather have lookin’ out for him. The fearless Block Watch or his best friend?” then he continued shovelling his way to Emmett’s porch door.

    1. Just JM

      You really made me dislike Kurt and Ned, more than many of the other villains on this page. Maybe it had something to do with the abuse of “power,” if you consider being on the Block Watch Patrol a form of power, which these two lunkheads obviously do. (Kurt and Ned reminded me a bit of our fearless leaders here in New York, Mayor DiBlasio and Governor Cuomo. A few weeks back during a very modest snowstorm, Kurt and Ned… er, Bill and Andrew decided it was a crime to attempt to drive a car and started slapping people with $300 fines. But that’s another story. 🙂 )

      I liked your “Kurt-shaped hole,” and I liked this story a lot too. NIce job, Ray.

    2. Observer Tim

      You’ve got a great down-home style voice going here, Ray. The scene and the characters all ring true in the Inland Northwest style (or southwest for me, since I’m in Calgary). Wonderful job. I especially like the Kurt-shaped hole in the snow. 🙂 🙂

  29. cosi van tutte

    I couldn’t help myself 😀

    Old Man Jennings had no intention of shoveling anyone else’s driveway. Doing his own was work enough. But that was before Widow Mae Perkins pulled out her duct-taped shovel.

    He stopped and watched her struggle to lift the fluff-heavy load. She made it up to waist level and then the wooden handle snapped in half. The blade fwoomped into the snow. She dropped the remainder of the handle and stood there, wringing her mittened hands.

    “Aww, shucks.” He dragged his shovel over to her driveway. She looked up at him. “Don’t you worry. I’ll take care of this for you.”

    “Are you sure? It’s a lot of snow.”

    “Psh! It’s nothing to a man like me.”

    She smiled.

    “Why, in my day—” He stopped. “It’s cold out here. Go inside and make yourself a cup of hot cocoa.”

    “I’ll make you one as well.”

    “That would be mighty fine of you.” He watched her walk back to her house. As soon as she went inside and closed the door, he declared, “I am an idiot. I should have said better stuff than that. I should have told her…” He pulled his muffler over his nose. “Well. No sense in standing here, talking to myself. This stuff won’t shovel itself.” He pulled her broken shovel out of the snow and, not knowing what else to do with it, tossed it into her yard. It didn’t go very far, but at least it was out of his way.

    “All right. Here I go.” He dug his shovel into the snow.

    “Hold it, Mr. Jennings.” A collection of white threads latched onto his shovel and whisked it out of his hands.

    Old Man Jennings frowned at the interloper, a short, skinny teenager dressed in a red and blue costume. His face was covered with a mask made out of the same material. “A man your age shouldn’t do hard work like this. Leave it to me, your friendly neighborhood web-slinger.”

    “I can handle this.”

    A dark-haired man in red and blue spandex landed next to the kid. “No. I can handle this.” He looked like he could beat junior fifteen days into next week. He smiled a very white smile. “I will freeze the snow into a solid mass. Then, I will pick the whole thing up and fly it to the middle of the Sahara. It will melt and—”

    “I don’t want your help.”

    Red and blue teenager took that as his cue. He dug into the snow, whistling ‘A Happy Working Song’.

    Old Man Jennings snatched his shovel back. “And I don’t need your help either. Go away! Both of you!”

    Red and blue spandex looked puzzled. “But helping old folks like you—”

    “And don’t you call me old folks! I may not be a spry thing like you and your skinny twin, but I am not an old folk.”

    “But it’s our job to help people.”

    He was all set to smack both of them with his shovel, but then inspiration hit him. “Fine. If you want to help poor, decrepit old me all that much, you can shovel my driveway.”

    The two red and blues high-fived each other.

    “Just let me take care of this one.”

    “You got a deal, Mr. Jennings.” said red and blue teenager.

    Old Man Jennings watched them run over to his driveway. He smiled and resumed his shoveling.

    1. JRSimmang

      I second Penny’s assessment. If this is a real superhero story, I’d love to see where the two spandexed heroes go on to do! The MC’s consciousness and dialogue are insightful, revealing his character. Plus, his sensitivity pairs well with the lack of common sense displayed by the teens. This was fun.

    2. Nicki EagerReader

      LOVELY! An endearing tale plus TWO whole superheroes! Whopee! 🙂 Maybe I’m simple-minded, but you can’t fathom how much happiness this story just brought into my life. Thanks a lot!

    3. Just JM

      This had a folksy charm to it, as much of your writing does. I loved that old man Jennings was trying to impress the Widow Perkins, and how he turned the whole goofy situation to his advantage. I also love the word “fwoomped.”

      Now where are those two webslingers when I need them? It’s snowing like crazy out there.

      1. cosi van tutte

        Hey, JM!

        Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

        I’ve been thinking about doing another Edwin and RDJ story. I’m just waiting for the right prompt. 😀

    4. Reaper

      Not only was this amazingly sweet, it was a great story because often with superhero stories the super is more important than the hero. You went the other way to amazing effect. Nicely done.

    5. Observer Tim

      This is priceless, Cosi. Despite growing up seeing a man who could lift a cruise ship arrive and help get cats out of trees, this never donned on me. Brilliance is writing something that makes people say, “why didn’t I think of that?” That makes this brilliant. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  30. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Girl’s Cousin

    I hate Wyoming, hate snow. Dad’s from Florida, won’t say why he left, says things like, “The 30s was bad for the family.” I know I got a grandmother, an Aunt Myrtis, and a girl cousin my age.

    Today I hate Wyoming because I’ve got to shovel our sidewalk, plus Mrs. Taylor’s. I don’t mind, just don’t like being told what to do. She’s a nice lady, has baked me cookies almost every week since Mom left. Dad won’t talk about that either. When I asked if she went to Florida, he laughed like it’s not funny, and said, “Ain’t hardly likely.” I love Dad, but wish he didn’t sound like The Real Mccoys. Dad’s smart, but the way he talks…

    I was thinking about snow and Florida so didn’t notice anything until,

    “Well, if it ain’t Dummy,” I’d know Butch Koltiska’s voice anyplace, thinks he’s a hotshot because he can score touchdowns at every game. He’s not that good, just bigger, because he’s older than any player in the state. If Butch is behind me so is Duffy Legerski. I don’t talk much in school, don’t need to, I learn more by listening. Butch thinks it’s funny to call me Dummy.

    “Dummy, me and Duffy got a business going. We’re gonna shovel sidewalks on this street and people are gonna pay us.”

    “Yeah, and if they don’t pay Butch, he’s gonna break windows.”

    “Duffy, shut up!”

    “Oh, sorry.”

    “Well, most everybody shovels their own walks and I do Mrs. Taylor’s.” I went back to shoveling, but Butch came up behind me and pushed me into the snow.

    “Dummy, better stay down, don’t make me hurt ya.”

    “Yeah, don’t make Butch hurt ya. Dummy is dumb ’cause he’s got extra teeth.” And, they both laughed.

    Dad’s told me since I was little don’t get really mad, but this was different. I’d been teased about my teeth since third grade, one teacher said they should be taken out, but Dad just said, “You ain’t never gonna understand.” I was proud of my extra teeth, even when Dad would catch me smiling in the mirror and say things like, “Iffen I hadn’t seen it…” and shake his head.

    Now, Butch and Duffy, the stupidest boys in town were on my street, making fun of my teeth.

    “Apologize,” I said as stood up and brushed off the snow. “Apologize and leave.” But, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I could feel the bubbling inside. Behind Butch I saw the red fog coming up fast. “Will you please apologize?” Butch just laughed and was still laughing when he and Duffy sort of melted into the red.

    I hurried to finish shoveling, it was getting colder, if that was possible. As I took off my boots by the back door Dad called from the basement. “What was that commotion I heared?”

    “Nothing, Dad,” I really wish he wouldn’t talk like that. “Just boys making fun of my teeth.”

    “That’s what I figgered.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Great dialogue, Reatha. The actions of the characters is only amplified by it. It gets creepy there to the end, and I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I’m not complaining. Thoroughly entertaining.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks. For the Ghost Hunter prompt, I found a girl who sees haints. Last week she was back with two extra teeth. This is her cousin. Who knows what will happen next week. Stay tuned!

    2. cosi van tutte

      You know what they say – Watch out for the quiet ones. 🙂

      But seriously, this was an excellent story. It had great characterization, great dialogue, and an awesome ending. And just so you know, I loved this exchange:
      “Yeah, and if they don’t pay Butch, he’s gonna break windows.”
      “Duffy, shut up!”
      “Oh, sorry.”

      😀

    3. TwistedLyric

      This flowed really well. A intriguing piece of writing that helped you connect with the character. I love creepy stories so the ending was perfect. 🙂

    4. Reaper

      Very good! I echo everything said here so far. As I was reading I was thinking, this is the origin of the story we have been reading. Then I thought, nope, this is a different girl but the powers come from the same place. I became convinced she was family to your other character and then that she was the antagonist in that continuing story. You keep me guessing and as always I love the voice.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, Reaper, and everyone. You are correct. This is the Wyoming branch of the same family I’ve put in Florida. I’ve set myself a task of just using this family in every prompt AND keeping it to 500 words. We’ll see how that goes. I love challenges, but some keep me very busy. I’m currently directing a play with a cast of 20, plus keeping up with some writing, so I’m tardy with comments on other stories. Thank you again. Oh, I tried to make this MC a boy, but perhaps that wasn’t clear.

    5. Just JM

      Hi Reatha, I’ve been slacking for a bit, so I’m not sure what the red cloud is, but it is certainly creepy, and now I want to go back and read your responses that I missed. I agree that your characters and their dialogue and monologue are wonderful. I really liked this line: “When I asked if she went to Florida, he laughed like it’s not funny, and said, “Ain’t hardly likely.” I love Dad, but wish he didn’t sound like The Real Mccoys. ” I also love that you are writing all your prompt responses about the same family, so there’s some continuity and history. Great idea, and great writing.

    6. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Reatha. I can see the connection with the Florida branch of the family. You do a great job with the dialogue, succeeding at both its primary goals (to build understanding of the character and to move the plot along). The extra teeth is an interesting connection point. 🙂 🙂

    7. Dennis

      Nice story. Not only did I like the dialogue but also the MC narration. It really depicts how a kid might think, almost non-stop, barely catching his breath before the next thought pops in.

  31. JRSimmang

    RAPID HUSH

    The world’s different now. It used to be snow that fell from the sky.

    Now, it’s the cremated remains of the lost cities.

    It drifts in enormous clouds that conceal the sky for days, then it lands on us. Who wants to inhale the femur of his neighbor? Not I.

    Morning, what I can only surmise is Friday the 18th. I find a vacant house, abandoned by a family of six, judging by the left behind pictures. A desiccated dog corpse is chained to the withering tree in the front yard. Vultures. Or The Lost.

    My psychologist told me, before the Rapid Hush, that in order to move on with one’s life, one must assume routines to create a sense of normalcy. If I’m going to rebuild, I have to start somewhere.

    The front door to the house is locked, so I go around to the backyard. A nice toolshed, probably purchased prefab from the House Station, stands erect and proud in the northwest corner. This family was successful; it’s a shame they are no longer here. They seem nice. I am transfixed by their ghosts sitting around the rusted and broken lawn furniture, laughing at something the son had said, the dog running after his tail. The sky would have been crystal clear that day, the sun coming from all directions at once. Now… Now it’s a shade of red that makes me want to kill something, but there’s nothing left alive. I realize I had been standing, not moving, for several minutes, lost in their moment. I must move.

    The sliding French doors are shattered, a sign that someone has been here before, and perhaps is still lurking in the distant corners of the modern split-level. I decide I have to take my chances. Another storm is coming.

    Inside, the house smells like her perfume, his aftershave, and the kid’s abundant energy. I turn a couch back over in the living room, and sit on it, staring at the spot that would have carried the television. The wind whistles through the open windows and stirs the thin layer of ash on the floor, and I can swear for just this moment, I can see them running through the house.

    I fall asleep for just a moment.

    She’s back, this time in her orange and yellow sundress. Her name is Amelia, and we’ve never met before today, but we made love under the birch trees that afternoon. I chase her through the park; she had just taken off with my George R Stewart novel, which I had resting on my lap. We weave through the throngs of people just off for their lunch breaks, and she laughs, and I laugh, and I continue to only catch glimpses of orange and yellow dress through the sunlight, as if she’s suddenly made of gold, and I am Hercules, pursuing my immortality.

    We finally entangle ourselves into a glorious mess, and tumble down an infinite chasm of purples and auburns and breathlessness.

    Then the thunder shattered the space between my ears, and I immediately jolt off of the couch. She haunts my dreams, and I eagerly anticipate slumber.

    I recall the advice of my psychologist, and I gather up the things I need. Outside, the driveway is covered in ash, snow, the remains of our neighbors, and the memory of helping my father during the winter days in Minnesota. I decide to shovel like he taught me.

    It’s rust colored, the sky, and the wind is more forceful. The storm will overtake the house, but I cannot leave the driveway as it is. This is where I must rebuild.

    Outside, in the toolshed, a shovel sits propped up against the wall. It’s been hardly used, and it will do just fine. My shirt whips around my torso as I march to the front yard.

    Shovel in hand, I scrape along the driveway, a gravelly wail trailing the edge as I scoop my first shovel-full. And I see them.

    Their eyes glow an incessant red, permeating and desperate. Then, their sounds. Chain and smoke, a gagging snarling, bubbling breathing. The first ones appear in the house across the street. The next one’s over the fence, and the rest down the street.

    I put my shovel to the driveway again, pushing another pile of ash onto the head of the shovel, screeeank. I look up, and three have pushed themselves closer, the storm causing their chains to clank together, their ropes to twist in turmoil.

    I hear their collective susurrus, spat out from between missing teeth and bleeding gums. I shovel again. And again. And again.

    A tire flies through the air, followed by the truck. The storm is upon us.

    They turn their heads toward the howling thunder and lightning, intensified by the infusion of rust and lye. One looks back at me. The others run.

    I breathe in heavily, relying on my father. Clank. Scrawwwwk. Floosh.

    Clank. Scrawwwwk. Floosh.

    Clank. Scrawwwwk.

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      So, so, so much in this piece! It reminds me of old radio dramas we listen to as we travel, a future world where everything makes sense to the MC, and the listener is slowly pulled into that world. I keep reading it and find something new each time. Great.

    2. TwistedLyric

      This is a truly amazing piece of writing. The whole way through their is a consistency you rarely see with pieces like these and it made the whole story even better. There are so many awesome lines in this I can’t pick one out so overall and amazing piece! 🙂

    3. Observer Tim

      This is grim: intense, entertaining and suspenseful, but mainly grim. 🙂

      I am left wondering what happened to the water cycle. It seems like months or years since the Rapid Hush; rain should have turned most of that dust to mud by now, or incorporated it into the topsoil. But that could also be me.

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        That’s what I always wonder. Just like, What kind of chemical or virus could possibly turn us into zombies? How would it affect us on the biomolecular level without blowing all the other essential brain functions to bits? But I guess these musings fall into the same category as the question whether Galadriel or Voldemort ever suffered from indigestion- valid arguments, but for narration’s sake best overlooked 😉 .

        1. JRSimmang

          I’d like to think of zombie-ism (sp?) as self-inflicted, a metaphor for hive mentality and loss of individuality. If a massive virus were to sweep across the nation, it would decimate the ones susceptible, leaving the others to obsess over it, eventually being blinded by a need to belong. However, voodoo would do the trick just fine…

      2. JRSimmang

        OT, thanks for the feedback. I’m envisioning panhandle Texas, 1936 conditions, Dust Bowl. Were an extreme drought to begin, then filter out to the entire nation, or even expand out to affect the entire world, what would be the ramifications? As for the time… I admit, I hadn’t thought that far in advance, but it’s something I’ll consider. As always, I value your insight.

    4. Nicki EagerReader

      Great take, JR. I usually keep my distance to postapocalyptic worlds populated by humans-turned-zombie because -the scenario is just so hackneyed- but you created an atmosphere so dense that the backstory didn’t matter; I was riveted by your MC and her/his thoughts alone. Possibly you could tweak the middle bit with the reflection on the family and the dream figure of Amalia (“I am Hercules, pursuing my immortality”- top!) a liiiittle shorter, but otherwise this felt just the right length. Well done!

      1. JRSimmang

        Thanks, Nicki! To be honest with you, I hadn’t thought about zombies! I was aiming more toward a severely dehydrated- psychotic- Tuskan raider- type- person. Regardless, Your criticism is greatly appreciated. I’m thinking of expanding this one into a novella. I agree, the story of Amelia needs to be investigated.

    5. Just JM

      This is so incredibly multi-layered and finely crafted. I am in awe. The MC’s musings about, and growing affection for, the family that once occupied the house were bittersweet and touching. His memories of his conversations with his therapist and his attempts to deal with his own grief were very telling details. So much going on. The dream about the girl was a little confusing, but hinted at a much larger story. I just can’t believe how much you created here in this short space and in a prompt about shoveling snow. Fantastic!

    6. Reaper

      Everybody has covered most of what I was thinking. This is amazing. The imagery and the deep back story are delicious. The bit in the flashback was kind of confusing because of the rapidly changing tense but even that lent itself to the idea that it was a dream so it was good there. Your opening was an amazing hook and the dream felt a little out of place but only because this is a short. As an intro to something longer it seems like foreshadowing to the fact that he is going to meet her again. This is just so readable and deep and wonderful.

  32. Pete

    I’d just finished up my driveway. Clean, precise scrapes, not one of those patchy hack jobs like across the street. I was just about to spread the salt when I looked over at the Flemming’s driveway.

    What the hell.

    He was a few years older than I was, and a fellow vet, so I tried to look out for him. I dug in, nice, solid shovelfuls of Minnesota gold. I thought about those local news segments you see, about people’s tickers giving out on them right there in the driveway. After what I’d been through that would be something, to just give out right there. That’s what was running through my head when I heard a voice that sounded like one of my ex-wives’.

    “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”

    The pudgy short one did the talking. I wasn’t in the mood. “I’m baking a cake, morons. Now get over here and be useful.”

    “That’s not how it works, old man. Mr. Flemming didn’t pay up.”

    I sat my shovel on the drive and took a rest, scanning this little suburban outfit. All of them wore the same clothes, the same boots, and the same smug expressions on their rosy little faces. I’ll bet there mothers thought they were little snowflakes, but too much of that rap music had turned them brash. I tried to reason with them, motioning towards the street. “So what gives, you trying to make some cash?”

    “Now you’re getting it, Pops,” said the ringleader, a chubby little sort who hadn’t seen tit since his mama’s. He glanced over at my driveway. “And you know what? You didn’t pay up either.”

    “You’re Grabowski’s kid, aren’t you?” I said to the ringleader. “What, ya think because you grew some pubes you can muscle your way around?” I didn’t go to Vietnam and get my ass riddled with Agent Orange just to take shit from fucking Brian Grabowski’s kid. “Look kid, just head up the road and enjoy your day off, okay?”

    Wouldn’t you know it they marched right over to my driveway and started shoveling snow onto the pavement. Now, as far as I knew the local news hadn’t said a damned thing about kicking some mouthy kid’s ass being bad for your ticker. I gripped the shovel, ready for whatever.
    And that’s when Mr. Flemming’s door opened.

    He stood there, his bathrobe open to the world, exposing his flabby manboobs while his fraying kiss-me-I’m-Irish boxer shorts gaped dangerously close to unFlemming themselves right there in the winter wind. “It’s taken care of,” he warbled. I just nodded.

    The kids laughed and pointed at the old sergeant, getting back to filling in my driveway. I waited, holding back the urge to go run over there and start swinging. But then I heard it.

    A shiny Lincoln clambered down the road, its chains catching the ice as it dug to a stop.

    I looked at Flemming, who winked and in that cigar smoking rasp said, “This ends now.”

    The Lincoln’s doors swung open. Sinatra poured into the night. Charlie Manning eased out of the passenger side with a seven iron. Behind the Lincoln was a Cadillac, a couple of Oldsmobile’s, Benny Waltonberg’s 68 Ford Galaxie. The whole gang was there. Ralph, Eugene, Johnny, even Earl hobbled out, his walker gliding across the ice. Moose Lodge 754 in all its glory.

    The twerps weren’t smiling then, and they knew they’d overplayed their hand. A gang is only big and bad until something bigger and badder came along. And what happened next is only discussed inside Lodge 754.

    1. JRSimmang

      “UnFlemming.”
      ‘Nuff said.
      Pete, this was enjoyable, transporting me to a time of cheap booze and fast cars, and what the world had wrought upon it. Solid character development for the MC and Mr Flemming, and I think the hoodlums are excellent caricatures of the MC’s mentality. Nicely done.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      This was one I wanted to come back to when I had more time. I so enjoyed everything about it, the descriptions, the great, totally believable dialogue, the way it all worked out for everyone! I just wrote a semi-rant to a restaurant chain, only the second I’ve ever written, about poor food and service we received, but also about how an older woman, eating alone, was virtually ignored from the time she was seated until she left. She could have used the guys from the Lodge yesterday and so could the waitress!

  33. Pete

    I’d just finished up my driveway. Clean, precise scrapes, not one of those patchy hack jobs like across the street. I was just about to spread the salt when I looked over at the Flemming’s driveway.

    What the hell.

    He was a few years older than I was, and a fellow vet, so I tried to look out for him. I dug in, nice, solid shovelfuls of Minnesota gold. I thought about those local news segments you see, about people’s tickers giving out on them right there in the driveway. After what I’d been through that would be something, to just give out right there. That’s what was running through my head when I heard a voice that sounded like one of my ex-wives’.

    “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”

    The pudgy short one did the talking. I wasn’t in the mood. “I’m baking a cake, morons. Now get over here and be useful.”

    “That’s not how it works, old man. Mr. Flemming didn’t pay up.”

    I sat my shovel on the drive and took a rest, scanning this little suburban outfit. All of them wore the same clothes, the same boots, and the same smug expressions on their rosy little faces. I’ll bet there mothers thought they were little snowflakes, but too much of that rap music had made tturned brash. I tried to reason with them, motioning towards the street. “So what gives, you trying to make some cash?”

    “Now you’re getting it, Pops,” said the ringleader, a chubby little sort who hadn’t seen tit since his mama’s. He glanced over at my driveway. “And you know what? You didn’t pay up either.”

    “You’re Grabowski’s kid, aren’t you?” I said to the ringleader. “What, ya think because you grew some pubes you can muscle your way around?” I didn’t go to Vietnam and get my ass riddled with Agent Orange just to take shit from fucking Brian Grabowski’s kid. “Look kid, just head up the road and enjoy your day off, okay?”

    Wouldn’t you know it they marched right over to my driveway and started shoveling snow onto the pavement. Now, as far as I knew the local news hadn’t said a damned thing about kicking some mouthy kid’s ass being bad for your ticker. I gripped the shovel, ready for whatever.
    And that’s when Mr. Flemming’s door opened.

    He stood there, his bathrobe open to the world, exposing his flabby tits. His fraying kiss-me-I’m-Irish boxer shorts were dangerously close to unFlemming themselves right there in the winter wind. “It’s taken care of,” he warbled. I just nodded.

    The kids laughed and pointed at the old sergeant, getting back to filling in my driveway. I waited, holding back the urge to go run over there and start swinging. But then I heard it.

    A shiny Lincoln clambered down the road, its chains catching the ice as it dug to a stop.

    I looked at Flemming, who winked and in that cigar smoking rasp said, “This ends now.”

    The Lincoln’s doors swung open. Sinatra poured into the night. Charlie Manning eased out of the passenger side with a seven iron. Behind the Lincoln was a Cadillac, a couple of Oldsmobile’s, Benny Waltonberg’s 68 Ford Galaxie. The whole gang was there. Ralph, Eugene, Johnny, even Earl hobbled out, his walker gliding across the ice. Moose Lodge 754 in all its glory.

    The twerps weren’t smiling then, and they knew they’d overplayed their hand. A gang is only big and bad until something bigger and badder came along. And what happened next is only discussed inside Lodge 754.

    1. Observer Tim

      Lovely story, Pete. You included a lot of really great images, and it’s nice to see everything worked out. I’m guessing most of what happened involved kids soiling themselves and running for the hills; otherwise the next place it would be discussed is down at Precinct 22. 😉

      My red pencil caught a number of things like a there/their confusion and similar. The two that actually hit me were these ones, though.

      1. I set my shovel… (not sat, unless the shovel is doing the sitting).
      2. Oldsmobiles (Oldsmobile is not an acronym).

  34. Amyithist

    ***Sorry, this is long. I appreciate those who take the time to read it. I’m considering making this my newest novel… let me know what you think. Thank you!***

    It was freezing outside and despite my attempt to dress properly; I could feel the full brunt of the frigid temperatures. I grabbed my shovel and set to work, pleased that I had finished shoveling my drive in relatively good time. With my blood pumping and my muscles completely numb to whatever pain I should have been feeling, I decided to shovel my neighbor’s drive, too.

    I hadn’t seen Paul in weeks and I wasn’t sure how he was holding up; despite several attempts to make contact with him. I set to work, getting a few feet in before I heard footsteps crunching over the snow. “What the hell are you doing, bitch?”

    Stunned by the severity of the language, I glanced up, brushing my long brown locks from my face. I immediately felt a tinge of fear race over me as I noticed four teenage boys with shovels of their own standing a few feet away. I stood to my full height, but they still towered over me. Since when were young boys over six feet tall?

    “I-I’m shoveling my neighbor’s drive,” I stammered.

    “That’s our drive,” one boy spat. “That asshole is going to pay us twenty a piece to get that shit outta the way.”

    I blinked for a moment. I couldn’t imagine Paul offering these punks anything. “He said that?” I asked, looking toward Paul’s door. I noticed the blinds were moving and I found myself hoping he’d come out soon.

    “You fuckin’ deaf, ho?” One of the boys stepped forward, jutting his chest out a little.

    I swallowed and tightened my grip on the shovel. “I didn’t know,” I replied. “I was just trying to help him out.”

    “Well don’t. We got dibs on this drive and every other drive on this block. So take your ass back over there,” a boy with tufts of black hair hissed.

    “You know, she ain’t too bad looking.” One of them stated. He had a gold hoop earring and bright blue puffy coat. He stepped toward me, a thin, suggestive smile crossing his face.

    I felt my insides begin to curl. “I’ll, uh, leave you boys to it, then,” I said, waiving my hand. I started to turn when one of them grabbed my wrist and pulled me back.

    “What’s your rush,” he cooed. His eyes flashed with something primal and I found myself suddenly very afraid for my safety.

    “Please,” I started. But that only prompted chuckles.

    “She’s asking nicely, Evan,” the blue coat sneered. “You really shouldn’t tease the bitch.”

    “Who’s teasing?” Evan glowered. He grabbed me by my waist and I was suddenly being drug back to my own house. I didn’t have anyone there to rescue me. I was alone and, up until this very moment, that was the way I liked my life. Solitary. Quiet…

    I tried to scream but a gloved hand clamped down over my mouth, quickly stifling my plea for help. The other boys followed Evan inside. The door slammed behind us and Evan shoved me to the ground. I grunted as my body collided with the floor.

    “Undress you stupid whore!” A boy in a camouflage coat bellowed at me. His skin was dotted with teenage acne and his hair stuck out from beneath a black beanie hat.

    Trembling, I scrambled to my feet, too afraid not to oblige their commands. I made certain my movements were slow. Once my jacket was off, the boys became incensed. Hands flew over me, ripping and clawing. I screamed and made a meager attempt at self-defense.

    Camouflage grabbed my wrists. Blue held my right leg while the other, a boy in a bright orange windbreaker, held my left. Evan grinned down at me and I couldn’t help but wonder how many times they’d done this before. Their actions were far too calculated and organized for this to be mere opportunity.

    “Don’t do this!” I pleaded again.

    “Shut the hell up,” Evan seethed. He slapped me. Hard.

    Dizzy and suddenly unable to see from my left eye, I felt my last stitch of clothing being yanked from my body. I’d just set out to help a neighbor and minutes later I faced rape and…what then? A terrifying thought entered my mind. Was I going to be killed, too?

    Suddenly, there was a noise from the back. The boys seemed to be lost in their efforts to violate me and hadn’t noticed. I recognized the sound of my French doors groaning open…then, heavy, stealthy footsteps thudding over the hardwood flooring. Please God, I prayed. Please let this be someone to help me!

    The next few moments were a blur to me. I heard more than I saw; an animalistic growl, a frightened cry, a deeply unnerving sound of flesh being torn apart… The hands lifted from me. I scrambled against the foyer’s closet door and reached up, grasping the knob as though it were going to save my life.

    It was then that I saw something…something that haunts me to this very day. The boys were lying in heaps only feet from me. Blood oozed from deep gashes. None of them moved. And standing over them, his chest heaving and his eyes glowing yellow, was Paul.

    His muscular body was covered with hair. His teeth were long and canine-like and his hands bore long, sharp claws. I gasped at the sight and drew my legs into my chest.

    Paul turned, his eyes raking over me. He stood there, watching me for a long while. Slowly, his breathing leveled and he began to transform… The hair thinned. The teeth retracted. The fingers rounded. The animal was suddenly replaced with the man I had come to know. My neighbor. Paul.

    “Are you okay?” He asked. His voice was low and deep and his dark brown eyes were wild with concern.

    So this was the secret he’d been hiding this whole time! I knew there was something off about him but I’d never been able to put my finger on it! I nodded slowly, grabbing my coat and holding it against myself. “Paul…you’re a…”

    His face softened and he hurried over to me. His hands were surprisingly gentle as he touched at my swollen eye. “Yes, Katie,” he whispered. “I’m a werewolf. But…that has to be our secret, okay?”

    I stared at him as he scooped me into his arms. His body was hot. He felt as though he were running about 105 degrees. I relaxed against him as he carried me up to my bedroom. Imagine that, I thought as he laid me in my bed. Paul. A werewolf…

    1. Cceynowa

      Oh my… this has potential for a steamy winter’s romance…. Who needs snow shovels when you can melt the snow, ah, other ways? Nicely written and full of potential. Well done.

    2. JRSimmang

      I agree with CC. There’s potential here: a city-dwelling, paladin werewolf in the middle of winter. There are great images and description of action. I do wonder, with the care that Paul exhibited at the end, if, after reflection, his turning into a werewolf would have haunted the MC, or if she would look back on the instance with wonder. It almost seemed as if the occurrence was just a little off-putting. Perhaps, the MC has had a close-call with Paul before and didn’t realize it.

      At any rate, this is a rapid, tight piece that could certainly be taken elsewhere!

    3. Observer Tim

      You had me at werewolf. 🙂 🙂

      This is a pretty intense, Amyithist. The savagery of the human boys makes an interesting counterpoint to the gentility (only off-screen violence) of the werewolf. I get the impression the MC is in mild shock for at least part of the last paragraph.

      This could go in a number of directions; it will be interesting to see where you take it.

    4. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      [It was freezing outside and despite my attempt to dress properly; I could feel the full brunt of the frigid temperatures. I grabbed my shovel and set to work, pleased that I had finished shoveling my drive in relatively good time. With my blood pumping and my muscles completely numb to whatever pain I should have been feeling, I decided to shovel my neighbor’s drive, too.]

      —> The most common mistake with semicolons is when people split a sentence in half. So, was it freezing outside despite the MC’s attempt to dress properly or despite the MCs attempt to dress properly[,] she or he could feel the full brunt of the frigid temperature?

      —> That’s the first time I heard anyone use drive as a noun short for driveway. I’ll be honest, I had to stop and look that one up because it stuck out a little too much. To be honest, though, I kind of like it. 🙂

      [I hadn’t seen Paul in weeks and I wasn’t sure how he was holding up; despite several attempts to make contact with him. I set to work, getting a few feet in before I heard footsteps crunching over the snow. “What the hell are you doing, bitch?”]

      —> You probably want to put a comma after weeks unless you remove the second “I” in that sentence so the second part of it is in reference to the original object. “I hadn’t seen Paul in weeks and wasn’t sure how he was holding up.” Again, the semicolon is misplaced. Remove that ugly thing. “I hadn’t seen Paul in weeks, and I wasn’t sure how he was holding up despite several attempts to contact him.” Also, “make contact with” is too wordy.

      [Stunned by the severity of the language, I glanced up, brushing my long brown locks from my face. I immediately felt a tinge of fear race over me as I noticed four teenage boys with shovels of their own standing a few feet away. I stood to my full height, but they still towered over me. Since when were young boys over six feet tall?]

      —> I once read an article about how first person MC’s describing themselves comes off as narcissistic (except when it’s self-deprecating). I guess if they look in the mirror, that’s a little different, too. However, suppose I’m sitting in front of you and telling you the story in person, and I said, “I wink my gorgeous blue eye at her and whipped my long black sexy hair over my shoulder.” then it would come off as, you know, weird. I’m not saying you can’t do it, because in cases where the MC is narcissistic, then it makes perfect sense. Just a thought. I don’t know about you, but I would hate to listen to a story told by Regina George. 😉 haha

      [“I-I’m shoveling my neighbor’s drive,” I stammered.]

      [“That’s our drive,” one boy spat. “That asshole is going to pay us twenty a piece to get that shit outta the way.”]

      —> I really like your dialog. You’re very smooth and fluid. I can fully imagine the characters saying this.

      [I blinked for a moment. I couldn’t imagine Paul offering these punks anything. “He said that?” I asked, looking toward Paul’s door. I noticed the blinds were moving and I found myself hoping he’d come out soon.]

      [“You fuckin’ deaf, ho?” One of the boys stepped forward, jutting his chest out a little.]

      [I swallowed and tightened my grip on the shovel. “I didn’t know,” I replied. “I was just trying to help him out.”]

      [“Well don’t. We got dibs on this drive and every other drive on this block. So take your ass back over there,” a boy with tufts of black hair hissed.]

      —> Still loving your dialog! One question, though. Where are all these tufts of hair? Coming out of his ears? His nose? Does he have little furballs sprouting across his skin like some kind of rare disease? Do tufts of hair mottle his chin like a patchy beard?

      [“You know, she ain’t too bad looking.” One of them stated. He had a gold hoop earring and bright blue puffy coat. He stepped toward me, a thin, suggestive smile crossing his face.]

      —> This is just personal taste, but a few gerunds are okay, but using them excessively bugs me. haha “He stepped toward me with a thin, suggestive smile crossing his face.”

      [I felt my insides begin to curl. “I’ll, uh, leave you boys to it, then,” I said, waiving my hand. I started to turn when one of them grabbed my wrist and pulled me back.]

      [“What’s your rush,” he cooed. His eyes flashed with something primal and I found myself suddenly very afraid for my safety.]

      —> “I suddenly found myself very afraid for my safety.” Oh, Amy. I’ve seen you write better suspense than that! 🙂 “His eyes flashed with something primal, dangerous even. Fear reached deep, caressing my soul with its steely fingers. This boy had something planned for me, and I couldn’t stop imagining all the filthy things he might do to me. I jerked my arm, but he clutched it far too tight in his first.” …or something like that.

      [“Please,” I started. But that only prompted chuckles.

      [“She’s asking nicely, Evan,” the blue coat sneered. “You really shouldn’t tease the bitch.”]

      —> I love it when unknown characters don’t have names! 😀 “Blue Coat sneered.” I get the feeling you should capitalize it, but I actually have no idea. I’ll have to look into this some time.

      [“Who’s teasing?” Evan glowered. He grabbed me by my waist and I was suddenly being drug back to my own house. I didn’t have anyone there to rescue me. I was alone and, up until this very moment, that was the way I liked my life. Solitary. Quiet…]

      —> I always try to avoid using “suddenly” too much in writing. Suddenly this happened and then suddenly this happened. Well, it’s all happening pretty suddenly especially if you use pacing to your advantage. Short quick sentences vs. long drawn out sentences. “He grabbed my wrist and yanked. I fell back, and he dragged me toward my house.”

      [I tried to scream but a gloved hand clamped down over my mouth, quickly stifling my plea for help. The other boys followed Evan inside. The door slammed behind us and Evan shoved me to the ground. I grunted as my body collided with the floor.]

      —> I’m trying to imagine who clamped down on her mouth. Was it Evan, or was it one of the boys following behind? Probably not very important, but I wondered who did it. I want to know who the key players are here and the ones who are just spectating. Which one of the guys is uncomfortable with what they’re doing? Giving the boys at least some dimension to tell them apart will personalize them and make their inevitable demise that much sweeter (or sad, depending on how you play it).

      [“Undress you stupid whore!” A boy in a camouflage coat bellowed at me. His skin was dotted with teenage acne and his hair stuck out from beneath a black beanie hat.]

      [Trembling, I scrambled to my feet, too afraid not to oblige their commands. I made certain my movements were slow. Once my jacket was off, the boys became incensed. Hands flew over me, ripping and clawing. I screamed and made a meager attempt at self-defense.]

      —> Incensed means to be very angry… did you mean intractable? barbaric? Savage?

      [Camouflage grabbed my wrists. Blue held my right leg while the other, a boy in a bright orange windbreaker, held my left. Evan grinned down at me and I couldn’t help but wonder how many times they’d done this before. Their actions were far too calculated and organized for this to be mere opportunity.]

      [“Don’t do this!” I pleaded again.]

      [“Shut the hell up,” Evan seethed. He slapped me. Hard.]

      —> Haha, I totally pictured Jeff Dunham’s Walter puppet saying that. lol, If you’ve ever see his show, you’ll know what I mean. I do like this a lot though: “He slapped me. Hard.” That’s perfect. It’s sudden but not bogged down by “suddenly”.

      [Dizzy and suddenly unable to see from my left eye, I felt my last stitch of clothing being yanked from my body. I’d just set out to help a neighbor and minutes later I faced rape and…what then? A terrifying thought entered my mind. Was I going to be killed, too?]

      —> Suddenly came back… probably to bite me in the cheek. I like this whole paragraph except for, you know, “suddenly”. lol

      [Suddenly, there was a noise from the back. The boys seemed to be lost in their efforts to violate me and hadn’t noticed. I recognized the sound of my French doors groaning open…then, heavy, stealthy footsteps thudding over the hardwood flooring. Please God, I prayed. Please let this be someone to help me!]

      —> I suddenly think you know what I’m going to put here… haha 🙂

      [The next few moments were a blur to me. I heard more than I saw; an animalistic growl, a frightened cry, a deeply unnerving sound of flesh being torn apart… The hands lifted from me. I scrambled against the foyer’s closet door and reached up, grasping the knob as though it were going to save my life.]

      —> They were a blur to her? Who else would they be a blur to? Probably don’t need to add “to me”.

      [It was then that I saw something…something that haunts me to this very day. The boys were lying in heaps only feet from me. Blood oozed from deep gashes. None of them moved. And standing over them, his chest heaving and his eyes glowing yellow, was Paul.]

      —> I’m torn. I’d prefer you say that it haunted the MC since that day to keep it all past tense, but at the same time, the MC is telling the story. So, give or take what you want, but it stuck out to me is all.

      —> They were lying in heaps only feet from her? Where else would they be? Miles from her in a small house? 🙂

      [His muscular body was covered with hair. His teeth were long and canine-like and his hands bore long, sharp claws. I gasped at the sight and drew my legs into my chest.]

      —> I like the description of the creature, except for the passive voice, of course. I want to see more of him, though. I want more of her reaction to it. I know if I saw that shit, doesn’t matter how manly I am, I’d be screaming high-pitch like the scream of air trying to escape a stretched balloon.

      [Paul turned, his eyes raking over me. He stood there, watching me for a long while. Slowly, his breathing leveled and he began to transform… The hair thinned. The teeth retracted. The fingers rounded. The animal was suddenly replaced with the man I had come to know. My neighbor. Paul.]

      —> Calling the creature Paul at the beginning of the paragraph rather ruins the reveal at the end of the paragraph. Still, I already knew it was going to be Paul, so the mishap in the reveal didn’t jar me all that much. Speaking of which, I should probably just remove Paul from the rest of the paragraphs to make the reveal more effective.

      —> Was suddenly replace? I wouldn’t say the transformation was all that sudden. Plus, it’s passive voice, and everyone knows how much I like those! haha

      [“Are you okay?” He asked. His voice was low and deep and his dark brown eyes were wild with concern.]

      —> nice.

      [So, this was the secret he’d been hiding this whole time! I knew there was something off about him but I’d never been able to put my finger on it! I nodded slowly, grabbing my coat and holding it against myself. “Paul…you’re a…”]

      —> Don’t forget commas after adverbs. “So[,]”

      —> Too many narrative exclamation points. In my opinion, the second sentence will be just as effective with a standard full stop.

      [His face softened and he hurried over to me. His hands were surprisingly gentle as he touched at my swollen eye. “Yes, Katie,” he whispered. “I’m a werewolf. But…that has to be our secret, okay?”]

      —> You had exceptional dialog up to this point, and then when Paul talks, he sounds cardboard. With such little time to introduce such a heavy character, you really have to use the dialog to your advantage.

      [I stared at him as he scooped me into his arms. His body was hot. He felt as though he were running about 105 degrees. I relaxed against him as he carried me up to my bedroom. Imagine that, I thought as he laid me in my bed. Paul. A werewolf…]

      —> “His body was hot as if my skin pressed against the warm surface of… etc etc.” Adding the temperature is fine, but here I think it’s more effective to show it instead of telling it, especially since you can add a wonderfully sensual effect to it.

      —> Good job on the story, Amy! Was an interesting read. I always like a good horror, and the timeless “Beauty and the Beast” never fails. (She even had Belle and Linda Hamilton style long brown locks! haha) Thanks for sharing!

    5. Just JM

      Your stories always have the kind of tension and foreboding that keep me riveted, and this is no exception. You definitely hinted at a much larger backstory here — the MC hadn’t seen Paul in weeks and was wondering “how he was holding up.” Just the fact that this young woman decided to shovel her big, strong (werewolf) neighbor’s driveway suggest something out of the ordinary going on. Very intriguing!

      The only part that didn’t sit well with me was Paul carrying the MC (naked) up to her bedroom. It was a little romance novelish (or a little Twilightish), but maybe that was what you were going for. He just saved her from being raped — maybe not exactly the right moment for seduction. 🙂 But overall this was very readable and got my pulse going.

    6. Reaper

      I think you are stretching yourself again and I love it. How much? I tend to dislike the humanization of monsters unless they are the exception, I’ve said that in the past, and normally romantic ends don’t do much for me. In this case, I loved both. Because you had real monsters and made being a werewolf just a fact of life in this world, and the romantic ending didn’t have a happily ever after just a glimmer of hope. This was intense and wonderful. I was hoping these boys would die horribly and they did so you made my dream come true. I can’t say how much I liked this so I’m just going to say again that I really did.

    7. Dennis

      This has definite potential for a full story. All I ask is please do something better than Twilight which was too syrupy for my taste. I know you can write with a bit of an edge so not really worried.
      And I enjoyed your last novel as well.

  35. Cceynowa

    Okay, I know the prompt is directed to “snow shoveling”, but I live in Texas and have never been in snow deeper than 2 inches. Ever. January/February isn’t snow season for us rural Texans… it is livestock showing season! Thus, I twisted the prompt a bit to fit my experience. Oh, and I’m back under 500 words!

    Helping a Neighbor (Word Count: 482)

    To me, and most adults in Hudsville, showing an animal in the local 4-H livestock show is a lesson in responsibility. Responsibility for yourself, for your animal, and for winning or losing in the show ring. How you bear responsibility defines you. I guess if I’m being honest, my relentless lessons on responsible, primarily for an animal’s well-being, is to blame for the Great Show Barn Fight of 2015. See it happened like this:

    Carrie was raking her goats’ pen, keeping the sawdust dry and clean, when she noticed how dirty Anna Lynn’s pen was next to her. Knowing that goats like a dry spot rest, she thought she’d be friendly and slip over the fence to rake that pen too. “A neighbor helps out another without want of benefit,” is what I always told her. She later claimed that this was her thought process at the time. No one could really fault her, though some tried.

    So there she was, raking out Anna Lynn’s pen, when Anna Lynn and her brother, Andrew, showed up. “Whatcha think ya doing Carrie,” Andrew asked.

    “Just being neighborly,” Carrie replied.

    “Getcha ass out of there,” growled Anna Lynn. “You messin’ with them? You cheatin’?”

    “I was doing nothing to’em,” Carrie defended “’cept respecting them. Poor things covered in poop and all.”

    “You sayin’ her goats are shitty,” Andrew asked and made a grab for Carrie.

    Now, Carrie’s wasn’t going to be grabbed by anybody, so she brought her rake square up the side of Andrew’s head. As he fell back, Anna Lynn jumped over the rails and tackled Carrie to the ground.

    The fight might have ended there, but Andrew regained his footing and started over the fence to get at Carrie too. Michael Gene saw the whole thing from across the barn and went to help Carrie out. He collided with Andrew in the aisle. A stray punch by Andrew hit the head cheerleader, who screamed. Her boyfriend came running, along with the rest of the football team. Parent’s where shouting, goats were screaming, somehow the Glocar’s pigs escaped and were running wild.

    After a time, when the dust had settled and the pigs had been rounded up, it was determined that thirty-seven kids and fifteen parents had actively participated in the brawl. Ice packs were handed out, hands were shaken, and (I’m proud to say) Carrie’s goat placed ten ribbons above Anna Lynn’s.

    The Great Show Barn Fight of 2015 may not be as memorable as when the football team threw a party a few years back, the burn marks can still be seen in the park, but I know I’ll always remember it fondly. I try to teach my kids lessons to get them through life, and now I know for certain that Carrie has learned at least two: willingness to help a neighbor, and how to land a right cross.

    1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      [To me, and most adults in Hudsville, showing an animal in the local 4-H livestock show is a lesson in responsibility. Responsibility for yourself, for your animal, and for winning or losing in the show ring. How you bear responsibility defines you. I guess if I’m being honest, my relentless lessons on responsible, primarily for an animal’s well-being, is to blame for the Great Show Barn Fight of 2015. See it happened like this:]

      —> “How you handle that responsibility defines you.” Works better with the ideas in the paragraph.

      —> “[…]my relentless lessons on responsibility[…]”

      —> Remove “Show” OR revise it to say something like “[…]for the livestock show’s Great Barn Fight of 2015.”

      [Carrie was raking her goats’ pen, keeping the sawdust dry and clean, when she noticed how dirty Anna Lynn’s pen was next to her. Knowing that goats like a dry spot rest, she thought she’d be friendly and slip over the fence to rake that pen too. “A neighbor helps out another without want of benefit,” is what I always told her. She later claimed that this was her thought process at the time. No one could really fault her, though some tried.]

      —> “Carrie was raking her goats’ pen to “[…]to rest[…]”

      —> Also, I think you’ll find it’s a lot smoother if you update her “thought process” sentence. He’s telling a story. So, have him tell the story. “She later claimed she was thinking of me when she did it.” Plus, it’s much more personal and sweet. 🙂

      [So there she was, raking out Anna Lynn’s pen, when Anna Lynn and her brother, Andrew, showed up. “Whatcha think ya doing Carrie,” Andrew asked.]

      —> To smooth out this sentence and reduce the amount of times you use Anna’s name (which is one too many), consider this.” So, there she was raking out the pen when the owner Anna Lynn and her brother, Andrew, showed up.” Also, remember that the comma comes after “so”.

      [“Just being neighborly,” Carrie replied.]

      —> No comment. 🙂

      [“Getcha ass out of there,” growled Anna Lynn. “You messin’ with them? You cheatin’?”]

      —> When I lived in the South, it was always “Getch’r”. “Getcha” is more urban/“ebonics” and if that’s what you’re using, ignore me. haha

      [“I was doing nothing to’em,” Carrie defended “’cept respecting them. Poor things covered in poop and all.”]

      —> Probably don’t need to mention that Carrie is defending herself, the context makes it obvious, and you can reduce word-count.

      [“You sayin’ her goats are shitty,” Andrew asked and made a grab for Carrie.]

      —> I’m almost positive the rule is if you are asking a question, you forgo the comma here and put in the question mark.

      [Now, Carrie’s wasn’t going to be grabbed by anybody, so she brought her rake square up the side of Andrew’s head. As he fell back, Anna Lynn jumped over the rails and tackled Carrie to the ground.]

      —> “[…]be grabbed[…]” is passive voice. Revise.

      The fight might have ended there, but Andrew regained his footing and started over the fence to get at Carrie too. Michael Gene saw the whole thing from across the barn and went to help Carrie out. He collided with Andrew in the aisle. A stray punch by Andrew hit the head cheerleader, who screamed. Her boyfriend came running, along with the rest of the football team. Parent’s where shouting, goats were screaming, somehow the Glocar’s pigs escaped and were running wild.

      —> I understand what you mean here, but others might not. If he fell back (which could double as actually falling back) then regaining his footing is different than getting back up. So, consider revising the previous paragraph to say that he stumbled backward or actually fell, and then adjust the following paragraph accordingly.

      —> Woah, who’s the head cheerleader? Carrie or Anna? You’ll want to clear this up ahead of time before you use it independent of a proper noun.

      —> “[…] and somehow,[…]” and consider showing instead of tell that the pigs are out of control. There’s so much fun to be had with that! 🙂

      [After a time, when the dust had settled and the pigs had been rounded up, it was determined that thirty-seven kids and fifteen parents had actively participated in the brawl. Ice packs were handed out, hands were shaken, and (I’m proud to say) Carrie’s goat placed ten ribbons above Anna Lynn’s.]

      —> After a time? I would say that it was after a short time, just to be clear.

      —> Remove “had” from “had settled” and fix that passive voice after pigs: “had been rounded up” and “it was determined.” Alternatively, you can say, “After the dust settled and we rounded up the pigs, we determined that…”

      —> Why is the MC proud to say that? What relationship does he or she have with her? There is no clear statement so the reader has no idea why he or she would be proud of Carrie.

      The Great Show Barn Fight of 2015 may not be as memorable as when the football team threw a party a few years back, the burn marks can still be seen in the park, but I know I’ll always remember it fondly. I try to teach my kids lessons to get them through life, and now I know for certain that Carrie has learned at least two: willingness to help a neighbor, and how to land a right cross.

      —> Again, reducing the name of the fight keeps it crisp and less clunky.

      —> “[…]can still be seen[…]” is passive voice.

      —> “{…}I’ll{…} would better serve your MC here if split to add just a tad od necessary emphasis here. “I will”

      —> “[…]I know for certain[…]” consider “I know with certainty”

      —> Get rid of that comma between that last two listed items.

      —> Final thoughts: I really like your story. The MC is telling a nice story about the Great Barn Fight of 2015. Although I honestly would prefer the MC be more involved with the story rather than just telling it. Let’s face it, you could have just told it from Carrie’s perspective and still had the same impact. In fact, now that I think about it, the impact might be greater if from her point of view, especially with that punch line. However, it can work with the first person MC’s version assuming you at some point tell us the relationship the MC has with Carrie. Teacher? Father? Corral leader? What the heck is he, she, or it?

      Overall, fun story. Thanks for sharing, Cc!

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            And, I doubt others would understand if you introduced the guys with the pig boards, a Show Barn activity I adore.

      1. Cceynowa

        Not gonna lie, I’m a bit overwhelmed at your detailed analysis. I appreciate it, and agree with it to a degree. The “show barn” is the barn behind my local high school, where kids are able to stall their horses if they rode to school that day (yes, some still do). The relationship, in my mind, is actually that of a mother and daughter. I’ve been experimenting lately with different points of view. I believe I’ve grown too comfortable in the first person, and want to venture out to develop my craft more; the above analysis will come in very handy.

        I know full well that this story lacked a great deal of polish, and some I intended in an attempt to add a more rustic/unpolished feel to the narrative (though some like the “parent’s” instead of “parents” I did not). Thank you again for the edits, macro and micro. In hindsight, I realize that I know the background to the tale but that is not conveyed clearly in the tale. I’ll work on this in the future. I’m also going to work on my dialogue. I have always struggled with this part of the writing. Hell, I struggle with dialogue in real life let alone on paper!

        On a personal note: I like throwing in a bunch of random people (head cheerleader was neither Carrie or Anna Lynn) when I write about small town life. Everyone knows EVERYONE in a small town. Seriously, the guy at the feed store is sleeping around with the sheriff’s wife, which is fine because his mother is an Esquell and everyone knows you don’t mess with the Esquell Clan. Them and the Parker’s got bad blood between them, so you best watch your back before you go accusing anyone of anything or you might end up like Bartley and have a “hunting accident.” <<<< Small town life. You get it if you've lived it.

        Oh, and what is the rule on the question asking during dialogue? Is the question mark in the quotations, or not? Never could get it right.

        1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

          Yeah, sorry. I have no idea what a “show barn” is, so I suppose that was maybe why it confused me. Never mind that point then. 🙂 I know it’s hard to get everything into a story with so few words, but you have to ask constantly, “Will my reader know what that is?” I suppose if you had you called the area she was in a Show Barn to begin with, then you’d be perfectly fine. 🙂 This is why I disagree that a writer should use words from other languages without context clues.

          I put a borche on my klonk while fizzling my sedackletile, and I fegiterated the grinklestein while standing in the shookerhadlen. Yeah, it’s authentic, but the rest of us are just going: “what the hell?” lol

          I once edited a book for a guy who wrote it in first person from the viewpoint of a Russian woman who knew little English. I had a difficult time reading it because of how authentic he wanted to make it. In that sense, I applaud him—but as writers, we have to find a way to stick in subtle hints to make the writing seem rustic without sacrificing the language to do it. I think the best way to do it is to 1) keep the language personal and identifiable as if the narrator just offered you tea as you both sit next to the fire and 2) by using phrases that make the narrative more colorful without sacrificing the flow of the language itself. Since you know how people interact to each other in small towns, I think you are more than capable of throwing in catch phrases and twisted ways of saying things without breaking syntax.

          I love love LOVE adding random characters. I love it even more when I read when writers do it. When you do it, though, it must be very clear you threw in a random character. Anyone one can be the head cheerleader. However, if you had said the wild punch hit the head cheerleader who happened to be walking by at the wrong time, then you identify clearly that it is a new random player in the mix of the action. 🙂

          As for the rule on question marks: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/questions-and-quandaries/grammar/question-mark-placement-in-dialogue

          In short: after the question, instead of a comma put the question mark.

          Anyway, this is nothing more than my opinion on how things should go. I’m by no means an authority on storytelling, so take it for what it is. 😀 Happy writing!

    2. Reaper

      I liked this. I could have used some more info throughout, damn word count. Overall this is what I meant below by thinking the passive voice works well in some areas. That us actually gives me the feel of an old time cattle herder telling this story around the pickle barrel. Though I doubt they will still have those in 2020 as seems to be the time of this telling, even in Texas. Thanks Cc. I’m in a terrible mood tonight and this brightened it a little bit for me.

    3. Observer Tim

      This is a clever bit of folk tale, Ccey. I suppose it’s a good thing you didn’t spend time on the main thing that does have to be shoveled at a livestock show. 😉

      It looks like you missed an editing pass on this story; I noticed a number of typos and werpo’s, but I think Jay’s very detailed critique caught them all.

      1. Cceynowa

        I laughed at your comment OT. Seems to me “the main thing” being shoveled at a stock show can vary depending on your point of view. It is either literal or figuratively the same thing though. Lol. Thanks for the reply!

    4. Just JM

      Nice job maintaining the voice. I think some of what Jay is calling passive voice is actually just the way people talk. “Now, Carrie wasn’t going to be grabbed by anybody” sounds conversational and authentic to my ear. This read like a tale being told by one person to another, which I am pretty sure is what you intended. Because of that, there was a lot of telling (vs. showing, of course), but that makes sense for the form in which you chose to tell the story, which is a reminiscence. I’ve never been to a Show Barn, but it seemed pretty self-explanatory to me. Fun tale, CC.

  36. Trevor

    FINALLY! A story that NOT over the 500 word limit! Please read this and tell me what you think. Be completely honest!

    Snowdown

    Why did I have to be such a Good Samaritan? All I had planned to do this frigid, winter morning was shovel the snow off my driveway and then go back inside my warm dwelling and enjoy some wonderfully cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. But of course, I just had to notice Mr. Weston’s driveway was piled high with snow from last night’s blizzard and my conscience told me it would be wrong not to help the poor old man out.

    So here I am, shoveling my dementia-stricken neighbor’s driveway in the middle of the worst winter we’ve had in years. My fingers are frozen underneath my thin, tattered gloves and I can’t even move my numb toes. That’s just great; I’m going to get frostbite all because of my incessant need to help others.

    “What do you think you’re doin’, old man?” A loud, nasally voice interrupts my thoughts. Surprised, I drop my shovel and look up to see four teenage boys standing by Mr. Weston’s mailbox. All of the youths are bundled up in winter jackets, heavy snow boots, and are all carrying snow shovels. The leader of the pack stares daggers at me and is holding his shovel like he’s about to beat me over the head with it.

    “What do you want, kids?” I shout back, the cold breeze breaking through my thin jacket. “I’m kind of busy right now and I don’t particularly enjoy standing out in the cold.”

    “We’re here to tell you to scram! This is our snow shovellin’ turf, and you don’t belong out here. So get goin’ before we have to teach you a little lesson.” The boy starts swinging his shovel in front of him like a baseball bat. Obviously, he’s been watching too many gang movies and is trying to impersonate a gangster.

    “Alright then. It’s all yours.” And with that, I pick up my shovel and run for my house. It wasn’t because I was afraid of those clowns or anything, but just because I was happy to have an excuse to quit my moral obligation and go back inside my warm house. As soon as I get inside, I strip off my snow-covered clothing and take a long, hot shower. The steaming water feels good against my icy skin. Then, I change into my warm pajamas, make some hot cocoa, and plop down just in time for the Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.

    As I sit down and watch the opening credits to Holiday Engagement, I look out the window and see the four kids at Mr. Weston’s driveway. To my surprise, the four kids are gone. It looks as though they started on his driveway and then abruptly stopped for some reason. With that, I get up from my comfy couch…and pull the curtains closed.

    I’m just going to pretend I didn’t see that.

    1. Sue

      Ah, that battle axe the ol’ ‘incessant need to help others’! I have fallen prey to that one many times in my life and it does not always end well – as you obviously know, Trevor.

      Great story, I love the way the character is himself old and still out to help others – and judging by the ‘thin, tattered gloves’ and ‘thin jacket’ … he could use a helping hand too! I also like that old men watch Hallmark movies too!

      My red pencil, as others put it, is staying in the pencil case since I saw nothing I know to mark-worthy and I am still learning the art of writing, despite years at it.

      1. Cceynowa

        I agree with Sue’s comments, all the way around. (Congrats on the less than 500 mark! I’ve been struggling with that too lately.)

        This is a fun little story that goes much deeper on a second read through. You’ve captured a part of our society that makes a person step back and go, “huh.” 1.The disrespecting teens. 2. One down-and-out neighbor helping a disabled neighbor. 3. Shutting the curtain and retreating into our own world.

        I really liked this tale. Great job over all.

    2. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      [Why did I have to be such a Good Samaritan? All I had planned to do this frigid, winter morning was shovel the snow off my driveway and then go back inside my warm dwelling and enjoy some wonderfully cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. But of course, I just had to notice Mr. Weston’s driveway was piled high with snow from last night’s blizzard and my conscience told me it would be wrong not to help the poor old man out.]

      —> Your entire first paragraph has poor tense. “Why do I have to be such a Good Samaritan? All I planned to do this frigid morning…” etc. You have past tense mixed with present tense. You have past perfect tense in present tense, which never ever belongs. Revise each sentence carefully to ensure consistent tenses.

      [So here I am, shoveling my dementia-stricken neighbor’s driveway in the middle of the worst winter we’ve had in years. My fingers are frozen underneath my thin, tattered gloves and I can’t even move my numb toes. That’s just great; I’m going to get frostbite all because of my incessant need to help others.]

      —> “Are frozen” is passive. Remember, passive sentences result from lazy writing. Avoid it at all costs. It’s not always easy, but you can achieve an alternate and appropriate way of writing something without passive voice. The first sentence is incorrectly structured. “So[,] here I am shoveling my…” is the correct way to write it. “So” is an adverb, just like “therefore”; in fact, they are interchangeable. Therefore, put a comma after it.

      [“What do you think you’re doin’, old man?” A loud, nasally voice interrupts my thoughts. Surprised, I drop my shovel and look up to see four teenage boys standing by Mr. Weston’s mailbox. All of the youths are bundled up in winter jackets, heavy snow boots, and are all carrying snow shovels. The leader of the pack stares daggers at me and is holding his shovel like he’s about to beat me over the head with it.]

      —> “are bundled up” is passive voice. Also, you used “all” twice in the same sentence, which is unneeded since you already identified all the boys have all those things with the first “all”. Consider replacing “and is” with “while” because it’s smoother and less tacky.

      [“What do you want, kids?” I shout back, the cold breeze breaking through my thin jacket. “I’m kind of busy right now and I don’t particularly enjoy standing out in the cold.”]

      —> “What do you kids want?” is smoother and less tacky. Consider removing “out” since it’s obvious and unneeded unless you change it to “outside”, which makes the meaning for effective.

      [“We’re here to tell you to scram! This is our snow shovellin’ turf, and you don’t belong out here. So get goin’ before we have to teach you a little lesson.” The boy starts swinging his shovel in front of him like a baseball bat. Obviously, he’s been watching too many gang movies and is trying to impersonate a gangster.]

      —> Obviously? If it’s that obvious, does it really need to be stated? Remove “obvious” and rework the sentence to give it more oomph! “Probably the brat watches too many gangster movies and trying to impersonate one.” This is a stupid sentence, anyway, on its own. However, it can be quite good if you expound to include the fact that all the kid is doing is trying to be tough to impress his friends. In that case, the sentence’s effectiveness will double (even triple!), and you’ll have a pretty good example of just how childish the teens appear to him. The reason you probably want to do this is anyway is because at this point, the teens appear one-dimensional to the reader. With such a short story, you have to learn to give all your characters personalities or they fall flat quickly, and then we just don’t give a damn about them. The rule goes: if you can’t write them into the story effectively, remove them. Since the story hinges on the existence of those kids, you’ll have to suck it up and write them into the story all full and rich-like.

      [“Alright then. It’s all yours.” And with that, I pick up my shovel and run for my house. It wasn’t because I was afraid of those clowns or anything, but just because I was happy to have an excuse to quit my moral obligation and go back inside my warm house. As soon as I get inside, I strip off my snow-covered clothing and take a long, hot shower. The steaming water feels good against my icy skin. Then, I change into my warm pajamas, make some hot cocoa, and plop down just in time for the Hallmark Christmas movie marathon.]

      —> You don’t really need “and with that” because it doesn’t add anything but extra words to your story that you can use elsewhere. He runs? Isn’t he old? I’m not saying that old people don’t run because there are many that do. However, he’s frozen, old, and probably he’s feeling his joints yelling at him for being out in that extreme cold, which means he likely will not run. (Is he even old?) Up until now, you’ve had a constant flow, and then all the sudden you have four long (but quickly stated) actions stuffed into one paragraph. Consider adding one paragraph where he simply strips to his thermals and makes some hot cocoa before sitting down in front of a nice popping fire to watch is Hallmark marathon.

      [As I sit down and watch the opening credits to Holiday Engagement, I look out the window and see the four kids at Mr. Weston’s driveway. To my surprise, the four kids are gone. It looks as though they started on his driveway and then abruptly stopped for some reason. With that, I get up from my comfy couch…and pull the curtains closed.]

      —> Wait, what? He plops down and then sits down again? Did I miss something? Did he glitch back into the standing position? 😉 If you do decide to keep this one instead of the other, consider that “As I sit down to watch…” is smoother. Also, he looks out the window and sees the four kids at Mr. Weston’s driveway but then they mysteriously disappear. Either that or the sentence needs a serious overhaul. “I glance through the window to spy on the kids in Mr. Weston’s driveway, but to my surprise, they left.” Again, consider removing “with that” because it’s unnecessary. You also don’t need ellipses here because they don’t really add any kind of effect here that a comma won’t do (or even a lack of a comma).

      [I’m just going to pretend I didn’t see that.]

      —> You do that, MC. You do it and go ahead and enjoy your hot cocoa, you liar.

      —> Final thoughts: He has an incessant need to help, which implies he cannot voluntarily escape it (without good reason). However, he turns away from it even after he noticed the driveway half-complete and no teenagers in sight. If he truly did feel the incessant need to do it, then he wouldn’t have ignored the driveway after they left. If he doesn’t actually have an incessant need to do it, then his observations and complaints become pointless and bog down the story. Which is it?

      I’m not against a story having interpretable meanings, but there has to be at least something that gives us something to read and enjoy. The old man bitches about his “need” to help people, but leaves the driveway in the hands of teenagers who will surely screw it up, which is no help at all. He gives in to their demand, and although you explain why he gives in, it contradicts his pissy attitude about his need to help people in a way that given his personality, he’d likely chase off the little hooligans and finish the driveway, even if it means bitching about it the whole time. This whole scenario makes the conflict weak. Rewrite it to make the confrontation more important, his desires more consistent with her personality, and give the kids more life.

      Even better, if you add that spot where he observes that the teenager is just trying to impress his friends, you can change the ending to having him go back out there, and mutter under his breath, “damn kids.” Keeps him sassy, makes this story more interesting (albeit not much more). There still needs to be more beef in the middle because I feel like you stiffed me, but I think that would lend a hand in helping build the teenagers into more three-dimensional twits.

      Overall, you have a decent scene here that has a good chance at shining if given the right elements for succeeding. Good luck on your rewrite!

    3. Reaper

      I think I’m a little afraid of Jay this week. I don’t hate the passive voice as much as he does, honestly I feel it has its place if used sparingly. However the tense shifts really struck me. Normally in your longer stuff I don’t notice but because this was short and sweet they stood out. Otherwise I thought this was good. It was more soft morality tale than edge of your seat but I can get behind those. I would agree with the conflict of have to help and turning aside but I saw that as commentary on the hypocrisy inherent in most people. Another point to add to the morals of Cceynowa.

      1. Cceynowa

        I agree Reaper; Jay is on a roll this week. However, I do not agree with “passive sentences result from lazy writing. Avoid it at all costs.” The whole point of communication, written or otherwise, it to convey a message. As long as the message is conveyed, the communication is successful. Passive voice may indeed confuse the clarity of the writing, but it isn’t “lazy” as much as it is a reflection of understanding how a reader interprets the written work, and that comes more with knowledge and experience than anything. Also, sometimes the passive voice is preferable. So avoiding at all costs seems a bit extreme to me. Just my two cents.

        1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

          Hey, now, I’m perfectly okay with passive voice as long as it’s in dialog or boring law papers. 🙂 haha

          I just mean that “My fingers are frozen underneath my thin, tattered gloves and I can’t even move my numb toes.” can probably be better shown as “My frozen fingers burn and prick with sharp needles underneath my thin, tattered gloves, and I’m not sure I can even move my numb toes.”

          The style and voice of the character remains, yet passive voice is gone. 😀

    4. Observer Tim

      I enjoyed this, Trevor. It managed to paint the MC as a self-imposed martyr and to clearly demonstrate the hypocritical nature of that viewpoint to the reader. Jay highlighted a number of style issues, some of which I agree with, and I don’t see a need to add to that list right now.

      My only point of contention is to please stop asking/telling us to be honest. I find it to be a subtle implication that I’m not, which produces a visceral negative reaction. Honesty is the default mode of communication here, though as with any communication it’s not 100%.

        1. Nicki EagerReader

          Germans also pride themselves on their honesty- and are quite surprised when their “Ehrlichkeit” gets translated as “bluntness- bordering on rudeness”. Maybe you’re just ein wirklich ehrlicher Mensch, Jay… 😉
          (no offense meant there- three guesses where my laptop’s wired in)

          1. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

            My German is pretty crappy… I only took a year in high school plus some independent self-teaching, but Ich glaube an die Ehrlichkeit auch wenn das bedeutet Arger.

            Three guesses where 1/3 of my ancestors wired their laptops in at? haha The other 2/3 just sent smoke signals. lol I feel like maybe I should know Native American more than German.

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        Ditto with honesty- and you really needn’t ask us to “please read” every time you post. Cause, you know, people kinda figured out some time ago that stuff on this website kinda, well, WANTS to be read. Just pile it on, and either we find time to read and comment – or we don’t. 😉

    5. lionetravail

      I think Jay’s read on this is excellent, and well-thought out, and is worth learning from, Trevor. I certainly see many of his points, and if you take the criticism as constructive, I think it will help you grow as a writer. I’ve mentioned some similar issues in past stories, like the contradictions in behavior for the MC. Consistency, things that can be explained, setting expectations, all those things are critical in a good story. Example: pretending I didn’t see that doesn’t seem to be in the character’s ethos, so without story to explain it, it sort of disappoints for an ending, even though I sense that you wanted a little surprise twist. It’s just that the surprise needs more buildup as to the why.

      Overall, I like the story, and kudos for busting it out fast, but it left me wanting.

      1. Nicki EagerReader

        I’ll be lazy, save you the reading, and just throw my weight behind what lionetravail said, that sums it all up nicely- and Jay, I’m seriously daunted! 😉 How do you find the time?

    6. Just JM

      This is my third attempt to reply to your story, so I hope this doesn’t post three times! The WD gremlins are out in full force tonight.

      So anyway, Trevor, I hope you gleaned some useful information from all of that commentary. I will give kudos to those who took the time and trouble to provide thoughtful, constructive feedback. I will also say that while much of it was useful advice, some of it was personal opinion/preference that I might be tempted to argue with. But I won’t. I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which.

      I read this as a character study of an all too familiar type. Your MC would like to see himself as a nice guy and genuinely wants to help people, up to a point. When it gets a little too hard, there’s always the hot cocoa and the easy chair. His fight is not with the teenagers, but with himself and his own weakness and tendency toward inertia. I don’t agree that every conflict has to involve high drama/action/violence. You told a much more subtle, nuanced tale of human frailty, which is just as valid as a shovel-swinging match with the neighborhood toughs. I think you could further play up this internal conflict to provoke more of a response from the reader, but there are always going to be readers who just want someone to get a shovel up the side of the head. Go figure. 😉

      1. Just JM

        Hey Trevor, I had another thought on this. If your MC’s problem is his own indolence, maybe show the effect of this character flaw on his life — all the unfinished projects around his house, the blown career opportunities or maybe his wife left him because of his inability to finish anything he starts.

        And Jay, no obfuscation was intended. Sorry if it came off that way.

    7. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

      Trevor:

      Somehow people get the assumption I mean the conflict to be violent, but that’s not it at all. To clear it up so you understand where I’m coming from through the obfuscation of my intent, just make it a real confrontation. Conflicts can be super exciting without physical confrontations, even when dealing with someone who “runs away” like your MC. What’s the MC thinking? What’s he feeling? How is his reaction to the conflict effecting him personally in the moment? How does this make it easier for him to give up on the shoveling?

      Right now, they tell him to scram and he runs away because now he has a good reason to stop shoveling. Really, though, what’s going on in his head? Does he really have zero emotions other than being crotchety?

      Conflict. Internal, external, non-violent. 100% exciting to read.

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